I’ve decided the next episode should examine Mercurio, the party’s mad spark. He wants to work on implant technology amongst other things, but fundamentally he is a bit of an enigma. He was raised in the same poor house as the rest of the party and is definitely a little touched as the old folk used to say.
At the moment he represents a very heretical view of the universe, being a scientist (although he is well studied in matters bio-thaumaturgical). His boss is a true mage, but who believes that there must be technological solutions to the problems humanity faces. He has visions of a world without magic and often shares these strange dreams.
The American colonies with their limited inclusion in the covenants of Europa are forced to make technological solutions to some of these problems and the Professor has made quite a lot of money from his research out of the colonies.
The professor is currently working with semi-conductor technology and has this idea that it may be possible to build a Mechanimal brain with semi-conductor parts that may be capable to much more advanced thinking and calculation than a similarly sized mechanimal mind.
He wants to build a computer. A hybrid Babbage-Tesla mind is probably what he calls it. A cognitive engine.
Anyhoo, this means we can look at this as a sub plot of what ever the next plot should be, a fairly simple Quest to design and build a prototype computer, which, if all goes well, will be a fairly stable AI without having to fill rooms and rooms of space like the current Ottoman models do (although the Chinese have developed some wonderful miniatures that are surprisingly robust, considering).
All of which is indicating a Craft Quest so a
Dominion vs Craft plot conflict possibly. But I actually see this as a feint of the plot which actually wants to examine a Liberty vs Yonder conflict within an arc or larger plot.
So this becomes Mercurio’s hook into a great plot (one of my world building plots to be precise).
Basically the plot dæmon needs the AI constructed so it’s going to try and achieve that by drawing Mercurio’s master (and hence Mercurio) into a Craft Quest.
QUEST: Craft : Construct an Artificial intelligence (technically a Cognitive engine) of at least Boon 51 (2d10) with sub-annexes and limited handicaps (requires power, big, delicate, slow) of no greater than x7. Hidden Quest: Nature: Nurture the AI.
This quest is actually going to be made easier (or possibly not) by Mercurio’s master trying to use magic to help solve the problem (potentially at Mercurio’s suggestion- he has pointed out it should be possible). This means he is going to sidestep the Quest converting the Craft Quest into an Obtain Quest. This he does by simply starting with some Mechanimal components and then some færy components, most of which are going to have to be processed by himself into alchemical metals.
He decides to send Mercurio and friends into the Ordo-Penitus (now reborn as the Ordo-Penitentiary, that will require a number of special permissions from the Autumn Court, which Annie may be able to use to her advantage, as well as arranging some of).
I could prepare a lot of this a head of time, creating the dice-pools for the various extras and NPCs, but honestly the characters haven’t changed that much since the last episode so I can reuse those dice and details.
The Ordo-Penitentiary is a prison and the Unseelie Court, the Crown maintains a garrison just inside the main gateway (called the Black gate)
Realistically the only thing I really have to do is cost the AI (but only once they have managed to find and use the ingredients correctly, missing ingredients will mean missing abilities from the AI) and keep in mind that there is an on going plot (that I don’t want to reveal too much about before we get there) so while I may be improvising this frame episode I do have some ideas.
Since it was still Yuletide (just) I decided to use some of the lesser known Yule traditions for the basis of the episode.
There was an old tradition that made boxing day (the day after Christmas- or saint Stephen’s day) a day of hunting. This is the day the Celts hunted the boar of winter and the English and Welsh have traditions like the Wren hunt and Hare coursing.
The party have to hunt the Wren so that the little bird who is the King (Or Queen) of the birds will lead them to the Well of Truth (also called the Well of Wyrd) where they will be able to grab Water of Prescience, Hazelnuts of Knowledge, and The Immortal Salmon of Wisdom, all of which should be useful to the AI. There is only a couple of problems, firstly that because the Courts have not been allowed to swap by the Queen in a very long time the Ordo-Penitus is trapped in a perpetual winter, the Færy commoners have even resorted to deals with Dæmons to try and preserve themselves. The other problem is that the ancient Celtic Solstice guardian also guards the Well of Truth and the time trapped in one Court has corrupted the Priestly Boar and he has now taken on many aspects of the Warrior Bear. Where once they would have had a nice riddle to solve now they have a battle to the death.
At least that’s the plan.
Actually this didn’t go too far off track. Annie had to arrange that they all had passes to go Wren hunting, and found that they could do it on boxing day without any problems. She was also tasked with inspecting the Black gate garrison for the Autumn Court.
They managed to avoid the roving packs of Goblins in the Ordo-Penitus by virtue of Jack using his Trodding power to successfully get to the Queen of the birds. The Queen (who spoke only in rhyme which made things difficult for the players) agreed to take them to the Well, once they had worked out how to ask. Her payment was that she asked them to kill her so that the Robin may become king. She told Jack and Annie that their bloodline was once responsible for killing her every year, and that they had the power to do it. Jack did the deed, squeezing the life from the little bird.
Then they looked around, of course the Well was frozen solid, and then the Boar-Bear roasted into view and we had a nice little round of combat where the party had a smackdown with a pretty aggressive, but at least partially suicidal Fæ Boar-Bear, they took a little damage, by luck was not on the Boar’s side and it drew very few good cards, eventually dying and collapsing through the now very wet ice. The Well thawed quickly and they were able to gather the things they wanted (and take a few nuts and berries for themselves too). Then Mercurio noticed that there were cogs in the inside of the Well. He sent Steve in for a look and he confirmed it. Mercurio climbed in for a look and drowned himself, only the others were able to hail him out and empty his lungs. Unfortunately the event has had a rather profound effect on Mercurio, raising his madness Handicap to Demonic proportions and giving him access to Twists (as well as making him at least twice as mad as he was).
Oh well, the Professor did say he wanted to extract some Madness in the form of Quicksilver to add to the AI…
The session ended with everyone back in the real world and with the prototype Cognitive Engine calculating, but not yet thinking. The professor was thinking that it ought to be possible to specify the Taboos and Duties that they want it to have with a similar Quest next time…