Alea Iacta Story Hour: A Mythic Rome Campaign (Baby Announcement: 8/17) - Page 13
  1. #121


    Seeing this story hour updated has made my whole day worthwhile. More, please! I'd give my left arm for a group of players who could handle historical roleplaying this well.

  2. #122

    Alea Iacta VI: When in Rome Chp. 12: Pre-Triumph Partying

    With all of the excitement over Verix's death, the assassination attempts, and the theft of the Cap, we had nearly forgotten that we were partially responsible for helping to plan Cimbrus's Britannian Triumph. The next week was spent in frantic activity. Although Llyr and Wena were closely watched, they were allowed to help build large floats with fake trees that moved when pushed by Llyr's lever, simulating the walking forest that had attacked the Wall.

    Lucretius informed Metellus and Marcus that some of the prisoners of war, who would be marching in the Triumph prior to their execution at sunset, had been acting somewhat aggressively. In particular, the Bull Druid managed to tear off his chains at one point and throttled two guards before being overwhelmed. Lucretius wanted to consult with people more familiar with Druids to see how to keep the prisoners safe. After discussing the matter with Meloch, Heilyn, Llyr, and Wena, but definitely _not_ Cornelia, the Druidic prisoners were chained with iron and lead with their hands behind their backs, and small pieces of iron and lead were inserted by Llyr underneath their skin, in an attempt to prevent them from shapechanging. Never believe that the Celts aren't just as vicious as the Romans.

    A few days before the Triumph, Kynton, visiting to brag about his races and reassure Llyr that there had been no more mysterious "accidents" on the track, mentioned casually that he'd been invited to an all-Celtic party by "several pretty girls." He said that the party was run by some slaves, or maybe freedmen, who had access to their master's villa while the master was at the seaside. Llyr and Heilyn insisted on crashing the party with Kynton, "for his own protection." Meanwhile, Wena, who had been visiting and befriending the young slave-girl Praecia/Boadicea and her mother Rhysenn, was also invited to a Celtic gathering, where she was told that they would worship the traditional Celtic gods in proper rituals.

    The same night, Licinia Luculla, Cornelia's mother, decided to throw an outre "pants party" as a welcoming party for her daughter; it was faux-Celtic in theme. The Romans, Meloch, and myself, all attended, although Cornelia did not, thankfully, wear pants, but merely a traditional gown. Even Meloch blinked a little at Licinia's leather breeches, however, and young Metellus nearly turned and fled the party entirely. Much gossip was exchanged; Cornelia learned of the Emperor's popular illegitimate son, Aemilianus Salonianus, and Meloch heard from other slaves about Licinia's bitter dislike for the Emperor's current mistress, Lupina Silvana.

    Meanwhile, the three Celts all turned up at the same party, held in the courtyard in a mansion on the Esquiline Hill. It was an odd gathering, only a little more genuinely Celtic than Licinia's party across town, since most of the attending slaves and freedmen had not been in Britannia or Gaul since their childhoods. A roaring bonfire dominated the middle of the courtyard, and various young men and women were attempting to paint themselves with woad.

    The Celts spoke enthusiastically about trying to revive the ancient rituals, and perhaps even go find some Roman thief to ritually sacrifice, until Heilyn and Wena stepped forward. They introduced themselves as genuine Celts and recent travelers, and Wena proclaimed her status as a vates. They preached the values of the new Celtic religion, of eschewing human sacrifice in favor of token blood donations and of the pure, simple worship of Lugh, Epona, and Sulis. Some of the young warriors seemed disgruntled by the abandonment of sacrifices, but others listened eagerly.

    Meanwhile, Llyr noticed that a small group of Celts, led by a tall, red-haired man, were quietly sneaking away from the bonfire and the preaching and going into one of the secluded rooms of the mansion. He stealthily crept after them, and listened through the thick door as best he could. He heard only snatches of dialogue....the leader seemed to be a man named Sycorax, which Llyr remembered was the name of Divico's arms-smuggling contact in the Druidic Resistance Movement back in Gaul. They mentioned the Triumph several times, and gathering more forces, but then someone heard Llyr leaning against the door, and he had to run before being spotted. Llyr tried to follow Sycorax after the party, but lost him on the way, somewhere in downtown Rome.

    Sorry, I lied...the Triumph is coming, I promise.

  3. #123

    Thank you!

    Quote Originally Posted by Fimmtiu
    Seeing this story hour updated has made my whole day worthwhile. More, please! I'd give my left arm for a group of players who could handle historical roleplaying this well.
    They're a pretty awesome group. I count myself lucky that I get to turn the tables and be GMed by Meloch, Heilyn, Marcus, and Llyr's players occasionally. (Marcus writes Cerebral Paladin's StoryHour; Meloch ran our college campaign, which was and is an awesome Asian-based epic D&D campaign drawing influences from Nepali, Southeast Asian, and east Asian cultures; Heilyn is about to finish up a 10-year high-level campaign of his own, which has given me the chance to play more odd characters than I ever imagined, and Llyr runs intermittently a terrific swashbuckling game in the style of Ellen Kushner and Steven Brust.)

    So I learned from great GMs, and now I get to play with their minds as well. The only difficulty is sometimes anticipating their responses...I had _no idea_ that Heilyn was actually going to make a direct lunge for the Cap, and so I had to improvise the temple defenses more or less on the fly. In my original version, the Black Chain Philosopher was going to steal the Cap himself and then blame it on Heilyn. I think it actually worked out much better this way, but there were some very tense moments in my brain.

    The good thing is that my professional training in Roman history means that I'm always a little ahead of them in terms of coming up with ideas. I have a very good background sense of how Rome "works," so I can fill in details spontaneously when necessary, as in the case of the temple of Apollo of the Mice.

  4. #124

    Gee, shucks...

    Quote Originally Posted by Fimmtiu
    Seeing this story hour updated has made my whole day worthwhile. More, please! I'd give my left arm for a group of players who could handle historical roleplaying this well.
    [Aw, Fimmtiu, you say the sweetest things.

    But the aurochs' share of praise unquestionably goes to the GM, whose intricate knowledge of the Greco-Roman world makes historical roleplaying vivid and fun. Plus, Chalky deals well when we run the plot off the rails, whether by looting the cap of Lugh, attempting to steal the Staff of Winds, or seducing the future emperor's wife... what, you thought that rumor about Metellus was really just a rumor?]

    It should be noted -- perhaps Shast was about to note it -- that while in his jail cell awaiting interrogation, a rather dejected Heilyn turned to me through the bars and growled, "Truce, pygmy?"

    Since Heilyn had just managed to fit all the misbehavior of which I've ever been accused into a single afternoon (violations of hospitality? well-meaning larceny foisted off as "mind control"? running around invisible getting up to no good?) plus blasphemy and helping the Black Chain Philosopher to boot... well, it was good of him to recognize the collapse of his moral high ground.

    But I managed to refrain from any barbs and said, "Truce, blacksmith."

    It was a fun little feud while it lasted, but I just know eventually Heilyn would have snapped at my provocations and set his dogs on Shast -- an outcome which, while not without its satisfactions, would probably end badly for all concerned. Monkeys are much harder to replace than goats.

  5. #125
    Writing Fantasy Gumshoe!
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    I've been offered the chance to help develop an upcoming NPC. Fear, my friends, fear. Bwah ha ha ha cough cough gag wheeze pant pant ha!

  6. #126
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    Letter to Londinium

    Dear Auntie Petronilla,

    I wanted to write to you for two reasons – first, to let you know that everything is still going well in Rome after our safe arrival; and second, to let you know what really happened at my mother’s party, before the rumors reach Britannia.

    When Mother first came up with the idea of having a Britannia-themed party, I thought it would be nice – even though of course Rome is really home for all of us, after a few months away from Britannia I’m starting to miss it. But Mother just would not listen to me when I tried to tell her what things in Britannia are really like!

    So here is what did not happen at Mother’s party. There were no ‘authentic Celtic slaves.’ I don’t think the ‘Celtic’ slaves she got for the night had been north of Pisae, let alone to Gaul or Britannia. They just threw blue paint on themselves every which way, with no regard for tribal patterns, even when I tried to tell them the right way to do it. The only real Celt around was Nanna Alma, and I made sure she stayed out of the way so she wouldn’t get trampled by the guests.

    There were no wild animals, no matter what some of Mother’s friends might say. There was a big dog that sort of looked like a wolf if you’ve never seen a wolf before, and there was a very sad-looking bear cub tied up in a corner.

    There weren’t really any scandalous outfits, either. Everyone wore pants, and some of the men didn’t wear shirts, but it wasn’t any more scandalous than what you see on a hot day near the river. Many people were wearing more clothes than they would to an ordinary party, because they were all covered up with pants and what they thought were ‘tribal-looking’ furs.

    Oh – and one more thing. Metellus did not leave the party and go off to the baths with a woman, or an older Greek man, or anybody! Yes, Marcus had to talk to Metellus about something in private, and pulled him aside to the baths to have a conversation, but that’s all that happened! Metellus didn’t do anything scandalous with anybody! I don’t know what the rumors in Londinium are these days, but please try to stop the ones about Metellus, at least?

    The only other thing of interest that’s happened since my last letter was a visit with Ennius, Mother’s new ex-husband. He’s very kind (and, just as you suspected, extremely handsome). His new wife Attilia is young – only a year or two older than I am! – and seemed a little shy, but some of that might have been from the fact that she felt uncomfortable having me there. And of course I can understand that – when your husband’s ex-wife’s daughter comes to call, what is there really to say?

    Fortunately, when things got awkward, we could always talk about the children, although that could be a touchy subject too, sometimes. I think Attilia is caught between wanting to be their only mother and feeling that my mother should pay more attention to the little boys herself.

    But my brothers are really adorable – they both seem to be very smart for their ages, and they love being around people. Quintus is four, and talks constantly. He’s already a fan of the Blues – I wonder if I could get Llyr to make him a little toy chariot for his birthday. Sextus is only two, and is a little shyer, but very sweet. He climbed right up in my lap as soon as I sat down. The only time he talked during the whole visit was to ask who I was. All I could figure out to say, in a way that he would understand and that wouldn’t make things more awkward with Attilia than they already were, was: “I’m family.”

    Quintus wants me to sit with them for the upcoming vigiles-Praetorian mock battle. I had thought I would take the Praetorian side, but I can’t bring myself to disappoint Quintus, so I probably will sit with him.

    Please give my love to Uncle Drusus, and to everyone back in Londinium. I’ll write again soon.

    Your niece,


  7. #127
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    I Defended The Walls!

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    God, what I wouldn't give to play in that campaign ..

  8. #128
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ladybird
    Quintus is four, and talks constantly. He’s already a fan of the Blues
    Yeah, the first time I read this sentence, I had the wrong Blues entirely in my head. I was thinking, "I didn't know they had harmonicas in Ancient Rome..."

    All better now.

  9. #129

    Alea Iacta VI: When in Rome Chp. 13: The Triumph, really!

    The time had come for Cimbrus' Triumph, and practically everyone suspected that the Druidic Resistance Movement, possibly although not definitely in connection with the mysterious Black Chain Philosopher, would mount some sort of attack, probably on Cimbrus himself. Our group carefully interviewed the two potential slave candidates for the role of standing behind Cimbrus with the laurel wreath and whispering "Remember that you are mortal" in his ear, and decided finally on Cimbrus' own personal servant, Ligurnus. Ligurnus was extensively checked for psionic, magical, and divine influence and strip-searched before the Triumph, and we believed him safe and loyal.

    Unsure where the attack would come from, and motivated also by appropriate formalities, our group split up for the Triumph itself. After Lucretius secured the somewhat reluctant permission of the commander of the Praetorian Guard, Meloch turned Lucretius, Marcus, Metellus, and himself invisible, and they surrounded the triumphal chariot as it slowly proceeded along the parade route, fully armed and prepared for danger. Meloch and I roamed back and forth a bit, watching the crowd.

    Meanwhile, Llyr, unarmed by order of the Praetorians and vigiles, was up at the beginning of the parade, on the second-to-last of the floats depicting the great events of the Britannian War, in front of the captured prisoners. Wena guarded the end of the parade, walking with other free Britannians who were there to acknowledge Cimbrus's greatness. Cornelia, due to the heroism of her father, had been offered a seat of honor on the dais in the Circus Flaminius, where Hadriana and baby Cimbra were sitting and watching. Heilyn, of course, had been banned from the Triumph, but was placed on a small island in the middle of the Tiber, near the parade route, with a small group of Praetorians, in case any Druids tried to use the oak grove there for malevolent purposes.

    So, Meloch and I are riding around invisible on invisible Kaspar the goat, through this incredibly slow, long parade. First come the floats, long wagons with scenes of lightning bolts tossed down from the sky, moving trees, gigantic animals, even a few scythe-wheeled war chariots. Then come the chained, grim-looking prisoners. Then the triumphal chariot, with Cimbrus, the slave Ligurnus, and a whole bunch of invisible people. Then the Senators, the Equites, the grateful free Britannians, and the Legions. Well, actually, not much of the Legions, because most of the soldiers either stayed in Britannia or were sent off to fight the Parthians. But there's a token cohort or two.

    As the triumphal chariot passes by Cornelia and Hadriana, the toddler Cimbra, who has been sitting quietly with her toys on the platform, suddenly gurgles "Dada!" and starts hurtling at top baby-speed towards the edge of the 10-foot-high platform, into the cheering mob below. Hadriana initially smiles at Cimbra's public acknowledgement of her father, but then realizes what danger she's in. Sadly, she fails in her attempt to grab Cimbra, and the baby keeps moving. Cornelia lunges for the child, but also misses. We invisible warriors panic, not close enough to grab the toddler if she falls.

    Finally, just as Cimbra reaches the edge, Cornelia mutters a few words under her breath, and holds up a brightly colored ball. "Cimbra, sweetie! Come play with me! You like me, don't you!" Cimbra, easily distracted, comes back to the sight of the ball and spends the next hour happily seated in Cornelia's lap, whom she seems to have taken quite a liking to. In the midst of playing with the child, Cornelia tries hard not to contemplate the death penalty for casting mind-affecting magic on members of the Imperial Family.

    The parade passes on, and the floats and then the prisoners reach the sharp turn at the bottom of the Circus Maximus, where the route takes an abrupt left before heading up through the Forum. Llyr, arranging the moving trees on his float, suddenly glimpses out of the corner of his eye what looks like chains dropping from some of the prisoners in front of him. He yells to the guards around him, and grabs one of their spears before leaping off the float and starting to run towards the prisoners. Meloch and I, on the other side of the prisoners, notice that some of them seem to be simply disappearing...vanishing from sight entirely. There are now significantly less prisoners than there were a few seconds ago.

    At approximately the same moment, some sort of arrow shoots out from amidst the crowd seated on the benches of the Circus Maximus, headed directly for Cimbrus on his chariot. Luckily, it misses, but none of us are able to spot the shooter. Metellus, Marcus, and Lucretius all jump onto the chariot, trying to shield Cimbrus with their invisible bodies. Meanwhile, Meloch and I begin looking around for the sorcerer causing invisibility, and send telepathic messages to Wena, through her previously established bond, alerting her of the danger. Wena passes on the messages to Cornelia and Lucretius. Lucretius, who has had See 'Invisible cast upon him by a relatively friendly priest/mage of Mercury, notifies Wena and thus Meloch that there are two hags floating in the air, a hundred feet up, who have just appeared.

    Llyr charges bravely into the prisoners, and realizes quickly that some of them have not only been unchained, but now seem to have weapons. Furthermore, there appear to be a few entirely new people there, all Celts. He immediately targets the three Druids, who are unable to cast due to the metal driving into their arms, and takes out one in a single flurry of blows. A few other guards run to assist him. Other groups of prisoners keep disappearing either into the crowds surrounding the parade route, or simply from view entirely.

    Listening very carefully, Meloch finally hears what sounds like chanting to him coming from high up in the sky. In desperation, he aims an area Dispel Magic, a newly learned spell, at the general location of the chanting. Suddenly, a floating elderly woman, covered with tattoos and bloodstained hands, appears in the sky. Various guards begin shooting at her, as she tries to dodge them, including Lucretius. Meanwhile, Metellus charges forward to help Llyr with the escaping and violent prisoners, although he misses the Bull Druid on his first try.

    Metellus and Llyr continue attacking the prisoners, as more continue disappearing. Cornelia is trying to protect Cimbra and Hadriana, while Wena is running madly to catch up with all the action and maintaining telepathic relays. She sends her owl, Cato, to the scene, and manages to Light up the visible witch, to make her a more obvious target. Llyr finally notices that there is a small toad being passed from prisoner to prisoner, as well as what looks like a cat, and soon after it touches prisoners, they disappear. He begins aiming for the animals, guessing that they are the mysterious witches' familiars.

    The shooter fires off another shot or two at Cimbrus, one of which hits Marcus. In general, though, they seem poorly aimed. Marcus, looking sharply around with enhanced senses, manages finally to spot the assassin, and points him out to the Praetorian archers, who make quick work of the man.

    Meloch, having tried a spell or two at the visible witch, decides to concentrate on the remaining invisible one. He casts Dispel Magic twice more, and on the second time, all those near the triumphal chariot hear something plummeting out of the sky towards them. Marcus and Lucretius throw their shields and themselves over Cimbrus, and thus bear the brunt of the weight when a foul hag lands on their shields and materializes. In one swift move, Marcus dumps her off the side of his shield and stabs her to death, becoming visible himself in the process. The crowd erupts in understandable chaos. Meanwhile, archers take out the other witch, who is seriously weakened when Llyr impales her toad.

    Llyr and Metellus, with some Praetorian help, manage to kill more than half of the prisoners before they escape, together with some of their Druidic Resistance Allies. Heilyn, waiting on the island, sees several prisoners swimming across the Tiber in escape, and goes out with the guards and deals with them. In total, only about 9 prisoners successfully escaped, including, unfortunately, the Bull Chieftain, an enormous and vicious fighter, was one of them. However, Llyr personally killed all three Druids, and is highly congratulated by the Praetorians for doing so, especially by Lucretius, who revises his opinion of him upwards.

    The Triumph is saved from complete debacle, although it certainly wasn't the kind of well-ordered, untroubled kind of event that Meloch said they usually are. But at the end, there was still all the free food that I could ever have wanted...and Meloch and I were still invisible for a bit, so we got the best stuff. It is a good day when you have as many grapes and dates as you want.

  10. #130
    Acolyte (Lvl 2)

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    Murder, mayhem... and a parade!

    Very cool.

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