aye aye captain

#1410-1411 - Ferns

#1410 - Cyrtomium falcatum - House Holly-fern

Also known as Japanese Holly-fern, Native to Eastern Asia, and escaped cultivation in much of Europe, North America, the Atlantic Islands, Australia, New Zealand, and South America. That’s the kind of thing that can happen when you have a hardy, frost-tolerant ornamental that can also survive as a houseplant. 

In the wild it thrives in crevices in coastal cliffs, stream banks, rocky slopes, and other moist, stable areas. In this case, on my last visit back to Sydney, i found at the bottom of rocky outcrops near the shore at Bare Island. 

#1411 - Asplenium difforme - Irregular Spleenwort

Found among the rocky outcrops in the cliffs overlooking Bare Island, Botany Bay, Sydney. It’s entirely likely that Sir Joseph Banks and his fellow botanical lunatics would have noticed this species as they ransacked the place, but it first appeared in scientific literature in the year 1810, in the Prodromus Florae Novae Hollandiae, published by the prolific Scottish botanist, Robert Brown.

Its habitat is cracks in rocky headlands beside the sea. Check. Its found in eastern Australia and Norfolk Island. Check. Its fronds are thick and waxy to protect it from sea spray. Check again. The specific epithet difforme refers to the irregular shape of the fronds.

Spleenworts earned their common name via the Doctrine of Signatures, a once widespread belief that the medical applications of a plant were determined by shape. Hence other plant names, like liverwort. In the case of these ferns, the sori, or sporing structures under the fronds, are shaped like spleens. 

The spleenworts are also famous for their genetics, which can be most easily described as unrestrained bullshit. Even the chloroplast genome has evolved in complex and highly unusual ways that make a laughing stock of traditional cladistic methods, and even very sophisticated computational phylogenetics yield little information on the relationships between species. In addition to hybridization running rampant in parts of this genus, some species like the mother spleenwort mainly reproduce asexually, and while most species are diploid or tetraploid, some like A. shuttleworthianum are octoploid.

aye aye captain

Champions: Return To Edge City: Mercenary Contracts and Unsafe Websurfing

We’re down a player this week.

GM: OK - Flux is busy - which is amazingly convenient for me, because if any of you were going to notice…

But Fireflash still notices that she’s seen the same van outside her home, outside college, as she’s leaving college, and while she’s on patrol.

Hero Shrew: So they didn’t go for your Generic Nondescript Van?
GM: They did, but they kept the same number plate all day.

She surreptitiously messages Allana to rendezvous with her and approach the van.

GM: ‘Well, that’s not in the game plan - that’s not in the game plan at all! ‘ *van attempts to escape*
Fireflash: Wow. They really think they can outrun us, in city traffic.

Hero Shrew: Well, I could have stopped them.
Hardlight: But you’re not there.
Hero Shrew: I’m probably asleep somewhere under a pile of mealworm bar wrappers.

Allana can also hear a helicopter nearby - which is odd, since she can SEE empty sky.

Allana: We’ve also got an invisible helicopter.
Fireflash: Where?

Fireflash uses an Area-of-Effect Flash Attack on the appropriate block of atmosphere.

GM: That annoys them a little - since their last encounter with you they’ve hardened their electronic defences, but you still knock some of their systems.
Fireflash: Well, that tells me who it is.
GM: They decloak.
Allana: It’s the Skullocopter, isn’t it.
GM: Yep. And the Doomtroopers have wings now.
Fireflash: They always get an upgrade. So, do we contact Gareth and Scooter now, or do they hear about it on social media first?
GM: No need, NOW your crime computer has actually noticed what’s happening and sends out push notifications. Mere surveillance vans aren’t much of a threat.

Hardlight: Monica, hold all my calls! *dashes off*
GM: What, straight out the door?
Hardlight: No, to my... thing.
Hero Shrew: Had a Bat-pole installed, did you?
GM: On of the advantages of turning invisible is that you can get into a closet, jump back out in costume and say “ironnnnny!” But in this case you’ve just dashed off to the men’s room.
Monica: I keep telling him he needs prunes, or at least more fibre in his diet.

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aye aye captain

Pathfinder : The Mummy's Mask - The Bad, Bigger Bad, and Biggest Bads

Buffing the party and our new Scorpion-men with Heroes’ Feast and a bunch of other prayers to aid us against any likely undead, we head into the Temple of the Faceless Sphinx, after an invisible Nemat deals with the cultists left on guard.

Zenobia: How loud are cultists when they explode?
Nemat: Doesn’t matter - I’ve also cast Silence >:)

GM: The cultists don’t see anything.
Zenobia OoC: Right up until they see their own headless body, upside-down.

The other cultist wouldn’t be likely to see anything at all, with two of Asrian’s arrows in the eyeballs, but Nemat growing to giant size and using the cultists as tent pegs is also a problem.

GM: *sigh* you just took out two Level 9 Monks.
Zenobia: Just as well we persuaded the Scorpion-men to go have their Burning Man festival - every cultists we lure out here to stand guard is one we don’t have to deal with later.

The door to the temple is magical, of course, and the temple built to frustrate some of the trickier spells. Still, we’ve got the advantage of Greater Invisibility and a back-up Mecha, and enough archeologists in the party to figure out the trick within seconds. The doors still grind noisily as they open.

Nemat: Of course they do.
Zenobia: You ever notice how the traps are always still in perfect working order?

One of the traps has True-seeing, too, which makes our invisibility useless. Fortunately, the trap summons four fiendish Heiracosphinxs, who look around and can’t see us. Unfortunately they’re bright enough to try the spell-like attack Shriek anyway, just in case. Fortunately, some of the cultists come in to see what the noise was, and get attacked by the Heiracosphinxs instead. We lean up against the wall, snacking on figs and nuts as we enjoy the show, but press on before our invisibility wears off.

Nemat: It still lasted long enough to get us past that door, that trap, and gave us dinner and a show.

Hurrying through the complex, we come to an opulent bedroom, with the bed currently in use by two of the Forgotten Pharaoh’s disciples.

Zenobia: Time for some coitus interruptus? And how badly do we need to surprise them to ensure vaginismus?
Nemat: *casting Blistering Invective* IF I CAN’T HAVE ANY, NEITHER CAN YOU!

GM: Cultist one tries to Withdraw
Nemat: He can’t do that while prone.
Zenobia: And first he’d have to withdraw before he can Withdraw.

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Rick and Morty Halloween Special 3

Time for the annual Rick and Morty Betrayal At The House On The Hill Halloween Special

Morty: Uh, Rick, why are we here again?

Player: What did you just drop?
Player 2: The mini?
Players 3: Morty has just fallen off a cliff.
Morty: Riiiiiiick!

Player 3 clambers around under the table and furniture trying to find it, risking asthma and heatstroke.

Morty: I saw things, Rick!

Rick: Don’t touch anything that looks like it’s boobytrapped. Don’t touch anything that doesn’t look like it’s boobytrapped. Just don’t touch anything.

Morty: Uhhh…
Beth OoC: How are you going to f*** things up this time Morty?
Summer OoC: We already have ****ed things up - we’re exploring in the opposite direction to Rick.
Morty and Beth OoC: uh-oh.

Rick, emerging from the Wonkavator behind Summer: I told you not to touch anything.
Summer: Aah!
Peanut Gallery: Why are you even in the house?
Rick: Every Halloween, Morty, every Halloween.
Player 2: We’re explorers investigating a creepy old house - basically a bunch of dumbasses.

Morty walks in on somebody in the shower.

Beth: My Mother Senses are tingling - Morty tried to look at boobs.

The party is soon split up over three floors of the house, and are acquiring various stray animals.

Rick: Godammit, I thought we knew better than this from last year. When you’re exploring a non-Euclidean topology you have to be methodical. *promptly falls through the floor into an underground lake*
Beth: I’d know that swearing anywhere.

Beth: Honestly Dad, they’re just skeletons.
Rick: We can’t all be sociopaths, Elizabeth.

Rick finds an imprisoned girl, and after an uncomfortably long pause, frees her. This triggers the Haunt.

Rick: Dammit, this is why life would be so much easier if we were all sociopaths.
Player 2: And Rick is the Traitor.
Beth OoC: He’s ALWAYS the Traitor.

Rick: If you’ve seen The Mummy you’ll know Imhotep is scared of cats.
Beth: I’m a horse doctor, I don’t care.

And we have time for a second game - this time with Mr Poopy-Butthole as a PC. Summer finds three human bodies hanging in the menagerie.

Rick: Enrichment therapy for the animals. Obviously.

Jerry enters the Wonkavator, and emerges from the opposite door in the same corridor.

Rick: Is this a Scooby-doo chase scene?

A room full of portraits with suspiciously attentive eyes.

Rick: This IS a Scooby-Doo episode. Bags I get to tear the face off the monster.

Rick finds a doll dressed exactly like himself.

Rick: Yeah, that’s just not right.
Morty: It’s a tiny little plush Rick!
Mr Poopy-Butthole: Wowee, Rick!

Mr Poopy-Butthole: That sounds like Jerry screaming. Good. Mr Poopy-Butthole is secretly evil.

Later, Mr Poopy-Butthole is the Haunt Revealer, and Traitor.

Mr Poopy-Butthole: I told you I was evil and none of you believed me.
aye aye captain

Champions - Return to Edge City : The Valhalla Invitational

Since this session is at a superheroic martial arts tournament, Weldun prepared 16 different characters for us to play instead of our usual characters.

GM: If I ever try to do something like this again, shoot me.

The organisers have set up an arena near the Laguna complex.

Hero Shrew: Right, where we had the zombie problem.
GM: It was two zombies!
Hero Shrew: Two zombies are still a problem!
Fireflash: He’s not wrong.
GM: They weren’t even the kind that bite and turn you!
Hero Shrew: I’m still not convinced about that - we just didn’t let them bite us.
Flux: He’d better stay away from my lab, is all I can say

Makoto warns us not to mess things up - not only will it reflect badly on her, but we’ll annoy some very capable fighters, and the organisers of subsequent invitationals.

Makoto: Aw, DD wasn’t invited this year? That’s so disappointing!
Hero Shrew: … Doctor Destroyer?
Makoto: No, Disco Dude!

She is shocked to see Bobby Coffin among the contestants - he got caught using drugged boxing gloves in a match last year, went he one-punched his opponent and the referee fell unconscious when he lifted Bobby Coffin’s hand to announce the winner.

Allana: He was probably framed, because putting contact poison on your gloves when you gaurd your face with the same gloves is just retarded.

01 - Lu Deng (Danny Lu) - Kung Fu w/ Flaming Ki powers and abilities similar to "The Glow" of Bushido's higher-ups. Owner and Proprietor of the Eight Lanterns Chinese Restaurant in San Francisco.
02 - Makoto - Shorinji Kempo w/ Psychokinetic abilities. Three time champion of the Valhalla Invitational.
03 - Manni - Personal System (A mix of Parkour and Capoeira). Brazillian fighter with a knack for spotting an opponent's weaknesses.
04 - Sunblade - Personal System (A mix of Krabi-Krabong, Muay Lert Rit and Shotokan Karate). Canadian fighter of mixed Japanese and Thai decent.
05 - The Paindancer - Professional Wrestling. Dirty fighter and general jerkface.
06 - Junzo Izumo - Sumo. Disgraced Sumotori w/ gambling problem.
07 - Tabytha- White Tiger Kung Fu w/ Pyrokinesis. Tiger Moreau.
08 - Winter - Obscure but vicious style. "Wolf Moreau"
09 - Bobby Coffin - Personal School of Boxing. Disgraced Boxer.
10 - Elliott Espinosa - Western Kickboxing. Fun-loving Florida lad with an interest in occult mysteries.
11 - Green Dragon - Kung Fu. Martial Arts Supervillain.
12 - Shogun - Personal System (Gingaken). Leader of the Zone Gang, Bushido, and master of "The Glow".
13 - Fang - Snake-style Kung Fu. Mysterious warrior in identity-concealing costume.
14 - Rikki - Mongoose style. Member of Project Mongoose to boot.
15 - Zack - Savate w/ minor telepathy. Moreau Honey Possum. (?????!!!)
16 - Ghost Shadow - Taijustsu. Weeaboo and Ninja of the Six Teens.

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aye aye captain

Pathfinder: Mummy's Mask - Been Through The Desert, Etc

Nemat OoC: I apologise for forgetting I had Silence, when we were temporarily playing Pitch Black.

As we harvest the dead Yrthaks for body parts and trophies, there’s some argument about whether their sonic weapon is a horn, or something else. Since they’re covered in skin instead of keratin, we decide that they must be related to giraffes.

Deserts are also so quiet that we hear a distant commotion, far across the wasteland. Climbing to the top of the nearest hill and getting out the spy-glasses, we can see distant campfires and the shape of numerous people running around in some uproar. But it’s so far away that even running, it would take hours to get there.

Zenobia: I knew we should have bought those Speedy Camels from Crazy Hassan.
GM: Crazy Hassan only shows up when people really, really need him.
Zenobia: Ah, so if he doesn’t show up there was no real reason for us to hurry.

Onka: Breakfast first. We should have kept some of that meat.
GM: You want to eat Yrthak?
Zenobia: …. I’m not really sure I want to.
Nemat: As a general rule, don’t eat anything listed as ‘Aberration’.

It was a nomad camp, and there are survivors. They’re wary - probably because one of us is a gnoll and we’re only carrying one small tent - but they don’t attack us on sight. They’re understandably more concerned about a second attack by the land-sharks that chewed them up last night. Multiple land-sharks, which is really unusual for these normally solitary monsters. Nemat determines which way they went, while Zenobia patches up the wounded.

GM: You MAYBE might be able to create a Bulette if you have a big armadillo, a big snapping turtle, a bunch of spells, and some demon ichor.
Zenobia OoC: It doesn’t just take a romantic evening, a few bottles of wine, and some lube?

The Bulettes get identified as B1 and B2.

Zenobia OoC: They’re bulettes, in pantalettes, and they’re coming down the stairs.

Of course, there’s still the problem of trying to find anything out here, let alone mapping it. Sending Onka up in a hot-air balloon a few times a day can only get us so far, and we can hardly tow him along behind us.

Nemat OoC: As I said previous session, I’d really like our GM to be familiar with compass directions.
Zenobia: We need to commision some kind of marker obelisks out here.

It would probably be worth the expense of enchanting them with Continual Flame, so people can find them at night. Our next encounter is a village of Maftet, a curious race related to sphinxkind. They’re not supposed to be found in flat country like this.

Maftet: Who are you? What is your business?
Nemat: Our goals are three - to end the machinations of the cult determined to resurrect the Forgotten Pharaoh, to return the effects of a dead scorpion-man to his tribe, and to talk to you. This doesn’t seem to your usual kind of country.
Maftet: It isn’t. Drop your weapons and wait here.
Zenobia: We haven’t drawn any.
Onka: And we’re all spellcasters.
Nemat: I can stick my fingers in my ears and go lalalala if that will make you more comfortable.
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aye aye captain

Playtest - D&D Civil War

A D&D game, set in Virginia during the American Civil War, February 1862, playing as Union soldiers and associates hunting down what are effectively land-based privateers.

Me: So basically we’re hunting down an adventuring party.

The Willis Gang used to be ‘bountyhunters’, but have now graduated to general brigandage. We’re playing McAllister’s Scouts and assorted Unionist locals. The brigand’s camp is up in the mountains, and despite the fog we can see they have a number of horses hitched up.

Andy McClintoch: *turns to Injun Joe* Your lot steal horses, don’t they?
Injun Joe: ಠ_ಠ

The lawman attached to the party, one William ‘Bull’ McClintoch and brother of Andy, says he’ll go in first and try to end this peaceful, like. The rest of us exchange glances and prepare covering fire.

‘Bull’: I am the Law! Stand and deliver! Wait, that’s not the law.
Andy OoC: Exact opposite, really.
Module’s writer: In response you get a mouthful of stuff we can no longer say in this shop.

Bull shoots Willis’ pistol out of his hand, grapples him, and cuffs him in one round.

Andy: That’s my brother.

There’s somebody else in the building that the bushwhackers are holed up in - one Major George Planter, who tried to take over the town for the Confederacy at the start of the war. He sounds a bit upset about our arrival. Andy discovers the half-hidden back exit on the cabin, and grins. While the rest of the scouts set the cabin on fire, and try to bash in the front door, some of us will be lurking near their escape route waiting for the Major and his allies to sneak out. It helps that in bear country, the doors open outwards and the hinges are on the outside.

Of course, the cave mouth in the hillside near the campsite is probably going to be relevant. Especially since it’s full of Confederate troops. Still, we manage to pull a victory out of our collective arses - Buck & Shot ammunition is a useful thing for firing into crowded cabins and caves. Bayonet training is also handy.

Andy: I got no problems about stabbing a rebel in the back. My brother might, but I ain’t him.

The surviving bushwackers and Confederates in the cabin are choking on smoke in the cabin while we help ourselves to the coffee they had brewing on the fire outside. The wounded corporal in the cave is a McClintoch cousin.

Bull: Went and joined the Confederates, did ya?
Cousin Reb: They were mighty convincin’.
Bull: Well, don’t give me any trouble and I’ll get you some coffee.

Then Bull finds the pen of ‘contraband’ in the back of the cave, and elbows his cousin unconscious.

Bull: On second thoughts, no coffee for you.

There’s a white boy in here too, carrying a satchel with letters of commission for company officers under Planter’s command, and some useful letters from the Confederate governor.

Andy: Hey! You guys in the cabin! You know we hang bushwhackers, right? But if you come out dressed as rebels we have to treat you fairly.
GM: They don’t have any spare uniforms.
Andy: I know >:D
aye aye captain

Pathfinder: The Mummy's Mask - More Desert Meandering

Heading north in pursuit of the cultists/amateur tomb robbers. It might be the middle of the desert, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t things to encounter - including a scorpion-man in need of proper burial, a Royal Naga archeologist, and some really, really annoying birds. But we do find a river, which is nice, since it means Asrian and Zenobia can wash the dust off.

Onka: And I’m going to camp over here, since I don’t want a knife somewhere uncomfortable.

Zenobia: Any suspicious logs floating about?

This is also the first time that Zenobia has seen her girlfriend undressed in daylight - she has silver-blonde hair, and skin almost as pale as paper. Rather unusual, since we’ve met her family and they’re all ethnically Osiriani.

Nemat OoC: On the other side of the God-Rock, she’d be gorgeous.
Zenobia OoC: I imagine her mother got some cruel accusations after she was born, right up until her father got kicked in the balls.

Asrian is still extremely sensitive about her appearance, despite the fact that Zenobia isn;t at all repulsed.

Zenobia: You’ve seen the way people look at me, before they know me. I’d NEVER think you’re ugly.
Asrian: You’re fuzzy, it’s nice! I look like I’ve been dipped in flour!
Zenobia: Well, let’s see if it washes off *rolls around in the shallows with her for a bit*

Asrian eventually explains that she had a perfectly ordinary complexion when she was younger, but had an encounter with a djinn, and after she was returned from the djinn’s palace, she looked like this. Apparently she had djinn ancestry somewhere on her mother’s side of the family, and her Suli blood got awakened. Which probably explains why her mother insisted she was still beautiful. Zenobia, of course, agrees.

Zenobia: The power of your ancestry shows on the outside. The light of your soul shines inside. You are gorgeous to me.
Asrian: *hugs tight*

Asrian is at least confident enough to go without her veil when we return to the rest of the party, but she’ll have it back on before we catch up with the cultists.

Nemat: You’re actually quite attractive.
Zenobia: MINE.

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aye aye captain

Champions : Return To Edge City - Heist!

Quadrant’s plan to take down the more ideologically-unpleasant gangs of Edge City, one affiliate at a time. At the moment, we’re focussing on the Park Front Dragons. Or rather, were, until we got distracted by an attempted tech heist at UC-EC.

GM: You do realise that the way Allana sniffed out the ganger’s blood types is going to spread around the paramedics, and the rumour is going to be you’re a VAMPIRE bat?

Those crows that Scooter chased were Hooded Crows, an exclusively Eurasian species.

Hero Shrew: Well, all we have to do is check the birdwatcher’s network - because if any hooded crows are flying around California someone will notice.

Of course, the Black Paladin was accompanied by carrion crows, not hooded crows. Hooded crows are more associated with the Morrigan and Cú Chulainn.

Allana: So, who’s pissed off any Celtic death goddesses or Irish Hercules lately?

Flux: Do we really want to spend time tracking down these crows Scooter spotted?
Hero Shrew: If they’re important, I'm sure they’ll come back to bite us on the arse later.
Allana: I assume we just checked the internet while we were waiting for campus security to show up and cart off the battery-stealing idiots.
GM: You spent time explaining to them that what they did was a horrifically bad idea that could have got them charged with multiple federal crimes. That generally makes them back down.

Allana’s right, too - the laws regarding crimes committed in powered armour are still overly broad. Of course, that’s not Allana’s only skill - she overhears one of the security people telling Brent that he’ll put the new superbatteries in secure storage until it’s time for his big presentation. And Allana can also tell that the security guy is COMPLETELY full of it. He also smells of unusual welding compounds and advanced engineering. She considers scent-tagging the batteries, but doubts she can do it inconspicuously. Or she could just carry them back to secure storage herself - she’s strong enough, and Brent went through too many years of high school to doubt the obvious jock can do it.

Hardlight: Well, if we’re down here I’m going to go hang around the chemistry labs.
GM: As Gareth Lowell?
Hardlight: Yes. If they need me as Hardlight I’ll duck into the toilets.
Hero Shrew: It not like you can find a phone booth these days.

Hardlight: What do you actually DO to scent-mark something? Lick it or something? Or do you have a spray bottle?
Hero Shrew: ‘And this is Mine, and this is Mine, and THIS is Mine…’
Allana: Actually, I can always wrap my wings around the batteries as I’m carrying the crate. Then I can do what I like.
Hero Shrew: How much do you want to bet that security guard is planning a heist? Or is he just the Park Front Dragons’ contact on campus?

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Champions : Return To Edge City : Gangs of Edge City

So, it looks like somebody is using Ravensholme Biotech facilities to make designer drugs, and the Knights of Hell gang to smuggle them out of Edge City via the tunnels and high-speed jet-ski. And we can’t just go in there without a warrant. Well, we could, but...

Hero Shrew OoC: We’re not an actual Shadowrun team, so we can’t go around blatantly breaking the law.

Flux points out we’re not really connected or sneaky enough to bluff our way into the facilities. So we should just focus on the Knights of Hell section of the pipeline. Or better yet, inform the Drug Squad and let them do it.

Flux: It helps that there’s a standing ordinance in Edge City that the ECPD can enter the tunnels at anytime. No need for a warrant. So the stuff we discovered down there is all legal evidence, since we have police powers.
GM: You’re being perfectly reasonable. Now give me a few minutes to figure out how the plot will go since you’re being reasonable. At the end of last session it sounded like you were going to go full Leroy Jenkins. You probably would have killed somebody.

So, if we are leaving the Knights of Hell to the human authorities, do we turn our attention to one of the other gangs? We haven’t dealt with those human supremacists that were running MercCon for a start. Maybe that gang that uses powered exo-armour? They even fight in the stuff - which admittedly is the illegal part of it.

Hardlight: It’s like fighting in forklifts.

The local police advise that the gang in question also deal drugs, but it’s a bit of a mystery as to how they avoid getting caught doing it. So it looks like another week of covert surveillance. Of course, they could be using their own drones - it’s a low volume product.

GM: Which one was Dr. No again?
Allana: The TV Special on Informed Consent.

So now we have to research how gangs actually deal drugs, including runners, back seat deal, and actual dens. At least we don’t have to look around town for every pair of sneakers over the power lines.

GM: Uber Drugs

Of course, just as we’re about to bring the hammer down on THIS gang, we hear that the Heaven’s Devils, a demented motorbike gang that have Blues Brothers-style races as an initiation, are driving along the top of the Wall around Marsten.

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