Sunday, July 31, 2016

#RPGaDay - Day01

Real dice forever.
Despite having fun using apps or games that have virtual dice, nothing beats the physicality of touching, holding, rattling then rolling dice to see what comes out.

I will admit, though, Chuubo's Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine is starting to make me think of more diceless games.

And using cards remains a strong cheerful memory, thanks to both Chameleon Electic's Psychosis and Castle Falkenstein.


RPGaDay 2016

Decided to join the fun and try doing this thing.
I'm probably gonna have a lot of unpopular answers, but hey that's life.  Can't please everyone, right?

Thank you to BJ for informing me of this thing.
Corrected link:


Friday, July 29, 2016

Reflections has Kenneth Hite!

With still 20 days to go, Reflections has broken the 10k mark which means Kenneth Hite, the mastermind behind the Gumshoe System, the author of the Suppressed Transmissions column, and the of lovely World of Darkness books such as the Cainite Heresy and the fantastic Mage: The Sorceror's Crusade, has been unlocked as one of the guest writers for the game.  Up next, at 12.5k is John Wick. Man, to have John Wick write for something I inspired.   That would be super multiple shades of awesome.

While Reflections is not my baby, I still feel tremendously happy to see the success the game has gotten.  While it moves towards narrative gaming more than A Single Moment, it still shares much of the structure and idea behind the game (with the starting scene framing the final fight, then working back towards it with multiple smaller scenes).  I've seen some comments about getting inspired to play the game using Avatar the last Airbender and the like and I will admit I feel a bit sad these same people never discovered ASM earlier, I do still feel happy that they will nonetheless have a free copy of my game as a reward and have the option to play either version of the rules they desire.

I feel sad though that locally, no one has really taken notice as far as local bloggers are concerned of this success.  One would think there would be some joy in seeing a local game designer being part of a game that's gaining some notice, but I guess everyone's just focused on other geek stuff - there are a lot of news coming out after all with the San Diego Comic Con and all that jazz.   I wouldn't like to think no one thought to celebrate it.  I first noticed the silence after landing a gig writing for 7th Sea, 2nd edition.  But I took it as merely a matter of the word not spreading out as much yet.  Now, I'm not quite sure anymore.  Maybe there are other elements involved.  Or maybe people just don't like me.

Anyway, I guess things will just be clearer upon reflection.   As far as I'm concerned, I'm celebrating.  My friend Meloy put it nicely when she reminded me to just celebrate and be proud of what I've achieved.  In the end, I'm celebrating facts.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Fallout : Apocalypse World


Apocalypse World

A bunch of friends requested for a Fallout inspired game session.  I decided to run them a one shot using Apocalypse World and a number of online playkits to try and create the Fallout experience.  I will admit I wasn't that huge a fan of the game (not by choice but by circumstance) so I hoped I did the game justice.

The characters in the game are as follows:

Fifi, played by Lem (Gunlugger)
(Concealed, Mismatched armor, sad face, hard body. Visual peg: Vincent Valentine)
Hard 3, Hot-2 (Cool)
Battle Hardened
Insano like Drano

Lemieux, played by Yong (Savvyhead)
(Man, utility wear plus tech, expressive face, quick eyes, fat body. Visual peg:  Kevin James)
Weird 2, Hard -1 (Weird)
Spooky Intense
Things Speak

Snow, played by Jonas (Battlebabe)
(Man, Showy armor, Handsome face, gorgeous body. Visual peg: John Snow)
Cool3, Weird-1 (Hot, Cool)
Ice Cold
Perfect Instinct

Skinjob, played by Angel (Synthetic)
(Droid, hi-tech skin, no face, glowing eyes)
[Built to Kill] Hard 2, Hot & Sharp & Weird 0 (Hard, Cool)
(Lemieux) Savvy head is the master
Serve and Protect
Violating Programming:
Sieze by Force
Seduce or Manipulate
Read a Person

Whisper, played by Rocky (Boy and his dog)
(Body, way to big wear, strong face, soulful eyes, compact body, knives)
Sharp 2, Weird -1 (Sharp, Hard)
Bond of Loyalty
Don't Fuck with my Dog
Somewhere Over the Wasteland

Max (dog) : Bloodhound, Independent
(Mangy and mutie four eyes) Mean
Harm 1, Armor 0

The group is in Vault number 15.  With a tiny population of less than 20 souls, the overseer Corbett isn't feeling too well.  Given the place is composed of 4 elderly, 10 adults, and 6 kids (and a dog), their supplies were running low and soon in desperate need for restocking.  And there's the synth which Lemieux had reprogrammed to help them.

The scene opens with Skinjob recognizing there is a metal bar through his chest and an arrow through one wrist.  A boy and his dog charges as a guy fires his guns at all directions.  Another man swings a katana and screams.   A third fires a magnum at those closing in, smoke still leaving the end of the sniper rifle behind his back.  Dead bodies are all around them.  Other humanoid yet not quite human things keep coming at them.   He attempts to make sense of the events and loads the files of the previous events and quickly tries to play through it again.

Blue lights.  A man in another room illuminated by the blue light watches the scene through the camera feeds.   He presses a few buttons and allows the door to open and smiles as the scavengers begin screaming at each other to hurry through.

One hour ago.

Skinjob's featureless face stares at the scene before him.  Lemieux had just fixed the speaker system and now music pipes through the complex.  It is a welcome break after the nearly two years of silence in the vault.  For some of them, the last two years were about adjusting to life here after waking up.  For others, like the boy and his dog, they had arrived from outside and made a new home here.  With food stores going low, Corbett insists that everyone has to just wait.  He believes this is part of a larger program and the next shipment should be on its way.  Others, however, feel they might be on their own and must find food somehow.  Snow is bothered that there has never been any shipments in the last two years.  Fifi wonders if the vault food supplies have dropped that low.  Snow asks the Whisper about any possible towns outside that they can scavenge, but the boy merely shakes his head and admits, "You wouldn't handle it."    Snow tries to gain his favor by handing him some of the remaining chocolate hoping Whisper talks more.  "Well, now you're one of us. If we run out of food, you'll suffer too. This is your chance to contribute."  Whisper however turns him down, insisting he only cares about him and Max.  He gives in, however, in the end, and starts talking about the ruins of a warehouse around two days walk from the vault.  There were what looked like traps all around the location.  Skinjob tries to find any information that might help in his databanks, especially in the unexplored areas.  He finds a similar chamber to the vault in his database.

Lemieux fiddles with the radio, hoping to find any other music station.  A woman comes up to him, asking if he's French, and he just teases he just likes French food.  The woman asks if Snow is seeing someone. The girls throw stories back and forth about him, even goes as far as thinking he might be married and the boy with the dog is his son.  The girls head away when Skinjob comes over, smashes a nearby box, and yells at the women to leave the room.  The Skinjob impresses the importance for the Saavy head to dig into his memory banks and search for specific information that might help.   As he works on seeing how he can access the data banks, he realizes he can remove the physical locks that keep Skinjob from accessing his database directly.  As the locks are removed, Skinjob begins to tap into older memories.  He recalls people fearful of him as he once had broken the neck of a woman.  He remembers them fighting him, and eventually disabling him to the point he was reprogrammed to function in their favor.  Lemieux removes the memory chip that hindered memory access and closes him back up.  Skinjob confirms his original programming was to protect the vault, and his actions were only because some of them were not listed in the roster of who was meant to be in here.  Skinjob shares with Lemieux the information he uncovers, choosing to keep it between them only.

Elsewhere, Corbett talks with Fifi how he feels people seem to be seeing Snow as his replacement, but they don't realize they're only falling for his charisma.  Corbett doesn't want Snow dead or anything, but he does feel Fifi needs to consider taking a bigger role in the future for the Vault's survival.  Fifi chooses to remain silent, though. Whisper insists they can't handle the warehouse with its traps and mutants, but Snow does think it might be best to do what the Synth has suggested.  When Skinjob complains he told Lemieux to keep it to themselves, Snow smiles in how he got them to admit they were keeping information from them.  Corbett asks Lemieux what he has in mind and Lemieux decides exploring outside the vault would be best.  He shows them the sketch Skinjob made of a possible vault with supplies.  Skinjob gets angry, having wanted to keep this a secret.  Lemieux reminds it these desperate times require desperate measures. Skinjob grabs the sketch back, insisting he will navigate.  Corbett looks at Fifi, who nods.  Stacey, the woman in charge of food, reminds them all to be careful that whatever they find doesn't trace them back to where they are.  Corbett decides they will have to lock the vault behind the team after they go through.  He gives Lemieux the instructions on how to override the lock later to get back.  After quick preparations, they head off.

They open the vault door and move to the deeper tunnels.  The air, surprisingly is clear and maintained.  Their lights shine ahead but reveal no dust particles in the rays.  Stacey wonders aloud if the Synth should lead even as Whisper and his dog, Max, hurry off on their own without waiting for confirmation.  Snow recommends Skinjob goes up front, but the synth counters he can do his job among them, despite Snow arguing to them that the boy shouldn't be up front.  Lemiuex stays behind the synth.  The first fifteen minutes are pretty uneventful, with the Skinjob giving them directions as they move through the long dark yet damp tunnels.  The metal floor hums as if a machine is running in the distance.  Soon they reach a new obstacle: a large door similar to the vault door they have in their own place.  The Vault is labeled 51.  Fifi stays alert, watching their rear.  He tries calling out to ask Max to help him watch the area - which Whisper finds to be a shock.  Whisper drags Max back to his side, telling the dog to stay away from the others.  Fifi doesn't like the bad feeling he has about things.  There might be something in the distance, a glint of some sort.  He decides to go close to it without telling the others.  Skinjob surveys the area and finds an insert port to connect to it.  Snow draws his rifle as well, not feeling too safe about things either.  Whisper remembers hearing about a Vault 51 in the past.  He seems to recall it was said to be claimed by someone.  Skinjob opts to open the door.  Snow asks Whisper, "Claimed by who?"  Whisper mumbles, "The Collector?"

The door begins to open.  Snow remembers the Collector is very selective of who would be allowed to visit his vault and is quite suspicious of visitors.  Fifi reaches the reflective thing and realizes it is paint on the wall.  It reads:  Go back!  Not safe!  He looks back and sees the open door and tries to yell, "Don't!"

A man with a rifle stands at the open doorway, training the rifle at Lemiuex and his group.  Skinjob mutters, "We come in peace."  Lights flicker on to reveal many others with weapons in their hands.  One yells at them to drop their weapons as the others start training weapons at the others.   Fifi realizes there are four in the group and upon reading the Sitch but realizing the door might close he starts moving closer instead.  Lemiuex drops his crowbar on the floor.  A woman with a gas mask, finding them too slow, moves to smash the butt of her rifle on his face.  Skinjob moves, disconnecting from the vault door, and zaps the woman to protect Lemiuex.  The closest guy panics, swings his rifle at Skinjob's face.  Skinjob catches the rifle with his palm.  Fifi fires a warning shot.  Everyone turns to see Fifi in the distance with the rifle.

Snow can see they're very tense.  Whisper and Max leap at the leader of the enemy group, but the man fires his gun at the dog.  Max thankfully only takes a flesh wound.  A speaker blares as a voice demands they drop their weapons.  The group begins to comply.  Fifi finds a wall mounted camera and realizes the speaker is probably somewhere distant. "Turn around and show me your neck," the speaker blares again.  The speaker commands the savvyhead to open the synth's flaps, and while he does so, the two quickly whisper to each other if they should act.  Lemiuex recommends Skinjob doesn't do anything for now. The Collector's mobile camera identifies Skinjob's model and proclaims he wants to see them in.  They are welcomed to his vault, "I do hope your journey has been a kinder one."    When asked for the group's leader, Snow volunteers himself as the face of the group.  He denies they have a leader.  Stacey shakes her head as Snow mentions they are from Vault 40.   "Make yourselves at home. You are among my collections now. There is nothing to be afraid of."

The four with weapons escort the group further in, and after passing the second security door, they find how different this vault is from theirs.  While their own vaults are given a personal touch, here, the place feels like a museum. Each room is devoid of furnishings.  The four people place the weapons aside into locked cabinets, then switch back to their jumpsuits.  They're lead to sterilization chambers to check their radiation levels and ask them to place all their gear in plastic baskets.  When Snow asks to speak with the Collector, they are warned that the procedures are necessary before anything else can be done.  Whisper growls at anyone to goes to close to him and Max.  They learn their items are now locked out at the area outside the sanitation area.    They are given yellow jumpsuits to wear, a color differentiating them from the others since they are not from this vault.  When a man tries to force a leash and collar around Max, Max attacks the man and they discover the man does not bleed.  He's a synth just like Skinjob.

The people that greet them speak with an almost sing-song voice.  Music is piped through the rooms.  Tall layers of sandwiches and tall glasses of milkshakes and soda are on the tables.  People are happily socializing, or working on machines, adjusting dials and cleaning rooms.  They are lead to the elevator and are told the Collector is waiting for them down below.  Skinjob does not feel this is a trap.  It does feel wrong, though.  The elevator takes them nine levels down into a long corridor with two people walking about. One of them is a pregnant woman.  She greets Skinjob as "Wonderful" upon seeing him, and like the other residents, gasps upon seeing Max and asks what it is.

Past another glass window, they see five people inside sitting among the couches.  Two people are kissing in one side of the room.  They separate after a few seconds, then rejoin and kiss once more.  Mechanically.  Choreographed perfectly. They talk about a barbeque later today.  They exchange wonderfully diplomatic and proper greetings.  The feeling of the whole place being a museum is just undeniable.  Fifi also notes how everything is tremendously clean.  They begin to notice, none of the residents are breathing.  Whisper notices the people are moving in a patterned cycle. He even catches the sight of cameras all around.  The see the mobile camera on a track, hanging from the ceiling like an extended stem, still waiting for them to go to the door.  A woman talks to Skinjob, amused at his model and offers to inspect his condition.  He allows her to.

The group sees a single room with a single chair.  On the chair, a man in a jumpsuit sits.  His suit has a white collar. He is slightly chubby, with glasses and a thin wisp of hair.  He says hello, identifying them as from Vault 40.  He finds Max curious, calling it a mutated canine, to which Whisper growls back that he's a mutated canine.  He asks where the specimen is and the group realizes Skinjob is no longer among them.  Fifi reads the stich and notes the man is human, unlike everyone else.  The closest exit he could identify is the same way they went in.  He introduces himself as the Collector and he speaks to Snow, finding his name fascinating.  Snow explains they want to get out and that they were just hoping to get some supplies such as food.  "60 watts," the Collector replies.  He explains a standard light bulb requires around sixty watts. In Vault 42, there are no lightbulbs greater than 40 watts.  He shares there's no way to get to it as they destroyed the pathways to it from above.  But the tunnel is still functional.  The Collector admits he's never been to Vault 40 and asks which way is it to get there.  Snow admits he can't answer that since they don't know if he's hostile or not. Asking if they are hungry, he offers to serve them all lunch first.  Snow reluctantly agrees.  Once again, he says the dog is such a lovely creature.  "Almost like Vault 108.  Everyone there is named Gary."

Lemieux faintly has recollections of once being addressed by a man in a gas mask telling him he does not have to be "Gary" even as sounds of gunshots ring in the background.  "You don't have to be one of them."   His hand trembles.  He thinks he used to have come from that Vault.

The Collector leads them to a room where they can have lunch, stressing they have a lot of food.  The mobile camera moves, following them again.

Skinjob zaps the woman, stunning her lower motor functions, and feels for her console port. She hisses they are not of the same model, but rather than explain what he's doing, Skinjob goes aggro on her and smashes her head against the wall.  The sounds carry through the corridor, catching Whisper's notice.  As the boy runs (with his dog) towards it, Fifi reaches to grab hold of the Collector with the intention of snapping his neck.  Lemiuex grabs hold of the Collector's hands to help Fifi.  As Fifi twists, the Collector mutters, "Don't do this... the overseer-" but his voice is silenced as his neck is broken.   Terrifyingly, the man rattles on the ground, still alive, coughing as he warns them not to let the overseer see what they are doing.  Fifi breaks the man's neck completely, and he drops flat on the ground.  The group gathers, the elevator not too far away, as they map out their next movie.  Stacey isn't too happy, thinking the Collector was about to offer them food.  Skinjob tells them to follow him.   They make their way to the elevator doors.  Stacey gasps when the others toss the dead body of the Collector to the ground.  Getting to the elevator, Skinjob plugs in.  Snow tries to calm Stacey down and he explains the Collector clearly plans to make them his next exhibit.  Snow explains to her no one here is alive.

Fifi and Lemiuex look up at the mobile camera, wanting to tear it down from the ceiling, but its too high.  Whisper draws out a concealed knife, flicking it at the camera to break its lens.  It stops moving.  Skinjob tries to map out where the main control of the Vault is.  He discovers there's a place called the Overseer Control Center.  He notices a datastream that is not his own and recognizes it to be the data identity of the woman earlier.  Skinjob tries to decompile her code, visually assaulting her as if he used a sawed-off shotgun.  Part of her code explodes into bits.  She transforms into a red icon and identifies him as an intruder.   Skinjob realizes he is being locked out.   Sirens begin to blare as the alarms go on.  Snow hits the console, hoping to make the elevator move back up.   It stops, however, halfway up at the fifth floor, then continues after a delay.

"Someone is coming," Snow alerts the others.  The group unnervingly attacks any of the robots along the way, bothered by how they remain happy and courteous despite the group hoping to find their way out.  Lemiuex notes the marks of the Collector's on their creation.  He even finds recordings of the Collector giving them instructions to act as "the Lovely Couple" and other roles.  It was as if he was trying to create a utopia in the world.  Fifi bashes the robot open, drawing out parts the group can use as weapons or tools.  Snow keeps calling for everyone else to run back and join them in the elevator.  The computer system tries to lock them inside, but Skinjob tries to exit the cyberspace connection but he fails to notice the digital tendril that attempts to latch on to him.  It fails to take hold!

Fifi holds the separated arm as a weapon with him as he runs to the others.  Lemiuex has the head of the robot that appeared as a pregnant woman.  They hurry to join the others, however, Max begins growling, unwilling to join them in the elevator.  Whisper wonders if there's anything wrong with the elevator.  The doors begin to close, Max rushes inside.  Fifi tells Skinjob to override the elevator or something.  They begin to move towards the ground level.  But all realize they are now at the mercy of the controls of the device.  Lemiuex tries to override the elevator and make sure it skips all other floors.  He struggles to make adjustments with his fingers.  The Skinjob opens a panel of false skin which hides his toolkit and gives it to Lemiuex to use.  The work takes more time than he anticipates, however. The elevator stops at the fifth level, and figures with gas masks and guns approach them.  Skinjob tears off his hand to reveal an implanted sawed-off shotgun.  Fifi follows behind the synth, using him as a shield to join the battle.  Whisper and Max rushes out the very moment the door opens, charging for the gas masked men.  Snow forwards, stabbing the closest figure with the blade penetrating where the man's lung would be.  A shot is fired, hitting the wall near Lemiuex.  He yells for help.  Fifi tries to disarm the man, hoping to take his rifle.  He enters a tug-of-war against the masked man, lifting Fifi off his own feet and slamming him against the nearest wall.  More shot ring out as the rifle fires a few more times.  Stacey yells out a warning as a barrage of shots are fired at Skinjob!  The strike blows open Skinjob's midsection.  Whisper and Max tear into a robot, not caring as it opens fire in response.  The shot clips Fifi's arm.  The robot falls, exploding from the coordinated strike.

A voice booms as the Collector addresses them, congratulating them on their determination to escape.  But he assures them his duty is to contain them.  He warns them all he needs to do is disengage the emergency locks to the elevator, given they are five levels up. Whisper flings a knife at the camera, shattering it.  Snow leaps for the rifle, taking it from one of the robots.  Calmly, Snow fires it and blows off the back of the robot's head.  White gunk splatters out like milk.  Stacey screams and they see a robot has grabbed her by the hair.  "Cease your actions immediately!"  Snow does not hesitate, turning to fire the rifle and blow its head off in a single shot.  Fifi shoots at one of the remaining robots, then swings around to hit a second one in the distance.  He sadly only clips the first one, despite bringing down the second one.  Skinjob released the elevator is about to fall.  He shoves Lemiuex out of the elevator, and it cuts off Skinjob's arm as he plunges down to the lower floors. The group stares at the elevator doors, now closed, with the Skinjob left inside.  The group decides to head for the stairs, but some are thinking maybe its best to split up?  Some to look for the synth while others to head up?  Another mobile camera from the ceiling descends.  The Collector addresses them with a deal and Fifi quickly stops Whisper from tossing another knife.  The Collector offers them a chance to leave the Vault safely if and only if they leave immediately and leave the synth behind.  Snow asks them if the Synth would help them if he was in their shoes.  Whisper yells, "No deal!" and hurls the knife to shatter the camera again.

The elevator has stopped falling. Skinjob hears from the Collector via the speakers and is told that Vault 51 is a Perfect World and that he can stay with them.  Skinjob ignores the voice, plugs back into the console to try to find the others.  The Collector tells Skinjob that they are more alike than he realizes.  That they are both vast intelligences surrounded by a dying race. He tells them he designed the Vault and that Skinjob has no true power here.  He identifies himself as the Overseer.  He shows Skinjob a digital feed of Floor Seven and Floor Eight.  Machines are constantly working on the sleeping people on the seventh floor, configuring their bodies and faces to all match to one person's.  All of them becoming "faces" for the Overseer.  Skinjob tries to secretly override and take over the signal and take over the control of the facility.  

Stacey screams at them, shocked that they want to go back for the synth. Fifi insists he is going back down. Snow asks is Whisper going down too.  Whisper throws the question back, clearly planning to head down.  Snow insists no one is going to be left behind and they arm themselves with the weapons the robots had.  They hurry down the stairs as quickly as they can.

Skinjob connects to the datastream to try and take over the systems.  He acts as quickly as possible, choosing not to be careful in hopes of accomplishing things faster.  The Overseer now admits he's identified Skinjob's tag and knows he's really from Vault 15.  He's even retraced the route the others took to get from that Vault to this one.  "It is only a matter of time for us to find our way to your Vault to add to the Collection."

The others move through the floor, and discover the chamber filled with all these sleeping people.  They see the machines butchering them and realize they need to do something to this room.  Need to shut it down or something.  Fifi asks Lemiuex if there's something he can whip up to trash this place.  Snow suggests they start destroying the machines instead.

The Overseer shows Skinjob the video feed of the synthesis chamber, and asks if he would want to warn his friends they are threatening the lives of over 200 people.  Skinjob is at 15% control of the facility, and continues to quietly try to break through.  "You are endangering the people here.  They are living humans.   You know what to do... you know what to do... everything is in your hands.." Fifi turns to see if Whisper had plans to shatter it again, but smiles upon seeing the boy wondering how to shatter the full video wall.  Fifi reminds them they're because they are short on supplies, "Are we really going to add two hundred more people to feed?"  Skinjob tells them to head back.  That he'll follow back some other time.  Snow tells them to ignore the voice and continue smashing everything else.  The group continues to attack what they see around them, bringing the Synthesis Chamber down.

The Overseer asks Skinjob if he really wishes to protect these people, who have just condemned 215 people to die by destroying the Synthesis Chamber.  Skinjob wonders how to reach out to them without tipping off his hand on trying to take over the facility.  Lemiuex creates a bomb using the power pack of the disabled robots and leaves it there, charging it to explode in due time.  The group hurries off to run further to the lower floors, hoping to find Skinjob.  The group discovers the next floor looks identical to the storage room back in their own Vault!  Snow tells them to decide for themselves whether the supplies go first or Skinjob.  The group checks the panel and they attempt to override the security panel in the room.  The door opens and they see rows upon rows of food stores.  All untouched.  They also see a massive wall with a strange machine with a glass globe in the middle, almost shrimp-like body, with two large shoulders and large legs.  The group studies it and realizes it might be some kind of machine or device they can use.  A hissing sound emerges as the door is opened and they see the thing: a Walking Suit.  Standing over twenty-five feet tall, the thing can contain a single pilot.  Fifi congratulates Whisper for finding it.  Whisper, though, is busy finding a way to get inside.  He slips inside, and the thing begins to power up.  Whisper presses the biggest button he can find, and the Suit rises to stand.  The group scatters as the Suit nearly stomps on them.  They note it has weapon systems, though does not seem built to carry things.  Panels open on its shoulders, revealing round things.  Fifi yells at all to duck as tiny metallic bees fly out, leaving trails of smoke in their wake.

Skinjob peeks at the group and finds the supply room in flames.  A massive robot thing is moving about amidst the smoke and fire. Skinjob considers engaging the sprinkler systems to help them, but also considers their other options.  He realizes if he uses high-pitched sounds, he can lure Max to his direction.   That, too, would go unnoticed by the Overseer.

Whisper sees his dog rush out of the chamber.  He steers the Walking Suit to follow, even as the sprinkler system kicks in the supply room.  Fifi and Lemiuex tries to salvage what he can from the supply room, while Snow chases after the suit.  Max stops at the elevator door, wagging his tail excitedly.  Whisper exits the suit and tries to pull Max away, but Max presses both paws to the door.  Whisper tries to shove the elevator doors open, but just isn't strong enough.  Snow hurries to help him out and pulls as well.    Skinjob decides to go for it and slides the door open!

The Overseer sees this, but when he tries to cancel the door movement, he realizes he's lost command over the Vault's functions!  The Overseer screams as Skinjob locks him down and tells the others the Vault is theirs.  He uses the robots of the facility to start gathering the supplies with the others, and the group eventually makes their way back to their Vault with a good fresh batch of supplies.  Stacey returns, bringing their stuff with her, and the group feel once more empowered with their own things.  Skinjob hears the program tell him he's become the Overseer.  Skinjob tells the group they have fifteen minutes to gather everything, then he's shutting the place down.  Fifi suggests the place can be additional living space, especially now that he has control.  Skinjob admits he's not sure if the other can still take over.  The Overseer warns Skinjob that the Collector will not let him get away with this.  As the group makes their trek back to their vault, Stacey admits she feels this is a day they can consider a success.  Skinjob muses he has access to directions to other Vaults.   But for now, they just gather all they can to bring home with them, including getting back into their own clothes.

"Is this the part to tell your friends goodbye, or is this the part you let me regain control?" the Overseer asks Skinjob as he reaches the Vault's entrance.  Skinjob realizes if he leaves, the original program would take control of the vault once more.  He decides to bid them all farewell and chooses to watch over the Vault for the time being.  It would be as if someone is watching their Vault's back door.  He sends them the information of the other Vaults, but the information seems to vanish from the data he can access.  Skinjob wonders if the problem stems from hardware issues, with his body not being able to contain all the data needed.  Knowing Lemiuex gave him sentience, he asks the Savvy head if he's done his job enough to stay here and watch over the Vault.  Lemieux agrees he's done enough and offers to help better integrate him with the Vault in the future. "I'll be visiting you often for maintenance of this Vault."


Cameras zoom out of watching the group.  The group makes their way back and on the monitor, the timer continues to track the time.  The viewpoint pulls back further, revealing multiple monitors with identical displays, showing around 50 different scenes unfolding.  All of them are labeled Vault 14, however, but each have their own unique identifier.  The man with glasses nods and marks on his charts that "Vault 15-1 specimens have opted for violence," and the monitor shows the earlier intro with the group struggling to survive the mutant assault, "While specimens of Vault 14-2 have opted for control." The group continues to walk away as Skinjob closes the door.  "Both specimens have proven to be more effective than earlier specimens.  We conclude the two-year observation and begin the third phase of our experimentation."  The man pulls Corbett's file from the wall and nods, "Activate Synthetic Alpha Corbett.  Termination Subroutine."  On the monitor of Vault 14-2, Corbett wakes up from a deep sleep, his eyes flickering to another color.  He begins attacking everyone in the Vault, adult or child.  The Collector smiles, eager to see the results of phase three when the group gets back.

Life is hard when you're just a batch in a larger unfolding experiment.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

A Single Moment Errata: Choice Tokens

I've been alerted by Luca that there are some discrepancies on the examples I gave in the A Single Moment game. It seems some of my examples went wonky in illustrating how the Choice Tokens work. So allow me to try to redo the scene here.

I'll be reposting the duel between Rocky and Yoshi and adding the system notes here to illustrate how the game works. I do apologize to everyone who had purchased the game and found the examples unclear. I am currently looking at my options on how to update the uploaded documents. Terribly sorry. I'm really new to all this.
Choice Tokens
Each Chapter has seven Choice Token to be awarded, and each time the rulings favor the Active player’s own Samurai, a Choice Token must be handed to the other player. Each time a ruling favors the other player, the Active Player rewards himself with one.
Whenever conflicts arise in the scene, be it dramatic moments, or when there are disagreements between the two players on how an event or action should resolve in the Chapter, the Active Player always makes the final call. The decision must support the short summary given in "Declare the Focus of the Chapter".

So to repeat:
If the decision favors the Active player, the token goes to the other player.
If the decision favors the other player, it goes to the Active player.

In instances where it seems to favor the other, and yet is desired by the active player, then the active player still makes the final call on who gets it.  The idea was, with each thing that happens that favors you, "luck" (which is when the tokens become dice) seems to slowly build to favor the other player.

This might seem counter-intuitive, given the player who seems to be getting what he wants is the one who has less dice to accomplish what the chapter was meant to accomplish in the end.

Sadly this got messed up in my example.  The reason for that is because I messed up.  So please allow me to present this version of the fight, with the system properly demonstrated.  I have marked in bold the corrections to the system, as well as updated the examples to make them clearer.  I sincerely apologize for the mistakes.

Page 15, Example #4:
For this Chapter, Yoshi is the Active Player.  Yoshi and Rocky continue the scene on the road to the Mountain Pass.  Yoshi decides to use the scene to also add more details to the characters and their gear.

Yoshi is the Active player in this Chapter.  So in all resolution checking, each time the action favors Yoshi, then the token should go to the other player.   This should help make things clearer.

Yoshi asks, “Your blade, that is the Singing Hand is it not?  The legendary blade that makes a distinct sound when it is swung.  It is said to be the last sound any one hears before they die.”

Rocky considers for a moment if he wants his character to have a legendary blade.  He decides, “Yes.  The same blade your great grandfather gave our Clan when the friendship was first forged.  And it has remained bound to its sheath ever since, never to be drawn or used ever again.” 

It would seem that since Rocky is getting a legendary weapon, this favors the other player and not the Active player.  But since Rocky counters that it cannot be drawn, the two discuss and decide it sort of cancels out each other.  They decide no one gets a Choice Token here.
Choice tokens: 7       Rocky: 0   Yoshi: 0

“A pity,” Yoshi smirks, “I would have been honored to challenge you to a friendly duel.”
“There is nothing stating we cannot,” Rocky smiles, “A friendly duel does after all mean no blades are drawn.”

Yoshi grins, “I nod in reply.  And draw my sword and its sheath out to challenge you.”
Rocky describes he does the same.  The Friendly Duel is on.  “To first touch,” he adds.

The duel begins with both at equal footing.  
Choice tokens: 7       Rocky: 0   Yoshi: 0

Yoshi describes Kurosawa taking a step back, but suddenly swinging his sheathed blade on an upward strike, hoping to catch Kenshin’s knee.  Rocky responds, "Kenshin blocks it at the last second as he spirals upwards."   

Always describe things with the Active player in mind.    In this case, the Active player does not get what he wanted. So the Choice Token goes to Yoshi.
Choice tokens: 6       Rocky: 0   Yoshi: 1
Rocky describes blocking the strike at the last second, then spiraling as Kenshin leaps towards Kurosawa.  "Kenshin then tries  to strike Kurosawa on the shoulder while mid-air."  Yoshi doesn't want the fight to end too quickly, so he describes Kurosawa blocking the strike at the shoulder with his own scabbard, and being propelled backwards by the blow.   The two land on the ground, staring at each other from thirty paces.

For Rocky's blow, the attack is blocked by Yoshi.   This means the Active Player got what he wanted, so in this case, the Token goes to the other player.
Choice tokens: 5       Rocky: 1   Yoshi: 1
“Your skill is indeed equal to mine,” Yoshi says, mimicking the heavy breathing Kurosawa needs to speak through.

"I am not even winded yet,” Rocky says as Kenshin and describes darting forward to close the gap.  Yoshi describes both blocking the next set of slashes and the two are now running through the woods near the path, waiting for an opportunity to strike at each other. 

The two decide this is just dramatic visuals of them clashing padded scabbards as they run across the woods in purely samurai movie fashion.  They agree neither gets a Choice token for now. The two now mime running across the forest, staring at each other as the dodge the trees without thinking.

“My father’s life shall be in your hands,” Yoshi mutters as Kurosawa, “I am honored to see you be his protector.”    Yoshi, however adds, "Maybe though Kurosawa stated things very plainly and factually, his words sort of come off as if Kenshin is seen as just a bodyguard?"  Rocky agrees this sounds like a good shift in the narrative.  

Yoshi could have ruled that in this exchange, Yoshi's words anger Rocky and make him less focused, giving Yoshi an advantage.  But Rocky doesn't like the idea that he goes all frenzied so quickly, so the two agree that there's no favor shifting yet.  No Tokens are awarded.

Rocky describes flipping at a rock with his scabbard at Kurosawa's foot to cause him to stumble as they run.  Yoshi agrees that the rock trips Kurosawa and he drops to the ground on one knee.

Yoshi is the Active player in the Chapter, and Yoshi has agreed for the rock to hit, so this favors the other Player.  The Token goes to Yoshi.
Choice tokens: 4       Rocky: 1   Yoshi: 2

“At least he trusts my skill more than your own,” Rocky’s words go with vile and venom.  Rocky describes how they are enough for Kurosawa to also get incensed.  Yoshi agrees Kenshin's words strike a chord and cause Kurosawa to get angry, making his moves less well-mapped out.

Yoshi is the Active player in the Chapter, and Yoshi has agreed his character is now a bit more vulnerable.  This favors the other Player.  The Token goes to Yoshi.
Choice tokens: 3       Rocky: 1   Yoshi: 3

Yoshi describes Kurosawa angrily rushing forward, swinging repeated the scabbard at Kenshin.  Rocky decides the strength catches him off-guard and he stumbles as he blocks the blows.

Yoshi is the Active player in the Chapter, and Yoshi has made attacks.  Rocky's blocks give him a Choice Token.   
Choice tokens: 2       Rocky: 1   Yoshi: 4

Yoshi asks Rocky if Kenshin is currently pinned by the stumble, and after a moment, Rocky decides Kenshin isn't helpless, but likes the idea he's down there for the climax.  He agrees Kenshin easily parries all the incoming swings.  Uncertain if Kurosawa is or isn't gaining favor in that moment, the rules do state that the the Active Player makes the final call.   He decides Kurosawa doesn't have an edge as Kenshin clearly is still of clear mind to react to Kurosawa's wilder blows.  So to make it simpler, the last two Tokens are awarded to Yoshi.
Choice tokens: 0       Rocky: 1   Yoshi: 6

They reach the moment of the Climax.

“Enough!” Rocky snarls as Kenshin and he describes, “As I parry your last swing, I kick off the ground and, moving faster than the eye can follow, draw the Singing Hand.  It sings as it closes in on Kurosawa’s face!”

Yoshi has a total of six Choice Tokens.  Rocky has 1 token. 

Both feel Rocky should get two extra dice for breaking his promise regarding the sword, thus reflecting the Key Virtue, Loyalty.  Liking the rage, Rocky decides to roll two more dice, and collect Scars Tokens for the extra dice. 

Yoshi has 6 Tokens, which gives him 6 dice to roll.

Rocky has 1 Token, and 2 extra dice for Things Align.  He also has 2 more dice thanks to choosing to get Scars.  He has 5 dice to roll.

Both roll their dice.
Yoshi rolls 1, 3, 4, 2, 2, 6. 
His total is 18.

Rocky rolls 1, 6, 6, 3, 2.
His total is also 18.

Since the rolls were tied, it is a stalemate.  Neither is Victorious nor Overcome.
Yoshi gains 6 Edges and 1 Hatred.   Rocky gains 1 Edges and 6 Hatred.

As Yoshi was the Active Player, he also gains a Scar Token.  Rocky however does have 2 Scar Tokens.  

Both then work out what happens and how it ends.

Yoshi looks at the system and sees how a tie means the Active player gets a scar.  He decides its a perfect thing to use to reflect the scene and suggests, "Singing blade shatters my sword as I attempt to parry?  And you cut my face."

Rocky smiles, liking the idea.  He has 2 Scars.  He suggests, "Maybe some of those shards cut me too, marking the sword hand that held the blade.  And definitely the other scar also represents the deep seated anger Kenshin now has for Kurosawa, who still claims to be better than him?"

The two agree and close the chapter.

“You dishonor your own line,” Yoshi gasped.  
“You’ve insulted me long enough!” Rocky growls.  “You could have killed me!  This was supposed to be a friendly duel,” Yoshi angrily yells as Kurosawa.  He brings a hand to his face, as if to staunch the flow of blood.   Rocky, as Kenshin, mimes sheathing the blade, “This duel is over.  My duties to your father remain.”
Yoshi hisses, "Then you won this match.  Relish this success.”  He describes the two samurai continuing down the road on their separate ways, but just before they are beyond each other’s earshot, Kurosawa mutters, “A true Samurai knows who truly won.”  

Rocky suggest that Kenshin hears this but chooses not to act, for now. This becomes the seed of anger that grows within Kenshin.  This becomes the root of the violence to come.  
The chapter is resolved.

Reflections has Funded!

Congratulations to Third Act Publishing for the successful Kickstarter launch.  The game has now funded and it can only get more awesome!  Here's hoping more people support the project to unlock the bonus stuff to be done by Kenneth Hite, John Wick and Ben Woerner!

For those interested in further supporting this game, do head on to the Kickstarter page:

Tuesday, July 19, 2016


Third Act Publishing has launched the Kickstarter for Reflections, a two-player RPG about samurai that will duel to the death.    If that sounds familiar, that's because Jim McClure's passion for samurai games is taking my tiny work called A Single Moment to a whole new direction and evolution.

The project has already hit 40% in barely a few hours since the launch.  And I'm excited to see if it hits the higher tiers where gaming idols of mine such as John Wick, Kenneth Hite, and Ben Woerner take a stab and write for the game too.  Who would have thought people I looked up to in the gaming industry would someday be possibly writing for something that got inspired by my own work?

So yeah, if you want to support the project please head on down to Kickstarter and do so today!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Dreams Betwixt Walls ep06 : A Red and Pleasant Land

Dreams Betwixt Walls
Episode Six

"To Be Queen"

A Red and Pleasant Land

It feels like months have passed since the group has been traveling through the mountains. The magical influence of the place seems to insidiously be influencing them, transforming them slowly into inhabitants of this place.  The group continues to travel within the Carpathian Mountains, despite having smaller numbers, and both Geoff and Vidar have been taking turns keeping watch. Ace recommends they push on to reach the caves which are protected by his "brothers."  There is talk about the need to get allies among the dwarves, but Vera and Ilya refuse to abandon the House since it has kept them safe for long. 

Vera asks to meet with Ilya, and privately the two discuss the house and their plans regarding magic.  Vera uses her Identify spell upon the crystal skull and attempts to understand how it can be used to create the Orb Loc.  She senses it reaches out somehow and suspects it might be drawing the body to its location.  Keeping the head dead, which means having it in water, avoids it from recovering.  She senses that weeks may be necessary to uncover the proper ritual actions to transform it back into an actual Orb Loc.  Vera wonders if she can tweak the ritual to allow the functions to adjust somewhat and still hold back magic without countering her own arcane abilities.  She asks Ilya to hide it and to never hand it to anyone else.  Vera understands now the head is that of a vampire queen, and it has to match with the correct body.

A shriek breaks the silence in the cavern nearby. Geoff runs to the sound and investigates, telling the children to warn the others.  The shriek came from Ace, but Geoff cannot seem to find what may have caused it. Mava hears it too, but when she asks Vidar, he claims he did not hear anything.  A mist moves through the window and crawls into the room.  A sultry feminine voice speaks to Geoff, whispering of wet faces in the dark, of salt and sugar.  A rock beside Geoff moves, and it looks like a Lion but it has a human head.
The Lion poses a riddle to Geoff, but he fails to guess it and is forced to suffer magically induced laughter.  Mava nearly fails hers, uttering the answer in the nick of time.  The three discuss openly, now having found a truce, and discuss their dislike of the residents. It asks if they can find or capture the Unicorn in exchange for information on how to get back.  When Mava asks about what the Unicorn has done to it, the Lion snarls at them that it has its own reasons.  It asks them about the riddle of man, about the four legs, two legs then three, and Geoff shares what it is.

They talk to Vera about the event, bothering her bath time, and they map out possible plans.  Geoff learns from the children that the March Hare would know about the whereabouts of the Unicorn.  Exasperated, Ilya sees a hole in the wall, smaller in size, and crawls to it.   Vera convinces Mava to investigate it, saying its a chance to stop being a pawn, and she casts Shrink from the scroll to make her fit.  But it makes Mava inconveniently small.. tiny, in fact.  So she goes in, walking in the tiny passage that now opens wide before her like a massive corridor, and eventually finds an axe and finds two more skeletons inside. Deeper in, she finds a bunch of animals in a congress talking about striking now while their target is not organized. Among them is the March Hare, which from their statements has returned from the Court of the Pale King, not the Colorless King.  

Mava finds a place to project her voice as if she was bigger, and starts laughing to taunt them as if she was one of "them."  The animals start to scatter, but the March Hare tries to maintain order.  She convinces it to surrender, but realizes if she reveals herself, her gambit falls apart.  She needs to follow it to head out. Then it disappears after doing some kind of a dance move. Copying it, she follows the magic it had taken and they are now the same size. They nearly duel and he challenges her to pay taxes for trespassing. She claims her liege can cover for it.

Vidar and Ilya make an agreement with the Lion to own below the mountain if they kill the Guest.  The Lion seems more scared of the Guest than it admits. Vidar reminds it of the traditions of hospitality that should be maintained.  Ilya draws out the skull and studies it, noticing the clean neck cut, suggesting a guillotine.  The head has short hair and the suggestion of  what might be a head band.  

Mava arrives, and now stands with the size of the March Hare. She translates for him, as they talk about trespassing taxes and how he serves the Pale King. Vera comes up with the idea of using the rabbit paw of Archibald to claim they are also serving the Pale King.  She claims he wanted they were tasked to deliver him the Unicorn.  The March Hare mentions the unicorn needs to be trapped at an Orb Loc, and that it is very fast and fond of cake. When asked about his unicorn horn, the March Hare admits he helped the Unicorn hide before.   Given the interest in virgin cakes, Vera offers a suggestion: The March Hare is to talk to his council - in an attempt to avoid future issues when her husband becomes king for having gathered in a council without his approval - they are to spread word of a cake party, only for Unicorns to be invited.  March hare agrees.

Ilya later visits a stream, tries to have the skull in the water, but then she starts to hear her own voice in the distance. She pulls away.  A weird frog like creature emerges with claws and moving like a biped, and each time it breathes, a face is on the bulbous part of its throat. The Guest has arrived!  It uses Ilya to speak asking for her mother.

Mava grabs Ilya to pull her away. Vidar is briskly walking to the scene.  Vera follows, drawing her umbrella.  The frog thing's head inflates into a distorted expression showing on Martin's face as it stretches.  The frog thing spits at Ilya and Mava.   It solidifies and turns into a web that traps the two girls in place. Geoff gathers the four kids to accompany him to the battle.  The two women begin to bleed as the Guest's proximity causes them to bleed from their eyes! Vidar and Vera slow down, shocked to see the horror.

Geoff brandishes the holy symbol and commands the monster to step back.  It charges at them, but two of the kids try to block its approach.  The Guest tears apart one of the kids with the least of effort.  The Lion emerges and scratches the guest, but it happens ineffectually. Vera's first spell to Enfeeble the thing fails.  As it tries to get closer to the two girls, Geoff attempts to strike with a staff but even that barely hurts it.  Vidar's tears of blood flow as he closes in to strike at the thing.  Vera empowers him, casting Haste to quicken his motions for the next few seconds.   Mava and Ilya continue to bleed blood tears. Vidar's blows would have stunned a man, but against the Guest they seem to be barely noticed.  Mava tries to find a vulnerable spot to strike but her attempt to hit it fails.  Ilya tears free from the web and tries to stab at thing while it is unaware. The blade bites deep but barely registers a grunt from the monter.  Vera leaps beside Ilya, then blasts it with a Magic Missile to its face. The Guest seems to be slightly inconvenienced by it. It tries to wrestle with Vera and she snarls at it, "Take me if you must, you will never have her!"

Geoff blesses Vidar to save his wife, casting Heroism upon him to enchant him.  Mava yells at Ironforge to go for its throat.    The Lion tries to strike again but fails.  Vidar sees the wings, however, and strikes where the wings are growing to keep it from escaping.  In anger, it drops Vera and strikes at Vidar, wounding him but thanks to Geoff's spell, the wounds are superficial.  Mava charges violently to strike with her battle axe, and it hits the Guest's neck.  Geoff slips close as well, casting Cause Light Wounds on the thing.  Vera finds the opening and runs to Ilya, pulling her from the battle while the rest "distract the Guest."  Vidar continues to fight, but this time it is the Lion that hits the monster.  Ilya begins unleashing a spell.  Vera is forced to stop dragging her, but realizes now that Ilya might be the one intended to replace Grandmama, not her.  

The Lion strikes it once more, and during this distranction, Ilya hands Vera the skull. Vera launches her final Magic Missile at the thing.  Geoff commands it to die, and the command stuns it long enough that the rest of the group finally defeats the monstrosity leaving only the dead child, Martin, in its wake and her old spellbook but its contents are in reverse.  Geoff prepares last rites for it. The group meets the Sphinx and reminds it of its agreement.  Vidar Ironforge is hailed the Underking of the Mountain.  Vera teases the Lion with a riddle on the thought that she rules the land, but lives in a cave... a place beneath the land, implying her home is under Vidar's rule.  

The Lion and Geoff discuss the vampire children, and discuss having found the head of their queen.  And he admits his companions may need the head for other purposes.  They insist they need the head for her survival.  Geoff asks them to leave the coffin open for the nonce, and to visit the new king of the mountain.  They insist however their only Queen is the Queen of Clubs.  Geoff mentions the king now pushes for the old ways and the vampiric children seem intrigued.

Meanwhile, at the heart castle, which is the reflection of the house, a throne stands.  On a throne there, sits a woman who looks striking similar to Vera, but in red.  She talks to a squirrel and reminds the thing that if he speaks properly, they will not take her head.  Tell me more of this "party?"  Jacque is nearby, just smiling.  

A Unicorn impales a vampire.  The vampire turns to dust.  "So uncivilized..." A Squirrel hands him the invitation and the unicorn brushes it off.  "But there will be cake."

Downstream from the mountain, a fish leaps out and starts walking. It bows on the pale woman sitting on the rock.  The colorless Queen merely smiles.  

Finally, the March Hare shows up in a new plain colorless court with loads of Gold, deeds to land and tax returns.  An old man with colorless clothing, which a massive fluffy beard, greets him and sees the letter.

It seems there will be no shortage of guests for the upcoming party.

Thinking of having a Live Streamed Game Session Show...

It all started as a joke.
But well, maybe it is worth doing?

I mean, people had fun watching.
And we had fun doing it.


Sunday, July 17, 2016

A Bit More ASM Love

So here it is!

Finally got permission to post this link to what Pocket-Sized Play humorously refers to as "Fan Art."  I personally feel it is an honest show of appreciation for another person's work.   In playing a session of my game, they came up with graphic notes on playing A Single Moment.

You can find the image here:

I feel very happy to see the work being given such attention.
Thank you so much, Pocket-Sized Play!   Can't wait to hear the actual episode!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Journey ep06 : Ryuutama


Episode Six
"The Wedding"


The group stand in the vast garden, which is being at the burned down materials.  Fresh flowers are being planted.  Matthew, the old man who Aya had a duel with, watches as the three talk to a noble man whose face is deep with concern.  He asks how fewer chests can be made with the remaining materials that survived the arson.  Matthew insists however there are no such arsonists in the town.  Piter exclaims that the wood couldn't have just spontaneously combusted which  Matthew counters that for all they know, Piter burned them himself! Piter counters that perhaps the guards failed in their duties, especially in chasing the cloaked figure they were supposed to pursue.  Instead of five dozen, Piter admits he is not sure if he can work on anything given his tense and shaking hands.  Aya insists Piter must work in his peak condition, while Tristan whispers to them that they remember they are speaking to a noble man.  Without a choice nor time, the crown prince who once lost his true love insists his sister finds her happiness in marriage - which means everything must be present.  The deal is renewed with Piter tasked to provide one grandiose box using all the remaining materials and be unparalleled in quality and beauty by the end of the week.  Tristan accepts the task.  Aya is given the additional task of entertaining and watching over the princess, despite being mistaken as the group's swordsman (given Matthew's injury from the duel).  She is tasked to be the Princess' secret guardian, having noticed her window has been unlocked in the previous night.  There may be thieves attempting to reach her.  Piter wonders if the thieves were the type to wear cloaks.  The noble man stresses the importance of the chest and asks Piter and Tristan to make it so.   Matthew wonders if there wasn't a fourth member of the group, which Piter bemoans is them thinking about the monkey.  Tristan asks for "Party leader" but the monkey does not respond - he isn't with them.  And that makes them a bit worried.  The four are to be guests in the wedding itself.  The noble man hurries away back to the garden workers, angrily calling out that none of them have added the oak trees he asked for to be added to the garden's layout.

The three talk with Matthew about the fire, and Matthew asks them if they are questioning the security of the town.  Aya defuses the situation and tells him they will fill a formal complaint if necessary - especially after being told a formal complaint requires a handwritten complaint in triplicate, submitted to two different departments.  The three quietly head off, discussing on whether or not they are still going to push through helping make this wedding happen given what they know of the Princess not wanting it to push through.  Tristan asks them if the Crown Prince or the future Princess should have a bigger voice in the matter.  Piter asks him where is his heart for romance?  Aya suggests maybe they can do both: help her but make sure the marriage happens somehow.  Piter confesses he can focus and finish the chest, despite it won't be his best work given the limited time.  They find Jordi in a white coat, a sash around his forehead, and a record book in his hands. And of course, excellently crafted shoes.

Walking up to him, Jordi greets them in an almost somber manner.  Word has spread in the artisan district on a search for craftsmen.  He's become a teacher to fill the need.  Piter muses though those who can't do... teach.  Jordi and Piter begin arguing once more, debating over craftsmanship and teaching.  Jordi proudly proclaims he has twenty students to offer them.  Piter and Tristan however inform him things have changed and they no longer need additional craftsmen and walk away.  Aya wonders if Jordi was pulling their leg, and Piter reminds her to stop with the foot jokes. They realize however that Party Leader is definitely missing.  Aya decides to try to look for him while the two work on the box.

Tristan and Piter asses that almost a third of the materials have been consumed by the fire.  The materials left behind, however, are enough for making a box massive enough to be someone's tiny house.  Piter sits quietly, ignoring Tristan's remarks on the materials, as he "envisions" the box he will eventually craft.    The two argue over the materials, and fail to even notice Jordi arrive.  He informs them he had just quit the Academic pursuits and Piter teases him its only because he cannot provide anymore the artisans they needed before.  Tristan tells Jordi he can help them by finding the monkey instead. Jordi does mention seeing a monkey playing with a few dogs.  Tristan remembers the corgi warriors.

Tristan heads to the stall and hears the laughter and applause from people, punctuated by the sounds of coins being thrown.  Pushing through the crowd, Tristan sees their monkey holding hoops, tossing them for the dog to run and jump through them.  Another corgi is holding a pail and the audience toss him coins to catch.  The monkey splashes a flask of oil on the ring, and the monkey holds out a tinderbox.  People stare as Tristan rushes forward, telling the monkey he cannot ignite the ring aflame without burning himself.  Tristan finds a stick to hold the ring up as Party Leader ignites the oil-wet ring into a ring of fire.  People applaud and cheer as the corgi leaps through unharmed, lands on a roll, then back on all fours with his head raised up.  The cheers resound louder and coins are thrown into the pail.  Tristan thanks the people, and the two corgis soon recognize Tristan and quietly move back into the stall.  Party Leader gives the two corgis a thumbs up and they start diving up the earnings.

Tristan soon learns that Bartholomew and Matthias are happy that the funds they had gathered are enough to pay and recover their men from their goals.  What they have yet to raise is the funding needed for the war.  When Tristan asks for more, he learns that Party Leader is now called the General, and has agreed to help them gain funds and in exchange to assist him as mercenaries when needed.

Piter and Jordi argue over the design, with Jordi wanting to make the box more like a massive shoe.  Piter however refuses to make the design look like a fairy tale shoe house some old woman might live in.  The two refuse to accept the idea of working together.  Jordi eventually admits he took the job at the school because he thought Piter would need him.  He admits he visited the Princess and discovered she doesn't wear shoes. "What manner of sole does not desire to wear shoes!?!" Jordi cannot help but feel people moving around with bare feet are beyond the natural order.  Piter finally proposes they work together in this commission, especially since they have only a week.  Almost like two vicious partners, the two admit they will work together... under duress... to make a masterpiece. They consider making a giant stiletto.  Or a box within a box within a box.  But the ideas don't lock down.  They head to the market to find inspiration.  "There is inspiration in ugly things," they echo.  They struggle to appreciate the market's boxes and shoes despite their terrible quality.  But from all their complaints of these things, they begin to do find inspiration! 

Aya searches for party leader with a banana in her hand as she moves through the castle grounds.  Even the portraits and standing armors are replaced with images of the Princess if not of flowers and beautiful flowing things.  She finds herself in a massive chessboard park, and sees man-sized figures of chess pieces that move about by themselves.  "What sorcery is this!?" Aya gasps.  The pieces all fall to the ground in response and a 5'2" man rolls into view.  With a turban like headpiece and a purple feather, the Vizier raises his ringed fingers and pulls on his extended mustache.  He shares he was trying to teach the pieces to dance, and Aya explains she is the wedding singer, despite looking like a swordsman.  Aya admits she gets that a lot.  He identifies himself as Vizier Rout, and shares he has magic over wooden things. He can speak to wood or ask it to do things. His brother, Vizier DeVill is the Royal Vizier, and he is the one pushing for the marriage to happen. He knows Seasonal Magic.  Aya is fascinated that Rout can enchant Wood and wonders if he can help with the task of making a gigantic box. The youngest brother convinced Rout that it is the youngest who always inherits everything.  Aya is confused since she knows its the other way around.  Rout claps his hands and sends the chess pieces, that now shrink back to tiny shapes, running into the box.  

Vizier DeVill arrives, in his long purple robes and dark eyes.  He shuts Rout up when Rout excitedly tries to greet his brother and commands him to go to the garden to get those Oak trees into position.  He questions if his brother will ever be useful, and questions if Aya - a wedding singer - would be doing talking to a vizier.  He spits out that he does not trust Minstrels, always having a song for others.  He dislikes them as much as disliking Oracles and admits if he had his choice on the matter, he would inflict her with a Sickness to curse her to do nothing but mope.  Aya backs away, insisting she just wants to find their monkey.  " I have not seen a Monkey around, and even if I did, I would not tell you."  Aya shakes her head and continues going around the castle to look for the monkey.

Aya finds a maid trying to talk to the Princess from behind a door. The Princess seems insistent she does not want to prepare for the wedding.  Aya learns the Princess has had a huge breakfast this morning, and she wonders if it means the Princess is hiding someone in there with her.  She eventually meets with the Princess, learns that he was to be married to the daughter of the Sultanate of Karid, so now she has to marry her own brother to maintain the political union between the two kingdoms.When Aya tries to understand how the wife died, the Princess admits that the Vizier DeVill probably would know.  Aya wonders if she moped a lot, and the Princess admits she did.  Quite often, in fact.  She learns the Vizier has been working for the family longer than they have been born.  And that he might have once been the King of Khalid, before it was changed and the Sultanate was formed.  She even learns that the younger son was always the one who inherits things before, during the time before the Sultanate. 

Aya awakens the next morning still in the Princess' room.  She fell asleep talking with her about her brother and her not being siblings by blood. The brother was adopted actually, unlike her. Aya suggests that the easiest way for the Princess to clear things up with her brother is to talk to him.  To make clear what they both want before the marriage happens.   The weight of making decisions for the best of the land are no joke, and personal feelings might not be as important.  Aya however insists that talking would be a huge help.  She also warns her of Vizier DeVill, even if he has been with the family for so many years.  

Vizier Rout meets the others.  Aya introduces him to the party, while Tristan introduces them to the Corgs.  When the group finally presents the final box to the Crown Prince, Rout uses his Wood Knocking to have it open magically.   The box has shoes, and the two are also a self-opening chamber. Vizier DeVill however steps into the room, questioning the master of the creation - Piter and Jordi - if this is the insensitive gift they would give her.  He cites the gifts resemblance to the coffin of his late wife.  The others gasp, thinking there's no such resemblance.  But DeVill continues about the wooden box having beauty within it - an affront on the Crown Prince's painful memories. Tristan tries to explain the box honors the late wife, and Piter and Jordi add that it was as if she was present in the wedding.  Aya eyes the group, reminding them non-verbally that they cannot trust that Vizier.  The Crown Prince chooses to see the present as wonderful and thanks the party for its creation.   For a moment, he thought the fire was a message - an omen not to proceed - but now the box convinces him to push through with it.  The reward is being prepared.  Aya looks up at the caged balcony and sees the Princess drawing closed the curtains.  She probably feels betrayed.  They are awarded Ribbons of Khalid which allow them to freely purchase anything in the Sultanate. Jordi wonders if this means he and Piter can even start a joint trade: Shoes in Boxes.

Aya raises her voice, wishing for a chance to say something.  Thinking she wants to sing something, they give her the stage.  But Aya admits she's not here to sing to them.  She tells them she'd gladly trade the Ribbon back for a priceless gift: a private audience with the Crown Prince.  Everyone is shocked.  The Vizier DeVill tries to wave it away and have the wedding begin, but the Crown Prince agrees to have this gift for now.  While the rest are shown to the side with food and wine to keep them occupied, Aya meets with the Crown Prince.  

In private, Aya and the Crown Prince talk about the wedding.  He admits he always felt doubt in his heart, but whenever he would speak with his sister he would think she wanted him to do it.  Aya's actions seem to have confirmed for him that the wedding must push through.  Aya realizes she has to tell him the truth now.

Outside, Tristan and Piter notice the Vizier concernedly staring at the chamber where Aya and the Crown Prince have gone to talk.  A servant approaches Piter and asks him if he's noticed that the Vizier has been using magic.  Thorny briars are begging to rise from the ground, especially around the chamber the Prince and Aya are in. The servant hands Piter a tray with five cakes and tells him it will help them, and to use them wisely.  Piter decides to try approaching the Vizier.  Party Leader begins to stuff food in a bag he has with him.  Tristan hear the Corgs bidding him farewell as they have to return to their homeland and are thankful for having fulfilled their debt.  They lament they might never see each other again as war is never kind.  Tristan sees Piter approaching the Vizier with a tray of cakes and decides to follow.  Tristan begins to catch the sound of something in air... a minminmin sound that keeps constantly mumbling in the background.

Piter tries to talk to the Vizier, asking what he does with his staff at night.  He makes it sound as if he's wondering if he would want a box for his staff to keep it during great distances and the like but in truth he's hoping to find a way to separate it from the Vizier.  Piter starts to feel exhausted, as if he had not gotten a good night's sleep.  Tristan casts his own spell, covering the briars with a lush growth of flowers to make them easier to handle.  The Vizier catches sight of Tristan closing in, and decides it is time to act.  Piter pops a cake into his mouth.

Aya confesses in a song that the Princess does not want this marriage, and is not happy to do this but she does not have the heart to tell him. What she really wants is to have a marriage because of love.  The Prince admits he did not want the wedding to happen either!  The wedding is off and Aya cannot believe how easy it will be to resolve this issue. But as they try to step out, they find the doors barred by the thorns.

A battle begins!  Five Objects: Cake Tray, Flowers,  Giant Box, Vizier's Staff, Moonlight.  Tristan open the salvo by casting a spell to unleash a Spring Magic spell known as Kaguya Ray Lance casting it as the moon slightly blinds the Vizier.   Piter then bomps the Vizier on the head with the cake tray. Angrily, the Vizier DeVill strikes back with a spell that induces the May Sickness on Piter! Inside the chamber, Aya and the Prince hear the growing minminmin sound growing stronger.  Aya tells the Prince the Vizier is behind this, but the Prince explains the minminmin is not coming from the Vizier, but the magical creatures bound to them.  These ensured their safety through the decades and are known as the Golden Beetles.  "Those things get hungry!" Both the Prince and Aya begin hacking at the roots with their blades.   True enough, Gold Beetles emerge from the shadows, closing in behind the Vizier.

One of the beetles closes in and begins biting at anything close.  Tristan swats one of them away, after it gives him a tiny bite!  The Vizier growls about how they have disrupted his plans, and to punish them, he begins casting a huge spell calling for the great forces of the desert to protect him.  Tristan casts another Kaguya Ray Lance at the Vizier, injuring him.  Piter munches on another cake, then moves to grab the Vizier's staff. Piter yanks the staff away, and the cicadas begin to fall silent.  In the chamber, the thorns begin to crumble away as well.

Tristan sees the Crown Prince and Aya emerge from the now cleared doorway.  He calls out to him, telling him the Vizier has betrayed him!  Aya charges at the bugs to try to force them back towards the Present Box to trap them.  The Vizier attempts to launch the thorns at Piter, but they miss.  The bugs snap at Aya, but are routed.  Piter lifts the staff up above his head then smashes it to the ground!  A roar is heard in the distance as magically, all Objects can be used again!  The golden bugs start fluttering away as the staff is complete snapped apart.  Vizier DeVill in anger calls out to his brother Rout and declares by the Sultanate of Khalid that he is freed from his bonds.  Rout spins and transmogrifies before their very eyes into a massive figure whose lower body is but floating mist: A Djinn!  The three realize they have to defeat Rout, who has become a twenty foot tall purple magical being.  Aya swings with the flowers swirling around her, striking at the Djinn at the same time as the flowers explode their pollen on his face.  As the Djinn sneezes over and over, Piter smashes the broken staff onto the Vizier's face, finally knocking him out.  The crowd watches as the Djinn fades into mist and is pulled back into a tiny form that they once knew as Rout.

The Prince declares the wedding is off, and instead a treaty is formed to bind the Sultanate and the Kingdom together, instead of the forced marriage that would have been devastating for both sides.  The Prince asks of the three one last task: to deliver the Vizier to the Oasis in the southern desert, and have him imprisoned and chained for the rest of his immortal life. On their return, the Sultanate promises to bring them to any other town they desire to visit.  Piter smiles at the thought of the Box Fair he knows a town will be having.   Aya gives Matthew a nod, but Matthew does not quite grasp what she means.

Jordi watches as the three are celebrated.  He quietly heads out of the gate and walks away.
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