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Surinder and Arete encounter details

Writing this encounter took a bizarrely long amount of time. Life interfered quite often and rather heavily, plus, I don’t think it’s as good as the others were.

This is probably because there isn’t a lot going on. It’s a talking head scene, and to make it even harder, I had to really pin down what this Lady Magna’s deal is.

But that’s enough about why it took so long. When I was first writing it, I somehow got into watching something, which my husband joined me in. When I watch stuff by myself while writing, I tend to pause and unpause it, writing in bursts, but that’s annoying for someone else who just wants to enjoy the video.

So, I decided all of my dice rolls and scene directions, and wrote them on the back of an old receipt that was just sitting on my desk. Later, I just wrote from what I had planned and  the noted skill checks and outcomes.

Funny note: The receipt is from changing money in Victoria.

If one is familiar with the skills in Airship Pirates, it should almost always be obvious when I called for a skill check and what skill was used, just by reading. To a lesser or possibly greater degree, the degree of success is also easy to guess by reading.

That said, when Arete implied that Surinder should make her a setting for a gem in return for information, he rolled Craft (wire art) 4 + Wits 3, for a pool of 7, which yielded an impressive 6 successes. So he not only worked very quickly, but he came out with an especially pleasing design.

As he was so successful, Arete provided two significant bits of information. I decided to give him a second chance to repair something and gain the opportunity to ask her to join him in his next Magna-related action.

To fix the clock, he rolled Ad Hoc Repair 4 + Wits 3. He rolled 2 successes. Less impressive, but he got the job done.

With that opportunity open, he had only to roll some kind of skill check to try to get her to join him. Surinder has very little Presence, and not many points expended for charm-type skills. So I let him appeal to her through his Streetwise skill, presuming that he is laying emphasis on the seedy understanding of the situation. Streetwise 3 + Presence 1 gained him 1 success. He barely managed it, and it will cost him in the long run.

Let’s hope it was worth it.

Personally, I think that he will definitely need Arete. She is better equipped for battle, and from what has been seen and said of Lady Magna and her retinue, there will be fighting, and it won’t be an easy encounter.

If I don’t move the characters around into different groups for whatever reason, the next we see from these two will be from Arete’s point of view, “storming the castle”.

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PaPW – Jewelry for Information

Balm, when first applied, sent a feeling of cool relief throughout one’s body. But after stumbling under the weight of one’s injuries and the heat of an eager afternoon sun, the balm became sticky and unwelcome.

Surinder scratched at his wounds through his shirt. “They looked familiar, I suppose. But thugs do. And whatever you call it, we live in slums. Things like that happen all the time.”

“Things like Lady Magna’s goons roughing you up in the name of job offers? Those things happen all the time?”

He glared at Arete and stopped scratching. “No. I meant… Just goon-related incidents. You see your fair share.”

“I’m a player, love.” She flipped her hair over her shoulder. “Slum artists still keep their heads above water.”

Surinder cast about a glance so meaningful that it ought to have twanged. She may have shared the building with the rest of her Family, but Arete’s personal rooms were an exercise in opulence. He picked up an earring from the jewellery box on the table. “Then you must fly between the bottom and the top.”

She snatched the earring out of his hand. “Prostitution is hardly the top.”

“Easy mistake to make,” he said. “It’s easier to gather information with your job.”

“Information is better than hard currency,” she said, beating him to it. “I do know a bit about Lady Magna.”

He held out his hand. She reached into the jewellery box and handed him a cut ruby. Holding it up to his eyes and turning it, he asked, “Gold or silver wire?”

“For a ruby?” Arete buffed her nails on her shoulder. “Gold, of course.”

He sat down at the low tea table in the centre of her room and pulled out a small metal box. Inside were all of his tools.

When he had left the lowland empire to live with his cousin, he had decided to pull his weight in a similar manner. Sanjay painted, and Surinder made wire jewellery.

He selected a small coil of thin gold wire, and his best pliers. In his line of work, materials were almost more precious than the monetary compensation. A few small mistakes could leave ugly kinks in the wire. Too many kinks, and he could end up spending what he earned replacing his materials before he was even done.

Arete was, in many ways, a friend, and she brought him comparatively regular business. Whenever she watched him make a piece for her, there was more on the line than loss of wire. But with that impetus of pressure and knowledge of Arete’s personal tastes, he  managed to come up with an impromptu design and bring it to delicate, yet hopefully long life.

It was a flat bird cage, wrapping around the ruby at its centre, in a perfectly symmetrical heart. The wire wrapped around the ruby inside the heart, in a spiral.

Surinder drew one of his premade chains through it, then pinched the loop so that the setting wouldn’t slide. He presented the finished necklace to Arete.

She held it up in the light, smiling faintly. “Lady Magna inherited her husband’s clockwork manufactury, Magnificent Clockworks,” she said, fastening the clasp behind her neck. “But I work with a lot of businessmen, and I’ve never heard them praise her business sense.”

“But that company is still in business, I’ve seen the manufactury. And its shops.”

“I would say, rumour has it, but those who know that Lady Magna keeps her workforce and repairs her income with threats and shady dealings, have no reason to gossip about it.” Arete touched the necklace lightly. “However, I do know one interesting rumour that isn’t easy to confirm.”

Still touching the necklace, she rose almost absent-mindedly. Watching her walk across a room, Surinder thought, was like watching a swan fly over water. It gave him an idea for another design.

“One of the ladies on the third floor works regular with a manufactury worker, and she told me that Lady Magna has a new section working in seclusion.”

Surinder rubbed his chin. “She may have sent those thugs to recruit me.” Then he shook his head, grimacing. “I really don’t remember.”

He started to ask if Arete thought there was a chance he may have been mistaken for Sanjay, but he was interrupted by a disturbing sproing. Arete got up and took the clock off the wall. “It’s always doing that,” she grumbled.

“Let me take a look at it.”

She turned away, ever so slightly, holding the clock to her chest. “Why? I don’t know anything else.”

It baffled him how calculating she or anyone else could be. “I can’t do chores for a friend? It’s just a clock.”

And so it was. She handed it over, and he opened up the back. There were no major repairs needed, just a bit of tightening. Yet, after he’d shut the back of the clock, he realised that Arete was staring at him. She accepted the clock without a word.

Then, his mouth ran ahead of him. He had meant to thank her and leave. What he did was say, “Would you come with me?”

Her stare became penetrating, almost angry. “Where?”

“To see this Lady Magna. Perhaps you can help me to convince her that I am not what she’s looking for.”

Arete scoffed, exhaling with such force that she blew the hair around her face into disarray. “What in the sky makes you think I could help?”

“You’re charming, and you seem like you get your way, um… a lot. And if worse comes to worst, you are a dab hand with a pistol.”

She rubbed her tongue over her teeth, like a lioness checking her fangs’ readiness. “All right,” she said at last. “But you’ll owe me big. Cost of bullets at least.”

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Arete encounter details

I fully expected this one to be difficult. It was expected by my audience of one to be the most awesome, so yes, bar was set a bit high. I wasn’t even going to start yesterday. Technically, I finished yesterday, but then I’d have to write something else for today. And we made plans to see a movie.

For some reason, I thought that gambling had its own system. But when I flipped through the book seeking knowledge of gambling, nothing came. So I was at a standstill for a while, until discussion gave us a gambling system of our own.

There are not a lot of rolls in Arete’s encounter, so I’ll spend most of this recap going over my gambling system.

It looks like it’s really just supposed to be a skill check. Which is not what I wanted at all. So we came up with some mechanics for it, which I dressed up with a name and terms. The mechanics are simple–3 black dice for the difficulty level, and Gambling + Wits. Number of successes define the quality of the win. Two successes is the minimum for a good roll.

If the the player has Addiction (Gambling) as a Complication, they must occasionally make a successful Resolve roll to be able to stop playing.

Arete does have that complication, however, she did not play long enough to have to make that check, and the end of her gambling session was due to an external force stronger than her addiction. She did have to roll an Act 3 + Presence 3 to retain her composure after the poor roll, with 3 successes. I find it funny that she rolled quite well in anything not to do with gambling.

Hopefully, Port of Call will come up again later, because I have a couple of different hands named. It’s not a real game, but it’s not hard to make it sound like one.

Both of her Gambling rolls were poor. Her pool was 6, 3 points each in Gambling and Wits, against the 3 black dice. The first roll, she got two successes, but one was cancelled by the black dice. I decided that because the game has a similarity to card games, she can continue gambling to build her chances back up to possibly win.

In this case, if she were to roll a single success again, that would be the pairing “spread” (like a hand in cards) to the first roll, which would be a rare/difficult way to win. She ended up getting two successes, but both of them were cancelled out by the black dice. I didn’t actually explain this when I first wrote it, but when it ended up too short, I went back and put it in. So that’s probably why I still feel compelled to explain it here.

I had decided from the outset that she would only roll two rounds of gambling, and then get into a fight. Only the reason for the fight was up to the dice. If she’d done well, she would have been accused of cheating. We got to see the awesome alternative because her gamble rolls sucked.

Combat is something I’m pretty used to now, but it always brings some surprises into the way I write each scene. In Arete’s case, she had made some pretty unlucky rolls, when I’d rather wanted her to win so that I could have her get jumped by angry gamblers. But with this one guy… She just smashed him.

I used the Pirate/Marine NPC stats from the book, which gave him 5 dice to roll against Arete’s 7. He rolled 3 successes, while she rolled 5, granting her the initiative bonus.

This gave her a combat dice pool of 8, from which she rolled an unbelievable 10 successes. It was even cooler than Anson’s 10 from a pool of 11. She rolled a one and 4 sixes, which she re-rolled to gain another six. That six re-rolled four more sixes, before ending on a three.

To make it even more spectacular, the antagonist gambler rolled a measly 2 out of his pool of 5.

Arete’s damage pool was Degree of Success 8 + Revolver 5 = 13. She rolled 8 successes, and murdered the guy. To death. His health points went from 6 to negative 2. I probably could have explored the world of saving rolls and grey dice, but this was too good not to just give her a straight, clean kill.

No idea what they’re all in for next. Probably meeting up or furthering their individual goals. Technically, Anson and Arete already know each other, and it’s not infeasible for Jess, Candle, or even Edelweiss to meet either of them or even one another. Surinder already knows Arete, so he may meet with her.

Who knows. We’ll see. I’m just glad I finally have all of these done, and kind of amazed that I finished Arete’s so quickly.

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PaPW – Arete Windfall

Humans could put beasts and their base natures to shame. Arete leaned against the wall, red lips wrapped around an unlit cigarette. She enjoyed the ugliness of it all. Being part of it. The garish lights, lampposts tainted by coloured paper, somehow left the world darker, full of shadows.

But there were some things that could only exist in shadows. Thrill rarely lived elsewhere.

Her regular trade flourished alongside it, but work could make anything dull. She wondered if any of the sharks dealing in drugs, dice, and cards found the rush of chance tedious. It seemed impossible to her, but then, some might find her job glamorous. Or demeaning.

The world was no longer divided into men and women. Not for the majority of them. Not for Arete. They were only players, throwing dice, drawing cards, snorting powder and begging for needles. Shooting up in one way or another.

They hugged walls and street corners in groups, lining the network like clusters of ants on sugar cubes. Some were playing Impresario or Dusk, but her game was Port of Call. Arete held the cigarette as though it contained something less polite than tobacco, then flicked it away.

She followed the clicking of dice on metal sheets. As it grew louder, the tingling in her fingers grew to an answering rattle all through her spine. It was no wonder that the game’s jargon for throwing dice was casting bones. It was your bones the game occupied.

There was always room in any given game for a woman in a red dress. Especially a woman who could make a pair of overalls attain the same effect. The dice came her way immediately. She blew on the dice. Arete didn’t believe in luck, but it never hurt. She cast the bones.

The dice came up Leery Fingers. Not a losing spread, but a poor start. A few murmurs went up, but she tossed her head. There was enough strategy to the game that she could recover or even win with subsequent spreads. She tossed in another fivepence and waited for the dice to return to her. If she could roll the same combination, the second spread would be Heavy Thinkers. Combining Leery Fingers with Heavy Thinkers would give her Faithful Band, a rare spread. An almost guaranteed win.

The dice slapped the metal sheet positioned over the cobblestones. Two dice knocked against one another. The collision changed the roll, and left her with Skeleton Crew, a losing spread with no salvation.

The man nearest her jostled her with a jovial menace. “Oh, bad luck, my lovely,” he said as he scooped up the dice. “But as long you’ve your body, you’ve money in the bank.”

Irritation knotted her stomach. She reached up to rearrange her hair, affecting disinterest. It wasn’t difficult. “Oh aye. Is that what the ante is now?”

Whoops and catcalls reduced the tastefulness quotient in the atmosphere below zero. Arete nearly turned up her nose. Never mind ants and sugar. They were cockroaches feasting on dirt. The one who had spoken, a malodorous spectre with no muscle and plenty of coarse hair, twisted his spotty face into a revolting grin. “Will ye call?”

She looked him up and down with cruel thoroughness. “I don’t play for stakes so low as that.”

The rattle of dice was the first sign of trouble. Skinny No-Muscles was still looking at her, but the dice had passed to the next player. The game was going on without her. Without either of them.

It didn’t take a veteran of the seedy underbelly to guess what she was up against. But Arete was exactly that, and it gave her an edge. She moved her dress to draw the revolver from the hidden holster on her thigh.

He raised his fists. She fired.

The bullet sang through the air, and came to a discordant end right between the skinny man’s eyes. He swayed like a bug-eyed and unnatural dancer. Then he dropped.

No one paid any mind to the report of the gun or the slumped corpse. Arete shook her head at the foolishness of it all. Then, she turned and started back to the pleasure quarter.

She was going to have to find somewhere else to play next week.