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Jess and Aphrodite encounter details

I’m going to have to come up with a new naming system for encounter detail posts.

This one changed a lot in the writing, and I definitely blame the fact that I didn’t feel like writing it. It’s not a bad one, and it was made easier by the fact that instead of making notes on dice rolls, I just wrote my details post alongside the actual encounter. It also had very few rolls, and much more thought.

The first check could have been Jess’s Intimidate skill to browbeat Aphrodite into going to the Watch, but that isn’t the way she rolls. [/pun]

But Aphrodite is a cunning little minx, and not anywhere near the straight and narrow. She tried to charm Jess into forgetting about the incident and following Aphrodite’s pace. At first I thought I would have her roll against Jess’s stats, but after I took a look at the numbers, that didn’t seem plausible.

First of all, there would have to be an opposing stat, and the only thing that could have fit contextually would have had no chance against Aphrodite’s dice pool.

So I decided to just make certain rolls Difficult or Easy. This one to start with. Aphrodite rolled a Difficult Charm 3 + Presence 2. 4 successes on white, 0 black.

Interesting, since I had not initially intended to give her a chance to roll that option. I’d meant for things to go against her wishes.

I know where I want these two to end up, but that doesn’t mean the dice would fall that way. At this point, Aphrodite wanted to shake her off, but she is a little dazzled by the idea of having been rescued. Jess is noble and still wants to see this through, but she isn’t personally attached.

In fact, at this point, I decided to trade out her Paranoia Complication for Stubborn, because it fits her character better. No change in stats, just responding to how I’ve been writing her.

Anyway, for someone else, I would have gone with a Charm roll, but not only does Jess not have any points in that skill, but her approach here was different than a Charming character’s. She’s being kind, reasonable. Playing to emotions that are already there instead of trying to manipulate certain emotions into being.

Empathy 2 + Presence 2 = Pool 4. 4 successes, all of them on sixes. But Aphrodite is cynical. She has to make a Perception check to realise that Jess’s behaviour is sincere, if a little detached. An Easy 5 + Perception 2 + Wits 2. Easy because Jess is not all that hard to read. 2 successes.

I could feel the scene start to play out much more quickly than most of the encounters have done, but that was fine. This scene never really had to accomplish much, and I was trying something a little new–an NPC with a full character sheet.

One last roll for Aphrodite to convince Jess to come inside and have a cup of tea. Etiquette 2 + Wits 2. 1 success. So she’s polite, but apparently too flustered to show off her full repertoire of learned manners.

So, it concluded differently than I expected, and covered less ground, but it made me realise that the other things I wanted to write with these characters need to have a bit more setup.

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PaPW – Gratitude?

It hadn’t taken long to learn that this young woman was significantly younger than Jess herself. Besides being petite, which oughtn’t to have been an indication, she was stubborn as a child.

“The Watch can’t do nothin’,” she insisted, all but stomping her foot. “Can’t and won’t. I’m not big ‘nough to have a payroll.” She spat on the ground. “Not that they’d be on it if I did.”

They had left the men far behind them, and her earlier fear seemed almost entirely forgotten. Jess held the girl by the shoulders and fixed her with a stare that her grandmother had said could soften rock. “Those men hurt you. Someone will have to do something.”

“You already did.”

“Yes. Well. I’m not enough.”

“Oh, I think you’re more than enough.” The girl relaxed in Jess’s grip as though it were the most natural place in the world to be.

Jess let go with a sigh. Children were exactly like this. “At least tell me your name.” She could file a report with the Watch on her own. Even if it wasn’t likely to make an impact without the victim there with her.

“Aphrodite Cloudburst. And what’s your name, hero?”

The smile was infectious to the point of toxicity.  Jess released her grip, trying to keep from smiling back. “Jessaminica. Listen, if you won’t go to the Watch, will you at least let me take you home?”

For a moment, Aphrodite looked taken aback. “Huh. I guess I was right about the hero thing.” She furrowed her brow, then broke out in a smile that was unlike the others. It was less sparkly. More genuine. “I live on Dire Street. In the pleasure quarter. Big house, lots of windows.”

As she led the way, she went on talking. About the weather, her hair, how expensive it was to live anywhere. Everything but what had happened in the abandoned house. Jess gritted her teeth and focused on following her and keeping anything else from happening. Perhaps part of Aphrodite’s blasé attitude was due to having faced many similar incidents.

The idea of the pleasure quarter did not escape Jess. It did not exist among the tribes, but she had to admit that they had no need for it. Sex was treated with respect, but had very few rules. According to what her mother had told her, the higher up one went, the more repressed men and women became. She almost found herself asking how the business fared under such conditions.

They reached a large house with many windows, and Jess nearly laughed. It had seemed such an absurd thing to say.

Aphrodite put a hand on the knob, then paused. “Would you… That is, I feel I owe you a cup of tea. We should have biscuits.”

Her pitch never rose, but Jess could hear the question. She chewed the corner of her bottom lip. The men had to have cleared out by that time, and she wouldn’t get anywhere with the Watch on her own. True, it was clear what Aphrodite’s career was, but that didn’t seem like sufficient reason for two men to accost her with such single-minded hostility. They were too efficient for it to be random, or small.

“I would love to.”

She followed the girl inside.

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Jess encounter details

Wow. This is a pretty big one. Seriously, something awesome happened in this one, I swear.

I think that since most of the explaining about the game mechanics has been done in the earlier ones, I should fall into a more summarising narrative for these details posts. As before, the circumstances are more interesting–but this time, the dice had a lot more to do with it.

This was another encounter that I had trouble setting down to write. I didn’t get much chance before getting home, and once I did, I wanted to do other things. But once I got started, everything just slid into place.

Technical issues arose with this one as well. I tried to make the draft on my PC first, and access it on my tablet, only to find that it needed a constant connection to access and update it. I do not have that at work, so I made an Evernote file. Screw you, WordPress App. Die in a fire.

I was already using Evernote to keep track of encounter details anyway, so instead of making a separate file for those, I just made all detail notes in-line with the text. This made me very paranoid of leaving them in the final post, but I think I checked it enough times. I think. It was a lot easier to do it this way, so I might just write everything in Evernote and then just put it in Yarny or Dropbox for sake of saving.

I tried to use the dice to do some more menial things this time, like checking if she’s afraid of being up so high with a Wits 2 roll (1 success). I was told that the scenes should try to cover more time, so I did a bit of a time jump as practise. Good thing, or she wouldn’t have gotten to the combat.

Jess’s character is not the easiest to explain or write, but she is essentially a straightforward person. She has quite a few flaws in her makeup, but she’s a good person, and she is able to make good suggestions to cover up her weaknesses by playing to her strengths.

For example, when she heard the bang on the door, I wanted her to be able to figure out it needed attention, but I still wanted to at least gauge her success. However, she has no skill points in Perception, as well as a low score in the related attribute. This is something she has in common with other characters, so I came up with a way to patch it. Instead of an Easy 5 Perception 0 + Wits 1, she rolled an Easy 5 Survival 2 + Wits 1 for 3 successes. Two dice make a difference, and she played to her traits instead of rote checks. It still amounts to an awareness check, she simply used a different skill to the same end.

Three successes means that she accomplished the task with some flair, so her instincts told her to get out her weapons before breaking down the door. What I was going to mention in my first post today was that I found another thing in the mechanics I haven’t gotten to do yet, which is breaking objects. Wooden doors have 4 structure points (like health).  I assumed that when attempting to break an object, damage is rolled against the object’s structure points, and so she rolled 8 for the Arm Blades and 1 for Strength. Door got splintered.

Combat was… bizarre.

In my first post about Jess, I basically detailed exactly what would happen in this encounter. But I didn’t end with whether she saved the girl or not. So when I started writing combat, I decided that she didn’t need to kill the baddies, but if she didn’t do damage by the second round, they would kill the girl and she would have to make an Empathy 2 + Presence 1 check. A success in that check would allow her to chase them down and attack and/or acquire information. Failure would mean collapsing with guilt and sadness.

Two rather awesome things happened here. It’s all a little complicated, but I’ll try to unravel it.

The death condition existed because I had a contingency plan I was fairly fond of. No matter what happened, Jess would end up with a contact called “Aphrodite”. Either the woman here, or her twin sister. No concrete name left that much in the air. Should Jess fail, she would have to contact the girl’s family and then find herself in an obviously haunting situation, which the sister would have misinterpreted to comedic effect. I was eager to play it that way, but… when the combat started, and the odds looked so obviously against the woman surviving, I felt absolutely awful.

I hoped quite hard that the dice would roll in Jess’s favour. Only one man could attack anyway, as the other had to hold the hostage. The first round of combat, the pistol-wielder rolled 3 successes to Jess’s 1. With that, he brought his combat dice pool up to 9 (Physical 5 + Firearms 2 + Initiative Bonus 2) and rolled 3 successes. Jess’s combat roll was Beast Dancing (martial art) 4 + Dexterity 3, for a dice pool of 7. I knew I wasn’t eager for the death condition when I started calculating if I should let her reneg the declared action and Dodge. I even went back and made another personalised awareness check to give her a chance to notice the pistol. But 7 to 9 didn’t seem too bad, so I rolled the fight.

Jess got 1 success. My heart actually sank.

With the degree of success and the damage dice for his pistol, the pistol-wielder had a damage dice pool of 7. He didn’t roll a single success. This brought me to the weird experience of having to write a hit with a gunshot that did no damage. So he hit her in the hair.

The second round was even cooler. Jess won initiative by 1 success, and so the combat dice pools were switched–9 for Jess, 7 for Pistolman. Again, Jess won the combat  roll by a single success. At that point, I just felt relief whoosh through me. Jess has a contact, similar to Candle’s but hers will be around more often and under (probably) more varying circumstances.

I started rolling damage almost as an afterthought. Degree of success 1 + Arm Blades 8 + Strength 1 for a pool of 10. Those weapons are crazy awesome. She got 5 successes and gutted the guy for all but one of his health points.

Those dice rolling the way they did is kind of cool. Maybe creepy. I gave her 2 experience points for that, which she’s saving for an attribute fix.

The last roll was when Aphrodite hugged Jess. Our Jess is not a very touchy-feely person, and she has the Paranoia complication, so I made her make an Empathy 2 + Presence 1 check to prevent pushing the woman away. It yielded one success, which was enough to let her awkwardly sit and take it a moment.

Wow, that was a lot of writing. But that was the coolest thing that’s happened so far. This is totally why I wanted to write with dice in the decision-making. Governing the story by my feelings doesn’t always produce the best result. I was honestly excited to write the Haunted by the Death of an Innocent and Faced with Identical Twin thing.

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PaPW – Jessaminica Nakkerman

It had never occurred to Jessaminica that her clan’s name was either ironic or a simple misnomer. The Patient Hawks were well-named in every respect that counted. Their ground-bound existence did not strike any of them as counterintuitive.

Her remaining family had accepted her decision. They had even helped her to pay her way onto the airship Turlington Wheeze. She smiled, remembering the words of farewell. Bring your husband home someday.

She leaned over the rail, her thick braids whipping in the wind. She nearly had to close her eyes against the strength of it. But even blinking would rob her eyes of too much.

Her mother had not been born one of the Hawks. She had come from a city in the sky. Jess hooked an arm under the rail and leaned out to brush a cloud with her face. Her mother had told her about the world far above the ground. Extensively. Every time, she’d appended it with the claim that Jess would have to see it herself.

“Don’t look down,” a rough female voice warned her.

Although she was not rebellious by nature, Jess found herself looking down out of reflex. The woman, the ship’s own Captain Mary Turlington, laughed jovially and slapped a hand on her shoulder to pull her away from the rail.

Jess gave Captain Turlington a tiny, controlled smile, typical of a Patient Hawk expressing amiability. “It’s lovely,” she said. “Like being a bird.”

This earned her another slap on the back, which jarred her. Clanswomen, like the men, were quiet, determined people. Little was ever wasted, be it water or breath. These air people liked everything loud, big, and excessive.

When they arrived at the pillar city port of Seriaga, this impression was cemented. The sounds of her own body–heartbeat, breathing, even footsteps–were lost in the thick, sweaty crowd of shouting people.

It could have been awful. But Jessaminica Nakkerman was done with awful. There were worse things than body odour and volume.

However, there was no point in exhausting herself. She found a shady spot under an awning and leaned against the wall of an unassuming building. From there, she was free to observe the noisy mess.

Her mother had told her that colours were different in the pillar cities. In Jess’s eyes, they were less alive than her home in the lowlands, but possessed of a variety that could not be rivalled. Even the awning above her, although decorated in a reasonable stripe pattern, contained a mottle of reds, whites, and purples, like banded agate.

The universal spirit of tourism was about to compel her to reach up and touch the fabric when she heard a bang against the other side of the nearby door. The vibration rumbled through the rest of the wall.

Without any conscious thought, Jess melted her body into a fighting stance and slid to face the door as though it were an opponent. The sound had been far too loud and violent to belong to a harmless action or accident. A human cry from within snapped her into a decision.

Her rucksack held few things. She reached over her shoulder and pulled out her most important possessions–a pair of arm blades, short knife-blades mounted on leather bracers. Thus equipped, she shrugged her rucksack back into a comfortable position, and attacked the door.

The air people and their love of excess must not have extended to materials. The door crumbled after a single blow, like dried cheese failing to resist a spoon. A cloud of dust and splinters roared silently into the air, but Jess squinted through it.

Two men were standing over a woman. Her clothes were ragged, and she was weeping. One of them had her by the hair, the dark waves contrasting sharply over the white scar tissue of his hands. Both men stared in dismayed awe at the wreckage of the door.

But they recovered quickly. The one holding the woman yanked her to her feet. The other raised a hand. In the gloom, Jess could barely see light glinting off metal. A pistol.

She leaped forward to slash at his midsection, but he fired the pistol before she could get close enough. The bullet ripped through one of her thin braids, barely missing her ear.

He cocked the pistol for another shot, but Jess didn’t let him take it. Patient Hawks used everything. All of her muscles were focused on fighting this man, stopping further harm from coming to the sobbing woman. She whipped past his second shot and impaled him with both blades. His body jerked as he tried to flail away, blood dribbling down his chin.

The blades came free with a sound that obscured the running footsteps of the other man. The injured man hit the floor, hard. He would live, if care reached him in time.

Jess cleaned her blades and returned them to her pack, then approached the woman. She might have been the same height as Jess, but her body was softer, fuller, as was her dark, wavy hair. Very different from Jess’s tight, numerous brown braids.

She looked up at Jess with bright black eyes. Her face was blotchy from crying, and covered in dirt. But she was clearly beautiful, with high cheekbones and lips like a shortbow. Her breath was coming in gasps.

When Jess held out a hand to her, the woman jumped into her arms. Taken aback, Jess stood still. The woman didn’t stop trembling, even after Jess helped her outside.