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A Visit to the New Guttershine Academy, Part 1

This entry is part 4 of 15 in the series Adventures in Bastion

Having escaped the Buttonsnemp Researchery with at least some amount valuable stuff last time, Nujanai, Fermi, and Emmeline decided to take the night to recover, burning almost the last of their monies on a room (but no food) to share with one another and Nujanai’s seven Mockery recruits. 

We picked up the next morning, where the group decided that, as badly injured as most of them were, obtaining some healing would be wise before trying to navigate campus and submit their salvaged books (and other stuff) for the promised money. 1

Farewell, sweet arthropoidal Mockeries.

To that end, they visited a pawn shop near the fleabag hostel where they’d slept. After a long session of bartering, they sold the shopkeeper a silver bracelet for £50, and after Nujanai and the Mockeries upset the shopkeeper, Fermi used his fruit-carving skills to deescalate the situation: he turned a carrot into a parrot, and this convinced the shopkeeper that a little squadron of a dozen carved fruit and vegetable animals would be the perfect adornment to a expensive bowl that a patron was coming to pick up that afternoon. (Fermi was paid another £50 for the carvings.) The shopkeeper offered the group the opportunity to delivery the bowl for a little more money, but the group declined, explaining that that needed to head to the hospital. 

As two of the characters had lost a significant amount of their STR scores, they had two options: quick healing would cost £400—of which £300 would have to be assume debt. Slow healing would take a full night’s rest and some time in the morning to be discharged, but would in contrast only cost £100. They opted for the latter, and in the morning discovered that they’d lost more than time and £100: two of Nujanai’s Mockery henchmen—the Lobsters—were missing. The other Mockeries offered a jumbled mess of explanations, but the nurse a the entrance of the building commented that the trio’s “friends” who’d visited the night previous had left with the Lobsters. (With no “friends” having actually visited them, they were perplexed, but shrugged and decided to make for the campus.)

At the front gate, in the middle of the wall surrounding campus, stood a gang of students:

“Student Identification?” they demanded, and the group noticed that they were armed, mostly with what looked like pistols. Eager to deescalate the situation, Fermi joked with them about student life and offered them a drink, drawing forth the bottle in his pack containing the Pregabalin, about which the Electric Bastionland rulebook says the following:

Pregabalin: Smoky, sweet, and lemony. Just a very, very good drink. Definitely not a nerve agent.

He poured out four shots for the four students at the front gate, and in a few minutes they were unconscious. Under the pretext of helping them, the group searched them, finding only a few pounds in small change, but also discovering that all but one of their pistols were in fact either stag props or carved from soap. Nujanai, ever the packrat, took the soap guns, as well as one pistol (d6) and a pair of sharp kitchen knives (4) but left the stage props, and then Fermi informed him and Emmeline that the students would only stay unconscious for two to two-and-a-half hours. Since they’d probably come looking for the group after they recovered, time was short, so everyone decided to get a move on. 

Luckily, they found a stack of brochure maps of campus at the front gate:

Since there was a clock ticking—figuratively: I’m using the “clock” system from Blades in the Dark to track travel times on campus, as well as the advancement of certain threats both known and unknown to the PCs—let’s get chronological. 

12:00: The party heads to 2. Admissions Hall

12:15: The party arrives and enters 2. Admissions Hall

12:45-ish: Emmeline and Fermi arrive at the 3. Grand Amphitheatre.

13:00: The group arrive at the 5. Campus Armory

13:30: The group arrives at 7. Campus Greenbowl, a large field filled with a raucous crowd containing countless students drinking, dancing, cheering, and chanting. 

And that is where we left off. 

GM Notes: 

Don’t read further if you’re a player, you know who you are. 

I’m pretty happy with the prep work I did on this. 

Setting Notes:

The whole Theorists vs. Applicationists is sort of my Bastion’s version of the Quarrel of the Ancients and the Moderns, reconfigured for a breakneck technofantastic setting. There’s plenty of handwaving nonsense on both sides, so players can dive in and bullshit along. 

That said, the “inebrifixion” rite (yes, the word is my coinage)—kidnapping students from an opposing group, getting them drunk, and then affixing them to large alphabetical letters that are “planted” on a specially prepared ground on campus, as the setting for a big brawl?

That’s basically a thinly veiled reenactment of a Hell Week event (known as “the E-plant”) which happened annually at the university where I did my undergraduate degree. One our campus, it was engineering students kidnapping the President of the Agriculture Students’ Association, getting him 3 drunk for some extended period of time, stripping him down down underwear and then duct-taping him to a large iron “E” which got planted on “E-plant” hill, at which point the engineers—stripped to their waists and covered in vaseline and body paint—chanted and taunted the Agriculture students. A brawl typically followed. 

In my freshman year, I was warned that Arts & Science students who got caught in the middle of this tended to be forcibly separated from their trousers, so I avoided the entire proceedings. This was easy since there were underground pedestrian walkway tunnels connecting almost the entire campus.  

This photo of the event, from the university’s archives, was taken during my time on campus:

There’s an account of the event here. Probably not too crazy by US university standards, but seeing as we had neither sororities nor fraternities, this was extremely atypical behaviour on our campus. (Perhaps less so in the past? I get the impression that college pranks and similar events were more common before my time at the school. 4

Prep Notes:

Most of my prep time really went into making some funny tokens and creating multiple versions of the campus map with different key text. I’m running this as light and on-the-fly as I’ve ever run anything, and overall I’m happy with how it’s going.  I’m also happy that such light prep is still likely to hold us over for another few weeks!

I find myself eager to play again, as I’m curious to see how all of this insanity is going to come out in the end and I honestly have no idea what’s going to happen in the next session. (I have vague ideas about what might happen, but I did not expect the characters to be facing inebrifixion, so… well, the PbtA dictum “Play to find out what happens next” definitely applies to our game, and I honestly have no idea. I guess that means we’re doing something right!

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  1. Muhahaha.

  2. His logic, apparently, is that the inebrifixion involves people being affixed to large letters, and Nujanai’s body being covered by letter-printed paper might somehow affect their captors’ treatment of the group.

  3. You will not be surprised at all to hear that this event was dominated, on both sides, by male students, I’m sure.

  4. There had been “Godiva rides” just a few years before I started university (though maybe not always exactly what you imagine that means—I suspect usually it was a woman, though); they ended several years before I enrolled. They—sensibly—were shut down after the Montreal Massacre, which… well, talk about the tip of the spear for the antifeminist backlash we’re living through now. The video on that last article especially: “If they just let it die down on its own it’s go faster than trying to force people.” Ah, the “Just be patient,” argument.

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