1879: Actual Play: Session 3 – Ravenswood
When we last left our intrepid explorers, they had spoken with the wives of a few of the steelworkers, gotten a bit more of the story, and were on their way to Brooklyn, to see if the same technique would work with the sandhogs. Abraham is driving, with Bethelie riding shotgun, and Yang and Rivka on the back bench.
Abraham: First off, we can get rid of this Saurid stuff. Ain’t no way a Saurid killed those men.
Yang: How you figure?
Abraham: Ain’t no Saurids come through the Rabbit Hole that we know of, right? (Thomas looks to the GM.)
Abraham: And when it does happen, it’s gonna be a big deal. There’s gonna be pictures. Ain’t nobody gonna miss a photo op like that. It’s gonna be in every newspaper around the world, front page above the fold. No, this is some alligators in the sewers bullshit going on here.
Yang: The way I’m counting it, we still have two guys eaten. One steelworker, and one of Michael’s labor organizers. And what’s with leaving the left arm?
Rivka: Like a cat leaving the tail end of the mouse on the doorstep. Partly because they don’t want that bit, partly so people know they’ve been hunting.
Bethelie: So whatever did this, it left the arm as a message.
Abraham: This whole thing’s sending a message. Somebody wants the heavy construction workers to forget about building a union, and wants it bad enough they’re killing people.
Rivka: Whatever it was, it spoke to those men, in English or Italian we don’t know, but it told them they were next. That sounds like someone summoned something.
Abraham: (scowls) Not much worse than when a Mage goes bad.
Yang: You think she’s right? (indicates Rivka)
Abraham: Could be. Makes more sense than any other idea we’ve had.
Bethelie: Is there use in going by the place where it happened, to have a look at it magically?
Abraham: (shakes his head) No, been too long. Astral imprints don’t last that long, and whatever it was, they probably conjured it up someplace else, then sent it out hunting. It’s what I’d do anyway, I ain’t gonna go conjuring up no man eater down in the sewers. Thing gets away from you, it’s got a home field advantage.
Rivka: Gets away from you?
Abraham: (shrugs) Conjuring is chancy stuff. I don’t mess with it myself. You call something up, maybe you can hold it, maybe it gets loose, maybe it follows orders and maybe it eats your head instead.
Yang: So maybe whatever ate those men, a steelworker conjured it, tried to send it against management and it turned on them?
Jennifer: (out of character, dropping Bethelie’s accent) Stop giving the GM ideas.
Rachel: We’re overthinking this.
Parker: (grins) it’s what we do.
GM: So you’ve crossed the Suspension Bridge into the City of Brooklyn, paid your nickel toll —
Abraham: For one car with four people in it?
Bethelie: (back in character, with French accent) This is too much for a small carriage?
Abraham: They gonna pay off the whole damn bridge in two years, they keep charging like that.
GM: You drive out to the Polish neighborhood, and give it a try. First Impression Tests all around, please.
Jennifer: Can I use Diplomacy instead?
GM: You have to get them to talk with you before you can be diplomatic.
Jennifer: Phooey. Okay, I have an eight. These six siders need calibration. (thumps her dice on the table) Probably no point adding karma, is there … (grumbles)
Parker: Rollup on the eight, and another, and a rollup, and crud I’m blowing my best roll of the session on a First Impression. Total of 48.
Thomas: What is this First Impression you speak of? And my natural charm has failed me! I got a two on my Charisma.
GM: Abraham gets a door slammed in his face at the first stop, and the second woman threatens to set her dog on him.
Thomas: So just another average day for a black man in a white neighborhood.
GM: Yang, however, seems like such a nice boy, reminds the old woman of the young man at the noodle shop who always gives her extra pickled vegetables without charging for them, and she tells you that everyone here is scared to talk about it, but you need to go see Fish Hook Matilda at the Ravenswood Tunnel site.
Parker: I put on the accent a little for her, play it up.
GM: Not really necessary. And that’s all you get before her daughter comes to the door, fusses at Mama for talking to strangers, this is not Krakow, and politely but firmly closes the door.
Parker: So, Fish Hook Matilda, huh? I want to make a Knowledge New York Test to see if I’ve heard of her. (GM nods, Parker rolls)
Rachel: Or the Ravenswood project.
Thomas: Same here.
GM: Thomas, are you rolling for Matilda or the Tunnel?
Thomas: (holds his dice, pulls his hand back from the table) I’ll wait and see how these two do, which one needs help.
GM: Yang, you remember reading a newspaper article about Fish Hook Matilda. She was the first woman to work as a sandhog.
Parker: That’s a thing.
GM: You remember that she’s a troll, and got her nickname from bending a crowbar with one hand while holding the other end in her teeth.
Jennifer: After which the sandhogs all called her ma’am.
GM: Something like that. Rivka, the Ravenswood Tunnel project is putting a transport tunnel under the East River from Astoria, up in Long Island City, later known as Queens, from the Ravenswood Generating Station to Blackwell’s Island and then over to Manhattan. The plan is to run steam and natural gas lines through it. You remember it because it keeps coming up in the financials. There’s a lot of moving parts to the project, and a lot of money going a lot of directions.
Rachel: So opportunity.
GM: If you can get in past all the political graft that’s already running. Thomas, you want to try for more detail on one or the other?
Thomas: Yeah, lemme go for Matilda, sounds like we’re gonna need to go talk with her. Oh, and a nine, I guess not.
GM: Yeah, no.
Thomas: Okay, so I check the coke and water in the car, see if we need a fill-up, and then I guess we’re driving up to Ravenswood. (Looks around the table, gets confirmation)
GM: That’s about eight miles, go on and pay sixteen cents for your fuel costs, figuring you started the day with a full cartridge and boiler.
Bethelie: I have this. (to Abraham) You paid the fuel this far, and that toll at the bridge, it seems only fair that we should all, you say, chip in?
Abraham: Appreciated. Getting around is going to nickel and dime us into the poorhouse.
GM: And now you know why all those people walk across the Bridge every day. You spend about forty-five minutes driving up from Brooklyn to Long Island City, and finding the Ravenswood project. It’s not that hard. It’s been in the papers a lot, there’s been maps with the articles, and you can tell just from the neighborhood that you’re getting close to a big construction project.
Parker: How so?
GM: The dust gets everywhere. The tenements are full, and have laundry poles of work clothes hung out the windows. There’s a lot of cheap food carts close to the project, at this hour selling ham sandwiches for a nickel, hot soup for two cents a mug, and fancier stuff, like stew with actual meat in it, for a dime.
Rachel: So it’s lunchtime.
GM: By now, yes.
Rivka: I look at the carts. Is anyone selling anything marked kosher, or at least someone with fish?
Abraham: You really gonna eat fish come out the East River?
Rivka: Good point. I’ll wait.
Yang: We should split up. We can do more damage that way.
Bethelie: I can go with Abraham, and Rivka with Yang perhaps?
Yang: (shrugs) I’m good with that.
Abraham: (nods) That puts our ladies with a man. No offense, but we’re going into a construction project, and in this day and age, a lady with no escort, well…
Bethelie: (laughs) It would not be the first time I am being mistaken for the prostitute.
Rivka: I blush and let out an embarrassed giggle.
Abraham: Right. So Bethelie and I go one way, Yang and Rivka go the other, and if somebody finds Matilda, give a whistle or something?
Yang: More polite than firing a round in the air.
Rivka: Less likely to cause a panic!
GM: Everybody roll Awareness.
Rachel: Twelve also.
Parker: Look at you. What’s an Awareness? I got a six on my Perception.
GM: Okay, so Yang is distracted by the young woman with the tray of bao.
Parker: Dude. Double win.
GM: And Abraham spots a group of women in work clothes, a few snarks and a couple of trolls, sitting on a stack of lumber, got lunch boxes open.
Abraham: Excuse me, ladies, could we have a quick word?
GM: First Impression.
Thomas: Eight on a Charisma.
GM: They look you up and down, and one of the troll women says, you’re not even big enough to pick my teeth with! And they all laugh.
Thomas: Abraham is unhappy at the dis, but is gonna let that size burn slide past.
Jennifer: (glares at her six siders, rolls) Aha, rollup on one of the d6, total of seventeen.
GM: You can cover here.
Bethelie: Your pardon, we are looking for Matilda?
GM: The troll woman who made the rude joke elbows the other one. Your fame’s international now, she says.
Bethelie: You are Matilda?
GM: She looks up at you from under a heavy brow ridge, a bit suspicious. I might be, who wants to know?
Jennifer: She seems very unfriendly even with what should have been a good roll. Can I throw in Diplomacy now?
Jennifer: Okay, I’m throwing in karma on this. She’s the only solid lead we have for the sandhogs right now.
Thomas: While she’s doing that, I’m going to step away a few paces, see if I can spot Yang and Rivka, and whistle them over.
GM: Okay, you signal them.
GM: You spin a plausible line of bullshit, and Matilda relaxes a bit.
Jennifer: I’m just going to be straight with her. (French accent) We are in the pay of the Levellers, hired to find out who is causing problems for the union. My friend here, he is a Mage, and we have two more, there they are, who are very good with machines and guns.
Yang: I hook a thumb in my belt and let Matilda see the gun I’ve got on that side.
GM: Look, I don’t want no trouble, right? I got a good job here, pays better than what I was doing before …. she gestures to herself, in that way Boojums do when they’re referring to the changes of the Fever.
Bethelie: We are not here to cause trouble, but to put an ending to it. Your leadership, they have been reluctant to talk about what has happened, we think, we find a woman who is not scared to work as a sandhog, we find someone who is not scared to tell us what is happening.
GM: Matilda looks around, and says, okay, look, I can tell you about it, but not here and not now. I only got a few more minutes to finish my lunch before the whistle blows. You come round to the Amphora, it’s a bar on Eleventh Street, halfway up from Thirty-fifth where the Greek eatery is, buy me a beer tonight I’ll tell you what I know.
Bethelie: We will be there. I touch her hand, and say, thank you.
GM: She shrugs, and says, somebody’s gotta do something, and I got a family to support, so I hand it off to you, maybe I’m quits with it. Excuse me. And she pointedly digs into her lunch.
Parker: Okay, so we hang out until tonight and meet her at the bar? I’m not fond of that nickel toll, and where did the girl with the bao get to?
Tune in next time to hear Matilda’s story, and find out if Yang gets the bao he’s looking for!
- Five cents in 1881 equals $1.29 in 2017 currency. We’re using the Dollar Inflation Calculator at https://westegg.com/inflation/.
- Sixteen cents 1881 scales to $4.13 2017.