Rowyn (rowyn) wrote,

Saturday 4/5: Submarines and Sea Monsters

Saturday was jordangreywolf's Pirates game. As usual when I'm a guest for one of Jordan's games, he gave me a variety of choices for characters to play. Out of the options available, I picked the semi-sociopathic mermaid the party had acquired several sessions back. Mermaids in the setting were vicious man-eating monsters, but after much risk and with the help of a fortuitous adventure card, the party had finally managed to somewhat tame her.

She was interesting because she was mute and could only communicate through songs that evoked vague images and feelings. She couldn't even respond to questions with nods or shakes for yes and no. She just sang.

Her singing was also "siren song", so whatever she sang was a spell that listeners had to make a saving throw against or they. So, basically, her only form of communication was mind control. Also, since she had only recently learned to stop regarding people as food, I'm not sure this would be a great character to play all the time but it was a blast for one session.

Sadly, I don't have a mermaid costume, but I have the nice pirate costume I wore two Halloweens ago and I figured the Pirates game would be a good excuse to wear it again even if it didn't suit my particular character. After John saw me in costume, he decided to dress up, too. He lent me his Chinese practice sword for my costume, too, which was perfect. Lut has a sword that I wore with it the first year, but there's no way I'm going to the trouble of getting a sword on a plane, even in checked luggage. Swords are cool but annoying to transport, making it a good thing that many of my friends own at least one for me to borrow on the occassion I need one. ;)

The game itself was great. Jordan gave us extra bennies for showing up in costume. Chris, John Z, Russ, gwendel and playfuleye were also there, making for a packed house. Moonwolf hasn't been in the game for several months because her work and sleep schedule's often incompatible with it, but she reprised her bat character, Lady Bronwyn, as an alternate universe human-version of herself. The PCs had started out in an Ironclaw setting but have since world-shifted a couple of times, and are now on an alternate Earth where Victorian-era sf (Verne, Wells, etc.) is all real.

John's character, Captain Sasta, had gotten control of Captain Nemo's Nautilus submarine and was piloting it in this game. My mermaid swam along outside the Nautilus most of the time. Chris's character, Blacktail, had trained her on how to make various repairs to the sub, so that was pretty much her role with the crew.

In this adventure, Sasta and the crew had gone to investigate rumors of a yellow submarine off the coast of England. They didn't know who was operating the sub was in or what purposes it was being used for, but most of Nemo's submarines had ended up in the hands of pirates so the group was wary.

On the way there, Sasta botched her navigation roll -- piloting is really, really hard in the Savage Worlds game system: even with the best possible skill, you'll still botch 1 in 72 times, which is pretty often when you have to roll the skill every time you go anywhere and every round the sub moves during combat. Even regular failures are very common for this sub, partly because it has a small penalty to the piloting roll. The highest possible skill would fail around 22% on the time. Sasta, who had the second-highest possible skill, had about a 27% chance of failing. You end up spending a lot of bennies to reroll failures, or a lot of time crashing into stuff.

Because of the botched roll here, the sub blundered into a mine field. With help from Bronwyn, Sasta managed to pilot the Nautilus safely out of the mine field, but we were concerned to find one low enough to catch us at all, especially in the English Channel. It pretty much had to be laid with the intention of catching subs (which are very rare and all manufactured by Nemo) because ships would be too high in the water to be caught by it.

After some reconnaisance, we discovered we were in a completely submerged sea cavern (fine by the mermaid!) with a sea serpent in it (not so fine by the mermaid. An artificial sea-serpent call was calling the serpent from one side of the cavern to another, where a small open cage with a net full of fish was waiting for it. The mermaid swam over to it, hid out while the serpent took the bait (whereupon nothing happened) and swam off. Then a hatch opened in the roof of the cavern and the cage started to be pulled up into it. The mermaid decided she was more interested in the hatch than the cage, so she swam after it.

While the mermaid was riding the cage up into the open-air shaft above the hatch, the Nautilus was evading the attentions of the possibly still-hungry or maybe just amorous sea serpent. Bronwyn and Blacktail mad-science'd up an "invisibility to sea serpents" field for the Nautilus, but it'd only last a minute. While it was up, the Nautilus discovered four sea-monster-sized cages on the far side of the cavern: two with more sea serpents inside, one with a giant kraken, and a fourth suspiciously empty, with an open door. One of the crew spotted another hatch leading into the cavern on this side, and John Z's character, Spartak, dived out an airlock to swim to it. After that, Bronwyn got the idea of piloting the Nautilus into the empty cage and locking it in there, where they might not be able to get it out again, but at least it'd be safe from the sea serpent. Sasta neatly executed this manuever, backing the sub in and hitting the "close cage door button" with the sub's tail at the same time.

Meanwhile, the mermaid had gotten into the base via her hatch. She avoided making contact with the men manning it. They had clearly been feeding the serpent on purpose, but why they were doing so wasn't clear. She investigated her immediate surroundings and discovered more aquariums packed with fish.

Mermaid: [looks at fish. Eats one. Eats another. Starts gobbling everything in sight ravenously.]

GM: "You're getting this strange feeling again. You never had it before you left the frozen north and travelled with these strangers, but you've felt it a couple of times since. It's a bizarre sensation that you're starting to think of as 'full'. It's like ... you don't really want to eat any more, even though there's still perfectly good food available. You've eaten despite this "full" feeling in the past, but you've not felt good afterwards."

Mermaid: looks at fish in confusion, eats another couple more anyway, then moves on.

The mermaid can live outside water fine, but she can only flop at one square per round on land, so she was flopping very slowly down the corridor.

While she was still eating, Spartak had emerged from his hatch and was exploring an area that looked like some kind of botanical experiment garden. Greywolf had set out the map tiles and moved Spartak off the hatch he'd came in on and around the map at JZ's direction. As Spartak stepped around a corner onto a square with another hatch, he came face-to-face with a human.

Spartak [grabs human by the collar, roars]: "Where am I?"
Human: "BEAR!" [pulls lever]
Spartak [Hatch opens underneath him. Falls.]
Human [falls with Spartak, who's still holding onto him].

So Spartak and the human fall into another sea serpent cage.

John: "Hey, Spartak, now you don't need to swim faster than the sea serpent. Just faster than the man."

The human gets a ride out on a cage like the one the mermaid went up. Spartak climbs up after him and follows the human as the man ducks into another room, past another hatch.

Spartak: "Why did you do that?"
Human: "BEAR!" [pulls lever]

After that time Spartak didn't stand on any more hatches, and tried to kill the human. The human had activated an intercom to call for backup, and the mermaid could hear the screaming and fighting. She tried singing to calm everyone down. It worked on the man Spartak was attacking, but not on Spartak, so the bear decapitated the other man.

About now, the rest of the crew to the Nautilus had found a hatch to climb up, starting with Russ's character, a vampire named Cecil.

GM: "There's blood all over the place. Make a will save, Cecil."

On Spartak's turn, he tried to throw the decapitated head at the carnivorous plant. The GM rolled for it, and the head hit the vampire, bounced off of him, and landed on the plant.

GM: "Make another will save, Cecil."

Backup for the human arrived in the form of three more humans. Sasta and the Nautilus crew turned the carnivorous plant in the botany garden into tossed salad.

While this was going on, the mermaid was flopping down a corridor elsewhere in the base.

John: "If she 'runs', can she flop two squares per round?"
GM: "Sure!"
Mermaid: *flopflop*

She found the yellow submarine, and the lever to open the main hatch that allowed it out of the room it was in.

GM: "There's a door into the room, and a ramp leading down to the sub."
Me: "Forget the ramp! I'm diving into the water and heading for the airlock in.

The mermaid narrowly managed to figure out that flooding the submarine would not actually be a great idea. But she did steal the sub, and by dint of numerous spent bennies for re-rolling her non-existant piloting skill, managed to get the sub out into the underwater cavern.

In the other part of the base, the humans tried to get the PCs to surrender, unsuccessfully. Cecil killed one of the humans and Sasta knocked out another. Lady Bronwyn, by some miracle (of die-rolling and RP alike), not only managed to convince the last to surrender, but also that the whole fight had been a terrible misunderstanding once she figured out that this was a research institution and not, in fact, a pirate base training sea monsters to attack ships.

Granted, it pretty much had been a terrible misunderstanding, but misunderstandings don't usually end up with people dead and that was a lot to try to look past. Sasta felt pretty awful about it, even though there hadn't been a lot she could do either way. The first man was dead even before she knew what was going on, and after that the other humans were trying to kill the party, so it was hard not to fight back.

Since my character was on the other side of the map when all this happened, and had only just recently stopped treating all humans as food anyway, I didn't take the conflict too personally myself.

After the fight, Sasta sent the crew back to her trapped Nautilus. The mermaid was still in the Yellow Submarine, and cruising around with a sea serpent following her. She was singing friendly songs to the serpent to keep it calm. She'd also discovered the sub had "feeding tubes" of fish that could be launched out, and fed one to the sea serpent.

After a bit, she found the Nautilus trapped in the serpent's cage. She left her sub (it was too hard to pilot reliably, even blowing through chips) and swam through the bars to open the cage, then sang the "come to me!" siren song at the Nautilus. The Nautilus came out, whereupon she fired more food into the cage and sang the "come to me!" song to the sea serpent, who went back into its cage. Voila!

After this, the mermaid re-entered the base to look for the party, and the surviving conscious NPC had led the party back to the yellow sub's dock. He noticed it was missing. "This is terrible! It's booby trapped in case of theft!"

"What kind of trap?" Blacktail asked.

"Well, if it made it out of the cavern, we should be safe ... "

The mermaid started singing the "we're all going to die" song.

Realizing that communicating with the landfolk was generally useless, the mermaid resorted to grabbing the NPC captain and diving into the dockwaters with him. Then she remembered he couldn't breathe water. Humans are so inconveniently designed! The GM ruled that with a sufficiently miraculous roll she could do a "mermaid kiss of life" and keep him breathing while she swam them back to the yellow sub, which she did. The captain disabled the booby trap and everyone was saved. Hurrah!

The mermaid didn't get to give the yellow submarine to Blacktail after all, though. Darn.

The party talked to the captain of the research station for a while after that. Lady Bronwyn decided to take one of the newly-vacated posts at the station, after going back to London to get her stuff and see if any of her scientist friends wanted to work at the station, too.

So the group went back to London after that.

Now, one of the interesting side plots in the game is that the bear, Spartak, had fallen for a pirate, Bonnie Reade, that they'd taken prisoner back on their homeworld. He hadn't actually told her he loved her, however: he'd just been very possessive of her. Sasta had set Bonnie free some episodes back, under various circumstances. But Bonnie was a pirate, and the sentence for that was death back home, so Bonnie didn't have much incentive to go home.

In this world, however, a Lord Reade had taken Bonnie Reade for his actual daughter, who'd been a victim of Dr. Moreau's experiments. Lord Reade figured Bonnie's feline appearance was from regression, and he'd pretty much adopted her as his own.

This seemed like a good deal to Bonnie. But Spartak wanted her to stay with him, and he was loyal to Sasta so that meant going back home. Where she was under death threat.

They had a big argument which Spartak's player wrote up, as below:

Night falls on London, but all is not peaceful and tranquil.

An argument rages in the cabin of the Raging Bear .

"...And I will say it once more, I do not want you to stay here. You must return with us to Akoma," rumbled Spartak in his deep, thickly accented growl.

"YOU don't want? What about what I want?" snapped Captain Reade, in a near-hiss, apropos for the cat and her mood. "I have a chance to start over here - to have a family for once."

"What you want is unimportant. You must come back with us to stand trial for your crimes," the bear coolly replied.

"Stand TRIAL? The penalty for piracy is DEATH! I told you, I have a chance to start over here!"

"Start over? You must first finish what you have begun."

"...And finish myself, as well. I'm not going back to an Akoman noose!"

"Do you really think the humans will treat you any kinder? We have seen what the Mohammedans do to outsiders, as well as the Spanish. Do you really think these English are any better? If not, remember that Moreau was one of them, and you saw what he did...."

"So, what is the alternative? Are you going to order me to come with you? Remember I am a captain; I outrank you," hissed Reade.

Spartak's eyes narrowed and his bass rumble dropped in pitch to a deep growl. "You are not my captain. Sasta is."

At this, Captain Reade became livid, nearly screaming her reply, "Then get off of my ship! Go to her and her tin-can deathtrap! Get out!"

The bear turned and left the ship in a state of high dodge, kicking the door to the cabin open, sending the rats who were listening on the other side sprawling in all directions. He stormed down the gangplank and into the depths of the London twilight, leaving nearly all of his possessions behind - his clothes, his personal logbook, the charts he had learned to read while masquerading as captain, and several drafts of letters written in his unsteady scrawl. All the letters but one were addressed to various Bisclavret and Triskellian legal officials and magistrates, and they outlined his desire to have Reade remanded to his custody for life in lieu of the death penalty. The odd letter was addressed to Calabria's version of Lord Reade, asking permission to take his daughter's hand in marriage.

The docks fell silent again, masking the unrest and turmoil felt by the denizens of London. and after that parted ways.

This was before the party left London and had their underwater adventure.

So when they got back to London, one of the things Sasta wanted to do was settle what to do with the Raging Bear. They established that Bonnie didn't want the ship. Spartak didn't want to go back to it, either. He asked Sasta to clean out his cabin and throw everything away.

So Sasta went through his cabin and found the letters. 'Oh, this is for Lord Reade. Better send it to him.'

Thus did Bonnie find out about Spartak's proposal, which the player described as full of mushy, over-the-top declarations of love.

The GM rolled for Bonnie's reaction: Pride vs Heart. He got a tie:

Bonnie rushed down to London and the docks -- just in time to see the Nautilus and the Raging Bear sailing away. Curses and epithets upon Sasta's name rained forth.

Then she commandeered a sloop and set sail after them. She caught up to the Raging Bear, swung across, found Spartak, and promptly started yelling at him.

Greywolf let me take over playing Bonnie at this point, 'cause I love this sort of roleplay.

"Why didn't you tell me you loved me, you great oaf?" Bonnie yelled.

"I didn't think it was relevant ... "

"Of course it was relevant! Why didn't you tell me that? That's what I wanted to hear! Not all that talk of Akoma and hangings and being tried for my crimes!" She punched his arm. "You big jerk! I didn't know you wanted to marry me!"

The entire crew watched, wide-eyed. Players pantomimed eating popcorn.

"But you still have to come back to Akoma ... "

"Why?" She took his hand. "Why don't you stay here? Lord Reade will accept you as his son-in-law. It's a god life, Spartak. A good family. You don't have to go back to the sea."

"I am in service to Captain Sasta."

More epithets, and Bonnie dived off the Raging Bear to swim to the Nautilus. "SASTA!"

Sasta: "What?"

"You have to let him go!"

Sasta looked bewildered. "Who?"

Bonnie snarled. "What do you mean, who? My bear! Spartak! He wants to marry me, not you! He doesn't belong to you. You have to stop holding him here!"

So Sasta yelled at Spartak, "I release you!"

Spartak: "You're firing me?"

Sasta had a good speech in here, which I will not reproduce 'cause I can't do her accent. Her accent renders her speech really hard to follow in text. But I will note one little thing: at one point she meant to say, "you're free to choose your own directions". But Sasta can't pronounce the letter 'd': she uses the 'e' sound instead. Everyone in the room dissolved into laughter for about 10 minutes after that. It took a little while to get back on track.

In the end, though, Spartak agreed to retire, and stay in this world's England with Bonnie Reade.

Since the player was voluntarily retiring the character for good roleplay reasons, Greywolf decided he could carry over Spartak's experience to the next character he made up, which was cool.

And that was pretty much the session. Now I have new respect for terrycloth summarizing his games in five or six paragraphs. O_O This game ran for ten or eleven hours: Greywolf is a marathon GM.
Tags: gaming, life, trips

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