Thursday, October 3, 2013

Dungeons and Dandies - HMS APOLLYON - Uptown Session Play Report.



The Uptown Follies – Casino of Torment – Session I

“Treasures”
  • Sea-mongrel head (taxidermied) and shark jaw club – minor curio – 50 XP each party member
  • 4 theater masks – minor curio – 50 XP to each party member.
  • Ancient Carcosian dice – major curio – 300 XP to each party member
Group XP
  • First into the Crystal Cavern – 100 XP each
  • Well-mannered negotiations bonus – 50 XP each
  • Total XP – 550 XP each PC – 275 XP to Gaspar the Valet who is now 1st level (pick a class when he returns to town).
Individual XP bonuses
  • Daring-do with trident – 100 XP to Efrin
  • Standing up for the moneyed classes 50 XP for Ignatz
Invitation to Ruckus
After the ‘entertainment’ incident and the ghost actress massacre, things have been slow amongst the fourth sons, spinster daughters, wastrels, bastards and wealthy layabouts of Uptown.  Yet, Devin Hare – man about town, mistress of the duelo, and survivor of the pigeon tower massacre, has come across an opportunity for social advancement that simply cannot be ignored.

The Gentleman’s Club, a storied society of hard drinking Uptown persons of means has proffered him and “companions” an opportunity to listen to a lecture about “class hygiene” followed by refreshments. Devin, sensing a chance that could make or break her, soon gathers a few acquaintances from that she’s managed to enthrall with stories of manly daring. Efrin Burke Ererkay, a solid chap fascinated with underwater exploration and always ready to take a chance, Ambrose Delfano, whose bookish nature hides a murderous soul, and Ingnatz Osteburg, perhaps not as well blooded as the rest, but a dab hand with the games of chance and a fine sportsman. 
The group, accompanied by Ambrose’s valet, attend the lecture, and drink through it – though they manage to catch the gist - the purity and propriety of Sterntown’s upper classes is under siege every day. Familiarity with the servants, marriages with factors (regardless of their wealth) or consorting with gangsters, scavengers and bounders of all sorts should not be tolerated. After this oft repeated, and more often ignored, boilerplate the lecture takes a strange turn. The lecturer focuses his blazing intellect on a single incident of decline – the rumor that the wealthy Von Gorein family is trying to pry their way into Uptown by clearing a moribund block of structures and then building a gauche fortified mansion just beyond the gates with the presumption that they will be able to hold out long enough that Uptown will expand to take them in.

After the lecture, one Barnchard Collwing, a ranking officer of the gentleman’s club and member of the prestigious Collwings (though Efrin recognizes him as Branchard Hoonds Collwing, the scion of a cadet line partially descended from a Steward military hero) approaches the merry band with the casual mien of a locomotive. Barnchard is a thin grey fleshed gentleman whose bones move under his skin with a mechanical precision as if shifted by hydraulics, cogs and pins, not muscle. He quickly mentions that he would be grateful and would throw a masked fete for anyone who brings a stellar curio from the old Crystal Cavern Casino, incidentally the same location that the Von Goreins are rumored to be building their eyesore of a mansion. He also notes that the place should be dangerous for any scavengers discovered within, though he’s not saying anyone should do them evil in the most gruesome and public way imaginable. Perhaps the place will scare off the Von Gorein bounders and their dirty hired hands.

Dangers of the Night Streets
Taking the hint, the rakes take their leave of Collwing and the club to prepare for ‘seeking curios’ in the old casino. Ambrose’s valet watches the gate in Uptown’s defenses nearest the Casino, and notices parties of workers with construction materials who head in the Casino’s direction and return after a few hours. Devin and her companions decide to investigate the casino that very night, around 2am.

The band tries to hire a monkey photographer to document their adventures, but the simian proves untrustworthy and flees at the first sign of danger. A danger that appears in the form of eight dirty, rag-wrapped figures who tumble from an alleyway as the party approaches the Casino. Efrin, believing them to be beggars, tosses the gibbering mob a coin and waves them off. The ragamuffins do no leave, but take the coin, block the way and heft savage looking clubs and spears, mostly crafted from sea creature bones. While Efrin and Ambrose try to negotiate, the rag wrapped things insulting call them “Devil-men” and demand to know the dandies' business. Always ready to stand up for his rights, Ignatz aims a crossbow at one of the strange manthing's faces, but the creatures are wary and two javelins ricochet off Ignatz’s armor throwing off his aim before he can fire, while the rest of the mob rushes forward.  Ambrose is clubbed unconscious after his pepperbox pistol’s cloud of bullets pulverizes one of the assailants, but just before the dandies are swarmed under, Ignatz manages to invoke a spell of slumber, tumbling most of the attackers to the ground. Three ragged men remain standing, but they turn and flee screeching about magic, to be cut down by the party. Efrin executes a daring trident strike, trapping one of the fleeing mongrelmen against the wall of a moribund theater. The trident proves stronger then the wall and rotten plaster gives way before the heavy bronze spear. Dragging their unconscious captives into the moonlit ruin of the theater hall after enlarging the hole made by Efrin’s trident, the dandies discover that their enemies are mostly human beneath their rags, but oddly warped and misshapen with some parts that seem to resemble sea creatures.

Devin  takes the head of the most bizarre looking (a fellow with shark and human teeth intermixed, and the grey pebbled skin of a ray), for taxidermy and also collects his weapon, a shark jawbone club. Ambrose, awakened with a slug of rum by Gaspar, the valet, is motivated by anger and a desire for vengeance, so he hacks apart the slumbering aquatic mutants with his authentic frogling maquahuitl.

Intrigued by the mouldering ruins of the theater, Efrin and Ignatz push through swinging doors covered in rotted black leather. The room beyond the doors is revealed to the adventurers as a darkened theater, and Efrin summons a burst of solar energy to blaze forth from his trident, filling the dingy room with light. Finding nothing except rat droppings and decay, the band climbs the stage, led dramatically by Efrin, and pushes behind the ancient red velvet curtain, now soggy with mildew. Backstage is also dingy, and the light reveals various old smudge pots, pulleys and rickety scaffolding. Moving into a prop storage room, Devin finds four intact masks amongst the debris – a wooden bird mask in a tin case, a brass mask of a female deity, and a pair of porcelain ovals featureless except for mouths, with one showing sorrow and the other surprise. The rest of the dandies search through old trunks of rotten costumes, but find only some gaudy stage jewelry and piles of ruined lace.

Moving on, another backstage door opens on a small hallway with several dressing rooms and an exterior door at the end. Something is scratching at the door. Ignatz charges forward to kick the door loudly, trying to drive off whatever vermin is beyond, but he underestimates either his strength (or the door’s state of decay) and on the third kick his foot smashes through. With his leg hanging clumsily in the splintered door, Ignatz clearly sees the source of the scratching - a pack of three shaggy canine beasts, each mastiff sized. The hounds are mostly normal in appearance, except their skulls have been flensed clean of flesh and the white bone beneath inscribed with various sigils. Before Ignatz can pull his leg back, the boney jaws of a necromantic hound tear into the his calf in a spray of blood. As Ignatz stumbles back, with a surge of unearthly howling, the lead hound tries to push itself through the door. The straining hound, it's preserved corpse body filling the hallway with a chemical odor, presses against the door weakened by Ignatz's kicks, but despite the groan of old hinges and the tear of the door's thin rusted metal, the beast cannot burst through immediately. While Devin is ready to to fight, having dealt with these hounds before, the rest of the party retreats back into the theater and shuts the door to the backstage area. Hearing the door within the hall give way with the pop of shattered hinges, and realizing that the door he is sheltering behind has no lock, Ambrose quickly seals the door magically, its edges bonding with the jam in a shower of sorcerous sparks.

Leaving the undead hounds behind them pawing relentlessly at the magically sealed door, the dandies make their way back to the street and approach the Crystal Cavern.  There is little evidence of scavenger parties visiting the Casino, and it stands amidst an small overgrown garden now, where topiary and fruit trees have been long choked out by the thorny grey green vines of salt weeds.  The building has been fancifully constructed, it's architecture designed to mimic a giant crystal growth, with tow hexagonal towers topped by skylights of beveled blue glass.  The walls themselves are a lattice of brass geometric panels and tubing, with numerous blued glassy windows, but it is hard to see within as the windows are covered with years of salt and spray accumulation. Efrim scrapes some of the salt build up clean and peers into the area beyond the central doors, using his still glowing trident for light. Within he sees what might be the bulk of a fountain, and a statute, but the entire area is choked with dying vines, grown wild and unchecked.  Searching the ground near the doors Devin discovers some of the salt grasses are trampled near the central of the building's three front doors, so it seems likely that the casino has been entered recently by other groups of adventurers. Realizing the main doors are locked, and wanting to avoid open confrontation, the dandies circumvent the garish three story structure, and discover a servants' entrance as well. 

While Devin's efforts to pick the lock on the servants' door using a hairpin and her vague memories of watching Pocket the thief work are unsuccessful, brute force proves persuasive.  With the old door flapping on its hinges the dandies enter the casino and discover a waterlogged worker's lounge.  A spiral stair in the corner is of sturdy stamped deck metal, and reveals a partially flooded chamber below.  The lounge itself is also damp, with mildew and peeling colorless wall papers.  A few items of bloated decayed furniture, originally modest and functional, complete the room's decor.  Moving on through a door, obvious from the lounge side, but closely resembling the room beyonds brass stamped paneling on the other,  the band steps deeper into the casino, where Efrin's glowing trident reveals the central chamber of the smaller of the Crystal Cavern's two towers.

The air is musty and the once confusingly patterned carpet squelches with damp, but the chamber is generally clean.  Brass fixtures, chairs and tables stand mutely around a central bar with several more doors leading off.  An ornate staircase spirals around the tower's central well, and decorative lamps, shaped like rock crystals, but filled with liquid, hang from above and decorate the walls.  Near the bar several of the tables appear to be occupied by still figures in the silhouettes of evening wear. The bar itself is a tidy island amidst the corroded brass tables and chairs of the room, and while intact with its bottles neatly arranged, all of the liquor once stored in them is gone. Approaching the still figures more closely Ambrose first takes them to be statutes, in naturalistic poses, all looking towards a windowed wall overlooking the Casino's tortured garden. The surface of the figures is grainy and golden in color, as if they are accumulations of golden dust, and each depicts a fancily clad servant, a bartender, two waiters and a pair of hostesses resting in their dapper work clothing.  Confused by the presence of the odd statuary, Ambrose flings a wadded handkerchief onto the table where the nearest statute sits.  He is shocked, but not surprised as the statute's arm moves slowly and seems to pull the dirty fragment of cloth into itself.  The figure then turns slowly to stare at him with the pupiless golden orbs that are it's eyes.

Not sure what to make of the strange entities, but confident that they are servants, Devin hollers for a mint julep.  One of the figures, a sad faced burly gentleman in a bartender's tuxedo stands slowly and intones "I am sorry good ... Sir, we are all out of that spirit today".  The party asks a few more questions of the sad golden man, and discovers that the creatures are  "staff" and hence not allowed to gamble, but that "the general won't let anyone leave unless they play". Suddenly the dandies begin to fear they are trapped within the Casino and ask a torrent of additional questions.  "The General" has a special suite upstairs and plays many games including cards and the wheel for many stakes including "everything and nothing".

Rather then set off to find this mysterious eminence the party climbs the winding stairs to discover a museum like display of gambling artifacts, each resting behind cut crystal portholes set into a wall of sculpted brass foliage complete with birds and other small brass forest creatures.  Entranced by a pair of "Ancient Carcosian Gambling Cubes" Ignatz begins to smash open one of the sturdy crystal display cases and after several blows of his dagger pommel the case shatters.  Just as he is scooping up the old carved dice from within a should comes from below.  A feminine, but bellowing voice shouts, "Men, look lively, we've got some movement" followed by the thud of several pairs of running hobnailed boots. Peering over the rail the dandies spot a orderly party of eight grizzled looking soldiers in Steward's banded armor with the insignia painted over in white pour into the room.  The band is led by a tall, burly woman with an eye-patch and wearing a ridiculous pair of red suspenders over her armor.

Devin, the last of the bounders with her magic exhausted, steps to the railing and calls sweetly to the scavenger gang's leader.  As he speaks, Devin intones the words of an infatuation incantation, and the veteran warrior is entranced by the dandy.  Shuffling her feet, with shako in hand, the warrior fawns and tries to encourage the adventurers to leave the dangerous premises of the Casino, only to discover the doors are locked, despite several stern kicks.  The rest of the scavengers, a gang of aging but still deadly retired Stewards looks confused, but soon accepts their Sergeant's decision to aid the "lost" Uptowners.

Followed by the dandies, the veteran Scavengers rush to the main doors, where they entered, only to find that they are also magically shut.  Still oddly demurrer the scavenger leader introduces herself as "Gallus Mag" and others to explore with the party in an effort to escape the Casino.  As Devin entrances Mags with her courtly manners, Ambrose drops a coin into one of the ornate brass lobby slot machines and wins 3 three coins when the rolls come with three red devil faces and 1/2 a melon.

TO BE CONTINUED in SESSION II.

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