Tuesday, February 25, 2014

[Actual Play] DWAiTAS - The Exiles of Time 1.06: 'The Legacy of A'Kraitha'

Took me a while to get this write-up done for last season's finale for our Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space campaign. There are almost certainly aspects of the play session I have forgotten (for example, I know Malik manages to talk himself out of the tight spot he winds up in later on in the session, but I forget how), and some embellishments. As for the session itself - and, in all honesty, the season as a whole - it is very Anith-centred, which is a bad thing because Anith is an NPC. Happily though, that becomes much less of a problem after this session, for reasons which will become apparent by the end...

Robyn Dalton (played by Heather W): A UNIT researcher for the top-secret Project Broadsword, Robyn is haunted by a shameful past, but her history gives her knowledge and expertise that make her a valuable asset to UNIT. She is dark eyed and has dark hair cut in a bob style with green or blue highlights depending on her mood. (Kinda like Claudia from Warehouse 13.)
Howard Phillips (played by Alex H): A fiercely loyal, by-the-book agent for the Temporal Security Agency.
Malik (played by Luke): A Silurian from a time when his species' reign on Earth, displaced in time by the Cardiff Rift, Malik has been living in a TMNT-style pad in the sewers of the Welsh capital, feeding on criminals and becoming the subject of urban legend, the 'Lizard Man of Cardiff'. He wears a hessian cloak and cowl to hide his features when he walks among the apes that have taken over his homeworld.
Pan (played by Maggie): A student of Archimedes, and the real inventor of Archimedes' screw and the fabled 'heat ray'. Possesses technological knowledge beyond his time, owing to his precognitive abilities. Pan is tall and has messy 'mad scientist' hair, dressed in a Grecian tunic and sandals.
Sister Ian (played by Heather W, standing in for Nikki): A former Sister of Plenitude who has joined the Temporal Security Agency as their chief medical officer in order to atone for her part in the Flesh/New Human experiments on New Earth.

Guest Starring
Anith - Mysterious woman who can fly the TARDIS. Regular since episode one.
Captain Jack Harkness - Nanite-cloned imposter.
Prince Adar - Commander of the White Star of A'Kraitha.

EPISODE 1.06: 'The Legacy of A'Kraitha'

As the research station begins to tear apart all around them, due to distortions caused by the object coming through the black hole, the Exiles hurriedly evacuate everyone still on board the station into the TARDIS, while Robyn uses Howard's vortex manipulator to track the co-ordinates Captain Harkness teleported to. She cuts things a bit close, being the last person left on board, and almost doesn't make it out in time. Luckily, the TARDIS gang have her back. The TARDIS materialises in front of her as the artificial gravity starts to go a bit weird, and she jumps off the wall - which has become the 'floor' - and in through the TARDIS doors. They briefly materialize at the Temporal Security Agency to drop off the rescued researchers, and Robyn tells them that the co-ordinates Harkness teleported to lead to whatever is coming out of the black hole of Tartarus...


The Exiles debate whether they should bother going after Harkness, but Anith insists that they must retrieve the staff. She reveals that the staff is a part of a key to a powerful artefact, known as the Key to Infinity. This Key would grant terrible power over reality to whoever assembles it, so the pieces of it were scattered throughout the multiverse and assigned guardians. According to legend, the A'Kraithan royal family were entrusted with the Staff by the goddess C'Toni, hence its name: the Staff of C'Toni. Even on its own, the Staff is a dangerously powerful artifact that can not be allowed to fall into the wrong hands.

Reluctantly, our heroes set off in the TARDIS and take a bumpy trip through the black hole as they trace Harkness' coordinates, materialising inside what appears to be a starship of enormous size. The interior walls are crafted from a metal not unlike gold in appearance, and bear signs in strange script which the TARDIS struggles to translate. However, Anith recognises it as the language of her own people, and from the signs she realises that it is the Royal Fleet's flagship, the White Star of A'Kraitha. The ship was presumed destroyed with all hands lost, including her brother, Prince Adar.

Malik grows impatient with all this chatter, and seems more irritable than usual. With Anith still wounded from the gunshot, they find an old wheelchair - the very same one used by the Fifth Doctor during his post-regenerative phase - and seat her in it before setting off to explore the ship.

It isn't long before they run afoul of a guard patrol accompanied by Harkness, who is no longer carrying the staff. Harkness tells the guards his work here is done, and he'll leave the rest to them, before teleporting out with his vortex manipulator. Anith attempts to use her status to talk them down, but when it becomes clear they will not follow her orders and are preparing to fire on the Exiles, the others must come up with a means of escape. Luckily, Howard is able to use his sonic blaster to make a hole in the floor, which they all retreat through. Mal lands less than gracefully and doesn't get out the way before Anith rolls her wheelchair over the hole, landing on top of him.

This does little to improve his increasingly volatile temper, even less so when she seems to have mysteriously recovered from the gunshot wound and therefore no longer needs the wheelchair. When questioned as to how she healed herself, she says she doesn't know. Unlike the Time Lords, her race has no regenerative capabilites to explain this sudden recovery. They are interrupted by an announcement broadcast over the ship's communications network, from Anith's brother, Prince Adar. He orders Anith and her companions to surrender peacefully and promises no harm will come to them. Anith is adamant that this cannot be her brother, he is either an imposter or possessed, but one way or the other she is certain he has become a pawn of the Archivists.

The Archivists are a swarm of intelligent machines that consume - or 'archive' - entire civilisations and replicate them as soldiers to further their expansion. The Archivists claim to seek the preservation of all that is precious in reality, but their method for doing so leaves something to be desired.

The Exiles make their way back to the TARDIS, evading guard patrols along the way, and once inside they decide to confront Adar head on. They materialize on the bridge and attempt to negotiate with Prince Adar, but Adar is not open to negotiation. He has the Staff in hand, and soon his ship will exit the black hole and he will begin his conquest of this universe in the Archivists' name. He would like Anith to join him. She seems conflicted for a moment, but refuses. Malik taunts Adar, who decides to teach the lizard some manners. He slams the staff into the floor. In an instant he is in front of Malik and the two of them fight. Malik gains the upper hand and is consumed with bloodlust as cracks appear on his neck and face. Before anyone can stop him, he stabs Adar through the chest. The fallen prince bleeds silver from his wound. The crew, busy flying the ship out of the black hole, are unable to assist.

Pan faces off against Malik, who seems beyond reason and ready to kill them all, starting with him. Pan readies Greek fire as Mal raises his sword. But at the last moment, Malik pulls himself together and stops, confused as to what is going on. They grab the staff and flee the bridge before the remaining crew can stop them, dematerialising.

As they are leaving, Anith clutches her head. She's hearing voices; the voices of the Archivist collective. Robyn determines that the bullet Harkness shot her with must have been composed of nanites, which repaired the wound and then went on to infiltrate her body. They are wondering how much damage the nanites can repair when the TARDIS is caught in a tractor beam while making its escape from the White Star, which is now poking through the black hole, debris from the station falling into the black hole around it. Adar appears on their viewscreen, ordering them to return the staff or be destroyed.

Meanwhile, both Anith and Malik are taken to the Zero Room where they are tied up to keep them from harming the rest of the crew. Anith pleads with them to let her do one last thing: send the Staff away so that Adar can't get his hands on it. They're sceptical, but eventually Anith convinces them to untie her and hand her the staff. She has a battle of wills, encouraged by the Exiles, and just manages to reset the staff's security settings and sets it to teleport away to an unknown location in space and time. Then she succumbs to the nanites, and is possessed by the Archivist collective. The Exiles tie her up and leave her locked in the Zero Room along with Malik.

Adar is infuriated when he learns that the Staff has been sent away, but is determined to capture the Exiles and 'archive' them all the same. Robyn and Pan work together with Howard to break the TARDIS free of the White Star's tractor beam and escape into the vortex, leaving the White Star to slowly drag itself out of the black hole...


The Exiles Of Time will return in 'The Retcon Protocol' 

Note: Although I am writing them as I go, I'll be holding off on posting the actual play reports for season two until the season is over, since there is some stuff included from certain PCs' POV which is not known to all the other PCs or their players yet.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

More Gumshoeness: Bubblegumshoe Beta Playtest (and Why Teen Detectives Are Awesome!)

I've been raving a bit about Pelgrane Press' Gumshoe system lately (more among friends than on this blog, admittedly), mainly because of the Timewatch Kickstarter I'm currently backing. But there's another Gumshoe project in the works that I just found out about, and was so excited by the idea that I immediately got on the GUGS Facebook page, found myself a group of people who would also be interested in trying it out, and then signed up for the beta playtest. The name of the project: Bubblegumshoe.

Bubblegumshoe is a hack of the Gumshoe system being produced by Evil Hat, who brought us the amazing Fate system and Don't Rest Your Head. The premise is that players will take on the roles of teen detectives solving mysteries...that's pretty much all I needed to know to sell me on the concept, because I fricking LOVE teen detective stories. From watching shows like Scooby Doo and The Adventures of Shirley Holmes in my own childhood and teenage years (and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, in a manner of speaking), to reading manga series like Case Closed/Detective Conan (who's technically more of a kid detective, really) and the Kindaichi Case Files, to more recent and grittier takes on the genre like Brick, Veronica Mars and Chuck Wendig's Atlanta Burns stories, I'm a long-term fan of the teen detective genre and just love the idea of a roleplaying game based on these stories. (Remember Kaito Yamada, the teen detective OC I played as in an Evangelion RPG channel?)

Why, after so long out of high school, do these stories still appeal to me? I guess it's because I love underdogs. And when it comes to detective fiction, teen detectives are the ultimate underdogs because, well, they're teenagers. It's hard for a teenager to get themselves taken seriously by witnesses or authorities when they're trying to gather clues and solve crimes. This isn't a job for them, it's a hobby; they still have to go to school and do chores, and all the other stuff teen life entails. And they have no real authority of their own; one wrong step in an investigation could land them in detention, or even jail. That's not even to mention the danger they face when confronting adult bad guys, who are bigger and tougher than they are, and have more resources at their disposal.

And yet, their weaknesses can also be their strengths. People underestimate teen detectives because of their youth, and they usually end up regretting it when their plans are foiled by some meddling kids. And when it comes to some cases, the teenager might be able to blend in and investigate in places where adults can't (at least not discretely), particularly on a high school campus. And because of their disadvantages, teenagers often have to be even more cunning than adult detectives, finding more creative ways to bring down the bad guy. One of my favorite scenes from Veronica Mars is in the first episode, where Veronica engineers an elaborate scheme to switch a videotape held in the Sheriff's evidence locker for a different one, in order to get a friend out of trouble and also take the corrupt Sheriff down a peg or two.

My love of the teen detective genre aside, it also seems that Evil Hat are going to be doing some interesting things with the Gumshoe system, and I'm excited to see what they've got in store. The little info I've heard so far indicates more of a 'story game' element, and a focus on character interactions and relationships. There was talk on Fred Hicks' blog of the possibility of some sort of relationship map mechanic which sounds kinda Smallville-esque; I like the sound of that, because the relationship map was one of the coolest elements of the Smallville RPG for me. It also sounds like they'll be tweaking the core resolution mechanic, or at least applying it in interesting new ways.

I just received the e-mail welcoming me to the playtest on Friday and, as you can probably tell by now, I'm super excited to be a part of it. The playtest period begins Friday 21st and will be lasting for a couple of months. I've got five players ready and willing to do regular playtest sessions; all we need to is settle on a day/time/place for those. I'll probably also run a one-shot of the game at the GUGS Big Geekend, which is happening on March 1st. In accordance with my disclosure pledge, I'll make an effort to post about my experiences with the game as we go ahead with the playtests, so I'll set aside a day of the week (maybe two, sometimes) for posting thoughts and feelings on Bubblegumshoe here on the blog.

That's all for now, folks! Be seeing you...

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

[Kickstarter Promo] Timewatch RPG: 9 days to go, and plenty more stretch goals to unlock!

This Kickstarter for Pelgrane Press' latest Gumshoe RPG has already been hugely successful so far, but there is more awesome to be unlocked yet. At $65,000 the Parallel Worlds campaign style will be unlocked. If it hits $70,000, Pelgrane will produce a 96-page campaign supplement for the game. And at $100,000 the book will be published in glorious full colour!

Check it out, and please consider backing to at least the level for getting a physical book. :)

Sunday, February 2, 2014

[Announcement] Getting My Priorities in Order

First thing's first: I said I'd do book reviews on Sundays and I haven't been. The reason for that is that I've been scheduling reviews for books that I finished reading weeks ago already. Why is that a problem? Because it is easier (at least for me, I don't know if it's the same for others or not) to review a book when you've just finished it and everything you loved and/or hated about is still fresh in your mind. Whereas by now I've moved on to another book and have actually read about three books since finishing the first title on my book review list (Ready Player One by Ernest Cline). Also, to be honest, I haven't been reading books from an analytical point of view. So I won't be reviewing those books now. At some point I will probably reread Ready Player One (because I absolutely loved it), and I'll try and do so with an eye (or ear, in the case of audiobooks) towards reviewing them. If, in my future reading, I feel like writing a book review, then I will do so, but I'm not going to treat it as an obligation.

Which brings me to the true purpose of this announcement. I'm going to focus less on blogging in order to concentrate more on my personal writing projects. Because I've found that I've been sitting down to write posts for the blog, and my blog writing time ends up bleeding over into my actual writing time because I'm trying to get posts done in time to publish them by a certain date/time. And that's not good. My priority as far as writing goes has to be getting my novels and short stories done, so I'm going to focus more on those.

I'll still post on the blog to share actual play reports from my campaign, or when I have a topic I'm interested in discussing or something I really want to share, but I'm going to devote the majority of my daily writing time to getting my own projects done. Anything that goes up on here, will be stuff I write up during my downtime. It's not that I'm going to stop blogging, it's just that I'm not going to be treating it like a job for the time being. I'll be less regular, but I'll still be around. 

So, I'll see you later folks.