Tuesday 29 September 2020
Thursday 24 September 2020
In ATWC, this hasn't happened yet. The steppe and taiga khanates still enjoy an uneasy independence, but every observer of current affairs can tell that change is on its way. Travel down the Great Road and you'll find foreigners everywhere: some southerners and some easterners and some westerners, but all carrying splendid-looking documents from far-off imperial courts and flanked by serious-looking men wearing strange military uniforms and carrying guns. They are always on the move, these foreigners. They study local languages. They map and survey and observe and inquire. They preach new religions, or disturbingly unfamiliar interpretations of old ones. They hold secret meetings with local princes that go on long into the night. Their horsemanship is comically terrible by steppe standards, and they possess a knack for starving to death in deserts that the locals find quite astounding, but despite these failings they carry themselves with a strange confidence. They seem convinced that the future belongs to them.
|For the Tsar!|
Wherever you go in the steppe khanates, or in the oasis kingdoms of the Great Road, you can bet that agents of foreign empires are there too. (They haven't made it very far into the taiga yet, but they're working on it.) Roll on the tables below to find out what they're up to.
Who is here? (Roll 1d8)
- Merchant-adventurers, scouting out the region's goods and markets on behalf of some far-off trade consortium, watched with loathing by local traders who have operated in this area for centuries.
- Missionaries for some foreign faith, armed with official letters from a distant emperor, scornfully surveying the local temples.
- Negotiators come to arrange a treaty between a nearby ruler and some distant imperial state, speaking the local language very badly and looking extremely pleased with themselves.
- Explorers on horseback accompanied by local bearers, making notes and checking compasses, steadily filling in the blank areas on their maps.
- Scholars affiliated with a far-off university, surveying local customs and monuments and nodding sagely to themselves.
- 'Archaeologists and antiquaries' (read: grave-robbers with fancy licenses), poking around in the ruins outside of town and casually asking where exactly your ancestors are buried.
- Military advisers decked out with the very latest in modern firearms technology, offering to help the local rulers modernise their pitifully outdated cannons and fortifications in exchange for a little quid pro quo.
- Roll again, but they're actually spies from a completely different foreign empire, here in disguise to watch over the activities of their rivals as part of some complicated game of international intrigue.
- Bright-eyed true believer who genuinely believes that absorption into the greater imperial polity is the best thing that could possibly happen to a benighted backwater like this one.
- Dead-eyed veteran of the imperial war machine, whose utterly impersonal brutality makes even the most savage khans shiver.
- Long-term field agent who went native years ago, and now identifies more with the khanate they're posted to than the distant empire they supposedly serve.
- Embarrassing failure from a minor imperial house, sent out to the back of beyond with strict orders not to return home until they've actually accomplished something.
- Disgraced courtier who knows full well that they've been sent out here as a punishment, and resents it bitterly.
- Bookish academic convinced that their years of study in the archives have allowed them to understand the region much better than the people who actually live there.
- Enterprising merchant who sees the whole region as a series of mouth-watering opportunities for economic exploitation.
- A member of a local ethnic group with a painstakingly acquired imperial education, who has carved out a precarious place for themselves as an intermediary between their country and the empire while feeling painfully out of place in both.
- To lay the groundwork for the conquest and annexation of the region by the empire they serve.
- To change the region's culture and religion in ways that will align it with the empire.
- To gain revenge on the descendants of the nomad warlords who terrorised their empire generations ago.
- To suppress the bandits and raiders based in the region, who are disrupting the empire's overland trade.
- To gain access to the natural resources of the region and exploit them for everything they're worth.
- To turn the local rulers against their imperial rivals, who are also active in the region.
- To establish new trade routes and markets for the empire's merchants and manufacturers.
- To bring down the local regime and replace it with one more amenable to their empire's interests.
- To establish a military alliance with the local rulers, in the hope of securing troops to fight in some distant imperial warzone.
- To loot all the valuable books, treasure and antiquities they can get their hands on, on behalf of some far-off imperial archive or museum.
- To establish covert diplomatic ties with the Wicked City. (All the empires insist loudly that they would never bargain with a state so obviously impious, but many of them do so anyway, albeit in secret. Empires always have uses for another delivery of cut-price muskets and clockwork soldiers!)
- Roll again, but the second roll is just a cover story: they're actually part of a rebel faction within the empire, secretly gathering allies and resources for a planned uprising. (Yes, if you also rolled an 8 on the first table, this means they're actually spies posing as rebels posing as something else. Welcome to the Great Game!)
- Less than zero. This mission has been deliberately set up to fail, as a deniable way of getting rid of someone inconvenient. No matter what happens to it, the empire will do nothing to intervene.
- Zero. This mission is essentially a punishment assignment for people who've made the wrong enemies. No-one in power will care if they don't make it home alive.
- Minimal. This mission is a gamble by some minor minister or provincial governor, who would very much like it to succeed but doesn't really have the resources to properly support it. Minor levels of military and/or financial reinforcement will be sent if they are in truly desperate need.
- Local. No-one really cares about this mission back in their distant imperial capital, but one local faction (roll 1d4 - 1 = religious group, 2 = ethnic group, 3 = political faction, 4 = merchant consortium) would like to see it succeed for private reasons of their own, and is willing to commit substantial resources to bring this about.
- Financial. This mission is being financed by someone with extremely deep pockets, and carries letters of credit that allow them to call upon staggering amounts of money on demand.
- Military. This mission is being backed by someone with a lot of soldiers at their disposal, who is perfectly willing to send a whole lot of men to their deaths if it will help ensure the mission's success.
- Covert. Although only minimally supported by its notional patrons, the mission is actually being backed by another imperial power, for nefarious reasons of its own. They are willing to offer it substantial support, but only in indirect and deniable forms.
- High. This mission has the full backing of the imperial government, which regards it as a strategic priority and are willing to launch large-scale military or diplomatic reprisals against anyone impeding or threatening it.
Friday 18 September 2020
|Vesorianna's ghost. I'm sure there's a totally legitimate in-universe reason why the damage to her clothes persists but the damage to her skin does not.|
- The village was targeted by Vorkstag and Grine because of the preservative qualities of its soil. They emptied its graveyard one grave at a time, and when demand outstripped supply they started murdering locals. Their first victim was a local poacher whose face Grine wore in order to infiltrate the community, and the actual murders were carried out by Vorkstag wearing the face of a horribly deformed man, ensuring that any witnesses would be led astray. The villagers still boast of how they drove the 'Beast' out of their boneyard, but a careful search of the site will reveal a secret stash containing medical tools and the poacher's preserved and flayed-off face. If the tools are shown to local manufacturers of medical implements, they can identify them as part of a bulk order sold to Vorkstag and Grine Chymical Works.
- The asylum doctor had a two-way deal with Vorkstag and Grine, buying bodies from them in bulk for his own medical research while selling them the corpses of his own more physically unusual patients. He eventually became suspicious about exactly where all these fresh corpses were coming from and tried to break off the deal, at which point Vorkstag put on his monster face, killed the doctor, and burned the place down. Witnesses report seeing the 'Beast' fleeing the scene, but a careful search of the burned-out ruins reveal hidden dissection rooms below, and charred but still legible account books showing regular payments to and from Vorkstag and Grine Chymical Works.
|The skin wardrobe. Ewww.|
Castle Caromarc: If the PCs save the Beast, it will tell them that the men who controlled it must have done so using the machines of its creator, the reclusive Count Caromarc. If they don't save it, then as it is dragged off to execution it will roar and bellow that its 'father' Count Caromarc will never forgive them for this, which should point them in the same direction!
Friday 11 September 2020
'The Ruin' is a fragmentary Old English poem in the Exeter Book, written by an unknown Saxon poet contemplating the ruins of a Roman city. Fittingly enough, 'The Ruin' has itself been ruined, its pages partly destroyed by some ancient fire. But what remains is pretty powerful stuff.
At the start of the pandemic, as the death tolls soared and the lockdowns began, two lines from 'The Ruin' became absolutely lodged in my head.
Crungon walo wide, cwoman woldagas
swylt eall fornom secgrofa wera
[Slaughter ranged widely, plague days came,
Death took all the brave men away.]
The subject matter is bleak, but the verse is wonderful. (Read the first line out loud, slowly. Notice the way the first three words reach out and fall back like dying men, and the way the word 'woldagas' looms up suddenly, like Death on his pale horse rising up over the horizon.) It's an excellent early example of the 'aesthetics of ruin' I described here, mingling awe at the achievements of the ancients with sorrow at the obviously catastrophic nature of their fall. As the year has gone on, it's also become a bit of a touchstone for me in relation to the 'City of Spires' campaign.
In a response to my 'aesthetics of ruin' post, Arnold K described 'Starfighter Samwise' as 'the ruiniest thing I've ever written'. Well, City of Spires is the ruiniest thing I've ever run. It's set in a ruined city built on top of another ruined city. The population is a remnant of a remnant. The trade routes are fading ruts in the desert. The priests are all dead and the local religion consists of things that people vaguely remember hearing about in sermons from their childhood. The clockwork machines are rusting and broken. The irrigation networks have collapsed from lack of maintenance and the wells are choked with sand. There are very few real villains: just a whole lot of badly damaged people groping their way through the wreckage of their lives, with figures who initially seem terrifying repeatedly turning out to be pitiable upon closer examination. If ATWC is about evil, then City of Spires has mostly ended up being about loss.
(One of the most effective moments in the campaign so far came with the PCs barricaded inside a ruined house, while the Weeping Lady, a blind, flying monster who haunted the city by night, scratched and clawed at the timbers. As she scratched, she kept calling out in some ancient tongue, and at last the group's scholar was able to translate her words: 'Who's there? Is anyone there? What's happening? What's happened to me?' The party's shift from seeing her as a terrible threat to just a poor, maimed, lost thing hiding in the night was very gratifying to see, even if they remain rightly wary of her capacity for extreme and indiscriminate violence.)
As well as giving the campaign a consistent aesthetic register - rust, ash, tarnished metal, rags, rubble, malnutrition, sand - the ruination of the setting has made it much easier to work with, actual-play-wise. In true post-apocalyptic style, the armed forces of the various factions are closer to street gangs than armies. The clockwork machines are all damaged and malfunctioning. No-one has much in the way of magic, or technology, or resources, or control over anything outside their own respective patches of turf. Everything is so smashed and broken that even a handful of opportunistic lunatics like the PCs are regularly able to make a real difference.
It's also made the hexcrawl elements I mentioned in my last post much easier to run. In a setting where everyone is just barely scraping by at the bottom of the pyramid of human needs, strengths and weaknesses tend to be obvious, and the objectives of each faction are usually of an extremely straightforward and easily legible kind. We need food. We need protection. We need to destroy our rivals. We have a field. We have a castle. We have a well. Everything is stripped down to its most elemental forms, which makes it much easier for the PCs to interact with them. Complexity can be reserved for those rare groups and individuals who have managed to drag themselves a few rungs up above the daily struggle for bare survival.
Crungon walo wide, cwoman woldagas / swylt eall fornom secgrofa wera. If you want to make a setting easier to game in, hit it with a dose of the old crungon. Take all the brave men away. Turn your PCs loose in the wreckage. The setting's loss may well turn out to be the campaign's gain.
Thursday 10 September 2020
We played another session of City of Spires last night. Various things happened - barge sabotage, crop burning, resume faking, Crime Tribe diplomacy, the usual - but one incident in particular is going to stay with me forever. The incident in question was that of Naked Spiderman and the Crab Balloon.
|A Crab Balloon. Please don't google 'Naked Spiderman'.|
The situation was this: the Scaleboys, thuggish rulers of the City of Spires, were setting out on their horrible vulgar gilded barge to collect tribute from their vassals on the other side of the river. This tribute-gathering-cum-extortion expedition was led by none other than Zal, their chief enforcer, against whom the PCs harboured a serious grudge. The only Scaleboy to have passed twice through the mysterious House of Scales, Zal was a mountain of a man, a mass of bulging muscles and imbricated scales squeezed into a slashed silk peach-and-crimson doublet. Reasoning that anyone that big and heavy would probably sink like a stone in water, the PCs decided to try to sink his barge and drown him in the river mid-crossing.
Here was their plan: first, they made an improvised dogcatcher pole, using a thick wire lasso attached to the end of a metal rod. (They have plenty of wire because the Weeping Lady vomits/exhales massive impaling clouds of the stuff at them every time they fight her.) Second, they made an improvised snorkel using a long, thin wooden tube. Thirdly, their mutant crab-man cleric Crabface cast Levitate on himself and sank beneath the water of the river: his mutations allowed him to breathe underwater, and the Levitate spell ensured that he would neither rise or sink, simply being carried along at an even pace by the current. Fourthly, Barnabus the magic-user stripped down to his loincloth, put on the snorkel, stowed a sealed jar of corrosive sludge under one arm, and slid into the river until only the tube of the snorkel was above the water. The plan was that Crabface would hold Barnabus's legs, and the two of them would drift downriver on an intercept course with the Scaleboy barge, passing just under it and allowing Barnabus to reach out and cast two Dessicate spells on the timbers of its base before pouring the corrosive sludge over the side. The timbers would shrink, the sludge would eat a hole in the barge, water would pour in, and the barge would hopefully sink: then Crabface would be able to swim up from beneath Zal, grab one of his ankles with the dogcatcher pole, and Levitate right down to the bottom of the river, pulling Zal down to drown in what would hopefully appear to be a mere accident rather than a targeted assassination.
The first part of the plan went well. Barnabus cast his Dessicate spells and stealthily poured in his sludge, the timbers shrank, and the barge started filling with water: but there were a lot of people in it, all with crates and barrels on-hand for collecting tribute in, and they were collectively able to bale a lot of water, making the barge unlikely to sink before it reached the other bank. Deciding more sabotage was necessary, Barnabus popped up from the water and began using a Mage Hand spell to pull their buckets away, yank oars out of line, and generally fuck with them: several people on the barge saw a strange naked man sticking out of the water casting spells at them, but they were all too busy bailing to do much about it. With the barge sinking fast, the Scaleboys and their servants began grabbing onto crates and barrels and preparing to swim for the far shore: at this point Barnabus cast a Light spell on Zal's eyes, hoping to blind him, but the huge Scaleboy shook it off. Then Crabface decided that he would try a Light spell too... and that's when everything started to go wrong.
In order to cast Light, Crabface had to let go of Barnabus and float up to the surface. Barnabus knew how to swim, but he was really suffering in the cold of the water. He had spent the previous year at a continuous comfortable temperature thanks to a magical amulet: but he'd lent the amulet to his friend Lucius, who was currently sleeping rough on a hillside as part of his guerrilla war on the poppy fields used by the Scaleboys to make opium, and he was not coping well the cold autumnal river as a result. Barely able to move his freezing limbs, Barnabus was swept downriver by the current.
Crabface cast another Light spell on Zal, but he shook that one off as well, and joined his minions in the water, swimming for the shore. Crabface swam up beneath him and grabbed for his leg with the dogcatcher pole, but missed, and soon Zal and the rest were in water too shallow for him to make another attempt without being seen. The Scaleboys clambered up out of the water, dripping and furious, and Crabface decided to swim downriver to see what had become of Barnabus.
It was just as well he did. Barnabus had been carried downriver into the territory of the Crusties, near-mindless human/crustacean hybrids who nested in the flooded sections of the ruined, haunted mansion of the fallen House of Swords. As the Crusties closed in around him, claws clacking, Barnabus made a desperate choice: he cast Spider Climb on himself, held his breath, dropped under the water, and used Spider Climb to scamper along the bottom of the river and up the nearest bank. The Crusties tore at him as he went and he burst out of the river naked, covered in blood, and more dead than alive. It was at this point that Crabface spotted him.
Seeing his friend being mobbed by the Crusties, Crabface tried to use his own part-crustacean nature to signal to them to call off the attack - but he only succeeded in confusing some of them, and others ripped into Barnabus as he tried to Spider Climb his way up the side of the House of Swords, causing him to drop bleeding and unconscious to the floor. Launching himself out of the water, Crabface grabbed him and used Levitate to fly straight up: the Crusties tore at him, too, and by the time he was out of their reach he had only 1 HP left. (Barnabus was on -1 HP and rapidly bleeding to death.) Collapsing onto a crumbling ledge, Crabface used Cure Light Wounds spells to drag them both off death's door. But Levitate only allowed him to move straight up and down, which was no use: only the sky was above them, and the furious Crusties were circling the building below.
But Barnabus still had Spider Climb active. And that, it turned out, was all they needed.
Normally, Barnabus would never have been strong enough to carry Crabface. But Crabface still had an active Levitate spell, so lifting him wasn't an issue - he just needed something to pull him sideways. Adjusting his dogcatcher noose, he tied it around Barnabus's waist: then he held onto the pole, and levitated a few inches into the air. Barnabus, still dripping, bleeding, naked, and white with cold, then got down on all fours and began spider-manning his way across the tops of the walls, leaping from building to building, trusting to his Spider Climb spell to allow him to stick onto whatever surface he landed on. Crabface, tied onto him via the pole, floated behind him like a big, ugly mutant balloon, drifting over the ruined buildings until they had left the furious crusties far behind...
...and thus it was that, when the rest of the party came to rescue them, they were greeted with the sight of Naked Spiderman and the Crab Balloon, clambering over the rubble to meet them. It was a sight that would haunt them for the rest of their days.
* * *
Emergent nonsense like this is my single favourite thing about oldschool sandbox play. The threats were real: given the number of attacks he faced, I worked out later that Barnabus had only had something like a 16% chance of surviving his encounter with the Crusties. The solutions grew out of desperate improvisation, making use of whatever random tools the PCs had access to. And the result was something that just about made sense in context, but was so compellingly bizarre that we'd never, ever have come up with it on our own without the force of random results and enforced creativity to push us into action. Naked Spiderman and the Crab Balloon is now going to be the unofficial logo for the whole campaign.
I'll get back to the 'lessons learned' posts soon!
Monday 7 September 2020
As I mentioned in my last post, one of my objectives for 'City of Spires' was to create a version of ATWC with a lower barrier to entry, suitable for running with new players with minimal introduction. 'You're in an animistic Early Modern Central Asian clockpunk setting' was never going to fly. It would have required hours of explanation - and whenever I'm gaming with new players, I always feel that I've failed unless we can be actually playing within about ten minutes of sitting down at the table.
So I resorted to my standard level 0 opening gambit: 'you're displaced peasants who have been forced to leave your community for the first time in your lives'. This set-up ensures that the ignorance of the players is matched by the ignorance of the characters, allowing them to learn about the setting together, through exploration rather than exposition. (Always show. Never tell.) This, in turn, changed their relationship with the city, which for them became an unknown zone to be explored, hexcrawl-style, one district at a time. In the first session they wandered in through the ruins of the southern suburbs and just started looking around. They've never really stopped.
The current player-facing version of the city map. Note that even after a full year's play, large areas remain unexplored.
Hexcrawls and cities make for a somewhat awkward combination. Hexcrawling in, say, a forest makes perfect sense: anything could be in there, and the only way you'll be able to find out what's where is to walk in and start looking around. But urban geography is purposive, designed to channel people towards the key landmarks and areas of economic activity. Only flâneurs and lost tourists just wander around a city block by block to see what they will find, but to experience a city in the way it's designed to be experienced means losing the 'one thing at a time' quality that makes hexcrawls so useful as a way of introducing players to settings.
My solution was, essentially, to make the outer city into a wilderness. Only the inner northern segment with the market and the palace was still densely populated enough to function like an actual city: the rest was ruins, rubble, scavengers, survivors, outlaws, lunatics, and monsters, and had to be hexcrawled in exactly the same way as any other dangerous wilderness area. (In ATWC terms, I combined the Streets with the Rubble and stretched them out right around the city.) But everything in the outer city was still connected with things in the inner city, whether through trade, enmity, vassalage, or simple shared history. As a result, as the PCs bounced around the southern ruins interacting with its various weird and wonderful inhabitants, they learned more and more about their relationships with each other and with the still semi-functional city on the other side of the river. By the time they reached the city proper they came not as total outsiders who needed to have a whole setting's worth of information thrown at them at once, but as people who already understood most of what was going on there through seeing the effects it had had on the communities beyond.
The most crucial bit of design I had to do in writing up the city was to make sure that everything connects, using a version of this method, thus ensuring that encounters with one group led naturally to learning about (and often meeting with) others. The stockade-dwellers pay tribute to the city's rulers, and resent it. They also want to drive the devil-worshipping bandits out of a nearby temple. The bandits seek the magic hidden in the seclusium. The seclusium contains a resurrected thief who wants to take over the nearby slaver gang. The slavers make their money selling slaves to the city's rulers. The power of the city's rulers depends on their control of a giant iron serpent. The pit the serpent rose out of is inhabited by subterranean rot farmers. The rot farmers are upset about losing control of part of their territory to some kind of worm cult. The worm cult came from a distant necropolis. The true mistress of the seclusium, trapped in suspended animation, originally resurrected the thief in the hope of robbing that same necropolis. And so on, and so forth... it didn't matter where the PCs started, because everything ultimately led to everything else. In consequence, one year on they are ludicrously networked, and able to deal fluently (and often manipulatively) with a range of NPCs and factions which would have been simply overwhelming if presented to them all at once.
This might sound like a lot of work, but it really wasn't, because all the complexity is emergent rather than scripted. Each faction could be summed up by a few lines: who they are, what they have, what they want, who leads them, how they relate to other groups, maybe 1-2 extra NPCs, and a few bits of key imagery that will ensure the PCs remember them. (This last bit is crucial. One of my players has yet to remember a single NPC name, but he remembers 'the electric skeletons' or 'the girl with all the feral peacocks' easily enough.) And I think it's a methodology that could potentially have wider application. You start with your Fancy Complicated Location, the one you've been wanting to use for ages but never do because you know your players would get lost in all the infodumps. Then you put it in the middle of a hexcrawl, full of groups that relate to various different aspects of it and each other, and you start the PCs off right at the edge of the map. By the time their drunkard's walk through the surrounding hexcrawl finally brings them to the central location, your PCs will have picked up an understanding of it by osmosis, and should be ready to fully engage with it in all its over-complicated glory.
Just don't overstock the hexcrawl. That was my mistake. Thank God for extremely patient players.
Next: crungon walo wide...
Friday 4 September 2020
There's aover the mountains. The people call it the .
In the daysyour great-grandparents it was rich and proud and prosperous. Traders thronged its streets. Coloured lamps flared in every window. Gold poured through the silk-gloved hands its laughing lords.
In the daysyour grandparents the caravans from the west stopped coming. The roads were all closed, and could not be reopened. The 's markets fell silent.
In the daysyour parents the started to crumble. The wealthy fled. The poor whispered strange sights in the twilight. People said that the was under a curse.
In the daysyour youth, war came to the . Faction rose against faction, house against house. The palaces burned. At last a great iron serpent tore its way out the earth and destroyed all before it until only its masters remained, preening self-crowned kings a ruins.
Yesterday the local lord rode into your village with a retinuemounted soldiers. He said that your hovels were equally fensive to the eyes and to the nostrils, and had furthermore produced no tax revenue worth collecting for the last nine years, so he was going to knock the whole place down and turn it into a game reserve instead.
Where shall we go?' the people asked him. And he shrugged and gestured down the road that leads to the.
As I mentioned in my last post, for the last year I've been running a (modified) B/X campaign called 'City of Spires'. We're currently thirty-something sessions in, with something like a hundred hours of total actual play behind us. It is not yet a campaign on the same scale as my previous 'Team Tsathogga' game, which ran for seventy-odd sessions over the course of three years: but it still represents a pretty considerable amount of gaming, and I'm very happy with the way it's run so far.
'City of Spires' was my attempt to put my ATWC material to use in an actual game, and as such it's prompted me to think about the differences between writing setting material and actually using it. When I started this blog, back in 2015, I was between gaming groups, and I wasn't really writing for anyone except myself: in fact, if I'm honest with myself, the reason I wrote about a campaign setting was because I wasn't getting the chance to run one. As a result, I wrote my early ATWC material without ever having to confront the key question: 'nice idea, but how exactly can I use it in this week's game?' This isn't any kind of repudiation - I don't think any of the stuff I've written for the setting over the years is unusable - but it is an explanation for why what I initially wrote and what I ended up running ultimately turned out to be two quite different things.
When the 'Team Tsathogga' campaign finally ended due to some of the players moving away, the remaining players and I agreed that we should start a new campaign at level 0, in some other region of the same campaign world. I saw this as a chance to finally use my ATWC material, but I immediately faced several problems:
- Some of my players had read the blog, meaning that they'd know all about the setting (including lots of things they really shouldn't know) right from the start.
- ATWC assumes an animist cosmology with little or no standard D&D magic. But the world of Team Tsathogga, which the new campaign was going to be set in, was already established to be a science fantasy setting with standard D&D magic all over the place.
- ATWC is a fairly high-concept setting, and requires a high level of player buy-in. But I knew that some of the players would be new to gaming, and didn't want to shove them into the deep end any more than I had to.
- It's just too fucking big.
|'Sorry - which faction are you guys from, again?'|