[Troublemakers] Dandelion Days

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[Troublemakers] Dandelion Days

Postby James Mullen » 10:30am on 18 Sep 16

Episode 1

This is an AP report for my Hangouts game that began on Friday night: I'm intending to run this mini-campaign again for other players, so spoilers ahead... only not really, because there's no chance this would turn out the same way twice!

Using the setup on my pitch sheet for the game, I roped in three players for this mini-campaign:

  • Elaine as Harriet the Geek, a massive fan of Star Wars (keep in mind that the game is set in 1978)
  • Declan as Kristin the Monkey, a girl who's only happy when she's running & climbing.
  • Shirley as Jessica the Royal, a year older than the other girls and used to bossing everyone about.

The game began at the funeral of Jessica's twin sister Karen: through a couple of flashback scenes interspersed through the funeral, we saw how the four girls went to Dandelion Valley, a short narrow gulley with steep sides, used as a dump by many adults in town, at the behest of Jessica, who wanted to spend her Saturday playing in a den she would get the others to build. This plan was interrupted by the appearance of a strange, Storm Trooper-like figure at the crest of the slope, almost hidden by the trees, so the girls go to confront them. They panic at being spotted and have difficulty climbing up the slipper slope away from them in their costume. Caught between Kristin and the other girls, Harriet has time to observe that the costume isn't really a Storm Trooper, being especially spoiled by a dandelion-like silhouette on the chest plate. As the figure panics, it blunders into Karen, who is convinced that it is the school-bully (and her boyfriend) Josh trying to play a trick on them; Karen slips and falls down the slope, hitting a large rock on the way down...

At the funeral, Sheriff Lynsey takes Kristin aside to see if she is being made to hide anything about the incident: has anyone threatened her if she reveals what she knows? The next flashback begins at the bottom of the gulley, with the girls gathered around Karen's broken, twisted body: Harry and Kristin take a shortcut back to town over some boggy wetland, leaving Jessica with the body of her sister. Desperate for her sister to not really be dead, Jessica screams for help, but then has a strange, brief vision of her sister being alive and also screaming for help before she passes out. Meanwhile, at the outskirts of the bad part of town, the other girls arrive at Kristin's house and enlist the aid of Kristin's brother Wilson: Harry makes up a story about being attacked by an armed man, so Wilson grabs his baseball bat and sets off to the gulley on his bike. The girls take their secret shortcut back and more-or-less beat him to the scene, despite being told to stay put. Angry, confused and put-upon, Wilson rouses Jessica from her faint, then slings the body of Karen across the back of his bike and rides her back into town, away from the scene of the accident...

Back in the present, the funeral service ends, but whatever Kristin has said to Sheriff Lynsey has not satisfied her; as the mourners move on to Jessica's house for the wake, Sheriff Lynsey attempts to arrest Wilson! Kristin's dad loses his temper and, using the distraction, Kristin sneaks into the back of the Sheriff's patrol car; however, Jessica plays on the Sheriff's emotions and gets her to postpone the arrest until after the wake, so she closes her patrol car door, locking Kristin inside! She takes that opportunity to search the car, finding a notebook in which the Sheriff has recorded the report of a stranger watching the school playground on occasions for the last couple of weeks; meanwhile, indoors, the wake breaks up sooner than expected as whispers spread about Wilson, who seems quiet and dejected. This culminates in Jessica's mother spitting on him as the Sheriff properly arrests him and takes him in. A daring rescue by Harry gets Kristin out of the Sheriff's car in time, but they are seen by Kristin's dad, who takes his daughter home to start ringing around for whatever favours he can call in on his son's behalf. Kristin quickly searches her big brother's bedroom and finds a journal in a well-hidden place, the most recent weeks of which record how he has been watching the girls and recording his activities, but strangely this journal appears to have belonged to someone else first, as she just has time to notice that the older entries are in other handwriting before a deputy arrives at their house and she climbs out of the window.

Jessica and Harry prepare for a sleepover in the former's clubhouse, an extension the spoiled older child has had built off the kitchen of her house; Kristin calls them from the school to meet her there, but the payphone she used rings as she hangs it up. Answering, she hears a lot of static and noise almost masking a voice saying "...help me..." Using the dodgy door on the outside of the school gym, Kristin gets inside but the door slams behind her, trapping her in pitch darkness: she takes a couple of steps but then hears a third and realises she is not alone! She creeps up behind the other person and scares them; spooked, they run for the door into the school, letting Kristin catch a glimpse of an older woman in ragged & torn clothing. Kristin follows and all three girls see the woman burst out of an emergency exit, setting off the school alarm as she does so; deciding that is enough for one day, they head home, except for Kristin who refuses to either go to her own home because of the Sheriff or to Jessica's because of how Wilson was treated there, so she goes back to Harry's.

To Be Continued
Blood & Water is available now on DriveThru: "An awesome, awesome game of mundane nonsense" - Neil Gow

Keep up with new nano-games and other games in development at the Groundhoggoth blog.
James Mullen has received thanks from the following for this post:
Brass Jester, decfeeney
James Mullen
Spaghetti ConJunction
User avatar
Location: Milton Keynes, Bucks
Thanks: 1615 given/1368 received
Playing: A Smorgasbord of Short Games
Planning: Spaghetti ConJunction 2a

Re: [Troublemakers] Dandelion Days

Postby James Mullen » 10:19am on 24 Sep 16

Episode 2

As another test of the system, I deliberately made about half of this session a school day, to see how best to cope with that confined situation: as it turns out, the players found lots of ways around the restrictions, so it went swimmingly!

The next day, Jessica is given strict instructions from her mother not to talk to or play with Kristin anymore, relayed to her by new nanny Eliza: she gives her promise to the nanny, then promptly runs off to meet her friends before they get on the school-bus, but fails to persuade them to skip school and go back to the Valley with her. At the first recess of the school-day, the girls go into the library to look for a book that Kristin remembers some of the older children talking about, but it has already been checked out by Joshua, Karen's boyfriend and a bully to many; Jessica has math for her next period, but Kristin and Harriet are going on a cross-country run (thanks to some nifty wishing from Elaine!) so they split off from the pack and head over to the Valley. Arriving there, they find the old woman they saw at the school last night, who seems agitated and anxious: they guess that she is looking for the strange Clip they found here on the day Karen died and confirm this by showing it to her. She tries to snatch it off them, but they hold onto it and run back towards the school.

At lunchtime, Jessica and Harriet go to see Mr. Lowe, the science teacher, to ask him what he makes of the Clip, after their own investigations nearly break it: he places it on an overhead projector to throw more light on the subject, but the light in the projector flickers and dies while the Clip powers up, a status light coming on and a tinny, buzzing noise emanating from it. When Jessica holds it up to her ear, she can make out the words "Help me Obi-Wan, you're my only hope!" They quickly have to snatch the clip again when Mr. Lowe suggests that he'll find out who it belongs to and give it back to them, and they run into Kristin on their way back to the school's playground as she evades some bullies she has just drenched in soda. When they show Kristin the functioning Clip, she tries to remember what they did in Star Wars to make R2-D2 deliver the whole message, but she only succeeds in completing breaking it! A furious Harriet storms away from Kristin as they fall out (rules get used! Yay!)

Kristin has used her time to find out where Joshua will be after lunch, so she goes to see him before his next class begins and persuades him to let her have the library book; he agrees to give it to her after school, if she meets him at the gates. Kristin goes back to a frosty reception in class, where Harriet has moved desks and the other kids are whispering, passing notes and targeting Kristin with the odd-spitball, ostracizing her in the wake of her brother's arrest. At the end of the school day, Kristin goes to meet Joshua, avoiding the deputy's car that is patrolling outside the school by hopping the fence and coming back at the gates from the opposite direction: she gets the book, but then her name is called over the deputy's tannoy! Before all the kids start looking in her direction, Jessica cuts in and tells the deputy that Kristin never came to school today, then she walks back home with Kristin, while Harriet stomps home alone.

Unfortunately, there is a frosty reception awaiting Jessica at Kristin's house, starting with Sheriff Lynsey waiting inside to question Kristin about her older brother Wilson's whereabouts, as he has somehow escaped custody! Even after that is cleared up, Kristin's parents are less than thrilled to see Jessica there and slam the door in her face! Meanwhile, on her way home, Harriet realises that she has left her bike at school and with the gates locked, the only person she knows who can help her get it back tonight is Kristin, so she heads over to see her and apologise; Jessica is lurking outside when Harriet goes in and gets invited to dinner as a result of the combined emotional manipulation of Kristin's parents by both girls.

Jessica goes home, sneaking in through her den to avoid Eliza the nanny, but her den looks weird in the darkness: turning on her fairy wand for a little light, it looks like the furniture has changed, there is something like a TV table in the middle of the room... and her sister Karen is sitting at it! She panics and runs past this apparition into the house! Meanwhile, Kristin lets Harriet into a secret, by showing her the abandoned and forgotten cellar below the house, where they can now go over everything they know, but they need the journal Kristin found in Wilson's room, which is currently hidden at Harriet's house. Harriet calls Jessica on her Star Wars-themed walkie talkie, so Jessica has a little adventure of her own where she escapes her own house, recovers the journal and sneaks into the basement at Kristin's house... all while being watched by the mysterious old woman.

They start to compare notes: the library book turns out to be a copy of The Time Machine by H. G. Wells, with some note paper (some of it hex paper) stuffed into some of the pages, but further investigation is interrupted when they find that Wilson is hiding down here too! He seems surprised by the journal, claiming that he lost it weeks ago: it was a campaign journal that he was using to plot a D&D game with Joshua, but he doesn't know who has been using it to keep records of the girls' movements, nor why it should be hidden in his room. They are interrupted yet again by the sound of someone else coming down into the hidden cellar, so they switch the lights off and sit quietly in the dark, but it's proving too much for Wilson, who attacks this new intruder: Harriet intervenes with her flashlight, knocking the intruder out and revealing that it is the mysterious old woman! As they discuss what to do next, the girls spill the story of what they really saw in the Valley the day that Karen died and Jessica shows Wilson a drawing of the 'Storm Trooper' she made in math class: Wilson identifies it as the 'Mobile Prototype' as his eyes turn jet black... the girls run away!

Regrouping at the school, Kristin helps them to break in and they hide in the library, discussing more of what they know, until the 'Storm Trooper' arrives but is making a peaceful Vulcan salute! At first claiming to be called 'BB-8' and telling the girls not to trust anybody, they finally persuade this figure to remove it's faceplate, revealing an older woman who looks a lot like Jessica; saying this proves she's family, she begs for their help, but a few slips help the girls get to the bottom of things and they discover that somehow, this is Karen! This Karen tells them that the accident in the Valley didn't kill her, but it did cripple her, forcing her to use a wheelchair and then later, the mobility suit she's now wearing: an incredulous Jessica gets closer to discern if this could somehow really be her sister, but a distrustful Kristin attacks when she thinks the Karen is up to something. In a blur of motion and a flash of light, Karen and the two girls vanish, leaving Harriet alone in a library that is rapidly disintegrating as it succumbs to an expanding circle of cold ash... (creating a lovely final moment of Elaine on her webcam frantically gesturing thumbs down! thumbs down! to indicate running away!)

To Be Concluded!
Blood & Water is available now on DriveThru: "An awesome, awesome game of mundane nonsense" - Neil Gow

Keep up with new nano-games and other games in development at the Groundhoggoth blog.
James Mullen
Spaghetti ConJunction
User avatar
Location: Milton Keynes, Bucks
Thanks: 1615 given/1368 received
Playing: A Smorgasbord of Short Games
Planning: Spaghetti ConJunction 2a

Re: [Troublemakers] Dandelion Days

Postby James Mullen » 12:08pm on 01 Oct 16

Episode 3

Between sessions, I made a slight rules tweak to one of the moves, as I realised that played over this length of time, there was an almost inevitable clock on the PCs activities, with them gaining trouble faster than they could lose it, but everything else remained the same.

Warning: Time Travel Ahead!


We start with a shot of Harriet standing in the playground in the moonlight, staring aghast at the place where her school used to be; meanwhile, Jessica & Kristin find themselves in a white room with a holographic representation of the time-space continuum that somewhat resembles a dandelion. Kristin runs for an exit and comes across a window showing that she is about 40 floors up inside a building in a futuristic city with flying cars outside...

After running home, Harriet awakes the next morning to find that there is no school today (figuratively and literally); meanwhile, Old Karen has taken Jessica back to 1978, also arriving in the morning, at the same place they left, which is now cordoned off and surrounded by patrol cars, fire engines, etc. Karen runs for the fence, with her mobility suit allowing her to leap over it, as Jessica struggles to catch up; she gets a lift from Harriet on her Millennium Falcon bike and they all go back to the Valley.

In the year 2022, Kristin escapes the Dandelion Institute and begins searching for her older brother Wilson, refusing to believe that that was her real brother in the basement under her house, but her search takes an odd turn when the phone booth she enters warps into the same one that was outside the school in 1978 and it rings: she picks it up to hear Wilson asking for her help in getting him out of the Dandelion Institute! (Making a wish in the middle of a temporal paradox had some really weird effects... hold onto your hats as the Bill & Ted homage continues!) Wilson tells Kristin to follow the instructions in the back of his journal: she opens it to find that there is now a full escape plan in it, including instructions on where & when to hide from security by ducking behind potted plants, walking behind other people, etc.

At the Valley in 1978, Old Karen tells the girls how she invented time travel after the accident that crippled her: the only way they can undo the damage her actions have had is to examine the time portal in the future, but Karen can't go near it now in either time zone. She gives the faceplate from her mobility suit to Harriet, which allows her to see what is happening in 2022; if she takes it near the site of the Dandelion Institute, then uses her walkie-talkie to describe what she sees, Karen can use that information to re-calibrate the time portal from this end. They enact this plan, with Jessica providing a distraction that allows Harriet to cycle into the middle of the old school site, where the Dandelion Institute will be built one day...

At the Dandelion Institute in 2022, Kristin finds her brother, but it is the older version of him: they have been using his genetic link to his past self to take control of Young Wilson and turn him into their observer in the past. Old Wilson just wants to send Kristin home and get out of here, but she persuades him that the time portal has to be destroyed in order to put an end to everything. They set off the fire alarm and then run into the time portal chamber in the ensuing confusion, with Kristin hitting a big green button and hoping for the best...

In 1978, Harriet is in position to see Kristin doing all this and then everyone witnesses the time portal ripping open the sky above the school! The tiny figure of Kristin begins to fall down towards the hard concrete of the playground from about 75 feet up; a desperate Harriet puts all her faith in Star Wars and tries to use the force to levitate her friend gently to the ground. This works as she unknowingly activates a safety feature in the advanced technology faceplate she's holding! The time portal has been damaged in the future though, as Wilson does what his little sister wanted him to do, so now the effects are being felt in 1978: as one version of Kristin hugs Harriet gratefully, another, unluckier version from a different time line lies dead beside them (it's those make a wish moves doing crazy stuff again!)

As panic grips the town, the kids return to the Valley to brief Old Karen on their unsuccessful mission, but are interrupted by the Mysterious Old Woman who attacks Old Karen; Kristin leaps on the old lady and in the ensuing fight, it's revealed that this is Old Jessica! Also sent back in time to stop her sister from doing anything crazy, she abandoned that mission the moment she arrived in 1978 out of spite and jealousy towards Karen. The girls decide that this has to end now and get more details from Old Karen about how she invented the time portal, discovering that the idea occurred to her after she was crippled and had a lot of time to herself to go over the notes she had scribbled for her D&D campaign and kept in the pages of The Time Machine. They come up with a plan for Old Karen to physically enter the time portal at this end and use the technology in her mobility suit to close it, returning her to the future for good; Old Jessica at first refuses to come along, as she prefers reliving her childhood nostalgia, but the girls force her to.

With the anomaly of the time portal visible to everyone in town now, there is panic in the streets as the girls head back to the site of the school; things are complicated by the arrival of secret service agents in a helicopter that lands on the playground, but some brilliant lying from the girls convinces the agents that Old Karen is with the CDC (hence the strange suit she's wearing) and they commandeer the helicopter to fly Karen right into the portal! Acting like she's Han Solo, Harriet somehow manages to get the helicopter off the ground and headed towards the portal, while Old Jessica is forced to come with them when Jessica attacks her and Kristin uses the distraction to tie a cable from the helicopter around her belt!

Flying a helicopter is one thing, but landing is another... after Old Karen and Old Jessica vanish when they fly through the portal, it closes with a burst of energy that knocks out the helicopter's electrical systems; any chance of a gentle landing is lost when Kristin throws her backpack into the helicopter's rotor, hoping that when the notes inside it are destroyed, the possibility of time travel being invented in the future will also disappear! The terminally crippled helicopter crashes into the back of Jessica's house, destroying her den and shaking the kids up a lot, but as everyone gathers around them, Harriet spins a story about how the mad person in the weird suit forced them to do all these crazy things (and Elaine got an epic success on her 'tell a lie' move!) Among the grateful & worried families of the girls is Jessica's old nanny Victoria, who is taken aback when Jessica mentions her dead sister Karen, as Karen is right here, alive and largely well!

Epilogue
A week later, the girls are back in the Valley, but instead of Jessica bossing them around into building dens for her, she and Harriet are playing a game of D&D that Karen is DMing; Kristin, of course, is only happy when she's playing in the trees, but as she does so, she finds that one tree has been knocked down, with a weird, clawed footprint in the soil next to it. At that moment, a loud roar echoes through the valley and a reptilian head rears over the tree line...

The End

Big thanks to Declan, Elaine and Shirley: this was a good playtest of the game over a complete, prolonged story and gave me a chance to experiment with starting with a plot in place and revealing parts of it to the players as they explored, plus making up a lot of parts as they contributed to the plot and I had to find places to fit that content in. It worked, but I wouldn't do it every time: I think the happy medium is having a starting event and then just playing from there to backfill the details of that event and exploring the implications it has for the kids and their lives.
Blood & Water is available now on DriveThru: "An awesome, awesome game of mundane nonsense" - Neil Gow

Keep up with new nano-games and other games in development at the Groundhoggoth blog.
James Mullen
Spaghetti ConJunction
User avatar
Location: Milton Keynes, Bucks
Thanks: 1615 given/1368 received
Playing: A Smorgasbord of Short Games
Planning: Spaghetti ConJunction 2a


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