Saturday, April 30, 2016

Recruitment #14 : Lacuna

Recruitment #14
Lacuna, Part I. The Birth of Mystery and the Girl from Blue City

Agents currently gathered are the following:
Agent Fisher (trained by Agent Duke), 29 years old. Played by Jonas.
Trained in Endurance, Driver, Documents, Safe-House, Caller, and Meditation.
Also has a Contact [redacted]

Agent Dexter
(trained by Senior Agent Snyder), 28 years old. Played by Alfred.
Trained in Meditation, Cover, Spy, Writer, Judge and Caller.

Agent Page (trained by Senior Agent Chambers), [redacted] years old.  Played by DJ.
Trained in Training, Caller, Armed, Meditation, and Credit (Snyder)

Agent Draper is also present.  Played by Paolo.
Trained in Meditation, Doctor, Judge, and Writer.

The  agents are welcomed by reception.  Three of them are senior agents and the two others are guests who have merits in their history.  Of course, memory loss is common in the Blue City.  Agent Fisher is given the task as Team Leader for the mission.  An additional technique is unlocked for them as approved by Control.  Their rapid promotions are noted for future reference.  All are then requested to sit back, close their eyes, and relax.

[Insertion process begins: DARA protocols active]

The group awakens all together in a dark room.   Most of the light comes from outside the window, casting a bluish hue on them all.  Agent Fisher and Agent Draper are both surprised, not recalling insertion ever being this smooth.  Or ever allowing them all together.  Agent Draper asks Agent Page to contact Control.   Agent Fisher recommends someone try Calling Control for the nearest Hard Line.  He asks the Team Leader if they should split and search for one.  There are many balls and clumps of spiderwebs however all around.  Agent Page notes quickly the doors in the area.  In the square room they are in, there is a door on each wall.  The windows allowing light in are from horizontal slits above the northern side door.  Or at least they think its the northern side.  They can hear thunder occasionally rumbling in the distance.  Fisher once again petitions that someone Call Control for a  Hard Line, but Draper counters asking why not to just Call Control for the Mission Parameters.  Fisher reminds him Control doesn't prefer to talk via Caller.  The two new guys are starting to grasp the Blue City is actually some other location.  With the four doors around them, one on each compass point, they listen against the southern door and hear only the distant sounds of traffic or an occasional train.  On the northern door, they hear the same.  There seems to be occasional thunder sounds.  Agent Page attempts to reach out to contact Control and finds himself accessing the ability instinctively.  He hopes to request for the location of a secure hard line and a request for weapons.  The DARA protocols are in effect and three test questions are posed to Agent Page.  He clears the protocols and is told the door to the west leads to the nearest hard line.  Agent Fisher digs out a number of blank pages in his pockets.  He wonders if these are the Documents he supposedly will use in the Blue City.  Page successfully requisitions four handguns and he is informed they are in the eastern room under the bed.  He ends the Call and shares the info with the others.  Agent Fisher checks the east door and smells something moldy.  The only source of light seems to be  small window.  He reminds everyone to check what else they might have.  Dexter nudges the door open and discovers the room is slightly illuminated by moonlight streaming in through a window.  All can see the room better now.  It is a bed room with an open window beside it.  The bed reminds them all of a medical bed.  Page keeps watch of the northern door.  Draper asks Page to check if he has a weapon on his person since his files show he should be armed.   Without waiting for a response, Dexter and the two others move in to check the bed.  Fisher slides under the bed to look for the weapons.  Draper sees markings on the walls and Reads them:  Run.  The word is repeated over and over.


Fisher reemerges with a box with four handguns.  He hands them out.  Dexter takes two of the hand guns and returns to the original room.  Page is at the western door, keeping poised near it just in case. As the group proceeds, Fisher hesitates, choosing to check what is out the window first.  Page covers the northern door, allowing the others to spread out.  Dexter has second thoughts and walks back to join Fisher.   Outside the window, Fisher can see a red car coming up the driveway.  He wonders if its the same red car he witnessed before driven by Kira.  Wanting to hurry, Draper reminds all to at faster.  Page wants to kick it open.  Heavy knocks begin to hammer on the northern door.  The door creaks and smashes open as Dexter smashes it open.  The voices at the north hear the commotion,  Their foreign accents are muffled but clearly suggest they are aware of the group's presence.  Page opens fire as the northern door swings open, and hits the humanoid squarely in the chest.  The thing tumbled backwards into the doorway.    The others rush into the western room and they find the landline on the single table at the center of the room.  Old metal filing cabinets are against the side walls.  Draper tells the others to shove the cabinets against the door once everyone is in.  Fisher checks the windows and finds them boarded up.   At the edge of the door, someone is about to step through once more.  Page fires again and the figure tumbles to the ground as its shoulder explodes from the shot.  It is dressed in what looks like cold-war soviet uniform garb, but where a head should be, a dark spider like head adorns it, with its beady multiple eyes. The thing groans in pain in a strange foreign language.  Dexter joins Page to help him shoot at the others.   They are realizing the rooms look identical to each other.  Draper rushes for the hard line to call Control.   Another movement by the door.  Page fires again!  The figure had its arm extended with a pistol ready, but Page's shot is true and its head explodes.  It crumples into the ground.   Fisher rushes again across the rooms to check if the east room window is boarded up as well.  Dexter tries to grab Fisher to stop him, but his hand grabs Fisher's collar and drags him back to the other room.   As the two argue, Page reminds them the others are coming!   Draper calls Control, and once more is challenged with the DARA protocols.  Identification is confirmed and mission parameters are requested.

As the others argue, another figure rushes through the doorway and fires at the group!  The shots deafeningly fill the air.  All three move instinctively, moving at the last second to feel the bullets fly across the room.  The bullet nearly strikes Draper, missing his face by inches.  Fisher rushes back to Draper while Dexter shoots at the enemy.  Another head explodes and the enemy drops a split-second after the gun clatters to the ground.   Fisher starts yanking the shelves of the filing cabinet free to smash the window open.  Page launches a few covering fire shots, calling for someone to find a way out.

"Mission Parameters are as follows:  Step one - Move to the western door to locate the hard line.   Step two - Requisition weapons as required.  They shall be sent under the bed.  Step three - Move to the southern door for the extraction point.  Take the stairwell leading outside the window.  Step four - Take the helicopter and fly to the Race Track to the position of the Hostile Personality target.  Step five - You are two engage with the Hostile Personality in a non-violent manner.  You are to abduct the Hostile Personality.  Step six - Deliver the Hostile Personality to the location known as the Factory.  Step seven - Interrogate the Hostile Personality for the whereabouts of Agent Miner and Rogue Agent Kira.   Final step - Eliminate the Hostile Personality."

Draper pulls the phone down but realizes there's strands of webbing between his cheek and the receiver.  He looks down and finds the phone completely covered with webbing.    Fisher smashes the shelf against the boarded up window and fails to shatter it open.   While Page covers the door, he asks the others where to go.  Draper tells them to the southern door an exit for the rooftop.  They notice the handguns of the enemy, however, do not seem to be made for human hands.  The spikey protrusions on them would embed into a human hand.  And worse, they seem to be made of bone.  Page suggests using the file case as cover while entering the next room.  Dexter stomps on the bone pistol, shattering it.  Five wriggling tadpoles of a sick fleshy green color squirm away from the weapon.  "I think they're here to infect us," Dexter mumbles aloud.   As they map out their plans, music begins to play from the northern door, however.  And a female voice addresses them in English.  "Perhaps we can talk, Mystery Agents?"

Fisher asks if it is Agent Kira.  The woman claims to be Kira, but when Fisher challenges her by asking for the name of the Safehouse, she diverts and asks to be allowed to safely step into view instead.  Dexter suggests she slide her weapon instead towards them. The woman emerges, kicking a glock towards them as she claims to have disarmed herself.  The stunning woman is dressed in red.  Draper addresses her, stating he's the Mission Leader.  Fisher reminds Draper to ask the woman about the Safehouse, to verify she is Kira.  Dexter and Page keep their weapons trained at her, just in case.   She claims to remember them from the parking lot, but she dodges again the question on the Safehouse they last saw each other - claiming given memory loss is so common in the Blue City, she might be referencing a Mission they do not remember.  Draper presses, demanding for the name of the Safe House.  The woman responds instead with, "The Abattoir."  Which she claims to be the place she brought them after the disastrous encounter in the Zoo.  Draper's Judge training senses the lie.  As she claims Agent Miner sent her, Draper raises the pistol in his hand and shoots her in the forehead. The group hurries to the southern door, with Page providing covering fire just in case.

There, they kick the door open and find themselves in a small interior garden with rotting plants.  Outside the window, a fire escape hangs.  Dexter asks Draper for the information Control gave, and he quickly gives them a recap as they clamber up to the ceiling.  Page wonders if they are only looking for Agent Miner.  Dexter suggests he can trick the Hostile Personality with one of his Skills to capture the guy.  As they continue up, Page provides more cover fire at the window, keeping the coated figures from following them up the ladder.  One slips out of the window, and begins to climb up with his bare hands upon the bricks.  But the group continues to the rooftop, and sees the Blue City for the first time from a high vantage point.  They see the crowded strange buildings that seem stacked against each other.  The Writers among them however realize the buildings are literally shaped as words, and they actually spell out what they are.  Hotel.  Bridge.  Race Track...  At the top, there is a man dressed in a suit with a white necktie standing in front of the helicopter.  He confirms delivery of the vehicle, then uses his own Lacuna device to leave immediately.  Dexter confirms the location of the Race Track and they quickly enter the vehicle.  Seeing there's only one contact left, Page opts to delay his ascent and fires one more time.  The shot kills the last contact chasing them.  Fisher uses his Driver training to pilot the vehicle.

They take to the sky.   The group easily flies in the direction of the Race Track.  Draper confirms the directions, being a Writer himself.  As they fly high enough from the building, they realize they are now flying above the rain.  The flight is pretty much quiet.  Agent Dexter directs them over the Bridge towards the Race Track.

Twenty minutes in the air, the group discusses the plan to meet the informant, but secretly attempt to verify if the contact is truly working for Agent Kira and not a double agent.  Agent Fisher admits that Agent Draper's information regarding the person is unverified.  The possibility that the hostile personality is in league with their contacts from the previous mission.  Agent Dexter isn't certain however if they should question Control's plans.  He offers to pretend he is the other contact, but the group isn't certain if he can handle the disguise.  Agent Page reminds them he's just good at shooting stuff.  Agent Draper reminds them that if anyone asks them for information, it would be best to claim they have forgotten.  "Memory loss.  Very common in the Blue City."  Page asks them how to eject, and Draper tells him how to do so - adding that abilities can only be used while in the Blue City.  They map out a cover story in case the contact does not know Kira, and they consider having the rest pose as guards if need be. A friendly approach.  "What is important is that they see Kira."  When Page raises the need for an exit strategy, they decide they will just have to shoot their way out.   Draper shares with them how Kira was formerly part of Control, but has been helping rogue agents free themselves from the Company.  She knows Agent Miner intimately, and has a predilection for the color red.  She likes to smoke.

They find a radio in the helicopter, and as they attempt to call Control, the DARA protocols don't seem to be in effect again.  The group unanimously opts to ditch it.  They direct the helicopter to land on a different area from the Race Track.  Page sights a good place to land the copter, a foot ball field surrounded by trees, and directs them to bring it down there.  While more distant for extractions, it does ensure no one will mess with their ride.  Dexter begins to transform into Agent Kira, using his Disguise to change.  They notice his Lacuna device does not change.  She detaches it from her clothes and hands it to Draper to hold on to it.  They notice a dog staring at them as they leave the helicopter. They begin marching across the street to the Race Track.  When park security tries interrupting them, Draper and Dexter intercepts the guy and shows them they have the proper Documents.  Page Calls Control for a hard line he easily clears all DARA protocols.  He is given the directions to find the closest secure hard lines, with three of them being within 100 meters.  Page wonders about seeing three phones in one location.  Page asks for extraction vehicles but there is delay due to static on the line.  Control informs them of 30 possible options nearby.  Page tries requisitioning for Injection Tranquilizers and they are instructed to get it at the rest room stall, West, after entry.  The group heads up into the Race Track entrance.

The group walks towards the Race Track, quickly moving through the corridors as they map out exit spots, and the restrooms for the requisitioned equipment. Page even notes how the crowds might be their best bet for cover.  The group moves towards the phone booths, and stepping inside, Draper tries using the hard line to contact Control.  Dexter squeezes in to join Draper, brushing off the small strand of cobwebs that catch on her hair.  To Draper's surprise, the operator asks him to deposit, "Two vowels."  A strange fax tone sound strikes after he offers, "A" and "E".  The operator claims Draper has successfully passed DARA protocols twice.  He slams the phone back down, realizing the hard lines are already compromised.  Fisher suggests that the head of the Race Track might be the Hostile Personality they should look out for.  The group laments there's no time to search for a new hard line. The group hurries inside.  Thunder rumbles and rain begins to fall.

The woman inside the ticket counter area smiles as they arrive.  Unlike the others in line, this woman seems to have a painted mask for a human face.  Under the eye holes, it is hard to tell what lies in the darkness.  She greets them and corrects herself for greeting them good morning.  "Kira" agrees to have her usual seat and asks to meet with the head of the Racetrack.  They even stress they are old friends with him.  The woman apologizes for being "out of sync" and tells them their reservations for the VIP section are ready. "Kira" asks if the "friend" is already in, as per Page's suggestion, and they learn he has "delayed the presentation" until they arrive.  An attempt to ask if others are there is met with a reminder that discretion is of utmost importance.

Inside, the racetrack has golden walls, strange portraits of patrons who look like melted gelatin with crab like legs.  Bright lights illuminate the whole area.  The Readers in the group inform the others that the information on the walls suggest there are winners and losers in the race.  Draper asks for a wheelchair given lady Kira is feeling "faint."  The security hurries off to the side to grab one.  Fisher does not see any sign of the real Kira's red car.  Page suggests to the split up now and slip to the restrooms.  "Kira" enters the ladies room, while Page enters the men's room.  Page finds a guy still inside, urinating.  He waits for the guy to finish.   "Kira" however finds a purse left on the sink.  Checking it, "Kira" finds sea shells inside.  A door slides open and a woman with a non-blurry face steps into view.   The woman is blonde, dressed in smart white office clothing.  Her eyes are green.  In her hand, a massive summer hat.  She tells "Kira" that the purse is hers, and the two share a conversation.  Fisher heads to the parking lot, looking around for any cards that might still have a key in the ignition.  When the security man returns with the requested wheelchair, Draper talks the security guard out of having to escort them.  Page starts to wonder what's taking the man so long to pee.  He bangs on the door to announce his presence and tells the man he needs to secure the place.  The man's blurry face gives out a sigh, and he leaves understanding the place is VIP only.  With him out, Page checks each of the stalls for any sign of the requisitioned package.  He finds a suitcase behind the third stall.  The case is sealed with a combination lock.  Page inspects the rest of the restroom and finds a stash on one side.  Scattering out of it are cigarettes and a lighter.

"Kira" learns the woman is known as Fraulein and in an attempt to misdirect her focus, she claims to be feeling unwell.  Fraulein offers her some "Bliss," an offer which the Mystery Agent does not quite grasp.  Fraulein tells "Kira" she suspects it has been far too long since she visited the games.  The woman digs out a small cube, the offered Bliss, but "Kira" turns it down.  The woman places it on her tongue and smiles as she walks out.  "Kira" suggests Fraulein walk with her to the games, but when she asks Kira who the current host is, she once more acts as if she is feeling ill.  "Kira" warns Draper that the woman might be the one they are looking for.  Fisher finds two cars with keys still possibly in reach.  Fisher gives his companions a meaningful glance to signal to them he has the vehicles.  Using his gun, he shoots the window open to grab attention.  He starts the engine and brings the car to the others.

When Fraulein reacts nervously to the incoming car, Draper claims they have heard of the presence of possible Mystery Agents and is now recommending they all head to a safer place.  Page steps close to block Fraulein from running off.  Draper reassures her that the incoming car is one of their agents, and the group makes their way to the side of the road as quickly as possible.  Racetrack security seems confused.  As the car is close enough, Page nudges Fraulein to get into the car.  Page hurries back to help "Kira" into the car as well.  Draper slides in beside Fraulein, staying between her and the door.  Page, seeing one of the security guards arrive at the area, yells out a warning.  With the suitcase in his hands, he rushes back to the car.  Fraulein starts asking worriedly if the Mystery Agents are around, and what will happen to Jigsaw who is still inside the Racetrack.  With her exclamations, the Bliss falls out of her mouth and tumbles to the floor of the car.  Draper lies about needing to "save" Jigsaw as well and asks if Fraulein would like to help convince him to go with them.  To their surprise, they see her hold a hand up to her head, as if she were Calling the man named Jigsaw!  She tells him they are under attack, and tells him to come out, as they have a "way out".  Security is coming in droves.  Fisher flashes the Documents and tells the Security to spread out near the entrance of the Racetrack, instead of where they were, due to the threat of Mystery Agents.  "Kira" yells at the Security to escort Jigsaw out now and the guards easily fall for it.  Draper asks Fraulein to hurry, but this makes her look at him slightly suspiciously. Fisher claims that there are ten Agents in the vicinity.  Fraulein however blurts about her frustration with the Company, stating they are probably acting more desperate now that more of them have gone rogue.

As the group anticipates the coming of Jigsaw, Agent Page suddenly receives a Call.  The caller turns out to be Kira and she warns them that they are playing a dangerous game. She warns him that Fraulein used to be a Mystery Agent and that she was trained to be a Judge and a Caller.  A single guy emerges, accompanied by the Security Guards. They hurry to the car.  Fraulein calls out to the group and tells them that Kira is with them.  But all can feel acutely that something is wrong with the situation.    "Kira" stresses they have to go and there's no time to waste.  Page, realizing the threat Fraulein may pose, hits her from behind to try and knock her out.  She drops down unconscious.  Page quickly warns the group that Kira is contacting her mentally and that Fraulein has the ability to discern lies.  He admits, however, that he is not sure if the Kira contacting him is the same Kira they know.  Fisher revs the engine and seeing Page's actions, decides its too dangerous to wait.  As they drive off, the Security guards spread out to reveal Jigsaw dressed as a Mystery Agent - full black suit, and shades.  Instead of a necktie, however, his tie instead looks like a wine bottle.  For some of the agents, the encounter registers as if it was the first time.  Panic hits as they see Jigsaw's detached segments of his face.  An organic rubik's cube of a face.  He motions for the car to wait!

The Agents all tell Fisher to keep going, but he hears Draper, the team leader, insist they best stop.  He stops the car.  Page stays focused on Fraulein.  Jigsaw arrives beside the car and asks them if they're heading out.  Fisher admits they do.  Jigsaw, however, warns them that they cannot take the roads. "It is not safe." Jigsaw slams his hand on the hood and asks Fisher directly, "Can you drive?"  To the group's surprise, the car they in begins to shake and rattle and change.  Within seconds, the car has transmogrified into a helicopter!  Jigsaw commands the security guards to hurry off to search the grounds.  He sees Fraulein unconscious and asks if the agents got to her first.  Page lies that they were able to pull her out in time.  Jigsaw's face shuffles and changes in response as he tells Fisher to fly them out of the place.  "Why does trouble always happen when you come to visit me," Jigsaw sneers at "Kira."  The real Kira Calls Agent Page once more, and this time she reminds him that if he makes one mistake, Jigsaw will know.

Airborne, the group leaves the vicinity of the Racetrack.  Jigsaw's face shifts a few times as he glances at Draper, wondering aloud if he knows him.  Fisher begins to direct the helicopter towards an abandoned location where the least people would be: the Country, the Factory, or the Observatory.  While the rural area is unexplored, it may hide unexpected dangers.  Fisher asks Jigsaw where to go. Jigsaw tells Fisher to follow his gut instincts instead and the group flies towards the Observatory.  The trip takes them away from the rain.  Jigsaw asks Kira to explain what is going on, and Dexter claims he suspects the Mystery Agents are trying to capture him.  Jigsaw asks her about the report he received that one of the Mystery Agents shot her in the face.  "Funny to see you back so soon," Jigsaw smirks.   Dexter tries to suggest the idea the report he received was most likely wrong.  The others remain tense, but stay in the role of bodyguards.  Suddenly, a power outage strikes the Blue City.  Everything goes dark.  Jigsaw smiles, suggesting that one of the assistants of Kira was Covering for her and was the one who got shot.  He asks what happened to Fraulein, and Dexter admits he asked her to wait but something seems to have happened to her.  Jigsaw asks if she trusts the pilot, and Dexter admits he needs him.  Jigsaw tells them they will head to Deep Blue instead.  He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a Lacuna device.  It looks like it had been jury-rigged however. He activates it and a Lacuna opens in mid-air.  "Head for the hole!"  Fisher throws Draper a glance, checking if the team leader would approve of the action.  Draper gives an almost imperceptible nod.   Jigsaw, however, catches the glance. They fly into the black, feeling the cold rush of wetness that splashes over them.

Sounds begin to surround them.  Insectile organic clicking and hissing.   The Mystery Agents look around and realize they are no longer in the helicopter.  Lights flare and darkness swirls around them.  Dexter realizes in horror his Disguise is gone.  The group realizes Jigsaw is no longer seated among them.  He is standing a few feet away, his back turned towards them as they sit in what seem to be standing chairs.  There seem to be silhouettes of something humanoid around them, but the figure pulls into the darkness before they can focus on them.  Jigsaw addresses Draper, telling him he clearly has identified the man as the leader.  He holds up a wine glass and muses about the Company sending "ten" Mystery Agents to hunt him down.  Draper admits Jigsaw has the honor of having been considered as infamous as Agent Miner or Kira.  Jigsaw asks if they came here as "allies."  Draper admits they did, as they have made contact with Agent Miner and Kira and believe the Company is no longer to be trusted.  Page keeps Fraulein close, wondering why she'd remain unconscious.  Dexter claims they are hoping to understand more with Jigsaw's help.  Fisher even asks if Jigsaw can give them information.  Jigsaw asks Page why Fraulein is with them.  Draper mumbles about her being an unexpected element in this whole fiasco.  Draper admits for some, it is their first time in the Blue City and so they had to orchestrate and improvise things to contact him and avoid the Company's surveillance.  Jigsaw suggests there are many truths: the Company, the Personalities, even they have their own truths.  Fisher asks if the Company can be trusted.  Jigsaw admits he needs proof before he'd tell them more.   He questions if they can all trust each other, and tells them he will ask one question from each of them.  He requires them all to surrender their Lacuna devices.  They had him Fraulein.  From the shadows, Spider-Men emerge and take her away.

Draper asks where they can find Agent Miner or Agent Kira. Jigsaw admits he can't answer that since he is not on their side.  He does not know their whereabouts.  Draper insists they are on their own side.  Fisher counter offers to owe him a favor in the future, especially since he cannot be assured Jigsaw is answering their questions honestly.  Jigsaw counters that they give him a name they trust instead.    Someone he can "Call."  Fisher gives his own name, "Agent Fisher."  Jigsaw accepts it and hears Fisher's question on what Jigsaw truly plans to do given he does not work with the Company, nor Miner and Kira. Jigsaw admits he wants to burn it all down, and to stop the Bliss from flowing.  "Aren't you tired of sleeping?"  He even raises an interesting thought: that if they are all lying on the slab, why doesn't someone from the Company just pull his own plug.  Agent Page hears Kira calling him a third time, informing him she can sense he is in Deep Blue.  She offers to pull them all out with an Emergency Extraction.  Jigsaw, oblivious to Page talking to Kira, asks for a Lacuna device to answer Fisher's question. Knowing he can't reply to Kira without verbalizing things, Page quickly wonders how to give the answer.  Dexter asks how to earn his loyalty, and Jigsaw plainly say they just need to get rid of the ones who don't have it.  That would be a clear demonstration of their loyalty.  Page realizes that's the best time to speak and he says, "Yes."  Kira activates the Emergency Extraction.

Draper realizes the Reciprocity he has is not enough to support everyone.  He decides to help everyone else by focusing it all on them.  Draper gets left behind as the Lacuna holes yawn open beneath the other Mystery Agents.  Fisher reminds Jigsaw he can always call them, and he vanishes as Kira yanks him out.  Dexter is also yanked out.  Page flicks his own device on, following Kira's  instructions and he vanishes as well.  Draper is now alone with Jigsaw.  He pulls Draper close and begins to tell him about a world built upon the dreams of a billion sleepers  He learns why the Company was formed.  He learns that Jigsaw wants to destroy the Blue City and the Company, because he sincerely believes it will wake everyone up.


Back at Reception.  The Receptionist smiles as she looks at the three Mystery Agents.  Page, Dexter and Fisher have vague memories of what had happened.  There is no sign of Agent Draper.  She tells them the Company is very happy with the results of the mission and even congratulates Agent Fisher for being the Team Leader.  He chooses to just nod as if that were true.  Agent Dexter is commended for his bravery and that there is plans to promote him unless he works for Mythography instead.  Agent Page is told the Company is astounded  with his success.  He is told their group of three successfully terminated the rogue agent Draper, a.k.a. Jigsaw.  His body was found in the slab and terminated as per Company guidelines.  She asks if they would like to share their experiences of the mission.  Each are allowed to give up to three sentences to describe their mission.  All three start claiming to have memory loss of the mission.  Reception even hints that they are all being considered for Senior positions had they been able to remember enough to report.  She tells them that Vice Director Weller will be in touch with them soon.  Even Agent Collier commends Page for his actions in Deep Blue and is given the offer to handle nothing but solo mission from this point on, given his exceptional navigation of Deep Blue architecture.  The promotion is to Black clearance.  Page admits he doesn't really know for certain what he had accomplished.

A knock on the door.  A man steps inside, wearing a full suit and tie.  They recognize him as Senior Instructor Snyder.  He charmingly addresses them all.  He tells them that the Company is very happy with their performance, and so forth.  But beneath the verbal words, they all begin to hear Snyder address them telepathically that the corruption within the group.  He tells them secretly that the loss of Draper, while unfortunate, is not irreversible as they still have his body on the slab. Fisher asks if its possible Draper is still alive.  Snyder tells them they are all to be on R&R, talking about the coming operations, but in truth his telepathic words tells them that Draper might still be investigating Jigsaw.

Somewhere else.
Draper stands in the shadows.  In the dark room, the woman in red is in front of him.  She is still shifting her face into a human disguise to become Kira's face.  Kira turns to Draper and tells him the others are arriving.  Draper sees the others present and they all nod.  Kira lights a cigarette.  Draper knocks down something to the ground and the metal thing clatters to the ground.  "They should be there now," she tells him, "Let them know we are coming. Let them feel the terror build."  The light is flashed at the door way once, twice.. thrice.  Then the door is being kicked open.

Draper hears in his head a voice, asking if his Cover is holding.  If they do not realize he is not really a spider.  He confirms it is holding.  The voice tells him hopefully he will learn to Call back.  But for now, to know that they are nearby.  "And remember, if you ever see me in public, I am Jigsaw.  This is Agent Miner, signing off."

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Journey ep05 : Ryuutama


Episode Five
"The Dream Job"


Aya is talking with Matthew, the head of the Festival, about things to consider in the days to come.  Tristan is wandering around the festival, anxious to learn where they should go next.  Piter, on the other hand is busy working on a jewelry chest, hoping to have something to sell in the festival.

The old man challenges Aya to a duel.  Despite using the tea set, the piano, the open window, the table and even Matthew himself to her advantage, Aya finds herself feeling weaker by the passing second!  As it turns out, the tea had been poisoned by Matthew himself - an act he did out of concern that she might hurt herself.  As she drops, weakened, Matthew tells the old man the matter is settled and he promises to carry her back to the others.

Piter works on the box and starts to notice an echo on the hammering sounds.  He looks around and discovers the monkey mimicking his moves and hammering on the wood as well!  He chases the monkey out of the tent and nearly slams into the noble man waiting outside the door of the tent!  The man reveals he is a messenger from the noble family who are about to celebrate a marriage.  They have heard of his handiwork and are anxious to have him work on the giveaways for the wedding.  Piter watches in amazement as he is given an unbelievable offer: to build five dozen chests by the end of the week to be given off as the giveaways of the couple.

Tristan searches the grounds and discovers that some old friend of his has created a school to teach crafters lessons in the city.  Frustrated, he continues looking around and searches for any good ideas on where to go next.  To his surprise, he notices a dog moving amongst the crowd with an unexpected intelligence.  He follows the dog, a corgi, to a nearby stall and begins to overhear voices behind the stall talking about finding a way to get back their lost lands and raising money by selling their weapons.  When Tristan investigates, he soon discovers the voices are coming from dogs!  The two turn out to be Corgs, dog-critters who have long been at war against the Nekogoblins and now are searching for a way to take back their lost land.  Tristan promises them that he can somehow help but tells them he needs to talk to his friends first.  The two Corgs, Bartholomew and Matthias thank Tristan for the dose of hope.

The three soon regroup, with Matthew excusing himself before Aya awakens.  They hear from Piter the good news, from Tristan the possible job, and from Aya the frustration of having lost a fight.  But what they soon learn from the nobles when Aya tries visiting them is shocking: the Crown Prince seems to have lost his one true love, and is now helping his sister find marriage.  But the Princess herself is not interested in getting married!

And true enough, she makes her intentions better known by attacking the supply of material Piter was to work with in the middle of the night!   And while the others more or less know what this is about, they realize they can't just walk up to the Crown Prince and tell him she wants out.

Just another heart-felt story that the Ryuujin would be keeping an ear trained at.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

A Single Moment sent for release approval

And the files are off!
Here's hoping that within the next few hours the files will both be approved for release and finally be listed online as available.

Here's hoping people like it!
All I can do now is continue working on my next few projects, which include:

a) An Adventure Time inspired RPG for younger audiences
b) The stretch goal files I owe a certain Kickstarter
c) The freelance writing stuff I owe certain pirate nations.
d) The drag queen fishiness Fiasco playkit.
e) The Ghibli inspired cat game.
f) The multiple perspective horror monsters supplement.
g) mem:RE
h) Muses

But yes, this is my birthday gift to myself.  I've had a remarkable birthday so far and I'll squeeze in time later today to write a post about it (just have one last celebration to have with my family this time) later today.   Anyway, back to work, Tobie.
Back to work.

After the Rain ep33 : Houses of the Blooded


After the Rain

Episode Thirty Three

Houses of the Blooded

The Quill finds its way to Rio.  Gil is with Rio and Lyra when the Black Hand arrives to deliver the artifact.  Rio speaks to the two of them about the army she needs, to defend everything else while Dalvinosh focuses on the coming of the others.  Lyra doesn't quite understand the fear of the other Shanri.  Rio insists they need to gain soldiers from the Foxes and Serpents and so she sends Lyra to know the mind of the Serpents.  She suggests Lyra look for the heir of the three sisters.  Lyra admits the tomes of those women were last said to be in the hands of Jarik.  Rio announces she plans to take on the Serpents themselves and she tasks Gillian to focus on finding an ork army for Rio to command.

Through the loyal Jeeves, James summons Jesse.  They speak about Szas, and discuss the fact she is watching over Cherno.  He takes the tunnel beneath the Provinces to reach the city of Catan and searches for the Spider.  The Spider, it turns out, is aware of Q'naldinir and of Jalani's situation.  Szas admits she killed someone to give James the face he wears as Ash.  As they discuss things further, they speak of Jaric finally embracing the use of Sorcery, and how the last tunnel was sealed with their names and then forgotten.  With Nia and Janine solidifying their stronghold in the senate over the last generation, the role of Cherno remains uncertain.  James chooses to leave him in Q'naldinir under the pretense of allowing him to let his art evolve.

Cassalanter finds herself seated at the far end of a majestic table.  Galeo sits at the opposite end.  The two discuss things, speaking of what has transpired and even visit the Garden.  There, Galeo admits she is excited since there remains less than a year before they will finally cultivate Shanri.  Galeo is curious to how her land is now owned by Cass and she even wonders about Hero.  Cass mentions that Galeo used to be a Suaven, and that statement confuses the Dragon of the Q'naldinir.  She remembers it to have been true for a while, but that when she died in Shanri, it was the time Seran had coldly left her behind.  Galeo is beyond petty revenge, however.  She sees herself reborn with the task to do the impossible: to revive Shanri from its ashes into a perfect new image - one of course she alone can define.  The Garden is grown to be a map of Shanri itself, and when Cass points out where she knows Galeo's temple to stand, Galeo is interested.  "Could there be another me around?"  Deciding it is time to rest, she calls for her servants who then carry her away to sleep.  Cass feels this place needs a proper queen.

Days pass and in Q'naldinir, Cass sees a gathering around a woman crying for her dead child.  The people around are muttering the name, "Cherno" out of all things they could say.  But Cass realizes the term Cherno instead means "to understand by never say aloud something," in this place.  A loud sound clacks and suddenly, everyone is simply walking away.  Cass pushes her way through the gathered and finds Galeo there.  She approaches her and tells her about Cherno, a subject that Galeo seems eager to hear.  She recognizes the debt she owes Cherno and shows Cass an unrooted anhill, which is exposed but undamaged.  Using a lens, she then proceeds to burn the ants and tells Cass how this captures in a way what she seeks to do to Shanri and the ven.  Cass mentions that she thought Galeo was in her own head for a while, but Galeo admits to having no idea what she means.

Galeo, however, admits the demon in her head has gone quiet.  Cass wonders if it has transfered to her own.  When Galeo tries asking, a response comes in Galeo's own motions... motions she cannot control.  Spoken through the Invisible Tongue, her own hand tells her, "You did make her the inescapable trap."

Rio and Gil leave Dalvinosh' Province, leaving only a note for the old fool.  They separate ways in hopes of accomplishing their goals sooner.  Rio visits the Duchess Jesse, but discovers she had left in a hurry, leaving even her own Maids and Personal Guard behind.  All the vassals are rushing to pack and follow suit.

Gill returns to Warriorsett and meets with Uvanla, Lukas and Artemisia.  Uvanla notices she's acting distant, and in response she evades the question.  She makes him promise to write on his wall where he can see, "If I don't return by the end of the year, find me."  Uvanla agrees and makes her promise to tell him her secret if he does find her.  Gil turns to Lukas and Artemesia and asks them to finally share their secret.  They admit they hope to take her away from the threats surrounding the ven.  They admit they are but tulpa and have been tasked to bring the children to safety.  When asked about the original, they refuse to give clear answers.  The earlier generation, it seems, were aware of the threat of those from Q'naldinir, and have asked Madelyn Yvarai to help them close the door leading to that place.  But when they learned they had no power to do so, the older group decided to buy themselves time.  Jalani volunteered to act as an intermediary between the two, but in truth was buying time for the others to fulfill some grand master plan. Janine and Nia have been building their army of ven and ork.

Rio uncovers a tunnel that leads to Citadel and even more interestingly, the tunnel supports a rail system.  Following it, the deeper tunnels go through wider winding routes.  The first few days of journeying through them are quiet and safe.  But days later, an alarm sounds as an Ork is sighted ahead!  What was about to become a fight is abruptly halted when the Ork claims to recognize Rio.  It turns out to be one of Janine's Orks.

James welcomes Jesse and seems unhappy with all the untruth she had been surrounding him in.  He is pissed off about the use of sorcery and of the fact he feels used.  She says that Artemesia and Lukas had visited her to explain why they are young.  James wants a Bloodsword and his insistence for one worries Jesse.  James seems final in his desire to have NOTHING to do with the others.

Lukas and Artemesia inform Gil of the ven they have been gathering to hide them at the Other Shanri and replacing them with tulpa.  The tulpa have been modified to last longer, but inadvertently now seemingly age backwards.  Gil admits to them that Nia spoke of war to come when the Season of Summer arrives, and this sends them to a panic.  Lukas even considers killing himself in order to send a message back to Other Shanri, but Artemesia remembers the Merchant receipt.  The ritual of the merchant is then used to deliver the message while Gil sends Lukas on Thanos, her Ork mount, to fly away. Gil brings up the topic of Haroun and how Dalvinosh has him imprisoned, and this almost tempts Artemesia to act.  But both decide it would be best to wait for Lukas.

Galeo is upset that Cherno has not accepted her invitation to lunch.  She decides to build and perform an opera to call him out.  Cass and Galeo talk about the Totem Rex and Cass mentions her desire to meet him.  Galeo insists he does not just meet anyone and even raises the fact Cass might consider replacing Jalani as the Elk.

The Ork tells Rio that the tunnels were part of Nia and Janine's plans.  They make their way all the way to Citadel which raises their alarm at her entry.  James tells her that Jesse is no longer welcome in his castle.  James and Rio talk about the events and Jesse's staff is sent away to go after her.  He shows Rio his face, and revealing his Ash persona is gone.  James is still quite bitter of the events but he reaches an understanding with Rio.  Rio tries to assign the job of talking to Szas to James, but he instead chooses to send Rio to do it.  James chooses instead to explore the unknown tunnels with the new sword Rio gives him.  Rio leaves.

Artemesia and Gil talk, and the two discuss how the goal is to save the bloodline.  Gil negotiates to delay the journey to the end of the season, admitting she has things to do for Rio.  Artemesia speaks of the sacrifices the old generation had made and raises the point that being ven has its place in the world, regardless of how they feel about things.  Gil asks Artemesia to take Uvanla away.

Cass asks Nolwen to help her create some guards and swords and the task is accomplished with the least of effort.  Cass begins dropping hints at a Romance with Nolwen, setting herself up as someone who can be seen as reliable and beautiful.  Cass even suggests Nolwen can use this occasion to make amends with the Dragon whom he had insulted.  The two carry the conversation more, and Cass begins to seduce Nolwen to feed her more information she needs. 

Weeks pass.  Cass is alone when she notices her reflection talking to her through body language.  The movement in the reflection are motions that are empowered by the Invisible Tongue.  The voice in her head whispers taunts and lies, even making Nolwen leave.  Cass begins to speak back to the reflection, speaking aloud because she wants the words to reach the Totem Rex' ears as well.  The voice is upset with Cass' choice to not believe her words and is insulted that she refuses to see that it wants to help her.

Galeo uses the five corpses of the servants as actors for her opera.  She names one Hero, the Husband.  She seems determined to create a masterful piece.  Little does she know someone watches from his lofty throne.  And Afhil stands nearby, watching beside him.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Bloodlines ep02 : Blades in the Dark


Episode Two

Blades in the Dark

During the last few weeks that have passed, the group has established their turf and has gained a new connection, a woman called the Madame Tesslyn from the Red Lamp.  She asks for the owner of a shop to be... dealt with.  The form of death is not important, just that he is dealt with.  She uses a concealed map on the surface of the hardoak table to show them the location of the merchant to be dealt with.   Tesslyn reveals information on the merchant, which includes the facts he is named Timoth Klev, who is the brother of Mylera Klev.  He is supposedly living alone. When Cliff Lawford asks for why the man should be killed, Tesslyn shares that there are plans to develop the land he is holding.  His death would open its availability.  Supposedly Timoth's prized possession is the scale of a Leviathan.  "Anything you find inside of value, is yours.  I only want the land."

An hour earlier, however, Reginald Eothorn Guiest Drakeboon III received a message meant for the group.  The wax seal denotes the Red Sashes.  Tearing it open, Reginald finds a letter addressed to him.   The group, now being called the Performers, are asked to meet with them given their interest in finding where their favor lies.    The idea of the assassination and the meeting happening on the same night opens interesting opportunities for the group.  The location of the meeting turns out to be quite close to the tinkerer's building.  The group decides to try taking a stab at both at the same time.

Taking point on the Red Sashes meeting is Reginald, the Slide.  While in the assassination plot, Robert the Piper, the group's Hound, takes point.

At the Red Sashes meeting, Reginald arrives with Cliff and Gideon at the Tavern.  The place is lively and full of people.   For the assassination attempt, Darius is at the rooftop while Robert walks directly at the entrance.  The group aims to slit the man's throat to get through the job quickly.

The meeting flows interestingly, with the three of them walking in.  They introduce themselves as the Circus.  Mylera wonders why Gideon looks familiar, asking if he was once a judge.  Reginald distracts her from the conversation and starts asking questions regarding today's meeting.  Mylera asks if the group wants to earn a large sum of money.  She explains that another group is about to receive a large sum of money for the Lamp Blacks.  All they need to do is ensure the money never reaches its destination.  She does imply the Red Sashes does not care what happens to the money Polix currently carries with him.  She stands up to leave, but another companion points at Cliff and tells her to wait.  Reginald tries to diffuse again the situation, claiming the man is just another person from Dagger Isles, since all of them are bald.  The man asks if Cliff is the man Marlene, the pugilist, had once witnessed punch a guy thorough the chest.  Mylera raises the offer and claims the group can have additional turf if they succeed in this.  They receive four mugs of drinks from someone in the crowd.   Cliff moves to the stairway, while Reginald and Gideon approach the man who sent them the drinks: Polix.  Polix, a businessman counting stacks of coin at the desk, seems very occupied with the accounting he's doing and when the two approach, true enough, two heavy set met rise up to intercept the two.  Polix is surrounded by body guards all dressed as normal revelers.

The assassination, on the other hand, takes an unexpected twist.  While hanging above, Darius and Puck realize there are arcane defenses on the windows outside.  This limits their access into the structure while Robert distracts the old man.  Robert knocks at the door and convinces the old man that he has certain goods from his seafaring travels that the man might find interesting.  Robert claims to have been in touch with Leviathan hunters, and this does grab the old man's attention.  The old man allows Robert in as they discuss about the legends of a Lidless Eye.  A ghost seemingly is present helping the man prepare the tea.  He fails to see Pick and Darius trying to signal him that they cannot get inside through the windows.  That's when Puck finds a pistol trained at him and a second group seemingly present to steal from the old man as well. When her pistol misfires, nearly hitting Puck's foot, she withdraws in panic into the shadows.  Darius embraces the Ghost Veil, passing through the wall to land on the rafters.  Robert pulls out his flute, talking to the old guy about an old rhyme he heard of, but the display of the flute warns the others that there's magic, if not a ghost in the place.

Reginald tries to directly talk to Polix, encountering some friction from the guards.  Gideon is pulled away by a guy who challenges him to a game of darts.   The initial throw goes bad, with Gideon's dart stabbing into some other guy.  When Reginald tries talking to Polix, acting like they know each other, Polix starts replying in a single word each time.  "What?  Who? Confused.  Who.  No.  Quiet."  When Reginald claims they met at Iruvia, at the Governor's mansion, at some ball, Polix starts to reply more positively, as if remembering something.... more personal.  Next thing Reginald knows, a champagne flute is handed to him and filled with wine.  Polix smiles, and his hand reaches across the table to touch Reginald's.  "Yes."

Back at the shop, Robert finally asks directly if there is a ghost in the place. The old man admits there is one given an agreement with someone from the Temple of the Forgotten Gods.  They talk about a skull that has been retrieved by the Cult of Ecstasy and Robert feigns being startled by the floating cups.  The old man casually states the ghost is of no danger, rather the true danger are in the wards that keep the place safe.  Anyone who has a weapon who steps on a ward will find himself attacked by the very house.  Darius draws out the spiritbane charm and tries throw it at the ghost, thinking it might help do something to it.  The old man wonders if there's someone outside, and when he peers to check, Puck is forced to duck out of the way.  This has him land exactly where the other group is hiding.  They both insist the other admits who sent whom, but neither get answers out. When Puck sways the man to turn around because there is a gun behind his own head, the man falls for the trick and raises his hands in surrender without even checking.  They claim to be sent by Lyssa, the former head of the Crow's Feet area.  Puck twists the story to claim they were told to expect another group to help out.    The ghost seems frozen in place back inside, and both Reginald and Darius move to complete the mission.  As Reginald is about to clamp his hands around the old man's neck, a flash of green light erupts from above.  Darius slides back into the shadows as the old man declares that there's an intruder!  When he calls on his ghost for a weapon, however, the ghost hands him nothing since it remains frozen in place.

The green flash erupts and a woman falls on the ground where Puck and the man are.  The man seems frantic at the thought there are wards in the place.  Puck realizes the group is a whole gang of wannabes with no real skill.  The man tries to help the woman up, but upon touching her is zapped as well by the green energy.  Both remain stunned on the ground.  Puck realizes the group might have been intended to be the scapegoats to their actions.

Back at  the meeting, Cliff gets pulled to the dart challenge and finds himself amused as he challenges the guy. Thankfully, Cliff has the Finesse to handle the match better than Gideon could.  Polix starts talking to Reginald, and the fact he always speaks with just one word complicates the challenge.  At one point, Polix asks, "Animal?" and Reginald decides to answer, "Fish" which actually makes the man respond very excitedly. When Gideon tries to walk back to the two, the soldier walks up to intercept his approach once more.  Gideon explains he's with Reginald and the bodyguard finally relents and lets him approach.  Reginald throws the name Ichabod as his name, which makes Polix wonder even more.  The man, however, holds Reginald's hand and starts rubbing it while mumbling, "Fish.  Worm." He pulls out a size-able gemstone encrusted to a green base. "Bauble? Tonight?"  Reginald agrees.  Polix has his people lead them out to the boat.  The coins are gathered into chests.   A clap and Polix heads out with the others.  Cliff finds the man he is playing darts with recalled, and Cliff heads out to follow the two from a distance.  They head for the port.  Two boats are prepped, with one holding the chests, and the other, Polix sits with both Reginald and Gideon.  Cliff discreetly motions to the two that he's handling the other boat.  Knowing Cliff will need some help, Gideon taps into his Whisper powers to call a Fog to spread around the area.  Cliff pulls out their own boat and closes in on the other boat.  Gideon allows the fog to become even thicker.  The two boats separate, but thankfully Cliff shadows the one with the coins easily thanks to the cover the fog provides.  Cliff decides to jump to the other ship and fling the others into the water.  He barely breaks a sweat as he knocks out two of the guys on the boat and slip them into the water.

The old man asks for a weapon, and Robert moves as if to hand him a gun.  But as he does so, Darius moves close to let the old man see him - acting as a perfect distraction for Robert to close in from behind to snap the old man's neck.  When the dead body in his arms, Robert motions to open the door for Puck and sees the others stunned by the green light.  Robert shares with them overhearing the old man's last words, "Did my sister send y-"  They search the place for any valuables they can grab and while Puck looks through his letters, Darius drops the rifle upon seeing how many wards are scattered about.  Robert finds a safe with no lock but an engraving with letters and numbers.  Puck finds a number of sheets with letters and numbers written in varying inks, across multiple pages.  The combinations on the papers seem to suggest the old man had been either changing the passwords, or testing various combinations himself.  Puck begins to study the safe, taking extra time to make sense of how it works.

Outside, the companions of the stunned people have emerged, wondering what happened to their friends.  Darius warns the two that someone is coming.  Robert hunts for the gunpowder stores of the rifle, and makes a bet with Puck that he can open it using the gunpowder.  As he works on applying it, Puck presses the combination and opens the vault.  Mist emerges from inside, distracting them from the guy who steps into the store.  Darius sees the new arrival and sees he has a knife out.  He seems to be looking for the owner, but finds instead Puck and Robert illuminated by whatever was inside the vault.  Darius leaps down and pushes the man with the knife into the closest ward!  The man drops in soundless pain as the ward forces him to start stabbing himself in the face.  The body continues to do so despite being already dead.

In the vault is a pale white egg, surrounded by a green glow and pulsing fog.  A leviathan egg!  Robert rummages for a bag to use but not wanting to waste time, Darius grabs the egg and a barrage of images assaults his mind.

Underwater. Veins. Pumping heat. Yellowish eye. Bubbles. Water. 

The three grab whatever else of value they think they should, and exit the place.  Robert prepares to ignite the gunpowder, which he spread out to burn the place down.  Puck pulls the other bodies into the shop, using cloth to do so without touching them.  Robert spots one final possible thing of value, and grabs the pet monkey in a cage nearby.  The fire grows as they leave.

Cliff fights the one last man on the boat, and the guy turns out to be quite skilled. Far more skilled than expected.  The two slowly pull back from each other as they realize they are both from Dagger Isles.  Cliff grabs the chest, and the other guy motions to him that he doesn't mind if he steals the coin.  At least he doesn't if the other guy was also from Dagger Isles.  Cliff leaps into the fog to try to jump back into the other boat, but sadly hits nothing by water!  Struggling to stay aloft, Cliff pedals powerfully.  But despite his search for a way to stay above the water level, the weight is far too heavy.  Cliff tries to swim water to save himself.

And suddenly, the handle of an umbrella is plunged into the water to help pull him up.  Grabbing it, he finds himself pulled up to see the Madame Tesslyn, who reminds him that wasn't smart to try and swim with all the weight.  She demands half the Coin for saving his life and hopes they got rid of Polix without harming him, or the whole ambassador of Doskvol will hunt the group down.  She offers Cliff tea and biscuits, but he chooses not to accept any.

At the other ship, Polix leans back as he expects the two to "Worm and Fish," although neither know what he meant by those words.  Gideon shows the fine lightning hook and mutters, "Worm."  Polix pulls out a tiny charm bracelet and chooses one of the figurines on it.  He detaches it and tells him to catch it.  From a charm bracelet a long thick eel made of ectoplasm takes to the air.  Gideon tries to catch it using the lightning hook and a spirit bottle to trap it.  This seems to place Polix in an amused mood.

Reginald takes that opportunity to knock Polix in the head with the hilt of his dagger.  Polix drops unconscious, slumping against the side of the boat.  The two muse that Polix is well spent and satisfied.  One of the guards tells them Polix is not the type of man who meets anyone, and suggests that there are eyes focused on Crow's Foot lately.   He warns them that the place is not the best of Doskvol and recommends they head to Razor Hill or Echo Gardens instead.  Reginald just shares that he feels business is booming here.  The two guards drop Reginald and Gideon off the closest port and bids them a good night.

Madame Tesslyn congratulates the group later on when they regroup at the Red Lamp to discuss the expendable group did nicely in acting as scapegoats, and how they were able to steal away a generous amount of Coin.  She admits the Doskvol Council will not be happy with what happened, The Lamp Black might have had a whiff of the events. Tesslyn however walks to the door, opens it to reveal the Inspector Roland Wot, who seems to have a very interesting story to tell.  She tells them he is very interested in their activities as well.  Tesslyn asks if there really was a Leviathan Scale in the shop.  They say there wasn't any.  But the group, with Rigby, the bartender, ponders on the fact they now have what might actually be a Leviathan egg.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Three Days to Go

My two-player role-playing game is going to be available at DriveThruRPG in both PDF and soft-bound print format.  I will admit this early I didn't have the funds to hire an artist, so I kinda had to wing it on my own and work with what I could.

Hope you all still like it!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Meetings. Yes, this is real.

It is not everyday you find yourself in a video conference with people whose work influenced your hobby in so many ways.  Barely 24 hours since the first meeting, and we're already mapping out more ideas for the coming book.

And man, it was terrifying having to answer the moment they ask you, "Tobie, what are your ideas?"  That fear and worry that you'll ideas will sound dumb and boring.  That wonderful joy of hearing them give critical feedback and share reminders on how everything must always exist to be hooks and reasons for the players to act and bring the drama forward.

But yes, Tobie, this is really happening.
You're going to be part of one of the biggest role-playing games you know of.

And you have deadlines to meet! 

Monday, April 18, 2016

So today, this happened

I am still trying to convince myself it did.
I was struggling not to stutter each time I was asked to talk among people I consider to be among the greats; people whose work I truly admire and celebrate.

I think I just leveled up in some way today.

7 days to go

Extending once more my thanks to all of you who have been very supportive of me.  Thank you for your trust and understanding.  One week to go.  My first full-fledged solo contribution to the gaming industry.  Love it or hate it, I'm just happy to be able to share something for everyone out there to try.

TAGRPG : the Twitter-based game

Would you like to try playing a game every six hours, making choices for the events surrounding a man from a dead civilization, an elf from a dying echo, and an ambitious priestess, a betrayed Emperor and a yet unrevealed nearly omnipotent presence.

Currently ongoing on Twitter is #tagrpg, my experimental dive into running a role-playing game on twitter by simply allowing people to vote on the actions or the flow of the story.  Admittedly, this is less a clear cut role-playing game experience (that becomes wholly dependent on the players) and more an exploration of a digital choose-your-own-adventure type of game.

The idea hit my head some time back, when I was considering taking a dive into using Twitter.  Similar games have been run before using web-based forums, emails, and even messageboards.  Given Twitter's 140-character limit, the challenge to tell a story and give people the chance to affect it with their choices felt like an interesting one to tackle.

As I was wondering how to best approach it, I chanced upon Epidiah Ravachol's twitter feed.  Amazingly, he found the best way to approach it: by using the poll feature to give people choices.  I realized while I don't really have that strong a following yet, it was an opportunity to try something new and just maybe give anyone whose interested in joining the fun have the freedom to do so.  So I messaged and shared that I was going to approach the game the same way!  And so we're off!

Currently, as of this post, the game has reached 69 posts so far.  With an average of two posts in a single day, I'm hoping to end up with this reaching the hundreds and players growing in number.  But ultimately, it at least is a fun break from typical games.

Feel free to check it out.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Primeval i02 : Marvel Heroic Role-Playing

Issue Two

Marvel Heroic Role-Playing

The Invisible Woman takes Hawkeye, Moon Knight and Deadpool with her on the Fantasticar to travel to Latveria, in hopes that Dr. Doom has answers to why people around the world have transformed into apes.

Matt Murdock, on the other hand, opts to travel separately from the group.  He decides to fly to Latveria as a tourist.  But along the trip, he finds himself hearing a strange muffled mechanical sound coming from another traveler.  He befriends the man, hoping to figure out who the man is.  The man introduces himself as Anton and offers the blind man  the empty seat beside his.

Missiles fire out of the snow and while the Invisible Woman blocks the first volley, the second volley hits before Sue can deflect them.  Deadpool gleefully rides the crashing Invisicar down to crash at the missile turret, while Moon Knight, Hawkeye and Invisible Woman leap for safety.  A host of Latveria's soldiers emerge, and despite Hawkeye demanding they are here with Doom's permission, they are forced to fight.  Deadpool sees a hatch open nearby, as Latveria military in power armor come to join the battle.  Deadpool defeats one with the help of the others, and rather than wait for the others, decides to use his personal teleporter to teleport straight to Doom's castle.  

Murdock and Anton are moving through customs when Latverian officials ask them to wait for security reasons.  While Murdock considers how to get through this quietly, the choice is taken from him when explosions rock the place.  A man in a powerful red armor tears through the airport and drags Murdock with him.  When asked where he is taking him, Murdock is told the man is searching for Doom.  The man decides to take Murdock with him, which in some ways works with Matt Murdock's own plans.   Why the Crimson Dynamo has questions for Doom, Matt decided to keep the question to himself.

Deadpool discovers painfully that Doom is not one for unexpected guests.  After a thorough trashing, Deadpool seemingly surrenders to the monarch, when in truth he is buying time for his healing powers to kick in.  The Invisible Woman, Moon Knight and Hawkeye quickly dispatch the rest of Doom's soldiers and quickly follow suit towards the Castle.   As they break through the wall to confront Doom, they frighteningly discover how powerful he is with his combined mastery over science and magic.    In barely a single minute, the Monarch of Latveria brings all four of them down with his mystical blasts.

Crimson Dynamo and Matt Murdock actually walk up to the front of the castle and boldly knock on the door.  Murdock senses the danger a split-second before it happens and rolls with the explosion as Doom blasts them both backwards into the snow!  In the end, when Murdock pulls himself back up on his feet, he realizes Doom seems to be very interested to get some answers himself.    But for the answers, he directs the heroes to attacking a specific target within his lands.    Actions for answers, it seems.

Little do they know, at that place, a pale-skinned mutant reminds his erstwhile allies that they are not supposed to be transformed into apes like everyone else.   Red Ghost promises his word is his bond, and Omega Red gives a sinister smile.

Friday, April 8, 2016

One Last Journey Pregen Stuff

For those who might want to try running  a similar Ryuutama game as I did, set during the coming end of the world, you can use the pre-generated character sheets I've prepared, as well as the Promise Cards I created for the game here for free.

I created these sheets  with Adobe Illustrator, and a lot of flipping through pages.  Images were of course found online via Google searches.  Maybe someday, I can afford to have actual original art for my sessions.  But for now, these will have to suffice":

The files are all PDFs and are intended for personal use and are not intended to infringe on any copyrights.

Some basic guidelines:
1) All players are to understand the world is ending, and as far as they can tell there is no stopping it.  Given this is a Ryuutama game and not the usual fantasy RPG, the objective of the session is not find a way to stop it.  But rather, to make the most of the remaining time in this final adventure.

2) The Promise Cards are intended to help guide the players to finding direction in the story.  Most people, facing the end of the world, might simply break down or end up emotionally shattered.  The players are not playing a game where their characters are in such a state.  Instead, they are playing characters who believe even with the meager time left, there is no reason not to make the most of it.

3) There is no actual set deadline on when the world finally ends.  In our game, I set it to a real timer, so whatever the scene was, when the timer ran out then it was time to announce that the sky had turned black and the world was ending.

This gave the game an interesting feeling of not knowing when it would happen, and of the desire to make the most of every hour they had.

4) The ending is not pre-written nor set in stone.  Instead, it is tailored to what matches the players' narrative.  In my game, the others seemed so determined to embrace life to the point they chose to let monsters live and walk away.  It seemed appropriate for the Black Ryuujin to still get the proper tale, some other kind of sacrifice was in order.  At first, I hinted at some one having to give up on their Promise to allow another to succeed.   Then later tried making it a matter of one sacrificing a peaceful future for the rest to live happily.

But in the end, the group wonderfully embraced the path they took and it seemed apt to go the route that death does not equal the end.

5) Character creation was done for thematic appeal, so yes I did not actually calculate things so each player character spent "the same amount of cash."  But that's cause I don't believe in game balance being necessary for a good game.  Not when players embrace the importance of sharing the responsibility of everyone having fun.

6) Finally, I'm tempted to come up with four sets of Promise Cards.  Each card can be a quick and dirty method for payers to choose an interesting plot thread that they can explore matching a specific Ryuujin.  I was thinking it might prove to be an interesting tool for new players, and a fun challenge for more experienced players.

I don't know, though, if I can legally do this.  Hopefully I get a go signal to do so.

Have fun!

 Here are the maps our Mapmaker made for the game.  So lovely!  Thank you Carl!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

One Last Journey as the World Dies : Ryuutama

One Last Journey as the World Dies


As part of our continuing attempt to share and spread the joy of role-playing games with other people, we have been holding mini-conventions on a monthly basis whenever possible.    For April, the group has opted to run a multi-GM experience using Dungeon World.  Given my promise to always push lesser known games and give them visibility, I opted to run one of the most heart-warming games I've ever played before: Ryuutama.

This game had six players whom have never tried playing Ryuutama before.  To have things run faster, I opted to pre-generate the characters and have them choose.  In addition, I created a few new cards that were intended to help push the narrative forward.  Given this was a one-shot game and not a continuing campaign, I decided it would be best to have this added to the game:

Arthur played Filthy George, a young Merchant whose pack animal, Billy, was one of his closest friends.  He had Dreams of Heroism to meet before the world ended.
Josh played Miki, a young Artisan who was hoping to find The Last Gift for his sweetheart, a moonstone that could allow one to speak to the dead.
Carl played Kit Sune, a fearless Hunter whose curiosity were equaled only by her mastery of her battleaxe.  She wanted to Prove They Exist and felt the Ryuujin were the one and only thing to hunt.
Kim played Ten, a young Healer whose mother was sick and dying.  Given the Unfinished Business, Ten hoped to find the legendary Phoneix Feather - what he believed to be a rare herb.
Jann, who has very kindly been playing in more of my games, portrayed Nikko the Noble who had A Promise Made to make a difference one way or another before all fell apart.
Justine then played Haru, a young Farmer whose Donkey and Dog accompanied her in her journey.  She wanted to solve The Riddle somehow before it all ended.

The world was ending.  Not many knew why or how, only that one day the morning came and the sky was as green as unearthly fire.  Magic began to work less and less, with only the weakest of spells functioning.   Eager to still somehow spend what could be the last days doing something worthwhile, Nikko posted a call for adventurers willing to join him in a journey.  Destination: to be determined.    Answering his call came the young adventurers, with a barefoot woman who called herself Aki asking to join.  Aki's story was one of a noble woman coddled through the years desperate to break out and live a life.

Day 1
The first day began with Clear Skies.  The group traveled through the Grassland and left the town of Last Chance.  Eager to make a sale, Filthy George purchased a generous number of dried meats in hopes to sell it somewhere for a good sum.  The group debate on their choices: North was the Captial City, far West stood the great Mountains, East was the vast Forest with the Hidden Cloister, and finally South was the Port City and the Silver Seas.   With the group deciding to make for the Capital City, the group excitedly allocate their water and rations for the trip.  Nikko takes the Leadership role, while Kit takes the task of being a Mapper.  Miki offers to handle Quarter-Master duties while Filthy George decides to handle Journal-Keeping.  As they travel, Haru makes a few hilarious slips as she tumbles down a few rough patches.  Miki and Kit, on the other hand, failed to get any good sleep the night before. They chance upon their first encounter, a moaning Skeleton that lumbers forward with a club in its hand.  As the group moves to fight it, they quickly discover how their sharp weapons are not as effective as they hoped. Kit embarrassingly double fumbles and falls flat on her face during the fight.   They defeat the Skeleton with some effort and both Miki and George quickly salvage what they can from the remains.  They get a good handful of ivory fragments.  Soon, they come upon a popular camping site along the path: a massive tree towering over a hundred feet up with wide branches and generous resting spaces.   There is even a nice rock pile for a fireplace, and a watering hole for washing things.  They consider between camping for the night or pressing on.  They vote for pressing on, excited at the thought of soft beds to sleep on instead of camping in tents.

Quietly, Kit watches Aki however.  She is suspicious at the supposedly wealthy girl's history and wonders if there are any truths behind the stories of Ryuujin taking interest in adventurers and moving among them.

Night 1
As the group continues to move through the Night, the Grassland starts to feel more treacherous than expected.  Exhausted and hungry, the group soon sees a massive giant further up the path.  Miki offers to handle distracting the giant while the others (yes, including Filthy George's Elephant) sneak past.  She lights up a torch and hurries to the giant, waving at him to notice her.  The giant, busy with chomping on something, does see her but remains unmoving.  Miki decides to start a conversation with him and learns the giant eats rocks and that there haven't been any good rocks to eat lately.   When Miki offers the ivory, the giant seems very happy and offers to give in exchange "all the stuff he found" on his way away from the mountains.  Strong lightning flashes and fire have been striking the sky where the mountains are.  Miki recommends the giant consider heading towards the port city south, and only later realizes she had given the giant directions heading straight for Last Chance!  The others have even noticed insects and smaller animals fleeing to the east.  Bidding the giant farewell, Miki collects the items and finds a sphere of glass that glows, as well as a bag of other junk.  She rejoins the group and they all arrive at the Capital City in one piece.

Deeper in the Night
At Capital City, the group splits up with George, Kimi, Ten and Kit heading for the bustling marketplace that seems to still be open despite the hour, while Nikko and Haru head for the Grand Archive to search for knowledge.  George discovers a Guildsman who offers to trade the meats. When his speech on why they should be purchased enthralls the guildsman, he offers him a choice of three exchanges: a golden carriage with weather-proofed walls and a portable bathtub, a menagerie of well-trained animals (a giraffe, an ostrich, a horse and a dog) all trained for combat, tracking and carrying things, or a rumored rare magical dagger.  The dagger was pitch black and supposedly belonged to one of the Ryuujin.  George's eyes widened in curiosity.

Ten finds himself speaking to an old woman who claims to be a Herbalist.  She senses Ten is new and even offers to let her have one Herb for free from her stash.  With the world ending, she might as well give something of value.  Ten excitedly chooses from the stash and finds himself drawn to the Windcrying Tulip.

Kimi speaks with a pair of twins who are sellers who help him learn to use the Light Orb, which allows him to have the light of a torch despite not having fire.  As he considers selling all the other stuff in his bag, unawares that one of the items inside is the very moon stone he's hoping to find!

And at some alley, Kit sees a bandaged figure motion at her to follow him into a dark alley.  There, he then motions as her to wear a blind-fold and follow inside the gated tunnel.  Further inside, Kit fearless allows the man to lead her into the darkness, given his claims of having answers that she hopes to gain.  Some might mistake her to be slow but in truth, Kit merely had full certainty she can handle anything that might happen.   When the man reveals he is actually a vampire, Kit simply smiles at the chance to be in a fight at last!

At the Archive, Nikko and Haru meet an interesting pair of people.  One is an old wise man whose pet lemur wore spectacles and read what he read.  The other was a young bald boy who was being given stacks upon stacks of books to read.  They talk the old man and discover he is just the servant; the lemur is the master!  Each time they ask a question, the lemur then whispers to the old man its reply which the master shares.  After a lot of philosophical questions on the need for change, the search for answers and the mountain being the best place to search for answers as a heroic group died there supposedly in a failed attempt to stop the end of the world, the lemur offered one last nugget of wisdom before retiring to have his servant scratch his belly for an hour:  Birth shall always look like death from the other side.   Hoping for clearer answers with the boy, the two are interrupted by servants and a noble woman who insist they do not disturb her son.  The boy, they learn, is gifted with perfect memory.  With the world coming to an end, the mother is having her son memorize every single ink of culture the world has written to take with him to the next world.  To Haru's surprise, the mother then reveals she owns one of the fabled Phoenix Feathers in a glass vial.  She plans to have her son take it as the world ends, that he may be reborn in the next one and carry the knowledge of their world to the next.  The Queen even mentions how they have given up the title and made all in the City own whatever they owned.  Instead of riots, the people merely stopped worrying about debts and money and shared what they owned!  It was a paradise unexpected of city folk.   But when her emotions rage upon remembering her husband, the King, who had seemingly run away with some woman in the streets, she hurls the vial to the ground to shatter it!  Haru catches it the first two times she does so, but on the third, Haru fails and with it the feeling of giving it to Ten to cure his mother.  

As George chooses the Black Dagger, the guild immediately packs up to leave.  They thank him for choosing to willingly take from them the Kuro-Ryuu's Cursed Dagger and tell him that those who hold it are doomed to sacrifice someone they care for.  When he feels the dagger pulsing, he decides to follow and see where it leads.  Both Kimi and Ten see George running down the street, they chase after him curious to see where he is going.  George finally reaches the same locked alleyway gate which Kit and the bandaged man had gone through, and orders Billy the Elephant to kick it open.  The group rushes inside to see Kit battling savagely against the Vampire, which while it had been injured many times, had been healing its wounds each time it hurt the Hunter.  With a sudden surge of courage, George ends the battle when he rushes forward and uses the Cursed Dagger to absorb every little bit of the Vampire.  The three congratulate him for successfully defeating such a powerful creature!

Thinking it was best to leave, the former queen notices Haru's sadness and asks why she is tearful.  Haru shares her hopes to help Ten, and to her surprise the Queen pulls out a second Phoenix Feather.  While the first was her husband's, she lies and tells them the second is meant for her son.  In truth, she was handing Haru her own vial (and had kept a final third secret for her son).  She wishes them well and Nikko and Haru return to find the others excited with tales of a battle against a terrible monster.   They turn in for the night in soft beds and excitedly consider their next trip.

Day 2
Come morning, the group decides to try heading for the Mountains.  The initial journey was once again filled with Clear Skies as they traveled on the Grasslands.  Unlike yesterday, however, the sky was now a brilliant hue of blue.    The trip is uneventful and unlike the day before, they decide to camp and sleep for the night.

Night 2
It is late in the evening when Nikko awakens, bothered by something.  He looks up and sees no trace of the stars in the sky, and a strange shifting wind that blows Easternly, then Westernly.   Seconds after, the stars return to the sky and the winds are gone.  When Aki emerges from the darkness, asking him what was wrong, Nikko asks her about the world ending and about whether they will find something worthwhile at the end.  Aki admits she does not know, but she feels more brave being with them all.  They go to sleep and rest for the night.

Day 3
The brilliant morning startles them all as the sky has become a vicious shade of red.  The group hurries to move given the growing Strong Wind and the Grassland having shifted to rougher Hills.  The group continues on their trek towards the Mountain, hoping they will arrive in time to try and at least see if they can help in any way.  But terrifyingly, they discover an unexpected twist along the path:  a massive Chasm stretches across the land, with no end on either side.   A rickety rope bridge precariously hangs, ready to allow others across.

All save one.  Billy the Elephant.
The group cries out in sadness when they realize they may have to leave the Elephant behind!  Ten and Haru fight back tears as they hurry across the bridge.  Kit reinforces the bridge with her ropes while Nikko and Kimi guide the donkeys across.  When George finally starts crossing however, Billy the Elephant begins to wail in fear as he realizes he is being left behind!  George tries to calm the elephant down, but over and over the poor loyal animal wails.  Twice, Billy tries to test the rope bridge despite all the others crying at him to stand back.  When the ropes snap against his weight, thankfully Billy the Elephant backs away and stands at the edge, alone as the world nears its end. The group sorrowfully continue on, hearing Billy's wailing echoing behind them as they walk in silence.

Then, a battle field.
Dead bodies.  Blood.  Torn armor.  The group moves carefully as they see signs of a recent battle.  Ahead, a small hut stands.  Very quickly, however, Kit realizes the hut is not a sanctuary but a monster!  Rushing forward, she uses her rope and light blades to hook up and clamber atop the construct!  The Mimic House turns to roar at the others and all quickly move to join the battle.  Kimi clambers atop the Mimic House as well, joining Kit while Ten and Haru combine their efforts to attempt a magical attack:  Ten summons dried leaves which Haru ignites with her firestarter kit.  Ten then blows the burning leaves at the hut to hurt it!  At one point, despite delivering deadly blows, Nikko is chomped by the Mimic House and thankfully, her armor holds.  But the thing continues to chew and it was only a matter of time before the light armor broke away.  As they fight, both Kit and Kimi spot the possible reason for the Mimic Hut to battle so savagely!  A younger baby Mimic Hut was cowering behind her mother.  And beyond them, a dead Mimic Hut was in pieces.  The two quickly surmise that the Mimic House was probably the mother and it was now trying to defend her child!  After a lot of arguments, the group eventually decides to try to let the thing leave peacefully.  And though wary, the Mimic House and its child finally hurry off to leave.

But time runs out.

The brilliant red sky shifts one final time and a black darkness sweeps across the clouds!  The group finally is shown that Aki is actually the Kuro-Ryuu herself and she apologizes to the adventurers that time has finally run out.  Unable to accept it is too late, Nikko demands that they do something to try and stop it.  Aki, however, tells them she only has enough power to send one more person to an ending... and is too weak to do any more.  She wanted to do this, at least, as a gift to the group for giving her one final tale to write.   When Kimi realizes the moon-stone was in his bag the whole time, the others are unsure if he or if Ten should go.  Haru reveals she had the Phoenix Feather Ten wanted to find but didn't admit it cause she wasn't sure when to do so.  Kimi however realizes that Ten could still drop off his final present to Kimi's loved one before giving his mother the cure.  Kimi hands Ten the moonstone and tells him to leave.  Ten hesitates.  The others all cheer him on, and before he can fully thank them, he is gone.

Haru sighs, sad that she will never know the reason the world has to end.  Nikko hates the fact he never made a difference.  Aki however explains to Nikko that it was thanks to her that all these others had one final adventure despite their fears and uncertainties.  That, in itself, was a difference in their lives unlike any other.  George mumbles that him defeating a vampire was pretty awesome.  The others agree, especially since they all just started being adventures a few days back.  Kimi admits he feels he's ready to say goodbye.  But Aki surprises them and tells them it is her who has to go. "The others have gone ahead of me.  Green, Blue, Red... the skies have shown us the others have ended their tales.  Now it is my time, and the best way to go it seems is to give you your final wish."  Kit stares back at her, realizing the Ryuujin is asking for the Hunter to use the Cursed Dagger one final time.  Kit admits she did not need to hunt her to kill her, but if that is what needs to be done, that is what she will do.

Kit Sune stabs the Cursed Dagger into Aki's chest, and Aki vanishes into a silent fading shadow.

And suddenly, in the darkness of the sky, a slice of light shines through, and from that ray, the whole world explodes with colors.

Back at Last Chance
Ten watches as his mother begins to heal from her sickness.  The brilliant light from outside tears into the room and manifests as a young child transcribing the story of what was coming to pass in the room into a tiny red book.  The heart-warming tale of a mother receiving the love of her son enveloped around the young child's writing and vanished.  Ten blinks a few times, uncertain of what just happened.

In the other room, Kimi's loved one desperately whispers to the moon stone for an answer.  She believed Kimi had died and the stone would allow them to communicate, but with no answer coming, she wondered if it meant he was still alive.  Somewhere out there.  And would eventually come home.  She could not see the green child inscribing into his own scroll her simple story of a lover waiting for another lover to return home.  Stories of everyday people, not adventurers, now having their own Ryuujin to scribe them.  To keep them.  To remember them.

It was a whole new world now.  One where even more Ryuujin existed: some for those seeking adventure!  And some for those who didn't.  

Days Later
The group gathered at the tavern, summoned by the former queen. As they gathered, they quickly shared their stories.  Of seeing Billy excitedly still waiting for them across the chasm, doing small hops as they crossed back to let him hug them with his trunk.  Of the Rock Eater now a member of the guild setting up shop along the road.  Of a pair of houses that waved at them at the distance as they made their journey back home.  Haru shares her thoughts on what she thinks was the answer to the riddle, but admits they may never truly know for sure.

And there, at the tavern, they found themselves before a bald young boy who does not feel content to merely know all the stories of adventures done before.  "I want a chance to experience them."  And as the group smiled at this and realized a new adventure was just about to begin, none of them were aware of the four dragons that watched them from afar.  The four held their hands together and the Ryuujin wondered which of them will get a chance to write the first new adventure of this exciting new world.

There is No Ending.
This is a New Beginning.

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