Monday, July 27, 2015

July Gaming Seminar Report

So I was able to share with the group five indie games which I felt they should consider diving into.  I am happy to report that I've successfully got some people interested in trying out Apocalypse World, Bliss Stage, Houses of the Blooded: Blood and Honor, Lacuna - Part I, the Birth of Mystery and the Girl from Blue City, and Wield.

You can find the slide show link at The Garapata Repository.

Also successful were the games we ran during the event.
Jay was able to run a session of Steven Universe using the Cypher System of Numenera.  I wish I was able to play that in game.  Numenera is pretty awesome a system and it would have been cool to finally try it with Jay at the helm.
Mon ran the famous Gastronauts setting using FATE, the game concept which won last seminar's contest.    I can only image the indigestion I could have thrown others had I been in that game, hehe.
Marc was able to give people a taste of Apotheosis Drive X, the FATE big robot game which I admit I also wanted to watch, since while I've run FATE, I'm sure I could have learned more on how that game works.
And I had my five players for a one shot session of Blood and Honor.  My thanks to Jon (Tetsuo Morinaga) whose Samurai became the focal point of the story.  That was hopefully not too huge a shock to him given the game was his first ever role-playing game session.  Thanks extend as well to Phil (Kai), Patrick (Unagi), Adrian (Shiro) and Rocky (Ono) who played the roles of the Hatamoto, the Onmyoji, the Karo and the ever infamous Oniwaban.    (I may have misspelled the names, by the way, and I apologize for that.)

Here are some pictures from the event.












Special thanks to Rocky and to Rafael for the pictures.
I opted not to include the closer shots of people to avoid any privacy issues or concerns.
And bonus thanks to Ben Woerner for the Dragonfly dice and the Honor Go stones which looked pretty beautiful in our faux Japanese bowls.

May the Dragons that hide in Dungeons bless our August seminar.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

After the Rain ep29 : Houses of the Blooded

2/16/2015
After the Rain

Episode Twenty Nine
"Murder.  M."

Houses of the Blooded

The Althua continues.  The vassals of Cassalanter have inherited the lands of Jaric Thayl.   Cassalanter has gained the Title of Countess, while Ash, Gilian and Rio have become Barons.  The gathering of cats and hints of shadows remain fresh in their minds.    Artemesia and Lukas, and the terrible fear that Cassalanter might have been talking to some demonic force instead in her head all these years.  And the young Lady M whose feature resemble the infamous Madelyn Yvarai.

Cassalanter stands at the center of a raised stone platform.  All watch as she is questioned about the events that transpired in the Puzzle House. The matter is the death of Jaric Thayl, a death which may have been a Murder.   The Murder Weapon is a Bloodsword.   Rio stands to speak and is asked to identify the names of those present in the murder.  She states Cassalanter Steele, Gilian Burghe, Rio Burghe, Lyra Drew and her company whose names are not important right now.   Also present were Uvanla Yvarai, Zhivali Ru and someone named Lady M.  They were all gathered at the puzzle house, a fake one, to receive awards.  Jaric Thayl was present as a surprise to the winner and was to give the award.  A vassal is called to be present, the man who was the personal chef who prepared his food and wine.   Under the threat of death for all under his line, the vassal is asked to explain if the deceased Jaric Thayl...  the Senator pauses, glances at the gathered member of House Serpent, and suddenly changes his tone, admitting an error in having the vassal speak  "as he has nothing noteworthy to say, nor knowledge if Jaric was indeed poisoned."   As the veth hurries off, Gilian stops him by the arm and he begs not to be killed.  Gilian asks if the food ever left his eyes even for the moment, but the veth admits the man never ate that day.  The day before, he had "stone soup" and refuses anything else, most especially anything of the color red.   The senators ask Gilian if there is a matter they need to be aware of, and Gilian admits she merely had questions.  She does learn that Jaric had a bottle of wine which he presses himself.

Gilian however realizes Jaric did not plant the grapes himself.    All the names declared by Rio are asked to come to the platform.  Rio notes that Lady M is not present.  Gilian gives her name and the illuminated platform declares her name to be true.  She was present in the moments after his demise, and she shares how Jaric showed the bright red eyes showing signs of Arsenic poisoning.  How the Bloodsword cleanly cut the stone but was stuck to the ground.  She suspects however the grape plants were tainted with the arsenic, allowing the wine to have small traces of the poison - too small to be deadly until enough of it was consumed. As the others are questioned, most admit to not even knowing Jaric Thayl personally.

As the questioning continues, the charming Lady M reemerges beside Ash.   She tells Ash how a wise man once told her, "Failure does not always mean defeat. I wonder, would they hold it against me if I chose not to go down?"  Ash asks if she was present at the murder, and she admits openly she was.  She counters, however, that they didn't ask for her by name.   As Uvanla explains that he did not have a reason to want to kill Jaric, he admits his father, the late Count Kether, would have wanted him dead.  When asked about his father, he admits his father is dead.

But in response, the lit platform ripples.  In the new age since the reign of the Demon, the Senate had embraced the use of Sorcery to properly identify when falsehood was being stated in the Senate.  Uvanla's statement on his father's death, it seems, was just revealed to be a lie. "Does this mean my father is alive?" The light goes on.   Uvanla is sent off the platform, despite his desire to ask more about his father.  Zhivali Ru is called to speak and his sharing reveals he was with Ash Jalan, discussing matters of interest in the archives.  He claims they were talking about cats, but the light flickers as well.  Supposedly the cats speak a hidden language only Foxes understand, and that they see a hidden world.  Before could elaborate, however, the Senate commands him to stop before he says more about the superstitions of what these animals can see. Under the Senate's protection, Zhivali names five people who would have wanted Jaric killed: Count Keter, Dranna Ru, Dalvinosh Steele himself, the count of Margrove Tavlim Steele and the last being Lyra Drew.

Lyra's testimony has her admit she attempted to strike Jaric with the Bloodsword.  She did not, however, have intentions to murder him.  She claims Sorcery was used to take control of her.  She had hid in a hidden chamber in the puzzle house.  Cassalanter was inside and saw a trail of bloody footprints on the ground, which turned out to be a false trail Lyra set for her.  She dodged in the last second, guided by a voice in her head, and Lyra's eyes changed color as the strike missed.  She admits she had used a Sorcerous spell to prepare her for the puzzle house, anticipating danger.  In anger, Lyra tried to strike a second time, but that's when Gilian disarmed her with her bow.  The arrow struck her at the side, enough to distract her.    She stumbled on her own Bloodsword and lost her balance.  Rio swoops in to catch her from falling backwards.  "I had been... caught," Lyra sighs.   The Senator even reminds her to watch her step as she heads down from the platform, a jibe at her ineptitude as she steps down.  She admits to Rio that she did not kill him, and Rio realizes the Bloodsword must have been seiged by Doom when she tried.  Someone else was behind the murder.

They call for the Lady M.  She raises her hand to announce her presence.  Cass hears the voice in her head shocked to see Madelyn is alive. The voice directs Cass to pluck a strand of hair from Lady M as she walks by.  Cass walks up to Lady M, acting like they were old friends, hoping to disarm others from noticing her true goal - an attempt to take some of her hair.  But Lady M reads her motives like a book and tells her to stay away.

She addresses the Senate, and under the Sorcerous light, her statements of truth are unleashed upon an unexpected gathering of Ven.  She rather not give her name but admits she allowed others to call her Lady M.  She openly admits she poisoned him, and shares how she watered the vines for arsenic for three Seasons.  When they ask if she truly has admitted to murdering one of the ven, the light flickers at her feet.  She reminds them to ask the right questions.  Dalvinosh Steele stares in silence.   "Does anyone have the right questions?" Lady M calls out.  Finally, Jessie Jalan asks about her father and Lady M admits Jaric is safe at the Other Shanri from the Earl.  The Senate is at an uproar wondering which Earl Lady M claims to be the threat.  Rio walks up to the Serpent and asks him to ask what she killed.  Lady M was about to respond, but the Lyra Drew rushes forward with blood-red eyes.  She tackles Lady M off the platform of truth to the ground.    Rio tells the Serpent to ask Lady M who is using Sorcery on the Wolf.  Cass hurries to help Lady M up from the ground, cunningly pulling some of her hair in the process.

"It is too late.  He won't let them-" Lady M tries to say, but the Vashna rushes forward and stab her with spears.    The Earl declares that the verdict for Murder, confessed, is death.  Lyra Drew crawls to Gilian, terrified, realizing she had been usurped again.  "Someone knows my name!"


*

Jessie quickly warns the group to not ask questions, to go home and remember they do not know which side they are on.  Many return to the Quarterhouses.  Rio sneaks back inside and meets with the Serpent and the two use the Illuminated Platform to test one more truth.  Rio speaks out, "Madelyn Yvarai is alive."  The light does not flicker.  Lady M was Madelyn Yvarai, and they have killed her tulpa.  They decide to go quickly, knowing the Senate is never truly empty.  Rio slips back on her Vashna clothing, leaving the Senate incognito.


*

Ash prepares a Blood Mirror, using the splatter of Lady M's blood he had gathered.  Cass tries to hold more conversation with her mother, but she hears no responses from Galeo in her head.  Uvanla asks Cass what to do with her dress drenched in more of Lady M's blood.  Cass has him cut the dress in half, to give half to the Court Scholar and half to keep it til she needs it.  Gilian rides alongside the carriage on horseback, and though she knocks to ask how things are, she receives no response til after a few tries.  The group makes their way back to Cassalanter's Province, realizing there is a definite need for a Maid.  Gilian notices the Roadmen watch her with caution.  She ignores them, not caring that she rides through the City atop an Ork.

With conversations leading to discuss the stories of Jaric Thayl, Ash wonders why he feels uncomfortable talking about it.  Cass, however, prods and likes the discomfort the topic seems to generate upon him.

Gilian and Uvanla discuss how they will start making the Castle look better.  Uvanla even talks about painting the whole castle white, including having everyone dress in white.  Gilian scoffs at the changes to be adjusted, and admits they do not even have a Financier - they do not make deals with the Merchants. Gilian muses how he finally remember things now.  Uvanla seems shocked to realize, yes, he does remember things better now.  He even wonders why there are no roses every fifty feet.  Uvanla and Gilian talk about how Merea has stacks of things and books all over her castle.   Mirrors all over the castle as well, on the walls, floors and ceiling.  How it almost looks like a puzzle house.

Artemesia and Lukas appear at Cass' castle door, asking to be of service as vassals.  Lukas claims to be from the Forgiving Hands, but admits he didn't know why he said that.  Uvanla and Gilian note, however, that neither identifies themselves by their Houses, despite being ven.  The two claim to have been travelling companions for years, which Gilian finds amusing since it means they left their lands for years.  They admit they enjoy traveling far more than others realize.  Gilian directly asks what House they are.  Artemesia and Lukas smile.   Ash arrives, curious of the two, and Uvanla tells him of the plans for all to wear white.  Ash protests.    The two seem to have slips in their show of station, however, with Artemesia bowing like a man and Lukas claiming to have the skills of a Spymaster simply because he looks like he wouldn't know anything.  They admit they travel around frequently through the Merchants, using the High Way they have created.

The presence of cats in the castle, leads to Ash throwing an orichalcum dagger at the cat and pinning it against the wall.   Cass is horrified at the shattered mirror on the floor.  It was one of her mother's keepsakes.  Cass calls for the cat to be tortured, and Ash kicks it against the wall. "There are moments when things are just cats, and things are more than that."   Ash yanks it off the wall and dangles it by the blade, "Now it is just a cat."

Rio begins mapping in her head the servant passages through-out the castle as she accompanies Lukas and Artemesia in touring the castle they will soon serve in.  Ash uses Sorcery and places Curses upon Lukas and Artemesia to never speak to each other in private, as a means to secure their trust-worthiness.

*

With the coming of Summer, each of the ven take their duties to watch over their newly gained Provinces.  None, however, anticipated the visit of the Earl of the Blooded of the Elk.  Dalvinosh Steele arrives with fifty Swordsmen escorting him.  He arrives at Cassalanter's gate, and turns down Cass' invitation to step inside for wine.  He admits he does not feel safe as there have been four attempts in his life since the Senate hearing.   He informs them that in the Summer Hearing, there will be a vote and he requires the support of all those loyal to him.

Cass admits she is an Elk.  He admits he is starting to believe that Shanri has had enough of the Senate nonsense.  The vote is to be for the protection of Shanri.  "The Elks must rise."    He talks of the threat now being revealed and the need to prepare for what is to come.

He then asks if her vassals are loyal beyond and Cass admits they are.  He asks if they will vote with the Elks and she reassures they will do what is best.  He notices Gilian, noticing she is a vassal, and demands Cassalanter to correct this immediately.  "No Elk shall remain a vassal.  Correct this immediately."  The Earl demands he identify a non-Elk, and Cass introduces Artemesia.  The Earl converge towards her, but Rio steps to intercept, drawing her Bloodsword.  The Earl's Swordsmen draw their swords.

The Earl asks if Cassalanter is showing hospitality as he is currently bored and wishes to entertain himself with violence upon a non-Elk.  Cass asks Rio to sheath her sword, and she places it on the ground.  Artemesia is looking at Lukas.  Lukas' hand clamps around the space beside his waist, as if there was something that cannot be seen there.  Gilian grabs Lukas' hand by the wrist.  He lets go and Gilian can see his sweat making slightly visible the hilt of a blade.  The Earl thankfully changes his mind and opts to stay instead for the next few days.  The Swordsmen are commanded to sheath their blades and gather his things.  "Prepare your accommodations.  Perhaps we can ride together to the Senate hearing."

The Senate Hearing is two weeks away.




Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Company 3rd Song ep04 : Dungeon World : Roll20

04/22/2015
The Company, 3rd Song

Episode Four
"Athgnor"

The Company stands before the massive entrance to the Dwarven ruin known as Athgnor.  The doors tower over 80 feet above them.  Some of them have received the gift of the Old Elves.  The others, especially the Clerics, have not been given such gifts due to the Clerics usurping the faith in the Old Gods.

At the Entrance, Zig realizes the fruit of the blessing: a green trail of light shows him the safe passage through the ruins.  He moves ahead of the Company, hoping to stay twenty feet ahead as the group's scout.    Hollis who takes the role of the group's Quartermaster as they undertake the perilous journey, ponders over the connection Gaius and Cassandra seem to share in their past.  Gaius, on the other hand, wonders about the truths behind the Old Elves, which he know understands to be more than myth.  He realizes he know understands there is fact behind the faith in the Old Gods, but he still has very many questions.  Zig, on the other hand, is deeply bothered that the Old Elves, especially those who are of the Water, can sense deception and lies.



As they move through the ruins, they marvel as the size of the place.  The corridors are wide and sadly in a terrible state of decrepitude.  There is no denying the beauty the chambers once had.  Hollis finds himself staring for a moment at the young Elf who seems to stand close to Gaius the whole time.  He feels bothered that a new companion has so easily joined the group, and in some ways would have preferred if the Elf was present to guide them.  But instead, he was with them in order to "Earn his name."  Surprisingly, Gaius seems to have learned to speak in Elven, which was something he didn't seem to know how to do before.  Liadan walks alongside Hollis, amused at how the Elves viewed the Clerics the way they viewed her - a Heretic.  Hollis defends his faith, despite Liadan's prodding about how the Clerics believe the Orders are corrupted versions of faith in the Old Gods.  Hollis stares back at her with some contempt.

Gaius notices Cassandra attempting to reach out and hold her hand a few times, making her affections clear.  But he gently removes her hand each time and walks ahead, focused more on the possible dangers ahead.  Cassandra says nothing of this, but there's no denying she feels hurt by his unwillingness to show intimacy.


Zig notes movement ahead, and he stops to wait for the Company to warn them.  The thing he caught sight of has rushed ahead and vanished into the darkness.   While there have not been any evident traps, Zig seems concerned that the thing he glimpsed might be the same threat that had decimated the dwarves outside the ruin.

The darkening tunnels continue to wind ahead of them, and soon, the new residents of the long abandoned chambers is revealed.  As they reach a deeper portion of the ruined deep, they find numerous hanging lairs and homes of what seem to be some goblinoid race.   At this point, the group ends up splitting up as the multiple passageways offer confusing turns.   Gaius even glimpses an old monstrosity, the shark-like thing which he had faced before in Angerona.  Hollis and Zig even notices that the polished stone floor suggests living things have been keeping the place tidy.

Gaius sends Alv to scout ahead and scan for what he can see.  Zig opts to accompany the elf.  The Alv admits he can see in the dark and when Zig admits he cannot, the elf ignites his glow stick for light.  Zig raises his concern that the light would make him noticed, but Alv admits the word "cautious" does not exist among his people.   "Fear we understand.  The word for fear is a word we best not say." Alv shuts the glowstick and the two continue foward.  But  Zig and Alv end up confronting a number of goblins in the darkness of the passageway, who use their ability to attack despite being in the darkness.  Zig tumbles backwards and catapults away to dodge the incoming spear.  He ends up bumping into even more goblins when he lands.  Alv rushes back to tell Hollis and Gaius that the thief has found some creatures.   Chaeron sends Gaius and Hollis to go ahead to help while he watches over the others.   Cassandra seems to impose more and more her needs of attention from Gaius.

The battle is short-lived, with the group quickly dispatching the goblins before they can raise an alarm.  Zig is nearly grappled down by the goblins, but he successfully slips away by twisting.  One grabs his bow, however, and as Zig somersaults out of the way, he ends up having to leave the bow to escape.  The goblins, chanting, "Juda" begin scattering.   Gaius and Hollis hear the chanting as they approach, and continue to approach as stealthily as possible.  Neither are able to see as much given the darkness.  Hollis asks if Alv knows what the chanting means, and Alv explains it means, "Prey."  Zig's leap however miscalculates and he ends up hanging over an edge.  Hollis and Gaius quickly make mincemeat of the goblins, unaware that Zig has slid down the edge to what he believes is safety.

Seeing the possible danger of the goblinoids detecting them, the other half of the group tries to sneak past the goblin warrens.  But the camp has already been alerted.  Among the goblins are some kind of larger figure.  The thing is tall by goblin standards, with huge arms and the ability to cast magic.  The thing begins casting, and so Hollis attempts to disrupt it with his own spells.  The battle they have is short-lived, as the group easily sees it would be wiser to try to run than fight against the whole horde.

The group soon gets deeper and deeper into the ruin, and Zig reunites with the others at a place where lots of hanging bridge ways and walkways have been extended.  Fire and death await deep below.  The group worried if they can find a way out, but the Blessing of the Elves remains true and guides them each step of the way.

The Company eventually finds themselves amidst what was once the center of the Dwarven City of Athgnor.  The splendor of the ruin is lost, though a chamber filled with treasures remains unsoiled.  Though Hollis opts not to give in to his urges, Gaius and Zig slip inside to find what treasure they can get.  Gaius finds an ancient shield, shinier than steel but not quite silver, with a bull's head on its face.  Zig is on the ground, making angels in the gold.  He finds an ancient dagger.  Both seem to resonate some level of magic.  The word "Vieta" comes to mind and when uttered, a bull formed by magical force emerges from the shield to ram at anything on the other side.

Beyond Athgnor, the Company now travels the deepest portion of the journey, with crystals and massive gems from the walls and ground.  They move past the arcs, hoping to reach an exit to this dark and dismal place.  But lo, a final threat emerges:  The dark thing that murdered the dwarves tears open a door to make its way to them!

Against the ancient horror, the Company pours out their strength.  Injuries come generously as the thing seems to strike without fear and unwavering strength.  The thing is like a dark oil that moves like an incoming bull.  Gaius strikes powerfully, but the things liquid boy seems to take the brutal punishment without any effort.  Zig sadly drops the gold he is carrying to focus on the battle and watches in horror as many members of the group are in various states of injury.  Hollis pours out all the healing he can muster to help those he can, but while the group forces the door to escape, all wonder how they can stop the thing from following them outside!

It is then when the true answer to Gaius and Cassandra's survival from the destruction of Athgnor is revealed.  Liadan rushes towards the thing, hoping to lure it into a vulnerable spot, and as the thing pours down upon her to engulf and devour her, the thing finds itself distracted long enough for the rest of the group to disperse it with their weapons.    Left where Liadan stood, a stone statue of the heretic remains!  With a touch, Gaius undoes the blessing and Liadan returns to skin and blood, just like he and Cassandra did in the past.  Was their stone transformations a blessing from one of the Old Gods once more?

The group finally flee the ruins of Athgnor, forcing a way through the last door and shutting it behind them for safety.    And now safe, the group finds a moment of respite.  Ahead, they can see the Port City of Onodol at last.  But for now, they have their wounds to heal and their lives intact.

Alv turns to Gaius, asking if he has finally earned his name.  Gaius nods and considers what name to give the elf.



The Wardens ep02 : DC Heroes

06/29/2015
The Wardens
Episode Two
"Confessions"

Mayfair Games' DC Heroes

Tara White opts to purchase the team burner phones, hoping to help the group contact each other and not have to rely on Fan Girl alone to do so.  She learns that her family is planning a vacation trip out of town, however, and wonders how to manage her time with them with the super heroics she needs to do to help Port City.  Hadrian Fauntleroy decides to open up to Fan Girl about his identity and his wealth and the two soon opt to have the group gather and get to know each other a bit more.   Ben Frank is pouring through documents searching for any mentions of acenstral family members and ends up meeting Ren Takenoko, Shin Takenoko's brother, who shares he is working at ArmsCorp and recommends to Ben to try applying there. Ben realizes he misses an old show he used to watch, called MCIS.  But in this current date, it doesn't even exist yet.   Diego Franco learns that his youngest brother, Mateo, has gained a possibly unhealthy admiration for El Teniente and this has lead to school fights and moments of disobedience.  But this is nothing compared to the pressure he gets when Shin visits to ask his sister, Lucita, out on a date.

The Wardens soon learn that Hadrian has the financial means to support the team, an avenue of opportunities that Ben realizes can help finance the technology he hopes to empower the team with.   Ben had been researching as well the cookies he had retrieved from Mrs. Fields and Mr. Peanut and tracks the devices down to a place called Le Chateau d' Univers.   Ben suspects that's where the man with the Disco Ball head may be hiding.  Tara, however, suddenly gets a message from Fan Girl to hurry back home to the campsite where her parents have gone with her.  Before Tara could ask how she knows of her name, she teleports back in time just before her mother visits her tent.

The group begins to bicker about things, and overall there is that realization that many of them have yet to truly trust one another.  Hoping to show he has nothing to hide, Diego unmasks himself.  This, however, shocks Shin, who recognizes him to be the brother of the girl he likes.  When the arguments reach a fevered pitch, Fan Girl tries to silence them by addressing them by name.  And when called out for knowing about their secrets, she logs out in a panic, leaving the ipad mounted on a segwey that she used to interact with the team shut down.

Tara's woes, however, get worse when she discovers a group called SKIE has come to the camp, determined to ask questions.  They claim to be focused on alien threats and hope to learn about a recent alien crash site which her parents may or may not have witnessed.  The agents of SKIE, led by a unnamed woman who is accompanied by The Emissary, an alien contact who claims to be one of the Afrokaters.   Tara, however vague her childhood memories may be, knows the Afrokaters do not look the way he does, and this eventually leads to a fight.    The group rushes to the area to help out, with Tara pulling her mother out of the danger zone.   El Teniente and Buzz work in concert, moving into the danger zone, while protecting the parents from gun fire.  Apollo anticipates the need for a vehicle, only to find the Emissary teleporting to the jeep he was planning to commandeer.  They soon defeat the Emissary, named Sadin, and insist that the SKIE agent explain things in the future.  She gives them a card to contact her indirectly, citing the need for secrecy that she is bound to maintain.  The card gives them the name and contact details of her sister, who is a doctor at some nearby hospital.

With the group now aware of Tara's alien nature, Tara speaks to her mother who admits she pretended she did not know Tara and Trace where the same person, just to keep her safe.  She also admits she was well aware her daughter was not human, and even kept this from her father.   The two form a stronger bond for the years to come.

The SKIE agent reports to her higher ups that the Emissary was lying, and that the Wardens can at least be counted on protecting the city.  She does, however, wonder what they will do with the alien ship currently in orbit.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

dollhouse ep04 : Orpheus


02/08/2015
dollhouse

Episode Four
"In the Darkness"

Orpheus

Keep Eyes Closed and Breathe Deeply.   In the Arms of Light, the host Madame Cassandra leads the audience to a moment of prayer and happiness.  The show talks a lot about balance and unity, but always referring to Orpheus as a satanic influence upon the city.  Of stories of miracles and love and how one's loved ones might just be looking over one's shoulder.  Elsewhere, in the city, people in the club scene begin to take pigment as part of the city's growing drug problem.  Some group has found a way to make pigment now something one just pops into one's mouth, rather than have to inject.  And elsewhere, a high class party is ongoing as the interdepartment celebrations in Orpheus begins.  Employees are enjoying themselves and the company's festivities are in full swing.

Kate Dennison seems distracted during the party, forcing herself to handle any pleasantries.  Chet Mason is frustrated with the table, too wide for someone on crutches, making things such an effort just to get some canapes.  Hoyt Masterson seems busy on his gauze phone.   People applaud as Anne Harper appears, recovering from her last Mission.   Zoe Vitt is there too, battered from her own previous Mission, but definitely on the road to recovery.   Fiona Parker is by the window, projected with her gauze made to appear in a fabulous dress.  She exhales smoke from her cigarette as she hisses about how lucky the others are not to be present in tonight's affair.  Red admits she does not like public gathering like this, "They always remind me of gas chambers."

The others had been indefinitely "on leave" given the way the last Mission had unfolded.  None of Shepherd's Crucible are present for the party.  Shepherd had gathered some data through research in the last few days and tells Natalie Kureya that her budget is in the red.  "You need more money."  He has been working on helping Natalie balance her taxes and managing her cash.  Marina nags Natalie to show her the level she had created using some game called Minecraft.  In the living room area, Sophie, is starting at Shepherd.  She starts grilling him with questions, trying to know what she does for a living.  She asks if he's dating her mother, and warns him she can beat the crap out of him if he tries anything.  Marina seems to be watching Project Runway, and Kate Dennison seems to be in the episode, with the designers to create an outfit inspired by the Cradle.   Sophie however seems focused on a small video of a clown and shares it on her Facebook.  She asks her mother permission to attend some sleepover, but Natalie does not allow her.  She then throws classic child deflection to throw the blame at her mother.  Natalie however sees Sophie has a bag with clothes clearly ready to leave.  But she disciplines her daughter to listen and explains her concern about how bad things are. "Just tell me the truth on where you are going so I know where to look for you."

Elsewhere, Misha Rusanov slams against the wall as a handcuff clamps down his arm.  Natalie Wick then bites his neck, hoists her legs around his waist, and pins him to the bed.   The two are heavily getting things on, even as Misha's ghost dog, Carter, whimpers and wants to go play.  Their rough love making ends abruptly when Natalie's phone starts ringing.  She apologizes to the caller for being late, and hurries to the bathroom to get ready.  The phone rings a few more times while she showers.   When she steps out, Misha asks who was calling and she claims it was work which is odd given she gave an excuse to the caller that she was at work.  Misha, however, being the non-suspicious type lets it slide.  He leaves a note on the table and indulges in flying around in the air, after having learned his Flesh-Flux can be used to allow flight.  He senses an intense spiteful presence in the city, though could not pinpoint where it was coming from. When he receives the call from Shepherd, he tries to reach Wendell at Orpheus, but failing to, opts to make his way to the meeting place.  He sees Mrs. Rosenberg crying though on his way out.

And Wendell Pruce is at the Cradle, talking with Clara Zuckerman of Accounting.  She talks about pulling the plug given he is not authorized to be under this long.  He brings up how Fiona has been asleep for longer than anyone and insists that as long as she is smoking, she is projecting.  Wendell has been under for 21 days now, and the papers only allow him to be under for 5 hours a day.  The techs explain there are times his body mumbles about some "Charlie" every now and then. But Clara insists they should unplug him before they can head to the party.  Wendell explains this is allowing him to train to be a better member of Orpheus.  Clara asks if George, one of the techs, if Fiona's body is still under too.  She reminds him she handles his payroll.   He finally admits she still is.  "Four months!  She has been under in four months!" She throws Wendell to make the choice, to pull her plug or to pull his own.   Clara finally unplugs the UPS device and walks out.  The techs have convinced her that the UPS devices are what keep the bodies plugged in.  The techs are surprised admittedly that both Wendell and Fiona have stayed under that long.  George wonders why he doesn't learn the trick she has of changing the way her gauze look with each projection.  When they ask him who Charlie is, he walks out.

Shepherd steps out to find a car waiting for him.  The man, identifying himself as Uriah Bishop, invites him to hope on and explains that they have meet before for Orpheus business.  Shepherd tells him they're on forced vacation, but Uriah tells him this isn't a "mission."  The car, it seems is sentient and alive, opening doors and starting its engine on its own.  The car turns out to be a Haunter who has some ability to use a horror to manifest as a vehicle.  Bishop admits he had to make Shepherd forget since he wasn't sure which side he was on.  Bishop tells Shepherd he needs their crucible's help.  When Shepherd asks if this is a Black Operation, he explains it isn't as this is not an Orpheus operation.  Bishop needs someone whom he can trust and most agents in Orpheus do not fall under that category.  They're to fumigate Class Red threats. The Haunter, Todd, admits he wanted to be called Tommy, but Uriah claims that didn't sound appropriate.  Shepherd asks if he will remember this mission afterwards, and Bishop admits that is a tricky question.  Shepherd asks to check with his teammates and is given ten minutes to do so.

"So he really doesn't remember," Todd asks Uriah.  Uriah admits they don't remember any of the past missions they have been in.   But they have to rush into the mission regardless, with over fifty lives at stake, not counting the kids.

Misha heads back to his body after enjoying a flight over the city.  That moment, Shepherd calls his cellular phone and tells them they have to meet up.  Natalie continues to argue with Sophie about her wanting to explore a dangerous place, whether or not ghosts are real.  She tries to explain her not wanting her kids to do dangerous things.  Both kids have the misconception that Shepherd is her boyfriend.  Natalie asks Sophie to promise her she won't go.  Shepherd has the Haunter Todd help him contact the Crucible using his Inhabit powers.    Natalie is perturbed when a few times, the people in Project Runway seem to be talking directly to her about "We will watch over your kids. Go help your friends."  It is as if the signal of the show is intercepted for a moment by something.  She opts to go and locks the door behind her.


Back at Orpheus, Clara Zuckerman checks the biometrics on who is still present and admits she isn't in the mood to chase after Wendell given the party has started downstairs.  With the arrival of one of the board members, Clara focuses instead on him to map out tonight's events.  Wendell emerges from a side door, manifested, and greets the board member and Clara.  The three quickly discuss the night's events and Wendell suggests Clara share her new plans on managing the HMO expenses.  The man, Jack Tilton, who is the company's CEO, shakes his hand.  He asks if there's a reason he's not at the party downstairs.  Clara lies and claims to be here to pick him up.  Tilton suggests they all head down together.  Wendell shares how he's been under for over 21 days, and how this saves finances on the health insurance costs for the company.  He claims Clara thought of it.  Wendell catches from the conversation that the celebrations are being held in the basement to avoid the media leaks that the company has been having.  There's a veiled attempt to discuss "Bishop" which Tilton openly talks about and asks if he is attending.  Clara admits he is currently out, attending to "the affair."  They head down to the basement levels.

As one half of the Crucible gathers at the location Shepherd tells them, Wendell finds himself entrenched in the events unfolding at the Orpheus Building.   Strangely, however, when they check the biometrics, all the members of the Crucible are shown to be already present in the basement.

At the lower basement level, Wendell accompanies Tilton and Zuckerman to one of the secure chambers under the headquarters.  Tilton explains the place is way past his clearance level, but he needs a Wisp right now.  He tells them he just wants to make sure of something before going to the party.  This reminds Wendell of the rumors people talking about the Zoo, where supposedly strange Spectres and rogue agents have been captured and locked up for further study.  Wendell stays close.  There are doors on both sides, each having names written on cards on them.  Tilton reminds Wendell to keep the glow bright.  "No matter what you see, keep the glow bright."  At the far end, a door waits.  The label reads: Bishop.

In the meeting area, Shepherd finds everyone except Wendell show up.  None of them can reach him, it seems. Misha shares how oddly, they are listed in Orpheus as being present at the party despite being out.  Natalie wonders who he is.  When Shepherd asks if Bishop was behind the reason they're listed as present in the party, Bishop admits it was for plausible deniability.  They're doing something without Orpheus' approval, after all.  Ellie Barker arrives, her toes still having tissue between each one. She seems to have come from a pedicure.  They learn the guy is "the real" Bishop, and they all board Todd to discuss enroute.   Bishop leads them to Oak Park, a private subdivision where Spectres seemingly are terrorizing the residents.    The place has lead to a lot of residents leaving, after a series of suicides and strange incidents of people getting private secrets exposed online.  As of the previous night, however, ghostly children with spikes, talons, bug-like eyes and shark-like teeth running around.  Orpheus opted out of handling this given their fears of a possible e-Demon infecting their own servers.  There were sightings of a fox-headed creature in a pin-striped set of pajamas.  Todd and the others fled fearing having to deal with the six Spectres on their own.   "I'm asking you to risk your jobs to save lives.  Or are you only in Orpheus for the money?"

At Orpheus, Fiona sees other people at the table set for the group.  She is confused to see them occupying where her crucible should be seated.  Lights flicker through-out the building.  One level below at the basement, Jack is more concerned about Bishop's cradle, however.   He hurries with the others to the elevator and notes that the building is on LOCKDOWN.  "This isn't right," Jack admits.  The building should only lockdown if the security administration opts it.  But for some reason, even Jack's security key to overrive the lockdown is rejected.  Back at the party, Fiona is starting to walk away when she bumps into Alex Carter.  He tries to talk to her, but she dismisses him as she feels something is wrong.   A muffled sound of an explosion erupts somewhere above the basement.  Jack, Wendell and Clara hear a sequence of muffled explosions getting closer and closer.  The lights flicker.  Wendell hates the fact he cannot Stormwend living people.  The tension causes Clara's asthma to hit.  Fiona hears Wendell's call in the hivemind but before she could full answer, gunfire erupts in the party.  Fiona and Alex try to escape, but the bullets kill more and more people in Orpheus.  The assailants seem to be trained to fight against people with Horrors.  Some of them are even wearing explosives, detonating them to kill even more without care.

The group carefully makes their way into Oak Park but both Natalie and Shepherd realize through Forebode that the Spectres already know they are here.  Both see a vision of a Lost Boy crawling down the wall.  Black hands emerge from beneath the concrete to grab at them.  Carter, Misha's Familiar, howls as the hands grab hold of his master's leg.  Misha is pulled almost completely under had it not been one arm around Carter.  Natalie uses her Juggernaut to boost her chances of fighting the incoming Spectres.

Tilton tells Wendell to Stormwend and get help, but Clara asks him not to since if he leaves, the panic and her attack will overwhelm her.  The supernatural calm he's imposed on her is allowing her to breathe.  Wendell wends to the ground level but instead only reaches his cradle.  Laser sights scan the area.  "This is Baker. We are in position. Explosives are being planted."  Wendell ignites his Unearthly Repose to influence the armed men,  swaying them to leave the area and bring their explosives with them.  But more of these armed men are in the area, and worse... they seem to have Spectres working alongside them!

At Oak Park, the group soon realize they cannot find Bishop.  As they fight against the Lost Boys, the group maneuver into the building, hoping to find a way to switch the odds in their own favor.  The group soon finds themselves in the presence of the Spectre they had met before, the one in the pinstripe suit.   While Misha uses summoned dogs to distract the Lost Boys, they find Bishop and the pinstripe man in a final encounter.  Natalie hears the Spectre tap into the hivemind, and it attempts to frighten her with words of what is to come.

Wendell leads most of the armed men to the ground level, lured by his Unearthly Repose, but then a flood of black shapes close in.  He realizes they are Spectres!  And somehow, they are hurting even the living security guards directly!  Computers and machines flicker with electricity arcing from them, then explode.   Many of the armed men begin jumping back to their bodies.  The explosives on them, however, trigger as the killswitches are triggered.  Wendell hurries back downstairs and tells Jack and Clara he can lead them out.  Jack and Clara consume pigment to become hues, shooting themselves in the head to kill their bodies.  Wendell realizes his own body is still down below. He wends the two out of the building.   Jack gives him all the Vitality he can muster, and he tells Wendell that he has had Pigment before.  "95%" he reminds him of his first near OD from the drug.  Wendell realizes Charlie gave him pigment before.  He suddenly recoils back to his body.

Natalie spies through the hivemind to hear the Spectre muttering fearfully of Uriah's knowledge of their kind.  The Spectre talks to them of being "Meat" stressing how much it despises all these moving meat that makes meat sounds by pushing air through their meat.  It is the pin-striped man with a fox's head.  The others are ignored thankfully since they appear as the living due to their intense Vitality.   "You're not just pretending to be like us, you're learning to-" the Spectre's words are cut by the sound of a gunshot.  Uriah has some kind of gauze-created gun which sounds like bone being crushed. Natalie and Misha drop to the ground, watching as the Fox's head is gone, sucked away into something.  Dropping to the ground is a maggot, seemingly formed by all the sucked matter of the Spectre.  Something happens, however, and Bishop vanishes, perhaps ripcorded back to his body.  The pistol drops to the ground.  Misha raises his foot to squish the maggot.  It squeaks begging for its life.  Misha crushes it.   The Lost boys run off in fear, knowing their master is gone.  Ellie, who had been watching the car, looks at them all with worry.  She starts the engine, asking about Bishop, and they hurry to get back in time.  They realize there is more than they realize going on among the Spectres.

Wendell opens his eyes to see Fiona forcing him to get up on his feet.  Wendell barely can stand, his body still week from being under for so long.  They escape to an elevator, maneuvering away from the black smoke whenever they can.  They soon reunite with Carter who is currently crippled and has hacked the electronics of the elevator to find a way out.  Fiona separates from them only to return much later with a cradle that she had torn free from the ground.   But just before they freely get out, Fiona is intercepted by a black thing that rises and engulfs the cradle in her arms.  She screams as black smoke tears into her gauze, ripping her apart.  She hits the wires of the elevator, slamming the doors shut.  They rush to the surface.

Orpheus is completely overrun.  Destruction and death remain.   Empty cradles abound.  The rooms in the secret basement are empty.  Including Uriah Bishop's cradle.    Dead bodies are scattered in the party area.

Fiona yells at the emergency services people to help.  But none approach.  All stare at her in fear. Guns are raised, trained at them.  They realize they cannot find help from them and find their way out on their own.  Somehow, news outlets and emergency services have been given documents identifying the crucible as possible terrorists who have intentions to blow up the Orpheus building.   When soldiers trap the three, lightning dives from the electric wires to blow up a nearby generator and stun the soldiers.  The crucible reunites to escape, scarred and clearly terrified of the events that have unfolded.

Fiona stares at the distance, somehow still feeling something.  Feeling that her body is somehow still somewhere out there.  Beyond her reach.


Sunday, July 12, 2015

So I didn't make it to the final cut

My entry to Game Chef 2015 didn't make the final cut.  But it was definitely an experience I plan to repeat in the years to come.  The creative challenge was invigorating and while I feel a bit sad my entry didn't make it to the finals, I still feel pretty psyched with the feedback I received.

I'm thinking now of at least releasing my work somehow on Drivethrurpg or something. I am not sure how yet, but it definitely feels like it needs to be born.

Congratulations to the finalists!

The finalists are:
Dragon, Fly by Paul Beakley
Dragonfly Brewing Company by Michael Wenman
Dreams of Dragonflies by D.X. Logan
Far Away From Home by Aleksandra Samonek
Good Night Fairy Theatre by Emily Griggs
ISP Dragonfly by Kevin Omans
REDREAM by RON LANGTON
Sisters of the Hive by Jordan Saxby
Stay, Still by Heather Silsbee
Tea Ceremony by Niamh Schönherr
The Long Sleep by Bill Templeton
Wings by David Rothfeder

See you again next year.


2015 Tally of 12 so far...

As of right now, it is July and I am pretty proud to say I've currently hit nine of the twelve game promise I started two years back. For those who are not familiar, I challenged myself to play or run at least 12 new games each year.  So far, this is my third year of embracing the challenge and if anything, it has allowed me gain so much new insight and ideas on game design and approaches.

The current tally includes:
1) End Of the World
2) Don't Rest Your Head
3) Fiasco: Bad Timing
4) Ryuutama
5) Roll20: Dungeon World
6) Bliss Stage
7) Companions
9) Apocalypse World

That means I am down to three to go for the year! 

Also, I recently found the courage to finally join this year's Game Chef and so far I'm hoping that my work was received well.  The challenge was definitely a fun experience and I do hope to take part in future challenges.  The game I wrote is called welcome to the EYEland and it sort of plays out like an odd Battle-Royale reality show game with a twist.  I have no idea how everyone else have found the game, but so far one review has come up (thank you Michael Wenman) and thankfully I didn't get that bad a score.

Those curious to see the review can check it out here: http://vulpinoid.blogspot.com/2015/07/game-chef-review-49-welcome-to-eyeland.html

The Gaming Seminars have taken a breather last month, however, and we hope to get them back on track this month.  I only have the problem of possibly not being available for the next one, which is sad cause of what we have in mind to make it more awesome.  Eventually, we do hope to actually make them feel more like mini-conventions, and who knows maybe eventually a convention event devoted completely to role-playing games might come to pass.

And of course, a tiny table top gaming moment of joy comes from Twitter.  Rocky is teasing me about how much I am fanboying over the fact I am occasionally in communication with my designer idols.   I threw Ignacy a joke about whether he would even travel to the Philippines to play board games with me.  To my shock, he actually replied: 


The internet has truly made so many "dreams" now so much more plausible and achievable.    Now... to get my own book out soon.  Sighs.  I really should.





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