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"Explorers of the Fathoms!" - TCfBtS! Actual Play

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  • Cinder
    Here we are, back from the first session.

    It’s actually what people would call a Session 0: pretty much a slow-paced session in a controlled environment, where the events are not that important to the chronicle as a whole. It allows everyone to familiarize with the core mechanics, mood and themes. Neither filler or prelude, doing a Session 0 is a habit of mine I find really useful. I only do it when someone at the table is new to the game, but it helps. Even more so because I want to start the “real” chronicle with a bang and this allows to us all to know the game just enough to keep a good rhythm for that one.

    A note: when I was writing down the plans for the session, the chapter with the antagonists and aquatic threats had not yet been released to Kickstarter backers. It is, to my humble opinion, The Best Chapter ® (hey, I like lists of awesome baddies), but I had to make do without it. I kept it simple, but I hope you’ll still enjoy my enemies for this time around.

    Also: this is my OOC voice for the thread

    Ok, let’s start:

    Session 0: Fishburg, USA

    It all starts with a low, constant humming. It reverberates through the corridors of the ship. Eventually, it grows louder, enough to wake some members of the crew. William, Thea and Sandro get out of their cabin and with some attention manage to discover that the noise comes from the pipes. It’s getting unnervingly loud and it does not take long for whistling steam to come out of the walls. Captain Murray arrives as well, wearing a pajama and with his trusted Teddy Bear in hand. He starts to chat with the small group, lamenting that his tinnitus (the result of that time a monkey hit him with a coconut during the Guadalcanal Campaign) is truly giving him a hard time today. He’s pleasantly surprised when they inform him that the noise he hears is likely due to a problem with the ship instead.

    The three decide to wake up Clay, the most qualified to solve any technical issue, and Dwayne, because if they can’t sleep then he can neither. It only takes a ten-minutes argument and two threats of having a taste of the Combat System for the group to decide to move and check the Amontillado’s engine room.

    All the instruments in the room are red hot and the valves are fuming. It is, the most perspective ones deduce, not a good situation.The Amontillado is an old ship which was already wounded before all sorts of slimy beings decided to come and visit the surface world. There are cracks on board fixed with tape and glue. Things look grim: the engine will blow up soon.

    But Clay is not the kind of man that would let it go without giving it a try! He valiantly shouts “I can fix this!”, picks up his wrench and tackles the engine. The proud Everyman does his best and manages to limit the size of the explosion, from a catastrophical one that would have sinked the ship into one which, at his judgment, will limit itself to the room where they are. Alas! His skills are not enough to save an intern of the oceanographic institute (one that everyone could swear was not around when they entered the room) from being engulfed from the flames as they run away from the explosion. Farewell, brave intern without a name! Your sacrifice was not needed to buy time for the others to escape, but it’s almost as if someone decided the scene would have looked more dramatic that way.

    Giuseppe rolled well and really wanted to try Directorial Control

    The cast manages to get out almost unscratched, but the engine is destroyed. There’s no choice but to ask for help on the radio and wait for assistance. Luckily, the New England coast is not far: it only takes a few hours for some rescue boats to reach the Amontillado and drag it to the nearest port, a small town called Fleishburg. The crew is not familiar with it, but William remembers from an article about a pieto be a peaceful fishing town, the kind of place of the American province where people work hard, stay safe and leave the door open at night. “Nothing to worry about” he says, knowingly tempting fate. A sinister music plays in the background but only few pay attention to it.

    The Amontillado arrives into port before the dawn. It will take time to repair the engine, perhaps days. Everyone decides to sleep a few more hours and visit the town later that morning: most just want to have a look, but others hope to find pieces to fix the ship or assault weapons, which for some reason they expect to be a common feature of the stores of a placid provincial town.

    When the morning comes, the cast kindly refuses the breakfast that Chuck, the ship’s cook, has prepared for them. Sure, a soup with fish heads, potatoes and bacon is not the exactly kind to the stomach, but Chuck means well. Still, they all decide to head to town to find something to eat and leave the cook to clean the dishes, sad and alone. As they leave the Amontillado, they can’t help but to notice that the sign that says “Welcome to Fleischburg” has been clumsily altered. It now just says “ME FISHBURG”. Dramatic music again, this time more of them are able to hear it but still don’t get an explanation.

    The plans I have for the chronicle probably won’t lead the players to visit another small town like this one, so I exploited it as much as I could. Stereotypical 50s atmosphere and aesthetics, references to all sorts of movies and Mr. Sandman playing as they get into to town. Shameless, but it’s part of the fun.

    It’s a sunny August morning, there are no clouds in the sky and the birds are chirping. As the cast walks into Fishburg, they see neighbours greeting each other, kids playing ball in the fields and the milkman making its deliveries. But Thea and William are inquisitive individuals and look further: there’s also the fact that many people are wearing cumbersome trenchcoats and fedoras even in this heat and that all the town’s fishing boats seems to have been dismantled and left in pieces around the docs. They ask around a little, but all those they speak to don’t see anything wrong with it and also appear to be confused to a degree that it’s a miracle they haven’t hurt themselves already. One tries to hit a nail while grabbing an hammer from the head, another is trapped into a fishing net and it does not seem he will get out soon. They also drool a lot, way more than appropriate for this early in the morning.

    Puzzled but with their stomachs still empty, the group decides to enter a diner nearby, eat something and then investigate further.

    The diner is nice, the typical warm and welcoming place with round stools, friendly customers and milkshakes. Frank Sinatra’s Beyond The Sea is playing on the jukebox. The protagonists all sit down and try to order something, even if the cook seems to be afflicted by the same endemic confusion that plagues the town. William notices, looking over a window into the kitchen, that one of the cooks is no other than Rodrigo, the Amontillado’s sound technician. But here’s wearing an apron, a fancy hat and, worse, he’s drooling on the eggs.

    Before he can warn the others, Dwayne turns to the left and takes a good look at the man that sits close to him. The heavy clothing and cheap cologne can’t hide the fact that the customer is indeed a fishman. With a nice pair a mustache, but still a fishman.

    “Hey!” shouts Dwayne. “I got you! You’re a fishman!”

    The hunched monster puts down the newspaper, turns around and replies “Me? No. You fishman. Me accountant. ”

    “What? No, you are!”

    “No no, you fish, me Howard Johnson”

    “Don’t be silly, I can see your gills!”

    “Impossible. You smell like fish. Not me”

    At this provocation, our hero grabs a knife and attacks the foul creature. Several customers flee, but others remove their clothes and reveal their own true nature as abomination from beneath the sea.

    Fight ensues! William shoots around with his gun while Sandro and Thea have no choice but to grab what they can find around. Clay prefers instead to trust his own strength and, with a smile, announces “I’m gonna punch that fish in the face”

    All manage to deal with their opponents, except for Sandro. The young man seems unable to strike even an unmoving target, which means he’ll have to wait another scene to show his worth. Dwayne and Clay come to his aid, while William runs into the kitchen to check on Rodrigo.

    Antonio got some Rewrite dices here, that’s for sure. He also forgot to use those later, but it’s the thought that counts.

    It is here that he meets a truly terrible foe: a lobster with a gun. This diabolical marksman was waiting for William on the counter and manages to wound him badly. The advantage position allows the crustacean to give plenty of trouble to our heroes before they manage to reach it and throw it into boiling water.

    While some of the protagonists patch up as best as they can, Thea tries to speak with Rodrigo. The poor man’s mind has been manipulated, but she wonders what method was used to obtain such result. It’s Clay that finds an answer in a cupboard: a jar with a brain inside, with Rodrigo’s picture stuck over it.

    Looking further around, Thea and Clay find a strange object, a sort of weird gun. Thea deduces that one can load the weapon with the brain jar and shoot it back into Rodrigo’s brain. It’s a delicate operation that requires medical knowledge to work, with potential dramatic consequences in case of failure. Dwayne grabs it and prepares to shoot but everyone else, aware that the man is a charismatic murder machine who can barely read, stop him before the disaster happens. It’s Thea that solves the issue, handling the brain gun with ease.

    Rodrigo returns normals and immediately warns the group that the fish people also got Captain Murray. Luckily, the man remembers the address where he last saw the Captain before his brain was removed. Our heroes finish their breakfast and head to the place with an amount of determination and rightful rage that can be only described as lacking.

    The base of the enemy operation, the vile den of evil and malice from where the aquatic menace lead its conquest of Fishburg is none other than a nice house in the suburbs, with a nice garden and freshly painted fence. Absolutely revolting.

    Willian knocks on the door while the others wait behind the bushes, weapons in hand. All are a little surprised when it’s Captain Murray himself that comes to open. The old man is wears a cardigan and smokes a pipe. He recognizes William and, when the rest of the group comes out from their hiding spots, he invites them in.

    Once inside, Murray introduces them to a woman, Mary Lou, which apparently is his wife. They all have to endure small talk, tea and pie. Mary Lou seems normal, at least for the standards of Fishburg. Dwayne wants to hit her with a tray before she can do anything wrong, but his companions make him notice that she also shows sign of brain manipulation.

    The married couple denies any knowledge of something wrong going on in their house. It’s just them, their dog and their little boy Billy.

    Billy is nowhere to be seen, though, and the dog is just a large sea slug. It’s here that the protagonists take a defensive stance. They decide to investigate Billy’s room, which seems as normal as it can be. There are toys, a large, empty aquarium, eight baseball bats and eight gloves. Some start to suspect Billy’s true nature. It’s here that the heroes find a key to the basement, just before the dramatic music plays yet again.

    The basement is dark, but it’s empty. Sandro goes in first, eager to redeem himself. He manages to find the light switch, which reveals the terrible secret of the house.

    There are lots of posters, pins and banners around. They show sea creature dressed as people, going around as if it’s normal. One of the posters has Uncle Sam, except now he’s a large anthropomorphic tuna. All this material show the same acronym: S.P.L.A.S.H., Superior Piscine League for American Society Hybridization.

    “So, you have discovered my secret lair” says a voice in the head of the group. A wet noise from the top of the stairs draws closer. The heroes prepare to fight and are not that surprised to see an octopus with an airscrew hat coming down into the basement. The creature speaks directly into their minds. “I am Pnhgl’Bggl’Blogblog, leader of this operation and conqueror of the dry land. But you can call me...BILLY”

    “What is you plan, Billy?” asks Clay.

    “Oh, it is very simple. We members of S.P.L.A.S.H. think that the Americans have truly got something right around here. We like their music, the way they talk and the way they live. We love milkshakes. It’s the humans we can’t stand. So we decided to come and take it all, enslave as much of you as we can and become the only owners of the True American Way, as it is right to be”

    Yes, there’s also a Russian counterpart to S.P.L.A.S.H.: the S.C.A.L.E, Soviet Communist Aquatic Leadership Endeavor

    “And now, daddy-o...” says Billy while removing his hat and showing the impressive pompadour cut under it “...prepare to die”.
    Billy immediately jumps on Clays head and wraps around hit, using telekinesis to throw stuff around and hurt the others. Clays succumbs to the mental powers of the cephalopod and can’t help but attack the others for several shots. The rest of the group can only try to hit Billy without hurting their friend, except for Dwayne that just shoots.

    Giuseppe and Luca have a complicated relationship.

    Eventually, the heroes manage to weaken Billy enough to force its grab open.

    “Curse you, dry have forced me to use my ultimate weapon!” Cue dramatic music, worried looks, tension growing octopus trying to put on eight roller skates.

    Billy is having lots of trouble doing that. Everyone wonders if they should kill it before it can finish. William, sure that it’s physically impossible for it to end well, says “No, let it do it”

    And so, Billy the octopus manages to do it, with only a little help from his powers. Too bad roller skates are not made for cephalopods and each of its attempts to move lead to a pathetic failure.

    The group just decide they had enough. “Wait!” screams Billy, but it’s useless: Dwayne lifts a table and squashes the aquatic menace.

    I hoped the players would have found Billy too sad and let it live. I had plans to make it return while riding an headless body and scream “MIND BLAST!” at them before using a shotgun. Alas.

    In a cabinet, Sandro finds lots of jars: the rest of the brains of the local population. Captain Murray’s is nowhere to be found, but it takes little to discover that nobody touched it. “Sorry fellas, my memory is not what it used to be. They told me Mary Lou was my wife and I just figured I had forgotten to have one. Little Billy was a little odd, but I have uglier relatives on my father’s side”

    And so, having saved the town and reclaimed the American lifestyle for its rightful owners, our heroes return to the Amontillado, ready to sail again and reach the International Oceanographic Fair on the other side of the ocean.

    End of session! I’d love to hear your opinions about it. We had lots of fun with it, even if the plot for this one was rather simple.
    Last edited by Cinder; 01-17-2019, 05:12 PM.

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  • The Gentleman Gamer
    Superb. Thank you! I look forward to reading more.

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