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Elephant & Macaw Banner: System Basics

Part 2 of a series looking at The Elephant & Macaw Banner Roleplaying Game - see part 1, the overview, here: "What is The Elephant & Macaw Banner Roleplaying Game?"

The game is coming to Kickstarter at the end of January 2020, translated into English by yours truly. To be notified automatically when it goes live, follow this link and click the "notify on launch" button. 

 

How to do stuff in The Elephant & Macaw Banner RPG

 

The core mechanic of EAMB is a straightforward 3d6 + modifiers task resolution roll, with a binary pass/fail outcome. If you've played mainstream tabletop RPGs before, you'll have no trouble with this. 

Here's the opening text of the "Skills and Feats" section – don't panic, they're not that kind of feat. 

The system that we use to determine the success or failure of characters’ actions is based on skills and tests of these skills, which we refer to as feats. We offer this system to resolve risky actions and combat, but it is important to keep in mind that the main focus should be the portrayal of the characters and the ways they work together to find solutions to their problems. It is not always necessary to fight in order to win a battle, and as has been said in the adventures of Gerard van Oost and Oludara, “a sharp mind is more useful than a sharp sword”.

Skills come in three levels: Apprentice (1), Practitioner (2) and Master (3). 

Those translate to +3, +6 and +9 to your roll when you attempt a feat of your skill. Now, why 3d6 and modifiers in ranks of 3, rather than, say, 2d6 and modifiers in ranks of 1? I don't know for sure, and there are actually good probability-curve-based reasons you might do so, but this game is widely used in schools in Brazil, and I have a sneaking suspicion Chris did this to make kids practise their mental arithmetic. 

EAMB is one of those games where the GM has to set a difficulty level: fortunately, the skill descriptions provide benchmarks for difficulty levels, because this is often a hassle. Especially if you don't know the setting well, whether historical or fictional. How difficult is it to make a horseshoe? I genuinely have no idea. Not that you would normally roll to make a horseshoe, unless you need to shoe that horse before an angry mob arrives or something. 

Personally, if in doubt I default to "Easy feat, but with terrible consequences" – your chance of success might be 95% but it's still tense if something important is on the line. 

Anyway, here's the text about difficulty levels. You can get all this for free in the Player's Guide, incidentally, if you want to see it in context. 

When a player wants to use their character’s skill to resolve a challenging or risky situation, the outcome is not certain, and something serious is on the line, we call this a feat. We separate feats into four categories:


Easy feat – Characters with level 1 in this skill succeed most of the time (depending on the outcome of a roll of the dice). For characters at the practitioner stage (level 2), these tasks become almost routine, and the success rate is very high.


Intermediate feat – A task beyond the competence of beginners. The success rate for characters with level 1 in the skill is low. When you reach mastery (level 3), however, even these tasks become routine.


Difficult feat – Such a difficult challenge that even the greatest masters (level 3) have no guarantee of success.

 

Legendary feat – Only for extraordinary cases, these feats challenge the true limits of human capability. Even masters (level 3) have less than a 50% chance of accomplishing such a feat. 

You can also attempt feats of most skills even if you have no training (the book gives the example of someone without any Swimming trying not to drown) but only if the feat is Easy or Intermediate. You can't, however, use languages or craft skills without training: no improvising a pair of leather shoes based on guesswork. 

And... actually, that's kind of it for the system. Sometimes having good equipment will give you a bonus - for example, you get +2 to Foraging rolls if you have a trained dog to help you - and the GM ('mediator' in EAMB) can apply penalties or bonuses, but generally your skill level is the only modifier, which keeps things nice and simple. 

There's more specific stuff in the skills, but I think I'll cover that in the next blog post, which will be about... character creation!

 

What is The Elephant & Macaw Banner Roleplaying Game?

The world of The Elephant & Macaw Banner is based on sixteenth-century Brazil, the beginning of Portuguese colonization, and adds to this world fantastic elements of magic and folklore. 

The information in the game book (including maps, available goods, peoples, prices and so on) is based on the historical situation of Brazil in the year 1576, the same year that  adventures recounted in the stories of The Elephant & Macaw Banner series begin. Brazil at this time offers a real feast for those in search of adventure. It is an exciting time because of the convergence of cultures on the coast and the vast territory still unknown to the settlers. 

Who are the player characters? 

Maybe the best way to explain this is to look at the main characters of the original stories: 

Gerard is a Dutch mercenary in search of adventure – to quote his entry on the EAMB website: "He grew up in Flanders and France in what we now call the Renaissance period of European history. Gerard speaks six languages and is an expert with both the harquebus and rapier, the latter of which he studied in Bologna. Although he received a classical education, he doesn’t trust his wits in a pinch and leaves most of the planning to his trusted companion, Oludara."

Oludara is from the Kingdom of Ketu in west Africa. "Even though he was only twenty-five when his adventures with Gerard begin, his people consider Oludara wise for his age.  Even the oba (king) of Ketu consulted Oludara on how to slay a monster with guile, monsters that fifty soldiers could not defeat by force."

The two of them meet and form the "Elephant & Macaw Banner" company in the first story because they want to explore the jungle, but only official companies (with a banner showing their emblem) are allowed into the interior by the Portuguese authorities. So they draw an elephant and a macaw on a cloth and successfully argue that two people would be technically the smallest company possible!

These two are the constant protagonists of the stories but they are often accompanied by recurring characters such as Arany, a Tupinamba woman who rescues Gerard and Oludara when they first rock up to her village, Cabwassu, a warrior from the same village, or the shaman Yandir. 

A typical Elephant & Macaw Banner story involves Gerard and Oludara arriving in a new community such as an indigenous village or a Portuguese colony town, low on food and money, and making friends with people there. Sometimes a villainous rival is also present and/or trying to kill them. the community is being hassled by a monster of some sort, which turns out to be something from Brazilian folklore. Our heroes' initial encounters tend to go poorly but after nearly dying once or twice, they figure out what they need to do and then either slay or drive off the menace. Everyone celebrates, our heroes bid farewell and set off towards their next adventure! 

This is a pretty good model for what you do in the RPG too. The introductory adventure in the core book, "The Fires of Bertioga", has a similar setup - the PCs start off looking for a missing friend and run into apparitions, magical creatures, maybe a monster, probably some Portuguese soldiers and almost certainly a pirate along the way as they knock about in the mini sandbox setting. 

But what if you don't want to play a character who's an outsider? 

Well, the good news here is that it's not like there's only one indigenous culture – far from it! So if you choose to play a native Brazilian, while your PC will naturally know plenty about where they come from, once you set out on your adventures, you'll get to do just as much exploring and discovering as those from Africa and Europe.

You can find information about a number of Brazil's indigenous cultures, certainly enough to start playing the game with, in the Player's Guide PDF (which you can get for free here).

 

OK, that's enough for now - coming up next, Character Creation 

The Enemy Within: Something Rotten in Kislev – An Audience with the Master (S4E6)

 

Captain's Log: 6th of Nachenheim, 2514.

So we stood there in the laboratory of the dwarf necromancer Annandil. We waited a good moment while he tried to collect his thoughts and explain what exactly brought about the unliving plague that now ruled the town of Cherz- ch- the once beautiful home of the Dolgans. The pounding of rotted fists on the barricade below was like a frightening hobgoblin war drum. It really was getting on my nerves. Well... so did the alchemical tools, the bodies tainted by sorcery, and worst of all the disarmingly polite dwarf wizard. I was stunned by this sudden change of plan and our readiness to hear him out. I still am, to be perfectly honest. We could have just lopped off Annandil's head there and then with Death Dealer and left. Would have probably been reduced to fleshy bits in a ghoul's stomach right afterwards though. Yeah, that would have been shite. We've got too many holy duties to become another man's breakfast!

Annandil recognized the name of Sulring Dolgol and his green eyes lit up like the hideous glow of Morrslieb in full reign. He spoke some elven words and the thumping below was put to a sudden stop. It is a very strange thing to witness. A dwarf with the accent and mannerisms of an elf noble was perhaps the most startling thing I encountered in that wretched town. I don't know why. You think it would be the fellow made of water or the unceasing legion of the damned... by Sigmar. My sheer prowess in recent years at becoming familiar with the oddest bloody things never fails to make me reflect. He who fights with monsters should be careful lest he becomes an abyss himself. Or something like that.

Our mad host invited us to the local tavern where he could fully explain his claim of Chernozavtra and his fixation on raising the ungodly dead. We were all skeptical to say the least. Werner elbowed me as we walked past the ranks of staring dead and asked me if I had noticed anything odd about them. Well, I first noted that they weren't the greatest of conversationalists. That, however, was not what our marine was referring to. They were almost alive. I mean not dead. I mean that they were incredibly well preserved. You could fit one into a crowd and I mightn't notice anything off. Doctor Furfoot caught on immediately, of course. Annandil eagerly pointed out his lover's tower. He called to her with a sickening "COO-EE!" but there was no response. I understood there and then why his servants gave him such blank looks. This didn't rattle him one bit and we were soon at the tavern. There was no food or drink as the regulars here required neither. The few dead drunks seated groaned in an oddly slurred way. Sounded like every tavern I've ever been to with the pervasive grumbling, oath-edged talk. Frighteningly like living beings. Or is it that drunks are more like walking corpses? Regardless, we sat ourselves down and listened to Annandil's explanation.

Lad was given to an elven family very shortly after he was born. He suffered many hardships as he was unable to partake efficiently in many of their traditions and customs. It was because of his tough and powerful dwarf body that he was both mocked and feared by other children. At the tender age of forty eight his parents brought him to a nearby village and he became an alchemist's apprentice. He was too much of a hassle for the elves but the work required as an apprentice suited Annandil fine. Alchemist's apprentice, to a skilled practitioner of alchemy, and then finally a well regarded physician. Tragedy struck poor Annandil when a patient, a young elf woman he dearly loved, died from some sort of wasting affliction. Harbull reckons that this was the thing that drove him mental. He took a fancy dwarf name that means "death lord of the dead", or something along those lines, and began his work enchanting corpses.

Our host assured us that he believes that the things that serve him are living beings just like ourselves. Harbull and Werner were quick to question the moral right he had in dragging Dolgan warriors off to join his horde. He told us that they were invading his land, that they left it abandoned for many years, and that they would be unharmed as long as they kept their distance. There was a fair bit of a complex argument about morality and I was very confused. Annandil would not move one blighting inch from his belief that he was not evil and that the dead were grateful for being able to live once again. It was best just to let him be. His brain was as addled and decayed as the rest of his servants.

We took an oath set by the wizard. It was to never tell anyone of him and his methods, the secrets of necromancy that he was about to tell us, and to never slay a necromancer without the proper proof of evil. Shouldn't be that hard. Just wait until they send out a ghoul or two and then Death Dealer will do its gruesome work. Magical words and gestures bound us to this oath. Sigmar help us if we are to break it. We figured out that Sulring Dolgol was the fake name that an immortal elf necromancer used while trying to avoid the wrath of the law. He and Annandil exchanged letters for several years and this is what lead the latter down the dark path of the occult. The dwarf considered it the greatest means of achieving immorality and reviving his love. Considered it a science instead of a superstition. We need to find this Dolgol and...

What are we meant to do, exactly? Erm, I'll figure it out soon enough. Right, so, necromancy comes in three major forms: animating the meat of a creature, bringing it from another world through conjuration, or binding a summoned spirit. Conjuration summons "unstable" creatures that soon vanish and it takes great energy. It's the favoured method for warfare as you don't have a walking corpse or spirit to worry about afterwards. Animating the meat and then binding the original spirit to it is a new method that the dwarf wizard was very proud of. The more fresh the body, the more aware and intelligent the mind would be once the spirit was bound to it.

Best way to deal with them is to go for the legs and cripple them. They can still sense your life and follow that even if the neck is severed. Somehow become dumber than usual though. Easily lead into traps. Fire doesn't work although some remember fire well enough to fear it. Conjured creatures don't last for too long due to their unnatural presence in our realm. Werner seemed to be writing all of this down in a journal. I had no idea that he was able to read and write. Our host offered us the chance to be turned into a spirit-bound corpse if we wanted to experience it and help him with his work. I politely declined. Werner and Harbull both attempted to volunteer the other for this unusual opportunity. Oh, we also got a ghoul-smiting sword that was black as coal, a protective amulet that looks like a mace with a crossguard, arrows deadly to conjured ghouls, and a wand, with a head shaped like a crow, that would prevent any necromancy from tainting a corpse once the wand touched it.

A letter explaining this peculiar situation was required for the highly superstitious Dolgan tribe. He gave us a letter that was not exactly polite, but would suffice. We bid him farewell as he rejoined with his lover, walked towards the gates as the hobgoblin servants opened them, and fled quickly back inside. Arrows were still landing on the gates, each with a definite "THUNK", even after we reached cover. Glumly, Dolgan Jim heard their yells and told us the terrible news: the Dolgans thought that we'd aligned ourselves with Chaos! We tried explaining our letter and were mailed many arrows in response. Stuck between angry tribes of barbarians and hobgoblins... there's a reason I like to deal with these things one at a time! The doctor had ideas of how to lure the Dolgan braves into the town for an ambush. We both realized that they knew that there were corpses on the ramparts. So we couldn't trick them into thinking that we had rid the town of its scourge. Damn. We couldn't even magically fly out of there as The One was unable to accompany us to the town. Damn damn.

We rejoined the wizard and his corpse paramour. She had a, very, very... unique appearance. Yeah, that's the word. Unique. I'll be nice about it. He probably saw her the way an old captain would see their weathered old vessel. To others it may seem hideous and decayed, and it is, but the old captain has a special appreciation for its unique qualities. He introduced her to me and I had to fight all of my old courtly manners from Middenheim. I was sure as hell not going to kiss that rot- unique hand. I quickly turned it into a hand shake. He didn't notice anything and was absolutely delighted. Phew. The horde couldn't leave the town as they were preserved by a cooling process only possible with the binding of those water creatures. Finally, we were brought to the stables near the wizard's tower. The stable doors were flung open and we were face to face with reanimated steeds.

Some nearly skeletons, others with their intestines hanging out, the whole rotting range of these equestrian affronts to Sigmar were before us. It was unfortunately our best option. Jim and Werner had a very easy time controlling their steeds. Harbull and I literally couldn't ride a horse to save our lives. Annandil made for us these strange skeleton riders that would keep us fastened to the horse as the steed galloped. A harness made of ribs would be the best way I could describe it. In no time at all we were sent flying out of the gate by a huge gust of wind that our necromancer summoned. We rode past stunned Dolgan warriors, the wind blowing away their lit torches, and easily escaped them. The guttural cries of the pursuing goblins behind us was a different matter.

A whole pack of wolf rider archers had been sent by Haablo to hunt us. I could only hold onto the rib cage harness and hope for the best as arrows barely flew by us. The wolf riders were growing impatient and spurred their wolves into a ferocious pace. Our horses did the same and glided across the snow tirelessly. I looked behind in relief at the slowly shrinking view of the goblins and realized that Werner's horse and mine began to... flicker like a light? Unstable. Shite. I prayed to Sigmar with all my might and a miracle had blessed us. With hooves like fire, the horses began to gallop and struggle against their spiritual strain and we looked to be reaching our freedom soon. Rage, rage against th-

Werner's horse dissolved underneath him and he hit the ground. I yelled in terror as I realized that my old friend would soon become another skull in the pile amassed by those horrible goblins. To see our friend gone so suddenly from our crew, without dignity or fanfare, was an unfitting end for such a valiant and skilled warrior. Doctor Harbull Furfoot thought the same thing as he rode up from behind him. Healer of wounds, destroyer of doors, he charged fearlessly as a hail of arrows threatened to end his life. Our doctor grabbed the warrior by the hand and pulled him up upon his horse. Truly our own might was humbled by the bravery and loyalty of Harbull. The goblins gave up their hunt shortly after. No doubt humiliated by the heroic efforts of our crew.

Our horses had all finally returned to that other realm. Jim was waiting for us. He had outpaced everyone involved by a considerable distance. I should ask him how he did that, at some point. It was finally time to return the Tsar's court and report our quest. We were knee deep in the snow, with Harbull needing to ride on Werner's back, until we found a fine tavern. It was there that our doctor discovered that all of Werner's written notes were very simple drawings of what we had learned. Harbull had a hearty laugh at this. I thought it was pretty funny too but none of us are exactly Tilean painters. We finally made our way back quickly using a raft. I'm more used to building boats nowadays but adapting to raft making wasn't too bad. It was nice to be on a river again, even briefly.

So we're back in a nice, warm palace and waiting for our next quest. It's been a few days now but I can't complain about a small break. Mr. Crumbles, my... I've never mentioned him, have I? By the hammer, how silly of me! I have a pet monkey that I purchased and trained after the Middenheim incident. His name is Mr. Cheeky Crumbles and he is a very respectable member of our crew. Too many crumbs were snatched by his paws so our marine called him that and it stuck. Got him back on my shoulder as soon as I returned to the Tsar. He's a good fellow and very loyal.

Maybe I should buy him a small coat so I can bring him along...

  • Johann Dasbuut.

The Enemy Within: Something Rotten in Kislev – Zombie Town (S4E5)

Captain's Log: 1st of Nachenheim, 2514.

We will let our good friend here risk damning himself with his explanation of this whole sorry affair soon. It is important to recall for whoever reads this the full details of this harrowing journey into the very den of the unliving menace. Yeah, the very sort that would grab a man and pull them into the darkness to tear them limb fro- oh for the love of Sigmar! Marine, our restless "audience" is trying to break down the barricade downstairs. It's not really the fear of them getting in, I don't think they're smart enough to effectively destroy it all together, as much as that bloody thumping sound. Really throws me off when I'm trying to remember... get another desk or something. If there isn't anything left, just slash off any arms that break through. Thanks marine.

We took turns staring at the haunted town during our stay in the Dolgan village. Two things were certain: they would change their patrols under the command of a smarter walking corpse and that there was a light from the tower. We knew that whoever lived there must be behind all these abominations, things repulsive to our good god Sigmar. Probably to Jim's ones too. Ingenious plans were discussed in the morning with those brave warriors of the tribe, the, erm, braves. Schemes involving using the mound of dirt as a way of entry, the things themselves being used to topple each other over with their own great weight, dangling Harbull over the city on a rope to draw the horrors away from us... okay, no, that last one was Werner's usual plan. Albeit this time it was a very creative spin.

It was eventually agreed that the braves would appear on the north western side of the town and make a great deal of sound and action to lure them away. Then, on the other side to the east, we could climb over with a ladder onto the ramparts and make our way quickly to the f̶o̶u̶l̶ ̶w̶i̶z̶a̶r̶d̶'̶s̶ ̶l̶a̶i̶r magician's abode. Alright, alright, I know that you have an explanation for all of this. I won't call you such things, for now. Harbull, strike that bit out and replace it with something less damning. Cheers. Upon our first step upon the ramparts we could hear the moans of the loathsome damned. The braves had done their part in the plan valiantly, with many drawn towards their cries in a shuffling, slow mob. Reminiscent of the mobs that would surround the taverns during the Middenheim festival. Ah, such warmth and enjoyment seems distant now...

Our marine, a mercenary captain well versed in effectively ambushing and crippling greater numbers, oversaw our sneaking with a cool head and keen eye. We kept our heads low, dashing and stooping behind broken roofs. You would claim those roofs were built by drunken goblins. Even the slightest weight would probably fall through at this point. Finally, we came across a stairway down to the ground level and, crucially, right next to the magician's tower. Of course, it was patrolled by those rotting things but our marine had no intention of letting this stop him. He leapt from about half way down the stairs, Death Dealer drawn, and sent the sentry's arm and innards flying. The blighted thing had not properly "died" yet and still flailed and brushed against our marine. I also attempted this heroic leap. I unfortunately tripped and the fall nearly broke my neck. The dark gods are laughing. Bastards. Fiendcutter did its work and Harbull finally finished it off. Jim struck down another upon joining us and drew our attention towards their increasing numbers. Shite.

No windows to easily get in the tower. Damn. The marine luckily found a way in to the guard house next to the tower right. He rushed inside and we could soon hear him cursing, a wail, and sounds like splattered fruit. Following him inside, we found a large pit surrounded by those damn things. Even more working within the pit below! The giant, imposing thing formed of water next to Werner was also a large problem. I kicked the ribs and various bits out of one of those rotting bastards and it went tumbling down the pit. Werner chucked the other in effortlessly. The water creature formed mouths in its living stream and spoke to us? I didn't imagine that, yeah? Good, good. It asked us what our intentions were. We asked it what the hell it was and why it was here. Summoned by the necromancer to serve him... well, at least this explained why fire doesn't work on this accursed town. I was flabbergasted by the whole situation and asked it, in very plain and furious terms, what was going on. It didn't know. What floor the necromancer was on? Didn't know. It soon grew bored of us and returned to its strange realm. Need to check the river for a face next time I set sail.

There was no way up to the tower from there and the entrance was the only way in or out. It was finally decided to get the hell out of there and run to the tower. We were successful in our stride but grim tragedy began to rear its ugly head. Werner had fallen over something and was now close to an unliving's claws! We ourselves were at the bottom of a staircase leading up to the tower's second floor. There was no real need for discussion, we had to save our crew member. Harbull stayed behind at the door. As a rear guard for us, I think. Good work, doctor. We got to him just in time, the horde was growing and not even our complete strength could fend off so many. Our doctor quickly returned to us and said that we should just keep running. I had no intention of disagreeing with him.

The second floor was full of undead soldiers of various ranks, rising from their beds upon our entry. We didn't want to share war stories and fled higher up the stairs. Next floor. Living quarters, in complete disarray. Checked a few drawers and all that we found was nothing special and... women's clothing? Was that witch the shaman mentioned a traitor all along? Shut up wizard, you'll get your time to speak! We shoved whatever we could in front of the door and carried onward. It's working well, as you can tell. Hopefully it will continue to do so. Final floor, a wizard's laboratory. Opened corpses on tables, strange writings and various vials containing unearthly alchemy. There was a trap door above with a ladder to reach it. It was there that we found this man, a dwarf in a gaudy robe with the accent and name of an elf. He was strangely friendly and calm for one who caused such sufferi- no, you cannot plead your case right now. Let me finish. The fact that we've let you live so long is astonishing. Back in the Empire you would pay greatly for your crimes...

FINE, I'll let you say your piece! I can't believe that you are the man we were sent to find. I don't know what you can tell us exactly about our quest...

I hope for your sake that it's a good explanation.

  • Johann Dasbuut.

The Enemy Within: Something Rotten in Kislev – Death Takes A Holiday (S4E4)

 

Captain's Log: 33rd of Vorgeheim, 2514.

Ah by the hammer... I can't win a staring contest with that green one on the ramparts!  He doesn't even have both his eyes, for crying out loud!  Can we have one of the braves guide it to the other side?  It's honestly getting on my nerves.  It's bad enough knowing that I've got to go in there at some point.  Go in there... with THOSE things.  Eh, they shouldn't sting worse than those ones underneath Wittgenstein's observatory.  The pants soiling is the worst part, to be honest.  Our doctor can work on the wounds excellently and the other part can be handled by a fine Dolgan tailor.  There, pure, rational thought and a cool head can take on any horror from beyond the world of life and death.  Yeah.

Ar- Jim lad!  You scared me there.  If you can sneak up on me like that so easily, the living dead will be dead simple.  Harbull, why are you sighing like that?  Dolgan Jim is the newest member of our crew and a fine one at that!  I just call him Jim because Dolgan Jim strikes me as a bit odd.  Moot Harbull, Reik Johann... you get the idea.  Fiendcutter, my magic sword, and The Eliminator, our marine captain's flail, had done their work against those horrible agents of Chaos.  Bloody but victorious, we were heroically carried back to Voltsara and took a well deserved rest.  Hertzen gave us a long conversation about his past adventures.  I'm sure they were fascinating, I wasn't really listening...  Next morning, we were dashingly standing before the Kislev court and Jim, who had brought the tidings our next quest.  Get to the distant colony of Geroggabologanoff and and deliver a message to Ivanorolazovich about, ahem, "hrmblemrmble"...

Please excuse him.  He knows a bit of Kislevite but can't remember the names to save his life.  The rest I couldn't tell you, but I know he's referring to the camp outside of Chernozavtra.  Delivering a message?  Probably.  Hang on, he's getting back on track...

So our horses galloped across the frozen wilds of Kislev.  A cold expanse, with seemingly no end in sight.  Well, until you got to a forest.  Then you could see no end in sight in there instead.  As is to be expected for such a daring crew, fate threw our way signs of the struggles that would plague us ahead.  There, standing large before us, foreboding and more frost than wood... wagons.  It gets good, trust me.  I can't just jump to daemon killing every entry.  I'd like to be honestly able to, but I can't.  Jim leapt off of his horse and was quick to prowl among the wagons, searching for something.  He quickly returned and told me of tracks.  Heading where?  We weren't too sure but we had a good idea of what could have caused all this.  Well, Jim did... but I had a feeling.

It was confirmed as soon as we reached the bluffs.  Looking below, we could see near our southern position a large camp with many figures as busy as an ant colony.  North of them was a ford leading to a large town... wait, I can get this one... Cher-no-zaff-tra.  It had black spires, great walls and was as dead as our dreams of having ordinary professions.  I'm sorry if I'm a bit too giddy about all this.  I guess it's trying to cope with the anxiety of being right next to... no, not yet.  There were also, curiously, camps right around the town as well.  What was I going to confirm?  HOBGOBLINS!  The bastards were the ones below our bluff.  Jim told us this after a bit of deft spying.  Plans were discussed.  Mine was to set one of their tents on fire and go around them from the other side.  This fire of unknown origin would confuse the green buggers while we went steathily across the ford.  Harbull reminded me of Werner's heavy, noisy armour.  Damn.

Jim pointed out that this type of goblin could be somewhat reasoned with if you presented them with a fair deal.  It took me a minute but I had to take his word on it.  There were at least a hundred of them.  If we had the old mercenary crew from back in Tilea, we'd maybe have a chance...  So we walked into the hobgoblin camp.  They told us to halt, we told them that we wouldn't burn their tents, that sort of thing.  One particularly ugly little goblin rode past us on a surprisingly clean wolf.  One of their soldiers told us that he'd bring us to Haablo, their camp's leader.  I was very confused by this whole radical "don't kill the goblins" idea, to be perfectly honest.  The fear of death makes you adapt quickly though.  Very, very quickly.  Our guide was quick to point out their boars and wolves of war, the various troops, "Haablo's Heroes", and their advantageous position against the Dolgan people on the other side of the ford.

Some greenskin blighters tried stripping us of our equipment but we refused until their leader ordered them to piss off.  They wouldn't even promise that they'd give them back.  Bastards.  Haablo's tent was adorned with various furs which he sat on, looking at us with a cool, piercing stare.  He was wearing a suit of armour not unlike the Chaos knight, with a horned helmet and a deep scar down the middle of his face.  I hate to admit it, but I was quite impressed by the level of calm he showed.  Proper captain stuff, that is.  He was quick to the point in asking who we were and what we wanted.  We said a lot but actually very little.  Haablo eventually agreed to let us stay the night, if we pay some crowns in the morning to cross the ford.  It was a reasonable deal.  The other terms were to stay with Krobag, the wolf-rider and our protector, and not to get into any trouble with any of the four war bosses. They were high ranking warriors who were keen on exploiting any weakness they could see in their leader and claim his place.  Standard captain stuff, really.

We got into trouble with the war bosses.  Erm, they started it.  Two of them strolled over to us.  Two big lads, fat as pigs and reeking of cheap kvass and probably shite.  Nothing too odd for a sea dog.  I've seen all sorts of drunken landlubbers and inexperienced sailors in my time.  Most can't rip your head off easily though.  That became an immediate problem.

"'Ello little humie."

"Hello, how are you?"

"Wha do yu do then?"

"I sail the seas, my good man."

"..."

"You've drank water before, right?  It's like that but larger.  A very important trade, back where I come from..."

"Thas bollocks."

"I'LL HAVE YOU KNOW... no, I shouldn't.  What do you do, then?"

"I smash humies."

"... Well, you won't be doing that today, sir."

The conversation continued like this for some time.  He was apparently challenging me to some kind of duel?  According to Krobag, anyway.  I didn't think they'd go that far.  Thought one look at Werner would scare them off.  We set the terms as "his strongest versus my strongest".  Werner enjoys bloodying his knuckles and I could sit back and... wait, I also have to fight?  They wanted two versus two, sadly.  Very, very insistent on it.  Kept pointing at me.  We set a ring near a fire and the marine captain cracked his knuckles and grinned.  Many little green faces were our spectators.  They watched with silent awe, eager to see what would unfold.

I was unused to not killing a beast with my fists, so pulling my punches would prove to be a major disadvantage.  I almost goaded them into fighting to the death but they just wanted "a foight".  Ah well.  Werner had his foe seeing stars immediately.  Twirled like an elf dancer in Middenheim and fell like a tree.  My opponent was swifter and gave me a solid right hook.  Barely stayed conscious.  Would have went down soon after if Werner didn't hit him like a brick.

Haablo was not pleased.  He scolded us and then made sure we stayed in our tent, heavily guarded.  We tried offering him that suit of Chaos knight armour as a form of apology but he claimed he "had seen better".  Cheeky son of a bitch.  Gave us a new job instead.  It was a message for Harbull to deliver to the Dolgan people across the ford.  Something about one oxen per five people getting free passage... he claimed that he didn't want to kill ALL of them but rather wanted a deal.  Krobag later told us that Haablo probably appreciated the chance to punish those war bosses and assert his authority and strength.

In the morning we made our way across the ford.  We first paid the crowns to Haablo, who loudly declared the exchange for the whole camp to hear.  Again, a show of asserting leadership.  We bid the greenskins a peaceful farewell... by Sigmar, I hope to never say that again!  We bid them farewell regardless and about half way across the ford, several arrows flew past my head.  Warning shots.  Dolgan archers, on the other side, readied another volley and called out to us.  Jim had the whole problem under control.  He told them of our quest and, after a bit more conversation in Dolganite (is that the right word?), they finally let us across.  The Dolgan people were composed of various toti- totam- animal tribes and some river tribes.  They have been at conflict with the hobgoblins for some time, possibly years.

We met their druid, sorry, shaman, and his two apprentices.  One had a hawk, the other had never cut his hair before, and the shaman himself was adorned in odd runed clothing and a horned hat.  Told Jim that he was fated to defeat the dark sorcery that plagued this place.  Claimed we would all receive great wisdom.  I was hoping for some food and kvass first but free wisdom is pretty fantastic.  His tent was filled with various objects and trinkets that would help him work his powerful nature magic... what, The One?  He had many "fetishes"?  That's unfortunate... anyway.  He weaved around us a great circle of silence.  Only we could be heard from within.  Or something like that.  I'm going to get straight to the point now: the nearby town is full of unliving and daemons.  I'm still trying to think of how we are going to deal with this.

He told us that fire doesn't work.  The town itself puts it out and those things are unharmed by it.  They keep living despite how much you chop them up, so smashing individual limbs seems to be the the best idea.  The daemon notion is from the unearthly wails that come from inside the town at night.  Can't trip them or pull them off the walls easily.  They're as heavy as large trees.  They don't even have the decency to kill you there and then.  All victims have been dragged... somewhere.  Then another one appears either inside or on the walls.  They are both goblins and man and they hunger for the living.  They can sense it and follow it blindly.  Dirt keeps getting thrown over the walls.  They're digging somewhere down... or something up.  S-s-Sigmar help me, I thought it couldn't get any worse after the hell monsters and Chaos knights!  The shaman claims that the power of Earth, Sun, Wind and Fire will help.  I hope he is right.

A witch from the west tried to help the Dolgan tribe but disappeared after inscribing some strange letters on the city walls.  The shaman can't even remember her name.

Well, the writing's on the wall.

  • Johann Dasbuut.

 

 

In today’s Daily Halfling we are thrilled to have exclusive extracts form Dr Harbull ‘slayer of beasts’ Furfoot’s new book ‘Travelling with Idiots; a Halflings Tale. Coming straight on the back of his hit best seller ‘Training Cretins and Making Them Useful How to Find Your Own Werner’ Dr Harbull’s latest novel is a roller-coaster ride of thills and adventure of epic proportions. Please enjoy the following extract…


Something wasn’t right, it was just too easy. Under my expert supervision my lackeys had disposed of the waiting beast men with ease which was to be expected given my genius, however, something wasn’t sitting right. My trusty sea captain approached the trap door in his usual care free way, hoisted it open, and then immediately retreated.

What emerged managed to briefly shock even me, if but for a fleeting second. Two high ranking chaos warriors emerged emitting noting but menace. The first humanoid…ish covered in thick armour towered above us all quickly followed by a giant serpent like beast. I recovered instantly from my initial shock, naturally, and assessed the situation in an instant. I knew there was something not quite right and there it was gleaming in the hand of that giant chaos warrior, the legendary sword death dealer. This is no ordinary sword boys and girls this is a sword that will instantly kill anyone with magical blood with the slightest touch, and alas, as a man of an immense multitude of talents I of course possess magic blood. I briefly looked at The One and a sliver of understanding flashed between us. Of course, usually I could easily handle these high-level demons myself with one arm tied behind my back, however with that sword I would need to coach from the side lines staying out of range. All of this calculation and a battle plan formed in my head in the same amount of time it took Werner to soil himself as his legs shook violently as the beast approached him.

My stupid apprentice mutt looked at me with pathetic pleading in his eyes as I shouted out I could not fight by his side. His eyes started to tear up pitifully and begged his master to join this fight. My reply carried across the battle field with authority ‘Werner, Johan, I cannot dig you out of this hole because of that dammed sword, however Werner stick close to Johan and remember your training, your master believes in you’. I obviously do not believe in that moron however it was all part of my master plan. With his master’s words or praise ringing in his ears Werner steadied himself and started to engage the beasts. What happened next was a battle for the ages, well, for anyone other than myself of course.

As I avoided the beasts with The One in tow I rounded the battlefield shouting advice and strategy to the two fighters. Think of me like a master chess player shouting out instructions to my pawns. I can see so many moves ahead that unfortunately for those chaos warriors they were already dead the second they stepped out on to the battle field they just didn’t know it yet. Check mate indeed. Johan eventually could take no more but that was ok for of course I had anticipated every outcome. Swooping in from the sky with The One we carried Johan away to safety as I used my immense wisdom to start to heal him. While doing this I continued to direct the battle and under my expert vision and instruction Werner slayed the beast, a feat he would not be capable of at all without the praise of his master ringing in his ears and the expert instructions he executed. Least we forget this failed champion could not even break down a simple damaged old wooden door.

As the chaos warrior fell the serpent beast evaporated into the air as I had calculated it would. As the battle ended Werner collapsed shaking on the floor and soiled himself again as he thanked his master profusely. ‘Master Harbull thank you, oh thank you so much’, he managed to whisper through tears, ‘I am but a pathetic fool of a man but with your guidance can become much more than I could ever dream to be and maybe one day dare to dream I could become 1% of the man you are’. Maybe he isn’t as stupid as I though I chucked to myself as Wener threw up. Pitiful.

Our serialization continues next week featuring Goblins, zombies and of course more idiotic errors from Dr Harbull Furfoot’s pet Werner.

The Enemy Within: Something Rotten in Kislev – Stones (S4E3)

Captain's Log: 31st of Vorgeheim, 2514.

I think I'm alive.  Yeah.  Aching head is a pretty good reminder.  Not gone down that metal trapdoor yet.  Sun is shining bright enough for such a bloody day.  Then again, we lived so maybe things will get easier.  Maybe I should get u... aargh!  Sitting down seems better.  My good friend Doctor Furfoot will resume the healing procedure after doing his excellent work as a scribe.  I'm still surprised that I live.  I feel like I should somehow be dead...

No, shouldn't dwell upon that.  This is Kislev, I'm still lying on the grass of the stone circle in the dark forest near Voltsara.  That's it.  Sigmar can wait for me in heaven a little while longer.  He knows I have work to do upon this earth.  The whole crew had assembled again in a small hut in Voltsara.  We planned to summon Grigori with the magic bird and then he would direct us towards those accursed beast bastards.  We achieved this the morning after.  Grigori's miming was excellent and understood well enough.  First beastman was a dog faced sentry slumbering up in a tree.  Sneaked around it easily enough and an axe throw to the haunches sent it leaping off.  After hitting the ground and raising its head weakly, the last thing it saw was the sun blocked by a plummeting flail head.  Our marine captain looked at the flail in disbelief after the impac- no, bursting.  Everyone was drenched in gore.

With a "whoop, whoop. whoop" Grigori brought us to an ape man, a horned, shaggy horror not fit for Sigmar's realm, on patrol.  Arrows, rapier stabbings and the singular, dooming flail swing stopped it from alerting the rest.  We felt unstoppable that morning.  The flail crushed anything like a fruit, we thought.  A good laugh was had after wiping the viscera off.  Finally, we reached the stone circle.  Two of the beast men were here and on full alert.  Pug-face and Goat-head.  Not particularly well armoured but definitely well armed.  We hid away in the outskirts of the circle and watched.  Harbull was considered by Werner to be good bait.  I decided to fool the monsters by impersonating their ape friend instead.  I whooped until Pug-face came close and then charged with my rapier.  I was shockingly well parried by such a fiend.  Goat-head was stamping its hoof on a trapdoor.  Shite.  Soon the doctor's arrow flew directly into the pug's weapon arm, giving me another chance to continue my flurry of thrusts.  A final stab through the eye, straight into its brain, ended its miserable life.  It was at that moment that I realized how surreal fighting a pug man must look to another party.

Werner's axe throws were aimed well, but were not enough to catch a fleeing Goat-head.  I think Grigori ran after it.  Don't know where he is.  Nothing had emerged from the trapdoor and I felt an immediate, lingering chill.  We had been blessed with victory by Sigmar thus far, so there was no returning to the village now.  I lifted it.  By the hammer it was heavy!  Old, thick metal.  Looked more like a pot lid than anything.  If you wanted to shield yourself from cannon fire, this might just do the job!  Below, in the torch light were two figures.  One was indistinct but the other was clad in a gigantic, black suit of armour.  His helmet was horned like a, a... daemon.  I slammed down the trapdoor immediately and stumbled back.  Ordered the doctor and The One to stay as far away as possible.  After a minute it broke through and stood before us.  Dwarfing us was a testament to the hideous power of Chaos.  He lifted a warped and ancient sword, challenging us wordlessly.  The One's eyes widened and she whispered to me.

"That sword is Death Dealer.  It instantly kills any spellcaster it strikes..."

I told her to run.  The other thing beside that warrior was a horned, slender being with long claws and crimson skin.  It had a sneering, monstrous face with two bright, yellow eyes.  It held in its hand a similarly hued blade.  It looked more like the bone of an ancient abomination than anything.  My toothpick of a rapier was not going to help.  Werner tapped on the enchanted blade on his back and told me to wield it.  I can't believe we almost forgot that we had it.  I won't lie to you.  I was very tempted to flee this terror but my crew bravely stood their ground.  I couldn't just leave them.  I unsheathed the brilliant blade and hurled myself into the fray with the daemon.  I slashed through its left arm to its neck and black blood gushed from the artery.  It soon faded, howling its misery as Hell took it back.  The warrior would not go down so easily.  I barely survived Death Dealer's slashes.  I felt like my very soul was going to be cleaved apart.  Only Werner could truly wound the Chaos knight.  Several thunderous strikes from the flail sent the warrior a few steps back, groaning.  The battle was ferocious.  The next strike sent towards me was narrowly dodged.  As I regained my balance, I saw a growing mist in the corner of my eye.  A fresh, crimson arm suddenly grew from it.

The daemon had returned.  It leaped at me and swung its terrible blade.  My helmet saved me the first time.  The second blow to my leg cut a deep gash but I somehow lived.  That was... lucky.  No, miraculous.  Sigmar's works are truly great.  I was left crawling on the blood soaked grass as Werner stood above me.  Loyal to Hell and back.  He continued to duel the giant of a man and would not give ground.  The daemon excitedly chased after Harbull, shrieking about "nasty spellcasters".  I forgot that he dabbled in magic.  I was bleeding heavily and realized that maybe fate would finally send me to the heavens.  I was being lifted off the ground towards the sky, the world below seeming like nothing more than... The One?  The One!  She had swooped in, gracefully flying like a great bird, and had carried me away from the bloodshed.  I feel like the Norscans have a myth about this sort of thing...

I was left to rest upon a nearby tree, watching the duel from above.  The One's magic had not harmed the Chaos knight in the slightest.  It was our marine captain's duty to end all this.  He suffered a terrible blow that pushed him back but he showed no weakness.  With a final swing of his great flail, the spiked head punctured the knight's armour and sent it flying.  We had finally defeated the servitors of Chaos.

I hope to be in fighting condition soon.

Who knows what could also live below?

  • Johann Dasbuut.

The Enemy Within: Something Rotten in Kislev – Ancient Ones (S4E2)

The personal journal of Harbull Furfoot

I don’t know what those other two pricks are playing at but fate seems to have spit on me again as I have the gross misfortune to be alone in the company of that oaf Werner. At least the other two on occasion can make for slightly interesting conversation but this oaf couldn’t find his arse with both hands. Anyway, it can be helped. I guess I can use this time to think more about my future bestselling book ‘Traveling with Idiots; a Halflings Tale’.


Well that was unexpected to say the least. We seem to make quite the effective duo as it turns out. Quite the brains and brawn combination. In our continued quest to track down this ‘nice’ beastman we summoned a quite grotesque spirit of the forest whos name slips my mind, for those kinds of abominations are beneath my recognition. Still this spirt could have killed us with little trouble one assumed so I thought it best that the gob shite that is Werner should not handle what could have been a very difficult negotiation for a lessor man, ironic given I by their standards am a ‘lessor man’.

Anyway, because I’m not clinically retarded I can not just read, but also read my surroundings. From my research I knew this spirit loves to be treated with the upmost curtsy, an hilarious concept given the repugnant nature of the thing, so proceeded to, for want of a more eloquent phrase, charm the shit out of that thing. It worked, as I knew it would, and the abomination offered us a deal.

The deal stipulated that if we could last five minutes with father bear (a rather formidable fast moving, yet somehow surprisingly mind mannered killing machine) then the spirit would lend us his power to summon this ‘half beast’ thing we are looking for. The rules stated that we must stay within a set perimeter and if we or the bear creature were to leave then they would lose.

We were transported to a clearing in the forest and the battle began. Given our rather noticeable difference in combat ability our tactic was clear. I would run through the forest hiding from the bears attacks whilst slinging vulgar your mum jokes towards the surprisingly easily offended bear in a bit to distract him whilst my companion did the only thing he ever capable of, violence. I’ve heard of bear knuckle fights but this was ridiculous! Oh Harbull you old so and so you’ve still got it, that one certainly makes the book! Long story short a combination of devastating yo momma joke and that brainless chancers fists delivered a crushing knock out blow leading to our victory.

The spirit of the forest was not best pleased for he had underestimated the tactical genius of Harbull Furfoot and the physical power of his trusty mutt. With another charm offensive the spirit fell victim to my command of language and vast intelligence and plucked a ‘multi use bird’ from the sky allowing us to summon the ‘half’ beast man at will by whispering the name to the bird and releasing it.

We met the ‘half’ beast man in a clearing and my god he almost made Werner look like he had two brain cells to rub together in comparison. After interpreting some tedious gesture etc we learned of the location of the beast men’s hide out located nearby. The leader it seems is beneath a trap door in the forest while five other beastmen of various types keep guard close by. Now to tool up, regroup with the others, and summon ‘half’ beast man one again (joy) to lead us to their hideout. Once there another chapter of my great novel should write itself. Now I am in great need of some stimulating intellectual conversation so I think I will talk to a rock as I’m sure it will be a step up from the conversation the oaf provides.

Harbull Furfoot

The Enemy Within: Something Rotten in Kislev – The Beast Child (S4E1)

 

Captain's Log: 30th of Vorgeheim, 2514.

Okay.

Well, let's think of the good news first... I found my old journal. Had to scavenge among the ruins of bloody Wittgenstein but I did eventually find it. The One recovered her blessed blade, a sign of Sigmar's favour. That was good too. The crew I had were fanatical and rightfully saw her as truly divine, so work was quick and full of enthusiasm. I knew Sigmar could inspired great warriors but not such great diggers! I learned a fair bit about the language of Kislev and its various quirks. A crew member, a quiet and ponderous type from Praag, eventually let slip a bit of his personal history after drinks. I couldn't really remember most of the cultural stuff due to the ale but I had tremendous fun practicing the language. This would prove to be incredibly useful as soon as I felt the crunch of snow under my boots. I wasn't visiting of my own volition, but I guess I'm a "right place at the wrong time" sort.

Our marine is now a proper mercenary captain with an entire band. I learned fencing techniques from a Tilean fencing expert they picked up along the way. She was very patient with my usual "rush in and punch the fiend" approach and I definitely learned a lot. The various nicks'll give me warning next time I think foolishly in battle. I know I said I'd stop spending so much coin but this captain's uniform is simply wonderful. I have attained the fanciest of pants in the Empire. Seller had a bodyguard from Albion. I'm sure you know how strange that is. Had the paint on his face and everything. Warned me that something terrible was going to happen, according to one of their elders. I nodded glumly. It sounded about right.

Doctor Furfoot is not only an accomplished figure in the field of modern medical science but also a practitioner of alchemy as well. So, for the bad news. We were all given memberships in the Knights Panther. Wait, wait, I thought it was a good thing at first. We were all ordered to appear before the Graf and took the oath there and then. I mumbled a fair bit of it, lied about killing all mutants because Ludwig is a lovely, misunderstood soul, and generally lost the gist halfway through. It was considered good enough. Harbull was nowhere to be seen. Our doctor later told us that he just woke up late and had to run to the order's barracks. They gave him strange looks because of his height, of course. It was then explained to us that we needed to settle some issues in Kislev to appease a truce between Kislev and the Empire itself. Whispers were briefly exchanged:

"Hey marine. Does Kislev have no Chaos or all the Chaos?"

"All the Chaos."

"Ah."

We did get fairly well outfitted in the armoury. Werner is now attired like a knight but I prefer the old chain armour and shield. Makes it easier to creep through the wilderness and get the drop on whatever the hell lives there. We travelled by barge in the morning, equipped with trusty documents filled with official statements and signatures. A different sort of magic scroll, one that could also terrify the common man. It was good to be on board a vessel with the old crew once again. I even took to the helm to relieve our good host every once in a while. Although, to be honest, every time I meet my friends again something sinister is not too far behind. Yet, I feel comfortable with this… I guess hailing doom has become a habit of mine. Sweet Sigmar, I just remembered when bandits were a thing of terror! Looking at our marine captain, you’d never believe it. Demons, cultists, beast men, champions, the best of the best. The cream of the crop wants our blood now… hooray?

A few days later, the chilling wind of Kislev gave us a wa- a welcome. It is a frightful land of ice and snow. The steppes and mountains are striking alongside the huge stretches of forest. I mean hundreds upon hundreds of miles of dark, haunting forest. It amazes the mind of someone used to the rivers of the Reik. At least the rivers here aren’t frozen. There are, and I hope I get this right, Gospodars who are the lowest class of people. They suffer and work under the Norrs, the upper classes of the country. The whole thing, The One just told me, is very similar to the old way the Empire was structured. Outside of all this are the Ungols. The Ungols are a right scary bunch of horsemen. They were once a great and powerful horde of raiders, now various tribes of irreligious but superstitious warriors. I can’t say I blame them for being wary. Sometimes their young get wanderlust, to compliment the bloodlust, and become violent adventurers across Kislev. Unlike ourselves. We fight Chaos so it’s all okay. We had an audience with the Tsar in his palace and he spoke for a fair bit on matters of the country. I wanted to chip in with an opinion or two but I got a spear butt slammed into my leg. I knelt the best kneel I’ve ever performed in my life after that. His right hand man gave us some more paper I can’t read and sent us off to Voltsara to give aid. The journey up the Urskoy River was, suspiciously, uneventful.

Voltsara doesn’t leave much of an impression at first glance. Huts for the lower classes, a church to Tal and Rhea and a manor up north. Tal and Rhea protect against evil spirits and are the husband and wife gods of the wilderness. They don’t seem to have anything like a hammer to fight Chaos with, so I don’t really get the appeal. Our doctor used his charm to try to speak with a peasant. Not an inch was given to having a chat. Even after I tried my best Kislevite. The northern manor was opulent and nothing like the spires and usual Kislev look. It was more like… an Empire manor, actually. Wonder if the family is from there? Ivan Ilyich Herzen is a very eccentric man. He helpfully let us know this right away by yelling his eagerness in Old Worlder and flaunting some fencing techniques. Good technique, very, very sudden. Proved to be good eccentric more than insane, thankfully. His wife Anya served us tea from one of those Kislev pots. A Sammer? Eh, I’ll remember at some point. Werner said that we had to ask if he knew an Etelka in the family. I couldn’t remember who she was for a bit:

“Etelka…”

“The witch?”

“…”

“The one with the cat and perfume?”

“…”

“She had a house full of goblins?”

“…”

“You were wearing your favourite shirt an-“

“AH, ETELKA HERZEN!”

He said she was probably a cousin. We somewhat told the truth by saying we had dinner with her once. I really hope she didn’t get out of that castle…

A foreman found an old stone circle and hadn’t come back. Four mutilated woodcutters and soon twelve others joined them. All lost to the Dark Forest. We were recommended that we talk to Piotyr Piatrovich, a charcoaler who knows a fair bit about the local beast men. They are what is suspected to be killing the villagers. Goat, wolf, the usual kinds. No rat ones up here. Allegedly. Ivan also told us to seek out a wise woman in these strange matters. We bid him farewell and made our way to Piatrovich’s home.

Only his wife was around and she told us he was cutting wood up on the hill. She didn’t think too unkindly of us and let us inside to wait. Piotyr soon arrived, carrying a large bundle of wood. Fair play for his old age. We were given drinks and were straight into discussing the beastmen. The kvass wasn’t as bad as some might think. His son, Giorgi, was infected by beasthood but still had a human’s spirit. Big claws and teeth, only vaguely resembled a man, but still refused to allow his home to be invaded by other mutants. Piotyr was adamant that we should bring him back by conversing with the nature spirits of the forest. Nature spirits? I was immediately confused by all this and it took some explaining. For example, how come there’s a river one but I’ve never seen the bastard once in my entire life? It was explained to me that they were just excellent at hiding from our senses. Clearly. I guess that's where the old sailor tales about mermaids come from. They just appear when they want. Or when we do a ritual, as it were.

The first creature summoned was the house spirit, the Domovoi. You kept on good terms with them and they keep the house safe and clean. They leapt from the fireplace as tiny fellows with meek, quiet voices. I was both greatly amused and very on edge the entire time. I don’t know why. I should be used to this by now. They said that Giorgi was far away. Not much help but I didn’t expect much from house spirits. We gave them some kvass and they were very thankful. Next was the Masch- Massau- the farm spirit. He watches over barn animals and complains a lot about untidy barns. Took a long, difficult conversation, and promises to sweep the place, but he did eventually give us some information. Said he saw an ape man, a goat man, a dog man and “one like a dog but with a flatter nose”. We were soon rid of the spirit.

Not rid of problems, however. The locals got the idea of making us listen to every single one of their issues once they heard why we were here. Some of it might have been actually true. The One and I got lost in a sea of rumours and gossip. One claimed another family stole a chicken, one could be a mutant because of a “funny looking mole”, one is the Tsar’s truest son, and so on. No matter how far you sail, rumours run amok these days.

We are now taking a break from all this so I can update the journal. I feel like if… wait a second, The One, I’ll get that. Keep writing.
Hello marine, doctor! You reunited Giorgi and Piotyr? That’s wonder- talked to the Leshy and punched a bear? YOU MIGHT KNOW WHERE THE BEASTMEN ARE?! Fantastic, let’s bring some justice to Voltsara!

  • Captain Johann Dasbuut.

The Strange Arctic Town

An interesting excerpt from The Country of the Pointed Firs by Sarah Orne Jewett

 

"There is a strange sort of a country 'way up north beyond the ice, and strange folks living in it. Gaffett believed it was the next world to this."

"What do you mean, Captain Littlepage?" I exclaimed. The old man was bending forward and whispering; he looked over his shoulder before he spoke the last sentence.

"To hear old Gaffett tell about it was something awful," he said, going on with his story quite steadily after the moment of excitement had passed. "'Twas first a tale of dogs and sledges, and cold and wind and snow. Then they begun to find the ice grow rotten; they had been frozen in, and got into a current flowing north, far up beyond Fox Channel, and they took to their boats when the ship got crushed, and this warm current took them out of sight of the ice, and into a great open sea; and they still followed it due north, just the very way they had planned to go. Then they struck a coast that wasn't laid down or charted, but the cliffs were such that no boat could land until they found a bay and struck across under sail to the other side where the shore looked lower; they were scant of provisions and out of wate r, but they got sight of something that looked like a great town. 'For God's sake, Gaffett!' said I, the first time he told me. 'You don't mean a town two degrees farther north than ships had ever been?' for he'd got their course marked on an old chart that he'd pieced out at the top; but he insisted upon it, and told it over and over again, to be sure I had it straight to carry to those who would be interested. There was no snow and ice, he said, after they had sailed some days with that warm current, which seemed to come right from under the ice that they'd been pinched up in and had been crossing on foot for weeks."

 

"But what about the town?" I asked. "Did they get to the town?"

"They did," said the captain, "and found inhabitants; 'twas an awful condition of things. It appeared, as near as Gaffett could express it, like a place where there was neither living nor dead. They could see the place when they were approaching it by sea pretty near like any town, and thick with habitations; but all at once they lost sight of it altogether, and when they got close inshore they could see the shapes of folks, but they never could get near them,—all blowing gray figures that would pass along alone, or sometimes gathered in companies as if they were watching. The men were frightened at first, but the shapes never came near them,—it was as if they blew back; and at last they all got bold and went ashore, and found birds' eggs and sea fowl, like any wild northern spot where creatures were t ame and folks had never been, and there was good water. Gaffett said that he and another man came near one o' the fog-shaped men that was going along slow with the look of a pack on his back, among the rocks, an' they chased him; but, Lord! he flittered away out o' sight like a leaf the wind takes with it, or a piece of cobweb. They would make as if they talked together, but there was no sound of voices, and 'they acted as if they didn't see us, but only felt us coming towards them,' says Gaffett one day, trying to tell the particulars. They couldn't see the town when they were ashore. One day the captain and the doctor were gone till night up across the high land where the town had seemed to be, and they came back at night beat out and white as ashes, and wrote and wrote all next day in their notebooks, and whispered together full of excitement, and they were sharp-spoken with the men when they offered to ask any questions.

 

"Then there came a day," said Captain Littlepage, leaning toward me with a strange look in his eyes, and whispering quickly. "The men all swore they wouldn't stay any longer; the man on watch early in the morning gave the alarm, and they all put off in the boat and got a little way out to sea. Those folks, or whatever they were, come about 'em like bats; all at once they raised incessant armies, and come as if to drive 'em back to sea. They stood thick at the edge o' the water like the ridges o' grim war; no thought o' flight, none of retreat. Sometimes a standing fight, then soaring on main wing tormented all the air. And when they'd got the boat out o' reach o' danger, Gaffett said they looked back, and there was the town again, standing up just as they'd seen it first, comin' on the coast. Say what you might, t hey all believed 'twas a kind of waiting-place between this world an' the next."

 

The captain had sprung to his feet in his excitement, and made excited gestures, but he still whispered huskily.

"Sit down, sir," I said as quietly as I could, and he sank into his chair quite spent.

"Gaffett thought the officers were hurrying home to report and to fit out a new expedition when they were all lost. At the time, the men got orders not to talk over what they had seen," the old man explained presently in a more natural tone.

"Weren't they all starving, and wasn't it a mirage or something of that sort?" I ventured to ask. But he looked at me blankly.

"Gaffett had got so that his mind ran on nothing else," he went on. "The ship's surgeon let fall an opinion to the captain, one day, that 'twas some condition o' the light and the magnetic currents that let them see those folks. 'Twa'n't a right-feeling part of the world, anyway; they had to battle with the compass to make it serve, an' everything seemed to go wrong. Gaffett had worked it out in his own mind that they was all common ghosts, but the conditions were unusual favorable for seeing them. He was always talking about the Ge'graphical Society, but he never took proper steps, as I viewed it now, and stayed right there at the mission. He was a good deal crippled, and thought they'd confine him in some jail of a hospital. He said he was waiting to find the right men to tell, somebody bound north. Once in a wh ile they stopped there to leave a mail or something. He was set in his notions, and let two or three proper explorin' expeditions go by him because he didn't like their looks; but when I was there he had got restless, fearin' he might be taken away or something. He had all his directions written out straight as a string to give the right ones. I wanted him to trust 'em to me, so I might have something to show, but he wouldn't. I suppose he's dead now. I wrote to him an' I done all I could. 'Twill be a great exploit some o' these days."

 

 

 

 

The Dracula Dossier: Ernesto's Exciting Adventure

Ernesto VH Guerrero 12:50 AM

Without discussing this with the others... I draft a handwritten letter, in the finest cursive writing I can manage. Addressed to Count Szekelys. I enclose a copy of my book  'Dracula: From historical figure to myth'. I identify myself as a GCHQ asset, part of a taskforce separate from Edom. I offer my loyalty and services, including a burner phone that can be used to contact me. I warn him that Burdett's & Co. is compromised, I offer evidence of the Trojan the team has planted.

12:52 AM

I do not presume to instruct someone of superior intellect what to do. I merely offer this information as a sign of my good faith.

 

The Director  12:53 AM

.... and where do you send it?

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 12:53 AM

Feel free to say no, if you don't want the complication of running a double agent

12:54 AM

The address that Adele has from GCHQ.

 

The Director  12:54 AM

(nods)

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 12:56 AM

And I don't so much send it as scope the location, do my reconnaissance, make sure the package can't be intercepted by Edom

12:56 AM

And deliver it myself (in disguise), as the sunsets.

 

The Director  7:45 AM

OK, that all sounds good. We'd better make it the first "on-screen" scene next time. Of course, you don't need to tell the others why you are going there.

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 7:45 AM

Do they need to know I went?

 

The Director  7:46 AM

Not in-character, no.

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 7:46 AM

Yes... Right... I see

7:46 AM

Ok sure

 

The Director  9:23 AM

If this was a straightforward delivery I would just handle it here between sessions - but given who you are delivering to, I feel it may take more than that.

9:24 AM

Definitely tell me about any broad Research things you want to do.

9:24 AM

Actually, I'll post that in general.

March 20th, 2018

________________________________________

 

The Director  9:28 PM

So... when you sneak off to recce the place by yourself, it's a semi-detached house, 46 Tulse Hill (you can see it pretty easily on Google Maps). There's a bus stop right across the road, which gives you some opportunity to take some photos of the front. An overgrown alley full of old planks and construction junk is round the back, starting from Craignair Road but squeezed by successive house expansions either side. It's not really navigable but if you needed to break in you could clamber over there. 

9:30 PM

A group of four young men, students by the look of it, are living there. They don't use the garage (no car). They're from Turkey/the Middle East, judging by their looks and the student organisations' paraphernalia you can glimpse when they come and go. University Palestine soc, that kind of thing.

9:32 PM

There's no one watching the place in person. But there are plenty of cameras around (traffic cameras, bus stop, home security, petrol station over the road) so it could be done remotely. 

March 21st, 2018

________________________________________

 

The Director  9:47 AM

To give you the 2 safe options most obvious to Ernesto: you could drop off the letter now, or you can wait for nightfall (i.e. Dracula)

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 9:52 AM

Does my two points of vampirology tell me whether modern CCTV will be able to pick up and record vampires?

 

The Director  9:53 AM

Your research suggests that vampires do not show up on video, photographs or mirrors.

9:54 AM

Actually, that's weak. You've got 2 points: you know that they don't show up on camera. 

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 9:54 AM

Ok, so hacking the CCTV to see where and what he does when he visits will do me no good.

 

The Director  9:55 AM

Mm, true.

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 9:56 AM

Ok, oddly phrased... but does my 2 points of  Vampirology give me confidence that I know enough protocol and etiquette, to avoid being killed by Dracula if I were to approach him?

 

The Director  9:57 AM

Good question.

9:59 AM

I would say yes: you might not escape unscathed but provided you behave towards him like a humble servant to a medieval king, you know that his kind of calcified, ancient mode of conduct will keep you safe - from death, though he might decide you "belong" to him.

10:00 AM

(Mind you, now might be a good time to throw that spare investigative point into Flattery.)

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 10:01 AM

Lol... Ok, I'll do that

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 10:06 AM

Here's the shoddy plan, I hire a removal van (with cash) that will blend into the area. And park in a place with good line of sight to the property; about half a dozen houses down. I wait to see if anyone or anything approaches that evening?

10:10 AM

With heat vision surveillance

10:10 AM

In case rats come

 

The Director  10:11 AM

Sure: it's double yellows all the way down the road, but luckily if you park next to the Tesco Express at the garage just up the hill, there's one spot from which you can see the house, though the actual front door is a little obscured. Shortly after sunset, he appears. You were looking right at the spot, at the entrance to the driveway, and you didn't see anyone walking up -- but it's like you just snapped awake from a daydream.

10:11 AM

It's him, the man himself. He looks like the young man in the locket that you brought back from Lucy Blythe's retirement home.

10:12 AM

He's dressed in a black suit with a red tie.

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 10:12 AM

Does he enter the house?

 

The Director  10:12 AM

Dracula

 

10:13 AM

Shown here not wearing a red tie, but you can't have everything.

10:13 AM

He does enter the house. What do you do?

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 10:14 AM

How long will it take to drive down to the house from where I am? Will it potentially screw up timelines if I wait another night?

 

The Director  10:15 AM

You could walk across the road in just a few seconds - it's kind of a diagonal line from the place.

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 10:17 AM

Ok, backtracking a little, I used my free disguise to disguise myself, so the others won't recognise me if they hack the surveillance cameras.

 

The Director  10:17 AM

Yes, no problem.

10:18 AM

2018-03-21_10-16-47.png

 

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 10:19 AM

I walk down with the package, after he's entered the house, I do a classic deaddrop where I place the package by the front gate and keep walking. Once I am out of sight from the house, probably one street down, I take a scenic route back to the vantage point.

 

The Director  10:19 AM

OK, now I'd like to ask - what's in the package, exactly?

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 10:22 AM

The phone will be the kind with a GPS tracker, which I will hopefully be able to trace.

Screenshot_20180321-102039.png

 

 

The Director  10:23 AM

OK, thanks, that's all good. (edited)

10:23 AM

You can easily put the package down inside the retaining wall at the foot of what was once a front lawn. As you stand to leave, you hear several screams and a gunshot from inside the house.

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 10:24 AM

I keep walking...

 

The Director  10:26 AM

By the time you get back to the van, the Count has emerged from the house. His clothing is spattered with blood. He picks up the package, looks at it, then looks up at you.

10:26 AM

He smiles in a way that is not entirely calming.

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 10:28 AM

I stay where I am, I fortunately, because I have a baseball cap on... Doff my cap and bow respectfully.

 

The Director  10:29 AM

He crosses the road towards you and locks you with a mesemerising gaze.

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 10:29 AM

I enter my van and call 999 with a burner phone... Or I don't

 

The Director  10:29 AM

You can resist, if you choose.

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 10:29 AM

Nah...

 

The Director  10:29 AM

"You're a strange one, Mr Guerrero," he says. "I read your profile with great avidity."

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 10:29 AM

No where to run

10:30 AM

My count, as I have read yours with great avidity over the last decade

 

The Director  10:31 AM

Those piercing eyes of his bore into you and you find yourself helplessly falling asleep. Someone catches you.

10:31 AM

You dream of wolves, and when you awake you're in a bed with an old-fashioned canopy above it, and curtains drawn all around.

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 10:32 AM

Do I have my phone with me?

 

The Director  10:33 AM

No. You're in the clothes you were wearing, except your shoes, but all your pockets have been emptied.

10:34 AM

Whoever put you to bed did tuck you in nicely under the quilt, though.

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 10:34 AM

Preparedness, I had a GPS tracker hidden inside me.

10:36 AM

I check my neck for puncture wounds

 

The Director  10:39 AM

That's a very difficult Preparedness test: how many points would you like to spend on it?

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 10:40 AM

7

 

The Director  10:40 AM

/roll 1d6

 

DicebotAPP 10:40 AM

@The Director rolled 2

Dice

1d6

Rolls

2

 

The Director  10:40 AM

For a total 9. Good enough!

10:40 AM

No wounds that you can feel.

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 10:41 AM

Is it still dark outside?

 

The Director  10:45 AM

No. When you pull back the curtain on the four-poster bed, there's a cold blue morning light coming in through the window. Light rain patters on the window - the view is obscured by dark pine trees. The room is stark, with a cold wooden floor, but furnished. There's an old-looking wooden escritoire, a wardrobe and so on. Your belongings, including your phone, are on a bedside table. The sole exit, a thick wooden door, is locked. There's no bolt on the inside. The battery on your phone is dead.

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 10:48 AM

Hmmm... Can I use human terrain, streetwise or urban survival to work out where I am based on my view out the window?

 

The Director  10:50 AM

If you'd said Outdoor Survival, yes. But those three, noooooo....

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 10:51 AM

Do I have outdoor survival?

 

The Director  10:52 AM

You can tell that, from the kind of trees and a bit of hillside you can see, that you're still in England -- or at the very least not too far away, maybe Ireland or northern France.

10:52 AM

I didn't think so, but let me check.

10:53 AM

Ahh. You do!

10:54 AM

You're still in England somewhere. You can tell from the vegetation and whatnot. Maybe Surrey, Hampshire, somewhere like that down south.

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 11:24 AM

What does my history/ art history knowledge tell me about the furniture and the house?

11:27 AM

Also, I do my best to try to memorize the scene outside the window, the location and number of trees the types of trees next to each other. I also, using my keys, try to scratch a small but distinctive mark on the window. Something I would recognise if I looked from the outside in.

 1

 

The Director  11:29 AM

The furniture is from the 1890s, the house is older, late 18th-century construction. (edited) 

11:29 AM

Well, there's a little character moment. What shape would Ernesto scratch, to be distinctive?

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 11:33 AM

A VH overlapping each other

 

The Director  11:33 AM

Nice.

11:34 AM

Correction on the age of the house, btw. It should be a bit older -- around a century old by the time of the events of Dracula.

11:34 AM

(I edited the post above.)

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 11:35 AM

Upside down

IMG_20180321_113338.jpg

 

 1

11:35 AM

Baroque then?

11:37 AM

Or early Georgian?

 

The Director  11:37 AM

Georgian

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 11:37 AM

Damn, because there's not a lot of Early Baroque manors

 

The Director  11:37 AM

Difficult to tell from the inside, of course, but the shape of window frames helps.

11:37 AM

Haha, true.

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 11:40 AM

Ok, I gather my things, presumably I don't notice that anything was missing. (I went unarmed by the way, because, hey, what's the point?!)

11:41 AM

Although, it would be AMAZING if I managed to kill him in this text session... Saunter back to the next session "Welp, job's a gud'un... What did you losers get up to?"

 

The Director  11:42 AM

Hahahaha, that would be amazing.

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 11:42 AM

So I gather my things, assume nothing obvious is missing?

 

The Director  11:42 AM

Everything is still there.

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 11:43 AM

I knock on the door politely. In a way that would give loud sharp, echoy knocks... Rather than thump thump thump thump thump

11:45 AM

Does vampirology give me knowledge on the number the count may be obsessed with?

 

The Director  11:46 AM

I think that would be a real shot in the dark. Sevens and thirteens are always worth a go.

11:47 AM

Before long, the door is unlocked and opened. Two servants in faded formal attire stand there, a man and a woman, both very old and

sullen. They mutely indicate that you ought to come out into the corridor and walk along to the staircase.

11:48 AM

Your bedroom was all spick and span, but out here you can smell damp and rot. The green carpet is threadbare in places and squishy in others.

 

The Director  11:49 AM

The wallpaper, authentically Victorian, is peeling off.

 

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 11:49 AM

Do they look like they're sleep deprived?

 

The Director  11:50 AM

They have a certain hollow-eyed haggardness, yeah.

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 11:51 AM

'Thank you' 'Is the master of the house available?'

 

The Director  12:01 PM

They are quite rude. They say nothing and precede you, heading for the staircase.

12:01 PM

You can see there are several more rooms up here, presumably similar to the one you were in (no one else is up here though).

12:03 PM

From the top of the stairs you can see a large entrance hall (the stairs take two right-angles to get to the ground floor, along the wall. This house has definitely been abandoned for a long time. The chandelier is covered in grime. Debris has been cleared to the sides of the hall but the floor tiles are all stained and broken. Squatters and vermin have taken, eaten, burnt or vandalised anything of value. (edited)

12:04 PM

The servants cross the hall and enter what looks like the doors to a dining room. A grandfather clock stands beside the door with its clock-face stoved in.

12:05 PM

There's a narrow vertical window beside the large front door. You can see the silhouette of a man through the broken panes - a guard of some kind.

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 12:05 PM

How old is the guard?

12:06 PM

Vampirology wise, these people would be 'familiars'?

 

The Director  12:09 PM

Yes, familiars or something of that sort. You can't see the guard's features but his body type and posture suggest he's in his 20s or 30s, military training.

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 12:21 PM

 I follow into the dining room

 

 

The Director  1:35 PM

It's a gloomy but grand dining-room, with a long polished wood table. This room has been swept clear of debris but still shows signs of abandonment. Apart from the dining table and the surrounding high-backed chairs, there's no other furniture. Tattered drapes blow in the wind coming in through the broken windows. There's one place set for lunch, and a guard in black SWAT gear stands at the far end of the room with a holstered pistol on his hip. He is pale, with a shaved head. (edited)

1:36 PM

The guard nods to the chair with the place setting and says "The boss says you dine." His accent is Eastern European.

1:37 PM

The servants bring food in for you. They're brusque, remaining silent. They slam the plates down, slop food about, spill the wine. It's not grand fare, either, but it is food free of poison or trickery, and you're hungry.

 

The Director  2:07 PM

[Side question: who knows about your GPS tracker?]

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 3:32 PM

Nobody

3:32 PM

This is for me to check on my previous locations later

3:34 PM

I politely eat the food, only just enough to stop myself from being hungry. I don't pig out.

 

The Director  3:40 PM

The food is... fine. It fills you up. It's getting dark now. You lost track of time. Or maybe it wasn't really morning before? The guard in the dining room tells you that a suit of clothes has been laid out for you in your room, if you wish to change for 'the party'.

"But you can wear these clothes you have now. They are OK. You are the boss guest, so you can dress like you want."

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 3:41 PM

I check the outfit in my room

3:41 PM

Oh before I do that...

3:42 PM

I say to the guard, interesting accent, Romanian?

 

The Director  3:46 PM

"Hungarian."

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 3:46 PM

Get home much?

 

The Director  3:48 PM

"Often enough, sir."

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 3:49 PM

I assume your guys were the ones who carried me back here?

 

The Director  3:50 PM

"Yes, sir. The boss will explain everything at the party."

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 3:50 PM

Do you know who else is coming to this party?

 

The Director  3:51 PM

"Some rich and famous people. I don't know them. British famous."

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 3:52 PM

(Yes I do ask him this, in a good natured, humorous way) Eyes Wide Shut kind of party?

 

The Director  3:54 PM

He smiles a bit because he can tell you're making a joke, but he doesn't get the reference. "Ah, I don't know sir what kind of party."

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 3:54 PM

Well, it sounds like I am currently 'underdressed' for the occasion. If you excuse me, I will see what has been prepared for me.

3:55 PM

**Please don't be sacrificial robes**... 

 

The Director  3:56 PM

There's an evening suit hanging up for you in the bedroom. It's new, and well cut (in your size)... but it's a little old-fashioned. Like 1940s/50s kind of period.

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 3:57 PM

Massive tails?

3:57 PM

I put on the outfit. Anything in the pockets?

 

The Director  3:58 PM

The tails are a little bit on the large side. There's a dark red silk handkerchief in the pocket. It matches the bow tie.

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 3:59 PM

I wear it as close to the period style as I know

 

The Director  3:59 PM

By the time you've got it on and sorted out the tie (no mirrors in the room, so you have to use your reflection in the window), you can hear the sound of people downstairs, arriving through the front door, chatting, glasses clinking.... like there's a party downstairs, you know.

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 4:00 PM

I leave the room, so I can look down at the crowd

4:04 PM

Oh before I leave the room, I use what's left of my preparedness, probably 3 to fish out a gadget tucked in my watch, which would give my phone extra battery power.

4:05 PM

I try to charge the phone

 

The Director  4:05 PM

A well-dressed bunch - the men in similar formal attire to yours, though more clearly designed within the last few years. The women in evening gowns. All very networky, London media set kind of thing. There are 9 people down there, starting to be led into the dining room. Six of them are in a kind of older age bracket - four men and two women in their 50s or 60s, upper management kind of people. Three of them are beautiful young women—two with dark hair, and one with golden blonde hair.

4:06 PM

That'd be a standard difficulty Preparedness test, so 3 points will do it automatically.

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 4:06 PM

I try to blend into the crowd, I make my way to a dark corner and use the camera phone.

4:07 PM

Do they appear on the photos?

 

The Director  4:07 PM

Well, to get down there you have to descend the staircase, which makes blending in hard - at least at first.

4:08 PM

The young blonde woman sweeps up to you and says “Welcome! Welcome! You must be thirsty! Drink!” She presses a glass of wine into your hands.

4:08 PM

But then she leaves you to your own devices.

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 4:08 PM

Is there a vantage point where I can get a good view of the crowd to snap a photo?

4:08 PM

Without being seen

 

The Director  4:09 PM

Yes, you'll need a Conceal roll to manage it.

4:09 PM

(Go ahead and "/roll 1d6" while I check the Difficulty. It will be a little harder than normal because the guards are on watch for this kind of thing.)

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 4:09 PM

I think I have two or three

 

The Director  4:09 PM

You have 3

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 4:09 PM

Use them

4:10 PM

Can I burn one human traffic or tradecraft point to give me a further advantage?

 

The Director  4:11 PM

Yes, burn one and that'll lower the difficulty by 2.

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 4:11 PM

Burn human traffic

 

The Director  4:11 PM

OK

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 4:11 PM

Wait human terrain

4:11 PM

Human traffic is an excellent movie

 

The Director  4:13 PM

haha, yes Human Terrain

4:13 PM

/roll 1d6

 

DicebotAPP 4:13 PM

@The Director rolled 1

Dice

1d6

Rolls

1

 

The Director  4:13 PM

fuuuuck

4:13 PM

OK, so the guard from the dining room comes over and says "No camera, sir. It's very private. The boss don't like photos."

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 4:13 PM

/roll [1d6]

 

DicebotAPP 4:13 PM

@Ernesto VH Guerrero rolled 2

Dice

1d6

Rolls

2

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 4:14 PM

/roll [1D6]

 

DicebotAPP 4:14 PM

@Ernesto VH Guerrero rolled 3

Dice

1d6

Rolls

3

 

The Director  4:14 PM

oh sorry, I pre-empted your roll.

4:14 PM

Yours is just enough

4:14 PM

so the guard (let's call him Gery) stops you from taking more pics

4:14 PM

but you still managed to get a couple.

4:15 PM

Anyway, they're herding you into the dining room now.

4:15 PM

The table has been set for 13 places.

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 4:15 PM

Are the people in the photos?

 

The Director  4:15 PM

Most of them.

4:15 PM

The older people.

4:15 PM

Not the three young women.

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 4:15 PM

The younger ones are blurs?

 

The Director  4:15 PM

Yeah, like a smudge on the lens.

4:16 PM

Or an odd digital glitch.

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 4:16 PM

Ok... time to leave

4:18 PM

Ok, so I try to chat to a few of the older more senior management folk

4:18 PM

Trying to get a sense of why they are here, whether they know the host of the party

 

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 4:19 PM

I mention that this is an odd place for a party

 

The Director  4:21 PM

The guests are very into it. The host, "Mr de Ville" is quite the exciting eccentric international party-thrower apparently. You get this from a Marjorie, who's a barrister. The vibe is that he's like a kind of gothic Gatsby.

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 4:21 PM

Is this their 'first time'?

 

The Director  4:23 PM

No, they've been here once or twice before at least, and they're very interested in you. A white guy with glasses and receding curly hair called John, who is at the Times, starts asking about you, how you got invited and so on.

4:23 PM

Not in an interrogation way, more "so what do you do" party chat.

4:23 PM

Alarmingly, one of the other guests is Michael Gove.

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 4:25 PM

I claim to be an academic, with an interest in History and Anthropology, I claim to have come across one of Mr De Ville's ancestors in my research, Mr De Ville took a passing interest in my work and invited me here

4:26 PM

I mention that Mr De Ville was very kind to help me obtain this outfit.

 

The Director  4:26 PM

That last bit gets an appreciative chuckle.

4:27 PM

Have you been drinking your wine, by the way?

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 4:27 PM

No... Eff no

 1

 

The Director  4:28 PM

There's a strange energy in the room. You notice that the candles that are lighting it have a blue tint to their flames.

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 4:28 PM

I mention that it was impossible to find anything like this outside of theatre costume rental places. I ask the barrister where he managed to acquire his.

 

The Director  4:32 PM

You hear in the distance, though at first you think it's your imagination, something howling like a wolf. A short time after that, the three young women all rise from their seats, and everyone else follows suit. Then the doors are flung open and in walk two figures.

4:35 PM

The man of the pair is the Count. As he enters, a fetid wind swirls around the room, and all the lights dance. "Mr de Ville!" you hear someone whisper. The men bow, the women curtsey—but see the younger three looking at his companion with jealousy.

The female is a young black girl, maybe 19 years old. She has a man’s coat wrapped around her. Beneath it, she wears a nightdress. Her feet are bare,

and bleeding from a number of tiny cuts. Her movements are languid, like she's half asleep. She leans on him for support.

4:37 PM

Suddenly there's wild, strange music coming from all around. People begin to laugh and dance. Gery tugs at your sleeve. "It is time for you go to bed," he says. "The boss will talk to you after the special party."

4:41 PM

Gery looks over to "Mr de Ville" carefully. There is something different, less controlled, about Gery's demeanour from earlier; he's trying to get you to leave but he doesn't want the boss to see him doing it.

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 4:43 PM

I leave as best as I can without being seen or intercepted by the people I have spoken to

4:43 PM

Maybe fake dance my way with Gery towards the door

 

The Director  4:47 PM

The Count catches up to you both at the doorway to the entrance hall. He puts a hand on Gery's shoulder, looks him in the eye, and Gery's independence vanishes again. He's back to doglike obedience. For you, Dracula has a smile. "Yes, Mr Guerrero, why don't you take a rest? I wanted you to meet my followers here so you could see how power accumulates to me. You too may join them in due time. You would be, I think, a most useful... ally." Your BS Detector tells you the word he was thinking during that "..." was 'tool'.

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 4:48 PM

You are too kind, Mr De Ville. A good evening to you

 

The Director  4:48 PM

"One more thing before you go."

4:48 PM

He steps into the hall with you. He has a cold, vice-like grip on your arm.

4:49 PM

Look, there's no easy way to say this. He's going to bite you on the neck. What do you do? 

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 4:49 PM

Wait, wait wait

4:50 PM

I beg. If you turn me now, I won't be able to return to my companions as your man

 

The Director  4:50 PM

"You presume very greatly," he says. But he stops. He doesn't let go of your arm.

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 4:52 PM

I may do, but my team, we are tracking Edom and they are blindly trying to interfere in your schemes.

 

The Director  4:53 PM

"I shall require... some surety." He holds out his hand and Gery hands him a knife.

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 4:53 PM

They are blunt instruments being wielded by a government who acts like children

 

The Director  4:53 PM

He nods slightly, in agreement.

4:53 PM

The silent old woman appears from the dining room. She has brought a silver goblet.

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 4:53 PM

Leave me as I am, direct me in a way that I can minimise their random damage.

 

The Director  4:54 PM

It's much darker out here than in the dining room, where things are getting noisier. You see a red glint in the Count's eyes.

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 4:54 PM

I can point them towards Edom

4:54 PM

If that is what you wish

 

The Director  4:54 PM

He cuts open his wrist with the knife, and drips his blood into the goblet.

4:54 PM

It fills quickly, then the bleeding stops.

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 4:54 PM

Dang it...

 

The Director  4:55 PM

Oh, that's got to be a Stability test, right.

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 4:55 PM

Vampirology, he is trying to turn me into a familiar?

4:55 PM

/roll 1d6

 

DicebotAPP 4:55 PM

@Ernesto VH Guerrero rolled 6

Dice

1d6

Rolls

6

 

The Director  4:55 PM

Yes.

4:56 PM

I was going to ask if you'd spend any Stability points, but no need !

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 4:56 PM

Vampirology, what effect will it have on me?

 

The Director  4:56 PM

Also vampirology: if he drinks from you once, that won't make you a vampire

4:57 PM

You will get some part of his power

4:57 PM

He'll be able, with effort, to see what you see

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 4:57 PM

Oh

4:57 PM

Can I still operate in sunlight?

 

The Director  4:58 PM

He'll also be able to psychically command you. Of course, he can do that anyway, but it'll be easier on you.

4:58 PM

Based on what you've seen of Gery and the others, yes.

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 4:58 PM

If he drinks from me, what powers do I get?

 

The Director  4:58 PM

You don't know.

4:59 PM

according to the Dossier, none, but there is some kind of psychic connection (edited)

4:59 PM

(it's how Mina can locate Castle Dracula)

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 5:00 PM

Do I know how quickly the bite wounds will heal?

 

The Director  5:00 PM

Vampire lore is hazy and variable on this subject.

5:00 PM

You might have to style it out with a range of scarves

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 5:01 PM

So as a familiar, I won't have a psychic link though

5:01 PM

Or cool powers

 

The Director  5:01 PM

Familiars get the cool powers but can't tell where Dracula is (except when he's getting nearer)

5:02 PM

For the wounds, let's just say you can hide them unless your team mates get so suspicious they pin you down and do a proper examination with a doctor.

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 5:02 PM

Well, I've kind of made my bed and convinced him no to bite me

 

The Director  5:03 PM

Up to you, I think you could swing it with a bit of "no, I'm not good enough to drink your noble blood oh mighty Count"

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 5:03 PM

Presumably, bite victim and familiar, he will see what I can see?

 

The Director  5:03 PM

For the bite victim (I think the book uses the term "assign", I'll look it up later) he can find you.

5:04 PM

But I don't think he can use you as a proxy quite so much as he can with a familiar.

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 5:05 PM

Bite victim, will I appear in mirrors, video surveillance and operate in daylight?

 

The Director  5:05 PM

As far as you know yes

5:05 PM

(Lucy's reflection doesn't disappear until after the final transformation)

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 5:06 PM

No My lordship, I cannot possibly drink your noble blood. Please, if you could bite below my shirt collar, so I can still operate covertly

 

The Director  5:08 PM

The sensation of being bitten is at first lancing pain then ecstasy. Well, more like heroin. Please make a Health roll. (You have 7 points to spend in your pool.) (edited)

5:08 PM

Gery and the silent old woman greedily drink Dracula's blood from the goblet.

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 5:09 PM

Is the silent old woman Harmer?

5:09 PM

Harker?

 

The Director  5:09 PM

No, this is a different old lady.

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 5:10 PM

If I fail the health roll I die?

 

5:11 PM

Nope. This is just to adjudicate the effects of the bite on you, physically & psychologically.

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 5:11 PM

So uhhhh... 4

 

The Director  5:11 PM

Go ahead and roll.

5:12 PM

(This is quite tense.)

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 5:12 PM

Does this come out of my health and resilience permanently?

 

The Director  5:12 PM

No, you can replenish Health with time and medical attention

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 5:12 PM

Alright, 5 then

5:12 PM

/roll 1d6

 

DicebotAPP 5:12 PM

@Ernesto VH Guerrero rolled 6

Dice

1d6

Rolls

6

 

The Director  5:14 PM

The after-effects of the bite leave you in an otherworldly frame of mind. For the next 5 hours, you are Shaken (i.e. no point spends from Investigative abilities).

5:14 PM

Dracula returns to his guests. His servants follow. You're left alone in the hall. What do you do?

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 5:15 PM

Is Gery wearing a watch?

5:15 PM

Wait, there's a clock on my phone

5:16 PM

What time is it?

 

The Director  5:16 PM

It's getting close to midnight

5:16 PM

You can hear the guests leaving from the dining room. It sounds like they're going outside, to the back garden.

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 5:17 PM

Judging by my present state, will I look in too bad of shape to join them?

 

The Director  5:18 PM

It's more like you're not really invited. But you could creep out there and watch.

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 5:19 PM

Okay, so with no investigative powers, can I work out which room upstairs overlooks the back garden?

 

The Director  5:20 PM

Yes. I should clarify: you can do all the 0-point things with your investigative abilities. What you can't do are all the point-spending super-clever things.

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 5:20 PM

One with a convenient broken window so I can listen

 

The Director  5:21 PM

Definitely. Most of the windows up here are broken. It's really seen better days, this place.

5:21 PM

There's a Victorian folly, a pagoda/cupola type thing, out there amongst the overgrown hedges and flower beds. It's lit with torches and yes, now the robes come out.

5:23 PM

You know how this goes, from your studies and your extensive watching of Hammer movies. Dracula is in the high priest role and the followers are his supplicants.

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 5:23 PM

I snap a few more photos

5:23 PM

Flash off!

 1

 

The Director  5:23 PM

The teenage girl is up on the dais next to Dracula, She doesn't seem to know where she is.

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 5:24 PM

Maybe video

 

The Director  5:24 PM

Make a Stability check.

5:24 PM

Dracula drinks from the girl, while the guests chant and the young women bare their teeth and lick their lips.

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 5:25 PM

How difficult is it, since the same thing just happened to me

 

The Director  5:25 PM

That's a good point, I should have made you test for that too

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 5:26 PM

This is what's confusing me by the way, so I spend stability points to make a check. So I lose stability points either way?

 

The Director  5:26 PM

Let's combine both events and say you're looking at a 7-point loss

5:26 PM

Yeah.

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 5:26 PM

Same with health

 

The Director  5:26 PM

The difficulty is always 4

5:26 PM

you just have to assess how much it's worth spending vs how much you'll lose

5:27 PM

Oh my mistake: "Stability tests in pitch blackness are made at Difficulty 5". That's pretty good genre emulation actually.

5:27 PM

But you aren't in total darkness here, so it's just a 4.

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 5:28 PM

Ok, I spend 3 points

 

The Director  5:29 PM

Solid. That puts you down to....

5:30 PM

Stability 4

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 5:30 PM

I though the 5 I used for the bite were for health

 

The Director  5:30 PM

so you're still compos mentis once the bite effects wear of.

5:30 PM

Yes, that was health

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 5:30 PM

Ok

 

The Director  5:32 PM

Blood oozes from the wound on the girl's neck, like a black worm. She is dancing slowly with the Count, it looks like. There's blood on his neck and she licks it up. (edited)

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 5:33 PM

I've seen enough, I move back to my room and go to sleep.

 

The Director  5:35 PM

OK, let's leave it there. When you awake the house is deserted -- admin wise, if the team go looking for you in the next session, will you let them find you?

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 5:35 PM

Right, before we end and I find my way back to the group.

5:36 PM

I get changed back into my previous clothes.

5:41 PM

The intel gathered are treated as follows: I create a cover identity, a 1 point false Edom undercover asset, whole produces a report on the party last night. It includes the names of Michael Gove, the Times editor and the Barrister. It includes video and photos I have taken. It is then encrypted onto a USB with a password. With a note for the password enclosed.

 

The Director  5:41 PM

You'll figure out fairly quickly, btw, that you can now see in the dark. In the infrared spectrum, specifically.

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 5:41 PM

Coooool

 

The Director  5:42 PM

What do you do with the report?

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 5:42 PM

I keep it on me for now, will plant it on some poor bastard next time

 1

5:43 PM

I travel into the nearest town or village, I try to see if I can enter a church.

 

The Director  5:43 PM

OK, nice. You'll also discover that more time passed than you expected while you were asleep (like Jonathan Harker) but nothing extravagant.

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 5:44 PM

If I can without any ill effects, I go to confession for a psych recovery.

 

The Director  5:44 PM

And I'll be able to tell you exactly how much after the next team session, because it'll have to be based on how much time they get through, probably.

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 5:49 PM

Ok, plan of attack, I will set someone (a wanted criminal) up to be an Edom asset. I ring the group, tell them that thanks to Dr. Double-barrelled last name's bravado, I was attacked by Edom to find their man. I was kidnapped and psychologically tortured. Explaining my thousand yard stare.

 

The Director  5:51 PM

That sounds good. I will try to save it for when you're back, but if need be I'll let them get the phone call, does that sound OK?

5:51 PM

It might be easier to just say "you can search for ernesto but he only actually appears next time"

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 5:51 PM

Yes, when I escaped, or rather when I was abandoned, I heard a name, someone who was reporting in. I was able to tail them to a certain location.

 

The Director  5:52 PM

That works. Like a quick "I can't talk long! But go here!"

5:52 PM

Too short to use BS detector on.

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 5:52 PM

At which point I ring the baddy that SO19 and the heavy mob are en-route, he should freak out and the party should see him tear arse out of there

5:52 PM

At which point we will enter the house and 'find' the report.

5:52 PM

Yes

 

The Director  5:53 PM

I ought to say: I enjoyed this!  Good investigation work, and now you've met Dracula.

5:54 PM

And mostly got away with it.

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 5:55 PM

For psych recovery, I am going to create an asset, a psychiatrist at the university. I will shape it as an occult ritual I witnessed

5:55 PM

Yeah, thank you for doing this! Great fun!

 

The Director  5:56 PM

Shall we say a 2-point Network asset for the shrink? 

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 5:56 PM

Sure

5:57 PM

I also want to do the church thing to see what happens and try to recover through the confessional as well.

 

The Director  5:59 PM

Yep, right. I've worked out where you would end up.

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 6:00 PM

And I don't hide it in the confessional... I physically disguise myself and then I tell him."I let the curiosity get the better of me Father and because of it, I sought out and witnessed true evil. Monsters are real in this world, and those in power work with him... There was so much blood, she was so young!"

 

The Director  6:01 PM

You pass through the woods that surround the house and wind up in Mill Hill on the NW outskirts of London, at the Church of the Sacred Heart & Mary Immaculate

6:01 PM

It's not a scheduled confession time but the priest will hear your confession when you knock on the presbytery door.

6:01 PM

Even though it's like 6am

6:02 PM

You can tell he thinks you're more addled than anything.

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 6:02 PM

I thought I could make a deal with the devil, but I feel I have turned down a dark path. One which makes me a monster.

6:03 PM

Am I a monster?

 

The Director  6:04 PM

He says you must report what you saw to the authorities, and advises you that the path to temptation is best cut off at the earliest part: by avoiding the "near occasion of sin" as it says in the Act of Contrition. You should avoid situations where you know you will be tempted into sin.

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 6:05 PM

Any stability returns?

 

The Director  6:05 PM

He gives you a penance of a decade of the rosary, contemplating the Joyful Mysteries.

6:06 PM

As he begins to give you absolution, the wounds on your neck begin to pulse with pain.

6:06 PM

You feel like you need to escape from the room.

6:06 PM

Resisting is, in itself, a Stability check.

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 6:06 PM

I leave

 

The Director  6:07 PM

Father Michael is shocked but he lets you go.

6:08 PM

He calls out as you go. "The door is always open! No matter how hard it seems to cross through."

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 6:08 PM

Very droll

6:08 PM

Okay, at least I know my limits

6:09 PM

So church fine, clergy fine. Words of sacrament, an issue

 

The Director  6:09 PM

It's like the wound was resisting it

6:10 PM

The mark of the vampire, so to speak

 

Ernesto VH Guerrero 6:11 PM

I potentially try other things as well, order a steak with garlic butter on the side. See what happens to me... etc.

 

The Director  6:11 PM

Haha, yeah. You're OK with garlic, at least for now.

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