Friday, 12 August 2022

Five Parsecs from Home - Part 6

Battle Turn 3

The Duelling Grounds are located at the site of a failed low-cost housing sector. Construction was abandoned when the shell corporation laundering money from the project folded, and now all that remains are half-collapsed, weather-worn foundations. The site is now a place of battle, where local gangs, syndicates, mercenaries, and the more civic-minded football hooligans meet to have out their differences without risking collateral damage. The bones of the fallen litter the desolate landscape.


[Deployment conditions: caught off guard - PCs all act in slow phase in the first round. There are no Notable Sights or Conditions.

Some of the terrain features were constructed in haste and a bit flimsy, and I had ruled that if they broke during play it would cause 2 hits of damage to be rolled against any figure caught in the collapse. Sadly, it never came up. I will save this house rule for further battles, though, and may even try constructing extra-flimsy terrain on purpose.

The enemy are a band of Psychos. All psychos carry a blade in addition to their rolled armaments. The rank & file have an assortment of colony rifles:
Doc only performs unnecessary surgery. Hair thinks that style suits him. Princess is the last member of her royal house -- she's seen to that!
They hang out with a Feral in Spiderman pyjamas and a Chippendale dancer drummed out of his unit for conduct unbecoming.
The specialists are Wetsuit Wanda (autorifle) and Barb (shell gun) who wears a shirt with her initial on it.
Their lieutenant is... ummmm.... ???

I rolled a shotgun for the lieutenant's weapons. To fit the figure, the hooks are equipped with cybernetic flechette pistols, using shotgun stats.]

Battle Turn 3

"Guys, I... I just can't do this," says Dirk Striker.

"C'mon, mate," says Wilmer, "this might cheer you up."

"No, I think I'll just wait in the hovercar."

"Don't be such a space xqivsnnplf!" says Zllgx.


"They're here," says Muffy. "Let's leave him here to have his little strop and get this over with."

Round 1

Sunday, 7 August 2022

Five Parsecs from Home - Part 5

Post Battle (Turn 2)

The invitations make to into the post on time. The WI are pleased, and pay the crew [d6+2=] 5 credits, plus the promised crate of jam. They keep a couple of jars, but Wilmer knows a guy who can unload this on the black market for some serious dosh [the Loot roll was a cargo crate worth 2cr, so a little creative license makes sense of things]. The WI intimate they may also have more work for Dirk's crew in the future since they 'seem like such nice young people'. [planetary WI added to the Patron list. If they ever become a permanent patron, it will be the Sector-wide WI.]


Muffy got the first kill again, so earns 4xp. The rest (save GBH) get 3. Dirk spends 7xp to increase Reaction to 3.


They spend 3 credits on a surplus military rifle. It would have gone to Zllgx, but since she's still on the naughty step for losing the colony rifle a while back, Muffy's getting it instead.

Character & Campaign Events

Dirk is alone. His crew have barely seen him since the WI job. All this violence is starting to get to him, and he's sunken into depression -- deep. His days are spent drinking whiskey from the bottle... gazing into the mirror at his rugged unshaven face whilst asking 'who am I?'... taking steamy showers, steadying himself with one hand against the wall... staring into the middle distance. [+1 Story Point, but Dirk won't fight in the next battle.]

Everyone else has got a bit of extra time on their hands [bonus Exploration rolls for 2 random PCs]. Zllgx runs into someone who needs a package delivered offworld. It'll be worth 3 credits from the recipient.

Slow Hand is out soaking up the nightlife. But from across the dance floor, two sets of beady eyes are watching the sparkling lights from the disco ball play over his really cool aviator shades.

"Isn't that one of Dirk Striker's crew?"

"Yes... I believe it is. Let's tail him and find out where they're holed up. I think it's payback time..."

Campaign Turn 3

[Every 3rd campaign turn, the crew gets +1 Story Point. I'm spending it now to get +3xp for Muffy. She's good at dealing damage, and heretofore has been exceptionally lucky about not receiving any, but I need to up her survivability. This puts her just in sight of an upgrade.]


Trading water from the Purifier once again offsets the crew's grocery bill. [-1cr upkeep / +1cr purifier]

The interest on the ship's loan comes to 2cr. Paying 6cr from the crew funds reduces the total debt to 31cr.

But now they only have 3cr remaining.


Dirk decides a wander through the city centre might clear his head. He meets an Information Broker who offers to share secret intelligence with him, for a small fee of course. The 'fee' is nearly as high as the crew's credit balance, so Dirk merely laughs in the alien's face.
When he's not disco dancing till dawn, Slow Hand explores the local bar scene. He doesn't miss a single ladies' night in the startown.
Wilmer happens upon a mysterious merchant in the bazaar, who offers him the contents of a 'mystery box' in exchange for a single weapon. Something about the man's manner frightens him, and he declines.

Muffy pays a visit to the all-night laundromat & transcendental meditation parlour. Whilst the service droids remove the bloodstains from her favourite top, she sits before the fabled Star Crystal and contemplates the Cosmic Mysteries.  

[Muffy actually took the Train task, which grants 1xp, giving her a total of 10xp to spend. She spends the lot to buy 1 Luck. At the time, I wasn't exactly sure how one goes about Training for Luck, so I went with the first thing I could think of.]

Zllgx has a run-in with the very same Info Broker that Dirk did. She is at least polite in her refusal.

GBH decides to relax and see the sights, such as they are on New Milton Keynes. Walking through the crowded markets and bustling thoroughfares, the poor bot begins to feel all alone. So very alone....

Choose your battle

The crew don't relish the prospect of doing another job for their prior captors, but credits is credits (sic), so they decide they might as well take the government job [still available from the last Campaign Turn] -- but then fate intervenes. [Dirk's Rivals have tracked him down, so the next battle is automatically against them.]

A delivery bot arrives at the ship. Someone has sent Dirk a bouquet of flowers. And there's a card:

Please, my gentle friend, won't you
Attend our garden party at the D.G.?
You are, of course, encouraged to
Bring along all of your new friends
As we'd surely love to meet them.
Casual attire is recommended.
Kindly RSVP.

"A garden party," says GBH. "How lovely. This should cheer up Master Dirk."

"No," says Muffy, "I think there is something more sinister going on here. Look at the flowers."

"Zermerxian Puff-blooms!" gasps Wilmer. "A symbol of death!"

"And the note!" cries Zllgx.

"Oh! The note!" cries Muffy.

"By Jove, they expect Dirk at the D.G.," says Slow Hand. "The Duelling Grounds!"

"Not only that," says Zllgx. "Examine it more carefully. Do you not see?"

"I-- no! It can't be!"

"I fear it is!"

"An acrostic!"

"The fiends!"

Friday, 15 July 2022

Five Parsecs from Home - Part 4

Battle Turn 2


The invitations for the WI Summer Garden Show must go in the post today, but the starport post office was recently shut down. The only open post office is on the other side of town. The invitations need to make the last collection, and the quickest route is through a danger zone -- the shattered remnants of the old tourist district.

[The rolled objective is Move Through -- 2 PCs must exit the other side of the table to achieve Victory.

There are no special deployment conditions or notable sights (mainly because I forgot to place the rolled 'Shiny Bits' worth 2 credits. Oops!).

The enemy are a band of Gene Renegades, transhumanists addicted to black market body modification.
Lizard is slowly transforming into a reptile. Greyface is turning his skin translucent. Cyclops is a metalhead from a hairless species who wanted a good mane for headbanging. Trollface wanted to look like his favourite character in the epic fantasy cycle, Swords Against Whatever.
Ginger (the lieutenant) has a tasteless mod you can't see with his trousers on. Insectoid (specialist) is the Woman Who Would Be Queen.

They all have colony rifles except for Insectoid, who has an auto rifle.]


The sky above the battlefield was the colour of cheap curtains that came with the flat and have sat at the bottom of the closet for months.

Round 1

Five Parsecs from Home - Part 3

New Milton Keynes
World Trait: Weapon licensing*
Notable Sights: largest indoor ski slope in the Fringe Sector

*Any weapon obtained through the Trade Table or purchased outright costs
+1 credit.

Post Battle (Turn 1)

[There are 13 steps for resolving the aftermath of a battle. I'll just summarise the important parts, and skip over the non-events (no new Rivals, no invasion threat, etc.).]

Loot & Payment & Purchases

With all enemies either neutralised or put to flight, Dirk's crew is able to pick over the battlefield at their leisure. They find a curious data stick which is full of cryptic information [+1 quest rumour], and a handful of Kiranin crystals. They also collect [1d6+3=] 9cr worth of saleable scrap. They later buy a spare colony rifle down the market with the intention of giving it to the bot, to see if it will do better in the next battle; the licence fees almost cost more than the gun! [cost is 1 credit for the gun, 1 more for the license]

Determine Injuries

Slow Hand's wound looked much worse than it was. He'll be out of commission for only a few days [d%= Minor Injuries, no long-term effect, spend 1 Campaign Turn in sick bay].


Slow Hand was a casualty, so earns 1xp. GBH is a bot and doesn't ever get XP. Dirk, Zllgx, and Wilmer all earn 3xp for survival. Muffy earns 3 for survival +1 for getting the first enemy kill.

Campaign Event

[d%=Tax man]

Dirk and his new crew are given their freedom, and allowed to keep all the proceeds from battlefield salvage... provided they first fill in Form UH4567-C (in triplicate) and pay any relevant tariffs for processing. Oh dear, the sum owed comes to [1d6=] 6 credits.

Character Event

[d%=Where did it go?]

Zllgx has managed to misplace her colony rifle. Maybe it's on Dirk's ship. It must turn up eventually, mustn't it? [There a chance it will on the third campaign turn if she rolls 5+ on 1d6+Savvy. Spoiler: it doesn't.]

Flushed with success, elated with freedom, though somewhat underwhelmed with their collective credit balance, our sextet of space adventurers elect to stick together and see what the galaxy has to throw at them.

Campaign Turn 2

Dirk Striker in his new armour -- see below.


The crew pool their funds: 5 Credits remaining. One credit is spent on upkeep (food, ammo, beer, comic books, etc.). This is offset by earning 1 credit for having a Purifier on their ship (so they can sell clean water to the inhabitants of the world).

Ship Debt

Interest: +2cr to 38. They spend 3cr to lower it to 35. 2cr left in the space piggy bank!

Crew Tasks

Slow Hand must recover in the sick bay, so cannot take an action.

Muffy explores the port city -- one pub at a time. She gets bought a few drinks, but nothing more noteworthy happens. Well, nothing she can remember in the morning...
Zllgx and Wilmer go out to trade. Zllgx manages to trade a few last battlefield trinkets for 4cr. Wilmer haggles down a used suit of combat armour. It won't fit an engineer, but it's just [1d6=] Dirk's size.
Dirk goes into the starport with GBH to look for a Patron. And in fact two potential patrons are found. The colonel was surprised at the success of the first mission, and has another already lined up, though it isn't urgent. On the other hand, the local WI also needs a job done. Whilst they aren't offering quite as much cash as the military (2cr danger pay vs. 3), they do offer a basketful of Mrs Yortragox-Carrington's zkurgberry preserves as a bonus. Well, it's no contest, really.

next post: the battle!

Friday, 8 July 2022

Five Parsecs from Home - Part 2

Battle Turn 1

: Industrial Zone D :
: New Milton Keynes :
: Fringe Sector :

Night has fallen on New Milton Keynes. The two moons shine weakly through the clouds as Dirk Striker and his crew arrive (i.e. are unceremoniously dumped off) at the LZ. Their mission is to hold a section of a ruined industrial district, either chasing off or eliminating the band of space brigands holed up there. Once the zone is secure, the government will send in its team of crack property developers to begin planning work on a new gated community. This wouldn't have been Striker's first choice of a job, but he wasn't in a position to bargain.

Patron: Local government
Danger Pay: +3cr
Time frame: this turn
B/H/C: private transport

[The Patron was rolled with only 1d5 to fit the campaign start I made up. Pay for the mission (1d6+danger pay, as usual) is purely the value of battlefield salvage, since the actual payment is the PCs' freedom. Time frame was not rolled, again to fit the starting conditions. The B/H/C (Benefits/Hazards/Conditions) roll means no Rivals can track down the PCs this turn. Dirk (of course!) picked up Rivals during character creation.]

Setting up the Battle

gloomy (9" max. visibility)
Notable sights: Documentation (provides a Rumour)

Objective: Secure
Enemy: Vigilantes

The rank and file are armed with Infantry Lasers -- too bad you can't salvage enemy weapons!

L to R: Hook, Shirtless, Fishy, the Engineer

Pigtails, their Lieutenant, gets a blade & +1 combat score.

The Specialists are Anorak (with a military rifle) and Ripper (ripper sword and
handgun). Specialists get no bonuses, just different weapons.

[Wargame AARs seem to be very light on mechanics, so there will be a lot fewer than in my RPG session posts.

There are a lot more images than usual, so the battle will begin after the cut.]

Round 1

Five Parsecs from Home - Part 1

: Maximum Security Detention Facility :
: New Milton Keynes :
: Fringe Sector :

"Alright you scum, listen up. I've been asked to get a special unit together for a dangerous mission in the old industrial sector. The brass have classified this as a suicide mission, and have decided not to throw away Unity personnel and equipment on an impossibility. But they've given me special dispensation to use the lot of you in one last, desperate attempt to pull it off. Many of you -- hell, most of you, even -- will not survive. But those that do will obtain a full pardon for your crimes, and your freedom. Any of you want to back out now, that's fine with me, but this is your only chance to avoid a one-way ticket to the soylent factory. Can I assume we're all agreed? Good.

"Now, since you don't know each other, allow me to make the introductions.
"Dirk Striker, career mercenary. A man's man, and a soldier's soldier. Spec-ops commando. Decorated veteran of the Antares Revolt. Medals for courage, valour, and bravery. Then abandoned by your unit at the battle of Tannhäuser Gate -- a betrayal for which you never forgave them. You'll get your revenge some day, I wager, but you've got to learn to keep you nose clean until then. Tell me, son, just how does a man of your talents get picked up on a public urination charge?"

"I was framed!"

"That's what they all say.
"Next we have Len 'Slow Hand' Luvvermann. You left a pretty cushy job in Megacity 8, and for what? The life of a scoundrel, traipsing round the galaxy in search of the zipless fuck, with nothing but a duelling pistol and a holo-crystal containing every known recording of Ravel's Boléro."

"You forgot to mention my boss threads."

"Look, I don't know what sort of 'trip' you're on, son, but no one is above following our space quarantine procedures. Our top scientists have traced the recent outbreak of Disco Fever to its source: you.
"Now we come to... um, corporal, help me out here. How do you say that?"

"Um, er.... well, she goes by 'Zllgx', sir."

"Now we come to Zg... Zlllug.... to this alien. A nomad, from a low-tech colony, whose name I'm also not about to attempt. A long way from your homeworld, aren't we? This may be the Fringe, but we are still a civilised planet. Perhaps you should have acquainted yourself with our laws and customs. Wearing white shoes after Labour day is a serious offence.


"Uh... that's no excuse.
"Moving on... say hello to Wilmer Glorp. An Engineer from the enclave in brown sector. Works as an enforcer for the Zortrino crime family in their traffic division. It's said they'll validate parking anywhere -- for a price. But those who can't pay up get a visit from good ol' Wilmer here. Such greed: all those credits coming in, and still too cheap to pay for a TV licence."

"I wasn't watching anything! I just needed to know who'd won Strictly."

"I've heard it all before.
"Next up, we have a true enigma. She was apprehended with a pocket full of false Identi-cards: Muffy Meyers, Muffy Kruger, Muffy Voorhees... Tell me, miss, is any of these your real identity?"

"I am legion."

"No matter. But it's ironic, isn't it: you elude the law with all these aliases, only to get brought in for overdue library books. And between you and me, you're lucky we found you before the library's enforcement squad did -- they don't take prisoners.
"Finally we have this... bot? I don't rightly know what this bot is supposed to have done, but I'm not paid to ask questions, so... the six of you move out at 22:00."

Campaign Notes & Character Records

I'm not a wargamer, but the light roleplaying elements of 5 Parsecs sucked me in. Plus it's a great excuse to dig out my Lego.

All my PCs were rolled entirely randomly using the 3rd edition Five Parsecs from Home rulebook, and the minifigs constructed to fit them. When I rolled on the Crew Table (p. 32) for flavour details, I got:

We met through: being in trouble with the authorities
We are best characterised as: cut-throat outlaws

And that's what gave me the idea to start them off with a Dirty Dozen origin story. The first Campaign Turn, therefore, was heavily modified. I rolled their mission randomly, and did check for Conditions and Hazard Pay, since it will be a standard campaign from here on in. They will have a ship as normal, and there are a few items aboard it / in the crew's Stash. The Colonel who put together the mission counts as the Patron that one of the PCs (I think it was Wilmer) got as a benefit during character creation.

I set the campaign difficulty to Challenging since I don't want battles with too few enemies.

Dirk Striker

Type: Baseline human
Background: Military outpost
Motivation: Revenge
Class: Mercenary

Reactions   2
Speed       4"
Combat     +1
Toughness   3
Savvy      +0
Luck        1
XP          2

blast pistol, boarding sabre

The background/motivation/class results made it immediately obvious that this would be the crew's Leader. The combination also made it obvious that he needed the most risibly macho 90s action movie name possible. I almost spelt Striker with a y to make it look "cool", but I decided to go for the explicit Traveller reference instead.

Len "Slow Hand" Luvvermann

Type: Baseline human
Background: Comfortable megacity class
Motivation: Romance
Class: Scoundrel

Reactions   1
Speed       5"
Combat     +0
Toughness   3
Savvy      +0

duelling pistol

I wasn't sure what to make of the scoundrel searching the galaxy for romance, so I went with 70s (also very early 80s) space adventurer. And maybe leaned into the 70s part a little too hard. He's probably a liability.

Wilmer Glorp

Type: Engineer
Background: Subjugated colony on alien world
Motivation: Survival
Class: Enforcer

Reactions   1
Speed       4"
Combat     +1
Toughness   3
Savvy      +1
Military rifle

Engineers seem to be the non-copyright-infringing stand-ins for the quarians from Mass Effect. They are physically frail, having a maximum Toughness of 4, regardless of armour or enhancements. Wilmer's only got the Toughness of a base human character due to a bonus from his Survival motivation. I often mix film noir with my sci-fi, so the enforcer got named after the gunsel in the Maltese Falcon. Let's hope he has a better run than his namesake.

Muffy (real name unknown)

Type: Mysterious Past
Background: Giant overcrowded dystopian city & Frontier gang
Motivation: Discovery
Class: Starship crew

Reactions   1
Speed       5"
Combat     +1
Toughness   3
Savvy      +2


An interstellar woman of mystery, Muffy would have been the crew leader, had I not rolled up an action hero to claim that rôle. If she ever leaves due to a random event, I'll have her form her own crew, and use this one as Rivals.

Zngprxtxlzf "Zllgx" Pkzlmqpsg

Type: Minor alien
Background: Low-tech colony
Motivation: Wealth
Class: Nomad

Reactions   1
Speed       4"
Combat     +0
Toughness   3
Savvy      +0

special: max 4 Toughness, +1 repair rolls
blade, colony rifle

Zllgx is a nomadic Sbzdomite from the desert world, Llandudno 9. The only things she cares about in this life are credits, credits, hpgdreqjju, and credits. Credits she can get anywhere, but she'd kill her own brood-mother for hpgdreqjju. Maybe she already did.


Type: Bot

Reactions   2
Speed       4"
Combat     +1
Toughness   4
Savvy      +2

brutal mêlée weapon, sonic emitter
built-in armour 6+

I'd originally envisioned GBH as some sort of off-brand warbot (hence the designation). Two battles in, and I'm pretty sure that's a mistake. Perhaps it's a janitorial bot, in over its head. This fighting does not compute!

Next post: the mission!

Saturday, 23 April 2022

Silent Legions solo - Part 19: Full circle


13 December 2:12pm

Unlike their trip to Epping Forest, the woods through which Cat and her companions are now walking have long been without the ministrations of a warden. Progress is slow and involves rather more climbing over fallen trees than they'd hoped, but they eventually crash through to an old footpath. It's a bit muddy from the recent rain, but seems to be headed the right direction.

[Scene 23]

[Wis/Navigation 6+ not to get lost: No one has the skill (-1 penalty), but Mary has the best Wisdom: 2d6+1-1=6, ok

Q: What do they see outside? (via Big Book: Haunts)

sense table - Roll three times
Creepy Copses: path - hearing - squelch
Abandoned places: statue - hearing - mutter
Abandoned places: garden - taste - bland]

The path twists and winds through the cold winter wood until the treeline abruptly stops. Cat creeps to the forest edge, concealing herself behind a rotten log. Her companions spread out, finding their own concealment.

Beyond is an overgrown garden behind the sprawling hotel, which is still, in places, boarded-up. The flowerbeds are completely taken over by weeds, and the sole remaining wooden bench is mouldering with damp. A mossy stone statue of Venus stands atop a pedestal by a dead, once-ornamental hedge. From behind it they hear an excited voice [Delightfully / Festive], but cannot make out the words.
Then someone in wellies is squelching through the mud behind them. They wheel about to see an extremely petite and strikingly beautiful woman staring down at them [Very / Beautiful]. The simple dress of thin black cotton she wears seems out of place for a walk in the woods, and her long, straight, brown-black hair has remained somehow untouched by the all the brambles and branches. She's both physically smaller and possessed of a larger presence than Angharad, and her sweet smile carries a hint of awful malice.

[Q: What does she have up her sleeve? 1d6: 1 recently cast spell, 2 summoned beastie, 3 cultists within screaming distance, 4 evil artefact, 5 gun, 6 unearthly power; 1d6=6, noted.]
"Uninvited guests," says the woman. "Just what am I to do with you? I wonder...?" [mysterious - conundrum - knowledge]

"We're looking for Angharad," says Amit. "She's not been answering her mobile for days. We're here to make sure she's alright."

"Are you, now indeed?"

"Yeah, so if you know anything you'd best--"

"Be silent. You came uninvited, and presume to tell me what to do. Come with me now to the house so I can decide how to deal with you." [hostile - submission - current story]

"You threatening us, mate? You're outnumbered four to one."

"You do want to see Angharad, don't you?"

"Let's hear her out," says Elgin.

The woman walks with sinuous grace, heading directly for the hedge. Behind it are a man and woman in tailored winter coats are having an animated, if one-sided discussion. They stop short just before they see the woman, as if her very presence was felt. They look confused as the strangers come into view behind her, but wait patiently for her to speak.

"Eleanor, take our guests inside and offer them some refreshments in the Red Room. I'll be along presently."
Eleanor frowns a bit. "Really, Xanthippe, I've more pressing things to attend to than playing hostess to these... well, whoever they are. I didn't join up with you to run the hospitality department."

"You'll do as you're told."

"Yes. Yes, of course. Forgive my speaking out of turn. You lot, please follow me."

They do, exchanging quizzical looks with one another. She leads them in a back door, through the kitchen which shows signs of recent use, and through the dining room, which, save for two long tables in the centre, is full of dusty and dilapidated furniture. From the dining room they proceed down a long hotel corridor with damp, mildewy carpeting. She stops finally at the door to one of the suites, which bears a brass plaque engraved with 'The Red Room' in overly flowery letters.

The Red Room is so named from its crimson carpeting which matches the peeling Edwardian wallpaper and heavy velvet curtains. Shelves are built into one wall, holding leather-bound books and a few porcelain figurines. Four mismatched, overstuffed armchairs and a green velvet fainting couch are placed round a low mahogany table before the fireplace which sports corroded, and exceedingly dusty, faux logs. A modern space heater hums in the corner.
"Make yourselves comfortable," says Eleanor as she crosses to the old wooden standing globe and opens it, revealing it to be a drinks cabinet. "The bar is open. What can I get everyone?"

"Where's Angharad?" asks Amit.

"We should wait for Xanthippe."

Amit turns on the charm but she's having none of it.

[He attempts to use Folie à deux, but Eleanor gets a Mental Effect save as she is most assuredly tainted by the supernatural: natural 20]

"Please," he says again, with those big brown pleading eyes, "I jus--"

"You'll wait to speak to Xanthippe or she'll have your tongues torn out for your insolence. Now, the scotch is not quite top shelf but it's eminently drinkable. Who's joining me? No one? No takers at all? Really, you think we'd stoop to poisoning your drinks, when we could do so very, very much more... Still no? More for me then. Chin chin!"

Xanthippe reappears, having traded her wellies for velveteen slippers. Eleanor's demeanour changes ever so slightly. Her broad smile is the same, but the corners of her eyes narrow almost imperceptibly.

"I'll be leaving you to it, then?" she says, handing the second drink she'd prepared to Xanthippe. She strides out with her own glass, closing the door firmly behind her.

Xanthippe kicks off her slippers and sits cross-legged in one of the armchairs, childlike and terrible.

[10+ Wis/Perception to notice anything about Xanthippe: only Amit makes roll]

She looks over her guests for a good while before deigning to speak. Amit alone notices the peculiarity in her manner, for she never quite seems to make eye contact with anyone she addresses, nor even look in their actual direction when speaking.

[Q: Given that I know where it necessarily ends, how is this going to go down until that point? Dangerously / Flawless]

"I see you've refused our hospitality. I hope Eleanor hasn't put you off with her slanders against our liquor cabinet. She can be so middle class. Sure you won't reconsider...? Right: mox nox, ad rem. It's time you told me who you are, why you've come, and what you want with one of my votaries." [UNE: inquisitive - command - campaign]

"It's like we told you," says Cat, "we're Angharad's friends and we were worried when we couldn't get ahold of her. She was nervous about coming here, but I couldn't talk her out of it, and I didn't really want to go with her."

"I see. And how did you know where to find us?"

"We knew a guy to ask. Angharad wouldn't say."

"Interesting. And who might that have been?"

"An ex-copper called Frost," says Mary. "He also said you lot were bad news, and that we should forget all about you. And her."

"Did he really? How disappointing of him. But you haven't yet touched upon my first question: who are you four?"

"I'm Cat. That's Mary, Amit, and Elgin."

"Yes, her descriptions of three of you were spot on. But she never mentioned a Mary, and I'm sure she would have..."

"She's my mate," says Cat quickly. "I told her all about meeting Angharad, so she agreed to help look for her."

"Since you know who we are," interjects Elgin, "you know we got the ritual manuscript for Angharad, and I translated it for her."

"She'd mentioned."

"But the manuscript was woefully incomplete. It contained nowt besides the consecration rites and related preparations. What of the Silver House?"

"What of it?"

"What's the connection?"

"That would be telling."

"Where's Angharad?" says Amit. "Are you going to let us see her or not?"

"I've not decided what to do with you yet, let alone whom I'll allow you to see. But another outburst like that will not be tolerated."

"I've had enough of this shit," says Amit, pulling the automatic from his rucksack. "Now, how about some answers."

"So it's to be this way is it. Pity. I'd hoped to talk more."

"So talk."

"It's too late for that, now," says Xanthippe, putting her hands up to her face. She digs her nails in and pops out her eyes, then places them before her on the table with an audible click -- they're made of glass. The onlookers' initial shock subsides for an instant into realisation, to be immediately replaced by the uncanny feeling of her empty black orbits staring out at them. Then wisps of a dense green vapour issue forth from the empty holes, filling the room with a subtle but sour perfume.

The vapour swirls round Amit's head and he is overcome. The gun drops from his fingers, and he slides down in his chair. Mary is struck blind. She tries to flee but succumbs to the fumes after three steps. Elgin runs straight into the bookcase before collapsing in a heap. Only Cat makes it out the door, but there are two or three cultists waiting in the hall -- her vision is too blurred to tell. They threaten her with knives but she runs at them headlong. They catch her and hold her fast, but she doesn't stop biting and kicking and punching. She feels a sharp pain in her arm, then a cold steely puncture in her gut, but she doesn't falter. It's the vapour that gets her in the end...
[Too many die rolls & game notes make things unreadable, so I've collected them here.

For the sight of Xanthippe removing her eyes, 1d8 Madness all round:
A+7 to 28
c+3 to 41
E+1 to 38
M+6 to 21

This bumped both Mary and Cat over Dark Vision thresholds, and they both failed their saving throw to avoid. They'll remember these later, so I didn't have to figure everything out yet, but it seems that Xanthippe can only be defeated in a certain place with a certain item/substance.

Mary: Smell - The place the PC needs to be for their purposes. - blinded 4 rounds
Cat: Taste - The way to harm or foil a supernatural entity or its plans. - Compelled to flee at least 10 meters away from people. - struck mute for 1 minute

Everyone got Physical saves to resist the vapour (it lasts 3 rounds, so one roll per round). They all failed them pretty fast.

Elgin took 1 damage from smacking into the bookcase, and Cat 6 damage from being stabbed, neither of which I rolled, as it brings them to the state they were in at the very start.

The 1d6 roll from earlier in the scene revealed that Xanthippe had an 'unearthly power' to fall back on in an emergency. I just made up something suitably horrible rather than rolling for it.

At this point, my adventure has almost caught up to the start. The end of this scene marks a major GM decision point--

Q: Why/how does the party get separated? seize / heart... a bit on the nose, that one.
Q: Just one of the two? 50/50 (4+): O6 C7 - Yes.
Q: So what about Mary? draw / secret - she accidentally says something that piques the cult's interest]

[Scene 24 : Mary]
14 December 12:40am

Mary comes to in darkness on a cold concrete floor. Confused and dizzy, she can't remember how she got here. She drifts back towards sleep.

A door screeches open. A torch shines on her face. Footsteps approach. She holds out a hand against the light, but can't form words to ask a question. Someone seizes her uplifted hand. She is pulled to her feet, reeling, and blacks out again.

When Mary awakens things are [Quietly / Graceful] less unpleasant. She's mostly upright, sat in a sizeably cosy armchair. Someone is snapping their fingers in he face, and she is trying to twist away from it.

"I think she's actually coming round this time," says a voice.

"I'll go get [1d8: 1-4 Xanthippe, 5-6 Eleanor, 7-8 both; 2] the High Priestess."

Mary feels her head clear a little [drugged penalties -4/-2] and tries to take in her surroundings. She's in a candlelit bedroom, full of antique furnishings. The curtains are drawn, and there's a smell of sandalwood incense that almost covers a deep musty odour.

Someone is looming over her, a fuzzy-edged silhouette, breathing heavily, unmoving.
Mary is still trying to make sense of her situation when the door opens and someone comes in. The hulking shadow places a second chair in front of Mary's, and someone sits down to face her.

"Here, drink this, it'll help," says Xanthippe, proffering a cup.

Her head is still reeling, and she doesn't have the strength to refuse. The brandy burns on the way down but is fortifying as promised [allows free Phys saving throw: success. Penalties now -2/-1].

"Do you have a habit of talking in your sleep? You said some quite interesting things in your fits of delirium."


"You seem preoccupied with the 'First Knower of Scorn'."

"I, uh..."

"Before you try to dissemble, let me be very plain about one thing: you're only alive at present because your words interest me."

"What did I say?"

"Besides the name, little that made sense. But what might you've said?"

"I... I don't know. I had, um, dreams that it was trying to eat me. I guess. And then a ghostly woman said she wouldn't let it... That's kind of it."

"Is that all? How disappointing."

"It's the reason for the kitchens, isn't it?"

"The kitchens? I don't follow."

"The ones that Frost runs. The kitchens for people..."

"Frost? Really?"

"I think it's how he covers his tracks after murders."

"And he's kept me in the dark this whole time. You, my dear, may just prove useful to me. Perhaps you'd like to join my petite cabale..." [friendly - comfort - current story]

"What about my friends?"

[Q: Is it too late to save Amit? Unlikely (5+): O2 C3 - no, but...]

"Oh, you're going to be tedious about this, aren't you? 'Spare my friends and I'll join you', is that it?"

"Well, yeah."

[Q: How amenable is she to the proposition? Requires Cha/Persuade check of 1d8+4=7
2d6-1(unskilled)-1(daze)=10, success]

Xanthippe sighs, then snaps her fingers. "To the chamber, quickly. Bring her friend out at once."

The hulk moves off without a word.

[Scene 25: All caught up]
14 December : 1:29am

Elgin and Cat are throwing the bolt on the hotel's front door when someone behind them screams 'stop!'

They glance back over their shoulders, and see a hazy group of human figures at the other end of the hallway. One of them is rushing towards them, hands outstretched, begging them not to leave. Cat's about to meet their onrush with a solid punch when she realises it's Mary. Memory floods back as they take in the scene.

"Cat! Elgin! You can't leave yet! Amit's hurt."

"What? Mary, how-- what are you doing with them?"

"Cat, I can explain. Xan--"

"She's gotten to you, hasn't she? Get back, or--"

"No, Cat, listen! She's agreed to let you leave. But you have to take Amit with you. He needs to go to hospital."

"You're... you're staying?"

"Yes. I have to. It's the only way she'll let the rest of you go free. I'll ring you tomorrow and explain everything. Trust me, Cat, I'll be ok here. Xanthippe is going to help me fight the dreams."

"This is a bad idea."

"I don't think it is. Besides, we've no choice in the matter. Here, gimme a hug goodbye at least. We'll speak soon."

"Eleanor walks down the corridor towards them. Behind her, a pair of enormous brutes are carrying a bloodied Amit on a makeshift stretcher."

"We're taking my car," says Eleanor, jangling her keys. "I'll explain on the road."

* * *

"They were going to cut your friend's heart out. Fortunately they'd just gotten started. I don't think he's in any danger, but it would be best not to go to A&E. We can't have the police getting involved, now can we? So I'm going to drive the lot of you back to London, and you're going to have to nurse him back to health yourselves."
"Yeah, he'd prefer not to have to deal with any cops," says Cat.

"Good. We understand one another, then. If you don't mind me saying, you're all taking this quite in stride, so I gather you're not unused to, shall we say, proceedings of this nature. What, I wonder, is your interest in all this?" [inquisitive - interest - the character]

"As I keep saying, we were worried about a friend of ours. It's not going to get any less true no matter how many times you ask."

"A friend? Oh, of course! That Angharad person, correct? I'm being silly, of course it's her. I mean, who else would it be?"

"What did you do to her?"

"Do? We didn't do anything. She did it to herself. Or rather, the Chamber did it. Nasty business, that. But she was foolish. A foolish, foolish girl with rapacious appetites, and it doesn't do to ask too much from the Vhrhaiff-- ... the Vrhhch-- ... Vhrhaithphth-- sod it, why can't these things ever have nice, pronounceable English names? Xanthippe wouldn't let me anywhere near it; she said I'd probably go and ask for even more than that leather-clad hussy. As if! I like to think I have a bit more sense than that."

"Who is this Xanthippe anyways? What's her deal?"

"I believe I'd asked the same about you."

"We're independents."

"I see. Do go on."

"That's kinda it. We got messed up in some stuff with evil artefacts and secret societies, and we came out of it all alive. But damned if we didn't just jump back into the fucking middle of it all."

"So you're not beholden to anyone?"

"Just each other."

"Well, I'm afraid you're going to have to write off Angharad  -- bad luck, can't be helped -- but there's still time to save your other little friend."

"Save her?"

"From Xanthippe."

"What the hell is she?"

"The High Priestess? Oh, just your average member of the aristocracy. Has her history degree from Magdalen College, her father was a baronet or something, the family home is heavily mortgaged and in dire need of a new roof, and--"

"That's not what I meant."

"Of course you didn't. The truth is I've no idea. I'd thought she was as human as you and I. The eye thing is new. She doesn't see fit to tell me everything, and I've learnt not to ask."

"So how did you...?"

"Become her girl Friday? I ruined one of her schemes. She was so impressed she offered me a place. So I accepted -- rather than facing a horrific death, naturally. That's the abridged version, but all the salient facts are there, save one."

"Which is?"

"I aim to destroy her, of course, and take her place as High Priestess. Why else would I be telling you all this?"

* * *

It's barely an hour and a quarter taking the M25. Eleanor drops them off at Elgin's. She takes Cat's mobile number before driving off, saying she'll be in touch.

They install Amit in Elgin's bed, doing their best to keep him comfortable. He's barely conscious, and they soon drop from exhaustion themselves.

* * *

It was dark when the fell asleep, and as they slept through the next day, it's dark again when they awaken. Elgin runs out to buy bandages and antiseptic before the chemist closes. Cat sits staring at her phone until it finally rings.

"Mary! Are you...?"

"I'm fine, Cat. Really I am. How... how's Amit."

"I dunno. It's early days."

"Look, Cat, I know what you're thinking, but you have to trust me. It was necessary for me to stay. And I don't think it's such a bad idea. Xanthippe is going to help me. She's been very kind, now that things have settled."

"You trust that--?"

"No, of course not. Not yet. And she doesn't trust me either. But we can help one another. It would be stupid to let our suspicions get in the way."


"Cat, I have to go now. There's a lot to do here. I just wanted to let you know I'm OK, and not to worry. There's a few things to attend to before we can leave the hotel, but then we'll be coming down to London to deal with Frost, and whoever is protecting him inside the Met. If the police won't do anything, I will."


Post Mortem

This was my first attempt at a non-linear adventure. It was actually a lot easier to run than I'd expected, though I don't think it's going to be a regular occurrence. I think what made it easiest was the completely unknown date of the opening scene. I didn't have to worry about pushing things along to end at a particular point, and could just let it develop on its own. Knowing the point it had to reach did help inform the Oracle questions, but the vague start also meant  I didn't have to force anything to fit. For instance, I started out with the assumption that one of the cults from the first adventure had captured Cat and Elgin.

Long-time readers will recognise Eleanor and Xanthippe from my very first Silent Legions one-shot. I'd always thought Eleanor would make a good villain, though for a long time I wasn't sure it would necessarily be in this campaign. But then I needed yet another cult, and Xanthippe's petite cabale was right there in my old notes... I will assume that the events of Eleanor's adventure occurred essentially as stated (minus a bit of the silliness), and that it took place in Oxfordshire rather than the fictional Midsomer. I haven't decided what to do about Eleanor's stats yet (or Xanthippe's, for that matter), but she's certainly not still first level.

And speaking of levels, I am awarding a flat 2000xp to all my PCs for the adventure, so they'll all be 3rd level when the campaign continues. They all need a little downtime to improve skills and Amit needs to heal.

For witnessing a ritual, Amit suffers +1d6=4 madness. For nearly getting his heart torn out +1d8=3, to a total of 35 (before the reduction for gaining a level).

Mary's time will be more complicated. She still gets to reduce her Madness by 10 for gaining a level, but she'll most certainly gain more from being Xanthippe's newest votary. She'll probably get a few spells in return.

I haven't started the next adventure yet, but I've got an entire handwritten page of loose ends, so this campaign is far from over.