1879: Actual Play NYC: Let’s Get Things Organized
So when we last left our intrepid explorers, they had the beginnings of an idea, and spent some time discussing how they might implement it. We rejoin them as they try to resolve a few actions and get this show on the road.
Jennifer: So can we just roll dice for a few Social actions, and then play through the results, rather than roleplaying through all the setup? I mean, some of it’s going to be kind of repetitive.
GM: I don’t see why not. Everybody in agreement?
GM: Okay, Bethelie, you wanted to start with Mike from the Levellers, your Mister Fagin?
Bethelie: Oui, I wish to ask him to organize the union meeting, make it look like they are voting to approve the resolution, only the Levellers will see to it that the men are stay home with the babies and the women go to the meeting hall ready to fight.
GM: Make a Diplomacy Test. This is negotiation with a known party who’s already engaged in the situation.
Bethelie: The step 17, I am – oh my, the rollup on the twelve and one eight, the other eight must go to the shame corner for it has rolled a one. Total of thirty-eight. Am I needing the karma?
GM: Don’t be flip, it’s not becoming. You have Mike wrapped around your pinky. Sure, he’ll make it all happen for you. Flyers, back channel messages, devious routing and the use of a few steam trucks to move people in groups under cover, yeah, he’s got all that. You just got to convince people to play along.
Rachel: I think we can do that. I want to start with Emilia, the woman across the hall from the Tartaglios. She trusted me with her children. You know she knows every other mother in the building, they all talk, and some people from the neighborhood.
Parker: Telegraph, telephone, tell a woman?
Thomas: (makes a show of getting out of the way)
Jennifer and Rachel: (pelt Parker with salted almonds)
Parker: Ow! Hey, did we run out of Cheetos or something? Those things sting!
Rachel: (pointedly ignoring Parker) Mike has his back channel communications. I have mine.
GM: Okay, I don’t see in my notes that you made a First Impression Test, pity that.
Rachel: I don’t think I did either. I just don’t have the Skill here – wait. Can I use Espionage, and draw her into the plot? Make it a little exciting?
GM: Well. You’re setting up an elaborate plot worthy of a Mission: Impossible episode. You’re expecting dozens of people, maybe a hundred or more, to keep a secret. You’re asking mothers to leave their children with the menfolk and go off to face a smoke demon that’s killed at least two people, probably three, maybe more, with nothing more than their righteous wrath and a frying pan? I almost feel like there ought to be a Logistics Test in there somewhere, and maybe some kind of dramatic Skill, Stage Managing or something. Yeah, this is a big operation you’re planning here. Espionage is close enough I’ll give you an Espionage Test at minus one Step.
Rachel: Ouch, that’s only a Step 11 and I can’t use karma on it, Espionage is a Free Skill. D10, D8, Bethelie be ready to back me up if I screw this die roll. Rollup on the ten, fourteen total.
GM: That’ll get you started, you’ve got one extra success with Emilia. Sure, she’s in, and she drags a friend in almost immediately. They’ll start organizing the neighborhood.
Thomas: Assuming I’m chauffering the ladies around?
GM: Unless you have an alternate plan?
Thomas: Well, I do have a couple of contacts I’d like to speak with, no disrespect to anybody but without company.
Bethelie: I can afford the cab, I will pay for Rivka and myself to go to Emilia’s neighborhood.
Parker: I need to go back to the temple and see Brother Chang.
GM: Yes, you do. Good thought.
Thomas: Once Rivka goes and sees Emilia, she should get all those records in order for Mike, and then we need to get back together and pay a visit to a law office.
Bethelie: I need to anyway. Perhaps I can go and see them while Rivka spends time at a tea house doing the paperwork, no?
GM: Okay, let’s organize a little here. Mike is talking with the Church, and working with the Levellers to set up the union organization meeting. Rivka, you and Bethelie have recruited Emilia and her friend to spread the news by back channel about the meeting. While that’s happening, Abraham, you go off to see someone?
Abraham: I go find a Gray phone, and I put through a call to my brother in law Rufus in Philadelphia.
GM: Okay, no roll, but that’s going to cost you a dollar just to make the connection, and a good bit more based on the length of the call.
Abraham: Desperate times.
GM: Rufus understands the nature of the situation. I mean, you’re calling long distance from New York.
Abraham: Brooklyn, but close enough. I need a couple of reliable people I can pull in on a major corruption case. Big money. Going to shake things up serious. Who’s got no fear of the return fire when they publish?
GM: Rufus gives you three names. Avery Fogelberg at the Times, he’s got the weight of empire behind him. Joseph Shannon at Harper’s Weekly, he’s at a rag with a reputation trying to make his own, just watch he doesn’t stick his neck too far out. Lucy Streetfield is a stringer for the Times of London, don’t let her bulldoze you, she’s from Chicago down on the South Side and eats San Juan Hill boys for breakfast.
Abraham: And I got usual bars for these fine upstanding members of the Third Estate?
GM: Fogelberg’s either in his office or in the field doing research. He only drinks at weddings and on Purim. Shannon lurks around the Scuppered Guppy down on Fifth Street, or at that police bar on Eighth at Thirty-Second. He gets roughed up a lot. Streetfield doesn’t wander more than four blocks from the British consulate unless there’s a whiff of corruption at the higher levels, and then she’s off after it like a terrier on a rat. She makes the rounds of the cafes where the government clarks have their tea or whatever it is they do.
Abraham: Okay, all of that is over the bridge in New York. I don’t want to leave people stranded in Brooklyn.
Yang: (snorts) Stranded? Brooklyn got electric trolleys years before New York did, and still won’t let us forget it.
Abraham: Still. Best to wait until I know where we’re going.
GM: Okay, Yang, you have to cross back over to Manhattan Island to go se Brother Chang.
Yang: Yeah, I’ll find a Tong boat if I can.
GM: Make a Chinatown Politics Test.
GM: Sure, you spend an hour doing scut work on deck and they drop you at the New York side. You should talk with your brother more often, they say. You’ve been away for a few days.
Yang: That doesn’t sound good. Let’s go to the Temple first. Anything I need to play through or roll for there?
GM: No. Brother Chang takes the remains of the cords and burns them on the brazier at the streetfront shrine. He tells you, the Heavens record all things.
Yang: Great, my name is on a scroll now. I need that like a hole in my head. I go find my brother.
GM: He’s at the noodle shop –
Yang: There’s gonna be a fight scene.
GM: Maybe. He’s at the noddle shop, at the back table, doing the books and looking unhappy.
Yang: I greet him with all the respect an older brother gets around here and get caught up.
GM: He tells you the elders want to see a working model of the folding machine ready to deliver to Fat Kwan’s by the end of next week.
Yang: Oh. Um. Yeah, about that….
GM: Brother says they were quite emphatic with him about getting the word to you, something about how a dutiful son would be at his parents’ business tending the machinery.
Yang: Okay, they’re laying it on a bit thick there. I get it. I got downtime work to do, which means I gotta get downtime soon, which means we gotta solve this case. I haul it back over to Brooklyn. We didn’t set up anything, but I figure the Amphora is probably a good bet. And I can get a gyro to replace the one that kid stole.
Abraham: You know you weren’t going to actually eat that. You were going to find it in the glove box two days later, make some disgusted noises, and throw it out, like you always do.
GM: Are we speaking in character here?
Bethelie: How do we do with the larger women, the comrades in labour of our wounded friend Matilda of the Fish Hook.
GM: (gratefully) I’m going to give you a Diplomacy Test at plus three Steps. Word’s gotten around fast how you saved Matilda when the thing came for her, and how you paid for her medical care yourselves.
Bethelie: Well, it was Abraham who had the Connection, and that what is really counting here. I only had a few livre to toss in for expenses.
GM: Evidently they aren’t making distinctions on that granular a level. Roll that beautiful bean footage.
Bethelie: Eheu, a four, the one on the six sider that had been let out of the Shame Corner, it is bidden back there once more, adieu. The eight tries to make up with a rollup. The second roll is a five, total thereof comes to 18, sufficient no?
GM: That’ll give you an extra success. Yeah, you get invited round to the Amphora and they stand you a round. It’s not great beer, but it’s served in very large mugs. You ladies are the smallest women in the house.
Bethelie: Et voila, no diet needed, I am just walk in here and I am le petite.
GM: So you’ve got your hands full keeping these women from marching out and tearing down the lamp posts and using them to batter down the doors. Doesn’t seem to be much agreement as to whose doors, and you can play that confusion to your advantage.
Bethelie: Mais oui, we steer the conversation in the direction of, oh, what they call?
Rivka: Direct action.
Bethelie: Oui, that. (makes a “pray continue” gesture)
Rivka: We steer them into planning for coordinated direct action. Explain the fake union vote to them, the dodges to get the women there instead of the men, and then I lay all the cards on the table and tell them exactly what we’re up against here.
Bethelie: I remind Rivka that Mike is seeking help from the Church, so we may have that as well as ourselves.
GM: Either of you have Leadership or Oratory?
Rivka: What, me social?
Bethelie: I do not. Will Diplomacy do?
GM: Yeah, but it’s at minus two Steps for being a related Skill instead of what you really need.
Bethelie: I can work with that. Starting at step 15, d12 and two d6, no, you are int eh Shame Corner, begone. Total of ten, I will throw in the karma, non?
GM: You might want to, yes.
Bethelie: The one that rolled up before, it comes up a four, so I have now the fourteen.
GM: That’ll get you over the target number for re-routing some very excitable snarks – is that redundant – and some riled-up troll women and getting them to focus on the plan. You have to do some very fast talking there for a few minutes, but you’ve got the whole case laid out in front of them now, and they’re buying in.
Yang: I’m just going to sit over here quietly and drink my beer, and watch the master in action.
Bethelie: I shall take my bows later, save the roses. So we have myself, Rivka, and Yang here, and we have got the women on board of the plan. We need Abraham, or at least he knows where to meet us.
Abraham: I’m going straight back over to Mike’s once I have the names I was after. He needs to know who we can reach out to if we want to get this in the press, and be the ones telling the story first.
GM: Mike is out when you get there, but the old woman pushes a cup of tea and a pastry on you and insists, nonverbally, that you sit down at the table there in the kitchen and wait.
Abraham: I’m not going to insult Grandma. I take the damn tea and do my best to enjoy the pastry.
GM: It’s actually really good, better than the stuff Yang was getting downstairs.
Abraham: So I chill for a few.
GM: Yeah, Mike shows up maybe a quarter hour later, a little flushed, a little disheveled.
Abraham: Been busy?
GM: (as Mike) Oh aye, been round to see a couple of people I have. Got the bloody bishop in on this. Man keeps a fine stock of brandy, let me tell you.
Abraham: I can tell. You sing Danny Boy and I’ma punch you.
GM: So what have you got? He focuses, with a little bit of effort.
Abraham: I tell him about the three names Rufus give me, and see what he thinks about getting out in front of this thing.
GM: He rejects Fogelberg out of hand, calls him a yellow hack who thinks everybody who reads Marx and Engels is the next Robespierre. Shannon would be risky. He’s got something to prove, and that makes him dangerous. Still, wouldn’t be fair to leave someone hungry out of the seating, would it? Streetfield is going to be our best shot, really, get the news out on the wire and across the border before the Yank authorities can box it back up, but he can’t be the one to ask her.
Abraham: Any particular reason why?
GM: He stares at you a moment, and says, did the brogue give not even the faintest hint of a clue there?
Abraham: I wasn’t going to assume.
GM: Okay, he’ll give you that. But yeah, hey, somebody who can do a little flash-bang, someone with the Art who could waltz it around a little for her –
Abraham: I’m no carny. The Galvanic Order is well respected academic organization –
Bethelie: Which will have to put on a show for a patron, like a Heron does, my heart bleeds for your wounded dignity. (She stares at Abraham a long moment.)
Abraham: Right, give’em the old razzle-dazzle, got it. So where do I go chat up this British reporter who hates on the Irish?
GM: Mike gives you the names of a few cafes to check. By this point, it’s approaching midnight, for all of you.
Abraham: And I’m betting Miss Streetfield is a late morning sort.
GM: You’d be right.
Abraham: Okay, on the off chance, I’m going to swing by the construction site, see if anything’s on fire, and if not, drop by the Amphora and see if that’s where our ladies have washed up.
GM: By the time you get there, washed-up about describes the state of things. Unless you ladies want to insult the large women buying you drinks?
Rivka: Hey, look, the calendar says it’s Purim. I’m ferschnicket.
Bethelie: I have lasted through enough champagne receptions and wodka slams to be able to handle my liquor, merci beaucoup. I will be playing pool. Am I winning?
GM: Roll a d8.
GM: Six. She’s ahead by one stripe.
Bethelie: This game has my absolute and total concentration.
Yang: I’m a little worried. Miss Moneybags is still standing, so she can probably handle getting us a cab if we need it, but it’s getting late.
GM: And Abraham arrives.
Abraham: You call a cab?
Yang: No, dude, I was waiting for you.
Abraham: Gimme a hand rounding up Princess Passed-Out and Parisian Slim there.
Bethelie: I am down by a ball. I must play this out.
GM: One quick roll, d12. I’ve got a seven.
Bethelie: Eleven! Ha! I run the table like the boss!
Yang: No victory laps. C’mon, we gotta get moving.
Bethelie: I blow many kisses to my friends as I am dragged out the door under great protest!
Abraham: Why you French people always got to make everything so damn dramatic?
GM: You get Rivka and Bethelie piled into the car, Yang on the bar side to keep them from getting back out, Abraham lets off the brake and eases up the throttle, and away you go.
Yang: Okay, we get these two poured into bed, I have to get home.
Abraham: Something wrong? You seem uptight.
Yang: Nothing I know for sure of. Just a bad feeling. And I need to spend more time at home the next day or so, while the preparations are getting done.
Abraham: We’ll talk about it when these two are sober.
Bethelie: I am sober as the judge! I say Yang should go and spend time with his family, for in the end, your family they are all you have, non?
Yang: I saw that judge. She was passed out in the back corner with an empty gin bottle in her hand.
Rivka: I don’t wanna go to school tomorrow, I got a test I didn’t study for.
(All stare at Rivka for a moment.)
Abraham: I know the feeling, honey. I know the feeling.
GM: And on that bittersweet note, we will call this session to a close, and pick up next time with a couple of days of downtime and errand running and getting this thing set up. Join us next time for another round of 1879 Actual Play New York!