VAARN ACTUAL PLAY: EPISODE 7

Last week, the party finally reached the trading city Gnomos, jewel of the Vaarnish badlands. They acquainted themselves with the geography and inhabitants of the city, chased down some rogue goats, and met up with an old friend, the book dealer Wormwater. How will city living treat them this week?

Our cast: 

  • Flim-Flam, a two-headed cacogen Adept. Proficient cook, fights with twin pistols. Owns a cyborg hawk named Midnight, who has been dispatched on a scouting mission.
  • Findus, a newbeast Mystic. Horse-man with mystical eye-lasers, a quicksilver spear, and a parasitic spirit entity. 
  • Crunk, a true-kin Warrior. Taciturn, impulsive. A lover and a fighter. Good at catching goats. 

We rejoined the party as they awakened in the latest of a series of uncomfortable and temporary sleeping arrangements: the attic space of Wormwater’s book shop (which we have decided is named Wormwaterstones). The characters heard a strange drumming sound on the roof overhead, which turned out to be rain, a rare excitement in Vaarn. Outside in the street, people were rushing outside with clay urns, bowls, jars, everything they could to capture the water. The party followed suit, running out of Wormwater’s front door to catch some rain. Their joy didn’t last long however, as a group of furious men-at-arms dressed in yellow and green livery rode into the street and began knocking the containers out of people’s hands, calling them thieves. The PCs realised these men must be agents of Ancamulla, the Water Baron of Gnomos, who laid claim to all drinkable water in the city. Even the cool fresh rain belonged to him, by ancient right. They had heard about this figure before, but the brutality brought home exactly what the Water Baron’s claim meant for the people of Gnomos. They resolved to step inside while the soldiers were present, so as not to challenge the Water Baron before they were ready. 

They discovered that their host was out in the private rear courtyard of the bookshop, busily gathering rain out of the public view. They asked Wormwater if he needed to drink, to which the synth replied that he did not, but had three guests who did. They learned in conversation that water was considered something of a currency in Gnomos, and that fresh water, and water debt tokens, would be accepted by most traders and artisans. The rain lasted another half hour or so, and then stopped, replaced by clear skies, to the wails and prayers of the people of Gnomos. Wormwater said that the city had not seen rain for sixty days before this shower. 

The PCs decided to play Robin Hood, and headed out into the street to give away some water to Wormwater’s neighbours. The first house they called at belonged to a New-Hog named Ultran, who they were alarmed to find held a human child on a leash. They questioned the newbeast about this, and he claimed the boy was his pet, saying that the ancestors of humans kept his own ancestors as slaves and ate them, asking why he should be denied ownership of a human, if the law allowed it? Possibly not wanting to enter into a debate about slavery and keeping sentient beings as pets with this stranger, the party instead asked what he would want to exchange for the boy. Ultran said the child was of great sentimental value to him, but he could be persuaded for the right price. They debated this a little, and then decided to return to this issue at a later date. 

They brought gifts of water to two other neighbours: Masaori, a cacogen woman who worked as a scribe for Ancamulla’s water bank (but hated the Baron), and Look-Home, a one-armed true-kin poet who regaled them with his verses about angelic nude women, before attempting to tell them the story of how his manhood had been burned off in the same battle that cost him his arm (they left the conversation at this point; very rude). They returned to Wormwater’s abode and discussed what their goals for the day should be. Crunk wanted a sword to replace the weapon he’d lost on the journey to Gnomos; Findus wanted to find a buyer for the volume of warrior poetry he had found in Mother Yarot’s secret chamber; Flim-Flam was eager to visit the markets. Wormwater suggested to Findus that Loonflower ul-Eldwall, the commander of the Hegemony Legion stationed in Gnomos, would be interested in the volume of poetry, and offered to guide the party to the North Fort, where Loonflower could be found. They agreed to this plan, partly because they were thinking about deposing the Water Baron, and wanted to find out which way the Hegemony troops would jump in the event of a coup. 

They set off through the streets. Wormwater filled in some more information about Ancamulla: the Water Baron controlled the Aquafier, a great ancient machine that supplied Gnomos with fresh water pulled from deep below-ground, but the water was rationed at a high cost. The Hegemony had not been able to remove Ancamulla, as it was rumoured the Baron possessed some kind of dead-man’s switch, that would adversely effect the Aquafier machine or even permanently poison the water supply. The party took notes.

At this point a random street encounter occurred: the party saw two children running away from a golden-robed priest, who was yelling ‘thief!’ Crunk and Flim-Flam immediately gave chase, leaving Findus and Wormwater to continue to the North Fort alone. The pair easily overtook the priest and caught up with the urchins, grabbing them and giving them a stern talking to. They found that one of the pickpockets was the very same cacogen boy, Gonga, who had tried to rob Findus and Flim-Flam the previous day. The priest, a New-Gibbon, caught up with the PCs and the urchins, and wanted to take them to face harsh justice at the hands of the city watch, but Flim-Flam’s pistols dissuaded him. They gave the priest some of his stolen water tokens back, and sent him grumbling on his way. Flim-Flam let the other pickpocket go, but convinced Gonga to throw his lot in with them instead, hoping to save him from a hard life on the streets. 

Meanwhile, Wormwater and Findus proceeded to the North Fort and met with Loonflower, a large, boisterous true-kin soldier with a handlebar moustache. Loonflower was very keen on the volume of poetry Findus had brought him, and traded it for a ‘warrior’s umbrella’, a kind of energy shield projector that could shelter the whole party. Findus also took the opportunity to enquire how the Hegemony soldiers would feel if something happened to Ancamulla, the Water Baron. Loonflower indicated that nobody would be sorry if the Baron found himself indisposed, and told Findus that if someone were to disable the Baron’s dead-man switch, the Hegemony troops would do the rest. Hypothetically, of course. 

Crunk and Flim-Flam took some time shopping in the Great Souk, eventually trading away a golden necklace in exchange for a large sword for Crunk. They then reunited with Findus and Wormwater, and decided they wanted to seek out ‘a rough bar’, as they hadn’t had any fights for a while. Wormwater pointed them in the direction of the Orange Ibis, but excused himself, saying that Gnomos’s dive bars weren’t his idea of a good afternoon. Un-deterred, the party made their way to the Orange Ibis, a truly wretched building near the chariot racing tracks, and entered, finding themselves in a dingy basement where two unwholesome looking groups of ruffians were drinking: one group wore pink, the other white. Crunk immediately issued a challenge to ‘wrestle’ in exchange for free drinks. A hulking mycomorph from the gang who wore white – the ‘Snowy Owls’ – took him up on the offer. Crunk easily crushed his opponent and threw him to the floor, whereupon the Snowy Owls reluctantly agreed to buy the PCs drinks. The bartender objected that the gang hadn’t even paid their own tab, at which Flim-Flam pulled his guns out and tried to force the gang to settle up with the pub. This got a rather poor response; both gangs began throwing bottles at each other, and there was a general call of ‘GANG FIGHT!’ 

At this point Findus jumped behind the bar to take cover, Crunk and Flim-Flam prepared to weather the storm, and we had to break because there wasn’t enough time left to run a fight. Next week we will get right into the action. 

GM THOUGHTS – A super fun session. I felt more ‘on’ with my improvisation this week, and enjoyed creating weird characters and situations in Gnomos for everyone to interact with. The party seem very focused on taking out the Water Baron; nobody likes a rent-seeking capitalist bastard. They’re piecing together the way power in Gnomos is uneasily shared between the Hegemony Legion, the Governor’s House, and the Water Baron. They also still want to deal with ‘the Magician’, the enigmatic figure who lies behind the city’s plague of child pickpockets. I prepared rather more material concerning this story-line than was actually necessary for this week’s session, but such is a GM’s life. 

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