Oh, hello. I didn’t see you come in. Let me just put down this unrealistically large book and adjust my posture in my fireside armchair and we can start talking about the next episode of Extraordinary League.
So this one was a transition episode, so there’s not really a ton of insight or behind the scenes secrets in this one. Most of the time, the first episode in a new world arc involves some downtime in Castle Grayskull, which means interactions between player and non-player characters, as well as incorporating purchased advancements into the plot, before eventually introducing the new world. Let’s see how that looks.
The heroes have spent the last few days in Castle Grayskull, recovering from their ordeals in Jurassic Park. Lara Croft’s cell is clearly eager to get back out in the field, but the Emergency Medical Hologram has ordered them to take a few days off for healing (and, in Zero’s case, repairs)—on top of that, they lost a member to betrayal and don’t seem to have decided on whether they want to find a replacement or do as Buffy’s cell has decided to do and just soldier on with three members for the time being.
Each character can have a chance to talk about what they’ve been up to—once one character finishes, they have the following encounters.
This is a common element I introduce whenever there’s downtime involved in a session: the opportunity to let players dictate what they’ve been up to. This allows them to express character and can give me some ideas for story elements to bring up later. Also, as I’ve mentioned earlier, it allows them to signal to me the NPCs with whom they’re interested in interacting.
Stitch: Stitch (and possibly/probably his raptor) hears music coming from nearby, and as they get closer, realize that it’s the guitar part of “Heartbreak Hotel” coming from behind a closed wooden door. When Stitch opens the door, the music stops immediately. Stitch finds himself in a large storage closet designed to hold strange artifacts that the League has recovered in their travels, but which are largely deemed to be useless for the struggle against Phyrexia. Here, Stitch can see shelves sagging under the weight of mismatched boxes and crates full of detritus from countless worlds. In the corner, however, lit dramatically by the bar of light coming through the open door, is an almost seafoam green electric guitar, sitting on the floor, leaning up against a shelf. It’s silent now, but Stitch’s advanced hearing can pick up the slightest remnant of echo coming from this instrument, and he knows that the song came from the guitar. If he examines the guitar closely, he sees, written on the very bottom of the back of the body of the guitar, the name “Marlene” in flowing script.
Kit wanted Stitch to have a guitar he could use as a sonic weapon, and we eventually decided to give him I-No’s magic guitar from Guilty Gear. This was my way of introducing the guitar into the story.
Archer: At some point, Archer comes across Roland sitting on the stone sill of one of the larger windows looking out over the red, rocky landscape of Eternia. Roland fixes Archer with a thoughtful gaze as Archer approaches. “Would you have palaver?” he asks. Once Archer sits, Roland takes a moment before speaking. “Where I come from—my world—weapons such as yours were reserved for those with the training to elevate them beyond being just tools of war. To receive the guns of your father—to become a gunslinger—was to define yourself as an agent of order, a force for good, someone whom the meek could turn to for help and the wicked would fear. But my world moved on, and I’ve been to many more worlds since then which use these same weapons for very different purposes.”
Archer sees Roland’s Adam’s apple move up and down before he continues. “I’ve seen many and more men—yar, and ladies, too—who take up guns with a desire only to harm, only to achieve their own goals and to Hell with all else. For those people, I have no time. I’ve also seen those who walk the path of the gunslinger, whether they know it or not, who rise above the limitations of themselves and their weapons and become something more. For those people, I have no purpose.
“And then there’s you, Sterling Archer. You play the fool—act the fool—but you’ve the eyes of a gunslinger. You may not have ever known your father, but you haven’t forgotten his face. I can’t tell you what path to walk, but if you want to see what you can do with your weapons—and what you can do without them—mayhap I’ll show you the path of the gunslinger.”
Miles wanted to switch characters, at least temporarily—he was disappointed that we didn’t have any women OR people of color in the group, and decided that Nico Minoru would be the best choice (in addition to her being a mage, which the group also lacked, and one of his favorite comic characters period). As a result, I introduced a reason why Archer wouldn’t be accompanying them on their next mission, which led to further opportunities for him to develop some new powers, making him more versatile.
Dante: Dante is approached by a well-built and very attractive young woman wearing a long-sleeved shirt of Chinese design. She’s carrying a small backpack over one shoulder and her red, pigtailed hair looks slightly damp—Dante thinks this might be that “Kasumi” woman Archer’s been trying to spend time with. “Hey,” she says. “You’re that Dante guy, right? Dante Demon or something?” She wants to know if Dante’s in the same cell as Mordin Solus, and if he knows where Mordin is. She says that she has something to show Mordin after she takes a shower, but offers to spar with Dante at some point.
Obviously, this wasn’t Kasumi, but Ranma Saotome, the gender-bending protagonist from Ranma 1/2. I was hoping Dante was going to be a bit more salacious in this conversation, but it turns out that I just had to wait a couple more adventures for Dante to involve himself with a man he thought was a woman.
Mordin: Mordin is in his lab when a young man enters wearing a long-sleeved shirt of Chinese design with black hair in a strange pigtail. He puts a small backpack onto a nearby free surface and tells Mordin that his cell recently recovered a strange device on their mission to another world. It had been damaged, but he figured that Mordin or Doc Brown could maybe figure out what it is and put it to good use. He produces a small but relatively heavy device of dark metal and white plastic, slightly insectile in appearance—it would almost look Phyrexian if not for the obvious overtures made toward making it aesthetically pleasing and sleek. It’s taken some damage, but most of the real damage is cosmetic—the systems need only a little tweaking to function properly. Mordin finds that this device is able to open and sustain wormholes on a conductive surface of sufficient size—this probably requires some further testing.
Mordin bought the gun from Portal, which of course would become something of a trademark weapon for him.
Also, the dinosaur egg will hatch. It contains a tiny, pathetic-looking T-Rex, which will imprint on whoever is around when it first emerges (probably Stitch or possibly Stitch’s raptor).
Eventually, the heroes will be called into one of the meeting rooms, dominated by a large oval-shaped stone table with high-backed and uncomfortable stone chairs. Buffy, Zelda, Doc Brown, and a young Asian woman dressed in goth clothing are seated and waiting for them in the meeting room when they arrive, the planeswalker tome on the table between them.
Zelda speaks. “I’ve noticed that your cell doesn’t have anyone who can actively use magic and cast spells, so I spoke to one of our newer recruits about going with you for this mission and seeing if she’s a good fit.” She gestures to the young goth woman seated next to her. “Nico may be young, but she has an astonishing command of sorcery and I think she can help you considerably.”
Buffy speaks next. “As luck would have it, Nico will have a chance to see how she fits in with your group.” Buffy is still obviously cold toward you, but doesn’t allow her dislike for what has passed interfere with the importance of the League’s mission and quickly begins to brief you. “Zelda and Doc have been busy trying to match the descriptions of worlds given in the planeswalker tomes to worlds we’ve investigated, and we think we have a match. One of our forward scouts reported back that he may have found a lead in the world he’s currently embedded in, and we’d like to have you investigate and see if you can locate the gem.”
Doc Brown next begins to pass out small metal and plastic devices the size of a deck of playing cards, tapering into a triangular shape at the top. “From what our scout can tell us, the natives in the world you’re going to are superstitious, mistrusting of outsiders, and quick to resort to violence, so I’ve used some of the technology from the Emergency Medical Hologram to develop these holographic disguise projectors. Each one comes preloaded with six different disguises of various ethnicities and social classes, so you should be able to blend in with most societies you may end up interacting with.”
The heroes have a chance to ask questions; when they are ready to go, they can head to the arrivals room, enter in the coordinates for their target world, and away they go.
When the white crackling field dies away, the first thing they notice is the smell: strong and persistent. It is mud and sweat and waste (human and animal alike), along with incense, fresh-baked bread, rotting fish, and distantly, the scent of the sea. The scent is unmistakably that of a city, but curiously, one without any hint of industrial pollution.
Looking around, it seems as though they’ve emerged on a rooftop of a three-story building made of wood and stone. They lucked out in that regard—while many of the buildings around them are made of similar materials, some more distant are constructed of simple mud brick with straw thatched roofs. The city stretches for miles in every direction, with buildings of varying sizes crowding each other for space between regularly spaced cobbled roads and unpaved, muddy roads that slash through at unpredictable angles. Off in the distance, standing dramatically against a brilliant blue sky dotted with white clouds, is a towering castle, pale red in color, rising above any other rooftops in the city, overlooking a stretch of blue water.
A man regards you calmly from the rooftop from where he sits atop a rain barrel. His hair is long, tied back where it is longest, and it and his scruffy beard are both milk-white in color. His skin is pale, and he studies your group intently with dark gold eyes. He is wearing light chain mail and leather armor and carries a pair of swords strapped to his back, while a small crossbow hangs from the leather belt on his hip.
“Well met, travelers,” he says, tipping an imaginary hat in your direction. “Welcome to King’s Landing.”
Geralt of Rivia
Health: 140 Karma: 60
Swords (Fate and Espadon): Str+5 damage each; Fate deals +10 damage to monsters, Espadon deals +10 damage to humans
Chain Mail: Ty body armor
Crossbow: 10 damage
Aard*: In telekinetic push
Yrden*: Creates a magical rune which, when triggered by an enemy, deals Am damage and forces the enemy to roll Endurance vs stun
Igni*: Rm fire damage to one area
Quen*: In force field
Axii*: Ex mind control
Swallow Potion: Rm healing
*-these are spells and require a Psyche check to activate
Geralt offers to explain things to them, but that he’s craving a drink first, so they should relocate. He reaches into one of his pouches and produces one of the small hologram-projecting devices that Doc gave to the heroes and taps the softly-glowing circular button in the center. Blocks of color pour out of the device and roll over him like a tide, and in less than a second, the formidable-looking white-haired warrior is replaced with a tall but skinny and dirt-covered peasant wearing a rough brown tunic. The illusion is quite perfect—every spatter of mud on his exposed lower legs, every blemish on his face, even the slight bald spot just beginning to form on top of his head, all flawlessly detailed. He gestures for the heroes to do the same.
The players can take a moment to describe what their first disguises look like.
I loved the disguises that the players came up with. Inviting them to design what their “avatars” looked like that they’d use to interact with Westeros led to some great roleplaying further down the line.
Once everyone is suitably cloaked, Geralt nods and heads for one of the edges of the roof that overlooks a narrow alley between this building and the next. With practiced ease, he hangs from the rooftop by his fingers, drops down to the windowsill beneath it, then slides down the side of the wall to the muddy alleyway below.
Geralt leads the heroes through the streets, where they have to contend with the waxing and waning crush of people all around them. The smell at street level is even more insistent than at the roof level.
As the heroes step into a crossroads of two large cobbled streets, one of them at random stumbles into the way of several armored figures on horseback—three of them wear dark-colored armor with gold cloaks, while the one in the rear, a broad figure gone nearly bald, wears armor and a cloak the color of snow (Boros Blount). “Watch where you step!” one of the gold cloaks in front snaps. “Keep your head about you or lose it!”
If the heroes look like they’re wanting to start a fight with the guard, Geralt steps forward, bowing and scraping obsequiously, and begs their pardon, explaining that his companions are a mite touched. This suitably mollifies the guards enough that they are content to ride on with dirty glares.
“What in the gods’ name is one of the Kingsguard doing this far from the Red Keep?” Geralt wonders quietly. “The royal family must be good and terrified of this talk of uprising.”
Eventually, Geralt takes them to their destination, a tavern so narrow that it appears as though it’s being actively squeezed by the buildings on either side of it. A shingle depicting a barrel with the head of a dog poking out of the top swings above the front door.
When you enter the bar, you find yourselves in a small, poorly-lit room with scattered tables and a few private booths set at odd intervals into nooks in the walls. The barkeep barely looks up as you enter, as he is currently engaged in a heated argument with one of the patrons seated at the bar about his tab. Geralt glances at you and tilts his head in the direction of one of the booths in the back. “I’ll bring us some drinks,” he says, heading for the screaming barkeep.
Once the heroes are seated and Geralt sits at the table, bringing a round of wooden flagons with him, he leans in slightly toward them. “Been looking into this gem you’re after,” he begins. “Sounds like it’s an emerald, or something damn close, about the size of a hen’s egg. In this world, someone dug it up years back and called it the Stone of Grace. I’ve been tracking it as best I can, but good, reliable knowledge in this world is damn hard to come by. Best lead I’ve gotten is here in King’s Landing—you saw the big red castle on the cliff? Apparently the best and biggest library for a hundred leagues is in that castle, so if there’s anywhere we can find records of this thing, it’ll be there. Problem is, it’s not exactly open to the public, and the whole city’s got its sphincter in such a clench over threat of invasion that they’re looking for anyone to send to the block as an example, so if you’re wanting to get into the library, best to do so smartly.”
Geralt can answer any questions they may have about the Red Keep or the world in general. As far as he knows, there’s some rumors about some foreign invader coming to try and dethrone the current ruler, but he hasn’t picked up on any specifics—he just knows that the powers-that-be are borderline terrified of this perceived threat.
And that’s all I wrote about that. I wanted to leave the party’s efforts to retrieve the Stone of Grace wide open—the whole thing about Joffrey’s nameday celebration was entirely their invention during the session, as was, of course, their notion to infiltrate as a musical theatre troupe. And the rest, as they say, is delightful history.