The Chronicles of Ceteri: Ep4 – The Lodge

What happened before

The team is shipped off to the Yukon for the notional purpose of helping Gabe and Lorenzo get their cold-weather survival merit badges for scouting. We are provided with a ridiculous amount of high-end gear by Myriam, who owns the orphanage where we stay. We fly out there into record-cold temperatures. We head to a staging cabin, and then take some time to get to know both the town and the local environments. Some go hunting, some go towning, and overall we get ready for our adventure.

When the time comes, we snowmobile deep into the wilderness . . . and the campsite that feels the best to us is up into the mountains a bit. We look around, and find a ridiculously well-prepared campsite, with a basement, stacks of well-preserved wood, and evidence it’s been there for going on 30 years.

Some things were meant to be. Kamali even has a spirt-vision of, well, something important. His convulsions knock away some debris, and leave marks and writing made by our ancestors, who have carved their names into the basement wall, no less.We are led to finish construction of the house, our combination of Fortress of Solitude and Batcave. Kamali is project manager, Gabe is lead carpenter (diligence and carpentry skill as well), and everyone pitches in. We are very efficient . . . and we pick up there.

Dramatis Personae

Kamali Blackshear (14): Kamali is a young boy in his early teens. He is healthy and is of mixed ethnicity of Caucasian South African and native South African. He is a determined youth who believes in a justice of his own, likening himself to the knight of the round whom he has read deeply into. Just asthey stood against the darkness of their age so too does Kamali seek to do the same. For his sister, for his friends, and for the world.

Tag: “A knight without a sword carrying a faith nobody believes.”

Lorenzo DeModouco (15): A handsome and charismatic musician. The loss of his parents didn’t dampen his spirits and he soldiered on after their death. He’s the cheery one always trying to make others happy and sometimes spontaneously breaks into song. Perceptive of others and their feelings, Lorenzo is the one who knows what people are thinking by the looks on their face. He’s also a boy scout and is quite comfortable in the wild.

TAG: “He’s a Jukebox Hero. He’s got stars in his eyes. A Jukebox Hero – he’ll make sure you survive.”

Amos M. Humiston (15) – A comfortable existence turned upside down, he’s still shell-shocked from what happened to his parents and has switched from a small and chatty boy to a small and quiet boy. Amos tends to quietly slip along after the group leaving a trail of books read behind him. And though he doesn’t volunteer himself quite yet, he’s always happy to help the best he can without showing off his intelligence, though that doesn’t stop him from being happy to do so when it’s possible.

Gabriel MacAlister (14) – Built like the natural athlete he is, he shows signs of growing even larger and stronger. A fairly quiet and hard working lad, always ready to lend a hand with any work, which he will do without complaint or obligating the other person to respond. Emphatically not a pushover or weak personality, but also not one to purposefully show off. Has been in many horrible places and seen many horrible things; he’s a bit of a compulsive planner as a result, as well as always feeling that most folks don’t really know how lucky they are.

Tag: “To serve others is the highest calling; to protect the meek the noblest endeavor.”

Timothy I Mitchell (16): Timothy possess an honest if forgettable face. He tends towards comfortable, though inexpensive clothing and durable running shoes, rounding off his typical attire is a deep pocketed jacket and a backpack slung over one shoulder. Timothy appears to be a poster-boy for bad kids, often finding himself in trouble with any and all forms of authority. A victim of neglect, driven to never become a victim again he often acts seemingly on impulse, taking any dare or challenge in his stride. Timothy doesn’t have friends, not in any real sense. Too few of the people who enter his orbit can deal with him in anything more than bite sized pieces, a fact which only further frustrates the young teenager.

Tag: “Darkness is within all of us, it’s how you use that darkness that matters”

Episode Title

8pm. The Lodge.
Astronomical Twilight was about 6:40pm that day.

Kamali is having a seizure and vision. Everything is green, so it’s summer, and a giant swarm of black flies haunts the area. We hear the sound of the river in the background. Kamali realizes he’s in the basement, while it’s being built. Our ancestors seem to have been there, building, at least in the vision. There’s a black-haired man there, looking a timeless 20 or 30 years old, with nearly inhumanly blue eyes – movie star eye. He’s talking to Kamali’s mother – who is much, much younger. She’s dressed almost in leather armor, with a sword strapped to her back. It’s not one of the swords from the basement (the cavalry sabre). She’s have an intense discussion or argument with the blue-eyed man. It’s hard to make out, but the thing that sticks out is the exchange where she says “How could you possibly know this?” and the blue-eyed man says “because I’ve seen it.”

Kamali surmises he’s looking at his father. Based on their ages, it’s likely that this happened around 14 years ago, and that also means that the cabin was a multi-generational affair.

The concrete being poured is being poured into rebar. Kamali gets closer to the intense discussion.

“How can you be sure?”

“You know what I’ve seen; you know who’s after us and what they’ve done. You know what we’ve done. This is the only way our kids will survive. I keep telling you all this, but you just don’t listen to me.”

This guy actually reminds Kamali of Myriam around the eyes. Maybe a son or grandson or brother, then. Not Kamali’s father.

Folks around are pre-drilling holes into timbers, packing things into canvas cloth, and even more odd, a woman reading a book. She gestures to the side, and the package she’s been wrapping starts glowing a blue/green color. A blessing? A spell?

Kamali looks around, trying to feel a sense of dread of forboding . . . and gets a feeling so intense he snaps out of the vision. Something is coming, but it was also here. Something has grabbed the spirit form and torn it out of the vision, as if it didn’t want Kamali to see what came up.

He wakes up, and he’s got blood coming out of his mouth, having taken 1 HP of injury; the rest of us don’t even have time to react – he’s down for maybe four seconds, having experienced all of the above in accelerated time.

We are finishing up for the day, and Kamali warns us that we should really stay within the boundaries of the basement; there’s something out there, and our ancestors literally put cast and blessed iron into the walls. We keep it hush-hush and try not to disturb Carl and Alex . . . but start making plans.

We dig firepits at regular intervals at some distance from the campsite, so that closing in on us they have to pass the light, but we dont’ compromise our night vision.

We decide that Timothy will be on watch from 8pm to midnight, then Kamali and Gabe from midnight to 4am, then Lorenzo from 4am to 8pm. Amos will be trying to decode the books he found long into the night, using a tritium illuminator, long into the night.

On Watch

Timothy makes it through his watch just fine; it starts snowing for maybe five minutes. He hears animals moving about, etc.

Gabe and Kamali go through their survival rolls, and Gabe discovers he has a two levels of Temperature Tolerance (Cold) due to a natural 3; this serves as an excuse to do something fun. Kamali is good too. Lorenzo crit-fails a roll, and crit succeeds another; he plays a card to deal with some of the ill effects of the crit fail, but also buys a level of temperature tolerance. Amos wakes up two FP down due to some bad HT rolls. He too plays a card to maximize his cryptography roll; he’s able to half-translate the book, but it decyphers into another language, not English. It reads like gibberish, and it was written in alternating code. One line was reversed, the other normal, and it was also written vertically, like Japanese.

While Gabe sleeps, he has a dream that he’s hunting again, and sees that magnificent stag. It looks back at him like it sees him.

We wake the next day to – relatively speaking – a beautiful day. It’s clear and 28F. We cook breakfast and talk about food for a bit. Also we talk to Kamali – the foreman – how much construction we have left. If we all work on it, maybe two days. We’ve got basically three or four tasks to do – structure, dig and fire clay for the roof (there are tile molds provided), and get firewood for the kiln. Two days of Timothy working on his own will take care of that.

Kamali and Gabe are blitzkreiging the structure, with Karl and Alex as our brute labor. Timothy and Amos are on clay-fire duty, and Lorenzo is after firewood. We’re going to attack this division of labor for three days . . . but thanks to Gabe’s Diligence and Kamali’s spend of character points to buy a crit, we basically wrap up the structure in two days. We have a full-on something we could sleep in by the end of the second day. We use the leftover tarps as protection for the roof. The hardest part was hand-lagging into the masonry structure below, but we got that done.

Because Amos helped Timothy out with the clay, it took only 3.5 hours the first day to dig it out. We also got to put an extra 10 hours to put into woodcutting, with Lorenzo on task. Amos helps out with structure when he’s done with clay.

Amos continues to work through the pages of the translations and decryptions; the language is obviously transliterated into English phonemes, but the language itself . . . may not even be human.

By the end of mid-day day three, all the clay is dug, and we’re 21 hours short of being totally done. We start dividing into building, woodcutting, clay firing, and then doing some hunting.

By day four, we’re making excellent progress, and Karl is trying to be Timothy’s sycophant with little success, and yet Timothy find him annoyingly likable. He’s so keen to impress and like Timothy, that Timothy finds it’s good that folks are happy to help him out. He discovers the joy of minions.

Timothy declares that Gabe can’t or won’t kill animals, and takes Lorenzo with him instead (both are Very Fit). Kamali and Amos are working tiles, Gabe and the two NPCs are working structure, then, as Lorenzo and Timothy go hunting.

The structure team runs into a few rough spots; we don’t fall behind, but we don’t get ahead of schedule either. We finally finish up around 10 1/2 hours later, but by the end of day 5, the structure is done as well.

We continue to do very well with the cold.

The hunting party is on the case. Hiking and Tracking rolls to get out there and find game. Timothy, despite talking a big game about how useless Gabe was, doesn’t have Tracking, Naturalist, or Survival (anything outside of the city). He’s in great shape, but he’s a city boy. Lorenzo has a great skill, but needs a card from Timothy, but does manage to pick up some tracks, if barely – and yet it’s a moose. That’s a 1,200-lb animal.

“So . . . Lorenzo. I reckon we can take it,” says Timothy, but then a twig or branch rustles beneath his feet. The noise spooks the moose, and nearly 3/4-ton of angry moose starts to charge Timothy; Lorenzo tries to taunt it to distract it and draw the creature aside, but it’s fixated on Timothy. He’s going to get hit, but a spent card saves his butt.

The PCs are now in frantic combat with the moose. Yes, really.

The moose charges at Timothy again, who tries to dodge, but cannot get out of the way fully. The moose smashes a hoof down on his right leg. 5 HP of injury to the right leg; he may have a broken leg. Not sure yet.

Lorenzo tries to shoot the moose, in the eye. [1] He has to spend character points to make the shot hit, but he does so and drops the moose, dead in one shot to the brain.

Timothy has a bone bruise and major pain to deal with. The moose is something close to 1,500 lbs, meaning you can get anywhere between 300 and 750 lbs of edible meat from the animal. They make a bunch of

They come back into camp mid-day on day 4. “What happened?” “I think the stag sent a bruiser after us,” quips Timothy through the pain. Karl comes over and exclaims “oh, no, you’re really hurt.” He pulls out a giant EMT crash kit . . . “My dad is an EMT.”

“Good. Get him here now.” We establish that it’s likely a bone bruise, he needs to be off his feet, and the pain will last for quite a while. Kamali is in favor of abandoning the kill; Timothy will have nothing of it. “Go . . . and bring me that moose, Kamali. You owe it to me . . . as my brother.”

Lorenzo and Gabe head out to recover the meat. We improvise a sled by disassembling the wheelbarrow. We go out and use it to retrieve something like a half-ton of moose meat and other edibles[2]. Between the sled and our combined basic lift, we can move this thing at a near-run (the sled counts it as 1/10 weight, and a good dressing can extract up to half the animal’s live weight as meat).

This little detour cost us time, and it takes us nearly five hours to carve it up. So this little jaunt nets us a huge amount of usable moose-parts, but costs us a few long-term fatigue points.

Something Wicked This Way Comes

We’re a man down, and Kamali is getting nervous about an impending disaster.

Maybe it’s the morphine talking, but Timothy decides not to go outside and reorganize the woodpile. Karl brings Timothy a chocolate pudding cup; Timothy, deep in the throes of morphine-induced bromance, decided to share it with Karl.

We’re rushing to finish that which must be done. On the fifth day, we blitz the thing and get it finished, roof and all. It looks good – Very Fine, in fact. HT 14.

Gabe asks if we can join in prayer – he asks for the Lord’s blessings on the house, and its occupants. We thank him for preparing way and letting the ancestors

This is a BIG house, and it’s filled with stuff that our parents had left for us. We even find a single bottle of something in there, inside a box with a weird glyph on it. Kamali says it’s almost certainly magical, but we don’t know what it does. Timothy is in favor of drinking it immediately. Kamali picks it up . . . and starts having a convulsion. Lorenzo grabs for the bottle; Gabe, with a look of disgust on his face, goes to help Kamali. Amos is still deep in his book; Timothy is still on morphine.

We can visibly see Kamali getting cold; his breath is visibly frosting above his lips. Gabe calls for blankets, and starts muttering prayers

A Prayer for Protection[a]

140 Save me, Lord, from evildoers;
    keep me safe from violent people.
They are always plotting evil,
    always stirring up quarrels.
Their tongues are like deadly snakes;
    their words are like a cobra’s poison.

Protect me, Lord, from the power of the wicked;
    keep me safe from violent people
    who plot my downfall.
The proud have set a trap for me;
    they have laid their snares,
    and along the path they have set traps to catch me.

I say to the Lord, “You are my God.”
    Hear my cry for help, Lord!
My Sovereign Lord, my strong defender,
    you have protected me in battle.
Lord, don’t give the wicked what they want;
    don’t let their plots succeed.

Don’t let my enemies be victorious;[b]
    make their threats against me fall back on them.
10 May red-hot coals fall on them;
    may they be thrown into a pit and never get out.
11 May those who accuse others falsely not succeed;
    may evil overtake violent people and destroy them.

12 Lord, I know that you defend the cause of the poor
    and the rights of the needy.
13 The righteous will praise you indeed;
    they will live in your presence.

We all start to hear a low drumbeat, and whispering, despite Kamali’s being unconscious. They’re hide drums. Kamali sees a man dressed in furs, with a bone skirt, a set of hide breeches, and his face is covered in blood; it looks like he’s been eating something. The story Kamali hears about a shaman? Yeah.

He speaks in Chippewa, but Kamali can understand it. He tells us the land that we’re on does not belong to us. We hear something slam into the front door, which freaks us all out terribly.

We feel the impact of something huge hitting the building; it shakes it to the timbers.

Gabe crit succeeds a Theology roll, and breaks even on an Occultism roll. We’re definitely under attack by some sort of ghost.

The ghost has had quite enough of talking to Kamali and tries to take a psychic bite out of Kamali; he takes 4 points of psychic damage (stability points), and a hunk of flesh disappears from Kamali’s shoulder, with 4 HP of actual injury.

Kamali retaliates, and Timothy puts the deer horns that Gabe had found and given to Timothy in his hands. He falls down and appears on the spiritual field of battle, and yet: Something like blue fire comes into their hands, and suddenly Kamali and Timothy have a pair of spirit daggers in hands.

Something hits the outer wall of the cabin again, and there’s a happy white glow that emerges in response.

Gabe feels a gentle touch on his shoulder, reassuring and friendly. He draws the white-hilted sword, holding it over both fallen friends like a crucifix. He recites the Prayer for Exorcism and touches the antlers that were the gift of faith and trust from him to Timothy. He also disappears and awakens on the field of astral battle. His sword blazes green in his hand.

Gabe advances on the shaman, sword extended in front of him as a crucifix, abjuring him with the Prayer for Exorcism. Or trying to.

The shaman takes another hunk out of Kamali; he’s now down 8 HP in injury and is reeling from both psychic and physical damage.

Timothy goes forward and tries to plant one of his spirit daggers in the shaman from behind. The shaman evades.

Kamali goes for a knifing, and barely hits. Still, a hit is a hit, and he does 1d psychic damage. The dagger sticks in, and starts burning.

Gabe goes for a committed attack to the vitals, and the shaman backpedals furiously, dodging what would otherwise be a deadly thrust.

The shaman turns into an owl, and flies up and away.

A few seconds later, we’re all jolted to sudden awakeness. Karl has hit us with an epi pen. As Gabe wakes up, I”m absolutely sure I see a man in a trench coat standing over me with white, golden wings. Gabe bows his head in reverence; Kamali says “what am I supposed to fight this with?!”

“Um, who you talkin’ to?” says Timothy.

Trench-coat angel whispers in Kamali’s ear.

Amos goes over to the door, and has collected some blood from all of us on a napkin. He goes over and touches the bloody napkin to the door, and all of a sudden a wave of darkess and light explodes from the door and the house, and the loud crashing knocks from the creature stop happening completely.

Kamali crits a success roll for stabilizing his bleeding, Karl help with first aid, and he’s OK.

Alex is utterly terrified. “I’m terrified beyond the capability for rational thought.”

Timothy is looking at Gabe and Kamali with a look of anger and bitterness, if only briefly. What about Gabe and Kamali was such that Timothy was not worthy of experiencing whatever visions.

Kamali says we need to find the cave they put the shaman in; we need to salt the earth and burn and bury his remains.

“How would we even know where to look,” says Timothy. We all look at Alex, who’s heard the story before. “Everyone knows where it is. Up in the mountains, where the black oak has been burned. A pile of bones surrounding it, and no one goes there.”

Something bangs on the door . . . this sounds rather less like a ghost this time. It’s Alex’s uncle, and he’s been torn up. We drag him inside. He says something (Alex says he’s calling his dead mother’s name), and goes unconscious.

Timothy: “Karl, it’s your time to shine. Help Alex’s uncle.” Karl looks panicked as Lawton stops breathing. Kamali: “This is what you’ve been trained for. This is why you get all these badges. Focus, and you’ve got this.” He can’t bring himself to try; we hear a phone ring from Robert’s backpack. Kamali answers it.

He hears static, and breaking up. We hear Myriam’s voice.

“Kamali?”

“Yeah, it’s me.”

Aftermath, Notes, and Impressions (Doug)

[1] At this point, I’m pretty frustrated with some of the suggestions for combat strategy. Rapier Wit, not aiming for the body of the moose rather than the eye . . . the meta-aspects of the house rules that are meant to add drama are insulating us from poor decisions to the point where we can’t be held accountable for bad actions. This is something we’ll need to discuss.

[2] These are the Low-Tech Companion rules. My own research, which may or may not be correct, puts a bit of an upper limit on this as roughly 1/2 the animal’s live weight, or abot 750 lbs. Still, this is a LOT of meat, no matter what. Plus, we kept the skin, sinew, and other bits that are useful. I see a moose-antler and sinew bow in our future.
[3] We’re down some physical damage: 7HP for Kamali, 3 HP for Timothy, and the rest of us are down some sanity and fatigue, including long-term fatigue. So notionally we took a lot of pain getting to where we were. Still, to me it felt very meta. Christopher pointed out that had we actually done the “homework” and allocated hours and other work and sleep and whatnot, we could have taken a lot of the meta stuff offline where it belongs.
[4] Christopher is going to drop the Destiny score of the overall campaign and the PCs. It’s the degree of “with God’s plan” we are in. Merlin is a Destiny 2; the rest of us are currently Destiny 1. Dropping this drops the amount of plot-altering agency that we all can drive.
We had a pretty extensive discussion over meta-game currency, how we approach the game, and what that can mean. Things got a bit tetchy in the post-game discussion. We’ll have to work on that; it’s hard to express where the disconnect is, and we spent quite a bit of intense conversation trying to figure out what, why, and what to do about it.

After Action Report/Game Notes (Christopher)

This felt like the anti-session of last game session. I don’t know why things turned the way they did. There were some mixed expectations between the players as well as the GM (me). I think we got some stuff sorted for next session. We’ll see. Since Doug’s trip to Thailand is going to ensure he’ll be gone 2 weeks next session will be the end of Time Skip 2.

I don’t really have anything else to say except I need to go back over my GM plan and make sure it all fits with the other players and the other players fit with one another.

Soundtrack

2 thoughts on “The Chronicles of Ceteri: Ep4 – The Lodge

  1. How much meat you can salvage off an animal carcass depends on two things:
    * How good you are at cutting the meat off without leaving bits attached to things you don’t eat (or getting it tainted)
    * What you consider “meat”

    If you only eat skeletal muscles, and you stigmatize flesh on body parts like the head (like many “I buy my beef in a box” shoppers) then there’s not a lot you can salvage.

    If you’re the type to eat liver and lights, put bones in the soup, and consider jellied moose nose a delicacy, you’re going to get more eating out of it.

    If you’re from a culture that eats tendon and cartilage (many Asian cultures and Native American cultures consider “chewy” or “rubbery” to be a positive feature in at least some food) then there’s a *lot* of eating on moose. You just need to cook some of it low and slow for a very long time in a lot of moisture… (the traditional Alaskan thing is also with seal or whale oil – but that goes in *everything* to stop you from freezing to death).

    What parts of what animals are *considered* edible (rather than *are* edible) is so culturally variable (and dependent on cooking tech available!) that abstracting it all into a “your margin of success gives a fairly wide band” seems the best way to do it.

    A particularly limited omnivore can have a Picky Eater quirk, reducing the amount of meat they can get from animal carcasses by 50% or something similar – they can get the kind of meat they like in stores just fine though.

    A particularly broad-minded eater (like Andrew Zimmern of Bizarre Foods fame) arguably qualifies for Reduced Consumption (Cast-Iron Stomach), even if they can’t drink dish-water.

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