Sunday, August 14, 2022

[Crossing the Streams] Demon Realm of Makai in the Pokéverse

After a long period with a ton of writing, I’ve kind of been taking a break… well, writing for publishing, that is.

Dan Proctor of Goblinoid Games has placed social media for Labyrinth Lord and the Pacesetter Games systems on “hiatus” for now. Apparently, he is figuring out what to do and which way to go with the systems. Though we have worked very closely together for more than a decade now, I am as much in the dark as to what is going to happen as everyone else. So, I’m holding off on any further development of Labyrinth Lord products.

I am working on a Castles & Crusades campaign setting, but that is slow going. After finally pushing through Eldisor after several years of development, another campaign setting is a bit of a slog. But interesting things are developing there, they are just going to take some time.

For now, then, I am concentrating on playing, rather than working on games. Though of course, that involves some work in and of itself. Jodi and I have started up our third one-on-one campaign, and this time we are seriously crossing the streams – first we played Pokémon using 5E D&D rules, then we played Darkstalkers using 5E D&D rules.

This time we are combining the two in the Makai Region of Tokyo Nation in the Pokéverse.

Makai is a region north of Johto and west of Byoga (the region I created for Jodi’s Pokémon D&D adventures). It is surrounded by high mountains, virtually walled in from the rest of the world, and has been closed to outsiders for more than a century.

But now they have opened the gates to their domain for Pokémon Trainers to participate in the First Annual Makai Pokémon League Championship. Jodi’s character, Ayame Himura, gained an invite, due to her winning the championship in Byoga Region three years ago (she has been aged up to 13, and she and her Pokémon have gained a few levels, plus she gained a few Pokémon from as yet untold adventures in Kanto and Hoenn). Her sponsors are Legitimate Businessman Giovanni Razzo and G-Man and Elite Four Member Lance Blackthorn, whom she has gained as allies during her adventures.

She is traveling with her original two companions, Andrea and Bobby, who have also aged up and leveled up to meet the challenge.

Makai is known for being “Tokyo Nation’s Very Own Transylvania,” and is rumored to be home to vampires, werewolves, and worse things. It is known to be home to many rare and unusual Dark, Ghost, and Poison Pokémon, and it is said that there is a special Demonstone that can also transform Pokémon in dreadful ways…

The culture and technology there is ca. 1890s. Slow railroads are the fastest transportation, and there are only three limited lines… otherwise, transport is on foot or by horse and wagon, buggy, or carriage. Clothing, housing, communications, weapons – all are a century or more behind. The only high technology the Makai have adopted is Pokémon related, such as the Pokémon Teleportation Center (PTC) which is used to switch out Pokémon from your home Pokémon Professor. Other than the PTC and some medical devices for the care and healing of Pokémon, the Makai have not adopted new technologies. There are not even any telephones, though certain towns and cities have access to a telegraph system.

The characters have had to hunt up Victorian/Steampunk/Gothic style clothing (difficult, as Bobby and Andrea are clothes-hounds); stock up on paper and ink to send back letters; and surreptitiously prepare specific capsules (a la Dragon Ball, which I borrowed for the Pokéverse) in case a need for high technology arises.

Session 01 (220814)
Today we had our first brief session. The trio rode an antiquated Makai style train from Café Town to Eastgate, crossing the Potato Plains. They fell asleep in their compartment, which was decorated oddly with bats, skulls, and other “Halloween-style” décor. They were awakened by the snack tray server, who struck them as being not unlike a female Frankenstein monster, scars from stitches and bolts in the neck and all. They turned down her offer of sugared eyeballs, jellied bat’s wings, and ladyfingers – and even the bottles of “soda” looked a bit too blood red, ichor black, and glowering green for their tastes.

They arrived in Outer Eastgate in time for dinner. There they met with Giovanni and Lance, who provided them with some more information on Makai. 
  • They were informed, to their chagrin, that the sweets that were offered really were sweets… though in Makai itself, buyer beware!
  • The snack cart servant, it turns out, was of the Schreckvolk – tall, muscular, gray-skinned, angular build, common in Aconite City and Wisteria Village and the Schreckvald region in northeastern Makai. They often serve in menial positions or as laborers. The “bolts” are said to be some sort of cultural piercing jewelry, and the scarification is said to be ritualistic…
  • They were informed of at least two other significant ethnic groups in Makai. 
  • The most numerous are the Makai themselves – usually thin, very pale, with ebon black or purple blue hair, and exotic (violet, pink, or red) eyes and sharp elongated canine teeth. The Makai are found everywhere in Makai.
  • The southeastern lands of the Dreadwood and the Ghoulish Highlands are home to the Dreadvolk, who are tall and thin, with cadaverous gray-green or gray-blue skin, unusual hair colors (blue, green, or purple), large bulging eyes with black orbs and red pupils, and long sharp teeth with no lips.
  • There are said to be other ethnic groups, but they did not know anything about those, not even their names.
After a good night’s sleep, the trio said farewell to Giovanni and Lance. Giovanni said that he was counting on Ayame to do her best. Lance, having grown up in Blackthorn City just south of Makai, and thus too aware of al the myths and legends, handed Ayame a talisman “to ward against Evil,” a cold disc with a silver cross upon it.

They then joined the other invited Pokémon Trainers in the village plaza, where they were welcomed with a speech by the Lord Marshal of the Eastgate. A long boring speech. They were then hustled into horse-drawn carriages for the three-mile journey through the Eastgate. This was only the third time in her life that Ayame had seen real horses, rather than Horse Pokémon.

They passed through the huge tunnel entrance, carved into the shape of a howling demon face, and rode through the tunnel through the mountain. They were accompanied by Litwicks, Lampets, and Chandelures the entire way. The Pokémon were singing a chanting, dirge-like song in their Pokémon tongue the entire way. It was bad enough for the humans, but for the walking Pokémon, such as Ayame’s Meowth and Firefly, and Bobby’s Jolteon, it was torture, as it was essentially the Makai version of “It’s a Small World After All,” (i.e., as though written by the Addams Family). As Ayame has Pokémon Empathy, she could also understand it, and began to wonder what she was getting into…

They exited the other side of Eastgate and essentially travelled a hundred years into the past. The Makai village of Eastgate appears to be straight out of a Hammer Horror film, though only the most important buildings even look as old as 1890s… many appear much like they were built in the 1500s. They were welcomed in the cobblestone village square by the locals and the Lord of Eastgate, who gave another boring speech. At the end of the speech an assistant name Klove handed a packet of information to each of the Pokémon trainers, containing the layout and laws of Makai. Other than the map and the list of Pokémon Gyms (depicted below), they quickly saw the following information at a cursory glance:

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  • No hunting Pokémon on private lands without prior written permission of the owner or manager. However, a wild Pokémon that flees onto private property could be followed and captured thereon.
  • Pokémon Centers are indicated on the map with a red dot and white star. Nurse Elvira will provide you with information on what is available at the Pokémon Center. All have a Pokémon Teleportation Center (PTC) with a videophone to speak with your Pokémon Professor. All have a Pokémon Clinic to heal and care for your Pokémon. There is a lounge, tavern, and hostel for Pokémon Trainers – we do have indoor plumbing! Most other modern amenities are not present (no other videophones or telephones, no televisions, etc.)
  • When arriving in a new settlement, report in with Constable Lee to see if there are any local laws that must be obeyed. Otherwise, you might have to deal with Bailiff Cushing and Magistrate Price.
  • Daily newspapers are printed in every City and Town. Newspapers are posted in the major local squares, including nearby villages and most hamlets.
  • You should always seek to hire a guide from a local settlement to take you to a Pokémon Gym. Our gyms are deep in the wilderness, and often the trails there are not straight. Please do not get lost in the wilderness!
  • Always, always, ALWAYS respect local customs and superstitions. They are for your own safety.
  • Always, always, ALWAYS obey the local curfew. It is for your own safety.

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He then invited all the Pokémon Trainers to join in the festivities – food, drink, entertainment – presented in the square by the village and Lord and wished them all best of luck on their Pokémon Journey.

Ayame being Ayame, she quickly pored over the map to determine the closest Pokémon Gym, so she could earn her first badge. She discovered that the closest gym is The Dojo, where Donovan Baine, a Psychic Pokémon Trainer, meets all challengers. She then rushed to the Pokémon Center to find out more about Donovan Baine.

There she discovered that there were already two other Pokémon Trainers ahead of them at the PTC, so she decided to see if she could get any information out of Nurse Elvira. Used to calm kindness of Nurse Joy, she was somewhat surprised to meet Nurse Elvira, a spirited, vibrant, tall, buxom, youngish, pale-skinned, raven-haired, red-eyed Makai wearing a white and black nurse’s uniform with her white hat bearing a black bat with a superimposed golden “E”.

After some banter back and forth, she was able to suss out that Donovan had once upon a time been a Pokémon Hero in Makai, known for his derring-do. He had been raised in a hermitage in the Forbidden Mountains, where he learned martial arts and psychic abilities to best tame Psychic Pokémon. He inherited the Dojo a few years ago from his master, who retired, and lives up there with his young sister, Anita, and a few servants and apprentices. “He’s very cute, but shy… not really my type, though,” she said with a wink and a grin at Andrea.

“Normally he comes down out of the mountains at least once a week and he and his Pokémon help the locals, but he’s not been down from the Dojo in months. He does like his privacy, but some folks are getting worried. They say this invitation of foreign Trainers might have upset him.”

Ayame thanked her for her information and went to the PTC, where she called Professor Yew and switched out three Pokémon – her final roster of three being Firefly (6th level Vulpix), Meowth (13th level Meowth), Max (6th level Houndour), Yojimbo (11th level Honedge), Casper (5th level Phantump), and Swift (5th level Scyther).

As it was already past 3 pm, and it would be an 18-mile walk to Monkshood, they decided to get some dinner and sleep. They secured a room at the Pokémon Center Hostel then went to join the others on the village square. After a repast of peasant fare and small beer, they went to sleep.

The next morning, they headed out bright and early. Their walk down the hilly slopes and across the fields of the lowlands was uneventful. Most small holders waved as they passed, but as they got closer to Monkshood, the locals became less ebullient about the passersby. When they reached Monkshood, they found it to be quiet, almost too quiet. The locals avoided them, turning away and even shuttering their homes and businesses as they passed by. They reached the main roads, one on each side of the river; on the east, the town hall, a tavern/inn, and a few businesses; on the west, across the bridge, a temple, a tavern/inn, and a few other businesses. The road on the east ended with the last building, on the west the road continued to follow the river north, turning into a trail before it turned in the distance.

Ayame decided to try her luck at the temple, as it was at least apparently on the side of the trail leading into the mountains and the Dojo. The temple was odd, as it appeared more like something from Tokyo Nation rather than Makai; it had the gabled roofs, statuary, and so forth of something one might see in Johto. The doors open, they walked in. They found themselves in a large room, at the opposite end a large statue of an Alakazam. The walls were decorated in bas relief with Abras, Kadabras, and Alakazams, along with other Psychic Pokémon. Sitting before the statue was a young woman in a monk’s robe, meditating, with sweet incense burning between her and the statue.

The three stood there. Nothing happened.

They moved in a few feet. Ayame cleared her throat.

“Hello, and welcome to Monkshood,” the monk said in a pleasant voice. She stood… flew? Levitated? up from her meditative position and turned. She was tall, thin, pale-skinned, raven-haired (all in one long braid), and violet-eyed. She spoke from between violet lips.

“I am Zsuska. You wish to go to the Dojo to challenge Donovan Baine, yes?”

“Yes,” Ayame said.

“Very well. It is too late to go up the mountain now, so you will be needing someplace to sleep, I can offer you hospitality here, or you can stay in one of the two local inns.”

“Why, thank you, we would love to stay here!”

“Very well,” she smiled. “Follow me.

“So Ayame, what brings you to Makai?”

“Well, I am always seeking new challenges for myself and my Pokémon.”

“Ah, of course. And you, Bobby?”

“I go where Ayame goes, generally, it sounds like a fun adventure.”

“Fun, perhaps,” she turns and looks Andrea in the eyes, “And you, Andrea?”

“The same, though I am interested mostly in becoming a Pokémon Coordinator, so I wanted to see what the opportunities are here for helping to build a Coordination League.”

“Appreciating the beauty of Pokémon is rare here in Makai,” Zsuska said, sadly.

She waved to a room and a nearby restroom. “You may clean the dust from your travels there, and sleep in this room -- simple mats for a simple temple. If you wish to dine here, I could make some extra rice and fish, or you can try the local cuisine at one of the taverns.”

“Thank you, but you are already hosting us for the night, I do not wish to impose on you further, so we shall dine in a tavern.”

“Very well, I will see you in the morning, and I shall enjoy your company over breakfast. Until then, sleep well Ayame, Bobby, Andrea, Firefly, Meowth, and Jolteon.”

And she departed.

It was not until they were freshening up in the restroom that Ayame realized that they had never introduced themselves!

“She knew who we were, and we never introduced ourselves!” she cried. Ayame and Andrea looked at each other, astonished.

“Well, it is a temple dedicated to Psychic Pokémon; perhaps she is a Psychic Trainer, with Psychic abilities?” Bobby said.

“You… you mean she read our minds?!” Andrea stuttered, worryingly, her cheeks reddening.

Ayame and Bobby fixed the nymph-blood with a knowing glance, “Don’t worry, I’m sure she only read enough to get our names… not any deeper into our thoughts…” Ayame reassured her.

But Andrea remained worried, even through dinner and as they went to sleep…

Thus ended the session…

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