Knights of the Realm – still fun!

tom1Sophie’s Knights of the Realm game is still going strong on Monday nights, as the aged Peers continue to do battle with the dragons who have suddenly reappeared on earth.  This week we rescued the Lady of the Lake (Tahoe) – none other than Elvira – from the clutches of a dragon, and Sir Mick managed to pull a sword out of a stone (is it the sword?  Time will tell).

As for me, well we finally got the opportunity to stop by my Los Angeles estate, where I was able to pick up a new outfit.  It doesn’t show off my chest hair as well, but it might come in handy against those wretched dragons.

– Sir Tom Jones

Recap: Viva Las Vegas, Part 1

Following the fun we had with the first episode of Knights of the Realm recently, I turned the game into a recurring online game played via Skype and open to drop-in players. If you missed the first episode, the premise is this:

Everyone is playing aging knights of the realm. Then dragons show up — that’s when they learn that by accepting knighthood they are heirs to an ancient, but very binding, obligation to do something about it.

Last Monday, we had a second game that involved Sir Michael Caine, Sir Tom Jones, Sir Mick Jagger, and Dame Jane Goodall. First, we went through the list of open plot items and new items the players were interested in adding. We ended up with:

  • Elvira as the Lady of the Lake (Lake Tahoe)
  • Save the world/Save the Queen
  • Embittered John Cleese returns!
  • Benefit concert — DragAid — as the knights seek help in Las Vegas

With this, we opened with the knights still using Sir Richard Branson’s experimental airship, this time to travel to Las Vegas. They had two goals: ostensibly, to be part of a benefit concert to raise money for the fight against dragons; and covertly, to retrieve a precious and arcane artifact on display at the Luxor as part of the Titanic exhibit: a Fabergé egg that MI7 believed might actually be a dragon’s egg.

Before departing, they stopped by to get equipment from Q, which included a Sir Microphone (the souped-up version of Mr. Microphone) for Sir Tom, and an unknown potion nicked by Sir Mick while no one was looking.

There were fewer dragons on the far side of the Atlantic, so travel was not too impeded. The heroes arrived in Vegas at night, greeted by fireworks (a little close to the airship!), paparazzi, and fans. Once they checked into the Luxor, they were all handed invitations to a meeting the next day, printed in gilt script on velum.

Bright and early the next morning, Dame Jane headed out to visit the Las Vegas Zoo — while the men were dragging themselves to get some sleep. At the zoo, she was recognized received a grand tour; she encountered Sally, a gorilla with some rudiments of sign language. Sally kept signing “Help”, “Hide,” and “Alone.” Jane’s sidekick Koko was upset, and her agitation got all the gorillas riled up; the zoo personnel asked Dame Jane to take Koko away. When they turned to leave, Sally added “Friend.”

Meanwhile, the other knights are awakened by room service around noon. Soon after, in the middle of breakfast, air raid sirens blared. The PA system came alive, asking guests to stay indoors and avoid outside areas like the pool and parking. Sir Tom immediately headed for the viewing platform at the top of the pyramid, mimosa in hand; Sir Michael follows with a mug of coffee. Sir Mick ran out front to see what was going on, somewhat drunk; he saw the shadow of a very large dragon onto the hotel tower.

Sir Tom tried to jump onto the dragon’s leg as it swoops past, and failed [he had no applicable skill, but that netted a learning point for the character]. He was caught in extremis by Sir Michael and found himself hanging down the side of the pyramid. Fortunately for him, he was able to slide down to the window immediately below — the suite occupied by by Adam West.

By this time, Dame Jane and Koko were returning from the zoo on the monorail, and saw the dragon swooping around. There was much screaming on board the monorail train.

The dragon heavily landed onto the sphinx that decorated the entrance to the Luxor, in front of Sir Mick. [This gave rise to a new piece of dragon lore in the campaign: “Dragons are like cats, they always try to fit where they can’t.”] Workers on the ground panicked, scattering. The dragon eyed the incoming monorail train, and decided to start swooping after it [I rolled randomly for targets].

Sir Michael took the lift down to the ground floor, while Sir Tom used a window-washing rig to make his more flamboyant way down. Sir Michael grabbed a bottle of scotch on his way to fortify himself with liquid courage, then tried to distract the dragon, but ended up a little worse for the wear. [He tried a social combat attack against the dragon using Biting Wit* but failed, and absorbed the damage with his quality Acting, which will be his plot hook for the next episode he shows up in.]

After swooping around the monorail, the dragon landed back on the sphinx, facing backwards to stare at Sir Michael. Sir Tom started climbing to reach the dragon’s leg [no skill, failed, earning another Learning Point]. Sir Mick did same with more success and managed to climb up the dragon’s tail [using Rolling Stone* plus Jumping Jack Flash!].

On board the train, Dame Jane makes her way to the front car and accessed the emergency override, closely watching the dragon. During all this to-do, Sir Michael suddenly remembered the Fabergé “dragon” egg, and on an impulse headed back inside the Luxor to get Security to open the case. [This longer action took him out of the immediate round-by-round action.]

The angry dragon threw Sir Mick off, into the air, and onto a limousine carrying a mafia boss and a couple of hookers. [Mark was using his Can’t always get what you want flaw to earn a Hero Point, and also received a plot hook by absorbing damage with Dancing in the Streets.] Meanwhile, Sir Tom succeeded in climbing onto the dragon’s leg as it took off again.

The dragon managed to belly-flop onto the monorail train just before the train got into the next station. The train came to a screeching halt under the dragon’s weight, pinned to the track mere yards away from the platform. Dame Jane started evacuating the terrified passengers, with Koko’s assistance.

Sir Tom pulled out his Sir Microphone gadget and started singing Thunderball, becoming 007-like. Channelling the super-spy’s lethal precision and martial arts abilities, he kidney-punched the dragon [for 4 levels of damage, using of course his Ultra-Lounge* quality], causing the creature amazing distress.

Sir Mick climbed down from the limo where he had landed [and spent a round and a Hero Point recovering from earlier damage], yanked the angry driver out, and hijacked the Lincoln — not a first for him. “See if you can fetch me a drink from the mini bar, that’s a sport,” he told the agitated passengers. He revved the engine, whipped around, and like a madman drove the limo onto the monorail platform to ram it into the dragon’s face. Blood spurted everywhere; the dragon’s last gasp set limo on fire.

Dame Jane and Koko saved the monorail passengers from the thrashing dragon as the beast dragged the car down off the rail with it. Sir Tom ran right over the top of the dragon and to the limo, opening the door to get Sir Mick out. Jagger rolled down the partition, telling the mobster and hookers: “All right, then, that’s your stop.”

As the knights stumbled away from the unconscious dragon and the wreckage of limo and monorail train, Sir Mick added: “Listen chaps… this hotel just isn’t working for me. I’m switching to the Bellagio.”

* * *

The next episode is Monday night via Skype and open to all. You can join in by contacting me; I will be on Skype by 6:30PM (Pacific Standard Time) to help people make characters, and the game will start at 7PM. It’s dead easy to have an excuse for new characters to jump in, don’t worry (and equally easy to explain why they are not there the next!) If you want to join us, go look at the big list of knighted celebrities posted by John, and pick one you’d like to play.

On the menu:

  • Elvira, Lady of Lake Tahoe
  • The benefit concert
  • The unknown potion Sir Mick nicked from Q
  • Sir Michael Caine’s Acting plot hook
  • Sir Mick Jagger’s Dancing In The Streets plot hook
  • Sir Tom Jones’ Charisma, Charisma, Charisma plot hook
  • The Fabergé “dragon’s egg”
  • Zoo creatures — what was Sally the gorilla’s message?
  • The London bridge
  • The Trinity, NM test site

Knights of the Realm: Recap

Last Thursday’s game was based on an idea thrown by Evil Hat Productions’ Fred Hicks:

I was watching an older Daily Show where John Stewart had Sir David Frost on. In the opening bit, he talks about how Sir David Frost and Sir Elton John have left the monarchy terribly ill-suited to deal with a dragon should one happen to show up.

I of course sat forward in my seat and shouted about how great a premise this was for a game.

So on Thursday I ran an instalment, using the Zorcerer of Zo system. John had brought a long list of knighted celebrities for people to pick a character from. We made characters right there at the table, since ZoZ is such a quick and streamlined system.

I everyone at the table to list elements they would like to see appear in the story. I started the list with “dragons” and we ended up with something like this:

  • Dragons
  • Excalibur
  • Embittered John Cleese (we all love Cleese, but somehow the players thought he would make a great villain)
  • Elvira, Mistress of Magic
  • A magical musical instrument
  • Save the world/Save the Queen (player requests differed)

The Cast

We had five characters; interestingly, everyone chose to take a Magic-Star quality (qualities marked with an asterisk*), which lets them do quasi-supernatural things.

Sir Michael Caine

(Sir Maurice Micklewhite, CBE — Played by John “Kedamono” Reiher.)

Expert [+4] Actor, Expert [+4] Biting Wit*, Good [+2] Brawler, Poor [-2] Likes his Drink; Special move: Dressing down! (Biting Wit*)

Biting Wit* allows Sir Michael to reduce opponents to emotional pudding but he can’t engage in other activities at the same time, not even to defend against physical attacks. Dressing Down! gives him a bonus for berating and demoralizing the enemy.

Sir Tom Jones

(Sir Thomas John Woodward, KBE — Played via Skype by Edmund “Shosuro Kando” Metheny)

Master [+6] Ultra-Lounge*, Expert [+4] Charisma, Charisma, Charisma, Poor [-2] Loves the Ladies — Literally; Special move: It’s Not Unusual! (Ultra-Lounge*)

Ultra-Lounge* allows Sit Thomas to achieve great feats based on his lounge singing and an appropriate theme song, but he can’t switch mid-stream — it’s the whole song and nothing else. It’s Not Unusual! gives him a bonus when he can work in his signature song.

Sir Mick Jagger

(Sir Michael Philip Jagger, OBE — Played by Mark Walters)

Master [+6] Rolling Stone*, Expert [+4] Dancing in the Streets, Poor [-2] Can’t Always Get What You Want; Special move: Jumping Jack Flash! (Rolling Stone*)

Rolling Stone* is a speedster and super-athletic ability. Jumping Jack Flash! gives him a bonus for leaping and jumping. Dancing in the Streets is brawling and street-fighting.

Dame Julie Andrews

(Dame Julie Elizabeth Andrews, DBE — Played by Amber Eager)

Expert [+4] Charming*, Expert [+4] Performer, Good [+2] Strategic Thinker, Poor [-2] Glass Jaw; Special move: Musical! (Performer)

Dame Julie often combines the qualities Charming* and Performer to good effect; adding Musical! makes her devastatingly effective in her specialty.

Dame Jane Goodall

(Dame Jane Goodall, DBE — Played by Laura “Tyra Pendragon” Mortensen.)

Expert [+4] Animal Empathy*, Expert [+4] Sidekick, Good [+2] Jungle Survival, Poor [-2] Scientific Curiousity; Special move: Protect Jane! (Sidekick)

Sidekick is Koko III, a gorilla who communicates with Jane using sign language; Protect Jane! gives Koko a bonus when trying to protect Dame Jane from danger or harm. Scientific Curiousity is Dame Jane’s tendency to get herself in trouble by poking around when she should be running.

The Game

As a prelude, every hero heard at some point a snippet of news on the BBC about an unprecedented paleontological find in Dover, where the changing climate patterns had caused a portion of the famous white cliffs to fissure and open, revealing fossilized dinosaur prints.

I then asked each player to describe what their character was doing and how he or she was snatched by British military personnel wearing an unknown insignia a few days later. We went in order of rank precedence.

  • Sir Michael Caine was still in his bathrobe when he was visited at home. He was barely given time to get dressed and grumbled all the way.
  • Sir Tom Jones was picked up in Las Vegas after a show, convinced he was headed for a special performance.
  • Sir Mick Jagger was awakened around 8:30 AM in L.A. — about an hour after falling in bed. Disoriented, he first thought he’d forgotten to get to a show, but eventually realized he was being whisked back to England — the last place he wanted to go.
  • Dame Julie Andrews was rather alarmed that she wasn’t even allowed to call her agent, and was sure something was very wrong.
  • Dame Jane Goodall was retrieved from the jungle research post she had set up in Kenya, but Koko insisted on accompanying her.

The five characters were brought into an anonymous, unassuming room in a government building and left to cool their heels — and meet — under guard. Most of them had met at least in passing before. Moments later, another door opened and an elderly, frail-looking, white-haired lady entered. For a moment they thought they were in the presence of the Queen, but almost immediately recognized instead someone even less likely: a pale, ancient Dame Margaret Thatcher — the current “M.”

Dame Margaret coldly explained about the little clause in the honours they had accepted, and showed them uncut news footage from events earlier in the day: the Dover cliffs splitting wide open and sending large clouds of white dust; a news helicopter doing a fly-by, colliding with a large airborne shape; more flying shapes pouring out of the cloud. Then a closeup revealing the nightmarish detail of a real-life, fire-breathing dragon, slamming into a passenger ferry and devouring passengers; more of the dragons flying off in all directions and terrorizing the population; and an enormous dragon making its nest atop Buckingham Palace.

The dragons had apparently made short work of conventional military forces sent against them; a more traditional approach was called for. The dames and knights showed little enthusiasm for the job at first, but “M” quelled protests by throwing a lightning bolt down the table [I had of course lifted the idea of Margaret Thatcher as undead sorceress from Marcus Rowland’s Diana: Warrior Princess.]

She left and was replaced by “Q”, an eager young nerd who spoke about equipment available (iPhones and gadgets) and unavailable but more useful: Excalibur — in the basement of Buckingham Palace, the Lyre of Taliesin, a dragon’s egg, the original costume of Caliban from the Tempest, etc. The knights of the Realm finally decided they must first seek out Ascalon, Saint George‘s lance, held at Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland. [I invited the players to throw in bits of quests and magical items they might like to seek, and then to pick a mission. Everything was player-driven.]

To get to Roslin, they were given the use of Sir Richard Branson‘s airship; having been on the first team sent against the dragons, he was now recovering with second and third degree burns over 90% of his body but his ship was available. As a pilot, they were given a heavily cyber-enhanced Sir Stephen Hawking. The players decided the airship was an experimental prototype, able to reach unreasonable speeds.

Of course, soon after they were on their way, a flock of three smallish (elephant-size) dragons sped toward the airship. The first swooped to starboard, where Sir Thomas decided to intercept and serenade the monster with “Green, Green Grass of Home” to incite him to nostalgia and to fly back home. It worked, but barely; the dragon was struggling against Tom Jones’ charm.

Sir Mick Jagger decided he was not going to wait around for the fight to come to him; he took a mad leap from the airship onto the dragon’s back, intent on “breaking him.” [Mark used Rolling Stone* plus Jumping Jack Flash!, of course.]

To port, another one was met by Sir Michael Caine, who opened the side access panel to address it. The dragon took the opportunity to ram its head and neck as far as he could inside the compartment. Koko, defending Jane, threw a keg of beer Sir Michael and Sir Mick had been saving for later — and managed to jam the dragon’s muzzle into it. Incensed, Sir Michael at last gave the creature a severe dose of his blistering wit. The inebriated dragon belched, sending a gout of flame along the ceiling revetment. It was only a matter of moments before the whole dirigible would explode! Koko, fearing for Jane’s safety, carried her off and jumped on Dragon #1’s back as Sir Mick had.

The third dragon came straight at the forward viewing area; Dame Julie threw all her powers of charm and her skills as a performer into mesmerizing the dragon with her singing. [Amber got a really good roll and the dragon a really crappy one, so he was utterly fascinated with her. At this point, I offered all players a Hero point for accepting a “Revolting Development”: the infatuated dragon would fly off with Jane, while the dirigible caught in flames. They accepted.] The dragon was so taken with Dame Julie’s voice that he picked her off the gondola and flew off with her.

With the threat of explosion imminent, Sir Stephen Hawking activated his emergency launch system and flew off in his rocket-powered wheelchair, leaving the airship without a pilot. Sir Michael Caine subdued his already traumatized dragon with a few choice words, and climbed aboard for an impromptu lifeboat. He tried to convince Sir Tom to come along, but Sir Tom would have none of it. Sir Michael saluted him , then flew off even as, on the remaining dragon, Sir Mick Jagger and Dame Jane Goodall (and Koko) were taking off after the winged fiend carrying Dame Julie, thanks to Dame Jane’s powers of persuasion.

Left alone aboard the foundering airship, Sir Tom’s luck served him well [that and a few Hero points to buy a coincidence, not that implausible in the British Isles]: the airship wandered straight into a cloud pouring thick rain, and the fire fizzed out before reaching the gas bag’s envelope. Sir Tom switched to a new lounge tune, his very own rendition of “Ghost Riders in the Sky” — and took control of the airship, heading straight for Roslin at breakneck speed!

Fortunately for the heroes, the dragon was heading in the direction of Scotland, just as they had been. They were amazed when the dirigible, PA system speakers blaring, passed them on the way! By the time they reached the dragons’ destination, which was indeed Rosslyn Chapel, the dirigible was circling widely in the sky above.

Carried off by the dragon, Dame Julie had a good lead on the others. Upon reaching the ground, she sang a lullaby and managed to put the dragon to sleep. With great care, the other heroes landed in the courtyard next to the chapel.

They made their way inside the sacred building, just in time to see none other than John Cleese, seizing the glowing lance of St. George, Ascalon, from the altar where it was kept and throwing back his head for a maniacal laugh. Sir Mick Jagger charged to wrestle the lance from Cleese! Although Sir Mick managed to win the lance, the villainous Cleese escaped, threatening vengeance…

[The only plot element we didn’t manage to use in this episode was Elvira, Mistress of Magic. She’ll have to make an appearance in a later game.]

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