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Author Topic: Adventure! First Session.  (Read 9918 times)
Chris Gardiner
Member

Posts: 45


« on: August 21, 2003, 03:23:26 AM »

I finally got to run a game of Adventure! this weekend for some old friends. Though I'm not a fan of the White Wolf system, I was impressed with how well the variant in A! fitted pulp action, and had wanted to try it out for ages.

I used an alternate setting - a crazy mish-mash of pulp elements set in an unfamiliar 1920s. Queen Victoria has returned from the dead to rule her Fatal British Empire, and is involved in all sorts of Egyptian afterlife magic to prolong and better her peculiar existence. The lost notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci were discovered, leading to all sorts of bizarre and anachronistic technology, some of which the Papacy used to separate itself from earthly matters, levitating the whole of the Vatican into the skies above Rome, just one step from heaven. The Great War was ended by dropping hundreds of Y-bombs on conquered France and Germany - bombs which don't merely destroy but remove what they are dropped on to some *other* place. Unfortunately, the bombs allow *things* through when they are detonated, and France is now a haunted wasteland.

The characters were all previous associates who had been in Paris just before the bombs were dropped. They don't talk about what happened there, but as a result of it they all swore an oath - an oath which takes preference over loyalties, family and faith. Each of them can call on the others to help them with any situation once and once only. For the first time, one of them has invoked the oath.

This turned out to be a nice way of getting people together, and ensuring that they'd stay that way. We didn't go into detail about what happened in Paris, just saying that they never talk about it, but the players could, and did, allude to it in play. I'm hoping that after a number of sessions there will have been enough hints that I can run a flashback scenario set there tying all the allusions together.

One of my favourite moments in the game came when someone said something like "It could be worse - we could be back in Paris." and everyone nodded sagely and shuddered. "What happened in Paris?" asked one of the NPCs.

"WE DON'T TALK ABOUT PARIS!" chorussed the entire player group.

Anyway.

The PCs were:-

Doctor Jerome Bartleby: a medical doctor and chemist whose spirit has been transferred into the body of a 400 pound gorilla. One of those Parisian incidents we don't talk about.

Michelle DuPont, "the Angel": a refugee from France who made for herself a set of wings from one of Leonardo's sketches, and has become a symbol of hope over the rooftops of London's French quarter.

Jack "the Fandango" Lincoln: an American Jack-of-all-Trades, and an expert driver.

Lady Lavinia Bainbridge: An english lady with a shadowy past, the ruler of the illegal Secret Order of Suffragettes.

Father Lucius Firenze: a priest who works for the Vatican's Office for the Scrutiny of Condemned Mentations, investigating and practicing all those dark arts that the Church has proscribed. The office's motto is "know thine enemy".

Colonel Bartholomew "Barty" Fortesque: a great white hunter, accompanied by Bessie, his elephant gun.

Opening: we opened in London, in the shadow of the Bethnal Pyramid (the queen's tomb), with zeppelins buzzing in the night sky. I chatted with the player playing Jerome beforehand, and we had him walking through the streets to an opium den, passing a monument to the queen which read "H.M. Queen Victoria, 1831-1901, 1910-????".  In the opium den he was led upstairs and into a dimly-lit room, where the other swearers of the Parisian Oath were sat. He bid them a polite good evening, took off his hat and coat, and revealed himself to be a gorilla.

Now the other characters knew this, but the players didn't, because I wanted it to be a bit of a surprise. I'd primed Barty's player, since Barty knew Jerome best, and asked him to come up with a line to greet his friend and demonstrate that this was entirely normal. As soon as Jerome revealed himself, Barty came out with "Ah, Jerome! Banana dacquiri?"

I've gone into some detail here, because, well, I'm dead proud of it, and because I've not done such extreme scene-framing before. The whole of the early section was a way of saying "This is the sort of bizarre world you live in - it's got zeppelins, pyramids in London, an undead queen, and you're all best friends with a talking gorilla". It worked really well, and set an appropriate tone.

We then did character descriptions, and then Lavinia revealed that she was the one who'd invoked the oath, and explained why she'd summoned everyone together. This let a PC rather than an NPC do the initial mission brief, which also went well.

One of Lavinia's contacts had been murdered in Morocco, just after sending her a mysterious telegram about the Queen's "Sun-barge". Her killing bore strange similarities to the London Ripper Murders of 1888.

The players quickly planned to travel to Tangiers, and Barty used Inspiration to state that he knew a fellow member of the Royal Geographic Society with a plane who could take them there. While he was sorting this out, I said that over the next day everyone could do one thing, and people did some investigation, read some newspapers, and bought some equipment. It was all quick and abstract, and made for a decent montage scene.

In Tangiers they went into full-on investigation mode, and here I let things drag a little. The party split up, and I went into too much detail on what were really minor lines of inquiry. Once I realised it was hapenning, I got busy with the scene-framing again, which turned out to be a remarkably powerful tool.

Investigations led the party to keep one of the murdered woman's appointments in a cafe with a mystery man referred to in her notes only as Dr. Smith. As Dr. Smith appeared and crossed the road towards them, certain party members recognised him as Lord Caernarvon (discoverer, with Howard Carter, of King Tut's tomb, although that was only happening now in the game's timeline and was all hush-hush). Before he could reach them, though, a car screeched up and a gang of men piled Caerarvon into the back and drove off.

Cue a dramatic case involving gorillas on car roofs, second cars coming out of alleys, Jack using Inspiration to commandeer a car with the engine running, and fights on running boards. Caernarvon was saved (Jerome peeled off the car roof, plucked him out and threw him up to Michelle, who made off across the rooftops with him), and Lavinia searched the unconscious body of one of the abductors and realised they were agents of the Vatican.

What followed was a tense player confrontation. Previously, Father Firenze had been sending communiques back to the Vatican, and Lavinia had caught him at it and demanded to know where his loyalties lay. Father Firenze had promised that there was no conflict of interests, and that she had nothing to worry about. Then the Vatican heavy squad had turned up.

Some quick-thinking, though, revealed that their presence wasn't anything to do with Father Firenze, though. The bible Lavinia had found on one of them showed they wree agents of the Prophetical Office, who used the church's vast library of prophecies to identify and intervene in world events. However, Father Firenze's communications with the Vatican stoped at that point.

The party fled Morocco by train, heading to Caernarvon's Egyptian dig site. I interrupted a big "What's going on discussion" to ask the players if they minded having it on the train, which let me keep the story moving along, and everyone was happy with that.

On the train, Jack glimpsed a couple of sinister British men, and Father Firenze suggested they might be agents of the super-secret service that served Victoria, known only as the Unmourned. The party gave them a wide birth.

In Egypt, the party helped Carter and Caernarvon violate their orders from the Egyptian office and progress into King Tutankhamen's tomb, bypassing traps and riddles. In the funeral chamber they found the impossible: fresh footprints in a place no-one had been for millenia. They belonged to what Queen Victoria had been seeking - her 'sunbarge' was a reincarnated semi-divine girl who the queen hoped would be able to contain her immortal spirit. Just as the player's realised this, and resolved to keep the girl safe from the clutches of Her Inscrutable Majesty, the sound of gunfire broke out outside.

The Unmourned had arrived, determined to claim the girl. Since they are already dead, and animated by Egyptian sorceries, they posed a real threat, and the party's main interest was to flee.

The fight was cinematic - the Adventure system and mood encourages players to be imaginative in their actions. Jerome grabbed a huge gold bowl and used it as a shield against gunfire as the party exited the tomb, then threw it like a discus at one of the Unmourned. Barty kept one off his feet using Bessie, and the party fled to the camels. The presence of the Order of Anubis, a cult of desert hermits who were determined to protect the girl, further complicated matters, but Michelle managed to set them on the Unmourned.

They headed to the Pyramids, where a tourist zeppelin called the Osiris was preparing to depart. They spent Inspiration to get on just before it took off, leaving the Unmourned behind.

Unfortunately, a cardinal and his bodyguards were onboard the zeppelin, and the party had realised the Church wanted the girl's death. Returning from the dead, and defying the date of the Resurrection, is a whole new level of sin in the Vatican's book, and the Church works against the Queen whenever it can.

Some of the players negotiated with the Cardinal, while others tried to get the girl to the biplane that hung from the bottom of the zeppelin. Just as they opened the door to get outside, though, a biplane screamed by, shattering the windows along one side of the Zeppelin -  German sky-pirates! The German nobility, who had been its airmen in the Great War, had fled the defeat of their country and become sky-pirates (which had been established in the initial player handout). Now the players had to deal with them, AND the cardinal.

There followed another dramatic battle, with Michelle using an axe to break the struts of the Germans' biplane wings ("Vive la Resistance!", "Gott in Himmel! It's ze French!"). Quick negotiations with the Cardinal enlisted his temporary help against the Germans, and a fight broke out in the Zeppelin with some pirates who had been planted among the passengers. There was more gorilla action, Barty saw some off the biplanes with Bessie (but spared their leader, the Duke of Anhalt-Zerbst: "Dammit, I just can't bring myself to do it! The man's too fine  a pilot!") and Father Firenze and the Cardinal had a steeple-fingered archvillain contest with each other in which Firenze admitted he was not acting on the Church's orders.

Michelle, Jack and the girl made their escape in the biplane, and Lavinia made the zeppelin pilot land at gunpoint to stop the Cardinal enlisting him to follow the escaping plane. The girl was safely squirrelled away in Lavinia's retreat for lady mediums at Delphi, where it is hoped she'll be safe from the Queen's clutches. End.

It was simply the most fun I have *ever* had GMing, one of those times when everything comes together. The players were amazing, the rule system worked perfectly, and the action scenes were dramatic and fast-moving.

The pregenerated characters helped a lot, and pro-active scene-framing was a powerful tool to maintain the pace (the players commented on this afterwards, and decided it was a Good Thing). Writing the scenario was a lot of work (when players are investigating things I need a very complete picture of the events that occured, because I don't trust myself to be able ot make it up and maintain consistency), but my girlfriend helped, which was brilliant.

She and my housemate also played NPC roles, her playing Jerome's butler Withers, and he playing Lord Caernarvon. This worked really well, since they both stayed in the background when action broke out, and it meant the players could talk to Caernarvon and ask him questions even when I was busy dealing with something else.

I'm planning on running more, making it a series of linked one-offs, with each one being a different character's invocation of the Parisean Oath. There's plenty of loose ends to draw on - I think the next one will be Father Firenze's, since more information needs to come out about him (what *does* he carry in that Gladstone bag of his) and his confrontation with the Cardinal earned him an enemy with some power over him.

Pregenerated characters with some careful links to the plot seem to work really well for one-offs. I've done this a few times now, and each time it has gone really well. The Adventure! Dramatic Editing feature didn't get as much use as it could have, but hopefully with practice, it'll come more to the fore. Mostly people used it to have handy pieces of equipment nearby or contacts available. A few handouts, summarizing the case notes of the murdered woman, her telegram, and the contents of the morning's paper, also contributed.

Anyhoo. Huzzah for Adventure (exclamation mark).
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Chris Gardiner
Member

Posts: 45


« Reply #1 on: August 21, 2003, 04:01:12 AM »

Oops! Forgot to mention that while we were writing the scenario, there miraculously appeared this thread on RPGnet, from which I bravely stole several ideas. Craig Oxbrow's post is the key one - brilliant stuff.

* Edit - fixed HTML. I think.
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Craig Oxbrow
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Posts: 3


« Reply #2 on: August 21, 2003, 06:13:19 AM »

Aww shucks.

Adventure! is my muse.
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Craig Oxbrow
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Posts: 3


« Reply #3 on: August 21, 2003, 07:15:53 AM »

That totally rocks. I like the proactive framing idea (yoink) and any writeup which includes the phrases "There was more gorilla action" and "Some of the players negotiated with the Cardinal, while others tried to get the girl to the biplane that hung from the bottom of the zeppelin" is definitely worth keeping.

Since the ideas involved are already a good 87% wilder than I came up with, I'll just throw in a few asides.

With a Queen who left the throne by dying and then reclaimed it, succession becomes a rather thorny issue. British politics could erupt into chaos at any time (and naturally when it's most inconvenient for the adventurers) with Vatican agents, the reformed Church of England's crusade against the undead head of the main church (possibly lead by Quincy Harker, Vampire Hunter), supporters of the deposed Living King, Marxists, Suffragettes, the Labour movement, and some more proactive servants of Anubis who would really rather the Queen went back into her coffin like a good girl.

Barty and the Duke really should cross swords again. Ideally literally, in a burning building. And/or in a situation which leads to them teaming up against something else entirely. Like, say, after an RGS expedition to an uncharted island leaves them both stranded and surrounded by dinosaurs.

Dr. Bartleby's condition could also be the root of the Tarzan myths, as the subtropical islands that used to be southern France are home to a white man with the spirit of a silverback gorilla... or possibly an entire tribe of savage beast-minded people, lead by Bartleby's former self.

If the Unmourned are smart (and it seems they are, being able to pass for the living) one of their leaders should of course be a man that one of our heroes killed.

For the level of strange invention, I'm reminded of The Most Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec.

And is a Gladstone bag large enough to carry the head of John the Baptist?
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Hardpoint
Member

Posts: 51


WWW
« Reply #4 on: August 21, 2003, 01:08:27 PM »

Dude that is the wildest, most insanely concocted world I've ever heard of. THAT RULED!!!!

I did some work on the Crimson Skies game for Xbox coming soon and that universe if nowhere near as wacky as the one you described. I would love to see that world you described published. The gorilla, the undead queen, all of it is so amazing that I would kill to play in that game. Any chance you are in central Oregon? I totally dig pulp stuff (Justice Inc was my original avenue for it). This game write up makes me wanna buy Adventure!
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Chris Gardiner
Member

Posts: 45


« Reply #5 on: August 21, 2003, 03:09:23 PM »

Quote from: Craig Oxbrow

With a Queen who left the throne by dying and then reclaimed it, succession becomes a rather thorny issue. British politics could erupt into chaos at any time (and naturally when it's most inconvenient for the adventurers) with Vatican agents, the reformed Church of England's crusade against the undead head of the main church (possibly lead by Quincy Harker, Vampire Hunter), supporters of the deposed Living King, Marxists, Suffragettes, the Labour movement, and some more proactive servants of Anubis who would really rather the Queen went back into her coffin like a good girl.

I've had the current king go mad when Victoria returned, and now he's locked up somewhere 'for his own protection', but he'd make a good figurehead for other power groups, wouldn't he? The Vatican currently sponsers Catholic terrorism against British holdings, and there's a likelihood that the Queen will pass anti-Catholic laws sometime soon. I hadn't thought about the Church of England at all, which is a bit of an oversight. I think I'm going to have mainland Britain firmly under the Queen's power, but have all sorts of trouble in the colonies. The Bolsheviks, exiled to Siberia by Anastasia (another of your ideas I stole) can start popping up in places, teaching methods of civil unrest.

I think Barty's session should be set in India, as the first colonial uprising takes place, but I'll probably do that one a couple of sessions down the line.

Quote
Barty and the Duke really should cross swords again. Ideally literally, in a burning building. And/or in a situation which leads to them teaming up against something else entirely. Like, say, after an RGS expedition to an uncharted island leaves them both stranded and surrounded by dinosaurs.

They'll definately meet again, and the teaming up idea is an excellent one. I might chicken out from doing dinosaurs, but only because I want to do a session where people hunt for Aztec gold and meet the Conquistadors as they return from the hollow earth. No! Wait! Dinosaur-riding Conquistadors! Woo!

Quote
Dr. Bartleby's condition could also be the root of the Tarzan myths, as the subtropical islands that used to be southern France are home to a white man with the spirit of a silverback gorilla... or possibly an entire tribe of savage beast-minded people, lead by Bartleby's former self.

Whatever happened to Dr. Bartleby definately happened in Paris, and it was made pretty clear that his own body was lost. The tribal magic he used had to come from somewhere, though, so a tribe of ape-men would be cool. They could help fight the Conquistadors! There could be a whole "Am I a monster...or a man?" storyline, with Jerome having to decide if he should stay with the tribe that are so similar to him.
Quote
If the Unmourned are smart (and it seems they are, being able to pass for the living) one of their leaders should of course be a man that one of our heroes killed.

The Unmourned are smart, but rather inhuman. They undergo a process that removes any distinguishing features from them, so they're sort of like people with the serial numbers filed off. Plus their sense of self is subordinated by the Queen, and they all adopt this single blandly sinister template. When Jack spotted them on the train they were drinking tea synchronised and mechanically. They don't eat food; just drink tea. Well, they *are* English, don'tcha know.

But if one of them has a strong past relation with a PC, then maybe they could break their programming. That'd be cool.

Quote
And is a Gladstone bag large enough to carry the head of John the Baptist?

/ Looks around to check his players aren't within earshot.

Firenze's Gladstone actually holds a small familiar demon called Farfarello the Scandalmongerer, who can sniff out sins and start fires. Weirdly enough, he looks sort of like a saturnine head with fawn's legs and horns. It never came out in play, I think because the player was worried the other PCs would take demon-ownership the wrong way.

Firenze's session, though, is definitely going to involve relics, and possibly more demons. Also, the Doge,  crime-lord of Venice! I definitely need a returning archvillain (who appears in person, unlike Victoria).

That's a bucketful of ideas! Thanks!
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Chris Gardiner
Member

Posts: 45


« Reply #6 on: August 21, 2003, 03:15:21 PM »

Quote
Dude that is the wildest, most insanely concocted world I've ever heard of. THAT RULED!!!!

Thanks muchly.

/ Points at Mr Oxbrow

Quite a bit of it's *his* fault.
Quote
I did some work on the Crimson Skies game for Xbox coming soon and that universe if nowhere near as wacky as the one you described.

I've been looking forward to Crimson Skies, it sounds really cool! I just need an Xbox to play it on... Do a PC conversion, dammit!
Quote
Any chance you are in central Oregon? I totally dig pulp stuff (Justice Inc was my original avenue for it).

Sorry - I'm in Britain (North Wales, specifically).

If you like, I can email you my setting notes and stuff, though.

Quote
This game write up makes me wanna buy Adventure!

Buy Adventure!

White Wolf are ridiculously prodigious. If we can convince them to turn out regular quality stuff like A! it'd be great.
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Hardpoint
Member

Posts: 51


WWW
« Reply #7 on: August 21, 2003, 06:07:25 PM »

Quote from: Chris Gardiner

Thanks muchly.

/ Points at Mr Oxbrow

Quite a bit of it's *his* fault.


Well thank you Mr Oxbrow.

Quote
I've been looking forward to Crimson Skies, it sounds really cool! I just need an Xbox to play it on... Do a PC conversion, dammit!


Wish I could, but instead I now work for Sony. Crimson Skies was a blast to work on and is also a great pulp world. I think you will love this version of it as this version has all the stuff you seem to enjoy, mad scientists, insanely huge robot enemies, zeppelins, and lots of buckles being swashed. For those who know him, Stephen Daniele (of WOTC and Dungeon magazine cover fame) is doing artwork for it. His stuff is breathtaking.

Quote
Sorry - I'm in Britain (North Wales, specifically).

If you like, I can email you my setting notes and stuff, though.


I would actually. Sounds like a blast to read if nothing else. Please send them to my email below. Have you thought about doing a website chronicling the derring do of the intrepid heroes? See my site below for ideas on what I mean. The Services page is the portal to several campaigns I've run or my partners have. There we cover each game session like a chapter in a story. I for one would love to read more about these characters. They seem fascinating.

Quote
Buy Adventure!

White Wolf are ridiculously prodigious. If we can convince them to turn out regular quality stuff like A! it'd be great.


Wife willing, I will. I like the WW stuff sometimes (Werewolf and Vampire being the only titles I've done so far), which tells me that Adventure! should be awesome.

Thanks again for posting this. It was a true pleasure.
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Craig Oxbrow
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Posts: 3


« Reply #8 on: August 22, 2003, 06:17:57 AM »

You're very welcome.

I can also be found yammering on about Adventure! on Matt McFarland's game advice site blackhatmatt.com, here.
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