MENAGERIE #57 - "FOR JUST ONE MINUTE"

PREVIOUSLY "This is, please pardon the pun, getting out of hand." Quoth Lucius. He sits right down on the table. JC wanders in, nonplussed. "Have the police come around the back." A DISCUSSION AROUND THE TABLE Summer fills the hole with a hologram. Alycia is skeptical, but fascinated. "Hi, I'm Adam." Shakes hand. Lucius waits for everyone to sit down. Alycia leans against the wall. Lucius -- "Rude of me to begin, since I have guests who wanted to talk with me. Set aside what just happened, what brought us to our doorstep." Charlotte - Talk more about the activities about rifts, and Magus Everard. Lucius - The Wounds. Word that there's been a lot of actiity eliminating those. C - Most taken care of [on the East Coast], but looking at cost int erms of spirit -- more efficient way? Also, several other things intersecting with this work. L - Can offer insight. And the rest came along for ... Al - Coffee Ad - Helping? L - Knights are concerned with Order. Efforts pursuant to that, in our interest to stand aside or help, as my protege is able to do so.  Though it's been mostly you. C - Addressing these from the other side, drawing on other spiritual resources. L - Prvious tries, was draining, and impact on nearby spirits. C - Still a concern. Urgent and significant. Not an option to have Armiger come in. After that, a lot of grounding myself. L - Preserving order. Not fascism, the order that makes people safe. Preserves the "Real World". L - The activity at the cemetery yesterday, conjuntion with what the knights have detected, and we sent William [Armiger] north to investigate other loci, and I was asked simply to drive by the cemetery, look at things. What was done was necessary; how it was done was ... impactful. [Somebody always has to bomb the conversation pit.] L - Something felt off. Went looking for that, a connection between this world and the other, beyond what you'd done. [Indicates Adam through body language] Connection from the other side seems to be ... but eventhat seemed to have tkaen care of itself, but *this* we just took care of didn't have anything to do with the cemetery. Seemed a simpler creature -- but was able to determine that it was not of the same supernatural ilk. Some kind of echo. A copy -- not a good copy. ... an unintelligent replication of that creature that your group fought. ... Something is amiss in the city in that regard, not related to the Wounds, just bothersome. WEnt looking and found THAT thing. C - Relationship to Everard and Dr Infinity L - Possible - have faced / dealth with Dr Infinity in the past. But more something that would raise their ire.  Al - Vyortovian. Or Sepiaverse L - How do you know. Al - Hypergenius L - Concerned ...  L - The equivalent of a bad storm when two fronts intersect. Well themed -- fighting something you fought recently, but at the core harkening to to something you fought in the past. Something inspired by your activities. Al - A metaphysical antibody to the Menagerie. L - Maybe. Have you been enaging in any activity that would fundamentally alter the normal reality.  A - rolls eyes. Ad - Went to the future. ... C - You've see more weird stuff than us. L - (Nods) Have you [suggest sort of standard comic book tropes of reality altering] altered reality to prevent or undo the death of a loved one. Altered the mindset of a group or small group, perhaps to make an object of affection love you and return.  S - Broke HHL's mind control L - N, changing the actual fabric of spacetime. C - Dr Infinity and Everard.  Al - Some mass change of reality, affecting memory, changing probabilities ... Coin! ... replicate coin flipping, then about Adam a member of Concordance ... ... alternating raised eyebrows for Alycia, then Adam ... ... coin lands on its edge, spinning ... ... _Rosenkranz and Guildenstern Are Dead_ was always pretentious, but had a point ... ... coin is spinning faster ... Problem? Anomoly. No, problem. L - This is only the beginning. This will snowball. What is going on? ARE you a member of the Concordance? Ad - No. S - Checks her phone for her journals to see if they refer to "Concord". She remembers writing "Concord teleported th Phoenix into space." But the journal says, "Adam the Phoenix into space." And kind of remember writing it that way, too. Physical world meddled with. Mental much more likely to have both realities. S - holds phone up. Not just a problem with the world, this is personal to me, came from a machine that fabricates memories, and times when that has affected us, have anxiety about having my  memoy changed ... supportive of finding out out who did this, sir. Ad - [Powerful Blow - 7!] Adam going from defensive teenager to "Whoa, I fucked up" expression.  L - To be fair, within my oath to protect reality ... I don't believe this was intentionally an alteration of memory, just an alteration of reality that had memory match it.  Ad - (teen-ager) Hey, you don't get to throw around blame here. We didn't come here to be told we're causing problems, we came to solve problems. (Rejecting influence, half-assed) [Roll to reject influence - 5!] [Guilty.]  Lucius looks like he's running his mouth. Alycia's eyes are burning. Summer - Maybe not your fault - you can be at the center of the storm without causing it. Al - But if it is your fault, I'm really pissed. (Provoke) S - shoots her a you're-not-helping look. C - (Have the memories, but clearly something is going on.) (But relieved that, whatever is going on, it's not her fault in this case.) L - It's understandable to make a choice you feel guilty about later. But with great power comes great responsibility. If you don't think before you act, you will be a danger blah blah blah blah. [+Superior, -Danger] ... [S C&S 10!] [-Guilty on S] Ad - Glance over shoulder, door closed, blue flame descends around the room -- looks at all all of them (just a brief/brave glance at Alycia) to Summer. "I screwed everyhing up, really bad, but didn't mean to, but wanted everything to work for just one minute."  L - (has managed to pull back from the conversation) S - Do you want to tell us what happened? Ad - ... Two weeks ago ... The street in front of Adam's house ... on the sidewalk, as Adam ... the wind is whipping up, the sky is late February gray, and hanging in the sky are the three Concordance agents, glaring in disapproving judgment. ... (leans forward) So they came to talk, but more demanding. They showed up, basically, it's time for you to answer for this stuff.  Door to the house opens and closes. Both parents.  Previous conversation: Dad sitting him down, son, we've been seeing these guys everywhere, what's going on? Adam - with the Concordance, screwed up stuff, here to -- Parents - need to keep this stuff separate, we love you BUT ...  Parents coming out, what's going on, why is this here ...  Then Jordan's school bus is coming down the street, back from school. MOMENT OF TRUTH - Mind's eye opens, see the world like ever before, controlling it with ease, but in this moment of Godhood, how can you go wrong? He fixes it. Okay, Keynome, want to be open, let's fix that. Everyone around the table is seeing, feeling this (via the Keynome) C - Seat of Bors the Chaste ... none may lie to thse who do not lie to themselves. Pierce the Mask.  Al - I understand why you needed to protect your family, but you need to put things back. [Provoke - 7! ... Ad  [Reject Influence -> 2!]  [Insecure. +Freak, -Danger] [Provoke! If not, mark a condition -> ]  Why? Al - I will not have someone changing my reality or my mind. Ad - looks down sullenly. S - (goes over) If I had a machine or magic spell that would make me flesh and blood, I don't know what I would do ... but I know whatever you will do will be the right thing. // Knighthood - Vuln move - give advice // He was never going to knowingly hurt any of you. Adam knows it hurt Summer ... her advice, remember the heroic self, act accordingly, so decide what that means. Summer has influence. Time to go with what Alycia wants to do. Time to burn. Looks at Alycia. "FINE." Seat of Si Kay -- the next time you burn, take potential, take a powerful blow. Ad - [Burn - 10!] [Powerful Blow! - 9!] [Angry, Afraid] ["in a world he ever made"] Ad - Goes up in a cosmic bonfire, building up power. Flares ut there. C - This doesn't change the situation that caused this issue. Understand how it goes when  L - For each of you, a lesson to be reminded of, remember what the larger issue is that needs to be addressed. Charlotte, you have your wounds, but what is the greater issue? L - If there's any way (Adam!) I can help, feel free to consult with me.  Miss Chin -- leading from the front is necessary, don't forget the time about the apfires. Ms Newman you are a charming addition to the group, lucky to meet you. While you are taking care of someone else, make sure you are cared fror. Ms Charlotte, thanks for trusting me. If I may, some small token [box from shelf] [war medal] A symbol of authority, assert your will for those who need to recognize your role, and a reminder to those who have entrusted your ability to command. C - [Don't want to be the general!]  NEXT TIME Adam fixes the world. Maybe. WRAP Alycia - Image of Self - +Danger, -Mundane Summer - Closer to Team (Adam) -> +Superior, -Danger Charlotte - Closer to Team (Adam) -> +Savior, -Superior [Savior locked]  Adam - Image of Self - +Superior, -Danger
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Mike
Pro
Wonderful game everyone but oh man, anyone else emotionally exhausted after this session?  Because damn, this was the hot seat episode.
Just. Sitting. Around. A Table. I love this game (as instantiated by this group), because the psychodrama is amazing.
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I'm reminded of the DS9 episode "Duet", which was basically Major Kira and a Cardassian in a brig, talking. No big special effects, no serious space battles, but one of the best episodes of the series (and probably seriously draining for the actors at the center of it). As one of the people not directly in the spotlight, though, I'm actually fired up. I placed my bets on what was going on (and was only half-right - I thought "when you returned from the future, Adam, did you come straight home?" would be a question). I got to use two key elements of my backstory (origin anxiety, biology envy) in positive ways, made moves I was good at, etc. For me, it was like the most enjoyable forum cut scenes, but real-time and with everyone involved. So now I'm like "YEAH" and "hey, I bet Alycia is gonna want to process just went down, she shared my anxieties, Summer should be there for her". :)
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And for that matter, Summer is positive Adam will need someone to talk to after he lets the impact of this wash over him, and she'll be there for him too, if he wants. And she always will be.
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Yeah, Alycia would probably want to debrief with Summer. I'd take steps toward that, save that we didn't really wrap the scene, so I don't want to assume we don't need that "so when you went over the table at Adam with that vortex blaster" discussion. 
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"What did we agree about vortex blasting teammates?"
((sulks)) 
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At the end of the session, I mentioned a scene from "Grandia", when a younger party member left for home. Here's the background music that played for it. It makes a great JRPG Fan-o-meter, just play the song aloud and listen for someone to start bawling nearby and you found a JRPG fan.
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Apropos of nothing: I kept meaning to do this as a comic, but couldn't get it right. So here's the pitch anyway. Theater of the mind! Before Dr. Quill disappeared, what was he doing? The world was full of evil weirdos to put down, if you watched the cartoon. So picture a group of them: spider robot, mummy, minotaur, evil tribal chief, and weird guy in a radiation suit, formerly of some large evil organization (e.g. Dr. Chin's group). And they get together to play cards on Saturdays. The spider robot never talks, but buzzes harshly. The mummy grunts and groans. The minotaur has started a self-care regimen and has nicely groomed fur and gleaming polished horns. The tribal chief complains about how his spear doesn't fit into most Uber vehicles without leaving the window rolled down. The guy in the radiation suit is having relationship troubles. Cards are dealt, poker chips are bet, games are won and lost. Mostly they're upset that nothing's the same without the old Dr. Quill to fight against. Now it's just like... where's the fun? Even poker is only partially taking the edge off. Except one night, the door is kicked open, and there stands Jason Quill aiming a vortex blaster: "Gentlemen."
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Mike
Pro
Bill, you turned "someone kicks in the door with a gun to shake up the situation" into a (somewhat) heartwarming situation.  You monster.
You know, I kind of like the idea that, on the side, in the dead of night, Jason is running solo adventures to clean up the mess his father left behind. I also kind of like that he kicks in doors and wields a vortex blaster.  But why hasn't he invited Alycia in on the fun? Hmmmm ... there's certainly a future cutscene waiting there (I'll add it to the lengthy list.)
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Adam, for when you prepare to set things right again, watch your ass.
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Mike
Pro
So I took a couple days to process things (and also be sick; pro tip: never get sick) and I think I'm good with transitioning from Adam/Concord the Nova to William/Armiger the Soldier.  I've debated the differences between the Soldier and the Protege, but I really thing re-reading the Ascension  and the end of .50 Excalibur cinched it for me.  It also didn't help that I had no idea what to do with those Mentor's Resources. Regardless, I'm looking forward to seeing things close out for Adam.  He had a rough go of things as Concord, so it'll be interesting to see how he deals with just being a normal kid again... for a while.
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Mike said: Regardless, I'm looking forward to seeing things close out for Adam.  He had a rough go of things as Concord, so it'll be interesting to see how he deals with just being a normal kid again... for a while. I think we've all had a rough go as heroes. Summer will make it clear to Adam that being off the team doesn't mean they're no longer friends - if that doesn't get to happen during a session, I'll have her write him a message or something. And Leo respects Adam's intelligence and moral/emotional strength, and would still ask his opinion on things. They both also realize Adam might want some distance from that world for a bit, and be respectful if he did. I'm definitely looking forward to seeing how you portray Armiger. You as a player have a good eye for drama and character interactions, and I hope there's enough of an NPC ecosystem around him already, plus ways to plug into other PCs' stories, to give him plenty to do.
Alycia will likely be relieved to see Adam sidelined as a wild card -- but she also has an appreciation for who he's been, his devotion to his loved ones, and perhaps as someone who's had a huge weight thrust on his shoulders.  How she feels about a Grail Knight person joining the team -- well, she didn't seem wowed by Lucius, so ... drama!
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*** Dave H. said: How she feels about a Grail Knight person joining the team -- well, she didn't seem wowed by Lucius, so ... drama! I'm curious how much of her reaction to him will be driven by her "people all started leaving when I joined the team" impulse.
It would be just like Alycia to (a) resent people leaving and similarly (b) resent people joining. 
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Mike
Pro
While I know Alycia's probably wanting some stability on her social life, I figured she's appreciate having someone who (save for a magic sword) operates fairly similar to her (in a broad sense, at least).  Looking forward to see how that shakes out in game.
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I'm also interested in a related point. As I originally defined it, Excalibur isn't a moral barometer for 'goodness' or 'niceness'. Skinner is an asshole but he's still slinging steel. Instead, it's a weapon for the worthy, 'worthy' being defined as 'someone ready and willing to be king'. That means fighting, conquering, defending, and ruling. I tried to play Leo as a morally upstanding and hot-blooded character, but I don't think he could lift the sword because he wouldn't want to rule. Summer, for all her positive qualities, shouldn't be able to budge it for similar reasons, plus she'd prefer to end fights peacefully, and the sword has no place in her life. So with all that said, I'm curious how much (if at all) Alycia - daughter of a conqueror, still clearly willing to use those impulses and training, clearly regretting the outcomes of a lot of that - could lift the sword. I'll leave that to you two to figure out, if it ever comes up. :) But I loved this scene, and I'm always down for scenes mixing powers and friendship.
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Mike
Pro
Bill G. said: I'm also interested in a related point. As I originally defined it, Excalibur isn't a moral barometer for 'goodness' or 'niceness'. Skinner is an asshole but he's still slinging steel. Instead, it's a weapon for the worthy, 'worthy' being defined as 'someone ready and willing to be king'. That means fighting, conquering, defending, and ruling. I tried to play Leo as a morally upstanding and hot-blooded character, but I don't think he could lift the sword because he wouldn't want to rule. Summer, for all her positive qualities, shouldn't be able to budge it for similar reasons, plus she'd prefer to end fights peacefully, and the sword has no place in her life. So with all that said, I'm curious how much (if at all) Alycia - daughter of a conqueror, still clearly willing to use those impulses and training, clearly regretting the outcomes of a lot of that - could lift the sword. I'll leave that to you two to figure out, if it ever comes up. :) But I loved this scene, and I'm always down for scenes mixing powers and friendship. Ah, probably my favorite scene from that movie. I was wondering what the qualifications for "worthy" were and knew they couldn't be your standard D&D paladin lawful good-ness for the reasons given, but I had not thought about it in those terms either.  Very interested to see how Alycia and William interact now.
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Part of playing the character will be defining what worthy means, all I can do is make suggestions.
Mike said: While I know Alycia's probably wanting some stability on her social life, I figured she's appreciate having someone who (save for a magic sword) operates fairly similar to her (in a broad sense, at least).  Looking forward to see how that shakes out in game. Someone willing to throw down and fight for a worthy cause, to protect the innocent, to do what's right? They may very well get along famously. Or ... Alycia's intel on the Grail Knights is fairly sketchy (presumably they and Chin didn't directly conflict much ... at least so far as she  knows, heh). Between creepy romanticism for a bygone ahistoric era and its autocratic authority, and tying themselves by name to either Christian or pre-Christian Celtic mysticism, her initial reactions aren't very positive, esp. since she took Lucius' behavior as pre-emptive and Very Annoying Adult in nature. Throw in a lot of skepticism about self-proclaimed agents of a (corrupt) order and about organized religion (whether or not the Knights see themselves a religious order), and she is likely to need winning over. (Which is not to say that it's William's job to do so.) I sort of see the Grail Knights as similar to the Wardens of the White Council in the Dresden Files -- agents of the magical order, preserving the Laws of Magic against anyone who breaks them in any way. There are nice, friendly, engaging Wardens, and there are sons of bitches who take satisfaction in lopping off the heads of teenagers who inadvertently violated one of the Laws. So with all that said, I'm curious how much (if at all) Alycia - daughter of a conqueror, still clearly willing to use those impulses and training, clearly regretting the outcomes of a lot of that - could lift the sword. I'll leave that to you two to figure out, if it ever comes up. :)  From a meta standpoint, my guess is she could -- but she would never do so just to prove she could. It would be one of those Alycia dives for where William dropped the sword, nabs it without thinking, then whips around to stab the dragon / toss it to William / throw through the image of Doctor Infinity  things that happens without any consideration in advance. (Of that quartet of qualifies -- fighting, conquering, defending, and ruling -- does Alycia want to rule? Of course she does. She's just frightened by the prospect, of the corruption of power, and hasn't figured out how leadership -- rule -- can strike the balance between coaching to wisdom and directing objections, how to use both soft and hard influence. Her examples of "rule" are mainly horror shows of tyranny, greed, and corruption  That spin on what Excalibur does / demands is an interesting twist on things, though. Does that Need to Lead ultimately go to a Highlander-style there can be only One  gathering of the shards to decide the Once and Future King? But I loved  this  scene, and I'm always down for scenes mixing powers and friendship. Oh, I dearly love it -- for the evolution of expressions on Thor's face, if nothing else.
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*** Dave H. said: That spin on what Excalibur does / demands is an interesting twist on things, though. Does that Need to Lead ultimately go to a Highlander-style there can be only One  gathering of the shards to decide the Once and Future King? Mike gets to decide what the truth is, but at the time of writing, my version went like this:  The sword enforces the principle that "the land and the king are one", and its power is to trade strength between the two. A strong king can heal a hurt land (this is why it's a useful instrument in Charlotte's work). The land can absorb hurt from its king, letting (for example) the wielder parry bullets at a personal cost . But it says nothing about the number of kings, the distribution of rulership, or anything else. Kings can rule together, be peers, cooperate - or fight. Those are decisions for mortals to make. The sword will simply abandon anyone who becomes unworthy. Alycia Chin might recognize something like "the Mandate of Heaven " at work here.
Having written a novel where the Mandate of Heaven explicitly plays a role, I'm familiar with it, certainly. Alycia would have an academic familiarity, at the very least. On consideration, Achilles might actually use it as a metaphor as to how unworthy rulers are rightfully removed from power -- not to satisfy any metaphysical Celestial Court, but in service of humanity. All that said, it's certainly another area where Alycia and William could find common ground. 
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Mike
Pro
Much like how Bill invites the Greek Chorus for Summer's worries and thoughts, I'm all for suggestions towards thoughts that I haven't really decided on yet (certainly helps with the play to find out  aspect).  Most of my current understanding of Excalibur, the Grail Knights, what it means to be worthy, and Armiger are based on what Bill's written, my own interpretation of those writings, this scene from Excalibur , and some of Thor and his interactions with Mjolnir.  Far from a complete idea, but certainly a starting point I can work out from as story and drama requires.
Oh, the movie Excalibur is so full of stuff to harvest ...