VAARN ACTUAL PLAY: EPISODES 19 & 20

We are back! I’ve only played intermittently over the last two months, mostly due to the holiday period. However, we are playing on Sunday nights again, and have even managed to schedule two consecutive sessions.

In the last episode, the party visited Salari’s Grill, an upmarket restaurant on Gnomon’s Apex. The Water Baron was also in attendance, and Karak managed to flatter the Baron into giving him a job interview the next day. The party then jumped off the side of the Apex to evade the gangster Prieval Prise, crashed in through the roof of an apartment building, and Findus started a trash fire to cover their escape. They then went back to their boardinghouse.

Our cast:

  • Flim-Flam, a two-headed cacogen. Proficient cook. Fights with twin pistols. Owns a cyborg hawk named Midnight.
  • Findus, a newbeast. Horse-man with mystical powers. Inhabited by a parasitic spirit entity. 
  • Crunk, a true-kin warrior. Taciturn, impulsive. A lover and a fighter. Has a big sword.
  • Karak, a gaunt cyborg. Robed and hideous, machine supremacist.
  • Nephew (NPC), a mute and enthusiastic fungus-man. Able to fuse his flesh with dead creatures and take on their abilities.

EPISODE 19

The PCs awoke in the Lemon Tree Boardinghouse and went out into the streets of Gnomon to head for the Water Baron’s Keep. They found the city streets in great disarray and turmoil; groups of people were talking in raised voices and a mob ran past, heading for the Apex. A great cloud of dark smoke was hanging in the morning air.

The party asked around to find out what the cause of the cloud was. They discovered that someone had started a fire in the basement of an apartment building the previous night, and it had spread to several streets (Findus had the decency to look slightly guilty). The unrest in the streets was due to popular anger at the Water Baron, who had refused to make available his water supplies for firefighting. A rowdy mob was demonstrating outside the gates of his compound, blocking them.

Karak, undeterred, pushed through the throng, followed by Crunk. Initially the guards would not let them in, but Karak managed to play both sides of the demonstration against one another, and they entered the Baron’s keep. Karak and Crunk made their way through dusty, utilitarian outer courtyards and found themselves in a more opulent inner sanctum. A pair of large, peacock-shaped synths escorted them to the Baron’s audience chamber.

Meanwhile, Findus and Flim-Flam decided to head for the Great Souk of Gnomon, looking to buy some weapons that might help them fight a synth (this was inspired by the discovery the previous evening that the Water Baron was synthetic). On their way, they were accosted by a bounty hunter in elaborate green power-armour, who asked them if they had information that could lead him to his targets. To their alarm, he showed them a hologram projection that clearly depicted Crunk and Nephew! Findus managed to trick the bounty hunter into opening the visor of his helmet, and then used his laser eyes to fry the guy’s face at point blank range, killing him. Flim-Flam looted a disgusting piece of biotech from the corpse, and then they moved on (a rather sleazy scene, all told).

Meanwhile, Crunk and Karak knelt at the foot of the Water Baron’s throne, which was shaped like a gilded scorpion. They discussed the riots with the Baron briefly; Karak expressed distaste for the people of Gnomon, noting they ‘should have used sand to extinguish the blaze, rather than begging for water’. The Baron concurred. They discussed the idea of Karak entering the Water Baron’s service; the Baron admitted that repair crews sent down into the depths of his water processing plant had, in recent weeks, been going missing. His militia were now refusing to go into the depths at all; they much preferred bullying Gnomonian merchants to facing actual danger.

The Baron asked if Karak knew of anyone who was handy with a weapon and didn’t mind exploring underground complexes; Karak allowed that he might know such people. The Water Baron at this point introduced his chief engineer: a small, sickly New-Monkey with a cybernetic wrench for a hand, who called himself ‘No-Luck’. The Baron instructed Karak to return the next day with his chosen group of explorers, and accompany No-Luck into the depths of Gnomon to conduct repairs on the machinery there. Karak and Crunk then left the Baron’s keep, with No-Luck following along with them.

Meanwhile, Flim-Flam and Findus went shopping. They found a cacogen woman who was selling bits of arcane tech from the back of a wagon. They asked if she had anything that would help them kill synths, which got her going about how much she hated synthetic creatures, calling them ‘clankers’ and ‘rusties’ and suchlike. Flim-Flam played along with her bigotry, in order to get a ‘better deal on the trade’ (or so he claimed afterwards). Unfortunately for him, he was overhead by a large, imposing-looking synth, who dressed in flamboyant frilled clothing. The synth introduced himself as Quincent du Cogfleur, and demanded ‘satisfaction’ from Flim-Flam, throwing a red handkerchief down onto the blue sand. Flim-Flam uneasily picked it up, at which Quincent bowed and left the scene, vowing Flim-Flam would ‘see him again soon’. Enamoured by this display of machismo, the synthist shopkeeper gave Flim-Flam an EMP grenade as a favour.

Meanwhile, Crunk, Karak, and No-Luck were walking down an alley near the Water Baron’s keep when they were ambushed from above by three spiderlike beings! At this point we broke for the night, leaving things on a cliffhanger until…

EPISODE 20

We immediately jumped back into the action. Two spiders with the heads of women, and one woman with the head of a spider, descended on Crunk and Karak using silken ropes. Ignoring Karak, they swarmed Crunk, enveloping him in spider-silk strands and trapping him completely. Karak blasted the spider-headed woman with his plasma rifle, triggering a close range brawl between the two of them, while the woman-headed spiders lifted Crunk up into the air, preparing to kidnap him.

At this point, Flim-Flam and Findus re-entered the scene, and started firing at the creatures. The outcome of the fight was mixed: the spider-headed woman was shot dead, and the other two creatures fled, leaving Crunk tied up. However, Findus suffered a wound from a dart shot by one of the spiders, which inflicted him with a strange sensation in his neck. Crunk managed to free himself from the spider cocoon with surprising grace, at which point everyone realised Nephew was nowhere to be found. They feared the fungus-man could also have been targeted by the spider creatures.

There was considerable debate about how to proceed. Crunk wanted to find Nephew. Flim-Flam became very concerned about the red handkerchief he had accepted last session: what did it mean? Karak examined it and discerned that it had tracking devices intertwined with the threads; Flim-Flam elected to burn it. Findus wanted to find a medical professional and get his spider-venom wound dealt with.

The party split again; Findus and Karak headed back to the Great Souk to locate a doctor. They found Dr. Umatri, a squat, jovial synth who moved around on a unicycle wheel and had the voice and mannerisms of an 1800s carnival barker. He diagnosed Findus as having a baby spider growing inside his neck – not good! – but halfway through the operation to remove it, Dr. Umatri started trying to extort them for more payment than originally agreed. Karak responded by stabbing Umatri in the back with his synth-hacking device (which I’d forgotten Karak even had) and forcing the doctor to carry out the surgery for free.

Meanwhile, Flim-Flam, Crunk, and No-Luck the engineer searched for Nephew. They eventually located the fungus-man in a local bakery; it seemed he’d wandered off while waiting for them outside the Baron’s keep, and was now busily munching his way through a whole tray of pastries while the baker vainly tried to stop him. Crunk calmed Nephew down while Flim-Flam dealt with the angry baker. They eventually agreed that Flim-Flam (a talented cook) would bake replacements, which he proceeded to do. We ended the session with Crunk and Flim-Flam relaxing after a hard afternoon’s baking, when they sighted Karak and Findus walking across the courtyard towards them. Findus was well, but his entire horse-head was wrapped in bandages. They speculated about what kind of mess the surgeon had made of their friend’s face…

NEXT TIME: Why is Crunk being hunted? What happened to Findus’s face? Will they ever get to the dungeon I’ve been writing for them? Find out!

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