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In Progress Torment on the Shards, Part 36 - Planescape-inspired CYOA

Discussion in 'Choose Your Own Adventure Land' started by Lithium Flower, Dec 8, 2016.

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  1. Lithium Flower Magister

    Lithium Flower
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    'sup.

    So I made a mistake in that I have set an expectation of daily updates from the beginning, which led to me becoming increasingly more disappointed as I could not keep up the pace. So from now on, no expectations. Updates will come when they are ready, possibly split up like Part 20.5 if I feel like it makes sense. Hopefully that seems reasonable, and the materials that I try to keep updated in the second post are an easy reference for information that may have been lost in the passage of time. If you have any questions or comments, as always feel free to post them and I will get back to you.

    I have made a few changes and have come to a few realizations regarding the adventure and its system, so I will list them below. Feel free to skip the spoiler if you are bored by such things.

    Show Spoiler
    1. In my absence I realized that the format I chose for this CYOA (that is, trying to keep it as close to a tabletop roleplaying game as possible, and rather open-ended), while useful for the purposes of play-testing various mechanics, is actually not focused enough for a good CYOA game. I will not be dramatically altering the format, however I now have a better idea of the game's length and how best to railroad focus it. Hopefully this means this particular CYOA might actually be finished instead of being abandoned, though this does mean that this is not going to be an infinite sandbox where you will necessarily make it to level 10. Any CYOAs I run in the future (modifying this system to work with a cyberpunk setting currently and am really fucking excited about it) will probably be fairly short, maybe vignette-based, maybe with multiple points of view of an overarching plot – think of grosnik's or MercantileInterest's adventures.

    2. Because of 1, I realized that the XP system is pants and will dramatically simplify it. Succeeding at a mission (success being interpreted pretty generously) will lead to an increase in level. I figure that recovering Whisper's belongings counts as your first mission, you congratulations – you are level 2. Bonuses right now are pretty tame, just +1 health bonus, but if you don't fuck up your current mission you will be able to pick up some extra skills and abilities.

    3. Over the course of several pnp sessions of this game, and in my infinite wisdom, I realized that in a quasi-Victorian pseudo-Steampunk setting where steam engine-driven undead worms and airships are common means of transport, ordinary beast-driven carriages should probably exist. This means that an option to get somewhere cheaper, and at a much slower rate, is now available. I have also added some rudimentary rules regarding the postal services and associated costs, as well as a time system to track how much time each method of transportation/message delivery takes, but the former is mostly behind the scenes and the latter probably won't be used in a text medium so there is that.

    4. I will be sure to add more opportunities for player-created (or atleast player-picked) wards and races! My pnp game has greatly contributed from the fact that the setting is partially player-created and I think it would work well in this format as well.


    Tagging all the people who have previous participated in this thread:

    Show Spoiler


    Finally, the story so far:

    Show Spoiler


    You are Strider, a herald who once made a living exploring other shards with a partner and an old friend, beholder sorcerer Whisper. Some time ago you have found yourself transported into the belly of a giant creature when trying to teleport to the Cold Shard, after which Whisper appeared to have been overcome with unspecified guilt, forcing you to flee the Shard with him still on it. He reappeared sometime during the Shard's absorption by the Deimurge and his City, but managed to avoid your numerous attempts to reconnect with him. Your separation forced you to become a freebooter, sometimes selling your services as a shardwalker and other times as a lowly mercenary.

    Around four days ago, you received a letter from Whisper, who – apparently dying and/or delirious – requested that you recover some of his belongings. Around the same time you have had a brand new gambeson...appear in your apartment while you were out, with a note suggesting that you visit a door at the end of an endless hallway in the Termitarium ward for assistance, information, and employment opportunities.

    You have successfully recovered Whisper's belongings – specifically, a fleshy sphere with changing anatomy, and a large vial of senses stored in beholder excrement - from a shack of a manus whore recently executed for miscegenation (Whisper sure kept strange bedfellows...hopefully not literally in this case). In doing so, you met a strange killer that spread chaos throughout an area of the Voidship Yards with a single murder, and were spotted by an Inquisitor's spy. You also heard alien thoughts in your head, like herald telepathy, yet with no apparent source. Fearing persecution, you moved quickly to offload the items to your sorcerer accomplice Knowns, who agreed to study Whisper's belongings in exchange for either 200 gold, or by telling him of how one feels when imbibing a potion of Freefall on the Shard of Curious Depths (Knows provided the potion and suggested that you see Veil, a magic user who hunts for portals, to find a safe portal to the Shard).

    To pay the rent, you decided to work for Lord-Foreman Steel, a notorious member of the Enterprising League, by simply accompanying him to a party at the house of his rival, Lord-Foreman Sees-It. There you reconnect with Step-There, a fellow shardwalker who has travelled wide but never far, and was a member of your final voyage to the Cold Shard with Whisper. Though he inquired about Whisper' state, you chose to only disclose a part of the truth to him, as you do not fully trust him yet.

    The party itself is perplexing. Your initial impression of it as a dull affair seems to conceal curious depths, rivalries, and flaring passions bubbling beneath its surface – not to mention the strange geometry of Sees-It's peculiar mance. While the first day goes by in a fairly mundane fashion, the second day starts with the dead body of Look-It-Up, one of Steel's companions, being discovered in the mance's library. While it is unclear who is responsible, Strideru-san is on the case! He will develop an emotional connection with as many chinese school girls as possible before watching them brutally amputated and slaughtered by an obsessive killer!

    Except he won't, because there are no taiwanese maidens here, nor amputations (yet.) There is only Torment.

    Torment on the Shards :positive:


    To sum up your choices: You tell Step-There a part of the truth. You report everything to Lord Steel. Then you spend the rest of the morning trying to analyze the killing based on the information you already have, before finding Quiet and trying to get her to open up about everything she knows. Finally, you postpone your judgment as to who the killer is, and as to who the next victim might be.


    Part 22 – Suicide's Stigma

    As the crowd shuffles out the library, a foreign thought enters your mind.

    Waste some time, maybe get the cooks to prepare you something, then come see me in your room.

    When you next see Steel, he is sitting up on your bed, no cravat around his neck. You ask him if Whisper's accusations were true – if Steel really came here with the intent of robbing the beholder host.

    “Indeed they were,” Steel says, lowering his eyes, “and he countered splendidly. Yet I stand by what I said – I am sure that Sees-It intends to kill me- to kill us! That's not to say we should discount the others, as they could very well be working with him. Besides, we don't want to be blindsided. Now, tell me what you found so far.”

    Not so fast. Why the secrecy? You are the one who unknowingly risked your neck for his scheme, after all.

    “If it went well, you wouldn't have known until after the deed was done. No one besides Head-Taker knew – wouldn't want anyone to take the easy way out and rat me out to Sees-It. What's the matter? You would've benefited from the spoils either way...”

    He keeps his eyes on the floor as he speaks. Steel, a shamed person? In trying to keep his voice down, he somehow makes his low and grating tone even more unbearable. You decide to get on with your report, if only so that you don't have to listen to him for some time.

    “Nice catch with the beholder you saw lurking outside,” Steel says after listening to you intently, “it was a good idea to press Sees-It on the issue. Did you happen to see his eyes? I was paying attention; they were full of lies. His intent was to misdirect you, the aKH- !”

    He almost looks up, before a coughing fit destroys his composure. As he cleans himself up with a handkerchief, he continues:

    “The Quiet girl...fascinating. Bah, Deaders and their rotten politics! Keep an eye on her, would you? I might have a use for her. As for the rest, I'm not certain that the queer geometry of this place is particularly relevant, but you are free to explore it if you think it might help. The prudent thing right now would be to figure out who really killed Look-It-Up, so that we may guard ourselves against them. Contact me our herald way if you've urgent news – otherwise, I will make sure to call on you again if I ever need anything.”

    He finally looks up at you. His eyes are sharp, focused, without any trace of vulnerability you thought he may have had.

    “I will bury the Eyes someday...” he mutters before slipping out of your room.

    ---

    While your inquisitive side urges you to do some legwork and actually examine the crime scene, your cowardly side (a more tempered herald would have called this their pragmatic side, but you know very well that your zeal in the pursuit of knowledge have eliminated that part of you) instead suggests that you think the killing through based on the information you know so far. Thus you pace around, walking in tight circles around your cramped room to stimulate your mental faculties..

    ”Rolling...” (open)

    ...2d6+Intelligence
    Malus: -1, due to being hungover!
    Result: 7; Partial Success!


    Of course, it doesn't help that it feels like there is an invisible maul pounding your head. After half an hour of fruitless thinking, worries start to seep in. You have very little not to worry about, after all – you are trapped in a bizarre compound, surrounded by incompetent guards and a killer on the loose. Oh, and evem if you happen to escape this situation, there may or may not be a Lord-Inquisitor on your tail. Occasionally you glance at the intriguing blueprint framed on the wall in order to calm yourself, but that only distracts you further.

    Then it hits you. Sure, the situation may seem hopeless, but the only way you will have a chance of getting to the bottom of the many mysteries surrounding you is by surviving this ordeal. And to survive, you must focus...

    The door is unlocked, then the manus is attacked from behind. Was the killer responsible for both? How much time passed between the two events? You picture Look-It-Up, lost in his books, hearing a knocking at the door. He sees a familiar face – perhaps someone he trusts or respects, enough to let them into the library. The manus returns to his books, sitting with his back to the door, and soon he is absorbed once more. He doesn't even notice as the other person leaves the room, leaving the door unlocked. Soon after, someone creeps into the room and assaults, binds, gags, tortures, and finally kills Look-It-Up.

    It is a sound theory. While it is possible that Look-It-Up invited the killer in, it seems just as likely that there was once more person involved. Whether said person is an accomplice to the killer or simply an innocent bystander remains to be seen. Regardless, it is clear that investigating people that Look-It-Up would trust or respect enough to let into the library will be a good idea going forward. Belt immediately comes to mind, as his credentials as a Lord Inquisitor would probably entail him access to just about any library, private or otherwise, but was Look-It-Up stupid enough to let a person he has gravely offended join them in an isolated part of the mance? According to Sees-It, Look-It-Up was once a freebooter – he might have been piss-poor when it came to people, but it seems unlikely that he was utterly clueless about the danger that they may pose. Then there is Step-There, who seemed to have spent some time getting to know Look-It-Up before Steel's party departed for the mansion.

    Another person who may have witnessed the murder could be the mysterious beholder servant. Perhaps they are hiding out in the grounds? Would it be worth it to sneak out and attempt to find him, if he is even still there? And what if he turns out to be the murderer, and you will be walking straight into danger?

    Damn...this might be all the information you can get without investigating the scene itself. You need only swipe the keys from Sees-It, and then...

    You quickly leave the room and go to find Quiet to distract yourself from such dangerous thoughts.

    ---

    You find Quiet pacing about in front of one of the guest bedrooms on the second floor, opposite of the library. Looks like the two of you share the same quirk. Before she is in earshot, however, a passing guard pulls you aside. You ask him what he wants.

    “If the murderer is found by one of the guests, a sum of five thousand coin will be split between the surviving guests as compensation. If anyone speaks of this in public, the offer shall be nullified.”

    The words come out almost mechanically – a rehearsed message. The guard gets back to his patrol.

    Well, the message certainly came from a Taker – they understand the profit motive well.

    Quiet seems almost startled by your approach.

    “Shardwalker? What is it that you want?”

    Thinking? you ask.

    “That, and waiting. The Lady left and...well, she left, that is all.”

    The head servant closes up, unconsciously moving her arms towards her chest. She seems troubled, but remembers to be discreet. You need to be tactful to get anything out of her...

    ”Rolling...” (open)

    ...2d6+Charisma
    Bonus: +1, due to clothes!
    Result: 5; Failure!


    You tell her that it is clear that both of you are intelligent people, thrust into consequences beyond their control. Such minds should always work together, lest they perish, which is a principle you think applies in the City as well as on any other shard. That is when you take a step towards her and she practically jumps back.

    “I must be clear that I have only fraternized with you earlier without the knowledge of your party's intention to rob the Lord-Foreman,” she says, almost desperately, “I will not be threatened into any of you schemes. Persist, and I...and I will call the guards!”

    You try to tell her that there was no threat, that you've had no knowledge of Steel's plans, that she misunderstood, but she leaves in haste. You might dress yourself into fine fashions, eat, and even attempt to talk with these people but that does not change the fact that they are civilized folk and you are a lowly mercenary. Did Quiet really think your association with the would-be robbers too dangerous, or was she repulsed by your Suicide's stigma? After all, now that the situation she found herself in turned deadly, why would she put her trust into a freebooter, too curious for his own good and infatuated by the deadly distant Shards and the corruptive Void...

    You are used to people abandoning you. Still, you can't help but feel dissapointed.

    It is now the midday. What do you plan to do? (choose 2)

    A1) Consult with Deadliest Vile. The veteran freebooter's security expertise might come in handy.

    A2) Consult with Head-Taker. The strange lurk is something like a bodyguard to Steel and might be knowledgeable about killings of this sort.

    A3) Consult with Step-There. He seemed to have gotten to known Look-It-Up recently and may shed a light as to the killer's motive.

    A4) Try to follow and keep an eye out on Quiet. You still don't know what worries her, and Steel seemed interested in her.

    A5) Try to find Loyalty. She “left”, apparently, but where to?

    A6) Critically analyze a related matter – the queer layout of the house and how it may relate to the location of the vault. The pieces are all there, you just need to connect them.

    A7) Steal the key to Sees-It's library, then thoroughly search the scene of the crime and the library itself for clues. This is risky.

    A8) Steal the key to Sees-It's study, sneak up to the third floor, and infiltrate it. You might find something interesting there. This is very risky.

    A9) Attempt to sneak out into the grounds and search them for the mysterious beholder.
    a) Do so by climbing out of your room's window and sneaking past the exterior guards.
    b) Do so by collaborating with Head-Taker, whose lurk properties may be useful in this.
    c) Do so by promising Silver, the lieutenant of the guards, Steel's favour if he has his men look the other way.
    Add a + to this vote if you wish to flee the mansion instead.

    A10) Persuade one of the following to open up to you and reveal more than they otherwise would:
    a) Deadliest Vile, freebooter thug
    b) Lieutenant Silver of the White Cloaks
    c) Steel, Lord-Foreman of the Gambit Badlands
    d) Head-Taker, his close friend/rival
    e) Sees-It, Lord-Foreman of the Gambit Badlands
    f) Belt, Lord-Inquisitor of Demiurge's Plaza
    g) Wretch, his pet
    h) Step-There, your old companion
    i) Master Flagellant, also known as the Philosopher of Pain

    A11) Do something else, please specify what.

    Do you know who the killer is?
    B1) No, not yet.
    B2) Yes – someone who has infiltrated the mance from the outside.
    B3) Deadliest Vile, freebooter thug
    B4) Lieutenant Silver of the White Cloaks
    B5) Steel, Lord-Foreman of the Gambit Badlands
    B6) Head-Taker, his close friend/rival
    B7) Sees-It, Lord-Foreman of the Gambit Badlands
    B8) Belt, Lord-Inquisitor of Demiurge's Plaza
    B9) Wretch, his pet
    B10) Loyalty, Lady-Scribe of Demiurge's Plaza
    B11) Quiet, her chief servant
    B12) Step-There, your old companion
    B13) Master Flagellant, also known as the Philosopher of Pain
    B14) One of Sees-It's servants
    B15) One of Belt's servants
    B16) One of Loyalty's servants

    Do you know who the next victim might be, if anyone?

    C1) No, not yet.
    C2) Yes – no one.
    C3) Deadliest Vile, freebooter thug
    C4) Lieutenant Silver of the White Cloaks
    C5) Steel, Lord-Foreman of the Gambit Badlands
    C6) Head-Taker, his close friend/rival
    C7) Sees-It, Lord-Foreman of the Gambit Badlands
    C8) Belt, Lord-Inquisitor of Demiurge's Plaza
    C9) Wretch, his pet
    C10) Loyalty, Lady-Scribe of Demiurge's Plaza
    C11) Quiet, her chief servant
    C12) Step-There, your old companion
    C13) Master Flagellant, also known as the Philosopher of Pain
    C14) One of Sees-It's servants
    C15) One of Belt's servants
    C16) One of Loyalty's servants

    Notes (open)


    :updatedmytxt:
    -Strider has been advanced to level 2, gaining +1 health bonus.
    -Updated some of the sections of the Goods & Services slightly.

    Note on choices B and C: trying to predict who the murderer and the next victim may be might give you an advantage as you will anticipate their next moves. However, making the wrong assumption will leave you blindsided. Consider the information you have received so far carefully and vote to postpone your prediction if you are not sure.

     
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  2. Nevill Arcane

    Nevill
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    Hmm, it seems things took a turn towards a murder mystery.

    I've missed several chapters... will have to get back to it once I read them to get a better picture of what's going on.
     
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  3. Nevill Arcane

    Nevill
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    Okay, caught up... it's a beautiful setup.

    It's a peculiar experience when you read the last update and then the ones that lead up to it... noticing that Steel doesn't wear his cravat anymore struck me as weird, so I wanted to raise that point... and got ninja-d by the penultimate update. Also knowing the victim and knowing the scene Looks-It-Up caused prior made me think someone wants to implicate LI Belt... before it had been made clear in our face by someone stucking his hankerchief near the crime scene. How did the killer get a hold of that, anyway? Did Belt come by the last night, and was he the guest whom Looks-It-Up invited inside? I can't imagine Belt wanting to talk to the manus, or their potential conversation being the quiet kind that would make the manus return to his books.

    The question is, who would benefit from such an accusation, and what's their goal?

    So we know three beholders: Sees-It, Deadliest, and Master Flagellant. By laws of the genre, Chinese are not allowed, which means we must have seen one of the three.

    The Lady Scribe is a mystery, I can't really make a jab at her possible motive yet. Was she trying to plant something into our clothes yesterday?

    What's the number on the slip we've got (i.e. our room), anyway? And is this important? What's the significance of a blueprint? What's up with the rooms and the layout? The blueprints are a map for navigating the manor-maze, aren't they? What's the reason Sees-It threw up this ill-fated party in his vault, of all places? Is there a transfer of something that is supposed to take place? So many questions...

    I suspect Quiet may turn out to be the next victim. How do we keep an eye on her? Is A4 our only bet?

    Do you know who the next victim might be, if anyone?
    C11) Quiet, Loyalty's chief servant

    A9) Attempt to sneak out into the grounds and search them for the mysterious beholder.
    b) Do so by collaborating with Head-Taker, whose lurk properties may be useful in this.

    I do not trust Head-Taker there at all, but he might help us finding the next piece of the puzzle. Even if he's involed, it might be worth his time to point us to another suspect.

    A3) Consult with Step-There. He seemed to have gotten to known Look-It-Up recently and may shed a light as to the killer's motive.
    (+) ask him to keep an eye on Quiet, if possible.

    We need someone we - relatively - trust to work together on this, since we can't be everywhere, and it might be possible to enlist a fellow Shardwalker to keep an eye on some things (re: Quiet) for us. We worked once already, and even though we didn't part on best terms, it's better than what we can say about everyone else. As for an incentive for him, I suppose 'not dying to a murderer' and 'not getting the employer killed' would do.

    He has a reason to fear Belt, but to try and frame Lord-Inquisitor just for that in the middle of a petty political snakefight? Naaah.
     
    Last edited: May 9, 2017
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  4. Lithium Flower Magister

    Lithium Flower
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    Great post, Inspector Nevill!

    To be honest, the "number on the slip" is deliberately ambiguous because I didn't want to think of a plausible number of rooms for a building of that size. So it is not terribly significant per se, although it does speak somewhat of its peculiar layout (after all, those guest rooms are just other uniformly small rooms which have been re-purposed to be guest rooms).

    Keeping an eye on Quiet could be done through A4 or C11. The former means you will physically shadow her, whereas predicting her as the next victim might entail that Strider puts precautions in place - like warning her or telling someone else to keep an eye on her (like you just suggested, and yeah, telling Step-There to keep an eye on Quiet is totally possible).

    EDIT: Also don't forget you have belief moves, and that you should specify if you are going to use them for the actions you are planning t do.
     
    Last edited: May 9, 2017
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  5. Nevill Arcane

    Nevill
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    It would be worth it to use sense motive on someone we suspect... which means that it's a bit wasteful used on Step-There. (great naming scheme, by the way!)

    We only have 3 of those per day, so I am wary of whiffing them.

    Wait, does it mean we can physically locate the Vault through Belief moves? :o

    Edit: musings
    Well, on the other hand, it was a great way to draw Steel out. Though I doubt it that Sees-It is involved directly, he could have arranged for a combination of guests that would jump at each others' throats, and use the lockdown to facilitate the process.

    Though wouldn't it get him in trouble, having people killed at one of his parties? I suppose if Steel is indeed his rival, the benefits would be worth it.

    That's if we trust Steel's words about his goals. Would give a second explanation to rather lax guards he hired.
     
    Last edited: May 9, 2017
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  6. Lithium Flower Magister

    Lithium Flower
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    Not necessarily the Vault itself, but a pathway to it, sure ;)
     
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  7. Grimgravy Augur Patron

    Grimgravy
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    Codex 2016 - The Age of Grimoire
    A1
    A6
    B1
    C11
     
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  8. Lithium Flower Magister

    Lithium Flower
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    FYI I might not update this until after the weekend, which should hopefully give people enough time to vote.
     
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  9. Azira Arcane Patron

    Azira
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    Codex 2012
    Not sure if I'll get the time to properly read the options through. Too many choices to mull over makes it less likely I can contribute.
    I'm too busy between work and family life. :M
     
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  10. Lithium Flower Magister

    Lithium Flower
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    No problem, this is a CYOA so I don't expect commitment. And yeah, I am not satisfied with how bloated the choices for mystery segment have become, but I couldn't think of a simpler way to do it unfortunately.
     
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  11. Nevill Arcane

    Nevill
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    Eh, I do it this way: 'I wanna poke my nose into this/that guy's business - is there an option for that? Cool!'

    For this choice, the only thing I definitely want to do is partner up with another Shadowrunner, er, Shardwalker.

    Basically, we have full freedom of investigation, up to and including talking to servants and guards. No guarantee that anything useful comes out of it, though, so it might make more sense to observe and interact with named characters.


    In unrelated news, that bit about the airship was interesting. Is it possible to escape the mansion by hijacking it and flying away? It can be piloted by two, and there is a dock in the garden. The question is, how do we make it land?

    In theory, we can cheat our way to the Vault with our belief move, team up with Steel and Head-Taker, rob Sees-It anyway, and get out. But why do I feel like it'd be our head for the taking with a company like that?
     
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  12. Lithium Flower Magister

    Lithium Flower
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    Well, you've got the mindset of a Seeker right.

    The airship can be safely piloted by two. You can try to do it solo. You even have the Crafting skill, which applies to operating mechanical equipment, so you can't fail to, for example, take off and land. Your landing might be a hard one, however...
     
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  13. Storyfag Arcane Patron

    Storyfag
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    OMG update! :bounce:

    Noticed just now cause with this thing dead I had nothing to read in the LP forum. Will read later though.
     
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  14. Storyfag Arcane Patron

    Storyfag
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    A Dark Place
    A3
    B1
    C10
     
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  15. Lithium Flower Magister

    Lithium Flower
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    Kz3r0 should I consider your rating of Nevill's post a vote in the favor of his plan?
     
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  16. Kz3r0 Arcane

    Kz3r0
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    Yes.
     
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  17. Nevill Arcane

    Nevill
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    Loyalty, huh? Interesting.

    Any particulatr reason why you think that?
     
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  18. hello friend Arcane

    hello friend
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    I'm on an actual spaceship. No joke.
    A4
    A6
    B1
    C11


    Use Belief Move: Find way to the vault
     
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  19. Lithium Flower Magister

    Lithium Flower
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    1,194
    Nevill brought up the belief move and Kz3r0 and hello friend voted for it, so you will be using it to figure out a shortcut to the vault. You postpone your judgment on the killer's identity, anticipate that Quiet is going to be the next victim, and consult with Step There.

    Nevill's suggestion to search for the mysterious beholder with the help of Head-Taker is tied with trying to figure out the building's strange geometry. I will roll a die of fate, with 1-3 meaning you will do the former and 4-6 meaning you will do the latter.

    Rolling... (open)

    ...the Die of Fate
    Result: 5!



    Part 23 – Trust Your Intuition


    Quiet's anxiety troubles you. She knows more than she lets on, and that very knowledge might make her the killer's next target.

    You knock on Step-There's door. You hear him struggle with the handle before he slowly opens the door, as if afraid of what might be on the other side. His expression turns from fear to slight relief as he recognizes you.

    “Strider? Come in if you must.”

    A stench hits you as you step inside. The manus must have sweat into his fur profusely. The bath is littered with hairs – looks like Step-There had washed himself recently in the attempt to defeat the smell, yet it lingers in the room. The odor, together with the drab yellow of the walls, make the room almost nausea-inducing.

    You ask Step-There is he is feeling alright.

    “I- nothing's alright!” he responds, throwing his hands up. “How could you even ask that in a situation like this?!”

    He shuts up and falls down on the bed, his head balling up into a fist. The manus looks absolutely exhausted by...no, tortured with worry. He certainly has the reputation of a craven among the more successful shardwalkers, but is this situation really any more stressful than a voyage through the Void? You sneak a glance at the blueprint framed on the wall as you ponder what to say. It would probably be useless to ask him if he has seen Lady Loyalty, as it is unlikely that he left his room recently.

    You decide to probe him by telling him of your bystander hypothesis. It is likely that whoever knew Look-It-Up best might know what happened last night, and Step-There certainly fraternized with him.

    “Please...” the crestfallen manus moans, “don't tell you me that you are suspecting me!”

    You sigh and sit down on the bed. Step-There has no apparent motive to kill the Book-Taker or frame Belt. However, if he knows anything, he should te-

    “Demiurge's mercy, Strider! I was with Look-It-Up last night,” the manus exclaims and sits up, suddenly embracing you.

    Taken aback, you pat the back of the furry person clinging to you. What precisely does he mean?

    “I mean that, I, uhm...” Step-There is practically choking up with anxiety, “I hadn't drank much last night, if you remember, and uhm, didn't sleep much either since...I have a problem, you know, trouble sleeping since the, ah, Shard of Darkest Falls...

    I thought to ease my mind to sleep with books, thought maybe my ra-rapport with Look-It-Up could get me in – yes I know it is illegal, but the blasted spirits didn't help! - but uhm...I had to go to the latrine, I left the...the fucking door unlocked, understand?

    On my way back I heard them, barely audible, shuffling like someone was moving about and stifled m-moans and...oh, Demiurge take me! They stopped as I got close, ceased entirely, do you understand? It was as if whoever was in that room, you know, with Look...with Look-It-Up, they heard me coming! Now I'm bleeding scared that the murderer thinks me a witness and plans to kill me, too!”

    You idiot, you tell the manus as you hold him. Does Steel know? The manus shakes his head, then buries it back in your shoulder.

    No, of course not. Trespassing into a library is a very serious offense, and the Lord-Foreman is the last person to trust with such information. Step-There probably planned to tell no one and leave the mance as soon as possible, only to find himself trapped in the building with the killer. And the killer must have been a very perceptive person to be have been able to hear a creeping manus on the other side of a hefty door while being busy with another...

    After a minute or so the manus calms down and unwraps himself from you.

    “Do you believe me, Strider?” he asks, finally having caught his breath.

    Not knowing if you do yourself, you instead tell him that there is one way that he can redeem himself. You tell him of Quiet, and how she also seemed nervous and afraid. Perhaps Step-There can make himself useful and look to see where she's gone today.

    “Well, why not?” the manus perks up suddenly, “an old grab-bastard such as I can still protect a young woman. Oh, there is one more thing: could I, perchance...stay in your room tonight? You know, for safety and all. I-I could hide in the wardrobe? We mani can sleep upright, you know. If I am able to catch any sleep, that is...”

    A1) Sure thing, idiot. You can hide in the wardrobe.
    A2) On the other hand, let's not – you might just be inviting a murderer to kill you in your sleep.

    Before leaving, you warn Step-There to keep his distance from Quiet as she probably doesn't like men of your shared profession all that much. He seems dejected at first, but you catch him fixing his fur with the help of a pocket mirror as you turn to close the door to his room.

    ---

    Once again you come back to your room. All this yellow...you hate the damned colour. Still, it is the closest thing to a refuge that you can find in this damned building, and you find an odd comfort in that.

    With all the crucial matters attended, you finally dedicate your full attention to the matter of the vault.

    ”Rolling...” (open)

    ...2d6+Intelligence
    Relevant Skill: Crafting
    Result: 4; Partial Success with Heavy Consequences!


    At least that is what you intended, but truth eludes you for the next few hours. The facts are so damn muddy, after all. Supposedly the vault is on the nonexistent fourth floor, yet wouldn't it be much more convenient to drag the riches down to a secure basement as opposed to carrying them up to the top floor, which would be exposed to any freebooter crew with an airship? Of course, it is not as if the mansion has a basement either...

    You become frustrated with yourself. Perhaps you could have learned more if you spent the day actually exploring the manse and its grounds, yet you chose inaction. You try to find solace in the blueprint, and it once again steals your attention. After all, the ship design is equally as perplexing as the building, with its ceiling wider than the floor, and the massive space in the middle. Huge steam engines would be put inside the central section, even though a magical engine would be much more efficient for a ship this size. In the latter case, the engine is merely a catalyst for the pilot to project their will; the airship would fly solely because its pilot believes it can, whereas a mechanically-operated ship is constrained by physics to a degree. Was it Sees-It's intention to create something that would be run exclusively by technology as opposed to the Void-derived powers of creation? This suggests that the ship is deeply personal to Sees-It, which makes you wonder why it has not materialized...and why its blueprints are framed in every single guest room.

    Enough! The vault. Where could it be? You can't help but feel as if you betrayed your Seeker tenets by postponing active investigation, and this bitterness swells inside you. The vault...you try to picture the glimmer of the riches inside. You can almost sense the metallic tinge in the air. But where...

    You burst out of your room and rush across the hallway, to the empty drinking lounge. You press yourself against the window overlooking the central garden. You spot a previously overlooked detail: how despite the obscuring vegetation, the mansion's walls are noticeably sloped, giving the entire building the appearance of a pyramid. Your eyes are then drawn to a large metal object, reflecting the evening's pale light.

    You blink and find yourself standing in the garden, cloaked in the shadow of the small airship and its high base. This is the entrance. Where is the key?

    “Strider!” someone hollers. You turn to find Step-There running out of the maze-like garden depths, a limp Quiet in his hands.

    Looks like you were right to trust your intuition.

    ---

    Drawn by the dinner bell, or perhaps seeking safety in numbers, the guests, their servants, the master of the house, and two guards have assembled in the dining room. Most are sitting down and digging into their food, staring at one another with suspicion between bites. Sees-It is his usual self, cloaked in arrogance and having Silver and one other guard taste every dish that gets to his side of the table. Belt has seemingly only gotten angrier, and has even ceased interacting with the Master Flagellant. The males have their personal weapons at arm's reach, no longer restrained by etiquette (although they were barred from going outside to retreat their heavier arms). Steel, Deadliest Vile, and Belt all carry holstered crackguns – compact one-shot slug-throwers.

    Quiet, feverish but alive, is lying on the couch, attended by the healer servant (and by Lady Loyalty who, much to the healer's displeasure, insisted that it is her right as Quiet's mistress to weep over her unconscious body until she recovers). Step-There explained her situation: “I tracked her down, just as you said, and followed her into the garden. She was quite a ways ahead of me but I was certain I heard footsteps of one other person up ahead. Suddenly, I heard her body fall and, upon turning the corner, found her. A quick examination revealed a small hole in her neck, so I immediately suspected poisoning through injection. Thankfully I have had much experience sucking out poisons from wounds, having faced the fang-beasts of the Shard of Darkest Falls, so I-” You remember that is when he bent over in a coughing fit, and eventually regurgitated a hairball.

    At the table you sit among Steel and his companions, who are as stoic as ever (save for Step-There, though his spirits have lifted considerably after Quiet's rescue). You ponder the idea of letting Steel know about the entrance to the vault...but perhaps it would be better if he didn't know a thing? You could plunder the vault and hijack the ship in the night, and you wouldn't even have to share.

    B1) Create a mental link with Steel (expends a belief move) and tell him of the entrance to the vault.
    B2) Don't.

    Deadliest Vile stands up rather suddenly and starts hitting an empty glass with a fork.

    “I hope you realize,” Sees-It says, not even glancing up at the freebooter, “that this is a dreadful time for a toast.”

    “No, that was just to get everyone's attention,” Deadliest replies, setting the glass and the fork down. “I just wanted everyone to know that Belt killed the Book-Taker.”

    A silence falls over the room. Even Lady Loyalty's sobs are stifled.

    “Don't you dare...” the Lord-Inquisitor spits out, yanking Wretch's chain, who responds with frightened buzzing.

    “It's simple, really. You thought to have us all fooled, but it didn't work out. Everyone remember the little hankie found in the hallway? Silver said it was tucked halfway under the carpet, didn't he? Now I ain't a learned person, but I'm pretty sure that if a piece of fabric slips out of my pocket, it is not going to tuck itself under a carpet.”

    “That would mean it was planted there, you stupid sack of shit!” Belt shouts, fist hammering the table.

    “So you are telling me that the killer was good enough to have sneaked into the library and tortured someone to death, all under the guard's noses, but he wasn't smart enough to drop an object in a plausible way? Nah, I don't buy it – the likeliest and simplest explanation is that you, Lord-Smartass, decided to trick us all by offing the manus and deliberately botching the plant job, making it look like someone else had done it and tried to frame you. Except you are not feeling very clever now, are you?”

    You remember thinking that Belt's face couldn't get any more red. You were very wrong at the time.

    “Question is,” Vile grimaces, “why'd you try to kill the grab-bastard broad? I think the answer lies in...love.”

    Belt's hand inches towards the crackgun at his belt. Meanwhile, Deadiest Vile's large mouth opens as he is about to deliver words that may be his last.

    Choose one:

    C1) Stay out of it. You will sleep better at night if either one of these assholes die.
    C2) Interrupt the beholder and call for peace. Deadliest might be making a terrible mistake...
    C3) Do/say something else, please specify what

    Regardless of what you do about the standoff, do you plan on accusing someone afterwards?

    D1) No.
    D2) Deadliest Vile, freebooter thug
    D3) Lieutenant Silver of the White Cloaks
    D4) Steel, Lord-Foreman of the Gambit Badlands
    D5) Head-Taker, his close friend/rival
    D6) Sees-It, Lord-Foreman of the Gambit Badlands
    D7) Belt, Lord-Inquisitor of Demiurge's Plaza
    D8) Wretch, his pet
    D9) Loyalty, Lady-Scribe of Demiurge's Plaza
    D10) Quiet, her chief servant
    D11) Step-There, your old companion
    D12)
    Master Flagellant, also known as the Philosopher of Pain
    D13) One of Sees-It's servants
    D14) One of Belt's servants
    D15) One of Loyalty's servants

    Notes (open)

    You are back at 2-Belief because you did not go out of your way to pursue your Seeker tenets today.
    That being said, 3-Belief is zeal, so it is meant to be very hard to consistently maintain. This does mean that you only have 1 belief move until you rest.

    Also, due to the weight of this choice, I will count all the choices together as opposed to separately (I think this is referred to as voting by block as opposed to voting by line). If we get into a crazy 3-way tie situation or get too few votes, then I will go back to counting choices independently.
     
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  20. Kz3r0 Arcane

    Kz3r0
    Joined:
    May 28, 2008
    Messages:
    22,776
    A1)

    B2)

    C1)

    D1)

    I have a hunch that our employer is the murderer or Deadliest Vile at his orders, maybe Head Taker on his own, all in all the three of them, together or separatedly are the most likely culprits in my opinion, hence we either support them or part ways from them and flee with the airship or something like that.
    It's obvious from my choices that I prefer the latter, probably we'll need Step There help.
    I also think that the beholder is trying to cause a massacre here, maybe we caoul use sense motive on him to ascertain what he is planning to do.
     
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  21. Nevill Arcane

    Nevill
    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2009
    Messages:
    10,656
    Shadorwun: Hong Kong
    Sorry, was out of it yesterday. Back to business.
    You know, this does not particularly scream 'murder' to me. I went back to check Quiet's and Look-It-Up's races, and what do you know, they are both manus... manuses? That'd explain why she was nervous, certainly.

    The tie-him-up and gag could be explained away with this, surely, as well as why the alarm wasn't raised. Cuts and a slit throat, not so much. Unless the poor scribe's heart gave out and this was masquaraded as murder shortly afterwards for... reasons?

    I don't think she was there for a good time, though. She is the brain behind Lady Loyalty, so she most certainly had a goal in mind. A book? What else of value could a scribe possibly have had?

    Loyalty's insistence on being the only one to tend to her conveniently deprives us of a witness.

    I mean, sure one can play the torture card straight, but that'd implicate Master Flagellant, and he is a part of Belt's crew, so I am not putting much stock into it. He is a beholder, though...

    No way. He has his motive, and it's robbery. This threw a solid wrench into his plans, and it is not making his goal any closer. In fact, he is now risking getting caught in the murder plot in his enemy's territory. That is incredibly inconvenient.

    I would not rule out Head-Taker, though. First, the name. Second, the intelligence. Third, he is a rival. They could be acting independently on this. But as they are relatively close and seem to respect each other, I find it harder to swallow.


    By the way, OP, when and how did Loyalty return?

    What do we know about poison on Quiet? Was it a lethal one? It can't be self-inflicted, can it?

    The beholder outside... could that be Sees-It checking on his precious vault? I will have to check whether it was close to the garden. Would explain the denial and his shifty attitude. But wearing the servants' uniform? Whom would it fool?

    I'd advocate for peace. We need a bit more time to figure it out. Not sure whether we want to let Steel know about the vault, though. Depends on how likely he is to dupe us.

    Edit: I would like to note that this seems to be the second attempt at seduction of someone from Steel's entourage by the same (?) team. I wonder what is the purpose. Quiet's words that she wouldn't socialze with us if she knew what we were here for might have another reason behind them.
     
    Last edited: May 16, 2017
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  22. Lithium Flower Magister

    Lithium Flower
    Joined:
    Nov 29, 2016
    Messages:
    1,194
    Mani.

    The buzzer healer from earlier is still taking care of her. I meant to say that Loyalty insisted in being "in his space" and spending the entire time crying by her side.

    I guess I didn't make the transition very clear, but basically you and Step-There took Quiet to the dining room, where the bulk of the people were congregating for security reasons. Loyalty was already there.

    Well it was potent and quick-acting enough that she is still incapacitated despite most of it no longer being in her system, hence why she needs a healer at her side. Besides that, hard to say (yet). If she had died you'd have a bigger sample available (that wasn't contaminated by Step-There's spit) so you could have gotten some conclusions from the buzzer earlier.

    He was seen lurking around at the rear of the mance, whereas the garden is in the center.
     
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  23. Nevill Arcane

    Nevill
    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2009
    Messages:
    10,656
    Shadorwun: Hong Kong
    Right. So first things first, excluding suspects.

    Coud Step-There be involved beyond what is known? He might have been. He left the door unlocked, let someone in (maybe Quiet), then came back to finish the job, then silenced Quiet.
    ...nah, doesn't work. Even assuming he told us that he was with the victim - a fact we wouldn't know if not for him talking - to divert suspicion, it does not work on many level, not the least of which is that Quiet would have recognized him if he were the one assaulting her, so it makes no sense to leave her alive.

    So the first choice probably won't get us jumped by the murderer unless there is something else in play. Granted, it is the height of stupidity to let others in your room for the night while being in the middle of murder mystery, but I can't think of many ways in which Step-There could be involved and act like he does.

    Could Quiet be a murderer and fake her own assassination attempt to avoid being questioned? Possibly, if the poison isn't lethal, however with how strong the remains are it would be a big gamble on her part.

    Next question, could Step-There and Quiet be in cahoots? One lets her in, the other kills/robs Looks-It-Up and sets up Belt, then next day they fake Quiet's 'murder', and Step-There conjures a 'third person' for us to suspect. The others would certainly believe the attacked. I think there was some data contradicting this theory, but I can't quite recall what it is. I'll have to go over the text again.

    If we rule out Step-There as a criminal or accomplice, then we'd be able to let him stay in our room more confidently.

    As for the Vault, I don't think it would be in our interests to loot it independently from our employer, without backup. I know the rewards may make it sound tempting, but we'd have to leave everything on fire to get away with it. I'd rather let him clean it and use the distraction it provides to escape if all goes to hell.

    That makes my vote...

    B1) Create a mental link with Steel (expends a belief move) and tell him of the entrance to the vault.
    C2) Interrupt the beholder and call for peace. Deadliest might be making a terrible mistake...
    D1) No.

    ...and I'll have to think a bit on the A.
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2017
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  24. Kz3r0 Arcane

    Kz3r0
    Joined:
    May 28, 2008
    Messages:
    22,776
    I find Loyalty behavior suspicious, I would like to use sense motive on her to see if her concern for Quiet is real or motivetaed by somethinf else.
     
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  25. Grimgravy Augur Patron

    Grimgravy
    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2013
    Messages:
    3,169
    Codex 2016 - The Age of Grimoire
    A2 Too jaded to take that risk.
    B1 How much can we reasonably loot alone?
    C1 I'm more interested to see if anyone else interrupts.
    D1
     
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