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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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Surinder encounter details

This one took me almost two days, both because I had a hard time starting, and also because there were some more important things to take care of at home.

Anyway, as I said, difficulty choosing a rough idea for the scene. But I persevered and bothered hubby to get help. After some thrown-out ideas, we decided on having an attempted robbery en route to the landlord’s place. This, in turn, eventually became a group of thugs that attempt to coerce Surinder to do something for their boss.

The first roll was Surinder’s, an Average Perception + Wits roll to see if he would notice the thugs. Our Suri is pretty sharp, so that gave him a dice pool of 7. He rolled two successes on a one, and a third on a six. Six can reroll to hope for another success. He rolled another six, and then a three. Four successes total.

That many successes signifies flair in the accomplishment. It’s a little hard to notice things with flair. (what would you do, pose?) So I made them very noticeable while completely unaware that he’s seen them.

However, he is Shy (a complication taken in the character creation process to make his life harder), so he responds by trying to avoid them. This was when I decided on the idea of the men being thugs sent by someone. It has a for more interesting consequences than a mugging. Thankfully, Thugs are pre-created NPCs in the AP sourcebook, and have stats that provide two things: significant toughness and no making me have to make them. It’s a fairly quick process, but I’m lazy and I do not quite have a handle on the numbers.

When they approached him, they had to roll Intimidate + Mental, with a dice pool of 4. Because Suri is Shy, the roll for the Thugs was Easy, adding 5 dice to the pool for a total of 9.

Good thing, too. Having only 4 white dice on hand, the initial roll yielded no successes. Neither did the second group of four, nor the last single die. So I decided that despite their scary looks, the environment just did not allow them to utilise it effectively.

Then, after I went back to writing and decided someone needed a stupidity check, I realised that I should have had each Thug roll to Intimidate. However, I already like the way it turned out. Seemed a shame to waste such a perfect failure. I didn’t end up making him roll against stupid. He just acted stupid.

After they started their pitch, Surinder’s refusal to hear more brought us to another roll. Suri is fairly Streetwise and as Perceptive as a Level 1 character can be, so he couldn’t be unaware that they would attack him at this point. Therefore, they had to roll initiative and enter combat.

However, there was some thinking to be done. Three guys with these stats would thoroughly cheese him. Also, they would need to keep the coppers away, even in such a relaxed part of the city. I made one remain outside the combat, while the others double-teamed Surinder. Because there are penalties this in the rules. Insert grin of evil.

Just kidding. I’m not one of those lame writers who thinks their characters have actual feelings. I just wanted to use a couple of the mechanics of the game that I have not gotten to use. Narrative imperative demanded that the two fighting thugs be the leader and the weasel, because they had descriptors and personalities.

Both of them have the same stats, so they got the same dice pool for Initiative, which was 8. The weasel got 4 successes, the leader got 3. Surinder’s Initiative is 9, he rolled 6 successes.

There is a little wrangling to be done when two people attack the same target. They go in their turn order, attacking and defending. Surinder won initiative, with Weasel second, so they declared their actions and made their combat rolls. Surinder decided to try to Kick Weasel, while Weasel intended to knock Surinder down.

Surinder rolled Fisticuffs 3 + Dexteriry 2 + the bonus he earned for Initiative, giving him a pool of 7 dice. However, since he was outnumbered, he had to take 3 Black dice. He rolled 2 successes, but the Black dice rolled a success to cancel out one of his, leaving him with just one. Weasel’s combat roll was Fisticuffs 3 + Physical 6, with no bonuses or penalties, a dice pool of 9. He rolled 3 successes, and so got to deal damage. I probably should have had Surinder make his attack in the narrative, but I didn’t. Oh well. This took me a long time to write, and it had a lot of interruptions and low points.

Time for Weasel to roll damage. Something else I totally forgot when Edelweiss was fighting Thrimble was that when calculating the dice pool for damage, she would have gotten dice equal to the difference between her success and his. Which means I actually cheated her out of 4 dice rather than 1. She could have definitely killed the guy.

Anyway. The difference between Weasel’s combat successes and Surinder’s was 2, so he had that 2, plus 1 for using Punch as a “weapon” and 6 for Physical because Punching is a melee weapon. Yeah. Dice pool 9. Only rolled 2 successes, which is not bad for pushing someone to the ground. Taking 2 of Surinder’s health points brought him down from his maximum of 8 to 6.

Then, the Leader got to take a whack at him. Surinder’s intention was to try and Kick the Leader, while the Leader wanted to do the same to him. With Suri on the ground, he had to roll the same Fisticuffs 3 + Dexterity 2 + Initiative Bonus, but I increased the black dice pool to 5 to reflect his prone condition. There doesn’t seem to be a penalty for being knocked down, but I thought there should be, so I made one. I got approval. He rolled 2 successes on white, and 1 on black, bringing him to just 1 success.

As he has the same stats as Weasel (I wonder if I should have changed them), Leader had the same dice pool. He rolled 4 successes. This gave him a damage roll of DoS (degree of success) 3 + Kick 2 + Physical 6, for a dice pool of 11. He rolled 3 successes, which halved Surinder’s remaining health points.

Poor Suri, lying on the ground, in severe pain. 3 health points left. The thugs did not want to kill him, so they just decided their job was done, and left to report.

He did not distinguish himself in any particular way, so I didn’t break my initial decision not to reward experience points. I think I’ll keep that rule of thumb throughout these intro encounters. I also noticed that so far I have not used characters I blogged about before starting. Interesting, but maybe irrelevant.

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PaPW – Surinder Daybreak

Chocolate swirled through the milk, its spiral disappearing as the rich brown colour spread through the milk. A similarly brown finger broke the spinning surface. Surinder sucked on his fingertip and made a face. “Not even chocolate can redeem powdered milk.”

His cousin Sanjay laughed. “You’d think powders would all go together naturally.”

“Don’t add powdered eggs to that,” Surinder jabbed a finger at the mug as he got to his feet. “I’m going to give the landlord his blood money.”

There was no real rancor in the nickname. ‘Blood money’ was merely the artisan quarter’s vernacular for rent. Surinder had been staying with his cousin for several months, and the language was about the only thing he’d really picked up on.

Some things struck him as normal. Dirty people wandered by in states of bliss, irritation and drunkenness. Squat houses were built on varying levels to compensate and embrace the pillar city’s own immense height. In some parts of the city, clouds guarded their ancestral territory by coating the human streets in a near-constant fog.

Such things were common in most pillar city neighbourhoods. The colours weren’t.

The entire artisan quarter was bathed in garish colours, each competing with the others to blind passersby. As if that weren’t enough, any wall arguably big enough, sported a mural. None of them lasted longer than a week. Self-expression was like a weapon in the artisan quarter.

It also made it very easy to spot people who didn’t belong. The awful bright costumes would have made any of the residents stand out in a crowd. But not this crowd. The drab clay colours of regular pillar citizen’s clothing might as well have been a tangerine among walnuts.

There were three of them, two huddling in conversation while the third, a rabbity-looking man, stood transfixed by a mural of naked woman holding birds.

Surinder hunched his shoulders and hurried along. He cursed under his breath. What kind of landlord lives so far away?

He may have been able to spot the three outsiders, but he wasn’t so familiar with his surroundings that he could lose a tail. They rounded on him after half a block. The art appreciator screwed up his face into a weaselly sneer. The other two joined in with similarly malicious expressions. Surinder fixed them with a blank stare. Part of him wanted to show fear, but it was the part of him that insisted on standing when a lady entered the room. The unpleasant men were standing right in front of a wall basted in orange paint and misshapen green birds.

The leader, a thick man with limbs like steel beams, stepped just ahead of the others. “Mister Daybreak, I presume.” He mispronounced the last word.

“Are you lost?”

The weaselly art appreciator made a gesture of exhausted ill humour. “Only for bloody ages. We got stuck in that–oof!” He glared at the man who had elbowed him. “For yonks,” the weasel finished, with a sullen face.

Surinder tried to exude confidence, but he felt like torch with a burnt-out bulb. “If this is about that job, I’ve already turned it down.”

“Mister Daybreak, this entire world is built on second chances.” The leader grinned and pointed to the network of scars on his face and arms. “Our Lady Magna believes in forgiveness.” He winked. The gesture made Surinder fear an incoming proposition. “Up to a point.”

“Then she’ll have to forgive me one last time.”

The streets were nearly empty at this early hour. Artisans did not set records for waking up before noon. Surinder backed away from them, wary of an attack.

It came in the form of the weasel pushing hard against Surinder’s chest. The blow had all of the weasel’s weight behind it. Surinder hit the ground with a surprised cry. The sound of it was short-lived, as he did not have enough breath to prolong it. His spine was not happy.

Before he could manage a gasp, the leader’s boot impacted with Surinder’s unprotected side. White lights exploded in his skull.

“One last time it is. I’ll inform the lady of your compliance.”

Surinder curled into a ball and tried to remember what it was that this Lady Magna had wanted him to do for her.