Supply and Demand [Spoilers]

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ChrisDDickey
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Joined: Sun Nov 27, 2016 10:02 pm

Supply and Demand [Spoilers]

Post by ChrisDDickey » Tue Jul 23, 2019 1:47 am

"You are all doing excellent work!" Old Cusa praised the job being done by the group of young men and boys. "This project will provide fresh clean water to your entire village! Never underestimate the value of clean water. It was bad water that sickened the crew of that whaling ship all those years ago, which lead to me traveling to England. I have told you before how incredibly big London is, and how many people live there, but 5 million souls is an unimaginable number. You would not believe how much effort it took to supply a city of that size with fresh water. I mean on the surface it all looked so easy. They had pipes running everywhere, and you turn a tap, and water gushes out. It looks so simple. But underneath it all, it took a lot of effort to keep the water flowing."

Why I remember the first time I really got a good look at the arteries of the city...


I was a bit flush with cash right then, and had just arranged for the purchase of a ballistic jacket. Investigating can be a dangerous occupation and I felt that a bit of armor might save my life someday. I had also just a few days before finished a wonderful little training course where we practiced solving puzzles, and noticing things. I felt that I had really trained my mind to be more perceptive. My friend and mentor Gatsha, one of the founding grandfathers of the Lodge asked if I would investigate a local problem plaguing the nearby residents. He asked me to bring along some help, as he seemed to foresee that it would turn out to be more dangerous than one might at first assume, so I went and asked Private Harlan Price if he would be willing to help, the Lodge also asked a Ms Nancy Hargraves to help investigate with us. The problem was that the local standpipe was not delivering water.

Normally the East London water company is pretty good about things like that. Pipes of fresh water run under the street, sometimes through tunnels, sometimes buried in dirt. If a pipe bursts there are usually signs, a geyser or a sinkhole or something, and they will have a large crew digging up the street in no time. But now, certain stand-pipes were steadily delivering less and less water over a week and a half period, and the water company seemed unable or unwilling to do anything about it. They kept saying that they were working on the problem, and that things would be back to normal by the next day. But there was never any visible activity, and far from returning to normal, the situation kept getting worse. By the time the local residents took up a collection and asked the Shaman Lodge to investigate the situation (and the Lodge asked me), there were periods of time in which no water was flowing at all.

Ms Hargraves was a troll who had had a number of jobs in her young life. She had worked on narrow-boats (boats built to travel through canals, a canal is an artificial river that they dug so that they could take boats places that natural rivers did not go). She had also had jobs in construction, particularly as a plumbers assistant. She told us a bit about what we could expect to find underground. She particularly warned us that some of the pipes were high pressure Hydraulics pipes, and that leaks from them could be quite dangerous.

We examined the standpipe, and sure enough, there was no water coming out of it. We examined all the neighboring standpipes, and they were all working. Talking to people we heard rumors that the Burnditch standpipe was the worst, but ones to the South of it on the same line were also showing problems.

I wanted to talk to somebody who could give us more detail, or a map. Ms Hargraves suggested we try the Brunswick Road office of the water company. Their door was locked with a note on it saying that they were working on the problem and that it would be fixed the next day. We looked for and found the nearest pub, and therein found what appeared to be the entire staff of the office hard at work drinking their supper. Nancy knew some of them and when I offered to buy a round of the pubs finest, they happily let us join them. This joy started to dissipate fairly quickly when I started to quiz them about the recent troubles. Their leader, Rob, tiredly started to give us the standard line that they were working on it and that it would all undoubtedly be fixed tomorrow. I asked him about the rumors of the grizzly murders. Now just to be clear, there were no rumors of murder, but I wanted to stir the pot and get him off of his prepared script. And of course this was Victorian London, rumors of grizzly murders could, and often were attached to any other rumors fairly easily. My questions left him nonplussed and I got the impression that there were no grizzly murders that he knew about (which is not surprising since I had just made them up), however nether my questions nor his hurried denials failed to elicit any actual information like I had hoped it would until I asked the question "how did he know that none of the people that were missing had not been murdered in a grizzly fashion?" This actually seemed to throw him for a loop, and I got the distinct impression that this shot in the dark might have hit and that there were actually missing water company workers (though apparently nobody suspected that they might be dead, just missing).

I asked if they had considered going down into the storm drains with armed guards. They started to get very uncomfortable with the conversation and started getting ready to leave (It pained me to see that good beer quaffed so quickly), rather than beat around the bush any more, I laid it right out that we would be willing to accompany a work party down into the drains as guards. Rob very stiffly said that the water company could handle it's own business, and that if we wanted to apply for employment we should do so at the main office in the morning. The water company employees then all left.

We waited until they were out of the pub before we also hurriedly left, and from the shelter of the doorway managed to see in which direction each went. It seemed clear to me that Rob was too much of a company man to discuss matters with outsiders, but I wondered if the others might prove more open-minded if approached when not in his company. After the group had split and Rob had walked off, the three of us split up and approached each of the other men. Harlan Price followed his man to his flat, but decided not to approach him. He did learn that the man carried a pistol in his tool-chest. I approached two of the men, and exchanged a few coins for the information of the location of the main entrance to that section of tunnels, plus the exact location of that section of tunnels exit to the Thames. Nancy learned that the water company had stationed guards at the main entrance to that section of the tunnels. We walked by that location and noticed the unobtrusive guards. We were not certain if they were there to prevent anybody like us from entering, or to prevent anything from exiting.

With the main entrance guarded, we next tried the exit. We went to the section of the docklands waterfront that was described to us, and after the application of "see by the light of the moons" were able to look over the embankment and see the place where the storm drains exited into the Thames. We quickly spotted a set of river stairs, that lead down and gave access to a cut path halfway down the embankment that gave access to the grate covering the opening. The grate was hinged and secured by a padlock. I cast "Bathing in the Invisible River" a few times to clean all the rust off of the padlock and the hinges, then Nancy struggled and pulled until the padlock broke. Having assured ourselves that the grate could now be opened freely, we rearranged everything to make it look as if the grate and padlock were still secure, and put a bit of mud over everything to disguise the fact that they were now rust-free and shiny. We decided to wait until morning to actually enter the tunnel, and retired to my boarding house for supper, and agreed to meet there again for breakfast.

ChrisDDickey
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Re: Supply and Demand [Spoilers]

Post by ChrisDDickey » Mon Aug 19, 2019 1:31 pm

At breakfast the next morning, we three were approached by a person who introduced himself as Lord Carnavon. At first impression he seemed to be minor nobility fallen upon hard times. He said that he had been approached by a friend who had some sort of official connection with the water company (maybe he was on the board of directors? it was unclear). Anyway, our private investigation of the matter was being discussed at certain levels within the company (with general disapproval of our meddling in their affairs), but this acquaintance of Carnavon's appeared to think that our unofficial investigation might be a good thing, and furthermore suggested to Carnavon that he would be grateful if Carnavon worked with us to help resolve this problem. He apparently made pains to make it clear that this was a personal request, and was not coming from the East London Water company itself.

It turns out that Carnavon was an Egyptologist, and a bit of an expert at navigating small underground passages such as are found in pyramids and similar ruins. As such, he was exactly what we needed to find our way through the sewer system. We went from the boarding house dinning room directly to the waterfront. In the light of day the waterfront was much busier, with both sailors and longshoreman bustling about, as well as police, security guards and one presumes the criminals they are on guard against. We worried that somebody might take an interest in our entering the grating, so I summoned a small water spirit within the river to make whale spumes in the center of the river. This attracted every-bodies attention while we entered the sewer via the grating that we had previously unlocked.

I had been rather hoping that the sewer lines would run fairly straight and predictable. Alas, they gave many unpredictable twists, turns and branchings. Fortunately Carnavon was able to navigate us in the direction we wanted to go. There were one or two tricky spots, where we needed to do some climbing, while avoiding some area of rickety construction, but we made good progress. We were fortunate to hear another party before they heard us or saw our lights, so we dimmed our lights and took another, more circuitous, route, and we shortly arrived at a large chamber.

Crossing the chamber was what at first appeared to be a huge rubbery pipe that seemed to pulse. Closer examination revealed that the "pipe" had scales. However when it was poked, it shivered and undulated (I was not the person who poked the pulsing black pipe - because if the pulsing black pipe with scales did do something when you poked it, I figured that there was a good chance that I would not like what it did). We saw very large eyes on the far side of the large chamber that seemed to be reptilian, and Carnavon announced that the "pipe" was actually a very, very, gargantuan common black snake, not poisonous, and not dangerous at all (when their normal size) to anything larger than a mouse. Of course compared to this specimen, we were about mouse sized compared to it.

I looked in Astral Space, and got a better view of the whole creature, but more importantly, found a moderately powerful water spirit as well. We talked to the spirit (I translated for the others). The spirit was very upset at man for polluting the waterways and was trying to do something about it. But it's plan, as I understood it, was not a very good plan at all. As best that I could grasp it, It had gotten a common black snake to volunteer, it had used magic to make the snake gigantic, and used the snake to transport some fresh water from the pipes near the river to the Thames and release it there. Thus diluting the pollution of the Thames. It seems to have expended a lot of time, effort and magic on a plan that did almost nothing. It was not doing anything that affected more than a 100,000th part of the fresh water in London. It was not diluting the river Thames by a 10,000th part, and was not reducing the amount of pollution entering the river at all. It seems like this spirit was powerful, but not very bright and not good at making effective strategies.

For starters, for about one thousandths of the effort, it could have simply broken some water mains. The water would have flowed through the storm drains to the Thames all by themselves. There was no need to transport the water via snake. Sure at first the water would have mixed with the sewer water, but whether the water mixed with the sewer water before or after arriving at the river seems like an irrelevant difference to me (though I can see how a water spirit might disagree). Also of course the water company would have quickly sent repair crews down, but the water company was sending repair crews down anyway, so once again, there was no difference other than the amount of effort it takes to transport the water from the Blackwall to the Thames.

But to me the big, obvious flaw with the water spirits plan was that it was focusing simply on diluting the pollution in the river, not on keeping the pollution from reaching the river in the first place. It seemed to me like the East London Water Company was not polluting the river. The company that was responsible for treating the sewage was at fault for not doing a better job. And of course all the industrial factories dumping chemicals into the rivers. It seemed like anybody who wanted to reduce water pollution in England ought to start with those factories.

I started to wonder if perhaps I agreed with the Water Spirits goals, and only felt that it needed advice in better picking it's targets and planning it's strategies. And I started thinking that maybe we should offer it that advice.

We had eventually relighted all our lamps in order to see the snake better, this turned out to be a mistake, because we soon thereafter heard the group we had heard earlier making their way rapidly towards us. They called out to us to drop our weapons and come forward.
Last edited by ChrisDDickey on Tue Aug 20, 2019 8:54 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Andrew1879
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Re: Supply and Demand [Spoilers]

Post by Andrew1879 » Mon Aug 19, 2019 3:39 pm

Nice distraction with a tasked spirit. Interesting moral dilemma. Hyrdofeay would be in agreement with you about preventing the pollution in the first place. Fun cliffhanger at the end there.

ChrisDDickey
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Re: Supply and Demand [Spoilers]

Post by ChrisDDickey » Sun Aug 25, 2019 10:38 pm

The approaching "plumbers" had fired a shot at the giant snake before demanding our surrender. Price later told me that he had seen the bullet hit, leaving a wound that leaked a few drops of blood before sealing over completely with no other obvious effect. It did not even seem to make the snake mad. The spirit whispered to me me that we should fight and kill the interlopers. Instead I whispered loudly down the corridor, "Quite, you will make the dragon angry"! This had the desired effect of discombobulating the approaching people and they stopped firing the guns long enough to took at what they were shooting at. They saw a long sinuous body covered in scales, and in the distance some huge eyes reflecting the light. They were at least willing to entertain the idea that it might be a dragon. They suggested we go down the corridor a bit and talk things over. They talked about attacking it, and throwing dynamite at it, but I talked them into letting me negotiate with "the dragon". I said we were experts on "fantastical creatures".

I then returned to the other chamber and concluded our negotiations with the water spirit. I considered offering it advice on how to better conduct an Eco-terrorism campaign, but after talking it over with my companions, we agreed to simply negotiate to arrange a meeting between the spirit and somebody in charge, which we did. The spirit agreed to meet whomever we could find at St. James park on noon the following day (or if I could not arrange anything so soon, the day after). I suggested that the spirit would have considerably more leverage if he pretended that he was acting as an agent on behalf of a dragon, but the spirit was very doubtful, saying that dragons get very mad at anybody trading on their authority. This surprised me, since up until that point, I don't think that anybody had seen any dragons, ether on Earth, or the Gruv. It finally agreed to let me say there was a dragon, and it would not contradict me.

We then returned to the plumbers, and told them we had arranged a meeting that their bosses would like to know about. We talked to their bosses, who talked to the sewage company, who agreed to the meeting. We kept our story simple and true. We described the "dragon" as we had truly seen it, and did not claim to have seen ether limbs, claws, nor teeth. The only lie we told is that we thought that what we had seen was a dragon, and not an overgrown snake. If called upon it, we could have claimed to have merely misunderstood what we saw. That night the water spirit damaged several mains, such that it was the main story in many of the papers the day of the meeting.

At St. James park we talked to Colonel Bruce Maine who had a clockwork eye, of the sewage company, and a very interesting Shaman named Ki, a Maori. I will not bother you with the details of the negotiation, but will say they concluded more or less successfully, despite the spirit being the least disingenuous creature one could imagine. The "dragon" would cease it's deprivations immediately. The sewage company would undertake to get the factories that discharge into the Thames to pipe their industrial effluent to processing centers. If there was not clear, measurable, and continuing improvements in the water quality starting within one year and a day, the "dragon" would feel itself free to attack the offending factories.

The Colonel seemed a very capable man, and I was happy to see him commit his company to offer a service of cleaning industrial effluent, I just hope that he can somehow talk the government into forcing factories into using this new service.

ChrisDDickey
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Joined: Sun Nov 27, 2016 10:02 pm

Re: Supply and Demand [Spoilers]

Post by ChrisDDickey » Mon Aug 26, 2019 7:21 am

I just read the Adventure Outline published in the GM section.
At every possible point we took unexpected options. I mean it says, if the PCs do (a) then this happens, and if they do (b) then that happens, and every time we did something not listed. Very excellent GMing to make it all feel so well put together with us doing the unexpected.

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Andrew1879
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Re: Supply and Demand [Spoilers]

Post by Andrew1879 » Mon Aug 26, 2019 4:26 pm

If the GM has prepared N solutions for a particular scene, the players will discover N+1.

Slimcreeper
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Re: Supply and Demand [Spoilers]

Post by Slimcreeper » Tue Aug 27, 2019 1:14 am

Half the fun of GM’ing is watching your plans crumble into dust, right?

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