So stop your cheap comment, 'Cause we know what we feel...
Characters (4) -
Skills/Pools: Eastern Travel 3d6, Arabic Myths 2d6, Haggle 2d6, Local Customs 2d6, Speak Arabic 3d6, Streetwise 2d6
Concept: Inveterate Mid-East traveler and writer (tour books, newspaper articles) - planning to write up the journey
Skills/Pools: Egyptology, Egyptian Archeology 2d6, Egyptian Myths 2d6, Hieroglyphics 3d6, The Ptolemies, Papyrology 2d6, Wealth 3d6
Concept: Wealthy playboy who is fascinated by anything Ancient Egypt - planning to explore Egypt (once again)
Skills/Pools: Ritual Magic, Clairvoyance, Seal of Solomon 2d6, Corrupt Knowledge 3d6, Formula of Borellus 2d6, Powder of Ibn Ghazi 2d6, Demonology 2d6, Necromancy 2d6
Concept: Shadowy, mysterious pursuer of the dark arts; with an evil streak - planning to pursue Egyptian "Book of the Dead" type dark arts
Lowlife 4d6, Police Procedure, Forensic Pathology 2d6, Observation 3d6, Streetwise 3d6
Concept: Hard boiled private eye - likes action and isn't afraid of a fight; on a solitaire vacation
Scene 1 - Aboard SS Dacia
SS Dacia, Eastern Mediterranean, 1925
The four characters are all traveling alone but are seated at the same dining table on the cruise liner. They form a quick bond playing Bridge. They share a common interest in Egyptian travel. The journey lasts five days. On the second day the party is invited to the Captain's Table (because of Maat's notable wealth). There, they meet Lord Davies, a high-ranking member of the British consulate. Lord Davies has been on leave in London, and is returning to his job in Alexandria. Lord Davies is a fount of information about the local customs, etc., having lived in Alexandria for more than a decade. And he promises them that if they need anything - anything at all - he can be reached at the consulate.
Also at the Captain's table is the ship's guest Kamuran Imran, an erudite chemistry teacher from Istanbul. Imran takes an immediate "interest" in Rashida and fawns on her like a puppy (Imran is fluent in Arabic and his devoted flirting is not understood by any but Rashida... but everybody gets the general idea). The streetwise Rashida demurs his advances - Imran is ridiculously persistent, though formal and polite. Imran casually learns that most of the party are planning to stay in the Savoy Palace Hotel (Maat is planning on the magnificent Steigenberger Cecil Hotel); the savvy Seth realizes Imran is probing around for some type of information - but otherwise seems harmless enough. On the last day, just hours before docking, Maat decides to "slum it" with his new friends at the Savoy. Maat: "Never split the party."
Scene 2 - The Alexandria Docks
Retrieving luggage, and taking charge, Rashida begins the process of locating suitable transportation and haggling for a fair price. Maat graciously offers to foot the entire transportation bill - and hires a Dragonman, too (mostly to keep the locals away). The companions board a motor carriage for the hotel. Just as it's about to pull away Imran hops aboard to grab free transportation. Over the next few days the party travels around the city, visiting the catacombs, the arab quarter, and other famous landmarks. The hired Dragoman makes himself quite useful in arranging transportation and meals, and explaining the fantastic sights. He also shoos away local ne'er-do-wells.
Out and about, Seth and Rashida both, independently, notice occasional strange figures - heavily robed Arabs slinking around; they are studiously avoided by the rest of the population. On further scrutiny, they realize many people make gesture of protection against the evil eye or mumble charms against them. They follow one of the strange people but don't catch up. The hired Dragoman doesn't know anything about them.
That evening, Imran invites them all to dinner at the Savoy and they accept. The dinner is convivial though Imran has not let his ardent pursuit of Rashida flag. But, he comments that the purpose of his journey is to try and locate a lost master work of alchemy, rumored to be somewhere in Alexandria. Maat has heard of the master work that Imran is looking for - The Book of the Serpent Staff, written by Hermes Trismegistus; portions of it are preserved in Egyptian writings. Imran says he is pursuing the Greek original and has been for many, many years. Lately, he claims an American, John Niall, has somehow found out about his (Imran's) work and now is pursuing the same manuscript. Imran becomes agitated talking about this - he produces a newspaper article authored by Niall and the party reads through it. Everyone in the party readily agrees that a "lost manuscript" situation is possible - even probable. But Imran's mumbling about professional skullduggery and a major plot against him seems perhaps a bit paranoid; Imran even suggests that the furtive robed Arabs (noticed earlier by the party) are probably looking for him, to do him ill. Imran then drops his bombshell - he's told them all of this because he needs their help finding the manuscript. He seems particularly interested in gaining Rashida's and Seth's help, but also admits that Maat's and Lapis' specialties may prove invaluable.
Realizing a plot hook when they see it, the party agrees. Imran asks them to assemble in the Place Mohammed Ali (nearby) in one hour, and they will begin. The hired Dragoman returns home for the evening.
Character creation went quickly. The players spent an agonizing amount of time determining exactly how they were going to know each other and meet. Their final solution was very simple and worked out well. I had anticipated doing the first three scenes in the session but it didn't work out that way.
I had anticipated the "explore the city sights" phase would be over quickly - again, it took a bit longer, mostly because the players googled up what they wanted to check out. They did a whirlwind tour and saw whatever they wanted. And it all looked just like google said it did.
At one point, the players were convinced absolutely that Imran was trying to set them up to rob them. Obviously, I gave off the wrong vibe. The dinner-table conversation involved probably too much meta-gaming to convince them that Imran was in fact paranoid and looking for their help, not looking to fleece them.
Seth's "Streetwise 3d6", with Rashida's backup "Streetwise 2d6" proved a nearly foolproof method of sussing what was going on, etc. Rashida spent the evening in the limelight, a character obviously purpose-built for doing exactly the things that happened. Maat in reality would have probably little interest in "tourist" stuff, presumably having seen it all many times. But, he played along.
I've always wanted to play this scenario - actually, play this game system. Character generation used my own house rules (posted as a file under the RPG Item).
So stop your cheap comment, 'Cause we know what we feel...
Continued here: The Alchemist - Session Two
My review here: As obscure as a commercially published RPG can get
The alternate character generation method used here: Alternate Character Generation Method