pleasure of running.
A new player joined the Vornheim group today. Ronak is playing Rig the
Fighter (Ronak has previously played in the Bookhounds of London and
Grace Under Pressure one-shots).
Nas (Image), Palalladin (usually Amy, played today by Alex because Amy
was ill), Balin (BC), and Ber (Alex) returned to Gaxen Kane from the
Lost City. They had dealt a significant setback to the Temple of Zargon
and freed many of its prisoners from the cathedral in the Lost
City--although they had not gone after Zargon itself, and they had not
entirely broken the cult's power. Nevertheless, they had unified the
factions of the Lost City and Ber had received a token showing her to be
a friend of the League of Tumultuous Erudition.
They returned to Gaxen Kane and Lord Chalk's (Harry to his friends)
townhouse. Nas immediately inquired after Hrezwina and was told that
she had become a successful entrepreneur and could be found at her
coffeehouse. Ah, yes, coffee. In the few short weeks since the party
had left, full-on coffee mania had struck Gaxen Kane. Harry described
it (and gave the party samples) as "almost exactly the opposite of
whiskey, but somehow equally delightful" The party immediately headed to
Hrezwina's Coffeehouse to discover the following:
As previously discussed, Goblin women become pregnant through reading
saucy literature. Hrezwina had been working--she was a little vague on
this point, but I think we can read between the lines--as a specialty
act in a fancy house, where many of the girls had (well-founded) fear of
pregnancy. And there she made a fascinating discovery. If, immediately
after exposure to spicy wordplay, a goblin woman reads something
excruciatingly boring, it is a sovereign prophylactic against
Thus the girls began reading the shipping reports in between customers,
and plying their customers for details of their commercial lives; their
clientele were of course flattered by the attention paid to their
humdrum lives, and the girls...well, the girls suddenly had a
comprehensive, holistic view of trade in Gaxen Kane. This enabled them
to make some very smart investments which allowed them to rent a
building in the financial district. One of the rising stars was of
course coffee, and now Hrezwina is the proprietress of Gaxen Kane's very
first coffeehouse, where pretty girls (goblins, other than Hrezwina)
serve hot coffee to goblins of distinction, sit on their knees, and
offer an appealing social space (VIP booths with privacy curtains are
upstairs) for them to pursue their financial machinations.
Hrezwina was overjoyed to see Nas. She also had a job for the party,
should they wish to accept in. In exchange for a share (current value
1000gp) in her venture for each of them, she wants the party to secure a
reliable source of coffee for her. As far as she knows it comes from
one place, and one place only: the goblin colony at Tanaroa, on an
island far, far to the south. She currently pays about 50 gp per 50-lb
bag, delivered. She goes through about 50 bags a month. But prices are
going up steeply, because she now has competition and there are only
about 120 bags per month arriving at Gaxen Kane. So her aims are at
least threefold: 1) ensure a steady supply of coffee for her, 2) reduce
her cost by establishing a reliable supply chain, and 3) choke out her
competition, if possible.
Tanaroa is about a month's journey away by usual methods: a long
overland trip through bandit-infested wastes, to a seaport somewhere,
and then a medium-length ocean voyage to the island. But there's also
the every-other-day Hog Zepplin service. For a mere 100 gp each,
passengers can travel in style and luxury aboard an 80-hog zeppelin to
After some scraping together party funds, and Nas batting his eyelashes
until Hrezwina grudgingly gave him a pair of earrings to sell, the party
was able to afford the zeppelin. No one seemed to mind the sudden shift
from the reign of George IV to George V.
In the little while before the flight departed, Nas enjoyed Hrezwina's
charms, while Ber found that the League of Tumultuous Erudition had word
of cat-people, monkey-people, and spider-mages on the island, and were
willing to pay good money for anthropological surveys, and excellent
money for a spider-mage's spellbook if such a thing existed.
The zeppelin carries twelve paying guests, an indeterminate number of
crew, official mail and extremely expensive couriered private mail, and
a few hyper-luxury goods. It is called the _Flugelschwein Zwei_, and is
captained by the unbearably Teutonic monocled Captain Dolf Helmenspeik;
the chief engineer and head pig-slopper is Angus McTavish.
Our heroes met at the appointed time, were loaded by means of tethered
hog-balloons onto the zeppelin, and met the other passengers, all
goblins of wealth and taste. I will number them here for reasons that
will shortly become evident. Major Harrumphitol was actually a Captain
in play, and that was a mistake because distinguishing him from the
ship's captain, when planning, became difficult. We rolled d12s for
everyone to determine who got what cabin (if you got an occupied one,
you kept incrementing the cabin number until you hit an empty one), so
there was a map of people and rooms.
1) Lady Dolores Wrinklequim. Likes: rat-things (as extra-horrible
Pomeranians), champagne, pearls to clutch. Dislikes: rudeness, the
Wyvern Of The Well, loud noises.
2) Major Harlan Harrumphitol. Likes: parade dress, orderliness,
well-trimmed mutton chops. Dislikes: foreigners, change, spicy food.
3) Elijah Goldberg. Likes: fine-and-gaudy clothing, fancy women, pinky
rings. Dislikes: stuffy old-money aristocracy, seafood, responsibility.
4) Miss Veronica Adipose. Likes: cleavage, sultry singing, cocaine.
Dislikes: wet blankets, vicious dogs, bedtime.
5) Edward Moleblanket. Likes: pretty women, fast vehicles, deceit.
Dislikes: former acquaintances, policemen, his past.
6) The Widow Esmerelda Elderbush. Likes: pretty young men, gin, too
much makeup. Dislikes: her age, younger and prettier women, waking up
The first night was luxurious but uneventful: Nas provided a way for
Miss Adipose to avoid the attentions of Mr. Goldberg, and as so often
happens aboard a cruise, this somehow turned into cocaine and dancing
the night away (although she rebuffed his attempt to return to his
room); Edward Moleblanket found Ber and her fur unexpectedly
captivating, although then he sized up the Widow Elderbush's assets--no,
no, her jewelry--and shifted his focus; Rig attempted to strike up a
friendship with the Major based on their military experience and did
fairly well considering that he was a damned foreigner and a human to
Then I had the players roll a d6, another d6, and a d4. The first time,
they all came up 1, so I had a reroll. The next time it was 2, 6, and
The d4 table is this one:
1) Sharp trauma
2) Blunt trauma
4) No obvious physical trauma
The next morning the servants woke everyone up early as the captain
announced they must meet in the dining gallery at once. Ber earned 50
additional XP by saying "oh! It's a murder mystery!" before the captain
spoke, because, indeed, it was.
The Widow Elderbush had been bludgeoned to death in her room the
We now moved into a classical whodunit (inspired, yes, by the EA game
_Murder on the Zinderneuf_). Some clues quickly emerged. The Widow's
door had not been locked--a maid had been instructed to knock on her
door at 6 so that the Widow would have time to put on her (extensive)
face prior to breakfast, and when she did, the door swung open and she
saw the blood (I really should have had her screams wake the passengers,
Her skull had been smashed with a few blows from a heavy, blunt object.
Her jewelery box was locked on her dresser--but the key was nowhere to
be found, and when Nas picked it open, it was discovered to be empty.
Her porthole was undogged, although it had been mostly closed. Some
towels and a pillowcase were missing. The single unoccupied cabin was
next door, and was empty. In that room, Nas found a few drops of blood
under the bed, and a missing towel, as well as a shoe-scuff on the
porthole. He also determined that the cabin door locks were trivially
easy to pick.
An examination of the body revealed some additional clues: bruising on
the wrists, consistent with them being held in a single strong, large
male hand--but on closer inspection, those bruises seemed to be a few
hours older than the fatal head wound. Her fingernails were long and
painted--but unbroken and there was no skin under them. And most
strikingly (it took a while to discover this, oddly, but the party did
finally remember they'd been carrying around a copy of _Anatomy of the
Goblin Races_ in an inexpensive student edition for several
sessions)...the Widow Esmerelda Elderbush was *no goblin at all*, but an
ugly human woman who wore a whole lot of makeup and had been pretending
to be a goblin society matron. She also had a tattoo of a cobra on her
left inner forearm, which was determined by Balin (a cleric of Vorn,
although a pretty halfhearted one) to be consistent with the Yig-worship
fad that had gone around the human world about 25 years previously.
Among the other guests: Goldberg had light bruising and some fingernail
marks on his face. The Major was limping and using a cane (the morning
was chilly and damp). Veronica Adipose seemed decidedly unwell. Lady
Wrinklequim looked pale, sat on the settee, and determinedly gulped down
brandy after brandy, and Mr. Moleblanket looked glumly out the window,
nursing gins and tonic.
Nas was able to determine that Elijah Goldberg's facial wounds were the
result of a slap delivered by Miss Adipose after he failed to take "no"
for an answer. This seemed to clear the two of them. General consensus
pointed away from Dolores Wrinklequim as far too frail to have
bludgeoned even another old lady to death. And that left Major
Harrumpitol and Edward Moleblanket as the primary suspects.
A plan was hatched: Ber proposed a sting. Balin announced that he was a
cleric of Vorn, and that he would stay up all night and commune with the
dead, and have an answer from her spirit by morning. He couldn't
actually do that, but of course the other guests didn't know that. Nas
hid under the bed in the empty room (having also climbed out his room's
porthole and in that one's), next to the former Widow's room. Pal and
Ber stayed in their cabins, and Rig went up to stand watch on the deck,
taking what cover he could behind the Big Metal Box, the Pointless
Smokestack, and the Even More Inexplicable Lifeboat. The observation
deck has a tarp about thirty feet above it, designed to sluice the
pigshit away from those enjoying the view. Rigging and rope ladders
lead up to the hogs, and there's evidently planking and stuff up there
so the sailors can slop the hogs during the voyage.
Rig burned his Big Purple d30 roll on being sneaky while on watch duty,
and got a 13. Which is pretty sneaky, but he's wearing chainmail and
he's human and thus doesn't have goblin night vision.
About 12:30, the Major came onto the deck, and toured the perimeter
checking the rigging and smoking a cigar. Then he went below. Somewhat
later, two more figures came upstairs. They made their way to the
lifeboat--it turned out to be Moleblanket and Adipose indulging in a
passionate makeout session. Rig noted that, at one point, he had her
wrists grabbed above her head in one of his hands as he was kissing her.
As the lovers were returning belowdecks, there was a startled "Harrumph!
I say!" as they encountered the Major again. And then he leaned his
cane up against the lifeboat and climbed the rigging. Rig immediately
ran to the door bridge, pounded on it, and explained to the copilot (one
Kurt Schlemiel) that the murderer was cutting a pig free from the mass
to make his escape. Kurt immediately rang the alarm bells, Rig
scampered up the rigging, and Ber and Pal started running for the stairs
to the observation deck.
The Major greeted Rig with a stream of racist invective (the phrases
"smoothskin" and "bright-light devil" were both deployed), and got both
hawsers securing a pig cut. Rig hit him with the flat of his axe, but
the Major manager to grab a line and began to escape, at which point Rig
tried to sever the hand holding the rope. He didn't quite cut through
it, but he did cripple that hand, causing the Major to fling his knife
(ineffectually) at Rig with his bad hand and causing the DM to burn his
d30 roll for the night: I said that the Major needed a 14 to grab the
line with his left hand and swing away. I rolled the d30, and it rolled
and wobbled a very long time before coming up 15.
The major was just lifting off, but by this time Ber and Pal had made it
to the observation deck, and Ber shouted the line that, by all rights,
should have inaugurated the most magnificent TPK in my personal gaming
history: "I Magic Missile the pig!"
So, a bolt of magical force streaked into the night, and impacted a
bloated, hydrogen-filled, giant hog, nestled amongst 79 other
Unfortunately, Ber rolled a 1 for damage, (and did not roll a 1 on her
d20 roll for magical corruption) and so the pig did not explode in a
glorious fireball, but began to slowly sink, a jet of ghostly blue flame
shooting from its side.
Rig grabbed a line attached to a nearby pig in the canopy, and swung out
to grab the line from which the Major was hanging. He rolled a 1. This
sent us to my Random Fumble Table Table, which, unfortunately, was also
a 1, which was "Hackmaster," which merely meant "your enemy gets an
immediate free attack." And since all the Major was trying to do was to
climb the rope so he could get up to the pig and put out the flame and
patch the hole, that was basically just a "no effect."
But now as he descended, his legs were within Palalladin's reach, and
Pal grappled him and beat him on a contested Strength check, so he had a
firm grip on his legs and pulled him onto the observation deck. Ber
fired another Magic Missle and handily beat her corruption roll of 3,
severing the rope. The flaming pig rose back into the sky, and I ruled
that on a d12 roll of 1-3, it was coming back towards the canopy. 2.
But Rig would get a shot at it with his axe before it got up to the rest
of the balloons. He nailed it, and the pig exploded. This caused Rig
some damage, and covered him in pig guts, but saved the ship.
Palalladin managed to sit on the Major until help arrived. The copilot
corroborated our heroes' stories, and the Major eventually broke and
snarled that it wasn't like he'd killed a person anyway, and how dare
she pretend to be a goblin and it was disgusting and he'd only found out
when it was too late and he was sure that the jewels (which were
discovered in an improvised-from-a-pillowcase moneybelt around his
midriff) were stolen anyway.
SIDEBAR: WHAT WAS GOING ON HERE
The procedural mystery worked great, although I stand by my decision to
not stick with the 1,1,1, which could only have meant that Dolores
Wrinklequim was told what her name meant and stabbed herself in
despair. My plan was basically to use the likes-and-dislikes of the six
suspects and assume that both a reasonable motive and means would appear
and that there'd be room for red herrings--and whatever the party came
up with, I'd roll with.
So, the actual events of the evening went something like this:
Moleblanket was indeed after Esmerelda's jewels. And he did, fairly
early in the evening, engage in a spirited makeout session with her, and
his MO does include the wrist-grab thing. So that's where the bruises
came from. But he didn't kill her--indeed, he didn't even steal her
jewels, because it's only the first night of a 5-day trip, and he'd be
much more likely to perform the heist and get away clean if he did it at
the end of the trip.
But he did leave her hot, bothered, high, and dry. So, figuring any
port in a storm, she collared the Major, who was harrumphing his way
around the deck and corridors smoking cigars. Only once he turned on
the light to put his shoes back on, he realized she wasn't a goblin at
all, and in his anger and loathing (since he's a racist, jingoistic ass)
he held her face down with a pillow and cracked her on the side of the
skull a few times with the head of his cane. Had the characters
examined it at any point they would have noted that it had a heavy brass
handle, and that it was also a sword-cane. But they never did.
Then once he'd done the murder, he stole the jewels, climbed out the
window and in the window of the next-door cabin, cleaned himself up as
best he could, threw the jewelery box key and the bloodied towels out
the window, slipped into the corridor, and relocked the door with his
pen-knife (the Major, as it turns out, is no stranger to skulduggery).
So, the murder was solved, the zeppelin was saved, and the rest of the
trip was uneventful, although Miss Adipose was ever so grateful to Nas
Foullurker, and the other characters' motivations for going to Tanaroa
were mostly-elucidated: Lady Dolores Wrinklequim was meeting her husband
and son, who ran most of the goods-imported-from-the-Imperial-heartla
trade and did some exporting of raw materials, though not, particularly,
coffee. Elijah Goldberg (who had been wearing extremely expensive
clothes trimmed in fine fur throughout this whole adventure) was a
magnate in the garment trade and was buying exotic furs and (especially)
skins from the island's renowned enormous lizards. It was never clear
what, exactly, Edward Moleblanket did, but it sure seemed to be
something like being a riverboat gambler separating rich ladies from
their jewelery, and the zeppelin routes were a magnificent venue for
him. Miss Adipose was a drug tourist, seeking new thrills near their
At this point Rig had to leave, so BC played his character for the
little remaining adventuring we did.
In the colony in Tanaroa, the characters were quick to establish who the
local mercantile players were, and to get some information about the
interior and the natives (mostly human, especially in the seven villages
around Tanaroa, but also cat-men named rakasta, and some sort of
monkey-men, both farther inland). That night, they went to bed in the
inn down in the goblin colony (a few streets near a wharf built for
ocean-going ships, several hundred yards down the hill from the native
settlement). I asked the players to roll a d20, and not to roll a 1 if
they wanted a quiet night.
They rolled a 1. An enraged Tyrannosaurus Rex, wounded, with spears
sticking out of it, was lumbering down the hill from the village. Ber
used her d30 roll and hit it in the eye for 18 points of damage.
Blinded and very badly wounded, the lizard turned to flee, and the
colonists began buying the party lots of free booze--but all was not
well. Ber had to make a Corruption check of 5 this time--and rolled a
2. Fortunately the 78 on Scrap's Mutation Table yielded only an
enlarged chest--double lung capacity and a +2 to damage with blow guns.
This complemented her white fur, spines, baboon arms and different voice
every day, and as she said, tended to confirm her theory that she was
becoming an actual bear.
The next morning, our heroes spoke to Hugh Findlechot, the burgomeister,
who sold them a map of the (coast of the) island, and to Phoebe
Bardridge, Customs Director. She allows as how several enterprising
goblins have set out to create coffee plantations in recent month, and
names three who have actually sent multiple shipments of beans back
rather than vanishing into the wilderness, never to be heard from again.
Her guard, Aku, a native, offers the name "Skiwa" as a reliable guide
from the village, and says that they should talk to Allak, the village
chief. So they head up there, and as Ber is a hero today among the
natives (they pass a lot of destruction and, at the center of town, find
the T-Rex's severed head; the village is mostly engaged in rebuilding
the giant wooden doors that serve as the gate in their immense stone
wall, which Allak explains was built by the long-gone gods, as were the
stone and iron statues of people who look human, but neither with the
South Seas Islander looks of the villagers, nor the Germanic features of
Vornheim, but more like Native Americans). Allak is happy to lend Skiwa
to the party as a guide as far as the Big Tar Lake, and to give them
protective amulets, one from each clan (Elk, Hawk, Sea Turtle, Tiger).
They spend some time getting more tropically-appropriate gear and
getting ready to head out into the jungle next session. And that's
where we stopped. Next time: Coffee Plantations On The Isle of Dread.