Flux: And Fireflash isn't here because she needs to be at home studying.
GM: She can fly here in minutes - it's not that far from Monterey to San Fran.
Fireflash: Probably closer to an hour. Longer if I stop for breaks.
GM: You really need to get her here - you're going to be here a while.
Hero Shrew: I can do that - I'll ring her and tell her what you two are doing, and she'll come here and stop you.
GM: You don't find any pentacles, but you do find this symbol all over the place.
Hero Shrew OoC: Ah, a Celtic knotwork Yggdrasil
Hardlight: OMG, they're not white collar witches, they're white collar druids.
Of course, the players know enough mythology and folklore to have a long list of things to be avoided, such as wrestling contests and being shoved into cauldrons.
Hero Shrew OoC: Check the canteen for holy grails before you leave.
Hero Shrew OoC: Cauldron of Plenty.
GM: But none of you know that because you all failed to ID the symbol.
Hero Shrew: Yeah, we're just not very good.
Hardlight: Wasn't there a stone circle around here?
We head back to the hotel, arguing about lost languages like Celtic Runes, the Rongo-rongo tablets, and so on
GM: Funny thing is, that tablet you're after is in a lost language.
At least Hardlight remembers to get Hero Shrew to sniff around the stone circle - literally. But it's Flux who smells the unpleasant odor first.
Hero Shrew: The Worst Toilet in Scotland?
GM: Not quite that bad.
And Hardlight's scan of the stones produces some odd results. They're dolerite, for one thing. The fuzzy five pointed shadow on the scan under the trilithons is probably bad news too.
GM: There's a strong ammonia / fecal smell.
Hero Shrew: Hobo nest?
GM: Miiiiight be? Alright, here's a clue - what do Nicholas Cage and Christopher Lee have in common?
Hero Shrew: .... they've both played Dracula?
GM: OK, how about Edward Woodward, Britt Eckland, Ingrid Pitt, Ellen Burstyn, Kate Beehan
Fireflash: Oh dear.
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Harshal OoC: So do we do the Keystone Kops, and hang onto each other's ankles and the rear of the cart?
GM: No. But knowing this group I should have Yakity Sax cued.
Gillert: Wait - neither group brought anybody who could actually drive the cart?
Harshal: .... um.
Gillert: I hope we kept the driver alive?
Harshal: Zin shot him in the head.
Ys: And I cut his throat.
Harshal: So no.
Ys OoC: Should we go into Initiative order now?
GM: I've been letting you guys...
Harshal OoC: Panic?
GM: Yes. But the guards aren't quite here yet.
Harshal boots the horse awake and jumps into the driving seat.
Ys OoC: We've still got an appropriate soundtrack - Red Hot Chilli Peppers 'Under the Bridge'
Gillert OoC: I still think Yakity Sax is a better fit.
We drive into the maze of alleyways, dropping caltrops and marbles.
GM: This is especially painful for the guardsman who slips on the marbles, and lands on the caltrops. And then gets used as a bridge by the other guards.
Of course the next alley is blocked by workers and a stack of crates and barrels.
Gillert: Move that stuff or we'll move your bodies!
Harshal: And slice you up and use you as shoelaces!
We turn back on the main road, to get more speed, and now have to deal wit a panicking crowd.
Gillert: If I wasn't a moral person I'd just Colour Spray them and drive over them. But I am a moral person.
Harshal: For now.
Harshal: OFF THE STREETS! THERE'S A DRAGON COMING!
GM: .... Well, you're going to have fun with that. And there's alway someone who will stop and ask 'which one?'
At least the crowd is all panicking in one direction now.
Harshal: What I should have said is 'The giant spiders are back!'
GM: Yeah - then they'd all be running towards the sea.
Zin and the Sczarni are sniping and throwing tanglefoot bags off the cart. Unfortunately, the crowd ahead is diverting around a figure standing in the middle of the road, sword in one hand, palm raised in the other.
GM: It's a guard captain.
Tannis: Kill him - it suits our purposes.
Zin: I'll shoot him!
Harshal: I guess we're playing chicken then. Faster! Faster!
It's Ys's dagger that gets him in the leg.
Zin: He used to be a guard captain, but then he took a dagger to the knee.
Tannis: It wasn't funny the first time.
The Captain rolls out of the way of cart, straightens up, and shoots one of the Sczarni riding on the cart.
Tannis: Everything is going according to plan.
Tannis checks the wounded thug, hoping to a chance to leave him behind for the guards.
Tannis: He's too far gone.
Ys: Lose the extra weight!
Tannis OoC: Thankyou.
The Sczarni sniper boots him off the cart.
Tannis: We will avenge him! In due time.
Sczarni: Fuck that, he owes me 60 silver.
By now we're way off course, and see some of our dockworkers have a shouting match with some stevedores. For some reason, Ys thinks that lassoing one of the stevedores and dragging him behind the cart will be a good idea.
Harshal: Why have we slowed down?
Ys: Don't worry about it.
GM: There was a jerk on the wagon. Thanks to the jerk on the wagon.
Ys cuts him loose as we round the corner into the final stretch.
GM: Should I, should I...
Harshal: Yes you should.
Gillert: 'please sir, another thump on the head'
There's another guardsman ahead, buying a handmeal and wondering why everybody is running. It's Colon.
Harshal to Ys: Jump off the cart and save his life.
GM: *cracks up* You just asked Ys. To save the life. Of a guardsman
Tannis leaps off instead, dropping his disguise and pulling the oblivious guardsman aside as the cart races past.
Tannis: Colon, my friend! Come have a drink!
Colon: Oh, hello Mr Oberech *whoosh of the cart going past* I wonder where they're going in such a hurry.
Final obstacle - a bunch of Shoanti in the middle of the road, having an altercation with Varisians. This is problem for Harshal, since he's a Shoanti who portrays himself as a Varisian, there's racial tension between the locals and the Shoanti clans, and the last three Shoanti representatives that came to Magnimar got killed under highly suspicious circumstances.
Gillert: If you run over both of them-
Harshal: Yes, it's fair, but!
Harshal steers the cart through the Shoanti entourage, taking out the corner of a building as they scatter. And then gets slightly lost finding the empty warehouse we were aiming for, since Tannis jumped earlier.
GM: But at least you lost the guards.
Zin: And then, back from the road where you yelled 'There's a dragon coming!' A bunch of kobolds doing a dragon dance emerge.
Bystander: Really? Ok, I guess?!
Dividing the loot.
Sczarni Sniper: To tell you the truth, we only really need one of each. Bit more to cover costs. The bosses want to know what the Nightscales are up to.
Gillert: ... I think I'm hearing an echo.
Ys: *starts to cackle hysterically*
Tannis: Don't mind her, she does that.
We let the Sczarni hole up in the warehouse, until the guardsmen calm down, and they can take their selection off in a handcart. We'll 'recover' the excess to return to the original buyers.
Tannis: What a pity it would be if the Guard caught them as they were passing through Underbridge.
GM: You bastard. But if they get caught, what's to stop them singing about you?
Tannis: I was planning on burning this location anyway.
Harshal: I rather not let the guards know there were two groups involved.
GM: The witnesses will confirm that it was a precision operation :)
The reagents are indeed volatile, and inflammable. Some bubble alarmingly when Ys experiments. The alchemsteel and asbestos tubes, and valves, are puzzling too.
GM: This is some kind of thrower of flame.
Zin: It's a Dragon's Breath weapon!
We haven't got all the pieces - but the possibility that a cult leader with a thing for fiery destruction DOES is a little worrying. Time to invest in asbestos underpants...
Hero Shrew: So we're looking for some yuppies who put the cocaine away for a while and took up sorcery. They found a little mystic shit and wanted to turn it into a whole lot of mystic shit. Somebody hasn't been reading their 'Popular Delusions and The Madness of Crowds', or they'd recognize a bubble when they saw one looming.
So now we have to figure out who it actually is. Perhaps they've been boasting on FaceBook about using mystic shit to make large amounts of money?
GM: OK, first problem - 'Make Money Fast Using Ancient Mojo"
Hero Shrew: Yeah, I know. And even if you do a geographical limit on the search - this is Southern California.
Hero Shrew: What's the street food like in San Francisco?
Fireflash: Great, apparently.
GM: Plus, you're in Chinatown.
Hero Shrew: Great! I'm going on a curb crawl. I'm going to try everything!
GM: What's your income again?
Hero Shrew: OK, fine *sadface*
GM: 'Opens wallet, moths'
Flux: Wait, moths? 'Grab, eat'.
Hardlight: Oh, fine. *hands Hero Shrew the credit card*
GM: The black one?
Fireflash: Well, I'm not going back to Edge City in the same vehicle as Hero Shrew after he's been on a protein binge.
Flux: Point. I think I'll travel by wire.
GM: You do have Streetwise, Scooter - this IS in your skill set.
Hero Shrew: OK, OK, I'll ask all the street vendors if they've seen any yuppies doing magic.
Hero Shrew: Don't I get to do the tourist stuff sometimes?
GM: You're a superhero - this IS the tourist stuff.
Hero Shrew comes back with a range of novelty T-shirts, a couple of hats, and armfulls of shopping bags.
Hardlight: I gave you that credit card for lunch.
Flux: Well, he bought lunch.
Hero Shrew: Yeah. And all this stuff.
Hardlight: *sigh* well, I hope you got a T-shirt for me.
Hero Shrew: Sure - 'Meet The New Boss, Same As The Old Boss'
Hero Shrew: I got one for you, too, Flux (OOC - Who's a popular Mystic figure in the Champions Universe?).
GM: Hmm - it occurs to me that most of the magical heroes in Champions are female. Good representation.
Hero Shrew: It's the mystic power of the uterus.
Flux: Well, if it's low-order magic they're using then they must be transferring the money or luck from somebody else to them.
Hero Shrew: I'm sure the business reports will have noticed a company that went inexplicably bankrupt 'What happened? This was a healthy company last week!'
Hardlight: So basically... we're looking for a White-collar Coven.
GM: By George I think he's got it.
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Harshal's Player: What I'd like to know is why is there so much kobold porn on Tumblr.
GM: Wait, what????
Harshal's Player: I wonder if Kobold Princess has something to do with it.
GM: Probably - you know how things snowball on the internet.
Gillert's player: *shudders*
GM: I bet I can guess where YOUR mind just went. Fun movie, Clerks.
Rumours - the Nightscales have settled their remaining differences, after the leadership struggle.
GM: The previous leader gambled and lost. He shouldn't have lost, but he hadn't taken PCs into account.
Harshal OoC: Rolled badly on the Wandering Adventurers table.
The new leader of the Thieves Guild is one Athar Torn.
Tannis: Meanwhile, we're looking into the Tannis Oberech Home For Wayward Familiars.
Of course, such an undertaking will be a drain on finances, as will rehousing all those kobolds.
Zin: I'm fine with raiding another strange wizard's mansion.
Gillert: They're not called wizard mansions - they're called magical deathtraps.
On the other hand, hiring the kobolds out as work teams generates income. Get to work, you little scaley buggers! Our work on the docks and warehouses is also attracting renewed interest in that part of Magnimar - some people are already showing tourists around.
GM: Which basically involved hiring our armed guards to accompany you - since you still need to go through Underbridge to get there. So other people are already making money from your enterprise.
Tannis: We need to put a stop to that.
GM: ... These guys have no concept of economics, do they.
Ys: I think they've already invented vertical integration. Whereas I'm a fan of vertical disintegration.
Gathering info on Athar Torn. He's a cult leader, of the Elemental Queen of the Inferno.
Harshal: Even with the most benign interoperation of 'cult', this is not a good sign.
Gillert: 'We're a book-reading club - over here is the King in Yellow, the Necronomicon...'
Consulting the world map as we investigate Athar's background - the map with such useful annotations as 'Huge International Clusterfuck', 'Pirates and More fuckin' Pirates'.
GM: There's a lot of interesting stuff in Bungabungaland.
Harshal: And we're not going to see any of it, since we're city folk and will never leave town. Magnimar is the best city in the world - who would ever want to leave?
GM: Top three, sure.
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GM: Evacuated Launch Facility.
Me: Just call it the BFG and be done with it. Everyone else will.
GM: Where were we?
Gillert: We were fishing with a wizard and a kobold on a string.
GM: Pass me the critical hit deck. We'll need the big one because it's Muskie rolling.
Zin's player: .... Fuck You.
GM: Past Participation Predicts Piss-Poor Performance.
Zin's player: *rolls, headdesks*
Harshal: So, Zin, just how badly have you fucked us?
Zin's failure to take out the magical alarm bell doesn't screw us completely, because the rest of us were already swinging in.
GM: You assumed Zin would succeed in taking out the bell?
Ys: Actually we assumed he would fail - which is why we're all going in at the same time.
Harshal soon learns the difficulties associated with being the only party member in the room without darkvision, trying to stab somebody in a dark room, and stabs the mattress instead of the Shoanti investigator.
Tannis: 'Die! ... this guy is made of straw'
Ys: Attacking the strawman :D
GM: So, the only one not bloodied is the Shoanti sorceress.
The sorceress rolls under one of the beds, and uses Ray of Enfeeblement on Ys.
Ys: Bitch! Right, step back, draw out an Acid Flask, and make her eat it.
The Shoanti investigators defend themselves against a surprise attack by superior numbers with the success usually limited to PCs. And then the door to the room opens.
GM: Open/Close - it's a wonderful cantrip.
Gillert: Logic dictates they're going to make a run for it.
GM: What have we said about logic?
Ys: It only allows you to be wrong with authority.
GM: The Shoanti scout realises Harshal is no threat and rummages in his pack for a sword. Harshal gets an attack of opportunity.
Harshal: *rolls and headdesks*
GM: And now the scout has a sword. And because it's funny, the Sorceress hits Zin with another Ray of Enfeeblement.
Zin: *falls over and flails helplessly under the weight of all the gear he's trying to carry*
Tannis: Godammit Harshal kill that Scout!
Harshal OOC: ..... did you just just say my name? Mid-op?
Tannis: .... uh...
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Fakybe: An astromech who belonged to us, and a bunch of droids we brought into the system, hijacked a ship we owned, with the aid of a friend of ours, and we managed to enable their escape by opening fire on an Imperial pilot.
Fendri: Who was flying another of our ships.
GM: And you're going to claim complete innocence?
GM: After the grim interrogation and beatdown, the Imperials are still highly suspicious, and want to assign the Imperial pilot you shot up to accompany you as you try and track down the rogue droids. If looks could kill, or she had Force powers, you'd be dead.
Lt. Marelle the Pilot: You didn't even fire at their ship!
Fakybe: They were out of range.
Fakybe: I'd quite like to know what your lot were doing to all those droids, if they could hijack a freighter.
Marelle: I wasn't teaching them anything, I'm a test pilot!
We 'follow' the droids to the pirate's system. After all we placed a mythical tracking beacon on the freighter since it was our salvage. And our original plan was that the droids would hold off on resupplying at the ex-pirate base until after we'd 'checked' it.
Fakybe: This would be a lot easier if we still had an astromech.
Fendri: Funny that.
We don't have any luck scanning the system for the droids (or anybody that might have pursued us here). We don't even have to fake our failure. But we double-check to keep up appearences, and find another ship already scanning the asteroids... and then the frigate full of Imperials emerges from hyperspace. Which might have something to do with the astromech and the hyperspace beacon we find in the cargo hold. Evidently the Imperials don't trust us as far as they can spit us. The droid R3-KT claims it was ordered to infiltrate the Deniable Plausibility by the Imperials, so they could track us. We act with appropriate suspicion, and contact the Imperial frigate to report the discovery - after all, it might be another rogue droid. They say they'll get back to us. Forvuk prepares to take a vibro-axe to the beacon.
Fakybe: We could also drift closer to that other ship, do a spacewalk, and attach the beacon to them.
Forvuk: *halts mid-swing* Cool! Let's do that.
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In moss beds on Christmas Rock. Also grows on sand, peaty sandy clay, in coastal swamps and sandhills, and winter-wet areas.
Leek Orchids get their name from the hollow leaves, and vary in size of this one, up to the King Leek Orchid, which can be 1.5 meters tall. Most of the other 25 species require a hot burn to trigger flowering, but the Little Leek is an exception. Found in much of the SW, but in the drier parts of the state limited to areas that get extra water - such as granite outcrops like Christmas Rock.
Leek Orchid flowers are strongly scented, and resemble and come out at the same time as the Grass Trees flower - they may be mimicking the grass trees, but I’m not sure what benefit they’d derive from doing so, other that perhaps attracting pollinators that expect a rich feed, and then don’t get one.
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A small, very spiky plant that grows on outcrops of granite, drying out to a bright orange in the drier seasons, but turning green again come the winter rains. It was interesting to see the flowerheads on this trip, since I had no idea they were held so far above the rest of the plant, nor that they were even spikier than the rest of it.
Dingo Rock, near Wongan Hills
AKA strangle tare, scaldweed, beggarweed, lady’s laces, fireweed, wizard’s net, devil’s guts, devil’s hair, devil’s ringlet, goldthread, hailweed, hairweed, hellbine, love vine, pull-down, strangleweed, angel hair, and witch’s hair. A parasitic plant that was doing a good job of strangling every weed on the stretch of footpath between the Wongan Hills Hotel and the Christmas Rock Reserve.
There’s some 100 to 170 known species of these Convolvulaceae, most of them yellow, orange, or red, since chlorophyll is hardly a priority for them when their entire existence revolves around vampirising every plant within reach. And reach they do - Dodder seedling grow towards the nearest green plants by following chemical clues. Once they reach it, they drive specialised structures called haustoria into the plant’s vascular system, and the original root attached to the ground dies off. From then on the dodder is reliant on the host, or multiple hosts, as it reaches over to parasitise all the other plants nearby too.
Not surprisingly, this can be a serious problem in agriculture, not least because plant diseases can spread from host to host along the network of dodder tendrils.
Interestingly enough, tomato plants have a range of defences against dodder, including chemicals produced when the dodder tries to attach, and the hairs on the stems that somehow prevent the haustoria from attaching.
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