Tuesday, August 26, 2014

First Adventure : Classic Dungeons and Dragons

07/26/2014

First Adventure
Classic Dungeons and Dragons

A highly respected friend of mine, Jay, has a gaming place called LUDO: BoardGame Bar and Cafe in Manila, and they opted to celebrate one day as Gary Gygax day.   I was lucky enough to have been invited to run a game there so I opted to run a classic Dungeons and Dragons game.  Back when I was truly new to role-playing games, the old color-coded multiple sets of Dungeons and Dragons were the games that broke my geeky gamer hymen. Rocky, my partner, had never played any iteration of Dungeons and Dragons so I felt it would be a great time to share with him the hilarity and grit of the original system that I grew up with.  Wonderfully, four other players opted to join the game that day.  Erich, Rachel, Karra and Titus all grabbed a character sheet as well and joined us in what was to be a throwback thank you to Gary Gygax for creating such a memorable game.

This book.
After rolling up stats and deciding on their characters (yes back then you had to ROLL for your stats, then see what character classes you can qualify for thanks to the stats you rolled up), I explained to them the rules for the game and how each character class had this or that feature.  Oh and because this was meant to be a celebration of how hard core the game was back then, I required everyone to start at level one.

Yes.  Level one.

I began running for them the same original Basic set adventure which the book contained as a walk-through for first time players.   Anyone who had played through this book before would remember that would be the dungeon with the giant snake, the goblins, and eventually the most memorably tragic fictional characters that would scar us for what may have been for many the first time in their lives.

Yes, these two.
THESE TWO.
I also handed out graphic paper because as anyone who played Dungeons and Dragons knew back then, graphing paper was the best way to actually mark down the map for the session and find your way around.

Embracing fully the tropes of a fantasy adventure, I opened the game with the players having with the classic opening spiel: They were all at a tavern when they are tasked to undertake a mission for the town.  The quest was to enter the nearby dungeons and hunt down the villainous wizard, Bargle.

Their journey into the depths eventually has them meet the lovely Cleric Aleena who was the only survivor of an early party on the same quest.  With her joining them, the group manages to evade a room filled with horrible zombies and find a passageway leading further into the evil Wizard's abode.   As they reach the next level of the dungeon, however, tragedy strikes as Bargle slays the lovely Cleric with a well-timed Magic Missile!

Without wasting time to mourn her death, the group find themselves in a darker underground dungeon with winding passageways, a spiral staircase, goblins, and traps.  The fights against the goblins were swift, with the players managing to disable most of them quite easily.  But in their search for the path leading to Bargle they encounter a magically trapped room with a Magic Mouth that asks them to solve a tricky riddle.  Those who failed were locked away in an illusionary prison that made the others think they were devoured.

Erich (in black), Me (in light blue near wall), Karra, and Rocky (also in light blue) at LUDO!


Thankfully, however, the last remaining member of the party was able to solve the riddle and the group hurriedly attempted to chase after the goblins and question them further on their allegiance to the wizard.   The goblins fled, leading them into the waiting lair of a strange monstrosity that scavenged amidst a chamber of red dust.  A RUST MONSTER!  All were quick enough to evade the thing, with the cleric sacrificing a shield to delay the beast.

By the end, the group had found another passageway that lead deeper into the dungeon and all knew that if anything, the true adventure was just about to begin.

*

It was a one shot game, so we did the most of what we could with the time.  Ultimately, all had a great time reliving what at one point was the ONLY role-playing game I actually played.  There was a lot of laughs with how cruel the system was towards the players (with the thief struggling to roll the needed percentages to Move Silently and the like, or the damned Saving Throws and the hit rolls) but all in all, there was a general appreciation of how far gaming has evolved from what was once the Basic red box system of Dungeons and Dragons.

Favorite line for the session:  "Humans..." said with extreme derision by Karra's elf who hated how all the other human characters couldn't properly work together to deal with each threat and obstacle that appeared before them.

Thank you Gary Gygax for all the worlds we now can explore since you started one that you were willing to share.



Thursday, August 21, 2014

After the Rain ep13 : Houses of the Blooded

07/27/2014
After the Rain

Episode Thirteen
"The Boarder"

It is Autumn.

Galeo Silja is with Hero and the two are quietly on the balcony overlooking their land.  They share a quiet moment with their child as they talk about how  it has been a few weeks since Galeo had returned.  Galeo talks about the dangers of definition and about how there are things out there that defy it.  Cassalanter is the name the child is given; a name that means: Rise from Defeat.  Hero shows Galeo a missive that came for her and she sees that it is a formally prepared invitation from a Duke.  The seal is unfamiliar.  Hero explains it is from the Duchess of the Ruins Beneath and it is the third letter.  He tells Galeo she has been visiting and has helped them handle trouble in her absence.  She was welcomed to join for dinner once, Hero admits, and he found her fascinating but admits he is not certain she can be trusted.  She seemed to be deeply concerned of all of them.  

Seran Throne sits in an empty chamber.  The Staff are gathered outside, afraid to speak to her.  One finally gains courage enough to step inside and asks if she will be having dinner.  Once again Seran says no.  She has not had dinner in a month.  She continues to stare at the empty seat across the table.  The Seat where Lukas used to sit.    She scans on the notations and papers that Lukas has been maintaining through the Seasons and feels more the pain of his absence.  His meticulous and resourcefulness shows in how he has kept track of the duties.  She finds a letter from the U'vshanadir and finds it talking about the Meridian House supporting their petition for additional seats in the Senate.  She finds it shocking that they now have a voice in the Senate.  To her surprise, she finds the letters to be penned by Maja Thayl - Jaric's mother!

Jaric Thayl and Nia Jalan are with the other survivors from the ruins of the fallen City.  Many remain in states of intense shock and disbelief, the world around them having fallen asunder.   Camps have been set up, with many of the Ven still struggling to cope with the reality of now being... outside the Mistweir.  Haroun is busy working on the Ritual to form a new Airship, using the Secret Name which had been whispered to him by Nia Jalan.   Jaric finds Haroun in another part of the camp, however, and is surprised to see him not working on the ritual.  As Jaric chases after him, he slips and injuries his leg.  Haroun stops to help Jaric and upon exhaling reveals that he is actually Szaz.  He learns that Szaz had been stealing resources from the camp and learn that many of them Spiders are being targeted by others as being reason their City had fallen.  Jaric suggests they trust in the Ork friends to lead them home, just as they did in the stories before.

Nia and his ork talker, Bowen, are watching Haroun working on the Ritual.  Miralia Yvarai watches over Bowen with a bloodsword.  Other ven in the area display anger towards them, and blame Nia for the destruction of the city.  But when Miralia challenges them and even throws away the Bloodsword to allow him to prove the challenge, the man leaves.  Nia learns the bloodsword is Seran's; it was left with Miralia at the port.   Miralia asks if all *this* was expected or part of the plan, but Nia admits they planned to just slip away in secrecy.  Miralia laments how her three children are dead, how she now stands in the Ruin and wonders if she shouldn't have helped them.  Nia counters that if they could have done this, they wouldn't have needed their help.  They notice that the airships are still flying their preordained paths in the sky.  Nia peers and realizes the orks that swarmed around the ships in formation are no longer there!  When they discuss the orks that rescued them, Bowen shares they are known as "Ghosts" in their people, spoken of only in legend.

The Demon Lillandra
Then come the screams.
Accompanying the sound, buzzing.

None anticipate the sudden attack of orks - massive gigantic wasps - that swarm around them and begin assaulting the ven!  The gigantic insects tears into the survivors, with stingers almost a foot and a half long.  Nia and Miralia start running, dodging the orks that close in.   They run for the closest body of water and submerge within to hide.  Jaric and Szaz hide with Szaz using her Prayer to hide them once again.  Then, footfalls.  A foot stands close to Jaric's face.  He peers and sees a naked woman with red flowing hair.  A wasp lands near her and she holds its head gently.

"Do not kill them all.  Let us let this Terror last a few more nights.  Recall the rest and return to the hive."

The wasp flies away.  She smiles and mutters, "I'll find you eventually.  You do know that.  There is no escaping me forever."  Szaz trembles, feeling the need to breathe soon.  Jaric watches as the red-haired woman draws out a broken piece of pearl.  She cuts her cheek to call out to Galeo.

Galeo hears the voice.  All across the distance, Galeo hands Cassalanter to Hero and the two leave quietly.  Jaric overhears the red-haired woman's side of the conversation.  The woman seems amused that Galeo has named her that way.  She offers to allow Galeo to let them see how the others are.  Galeo turns the offer down.  The woman asks Galeo for a "favor" and in return, she gets to see how the others are.  The boarder is to have full hospitality.

Jaric, not having a plan, speaks up and is now visible.  The red-haired woman offers them a chance to speak to each other.  The two can see each other now.   Jaric asks why the red-haired woman is dragging out the punishment upon the ven given they've already destroyed the city.  She talks about Galeo having let her "in" and how Galeo is the one who knows where the single person she is looking for is. Jaric asks for the red-haired woman to leave the survivors alone.   Red-haired woman offers one Season.  Jaric suspects a Season is not enough.  Galeo asks what the nature of the border is and she tells her it is an old friend of yours.  Jaric hears only the demon's side and retorts, "I have no Friends!"  Jaric hears about a boarder, about a place to stay, about him being at her door but then the conversation with Galeo ends.

Szaz, unable to hold her breathe longer, stands.  The demon admits she did not expect the Spider there, and Jaric muses the demon doesn't seem to know everything.  She stresses to Jaric that they are not her enemy, and wonders if he has finally met "the Author".  About finally helping him remember.  And about why of all names, he chose Jaric's.

Galeo goes to gate and finds the boarder turns out to be Lukas.  Lukas is terrified and tired, and does not quite understand why no one knows who he is.  When Hero walks up to check on what's going on, Galeo discovers not even Hero recognizes Lukas!  Lukas mentions he was praying to Thalia for help, and she whispered to him to go here for help.  Galeo asks if Lukas is a Fox and he admits he is one. He was Blooded in their absence.  She worries he is an Yvarai.  Lukas trembles as he asks why can't others recognize him and presses to know why Galeo can.  She let's him in.


It is Winter.

Strangely, this has been one of the strangest Winters in Shanri.  Not a single place experiences Trouble.  No wandering orks.  No avalanches that endanger roads.   Galeo and Seran receive invitations from Maja Thayl, Jaric's mother, to an Althua to welcome the Duchess of the Ruins Beneath as she formally plants her Castle.   Seran opts to attend alone.   Galeo decides to bring her husband and child with her.  Lukas asks why he cannot speak to Seran and she reminds him that it is best not to go against a near omni-potent force.  Lukas accepts that is also what Thalia demands.

In the Wilderness, Haroun's airship finally completes.  With the vessel now floating above them, the survivors cheer believing they have found salvation in sight.  A former Earl asks Nia if this is when they say goodbye and when the ork ven leave them.  Nia throws back that she is sure she can find them a tribe to fit in with.  Dalvinosh Steele asks her if she is sincere in her Insult but then retracts it given there as so "few of us left".   He asks Nia what their demands will be.  Nia admits that might be best discussed with Haroun and the others, although she admits it is the intention.  Haround declares to all from above that safe passage is to be granted and hospitality granted save for all those who voted against him in the Senate hall.  He adds that for those who want reconsideration, to gather below.    Nia and Jarik explore a nearby ruin to gather what artifacts they can before they leave.

At the Althua, Maha Thayl meets Galeo, Cassalanter and Errol of the Forgiving Hands, a vassal.  Errol is the identity Lukas is to start embracing.    Hero, however, pulls Galeo aside to question why they suddenly have a new Vassal.  He suspects she is lying to him about something and confronts her about it.  He outright asks her if she is having an Affair.  She angrily outbursts about how if she was having an affair, he would be a painter again.  He begs her to just answer directly and say who he is.  Galeo admits she has voices in her head and just need some time to decide on things.  Hero reminds her he trusts her.  She reminds him he only loves her.  "Trust and love are different things."

Seran Thorne arrives.

Errol stares at her with yearning.  Galeo reminds him to keep himself distant from her.  Hero introduces Seran to the baby.  Seran asks for Galeo and Hero shows her where they are.  Errol is stunned, staring at her.  Galeo has to kick his knee to make him curtsy.  Seran does not recognize Errol at all.  Seran asks why he was staring at her and who he is and Galeo just explains he's a new addition to her household.  Maha Thayl interrupts the conversation and pulls Galeo to meet the crowd, introducing her as the mother of the baby.   Seran ends up standing alone.

Maha Thayl talks about how this is the first baby in the year, and how the other child that has been born has been of the Duchess.  They all turn to watch the balcony as the music changes, announcing the arrival of the guest of honor.

Back in the Wilderness, Haroun surveys the passengers and directly asks Bowen to give count on how many of the ven are arriving.  Jaric turns to ask Jeeves something, but then realizes he isn't with him.  He had gone missing since the storm.  Jaric turns to Nia and asks if she thinks they are still in the ruins somewhere.  When Nia asks who, Jaric wonders how the two others have fared.  He also wonders about the records lost in the ruins.  Haroun asks that the two share their views on the ven that voted against him.  He admits he planned to leave them to die but now is considering to still bring them given that would be something they would like less.  Nia reminds them that their Senate does frown upon the unblooded and the House-less ones.   She tells them she did claim some to be under his shadow.  Jaric admits that he suspects the Spiders will be spreading out in Shanri once they arrive.   Haroun also wonders where Pyotr is, given the man was kind to him.  They offer the views that they should help them so they owe him.

Haroun address the ven below after rappelling down on a rope.  He tells them someone once inspired him to do that as a show of courage.  He tells them they are all welcome to ride with them back home if they can hold on.  Haroun heads back up and tells them they will handle honorifics when they return.  He snarls that he recalls how long they all left him in that cell.  Bowen reports there are a total of 139 ven on board.  Not counting the ven hanging on from below.  Addressing in the Old Tongue, Haroun commands the ship to set sail and it rises.  Nia wishes they had archers to shoot the ones that let go.

Bowen whispers to Nia that he is uncomfortable that Haroun commands him.  Nia admits Haron has gone through many things.  What he suffered has transformed him.  Jaric realizes he thinks Seran is probably dead.  Szaz asks if they are headed back to their Shanri and Jaric even tells Szaz she has a place in his Castle.   "Obviously the Spiders will need to restablish themselves in order to be of use again.  If I know my wife, I will have a city of my own waiting for me.  I can trust you to manage it in time."  Jaric does have one request in mind and he motions to the man in yellow.  He asks Szaz to watch over her personally.

Dranna Ru, Duchess of the Ruins Beneath
"So this is us heading home?" Jaric asks Nia.
Nia admits she thinks so.

At the Althua, the curtain opens.

The Duchess wears a headdress as large as the woman herself.  Her clothing is disturbingly animated and while everyone claps, Seran and Galeo share a horrified glance at each other as they recognize the clothing.  The Duchess is wearing people, who adjust their legs and arms to hold poses.  Seran and Galeo recognize the swarming orks that nearly attacked them back at Isolde's Castle.  Then they recognize her face.

It is Dranna Ru.

"The Duchess of the Ruins Beneath!" Maha Thayl declares.   And everyone applauds.

Galeo turns to Hero.  "And you had her over for dinner?"
"She came to visit," Hero explains, "She left her Vassals outside."  He explains how a carriage of ven bodies was at their gates.  Bodies of ven clutching each other.  Bodies hugging one another.

The two ask why no one seems to notice seems to notice that Dranna Ru is dressed in orkish clothing.  He explains that during the Senate's Winter gathering, during the Morning Invocation, part of the building began to collapse.  That was when a hand made of ven bodies rose from the ruins beneath.  The hand rose to support the Senate Hall.  The ven expected an attack or a moment of Mass Murder but a week passed without threat.  It was a day after that week when Dranna Ru emerged from the depths to speak for the hand.  She even told Hero Galeo's Secret Name.  "That's why I believed she knew you."

Dranna Ru surveys the crowd.  Her eyes catch Galeo and there is the moment of recognition.  Seran, on the other hand, stares at the woman she failed to saved.  Dranna Ru also recognizes Seran.  She then pulls back and closes the curtain.

"Isn't she lovely?" Maha Thayl asks the two, talking about how Shanri has become so unique and special. "Who would have ever thought there would ever be an Ork House?

Back in the Wilderness, the screams continue every night as someone else falls from the ropes.  Szaz petitions to Haroun and the others to not have this happening.  She reminds them of Ven law and that they should be treated as Ven.  Jaric counters with the famous saying, "What you hold you own," and tells her if they wanted to live, they should have held on.  She counters that the ven are all "under their shadow" and is their responsibility!  She turns to Haroun and reminds him all on the vessel are to be given hospitality.  Nia counters that the ven are not "on the Ship" instead they are "below it" but Szaz then questions if that means any Vassals outside their Castle then are free game?  Haroun just settles this by asking Jaric, Nia and Szaz if they want them.

Szaz does not answer.

And finally in the Althua, Errol (Lukas) watches Seran in the distance, wishing he could speak to Seran.  His willpower eventually fails and he starts to take steps towards Seran to speak to her.  But before he gets close enough, someone grabs his hand and forces him to turn.  The man smiles at Errol and makes him stop.

"Zsanos Yvarai, Count Kether.  I am friends with your wife."

"My life?" Errol asks, shocked.

"You're Lukas, aren't you?" Count Kether grins.  He tugs at his arm, "Come... let us talk."

Zsanos Yvarai, Count of Kether











 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Century Club ep03 : Spirit of the Century

07/24/2014

The Century Club
Spirit of the Century

Episode Three
"Parallels and Perpendiculars"

It began as a normal day for each of the Centurions.  Victor Knightfellow is looking at apartments in hopes of finding a new place to move into now that they are based in Paris.  He hoped to find a good location to have his books stored.  Victor used his reputation to suggest his need for a place to stay but most of the government people just stared back at him given the Centurions own a Mansion in Paris.  He had hoped to find a two-storey apartment with a basement which he had hoped to create a dungeon.    The woman showing him around was selling the property quite well, but Victor realized the place was way beyond his budget range.  Something shatters down below.  The two hurry downstairs to check what caused the sound.  The demon asks Victor if its possible the Centurions themselves are who are luring all these criminals to the city.  The two reach the ground level and they see a guy at the table with the small scones and food.  The man stares at the two and asks for their forgiveness, admitting he was not aware of others being present.


"Which one must I be addressing with regards to this estate?"

The woman tries to explain someone is already getting the place, but the man motions his hand and the woman immediately shifts her tone and now asks him instead if he'd like to look around. Victor plays dumb for now, embracing the element of surprise.  The man has the woman tell Victor he can inquire at a later date.  But as she brushes him off to leave, Victor decides to step in and calls out "Hold on a minute there" in an attempt to mesmerize him. Their eyes lock, but to his surprise the man does not fall under his control.  The man stares back and ignores his command to reconsider his actions.  In the man's eyes, Victor can see his own reflection and the Demon panickedly mimes for him to run away.

"Did you just.. attempt what I think you did?"

The man reaches into his jacket as Victor turns his attentions to the woman.  The man slides a ring on as Victor glances out the window for a nearby animal and all he sees is a pigeon.  The man confronts Victor, asking which "Magical Circle" he is part of given there are only four existing in the world.  Victor tries to get the woman's side, talking about how weird the man is but in response the man simply suggests the woman rest and she falls to the ground, asleep!   Victor breaks for the door and runs out into the street.  He starts rushing down the street for the Centurion Club but the moment he turns a corner, the man is standing infront of him.  "Not Morgan," he mutters as he peers into Victor's eyes.  Victor struggles to recall how to call for the cops in France.  "Too skittish to be one of Merlin's," the man adds.  Victor notices a man walking three dogs.  He acts scared and as he collapses in fear, he actually projects himself into one of the dogs.  The stranger catches Victor's body before it hits the ground and mutters, "Definitely not of the White Circle.  Could you be one of Glorianna's?" as he turns his attention to the dog Victor is possessing.  Victor realizes his Talisman of the Wylde is visible from his clothes and the man had recognized it!

That moment, Victor wakes up in a bit to catch the man by surprise.  He once again tries to lock eyes with the man and hopes to the Devil's Luck it works this time.  The man asks him how many times he will keep trying until he realizes it isn't going to work.  The man asks Victor to identify himself but Victor deflects the question and says no one special trained him.  The man commends Victor for knowing the power behind names.  The man starts explaining that he thinks that Victor is either a Student of Glorianna Sheeda like himself, or a remaining servant of Merlin.  He asks Victor directly if he is a student of Crowley's and Victor admits he is.  The man then apologizes and adds, "His demise will be tremendously regretted."  Victor gets explosive as he asks what the man means that Crowley is dead.  Victor turns to a reflection to ask the demon if its true and the demon admits Crowley died two nights ago.  He never told Victor since he never asked.  The man admits he tried to keep it painless, and that moment he glances away to look at the ground and ask it if he should tell Victor the details.  Victor realizes the man's demon is in the ground.. or something.  He tells Victor he attempted Sympathy to find someone close to Crowley since any Man of Mystery who dies has only nine nights to set things right before being irrevocably sent into Hell.  Victor asks why the man killed him and the man corrects him that he did not kill Crowley.  The man explains he was sent back from the future, as Glorianna Sheeda rules the world in the tomorrow.  "My Order exists because your Order creates it in time.  Your mentor called out to me.  He was imprisoned by a Castle of Illusions.  It was in the Bermuda Triangle.  He was the last to die among with his allies."  Crowley summoned the man from the future to do two things; Ensure his soul finds rest, and to ensure their line's propagation to ensure their Order to be born as well.  When Victor asks if he knows of Cosmo, the man admits that is not a good sign.  They are at a junction when the Order of Merlin can be halted and that allies are needed to help stop them.  He also admits there are no records of Victor and his friends in the future, other than the fact they form the Order of Glorianna Sheeda in time.  The man shows he has silver coins, which he had thought to use to pay for the property.  He reveals his name is Percy.

Victor worries though given Glorianna Sheeda means Glory to the Faerie.  The Order of Merlin, in his knowledge, is meant to prepare the world for the return of the one True King.  But supposedly the faerie stand against them in fear of the great weapon: Caliburn.   Could Percy be... Percival?

The man asks Victor for his name.  The Demon implores him not to give it.  Victor tells him, "Commissar Victor."  The man shares also knowledge that they have bound spirits to them.  Victor's is of the Water, hence it appears in mirrors.  His is of the Earth, which exists and whispers through cracks.  The final order supposedly would be of the Air, allowing them to be free and ever present.

Elsewhere, Walter Le Frogge is quietly under a bridge near a river.  He found himself enjoying his free time away from the celebrity of the mansion.  He still returns to the mansion to sleep.  He can overhear many of the people worriedly talking on the bridge above of Germany taking actions that the rest of the world do not like.  Walter catches the sound of heavier footfalls, and he turns to see Svetlana with a satchel approaching him.  She admits she was looking for him and had gone here thinking she would find him here.  Walter asks if she is leaving and she admits she brought with her camping things because she wanted to join him in the camp.  Walter's memories shoot back to Elijah's warning of her not taking break ups well.  And her falling for leaders.  She sets camp at the opposite side of the river.

She asks Walter if he is uncomfortable with her presence in the area, but Walter just deflects and offers to help her set up camp.  Svetlana worries about the coming signs of war and if this would lead to them being on opposite sides of the battlefield.  She even asks Walter if they should leave people to handle the fight on their own in the trenches while special ones like them avoid the battle?  

At the park, Kenji Katana and Cosmo are playing fetch.  Kenji would throw the ball a distance of three fields while Cosmo would telekinetically chase after it.  "That's at least three fields," a red-haired woman tells Kenji and he recalls her to be the reporter for the Tribute.  She identifiers herself as Miss Wheeler and Kenji remembers she was also present when the Normalists attacked some weeks back.  To his surprise, she executes a perfect Japanese bow then greets him in fluent conversational Japanese.  She tells him how as a reporter she has learned to handle stress and cultural differences.  "I am a Woman of the World.  I am fluent in 12 languages," she smiles.   She asks to join the two and Cosmo seems pretty happy to play a bit more.  She tells Kenji she's been struggling to get an interview and that she's happy Kenji has been willing to have this interview.  She even honors his family and his role in the heroic group given the bombings that happened and what separated him from his family. Cosmo returns and to their surprise, Wheeler bows to the ground level in front of him, a way to tell Cosmo that she "bows to him as the alpha".  Cosmo telepathically asks Kenji why she knows so many things about them.  Wheeler, however, answers the question even if was never asked, and admits she has been observing conversations and wonders what the term Cosmonaut means.  "As a reporter, it is my job to be in the know. And I guess I am quite Superb when it comes to that."
 Throw*throw*throw*throw*throw*throw*throw*throw*throw*throw*throw*throw*throw*throw*throw*throw*throw*throw*throw*throw*throw*Cosmo starts telepathically and excitedly asks Kenji to play.  Kenji learns from Wheeler that his body matches the Steam-Powered Japanese Soldiers and that Cosmo's clothing has markings which match top secret soviet research papers.  She finally does admit she is aware of how many of them have connections to Count Baron von Duke.  Kenji asks if she is willing to help them, since she seems to know so much about them, but she does not answer.  Instead, her eyes glaze over and remains unmoving.  Kenji turns to ask Cosmo what happened but learns the cosmonaut too is frozen in that way.  Kenji looks around and terrifyingly learns everyone else in the part is frozen that way as well.

Everyone.



Victor tries asking Percy more about the future and he admits it is bleak.  He mentions of the Faceless Ones, people who have devoted themselves to the darker powers and sacrificed all sense of identity to join the organization.  Victor feels they sound like the Normalists.  The Faceless Ones serve the King Emperor of the World, and his symbol is that of a five fingered hand, with three fingers closed and an eye at the base of the palm.  The group had conquered countries and the Order of Glorianna Sheeda alone stands against them.

And that's when it hits Victor: a dark hand grabbing his cortex and pulling him into a coma.

Svetlana understands that Walter does not plan to have dinner with her.  Walter tries to explain that's not it, but Svetlana admits she is fine that he prefers men, perhaps Victor?  But Walter invites her to have dinner with him later in the evening, but when she doesn't answer he confuses it at first to be because she is hurt. But then he realizes it is because of an intense pain that attempts to grab hold of his brain.  Walter fights against the pain and recovers but he learns Svetlana is lost within herself.  Above the bridge, cars smash into each other as their drivers slip into a coma.  One of the injured drivers crawls out of the damaged vehicle, calling for help.  Besides him, however, no one else seems to be alive.  When Walter tries to help him, the man panics upon seeing Walter's visage.    But Walter's focus is more on the sky.  He sees a plane losing altitude fast.

Kenji tries to snap Cosmo out of the coma by shaking him but it does not wake the telepathic dog.  He sees  a guy coming out of the lake with a wet bike.  A gash on his face suggests the man must have fallen into the lake when he went comatose while biking.  While carrying Cosmo, Kenji approaches the man and warns him to be careful and try to find safety.  He admits he does not know what is happening.  Kenji notes the wound has helped the man regain consciousness.

Victor feels the cold as he loses control of his body.  But then, he's back.  He sees Percy with a hand on Victor's chest and his eyes rolled back to white.  The Demon tries to convince Victor to just kill Percy. It tells him this is his chance.  Victor stares at his chest and finds nothing save for blood stains on his clothes.  On Percy's palm, however, he can see Victor's name was scratched on his skin.  He must have twisted their fates around.  Victor rushes to the nearby restaurant and grabs a knife.  The Demon however continues to tell him to kill Percy.  It even insists that it knows Victor will be his in the end, but Percy is a threat that has to be stopped.  Victor, realizing this is the first time the Demon ever offered something for free, decides not to listen to it. "Let me do my things my own way.  I have to find my friends first."  He slices Percy's name onto his own palm and sticks it to Percy's chest as well.  "Percy, come back.  I summon you."

Percy's eyes open and Victor once again is frozen.  He bemoans to his demon how his "forefathers" didn't seem to know how to properly use magic.  *Well if there is anything, they are fast learners.*   Percy then stares at Victor's reflection and scolds the Demon for not teaching him well. The Demon, as it turns out, can address him too!

Back at the bridge, Walter hears what sound like air raid sirens.  A voice projects from the speakers addressing all who can still hear:

Citizens of New York City.  
If my Super Science device has functioned correctly, you are now all under my thrall.  

But then he adds, almost off-mike, "This doesn't make sense... I can still see them all moving around.. Why are you moving?  You... you are supposed to be frozen... Why is this not working?"  The voice is that of Count Baron von Duke but it sounds like he lost control of his own device in New York and affected Paris instead.

Both Kenji and Walter rush back to the nearest outpost hoping to find allies to help them.

And elsewhere, in a distorted realm, Victor finds himself face to face with his Demon.  The Demon had pulled him out of his body for a more personal discussion.   It tells him that Victor has to understand the rituals he is performing in the future.  Percy converses with him, being able to peer into the spirit world, and he quickly gathers things to match the friends.  He gets a doll with a gemstone for Kenji.  He then takes the animal amulet and summons a frog to match Walter.  Percy asks for their names.   When Victor tries to move, he slams against the edge of the mirror.  He learns he cannot "leave" the confines of the mirror.  He asks Percy to have his friends brought over to his location.  As he holds the ringed hand up, Victor notices it has a hidden needle.  He uses it to scratch upon his own skin to write their names.

Kenji and Walter begin to witness strange things unfolding all around the city.  Rain falls in half the city.  Clouds part to reveal plans, and jet fighters.  A tank rumbles nearby.  A ship sails down the boulevard.    Suddenly an earthquake erupts and both Kenji and Walter are plunged into the earth and emerge in front of Percy.  The two see Percy, bloody and all, with a paralyzed Victor standing nearby.  He addresses them and asks if they are friends of "Commissar Victor" and asks them to help.  They learn he summoned them both here because they do not have enough time.  He tells them that Victor's mentor, Aliester Crowley is dead and they have to help him save his soul.  When Victor asks if there's really time for this given other things seem more pressing, he explains that when the man died, the terms of his condition had the phrase: Let the Greatest of All Histories be tied to his Life and his Death.  "With his death, all histories are coming together."
A B-52 bomber emerges from the clouds, approaching them.    On the side street, a Porsche had smashed into the older vehicles of the era.    Victor asks if the Demon can reverse his terms, and the Demon admits they can... for a price.

Percy explains that they must bring back from the dead.  When Walter asks how, Percy explains all magic follows one single rule: "The Rule of Three.  I need three lives to replace his.  Since I am not of this time, I cannot choose.  You two must choose three lives to replace his and allow him back from the dead."

Victor says no.  He tells the Demon that Aliester died because it is his time to die.  The Demon agrees and tells him the man clearly wants his future to exist, and will do everything to make sure it does.  Victor realizes the Demon was right, Percy was tricking them!  But the two do not know that.  "The Order only forms when Aliester Crowley learns that Merlin is truly devoted to the one True King.  Crowley calls upon the Faerie folk to stop the Order and thus gives birth to its existence."  The Demon admits it would be a simple matter for it to rewrite Crowley's Final Terms, but the price would be for the Demon to freely rewrite Victor's own Final Terms.

Walter and Kenji weigh the decision Percy asks them to make.  Around them, all histories are falling into each other.  The world is falling apart.  But Walter does not trust Percy.  He asks for Victor and Percy explains most minds were unable to cope with the destruction of Time and Space, and they shut down to await til things become normal again.  Those that are awake, however, will bear witness and possible be driven mad by the process.  They alone will remember what happened once time is flowing back in its proper motion.  The two are uncertain. Walter admits to Kenji he does not trust Percy at all.  "What do we do, Kenji?"

Percy admits he does not need their trust. He only needs them to know the truth.  The Count Baron von Duke has killed Aleister Crowley and has gained all the powers of the ones he had killed.  Walter asks if Victor can be brought back, and Percy admits he merely have to condemn him to the insanity and make him bleed.  Walter lands on Percy and points his blade upon the stranger, "Bring him back!"  Percy slashes Victor's skin to force him back.

"Persuaded to what!" Victor calls out as he wakes up.  The Demon was about to offer him an alternative to change Crowley's final words but the actions of the others had pulled him away from the dimension before the Demon could finish his statement.   Victor quickly explains to the others that he can try to change things, but Percy tells them they are down to the final minute to make their choices.  In the sky, a bomber plane approaches.  Its side says, Enola Gay.

Victor offers the Demon his Final Words to change the terms of Crowley.  Percy tries to stop him but Walter keeps Percy back.  "Dead people should stay dead!"  the three are in agreement.  Percy screams.  The world's first atomic bomb falls from the sky.  "Victor," Kenji tells his friend, "Do it."  Percy glares at them,  "The three of you could have offered your own lives to stop this.  Instead you have given the Demon the whole world."   The Demon however sneers at Percival, "Too late Percy.. he's already given it to me."

*

The world seems to be back to normal.

The people awaken without memory of the events.  Any damage that happened in the streets are gone.  Nothing seems amiss.  Kenji, Victor and Walter see a golden orb lock upon each of their heads and immediately they hear Cosmo's telepathic voice as he asks why he is in a house he does not recognize.   Kenji explains he had left the dog in a command center.  "Everyone is well?"  Cosmo asks.  Even Svetlana responds in the link that she was just in front of Walter earlier but now he is missing.  Victor tries to explain that things happened. Things that none of them could control.

The three turn to Percival.  The man has slowly begun to turn translucent.  Victor apologizes that if his future was not meant to be, it was not meant to be.  Percival mutters, "Then neither shall you have one."   He vanishes.  Victor then directs Cosmo questions of the future, asking about the Faceless Army and the Order of Glorianna Sheeda.  Cosmo was about to answer, admitting to have heard of such an order, but suddenly the telepathic link is gone.

Kenji freaks out and rushes to the command center.

*

There was no sign of Cosmo in the Command Center.
The soldiers admit they did not see any dogs in the area.  One mentioned seeing a golden glow turn translucent and fade away.  Like a dog but it wore odd clothes.

Kenji looks at the others as they arrive.  "We have saved the world.. but..."

Victor turns to the closest glass surface to try and talk to his Demon.  The Demon is no longer there.

*

At the headquarters, Svetlana reads a telegram.  It talks about a sole survivor of the New York Chapter House - Aliester Crowley - who was able to arrive and give his final report before expiring.  The New York Chapter House Centurions discovered a Castle of Illusion.  They were annihilated.  Aleister Crowley was only able to escape by making a deal with a Water Demon.  He gave the final report in hopes to prepare the team to avenge them.

The telegram was accompanied by a film reel.
Svetlana loads the reel and watches its contents. 

Inside, images form of Aleister, bloodied and mauled, as he recounts how they were ambushed by the Count Baron von Duke and his own team.  "They are well too prepared, too coordinated.  Beware the Hound.  The Hound can read your thoughts.  The Hound is the Count Baron von Duke's Greatest Ally."



The Signs Are Right ep01 : Cthulhutech

07/14/2014

The Signs Are Right
Episode One
"Beneath Human Skin"

Cthulhutech

Che plays Professor Carrie Raine, an Arcanotechnician for the New Earth Government (NEG).   Urim plays Terry Russel, who had once been an Intelligence officer of the NEG.   Rocky plays Mohinder Inderpal, a Media New Personality for EDGE, a tabloid sensationalist network.    The three had been abducted by an unknown group and subject to various experimentation, including what they have finally learned to have been the Rite of Sacred Union.  The three, however, were able to fight back against their captors and kill them and escape.  They are now Tagers, but unaffiliated with the Eldritch Society which typically has sway over such beings and are trying to return to their normal lives.

Like that was ever going to happen.

Carrie is told to handle a crash site where a Migou had fallen.  Arriving there, she discovers that Ashcroft Foundation had sent their own Arcanotechnician there so she tries to investigate the fallen thing before they get their hands on it.  MK5 Crusaders are in the area, securing it when she arrives.  She realizes the fallen Locust had crashed upon two buildings.  She will have to go upstairs to check it better.  The Ashcroft Public Affairs Representative is there, and uses her multiple drone cameras to document the scene.  But worries strike when she notices the Ashcroft people with devices that supposedly detect Orgone levels.  She worries if her new state as a Tager would reveal itself on their machines.

Terry was interrogated upon his return, with the NEG being worried that his disappearance was him having been tortured or pressured for information.  Answering their questions convincingly, he is reassigned to work with a team to handle a doomsday cult operating in the city.  While in the mission with the team, however, he senses the presence of something... like himself.  And discovers that the senses are a mutual situation!  The Dohanoid attacks, tearing through the elevator he and his team mate, Operative Bates, are hiding atop, to grab him.  Seeing the thing terrifies Terry, but thanks to his Military training, he stays in focus.   Knowing Bates cannot see him, Terry shifts to his Tager form and launches two shots of his photon blasts!  The blasts miss the creature, and the cultists break into a run.  Bates hears the firepower but the rest of his team tell him to withdraw.  Terry feels his wounds healing as he maneuvers away from the thing and unleashes his Limit: Multiplicity.  Six illusions emerge, all identical to Terry's Tager form. With the Dohanoid confused, Terry blasts at it with two more shots, tearing off its arm with the first, then punching through its stomach with the second.    Terry stabs the thing a few more times into its stomach with his tentacles.  The Dohanoid dies, and its completely hairless body strikes the ground.

"Mother of God..."

Terry turns around and sees Bates staring at him, with the dead "human" now in his tentacles.

Mohinder is staring at a desiccated corpse on the bed.  His wings are spread out, making things very cramped in his room.  He woke up to find himself at home, with vague memories of what had just happened.   An incoming call timbres and Mohinder shifts back to his human form before answering. It is his editor and she reminds him to watch over her grand daughter, Alicia, who is working as his intern.    Mohinder worries at first that she is the dead body, but then learns she is alive and well and outside his apartment when she rings his doorbell.  He heads down to talk to her and discovers how meticulous and attentive to detail the woman is.  She asks if his guest is still in the room and Mohinder tries to have the discussion focus instead on the work. Turns out, he challenged her to figure out who she was.  "Street name: HoneyBell.  Real name: Hannah Bree.  She's a street walker."  As they both ride the car, Felicia continues to nag Mohinder about how he keeps testing her.  She does chide him for being nothing now but a mouth for the network.  They go to EDGE and Mohinder receives a call from Carrie Raine who tells him about the situation downtown.  She warns him that there are new orgone detecting machines out there they should stay away from.  Before they can have a longer conversation, however, his editor arrives forcing Mohinder to cut the call.  Donna, his secretary, keeps Felicia outside.  Amusingly, she is the only one who gets to boss Mohinder around (because he likes it).  The editor talks to him about news of a Migou in the city and how the NNC news outlet already has footage of the crash.  They talk about Ashcroft having an inside scoop on the events.  And how people in Ashcroft go crazy quite often.   They map out plans.

Raine argues with the Ashcroft people in the site who seem to be getting in her way.  Raine calculates the trajectory of the Migou's entry but the numbers don't seem to make sense.  She fails to realize that the public relations agent, Koryea, is watching her.  The woman scans Raine secretly, then gives an excuse to leave the scene.  A nazzadi appears and he identifies himself as an Ashcroft Clinic Doctor who addresses Raine and admits he is familiar with her papers and her interests.  He asks her to explain the fluctuating orgone levels in the area given they are usually caused by living Migou, sorcerers or technology..  He asks if she is a licensed sorceress and she responds by throwing the scan back to him and tells him it is broken, but he admits he would know if it was.  He directly confronts her and asks for her cooperation given the situation, he has the irrevocable right to study the orgone emissions and Raine herself seems to be the source.  She insists he needs clearance from her boss to get her cooperation and submit formal requests.  Raine makes a quick research peek on who the man is and learns he is Dr. Akida who has public records showing he is a brilliant Astroclinical psychologist and has made great motions into studying orgone related studies.  Raine wants to hack into his device to mess up the information he gathered of her, but she realizes she does not know how.  Suddenly, one of the men in power armor snatches Raine off her feet to avoid the crashing debris from the collapsed ceiling! The Migou is still alive!  As the Migou launches into the hair to fly away, Raine calls for someone to shoot it down.  The shots from the men in power armor punch into the Dragonfly, but it continues to rise higher and higher.  As the man in power armor fires a few shots, the Dragonfly retaliates with a cannon blats, and the attack launches Raine over the edge of the building.  Another blast and the Dragonfly drops.  Raine screams for someone to pull her up as the two sides begin opening fire at one another.  The Koryea reaches for her arm and Raine frustratedly has to accept her help.

Bates emerges, pointing a weapon at Terry to not move.  Terry slaps a tentacle at him to knock him out.  Shifting back, Terry fires some wild shots as well as Bates' own around the area to represent an all-out fight.  He throws around Bates' flash grenades as well and starts calling out to Bates and makes sure the others hear him talking about the "Monsters having left."   He hopes his police training is enough to fake the fight.  They are impressed that he has not a scratch given he was pulled through the elevator ceiling and he shares it was his lucky day.  They head off, boarding the van, and Terry finds himself wondering what that thing was.  There is an internal investigation later at the headquarters on what happened and Terry shares with Internal Affairs about the monster he confronted.  Terry inwardly worries that Bates might not give a story that matches his.  Terry is asked back inside, and he learns that the reason they are speaking to him is because they are considering him for a new position: They need his help given a "citizenship issue".  They reveal that he has been drafted to become an Engel Pilot.



Mohinder heads home, leaving Alicia at work and while he enjoys their continuing back and forth of insults, he knows he has to call Terry for help.  This leaves Alicia wondering why Mohinder would need to hire a hooker.  He tries to get a semblance of normality by doing the dishes.    He calls Terry for help and he suggests how to get rid of the body.  Mohinder moves the body to the kitchen and as he moves it he notices something fall from the corpse.  It is an Ashcroft foundation ID.  Suddenly he's worried she may not have been a hooker.  The door rings and Alicia is outside, insistent to meet with him and knows who the woman is.  "She wasn't a hooker!"  Terry gathers the ashes and places it in the kitchen and Mohinder tells her to wait outside.  Terry answers his phone which rings that moment from Raine's call.  He cuts the call.    Mohinder pulls Alicia from the door and heads straight to the car.  He tells her to remain quiet given the cameras present.

In the car, Mohinder admits it is not his camera he is worried about.  He starts the car and the two move from the house as Alicia confronts him about videotaping his trysts.  He calls them his conquests.  She tells him the visitor was an Ashcroft Foundation Scout who posed as a hooker hoping to find some good news feedback worth the ratings.

Terry breaks the gas pipes and throws a lighter to ignite the flames.

A muffled explosion.  Mohinder and Alicia hear the muffled explosion and they turn the corner to see his residence in flames.  Terry is flung to the ground from the explosion, which he knows he will easily recover from once in his Tager form.

Mohinder calls the Ashcroft media personality while Alicia calls emergency services.  He reminds her to focus on the story and stop panicking.  Terry's Tager form runs away, with Mohinder intentionally catching his escape on his dashcam and shunting it to the data feed.  Alicia screams upon seeing the Tager and Mohinder slaps her to focus.  Mohinder's call to Koryea connects and he tells her they are getting sloppy.  She claims to not know who is calling and Mohinder drops the real name of the Ashcroft scout.

The newsfeeds start coming in.  Raine watches as a massive monster runs from a burning building, though humanoid form, its unmistakable with its tentacles.  Raine starts thinking of finding a way to design a machine that would jam orgone signals.  Security arrives with NEG and the Ashcroft Foundation.  "That's her," they point at Raine and approach her with stun batons.  Raine runs for the nearest window and tumbles into the bushes.  The men try to rush after her.  She looks down and sees there is a dart on her thigh.  She pulls it out but its already empty.  Raine remembers two blocks away there is a red light district with an empty basement.  She has conducted there some secret experiments and testing in the past and knows they probably won't be able to find her there.  She avoids her pursuers and slips in to hide.

Mohinder accuses Ashcroft that their "hooker" had set his house on fire, unless it was that armored thing that ran out.  Ashcroft places them on hold.  As Alicia mutters in fear about what she thought she saw, Mohinder reminds her he pushed the video to her phone and that she should write the news article now.  As she writes it up, Mohinder sees a man knock on his window.  The man shows the image of the "hooker" and explains his concern of his encounter with her given she is currently known to be a "Dohanoid."  Mohinder reminds Alicia to tap into the security cameras in the area as a safety precaution with the man outside the car.  Alicia demands to have the bylines.  Mohinder takes Alicia's phone, steps out of the car, and confronts the man as he addresses the man.

*

The man admits the woman was under their investigation and they tell Mohinder that they would like their participation in learning more about the Dohanoids.  Mohinder tells them that he was "investigating" them for having possible agents in the sex slave industry.   Alicia happily films it all for release.  She steps out and joins Mohinder.



The man pulls away.  Alicia grins as the two head back into the car.

*

Back in Ashcroft, Koryea is talking with someone in the shadows.  They had decided to talk to Mohinder about the Dohanoids, but also have noticed that the video they had captured from the dashboard show a different entity altogether.  "We may have found one of the stragglers."

"And the two others?  There were three bodies not accounted for."

"If we find one, we will find the others.  That's how Tagers work.  They can't help but feel each other's presence. "







Sunday, August 10, 2014

Evolve Your Game: Houses of the Blooded Provinces

One of the features we love about John Wick's Houses of the Blooded game is the creation, maintenance and growth of one's Province.  Part Civilization, Part SimCity, this feature in the game allows us to feel a great sense of gratification as we see our lands and provinces grow.

One of the ways I made it even more fun for my group was to provide "blank" sheets suggesting the layout of each Province.  No, there is no actual system effect to these maps, nor do they affect the game in any balance-shifting way, but there is an even greater sense of achievement seeing how the land looks in one glance, and being able to further declare stuff like how one's Forest is close to another's region.  We don't always be sticklers to accuracy, but we love being able to state stuff that further the game's mood and feel by simply glancing at the map and being able to say stuff like "Having visited your Ruin in the last Althua, which is at this part of the map, I have seen your Farms.  I would love to see the rest of your Province."

Anyway, here are seven of the other maps I've made for you guys to check out and enjoy.   I realize now that maybe I can create these kind of maps to represent the Clan Provinces in the Blood & Honor games too!

Feel free to print them out and use them for your own games if you want!

All made using Adobe Illustrator. 










EDIT:
Added here the beautiful rendition that one of my players, Erich, did of his Province using the map layout I gave him for the game.  He mentioned he made use of brushes and brushes/stamps by Josephe Vandel, who is a cool guy that does RPG cartography professionally.
http://www.cartographersguild.com/members/schwarzkreuz.html

Thursday, August 7, 2014

GM Advice: Cinematic Tension



This is a beautiful approach that you can also use in your table top role-playing games.
Thank you Alfred Hitchcock.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Almost completed my 12 for 2014!

I promised myself to try to learn and play or run 12 new games each year.

I used to stick only to games of a certain company at a time.  I guess it was sort of a misplaced loyalty in believing that one game was better than all others.  But as I got older, I started to expand my horizons to try other games and discovered that a huge lot of them offered new experiences. Since then, I've embraced a personal commitment to expanding my horizons each year.


So my current list of new games so far has the following:
1) Demon the Descent
2) Spirit of the Century
3) Tremulus
4) Wicked Heroes
5) Storium games
6) Fiasco : The Search for the Golden Panda playkit
7) The Letter: Fiasco Medici playkit
8) Dresden Files
9) Doctor Who : Adventure in Time and Space
10) Cthulhutech*

*As of this post's writing, the session summary has not yet been written up.

That means two game systems to go!
Now suddenly it feels tense.  Do I choose two games, then for the rest of the year refrain from trying other games? Do I once again just go for it, and realize some of those games are not counted on this year's list, but can no longer be counted for the 12 new games from 2014?

Ah, Happy GM Problems indeed.

On the other end of the spectrum, I have yet to get back into writing my own games.  mem:RE, Muses and my gaming advice books are still not done.  August is here and I have to start churning out pages for my submission to Ben Woerner's The Sound of Water (the first expansion to Blood & Honor: A World of Dew).  And there's the worker-placement goblin game and the card-based dice encounter game that my boss, James wants me to finish.

And that's not even counting my normal work days expectations!
Life is grand!


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