Monday, 29 May 2017

Butterfly People

All right-thinking people of Pretannic Empire know to avoid those harbingers and bringers of Death, the Moths and Butterflies. Within the Savage Lands we have yet to bring to heel, there are tribes who worship them, but these are people who bear their skin to the Sun, allow children to speak freely, drink with their left hands, and do not know the value of a diamond, so we should not be surprised they are so easily misled by pretty colours and do not understand the Full Danger posed by Lepidoptera.

Even among our Hallowed Empire, however, and not just among those Natives we have recently brought into our Power, nor even just among the Poor and Wastrel classes, there are Deviants who break the Taboo and will not fight against this Threat. Worse, we of the True Moral Foundation are restrained from bringing such Deviants to Justice, for there are  those right into the Highest Echelons of our Society who find uses for the Strange Powers that the Deviants acquire.

To explain: there are many who are fascinated by Lepidoptera and wish to study them for their beauty and their relationship with Death. We know they are always found when a person dies, so if we can find a way to keep them out, can we prevent Death? Research into this has so far proved fruitless and some speculate that the act of a person dying is how these Creatures are brought into our World. Such superstition is of course nonsense and unfitting for a student of Science in the modern World. For some, the fascination extends beyond curiosity and the furtherment of science. I have interviewed such an individual, and they tell me they feel physically drawn to the butterflies and their acts of deviancy. I attempted to Correct this young man, chaining him in a locked room away from strong Light such as excites moths, but he slipped his bounds and escaped, I know not to where. It did not surprise me: there are stories of such people being able to evade blows with the lightness of movement that one sees in their Idols, even of them being able to run through Forest branches, leaping from leaf to leaf as though they weighed nothing.

These are not the Qualities that keep them protected, however. 

There are believed to be two types of Butterfly Deviant: the 'Butterfly Dancers' who learn the abilities described above by dancing with butterflies. Indeed, I have seen such Rituals take place, for while it is Impossible to infiltrate their Societies - and they do form groups and seek out new Wanderers, but seem able to sense when one is not truly of their type - it is possible to spy upon them, and I have done this very thing. A large bonfire is lit of an evening, with Herbs thrown upon it to summon the butterflies. A frenzied, leaping dance ensues, and it is here, one presumes, that the techniques are learnt. The ability that the Butterfly Dancers are believed to posess that protects them is that they can learn a dance that will summon butterflies. Why does this keep them protected, you ask? Well, if you have an Elderly Relative whose passing you wish to Hasten that they may expire before their fortune does, simply call a Butterfly Dancer to summon the butterflies who will steal his Soul from his Body. I have even heard of those who, bored of caring for an unwell Child, would summon the butterflies to ease them of their burden, an Atrocious Act that should be stopped but which the Eternal Empress allows simply because it is not politically suitable to force the end of such Practice. She is, no doubt, Prudent and Wise, but in this I do not Understand her Purpose.

Secondly, there are the 'Butterfly Singers', who are believed to be able to communicate with the Lepidoptera, who come at Death, and are able to postpone a Passing. Tolerance of these may therefore sound more understandable, but remember they are still Deviant and Unclean in their Practice, and such communication would also allow them to pick a different Target for Death. Have you ever had a friend or family member die suddenly and unexpectedly? Could it not be that a Butterfly Singer has sung them to Death? These Assassins are more Dangerous than the Dancers, for they do not even need to be in the same room as their victim.

As always, I ask all members of the True Moral Foundation to watch for Immoral Behaviours and Types and to alert us to any New Dangers you may find.
~ Constantin Ebenezer MakePeace, High Master of the True Moral Foundation

'Butterfly People' is the name outside society gives to the small percentage who, instead of fearing the small insects intrinsically associated with death by the society that creates Butterfly People, are drawn to them. The fear is learnt by most small children, but there are a few who never learn it. Parents often spot these children allowing a moth or butterfly to alight upon their fingers - and notice the willingness of the normally wary insects to do so. Not everyone is as censorous as those of the 'True Moral Foundation' (and other such organisations who feel it is their place to police how others act), but fear of moths and butterflies is deeply engrained and all but the most liberal-minded struggle to deal with learning a friend or family member is a Butterfly Person.

What causes the affinity with butterflies isn't clear. No aspect of society has an greater or lesser chance of producing a Butterfly Person, and there doesn't seem to be any action that can be taken or avoided to increase or decrease the chances. It seems to be innate, and there are some families where it seems to run in the bloodline, but more often there is no known relative or remembered ancestor who could have passed along a gene, and Butterfly People parents rarely produce offspring with the affinity. Without affinity, it isn't possible to learn any of the supernatural abilities (though greater dexterity and empathy is likely to follow from the training regardless).

The Butterfly People don't necessarily use the name themselves. Many do, simply for ease, but others - especially those who found themselves particularly shunned - may call themselves simply "Moths". "Death Walker", "Death's Daughter" and similar are also common. The distinction between "Dancer" and "Singer" is false, or at least as confused as the distinction between moths and butterflies. It is more a question of focus and experience, as anyone born with the affinity can learn any of the abilities.

Supernatural Abilities: I'm providing a few suggestions on abilities that fit my concept, and suggestions on what they might do in a game, but I haven't picked a particular system for this so am not giving explicit examples of how it would be implemented (maybe in the future, when I have more confidence in game design).

Wing's Breadth Dodge
Rocks fell down towards us. She was ahead of me and sure to be struck - but with a strange, fluid twist she evaded them.
Pre-req: None
Game affect: Increases character's dodge/reflex.

Dodge Between Raindrops
The downpour was sudden and torrential, yet when we reached the house I saw he wasn't even damp.
Pre-req: Wing's Breadth Dodge
Game affect: Character can evade small environmental missiles such as rain, cigarette smoke and mosquitoes with no effort. This is a minor, always-active affect that could give a boost to endurance in relevant environments or reduce risk of disease carried by insects or water droplets. 

Flying Leap
As her dance became more frenzied, so her leaps became higher and higher, until she was reaching heights no human should be able.
Pre-req: none
Game affect: Doubles jump distance (horizontal or vertical)

Light as a Breath
I saw him run and hurried to give chase, but as I reached the snow-covered field I saw he'd left no footprints.
Pre-req: Flying Leap
Game affect: When active, character leaves no footprints and can run or leap across surfaces that should not be able to take their weight - such as water or leaves still on the tree (these will only take the weight for a moment, though: attempting to stand or walk on such a surface will not work).

Butterfly's Wing Dodge
I sliced at her flank, a clear, decisive blow. Yet when I should have felt the resistance of her flesh against my blade there was nothing but air, and I heard her behind me, laughing
Pre-req: Wing's Breadth Dodge, Flying Leap
Game affect: A perfect dodge - character is not hit by the incoming blow, but instead flits impossibly fast to a clear location with a few paces.

Butterfly's Dirge
I called him in when I saw my daughter would not get better. He took my hand so gently, rested his other on her forehead and sang a sad and gentle song. A blue butterfly landed gentle on her chest: she relaxed, smiled, and died.
Pre-req: None
Game affect: Character can (through song, dance, or other means) summon butterflies who will ease the passing of a severely ill or injured character (An enhanced version could do the same for a number of characters.)

Spirit Moth
She settled herself on his grave, then her eyes rolled back in her head and when she spoke it was in his voice, and white butterflies crawled from her mouth.
Pre-req: None
Game affect: Character can act as a medium to speak with dead. (An enhanced version would allow this to happen against the dead person's will.) 

Death's Intervention
It was a difficult birth, and I was sure both my wife and child would die, especially when I saw the swarm of moths cover them. Yet somehow, both survived.
Pre-req: Butterfly's Dirge, Spirit Moth
Game affect: Character can summon butterflies and attempt to intercede with Death for the life of an individual (or individuals). This can bring someone back from the brink of death (or even after...), but should be difficult and involve some form of bargain. The character may have to trade part of their own life, or offer (or have offered) people collected by Butterfly's Dirge - or maybe there's an individual who's been evading Death for too long and Death wants them to learn they cannot win forever...

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Deadlands - Seeking Explorers

Continuing our Deadlands campaign, Solomon, Tesla, Steve and Carson reach Shan Fan on the 30th September 1879.

Shan Fan was busy: I'd forgotten how busy a big city can be, and Shan Fan must be one of the busiest. Taking a deep breath as we worked through the crowds, I discovered Carson could also speak a little Chinese, so the other two would be relying on us. We'd need to find somewhere to stay while we sought out Pennington-Smythe and the Explorer's Society, but Captain Kim had been impressed enough with us to pay us some extra on top of our board for the journey up, so we could afford a bed at least.

But first, food! We headed for a noodle bar, where some men in red sashes (some kind of Tong symbol? Carson wasn't sure of the exact significance either, and the other 2 hadn't a clue) suggested we talk to 'Willie Long Tam'. Should be able to find him in the 'Red Lantern' in the Skids part of town.

We didn't see much of Shan Fan as we went. Passed the heavily guarded Heavenly Park, through Stinktown, which gets its name from the abbattoir and the stench of dead animal. Then into the Skids, about the poorest, most decrepit place I've ever been. The Red Lantern looks like its about to collapse, despite being the least rundown building. Steve stood outside with his darn horse. 

Willie turned out to be the barman, and (as barmen often do) had gossip to share. The Explorer's Society had fallen foul of the Hseih Chia Jen - Shan Fan's law Triads: "Family of Deliverance" - and have been pretty much destroyed. He didn't know exactly where the Lodge had been, just somewhere north of town, and suggested we speak to Wong Chau Sang, better known as 'Long Haired Tony' and nominally the Marshall of Shan Fan. We should find him in the Sheriff's Office in Tael Town.

We headed over there, and again Steve chose to stay outside. He seemed mighty jumpy about that horse - we'd not seen another, so it wasn't like there was any evidence of a market for horse thieves.

Long Haired Tony spoke perfect English, which was a relief as Carson and I were both fiinding our pidgin Chinese stretched to its limits. He said most of the Explorers had hightailed it before the fire that took out the lodge, but he thought some might be living in Sunrise House and was able to give us vague directions there and to the ashes of the Lodge. It took some persuading to get any more out of him, but he eventually muttered they'd likely "suffered a loose match from an angry Triad" - likely had something the Triad wanted they weren't prepared to give.

As we headed to Sunrise House, Steve pointed out 4 men who'd been following us since the docks, hungry-looking: this was Steve's fear for his horse. About halfway to the House, Carson noticed that 2 of them weren't tailing us any more. We tried to look around for them without drawing attention to the fact we'd noticed them gone, but what we found was that they were ahead of us, and the streets were clearing ready for some violence. My stomach clenched. The guys took two down quickly enough, though the third managed to get a good hit in on Steve, leaving him momentarily winded. After landing the blow, he leapt to the top of a nearby building to escape. A single bound! The last fell to his knees and Carson murdered him. The crowd surged back in as though nothing had happened. No one seemed to care that people had died. I looked at Carson in horror. He shrugged and said he had to do it to make a point: they were after the horse and now people will know we're not to be messed with. It doesn't so sit easy with me, to glibly break the Lord's Commandments. But they were after the horse, and it was still garnering attention so we hustled on.

Sunrise House towered over its surrounding buildings. Tesla opted to stay with Steve and his horse this time, so Carson and I entered together. There were a few white American men, armed and standing guard around the place. They didn't pay us any mind as we headed to the receptionist. She claimed not to know Pennington-Smythe's name, but the guards looked up and said they could take us to some guy called Dillenger. They lead us upstairs to where more armed white men stood guard outside a suite of rooms.

Rutherford Ellington Dillenger: elderly, very dapper, very British. He knows O'Malley, and when he heard why we were there explained this Chapter of the Explorer's Society has closed: it was only him and Captain Pennington-Smythe left, and the Captain'd been taken. The Triad were after the "Amulet of Rahashimir", a dark and evil thing from the Arabian deserts, claimed to be able to bring people back from the dead - but only those with the blackest heart would use it. The Triad wanted to use it to raise something from the depths of Hell... It can't be destroyed (or at least, they can't find a way), so Pennington-Smythe was going to hide it, and he hadn't come back.

Carson handed over the German wizard's book we'd found in Fellheimmer's Folly, hoping it could be translated.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

If I were a Blood Bowl character...

Yesterday was the annual Bubba Bowl Blood Bowl tournament in Bristol. I didn't make it, but wanted to play with this year's concept: bring yourself as a player!

The idea was to take a normal character from the team you were bringing, then spend to raise the players value up to 150k, based on you.

Husbit took Undead and designed himself as a caffeine-addicted zombie. To replicate the caffiene-high, the zombie has 2 movement increases and Jump Up, and 'Needs Coffee' (a flavour-reskin of 'Really Stupid'), as well as both Dirty Player and Sneaky Git. He had great time and ended 9th out of 32, which he was pleased with.

I've been trying to think about what I'd do. A quick check shows a regular skill adds 20k, a double skill 30k and a stat increase 40k. My first thought was a Wood Elf Wardancer, with my aerial acrobatics, but they start at 120k and I wasn't sure what 1 skill I'd want to add.
Dark Elves also looked fun, but I couldn't decide between a Witch Elf and an Assassin so moved onto Elves (what will be 'Elf Union' with the new GW release and currently often colloquially known as 'Pro Elves'). I really can't run (if my knees don't go, my hips will: yay for hypermobility!) so ruled out the catchers, and while I'm not bad at catching and throwing (I used to be a demon fielder when we played rounders and cricket at school, though I couldn't hit the ball), I figured I'd go with a blitzer rather than a thrower. They come with stat line move 7, strength 3, agility 4, armour 8 and skills block and side step at a cost of 110k. I added dodge and jump up to reach the full 150. I kinda like that, but when it comes to Blood Bowl teams, my true love lies with the Halflings.

And halflings, with their little legs, work really well for my inability to run. Their basic stats are: move 5, strength 2, agility 3, armour 6, skills right stuff, stunty and dodge at a cost of 30k.

I'm stronger than that, so first thing is a strength increase, then to reflect the acrobatics I added jump up and side step - and a skill I'm calling 'innocent smile' but which is really 'sneaky git'. I learnt very early in life that if you smile and look innocent, you can get away with a lot, so I figure that's a great way of getting the ref to not realise you actually kicked the guy lying at your feet...

And at 140k, that's me!
 What about you? What would you look like as a Blood Bowl player?

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Deadlands - Felheimer's Folly

Continuing the write-up of our Deadlands game. It begins on the morning of Tuesday 26th September 1879, the morning after Hellstromme's bombs.
We awoke, minds and bodies still full of the horrors of the day before, yet what we'd seen and how we'd reacted had brought us closer. We prepared and left Hellstromme's camp as quickly as possible, heading down to the port in Lost Angels with Steve's horse and Tesla's mule in the hope of finding a boat to Shan Fan, hearts in our mouths as we passed the guards but they didn't react. 

We found a dockside cafe run by a young Chinaman named Wen, who told us there were no passenger ferries, but we might find passage on a cargo ferry, or we could charter a ship - people did so to hunt 'maze dragons'. As in, actual dragons from legend, only snake-like and living in the water. He gave us a few leads and suggested coming back later if they led nowhere: captains would be in.

As we wondered round town, picking up supplies and more leads, we realised we couldn't stop eating: we were going through our rations as if they were nothing, and they proved expensive to replace. And we were being followed... Tesla sold his mule early on in the day, but there were hungry eyes on Steve's horse.

A frustrating day in all - hot and hungry, we discovered we couldn't afford any of the fares being charged by the captains, but finally one - Captain Harrison of the Arms of Angels - took pity on us and suggested waiting until the morning and signing on with Captain Kim of the Grace of the Maze - she would probably let us work our passage. He even let us sleep on his ship to be sure of catching her in the morning. Carson and Steve both muttered concern that we'd wake up conscripted, but the crew enjoyed my singing and waved us off the following morning, as they left with us still ashore.

We found The Grace of the Maze easily enough, and signed on with Captain Kim: she was happy enough to take Steve and Carson as guards, and was delighted with Tesla's knowledge and experience in engineering. I think she only took me along because she realised the others wouldn't come without me, so over the next few days I made a point of working as hard as I could, and of teaching songs and shanties to keep crew morale up. To reduce the impact of my nightmares on the crew, the others took to gagging me at night. I didn't sleep any worse as a result.

We spent the first couple of days helping ferry supplies to mesas and return ghost rock to the ship - Tesla was keen to get his hands on some, but fortunately Carson kept him in check. We obviously made an impression on Captain Kim: on Friday, she prepped one of the small boats and took us sightseeing.

She took us deeper into the maze, to a spike of a mesa. It's known as "Felheimer's Folly", and the man himself could be seen pinned to the rock in the crucifix position. He'd been there around 3 years and was still alive. As I muttered a quick prayer, a rowboat appeared with a single occupant. Kim hailed him and introduced him as Agent Coule. He told us a bit more about Felheimer, that he was a German immigrant who tried to mine the Spike, which had a reputation that it could not be mined. And on 31st October 1877, they'd found him pinned up there. He's pinned up high, with no access for anyone to reach him. Steve took careful aim and tried to put him out of his misery - even I could see this as a merciful death. His shot went wide, and Agent Coule said that happened every time.

Tesla reminded us he's a tourist really, a Brit here on holiday, by setting up his camera. It turned out to be a blessing: the plate revealed an area of rock a different shade to the rest. This was something Coule knew nothing about, so he took the four of us over in his little boat - Kim choosing to watch from hers.

The discoloured area turned out to be an entrance, leading down into the dark. We hadn't gone far in when Tesla screamed. We swung the lanterns back to see spears retracting back into the wall, wrenching themselves out of his body. He zapped himself with that cattle prod of his and the wound closed. We continued, more wary. A glittering symbol spooked Carson; he made us clamber above to get past it. I made a mental note initially in case I saw it again, but as we found more, I took to quickly sketching them instead. Carson made me promise to show no one.

We had to scramble and squirm our way past a few more of those glittering symbols before we reached the bottom of the winding stairway. It ended at a large steel doorway, which we opened...


I don't know if I can describe the scene within. Not, not in the detail you need. It was ok for the song, but for this...

I'll try.

Start with the simple. It was hard to see: pitch black in the stairway, we only had waving lanterns to give any light. The room, a small study, was lit by a single candle on the floor, at the centre of a circle inscribed with a five-pointed star, and...

The study had a few bookshelves and a desk. Behind the desk, a skinny man cackled.

And in the circle was a Demon, summoned from the deepest pits of Hell to God's own Earth.

I froze and wept as the others started to fight it, but when I realised their attacks were doing nothing (how could they?), I recovered myself enough to work my way into the room, past that Horror intending to trash some of the potions and books in the study to distract the wizard. It didn't work well, but Carson noticed the Demon never left the circle and it was only the wizard fighting back, so he shot out the candle.




The scritch of a match as Steve relit his lantern. The Demon was gone; the wizard a bloody, stinking smear. 

Carson found a large book on the desk, in German giving the name 'Gerhardt Stroessner'. We couldn't read it, but it seemed to be a diary starting 5 years ago; Felheimer's name started appearing about 2 years ago. It seems Stroessner was somehow using his lifeforce. That's when we realised Agent Coule wasn't with us, so Carson tucked the large book away and we went to leave.

The traps had all vanished with the death of Stroessner, except that first mechanical one, and we found Coule cowering on the stairs. As we stepped into the blessed sunlight, we saw Felheimer's body disintegrate and fall. Coule set dynamite to blow the cavern as we left the island and returned to Captain Kim. With relief, I picked up my guitar and started to write the Ballad of Felheimer's Folly. You may have heard it. It became very popular with the crew of the Grace of the Maze, and things felt calmer back on the boat.