Played Gutterpunk for the first time yesterday, using my city-as-a-sandbox idea. The Nicks (Bov and Dorf) had said they weren’t going to be available yesterday, which had led us to plan the game for Thursday–which led to conflicts where Nathan would have had to leave for two hours in the middle of it, Dorf would have to leave at 9 and Jake wouldn’t be able to come at all. But we thought we could play around that.
Turns out the guys Bov and Dorf were going to be with bailed on them, so they were free. Everyone was free today. Jake could only play until 7:30, but that’s a damn sight better than not being there at all. I was given two hours to finish my prep work. In that time I threw together a list of gangs in the city (complete with leaders, lairs, territories and what sort of criminal activities they engaged in), a short list of potential plot hooks, a bounty board for the front of the guardhouse, and a very brief map of the city. I’m going to go in and add more detail later, along with more districts, but as it stands now here’s the map:
The area by the docks, where the river is, is below a large set of cliffs. Everything below the cliffs is refered to as “the Lower City,” and is the part I have most detailed as of now. One of my goals before we next play is to expand the map a bit–add more detail to the districts, add more districts, and describe more thoroughly what’s in the Upper City. This map served for this session’s purposes. It was good that I had it, too–one of the players rolled a city map on the random equipment table.
The party as it stands consists of Dorf as Van the foul-mouthed Cockney, Jake as Bob the Fighter (who is good at fighting and intimidating and pretty much nothing else), Nathan as Vince the con-man and wizard, Mark as Chuck the thief, Colin as Bruce the crazed demon summoner and Bov as Bruce’s as-yet-unnamed partner in crime. At the start of the game they had maybe two dozen silver crops between them; Chuck, with the Destitute disadvantage, had nothing but the clothes on his back. From the random equipment table Van got a Verdan cussor grenade (useful for whenever he needs to level a small building), Bruce got an incendiary, Vince got illegal drugs and Bov’s summoner got a goat, which I believe he named Mr. Nibbles. They rolled some other stuff, too, but those were the interesting ones. Bov’s character and Bruce between them know around fourteen demon names, three of which they actually know what they’re summoning. Bruce knows the true name of a reasonably-powerful imp called Bokaton, a creature of fire and malice, while Bov can summon a succubus who’s name I forget and a twelve-foot-tall Will 8 storm demon called Kirul-Gular. Both Van and Bob the Fighter are hardened criminals with the Wanted: Dead disadvantage, which led to an interesting scene when the ship they were arriving in Tahmoor on was boarded by the city guard upon docking.
“How did they know?” Van asked, panicking. “I just–how did they know I was on board? Shit.” As the guards were boarding from the docks, Van and Bob dived off the other side of the ship–both making the rolls to do it quietly–and swam to shore. Vince, still on board, tried to find a place to hide the illegal drugs he was carrying; failing that, he muttered a few words and cast a spell to disguise them as something harmless.
Meanwhile, the commander of the guard squad began talking to the captain. A corporal wandered over to talk to the PCs (sans Van and Bob) while the rest of the guards went below decks and started a methodological search of the ship. The corporal was polite to a fault, asking questions about the trip, where they were from, if they’d seen anything suspicious during the voyage, etc. Their replies were as innocent as possible. Meanwhile, over the corporal’s shoulder, the captain of the Lucille’s Wish was becoming more and more agitated.
It was about then that the guardsmen who had gone below started bringing up flat, padded crates, and the corporal started smiling. “I’m afraid you’ll have to come with us,” he said.
“Why? What’s going on?”
“Smuggling. Probably weapons,” said the corporal, as the guards behind him started prying open the crates and lifting out black-lacquered crossbows, “seeing as drugs or such would be easier to conceal than in hidden panels in the walls.”
And thus Bov, Bruce, Chuck and Vince found themselves in guard custody, not quite prisoners but not quite free to leave, either. Van and Bob, meanwhile, celebrated their freedom at the nearest dive bar.
The players with the guards were escorted to the Dockside East Guardhouse, where they spent the night sleeping on benches in the main room. Van spent the night lurking outside the guardhouse, trying not to be recognized, seeing if he could get close enough to take down the wanted poster of himself on the bounty board out front. While they were waiting in there, they got a few rumors from the guards: the Witch-King of the Lower City was seen in Doveli Square, standing above the fountain at midnight, and now the fountain didn’t work and no one would go near it to find out what was wrong; the Commandant of the city guard had found out that the famous assassin Naso Sigam was the one who killed his brother two months ago, and had jacked up the usually low bounty on him to 5000 crowns (the bounty was usually meant to merely sate angry family members who swore that their loved ones had been assassinated and not, say, coked themselves to death); and the Red Leaf gang had lost a smuggled shipment recently (said tongue-in-cheek by the guard).
The next morning dawned with the announcement that the captain had confessed to smuggling, that the players had nothing to do with it, and that they were free to go. Bov retrieved his goat from the cell where the guards had parked it and they left, meeting up with Van and Bob out front. They took a look at the bounty board, which was plain text on a white background because I’d taken about ten minutes to set it up beforehand:
“There’s a guy on here for ‘indecent exposure.’ Sounds like easy money.”
Van took down the posters for Ragi Tlentikops, himself and Bob (which I didn’t have time to make actual posters for before putting them up) and called the guard over, shoving his and Bob’s wanted posters in his back pocket. “Oi! Can you tell me about this Ragi bloke?”
“What, him?” asked the guard, wandering over. “He flashed Mastera’s daughter, he did. Her old man put the bounty up himself.”
“Laugine Mastera. Richest man in the city. He was pretty pissed about it.”
“Well all right then…”
Dollar signs started flashing in the players’ eyes. Fifty crowns was good money, very good money indeed. With that much they could buy a decent hideout for themselves, somewhere out of the way where the summoners’ demons wouldn’t be noticed.
“Where might we find this fellow?” Van demanded. The guard snorted.
“Fuck if I know,” he said. “If I knew that, I’d be fifty crowns richer already.”
“Cunt,” Van decided. The party set off to look for information.
After a lengthy conversation with a bartender, during which Van made an epic threatening speech about how his friend Bob really wanted to have a go at this Regi bloke, and if Van went back to him without any new information, well, the poor man might fly off the handle and start breakin’ things, and we really don’t want that to happen in your tavern, do we? the players found themselves with little more than they started with. Whoever the guy was, he’d waited in the Bazaar until Mastera’s daughter had appeared, thrown open his cloak (revealing nothing underneath) and screamed “Regi Tlentikops, bitch!” before turning and running. It was the bartender’s opinion that this guy was some madman who’d crawled out of some crack in the Narrows or decided to move from Lack’s Fingers to the city at large (that district being famous for producing madmen and sociopaths). Since the Narrows was closer to both where they were and the Bazaar, they decided to go there first.
Before they could get out of Dockside, however, they were accosted by several large men. “Hey. We’d like a word with ya.” The men explained that they belonged to the Red Leaf gang, which controlled Dockside East, and to whom the smuggled weapons on the Lucille’s Wish belonged. They were trying to find who had ratted out the smugglers to the guard. The players angrily explained that they had nothing to do with that. The Red Leafers said, well, while we have a problem, you have a problem too, seeing as you’re some of the more likely suspects. If you find out who the rat was, though, come by the Chain Alley Pub and we’ll talk. The gangers melted back into the crowd, and the party continued on their way.
On their way into the narrows, they spotted a circle of people crowded around a circle of dirt. When they asked what was going on, they were told that if they wanted to watch the fight, they could find their own space. Upon hearing there was a fight they shoved their way into the circle, eager for a spectacle. In the center of a dirt ring two animals fought: a battered, scarred and badass-looking armadillo, and a miniature rhinoceros. Bets were 2:1 against the rhino, which was a newcomer to the ring.
“Seven crops on the rhino,” Van told the bookie, betting all his money on the underdog. Van and Bob stood in front of Vince, shielding him from view as the wizard muttered incantations and gave the rhino a little bit of assistance. They would fix this match, one way or the other.
Chuck, meanwhile, wandered around, reaching into pockets to see if anyone was carrying interesting amounts of coin. He came up with six coppers and a small notebook. Flipping through the book (out of sight of the guy who’s pocket it had been in) revealed it to be in the calligraphic style of the Cathedral D’Agmont, and full of notes on the Avadin Heresy. He brought it to the others and surreptitiously passed it around.
“This could be big,” Van said excitedly. “There could be an entire heretical cell out there–we should follow this guy, the Church would pay good money for this–”
The cheering crowd drowned out his next words. The rhino had won, knocking the armadillo unconscious and trying to eat it while it was down. Van exuberantly collected his winnings from the bookie–eleven silver crops and one gold crown!–and pressed one crop into the hands of the rhino’s owner. “Treat him to a steak!” he shouted.
By the time the players were paying attention to the crowd again, the man who Chuck had stolen from was long gone.
“Fuck him anyway,” Bov said. “We’re demon summoners. We don’t want to deal with the Church.”
Having been reminded that they could summon demons, the players located a convenient dead-end alley and started drawing a summoning circle on the ground with chalk. They figured the easiest way to find this Regi guy was by having a demon do all the legwork for them (also, I suspect the summoners wanted to try out the summoning rules). While the rest of the party blocked random drunks from wandering into the alley, Bruce and Bov got to work, calling up a succubus/air demon. Bov managed to word his orders in such a way that the demon couldn’t hurt him or the rest of the party, but he neglected to define any restrictions on how the demon would go about finding Regi. That thought only occurred after the creature had already been sent on its way.
It was getting late at this point, and the players decided to find an inn and give the demon some time to work. The place they stayed the night at was an inn in the Narrows, which means it was shitty. Vince used the last of his spells for the day to genocide the bedbugs in the mattresses, and they tried to get as much sleep as they were able in the thin-walled inn.
The demon didn’t show up at any point during the night.
This is not where the session ended, but it is where I’m going to stop writing for the moment. I’ll probably be unable to post anything interesting for a while after this (going to be in Maine, sans internet) so I thought I ought to post as much of this as I had written before I left.
EDIT: Resuming where I left off before going camping for a week…
The next day dawned with Bov realizing that while he’d put a lot of restrictions on the demon as to what it could do to him and the rest of the party (don’t show up to report in a crowded area, don’t harm any of us, etc) he hadn’t actually limited how it could go about finding the information he wanted. They had a meager breakfast of the shitty inn’s shitty food, and then snooped around for rumors. If the demon he’d summoned had decided that the best way to find Regi Tlentikops was by murdering its way through the Lower City, he wanted to know about it so he could start gearing up a banishment spell. No sign of demons on the rumor wind, though. Something that they discovered while asking about something else, though, was that the first mate of the Lucille’s Wish was now her captain, seeing as her former captain had been arrested for smuggling. That, they thought, was very interesting indeed, considering that smugglers’ ships were usually seized by the City and auctioned off or added to the coast guard. A decision was reached. Since it looked like the demon was going to take a while to report in, they’d head back over to Dockside and investigate the smuggling business, maybe find out who’d ratted out the Red Leaf smugglers (they suspected the first mate, now). There was some thought of “getting in good” with the gang.
On their way back towards the docks, they ran into a very angry and nervous man who cornered them in an alley. He opened the conversation by accusing them of ratting him, personally, out to the guards, which worked wonders in not endearing him to the party. We’ve already had to deal with this shit from Red Leaf, their thinking ran. Fuck off. That didn’t sit too well with this guy. If he couldn’t find the rat, he said, it was his head on the line. Bit by bit, the players got his story–his name was Eddian, and he had been the guy in charge of the smuggling operation that had gone so wrong for the Red Leaf Gang. If it wasn’t the players who had informed the guards that the ship was carrying smuggled weapons, then it could only be one of his men–men he’d trusted to not betray him. Crimson, the head of Red Leaf, was not an understanding sort of man. If Eddian couldn’t figure out who’d betrayed him, well, soon his smuggling operation would have a new boss, and everyone would carefully forget they’d ever known someone named Eddian.
The players said, all right, what if we help you out? What would you give us for that? We think it’s the first mate on the ship, what if we bring you proof of that?
If you find out who the rat is, come talk to me at the Chain Alley Pub, said Eddian. We’ll talk rewards then.
This, the players thought, was a great opportunity. An in with one of the gangs, and an opportunity to make some cash. Perfect. A little asking and looking around revealed that the mate was still in the Dockside guard house, protected by the guards there, unreachable by the six-man gang that they had currently. There was some talk of summoning the storm demon Kirul-Gular and tearing the mate out of the building with fire and lightning, but Bov quite reasonably pointed out that they had no real way of controlling that particular demon once it had been summoned.
The Lucille’s Wish proved to be less well guarded. There were a few guards around, to be sure, but there were also dock workers loading crates onto the ship for its next voyage. In the eyes of the city, the ship had a captain (the former first mate), and a crew (though some of those men were still under arrest) and thus had no reason to stop continuing its trade. Chuck took the opportunity to grab a crate and head onto the ship with the other workers, hat pulled low over his eyes. Once he’d set the crate down in the hold all he had to do was slip away. The only man who might have noticed him was a laborer who’d stepped into the shadows for a quiet smoke, and he was paying more attention to his pipe than anything else.
The door to the first-mate’s cabin proved to be locked. Chuck considered picking it, remembered that he’d come into the city with nothing more than the clothes on his back and thus didn’t have lockpicks, and tried the door of the captain’s cabin instead. This door was unlocked, and he slipped inside, closing the door behind him. The room was in a state of some disarray–the first-mate’s stuff was being moved into the cabin, but no one knew what to do with the captain’s things, so it had all been abandoned wherever it had been set down when whoever had been doing the moving realized that they probably ought to have the mate here for this. Chuck found some clothes, navigational instruments, maps, the captain’s log and a strongbox beneath the desk. He left everything where it was, for now. He had other things to concentrate on. The captain’s cabin had nice, big windows, and the mate’s cabin was right next to it. It was on the outside of the ship–it might possibly have a porthole. It was worth a shot. Chuck climbed out the window of the captain’s cabin, inched along the side of the ship, and found that yes, the mate’s cabin did indeed have a porthole. He managed to pry it open and slip inside.
Natural 20 on the search check. The mate’s desk had a false front, behind which were ten gold crowns and a little slip of paper, with a date written on it. Two days ago. The day the ship had come into port, and the day the guards had arrested the captain. Chuck took the paper and the money and headed back to the rest of the party, slouching and pretending to be a laborer bored of the day’s work. They took their evidence–they assumed the crowns were bribe money–and headed for Chain Alley.
Chain Alley is so-called because it’s filled with chains. When some long-ago disaster–an earthquake or a tsunami–threatened to level the two buildings on either side of the alley, the owners of the buildings weren’t about to pay good gold to shore up the foundations. Instead, they attached chains to both of the leaning buildings, with each keeping the other one upright. The door to the Chain Alley Pub is about halfway down the alley. To get there you have to duck under and step over chains thicker than a man’s arm, dozens of chains, all of them of cold rusting iron. The chains are no longer the only things holding the buildings up, but they’ve remained in place over the years, keeping guards and the merely curious away.
The interior of the pub is dismal. Candles provide pools of light that only serve to make the shadows darker. There are no windows, the serving girls are hard-faced women with knives close at hand, and the bartender is a known poisoner. Welcome to the Chain Alley Pub, gentlemen. Best pray you aren’t on Crimson’s bad side, because if you are the last thing you’ll taste is the cyanide in your ale.
The party met Eddian at a shadowed table and showed him the coins.
“This is good,” he said, “but it’s not enough. Proving I know who the rat is isn’t going to keep Crimson from taking my head. I need the rat himself. Get me the first-mate and the strongbox from the Lucille, and I’ll give you a cut. Deal?”
“Deal,” said the party, and shook hands.
And thus ended the first session of Gutterpunk. It went very well, I thought.
- The game is starting to sound and play a lot like a fantasy version of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, due to Dorf stealing his accent from the movie. This is not at all a bad thing.
- Having many different options for plot threads to follow is turning out to be a very good thing.
- Demon summoning rules work great. Colin jokes about summoning Bov’s Will 8 storm demon, but Bov is frankly terrified of what it would do if he were to summon it with less than sufficient bindings. Neither of them has tried summoning any of the unknown demons they have on call, so I don’t know how that will work out quite yet.
- Have not yet tested the combat system. I figure that’ll work itself into the game at some point, so I’m not going to bother worrying about it. I would have liked to see how it works out, though.
- Need to figure out what armor does and actually come up with a pricing list for armor and weapons. I figure I’ll need two numbers for everything; one for official, permit-selling blacksmiths, and one for unlicensed black-market shops.