Category Archives: Campaign Log

Session recaps from my real-world D&D campaigns

The Asylum Tapes 07 (End)

The Asylum Tapes 07 (End)

Dramatis Personae

The Party

The Black Phoenix Gang

  • Walter Black – Oathborn Soldier
  • Vice Black – Slothborn Soldier
  • Kheign Black – Fearborn Head of Security
  • Archie Black – Oathborn President of Gang
  • Flinch Black – Shadowborn Dealer (not present)
  • Violet Black – Warborn Poisoner (not present)

The NPCs

  • The Helltrain – a transportation mode
  • Lloyd – Bartender on the train
  • Antonio – Bone Devil, “Transition Officer”
  • Unnamed Chain Devil – Bureaucrat of Hell
  • Unnamed Pit Fiend – Justiciar of Hell
  • Anita – An Unseen Servant

Setup Notes

This is our last session of this campaign. I am getting divorced and returning to the US in a few weeks, so I informed the group that this would be the last session of the narrative. I think it ended pretty well and everyone said they had fun, so all-in-all, it was a satisfying and good conclusion to this narrative experiment, even if it didn’t go off exactly how I had envisioned.

The player who plays Flinch, as I explained, left the group, and his replacement couldn’t attend. Violet’s player also couldn’t attend, so it was just the 4 family members. Also, the campaign ended with the characters at Level 4, proof that you don’t need to run a game longer than is necessary. When its over, you’ll know it.

All Aboard!

When we last left our intrepid adventurers, they had agreed to sell a tiny part of their souls to some Imps in exchange for a ticket on the train. They were also able to understand Infernal, and as an added bonus, the Imps turned them invisible so they could board the train without interference.

They hustled into the train car that was burning with magical fire (an effect, only) and brought the Totems with them (these are the 2 sacks with the preserved bodies inside). I said aside from the burning, that the train car was well-appointed with food, beverages and comfortable seating, and that the atmosphere was quite pleasant, if a little warm. They ate, and drank, and talked among themselves for a little while, and Vice kept the Totems with him at all times.

A door appeared in the end of the carriage where there wasn’t one before, and a man came through it with a bundle of scrolls under his arm. This is Antonio, and I described him as “a 6’4″ inch man, muscular, and with the hair, tan, and demeanor of a surfer dude. He is wearing an open shirt, hairy chest visible, and has a few gold chains around his neck. His legs are clad in a loose billowing pant and he has bare feet. Blonde, white teeth, blue eyes.”

I used a “Jolly Bavarian” accent for him, and kept him bright and efficient.

“Ah hello! I am Antonio, and I will be your Transition Officer. Before we begin, I must make sure everyone is here!” He opens a scroll and says, with inquiry in his voice, “Kheign Black?”

Lady Kheign said she was here. “Ah good! Thank you for joining us!”

I went through each of the family members, and when I got to Vice, Antonio said, “Ah, my dear boy, it is so good to see you. We have been waiting!” and the table laughed.

With Archie, Antonio became concerned and said that “Hitchhikers are not allowed!” and walked over to him, plunged his hand into Archie’s chest, and riiiiiiiipped the Hhhell Junkie from inside him, where it was lurking, parasitic and hungry. Shocked looks all around. Antonio squashed and smushed and smashed and compacted the Junkie until it was hidden in his hands and then he rolled his palms together, producing a cigarette which he promptly lit from a “thumb flame”. The Junkie-smoke faintly screamed as Antonio puffed away. “I am very sorry for that, but you must understand that there are rules and sacrifices that must be made. Please understand.”

The party was distressed now and started peppering Antonio with questions, the main one being “What do you mean, Transition Officer?”, and “Where are we going?!”

I laughed to myself a bit. I got to have some fun now. Just for a little bit. Letting them squirm is good. And it fits this campaign’s theme pretty much down the line.

“We are going to Avernus Station, and according to the terms and conditions you agreed upon with my agents, you are now liable for 100,000 years of torment.”


This didn’t sit well with them at all. As you would expect.

They were pretty incredulous and started asking more questions, trying to understand how this could have happened. During this exchange I had Antonio become puzzled over the revelation that the Imps did not, in fact, tell the party that their souls were now forfeit.

I’ve said before how I like to have my villains make mistakes. The Imps were greedy and left out the important part of the contract, hoping to get away with it. Devils do not cotton to cheating, and now that this had been discovered, Antonio grew enraged.

I described him shedding his mortal form, as it slithered off him like a snakeskin and his true appearance revealed. A Bone Devil,Β and he roared at the Imps, who became visible and landed in front of Antonio. The Bone Devil lapsed into High Infernal, and I explained that the Imps had only imparted the knowledge of Low Infernal to them, and so they could understand bits of it, and only basic meanings. It went something like this:

Antonio: “Meat agreed?”

Imps: “Meat agreed!”

Antonio: “Meat not lie!”

Imps: “We hungry!”

Antonio: “Fools!”

And the Bone Devil breathed white hot infernal flames on the Imps and they unravelled in space. He then took a moment to compose himself and recalled his “fair form” and looked mortal again.

He was chagrined.

“My friends, please forgive. It seems my agents were remiss in their duties and have now rendered our contract null and void.” He sighed. “Since you are now in double-jeopardy, your souls are worthless and I cannot do business with you. You will have to exit the train at its next stop.”

The party: “And that’s in Hell?”

Antonio: “Yes.”

The party. “Fuck.”

But wait! They sold their souls for a ticket, doesn’t that mean that they can get off at whatever stop they want?” AHA!

Antonio: “You bought a ticket to get on the train. You did not buy a ticket to get off. Since our contract is void, you are essentially stowaways and have no rights-of-passage.”

The party: “Fuck.”

Here’s where it gets interesting though. When this notion of bartering came up, to continue to ride on the train, they remembered the Totems. Vice pulls one of the bags open and holds up the corpse and says, “What about this?”

Hell, literally, breaks loose.

We Have Defcon 1

Antonio shrieks at the top of his lungs, in complete distress and his mortal form is ripped away. You see, I had figured out what these Totems really were, after a talk with my genius mate, /u/StrangeCrusade, and while we were discussing the ramifications of the train and the Totems it hit me like a lightning bolt. I knew what they were. They are the preserved corpses of angel babies, missing their wings, and bound in infernal spell-chains. They were to be a gift to one of the Princes of Hell, to be used as an arcane focus, but to every lesser devil, they are the equivalent of highly radiant, and radioactive forms of strong “devil kryptonite”. In their present form, they aren’t enough to kill one, but they would be very, very painful and unpleasant to be around, and the Bone Devil loses. his. shit.

He roars at them, “What have you done!?” and starts a tirade about how they will have to get off the train and get out of Hell as fast as they can. He moans about his boss being furious with him and grows so distressed that he ends up storming out of the carriage and locking the door behind him.

The party freaks out. They know they have some powerful mojo, but they are not sure how best to exploit it. They talk for a bit. They try to pick the locked door, with no success. I mentioned that there was another door in the carriage at the opposite end. They discover that its a bathroom with a toilet. Archie mentions Lloyd, the barkeep that Vice mentioned that seemed to know things about the family.

This train was subject to my whims, jumble-touched as it was, and I had to do something to keep the energy flowing, and so at the mention of Lloyd’s name, I said the locked door unlocks itself. They go into battle stances, ready for anything, but nothing comes through. They try the door. It opens into Lloyd’s carriage. He is cleaning glasses and looks over and gives them a smile. “Hello, Family Black. Come have a drink and relax.”

He becomes very stern and turns to Vice. “I would very much appreciate if you didn’t bring those things in here.” They still don’t know what they are, so when they ask, Lloyd says that he will not say their names, and restates his firm desire that they not enter the carriage. The only thing he will say is that the contents of the sacks are “Celestials”. That caused more chatter.

They decide that Vice will stay behind with the Totems and the rest of them will try and get some answers. The door closes.

What’ll It Be?

Lloyd serves up drinks to those who want them, and the party, naturally, have some GODDAMN QUESTIONS! Lloyd nods to the clock ticking on the wall. Smiles. Says, “Train’s pulling into Avernus real soon. Best be quick about it.”

The party reviews.

  1. They are on a train to Hell.
  2. They, through some devil fuckery, have to get off the train and cannot purchase passage further.
  3. They have, in 2 sacks, something that devils don’t like. At all.

“Hey Lloyd?”

“Yes, Mr. Black?”

“How do we get out of Hell?”

Lloyd smiles sagely. “Look for the shiny building.”

There were other questions, of course, mostly about the train itself, where it was going, what awaited them in Hell and even questions about the barkeep himself. All were mostly brushed off by Lloyd. He didn’t have as much power as the party thought. He’s a living Tulpa, created by the train itself, a rudimentary intelligence that is mostly blind, but can read minds and glean tiny glimpses of the areas it passes through, endlessly, on its broken loop. I played him wise and vague, as the trope goes, and the party got what they’ve been getting the whole campaign – fed a tiny drop of truth, just enough to give them a signpost to aim for, and the rest pure bullshit. Every NPC has lied to them so far, and I wasn’t going to break my streak just cause I liked the character I based him on. So. Vice. Guess where he is?

If you said, “on the shitter”, you win an astral diamond!

He had the Totems with him. Door open. Poopin. As you do. I had to learn to roll with Vice, who’s primary drive was finding the fun/chaos in every situation, to add a splash of weird to the tableau. It mostly worked and I’ll miss his dick-covered id.

So Vice is dropping a black pudding and I tell him that he sees the Imps that were immolated by hellfire are starting to respin their forms. He gets real worried, and rushes for the door as the Imps start to coalesce flesh again. He opens the door and says, “Uh, guys? We got a problem here.”

Just then Lloyd nods at the clock and says, “We are arriving. You can bring them through, but make it quick. The party feels the train start to slow. Vice grabs the Totems and Lloyd is seen in obvious pain, unable to take the psychic waves from Antonio who has just rejoined the group, and the party gets ready to leave.

Next Stop, Downtown Avernus

(DMs note here. I don’t follow any canon when it comes to the planes, and I grabbed the name out of my head, so don’t expect a classical journey through Avernus.)

The train slows to a stop, Antonio pulls the door open and the stairs pop out and the party is ushered out of the train into a cityscape of tall shining buildings that scrape the sky, clustered in tight, and dozens of streets of inlaid bone running off in all directions. There was no sky, but a sickly green glow that never varied. Down before them, behind a desk and surrounded by filing cabinets were 2 Eriynes flanking a seated CHain Devil and Antonio cursed Heaven under his breath. He gave a weak smile. “My boss.” He walked the party down to the desk.

The Chain Devil roars at him in High Infernal and is summarily dismissed, and Antonio scuttles off. The party is beckoned forward by the Induction Manager as his chains shift and rattle, and the Erinyes hiss at the sight of the Totems and the Chain Devil roars in Low Infernal to the party threats and “how dare you’s” and other shit that got shut down right fuckin quick by my party – who by now, have had enough and are finally starting to take charge of their destinies. They explain everything about how the Imps fucked up, and how thy got thrown off the train, and they threaten Manager and his guards with the Totems. Archie mentions that he has a bonafide boon from Lord Umbruk himself, the Deity of Vengeance, and the Induction Manager allows that it would grant him a seeing with the Justiciar to perhaps allow they party swift(er) passage out of Hell. There’s paperwork to fill out, naturally.

This is Hell, after all. I played it up a bit, filling out forms and addendums, grumbling as the Manager, “most irregular!” and tried to quickly paint this place as a bureaucracy, and the party came from anarchy. That made them hate this place even more, but I didn’t have the time to bog them down in the true red-tape that would exist here, and this one encounter is all I had to sell it. Archie argued for his boon being able to cover the entire family, not just him, and in light of the Totems, the Manager was in no place to argue. He did the needful.

They wait for the Manager to finish his forms, take them, and they demand to know where the way out of Hell is, and where is this Justiciar, and what the FUCK is that smell?

The Manager points them to Bile Way, a sickly green path that winds its way through the plane, but it doesn’t always go to the same place. He told them some basic directions to the Justiciar – go up to the Shreiking Pool, hang a louie, and go to the Hell of Upside Down Sinners, hang a right, and keep going until you hit the Palace of Blood.

Oh that got them going alright.

Especially Walter. Poor guy. He worked so hard to understand what was going on, but he kept forgetting that his mind was fractured, and that this campaign was never going to make sense to him, or any of them. Thats the name on the tin – The Asylum Tapes. Still. Walter persisted. In spite of the fact that a lot of what led them down this path was his fault, he stuck by his family and he never gave up on them. Even after almost losing his brother to a goddamn jumble monster, he kept his faith in the one thing that hadn’t let him down. Family Black. Stoicly, he resigned himself to this last travail, and was determined to get them all out. It was a beautiful thing to see, and Walter’s arc was a delight to watch.

Lady Kheign, now-sister to Family Black, was the source of the party’s drive. Anger drove her, and they paired off to hold the Totems, and bullied their way through Hell. After they set off from the Manager, the work day ended, and thousands of devils emerged from the skyscrapers into the streets, on their way to the next scheduled task. The sight of mortals, half-running with celestial nukes, fucked up their day and a riot broke out with the devils trying to flee.

The party was challenged at one point, as I had planned a Barbed Devil encounter (or two) to at least have one last battle in the campaign, but the party was having none of it. They forced them away and kept moving. Kheign wasn’t going to listen to any bullshit. The rock of the family, the quiet one, the one who loves to scrap, avoided every encounter I threw at them. I had to laugh.

All Rise

The party navigated their way past the Shreiking Pool, past the Hell of Upside-Down Sinners, and finally arrived at the Palace of Blood, which was, indeed, a giant palace that was covered in running blood, like one of those chocolate fountains you sometimes see at parties.

They were directed to the courtroom and a Pit Fiend was behind the bench. The sight of the Totems sent everyone into a tailspin and the Pit Fiend was roaring for order, to no avail. Finally the party is allowed to speak. After a lot of back and forth, the Pit Fiend/Justiciar tells them to get out of Hell. NOW.

They are directed to a portal that will lead them back to the Prime Material Plane. A few Erinyes are standing guard and as they are talking with them, someone (sorry I’ve forgotten who) said, “What happens if we leave them here? (meaning the Totems)” and the Erinyes says “YOU CAN’T!” and I think it was Walter or Kheign, maybe, who followed up with, “Can you stop us?” and I responded with a soft, dispirited, “no”. The table erupts in laughter. Was a great moment.

They are told to envision where they want to go, and all of them agree they do NOT want to go back to Galron. They asked me if they knew of any places outside the city and I said yes, they did.

An aside here.

I’ve mentioned this many times in the past, in comments, and posts, that I have a place on my map of Gemseed that no one has ever been to, since I placed it on the map in 1990. Its called “Scorpion Tower” and because of the way I build, I didn’t actually know what was there myself – these things exist in a quantum state until its explored and then it becomes “real” and I also discover what the place is like.


I couldn’t pass up this opportunity, now could I?

I practially rubbed my hands together.

I said, “Yes, you all have heard children’s stories about Scorpion Tower, a place where a kindly mage is supposed to dwell.”

Walter piped up with, “Do we really want to go to a place called Scorpion Tower? It doesn’t sound like a great place!” Archie countered with, “Yeah, but the mage is kindly and we’ve never known kindly anything!”

Debates ensued and finally they decided to go for it. I said they didn’t know exactly where the tower was, but they could all picture it in their minds and maybe they would get lucky.

So they jumped through the portal, leaving the Totems behind, and as they did, I told them they could hear the guards yelling “NOOOOoooooo!” and this got another big laugh.

I described them in the Astral Plane for a few moments and had them all roll Wisdom checks. All but Vice failed. So I dumped them outside of the city, in the Southwind Plains. It was night.

The table was very quiet.

I said “You hear the sounds of crickets and for the first time in your life you see stars and the moon. The wind is rustling through the knee high grass and its very quiet. To your South, far in the distance, are the lights on the walls of Galron. You are outside. You made it.”

There was some awe. They were visibly moved, I could tell. They sat for a minute, not really talking, absorbing this idea that they were out. It was really quite amazing and I just got a chill up my arms recalling it.

I said that they could see nothing beyond the lights to the South, and the Moon wasn’t bright enough to illuminate much more than a few hundred metres around them.

They went to sleep. In the morning they foraged for some food and I told them they could see the thin spire of Scorpion Tower a few days walk to their North.

They set off and after a day or so they came across a caravan camped for the night, manned by Gnomes. Archie decided to sneak up and have a look and maybe barter some of their goods for food and water. The exchange didn’t go so well, these ragged and quite terrifying people from Galron just appearing out of the darkness into the firelight. After some tense words, the Gnomes agree to give them food and water and ask them to leave. It damn near came to a brawl, but in the end the party left.

I Don’t Have That Information

They arrived at Scorpion Tower. I said it was a 5-story stone tower, pierced with window holes and the front door was ajar. The entire tower was covered in moss and the interior had been retaken by nature. Clearly abandoned. Confused, but oh-so-cautious, they went inside and climbed the stairs, every floor being empty of anything save plants and the ocassional bird.

At the top of the tower I described a door, the first one they had seen since the entrance. I said it looked brand new and still smelled of freshly-cut wood. Everyone immediately was on-edge, and expecting some massive fight. They pushed the door open and inside I described a room with comfortable looking couches, a massive spread of food and drink, some tables around the edge of the circular chamber, and the atmosphere was warm and inviting.

They didn’t buy it for a second, but they cautiously explored and even sampled some of the food, which I described as delicious.

The party called out, “Hello?” and a voice answered from seemingly-thin air. “Hello, Family Black. You are most welcome. Please. Come and relax and refresh yourselves. You are safe here.”

This made them even more paranoid (I had trained them well).

After some investigation I revealed that the voice was called “Anita” and “she” was an Unseen Servant (they could see the air disturbance where she was). They asked who created this place. She said, “You did. As per your instructions.”

Cue uproar.

They asked a lot more questions, and I responded a lot with, “I don’t have that information”. After a lot of back and forth, where I kept reiterating that they had created this place, and Anita kept responding with “Rest and relax, you are safe here.”

They wanted to leave and Anita said, “Why would you ever want to leave? You are safe here.” I kept hammering that point, which made them not believe me even more.

But leave they did, and as they exited the top floor, I said the tower was now furnished and appeared brand new. Bedrooms, a kitchen, a Roman bath, a lounge, and storage, and outside the tower were herb and flower gardens stretching out 100m from the base of the tower, interspersed with meandering gravel paths.

They were determined to leave, thinking this place was an illusion, trick, or some other fuckery. I had Anita blurt out, “Please don’t leave! You are safe here! Rest! Relax!” but they were having none of it.

It was time to play out the climax of this entire campaign, and I was so ready for it.

I had each player accompany me outside so I could speak to them individually and I asked them not to reveal what was discussed.

I said this to each player, in turn.

“As you go to leave, at the end of the path, is your entire family in a line, blocking your way. They say, in unison – “Are you sure?””

Oh man. This freaked some of them out.

But each and every one of them said “Yes”

I said, “Your family seperates into two groups of three, standing in lines parallel to the path, allowing you to leave. As you step off the path there is a smash cut to blackness and you cannot see, but you can hear voices and your body is convulsing.”

The voices say “Doctor! We are losing him/her! The procedure was a failure!”

I said, “You black out and awaken some time later in a straitjacket in the deepest, darkest cell in Rafanar Asylum, and you are never heard from again. You also realize that your family was a hallucination and you were always completely alone.”

Every character chose to leave the tower. Every. Single. One.

I explained.

Their minds created the tower as a bastion against their insanity. They had the choice to stay “ignorant” and remain “safe” or leave and face reality. They chose to leave.

The campaign was based on unreliable narrators as discussed in the opening session. Yes, they went to Hell. Yes they escaped, but in the process their minds fractured, they wandered the Southwind Plains until they were picked up by some kindly Gnomish merchants and delivered to Rafanar Asylum, where they met the Man in the White Coat and were given treatment, and offered a last-ditch attempt to cure their insanity, but it failed.

That was the end of the campaign. The party was Level 4.

There was praise, and a bit of shock and awe. I think I did a pretty good job with this one, and I would love to run this premise again, especially after I learned how to use the Man in the White Coat more effectively. I’m going to try and play The Burning Wheel some more and learn how to engage the players a bit better.

Thanks for coming along on this journey with me and I hope you enjoyed it. I’ll see you for the next campaign!

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Posted by on August 15, 2017 in Campaign Log


The Asylum Tapes (00)

The Asylum Tapes (00)

Well I’ve started yet another campaign with reddit strangers in meatspace. After not playing at all last year, I’m overdosing this year.

This will be an ongoing peek at how I DM and an overall record of this new campaign, warts and all. I will talk about what I did right, what I’ve done wrong, my methods, style and include all my notes and bits and pieces. This is not the One True Way, this is only mine.

The Background

A bit of some backstory to this campaign. Most of you know that I ran a campaign world for 25 years by the name of Drexlor. In this world I had a city that I wanted to be the source of all evil. It was named Galron (a corruption of the Klingon character, “Gowron” that I misheard all those years ago), and it was dubbed The City of Thieves, The Black Port (how cliche, eh?). Well, this city was going to be the worst of the worst – full of evil temples, slavery, rape-gangs, open murder, systemic corruption and violence, a secret police, drugs, torture, and every kind of horror scenario you can imagine.

Not exactly your typical D&D setting.

I’ve been wanting to run stories here for decades. I never did, mostly because the city itself scares the hell out of me. Its dark. Really dark. While I don’t have a problem with that, per se, what scared me was the logistics of building the city itself. Its 6 times larger than London. For someone who likes to draw his cities out in great detail, this was daunting in the extreme.

So I balked. For years.

But this city, it wouldn’t leave me alone. Waking me up in the middle of the night, stinky breath in my face, poking its bony fingers at me, giving me more and more ideas that I would frantically scribble down in the notepad I keep by my bed. Over the years I built up this massive pile of disjointed ideas in a messy folder – loose pages and half-scribbled nonsense. But this all percolated in the back of my mind, becoming something more than the sum of its parts – becoming something organic.

I wrote plenty of stories about the place. You can find some of them in this very blog. “The Telling”, “The Alleymen”, and “Morning in West Metal” come to mind.

About a month ago I sat straight up in bed in the middle of the night. This idea was blazing in my mind – hot and lacerating. I tore out into the lounge and fired up my computer and typed as fast as I could before I lost any of the nuance.

Here’s my notes, verbatim:

  • A family of rogues, now aged and inmates in an asylum
  • Three DM characters – The Man in the White Coat, John the Guard, and The Woman Who Always Smokes (Lying Cat – Saga)
  • Telling their tale as memories – understanding what they endured – HOW DID THEY ESCAPE THE CITY???
  • A series of conversations with The Man in the White Coat that take the form of flashbacks
  • Cooperative character/memory building. Coop worldbuilding – (THE BURNING WHEEL – TALK TO RICK!!!)
  • Use the sketches of the city as maps – swap them around!!!

There was also a lot of half-assed shorthand that wouldn’t make sense to any of you reading, so I’ve not included them – but they were mostly about the city itself and certain understandings that I have.

I will explain my notes in more detail, below.

The Group

I knew that I had to run this campaign. It was finally time. I couldn’t let this new idea go. It was too interesting. I also knew that it was going to take a very special group to pull it off. I didn’t have a pool of “knowns” to draw from; that is, players that I knew well and could recruit for this particular narrative. I had to go the “unknown” route. Very risky. But I put up a post on a local FB group and explained the premise. Very, very dark. All rogues. All humans. Urban. Highly focused on roleplaying.

I got 6 interested people. Reddit strangers. Always perilous. Differences in playstyle, expectations, even skill levels when it comes to navigating the actual rules-of-play. I think I did pretty well, however. Time will tell!

I laid out exactly what the campaign was going to be. I even included a list of questions(this is written in markdown, sorry about that) that I was going to ask them to develop their character, and asked if anything was “off the table”. They said anything was fair game. Thank Arneson. Leaves my hands free to take the narrative as dark as it needs to be.

The Session

So this is how its all going to work, and this is where I’ll explain the notes I listed above in more detail.

  • The party is a family – 5 brothers and 1 sister (so nice to have a girl at my table again – been too long). They were born into Galron and brutalized. They were split up at a young age and then reunited as older teenagers (18-19) as a family, whereupon they decide to form a street gang for survival.
  • The characters are unreliable narrators.
  • The party, when the campaign opens, are all in their 80s, and are inmates in Greywall Asylum. The campaign is a series of flashbacks to their youth and adulthood in the Black Port.
  • I will be playing 2 roles – the DM and the Asylum Meta-Characters.

The Meta are as follows:

  1. The Man in the White Coat. Has no name. Works as a therapist character. Trying to get the characters to reveal information.
  2. John the Guard. Never speaks. Is only referenced.
  3. The Woman Who Always Smokes. (DM NOTE: She is based on a character from the comic book, Saga. The character is Lying Cat, who only says “Lying” and knows when a lie has been told). She will smoke incessantly and only says “Lying” when I want to redirect the narrative.
  • The party survived and escaped Galron. Something only a handful of people have done over the centuries of its existence. They are in an asylum, for a reason and part of the purpose of the campaign is to discover this reason.
  • I have like 20 sketches of the city, all rough drafts, and all different. I decided I’d give these out to the party, and swap them around at-will, to reflect their fractured memories.

I wanted to do some cooperative character and worldbuilding. So I came up with that list of questions I linked earlier. This was designed to prompt them to give me improv answers that I could redirect or clarify. I didn’t use all the questions in the first session, but I’ll no doubt come back to them from time to time.

It worked, sort of. I’ve never done anything like this, so it was hit-and-miss. I’d like to do this kind of thing again, so this was a good first try.

I actually recorded this portion of the session. Hence the campaign name πŸ™‚

I’ve not had time to listen to it, so I cannot attest to its quality or anything, and in fact may have inaudible parts (I don’t have the best phone).

The Tape – its 30 mins or so, about 4 mB. The first voice you’ll hear is mine πŸ™‚

The Party

The party talked about the gang they wanted to form. I asked them to talk about the day they were reunited. I believe it was Archie (character name) who said they met back home and the house had been burned down. They decided to reflect the gang name in this event and dubbed themselves “The Black Phoenix”. Pretty cool.

They chose a leader and filled out the rest of the gang’s heirarchy and we talked a little bit about what neighborhood they would be from (Shadow Hill) and what deities they would pay fealty to.

I have a lot of work to do. I have to flesh out the Temple details, I have to draw a neighborhood map, come up with street gangs, build NPCs and figure out the best way to do the interludes with The Man in the White Coat.

All in all, pretty successful session zero.



Posted by on July 19, 2017 in Campaign Log


The Asylum Tapes (01)

The Asylum Tapes (01)

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 πŸ™‚ 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.

Here’s my notes for the Neighborhood Info and my two encounter tables – Encounters and Jumble Encounters. I’m not going to explain any of it. If you are super curious, ask in the comments. Thanks.


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 πŸ™‚

  • Shunday
  • Muckday
  • Trapday
  • Washday
  • 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.)
  • Fishday
  • Slowday

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.


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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚

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.


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Posted by on July 19, 2017 in Campaign Log


The Asylum Tapes (02)

The Asylum Tapes (02)


We left the party just past midnight, on Slowday, hiding in the ruins near the Octopus’ Garden on the west side of the Mound, trying to stay hidden from a large posse of gang members from the 19th Street Jump – a powerful gang that works for the local boss, Nick the Pig. Our resident poisoner, Violet, drank some cursed moonshine from a Druid of Galron and was going to experience the full effects of that early in the session, and I opened by telling her that she wasn’t feeling very well. This raised some eyebrows.

Oh. The character of Walter wasn’t present, as the player couldn’t attend. The Man in the White Coat chastised them for “making him up”, and patiently explaining that if they continued to give in to their psychoses, they would never get well. When the character returns, this will be conveniently ignored. A meta-concession. Forgive.


The party looked and the gang was coming up both streets that flanked the ruined area they were currently hiding in – kicking in doors, harassing the locals, and searching the ruins with torches. They made a decision and took off, stealthily, through the ruins, to the north, hoping to get into the dump and then maybe away on to the main road. Vice got his foot caught in some rubble, and Flinch wrenched his brother’s ankle freeing him. The party was now slowed. When they arrived at the dump they found it crowded with homeless locals and this didn’t seem like a good place to linger, as the Jump was close behind them now.

They paused for a moment to discuss their options. The gang was now swarming the ruins where they had been hiding and they rabbited. Not up and away. Not East, into houses. They went West. Into the Octopus’ Garden.

The dark wood is filled with twisted statues of humanoids, in poses that would suggest agony and terror. They sprinted Southwards, along the treeline out of the torchlight, but close enough that they could see the searching gang members.

Flinch notices a beautiful woman, undressed, walk out of the darkness and beckon him. He starts gawking and tries to tell his brothers, but they don’t see a thing and now everyone is worried about what the fuck is going on with this creepy park. I also told Violet that her illness was getting worse.

Stealthily, they were moving, until Vice, our resident Slothborn (mostly nude and covered in phallic tattoos), steps on a branch and snaps it loudly. The torchlight immediately falls on him and there are shouts from the gang leader. “Oy! Don’t you fuckin move, mate! The Pig wantsta talk to youse lot!”

The party rabbits. Deeper into the wood, and soon they garner the attention of a nest of Assassin Vines, who dwell in the canopy and hunt at night. Out of the darkness a vine grabs Kheign’s ankle, yanks him prone, and then drags him thirty feet, into the darkness. The party jumps to his aid, but Vice is also grabbed by another vine. He is freed in one strike by his brother Flinch and they rush to free Kheign, who has taken both his short swords out and jammed them into the ground in an attempt to arrest his abduction.

The vine is having none of this, and pulls Kheign free, as his family swings and misses the vine that is now thrashing wildly to try and throw them off (and subdue its prey). The party recovers themselves and moments later the vine is severed and Kheign resumes his feet just in time for the party to notice the gang has braved the wood and is moving towards them with torches. They run West, towards one of the meadows, and upon reaching it, see that it is not an open space, but is filled with concentric rings of these weird statues. All of the family, save Kheign, climbs trees in hopes of ambushing their pursuers. Kheign stays as the lure, and he’s ready for blood.

The Jump soon finds them, and they try and negotiate with the party, saying they should just come in, talk to the Pig, there’s no need for all of this stupidity. They are all carrying manacles in addition to short bows and short swords. Kheign invites them to fornicate with themselves and the battle is joined. Archie is successful in doing a falling attack on one of the Jump, but Violet is unlucky, and end up falling head first out of the tree as she attempted to climb down – this woke up a nest of Stirge who were sleeping in a hollow in the tree. There were Stirge on every family member and two of the Jump. Violet’s illness increases.

5 more Jump arrive with torches and crossbows. Vice is now hiding behind one of the trees on the edge of the clearing, looking at the battle deeper into the wood. He was hiding the other gang’s dead, but Archie has joined him, when Vice looks over his shoulder at a sound he heard, and a beautiful nude woman from the waist up, and a giant python from the waist down, with a lovely coif of vipers, comes slithering out of the circles of statues and hisses, “Who dares invade my garden!?” and he barely overcomes the petrification gaze of the Gorgon. He elbows Archie, who turns and looks – failing his saving throw and turning to stone.

The Man in the White Coat tut-tuts as the Woman Who is Always Smoking hisses, “Lying” at them, and The Man in the White Coat says, “Come now, Archibald, we’ve discussed this need of yours to always find failure with yourself. What really happened.” and Mitch, the player, understood exactly what I was doing and said “Fine! I ran away, ok! I was afraid! So what!?”, and I asked him which was he was going to flee and he said Archie would dash away from the Gorgon towards the battle. Groovy.

This battle was insane. It keep escalating from these extra encounters. The Stirge were bad enough. That was the result of a 1 being thrown on a Dex check for Violet to descend the tree with stealth. Instead of just having her fall, I needed something else – and I knew that Stirge nest in most of the city’s parks anyway – it seemed a good solution. The Medusa was roused from the sound of fighting and investigated as a matter of course. I didn’t roll for a damn thing. I didn’t write up night encounters for this place, I just knew what lived there and had them respond naturally to the situation. I could have very easily written encounters, and have done so many, many times in other instances, but for this place I didn’t feel that had the right tone. This place needed to function as a true milieu, only a very compact and busy one, and as long as I knew the basic inhabitants, I could wing the rest. This is the key to low prep. You gotta trust yourself.


The Jump were dying, but the party was severely beaten up, near death, and Kheign was now fighting the Gorgon up close, also resisting the gaze effect, and wasn’t doing much to hurt her at all. It was looking pretty grim. More torchlight could be seen coming towards the battle site, the Jump wasn’t going to give up, but in the end – after a lot of threats, shouting and negotiation, Archie made the decision to surrender and go with the Jump to see the Pig tonight, but they wouldn’t go handcuffed and they wouldn’t disarm.

You can imagine how that went down.

Two things happened during all this as well. The Gorgon, realizing the Kheign isn’t a threat and seeing most of the combatants dead on the ground, quits the battle and slithers off into the darkness.

At this moment Violet falls to her knees and the curse of the moonshine reveals itself as a thick vine suddenly shoots a foot out of her mouth, seemingly growing from her tongue. The Jump loses their minds and a few of them start jabbering about some guys at the Choked Goat exploding into plant material earlier today. The party decides to use this to their advantage as they twig to the fact that something is up with this moonshine. They use their fear to intimidate them by claiming responsibility and paint Violet as someone to be feared, with this creepy power.

The gang caves and they agree to their conditions but they have to leave for the Pig’s Manor, now, before anything worse happens. The party agrees and they all begin to walk out of the park – the gang in a loose “horseshoe” formation around the party, in the middle.

This “surrender” lasts about 5 minutes and the party decides to make a break for it, and attacks the remaining gang members. The party gets some miraculous rolls and manages to slay half of them and escape the park. Violet is babbling that she wants this thing cut off from her face, and the rest of the party is very close to death. I don’t think they had 20 HP between them. They reach the road and bolt into the houses on the other side and out of the blue comes an ally. Chopper the talking dog suddenly barks at them and says to follow. They are panicked and distrustful, but they agree to follow Chop to a safe place. The dog leads them to an abandoned house “its just a place that I bring the bitches to – bitches love abandoned houses.” He says they can rest and they give him some food and in return he gives them an exposition dump.

He talks about the neighborhood being all stirred up as everyone is looking for the Black Phoenix gang, and that a few people have died after drinking their moonshine. Violet gets the vine cut off and now she can talk at least and demands they find a way to remove this curse. Chop tells them he doesn’t know nothing about any of that and cannot help. The party sets a dual watch and Chopper takes off a few hours before dawn, not saying where he is going and when he’ll be back. Flinch tries to interrogate him, but the dog blows him off and leaves.

The party gets its first rest in 2 days, and they split to go the Choked Goat to find out more details about the people who died, since they are thinking Violet might not have long to live. They manage to stealth through the streets, but it doesn’t look like there are any search parties out looking for him – this just makes them more paranoid. At the tavern the Barkeep (who is new, as the old one died from cursed ‘shine) freely tells what he knows, being there when it happened, while Flinch and Khiegn head out to the nearby well to see if they can score some drugs. Sure enough there’s a new dealer there, but with some muscle this time. While Flinch argues over the high price (which was not true yesterday when he picked up – the perils of an unregulated market), Kheign looks into the well and notices that the body of Billy Shitheel is no longer there.

Flinch finishes his business after some heated language and they both return to the bar where they find Archie still talking with the loquacious ‘keep and Vice in the corner talking to a man named Joey who has been performing oral pleasures on himself. They talk religion for a bit (being of the same faith) and everyone is totally not weirded out by this exchange at all.


There’s some lighthearted roleplaying back and forth with Archie and the barkeep that I named Sweaty Freddie with the Rusty Machete, that being a name that I literally lifted from some reddit comment a mere hour before the game and was overcome with how insanely genius that was for an NPC. It was good to have a few laughs in the middle of such grim drama, but that didn’t last long as the party decided they needed to find a hedge witch that could take care of Violet’s problem. Sweaty Freddie pointed them down the road towards Dirty Mary, and off they went, finding the old besom in her front yard fussing over some recalcitrant chickens who were refusing to lay more eggs. The witch laughed at Violet’s predicament and chastised her for trusting a “Green Man” and said that she couldn’t cure the curse, only the one who placed it could lift it, and that was not going to happen anytime soon most likely. She said she would sell them the recipe to one of her healing breads (since “health potions” weren’t going to be a thing, and I was using my long-time variant of only healing 3 HP per long rest) but they could barely afford it, as the price was five gold and they only had eight. Instead they bought a slice of the bread each, for much less cost (but still expensive) and they healed a bit, but not enough to feel comfortable getting into another fight. They decided to not buy more and the witch left them in her yard. As they turned to go they suddenly saw Chopper run around a nearby corner. They said hello and Chopper apologized and looked upset. They started to question this when they were suddenly ambushed from the rooftops by a dozen archers from the Jump.

The time to meet the Pig had come and this time the party decided to go quietly.


They were led by armed escort to Pig Manor. This is a 3-story building, all the windows are barred and the front door is made of solid iron. A dozen guards were stationed around the building and another dozen on the roof. The door guards let them in and their street escort stayed behind. They were met by a pair of huge bodyguards and led upstairs through this richly-furnished home – the most opulent thing the party had ever seen in their wretched, squalid lives.

They were led down a long hallway and into a large space dominated by a beautifully carved oak desk with a highback chair behind it. A half-circle of upholstered lounge chairs were arranged facing the desk, and behind the desk, mostly in darkness, was a folding screen that hid the rest of the room from the party’s eyes. What really caught them by surprise, however, were the 4 people chained to the wall opposite the door they came through.

One was the body of Billy Shitheel. One was the body of Tom, the barkeep-turned-arsonist.
One was the still-living Mr Fabulous, who spilled a bit too much info to the party. The last was the still-living “Green Man” – the Druid who sold the party the cursed moonshine.

Yeah. You should have seen their faces.

The heavies close the door and take up guarding positions on either side of it. There is no sign of the Pig. He makes them wait for awhile. They start to grumble and then he makes his appearance.

Mister Nicholas, as his employees call him (to his face) is a middle-aged human, well-dressed in brocaded silk and bejeweled with the profits of a moderately sized patch that he runs for his real boss, Jimmy the Jake, but when dealing with the party he lies and says his boss is “Mr Motley”, or Baba Yaga, as he calls him. I shamelessly stole the accent and cadence of the brilliant Mikael Nyqvist from “John Wick” and playing a Russian gangster was a lot of fun, and I think I did a pretty good job with it (for a change).

Mister Nicholas sat down and stared at each of the party, in turn, for a good ten seconds each, without saying a word. This was deliciously awkward and I would have dragged it out longer, but I could tell the tension was about to snap so I spoke up.

“Do you have any idea the trouble you’ve caused me?”

The Pig began to tick off points on his fingers.

“Killed my men. In the fucking streets, scaring my patch.”

“Snatched my narcotics and then tried to sell them back to my own businesses.”

“Caused one of my establishments to get burned to the ground.”

“Sold tainted moonshine from a fucking Druid to my establishments, killing my customers.”

“Do I have to fucking go on?”

They started to speak up but I cut them off.

This is what’s going to happen. This Black Phoenix? Dead. You work for me now. You pay me 80% until your debt to me is paid off. That’s paid EVERY DAY, RIGHT HERE, IN PERSON, you understand me? After that, then we can sit down and discuss things like business arrangements for the future.”


This didn’t sit well at all with our young gang leader or his siblings. They balked. “80% is too much”.

I rubbed my forehead.

“You are in no position to negotiate, but I’ll tell you what. Make it 90%.

4 people in custody right next to them. 2 are dead. 2 huge bodyguards flanking the only way in or out of the office. The bossman himself is sitting right there. What does Archie do?

He stands up to shake the Pig’s hand, sealing the deal. And then stabs the Pig.

I gotta write that again, just to make it real. He stabbed the Pig. In his fortress.


Hell breaks loose. The party goes full retard and Kheign starts throwing chairs at the guards as the rest of them focus their rage on Mister Nicholas and Vice ducks behind the folding screen to see what’s back there. He finds a door and tries to open it. The Glyph of Warding on the handle goes off and fries him with electricity. He drops to -9 HP.

Mister Nicholas is not without formidable protections and his Shielding amulet is taking most of the brunt of the party’s attacks and so he retaliates with an Overclocked Wand of Magic Missiles. Overclocking is a conceit I’ve been using since the 2e days, and its a magic item with just a few charges, but the user can spend more than 1 charge at a time. The Pig starts double-casting from this wand. Archie goes down. Violet goes down. Flinch goes down. Kheign goes down.

The party awakens an indeterminate amount of time later and finds that each of them is alive, with 1 HP each. They are separated, and cannot see or hear one another. Each is chained, arms overhead, to a dripping wall, and is standing in a mucky liquid that smells like shit and the ammonia reek of piss. They are imprisoned in “the jakes”, the toilet shafts from the barrack’s privy, and I am going to leave them there for 4 days, releasing them on Titheday. I’ve decided that they are going to lose all the (meager) wealth they had accumulated up to this point, as well as any drugs or other personal possessions, so this will be a problem for the party member’s who require coin wealth to tithe.

I haven’t thought of what to do about this yet. In a normal campaign they would simply be all dead, no question about it, but since this breaks the meta-narrative we have established, I am going to have to be a bit more creative. I don’t want to say that all of this is a lie on their part, because too much happened and I don’t want to take away all their narrative freedom, that conceit was only going to be used when it was part of a smaller set of circumstances (like the fight with the Gorgon).

I know I didn’t talk about “the process” that much in this one, but it was pretty straightforward, and not that much actually happened. Happy to answer questions about the process though.

Next session is on the 26th of March. Thanks for reading and please comment if you enjoyed this or have questions.

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Posted by on July 19, 2017 in Campaign Log


The Asylum Tapes (03)

The Asylum Tapes (03)


Dramatis Personae

The Party

The Black Phoenix Gang

  • Walter Black – Oathborn Soldier
  • Vice Black – Slothborn Soldier
  • Kheign Black – Fearborn Head of Security
  • Archie Black – Oathborn President of Gang
  • Flinch Black – Shadowborn Dealer
  • (Not Present) Violet Black – Warborn Poisoner

The NPCs

  • Nick The Pig (Mr. Nicolas) – Boss of St. Jabber’s Mound
  • Relgok – The Pig’s Chief of Security
  • Sweaty Freddie with the Rusty Machete – Barkeep at the Choked Goat
  • Tophin – Self-styled King of the Orphans in St. Jabber’s Mound
  • Chopper – A talking feral dog
  • Brickhouse – Dealer for the Black Phoenix Gang
  • Tinpot – Archer. Friend of Brickhouse. Guard for Brickhouse.
  • Dr. Lump – Pimp
  • Tommy Tightlips – Pimp

Titheday (June 7)

The party, having been violently put down and captured after trying to whack Nick the Pig, were chained in the jakes – the shit-filled bog underneath Pig Manor’s crude toilet-system.

I had two weeks to let this percolate, and I knew that some harsh penalties were due, but that I had to let the narrative move forward. I wrote a snippet of a story once that described some of the horrors visited to the body of someone who had spent time in Galron, and one of the more memorable ideas was an iron ring fused to back of the neck on the spine, a kind of “leash ring” and that idea seemed fitting – a physical reminder of their servitude to the Pig.

I knew I was going to take all their cash and drugs, and leave them in the shitters until Titheday and watch them scramble to get up their tithes. I also knew that I had to give equal measures of the stick and the carrot.

I described them being chained in the jakes for an unknown amount of time, as they were fatigued from lack of food or water (it ended up being 4 days) and then the torture scene where the ring is affixed, and then a transition to them all regaining consciousness together in an empty room and doused with buckets of water and had new clothes given to them and told to follow.

Up, up, up they went again, to the Pig’s office, sans prisoners-in-chains-on-the-wall. There they were made to wait again, and when Mr. Nicholas appeared, he was all smiles. He had them by the neck-ring, and he knew it.

“You are well rested after your vacation, yes?” he laughs “Good! And I have to say, I would have been offended had you not tried to kill me, and that is worth more than the Shitkickers ever offered me, you see? So. This is what will be. The Black Phoenix now belongs to me. You will take over the Shitkicker’s territory and you will supply alcohol and narcotics to my patch until I’ve decided you have repaid your debt to me. You will pay me tribute, weekly, and pick up the goods here, and you will return to profits to me, here. Protection revenue is yours to keep, and any rackets you start up for yourself, I get half of the action.”

Well. This was a bitter pill to swallow, but swallow and smile they did. Mr. Nicholas grinned at them like a shark and dismissed them, adding at the last minute that their weapons would be returned and a building has been set aside as a house for the gang. The natives have been informed of the “change in middle management” and they did not need to fear walking the streets (mostly).

This did much to soothe the burn, and they were talking about tons of stuff – rackets, security for the HQ, recruiting new members, but the thing that dominated the talk was that today was Titheday and they needed to get narcotics for Vice, and cash for Flinch to fulfill their tithes. Cash was easily taken, as they simply starting taking protection money from the populace, and it took them a few hours to canvass the patch, they had around 70 sp and headed to the Choked Goat to score some drugs, and Vice bought some dreamshit and immediately dosed. Kheign (and Violet, had she been there) had to sacrifice blood, and that came in the form of a raggamuffin – part of a pack of feral kids that had been following the party and ragging on them and throwing rocks. Things got heated. This could have escalated later on, but that was solved with diplomacy, as will be discussed further down. Vice doses and stays loaded all day. He was fucking funny.

Walter and Archie, both oathborn, needed to declare a public vendetta. Walter chose a surprising one, and said Chopper (the talking dog that betrayed them to the Pig’s crew). He was seriously pissed and I think a lot of that had to do with the fact that his character wasn’t present at the last session and he felt a bit of that helpless rage. It was a good one, though, and would come to fruition this very session. Archie, however, chose a different path. Can you guess?

He declared for Nick the Pig and swore to kill him. Now the faith states that in order for a current vendetta to be able to be used next Titheday, that you have to actively advance the vow’s purpose. So this means that Archie has chosen, from the get, to prod this fuckin guy until he will be forced into another confrontation. Its a bold strategy and I totally get why the player is doing this with his character, and its going to be quite a ride, I think.

They wrapped up the day by going to their new home, and its a single story building. Its got a sturdy front door on the short wall, facing Crooked Jack Lane, with a drop-bar for security. There are 4 windows on the long wall, with lockable wooden shutters. The interior is divided into two spaces, one large and one small, with a door between them. In the small room is a trapdoor with a 5′ ladder that leads to a crawlspace half the size of the room above it. There were 6 beds, some cooking gear, and a few buckets. Beyond that, they would have to improve themselves. They had another chat about the next day’s activities and then set a watch and crashed for the first real sleep they had had in 6 days.

Fishday (June 8)

Hope your sitting down. This is a long fuckin day.

The party rises before dawn and heads to Pig Manor with their remaining cash and for the first time in their lives they feel like they can relax on the street, all the locals giving them nods and asking them to give The Pig their blessings. They meet Relgok, the Pig’s “guard captain”, who makes a bunch of jokes about the smell of shit still hanging on them. They gritted their teeth and picked up moonshine and bought a passel of drugs – dreamshit, verytea and whiteleaf.

The Pig was going to sell to them at 1 sp below market value. I told the party that while the market could fluctuate wildly, based on the dealers’ whims, we needed to establish a mean, so that some sort of economic stability could drive the faux economy I was cobbling together with duct tape and vague notions. Here’s the short list:

  • Dreamshit: 8 sp a dose
  • Verytea: 3 sp per dose
  • Whiteleaf: 4 sp per dose

So they would buy from the Pig at 7,2, and 3 sp, respectively and sell for whatever the market would bear. They bought 6 verytea and 6 whiteleaf, as no dreamshit was available at the moment. They were going to sell the whiteleaf for 6 sp and the verytea for 4 or 5.

So they load up and head to the Choked Goat, the only remaining operating tavern in this patch since Tom’s was lost to arson. They had plans to raise the price of the shine and they also talked about buying up dreamshit and hoarding it for a few days to get the junkies starting to twitch and then sell the shit for quadruple the price. They also needed someone to deal for them, someone reliable, and the barkeep at the Goat, whom you might remember is named Sweaty Freddie (with the rusty machete), said he remembered a guy named Brickhouse and said he was almost 7 feet tall and 350lbs, but a smart kid and could be trusted, which meant he would only steal a little and not a lot.

Freddie didn’t know where Brick might be, but they could check his girlfriend, Slutty Jane’s house. They find her door open and the woman killed – she laid on the floor with her throat cut and her eyes gouged out. They were freaked out and left immediately, and decided they would not tell Brickhouse about this.

So the party, with Freddie in tow, goes to the kid’s place and he agrees and is thankful for the gig. They discuss backup, and Brickhouse says he has a mate named Tinpot who is a crack shot with a bow, and after some interrogation he spills the fact that Tinpot has a dreamshit habit, but he’s been steady lately and can be trusted.

The party is dubious, but they agree to a “probation” and say that they will pay Brick and Tinpot 10 sp per day, to split between them, and Brick would work from noon to midnight and then drop off the cash at the gang’s HQ every night. Brick will work the Goat’s well, just like the now-deceased Billy Shitheel used to do, and they would see how this worked.

Their first racket was set up! Celebrations!

I should mention they had spent all but a few coins of their collected protection revenue on drugs. They were basically broke again for now.

The day was just getting warmed up, though, and it wasn’t even much past 8 am. They wanted to find a hedge witch that could work with them, maybe bake the healing bread that I had introduced last session, and they learned that Dirty Mary was not the only one that was local. There was Smelly Jane as well and she had an apprentice. This sounded pretty good. They go over there and talk to Jane but she’s a crazy fucker and sells them a loaf of bread but refuses to let them speak to her apprentice, Daphne. This doesn’t go over well with this crew and they bully her and barge past anyway. Daphne is terrified but she agrees to come and bake for them 3 nights a week, which satisfies them, and they leave.

They are heading back to their HQ when another long discussion breaks out. They talk about rebuilding Tom’s and turning it into a brothel, and they start realizing that they need a lot more stuff in their lives and ask me if they can go to some of the local dumps and scavenge some furniture or other useful stuff that they could maybe repair.

At this point I stopped the narrative and we had a chat as a group about the idea of me introducing a few new character skills and some rogue skills onto their character sheets.

Scrounging and Streetwise were added as core skills. Scrounging is Intelligence-based and Streetwise is Wisdom-based. These skills are proficient. I added a list of 4 rogue skills from past editions for some more depth. I said that they could choose two of the four choices of Open Lock (Int), Pickpocket (Dex), Trapsmith (Int), or Use Magic Device (Wis). These would be normal skills, used without proficiency (for now). Trapsmith was going to combine Find/Remove Trap and Disable Device and add a Trapbuilding aspect. They all chose and I had them roll 4 Scrounging checks at the dumps, each. The first die rolls of the session πŸ™‚

They found several armfuls of boards, some ratty rugs, a few bits of furniture like footstools and chairs, as well as a few half-broken tools, a sea-chest with one broken hinge, and a catch-all term I called “scrap” or “hardware” that would include nails and bolts as well as other items that could be used to make traps or used as some other security measure. Not very well-defined, but it suited our needs. So they did pretty damn well on their rolls and they hauled all this stuff back to the house and got busy in the back room. Kheign had the great idea to put a rug over the trapdoor, and then the sea-chest on top of that and then nail the sea-chest/rug to the trapdoor and then put some minor valuables in the chest as a honeypot. This was going to try and disguise the fact that they were going to use the crawlspace to hide their stashed drugs and excess cash and other valuables (if they ever acquired any). They put 1 dose of dreamshit and a dagger in the chest and they buried the drugs and the tributes paid to the gang by the Choked Goat and both the hedge witches in the crawlspace dirt.

They head back to the Choked Goat and ask Freddie about any pimps looking for work. They explain the brothel idea and Freddie says he knows two and will send them to their HQ in two days. Dr. Lump and Tommy Tightlips (“I ain’t sayin’ nuttin'”) were hungry for work and Freddie says that their whores don’t generally have dreamshit habits, as that would make them nearly useless for their work.

On their way back they are confronted by a pack of raggamuffins. The leader, a kid named Tophin, is the King of the Orphans in this patch and he says that if the Black Phoenix will pay them tribute in food and other luxuries, they will have the raggamuffins as their eyes and ears and early-warning system. They agree and pay Tophin in food and some verytea. The kids scatter and now the Black Phoenix is feeling real safe. Getting cocky, I’d say.

Its starting towards dusk and the party decides to split up. Don’t worry. Its not a sin in my book. They totally didn’t almost die at all.

Kheign heads to the Goat to check on Brick and see if Tinpot was doing his job, or not. There had been a lot of discussion prior to hiring the archer about his reliability and devising some sort of test to see how good he was. This went on for maybe 5 minutes before I had to prompt them to make a decision. Their ideas were all pretty weird (getting someone to attack Brick to see if Tinpot would shoot??) and in the end it was Kheign’s decision and he simply made sure the dude was still awake. Kheign talks to Brick and finds out that he’s sold a bit of whiteleaf, but no verytea at all, because the prices were too high, and maybe a dozen ‘shit heads had come around looking to score, and some of them were quite angry at the lack of product.

Vice and Flinch head to Smelly Jane’s to pick up Daphne for her first shift at the HQ.

Walter and Archie stick around the HQ talking when Tophin, the Orphan King, shows up to tell them that Chopper the dog is in the area and he’s in a massive scrap with another feral mutt. The two sprint to the nearby location and sure enough there’s a crowd and people making bets. Walter grins at me and says a prayer to Umbruk, the Wrathlord, and waits for an opportune moment.

He shoulders the feral aside and runs his sword straight through Chopper’s chest as the talking dog was lunging. He holds the dog’s face looking straight at his and he watches the light die in Chopper’s eyes.

They cut his head off, spiked it, and placed it in the crossroads with a sign reading, “Snitch”.

It was a brutal, poignant moment, and I’ll miss ol’ Chopchop. I had a feeling he was going to play a large role in the narrative, but now he’s just a memorable death-story. Did he deserve to die? Debatable. He’s a servant of the Pig, same as anyone, and it was either the party, or him.

Walter, upon fulfilling his vendetta, feels a rush course through him. I decided he’d to be rewarded for honoring Umbruk, and so I said that he heard divine whispering in his mind, and then suddenly realized he could cast a single spell. I said he could pick any 1st level Cleric spell and that he could cast it once only. Its easy to keep things from spilling into magical madness in 5e – just give everything a set number of uses so it becomes a useful, if limited, reward. I said he could read up on them between sessions and get back to me with his choice.

Daphne returns to HQ with Vice and Flinch and gets to work. Since the process is going to take several hours, and Kheign is elsewhere, the boys decide to take a walk.

If you look at the map, you’ll see the gang’s HQ on Crooked Jack Lane. The area across the street and to the SW is all Murderboy territory. The street is literally the border (and could be considered a kind of Neutral Zone) and their HQ faces it directly. This was all too much temptation. Its nighttime, around 10, and they leave Vice behind to watch Daphne (and he said he wanted to watch her closely so he could try and duplicate the recipe) and decide to go snoop in the Murderboy patch.

Yeah. I was thinking what you are thinking, too. Let’s see where this goes, eh?

So they roll well, and are moving with stealth, keeping to the street level, and they get only a few blocks before they see a patrol of 3 Murderboys, talking and laughing as they head somewhere. Flinch climbs a house and nocks his bow. Walter and Archie separate, each on a different side of the street, and they all get ready.

They told me they were going to take a look and come back. Ha!

I quickly made these 3 Murderboys into basic rogues – 30 HP, 14 AC, with Cunning Action and Sneak Attack. Daggers and short swords. +2 to hit.

They got ambushed and 1 drops in the first flurry from Archie and Walter. Flinch misses from the rooftop. The 2 remaining ‘boys cut and run and start shouting for help.

The party didn’t expect that!

They gave chase and Flinch suddenly wakes up, and the two runners go down in 2 rounds, but they do some damage in return as they were forced to stand and fight at the last.

The neighborhood was awake now, and there were shouts and torches getting closer. The party rabbits. In 3 directions

They all took to the rooftops and the chase was on. I had them dodging and hiding the entire way back to their patch. They were sweating and cursing and rolling a lot better than their stupidity deserved. In short, they got out with no one actually eyeballing them, and no one saw them kill the rival gang members, but they don’t know that. They were shitting themselves that the entire gang was going to come for them (I told them earlier that the Murderboys were pretty big, around 40 members), but also laughing that there were now 37 Murderboys left.

Vice gets riled up and says he’s going to see Dirty Mary, the hedge witch. If they are going to get into a war, they are going to need more healing. After a series of checks, I said that he learned 75% of Daphne’s baking process, which he seemed pretty happy with. She baked 4 loaves for them (and they yield 10 slices each, and each slice heals for 5 HP each), so I was a bit confused, but I said nothing and let him go on his merry (Mary) way.

Now I need to interject here for a minute. Remember when I said earlier that the patch was going to be relatively safe now? Well I was still rolling encounters, all that safety meant is that 95% of the local population wouldn’t fuck with them, but random outside shit or the odd inside event? Totally fair game.

But I hadn’t rolled a single encounter all night. I use an old method where I roll a d6 and if I roll a 1, then I dice on the encounter chart that I’ve made for the area. For this campaign I wrote up 10 passive and 20 active encounters for the neighborhood. They were mostly geared towards when the gang was up and running. I had rolled a few last session, but they didn’t really fit the theme of them still being upstarts, and so I didn’t feel right running them. We are still in the “building phase” of the gang’s development, and even if I had rolled something, I probably wouldn’t have used it. Normally I would just make something up on the spot if I didn’t like the roll, because its still and encounter alert after all. But for this game, I dunno. Nothing feels right. I basically left them alone to do their business. Once the engine is up and running, then I can do what I do best and that’s to throw monkey wrenches at them. It feels weird having to wait, and I think that’s what’s throwing me off. Anyway.

Vice arrives at Dirty Mary’s and finds the front door open and no lights on. He calls out. No response. He goes in. Mary is lying on the floor, her throat cut, her eyes gouged out. Sound familiar? Vice is stunned and looks around for a moment. The interior isn’t trashed or anything, so whoever did it wasn’t looking for anything. He’s not moved at this point, he’s just standing in the doorway, the dim light from the street and the moon backlighting him as he’s looking at Mary’s body laying in the pale illumination. Suddenly there is motion and he turns and sees a figure dressed all in white, in a white mask, carrying a dripping blade. I tell him this is a member of the gang known as Saint Blade, and they are from the territory South of St. Jabber’s Mound (the gang’s neighborhood) and shouldn’t be here, and are known to be brutal assassins, though their numbers are small they are to be feared.

Why did I do this? Dunno. Seemed like a good idea to introduce a stronger enemy and a mystery. I tend to just try and read the table energy and try and raise it when it starts to flag.

He rabbits. There is a flash of light outside that blinds him and he hears two teleportation spells firing off, one after another. When he gets his sight back, the Blade is gone. He checks Mary’s body. Its still there. He’s baffled, but too much of a rogue to just run home. He searches her place and nets a bit of a haul – healing and poison-curing breads, 6 unknown potions and a Ring of Invisibility (3 charges, lasts 10 minutes) and then runs home.

In the meantime, back at Black Phoenix HQ, a group of totally-unrelated-to-the-prior-murders-of-their-fellow-gang-members Murderboys show up, drunk, and stand across the street and hurl insults at the gang. Totally harmless posturing. They may have thrown a few rocks.

This, of course, escalates. In the end the Black Phoenix were severely wounded and 4 Murderboys lay dead (“33 Murderboys left!”). Kheign rolls up around midnight, right at the end of the scrum. He got to roll 1 attack. Later, he said that he only rolled 1 die all night, and that was it. It was true, there wasn’t much for him to do, and while I’m fine with splits, dealing with a 3-way party split can sometimes go a bit wonky, and I was guilty of ignoring him a bit – I should have given him more to do while watching over Brickhouse. Vice also returned right at the end of the fight and the party, after arguing amongst themselves about what to do with the dead gangbangers in front of their place (“No! We aren’t taking them inside!”), retired into their HQ and everyone did an info dump about their activities.

The gang is very worried about Murderboy retaliation, and rightfully so. I didn’t think it was going to get this hairy, this fast. Still, the narrative marches on and if they get their asses kicked and lose all their gains, so be it. They talked about the drug rackets and the moonshine and the brothel plans and Vice told them about the murdered Mary and his loot. They buried the loot in the crawlspace, and rigged up a crossbow trap (the weapon taken from the earlier Murderboy patrol) that would fire when the trapdoor was lifted. I had a good time asking them how they were going to bypass the trap themselves. That caused more talk πŸ™‚ They ended up with some derpy stick thing. It doesn’t matter. They won’t remember in the heat of the moment and someone is sure to get shot. Then I can laugh.

After this long-ass day, its time for sleep.

Slowday (June 9)

They needed to buy more drugs with the cash they looted from the dead gangbangers, and so they all headed out together to Pig Manor, and they decided, wisely, to tell the Pig about the dead Mary and the dead prostitute (Slutty Jane).

The Pig loses his mind. He drags Vice into a back room and puts him in a chair and runs a huge iron rod through the ring fused to the back of his neck and inserts it into a socket in the floor. Shoulda seen dude’s face. He was sweating. I wholesale stole the earworm thing from The Wrath of Khan and lifted this toothed slug out of a bowl and placed it on Vice’s cheek. It wriggled into his ear and starting chewing its way into his brain. This had the effect of forcing Vice to tell the 100% truth, and the Pig was satisfied and Vice was healed and the slug died (plenty more where that came from).

The party is shaken up at this point. Hearing their brother scream his head off and then he walks in, calm as Larry.

The Pig confesses that this invasion of Saint Blade is unsanctioned, and that the weird deaths of the witch and the whore bear the trademarks of people killed by the Talon – the secret police of the Owl (who rules the city as a shadow). The Talon are the boogeymen and the Pig is pacing and talking rapidly, and the party can see dude is scared. There was some back and forth roleplaying but for the most part this was a small info dump to get them more afraid of the Talon.

He dismisses them, they pick up their dope, and they head back to HQ to wait for the two pimps who are supposed to be coming by today. Tophin shows up as they arrive and says that a Murderboy is hustling down on the corner where Crooked Jack Lane meets Dagger Way. Technically this was in the “neutral zone”, but it was a clear provocation. The party shows up en masse and the dealer gets straight up murdered and robbed. I said that the dealer didn’t have any backup, and they didn’t really question that, they just went for it.

Yeah. Smells like a trap to me, too. That’ll come to fruition next session.

We were nearing the end of the session and we stopped with the party meeting the pimps and working out this elaborate contest they’ve dubbed Pimpslap 3000 – whomever hustles the most money in 1 day gets to run the brothel (when its built), and the loser has to stay at the Goat and run the usual street trade. They were going to have the contest at the Goat. The pimps agreed and we wrapped.

This was a pretty intense session. I went in with no plot, as usual, and we spent 95% of the time roleplaying. Couple of minor fights. Was damn fun all around, and they left with lots of chatter about what they wanted to do next, and my notes ended up being three pages long!

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Posted by on July 19, 2017 in Campaign Log


The Asylum Tapes (04)

The Asylum Tapes (04)

# Dramatis Personae

The Party

The Black Phoenix Gang

  • Walter Black – Oathborn Soldier
  • Vice Black – Slothborn Soldier
  • Kheign Black – Fearborn Head of Security
  • Archie Black – Oathborn President of Gang
  • Flinch Black – Shadowborn Dealer
  • (Not Present) Violet Black – Warborn Poisoner

The NPCs

  • Nick The Pig (Mr. Nicholas) – Boss of St. Jabber’s Mound
  • Relgok – The Pig’s Chief of Security
  • Sweaty Freddie with the Rusty Machete – Barkeep at the Choked Goat
  • Tophin – Self-styled King of the Orphans in St. Jabber’s Mound
  • Chopper – A talking feral dog (now deceased)
  • Brickhouse – Dealer for the Black Phoenix Gang
  • Tinpot – Archer. Friend of Brickhouse. Guard for Brickhouse.
  • Dr. Lump – Pimp
  • Tommy Tightlips – Pimp
  • Brock – Blockrunner for Nick the Pig
  • Ella – Negotiator for the 15th Street Killers
  • Ghost – A pit bull

Session Background

A bit of an update on the date system. I finally found my calendar for Drexlor, so I’ve changed back to my weird 16 month annual system. Its not important, but just know that Grumbles is the first spring of the year, and the campaign started on the 6th Grumbles (a Fishday) and nine days have passed.

Long break since the last session – 4 weeks instead of 3, so I had a lot of time to ruminate on the current situation. The party was doing ok, mostly. They murdered a talking dog and displayed his head for all to see, and covertly (and blatantly in 2 more incidents) killed some rival Murderboys in the area. Their businesses, fledgling as they are, are at least working as intended, and Mr. Nicholas hasn’t summoned them to chew them out for at least a day.

I had a think about ol’ Chopper, our magical mutt. Who was he? Where was he from? I pulled out one of my many maps of Galron and had a look at the district of Crud itself, and the surrounds. Abutting this district is Dogshit, a smaller and even more poverty-stricken slums, only this one had a culture – they were dog lovers. In all senses of the word, ya dig? The people who lived there call themselves Running Fang, or the Wolfpack, sometimes, and they all owned dogs, an ancient breeding pool of the meanest and the touched-by-Jumble. They were feared, and rightly so, because all who wronged them were subject to the Wild Hunt – when massive packs of hundreds of dogs were set loose in the streets.

Their Jumble-touched were called The Moon, and they all spoke, being awakened to their canine identities. They formed the backbone of a covert network of Moon spies who lived among the Fang’s enemies and lived as dumb dogs. Some were found out, of course, and became tools of those who held power, much like our old friend Chop Chop.

So that’s my play. The blatant murder and grotesque display of one of the Moon would not, could not go unpunished, or unremarked. That’s how I would open. With the neighborhood dogs all howling in unison, mournful and would go on for many minutes. Then, the next morning, a whole slew of dogs would be sitting, quietly, outside the HQ door, in the street. They would just stare at the party, not interacting, and then a pitbull would give its only warning, by speaking – “Running Fang”, and then the whole lot would peel off leaving the street empty again.

I had one other piece I needed to extrapolate, and that was, what happens when Nick the Pig (as agent of Jimmy the Jake) makes a mistake. I like to have my villains make mistakes, mostly because its more interesting than the omnipotent ones we always seem to meet in D&D.

The Jake’s hubris wouldn’t allow him to turn away a tribute from a rival power, and I had been thinking about the moving engines all around the party’s tiny little world (as they see it), and the collective known as the 15th Street Killers, once a ruthless street gang (and still operates one), now a full fledged city power, wanted the Jake’s territory, according to a tiny engine I built to move the drama around.

So a diplomat would be sent with a gift, something known to be too valuable to say no to, to throw the Jake off the real play, which was to cut off one of the Jake’s many “cut outs” – false bosses that keep him insulated from real danger. The 15K knew about the Pig’s true purpose, a result of some arcane meddlings in the Dream Realms. They planned to use another gang – a bunch of technofreak rogue engineers who called themselves The Banghammer – to attack the diplomat and “try” to steal the gift, while also leaving a gift of their own, as an apology to the Pig for bringing violence to his territory. This new gift would be a bomb, a fucking big one.

So my question to myself was, “Would Nick fall for this?” and I didn’t know. I wouldn’t know until it played out in the game and I made the decision, as Nick. You feel me? I gotta do it that way or I feel like I’m cheating. If I decide beforehand what Nick would do or not do, then that’s a railroad – at least how I define it. Anyways. Enough set up. Let’s get to it!

Slowday – 15th Grumbles

Started with the last session’s recap

Oh, I should mention the party is Level 3, and everyone took the Thief archetype until we can homebrew some tweaks onto them to suit their character roles.

After a long and weary few days, the party is just glad to be home, the doors are locked, the shutters are closed and barred, and they leave Flinch awake to stand guard while the rest sleep. Flinch takes to the roof and tries to stay awake.

Oh. Violet is not with us again this session. She’s just a figment of their imaginations, yes?

All of a sudden all over the neighborhood, dogs begin to howl. Flinch says “Oh fuck” and listens for the many minutes it takes for this to end. He’s fully freaked and descends to the main floor and wakes everyone up. The rest are up and talking – and they immediately think of what Walter did to poor Chopper, I didn’t have to say anything, they immediately came to that conclusion, and were deciding what to do, when Archie opened the front door and saw the Assemblage of Doggos. About 100 of them, all breeds and sizes. A crowd had built up on both sides, unwilling to walk through them, and as Archie and the others walk out, some of the crowd starts to abuse them – “This is YOUR fault!” and “What have you done?!”

As they walk out among the dogs, the animals give way, moving fluidly away every time anyone tries to get near any of them. Archie tries to feed them, to no avail. Now everyone is starting to get tweaky, and as the tension builds as they talk about WHAT THE FUCK, I wait until they are about to bolt and then I peel the pack off, leaving only a single pit bull directly across from the open front door, just staring at them. Archie is about to speak and I cut him off with, “Running Fang” and then the dog runs off. Walter stands in the middle of the street and shouts, “What the HELL does THAT MEAN?!”

The crowd is furious now, some of them throwing stones and shouting “You are supposed to protect us!” and “You stupid, stupid assholes!” and none of the party have any idea what is happening but they are in full-flight mode now. They flee to Pig Manor, being shunned and harassed by the locals along the way. Once they arrive, they have a bit of banter with Relgok, the Pig’s Blockchief, and then are admitted to a sitting room on the ground floor.

The Choice

One of Nick’s bodyguards, Mr. T. (the other being Mr. K.) is waiting for them and asks in a weary voice, “What is the crisis this time?”. This does not go over well. There is some shouting and such, and he fucks off and Mr. Nicholas comes in a few minutes later and they tell him the tale. He’s not too fuckin happy, and berates them for bringing him “bags of shit to hold” (thanks, Al). He explains who Running Fang are and what this all means, explaining the Wild Hunt and telling the party they have two choices, and they aren’t negotiable. He looks Archie right in the eye when he says this. The party laughed. I laughed too. Cause I was serious. Mr. Nicholas said, “You can either get the fuck out of my patch or you can do a job for me after I hide you.”

He gave them time to talk amongst themselves, and we took a break, being an hour in already.

They decided to do the job. Mr. Nicholas looked a bit pained, sighed and said, “Be ready in an hour. I will send a man.” They said, “Ok” and they split.

Back through the streets, the locals are giving them the cold shoulder, with only one or two of the bravest shouting insults. They ignored it and got home and disarmed the trapdoor trap – with Flinch nearly getting shot. They dig up their narcotics and gather what meager possessions they have, and wait for The Man. They talk awhile, about the situation and their businesses, not knowing how long this whole ordeal was going to take. Vice says he’s gonna go to the Choked Goat and talk to the gang’s dealer, Brickhouse, and he’s gonna participate in The Feast of Desires, a festival of Shakendul, his deity of Lust, Indulgence and Gluttony while he’s gone. The party tries to talk him out of it, but says it will be fine, and wanders out into the streets.

I normally don’t mind party splits. They tend to happen organically and make sense within the context of the situation. I’m comfortable running splits for up to an hour. After that I get tired and if I haven’t been able to steer the party member back to the group by then in subtle ways, I’ll just flat out ask them if they are going back. I didn’t have to in this instance, but it was a near thing lol.

Slow and Sloppy

Vice takes a leisurely stroll to the Goat, ignoring the snide looks from the locals, and when he arrives he sees Brickhouse getting hassled by some dreamshit addicts (‘shitheads), and they are getting violent. Vice jumps in and they turn on him and its short bloody work, but Vice leaves them steaming in the street, taking some coin from them to boot. Brickhouse complains that he’s been getting a lot like that today and its getting worse, and wants to know when he’s gonna be resupplied. Vice explains that its all part of the new business strategy, and not to worry, and on that note, “Where’s Tinpot, your backup?”. Tinpot is Brick’s on-again-off-again ‘shithead buddy who’s great with a bow, when he’s sober. They turn to look at where he’s usually positioned on the rooftops, and he’s not there. Brick makes some vague noises to his whereabouts, being genuinely unaware, and Vice goes to have a looksee.

I jump back to the rest of the gang, and they don’t have much more to say to one another, so I have The Man show up. His name is Brock and says to follow. He asks where Vice is and when they tell him, he loses his shit. Orders two of his men to go find him and bring him back, and threatens the party with torture if his boys can’t find their brother. Was a tense walk.

They walk South on Crooked Jack Lane and cross over the main road into unmapped (hostile) territory, to a basement safehouse, through a few doors and a few guards. They are locked in a windowless apartment with enough food, water, and fuel for 3 days. They groan. Not even a pack of cards between them.

I jump back to Vice. He’s up on the rooftop now and the only sign of Tinpot is his broken-in-half bow and a few scattered arrows. Where is he? (The DM does not know at this time)

He goes back and says to Brick to hang tight for a few days, there won’t be any resupply, and Brick is distraught, needing work, but is reassured that he’ll soon have all the work he can handle. The big man seems appeased and Vice leaves, searching for his people, the Slothborn. He stills his mind and lets some internal guide lead him on a meandering path until he hears the sound of revelry.

A large group of Slothborn is celebrating the Feast with a street orgy-slash-drug-extravaganza. Vice has not taken any substances and refuses to be fed any by the succession of men and women who come to welcome him. Instead, he tries to sell them dreamshit! I had explained before the campaign had begun that Slothborn don’t really “do” commerce, but all I can say is, he must have forgotten? He tries several times and my NPCs were “totally not into that kind of relationship” with Vice, and he said fuck it and as he was leaving, he was mugged, but the mugger was not a good one, and Vice leaves him bleeding out in the street. After the man died, there was an act of carnal lust which I will not detail here, by Vice and another Slothborn, but that’s the kind of game we agreed upon and nothing was taboo. Anyway. We faded to black after Vice said what was up (ba-dum-tish), and afterwards he went back towards the HQ.

He’s eventually met by Brock’s men and escorted to the safehouse, where he’s locked in with the others. They joke about boredom and cannibalism. They talk a bit. I tell them they sleep twice, and Archie freaks out because Titheday is almost here and he’s got to advance his vendetta against the Pig. 2 days have passed.

The guards open the doors and they ask what happened. They say the Wild Hunt tore through the district, some say it was 300 dogs or more. Almost 100 people were torn apart. Tophin and some orphans were among the seriously wounded. The party swears violently for a minute or so. The guards tell them to wait for Brock, who shows up shortly after to tell them the Job.

Nothing Up My Sleeve

Brock says the gang is to go to the Malbog Temple and find a woman wearing a purple dress, and then escort her, and a case she is carrying, to Pig Manor, unharmed.

They said they needed to stop at their HQ first, and off they went. When they got there, they saw the place had been trashed and vandalized, with the same graffito painted over and over inside and out – “MBKAB”. They didn’t know what to make of it, but they said it was probably time for a new home.

This is my escalation with the Murderboys. They found no one home, and left a tag – “MurderBoys Kill All Bastards”. Be fun to see where this goes.

After a few questions, which Brock did not answer, they were off. They decided to catch a jitney the long way ’round as to avoid scrutiny and they met a grumpy driver with Remade mounts pulling an enclosed carriage. (The “Remade” are a worldbuilding idea from the Bas-Lag novels of China Mieville and are vivisectioned creatures (and people sometimes)). The mounts were horses with ostrich legs and they negotiated passage while bantering with the driver, whom they seemed to like. I gave him a cool voice and for once I feel like I nailed the roleplay.

They set off and once near the Temple, they asked the driver to wait, and he said he would for 1 hour, no more. They made their way inside and found the woman, no problem. She was wearing ostentatious jewelry and a finely crafted purple dress. Her hair was long and braided and her two front teeth were gold. She was carrying a large case (I said it was the size of a bass guitar case, as I like to use real-world analogues instead of giving precise dimensions). She asked if they were from Mr. Nicholas, they assented, and she said her name was Ella, and off they went.

Two events occurred as they were leaving, and the party was aware of both. First, Kheign noticed that the pit bull was in the temple, peeking at them from behind a pillar, watching. Second, Flinch noticed a temple priest start to follow them.

They got really freaked out and started to run. The dog and the priest both followed, at a distance. Once back at the carriage, they skedaddled and I said the dog and the cleric were no longer in sight. Yes, these will both come back into play later. Archie rode on top of the carriage, against the protests of the driver, whom he ignored.

The driver took them as close as he dared toward Pig Manor, his carriage not suited for secondary streets (too narrow and too many things underfoot of his mounts), and as they were stopping they were suddenly blocked by three people in the street, and then they were attacked from the rooftops as small incendiaries streaked towards the carriage and there was a big explosion. (I’m pretty sure I yelled, “RPG!”)

The carriage was knocked over, and Archie was tumbled to the street. The driver was killed. Archie saw three in the street and two more on flanking rooftops.

This was the Banghammer. Part of the plot I described in the intro. These guys were rogue scientists and craved technology, which is mostly illegal in the city. The three in the street each had different armaments.

  • One had a vibro-sword, made of stone, the party thinks, and was wearing a chest plate with a small glass half-dome in the center of it.
  • One had a vibro-hammer, same material, and wearing strange metallic boots.
  • One had a metallic mesh net and a weird helmet.
  • The two on the rooftops had metallic bows with tubes welded to them.

The battle was on. Vice took one building and began to scale it, while the rest deal with the street attackers. Flinch grabbed Ella and took off towards the Manor. The chase was on as the Hammer fighter gave chase, turning on his magic boots (“Mama always told me I had magic shoes”) which gave him increased speed.

The fight took awhile, so I’ll paraphrase what happened.

  • Vice dumps the sniper off the rooftop and spends 8 rounds failing his Use Magic Device skill (something I gave them last session? or two sessions ago), and unable to activate the item. He does take it, however.
  • Archie spends the entire time missing trying to stab the sniper who fell, but eventually kills him.
  • Kheign and Walter clean house, killing Sword and Net, but taking some damage in the process.
  • Hammer and Flinch are in a running battle, each trading heavy blows to one another, and I thought maybe Flinch was going down, it was that close. The case had been taken and re-taken twice during this fight. The last time it was taken, Hammer pulls a box/chest from his back and lays it in the street saying its “A gift for the Pig, for violating the Treaty”, and is left there during the rest of the fight.
  • The corpses of Sword and Net explode 2 rounds after they die. My way of showing their commitment to the cause. The net and helmet are destroyed, but the sword and chestplate were looted before the body exploded.
  • The second sniper disappears and is not found by the party.
  • Flinch finally overcomes and takes down Hammer. The boots and hammer are both looted.

The party, illegal loot in hand, books it with Ella and her case to Pig Manor, and everyone is bloody and exhausted. Flinch took the Banghammer “tribute” and gave it to Relgok outside the Manor. He tells them to wait and yells at one of his men to “fetch the twins”.

The party is told to go inside, and as they do, they pass The Twins, two huge dudes with their heads on backwards and headpieces with two angled mirrors on struts sticking out from it, allowing them to see as they walk, to their perception, backwards. They have specialized tools in their hands, and the party is duly freaked. Walter wanted to stay and watch what they were doing as they neared the Tribute, but were told to hurry inside.

The Diplomat

Mr. Nicholas meets the party in his office and Ella, upon seeing him, bows to the man and says “The 15th Street Killers wish you good fortune and long life, Sire”.

Sire. Should have seen the looks on the party’s faces.

She says “As promised, we bring our gift to you” and she puts the case on the Pig’s desk. As he opened it, all smiles and sweet words, the party leaned forward in their chairs and someone said and laughed that they expected to just see glints of gold light bouncing off the Pig’s face, a la “Pulp Fiction”.

But no. This was no plot device. This was real. The Pig pulled an object out of the case and closed it. It was a large hilt of a sword, carved in bas-relief of leaves and vines with strange fey creatures leering from between the foliage. I said there was an outline, a hint, a mere inkling of a blade, where the blade should be.

Mr. Nicholas grinned. “A Ghostblade! I can’t believe it!”

The party all peppered me with questions, but I told them jack squat. The party told the Pig about the Tribute, which he said he already knew about. He told them to get lost and poured he and Ella a drink.

The party left and asked Relgok what happened to the Tribute, since the Twins and the box were nowhere to be seen. He said they took it inside and to fuck off.

Yes. In his hubris, I decided the Pig would take the Tribute into his inner sanctum. Delicious.

The Judgement

Its late and the party is heading back to the HQ, when someone notices the pit bull. Its up on a roof this time, watching them. Walter flips his shit. “What do you want!?!” and the pit bull says, “Justice”.

The party is silent for a minute and then Walter blows all our minds.

He steps forward, his hands empty, arms in the air, and says, “Ok. I’ll go with you. I’m ready.”

The party explodes, and everyone is like “nononono, what are you doing?” Walter explains that he has to pay for what he did. It was quite a touching scene. He and the pit bull go back and forth for a bit and the dog says that Walter must be judged by the Pack and his sacrifice will pay the blood debt for the murder of Chopper.

Well. This doesn’t go down well with anyone but Walter, and I’m thinking, fuck me, how am I gonna get out of this? They party can’t die, as part of the campaign conceit, and I was at a loss as to how I could have the Man in the White Coat redirect this bit of narrative, and part of me didn’t want to, because it was so heavy and good.

The party gave me an out and I had a brainstorm. They were talking about fighting, about trying to kill all the dogs (which was laughable), and I said, as the pit bull, “There is another way that justice can be served.”

They jumped at that.

“You must run the Gauntlet and survive.” I explained that to do this, they would be dropped somewhere in Galron itself and have to get home. If they did that, the stain would be expunged and the Running Fang would become an ally of the Black Phoenix. They thought that was pretty cool, and someone actually said they didn’t think it could be that hard!

They agreed to the Gauntlet. I tried really hard not to rub my hands and cackle like an old-school villain but my eyes were definitely gleaming.

I also needed to decide where exactly they were going to have to get back from. Another thing I heard them mention is not coming back at all. Which isn’t a terrible idea, since they didn’t have anything to really go home to, seeing as they had no home, no allies, and lots of enemies.

As we were wrapping up, I said that there was a massive explosion that rocked them on their feet. It was coming from the direction of Pig Manor.

We wrapped there and I grinned and shut my goddamn mouth as they started chattering amongst themselves.


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Posted by on July 19, 2017 in Campaign Log


The Asylum Tapes (05 – Setup)

The Asylum Tapes (05 – Setup)

Game is tomorrow. Recap should be up a few days after that. I thought I’d write up my notes now, since we are planning to start at noon and go til whenever. So the recap is probably gonna be long!

I wanted to write up some info on the districts surrounding where the party will be starting to run the Gauntlet, and I had to collate a lot of notes from years of scribblings from this place, and this allowed me to winnow the chaff and, like quantum superpostioning, allow the ideas to finally solidify in the “real world”.

So here we go. This is gonna be a raw dump of what I hand-wrote. I play with hardcopy at the table, since I don’t have a digital option. Or I’d be dry-humping OneNote every week. Anyway.

Strap in. This is a lot to take in.

Session 5

18th of GrumblesI’ve taken a photo of the calendar page. I have a very strange seasonal system set up that I’ll show you if there’s a lot of interest in the comments, but you can see that we are in the first spring of the year, at what’s considered the start of the year, since the 1st of Grumbles is the new year for the Regan Empire’s calendar, which this is based on.

Rainy! Rainy! Rainy! Cold!This is just to keep reminding myself of the weather πŸ™‚

Reminder of the explosion at Pig Manor

Party has agreed to run the Gauntlet. They are escorted by Moon into the neighboring district of Dogshit. The whole district has turned out, with people and dogs lining the streets and rooftops. The party is escorted to an old Goblinball arena (wrecked and overgrown like the Coliseum in miniature). The locals follow and fill the stands. Party is brought to the center and Moon speaks.

“The murderer of Chopper has agreed to run the Gauntlet, and his pack has chosen to run with him!”

Crowd boos and cheers.

Moon nods to a large ugly man who brings 6 pairs of leather gauntlets, with the Running Fang symbol burned into the cuffs. Moon speaks.

“You must wear these for the run. Do not take them off, or your lives are forfeit.”

Any one in the city who sees these will know that they cannot aid the party or incur the wrath of The Running Fang

The party is allowed to keep their gear.

Party is drugged unconscious and are taken to the district of West Metal, where they awaken on the 19th of Grumbles, a Titheday, in the labyrinthine streets of the industrial heart of the city.

Right, so you might not remember this, but back in the first post, I said that I gave the party a handful of brainstorm sketches I did of the layout of the city, where all the districts were, etc… This was to represent their fragmented and unreliable memories, and was pretty cool, I think. So they are gonna be real confused about where they actually are, if they even understand where they are, but if you are following along, then you’re gonna have to sit behind the shield with me πŸ™‚ So here’s two maps that are true. The first is the district overview from a purely geographical point-of-view. The second is the city with the Jumble taken into account. Stuff is slightly moved around and new areas are listed (like The Glom and The Breaks, Wedic’s Court and Upper Swagger for instance). Galron is three times the size of London, roughly 4000 square km, and it boggles my mind when I think about it. The party is going to be dropped in the western “tip” where the district narrows down between Trenchtown and Bogwall. They are weeks away from home.

West Metal

Rainy! Rainy! Rainy! Cold!

Labyrinth in 3d. Booka messengers. Noisy! Many hazards. Ikthorn (Construction, Engineers, Scientists) has a large Shrine here, and there are hundreds of cults of the small gods – wheel, gear, fire, chemicals, iron, coal, steel, copper, gases, etc..)

Street Names

  • Coppertop Way
  • Mithral Way
  • Bronze Alley
  • Steeldrum St
  • Pigiron Alley
  • Forged Avenue
  • Ikthorn Way
  • Dust St
  • Boilermaker Way
  • Slag St
  • Toolmaker Avenue

Locations – Use Notebook – I have place names for various factories, tool and die shops, inventors, taverns, etc…, which I’m not going to recreate here, but they’ll be referenced in the recap

!! There is Jumble here !!


No one will help them because of the Running Fang Gauntlets

  1. Street Gang, The Wrecking Ball, attacks
  2. An explosion rains debris (save Dex)
  3. Street Gang, The Wrench, demands tribute
  4. Runaway mech threatens the street
  5. Chemical explosion (save Con)
  6. The street reconfigures itself

Navigation – Party is not going to be able to navigate effectively in this District, so just let them wander until they get bored and then let them find a neighboring district. At that point, they pick a direction and roll Wisdom, if they fail, they proceed in an incorrect direction. Set the DC to 12. Stack it by 1 for every failure.


Rainy! Rainy! Rainy! Cold!

This is the district of the temple of Caina (Slavery, Power, Envy). Its a prison, basically. The temple’s slaves have been dominated via psionics, and each wears a brand on their forehead (their “Designation”) – an 11-digit number that conveys sex, age, value, and rank within the slave population. The slaves are called “The Unspoken”, as they are mostly forbidden to speak. There are 8 massive towers that dominate the largely open district. Huge barracks set into trenches comprise the rest of the structures here. 10,000+ slaves are rented to the city’s elite, or work on city projects, as need dictates. This isn’t a shopping district, and the party will be turned away by members of the clergy, The Chain. They wear white robes with a blue circle of chain around an open eye as a symbol. They all display some kind of chain on their persons, and all carry shackles and manacles, almost as jewelry. If the party tries to fight, well. That’s a really bad idea.


Rainy! Rainy! Rainy! Cold!

This district is 70% Jumble. It took the brunt of the war’s fallout and in the center of the district is the Temple of Bahklah (Pain, Suffering, Depair) with a handful of taverns, brothels, and tattooists scattered in between the 20 or 30 apartment blocks not corrupted by the Jumble.

The temple clergy are called The Holy Shriek (or “Shriekers”) and wear red robes with a white blade logo. They carry torture implements as weapons, but also barbed (and poisoned) daggers and crossbows. The lay-faithful are Painborn, and they usually have blade tattoos, or have stained an edge weapon red.


  • The Screaming Child
  • The Flayed Whore


  • The House of Pain
  • Lady Blackwhip’s

There are NO labeled streets here!


  1. Jumble Encounter (most likely HHHelll Junkies or Dweller Men)
  2. Street Gang – The Hellrazors, attack
  3. The Holy Shriek demands tribute of pain
  4. Mobbed by hungry, desperate people who try to hurt the party, cutting them for their pain.


Rainy! Rainy! Rainy! Cold!

Fishtown used to be a pretty normal place, home to the massive population that relied on the sea for their livelihoods and sustenance. Now, its home to the Temple of Nathrak (Murder, War, Poison) and the Deathbringers, the most feared of all the city’s clergy. They wear silver robes with repeated skull motifs, and a red fist as a logo. Each is missing an eye, a divine devotion, and they are armed with curved ceramic swords called “Soulreapers” that will soul-drain on a critical hit.

The Murderborn lay-faithful are, simply put, terrorists. They thrive on murder and chaos and believe it is their divine duty to foster these things as a natural function of the universe.

There is a cult here, The Collectors, This is a loose group of mad artistic types (usually), with no central leadership, that dedicates itself to the art of serial killing and necrotic body art. They erect vast and grotesque outdoor “sculpture gardens” with their victims, sometimes, or pose them in tableau on rooftops, or streetcorners.

Locations – See notebook – I have place names for various factories, tool and die shops, inventors, taverns, etc…, which I’m not going to recreate here, but they’ll be referenced in the recap

Some Jumble, but rare (10%)

Undead walk freely here, often being raised by the Temple after a sizable donation, but others are slaves, and if you can get up high, you can see over the walls and down into the limb farms where Corpse Collectors are sometimes created, and the Air Cage, where Invisible Stalkers are enslaved to serve the faith.

Street Names

  • Teeterback Flats
  • Teeterboon St
  • Cod St
  • Sharkfin Way
  • Yellowfin Avenjue
  • Rope St
  • Sailmakers Way
  • Crabbers Alley


  1. Accosted by gang of diseased beggars (highly contagious)
  2. Street Gang – The Frenzy, attacks
  3. Open manhole cover with a bloody stain around it*
  4. Street Gang – The Bloody Bastards, demand tribute
  5. Terrorist attack – explosions and chemicals
  6. Street Gang – The Reaping, attacks


  • Mirror Birds**
  • Running Fang is always watching, they have awakened dogs throughout the city
  • GoGangs!***

Asterisk Explanations

  • Open Manhole Cover – The city has a massive underground presence. In fact, the Under (as its called) is 4 times larger than the city surface, and has many, many levels. It is, truly, a whole other city in the Under, and something has come out of it. Something really fuckin bad. I don’t know what yet. I’ll decide in the moment.
  • Mirror Birds – These are a worldbuilding conceit taken from Light Years, a favorite fantasy film of mine, and they are spies for The Owl, and are constantly transmitting images back to Owltown. (You can see the birds if you watch the film for 5 minutes).
  • GoGangs! – These are a worldbuilding conceit from the American Flagg comic series by Howard Chaykin. They are, in essence, huge wildings of multiple gangs that come together for murder and mayhem over a day or two, sweeping through entire districts.
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Posted by on July 19, 2017 in Campaign Log