Alien Autopsy - Anatomy of an RP Event
In just about any genre setting, the tavern remains a target-rich environment for roleplaying opportunities.
In a tavern, players can get drunk, get rowdy, gamble, smoke, throw punches, make backroom deals, perform karaoke and - yes! - shoot karaoke singers.
It doesn't take much to spin a fun scene in a tavern: Usually, all you need are a couple of characters to share the wealth.
On OtherSpace, tavern activity is pretty common. Sometimes, we make special events in taverns, such as the rock-paper-scissors game or the Perseverance Trail race viewing in the Rockhopper Tavern.
But some special events don't require a lot of fanfare. All you need is one colorful admin NPC and a few witnesses.
In this installment, I'll break down the components of a special tavern RP event - from the room description to the poses to the quotes. NOTE: This event didn't need special coding projects to happen and it didn't need any task rolls or combat. It was just a situation where we had three characters hanging out in a tavern and dropped a particularly mean pebble into the pond.
First, to put this scene in context: It takes place at a time when a band of 1/4 inch high Nemoni pirates are terrorizing the known worlds. Earlier this year, several of the tiny pirates tried invading the headquarters of Boss Cabrerra on the planet Tomin Kora, and wound up captured by one of the characters I play: Colin Neidermeyer, former Guardian Fleet general and right-hand man to Boss Cabrerra.
The setting: The Last Call Tavern, in the domed city of Shadowheart on Tomin Kora. The room description: A place like this makes a person wish every chair sat with its back to a wall. The tavern is a dark and shadowy place, the outside glow of the nebula filtering in weakly while pale blue plasma lanterns gleam in the center of most tables (some seem to have run out of juice, but the complaints department doesn't care and the maintenance crew doesn't get paid enough to intrude on conversations better left in the darkness). The room stinks of sweat, cigarette smoke, and spilled alcohol and blood. Fifteen tables and six booths are arrayed around a central C-shaped bar counter, which has eight stools in front of it.
This description is designed to remind visitors that they're not visiting Disney World. Believe it or not, people still sometimes fail to get the ample clues provided in that description. The tavern is called The Last Call. It's dark. It's shadowy. The place stinks like blood. It is a bad place, not for the weak of heart. The intent of the description is to drive home the point that people who frequent this place might not think twice about killing foolish outsiders - and that outsiders had better be sure they can handle themselves in this crowd.
So, this particular night, I happened to notice Falkenberg, Niesa and Askeboz lurking in the tavern. Because the Nemoni pirate story thread has been woven into the current arc, and because Neidermeyer already has a past with the troublesome critters (he has taken to privately torturing the imprisoned Nemoni), I decided to make an on-the-spot arc event by bringing Neidermeyer online to visit the tavern.
And so it begins…
Neidermeyer walks into the tavern, followed by a pair of no-neck goons who try to make themselves disappear into the shadows.
(NOTE: We didn't have two other players escorting Neidermeyer. However, as a lackey for a mobster, it makes perfect sense for him to have bodyguards following him into a place as dangerous as the Last Call. Even Neidermeyer doesn't take safety for granted here.)
Falkenberg is sitting at a table talking to Niesa.
(NOTE: Always a courteous thing to do - tell people where you are in a scene when they enter.)
Niesa shakes her head at Falkenberg. "Don't know him," she says just as her eyes settle on the opening doorway. "Well, here kitty, kitty,'' she mumbles.
Falkenberg follows Niesa's gaze. His brows knit, an unasked question on his lips.
Askeboz enters the tavern a few moments after Neidermeyer and goons. The man steps to the side of the door as he looks around. A small nod is passed in Niesa's direction as his eyes fall upon the other Timonae.
Neidermeyer steps through the tavern, maneuvering his way around tables and shifting chairs whose inhabitants seem to part before him like sandpipers skittering away from waves on the shore. He finally stops near the table with Falkenberg and Niesa. He nods to the bodyguard, then smiles broadly at Falkenberg. "Johnny-Boy."
(NOTE: In previous scenes between Neidermeyer and Falkenberg, it was established that Falkenberg HATES to be called Johnny-Boy. So, naturally, Neidermeyer calls him this every chance he gets.)
Falkenberg rises slowly to his feet. "Mr. Neidermeyer."
Neidermeyer waves his hand dismissively. "Sit your ass down, son. This ain't the Guardian Fleet. You want to suck up to me? Do it with profits."
Niesa sits up from her nearly reclined position, fingers moving lightly along fresh gouges in the wooden tabletop. She nods at Neidermeyer and the Timonae in turn.
Askeboz glances down to his watch for a moment, then shrugs and walks over toward the bar. He glances about quickly, no doubt looking for the bartender, if any currently exists.
Falkenberg settles back in his seat, and mutters something to himself. "Niesa was just telling me about my new ship," he says, somewhat more loudly.
(NOTE: His previous ship got blown up - along with several others - when an alien race called the Lem'ing attacked Tomin Kora.)
Neidermeyer nods, smiling faintly and settling into a chair across from Falkenberg. He shoves the chair next to him out into the aisle, then elevates a foot on it. "That right?"
Falkenberg nods. "That's right," he says. "Sounds satisfactory, even if I have to talk to Tito to get it."
(NOTE: Tito Aldente is another character of mine. He has an outrageous accent that is practically unintelligible, making his quotes sound harder to decipher than the output of a Navajo codetalker. Tito is now in charge of sales at the Cabrerra Vessel Works on Tomin Kora.)
Niesa chuckles and stands. Jerking a finger toward the bar, she says to Neidermeyer, "You want?"
Askeboz, at the bar, looks around for a few moments, knocking his hand against the wood. "Anyone alive back there?" He calls, hearing no response. "Hiding? You dishwater-selling bastards... fine, be like that."
Neidermeyer nods to Niesa. "Whiskey."
Niesa walks casually toward the bar stopping when she is shoulder-to-shoulder with Askeboz.
Neidermeyer opens his jacket, reaches into an inside pocket, and withdraws a glass cylinder capped with mesh. Inside the cylinder: A very tiny humanoid. He holds it up to catch what light is available in the shadowy tavern, bracing the top and bottom of the tube with two fingers.
(NOTE: Here we go. Normally, Neidermeyer saves these Nemoni torture sessions for the penthouse in the Cabrerra building. For the first time, he has brought his twisted hobby to a public setting.)
"I knew you'd come back after that night at-- oh, you again." Askeboz looks a little depressed as he recognizes the Timonae beside him. "And I'm not giving away nothing unless I get something in return... Now where's that one-eyed guy that used to serve drinks?"
Falkenberg sips his drink, and glances at the cylinder. "Do you always carry a Nemoni on you, or just when you expect to run into me?" he asks casually.
Neidermeyer lowers the cylinder, smirking at Falkenberg. "Actually, I like to keep them in the Cabrerra Industries building. But, I've been talking to this one in particular. He has many interesting things to say. I think. I've wrung quite a bit of information from him so far. Such as," his eyebrows wiggle, "you and your old boss used to run with these pirate Nemoni."
Niesa props a boot on the leg of a barstool. "He's gotten out of the bartending business," she says coolly.
(NOTE: Niesa, a bodyguard for Neidermeyer, is referencing an incident from the night before when she broke a bottle and slashed the throat of the disrespectful bartender.)
Falkenberg nods. "Yes, we did. I thought you were aware of that. More precisely, they used to run with us. Made a deal with Old Man Boromov."
Askeboz snorts softly. "Making me get my own drinks... Bastard." The Timonae hops up to sit on the bar, then throws his legs over and drops down on the other side. "Aintcha gonna hire a replacement or something?"
Niesa smiles broadly. "I think you look like a natural back there, actually."
(NOTE: That exchange between Askeboz and Niesa got me thinking a few steps ahead, as we'll see in Neidermeyer's actions later.)
Neidermeyer tilts his head, shrugging, rolling the cylinder between his fingers. The Nemoni inside is jostled violently, screaming in a high pitched panic that is muffled a great deal by the glass. "I heard a little. But, it occurs to me now that your knowledge of their activities might prove...invaluable."
"Please, honey. I couldn't make drinks if I shitted vodka." Askeboz replies with a dismissive wave of his hands. "There we are..." He says as he takes a bottle and examines it for a moment. "Well... close enough."
Niesa says, "Still, See what you can do about a whiskey for the boss and a little something for me, will you?"
"I don't really know a whole lot about what they are up to now," Falkenberg says. "They were very hostile to Cabrerra after their comrades failed to return from the CI building. A large number of them were killed when the Nall took Ungstir. I never heard for sure, but I think the rest abandoned Boromov after the merger, because of their feelings toward the organization. Nikolai probably knows more."
Niesa lowers her voice. "It doesn't have to be pretty, it just has to be wet."
Neidermeyer nods. "What I primarily want to know..." he holds up the cylinder, "and what my little companion seems reluctant to tell me, is *where* the pirates would be hiding."
"Great, now my balls are on the line. Thanks a lot." Askeboz mutters, setting the bottle he holds aside while he goes to get another. "I hope you like whiskey," he says over his shoulder to Niesa, "because I'm not getting another bottle." His hand snatches up a bottle, which he carries over to the female Timonae once more.
Falkenberg sips his drink. "Why? Got a sudden urge to help their victims?" he chuckles. "I can only speculate as to where they would be now."
Niesa says, "Yeah, yeah. Just pour."
Neidermeyer narrows his eyes. "Speculation? No, that's no good." He looks toward the counter. "Niesa!" he barks.
Askeboz takes two cups from beneath the bar and starts to pour just about when Neidermeyer shouts. The man doesn't seem terribly startled, though. He just completes his pouring and pushes a glass towards the other Timonae.
Falkenberg shrugs. "All right then," he says, half to himself. He sips his drink.
Holding a glass of questionable cleanliness in each hand, Niesa turns at the sound of her name, sloshing brown liquor onto the floor. Before she completes the turn, the glasses shatter on the floor and her hands cradle pulse rifle from her back.
(NOTE: She didn't roll her agility or anything - Niesa just decided to be startled and drop the glasses. This led to…)
Neidermeyer sighs, shaking his head. "All right. Johnny-Boy, clean that up. Niesa, tell your bartender friend to make some new drinks. And boil some water in a pot. It doesn't have to be clean, it just has to be hot."
(NOTE: I thought it would be a nice twist to reflect the construction of Niesa's nice "It doesn't have to be pretty, it just has to be wet" quote.)
Falkenberg frowns. He mutters something to himself as he stands to clean up the broken glass. What he says is not clear, but the words "scourge of the spaceways" might be part of it.
(NOTE: If you were a notorious space pirate, you'd feel pretty demeaned by this too!)
Niesa visibly sags, dropping the rifle to her side. She mutters something about false alarms, boys and wolves.
Neidermeyer knits his brows at all the muttering, but then focuses his attention on the cylinder. "Let's see how cooperative you are *now*."
Over her shoulder, Niesa catches the Timonae's eye. "You heard the man."
Falkenberg frowns and looks at the broken glass. He glances at Neidermeyer, and then uses the butt of his plasma rifle to brush the fragments under the bar. He turns and limps back to his seat.
(NOTE: And because you ARE a notorious space pirate, you don't have to follow the rules.)
Askeboz doesn't need Niesa to tell him to pour more drinks. He starts to do so just as he hears the other ones shatter on the floor. "I'm on it, hold on to these." He replies. In a few moments, two more drinks of scotch sit on the bar. Askeboz the sets the bottle back on the shelf, then goes to seek out a pot.
Neidermeyer peers critically at Falkenberg's leg. "That hasn't been fixed yet?"
(NOTE: Falkenberg lost his leg for disappointing his old bosses in the Boromov Crime Syndicate and sparking the invasion of Ungstir by the Nall during the last story arc.)
Niesa retrieves the glasses with one hand, soaking her finger and thumb up to the first knuckle. She returns to the table.
Instead of a pot, Askeboz finds a kettle placed on some heating coils, often used for hot drinks. He opens the top and looks down inside, then shrugs a little and sets it on the bar, which he soon passes over once more. The Timonae takes the kettle over towards Neidermeyer. "Here you are, Mr. Neidermeyer." He says as he places it on the table.
(NOTE: There was no such coded object, per se. Nor did Askeboz roll a skill to find the kettle. He just ran with it. In a situation like this, it works.)
Neidermeyer nods to Askeboz. "Good work." He lifts the lid off the kettle, steam roils upward. Still staring into the bubbling turmoil, he asks, "How much they paying you here, bartender?"
Falkenberg grunts, and looks at Neidermeyer. "No," he says. "Your doctor friends didn't seem to be confident they could do the procedure with the facilities here. They took some tissue samples but never got back to me." He shrugs. "I'm dealing with it."
Niesa sits back down, handing one of the whiskey glasses across the table to Neidermeyer and cradling the other in the palm of her left hand.
"Nothing, I'm not a bartender." Askeboz answers with a little shrug of his shoulders. A glance is given to Niesa before he looks over to Neidermeyer again. "I work more directly for The Boss, Mr. Neidermeyer."
(NOTE: Neidermeyer lets this slide for now. It won't last.)
Falkenberg grunts. "I thought you said you were a porn star," he says, acknowledging Askeboz's existence for the first time this evening.
Neidermeyer raises his eyebrows. "That right?" He holds the cylinder up before his eyes, braced between two fingers. "Okay, you little bastard. Where are they hiding?" The Nemoni inside the cylinder presents a middle finger to the humongi peering at it.
(NOTE: There's no actual Nemoni PC in this scene, it was all handled through @emits and poses. But rather than playing the scene as if big, bad Neidermeyer could torture everything he wanted out of the poor little fellow, I played it in a way I felt was more true. Even as The Guy In Charge, it's important not to take too many liberties.)
Niesa takes a rather large gulp from her glass, then another. She wipes her upper lip with the back of her hand and scans the bar's tables and chairs.
"It requires less explanation." Is all Askeboz says in reply to Falkenberg. His attention then flickers back to Neidermeyer. "Yes sir, it is. Among the lower echelon, I'm somewhat well known for dealing with Sivadian-based holovid violence protest groups."
Neidermeyer nods curtly, then holds the tube over the boiling water. The cylinder begins to steam even before Neidermeyer lowers it into the hot mist. Not quite into the water, but getting close. Waiting. Waiting. After about twenty seconds, he withdraws the cylinder and holds it up again. The Nemoni is less demonstrative this time. He shakes the cylinder. The Nemoni shifts and opens its eyes. It spits on the glass. Neidermeyer sighs, then drops the cylinder into the boiling water. "Amusing." He returns his attention to Askeboz. "Toss this crap in the alley."
(NOTE: Even torture can get boring for a villain from time to time.)
Falkenberg yawns. "As I said earlier, I COULD speculate as to where the Nemoni may be...based on what I knew of their activities before the Nall invasion."
Neidermeyer shrugs. "Screw speculation. You're going hunting for them as soon as your goddamned ship gets done." He picks up his whiskey and takes a sip.
(NOTE: In that pose and quote, I've given Falkenberg something for him and his crew to do aboard their new ship.)
Askeboz snatches the kettle off the table. He looks inside for a moment, then merely turns and walks out of the bar. The Timonae returns a few moments later, the kettle now empty. Askeboz takes it over towards the bar once more.
Falkenberg frowns. "Hunting. For quarter-inch-tall pirates. Mr. Neidermeyer, if they want to stay hidden, and they have a secure base, they will stay hidden."
Niesa's eyes slide from Neidermeyer to Falkenberg and back as if watching some profane tennis match.
Neidermeyer lifts his eyebrows, smiling faintly. "Good God, Johnny-Boy - I do believe you sound like a whiner setting up excuses in advance for failure. Stow that shit right now. You know these little bastards, better than anybody. You will goddamned find them, you will goddamned tell me where they are, and we will either wipe them out or put them to some REAL use. Is that understood?"
Falkenberg sighs. "Yes, sir." He finishes his drink. "I have an idea of where to look for them."
Neidermeyer smirks. "That's more like it." He stands, shoving the chair back, then walks toward the counter and says to Askeboz: "You don't work for the Boss. At least not as close as you claim."
(NOTE: And here's when the snare begins to close on Askeboz.)
Askeboz settles himself in at the bar, taking the bottle he left before getting Neidermeyer's whiskey. Another glass is poured. The Timonae turns to face the room as he sips his drink. It's then he notices that Neidermeyer is upon him. "I suppose I don't work as close as some..." He answers diplomatically.
Neidermeyer raises an eyebrow. "Or most." He chuckles. "If you worked close to the Boss, you'd know what his favorite drink was."
Askeboz glances over to Falk for a moment, then slowly looks over to Neidermeyer once more. "I was speaking organizationally, in comparison to the bartender that used to work here..." The Timonae says, treading water.
(NOTE: Askeboz tries to hold his ground, but he knows he's dealing with Neidermeyer. If he's caught dead to rights in a lie, Askeboz knows he's going to end up dead. He does a good job here of skating the line.)
Neidermeyer nods. "Yes. So, what's his favorite drink? Or, is the truth that you like to pretend you work for the Boss because it makes you feel like something special? Because, if you want to work for the Boss, my bodyguard has created an opening for a bartender, and you seem to be competent enough at that. Or - if that's not satisfactory - I can put you to work in the arena. Your choice."
Falkenberg limps up to the bar and grabs the bottle of scotch from where Askeboz has left it. He pulls the cork out with his teeth and takes a swig straight from the bottle, settling down on a stool. He mutters, "Don' want a porn star serving me drinks, personally..."
"I... I don't know the Boss's favorite drink." Askeboz answers Neidermeyer, quickly adding: "But I /do/ work for the Boss. I have for a little over a year now. I ran bags for him back on Sanctuary."
Niesa leans forward, resting her elbows on the table. "Time to get used to the taste of piss in our drinks,'' she mutters.
Neidermeyer lifts his eyebrows. "So, you've met him?"
Niesa winces at the Timonae's answer.
Falkenberg takes another swig from the bottle of scotch, and watches the exchange with amusement in his eyes.
(NOTE: Both Falkenberg and Niesa have actually met the Boss. So, they just get to sit and watch Askeboz squirm.)
Askeboz shakes his head simply. "No, just some people under him." He answers, a steady hand reaching over to set his drink aside.
(NOTE: Askeboz came up with the right answer, and probably saved his life.)
Neidermeyer chuckles, then nods. "Good enough. You'll get 350 credits a week to tend the bar. Extra bonuses for hazard pay. Special missions from time to time."
Niesa remains at the table, her back to the bar.
Falkenberg frowns. "But does he know how to mix a Sivadian Double Helix?"
"Alright, I could use a steady paycheck. But to be honest, I don't know crap about mixing drinks." Askeboz says with a little shrug of his shoulders.
Neidermeyer raises his eyebrows. "Mixed drinks? What kind of a fruity joint do you think this is? People want foofoo crap with umbrellas in their drinks, they can go to Sivad. Mix the brown with the brown and the clear with the clear, and don't throw out the dishwater from the sinktraps, because the Zangali *love* it. Clear?"
Falkenberg takes another swig straight from the bottle, then puts the cork in it and sets it down behind the bar. "Don't know what this place'll come to without a proper," he pauses to let out a belch, "bartender."
"Yes, Mister Neidermeyer." Askeboz answers with a nod of his head. Though he doesn't seem terribly thrilled with the idea.
Neidermeyer nods, then turns and starts walking toward the door. The no-neck thugs that followed him in step out of the shadows and move after him.
Falkenberg sighs. "Well, that's it for me," he says. He stands and starts limping toward the door. "My bartender is a Timonae Porn Star. Sounds like a bad Sivadian novel."
Askeboz's lips form into a little frown. He glances over to Niesa for a moment before finishing his drink. He says, "aden'nar dharna aden'nar Airenei da'aeu da'aeu Nyl' Nyl' meJai nahlieen ces'Edien da'aeu Aroosae L'lannei Naeli meJai janeiU"
(NOTE: Using the OtherSpace +speak system, created by Vlad, this was the only moment in the entire scene that involved much in the way of coding. The system allows people to speak in their native languages. This scene is shown from Neidermeyer's point of view - he doesn't speak Timonae, so all he hears is the lyrical sound of their language.)
Neidermeyer clears his throat. "I heard that." And then steps out.
(NOTE: But THEY don't know he doesn't speak the language. Always leave 'em sweating.)
NEXT STORYTELLER: We'll explore what another online roleplaying world has to offer.
- Wes Platt, known online as Brody, is the creator of OtherSpace: The Interactive SF Saga, which can be found at http://www.otherspace.org. He also moderates the Top MUD Sites roleplaying forum at http://www.topmudsites.com. Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.