Earlier this year, I started a new roleplaying game. But this time, it wasn’t D&D…
Instead, Andi Watson took me to the world of 1879 from FASA games (the same company that brought us Earthdawn). A combination of fantasy and historical fiction, 1879 takes the world we know on a different course. For my party, that meant travelling from London to the jungles of South America, in search of a steppe pyramid… and maybe something more.
My character in all of this is Dr. Ferris McFly, a Weird Scientist from Limerick, Ireland who was run out of town after another one of his failed experiments. He holed up in London in a place that barely qualified as housing, with little money and a handful of his tools and inventions to his name. But then, an opportunity arose and that is where our story starts…
Along with playing the game, we were asked to keep character journals, which would net us extra Adventure Points (AP) for the game. But you don’t need to understand the mechanics of the game to enjoy reading about the adventure, which I will try to keep updated here. We are now trying to stream our games over on Andi’s Twitch channel, but you can always catch up to the story thus far right here!
NOTE: Yes, my character is a walking ’80s reference. No, I do not apologize for it.
Dr. Ferris McFly’s Fantastic Beasts and How to Avoid Them
I received a letter from a Rupert Hastings asking me to dinner. Probably trying to get investors for a soap franchise. Still, very hungry, so worth pursuing.
Hastings implored me to join an expedition to the Americas, landing someplace named Flow Rider. While I have many irons in the fire, most have likely melted while I was away. Therefore, an all-expenses paid vacation sounds like a worthwhile venture. Dinner was a bit bland, made significantly better due to being free. This airship I’m boarding will surely have better meals that are also free. I did question the word “treason”, but everything should be fine. I signed his contract.
I have boarded the HMS Elizabeth Crown Jewel, an airship that flies on… wishes? Not sure yet. Aerodynamics is not my specialty. Accommodations are outstanding, except that I share them with other members of my party. This may be a sort of psychological experiment by the Crown. Perhaps the real expedition is in the mind? This is why I rarely trust government types. Luckily, I found a secluded room where I can be as antisocial as I care.
The ship has been attacked by giant bats. This brings back some troublesome memories of falling into a cave when I was but a boy, only to be surrounded by bats. They swore to help avenge my parents murder, but broke that promise when they realized my parents were still alive. I will never trust bats again. Seeing one shot down gave me a certain level of catharsis. This particular bat had a very long, hard nose. Reminds me of an ornithopter I was building back in Ireland. Notably this is much uglier.
A late night scavenging run has proved fruitful. It is amazing the perfectly good components that are simply lying around behind barred doors and guarded rooms. I shall begin work on new projects when we reach this My Hammy, Flow Rider.
My Hammy has a surprising lack of pork. However, the temperature is so high, I may be smoked and barbecued myself by the time we leave.
I tried to rent a bicycle shop from a very irate shopkeep. Surprisingly, he had no interest in renting his shop out for free. So, I did the logical thing of breaking in at night. Work on the “Honeycomb” prototype deployable shield went well enough, but field testing is necessary. Unsuspecting volunteers may need to be procured.
A far cry from the airship, we boarded a flightless ship called the Nuestra Senora de la Santisima Trinidad. We now head to an even hotter and more uncomfortable area of the world below the Equator. Perhaps I will succumb to heat exhaustion before we arrive. How fortuitous that would be!
Arrived in Carapace. Regretfully, I remain conscious. The party wanted to make sure we had rations and supplies. I left them to all that technical tripe. Meanwhile, I found myself busy scrounging through the back alleys of the town and looking for useful books in the library. There was a children’s book about death and dinosaurs. I checked it out permanently.
Now deep in the jungle, we secured a boat to travel down river. The mosquitos have been brutal, but my team has proven surprisingly useful. The handsy lady tried to rub weeds on me. I declined. Instead, I fashioned another lovely device to stun flying insects. Attached to the front of the boat, I believe it should be sufficient for a few days of round-the-clock use. I have dubbed this new invention “Goldblum’s Revenge” after an old colleague we lost to electrocution when he tried to swat a fly near a transformer. Justice has now been served.
The trip down river has become a bit tedious. Several days have passed now and my hair has started to mold in odd ways. It now stands straight up on the top and drapes down the back. No amount of coaxing can force it back to it’s original shape. However, the time has allowed me to improve upon my Goldblum’s Revenge model so it can be a portable staff. This should prove useful in my war on small flying insects.
Crocodile mating rituals are proving quite dangerous when in the proximity of our boat. Keeping the scaly critters from our very vulnerable position has proven difficult. Luckily, the naked lady has been working on stunning them and the hunter is making bright flashes with gunpowder. I also have an electrified staff now, so that helps.
I have been thrown into the water twice by crocodiles. The first time, they grabbed my staff and tossed me like a rag into the drink. For some reason they had an aversion to being stunned. I scrambled back onto the boat, but they knocked me back in while I was catching my breath. Luckily my troll compatriot was able to fish me out. I attempted revenge by shooting my energy gun (known in certain circles as The Fires of St. Elmo, or FOSE for short), but it is quite hot now, likely due to the water logging. Maybe it’s a water gun now. Unfortunately, my staff now lies at the bottom of the river. I will rebuild it, better than before. Of this I swear upon the memory of Goldblum himself!
Once the beasts were thwarted and my clothes were dry, we took a group photograph with one of the defeated beasts, before turning it into dinner. I then set about repairing and rebuilding my poor inventions. Apparently, FOSE had undergone a heating malfunction after being submerged in water. I was able to fix that problem for the future. Additionally, I realized I could improve it’s intensity by smoothing out the focusing crystal. Now if I could only shoot my way out of a paper bag, this could prove quite lethal indeed.
Then I turned my attention to yet another stun staff. Having lost the component to build a pole, I opted to make a stunning device that could affix to any long cylinder available. This new mobile shock device (coined Goldblum’s Legacy) should prove useful against insects and possibly large insectoid species bent on world domination. Although I have never seen such things, this is the first time I have been to South America, so I am keeping an open mind.
Finally, I started work on a portable smoker, useful for long-term food preservation. This was suggested by the rest of the expedition and I felt it was the least I could do as they have basically saved my life continuously since our arrival. It also seems practical for survival, which I am partial to doing. Work has now begun on The 16th Candle.
We finally arrived in a rural town, presumably free of crocodiles. I set about getting more information on other creatures that might try to eat me. The locals told me of large cats, venomous snakes and some strange upright lizards. I feel like I should have been crafting more armor and less earthenware cooking devices on my voyage. Oh well.
Further into the day, I set about finding a pole for my stunning staff. The locals directed me to a darkened room that smelled of grain alcohol and sadness. In the middle of the room, under dim red lights, there was a woman dancing with the aforementioned pole, although I could not tell which one was more satisfied with their life up to that point. She was surrounded by men staring awkwardly at the pole, affirming it’s desirability. I was able to trade the lady my original Goldblum’s Revenge bug stunner for her pole. I feel that this trade was mutually beneficial. She seemed far happier with the idea of avoiding tropical diseases than dancing with an inanimate object. I, however, prize my inanimate objects, as they do not require socialization. This pole shall be my new best friend. I quickly affixed Goldblum’s Legacy to the top.
Later that night, I attempted to memorize our map. However, thoughts of my earlier encounter in the dark corners of this sin-laden town distracted me. I came back to it in the morning and, with the help of our mud-covered exhibitionist, was able to turn the map right-side up. This helped immensely.
To my dismay, we set out to the jungle yet again. Our nights were relatively uneventful, until I awoke one morning to the knowledge that one of those bipedal lizards had been sniffing my tent. I am now down one pair of pants, which were unsalvageable and have likely been reclaimed by the jungle itself. All my pants are brown, which was unintentional but strangely fortuitous. I shall try to craft my own clothes in the future, so I can assure they are stain-resistant and hand-washable. Microbial protection will also be a priority.
One of these days I should really learn the names of my fellow party members. Up to this point, I have been referring to them as “god enthusiast,” “machete troll,” “naked spell lady” and “photograph hunter.” Scratch that, their real names could not be better than those descriptions. Still wondering if I should bother with our guide’s name, although he may literally be called “Guide”. As in, “It was Guide’s fault we were thrown into the water.” I certainly hope Guide can’t understand Irish.
I have been warned not to lick trees. Surprisingly, this information is quite useful. I was planning on examining the trees for resin I could use to coat future shields. The knowledge passed on by the other expedition members (who’s names I have purposely chosen to ignore) has proven invaluable to avoiding death in this pursuit. The lady of mud asked me if I was sure the locals said anything about lizards that walk on all fours. I assured her they only warned me of the bipedal variety we had encountered earlier. Of course, now I am equally scared of the prospect there are even more dangerous reptilian creatures about and I am starting to wonder how much I truly risked to get a free meal so very long ago.
We have stumbled upon a French expedition, or at least their lifeless bodies. At first, I suspected they were mimes engaging in a sort of interpretive art installation, but it turns out they were simply dead. Some artists are apparently more committed than others. While the naked spell lady stared at a ring, I endeavored to pry a satchel from beneath one of the bodies. The brief smell of elderberries distracted me, but I was able to utilize a branch to pull the strap without having to touch anything French. The satchel contained various papers with many unnecessarily French words, full of pretentious apostrophes and far too many “E”s. Most concerning was the content of the papers, which described a mission very similar to our own. It appears this was another group hired by a lord to research a mystery in the jungle. If only they had not suffered the disadvantage of being French, they might have made it too. Luckily, they did have a useful map that will shorten our travel time significantly. I committed it to memory. We considered burying the three unfortunate adventurers, but lacked the required trebuchet and 21 baguette salute. It was probably for the best, as they can now continue the impromptu art piece, which I shall refer to as The Body Exhibit from this point onward. On the bright side, I salvaged a “lovingly used” pair of pants. I fear I will need many of these as we explore deeper into the jungle.
As night started to fall, I aided the lethal lensman in setting up a photo trap to catch one of these bipedal lizards on camera. As legend has it, the lizards believe taking their photo will steal their soul, so this plan is sound. I also worked with the troll to clean weapons found at The Body Exhibit. While I may be skilled at building modern marvels of technology, basic maintenance and cleaning was never my strong suit. However, this troll has military experience. Despite his best efforts, though, my ability to fix a basic firearm or sharpen a machete remains substandard. I shall put it on my bucket list. For those not aware, a “bucket list” is a list of things to accomplish before you inevitably get your head stuck in a water bucket and die of asphyxiation.
The hunter and I took first watch that night, at which point we were greeted by four scaly friends. They stayed in the shadows, but had a hunger in their eyes that made them both terrifying and relatable. It was not long after being relieved from watch that our compatriots told us we would need to address our unwanted guests sooner rather than later. I tossed out the Honeycomb, threw Goldblum’s Legacy in the ground behind me and unholstered the FOSE. We stood in a circle as the monsters befell us. However, these lizards had never encountered the power of exhibitionism and our scantily clad companion had half of them down before they could even move. The troll downed another and the hunter seriously annoyed the last. Finally, this was my time to shine. Perhaps I would finally shoot something with success. And lo, on this night, I would finally hit something with a projectile weapon. A searing bolt cut through the air and dropped the last one instantaneously. As the rest of the party went about dealing with the other three unconscious lizards, I stood above my scaly victim. Flashbacks of all the leathery evil that had befallen me up to this point came rushing back at that moment. I thought of the winged demons that ruined my afternoon nap upon the airship. I mourned the loss of my stun staff at the hands of the water monsters known as “crocodiles”. I lamented the loss of a perfectly good pair of pants to one of these overly-curious reptilians. And then, with fury in my eyes, I began shooting the lizard repeatedly.
I am become death, destroyer of lizards. I am the 1.0 and the 2.0. They may take my life, but they shall never take my pants again. I’m just a boy, standing in front of a burning lizard, asking it to fear me. I’m here to kick arse and chew bubblegum and I haven’t invented bubblegum. Nobody puts Ferris in a corner!
Suddenly, I snapped out of my fugue state, as my party rushed to pull me from my conquest. What strange feeling has befallen me? Is this what it feels like to be useful in a combat situation? Such a feeling is new and strange, but I enjoy it with pulsating excitement.
In the interest of not getting bitten or clawed to death, my newest project would be a shield. Not a shield like my deployable Honeycomb, but a physical shield I could strap to my forearm. Since the photographically-inclined hunter had set aside a number of crocodile skins for such a thing, I began working with the leather to build something equally light and strong. My efforts seemed to pay off with the added benefit of being quite stylish. I imagine these shields would be quite the rage in Paris, although I have not encountered a living Frenchman on this expedition to test that hypothesis. Once the shield looked hard and round, I used my advanced scientific mind to enhance it even further. My great innovation? Smear some resin on it. I must credit naked spell lady for pointing out the useful ingredients in this resin. It will only harden for limited periods when I activate it’s tower shield mode, making it much larger and harder, perfect for hiding under when attacked by lizards. This was done by design. Now that I have a working model, I can attempt to recreate it with the other crocodile skins for the rest of the expedition. One day soon, a hope to equip us all with the “Rock of Crocodiles”.
After a long journey and multiple pairs of pants, we have arrived at the steppe pyramid. The entrance was obvious enough to locate, but it’s dark, foreboding nature mixed with the lateness of our arrival prompt the party to set up camp before venturing deeper. By my suggestion, we made sure to set up camp on a level above the entrance as I hear the higher ground is indicative of success in combat. Who knows what evil lives in this place? And we all know that evil is much weaker during the day. That’s just science.
Something odd has happened. Correction, many odd things have happened. The first occurred when spell lady used astral sight to see the unseen. What she witnessed seemed shocking. Curious to be apprised of such shocking things, I begged the troll soldier to grab one of the large glass-wing butterflies for me, which he snatched out of the air with ease. Using a basic chemical compound derived from local flora, I approximated my formula for astral sight screen. It’s a lotion of sorts I was toying with back in my Limerick workshop that can be applied to clear surfaces to peer into the astral plane. You can also use it on your skin for a healthy glow and sun protection, assuming you are fine with being blue for 8-12 hours afterwards. Anyway, I did the obvious thing of spreading this lotion on the butterfly’s wings and placing the very-confused insect on the bridge of my nose. You know, typical science stuff. As it flapped it’s wings, I saw brief glimpses into the astral, with bright lights of indescribable colors, but mostly purple. It was at this point that spell lady had a better idea and produced her goggles for lotion application. After placing a small leash on my new butterfly companion, I set it down and put on the goggles. This proved more effective and caused a revelation: it wasn’t so much purple as magenta. Also, there appears to be a sizable doorway to another world that resembles the Rabbit Hole. That was also important. Note that I had little understanding of the Rabbit Hole up to this point, especially compared to my fellow travelers who were more personally affected by it’s presence. To me, it seemed like another annoyance in an already annoying world and I accurately predicted it would raise property values in my area. Tourism has been a nightmare ever since.
In the morning, I went to fetch my butterfly friend I now called The Stranger. Alas, my lotion had hardened it’s wings and it expired in the night, yet it lived more in one day than most butterflies live in a lifetime… which is usually a month. Soon a realized I could fashion a frame around Stranger and place a small stick handle near it’s side to make a very regal pair of astral spectacles. I shall name it “Stranger Wings” in it’s honor. This shall also be all the rage in Paris. Perhaps I should talk to the hunter about a small measure of taxidermy… I wish Stranger to be preserved for all of time as long as it’s wings are intact. As an added benefit, the wings can still fold up so long as rigor mortis has not set in.
Regretfully, we started our decent into the pyramid. Whoever built this was either particularly short or exceptional at limbo. The stairs wound their way downward, as my party crawled through each descent. I, however, had a much better idea and rode my new Rock of Crocodiles down the staircase like a slide. In addition to being faster and less work overall, it was the most enjoyable part of this expedition since I had that free dinner back in London.
We came across some strange glyphs on the wall. The spell lady has been trying her many magical tricks to decipher them, but to no avail. However, I think they make perfect sense. As I read it: snake, cat, bird, monkey, water, bigger snake, watersnake, wind, snake and bird armwrestling, cat on a hot pitch roof, my mother, tree, monkey protesting deforestation, three snakes in the wind, a tree caught in a cat, magenta monkey washing dishes, cat scratch fever, catbird versus monkeysnake, my father’s disapproval and double rainbow. But what does it all mean?