The first true session. Showtime. I had time to prep a few lists and draw a partial map. I like how the map turned out, and I’ll link it and my session lists/notes below, since I don’t feel like writing them all out.
We all arrived and had some pre-game chatter, and when we settled I asked the party for their final decision on the faiths that they had decided to follow, and a few questions about how they honored that faith. Its time to introduce the party, eh?
The Black Family Gang – the Black Phoenix
Right. So there’s a lot of info in each entry. The first info is the family birth order. For info on the “Xborn” tags, read this(or at least the handy chart at the top). The title is the gang position (for the moment). The last bit is how they show their devotion to their chosen deity.
- Violet Black – Eldest sister. Fearborn poisoner. The Vice Prez. She is missing her left eye.
- Archie Black – Eldest brother (2nd born, though). Oathborn rogue. The Prez. His noose is wrapped around his forearm.
- Kheign Black – Youngest brother. Fearborn brawler. He has a black hand print on his tunic.
- Vice Black – Second oldest brother. Slothborn rogue. The Treasurer. He is covered in phallic tattoos.
- Walter Black – Middle brother. Oathborn brawler. His noose is tattooed on his arm.
- Flinch Black – Second youngest brother. Shadowborn dealer. He wears a coin necklace (currently 3 cp).
I showed them the map of the neighborhood of Saint Jabber’s Mound in the district of Crud.
I should explain the map symbols. Fat whitespace are the main roads, secondary roads are also named. The laneways that run through the houses (tiny squares) are unnamed. Larger unlabeled buildings are bigger houses. Any partial squares are ruins. The labelled squares are taverns or other items of interest (explained in the text as they are encountered). The small black circles are wells, and the small squiggles near the houses are small food gardens.
Since I didn’t get to finish the map I told them that the areas that were blank are controlled by gangs that are too strong for them to fight 🙂 They accepted this meta-explanation and I went on to show them that their neighborhood is controlled by three gangs and two guilds.
- The Murderboys are mercs, mostly, and have no affiliation with anyone who isn’t paying them. They control the far west part of the ‘Mound.
- The Shitkickers controlled a small area in the center, and were known to make moonshine and sell it to the taverns. They were not a huge gang, but were said to be directly working for a rogue named Nick the Pig, who controlled the liquor trade and most of the taverns, by extension.
- The 19th Street Jump. The largest gang, they controlled the east part of the ‘Mound, and were a bunch of junkie psychos who liked to throw people off of rooftops for fun. They were said to be working for another powerful rogue named Jimmy the Jake.
I didn’t have any plot prepared, of course, I had only to introduce the Catalyst – the event that forces the party to first act. The catalyst in this case was going to be a simple challenge by the gang members who ruled the territory where the party discovered their arson-destroyed house. The rest of the story would be driven by the party.
I asked them which house would be theirs, and they picked a spot in Shitkicker territory. And now I had my Catalyst gang. Perfect.
If you care, the destroyed house is on the map as a box with an X in it just below the Choked Goat Tavern.
It is Fishday. Year 565.
Oh yeah. I’m using the Gregorian Calendar, set to northern hemisphere seasons, but I’ve changed all the names of the days for fun. At least I kept the first letters the same 🙂
- Titheday (very important if you read the Temples post you’ll now know why my one player panicked and asked how long they had until Titheday. I laughed and said I’d give them a week. I’m a softie.)
Also, there will be no scenes in the Asylum this session. Best to get them established in the city first, and then I’ll come back to it. Probably session 3, maybe 4. We’ll see.
OY! WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU LOT?
We dropped into the narrative at the party’s destroyed house. If they were going to have any kind of security here, they were going to have to carve a bloody swathe through the Shitkicker gang and take their territory for themselves. They decided to head to Tom’s tavern, a few planks on barrels and half-a-dozen chairs and crude tables for atmosphere. It was not the swankiest way to enter the Game, but you had to start somewhere right? They took what meager possessions they had and headed for Tom’s, intent on persuading the owner to pay them the protection money they paid the Shitkickers.
It didn’t take long to find trouble. As the party neared the tavern, a group of Shitkickers, led by Bruiser, pipes up with a challenge. Now I meant to use this low, kinda nasally British dialect, don’t ask me which one because I wish I knew, one that sounded appropriately thuggish, but for some weird reason I opened my mouth and this ocker ‘Strayan twang came spilling out of my mouth and by the time I realized I had fucked up it was far too late and there was sudden bloodshed and Bruiser and four his five pals ended up gutted in the stinking streets. A fifth managed to get away. A quick search of the bodies turned up a chunky iron key and some paltry coinage. They hurried to the tavern only to be met by the arriving reinforcements. Mr Dundee (if yer gonna go Oz, go all the way, I say) with a chest of sheathed daggers coated in poison and 5 thugs – Ratboy, Short Guy, Tall Guy, Fat Guy and Skinny Guy. The Phoenix took a few licks, but the fury was upon them and this group also lay dead and flyblown in the dusty streets. Violet took a few poisoned daggers to replace her now-expended poison darts. A search of Mr Dundee showed a folded sheet of vellum with a seal on it. The seal had an icon of a pig’s head on it.
Archie didn’t even hesistate and snapped the seal.
Oh. I should mention this. I roll some skills on behalf of the player, behind my shield, and relay what they discover based on the roll’s results. Low rolls mean misinformation. Archie rolled low.
I should mention that the party, with the exception of Vice, are virtually illiterate. They can get by with basic language if they take their time, but Archie rolled a 3, and I told him the letter was actually a simple substitution code and that he deciphered it to say that it was a contract placed on the party by Nick the Pig.
Not true at all, and I don’t know what the letter really says yet. I know that its something the party should definitely not have and that its important. I think maybe it’s some kind of letter of introduction to some other organization, and the gang’s gone and fucked that all up by killing the messenger and swiping the letter.
Right. So they head to Tom’s. There’s a few drunks in the gloom, but this place is pretty much dead. Tom is an old guy, long silver hair, not the cleanest man you’ve ever seen. He’s irascible and begins arguing with the party straight away. Sure, he hates the Shitkickers as much as any normal person would, but you “can’t fight the Pig”. Outrageously the party wants half of his weekly earnings, and after a lot more talking and arguing (and knocking Tom out and tying him to a chair) old Tom finally relents. They want Tom’s to be their base of operations and he is in no position to say no, so he reluctantly agrees. He tells them a little bit about Nick the Pig, that he lives in Pig Manor (no surprise there) and that he keeps women there that he buys from a pimp at a tavern called The Choked Goat. Tom also gives up the fact that the Shitkickers brew their own moonshine and that there’s a dealer named Billy Shitheel who hangs out near the well near the Choked Goat who might know more.
Violet, who has shown a liking for being on rooftops, is atop Tom’s, brewing a new batch of poison.
I should mention that Archie meets a talking dog named Chopper. Was hanging around Tom’s and starting hassling him for food. Crabby and rude, the dog ended up eating a jar of pickled eggs on the bartop before pissing off to whereabouts unknown. We’ll see him again 🙂
Vice, who I should mention as a Slothborn follower of Shakendul, is completely nude and covered from head to toe in tattoos of erect penises. Which isn’t as weird as it sounds in this town, but the rogue is clearly pious. He’s elected to stay behind and watch Tom, who he lets go home to rest.
Also, I should mention that the tavern has two doors which can both be barred from the inside. This will come into context later.
The rest of the party goes to talk to this new contact.
What’s That, Lassie?
Billy Shitheel is a dreamshit dealer. Dreamshit is a very expensive hallucinogen that I stole (like so many other things, especially in this setting) from author China Mieville. I added VeryTea as well (cannabis) and WhiteLeaf, my fantasy yayo that comes wrapped in a nice leaf. I might add a few more. Coming up with cool names is clearly not my fort, guilty as charged.
Billy gets questioned by Walter. Hard. So hard that Billy ends up going ass over teakettle and into the well. Flinch relieved him of 3 doses of dreamshit before he went swimming, and the act itself loosened a brick on the well’s rim that revealed 8 more doses. Pocketed. Billy’s yelling his head off and trying not to drown and Flinch and the gang are off to see if they can find a pimp Billy mentioned might know something about the Pig’s ladyfriends.
Violet decides to find her brothers as they’ve been gone awhile. She heads on the rooftops for most of the way to the well, but as she doesn’t see them, she decides to return to Tom’s.
Vice realizes Tom is a bit too quiet for a sick old man asleep, and when he checks on him, Tom is gone. He searches the house and finds a trapdoor under a rug in the bedroom. It leads to a ladder and a tunnel.
The rest of the gang is at the Choked Goat and they find Mr Fabulous, the pimp, not in the best of moods and unwilling to talk right now. He tells them to come back tomorrow, but he does tell them that he’s the one who supplies The Pig with his prostitutes – the Pig buys them, he doesn’t rent them, and he always delivers the girls in person to Pig’s Manor the morning after he gets the word via runner which girls The Pig wants. They split before getting thrown out for hassling the barkeep. Archie has been spreading the word of the Shitkickers demise all over town and trying to get people to pay the Black Phoenix instead for their booze and protection. Its not going well. Every business is locked up by Nick the Pig or Jimmy the Jake, and the party has murdered about 20 of the Pig’s employees and its not even dinner time yet.
They arrive back at Tom’s at the same time as Violet’s return. All of them find Tom’s partially on fire. The doors are locked and Vice runs to tell them what he’s found. They follow the tunnel a short way and find another ladder leading up to a trapdoor. The trapdoor is hot. They go up and find themselves in Tom’s tavern, behind the kegs. The place is full of smoke and the doors are barred. Tom is nowhere. They leave and when they reach the street again they find a bucket-brigade of people trying to put the fire out.
They swear a lot, realizing they now have no safe place to stay and that their plan for Tom’s is (literally) in ashes. They argue for a while, deciding what to do. They realize Billy-in-the-Well is a liability, so Violet and Walter head back to drop rocks on his head and after that mess is cleaned up, the gang heads to the dump on Dawn Lane, where the Shitkickers like to hang out and party.
I’m Just a Harmless Wittle Girl
The gang finds the last group of Shitkickers hanging out and getting drunk. There’s six of them, and one is tripping hard on BugOut (speed and hallucinations). A quick group strategy sees Violet playing the vamp and getting one of the Shitkickers to drink with her while the rest of the gang circles around for an ambush. She poisons the jug, and when one of the guys tries to get handsy, he suddenly realizes his stomach ache is betrayal, as does one of the others. Cue shitstorm.
The party gets banged up but the last of the Shitkickers lay gurgling in their own juices, except that one guy who’s fully wigging out now and loudly proclaims that he knows that the party sees the way and yes, yes, YES! he can walk the path with them, “To the green man and beyond, through secret pathways and whispered truths.” The party is taken aback, but agrees, and BOOM this guy is off, practically running, keeping up a running litany of mystical poetry and fully convinced the party are “the Chosen Ones”. Vice also finds a stashed jug of ‘shine that he happy liberates for himself. They call the guy they are following, “The Stoner”, as he never offered his name.
This didn’t set off any alarm bells in my group. No one blinked, and they followed him. Now the encounter that happened after this seemed pretty great for the party – but oh, mercy. It so wasn’t. They encountered a druid in Galron. One who’s attuned to the fuckin’ place. Tsk. Well, they’ll find out later. I promise 🙂
Who Says So? The Man in the Funny Hat
The Black Phoenix follows Stoner to Old Vannay Park, to a location that is hidden by a large patch of scrub around an ancient walnut tree. An old man lounges, catlike, in a branch above them. Stoner says he’s brought “true and wise folk, who walk the sacred paths”, and the Green Man jumps down, delighted, rubs his hands and invites them into the scrub, where they discover 3 stills bubbling away and many jugs of moonshine.
They make a trade. 6 jugs, at 10 silver coins each, for 30 coins and 6 doses of Dreamshit (at 5 sp each). The Green Man is very happy with the transaction and bids them to “come again anytime, my friends, anytime!”. They look around for Stoner, but he’s wandered off somewhere. They ask the Green Man if they can camp in the park, but the Man grows grim and warns them of the “cannibal quicklings who sleep during the day and prowl the wood at night”. This is a complete and total lie, but the party decides to get while the getting is good.
Now the have a dilemma. They have a bit over a half-dozen jugs of ‘shine and no safe place to stash it. Selling it is the best option right? They decide to head to the tavern known as The Maggot, to the East on the Mounds Road. I think it might have been Tom (?) who told them about a fence that hangs out there named Doodad Jennings.
Before they can find a place to hide the jugs, there is an encounter. A Jumble Encounter. I rolled “the slithering men”. The air sparked and crackled behind the party and they saw a tiny shape getting larger and larger and they ran. Oh how they ran. Archie looked back and saw this long slime-like blob, with the organs of a man spread all through and down it, in the wrong order, and a mans face floating under the surface of the slime, but with a huge lamprey mouth, ringed with teeth. The slithering man reached out towards him, closer and closer, until the event passed and all was quiet again. The player was freaked the fuck out and it took the party a minute to calm him down. Then they remembered they were standing out in the open with all this booze. They find some nearby ruins and stash all but one of the jugs and head to the tavern.
My Friend Doesn’t Like You
The Maggot is a rough place full of dangerous people. They split up. Flinch finds Doodad and tries to make a deal but the old rogue speaks to him in Galmok, the “common tongue” of the Guilds, and Flinch, only a street punk, has no clue what he’s saying, so he leaves, but asks if he can at least point out one of the Sellblades (assassins) that frequent this place. Doodad points to a woman eating her lunch in the far part of the tavern.
This is Amy Knives. Flinch asks her how much she would charge to make Nick the Pig a deader. After she chokes on her ale and brays laughter in his face, she said 40 gold, and that’s if she had a concussion and was blind, puking drunk. This coincides with Archie, ever the charmer, getting screamed at by the barkeep.
Archie tried to make a deal for the shine, but the barkeep barked at him to leave, and the party had to haul him out of there, and just in time, because a large group of gang members from the 19th Street Jump have come looking for them.
They hide out in the ruins for a bit before they decide to make a break for the Mounds Road and hitch a ride down West, to the Six Rats Tavern, since its not in the Pig’s territory, and finally sell this damn ‘shine.
A wagoner gives them a lift in exchange for a jug. The party agrees, but squeezes a few coins out of him too. Before they hop into the wagon, Walter finds a scrap of paper stuck to his boot. Its an open, unsigned invitation to a party tomorrow night at the Octopus’ Garden, a park on the edge of the neighborhood. He keeps it.
I See Rats Eyes
The Murderboys gang controls this tavern, and they are mercenaries, and have no beef with anyone who shows proper respect. Walter is in charge of negotiations this time, and the barkeep agrees to buy the remaining jugs for cash. The party celebrates by having a meal. Violet heads to the roof to keep an eye out for trouble. There’s a gang of Murderboys getting high up there but they leave her alone.
Night falls. Violet is about to leave, when she sees a huge mob with actual torches approaching the tavern, with an ever larger man leading the procession. She realizes she’s got no time to warn the party, so she climbs in through one of the windows and races down the stairs and shouts at them to climb out the windows, just as the mob kicks in the door.
They flee into the night, and end up in some ruins right next to the Octopus’ Garden. There are groups hunting them (and taunting them) all around. Because they are hiding, they don’t actually know who it is (its The Jump).
Violet finds a piece of paper in her armor that says, “Its time we were introduced” and its signed, “Mr Nicholas.”
We wrapped there and the party had a lot to say. Worried, mostly, but excited. This was a good session. They also voted on each other’s “juice” – as explained in this post, and though Walter gets a lot, there’s no challenge for leadership.
DM’s Wrap Up
Right, so the party did a huge amount of stuff in 6 hours or so, and they riled up a lot of people.
So far they’ve:
- Eradicated an entire gang
- Forced a scared old man to burn down his own pub (denying the party the use of it) and flee his home
- Murdered a drug dealer
- Bragged about murdering the Shitkickers in every tavern in the neighborhood
- Offered their services to every tavern in the neighborhood
- Bought cursed moonshine from a very evil Druid
- Got themselves noticed by the Powers-That-Be
So what’s the fallout of all this?
Well lets start with the cursed shine. Violet let some of it touch her tongue when she pretended to drink the poisoned jug she doctored. The wagoner bought one. The Six Rats bought six and sold drinks out of 2 of them.
I knew this Green Man was a bad dude from the start, but I thought I’d wait and decide on the curse. This is what I’ve decided:
- Violet will awaken with a vine growing out of her tongue. I’m going to see if the player is willing to wear a clothespin on her tongue, but barring that, she’s going to be difficult to understand and have trouble eating and drinking. This vine is going to grow, daily, until she can find a way to remove it. I haven’t thought of a way for her to do that yet. Something will come up.
- The others who drank the shine will die, and their corpses will feed the adult form of the vine, which will be an Assassin Vine. This will be linked to the Black Phoenix and will actually help their reputation.
The situation with Nick The Pig. Well. I knew from the start that he didn’t really exist. He’s just a cover identity for Jimmy the Jake, the real boss of St. Jabber’s Mound. The Jake has many “cutout identities” and has very astute actors who he controls utterly, and who play these parts to perfection. The Pig, if the party will agree to sit down with him, will berate the party for fucking up his business and then tell them they work for him and tax the everloving shit out of them. He says, “80%, paid daily and in fuckin person or I send the entire hood at ya.”
This could go either way. If the party balks, and a fight starts, I’m going to have an assassin suddenly de-cloak from Invisibility while murdering “The Pig”. The assassin will help the party escape and try to get them to come to another location, where they will be met by another cutout. I haven’t decided who yet.
If the party agrees, then its game on until they decide the leash is too tight. If this goes on too long without them rebelling, I’ll have to do something to shift the narrative. This is about the gang’s ascension, and they have to move forward.
What else. Well, I fucked up a bunch of NPCs. Sigh. I’m not great at them. I have maybe a few bits of dialogue to say and then its all really bad improv, usually. Maybe I’m too hard on myself. It never feels good, though.
Most of the NPCs they’ve met have lied to them, or reported them to their bosses. The party isn’t going to be able to operate with impunity without me putting some kind of thumb on them, in the hopes that they’ll bite the motherfucker.
They’ve got some cash, and some drugs, and they’ve only played out 1 day and they are already hiding from a mob.
Yep, this is one of my campaigns.