Terra Mariana

Leaving Gotland

Freitag 26 April, 1202

Shortly after waking, you come up from the hold of the Delphin, glad to be out of the cramped, stench-filled lower deck of the cog, crammed as it is with passengers, livestock and cargo. Up on deck, the weather is fair, with just a gentle breeze filling the sail as the ship continues on its journey towards Riga. The sun is just starting to break through the clouds as you see that Gotland is just a speck on the western horizon now.

You head up to the forecastle in the hope that the fresh air will waken you up a little. You are not alone though as a small group of passengers are also there. You have seen the others before – after all, it’s impossible to lose anyone in the confines of the small ship, but you have only exchanged polite nods with the others so far.

As the silence starts to become uncomfortable, one of the group speaks:

“Guten Morgen, allerseits,” the grizzled man says to you. " Klaus von Stuhr. Pleased to make your acquaintances."

He pauses for a moment as he looks eastwards, in the direction of Livonia.

“So we’re all heading to Riga,” Klaus continues. “I wasn’t sure who was getting off at Visby and who was continuing onwards to journey’s end.”

“I don’t recognize any of you from last year’s campaign. Is this the first time for all of you? So what takes you all to Riga? Are you all answering the Good Bishop’s call to bring God into the dark world of the pagans, or for some other reason?”

“Well, Remus,” Franco says, “I’m glad you don’t get seasick. You’ve never been on the water before, so I wasn’t sure…”

“Which one of you is Rasmus?” Klaus asks, looking around the small group on the forecastle.

“Are the rumors true?”, Eskil asks a trifle uncertainly. “Did the pagans really roast and eat a Christian priest?”

Klaus nods his head slowly and crosses himself.

“That’s what Arnwald said he’d seen,” Klaus replies, “Although I did not see it with mine own eyes.”

“But it’s certainly true that Albrecht’s predecessor, Berthold of Hanover, was cruelly pierced by a lance by a heathen with the name of Ymants. And if the heathens delight in the murder of an Archbishop of Livonia, there’s no telling what they are capable of doing to a lesser man of the cloth … or any of us.”

“I fought these pagans before. A bit further up north, but they weren’t so bad,” Toke says while looking towards their destination.

Eskil pales and swallows nervously. “Well, anyone who tries that around me will have to answer to Raven’s Beak!”

Thietmar strokes his beard. “Well, we should certainly watch our backs around the heathens. They’re a sneaky lot. It will be a hard fight, but I’m confident they will see the light eventually. And by my experience, once they do, they will be loyal subjects to the bishop.”

Eskil nods and then looks worried again. “Do you think they’ll have armor of my size?”

Klaus looks the giant up and down and grins. “I don’t think there’s an armorer in Christendom who’ll have armor in stock big enough to fit a Gigant like you! Theobald the armorer in Riga knows his craft though – he’ll be able to fix you up. It’s not going to be cheap, mind. He’s going need an awful lot of steel for the job!”

{Franco pats Remus on the head and sizes up his fellow passengers. The huge fellow with the axe looked like someone who could pull up an oak tree with his hands.}

“I wish to register an objection, beforehand as it were. No one should have to be in line for dinner behind the giant here, or there’ll be nothing left and the unlucky bastard will starve. In fact, just to be safe, he should eat after the animals to protect their fodder, as well…”

Aha, Remus ist der Hund!” Klaus says as he realizes who Franco was referring to. He gives the dog a gentle tickle behind his ear.

“He will enjoy running through the forests of Livonia,” Klaus says. “It is a good place for animals – maybe better for them than it is for us two-legged creatures.”

He smiles as he looks up at the impressive form of Eskil once more. “It is good that we will be in Riga in less than two days now. Much longer and your Hund might have to be the Gigant’s breakfast!”

Komtar leans over the rails and throws his stomach up again “I’ll go after Eskil. It might save me some time at the rails. I wish I had your good fortune Remus”

Thietmar laughs at Komtar: “At least we can be sure you’ll be defending every last bit of Livonian soil, rather than take to sea again.” Turning to Klaus, he inquires: “I heard Livonia was a rough land. And hearing you speak that was not all rumors. How does one fight in such wilderness?”

“With God on your side!” Eskil interjects. “How else does a Christian fight?”

“Well spoken, Goliath.” Thietmar chuckles. “Consider me chastised. Still, at the risk of you taking me for a man of small faith, I like to know the lay of the land.”

“Oh, right.” Eskil looks a little embarassed.

“Give Remus and I a week and we’ll know every rabbit hole and fox burrow in the country. After that it’s a simple matter to find the heathen bastards who hunt them for food…Isn’t that right, boy?” says Franco. Remus wags his tail.

“All this talk of rabbit holes and trees and burrows worries me” says Tarben, as he moves closer to the main group.

“Is countryside in Livonia not suited to cavalry then? I’d rather fight with a horse under me.”

Klaus nods, “It is true that Livonia is not the easiest terrain for mounted knights. Much of the land is covered by virgin forests which the pagans know very well. It’s easy for them to shoot with their bows and then disappear back into the forests.”

“Much of the land are not covered by forests are covered with marshland where horses just sink into the mud.”

He shakes his head wearily. “So it is not the easiest land for bringing the full power of our knights to bear. Riga is well protected and there are also a few castles now which are impenetrable by the heathens. Outside them though, you always need to be on your guard. Some of the tribes are friendly to us as they fear the other tribes more than they fear us. But they can often change their minds. Just because they were your friends who said that they had welcomed God into their hearts yesterday doesn’t mean that they will not go back to being murderous heathens again tomorrow.”

“No one ever said that this conquest was going to be easy. But we have God on our side so our victory is guaranteed. And if some of us may fall doing God’s work, then we will be welcoming into Heaven with all our past sins forgiven – such is God’s rewards for those who have crusaded in His Name.”

After a short pause, Eskil says “A dangerous country. Yet you bring your wife and daughters here?”

“Well”, Thietmar says, “as the Bible says: verumtamen neque vir sine muliere neque mulier sine viro in Domino. A wife must share her husbands hardship and peril, I think.” Then, realizing how patronizing he sounds, he looks at the deck. “Ahem, not that I have any first-hand experience of that.”

“Very true, Thietmar,” Klaus agrees with a nod. “I am sure that Our Father will be watching over them very carefully and, in any case, the will be staying in Riga where it is safe and well-fortified. Even if I have to spend time posted to one of the smaller, more isolated outposts, I will still see more of them than I have for the past couple of years. It was hard to be away from them for six or seven months at a time. I got the feeling that I was missing out on watching them grow up. They won’t be children much longer.”

“Enough talk of God and children. There is work ahead for neither, only work that men can do. It is well your children are growing up, we’ll need their help to carve out our new kingdom from this heathen wilderness in the coming years. But, if we wish to succeed this week or next, we’d better get at that food while we can.” Francesco looks at Eskil and takes three quick steps towards the herring barrels “Race you, gigant!”

Remus, catching the excited tone of his master’s voice, barks at Eskil and stands in front of him for a second, wagging his tail, then turns and races after Franco.

“Hey, that’s cheating!” Eskil laughs and runs after Franco.

The group goes below decks to find that the women on board have prepared bowls of porridge for everyone. As they start to devour the hot oats, they notice that a priest, aged in his late twenties, is looking on disapprovingly.

The priest calls over to you. “Beware the sin of Gluttony,” he warns you. “It is not His Lord’s Will that you should break your fast so early unless you are performing His Good Work with your hands.”

Another man who is with you who you know from sight to be the Captain of the ship, Dieter Landwirt , whispers to them conspiratorially, “Don’t you worry about him. These new priests are always the ones that like to preach the most, as if they have something to prove.”

“How are you enjoying the trip, anyway? Have you been at sea much before?”

Eskil looks up from his bowl. "No, but I come from a family of sailors. My grandfather went with Eric the Holy to Finland fifty years ago. He was as old as I am now, but no one faulted his courage or his piety.

At the mention of Eskil’s heritage, Franco frowns. “I’ve never had much use for the open water. I grew up hunting the forests of Lombardy for boar and rabbit.” the Hunter smiles,“I daresay the hund has had a similar experience of life.”

Thietmar munches his breakfast, quite unfazed by the preaching. “I never went to sea before, but I have often traveled by boat up and down the Elbe. It’s not that different, except you don’t see the land.”

Toke, mouth full of food, hurries in a comment: “The waves can be very harsh on open sea compared to them small rivers.”

“That may well be, but so far the ocean has been rather peaceful on this journey, and it’s not far to Riga now, so I shall hope we will be spared any unpleasantness. From what Klaus said so far I gather that there will be sufficient unpleasantness ashore, so let’s thank the Lord for small mercies.” Thietmar sets down his empty bowl and looks over at Francesco. “But say, Sir, if it is not too bold a question to ask: what brings you up here, to fight alongside us Saxons and Northmen? The good cause, I presume, but there are heathens closer to home, in the Holy Land, are there not?”

Franco looks up from his food and pauses. “It is too bold.”

Thietmar bows slightly. “Well, forgive me then. My curiosity got the better of me.”

Comments

OK, there is enough of us with characters now that I think that we might as well slowly get started. We will just spend a while getting to know each other first of all before we go too far.

So, I think that the best format for us to run the game is if all of us add our actions and speech to the Adventure Log entry wherever possible so that we end up writing a story cooperatively and the game has a strong literary feel to it. For anything which doesn’t flow properly, then put it in the Comments section as I have done here.

Try and add your own material to the end of the posting wherever possible because, when we end up with long logs, then it is easy to miss if someone has inserted something into a section that everyone has read a dozen times already.

Once you have added something to the Adventure Log, tick the box to email it to everyone so that we all know when something new has been posted.

Don’t worry if this all sounds a little complicated – after the first few postings, I’m sure that we will get into the flow of things.

I have deliberately introduced Klaus von Stuhr as an NPC who has already been to Riga and has fought the pagans before so that you can ask him questions about what you can expect to find once you’ve landed.

Please post in this Comments section or on the forums if you have any questions at this stage.

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“Well, Remus,” Franco says, “I’m glad you don’t get seasick. You’ve never been on the water before, so I wasn’t sure…”

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“Are the rumors true?”, Eskil asks a trifle uncertainly. “Did the pagans really roast and eat a Christian priest?”

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Eskil pales a little and swallows. “Well, anyone who tries something like that when I’m close will have to answer to ”wiki-content-link-not-found">_Content Not Found: raven-s-beak_."

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Remember, Eskil is 7’4", so he probably stands 1 to 1½ feet taller than everbody else. His gigantism means all armor weighs and costs 2.25 times as much…

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{Franco pats Remus on the head and sizes up his fellow passengers. The huge fellow with the axe looked like someone who could pull up an oak tree with his hands.}

“I wish to register an objection, beforehand as it were. No one should have to be in line for dinner behind the giant here, or there’ll be nothing left and the unlucky bastard will starve. In fact, just to be safe, he should eat after the animals to protect their fodder, as well…”

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Komtar leans over the rails and throws his stomach up again “I’ll go after Eskil it might save me some time at the rails. I wish I had your good fortune Remus”

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~To who it may concern, I’ve been posting in the comments section things that, well, they’re not really comments. They’re actually in character ((IC)) speech and it is easier for Nick (and all of us) if we actually edit the main post ourselves and then tick the email notification box to let the others know we’ve added to the main post. If I’ve led any of you astray by my example, I apologize. It probably won’t happen again :-)

Francesco “the Hunter”/Ian

Leaving Gotland
 

Thanks, Ian!

If we all do this, then we’re going to end up with a story that we can all be very proud of after a while. It will end up looking like a great work of fiction rather than just some scribbled notes from a gaming session.

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(OOC, in response to Tarben’s last post, I thought this part of the Baltic coast was still pretty forested around 1200 AD? We’re in the medieval warm period, so deforestation of Northern Europe is proceeding at a good pace, but there are still an awful lot of trees on the North and East coasts. Looking at the 16th century map reveals little left as dense forest near the settled areas, but that map refers to Livonia in the 1570’s. Do we have a good map and resources on climate/flora/settlement patterns yet? Damn lazy GM, game’s been on for days now and we don’t even have 12th/13th century census data or high resolution satellite maps ;-)

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You just beat me to posting!

You are right, the country was very densely forested (it still is in many parts actually). Very little of the native forests would have been cut down at this time. The marshland is an even bigger problem.

I read that, after a few years of summer campaigning, they actually changed tactics and made most of their main offensives in the winter when they would use the frozen streams and rivers as highways to get their cavalry quickly in and out of enemy territory.

I am working on trying to put together a map featuring all of the castles and monasteries that existed in Livonia at this time. It will come soon, I promise!

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The Livonians went out and met the Crusaders in the open in 1198 and were massacred. They had nothing to put against the Christian heavy cavalry. After that they changed tactics to guerilla warfare. Which obviously meant that the Crusaders had to change tactics as well.

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Do you not get a red cross next to each posting which allows you to delete any post? Or is it just me as GM who has that option?

I have deleted them anyway.

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No, currently we players-
a) can edit the main post,
b) can edit or delete our characters and our items,
c) cannot edit or delete our comments or other player’s comments, characters, or items.

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Thanks for the info. I can understand why players can’t delete each other’s comments, but it’s a bit crazy that people can’t change their own.

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Apologies that things have gone quieten. I didn’t quite expect the introductions to be over and done with quite so soon.

I am currently in the middle of reading the rules. I managed to finish off the character creation book and am starting on the campaign one. Unfortunately, I have to admit that reading rules books for me is only slightly more interesting than watching paint dry, whereas learning the minutiae of the period is absolutely fascinating, so I need to try and concentrate a little better.

I did say when I first made the announcement that it would be a while before we got going properly. This will remain the case, unfortunately, as my girlfriend is coming to stay with me for a while, which is really going to eat into the hours that I can spend on my games.

So, in summary, this game is going to happen, and it will be good. But it might be a few weeks before it assumes its full pace because I am a total perfectionist and don’t want to rush it and screw things up right from the start.

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I’m perfectly willing to wait :-) Gives me time to learn about the period myself!

Francesco/Ian

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Sure, if a little more waiting results in an even better game, it’s cool! ^^

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I know the rules fairly well in theory. But given the slower pace of a PbP game I can probably be of assistance.

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Realistically, one of the hardest aspects of GURPS is the movement and timing of attacks. As I mentioned to Nick, though, since we’re not playing the combats in real time there should be a lot less “crunch” to this game than most GURPS players are used to having in their games! In fact, even if we provide the dice rolls for Nick, the system is still going to be incredibly abstract. That’s pretty cool to me, as I occasionally feel that GURPS can turn into a sludge of minutiae in play, while I really like the character generation system. So I think we’re getting the best of both worlds!

Ian

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How old is Thietmar?

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Yes, that is one of the advantages of the slower pace of combat in a PbP – it does mean that everyone is not going to have to sit around chatting to themselves as I pore over each of the rulebooks to make sure that everything goes according to the rules.

The downside is that there is less interaction from the players as it slows things down having to wait for everyone to send me a dice roll.

We will run things at a turn per day – perhaps a little faster. I will need pretty quick responses from everyone if they want an input into the next round of combat each time, otherwise I will have to NPC any character who does not respond otherwise it can take forever waiting for the last player to respond each time.

I did run combats with my old play-by-email game a long time ago and they weren’t too bad providing that everyone gets over the disappointment and not getting the immediate thrill of seeing what happens when they roll their dice.

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How old are Klaus’s daughters? Remember, Eskil is only 16…

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{Franco decides to distract Eskil with something prettier than a dog the next time he wants to be first in line for food ;-}

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Klaus’s two daughters are 11 and 13. With hindsight I probably made them too old – the 13 year old will be an old spinster if she doesn’t get married and settle down soon!

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The things one learns from Wikipedia! Who would have guessed that breakfast would be considered as an unnecessary meal and only something that commoners who needed the energy to work in the fields would do!

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13, eh? Hmm… :)

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That would be Eric the IX: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eric_IX_of_Sweden No one knows whether the ‘Crusade’ really took place, and it was certainly no real Crusade as the Papacy has no record of it. It is probably a story cooked up to justify sainthood for Eric.

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Am reading a book on 13th century Sweden now. Muchos useful.

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@Asta Kask: Thietmar is in his early twenties.
@Nick: I’ve had combats in PbP games, and I often find them more satisfying, because it all comes together, without all the die rolling and stuff. At the table, combat frequently grinds along, while it looks more dynamic in a PbP. So, go ahead, do the rolling, I can do without it.

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I’m also ok with Nick rolling the dice. The skill check system in GURPs is pretty straightforward. For combat he’d just need to check with us on overall tactics (weapon preferences, defensive style, etc.) before a fight and then he could run a simulation. When he gave us the general results we could write it up ourselves! “For the glory of God and the Holy Father! Charge!”

Ian/Franco

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I have no problem handing over the dice. Makes it easier for the GM to ahem steer things if they are going in the wrong direction.

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Just letting you know that I am still alive and haven’t forgotten about you all.

I’m glad to hear that everyone is OK with having me making the dice rolls. In my experience, these games tend to develop as they go along so I am sure that we will come up with a solution that keeps the game going at a decent pace, but still gives everyone a sense of involvement in the combats so that you’re not just bystanders without the ability to influence the results.

As for when we will start properly, I can’t give you a finite date at this time. I have my girlfriend staying with me permanently as of today and and so am just waiting to see how much time she spends with her child so that I can be left alone to carry on with all my gaming activities!

Leaving Gotland
 

You can have my dice, but you’ll NEVER HAVE MY FREEDOM!!!

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lol, Asta!

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(Actually, my wife said to post that Nick is a good man to see what his lady needs before playing with us. There, I posted it.)

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I am sure your wife would not be so supportive if she knows to the great lengths that I will be going to in order to try and escape from my girlfriend as often as possible so that I can get my gaming activities back up to full speed again as soon as possible!

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Don’t get me started on Braceheart, Asta. I think that I was the only one cheering at the end of the movie when the English finally killed Mel Gibson!

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The English killed Mel Gibson? How’d I miss that in the news? Actually, the best “scottish” movie is still Local Hero.

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I liked Rob Roy.

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Rob Roy was good too. The swordfight at the end rocked!

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I never saw Rob Roy. Generally I am not a big fan of Hollywood takes on history. A couple of my favourite historical movies are really old – The Last Valley from 1971 and Paul Verhoeven’s Flesh & Blood from 1985. Both of them are more European so have a grittier feel than any of the Hollywood takes on the period.

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Actually, I’m not a huge fan of them either (Costner’s Robin Hood sucked), hence my favorite “scottish” movie, which is a very sweet dramedy :-) If you want to go for favorite historical movies, I’ll skip to the greatest war movie of all time: Das Boot. For a period piece I’d have to say any of the Blackadders ;-) (by the way, why’d you guys let him do “Mr Bean”? Those really blow)

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I don’t think any war movie can be better than Zombie Lake. It has zombies! And tits!

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Anyone who liked Das Boot should really check out this very obscure but excellent film:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0094716/

It’s a very similar concept to Das Boot, but set in a Russian tank during the Afghan war.

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As for Mr Bean, that series was probably the UK’s most profitable entertainment export since Benny Hill. There can hardly be a country in the world where they didn’t show that series!

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P.S. I was actually an extra on the set of Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood. It was probably the most boring day of my life as I just sat around all day waiting for something to happen (and it didn’t). And if you were of the opinion that Kevin Costner is an arrogant git, then you are quite right!

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Is that “the Beast”? I’ve been wanting to see that, haven’t had a chance to yet. Not surprised about Costner, he seems like a total ass! Benny Hill, hah, I liked the two Ronnies better.

(p.s. we really better keep Eskil away from the women, maybe we can find him some Semigallian Undead to occupy his time ;-)

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Now that we have stats for them, a Draugr!

We’re so dead. That thing’s designed for 250-pointers.

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Ouch, just looked those things up :-(

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Where are the stats for them?

Don’t tempt me! You will have quite enough problems dealing with the humans that you meet without having supernatural creatures to deal with as well!

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Can I play one?

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Only humans in this game, I’m afraid!

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Spoilsport.

pouts

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(Get used to it, Asta. In the other game I’m playing in that he’s GMing, we named it the “bastardverse”, cause he’s so mean.)

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It’s true. I never realized that I had the ability to make grown men cry until I started GMing :-(

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{sob} and, well, he’s just so mean! He even took our starship away and sent us to prison! Can you believe it? A GM sending his players to an Imperial Penitentiary? {more crying}

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And you were totally innocent?

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So we broke a couple of minor laws regarding protected archeological sites. And maybe a few other statutes along the way, but we were framed, I tell you, framed!

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So the campaign is over now? I mean, I hope you’re not going to make the situation worse by adding jailbreak to your crimes.

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Not quite, Nick is giving us a chance to escape. Hopefully we’ll make it out alive…

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I’m not that cruel as to close down a campaign that way! They should be free after Sunday providing they don’t do something really dumb.

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(Us? Do something really dumb?)

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Not quite, Nick is giving us a chance to escape. Hopefully we’ll make it out alive…

But that’s jailbreak! When will you quit your sinning ways?

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A) yup.

B) never.

:-)

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Franco looks up from his food and pauses. “It is too bold.”

And the rest of the trip was apparently spent in deep, uncomfortable silence… :)

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(OOC, I know, right. I meant to kill the question, not the crew ;)

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Hm, sorry, I didn’t get a notification that there was any reply, and given how it went for quite a while before I didn’t really expect one. Is this campaign still alive?

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Hi everyone, the game is not dead – it just had a longer summer vacation than I was expecting.

The reason I didn’t have time for it was because my girlfriend came for the summer. She leaves around 21 August and, once she is gone, then I will have time to get things moving.

I will let everyone know when she is gone and we’ll see who is left in at that stage.

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(you can’t gid rid of Franco that easily…)

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Good to hear that. I’m definitely in. I’ll get back from my honeymoon on 26 August, so I can get right back in.

Leaving Gotland
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