Wednesday, January 28, 2015

GM SEMINAR a success!

So the Game Master Seminar held last January 25th was a success!  Although the day began with Rocky not feeling too well, he insisted he wanted to be there to support me (I love this guy so much!) and so we tried to catch up with the Game Master Seminar even if we were a bit late.

We arrived to see Justin already giving his talk about running games online (we missed Marc's talk on the basics of role-playing games) and it was nice to finally check out Makati B&B (Boardgames and Beer) given this was our first time to ever go here.

In as much as I have been doing a lot of public speaking in my life, it was surprising how nervous and intimidated I felt to be talking to the gathered gamers.  Even during my younger days, my parents would have be join elocution contests, storytelling contest and the like.  I would be all dressed up (or in costumes) as I faced the crowd and delivered the lines.  Then there were my theater days in college, as well as my love for performing whether as an on-camera talent or as some kind of street performer.  (Uh, don't ask about that latter part).

But yeah, I was nervous.  So nervous I opted to sit down while giving the talk to both give the audience a better view of the screen, and to keep myself from fidgeting and getting weak-kneed.

So I talked about the many techniques that I like to use in my games to build mood and atmosphere.  I made sure to cover certain key truths, such as how mood will only work if the players want it, if the location of the game will support it and if you prepare for it, as well as discussed the importance of trust, of having a safe word, and of how mood is not the same as simulationist games.

 I covered a LOT of ground.  Far more, I admit, than the allotted time would have allowed.  It was hard not to, given for some techniques I felt sharing a short anecdote of how I used them was necessary to convey how it worked.  It was nice seeing how some ideas and tips were excitedly received.  I can only hope to someday hear from others how they used a technique or two to enhance their own games.  It was heart-warming to see how some people were very eager to hear the talk and I still honestly get shy when others throw praise in my direction.  Rocky always reminds me to just accept it and say thank you.  And yes, thank you so much for being very appreciative and supportive.

Met a lot of new faces that day too.  Already inviting three of them to try a game under me this coming Friday night.  They've asked me to run End of the World for them, with the idea being to run it for them and their girlfriends.  I had to repeatedly warn them that playing oneself in a post-apocalyptic game might be far more revealing than they realize and that they should think very hard and carefully if they're really ready to do that.

To give them a glimpse of how I run games, though, I'll be running them Lacuna, Part I: The Birth of Mystery and the Girl from Blue City, using my meta-connected game called Recruitment #.  I hope they do enjoy the game.

I added the pdf version of my talk to the Garapata Repository.  Feel free to check it out!

If not, at least memory loss is common in the Blue City.
*Thank you to my partner, Rocky, who lovingly took photos.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Submitting to Indie Mixtape Vol. 3: New Hotness

My friend Josh posted about this and I realized I should try joining this year.  I've always been dying to join a Game Chef contest or something like that, and I thought this would be a good way to test the waters.

What is Indie Mixtape you say?

Here's the post from
Call for Games - Indie Mixtape Vol. 3: New Hotness
Building on the success of Indie Mixtape Vol. 1 and Indie Mixtape Vol. 2, I'm organizing a third charity anthology of short games based on songs you might put on a mixtape. Here's the deets!
The theme for this mixtape anthology will be "songs that turn you on." Pick a song that evokes such feelings for you (however you define them), and write a short analog game inspired by it, preferably one that fits on 2 pages (that's a recommendation, not a strict limit; if it's a bit longer or requires some extra materials to play, that's okay). Please try to playtest your game at least once, if you can, but don't let that stop you from submitting. It's fine to submit whatever PDF you can manage to pull together, but if you want some assistance with layout, we have volunteers standing by to help. If you end up designing something that needs a different file type, it's probably fine, just let me know.
Let's aim for Sunday, February 8 as the deadline for submissions, with the aim of getting the anthology out in time for Valentine's Day (the weekend after). The deadline isn't completely inflexible and the release might end up drifting to later in the month, but let's still try to aim to get things in on time. You can email submissions to me at "jaywalt" at the email service run by Google.
You retain all rights to your submitted game and are welcome to do anything you want with it, including releasing it yourself at any point in the future. I am just asking for the rights to include your game in this charity anthology. If something comes up later and you want me to pull your game from the Indie Mixtape, that's fine; just let me know.
EDIT: If you want to me to include your game under a pseudonym, for any reason (avoiding internet harassment, don't want co-workers to find it, etc.), that's totally fine.
The anthology will eventually be sold through RPGnow/DriveThru, with all proceeds going to help folks in the indie games community who are facing steep bills due to medical treatment and other situations. I will report these proceeds transparently and distribute them on at least a quarterly basis. If we ultimately end up selling the anthology in a different format, I will consult with contributors first.
I reserve the right to not include any game for any reason, but I am happy to explain my reasoning for doing so and don't expect this to necessarily be an issue, even for a topic as sexy as this one. If you have any questions or concerns, I'm happy to chat about your submission. 
Feel free to ask questions below or reshare this post to your game design circles!
(If this theme doesn't really work for you, no worries; I have plans to do other anthologies this year on radically different themes. The next one might be about religion.)?

Here's hoping my entry will be well received.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Inspiration: Predestination

I get excited watching trailers this promising.  This reminds me of Lacuna, of the time-travelling role-playing game Continuum and of Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space.  Heck, this can even be a God Machine story using NWOD.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

My Slides are Ready

I think I am ready for the weekend.
Been working on the Power Point presentation for the talk I am participating in this coming Sunday at Makati B&B.  The Game Masters Seminars is an awesome idea and I do hope this does become a monthly thing.  Always good to share what we have learned and discovered with others who love the hobby as well.

My dear friend Marc was uber kind in his write up for my segment of the talk:

Mood Building Ideas and Approaches
Facilitator: Tobie Abad
Topic: A rare opportunity to learn from one of the best there is in building dramatic atmosphere in tabletop RPGs!

Anyway, I've prepped the slide show and decided as well on creating a PDF to give away to the attendees so they can easily review the talk afterwards.  Here I am pushing towards 40 and I'm still feeling a bit of stage fright at the thought of people listening to me speak.

Ah, but to take part in more gaming related activities.  Here's to the dream this does lead eventually to larger scale conventions devoted to role-playing games and other table top happiness.  I'll share a link to the slides and the PDF in the future.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Inspiration: Bad Motherfucker

Awesome action and loving the super science teleportation angle.  Definitely a great font for ideas.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Inspiration: Numbers

This brilliant short by Robert Hloz is just incredible.  I want to create an indie rpg based on this.  Wonderful work you should all check out.  I can see this as a reinterpretation of the Machine God or maybe even Geist.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Century Club ep06 : Spirit of the Century


The Century ClubSpirit of the Century

Episode Six

Kenji Katana stares at the Earth hanging in the sky.  All over the world, people are affected by the strange virus that transmogrifies people into the likeness of Kenji Kata. At Buckingham Palace, the hordes of afflicted are charging at the people in the streets.  At Warsaw, a group of prisoners turn to face their captors, surprising them as they now share a single face.  At the United States, workers who are finishing what will someday become Mount Rushmore turn to face each other and smile with their singular face.  The very first McDonalds is just about to open, and the gathered crowd has transformed into Kenji's likeness.  "Is this how the world will end... a whisper rather than a bang?" Kenji wonders.

In Japan, everything seems quiet.  Then... a flash of white heat.  A mushroom cloud.

In some hidden base, military personnel inform their General of the successful launch of the weapon.  The General wipes away tears as he hopes and prays this attack will be enough to force Japan to halt what they think is an assault from their end.

The self-professed Emperor of the World, Count Baron von Duke tells Kenji that the world will only unite under their banner.  Only through them will there be a chance for a better tomorrow.   Kenji asks how would that even be achieved.  But the Count admits it already has begun.

"What have I done to help you do this?"

"You stopped the one way to warn the world," the Count responds and looks at the floor at the dead Cosmo.  


Elsewhere, Walter Le Frogge braces himself for impact as the plane strikes the water.  Victor Knightfellow seems lost in another fugue state.  A massive yellow eye stares at them through the water!  Suddenly, a massive clawed hand rises out of the water and catches the plane at the exact same velocity as their descending vehicle.  It was the kaiju from the moving island!  The thing speaks in its low voice, asking for Svetlana.  Walter feels something grab his arm, and turns to see Svetlana clutching him.  Walter slaps her to startle her and make her let go, even if she somehow seems to have reverted back from the transformed state.  Back to herself, Svetlana is a bit embarrassed about the fact she kept from them the existence of her pet.  The thing has saved them from the crash.  

Victor awakens from his fugue to see the beast and panicks for a moment.  Walter calms him down and explains what happened, including that Svetlana had changed earlier, and now was back to herself.  Uncertain, Victor leans close to inspect her but finds nothing out of place.  Walter does notice the plane is still damaged from the landing.  Thankfully, the Kaiju seems to continue carrying it in the correct direction. He starts to realize it probably could sense her.. and for a brief moment, she vanished from the shared link they had... which prompted it to rise up and search for her.  Svetlana shares that the feeling reminded her of a strange sensation she had when she was near a bridge.  Walter recalls that happened when time had a strange flux.  Both Victor and Walter realize that was the incident which lead to Cosmo vanishing.   Victor finds what happened to Svetlana even more... familiar... but he fails to find in his memories the connection.

That's when metal tipped fingers begin massaging his shoulders once again.  The wicked Glorianna Sheeda reemerges, whispering to Victor how that was quite a close call.  "Too bad for Japan, though."  Victor learns of the weapon of mass destruction that had been unleashed there and of the hundreds of thousands of lives that had been lost there.  Glorianna makes the offer again: If Victor agrees to make her Order, she will help him get what he wants.

Svetlana and Walter realize Victor has again slipped into a dreaming fugue.  Walter admits he's been like that most of the time.  Svetlana tries to comprehend what just happened, and Walter explains she had transformed into what Kenji Katana looked like before he became a man of steel.  Walter shares the story of Kenji Katana, and what is now happening all over the world.  Svetlana admits she doesn't know anymore what is real... maybe Cosmo did exist... maybe the world did "break".  Walter wishes Victor can explain things since he usually understands the world's Mysteries.  


The Count tells Kenji to leave him at the beach.  He tells Kenji he has to bury his dog.  Kenji does not leave however.  The two choose the exact same spot where to bury Cosmo, then lift him carefully and silently lays him to rest.  Kenji closes his eyes to say a few thoughts in Cosmo's memory.  By the time he opens his eyes, the Count is gone and he is alone at the beach.

Kenji decides to look around the beach, hoping to get a better idea where he really is.  If that is the Earth in the sky, then does this mean he's somehow on the moon?    Kenji begins to realize there is something wrong with the stars.  Kenji begins to notice there is a wall of curved glass in the distance, as if he were inside some planetarium or green house.  He begins to walk towards the horizon, wading into the water and hoping to see how far the wall goes.  To his surprise, he doesn't have to walk that far.  He hits the wall soon enough and starts to wonder why the wall even exists when the water he is in can be seen extending far past the glass wall too.

As Kenji tries to push forward, and break through, his senses begin to fight against what he sees.  He feels wires and cables somewhere against his skin, even if there are no such visible things.  Kenji continues to tug, continues to pull, and as he causes more damage he begins to see more and more a strange chamber around him that only lasts for a blink of an eye.  A white room.  Him on a slab. Cables connected to him.  And people with medical masks standing nearby.

Kenji continues to struggle, fighting against the unseen things that try to keep him down.  He strains, forcing every iota of strength he could in his attempt to break free.  He can now see hexagon glass mirrors all around him.  He can hear Japanese men screaming that he is waking up.  He can feel the straps breaking free, and he starts to realize his body remains a metal body!   Above, on a crane platform, the Count Baron von Duke calls for them to "Shut it down!"  Kenji begins to pull at all these medicinal tubes and the like that he suspects were used to fool his brain into thinking he had a body.

And that's when he sees it.  Across the room, in a similar prison and still unconscious is a dog.



The Kaiju arrives at the shoreline and walks towards a stunned gathering of military soldiers.  Tanks and cannons train themselves at the beast.  Svetlana and Walter call out to the soldiers, trying to convince them that the monster is not a threat.  The Kaiju tries to make its way past them, but its immense size just hits way too many things in the way.

By the time they arrive at the London headquarters, the military has learned to at least pull back and give the monster more room.  During this whole journey, Sheeda smiles at Victor for resisting the urge to make a decision.  He admits fearing not knowing what will come if he does agree to make a deal.  Victor isn't certain if they really did find a cure.  The idea of Walter just slapping others as the cure sounds completely idiotic.  Sheeda tells him they are nearing the event horizon for him to make a decision.  There is no need to rush making it.  She is completely certain he will make it in the end.

"What matters is what you will decide."
She cites Aliester Crowley who made decisions without understand what he was getting into.  Or Percival who jumped into the past without really understanding how his actions will shape things.  Or even Kenji Katana making a deal just when he thought he was about to die.  This last fact shocks Victor, who never knew Kenji made a deal with the Fair Folk. He starts to wonder where they all stand in Sheeda's eyes.  If Kenji made a deal with her.. and she wants him to make a deal with him... is there a reason Walter is involved in all this too?  

They discover others are present in the London headquarters!  A mix of different nationalities are present, with members of America's CIA, as well as other nations are present - some kind of joint meeting in hopes of grasping how to deal with the existing chaos.  Maps are pinned to the wall.  Marks have been placed to denote where sightings have been made.  With the Kaiju under watch by tanks and soldiers, the Century Club find themselves speaking to these newly forged Allies in hopes of finding a way to resolve the issue.  Svetlana is held at gunpoint, however, when they recognize her as being part of the Soviet Super Solider program. It seems Germany has declared their protest over the American's bombing of Hiroshima, and have allied themselves with Japan.  The beginnings of what may become a World War now stands in the brink.

The attack is being called the One World Order, and they believe Japan was behind the attack.  They believe Japan instigate this during the Super Soldier Programs.  Victor tries to explain to them that these are all the actions of Count Baron von Duke.  The Allied forces tried to isolate what causes the transformations but any contact has caused the others to get affected as well.  They were hoping Professor Noble could help, but he was killed.  So they reached out to the next smartest mind on the planet, the biochemist Warren Hardings - leader of the Normalists.  Harding is rolled into the room, inside to a standing prison and strapped to it with multiple restraints.  The man finds it appalling that he has to work with abominations, but he fears more a world completely populated by Asians.   "That would NOT be Normal."

Victor shares that Svetlana was earlier infected but somehow fought the infection.  This revelation causes panic however, and the military now draw their rifles out and train them at the three!  All the others pull back, making sure they stay away.  The French Ambassador who shoook hands with Victor are now also being told to move into their area.  Victor's words to try and explain they are not infected fall weakly against Warding's whose words ring with more confidence and understanding of science.  Harding demands for conditions if the others desire to have him help them.  The demands include full containment suits for him and his team.  Oxygen masks and all to keep them safe from infection and to be addressed with an honorific.  Fearing infection, the Allied forces agree and force the Century Club to wait in containment.

While imprisoned, the team talks with the others on possible locations to find Kenji Katana.  A British MI-5 Agent tells Victor to shut up about Le Frogge slapping her infection away.  Victor admits he only deals with the impossible and is sharing what he witnessed.  The Agent does warn him that Harding might demand for the Frog's hands as a specimen.   Victor clearly is playing with the big boys now.  Walter talks with the others, finding strength in their diversity as they try to consider where Kenji may have been taken.  Remembering his Puzzle Castles, Walter starts trying to think of what patterns the Baron might have always done.  He shares the Baron focuses on islands, rather than countries.

"If it is a matter of trivia, perhaps I can offer some suggestions," a voice calls out and Walter turns to see the woman with long hair.  It is Whilemina Wheeler!  Walter and Victor are confused, recalling she had transformed as well into Kenji back at the Century Club headquarters.   She identifies herself as Sophia Wheeler and admits she suspects they recognize her sister.  She notices that he tended to have a fascination for titles.  She suspects if that pattern is maintained, the Baron would then favor a certain small island in Marguerite Bay, close northeast of the Courtier Islands in the Dion Islands.   The place is called Emperor Island.  And its southeast end is the winter breeding site of emperor penguins. The MI-5 Agent tells them he will see what he can find.


"Stop him before he finds it!" the Count screams.  Kenji mentally calls for his blade and not too far away, he sees his blade being held down by tiny metal clamps.  The white room was made to convince Kenji that he was at some beach looking down at the world.  As the Count calls for someone to stop him, Normalists emerge to face against Kenji.  The body seems much more finely tuned than his old one, but being different, Kenji realizes he is having some trouble making use of the body.  One Normalist smacks a fist at Kenji.  When the Normalist withdraws his mechanical arm, Kenji realizes the opponents he is fighting against have the same body as him!  He executes a flawless parry on the man's next strike, then counters with a blow into its midsection.


Victor suspects Harding is up to something.  As he approaches them in his biohazard suit, Harding mentions Walter Le Frogge has something he needs.  He draws a scalpel and tells Le Frogge he needs his hand.  "Samples," the military man calls out, "Not the whole hand. Just samples!"  Harding rolls his eyes.  "Semantics."
Harding mutters to Walter something about both of them having been tampered with in the past.  He tells Walter he wasn't expecting to see him again, but decides to focus on what he can.

Sophia and the MI-5 Agent return to inform Walter and Victor that there are two possibilities.  One is the Empereur Seymour chain, and the other is the Emperor Island in the Antartic.  Victor recalls there was an underground facility involving volcanoes before.  He suspects it might be the Hawaii island more given the Japanese names on the islands.  Two teams are formed to investigate them.  One to check each island.  The Century Club is to choose which one.  They turn to ask Victor what to do but find him lost in another fugue.


Victor speaks with Glorianna Sheeda, who asks him what does he really have planned.  She asks him if they know what to do given the damage has already been done.

"I am Victorious!" Harding sudden calls out.  He raises to everyone's view a full face mask.  "There is not enough time to design it, so pardon the faceless nature.  But I was able to create filters that will keep any secretions from entering the mask."  Walter finds the idea incredulous. Victor wonders if this is some trick.  Harding explains that vectors match the cure.  So since the vector was affected by Walter's secretions, creating filters to block the same secretions can protect one from the vector.  Walter wonders why he made only a mask and not a full body suit.  Harding explains it is because skin is the best insulator right now against it.  The face has too many openings. 

Glorianna Sheeda reminds Victor they have barely enough time left.  Victor asks what it would entail when the Order is created. She explains she will get to roam freely among her people. And Victor will stand to lead them to a new age.  Victor asks what he needs to do to create the Order.  Sheeda explains all he needs to do is to ask her to let him.  The rules among the Fair Folk require such wishes to be worded aloud.  Sheeda asks what is the one thing that stops Victor from making the order right now.  Victor hesistates.  He shares he made a deal once and it went sour.  Victor then is told the deal can be freely revoked whenever he wants.  Victor decides it doesn't matter what he may end up doing, so long as it saves the world.  


The sword breaks free!

It flies into Kenji's hand even as the Count screams no.  With the rumbling earth, Kenji makes use of his superior balance against his opponents.  He spins, and the blade slices through the robotic faceless henchmen of the Count, and ends the maneuver in his signature pose with his body bent forward, one hand reaching for the ground, and the other folded behind him with the blade.  Reunited with Tsurugi, his Weapon of Destiny, Kenji felt ready to face anything in the world.  The Count realizes Kenji plans to release Cosmo from his VR prison and yells at him to stop.  "Not when we are so close to making the world a better place!"

Kenji rushes down the room to where Cosmo is and sees the dog is indeed breathing!  A surge of relief rushes through Kenji, realizing that his killing to dog was just a mental illusion.  The Count warns Kenji to stop or he will press the button that will cause the base to self-destruct.  Kenji however ignores the threat and plants his hand on Cosmo's face, then he starts ripping the dog free from its restraints.  Count Baron von Duke presses the button and the base begins to explode in different areas.  "You've ruined it all!" the Count gasps.


Harding starts handing out the masks to those in the room, instructing them to wear them to protect themselves from the vector that the Count has unleashed.  But suddenly, the unexpected occurs.  Figures in strange archaic armor suddenly come into focus, standing all around them!  Walter le Frogge turns to ask Victor what has happened, only to find him shaking hands with a strange and terrifying woman.  The deal has been made.  "What just happened," Svetlana gasps.

"Name my order," Glorianna Sheeda asks Victor.

Victor turns to everyone else and tells them, "It is the Order of Glorianna Sheeda."

"And you are," Glorianna Sheeda asks, grinning with her fanged maw.

"I am Victor Knightfellow, " he replies, "The founder of the Order."   Glorianna Sheeda then turns to the others and announces it is time to save the world.  Walter and Svetlana hurry to Victor's side and ask what is going on.  Victor admits that this might seem like a deal with the devil.  "Sadly, it is worse."  Glorianna then turns to Harding and reveals the deception he has accomplished.  With a wave of her hand, she causes all the faceless masks to disintegrate as she reveals that Harding was allied with The Count and had allowed himself to be captured in order to send the true vector into the world.  All over the world, the supposed ongoing "infection" was actually not a physical infection.  It was merely a mental act of hypnosis that made people act in a different way and see others as suffering symptoms that are not there.  "A mass hysteria on a world-wide scale. " The Count had sent the EGO group to had set up towers in different parts of the world, and these transmitters have been releasing subliminal messages to convince the weaker willed of the supposed infection.  She offers Walter a human body.  And teases Svetlana for being overwhelmed.  Svetlana does recall using the radio and tried to call for help when the change happened.   The government leaders in the room begin to realize they had been shooting and attacking their own people.  Sheeda offers to stop all the armies worldwide in a single moment if someone asks for that wish.  Victor shrugs and calls for it.

They confront Harding on what the true plan is.  Harding finally admits that the Count was experimenting on man-animal hybrids for years... and some of those experiments created people like Walter le Frogge.  Their genetic material provided the basic building blocks to create this viral weapon.  And the masks, the "cure" was to be the actual vector to spread it.  Svetlana seems satisfied in knowing Glorianna Sheeda can stop the "plague."  She grabs hold of Walter and Victor and bounds for the Kaiju.  They know they have to save Kenji.

Glorianna Sheeda turns to the world leaders and smiles.  "I guess I am in charge now."

Svetlana asks if Sheeda will be the "ending of this story" and if she will truly take over all.  Walter admits he doesn't like it.


Explosions rock the structure.  Kenji leans over Cosmo's body, hoping to shield the dog from the destruction all around them.  The Count screams about how the world was already ready and was going to accept the "cure" willingly!  He tells Kenji that he has doomed them all to a future where the world is overpopulated and selfish.  More explosions erupt!  Kenji feels his metal body warp and twist from the intense surges of heat and force.   But he ignores all the pain he can.

Kenji looks up to see the Count moving towards them.  One of his arms has been blown off.  Blood cakes his mask.  Fire is climbing up his leg. But he continues to walk towards Kenji as he snarls about how Kenji had left him in explosions before.  He will not do the same thing again.  The Count reaches for the Tsurugi on the ground.  Kenji moves to keep Cosmo safely behind him.

The Count raises the sword menacingly.  "Good bye... me.."

But as the blade is swung, it hits golden light.


The others can see the island.  A golden domed light structure seems to erupt from the base.  Svetlana asks them how they will stop Glorianna Sheeda.  Victor admits he has the option to revoke the wish, but Svetlana asks him what will happen to everything if he does.  She asks if the world still is saved from the plague.  And if the military all over stop killing civilians.  Hiroshima comes to mind.  Victor is uncertain if revoking will bring him back to the time before... and allow him to retain memories he has made now.  Victor realizes there still is the demon he used to make a deal with.  In true fashion, that is when the Demon Familiar returns, whispering it has always been there. Victor realizes he can form a second Order.  One that will oppose Glorianna Sheeda.   The Demon admits someone else will have to be the Founder of that order.  The rules of magic do not allow him to found two.  Victor considers someone who would fit the role.    He will have to find that person, and get him to say yes.

Svetlana and Walter realize Victor has gone into a fugue again.  She decides it might be best to focus on Kenji even as the explosions rock the island.  Using her immense strength, Svetlana picks Walter up and on his signal, throws him into the burning building.

Walter masterfully lands safely despite the explosions, and while clinging to the walls, searches for any sign of Kenji Katana in the area.  Peering against the waves of heat and clouds of smoke, Walter tries to scan the area for his friend.  Down below, he sees the silhouette of a man with a sword.  And the moment the blade descends, it hits the golden globe of light!

Angered, the Count strikes once, twice, thrice but cannot break the light.  Another explosion hits and the sword is flung into the air.  Fire consumes the Count.  Walter spins in the air, evading the fire, and snags the blade mid air, then he lands where the globe stands.  Inside, Cosmo and Kenji are safe.  Walter reaches into the dissolving globe and hands Kenji back his sword.

Kenji's new body is sleeker in design.  Newer.  But their reunion is cut short as the Count's voice roars, "Not DONE..."  From the fire, blood droplets actually begin to move out of the flames, clumping together and swirling into rising towers that solidify into meat, and the meat twists into sinew, muscles, and hints of bone.  Walter stabs at the thing with his blades, only to see the reforming meat continue to form around the edges, unharmed.  "I have control of every single cell of my body!"  The Count rises to almost full human height, body reforming with each second.  Kenji asks if Cosmo is okay and the dog responds by creating a golden globe around them.  Walter jumps on Kenji's back and the three watch as the Count begins to get consumed by the fire at his feet.  Despite being able to reform his cells, the fire burns away his form too quickly.  In his dying throes, the heroes decide to leave, with Kenji providing the foot power to pedal away inside the golden light like a giant hamster ball.


Victor asks if he can sell his name to the Demon, but it reminds him it is too late.  Victor considers Kenji or Walter taking the role and watches as they arrive with Cosmo.  Behind them, the island burns as the buildings now completely fall apart.


In the months that follow, the military successfully trace all the radio transmitters that were releasing the subliminal messages.  Many of the transmitters turned out to be Brotherhood locations.  Invisible Fortresses were actually acting as the networks transmitting the signals.  Harding's cure is never released.  Svetlana snapping out of the mind domination turns out to be less about Walter's skin and more at the thought he would hit her.  The world recovers.  Science and magic join hands in a new era.


Walter le Frogge is drawn by the pet Kaiju to an island at one point, only to discover it is not an attack but a surprise proposal from Svetlana.  She drops to one knee and tells Walter before all their gathered friends that she would want "his tadpoles in her."  Walter blushes (as does everyone else present) and Svetlana wonders why given all she said was want to have his baby.  Their wedding is a celebratory moment as the monster-frog finds love with the most beautiful and powerful woman in the planet.


Harding is tried for his acts of violence against humanity.    Sophia Wheeler is happy to see her sister locked behind bars.   She writes a memoir of the day she got a chance to see what it was like to be a hero, and dedicates it to the Century Club.  The book never sees print, however, as the governments of the world want no record of how they were incompetent in the events.

So she "accidentally loses it" and it gets spread worldwide as a pirated book.


Nothing is left behind in Emperor Island of the Count's work.  Not even any traces of him surviving.  Kenji Katana is blessed with a whole new body, however, given his new metal frame somehow allows him to feel more.  It sadly also means he now gets hurt more.  His days off when not fighting crime are spent playing catch with Cosmo.


Walter lives a happy retired life with Svetlana, their ninety-storey pet Kaiju, and their two kids whom have inherited many of their superhuman abilities.  A new generation of heroes are born.


And Glorianna Sheeda's hold on the world soon finds the beginning of its eventual destruction when Victor Kinghtfellow finds a young man named Percival Jones who is studying in a private school and always getting lost in the library, reading lore and wishing he could do magic to make the world a better place.  Victor realizes he would be perfect.  He comes up to the young man and offers to teach him how to use real magic.  To show proof, Victor uses the same very ritual Percival taught Victor and swaps their destinies for a moment.   In return, he will promise to form an Order dedicated to bringing down the rule of Glorianna Sheeda.

He agrees.


A world that has been changed.
A world a bit different.
But not too different.

"One step for man... one leap for mankind."

The first man on the moon waves at the camera, and we see the dog in the space suit with the man of metal waving back.

The End.

GM Seminar this Jan 25

Some years back, I believe it was August of 2008, I was invited to give a talk on Sci-Fi Story Writing.  I remember way back then, when I was asked to give the talk, my first reply was, "Why me?"  Let's face it, I had no published work besides some old online stuff which had its small share of readership.  And though I had been running games for years, I was not really someone who had any Science-Fiction credentials.  Most of my games were either dark modern fantasy or high fantasy romps, with a generous helping of terror and horror in them.

So I will admit, I wasn't quite sure what to really share in the talk.  I decided to tackle the difference between Hard Science Fiction and typical Science Fiction, and share the eye-opening moment I had when I realized that Star Wars was more Fantasy than Science Fiction.   It was still a fun afternoon though, and I liked the chance to share my thoughts on writing, on the genre and on being able to share some ideas and advice with others who attended the talk.

Let's face it, having someone else might have had a much more productive talk... and maybe I was only invited to cover a vacancy when another speaker had to decline... but I would love to believe I didn't waste anyone's time and I did get to share some ideas on how to generate ideas and come up with stories.

(And on that note, I would like tor once again thank Komikasi for then inviting me to be part of that series of talks.  It remains a fond memory.)
Fast forward to today, the year 2015, and I am now going through my stuff to prepare for a GM Seminar on the 25th.  A good friend, Marc, has invited me to give a talk on any topic I want to and I thought I can focus on Mood Building since I'm certain others would have their own share of tips and the like to give.  

Hi folks! Here's the schedule of the panels: Registration is ongoing so you can just drop by during the panel you want to attend.
1:00-1:15 - Opening Remarks (Saying Welcome!) and Registration
1:15-2:00 - 1st Panel: Marc Reyes - GMing 101 with Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition
2:00-2:15 - Break
2:15-3:00 - 2nd Panel: Justin Aquino - Online Tabletop Gaming3:00-4:00 - Intermission 4:00-4:45 - 3rd Panel: Tobie Abad - Mood Building 4:45-5:00 - Break5:00-5:45 - 4th Panel: Jay Anyong - All the Little Things5:45-6:00 - Closing Remarks (Saying thank you!)

I always feel humbled when I get asked to take part in these things.  If anything, I'm just happy to be able to share the things I've learned through the years I've spent gaming my ass off.  And while I know my approach to gaming isn't necessarily everyone else's cup of tea, I am more than happy to be able to at least share something different with those who might not even want to use the techniques I can suggest.

This year, I do hope to release and finally publish some books under my own name.  It is about time I did more stuff and released it out there for the gaming community to enjoy.  Wish me luck!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Inspiration: Galavant

Crazy, musical and yet well-grounded.
The show embraces the fun moments of a delightful musical romp and mixes it well with a healthy dose of fantasy.  This show is insanely fun!

Monday, January 12, 2015

After the Rain ep22 : Houses of the Blooded

After the Rain

Episode Twenty Two

Houses of the Blooded

Seran reawakens in the ruins of what used to be a majestic opera house.  In last few days, Seran has been investigating the place.  She recalls the stories from the survivors of the ceiling transforming into mist and a delicate rope descending with food tied upon it.  She finds something that might be an exit to the opera house, a sheer drop at the lower of the place.  No one else has tried going down it.  Seran tried tossing a torch down the hole and it died out even before she could see any hint of the bottom.  Of the survivors, there were six - including the red-haired woman who resembled the Demon but was not even Blooded.  She, however, had a Blessing from Thalia, and at one point Seran witnessed Liliandra whispering to the debris and asking it to awaken.  "Awaken. You slumber but I know you are still there, Shanri.  We need the heat."  The debris erupted into flames.  She was Talashan, a speaker to Shanri.  The survivors seem to be hoping to survive long enough for the "Patrons" to send more food.  Seran remembers the tiny Opera device which they had seen before.

She learns that the Patrons have not been speaking to them.  They have not been performing either.  They believe however they have been made to believe the City had fallen, and are being observed to see how they will react.  She talks to one of the survivors, Oandur and asks her about the massive hole.  He thinks it was where the props and stages typically are discarded.  She learns they were preparing for After the Rain, a masterpiece written by Gauis Mwrr which was to be followed by Love is Crimson - a story of an Elk inhabited by the spirit of a Serpent, Brother Snake.  In the story, Galeo Silja is Jarik's lover, Nia Jalan is the wife, while Seran Thorne is the mother of Jarik Thayl.  The story revolved around the greater threat that Jarik alone can see, the Spectre known only as Madelyn.  She learns that there were other versions of the tales, some including Haroun as a man seduced by the swashbuckling pirate Seran.  But they are broken apart by Nia and her servants three, including Lukas and others.  In the last act, the very wedding causes Haroun's death and gives up the land in a final bid to be close to the woman he loves, but she murders him.  Seran sighs that none of the Dreadfuls ever ended happily.  Oandur shares there was a Final Dreadful.  In that one, they discover that being Unblooded made them related to one another and the lack of true names made them confused to whom they were related to.  In that one, Galeo thinks she was Suaven, but in truth she was merely made to believe she was.  They were making love against a statue and the child among them was a spymaster among them.  The poison used lulled her into a sleep, making them all think she slipped in Solace.  It was only then she realized she could speak to them because someone anticipated it would happen.  Liliandra supposedly chanced upon the story.

Seran learns Liliandra was the muse of Vyktor Krev, the star of the Opera.  No one really knew where he came from.  When the Storm hit, he had vanished.  Seran brings up that they can't stay here forever, but as far as Oandur is concerned, all the world is just a stage.  Amaras joins them, and Oandur shares that Seran may be one of their patrons given she knows of the magic box that allows them to contact the Actors.  Seran starts gathering debris and places them on the ground to form a message that reads: CALL FOR NIA, hoping the next person to feed them sees it.


Back in Shanri, Bowen is staring at the opera, amused at the events inside.  Hearing noises, he covers it again and places it aside.  Merea stands before Nia, a guest of the Castle.  She apologizes for her presence the previous day and humbly begs for Nia's kindness.  Merea proposes to Nia that she is in need of a vassal, even as Nia admits she has a surplus of them.  "Galeo was the Artist," Merea explains, "Consider what happens to siblings born in the presence of such greatness.  Althea, our youngest embraces mastery of the blade.  Japeth, our eldest brother stands as the scholar of many things.  I can be your unassuming master spy."  Given the importance of the position, Nia questions if Merea qualifies just because she tends to be unnoticed.   

Dalvinosh arrives and serves wine.  He fetches a glass for Merea.  Nia asks if the letter she had sent to the Marquese left the castle. Dalvinosh confirms so.  Merea continues to try and sell her capacity to mislead, explaining even her Secret Army was actually just a troupe of actors she had gathered.  Merea even tries to present herself as knowing about Orks and being capable of serving as her Ork Talker.  Nia plays along, even if she has no interest to have Merea work for her.  Dalvinosh returns, waits by the door with a bottle of wine.  He pours it into a glass.  Nia brings up their first meeting once more and how far away the land is from Nia's own Castle.  Nia suggests Merea can help keep an eye on the land as an unassuming Master Spy, but to manage it as Seneschal as well.  Nia sweetens the pot as if Merea was to hold two positions, as well as Wine.  Merea offers to throw the Ork Talking for free. But during the whole discussion, Merea talks about a scandal of some ven cavorting with orks, dancing with them and all, the whole time blind to Janine who walks around in their presence in tribal ork fashion.  Nia easily surmises that Merea has no Cunning whatsoever.  Merea even shares how back in her younger days she had her troupe all dress up as orks, assault a castle, and terrorize the people there.  The gates were left unlocked and they freaked everyone out during that child presentation.  Nia even allows Merea to call it Merea -land, rather than Meridian.     She leaves Nia a written Contract with her names, including a snipped of her hair and bows.  Then leaves.

"Did this really happen?" Dalvinosh shares amusedly.  Nia has Dalvinosh send word to the Marquess of Paradigm to know of these changes.  The hair is even enough material to create a Tulpa of her.  He wonders if Merea is the greatest double bluff of betray or truly just someone that... blind to Cunning.  Nia reminds Dalvinosh they will treat her with care, given this suspicion.  Errol, on the other hand, will have to watch over Merea as well as Senescha- Nia realizes Haroun is supposed to be the Senescahl.  He asks about him and Dalvinosh reports Haroun took the Glider, testing how far it could fly.  She realizes Haroun is up to something.


"So the rumors are true.  The bears have begun an exodus."  Galeo is curious to know why this is happening and suspects it has to do with the refugees that have been coming to their doors.  The Wolves have been hunting down the Ork ven.  Galeo reminds her vassals to raise the Security in their Province.  She definitely feels things are not as good as they seem.  "The audacity to do that... it is very Silja."  Hero is curious if Galeo feels threatened by Merea.  Galeo stresses unlike others, her line is of Pure Blood.  "We are more Ven than ven.  We are convinced to be able to the impossible, and sometimes we actually do."  Hero asks for the truth then, about Errol.  He wonders if she tired of him, and she stresses again he was never hers.  He mentions there have been less Cherno sightings.  He alludes she has something to do with that, as well as how their second son might have just "coincidentally" brought to them as well.  Galeo gets caught lying by Hero when she tries to claim she has no plans in relation to Cherno, but he can see she hopes to use him to unify Shanri.  

"Why don't you tell me honestly now, who is Errol?  Why do you watch over him? Would he die for you?" Hero throws the questions and Galeo answers them succinctly.  He even asks if Errol is someone she would trust to care for Casselanter.  That question brings her to silence.  "Do you think hiding this truth from me is more important than me being able to trust you?" is his last question.  She admits the secret is the price of keeping him safe.  He admits he has been keeping something from her too, but says there will be a right time to say it too.  Galeo goes frantic, accusing Hero of being Cherno.   He then announces he is leaving and will be back come Summer and that he is taking Casselanter with him.  And yes, he admits he cannot explain why.  Galeo asks what if she disagrees.  Hero replies that she will have to trust him.  He gives Galeo a kiss on her forehead and tells her, "Maja says hi," then leaves.

Hours later, as Galeo works on the statue to forget her frustrations, the other son she had adopted comes in to watch her work.  Galeo was musing over naming the young child Kithranus, just to drive Madelyn crazy.  "I brought you something to drink," the boy smiles.  Galeo notes the boy is being persistent in the offer for wine.  

The boy, however, actually loves Galeo for what he has done for him and his family.  He seeks where he stands in Galeo's eyes and this uncertainty is what halts him from fulfilling the plans he has with the wine.

"Alright, be honest, what do you want?" Galeo asks.  The boy admits he wanted her to drink the wine but now admits it might be better that she does not drink it.    She admits she has plans to have him recognized before the Senate, but for now she wants to know what is going on in his head.  He admits he is worried about his real parents and how there has been a lot of talk of Wolves hunting others.  Galeo assures him they are accounted for.  Furthermore, she tells him the Court Scholar that serves her has declared them all to be under Galeo's shadow.  "Your safety depends on my safety."  The boy admits he is scared.  Galeo reassures him there is nothing to be afraid of, but reminds him she does not like it when others are not direct with her.  He finally admits he was supposed to poison and kill her, so his parents can take over the land and be safe.  He, however, sees he is truly a caring mistress and no longer wants to do it.  She reminds him that they live in the home of a Fox, and there is nothing more dangerous than trying to go against a Fox in her very own home... in the presence of her kids.

When pressing who told him to do this, however, the boy claims it was Casselanter, who told him to do this with a glance.  Galeo realizes her child is able to use the Blessing as well at such a young age.


Jaric has returned home to Jalani and shared with her everything he has learned so far.  Jalani feels Maja is playing a far too dangerous game.  She also feels that Jaric rambles unexpectedly even when they are alone, when the rambling was originally intended to just present a vulnerable stance for others to think they can exploit. They also discuss the incident at Meridian and how there are stronger personalities than Galeo.  Jalani, however, is more concerned about the events surrounding Haroun and Errol.  And how Errol supposedly had seen Seran Throne.  Jaric only then realizes that was what happened.  Jalani does seem thankful that their children have been handling things well so far, with Jessie even continuing her studies.  James reported he has not seen any sightings of "her" again.   Come to think of it, none of them have.  Jaric admits she might not actually be a Demon, given Maja and Galeo's views on the matter.  Jalani however realizes that Galeo is no speaker to the Dara.  She is more like the Talashan, Unblooded Sorcerers, who can speak to Shanri.  Galeo might be one of the Witches.  She speaks with the spirits of the ancestors, and specters.  An ally of the Sorcerer-Kings. Jaric is bothered he has been consorting in public with one of the undesirables.  

Jalani wonders if Jaric is truly slipping more and more into his Solace than he realizes.


The discussions go around Opera, around sponsors, and around the need to survive back in Shanri.  Seran brings back the discussions on needing to get out.  The two begin to realize something about each other: Seran is no longer trying to kill her.  Liliandra on the other hand has no real reason to lie.  And why she has not shown them that she can show them out.  Liliandra realizes Seran was one of the Ork Ven and asks if she was the reason the Storm came.  She cannot show them out because the lands are filled with massive Wolven things that stalk the land for any ven.  As she tries to ask Seran about why she is here, Seran eventually admits that there no longer is their Shanri.  That the Storm has destroyed most of the City now.  Liliandra fears leading Seran out might have her lead others to the safe place they have hidden in.  They are imprisoned in the place, but at the same time safe from the things outside.  The others call out to them for not paying attention to the rehearsals, forcing them both to make up excuses for not paying attention to the rehearsals earlier.

At one point, Liliandra suddenly pulls Seran to hide in an alcove.  The ceiling transforms into mist as the Patrons peer from above. Liliandra tells Seran they are not to be seen for they are not of the troupe.

Dalvinosh and Nia peer into the Opera house and see the actors preparing for another rehearsal.  Bowen hurriedly leaves the room, guilty for having taken the device.  Dalvinosh admits they are a theatre troupe - and only are called an Opera when they perform well.  He identifies the woman bowed in one area as Amaras Q'n.  "Her performances were matched only by Cheska Valar.  She was good in stealing the spotlight."  The actors call out that they are ready to serve the Patrons.  Nia wonders how potent the treasure is, such as if they can touch the individuals.  Dalvinosh admits they can only deliver things, but not actually interact with them.  The two notice the rocks on the ground that spell out, "Call for Nia."

At that point, the two begin to hear a voice calling out about the need to talk to the patrons.  About needing to get out.  The actors are horrified someone is yelling in the opera house.  Liliandra panics and mutters to the ground, "Fall."  The two fall.

Nia's eyes widen in realization.  The voice.  It was Seran Throne!  As Nia asks if there is any truth that the Demon might have send Seran to Old Shanri, Dalvinosh shuts the device back closed fearing the actors might have heard of Nia's statement.   Nia asks Dalvinosh if such things are possible, and he admits he thought Demons were just myths.  She thought Seran being thrown to the other Shanri was a feat beyond any Ritual she knew of.  They consider bringing this up to the Marquess.

Beneath the stage, Seran falls and at the last second grabs hold of an outcropping among the debris to stop her fall.  Above, Liliandra speaks with the others about how the patrons seem interested in something about Seran Thorne and of the Demon.  They consider one of the Dreadfuls that presented both as what they should present next.  She lies and tells the others Seran has probably left them for good.


Galeo retires to a private area in her Castle to study the Quill.  She remembers how it took Blood from those who held it.  How it reacted when the truth was spoken, making others know it was the truth.  She wonders how to access the information it has gleaned.  Galeo attempts to use it again, writing her name with it and watches as the letters rearrange itself into the Secret Name.  The Quill finds all the truths of the person whose blood it tastes.  Galeo attempts writing Madelyn Yvarai and sees the words transform into a blank space.   This seems to support the story that she had given away her Secret Name to stop the Storm.  Galeo tries writing down the other names but realizes she cannot recall the full names of others she has met.  Galeo writes letters to Jaric Thayl, that they must meet immediately.  And to Nia, stating that if they are to save the other ven, they are to meet immediately as well.  


Dalvinosh stares at Nia and the two clarify what they know of Seran's likely sudden journey back to Old Shanri.  The two hear a slamming sound of steel and wood and the personal guards fall to the ground.  Haroun Q'n stomps into the chamber and demands for a ship, explaining the Glider can only go so far.  He insists he knows where she is.  Dalvinosh tries to slink away, but Haroun grabs him by the neck.  "Is this a Tulpa?" he snarls at Nia and she admits it is very possible.  He threatens to snap his neck and demands she give him a ship.   Nia admits to Dalvinosh she is doing something that may endanger his life, and admits to Haroun he is the real one.  Haroun wants an Airship and demands they make one.  Nia reminds him it will take two Seasons.  Haroun claims he can make a smaller vessel faster but would rather commit the act of Sorcery with her permission and reminds her he only know of one Secret Name to use right now: Artemisia.  Nia tells her of the Opera Box, and Dalvinosh is made to explain how it works.  Haroun clearly is emotionally distraught about things and is more aggressive than he usually is.  The actors present themselves as Seran Thorne, and as being in the roles the patrons  want.  Haroun demands for the Airship.  "Give me the permission or you will be the only one who knows where Galeo has gone."  He suspects the Oath failed not because Seran is dead, but because she is too far away.  

Nia tries to convince Haroun that Seran can take care of herself.  She tells Haroun to try and calm down.  Haroun then forces Dalvinosh to give a name.  He calls out Cassiopeia.  Haroun lets go of Dalvinosh and asks Nia if she will stand against him.  "I am titleless but you know me."  Nia admits she is right now extremely cross with the Senate with what they have done with Seran, so she is meeting with the Marquess who will then speak with their Duke.  The Bear wish to leave the Senate and Shanri.  The other Dukes will see this as an opportunity.  The Serpent Earl has been intemperate as well.  Nia hopes to secure the dukedom because if she doesn't she endangers all of them.  The same caution is required of Haroun.  "You may go but know full well what will happen to the rest of us if you do."

Haroun leaves to consider things.  Dalvinosh admits he gave the Secret Name of his wife, but he does not know if she still lives.  Nia has Dalvinosh to send the Thousand, her Orks, to Haroun.  They are to show Haroun, if he does continue to try to leave, that Nia does own what she holds.  Dalvinosh asks to clarify what she means, and Nia plainly states, "Stop him."


Back at Catan, Jaric reviews the potential candidates for the Adventuring Party that he needs to explore the ruins for him.  Szaz joins him in perusing the candidates and there is some hesitation in hiring one group that presents itself.  One, lead by a female Tavala, has a Swordsman, a short Q'val and a Tashalan.  Szaz admits she is not too comfortable with the sorcerer.  There have been no candidates from the ven.  The two see a boot suddenly planted on the table.  Looking up, they see a woman who addresses them and explains the boot she wears was a Backbiter, a 32 foot Ork that had serrated teeth and an armored hide.  After explaining how she killed it, she brings down her boot and slams up the other one.  The second boot is of a different material.  She describes it as a Strider, a different Ork and explains how she killed it.  Finally, she presents her jacket, hide of a mantacore - a three-headed sea creature that spits small wrigglers that creep into eyeballs.  She explains she is willing to work for them if they will have her, but she will not give any names.  Jaric asks how business fares in House Ork and she spits on the ground in response.  She would wiped that House away from the histories of the ven if it were her choice.  Jaric feels she is too much.  Szaz wonders who that man was, and Jaric is confused given it was a woman in front of him.  In the distance, Jaric sees the woman in the ork clothes suddenly change, and it becomes the man in the yellow clothes.  Szaz wonders why he sounds familiar. Jaric is more curious to see he has gotten out again.

When Jaric questions if Szaz' network has been established, she admits it has been busy helping others from the old Shanri find places to hide from the Wolves.    Jaric of course stresses that the Senate is always right.  Szaz wonders what will happen if the Senate truly makes a mistake.  Jaric reminds her by the very definition, the Senate is always right.  Galeo's letter arrives and Szaz suspects its contents will be complicated.  Galeo asks if Jaric is willing to meet regarding certain matters.  Jaric does remind Szaz to find a way to keep track of the man in yellow more, and considers when he will present to the Senate Szaz as his chosen Mayor.

The last interview brings up the question of how the Adventuring party plans to deal with any encountered Orks, given they are now under House Ork.  All the members present their own ways of dealing with the problem, which makes Jaric wonder if they are actually a group.  He asks for the leader of the group, and they do not have any clear answer either.  Jaric feels they can employ them, but they will need someone ven to lead them.

They find one in a woman who has both Academic education, and training with the blade.  When complimented for her traits, the woman simply replies in curt responses, explaining later that she was raised by her mothers never to underestimate herself.  When asked who the mothers are, she hesitates at first to state their names - fearing that it may sway Jaric's decision.  She tells him the name is Nia Jalan.  She is Rio and she is then tasked to search the Ruins of Meridian for a specific artifact.  Anything else they find is theirs to keep.  Jaric shares his gathered speculation of what the Ruins may contain and Rio looks at the papers and learns it is all about the historical Red Throne.  The adventure is both a test and a request.  Whoever finds the artifact shall be given Vassalage under Jaric's shadow.


Galeo goes through the responses.  Nia's reply is that she plans to meet Jalani, the Marquess who casts a shadow over her, and that Galeo may wish to join her and present her matters as well.  Galeo writes a reply that she agrees to do so.  She does wonder however the Foxes feel of having been removed from such a ground-breaking decision.

Seran takes a leap and finds water at the bottom waiting for her.  She feels the current pulling her and to conserve strength, she allows the current to take her.  The water does not smell clean, but nor does it resemble sewage.


In Paradigm, Nia says hello as she sees Galeo arrive.  Galeo inquires how Nia feels of the Ork ven decision the Senate made.  Nia feels the decision was, in a word, inconsistent.  Jalani arrives and when the two try to show proper formalities, she cuts them off and tells them there is no need for such formalities given Jaric is not present.  She asks them to explain why they are present.  When Nia admits she has misgiving towards the Senate, Jalani inquires if she plans to overthrow it.  "In as much as misgiving with the Senate exist, they allow us to maintain our unity."  Nia admits she senses the Senate is soon to fail, not by any actions of her won.  Galeo shares she is here to ask about the well-being of certain inconsistencies with the Senate's decision in arbitrarily defining as some Ork ven as ven and others as ork.  Jalani wonders why the two did not represent the Ork ven even early on - an accusation Galeo counters by reminding her of her very... memorable... debate against Havar Mwrr.  Jalani however reminds Galeo she had the opportunity to speak of the Ork ven as ven back an Althua, but she publicly declared, "The Senate will decide, not me."  If that statement were true, then the Senate's decision now should be what Galeo supports.  Galeo admits that at that moment, she believed the Senate would be diversely represented.   Jalani however reminds Galeo, "You got what you wanted.  The Senate made the decision. You had the opportunity to speak without recognition and made your choice."  Nia raises that the question is not about the altruism of the decision... but Jalani cuts her off and reminds her the Senate has no altruism in its decision.  It exists to maintain the order even if that means a smaller group needs to get trampled on to maintain that order.   The sad thing is that the Senate generally is controlled by the whim of the Dukes, and they have no control over the Dukes.  Jalani admits she is only a Marquess now, a position she gained after a long series of requests and favors.  Her ties to the Senate only exist because she was actually a Duchess long before she met Jaric.

When Nia asks what Jalani feels about the Bears' exodus, Jalani admits she things it is foolishness.  The longer the Bears remain distant, the sooner the Boars will rise to take their place.  The Bears eventually will realize they cannot allow that to come to pass.  "All our Houses stand more to lose if we leave the Senate."  Without the Senate, the land would be dotted by vast Kingdoms as all will seek to calls themselves Kings, and then there would be conquerors.  The Senate is not a political entity.  It is a control mechanism.  Nia admits she will stay away from the Senate as much as she can.  Jalani however admits she will prod and guide it as needed.  Remove the Senate and the ven would be on the path of the Mad Emperor: private armies, mass murder and warfare.  Nia, however, feels that is already what is happening.

"There's so much information to share, but I am not sure where to begin," Nia sighs.  She thanks Jalani for her insight into the Senate, and admits it is invaluable information.  Jalani admits she trusts them the most, despite the fact they are not friends. She cares for them the most, but also understands they are in the best position to ruin her plans, hence she watches them carefully.   Seran, while dear to her, is unable to affect her plans.  "So the Wolves are out for a slaughter.  How long do you think will that last before their own kind start to fear being slaughtered as well?  Do you think the Wolves will be able to push through with this hunt for more than a single season? Do you not think the other Houses will see the Wolves as a threat, and the Wolves themselves would pull back to remove that fear.  The Senate allows us all to pretend we are Friends. Without it, it would be wars, unexpected demands and worse."

Nia asks what Jalani proposes they do.  She returns the question and asks what do they hope to achieve. Jalani admits she was securing her children to make sure they were ready when they came of age, they were intimately close and understanding of the ways of the Senate.  Just as she was thrust into understanding Dukedom when she was young, James now takes that same path in life.  She asks Galeo if Cassalanter is secure.  Galeo feels she is secure and will fair well even if they were to die.  Jalani asks of the other, the unrecognized one.    She admits they all know of him after Count Kether's report.

"What of Dranna Ru?" Nia asks, questioning how if the Senate speaks of balance, a House Ork and House Merchant clearly upsets that.  Jalani admits it was a decision to not have the Senate hall fall and have panic over what she was capable of.  Nia wonders if things would change if they did know what she was capable of.  "A wise man makes decisions on information.  A wise woman waits," Jalani shares.  The Senate believes Dranna Ru is a threat, but they seek to learn why Dranna Ru is able to control these Orks.  Why they listen to her is one of the biggest question the Senate is debating.   Jalani shares how her husband is sending an Adventuring Party into the Ruins to investigate on things, and that she invited Galeo and Nia over because she has a proposal; however she admits they probably won't like what it is.  NIa admits very little of what has been said is of what she would like.

Jalani admits she wishes a Vassal from both of them, to join her daughter, Rio, in the expedition.  The two are to remain secret and hidden while they follow Rio.  Nia is surprised to hear Rio is involved.  Szaz will be leading the expedition with Rio.  Both Nia and Galeo feel they have the perfect vassal to send.   Jaric arrives that moment, and the three take on a friendly tone as they greet each other.   They talk about the upcoming adventuring party, and Nia shares her wife and his brother used to be part of an adventuring party. Jaric realizes he has never met either, and Nia invites them to visit - sharing she even has a volcano in her land, as well as a building a Castle as huge as those of the old.  Jaric wonders if the size of the Castle will rival that of the Senate hall.  Nia is unsure that the Senate Hall would be so small.   Jaric asks Jalani to prepare them refreshments - given it is the traditional role of the wife, despite her being the one of greater title.  Nia admits it is her first time here.  Jaric admits he is still managing things, freeing his wife to do the duties of the Marquess.  Jaric shares the plans of sending an Adventuring Party and when Galeo wonders how he is keeping Szaz safe, he reminds them she is his Mayor, a vassal under his shadow.  Nia wishes if only the rest of Shanri can focus on things in that manner as well. Jaric questions if any of the Wolves would have the Courage to threaten those under their shadow.  Nia admit she feels less safe given the Wolves and their violent motions and the Bears on their exit.  Galeo and Jaric start rambling over things, and Nia struggles to understand either of them.  Galeo raises a legal question though of the Wolves moving about as a large armed force from one place to another, "Is that an Army?"  Jaric reminds them that the Senate will still only step in if this theoretical group kills one of the ven.  If they destroyed property, then that will be handled in the proper manner, given the complaint being raised to the Senate.  Nia however feels that only resolves the topic of killing ven and destroying property, but ignores the Sixth Law of not making war.    The idea of large groups of ven attacking property of other ven, however, just sounds disrespectful for Jaric.  He wonders if wine was involved.    Jaric asks where they are going with the questions.  Nia tries to explain that Galeo is speaking out of concern that if such a thing should happen, the realm would benefit from the actions of the Lord Protector, the Duke, which is Jaric.   Jaric admits the Senate would surely rule on the matter if it is an Army or not.  And if it is, then naturally it would be the duty of the Dukes to deal with it.  But until it is determined to be one, then there's nothing that should be done.  "A complaint may be filed with the Senate, if you wish to accuse one of harboring an army."

Nia shifts the discussion back to the Expedition.  Jaric shares they are exploring the Ruins of Meridian.  Nia informs Jaric that regarding the island, she had installed an overseer and the expedition may want to be apprised of the situation: Merea Silja is the temporary head of the island.  Nia warns that the vassal, for attention, might make herself known.  Jaric understands. "Oh these Silja..."   Nia is happy that Jaric is free, given there is something she needs of the Marquis to handle, given what she has learned from her Orks.  She mention the stories of the Orks carrying away the survivor ven and the suaven from the old Senate house when it fell and admits there was something she had been keeping from Jaric for a very long time.   The Orks told Nia that when they brought the Suaven out, they lost one.  Jaric laughs, claiming one cannot "lose" a Suaven, given the Blessings still work.  "Was it Thalia?"  They all break into laughter.  Nervous laughter.  Nia summons the Q'val Bowen, and remember him from the airship.  They ask Bowen if Thalia Yvarai was one of the Suaven they escorted out of the ruins, but Bowen hesitates in answering.  He stares at Galeo and worries that she might take offense.  Bowen admits that when they fled the city, Thalia Yvarai was one of those they could not get to.  The tomb was far too deep beneath the Senate Hall.

Galeo wonders if its possible given the Blessings still work.  But they do wonder if it is possible that she is missing.  None know of where the Grand Temple of Thalia Yvarai stands.   Nia admits Tyan Bran however might be missing as well, given Bowen's stories.  Jalani asks Bowen which tales are more certain.  Bowen admits the names may be wrong, since their tales are shared solely through oral means.  As Jaric starts telling them of the old stories of the Riddle of Blood, a presence joins them in the room.

A red-haired woman.


Seran tumbles in the darkness, and eventually is ejected into a dark chamber beneath the ruins.  She stares at the stone and metal archways and realizes the place looks like it was not just a hole in the much.   Seran finds herself in front of a massive entrance.  There is a glow emanating from inside the tomb.  She recognizes the construction and realizes the tomb shows the religious significance in its design.  Seran applies her strength upon the rock, forcing the door open.

Warm air blows out from inside.  Cautiously, Seran peers inside and finds a chamber filled with nothing but empty walls that once were covered with crawling vines and blooming roses.  Everything is dried up and cleared out.  There is a massive gap at the center of the chamber, with small traces of strips and white strands.  There is no body.  If there was a Suaven inside, it is gone.  And the symbol above the where the tomb should be shows the symbol of the Rose.


Galeo moves to interpose herself between Jaric and the figure, but remaining as calm as she could.  Nia notices the woman as well, but thinks its just another new person who works or lives in the Castle.  Jaric's castle seems to always have new faces come in.  Jaric stops sharing the story.    Taking a flower from the centerpiece, a rose, Jaric turns to Jalani and tells her the flowers are quite beautiful today.  He asks Bowen to take the wine away, then motions for everyone to take a seat.  Nia, unaware of who the red-haired woman is, offers her a kind smile.  Jalani makes up a story about having a small game to play with the rose, and sees who will be the one to start- Jaric pretends to have a migraine.  The petals are scattered to the table and Jalani casts the Ritual.  Jaric opens his eyes, happy to have ignored the use of Sorcery.   They tell Nia the red-haired one is the Demon, the one responsible for the destruction of Old Shanri.  The Demon manifests whenever she wants, but they do admit they have heard conflicting reports on its nature.  The Demon stops, now more aware that she cannot perceive them clearly at the table.  She stops directly behind Jaric, eyeing them all like a hungry shark.


Seran investigates the tomb, searching for any clues to what had happened here.  She realizes no one has been here since the tomb was sealed up.  However, someone had walked out.  It is then she realizes she is not alone.

The rocks rise up to clam down on her feet!  Seran turns and sees the red-haired woman at the door.  Liliandra uses her Talashan voice to also command Seran's clothing to fall, forcing the ven to cover herself.  She then asks the Fire to grow and it flares up, threatening to burn Seran.  Seran tries to talk to her, explaining there is something walking around with her face.  She asks Liliandra if this is her tomb.  The fire flutters away. "That is the tomb of Thalia Yvarai.  Why would I be her?"

Seran explains that there is a Demon with her very face out there.  She then asks Liliandra if she is the Storm that ravaged and destroyed the city.  Liliandra commands the rocks to loosen and walks to the far side of the room.  She directs the fire to linger instead on a candle, and explains she is not the Storm as the Storm is water.  Water is not of Shanri.  Seran asks who she is really and she insists her name is Liliandra, and she is a Speaker of Shanri, hunted by the ven and forced into hiding.  The term Talashan translates to "Servant of the Enemy" but Seran realizes its meant to really just mean "Servant of Shanri." She has been watching over and protecting Thalia Yvarai's tomb for many years.  She knew the waters would bring Seran here.  Seran shows the marks of something that had crawled out and Liliandra asks the ground to tell them what happened in the area.


Galeo tells them how the Demon grants wishes, but always with a strange twist.  Jalani shares how they thought she was the Storm back in Old Shanri.  Nia wonders how the Storm can take a human shape.  But Galeo is more curious to why she is here.  "She knows you are the ones who know of her existence, " Jalani surmises.  She does sigh that with the children no longer here, the wards are no longer in place.    On cue, she has everyone laugh, giving the Demon outside a blurred view of them having fun, rather than conversing about a dangerous and delicate affair.   Jaric shares the tales of Kithranus Yvarai and the Riddle of Blood, and how they too were stalked by this supernatural threat.
The woman in red is starting to look unhappy, knowing the discussion is more serious than not.  Nia admits she feels less safe right now, but Jaric reminds them a Secret Army would not be the solution.  Nia wants someone to safeguard her lands while she looks for Seran Thorne.  Jalani asks why Seran is important against the Demon.  Nia admits she just wants to rescue their missing companion and she believes she saw Seran in the Opera Box, suggesting she has somehow been thrown back into the other Shanri.  Jalani however feels they should focus on defeating the demon instead. Galeo feels they got her attention someone despite not saying her name.  Maybe there is a way to use that in their advantage, like how they were discussed in Jaric's books.  Jaric reminds her he never wrote those books.

The red haired woman stomps out of the room.  Jalani fears it might a trick to get them to stand.  Galeo feels she's hunting for someone with a wish.  Jaric feels that's an interesting thing, the fact she cannot just do things on her own.  She needs someone to make a wish.  It was his greatest fear when Seran and Galeo got back here... they clearly must have paid a price.  Jalani reminds them the Seductress was a Demon that dealt only with illusions.  Galeo wonders what her name was, and Jaric admits it might not be safe to say it.


The rocks whisper about how a woman awoke and tore herself free from the white bindings.  She heard no prayers and saw a city asunder.  She awoke and her heart broke.  Seran wonders where she has gone, but Liliandra admits she is not sure where Thalia Yvarai has gone.  She knows only how to speak of Fire and Rock.  She wishes one of her sisterkind was around to speak to the Air and find her.  Liliandra admits she was here when the rock shifted and the bright light blinded her.  A gentle touch upon her brow.  Then she fell asleep.

Seran wonders if the Demon might actually BE Thalia Yvarai.


Nia realizes there is someone she knows who might utter a wish in his desperation as an Ork army closes in around him.  She says, "Haroun.  She might be hunting for a wish from Haroun."  She explains she denied him his wish to go after Seran.  Jalani realizes she will have to buy them time, but Jaric admits he can do it better.  "No one can out ramble me," he smiles.  Jalani stands up, breaking the Rose, and declares she has no belief Demons exist and wishes she had a chance to meet it.  Nothing happens.  Jalani calls out for the servants, checking if all are accounted for.  Jaric runs out after her.  Nia tells Galeo to inform Jalani that she will write if Haroun is missing.  If he is, she will need her help in the Senate.  Nia hurries back to her Province.

Now alone, Galeo draws out the Quill and wonders if she can use it to write the name, Thalia Yvarai.  To her surprise, the ink moves and the letters do rearrange to show a new name.  Thalia Yvarai's Secret Name.  Galeo now knows it.

She wipes the table clear immediately.


Jalani is frustrated, uncertain how to deal with what they are facing. Jaric admits it would be the worst time to act.  They need to find out more and stay safe.  Jalani mentions the three sisters might be able to help, given they know about Demonology.  Jaric decides he will go with her once the adventuring party is set off.  He will leave it to her to secure the Castle.  Jalani admits she is not sure if there is time to do that, but she will see what she can do.


Nia returns home to find Haroun still there.   Her fears that Haroun made a deal with the Demon had not happened.  Haroun admits she cannot go to rescue Seran without endangering the rest of them.  Nia is grateful to hear that, and apologizes for not supporting him.  He begs her to send someone to help Seran. He suggests she send her Spymaster, Errol (Lukas) though he is not sure if Errol knows how to set sail.  Someone will have to pilot the vessel.  Haroun asks if Nia is willing to trust her one other vassal who can fly an airship.  "How much do you trust your vassal, Madelyn Yvarai?"

They plan the journey to happen come the beginning of Summer.  Haroun will find a different name to use, given Dalvinosh gave the Secret Name too easily.  He suspects he wants the owner of that name to die.  Nia wonders if that means Dalvinosh Steele's wife is still alive, and he probably has a reason to want her dead.  She believes she can find out what that reason would be.


"She took my face," Liliandra admits, "But she did not destroy Shanri. It was the Storm that destroyed Shanri."  Liliandra shares she was in the Senate Hall the night the Storm came.  The Airships were circling around the Senate hall like hungry orks, trapped in a whirlpool of the Storm's rage.  They had to stop it.

The woman who cast her shadow upon Liliandra, Madelyn Yvarai, sacrified her Secret Name and gave it to the Storm that they may command and control it.  It was only with her name that the winds were forced back.  But it required a massive sacrifice to create the Circle that would protect them from it forever.  Madelyn did not realize however the survivors would pin the blame of the city's near complete destruction on her.  She then commanded Liliandra to feel, to hide and watch over her beloved Suaven.  It was Madelyn Yvarai who had Liliandra keep Thalia's tomb safe.    She watched over the tomb until it opened, and until it was abandoned.  Now, Thalia merely awaits Thalia's return.

Seran shares Madelyn Yvarai does live back in her Shanri.  She also shares that there is someone that has her face.  Someone who grants wishes.  Seran is not certain though if that means they face a Suaven... a Demon... or worse, a Fashuva?  She knows she is not equipped to grasp this.  She asks Liliandra if she can leave the place.  Seran hopes to help them find a way across the sea back to the others.  Oandur can help with his building skills.   Seran knows she will find a way home.


The red haired woman manifests in a room. Madelyn Yvarai turns to face her.  The chamber is cluttered with maps, clothes and supplies.  "I thought our partnership was over," Madelyn asks, "Or do you have a new deal?"

"I need you to move my body again," the red-haired woman asks.

"And in return," Madelyn smiles.

"Name it," the Demon simply states.

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