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  • Wizards of Aus - Actual Play Thread

    So, a few months back, I opened a thread seeking suggestions for a game I planned to run fairly soon; Wizards of Aus. Now, the game's been going for a little while and, given the interest people expressed in it, I thought I'd open an Actual Play thread; both to see what people think and, hopefully, for everyone's amusement.

    This thread will probably only get an update once a month or so, due to the comparatively slower nature of the game (it's a once-a-week IRC thing), but who knows? Fast sessions happen.

    So, without further ado, let's begin with some game/setting info.

    ---

    WARNING

    This game is set in a part of the world that underwent colonization and, as seems to be universally the pattern where it goes, there is some truly cruel and brutal history hidden in Australia's soil. This game borrows ideas and symbols, however loosely, from cultures and peoples that have suffered real harm. I'm trying to approach this as respectfully as I can for inclusion in a work of fantastical fiction intended for entertainment; I don't want to shy away from it, but there are limits to what I can and will include and to my actual knowledge. If I mess up, as I might, I apologize sincerely in advance, but I'm going to try my best to treat the topic with the sensitivity it deserves.

    My games also have a tendency to delve down some dark pathways. I avoid sexual violence but most other forms may appear to a wide range of targets. In the past, my games have covered topics of child abuse, mental illness, serial/ritual murder, and concepts like necessary cruelty. If people want, I can include specific content warnings above each session post.

    ---

    Wizards of Aus

    This is a game I've wanted to run for a while. Australia as a place is fascinating; geographically, atmospherically, historically, biologically, geologically, culturally... I've wanted to set a game there for years now, but never really had the chance. Recently, the opportunity arose to do so, so I took it.

    It's hard to pinpoint a thing that most captivated me and made me want to use the setting, but perhaps the best summary can be found in the tradition of songlines; stories that include actual geographic features in their telling and measurements of time in their performance that allow them to be used as actual maps; guiding people from place during certain times of year to maximize their chances of survival and bring them to areas with known resources. That a place can be so harsh that the very oral tradition of the peoples living in the area become a direct survival tool is incredible, and the level of inventiveness, accidental or deliberate, that went into that amazes me.

    For that reason, I chose to centre the game's atmosphere around a similar notion; a difficult environment to survive in, where resources are scarce and refusal to seize an opportunity or a failure to be clever could lead to your doom. Australia has a lot of riches but there aren't any which have not seen blood spilled over them.

    "What will you do to survive?" becomes the obvious theme.


    Strangers in a Strange Land

    Australia is an old place but the Pentacle traditions are recent. The first European contact happened in 1606 but it wasn't until the 1780s that exploration and colonization of the mainland began in earnest. Thus, many of the occult traditions that people of European descent (or, really, any descent you care to name outside of Oceanian peoples) are very recent and ultimately foreign to the landscape. The old traditions of the Diamond are rigid and are made for a place with very different occult flows and resources, and this has been a source of trouble ever since the first Consilia were founded in the region. It hasn't been helped by generations of active suppression

    And it is different. The entire continent of Australia is defined by a strange metaphysical flow manifested in its ley lines that breeds as much arcane scarcity into its Awakened population as its mundane scarcity does to its people. Mana is a rare commodity that is desperately needed for the more powerful spells the Awakened can bring to bear, and so many turn to unorthodox sources that, in turn, define the political landscape.

    If you want to survive, you have to adapt.

    The World Triumphant

    Australia is not a gentle country. While its reputation for venomous and vicious animals is at least somewhat exaggerated (though not undeserved), the land and weather are the greatest threats. Much of the country is a desert or very dry scrub, which transitions into intensely wet coastline rather suddenly and dramatically. The country's population chiefly resides in a handful of cities, but a large number of people live in small, scattered settlements spread across the nation, to harness the resources that fuel those cities. For most people, life isn't that different than living in another warm, developed nation, but the droughts, typhoons, dust storms, and forest fires are an ever-present reminder that, in Australia, Mother Nature sits ascendant on her throne.

    Our People

    The Awakened are not the only major inhabitant of their secret world. Oh yes, there are Sleepwalkers, but these others loom larger than most: The Bidee Noongar.

    The Bidee Noongar - People of the Path - are one of the major setting Mysteries. Often simply called the People by the local Awakened, precisely what they are is debated vigorously among the Awakened. The Dreamspeakers, the region's most prominent Legacy, say they are the Dreamborn, or at least powerful children of them. Whatever the case, all Awakened in the region are in agreement on a few key features: The People are very powerful, and the People crave Mana.

    The People are in direct competition for Mana, the most precious resource in the region, monopolizing almost every naturally occurring Hallow. Most Awakened prefer to bargain with the People for some of that precious energy, rather than fight them. In doing so, they tend to come to identify with these strange beings; becoming a part of a unified tribe that can survive the deaths of its constituent members.

    ---


  • #2
    The Land at the Bottom of the World - Setting Information

    A Land with History

    [spoiler=History]This is going to take way more space than I have the energy for now, so I'll be coming back to it later.[/spoiler]

    The Shorewind Parliament - Consilium of Sydney

    The Shorewind Parliament is good governance for the Awakened. This is its mandate, and has been since the 1820s, when the Parliament was founded by sorcerers fleeing the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars and the nascent echoes of the Nameless War. These Awakened, a cabal known then as the Adder's Tongue, came to Australia with years of experience fighting a wizard's war, accumulated grimoires and artifacts, and, of course, money; tools that, together, let them effectively claim absolute right over Sydney.

    The Adders weren't the first Mages in Australia - they were a few tens of millennia late for that - but they weren't even the first European Mages in the region either. Colonists and deportees and prisoners had been living in Australia for decades by the time the Adders arrived, and had developed their own unique cultures. While those in the city welcomed the arrival of the Adders, by and large, those beyond its edges regarded them as an intrusive presence. These native cabals had their own cultures, own traditions, and own ways of living. Conflicts inevitably followed. In the end, it became a question of practiced tradition and resources against native skill and numbers. Eventually, while never officially acknowledging it, the city and country Mages came to an unspoken accord that the Parliament could run the city and its own membership, and the Apostates out in the countryside could do as they would according to their own ways, so long as they didn't engage in (too many) Left-Handed practices.

    Today, the Shorewind Parliament still runs out of Sydney and its politics are still dominated by the descendants of its founders. The Adder's Tongue became the Noble Scales of the Black Adder and three of the six Council members of the Consilium are members of that cabal. It is not hurt by the current Hierarch also being the local Deacon as well.

    Consilium Council
    • Hierarch: White Sands (Mastigos, Thearch)
    • Acanthus Councilor: Kepi (Thearch)
    • Mastigos: Black Ink Venom (Mystagogue)
    • Moros: Redstone (Thearch)
    • Obrimos: Qadi (Guardian)
    • Thyrsus: Tamatoa (Arrow)

    The Swamp Padfoot and the Western Union

    While the Parliament rules the city, the Western Union - the libertine Assembly - rules everything beyond its borders, and the Union is run by the Padfoot.

    The Swamp Padfoot are the oldest cabal in the Sydney area that's still alive to this day, and, excluding Seer Pylons, the largest. Composed of six libertines, a mystagogue, and a talon, the Padfoot represents a large and powerful bloc that has consistently been the centre of an outsider cultural movement that stands in direct opposition to the Atlantean tradition. Central to this tradition has been Dingo.

    Dingo is not a Mage; he is one of the People. Supposedly as old as dreams themselves, Dingo manifests as an enormous black-furred Australian wild dog. In stories and songs, Dingo is humanity's protector, its guardian, its ally, and its hunter; both guardian against that which lurks beyond the firelight and threat to keep people close to the flame. In tales, he devoured the souls of children to protect them from the things that would do them harm.

    The Padfoot named their cabal for their patron, and take Shadow Names in his honour. They keep Dingo's Law; protecting Sleepers, particularly children, from horrors supernatural and mundane. Sometimes, they can be... Overzealous in this task, as their justice is inevitably rough, but they keep the law and that means local Mages can be assured of at least some stability.

    The Padfoot became even more serious contenders at the end of World War I, when Australian sorcerers traveled to Europe to fight in the Great War and came back with news of the Council of Free Assemblies. Even a century on, Armistice Day is still celebrated among the libertines as a kind of reawakening for their kind.

    The Pedestal of the Cataract

    Australia is divided into two Tetrarchies; the Dust Mandate in the West, and the Cataract in the East. At present, the PCs know relatively little about them, save that the Dust Mandate is run by the enigmatic Lord(s) of Dust, that the Seed of the Golden Fruit pylon operates out of Canberra. The city itself is something of a mystical wasteland, thanks to Seer mangling of the regional ley lines.

    Cabals of New South Wales

    (This list is provisional)
    • The Noble Scales of the Black Adder - The most powerful and imposing cabal in Sydney; led by White Sands, the Hierarch. Under her leadership, the Adders do what they do best; keeping their coils around the scepter. The cabal itself focuses most of its efforts on expanding the three Proximus families fostered by the local Ladder caucus, which White Sands sees as vital to their perpetual hegemony. Black Ink Venom, another Councilor, is also a member.
    • The Stone Legs - A mystagogue cabal, responsible for guarding Old Wirrin, the local Hierophant. Wirrin is treated as a living Mystery that the cabal is dedicated to safeguarding. Stolen Fire, the local Curator, is a member.
    • The Swamp Padfoot - The largest Pentacle cabal in the region, dutifully serving Dingo. First among equals is Black Shuck, the cabal's nominal leader and voice in most matters. Barghest, a Sentinel, is a member of the cabal and acts as a kind of go-between to the Consilium. She is far more loyal to the Padfoot and Dingo than the Consilium.
    Last edited by Axelgear; 03-12-2017, 01:36 PM.

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    • #3
      PCs and NPCs

      ---

      The Quartz Scales - Our Heroes

      The Quartz Scales cabal is an Atlantean cabal, composed of four members: Rex, Fox, Goodfeather, and 44 ("Shishi"). The cabal's foundations come from a dispute between Fox and Rex; the former protecting a sacred cave from the latter. Goodfeather mediated the dispute at their mutual request and, when it was discovered they had far more in common than they realized, an agreement to form a cabal was made. 44, a mutual acquaintance of Fox's, was invited to join as well, due to having numerous skills the others lacked.

      Senator Rex

      Sympathetic Name: Joshua Raymes Jack
      Path: Mastigos
      Order: Silver Ladder
      Virtue: Competitive
      Vice: Arrogant

      Notable Skills/Assets: Extensive political connections and significant personal wealth; natural powers of persuasion; mean right hook.

      History: Rex's Shadow Name is at least somewhat literal. The man Awakened in the middle of his political career as a one-term senator and "Baby of the House" for New South Wales. Originally a proud member of the Liberal Party, he was nearly recruited by the Seers; an action that forced him to realize the sort of person he was becoming. Defecting to the Silver Ladder, he is now a junior member of the Southern Star Caucus.

      Family is important to Rex. He doesn't know who his birth parents were, though his skin is darker than that of his adoptive parents. He's never cared to look; his family is his family and he loves them dearly. He carries small toys in his pockets most of the time for when he visits his youngest siblings.

      Rex is the cabal's official Farseeker and performs all negotiations between the Quartz Scales and other cabals.

      Fox

      Sympathetic Name: River Kenning
      Path: Thyrsus
      Order: Mysterium
      Virtue: Compassionate
      Vice: Curious

      Notable Skills/Assets: Outdoor survivalism and associated zoological knowledge; strikingly handsome; recognized expert on the People; healer.

      History: Fox grew up in a trailer park far away from Sydney. Of mixed heritage, he didn't exactly have the most pleasant of upbringings; already poverty-stricken and targeted by some in his community, his mother did her best to look after him. Just the same, the boy was left with a hole in his heart; yearning for something to show him his place in the world. Absent any other source, when he came of age, he went on a soul-searching journey; wandering his way across Australia, experiencing its raw, natural power, before finally Awakening atop a table mount.

      Fox's Awakening has left him considerably mellowed; relaxing as only an animal can, without fear of tomorrow. His chosen Shadow Name, though, shows how much of those he hasn't quite left behind. He is still, in his own mind and soul, a fox; a foreign thing in a foreign land, forced to adapt to the only home it's ever known.

      Fox is the cabal's Hearthmaster and Edgetender; responsible for maintaining the cabal's sacred cave and for providing both healing and emotional support.

      Goodfeather

      Sympathetic Name: Oliver Jones
      Path: Acanthus
      Order: Mysterium
      Virtue: Trustworthy
      Vice: Arrogant

      Notable Skills/Assets: Profound knowledge of both the historical and esoteric; academic contacts; can run like a freaking gazelle when he wants to.

      History: Goodfeather doesn't speak about his past much. How exactly he Awakened is a secret he keeps to himself. What is known about him is that he is a very organized man; a university professor who teaches local history and myth. He holds the official position of Clerk to the Parliament, a Consilium position that sees him keep and maintain all Consilium records.

      Goodfeather tends to keep quiet and to himself, and typically only speaks to either offer information or intervene with a conflict. He is considered by most Awakened in the region to be a fair and impartial arbiter in disputes, in no small part thanks to lacking the entrenched connections or interests that come with a longer time amidst the Awakened.

      Goodfeather is the cabal's Lorekeeper. Beyond just keeping all the books, though, he's also the keeper of their law. The cabal resolves disputes by vote - a compromise with Rex, who would not see anyone but himself as leader - with one person in each vote nominated as the "expert" for the topic at hand. The expert's vote counts double. It's Goodfeather's job to maintain the cabal's interdicts and protocols and, where matters of voting are concerned, to nominate who is the expert.

      44 ("Shishi")

      Sympathetic Name: Aoki Temujin
      Path: Moros
      Order: Guardians of the Veil
      Virtue: Patience
      Vice: Indulgence

      Notable Skills/Assets: Criminal contacts; exceptional awareness of how criminals think; self-styled "killosopher"

      History: 44 kills. That's what she does. That's what she's always done. That's what she had done to her. Her life was an obsession (and Obsession) with the void left behind after something's destruction; the tangible echo created when something that was suddenly wasn't. She made ghosts and chased them, whether she knew it or not, and did so for large amounts of money, until a job went wrong and she ended up with two holes in her stomach. In her dying dreams, she traveled to the place that was the Nothing that was Everything, and wrote her name on the void's reflective surface.

      Fleeing from Japan, 44 (a.k.a. The Tiger of Winter, a.k.a. Jill Bondi) moved to Australia and lost herself completely. She shunned her old comforts and lived in a shack on the beach, spending her time wandering; chasing echoes and ghosts until she was found by her mentor, Koschei. She joined the Guardians of the Veil with little issue.

      44 is the cabal's Doorwarden; she is responsible for protecting the sanctum and cabal, has authority over who can enter it or not, and is responsible for all executions. For that reason, she is not allowed to vote when the cabal is deciding whether to kill or not.

      ---

      NPCs

      This section is for important NPCs who come to be notable as the game progresses.

      Barghest

      A Sentinel and member of the Swamp Padfoot. She is responsible for doling out fear and intimidation to anyone Shuck points at, and she is very good at it.

      Black Shuck

      First among equals in the Swamp Padfoot.

      Cavall

      Fox's mentor; the lone mystagogue in the Swamp Padfoot. Cavall is a handsome, rugged gentleman who runs an alligator farm. He and Fox are thick as thieves. He's the cabal's connection to the Padfoot.

      Iron Crown (Noah Lachlan)

      Noah Lachlan, a.k.a. Iron Crown, is a former friend and ally of Rex. He is a member of the Australian Senate for New South Wales and a right-leaning member of the Liberal Party. A Seer of the Throne, sworn to the Seed of the Golden Fruit pylon, he saved Rex's life when Rex refused to join the Seers.
      Last edited by Axelgear; 03-26-2017, 11:19 AM.

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      • #4
        Alright, here we go! Apologies for the delay; the transcription software fucked up and was missing a chunk of the first session. As a rule, any time I put a whole paragraph in Italics, it's a direct quote from the game itself.

        ---

        Chapter One: Along Came a Spider

        The story begins with the Quartz Scales sitting in Big Bone Pete's. It's a Wednesday, and the cabal are all together; just having finished helping 44 exorcise a particularly troublesome ghost from the beach she lives on. Pete's is nearby to her shack, and one of the only places she won't dine and dash because of it.

        It's mid-April, which is autumn in Sydney, and the height of the rainy season. It's pissing down outside but still hot and humid. There's fans blowing hard and the walls are kind of oozing years of tobacco and grease stains. Seti, the harried maitre'd, is bringing them food and telling Fox all about how his sister just had a baby.

        Rex is hunched over his plate, wearing biker leathers over a dress shirt in near-30 degree weather, complaining about having only had a martini and granola to eat that day; picking off the breading from his order, complaining about heart attacks, and promptly passing it to 44.

        Goodfeather is the sort of person who eats a pulled pork sandwich with a knife and fork, and is tutting Rex's wastefulness of ordering food he isn't going to eat.

        And 44 is eating anything that passes in front of her tattered and disheveled self.

        While Rex and Goodfeather argue over whether Rex should eat whole sticks of butter just because others don't have the opportunity, the door to the restaurant jingles. In walks a little boy. The kid's age is hard to place because he is tiny, and he's wearing clothes a few sizes too big for him; shoes looking like they'll just slip off his feet of he tries to run. Can't be older than ten, hair is mop of tangles, face covered in old dirt. No adult accompanies him. He just walks up to the counter and throws some money on it and points at a picture of fries on the sign board behind Seti.

        Goodfeather spares a moment of thought for the kid but the argument at the table continues. The little boy gets his order, turns around, and leaves. There's a news story on in the background on a TV older than most members of the cabal about a kidnapping in the Redfern district. It goes ignored.

        Then the TV starts freaking out.

        ---

        It starts with the TV; the signal suddenly lost and replaced with a loud, distorted whine as weird shapes bounce in the static. It's followed by what looks like smoke creeping down the street. The cabal's members rise to get a look, Rex being the only one who takes a moment to pay the bill.

        Everyone gets a weird feeling; like something crawling up their spine. Something's afoot.

        The strange smoke isn't smoke at all. It's fog. Something 44 confirms with a quick glance through the void of Stygia. Everyone takes their turn having a look. It's Fox who notices it's something truly bizarre, though. The veil between worlds is being pulled apart and made razor-thin. Remembering the little boy, Fox bursts out of the restaurant and into the mysterious fog.

        Rex follows. 44 shrugs and does the same, before quickly trying to get everyone into a tight formation. The fog is too thick to see more than a few feet away in. Goodfeather follows. Reluctantly.

        ---

        (Cue a few rolls; navigating the fog without getting lost is difficult, but the group manages it. Fox manages to take lead and tries to track this oddity to its source.)

        Fox almost vanished by the time he had taken two steps. He turned slowly about, looking all around in the fog while the others followed. "You know; the voices," he answered. "One of 'em's out here. Might be hunting." He sounded as intrigued as concerned. He'd kept his voice down even outside.

        It was still raining outside, but not much. Anything more than the spitting it was doing now would have dispersed the fog. Instead, it just feels like the droplets are suspended into the air and you more walk into them than have them fall on you; like they're trapped in a web.

        [...]

        Fox sees it first. Sees it for no other reason than that he's closest. At first, he mistakes it for a street lamp, because it's so tall and thin, but the top is so bulbous that it gives it away, even if it isn't moving. There's a low clack, like plastic on pavement, each time it takes a step. A metallic groan when it takes an interest in a car; slowly crouching down and tilting the whole vehicle, then a similar cry when it lets it go and slides back. A faint hissing fills the air. The thing stands, and starts to walk again. Clack. Clack. Clack... Coming towards the cabal.


        Fox gets out a quick "Crikey..." and leaps to get the others to cover; gesturing for everyone to get down.

        (Stealth rolls are called for; Rex, 44, and Goodfeather succeed; Fox fails.)

        Clack. Clack. Clack. A panicked rush. Diving for cover. Bracing behind cars, behind garbage cans. Under Fox's direction, the cabal hides... But he, to get them to ground, manages to gesture emphatically in the process. By the time he is preparing to dive behind the hood of a rather beaten-up Ford, he finds himself under scrutiny. Turning towards the street, a pair of enormous, reflective eyes gaze back and look straight into his soul.

        The thing's head is enormous, even in respect to the rest of its body. Bulbous, like the head of an octopus. Its eyes extend outwards, curling around like great domes. And as it leans in close to get a good look at Fox, he gets a good look at it; at its strange, blurred shape; like a shadow viewed through a rippling pond. It makes a sound like the rumbling of a bass speaker hanging atop a thin sheet of paper. And as it stops... Fox can hear its footsteps. Clack. Clack. Clack. Coming from up the road. More of them...

        Rex, hiding behind a car nearby, casts a spell. He takes out his coin (a Path tool) and flips it; catching the strange sensation of webbing in the air to gather its connections, then tilts it to hold the enormous creature in its reflection. He tries to get a read on its nature. The mind within is alien and distorted; thinking only in images and sensations of worry and concern.

        Fox, meanwhile, is face to face with a giant. He does the only thing he can think of.

        He raises his hand, waves at it, and says "G'day, mate."

        The reaction is instant. The giant recoils; standing up straight and rippling as if a mirage; vanishing out of sight. The other shapes looming in the mist down the street do so as well; vanishing, one by one, until they are gone. There is a peel of thunder, the sky opens, and the downpour resumes. Mist fading away without any sign that it was ever there in the first place.

        While Fox and Rex were focused on the creature, 44 and Goodfeather's eyes were elsewhere. As the mist clears, they see it more obviously. Laying on the street, just down the way, is an empty fry basket, still coated in grease; contents spilled on the sidewalk.

        And beside them is a running shoe far, far too big for a child.

        ---

        (I'll be posting up to the current date but separating these into manageable chunks, just in case there's a fuck-up.)
        Last edited by Axelgear; 03-18-2017, 11:22 AM.

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        • #5
          The revelation is a blow to Rex. Like someone just lit a fire under his ass, he snatches the shoe from 44, races down the nearest alleyway, and plants his knife (another Path tool) into nothingness; the blade simply vanishing as, with a tremendous ripping noise, he tears a hole in the fabric of the Tapestry and opens a portal to the cabal's sanctum.

          They arrive in the basement; it's their makeshift "Doing magic" room. There's a basin with a hand pump in one corner, and stacks of shelves containing dried roots, and a set of pallets placed together onto which has been painted a rather crude summoning circle. There's also a beaten-up old couch and wire bundle that's acting as a makeshift table. Suffice to say, the cabal haven't managed to quite establish themselves there yet.

          Rex starts barking orders like the thearch he is, and the cabal sets to work preparing for a bit of magic. Goodfeather readies some runes and 44 prepares the mystical waters. Fox spends the time explaining some of his understanding of spirits. Borrowing sympathy from the shoe, the boy's likeness is carved into a chunk of ice to produce a proper yantra. The ice is then placed in a bowl of water and allowed to melt. Once Rex has scryed the boy, he picks up the bowl, hurls it at the wall, and the resultant splatter becomes another portal.

          (There is a Clash of Wills; Rex wins.)

          The group emerges moments later somewhere else. It's storming above and below as Rex comes out with a pair of brass knuckles on; ready to fight to get the kid back. As soon as he arrives, he feels his whole body sting. Like a thousand little paper cuts. The others follow and fare no better.

          (Everyone takes a point of Bashing damage.)

          Spoiling for a fight, the group emerges into a herd of giants, but when Rex cracks his knuckles, he is disappointed. One by one by one, the giants disappear; vanishing and fleeing rather than fighting. The only one that stays is holding the little boy. Rex tries to speak with it and gets no answer. A spell only reveals that this thing isn't hostile. It's... Scared, if anything. And it wants to protect the boy.

          Fox, casting a spell to speak with the spirit, soothes it. He speaks gently and calmly to it; eventually, the spirit lets go of the child and vanishes too. The Awakened are left with a little boy in the middle of a strange place.

          ---

          The giant takes a step back at Fox's step forward. The droning changes. Its glowing eyes fix on Fox... And, at last, it loosens its grip, looking at the boy. Slowly, carefully, it lowers him down; enormous hand swiping at the grass and tearing clear a patch so the boy doesn't cut himself upon it. The boy looks to the giant, which points towards the Awakened with one hand and gently gives him a shove with the other. Then, it stands and vanishes. The boy - missing a shoe - looks at the Awakened in silence. Chewing on his finger.

          Fox visibly relaxed as the child was set down, even finding a grin by the time the giant vanished. He turned to look back at his companions. <Told you they were reasonable folk,> he declared, eyes bright.

          The little boy continues to chew his finger and suck on it. His teeth are in pretty terrible condition and he's starting to shiver. Rather than find cover, he just sits down and curls himself up a little.

          [...]

          Rex kneels down again, and he starts talking to the child. His voice is low, almost conspiratorial, as if he's letting the child in on a big secret. At some point, he reaches into his pocket and brings out--of all things he might be expected to have--a small lollipop and a water-balancing toy which looks suspiciously like a repurposed leveler. What can be heard are mentions of a younger brother and an explanation on keeping an air bubble in the center for as long as possible.


          ---

          A debate ensues. Rex wants to continue into the valley and see just what the hell is going on here. The others, though, want to go back. A Sleeper has no place amid magic. It's two mystagogues and a Guardian against a thearch. The situation is only further complicated when, noticing he can still feel some strange magic, Fox goes exploring and manages to get himself seriously injured. A sharpened tree root stabs him in the calf.

          (1 Resistant lethal damage)

          44 snaps it off while Fox tries to tend to his wound, which is clearly magical in nature.

          Some serious magical analysis follows from all angles. I'll compress it down here but this all took a chunk of time in-session.

          Fox attends to the wound in his leg. When he does, though, he finds his Life magic fails to fix it. Analysis of the leg wound with Mage Sight reveals that the wound is... A hole. An empty void. Fox's Pattern has been mangled. Infusing the wound with Mana allows the damage to begin to heal naturally, but magic cannot fix the damage caused.

          44 assists in the analysis of Fox's wound with Death Sight, but also explores the strange flora of the region. She recognizes the source of their cuts in the form of a particularly vicious form of blade grass. In her previous line of work, people would grow the stuff outside their manors to try and keep intruders out. Never stopped her.

          The wood, though, is... Different. It looks like ordinary bay fig wood, except it's resonant with Death. While the effect fades once separated from the tree (after about 24 hours), any wounds made with a weapon made of this deal Resistant wounds as it sucks Mana out of the the Pattern it hits.

          Goodfeather is naturally attuned to Mana and already had faint hints of the former; feeling it when Fox was wounded. Just before this jaunt, he and Fox spend time together in the cabal's library, reading up on a clue Rex uncovered while mind-reading the giants: The name "Kurkoolang". Goodfeather recognizes it immediately; it's a name, meaning "Children of Spider". Further research uncovers some stories that help explain just what the hell was going on.

          In an obscure mid-1800s manuscript documenting the Dreamtime stories of Arnhem Land (in northern Australia), there are mentions of the Kurkoolang. They are the children of Spider - the Spider; mother of all spiders - and whisper secrets into long threads that they use to make their webs. They catch the rain on their invisible webs and shroud themselves in mist to hide themselves. They tend to be shy and avoid humans, except for children who are left alone. If they find an isolated child, the Kurkoolang will take them away and bring them to Spider, who welcomes them into her family.

          There's a legend of a woman - nameless in the story - who lost her child to Spider's children. When it heard her weeping, the Rainbow Serpent went to speak with Spider and ask why the child had been taken. Spider explained that she took the child to protect it and give it a family, as she does all her children. The Serpent, torn between compassion for the weeping woman and the love of Spider for the children she took, made for Spider a valley; a grand place, guarded by sharp roots and deep shadows, and protected from all who might defile it, and there, Spider could stay with her children; a wall of separation to protect her from the world and the world from her.

          By the time they've had a look around, the two are pretty sure this place is Spider's Valley.

          ---

          While everyone is gathering information, the question remains: What to do with the kid?

          While the natural option seems to be "Return him to his home", Rex refuses. He's read the kid's mind by now. He knows that taking the boy home wouldn't be a kindness. Fox suggests calling the Padfoot; they deal with lost kids a lot and know how to care for them. Rex agrees. A call is made to Cavall, Fox's mentor, who arrives in a mud-stained truck a few hours later and carrying a rifle.

          Talk is exchanged. Rex is... Cautious. He doesn't want to give the boy to someone who might be a danger. Cavall passes the man's test of expectations, though, and they hand the kid over to him. Cavall promises that the boy will get a warm bed and a good meal tonight; the Padfoot know a few people who always keep some extra spaces for kids like this.

          And with that out the way, the cabal rests up and prepares for a return to Spider's Valley.

          ---

          (Think that's all I have energy for today but more's to follow!)

          Comment


          • #6
            I loved it !

            Comment


            • #7
              Glad you did! Also, hey, welcome to the forum!

              I do like feedback on this sort of stuff, so if people have comments or thoughts or questions, they're always welcome.

              ---

              Once the matter of the kidnapped boy is taken care of, the Scales return to the Valley; now using sympathy borrowed from the branch 44 brought back to return to where they left from. Upon returning, the group are immediately bitten again by the hungry grasses. Everyone's senses start to tingle as well, even after Rex closes the portal. Something odd is going on here.

              Fox takes a look around. He notices something uneven in the earth. Crouching down - an act he regrets as the grass bites him again - he finds a footprint. It's not any of theirs, the storm that's been pouring for the last few days has already washed away their footprints. At first, Rex assumes they're another kidnapped child, but Fox points out they're too big. Casting a spell to hide them from the plants, Fox leads the way.

              (Wits + Composure rolls with a penalty are called for. Fox and Goodfeather succeed. Rex and 44 fail. 44 expends a Condition to pass.)

              ---

              Lightning flashes. Thunder roars. The forest is alive with noise and yet somehow strangely dead. Fox has traveled far and wide and walked through many of Australia's rain-swept forests, and never has one been so quiet. No birds. None at all. No noisy cries or calls to order. The only sound is the powerful sweeping downpour on the waxy leaves all around them. And even with his spell, care has to be taken. The grass still fucking hurts.

              With time, the trees thin. They don't go away, but the ground gets soggier. Damper. The marshy ground isn't hospitable to trees. Fox starts to expect mangroves to appear. It is here, too, that a sensation fills the air. Like walking next to power lines; a static charge making the hair on one's arms stand on end. Fox sees it first. He has time enough to grab Goodfeather. 44 halts herself as well, keenly on alert. She sees how close she came to the near-invisible net; dazzled with glinting crystal raindrops yet invisible in the downpour. Rex doesn't see it at all.

              The instinct is to flail. To panic. To spin and pull away. But it doesn't come loose. He tangles. Feels himself become bound as arms and legs are pulled from the ground and stuck together by elastic, cable-like spools of silk.

              Rex flails in his binds, panicking, until he suddenly realizes 1. he's not getting anywhere and 2. people are watching them. His expression immediately returns to a calm apathy.

              "Help?" he asks, eyes periodically darting around him, expecting a large carnivorous arachnid to appear.

              44 laughs loud enough to be heard over the rain.


              ---

              When she's done laughing, 44 comes to his aid. She and Fox both take turns trying to cut the webbing, to no avail; it's like trying to cut liquid steel. A Matter spell helps resolve the situation, though, loosing Rex until he falls hard into the mud.

              This doesn't go unnoticed, though; the Spider-Children arrive en masse; dozens of them appearing out of the darkness. Some are tall, some are short, but all are like living masses of smoke with great, staring eyes. Rex, having prepared for this very situation, asks Goodfeather to the briefcase he's been carrying. Rex shrugs off his leathers and puts on a suit jacket in the middle of a torrential downpour in a Queensland rainforest. He then asks Fox for a human-to-spirit translation spell, which Fox provides.

              Rex makes introductions; trying to be social. The Karkoolang don't speak, but they listen. They make noises. When they've come to some conclusion, one of the giants approaches and offers Rex one of its enormous hands. The big man takes its finger like a child holding onto a parent and is led away. One by one, the others follow in turn; guiding the Scales... Somewhere. Deeper into the Valley.

              (A Wits + Comp with a penalty is called for again. 44 is the only one that succeeds.)

              44 notices something in the trees. Cocoons, hanging in the bowers. Human-sized ones. She decides, for now, to keep this information to herself. No need to make Rex panic.

              ---

              It was a long and uncomfortable walk; down long slopes and surrounded by grass that, even when it did not seem to actively pursue them, could still cut a carelessly dangled hand. The giants didn't seem to mind, of course; the plants didn't touch them; not even rustling at their passage as if the enormous, gangly creatures passed through without a touch. Maybe they did.

              Further down the valley, the trees began to part; to lift. They didn't go away all at once, but they definitely thinned and, as they did, the air began to get foggy and cool. Like the rain was being caught and strung along invisible strings. Bit by bit, the water that was pouring through the valley rose as well, until it was around the ankles of the cabal. The grass disappeared and soon it was just a slog through swampy mud; supported only by the crisscrossing roots of long-dead trees.

              The whole thing came to a head at a sudden stop. A great pit, the lip of which was just visible from a few meters away. From here, there was a great and tremendous scratching sound; like claws raking across stone. The giants stopped at the edge of the pit and waited.

              She is there quite suddenly. Not so much climbing from the pit as... Appearing. Like she was always there and simply stepped out from behind whatever concealed her. A woman; tall, and thin, with limbs that were unnaturally long. Or at least her arms were, anyway; one had to guess for her legs, which were concealed under a long veil of silk that billowed faintly in the wind and clinged to her smoothly rounded - one may almost call it segmented - figure. Her skin was dark; brown and black in mottled pattern, and her face veiled in a large wooden mask of wood as dark as the darkest patches of her skin; decorated periodically with splotches of brilliant red and white.

              "<You are a long way from home.>" She spoke, and when she did, it was as a whisper that came from every direction at once. She took a few long, deliberate steps from the lip of the valley, and, as she did, the loud, scratching crack and hard strike of mud followed discordantly; out of sync with her stride.


              ---

              So, here she is.

              Kargungk; Spider; Mother of all Spiders. One of the People in all her glory.

              The form that appears to the group is like a finger slipped in a glass of water. Fox sees glimpses of the truth; the source of those noises; the enormous shape lurking just out of view, concealed by the mists. Of all present, he is the only one who quite gets the sense of just how very much they are at Spider's sufferance.

              When Spider speaks, she speaks in High Speech for the most part. Occasionally, words appear in First Tongue, the language of spirits, when the time comes to use metaphors and similes.

              Fox takes the lead, being the team's shaman. He addresses her in flattering tones, calling her Mother as an honoriffic. Despite his attempts to cultivate warmth, however, Spider is cold; she is polite but clearly not happy to see them.

              The Scales explain to Spider that they've come to ask her about why she is taking children. She, in turn, explains, that "the Serpent's children" are wandering in her valley. She is merely caring for her own children; letting them wander and returning to her old ways, now that the bargain with the Rainbow Serpent is broken. It is now that 44 chooses to mention that, indeed, there are bodies hanging in the trees, but she's not sure if they're trespassers or captives.

              There is a discussion and Spider reveals her plans to leave the Valley and move elsewhere but, with much cajoling, the Scales convince her to stay put for now; to let them try and end the intrusions and the theft of sacred waters from her well. A quick glance with Prime Sight reveals that the hole in the ground Spider lives in is being flooded with liquid tass. It's a gigantic Hallow. Not much of a surprise why Mages would want it.

              The discussion concluded, the group turns to leave. Rex has some choice words for 44 over concealing information, while Goodfeather faintly frets. Mana like this is a valuable commodity. Why hasn't he heard about it?

              ---

              Up next, the Scales uncover the identity of the culprit and try to put the problem to rest.

              Comment


              • #8
                Reading through, first thought Tamatoa is ripe for lampooning as Tomato if he ever makes an unpopular political move. Keep it up!

                Comment


                • #9
                  Hey ! thanks for the welcome ! I can't give you much of a feedback execpt that it seems awesome, i've never played a mage game (Only played vampire so far) but it seems awesome, love the mystic tone and the alien feels of Kargungk and her children. You post makes me want to play a mage chronicle even more !

                  (PS: sorry if my english seems poor, it's not my primary language)

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Thanks to you both!

                    ---

                    The negotiations with Spider end on a frosty final note: She will let the Scales try to solve the problem before she moves, but she won't show herself to any other Awakened. The only reason she even showed herself to them was because of how they treated the little boy earlier.

                    Resolving to sort this out as quickly as possible, the group marches back up the slope to the tree where 44 spotted the bodies; hoping maybe they can identify them. If they're intruders, they've probably got something that links them back to whomever sent them here. There are four cocoons in all, in this tree, but there are more - many more - beyond.

                    (44 casts some Death Knowing spells to reveal what the people died from.)

                    The truth, it turns out, is worse. None of them were over the age of eighteen. Some are so old that they've started to decay to nothing. All of them were entombed willingly; going to their deaths feeling warm, safe, and contented.

                    But 44's spell fails on one of them. Not because something resisted her spells - she'd notice that - but because there isn't a corpse inside that cocoon. The one inside is alive.

                    More magic follows. Goodfeather assesses the situation with Prime Sight and confirms it: The cocoon is siphoning off Mana from the kid woven up inside; sucking the life out of him and funneling it straight to Spider.

                    44 draws her knife and starts to cut the kid free, just in time for Fox to intervene. Big no-no. They're already on a knife's edge with Spider, they really don't want to piss her off further. Rex suffers a brief breakdown at the horror of it and calls a vote. The kid they saved was just one of many and this needs to stop. So what do they do?

                    -Go after the people who are intruding in the Valley and try to stop this?
                    -Cut this kid free and try and rescue as many as they can right now?
                    -Try to kill Spider and put a permanent end to this?

                    44, being the cabal's executioner, recuses herself, proclaiming "I am the Serpent's talon" in High Speech.

                    The vote is initially split. Goodfeather, as Lorekeeper, breaks the tie. Being a mystagogue, and not suicidal, he decides the risk and cost of destroying this Mystery (and, as Fox is aware, it's doubtful they would stand a chance against Spider without a lot of help) isn't equal to a few Sleeper lives. Goodfeather sides with Fox and the cabal return to the site of their best clue and hope of stopping this: The footprints.

                    ---

                    Goodfeather watches Rex flip the coin, listens to his words, and presses his mouth into a thin line. It's not an easy choice to make by any stretch of imagination, but... "Cutting him down, taking him back... It will take time away from finding whoever is taking mana from Spider. We'll come back here and there will be more of those cocoons. But if we pursue them, we can prevent further abductions, and we might even have a chance to save this one." He exhales slowly. "We need to hunt them down. And if this one dies, then... In the grand scheme of things, that's one compared to dozens more."

                    [...]

                    The footprints on the ground give him a starting point, recent enough to work with. Kneeling down, he murmurs to himself almost as flipping through the pages of an invisible book -- turning them back over and over again until he finds the right spot. He draws back up and when he does he brings something with him, a flutter of ethereal feathers that spread out like opening a page from a book. He focuses, waiting for the image to settle.

                    "Oh," he says faintly, watching the mist of feathers take shape and color. Before him is a woman, walking past him without seeing any of the cabal. "Stop." It freezes in place, shaky and static filled. "...I know her. I've seen her before."


                    ---

                    He does know her, because he has seen her before.

                    The woman's name is Broken Seal. She's a mystagogue, an acquisitor, and, what's more, she's also the apprentice of Stolen Fire, the local Curator and the closest thing that both Oliver and Fox have to a boss. This is something they're going to have to approach delicately.

                    Against all wise counsel, Rex doesn't feel like being delicate. As it turns out, Fox knows Broken Seal as well. In fact, he's known her. In the Biblical sense. Fox has a bit of a reputation as a Lothario and, for once, that's a good thing. Rex grabs a sticky sympathetic connection that he chooses to interpret as webbing and uses it to enact a tracking spell. The group follows it back along the path, hoping to track it all the way to Broken Seal.

                    But Broken Seal isn't in the Valley. The spell leads them all the way back to the edge of the Valley and not far from where Fox got his stylish new leg wound. It leads them to a keyed portal, written into the wall of a cliff face. A Prime spell is cast. A doorway opens.

                    The group steps out atop an apartment building in eastern Sydney. Spitting distance from Big Bone Pete's, and the place where this all began.

                    ---

                    The group descends into the building and find Broken Seal's residence. Fox uses his charms to get them inside.

                    Rex proceeds to immediately be as un-charming as possible.

                    Now, in Rex's defense, he is new to this whole "Mage" thing, but the man makes a complete ass of himself by lecturing a far more experienced Mage about keeping secrets, wearing out a welcome in record time. 44 is just kind of enjoying the show and Goodfeather is put on the spot; forced to use his own reputation to guarantee that what Rex is saying is true. In the end, they manage to appeal to Seal's humanity and she agrees to return the tass she took to Spider. She does not, however, tell them just how she found the Valley. All she will say is "If I could find it, so could others."

                    This is around the time Rex gets them all kicked out of Seal's apartment by insulting the woman they desperately need the good will of.

                    So far, so good, right?

                    Except... That tass was going somewhere. And now that it's not coming, those who were waiting for it are going to start looking.

                    They need to make sure Spider's Valley stays hidden for good.

                    ---

                    Stay tuned for the final section of the first chapter, in which Rex manages to ensure Spider's Valley will never be hidden again, and the Seers of the Throne get ominously in on the action.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Silly Rex !

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        My vanity is really hoping this Chapter germinated from what I posted in your ideas thread. Either way this is a fun read, I'm excited to see your setting in action!


                        2E Legacy Updates
                        Brotherhood of the Demon Wind
                        Choir of Hashmallim (plus extra Summoning content)
                        Storm Keepers

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          It totally did! Thanks again for the suggestion. Hope you like what I made of it.

                          Comment


                          • #14

                            By the way, I happen to really like the cabal's dynamic of voting and electing experts for certain tasks. I've never really seen the different positions in a cabal played out so well like that.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              It's been good to have, yeah; keeps the cabal from getting into fights when everyone has an agreed-upon mechanism of dispute resolution.

                              Incidentally, Goodfeather's player is something of an artist and has decided to try drawing the cabal, starting with Goodfeather.



                              There's actually a note in Goodfeather's sheet which reads "Voiced by Christopher Lee", if that helps inform your image of the man.
                              Last edited by Axelgear; 03-19-2017, 07:55 PM.

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