Monday, March 25, 2013

Huffelpuff & Ravenclaw 11

11: And the Monster of Amristar Chapters 5-6

Chapter 6: The Second Day

This is the beginning of the second session, which I hope will cover from the beginning of classes to the end of Christmas break. This was the start of our second session so I had a chance to ask the players what they intended to do with the day in advance and plan accordingly. These notes should give you an idea of what you might need to do to prep.

In the Dirt

We ended last session with the PCs having learned of Woden's escape. The next class is Herbology, so we can open up the session there. This is meant to do three things 1) Castor, Juliet and Jasmine react to the news of Woden's escape; 2) Give Peri and Juliet/Jasmine to come into contact; 3) Have Castor show off his brown thumb (if you have someone else particularly bad at something then focus there).

I'll leave the first to my clever players. The second comes when Professor Sprout breaks the class up into teams. "In the spirit of cross-fertilization, I want you to split up boy girl, Hufflepuff-Slytherin." This enforced scrum will end with Grendel Green being Juliet’s lab partner, which will, of course, evoke Peri’s ire, or at least reason to say something clueless & mean. Most likely she will make some comment about Juilet's singing voice, and if she does it in here it might just drive all the plants over the brink, making the students chuckle as they water and very gently pluck dead leaves from Wrinkly Puffballs – but don’t disturb the pods!

Roberta Resquiat will be teamed up with Castor, and will be her usual self with the nattering on about the pall of death that surrounds Castor. In this case it will almost certainly be their mutual plant, as she is focusing her attention else-where and he has a Brown Thumb. Their Wrinkled Puffball will explode on a bad roll, coating him with a fine opalescent powder that leaves him wrinkled, as if he had spent forever in the tub. Much gales of laughter followed by Professor Sprout giving him a Thrun, a fruit the constancy of a mango undoes the wrinkles. Here endeth the lesson.

Daisys Potions Class

I want to spend a few moments on Daisy’s potions class, just so that she can have a chance to talk with Regan Undulata. Regan will commiserate on the Prefect workload and the difficulties of keeping all the little rug-rats in line. The two have plenty of common ground, what with both having sisters in the houses they over-see, and Regan holds Daisy no ill will. She even offers a trade with Daisy, saying that if Daisy will help her with Magic History (i.e., do the work) Regan will share Slytherin magic techniques for keeping first years in line, including a soporific spell that forces the little rug-rats to go to sleep. This is something she pulled out of a book on Oniermancy, and we’re setting that up now.

History of Magic as Magic

Pollux is planning to ask Professor Binns if there's a class in the history of magical spellcasting. Binns will, as usual, be hard pressed to break away from his standard lecture to go into detail on this, but he will inform the young man in his most portentous tones that there is no difference between the history of magic & wizard culture. Indeed, as the culture improves in an upward sweep of progress so too does their magic improve. Un-improved cultures have poor magic, improved ones have complex and subtle magic. “By studying a people we can apply a standardized set of rules laid down in a century ago to see how advanced their magic is.”

If Pollux pushes this - perhaps because it is patent nonsense - he'll get Binns riled up. "'Let your doubts not blight what we know to be true'," he quotes, adding that some, such as Linneas De La Marque, might have wizards separate people from their magic for study, but such men are dangerous to themselves and society. If Pollux says anything else, he'll get cut off with points taken from Hufflepuff. Binns is an unrepentant British colonialist, and still holds to the theory that theirs is the most advanced culture with a duty to improve others.

If Pollux instead asks about that standard set of rules he'll be informed that it would represent a considerable and unacceptable deviation from first year curriculum, but he would be happy to direct Mr. Dee to appropriate texts in the library and explain them in office hours. These texts will include the basics of the theory, and some later ones that are ongoing refutations of the new, and more provable theory of taxomancy -the classification of magic based on observable, discrete principles. This is, of course, heresy. And true.

Or, he could talk to other teachers; those will direct him to Prof. Lippershy, who is skilled in taxomancy.  I'm not sure where Pollux wants to go with this, other than just playing around in the world, but I'll give him his lead. Astronomy is the logical place for it, however, and it lets me bring up another element of British Colonialism as a directive hint for the players.

Defense against the Dark Arts

I expect at lunch time the Ravenclaw firsts will confer with Pollux, who will have had his first class with Professor Binns .

And after that it’s time for their first DADA class. Professor Briar will be enthusiastic & impressive, with just a few moments talking about her past before moving on to other topics. Her initial focus is the lure of the Dark Arts, and how Power is not always the path to them; often curiosity, recklessness or the need to preserve something fine but fragile take one there. No house is immune to them, and some practitioners might dispute the label to their dying day. The belief that the line between allowed magic and the Dark Arts is always clear cut is a trap of the simple mind – one that recent events reinforced - but educated minds can divine right from wrong. Over the years, she promises, she will teach them not just how to stop the Dark Arts, but also how to recognize that grey area in themselves.

Still, these ethical questions are for later –now she’ll be focusing on teaching them what they need to know to delay or dispel naturally occurring creatures that use the Dark Arts. A moment’s definition: a creature must be intelligent for its magic to be considered a Dark Art. A dragon might roast you alive, but its flame is not dark art, and they are covered in Professor Kettlburn’s class. A Vampire, on the other hand, thinks, plots, plans. To defeat the dark arts, you must out think it.

She then begins teaching the class the basic rules of counter-hexes. No actual spells today, just the basics of how one hexes and counter-hexes.

Once class is over, she will ask the PCs to stay behind to let them know that Woden had escaped. It is critical that they keep the Mentat Acutia counter-charm ready to hand, and she is accelerating her creation of the warding tokens. Not that she suspects anything will happen, but it is better to be safe than sorry.

Woden Who?

Finally the PCs will have a chance to hit the library. Once there they will have to make some Intellect + Research rolls to learn what they can about Mr. Woden. Castor is on the right track with the Newspaper Files. The last year of Daily Prophet mentions him repeatedly, but not in great detail: a large man, an oneirmancer who drives men mad in their dreams, he has a skill as a diviner that impeded his capture. A Durmstranger. One bit says that he is continuing his five decade long career as a dark wizard and one of the great threats of Europe. From that the players should make a connection with Grindenwald and start researching that age. For Reg, with just the name Reg there isn't much to go on

Any research on Onieromancy will produce a text with the basics of the ability, but also reveal that the library's main text on the magic style is missing. Regan took this out to research the soporific spell she uses on the Slytherin first years to get them to bed on time, but the players might spin any number of other theories.

Chapter Seven: The Meeting

For our purposes, Chapter 7 covers from the 2nd day of class through Halloween.

Up, Up and Away

After the first day’s classes time will pass quickly, and we’ll skip over the first week at the school. Some quick natter about the difficulty of the classes, and then we get to the first Broomstick lesson. Madam Hooch will be there for their initial lesson. Let them fumble around on the brooms for a bit, but there’s no plot here. The one thing of import is Madam Hooch cornering Jasmine concerning Dramaturgy. This year’s show? She & Professor Ogham haven’t yet decided on the tragedy of the Tempest or Dragons! (Based on the poetry collection “The Book of Impractical Dragons) to follow up last year’s comedy Macbeth.  We’ll see if that twigs and bells.

Woden Who Two

Once they start looking in to wartime they learn that Woden was part of Grindelwald’s inner circle. But, as opposed to the most recent Dark Arts war, the last one has too much information for the PCs to sort through in one go. It will take weeks to find things, perhaps the whole semester. Suffice it to say that any research on Woden’s wartime activities will show him to be an unrepentant pureblood racist and dangerous man.

Players doing searching in old books on “Magical Studies” will find a reference to him in his pre-evil days, a glowing description of his work in Dream Analysis as a form of Divination, with a picture of him and his co-workers from Durmstrang. When pressed for a quote, Woden waxed rhapsodic on the “power of Dreams to Shape Reality, creating in destruction, across the storm of time itself.” This is the Tempust he referred to.

When it comes to Reg, there is nothing available in the basic information. Eventually they place the name to Reginald Slaughter, but the books shy away from discussing him, with references to "things everyone knows" and the Empire’s “great shame”. Not as helpful as it could be, other than making it clear that he was British and once a hero. This too will require more research that the PCs have time for on day one.

The Greenlaw Competition

In the school choir, Flitwick, will be training for the upcoming competition with Glasscastle & Greenlaw. Unfortunately for first years, it's an off-site competition - the choir is going to Normandy to visit Greenlaw and only older students will attend. This is not to say that the first years aren't in the choir, but it means Daisy will be out of the country during the competition.

The Choir still have things for Juliet, and Flitwick will ease up on her to keep from scaring her away. She can quickly master the charm of singing self-counterpoint and throwing her voice (Larynlacio) to produce a stereo effect. He will also reiterate that if she is interested in joining the band classes he would love to have her.

Six armed is Fore Warned

Juliet wants to find out more about the six-armed shadow she saw in an office in the Astronomy tower. This will be a little difficult - it is not labeled, is locked, and, in theory, is just another empty office in a school built for a larger student body. It is listed as such in any master floor plan that the PCs manage to research it in the library. If the PCs spent too much time mucking about Filch will start giving them grief, and the professors will all tell them to drop it - not in a "we know a big secret" way, but a "huh? Why bother?" one.

They can try to get the door open: Alohomora will do it, and that's a charm within a first year's range (if they have been doing research on spells, as it's not one normally taught in class); they could steal a master key from Filch or his office (an adventure in itself). Alternately they could stake the room out, or make use of the astral dreaming spells in the Oniermancy book (!) to dream their way into the room. That would be nuts, since that's a 5th year magic (-24 on the test).

If they get in they'll find a small ritual magic altar set up to a multi-armed figure statue of dangerous aspect. (it's the dancing Shiva [Nataraja, lord of the dance, dancing the steps that create the universe], Kettleburn is Hindu, what of it?) with brass bell (Gnesha), incense, a bass lamp with a wick in it that is right out of Arabian Nights, 8 tiny containers of different powders, all laid out over a tiger pelt. I don't know how well the players will divorce their knowledge of Hinduism from what an 11 year old might know, but their first research will reveal that this is Shiva, the god of destruction! This might well remind them of Olaf's Tempust.

If they stake the room out successfully, Sooner or later they'll see Kettleburn return and shut himself in. The latch on the room isn't great unless it's locked with the heavy key, so the door will pop back open on its own as the castle settles. This lets them get in to see the Prof unwind his arms from under his robe and stand revealed in his six armed glory. Seeing this will take a d6 Bravery test to avoid fleeing the room outright - it is damn creepy looking. Mischief rolls are called for to stay hidden or get away. Being seen=detention for sure! They won't be able to discern what magic he's using, as it's not magic so much as a standard religious ritual.

Atop the Ravenclaw Tower

Back to Daisy (and perhaps Juliet), and the plot. One night while she's in her Music classes with Flitwick atop the tower her diminutive professor will be called away by an owl from professor Kettleburn. He will urge her to carry on with her practicing, he'll be back soon; a good Notice roll will let Daisy discern that something in the letter has Flitwick concerned.

While she's alone up there she'll be able to make out a pair of figures in the distant yard, having some sort of secretive conference - one huge man and one tall but stooped one in a purple cloak. Any one of a number of methods (from broomstick flight to improvising a listening charm) will let her overhear and perhaps see the meeting between…Reg and Olaf Woden!

The conversation runs more or less as follows: Olaf has finally located Reg, and he's shocked by the audacity of the disguise: this is quite a fall for the "Monster of Amristar."  Reg shrugs this off, saying that first he has remained hidden for four decades - despite all the ritual indignities suffers to maintain this form - and second that if Olaf doesn’t want to avail himself of the same method he can always shove off. Olaf won't go that far - he is clearly desperate in both tone and body - and still insists on Reg's help. Reg pushes him off, saying that the conditions won't be ready until the end of the term. Woden then vanishes into the forbidden forest and Reg stalks back to the score, both moving with a blurred but very fast step (a seven league boots enchantment).

Red Hot Halloween

If the players have any sense of Drama, they'll delay their assault on Peri for maximum effect. Unbeknownst to everyone Jasmine stuck a jape in her pocket as she ran after the boys in Gambol & Japes. This is a small bottle of "flaming red sauce" that, if consumed in drink or on top of food, will cause the imbiber's hair to immolate. The heat matches a heat lamp so no damage is done, but it sure looks like there's a four alarm blaze. It's used for costumes or at parties, but if no one is expecting the imbiber can expect good dousing.

I have complete faith in the girl's ability to get this into Peri, and Peri will play along by falling prey to the most transparent 11-year-old stratagems. The main goal of this is the girls getting the Oniermancy book that Peri stole from her sister Regan, giving the option of trying something mind numbingly dumb. Grabbing it out of her bag as Peri is being drenched is my best bet.

Once they get the Onerimancy book they'll have a chance to read it, seeing many basic and complex spells in this field, including the theoretical Tempust. They'll also confirm things about Woden, who co-wrote the book. They'll probably wonder how Peri got it!

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