Nine Princes in Pulp: Session One

“Camel Cigarettes and the fresh taste of Colgate’s tooth-whitening Paste are proud to present our heroes in… The Moon Bridge of Tir na-Nog’th!”
NPIP Session One — the Wiki version.
Or, the whole thing is below the cut.


Two Saturdays past:


  • Nikolai Blazen — a straight-dealing, honest son of Bleys.
  • Rose — Caine’s catspaw.
  • Roxie Silica — A gene-splicing mad scientist, recruited by Eric during the early part of the war to analytically vivisect invading Chaos critters.
  • Miriam Holmes — A (secret) recruit of Finndo’s who ‘fortuitously’ came to Amber’s attention during the war.
  • Xia Mara — A brash pilot whom Benedict fostered on a plantation in southern Mexico, then used as a courier during the war.

The way Amber is in this Game
* Tir na Nog’th is not a reflection of Amber — the two cities look nothing alike, honestly — it’s silly that anyone would ever think that. When the moon is up, you can enter the Tir in Amber and, if you are very lucky in your timing, come out above [Corwin’s Paris]. The reverse is also true. Zeppelins move back and forth along this route regularly. The Tir itself is like a vast wondrous ruins you only get a few hours to explore at a time.
* Corwin’s Pattern is referred to as Argent.
* Benedict spends much of his time in Shadow. His right arm is a clockwork construct.
* Brand and Deirdre fell into the Abyss during the Patternfall war.
* Corwin naturally spends most of his time in Argent. He’s royalty in that place; a Prince, with no senior rank extant. Anyone visiting from Amber is likewise afforded a similar-but-lesser kind of respect, as a visiting royal relative of the highest ranking royalty in their realm. Think of him as the British royalty before the Prime Minister got so much power. His responsibility is only for: Wars, Weird things, and Being Social and Charming at Parties. The day-to-day is handled by the Premiere and his people.
o Flora spends a fair amount of time in Argent as well, as she always loved Paris.
o Martin visits Argent often. Good jazz is booming here.
* Eric died during during the Black Road assault on Amber.
* Merlin, Corwin’s son, is one of the most committed enemies of both Amber and Argent. Merlin is a master of many disciplines (Mysteries, Science, Art, and more!) and has combined them in dozens of incredible devices, of which perhaps the most profound is the strange clockwork trump-machine he calls “The Ghostwheel.”
o Merlin never spoke with Corwin at the end of Patternfall. He somehow survived the Shadowstorm, but it was very hard on him.
* Random, like John Carter, is a man split between two worlds. Wed to the blind seeress Vialle, he has been named the heir to the throne of the undersea realms. There, his royal blood makes him a hero, and he has many times saved the kingdom from destruction thanks to his daring and a number of very interesting inventions. On land, he avoids most of his family, preferring the less-staid cities of Shadow. He was never named the heir by the Unicorn, as the Jewel was never recovered.
o Random, like Martin, visits Argent somewhat more than Amber.
* Since Oberon fixed the Pattern, there is no longer any Amber-blood prereq on attuning the Pattern — you just have to be a truly exceptional person. (On the flip side, Amberite Blood doesn’t destroy the damned thing, which is why Oberon changed it.)
o The fact that non-Amberites can now attune the Pattern is an incredibly-closely-guarded secret. Not even all the Elders know this, and none of the P Cs. All the P Cs are referred to as nieces or nephews, when appropriate, though specific parentage research isn’t encouraged.
o Corwin and Flora DEFINITELY don’t know about this ‘loophole,’ though it’s quite likely Argent’s Pattern doesn’t have the restriction either, since no blood was involved in the creation of that Pattern in the first place.
* The fact that Corwin kept his memories of early 20th century Paris in mind as he created his Pattern has profoundly changed all of Shadow and even the Real World(s). Gone are the days when more advanced technology like engines and firearms don’t work in Amber — this is an era of Sorcery, Weird Science, Engineering Marvels, Optimism, Exploration, and Adventure.
Fiona might never forgive him.

* The Jewel of Judgment fell into the Abyss with Brand and Deirdre, and is utterly lost.
o The Amberites survived the Shadow Storm not with the Jewel, but thanks to Corwin’s close attunement to his own Pattern — when the White Nothing descended, he led the family to the new realm to wait the storm out.
* Gerard continues to rule as Regent. Fiona monitors the Mysteries, Caine commands the fleet, Julian the Rangers, and Bleys the new zeppelin air command.

Okay, that’s all the background stuff we nailed down before the game. The players made up younger people who’d gotten involved in Amber-business during the Patternfall war… that was their introduction and trial by fire. Only one of them is an acknowledged Son of Amber. The others are called niece or nephew and no one talks about their parentage at all.
Now then…

We started off the game with “A few hours ago, taking a zeppelin ride over Tir na Nogth from Amber to Argent seemed like a good idea…”, though that was more than a bit tongue in cheek.
Backing up a bit, we find out that Corwin has extended an invitation to ‘my nieces and nephews’ for the next big party in Argent. About a week’s time — more than enough to make preparations. Everyone’s interested in this, ICly, and since by far and away the easiest way to get to Argent is via the semi-regular, semi-reliable zeppelin trips over the Tir, they opt to travel that way, since none of them have ever been.
We then cut to the flight itself — nighttime, over the Tir. I sketch out the blimp on a battlemat (which MIGHT have been a clue if I hadn’t told everyone I wanted to work through the combat mechanics) and all the zones. I did a LOT of zones — twelve or so for the blimp and maybe fifteen for the air around the blimp… the ‘around the blimp’ ones didn’t matter as much.
People talk about where they’d be and what they’d like to be doing. As (effectively) brevet commanders and kinda-royalty, they can pretty much go where they like, so…
* Nicholai is up on the platform above the nose of the zeppelin, on the outside of the balloon. (Having seen a number of zeppelin blueprints, I know there’s usually a outer dorsal-spine walkway along the top of the zeppelin’s balloon, semi-recessed, and just added fore and aft observation/lookout platforms because that’s cool.
* Xia is hanging out on the catwalks inside the balloon, having a drink.
* Miriam and Rose are having a tour of the engine room and all those kinds of things.
* Roxie is making the crew on the bridge nervous.

Conversations proceed where appropriate, and I’m also describing the Tir to Nikolai, who’s looking down on it from the prow of the ship.
The camera is on Xia as she lounges on a catwalk when an alarm sounds. Now, this isn’t a particularly alarming alarm — it’s more of a ‘everyone to battle stations, but keep it orderly’ kind of thing. A couple non-combatant crewmen are heading by Xia at about that point, and explains that the lookouts have probably spotted Moonriders — they have a habit of attacking zeppelin flights, but are usually driven off after a few shots are exchanged on either side between the riders and the zeppelin’s escort craft. The ‘riders don’t attack the zeppelin directly, since their goal seems to be capturing it.
We jump around from character to character, with different NPCs telling everyone essentially the same thing, from their point of view.
The engine crew informs Miriam and Rose that this is business as usual, and if they listen closely, they’ll be able to hear the escort planes take off from the hanger (they do), and they climb through several floors of ‘engine room’ near the tail assembly of the craft to get up to the rear observation deck. Xia is climbing the catwalks to the walkway that runs the length of the zeppelin along the dorsal spine, on the outside (she was torn between that and running for her own scout-ornithopter in the hanger). Rose gets the same spiel from the XO of the craft, who encourages her to vacate the bridge. She ignore that and moves to a better vantage point along the windows. Nikolai is actually standing next to one of the lookouts, who points out a trio of large, tentacle-mouthed manta rays flying ponderously toward from the southeast. Just then, the two amber fliers zoom by, heading out on an intercept.
Everything is very business-as-usual. The people in the passenger cabin actually get up and all move to the windows, as though it’s an airshow.
The fliers converge on one another, the moonriders closing quickly — their slow movements conceal a great deal of speed in the air. Each of the beasts seems to have three passengers — one steering the creature and two armed with long rifles — all of them are clothed like a mummy crossed with a Bedouin: head to foot in cloth, in a way not dissimilar to the Tusken raiders in Star Wars.
Shots are exchanged about 300 yards from the zeppelin as the two forces meet and pass each other. The Amber planes begin a turn while the beasts drive straight for the zeppelin, the riflemen continuing to fire on the planes.
Elsewhere, Rose frowns, looking around her for the source of the odd tingling in the back of her head … the way such things sometimes did. Some kind of magic.
The lookout frowns. “That’s odd, they don’t usually –”
A bolt of energy lances out of the sky, tearing a flaming chunk out of the wing of one of the Amber planes.
Heads turn, and we see a glowing, clockwork disc hovering in midair about fifty yards off the starboard side of the zeppelin. A lone figure stands in the center of that disc.
Right. I tell folks that the Aspects on the Scene are “Moonlit Night,” and “Windy Updrafts,” and that the first tag on either of those Aspects is free, and it’s time for initiative.

Here, we opt to actually roll for initiative, so that people can use Aspects if they like. This is also where we start to see a pretty grand disparity between the Haves and Have-nots in terms of Alertness. Throughout the fight, Xia and Nikolai come in pretty far in front of the rest, followed (usually) by the bad guys, then Rose, then Miriam and Roxie in the “negative 1 and negative 2” range.
The first round breaks down basically like this:
– Xia decides to jump to the glowing disc contraption and ‘that guy’ out there. I work out the zones she wants to travel through (four: two on the zeppelin, and two ‘air’ zones), and the Borders (two “2” borders to get into each of the ‘air’ zones, to simulate distance) which means her Athletics check is an 8. A legendary jump. Her Athletics is Great, and she has Mighty Leap (which negates three of the four points worth of Borders), and a pile of appropriate Aspects to help her out. She adds a supplemental action of drawing “Peace and Quiet,” her pistols, in mid-leap (I let her draw both as one action since she’s got Two-Gun Joe as a stunt). All told, she needs a 6, and gets it with her roll and a free tag on “Windy Updrafts”, with 1 to spare for a pretty roll on the landing.
– Nicholai also goes for a mid-air jump, but due to his higher (Superb) athletics and a Moonrider beast that’s much closer to the Zeppelin, his jump is quite a bit easier. In fact, he jumps as his supplemental action and shoots one of the Moonriders on the beast he lands on as his primary action (with a penalty).
– Merlin fzwaps one of the Amber planes again, then turns to regard Xia.
– The beast-borne Moonriders focus most of their ire on Nicholai, but don’t accomplish much — I do manage to put a ‘not tied down’ Aspect on Nicholai. This was also where I noticed I was doing something wacky with the Moonriders:
— Three moonrider beasts + crew = three minions.
— Three moonriders on the beast Nicholai specifically lands on = three minions.
Meaning that, as soon as someone got in close to the riders, they ‘zoomed in’ to be subset of Moonriders that was also a group of three minions. It was a bit wacky, but no one seemed to notice, except me.
– Rose’s uses Mysteries and a supplemental move action. She mutters “Merlin? Here?” and wanders one zone up the dorsal spine walkway of the zeppelin. This interests Miriam a lot, since he has an Aspect of “Used to be Merlin’s apprentice.” Before he can act on it, however:
– Three more Moonriders (piloting ornithopters instead of beasts) zoom in from behind the zeppelin and open fire on the pair on the rear observation deck, meaning Miriam. He dodges around a bit, swearing elegantly, and takes a bit of stress.
– Roxie peers toward the front of the zeppelin, where things are getting complicated, but can’t make things out too clearly. She notices the captain has a nice brass spyglass, and ‘borrows’ it, using that and some Science to make a Declaration (I think) about the beasts.
– Miriam eyes the closing planes from behind and looks around him. He uses a Fate point and Engineering… and Build a Better Mouse Trap… and maybe another Aspect… to declare that back in this area there are highly pressurized tanks of Hydrogen that are used to keep up the pressure in the main zeppelin balloon.

Right. That round took a long bloody time to do, since none of us have really played SotC before, but we got through it, and there was a lot of good stuff going on.

Next Round, which was full of awesome:
Xia wants to point her guns at Merlin and force him to ‘not move, or I’ll shoot you.’ This, like her jump action in the first round, stumps me a little bit. Is this a block? A maneuver to put an Aspect on him? We finally opt for this: it’s a held action whereby, as promised, if he acts in some untoward way on his turn, she shoots him as the next action thereafter. Sounds good.
Nicholai stagger-walks around on the moonbeast, and uses a wrestling hold to eliminate one of the riflemen, then grabs a strap to hold on.
Merlin acts in an untoward way. Specifically, he (and Ghostwheel, the disc they’re standing on) starts to Trump away.
Xia shoots at him, taking a supplemental action to move one zone over, away from the disc. She has a penalty of -3 on the shot, due to the -1 for a supplemental move action, and a -2 for the slippery surface of Ghostwheel.
Hmm. That sounds a bit dry. Here’s how it looked: as Ghostwheel begins to fade out, Xia’s eyes take everything in: the long drop to the Tir, the swirling aerial battle close at hand and below her, to the east, and the vanishing platform and target. She take two steps and hurls herself, backwards, in the general direction of the aerial battle and shoots at Merlin with both pistols (who ducks in no small surprise at the speed of her actions — takes Stress, despite the penalty on her shots). She turns halfway ’round in midair and shouts: “NIKOLAAAAI!”
In short: awesome.
Rose sees this, judges the trajectory, decides she can’t do anything about it and moreover “Nikolai will handle it,” and turns back to the attackers in the rear.
Miriam wrenches on of the hydrogen tanks free of its clamp, leans it against a railing, lines it up as best as he can, and knocks the valve off it. The tank jets into the air, plowing into the side of a veering moonrider ornithopter, which both explodes and neatly clips another, damaging it.
Rose focuses her will as an Initiate of the Pattern and, despite the (-3) proximity to Amber, uses her will to increase the probability of sympathetic detonations in the destroyed craft, creating a double explosion that rocks both the surviving craft. ((She uses Pattern to Declare a “Shellshocked” Aspect on the moonriders. ALSO awesome.))
Roxie uses engineering to wire the nice brass spyglass to her sidearm as a makeshift scope. ((Using Engineering to put a “Makeshift scope” fragile aspect on her pistol.))
Finally, there’s Nicholai. Xia is not going to make it to the beast — not even close — the beast has to come to her. Nicholai leaps into the air and drops, slamming his elbow deep into the flesh of the beast where he thinks there should be a near cluster. The top of the beast is like soft asphalt, but the blow penetrates. The create groans in pain and veers, despite the cries of it’s master, right into the path of the falling Xia. ((This was a Survival check — which made the player wince to realize that that was what “riding beasts” was built on — augmented with a couple Aspects, the most significant of which was “There when you need him,” a fairly RARE aspect amongst Amberites. Xia lands on the critter, rolls a bit, and manages to catch a strap before going over.

I apologize at this point for the fight going so long. Xia’s player, who is really NOT a dicey, tactical, DnD-loving player says “Yeah, it’s taking a long time, but this round was WAY faster than the last one, and in either case, I’m having FUN.”
Yay. Next round.

Xia clears ‘their’ moonbeast of foes and takes the reins, I think.
Nicholai fires a shot at one of the other moonbeasts.
Rose glances back at the forward fight, sees that all is well, and turns back, drawing her (large) pistol as she turns, and (completely calm) blows very important holes in both the surviving Ornithopters (tagging Shell-shocked and rolling very very well. This was very cool.)
Miriam compliments Rose on her fine marksmanship, sees that Merlin has vanished, and makes an Empathy roll (boosted with the aforementioned Merlin-aspect) to guess where he went… because he’s SURE he didn’t just LEAVE. He makes a guess of either Engine Room or Bridge, and heads to the latter by way of the former, with haste.
Roxie fails to feel the trump-shimmer behind her on the bridge as she lines up a shot (Humorous bit — in order to get the ‘scope’ to fit, she noticed a brass plate on the side of the spyglass that read “To Captain Hiram, with Much Affection, Lady Flora” and pops that off with a tool, since it was “in the way.”) and takes out the final moonbeast “pilot”, who tumbles off the front of the creature while still tied to it, “steering” it descend rapidly into the night sky below.
She turns and sees Merlin, sans Ghostwheel.
“Nice shot, cousin,” he comments.


Last round, which pretty much everyone but Miriam, Merlin, and Roxy are out of. Some amusing wordplay with Roxy and Merlin ensues. The bit I remember:
Merlin: “So you lot are off to visit my Father at one of his ridiculous parties in Argent?”
Roxy deadpans, “Oh… you weren’t invited?”
Merlin is not amused. He is wearing a weird kind of clockwork exoskeleton over his right arm, all the way up to his shoulder, and seems to be sort of typing with those fingers in mid-air while he talks with Roxy. Roxy does an apposed Engineering test, augmented with Science, to determine that this contraption is some kind of remote control device for Ghostwheel, which must be off ‘doing something.’
Merlin glances to the stairs leading up into the zeppelin balloon, smirks, and walks up to Roxy, saying “Tell Miriam he’s late again…” Then he somehow trumps away, thanks to a series of complex movements with the exoskeleton-controls.
Miriam runs in, breathing hard and not at his best, a few moments later.

Wrap up:
Rose was following Miriam in his run, but stopped in the engine room, frowing (made a Mysteries sixth sense check around the mechno-magical thing).
Her, to engineer: “It is supposed to be running that fast?”
He frowns, sees what she’s saying, but can’t figure out what’s going on. After some digging, she’s able to determine that, somewhere in the engineworks, something is leaving a very distinct, very traceable, magical trail behind the zeppelin… and that it wasn’t do that before the fight.
Damage? Sabotage? WE JUST. DON’T. KNOW.
Tune in next time to find out!


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