Radical Reinterpretation

Your in Amsterdam, you get art. Some of it goes to pretty scary places, admittedly. We find this little girl in an underpass where homeless people were understandably reluctant to shelter (there was an abandoned pair of boots on a pillar, but I wasn’t sure if they were meant to symbolise something).

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She’s just hanging around in a tangle of gremlins imprisoned in leafy vine tentacles. Her little clown doll is a tad weird, but she seems fairly sedate in her portal. I mean, she’s covered in pigeon crap, but I guess that’s an occupational hazard.

Then again, there is this spooky creature inhabiting the wall of our hostel.

Just a painting, and stalking centre gremlin kinda looks like her clown. So… that connection kind of makes the whole image a whole lot worse.

Then again, neither of them really hold a candle to get brother.

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Who somebody decided to give a Crow makeover. So there’s that.

No, this post doesn’t really have a point. Just figured I’d give y’all some of my holiday snaps. Funny the connections you find.

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Changelings of the Outer West: Part 1

Hey folks. Before I left Australia, I was running a game of Changeling: The Lost for my little group.

As a sort of personal challenge, I decided that I would make my first stab at an Australian setting. My previous settings had been a Vampire the Requiem chronicle (later dubbed the Atrocity Machine) in an entirely fictional Scottish small town, and my Call of Cthulhu stories had tended towards the traditional occult center of Arkham. So I wanted somewhere distinctively Australian, but with enough capacity to just make things up on the fly. So naturally, I chose Cootamundra in 1972.

An entirely fictional version of Cootamundra, admittedly. The setting is kind of cobbled together from my memories of Bathurst and Dubbo, though alarmingly my improvised locations began to appear when we later looked up the map. Turns out the Chinese takeaway actually is next to the library by the clock tower. So maybe I really am narrating reality again. Weird. Anyway, in part for the fun of sharing and in part as a sort of reference for when we pick up the “8 years later” arc, I’ve decided to put our little rogues gallery. So here you go. Some characters and sites from our Changeling game.

Our Heroes

Anais: A Fairest dancer who escaped from the Kingdom of the Maze Lord with Blaize. She was captured on the night she turned down her boyfriend’s marriage proposal, put to work in her master’s surreal ballroom. Of all the characters, Anais lost the most of herself to the thorns, and her story focused mostly on nostalgia, loneliness and loose ends.

Blaize: A fire elemental who escaped with Anais from the Kingdom of the Maze Lord. Captured as a young girl and transformed into a burning huntress to guard the woods of her fae master’s realm, Blaize’s story has focused on learning, acceptance and growing up.

Father Joseph Callahan: a Wizened Brewer, the former priest was forced to become an alchemist in service to the Witch of the Wilds. After escaping back to reality, his story focused in a return to religious practices that he had begun to doubt, while brewing and testing an obscene amount of hallucinogenic potions.

The Mundanes and Not Quites

Petey: the owner of Petey’s Record Emporium, Petey is an aging hippy who loves the Burning Man festival and complaining about his ex-wife. After a drug binge in which he saw Blaize using her fire conjuring abilities, the elemental bound him into a pledge that rewarded his silence with youth and good health. This led to something of a free love revival in Cootamundra.

Mary McIver: You hear Mary before yous see her. Her heavy Scottish accent rings out across the town square from her hole in the wall grocery store, the place Blaize found her first job. She has a penchant for saying ominous things, though whether this is because of a touch of the Second Sight or just the Wyrd putting words where lost fae can hear is unknown. She certainly puts no stock in prophesy.

Josiah: A mentally shattered man left homeless after his return from Vietnam, Jo had become a fixture in the town square. After running into him repeatedly, once asking him for directions after ingesting too many Hedge berries, Father Callahan started to feel responsible for the young guy, and struggled to alleviate his nightmares. After months of unconventional psychic therapy, he began to glom onto the charismatic priest.

Father Damian Crowley: The occultist pastor of the neighboring Black Hill hamlet has been battling the supernatural for years. He collects texts stolen from the local supernatural community, as he looks for a way to defeat the fallen “Vampire Star” now buried beneath the town, slowly draining life from its citizens. His occult warding was until recently reinforced by a bound ghost the motley subsequently exorcised while retrieving a text stolen from Mama Park. There were a few more run ins, and a degree of respect built up between Crowley and Callahan.

Mama Park: The owner of Mama Park’s Chinese Takeaway, Mama Park is not from China. A refugee from the war in Korea, she and her sons speak with smooth American accents and have a marked knowledge of the supernatural. She frames her spirit binding as Classical Confucian magic, based on a text hidden by her family first from prying eyes and warring empires. She frequently engaged the motley for favours in exchange for false ID’s, money and a home. By the end of the story,  Father Callahan cut a deal with Mama Park and her demon Mr Chiang, trading five years of servitude to escape his former Keeper’s Servitors. Her sons are Jimmy, Harry and Sammy. Blaize and Jimmy pursued a surreal and awkward romance throughout the arc, concluding ambiguously with his discovery of her supernatural state.

Changelings

Solomon: This ancient man, whose Mask covers a body of paper and ink, inhabits the shadows of the Cootamundra library. He is often the first contact freshly freed Lost have with their new lives, and his strange knowledge of occult secrets seems at odds with his apparent amnesia. In truth, Solomon is an exiled Fae, once the Watcher in the Tower, who failed in a bargain with his rivals, and had his memories flayed out before he was released into the mortal world. For years, he has believed himself an escapee like his fae cohabitants. He acted as a mentor to Blaize, but his powers began to return as the motley helped him reclaim his memories, and he came very close to a return to Arcadia. In the end he was convinced to choose a mortal life, and the artifacts that held his memories hidden away.

Dawn Song: In the twilit ballroom of the Maze Lord, this porcelain man sawed on his cello all night so that the sun could come up. His speech is disjointed and small, but his music still sings across town each morning from his east facing apartment window.

The (Former) Golden Dragon

Alice “Golden Girl” Macdonald: This Draconic Fairest escaped Arcadia only to be recaptured by the Maze Lord. The bargain she made kept her and Snake free, but required a tithe of captured changelings to maintain. With a web of pledges she was able to bind the loyalty of her late husband’s biker gang and open their eyes to the supernatural world, remaking them as the Golden Dragon. Her roving privateer ring lasted until the motley and the Cold Hill Crew tracked them to their hideout in the Hedge, and Father Callahan put a bullet in her heart.

Snowblind: This ice Elemental has not said a word since she broke loose from the bonds of the True. She found a calling as a trump card with the Golden Dragon, solving problems with cold and stormy violence where they can’t be solved with knives and pipes. She met her end as Blaize tried to free her prisoners, the two elementals burning and freezing the ruins of the Hedge to destruction as they clashed.

Snake: Snake was taken by the Storm in the Desert, and turned from a man into an animal. His Mask manifests a red birthmark from his chin to his chest, marring his otherwise beautiful skin. His mien is like that of a red belly black snake, and he was first encountered running with the Golden Dragon, as he and the Golden Girl had sworn to defend each other from harm (a big mistake when the Wyrd is involved). Before she died, however, his tryst with Anais had become something more, so much so that when the Wyrd’s judgement blinded him for his failure she sold her own memories, and some of her already frail connection to reality, so he could see again. They have been lovers ever since. Of Darug descent, he has been unable to reconnect with his family, with the exception of his nephew Tony, the only one who believed his story on his return.

The Cold Hill Crew

Half Penny: In her short life, the woman who called herself Half Penny has been stolen twice. As a young girl, she was taken from her Aboriginal mother who was deemed unfit to care for her. As she grew to adulthood, she was taken again by the Maze Lord. He forced her to live in the cracks in his walls, until her hair became worms and her skin was scorched to charcoal. Through mortar and furnace, she was able to worm her way free, and the cracks in the world hide her still. She took the name of her despised foster mother, and took her revenge on the judge who signed off on her being taken from her family. She kidnapped his grandchildren, one by one, and took a year of their lives, their first steps and first words. She had them call her mama before she gave them back, and ate the sorrows of their parents. As the story grew, her loyalty to those she considered family came into greater focus, and she and the motley became allies as winter grew closer.She and the Cold Hill Crew are Cootamundra’s resident adherent’s of Winter, though they would never call themselves a Court.

Jawen Nomansson: This Swedish lake troll is a recent immigrant, and fell in with the Cold Hill crew after finding work the abbatoir. His personality is friendly and affable, almost childish. When he is stressed or angry, though, his dissociation becomes clearer. He can kill a man as easily as a cow, and his big hands make it very easy indeed. Nonetheless, he loves Penny and Junior with all his mighty heart can muster.

Junior: This little Wizened almost personifies the tinkerer, and though he looks maybe twelve years old his eyes speak of a much older person. He seems unable to speak above a whisper, though people tend to listen to somebody whose last sentence ended with “hovercraft”.

The Blossom Motley

Lucy May: Marked with magpie feathers by the Storm in the Desert, Lucy is a captivating figure and one of the few fae in town with a Spring mantle. She lives in the moment, acted as Anais mentor when she sought work as an exotic dancer, and loves to drink, dance and collect beautiful things. She has been with Julia as long as they have been free, and counters her chef motleymate’s bitter humor with sanguine vivacity.

Julia Small: Some Wizened build, but Julia creates; she makes bland foodstuffs beautiful, and makes fine ingredients sing. The second Spring adherent in a Courtless region, she pursues beauty as much as her motley mate, but where the chase energises Lucy, it leaves Julia feeling very small. She knows that she needs Lucy far more than Lucy needs her. Julia is a stick thin woman whose grey hair suggests old age, but her face makes you doubt that assumption.

Nomads

Suzan Slaughter and Little Mack: This mismatched pair have spent the time since their escape travelling Australia in a battered combi van. Suzan is a six foot six Amazon of an ogre, and has made a small living for her motley in the newly arrived field of Pro Wrestling. Mack acts as her manager and fixer, putting his business brain to good use. Even if people sometimes sit on him without realizing he’s on the couch.

Scruffy the Rat: This former wanderer and lamb roast enthusiast was rescued when the motley broke up the Golden Dragon, and spent a few weeks sleeping behind their washing machine before settling down in Cootamundra. His twitchy mannerisms, rodent like buck teeth and strange clicking run have made him an amusing if somewhat unpredictable acquaintance; but the motley took a shine to him, enough so that they chased him into a locked dream that nearly killed them.

Emissaries from the Sins of the Nameless The Sins are the city of Sydney’s largest freehold, divided into a Day Court and a Night Court. The Day Court try to keep the True at bay with their belief in Law, whereas the Night Court do so by disregarding all rules, including the promises that define the Fae. Both Courts also give up use of their names, taking a nickname for ease of communication.

The Huntress, Day Court: The Law does not stop at the border of the freehold, and if you break the laws of the Day Court you can expect the Huntress to be hard on your heels. This Fairest combines investigative acumen with social prowess and a strong right arm with a discus for those who think they can run.

The Enemy, Night Court: The Enemy feasts on disgust, and uses his mastery of Mirrors contracts to get under people’s skin. To Catholics he is an unwed mother, to veterans a pacifist. Lately he had grown fond of a young Vietnamese face in Maoist regalia. He is a liar, and a shameless flirt, but is otherwise oddly friendly. If only he knew what his real face looked like.

The True Fae

The Maze Lord: aka Totally Not David Bowie from Labyrinth. At the insistence of the players, the Maze appears in all its twisted glory, with its goblin legions, insomniac dancers and forests full of cannibalistic fire sprites. The characters escape after some upheavel in the Maze, with the Maze Lord having grown tired of his ballroom dancers and looking to “repurpose” them. When he appears it is in full pomp and regalia, and he rarely bothers traveling to the human world himself. As far as the motley know, Blaize’s sister Belle remains a prisoner in the Maze.

The Witch of the Wilds: The Witch of the Wilds lives in a walking hut that strides through a bioluminescent forest of whispering trees and scuttling fungus, where the sun never rises. She has little time for agents, and is more likely to venture directly into the real world in pursuit of new slaves and secrets. Her slaves she puts to work, harvesting the strange plants of the forest and brewing them into compounds that she never explains the use for. She usually appears as a hunched, blinded hag with iron teeth and wire for hair, but her servitor the Wilting Waxen Woodsman will appear to either aid her or act on her behalf.

The Surgeon: Seen only in brief, the Surgeon appears as a jaundiced woman with no visible hair, dressed in plastic lab whites and long latex gloves. She played a part in amputating Solomon’s memories and scattering them across reality upon his exile.

The Storm in the Desert: This roaring and terrible sandstorm lives in the strange depths of Arcadia, on a dry and crumbling plateau beneath an alien moon. Sometimes he appears as a building cloud, or an immense stone giant, or a crawling Yaramayahu. His slaves are altered into beasts of the ground or air, or ferocious elementals in imitation of their master.

Fetches

Blaize’s fetch was dead at the start of play; the little girl drowned tragically in the same river that took her into the Hedge. Her sister, however, may be a fetch. She remains unsure.

John Callahan: This fetch replaced Father Callahan, but always possessed a sense of the supernatural. He turned this sense to tracking and eliminating any supernatural creatures, including fae, that he could lay his hands on, indoctrinating a small cell of hunters as he did so. In the end, his victims caught up with him.

Gail Kelly: Anais’ fetch took her grace and presence, and followed it to become a pub rock icon. For her, the roaring crowds and whiskey soaked parties were a natural progression, but Anais naturally had different plans for her life, and Gail was ubderstandeably hostile when this doppelganger appeared claiming it was the original. To make things worse, glamour seems to fail near her, and the loss of their magic left them at a loss with how to deal with her, and her national your continued. She remains at large.

Stranger Things

Judy: Nobody ever quite figured out who or what Judy was. She lived in Father Callahan’s dreams, wearing the appearance of a lover from his youth. He proved powerless to resist her charms, and had to enlist his motley to help scare her off. When they arrived in the dream, however, he was distracted enough that he couldn’t think why he would ask for that. They managed to free him. Eventually.

Ruby and Mr Gold: A pair of God Machine angels (totally not qashmallim for this one) sent to hunt out the “largest anomaly”, Solomon in this case for reasons they didn’t disclose. When the motley capitulated in the face of implied mass murder, they returned artifacts connected to his memory to try and accelerate his return to Arcadia to let them shore up the barrier between reality and the Hedge. Ruby fell after Callahan’s exceptional success with the argument “That seems a little roundabout. Why don’t you just kill ’em all?” She later took on the identity Gene Scarlet, working in “animal control”.

Meg: This odd woman arrived in town and started telling jokes about angels along into churches. She later kidnapped Callahan’s fetch, who had previously tracked down her “mother”, who in photographs seemed no older than Meg. Meg turned out to be a Frankenstein Promethean, though her search for her mother was never resolved.

The Vampire Star: It fell from the sky over Black Hill, and scored it’s way into the abandoned copper mines beneath the town. Since its arrival, the residents have been suffering from a strange wasting disease, and cannot leave without dying.

Well, I think that’ll be all for this week folks. Intending to follow this up with a rough sort of “setting” and “what happened” section. Once again, this is mostly for our memory, but feel free to swipe any ideas you want.

In Which we Play Australia Day: RPG Actual Play

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Massaman Curry. As is tradition.

Well, we got around to it eventually. And just because we didn’t play my little roleplaying game, Australia Day, on Australia Day, doesn’t make its first flight any less majestic. If you wish to get a copy of your very own, scroll down my homepage to “My Australia Day Special“. In preparation, we ate Massaman Curry (as we would if we were in Australia…), gathered our nugs (dice) and Mugshots (character sheets), and I donned the High Poobah’s hat. This led to Queenie being unable to look me in the eye for most of the game, despite it being “bizzarely fetching”.

So we had our two players; Queenie started playing Stabitha the Dropbear, and Flock was running Fredamine the Caffiend. I was operating as High Poobah, a role usually referred to as “Game Master” or “Dungeon Master” in more sensible iterations of these kinds of games. This was certainly not one of those iterations. May have had something to do with the Scotch, but I would hesitate to blame Laphroaig entirely.

So, our heroes weirdos drive out of the salt flats bordering the Drop Bear Republic in their battered Holden hatchback, struggling to escape the murderous horde of Emu Bikers hot on their heels.

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Though the insta-rice was less than cooperative.

This led to about five minutes of garbled laughter and questioning of my sanity.

Having realized that he was dead out of coffee, Fredamine staggered into the general store/fish and chip emporium that they had found on the dry, dusty crossroads of the town they started from, Waldongle. He encountered Steve behind the counter, his moustache waxed to hold a cigarette so that he can smoke without his hands. He was, unfortunately, fresh out of coffee, so Fredamine began rummaging through the bags of lima beans, hoping some of them were coffee. Stabitha then strode Dropbearfully into the shop, and hurled a bag of coffee sweets into his face, which he then chewed through the packaging.

A discussion ensued as to how to make my High Poobah’s outfit even more incongruous. I played a plastic battle axe as a ukelele for a while.

“So guys,” Steve rasped, “Haven’t seen you in a while. Things not go so well… down the Republic?”

The question of Merchant Republic or Banana Republic is raised. Eucalyptus I guess.

“Things are pretty lonesome out this way though. Wanda mentioned she might have an assignment for you…”

“Does she have coffee?” muttered Fredamine.

“In the chip shop…”

They turned around to see Wanda, their spirit animal, behind the fish and chip counter. It was established that currently she looked like a middle aged Mediterranean aunty.

Queenie: Why do I have a spirit animal? I’m a drop bear!

Flock: … but you’re not a spirit.

They debate turning the deep fryer oil into fuel. They figured they had enough to reach Wangdangle either way. They would have petrol there.

Wanda: Oh hey guys. Your coats looking good Stabitha. Washed in the blood of your foes again?

(Flock: I knew it. It would have alliterated if she were a wombat, so she isn’t…)

Stabitha: Don’t you know it…

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The High Poobah hat of the night.

She passes out some fish and chips.

“Might have a little assignment for you wandering types. There’s been a string of disappearances of orphans and cattle all along the north side of town. I’ve not been able to find any clues… so maybe you can help. If you do, I’ve got the bag of magical reagents for you” She holds up a bag of possibly illegal plant matter.

Stabitha listens quietly, eating her chips. A brief discussion ensues as to whether, in our collective minds eye, Stabitha is a CGI Koala or a poorly disguised puppeteer with a glove puppet.

Eyeing the baggy, Fredamine responds “Alright.”

Before they leave, she warns them that it is rumoured to Henry the Magical Platypus may be stalking the north side of town (Stabitha: “Ah fuck that guy”), and that Anh at the Post Office may have more information. When asked for petrol, she starts scooping deep fryer oil into the thermos, and stagger out to their car, now a rust red Dolorian. They hammer the thermos into its fuel port.

Fredamine: The car only runs because one day it’ll kill me.

They head into Waldongle to see Anh, Stabitha hijacking a busboy so that she has the same stride as Fredamine. They arrive at the Post Office.

Anh: Oh hey guys. You’re back in town. How’d the republic go?

Stabitha: Don’t ask.

Anh: That bad huh?

Fredamine: So much eucalyptus…

Anh: Ah brutal.

Fredamine: So few bandages.

Anh: Well, always preferred menthol myself, but each to their own.

He takes a belt of Scotch and adjusts his aviator sunglasses.

Stabitha: Wanda sent us by.

Anh: Right, you’re here about the mystery? Right.

Stabitha: Yeah, the dissapearing cattle and orphans.

Anh: Yeah, well, someone’s been stealing cattle and orphans. North side of town. That way.

Stabitha: Yeah, she also mentioned Henry.

Fredamine: Damn centaur enthusiasts.

Anh: Centaur enthusiasts? Ah brutal… wait. Well, centaurs right I guess. Orphanataur.

(Queenie: Wouldn’t they have to steal horses for that? Flock: I said enthusiasts, not professionals)

Anh: Well, a lot of folks seem to think its Henry up to his old tricks again. But I don’t think it fits with his usual Modus Operandi.

Fredamine: No, udderly different.

Anh: He’s just up there in the river systems and billabongs… well, I can give you the full briefing. Would you care to step through into the Room Full of Guns?

Stabitha: …No…

Anh: Well I can’t do the slideshow out here.

Fredamine: Eh… alright.

Anh pushes open one of the walls into a room with gun racks on every wall, and sets up an old overhead projector.

Stabitha: Which government are we under at the moment?

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The surface

Anh: Well, on the way through we passed through Egypt, the United States, Iran, Saudi Arabia and, well… now we’re in Queensland. Anyway, Henry as a creature tends to operate under the assumption that there is a weird sense of humour under his weird and inhuman acts. But basically, no one’s been delivered the punchline yet, so Henry’s out of the running.

Anh goes on to explain, using his overhead slides, that he has discerned a pattern, a rough line of strange incidents. First the collapse of the community rec center, then damage to religious sites of both indigenous and late arrival’s significance, then the squatters in the old rock quarry were driven away.

Anh: Pretty wild country out there. You guys get along with the emu bikers right?

There were some uncomfortable looks, and the characters agreed to take a look at the collapsed Community Rec Centre before heading north to the quarry. They leave the Room Full of Guns.

On reaching the Rec Centre, they encounter their first Villain of the game, an abstract one called “The Mystery”, with a Horribleness Rating of 2.

Attempting to locate and catch a guinea pig and use it as a divining rod, but suffers his first Terminal Blunder as he fails the Jerk roll and tumbles into the crater that was once the Community Rec Center.

Stabitha: Do you see anything?

Fredamine: (muffled) Lots of gravel.

Stabitha leaps down on the cackling guinea pigs, blocking out the sun in her silent descent and seizing hold of one before tying it to the divining rod. The others scatter, realising the trouble their in given that Stabitha is taller than they are, and thus above them (a Dropbear’s primary axis of attack). She then throws the rod to Fredamine, who begins scrying for anything the guinea pig is more afraid of than he and Stabitha. He finds his way to a square cut shaft on one side of the crater. Stabitha heads in first, with Fredamine following more slowly behind. Deploying her DEATH FROM ABOVE!!! crazy skill, Stabitha leaps, claws raking the sides of the shaft, her koalavision zeroing in on the terrified heartbeat of something below her, and immediately snaps its neck on reflex. She drags the corpse into the narrow light from above, and reveals the logo of Holecorp, the evil mining megacorporation, on his overalls. Fredamine arrives several minutes later shimmying down the steel cable.

Turns out the hole doesn’t go anywhere, they just left him down there to dig.

Stabitha: He’s better off this way…

Its at this point that Queenie was alarmed by the revelation that in my Poobah hat I looked unnervingly like Don Burke from Burke’s Backyard. I’d have sung the song if I remembered it. Strange reminiscences of childhood viewing of gardening programs followed.

Me: So you found a guy in a Holecorp uniform.

Queenie: And I kill him!!!

Me: You kill him to death!

Queenie: Didn’t exactly mean to.

Me: DEATH FROM ABOVE!!!

Queenie: (laughs) What the hell are we doing!

Fredamine arrives, pokes the dead Holecorp guy with the guinea pig stick, then rifles the pockets of his presumably throroughly soiled overalls.

Me: Yep… looks like he’s been digging for weeks.

Flock: In all that time, he never thought to dig a hole…

Me: Oh he did. You’re in it.

Fredamine wonders where the dirt from the shaft went. Stabitha worries that he hasn’t had enough coffee today.

Stabitha mentions that she probably didn’t need to kill that guy, and Fredamine replies that he could totally see her looking mildly disappointed as she wrenched his jaw out of his face and used it to stab him repeatedly before he’d hit the ground.

Flock: Bend it a little bit, stab it through both eyes.

Me: I kind of imagine it as a sort of wishbone snap to double slash maneuver.

Flock: God, The Downunderbite.

Me: Cheers, sir, you get a producer credit.

Stabitha attempts a koala mind meld with the guinea pig, and is assailed by terrible visions of what she just did, but manages to wind it back far enough to see a pair of white dickshits in suits high fiving as the community centre collapses and the guinea pigs escape their cages. The Stick-pig then gets added to her inventory.

They climb out of the shaft, and wander through town to find houses of worship, Aboriginal sacred sites and many other sites all with holes and sometimes trenches dug through them. It is assumed that the trenches are dug by Holecorp miners suspended sideways from cranes, as it is easier than teaching them to dig anywhere but down. Deciding to look further into this, they head to the Holecorp Beach Shack Kiosk out by the dry, empty salt flats, quinkins frolicking in the distance, always just out of reach.

Fredamine manages to convince the kiosk guy that he’s looking for work, and the guy points him out to the executive picnic at the quarry to the north. The execs would show him “where to dig holes for money”, because “the way of the future, the past and now is holes.” They jump into the Dolorian and head north with the strains of Icehouse echoing across the empty space.

Until it is drowned out by the roar of motorcycle engines coming rapidly closer. The Mob of Emu bikers bears down on them, and Fredamine scrambles under his seat and finally earns a magic bean. The car is rapidly surrounded, and Fredamine loses control of the car, crashing into a roadside rock. The impact and the airbag hurls Stabitha skywards, and she launches DEATH FROM ABOVE as Fredamine bleeds into his airbag. Emu screams rend the air, and Fredamine looks to finish the job by crippling their self esteem. He climbs out the sunroof, and to the sounds of Emu bike radio Black Sabbath he tries to Ozzy the head off the guinea pig. Which promptly jumps down his throat and kills him.

OH GOD, THE TERRIBLE INEVITABILITY! NOOOOO!

With Fredamine dead, Flock picks up a new character sheet.

“At last!” comes the roar from the Dolorian’s engine block, “I got him!” And a mechanical creature lurches forth from the cars mangled frame. It seems oddly friendly towards Stabitha. Lori the Dolorian used the Invention Mugshot. He lashes out with his piston fists, but the fight is still going against them.

Realising they probably can’t fight their way out of this, Lori decides that its time to use his Keep Inventing! crazy skill. Using his hatred of Fredamine to crack physics, he rips open his former owner and uses his mastery of haruspexy to create a dimensional wormhole. They plummet through an industrial nightmare, and burst through a shadowy door in a surreal factory complex into the night of an unknown desert oasis. They spy a shadowy figure in a broad hat strung with corks, his bill gleaming in the moonlight, waist deep in the billabong.

After a string of cryptic exchanges, the scene ends with Lori carrying Henry the Magical Platypus to Tity and Dong’s, a nearby family run bordello that appears to be a one room tin shack, and in exchange he kicks open a gate back to their reality with his poison spurred cowboy boot.

Back in their own dimension, they crest the top of the quarry after heating some canned beans for a group of lonely looking emu bikers who ride off into the night. Below them a number of Holecorp executives continue their junket, drinking champagne, punting orphans into a chasm for laughs, and sacrificing cattle to an effigy of Ayn Rand.

Flock: I know I’m just a car engine block, this isn’t really my fight.

Queenie: But you are a Master of Human Studies.

Me: You can get inside their minds.

Flock: Sometimes figuratively.

Suddenly, Stabitha and Lori are ambushed by a Holecorp Supersoldier, burying his shovel in the back of Lori’s head. As Lori winds up to attack, he falls apart into a pile of scrap, his hatred of Fredamine exhausted. Flock was… well, his rolling was spectacularly bad this session.

Stabitha was faced with a choice: battle the supersoldier on the plateau, or leap down onto the executives below. She goes with her instincts.

As she leaps down to do horrible murder amongst the executives, a familiar figure is being dragged towards the crevasse of punting. Wanda Rerring, the gang’s spirit animal, had never known her real parents, and was about to be punted into a chasm for it. Struggling for an escape route, she spied a hunched, woolen shadow on the wall of the quarry, and reached out to it in hope of an escape. As she was drop kicked into the abyss, the Beardaclava leapt onto her head, and the two became one deadly creature; the Beardblade.

Her deadly woolen follicles carry her back to the edge of the chasm, and she unleashes a Beardblast against the assembled executives, killing the last of them. Flock was happy to have finally succeeded at a combat roll. Bad news for Stabitha, however, as the raging follicles launched her into the crevasse. She was afraid, for a moment, until she realised that she was falling. She roared “DEATH FROM ABOVE!!!” as she plummeted into the unknown depths.

Queenie decides to make it a full house, and chooses the Showstopper so that each of the Mugshots gets a chance to shine. Apparently warned about this situation by those migrating emu bikers, Myrcy the Showstopper and her gaggle of activists surge over the horizon chanting “Don’t punt Orphans!”

Down in the quarry, Wanda is confronted by a final terrible foe.

“I er… don’t appreciate what you’ve er… been doing here. Rather ruined some er… investments for some er… friends of mine. I don’t don’t think that’s er… appropriate.”

From the shadows of a cavern, a Mad Monk strides into view, his waist length cassock tucked into his obscenely tight speedos.

“I don’t appreciate you non voting types, or your ideas on gender, so I suppose I’m gonna have to kill you in some horrible waaaaaaaaaaay…”

One wanker amongst the activists attempts the rhyme, “Don’t punt orphans, find better endorphins”, but it doesn’t really catch on.

Confronted with the fascist glory of the mad monk, Wanda launches herself at him and attempts to garrotte him with her beard. She sinks the choke, but somehow her enemy keeps spouting inanities about how she doesn’t have rich parents and thus doesn’t deserve the vote.

There is some discussion as to what Myrcy and her followers are defending for her to get the bonuses from her Peaceful Protest crazy skill, with examples in the current situation being the remaining un-punted orphans, animal protection laws, and ideas of sensible desert attire excluding speedos. She and her followers surge down into the quarry, but the roll doesn’t quite make it.

“Oh no, protestors!” the Mad Monk shouts, raising his hands, “It’s ok! I’ll stop the boats!”

Myrcy’s followers stall, and glance at each other, trying to figure out what the hell that is suppose to mean. There are no boats in the desert.

“What do we do Myrcy? Where are the boats?”

Myrcy: There are no boats.

“Where’s the water?”

Myrcy: There is no… it’s a trap!

As the protesters stall, with a thunderous sounds surging closer, Wanda’s crushing follicles close in further on her nemesis.

Wanda:There once was a Mad Monk that couldn’t be killed. But he had a fucking beard.

She then drove her beard into the Mad Monks chest, trying to Temple of Doom his heart out. She strikes true, and the Mad Monk nearly topples, though she finds he has no heart at all.

“What do we do Myrcy? The waters coming! Run!”

Myrcy: Protestors! With me! Don’t punt orphans!

They rush forward, only to have an immense amount of water wash into the quarry from an unknown source (possibly Queensland). They are carried away, confused, and the Mad Monk and Beardblade wrestle to a jagged rock in the midst of the chaos. Myrcy struggles to bodyboard on her placard towards them, and her followers begin to chant “Kiss of death! Kiss of death!”

Wanda pushes the mad monk down towards the waves, and brains him on Myrcy’s current driven placard. Her bloody beard turns to meet the early morning sunlight, and she says

“You were never popular with the boaters.” Because this is how democracy in Australia works.

The weirdos spend their day fishing orphans and cattle out of the unexpected flood-zone, then head back to Waldongle with Wanda carrying a fish under her beard-arm. They arrive at the fish and chip shop, and Wanda congratulates herself in the mirror, fist bumping her spirit animal, taking the bag of magical reagents for saving the orphans and cattle.

In the end I had really bad hat hair, and then we kind of narrated the evening to the tune of Down Under. And that was more or less that.

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There may have been some left

Things I learned: OK. I’m the first to admit that I designed Australia Day poorly. I may have done so in a haze of Kahlua. But there were a few things I noted down.

First, Villains don’t stack well. If you want your weirdos fighting a lot of Villains, just call it a Mob of What Have You, a Mob of Emu Bikers for example. Add one or maybe two to the Horribleness Meter for numbers, and that keeps things nice and smooth.

Second, when the Beardblade uses Beardblast any friendly players need to roll more Squibs than the Beardblade did to escape it. The Beardblast becomes a hazard with a Horribleness of the Beardblades successes. That wasn’t made super clear either. There might be an errata. I promise nothing.

What I Did on Australia Day

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Traditional bush recipes. We used none of these.

Well, this is a bit of a misnomer. There are a few distinct problems at play here.

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Why Quorn? Because Quorn!!!

Given I was undertaking these activities on the evening of the 26th January in London, which basically means that Australia Day was already over in Australia. I don’t know if this affects the veracity of the title.

The other thing is whether I should even be celebrating Australia Day at all. There’s some pretty dark historical shenanigans tied to this day, committed by a country of long dead bastards that nobody really wants to think about the actions of.  But I think I’ll save my ramblings regarding Australian identity and nationalist myth making for another post.

Because this isn’t a post about politics (we didn’t play my game, Australia Day, for that matter either.  But that’s beside the point.), but about the much less divisive topic of dinner.

I made curry pies.

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Frying!

Now, this may not seem to be a unique or unusual thing for any of my probably non-existent Australian readership, but it is a little something that has been niggling at the expat friend with whom we’ve been staying. The British do not seem to produce curry pies, or at least not as far as we’ve been able to discern. Or cinnamon donuts for that matter, which is both disheartening and a bit beyond my ability to correct. And the British idea of a pie, as presented to us, has been rather different to what we’re used to. Rather than the self contained meal packages I’d grown up with, the are usually just a bowl of stew with a piece of pastry perched, often precariously, on top.

A Pot Pie, perhaps. And usually meat and ale flavored, so not what we we’re after. So I made the remedy.

And for those of you who are worried, don’t fret. My cyberpunk diet remains in effect. My pies were full of Quorn, a mysterious substance that I had encountered in the past but had yet to experiment with. My partner and our friend went with beef, a kind of Quorn but made out of cow.

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The drop of the night.

Anyway, the ritual begins. The constituent parts (quorn or cow quorn) are fried with onion. The heavy filing is then bulked with red wine, my go to blood substitute when making soy based dishes. Yellowtail in this case, because PATRIOTISM! and a special at Sainsburys. So cheap!

Bit of salt and pepper, some stock to thicken up the beef mince.

Then some medium curry powder until the filling achieves is traditional yellow colouration.

Now here’s where things get a little funny. Our host and I both like our pies very spicy, so chilli on hand, but my partner prefers a milder blend. And the other two are having the meat filling, which… I am not, so there was a bit of musical pans while I sorted that out.

Anyway, line some little pans with puff pastry. Would have preferred round ones, but what the hey, we make do. You could use a pie dish if you actually owned one, which as drifters we do not.

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The other drop of the night. Might have been coffee and Canadian Fireball whiskey in the mug. I don’t have a problem…

Add filling! Add a puff pastry lid to complete the baked structural integrity, a smattering of milk or soya to proof the lid against burning, then into the oven at 180°C!

Remove when their ready. What? You want a time limit? Well, that really depends on your oven, and in my travels between ovens I have come to the conclusion that the temperature setting is inevitably made of lies, so I’ve never much bothered with specific times. I suppose I could solve this with use if the temporal Australianism, “-ish”, used as a suffix and meaning “approximately”. So, give it fifteen minutes-ish, stick a fork into the centre for five-ish seconds, then touch it to your lip. If it’s hot, and the pastry is nice and flaky, your pie is done.

Eat it. I probably shouldn’t have to instruct you on how to do that.

The Verdict

Well, here’s what you’ve all been waiting for, the bit where my guinea pigs- I mean friends and loved ones inevitably tear me apart for my terrible cooking. Well not this week readers! The pies were well received, to quote “even better than the last batch”. The Quorn, too, tasted exactly like an Australian meat pie, bringing to mind the scandals of my youth, where it turned out the damn things were something like 70% soy protein anyway. So the Cyberfood project is tested and successful again.

And we drank Crabbies alcoholic ginger beer. Because the only “Australian” beer I could find was Fosters, which is brewed in Edinburgh and crapulescent beyond what it’s fictional status should allow.

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The final product. Partially eaten, as I am sure you’ve come to expect.

So there you go. Hope you all enjoyed your culturally problematic day off work, or Monday as it was for the rest of the world. Cheers for your continued imaginary readership.

In Italy Now

I am currently in Italy, and intend to be moving around quite a bit. So, dear readers, I would like to apologize in advance for any tardiness in my posts due to my unpredictable future wifi, and any reduction in quality on account of articles coming from my phone (like this one!).

And… hooray holiday! I’ll send y’all some photos. We just came back from the late night roadside American style diner, so I feel like we’re really getting the authentic experience.

Night all.