Tuesday, October 13, 2009

FreeRPG Blog Loses It (Entertainingly)

After a year of enthusing about other people's free games, Rob Lang of the Free RPG Blog can't take it anymore, and chooses a target to let out all the venom he's been holding back:

Icar - a dreadful vat of excrement

Icar by Rob Lang is a free science fiction roleplaying game set in a bland, plagiarised future. The fat of other genres has been scraped off and boiled in a stinking vat to produce a stock kitchen sink Sci Fi. Unintelligible rules, disparate formatting and penis inspired space craft are wrapped in a deceptively colourful cover. As we will discover, if you paint a turd then what you end up with is a painted turd.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

YOU'RE poorly written!*


Found a thread on "Naked Came the Gamer" on therpgsite. Discouraging, depressing. I don't follow the Old School Renaissance community closely enough to realize the absolute contempt with which so many of them regard Forge folks in general and Ron in particular (he's their favorite bete noire, but by by no means the only one).

I just don't get it. Why the hatred? Why the loathing? It's not mutual. Indie gamers tend to regard OSR folks with admiration, if anything. But a lout segment of the OSR just turn vicious when the topic of the Forge and its spinoffs comes up. Er, I meant a "loud" segment. Freudian typo.

Even though the essay challenges the OSR, the challenge is based on the premise that what they are trying to do is valuable -- the challenge is whether they are going to follow through on their valuable endeavor with integrity. (Whether or not Ron is correct about what "integrity" consists of here, the point is that he's saying "you're doing something awesome! Are you going to follow through?")

I just don't get it. If you just read the OSR threads you'd think that this was a longstanding rivalry and the Forge guys go around dissing them, likewise, crowing about how awesome forge games are and how much everybody else, including the OSR, sucks. But that never happens. There are a lot of asshole forge folks, and they say some real jerk-ass things, but pretty much always to and about each other. They don't, as a community, have a contempt for any other community of gamers. If anything they have a contempt for the traditional model of distribution.

Why the asymmetry?


Ah, reaction to Ron's article in Fight On is beginning. In my blog reader today was a piece by James Maliszewski at Grognardia, which complained that other OSR people were getting upset about it, rather than doing the proper thing and quietly shrugging and writing it off as "poorly written and nakedly self-serving." No pun intended I guess.

I like Grognardia a lot, and was kind of disappointed that that was the level of engagement he displayed, but I don't know what else I expected. Grognardia's reaction to Carcosa was exactly the sort of thing Ron was complaining about.

James Raggi was called out directly by Ron, and in his response he simply tells Ron that Ron is mistaken about the nature and purpose of the changes in his work, that in fact Raggi agrees with Ron, basically, on all counts, and wouldn't do what Ron complained about him doing. So that's interesting, he didn't say "Ron, you're totally wrong! I was right to do that!" he said "Ron, you're totally right about everything except what you think I did, I didn't in fact do that, because I am on the same page in the first place!" That's actually a very positive way to disagree.

Ironically the comments to Raggi's blog, Lamentations of the Flame Princess, are much more full of snotty hating than the ones in Grognardia.

Interesting stuff all around; I hope to see more. Maybe I'll have to find some fora where they're discussing it.

Of course, I'll be really geeked when somebody actually buys S/Lay w/Me in response to all that and starts publically hating on or digging my artwork.

* the title of this post is an inside joke which as far as I know will make exactly one reader of this blog chuckle. Hi Dave!

UPDATE: Grognardia's well over 119 comments now, including some thoughtful stuff, positive and negative, and bucketloads of stupid. James M himself does not contribute at all to the stupid in the comments, to his credit, and insists that only a very small fraction of Old School Renaissance folks know about Ron and the Forge, and only a small fraction of those dislike them. It's just that they're very loud people.

As far as I know, there are no loud Forge people hating on neo-grognards, nor spending long comment threads railing against caricatured boogeymen of them, so there's some asymmetry there. Seems a pity. The two groups sure seem to have a lot in common to me.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

S/Lay w/Me Actual Play - Asad at the Monastery.

OK, I wrote this up over several days, so it may not flow very well. So much happened during that short game! And every bit of it seemed important to write up! So here we go.


Joe and I sat down to try S/Lay w/Me last night. Joe was "you," and I was "I" in Ron's terminology (which causes a bit of "Who's On First" syndrome when you use it in reference to a real life situation: "I'll be 'you' and you be 'I'.") That is, Joe was the quasi-player, and I was the quasi-GM.

Joe chose the "young warrior, fierce and feared, but my hair is grey," but changed the hair to white. He's an olive-skinned fellow from a desert land, with strangely white hair, and has a scimitar. (Originally rapier, retroactively edited to scimitar cause it made more sense. We did a couple of those little retroactive edits in the course of the game where it made sense.)

He also chose the "clean, clear air of the mountains," for the setting, and for the goal, "to ring the bell in the monastery, to rid himself of a curse..." he was going to go on from there and work out what the curse was and all but I told him I thought all we really needed was "to ring the bell." He wanted a name for the monastery in these Himalayan-like mountains, and I suggested "Leng?" We went with that. In my mind, that probably fixed the character of the inhabitants of the monastery...

I came up with a Monster -- the Yeti, which was at least as much spirit as flesh, mainly red eyes in the windy darkness and sharp claws. (It attacked Singly, Savagely, With Deceit, and.... um, I forget the other adjective choice.) And a Lover -- Aita, a shaman, a tiny woman, Mongolian in appearance and dress, wearing various charms and fetishes made of feathers and fur, and surrounded by spirits. Her desire for Asad was "innocent, forbidden, open-hearted, and knowledgeable."

The location was a series of plateaus and mesas connected by ancient bridges of stone or rope. Somewhere out there is the monastery of Leng, presumably. The area where things start was a broad shelf on the side of a steep cliff, with a semi-wild garden and trees covering it. There was a pool by the cliffside, formed by a stream cascading down the cliff. There were sigils carved on either side of the waterfall, and trees on either side.

Joe had Asad arrive out of the mist by a rope bridge, and walk through the garden, up to the pool and waterfall. At the very last second he saw the previously unnoticed Aita before him, sitting on the grass, in a meditative position. The wind blew the grass around her in a circle, as if she were in the center of a vortex, a ring of breezes. (That was how I imagined her to be "surrounded by spirits" as I'd jotted down.)

They spoke, and there were some locked eyes and there was some alternating shyness and fascination from Aita. She offered him food, showing him how to crack open the pods growing on the nearby trees. He asked who she was, and she explained she was a shaman and protected the people of the area, from the danger whose name she would not even speak. She offered him a necklace with a feather on it to protect him from the creature. He let her put it on his neck -- another awkward lock-eyes moment -- which was unusual for him, letting a stranger get that close to him. When that happened the vortex of spirit-winds circled round them *both*. When he inquired further about the creature, she asked him to be still and listen... and when he did, he could hear far away, under the noise of the waterfall, under the noise of the wind, a faraway roaring, that sounded like a mix of a huge animal and a person filled with pain and rage.

That noise would never leave his consciousness for the rest of the tale, while the Yeti lived.

Aita explained that even visualizing the creature could provoke it and summon it to them.

I think the above was two or three Goes.

On Joe's Go, he had Asad ask her how to get to the Monastery, and had her lead him off.... which began the Match, since he was taking action toward his Goal.

They traveled several bridges and went up high above the tree line and found a plateau with a huge, sprawling building on it, the size of a village -- the Monastery of Leng. In front of it was a deep pool, with stepping-stones leading across it to the front door, making it kind of like a moat. There was a gong to ring, and they rang it, and to the front door came a creepy little monk.

He agreed to take Asad into the monastery, but refused to let Aita in without "purification." She seemed to know what he meant by that, and agreed to it, suprising him. She took off all her clothes and submerged herself in the ice-cold pool, rising out again and dressing again while he leered. Then she dressed again, with Asad giving her his cloak, and they went inside.

They were left alone while the Creepy Old Monk went to get tea. During this time they talked, and Asad asked her why she stayed here, and she explained her spirits were the spirits of these mountains, that she was bound to them and they to her, and they were her life. He pointed out that there were mountains near his home to the south too, and perhaps she could get to know some new spirits. In doing this he pissed off her spirits, and earned a die for implying he would take her with him.

The Creepy Old Monk offered them tea, and Aita refused. He insisted, pushing the cup back (despite it being a hot cup of tea and her near freezing), and he pushed the cup back toward her again. Finally her spirits knocked the cup over, angering him. Asad insisted they get moving, so the Creepy Old Monk took them down a corridor, to a door, opened it up, and let Asad walk before him into a gray room... whose floor was a Tulpic illusion. Asad fell fifty feet down a pit, into the darkness, and heard the door slam above. And up there the Creepy Old Monk was clutching the protective fetish feather he had snatched off Asad's neck as he fell.

He was in a cave and felt a biting wind, like spearshafts of ice through him. The roar was overwhelming. The Yeti was here. It barrelled up to him and slashed him across the leg with its claws, wounding him. He attacked it with his scimitar and found it barely noticed his blows. Finally he sought an escape, and found a narrow stairwell that the beast couldn't follow.... which led to an opening onto the cliff face... and another stair to the plateau... and there he was back at the outside again.

And he could see an angry circle of winds writhing around the grounds. (Aita's been separated from her spirits? Very bad news.) He approached it and it attacked him with its feeble power -- whipping at his clothes. He spoke to it angrily and talked it into blowing underneath the door and opening the bar behind it. It did and they went in "together," man and spirit-wind-vortex, after Aita.

Asad found himself a monk to talk to... The monastery as a whole was stone rooms and corridors with a spiral pattern, so that everything curved eventually towards the center. Joe pointed out to me that the description of Asad was "fierce _and feared_" and I might want to include that in people's reactions to me. I played that up in the young monk's reaction -- Asad scared the piss out of him. "Where is Aita? Where is the shaman woman?" The young monk said, "woman! No woman passes these halls..." "Not even if she has received purification?" He looked shocked. "But after purification comes... punishment..."

Soon Asad was following a terrified young monk to the Chamber of Punishment. They came down a corridor to a door locked from the other side. There was a window grille through which Asad could peer and see a small auditorium, like a Victorian operating theater, with a slab in the center, and on the slab was Aita, stripped naked, on her knees, her head chained low, her arms chained up and pulled cruelly behind her. A sequence of progressively more horrible implements of torture was laid out before her, with an empty space at the very beginning, where had lain the cat o' nine tails that the Creepy Old Monk was carrying as he walked around her, leering again. The seats were filled with monks of all ages, watching with seeming detachment.

The everpresent roar was getting louder, behind Asad, and he heard the young monk scamper back along the corridor and die at the hands of a hungry Yeti. So ended my Go with the action of the monster.

I thought there would be a fight with the monster here, but I was wrong. Asad shrugged off the Yeti behind him, letting it eat its victim, and beat his way through the door into the Chamber of Punishment. He unsheathed his scimitar and lopped off the head of the nearest monk in the audience. Then he felt the Red Rage descend, and all was a blur till he found himself in a room full of decapitated monks, with one living monk in front of him -- the Creepy Old Monk, whom he had carved up a bit but not killed.

He snatched the keys from him and held them up for the wind-spirits to take and unlock Aita, which they did, and surrounded her again, protectively. Asad gave her his cloak again, and she wore just that for now. Asad snatched back the feather-charm, which the Creepy Old Monk still had. They contemptuously left the monk behind, and went out into the corridor again, which the Yeti had deserted.

They spoke and it was established that Asad needed to go to the center of the Yeti-haunted monastery to ring the bell, that the charm wouldn't last that long in the monastery -- the protection from the Yeti would run out. Aita declared she would follow him to the center of the monastery, but that she needed to find a place alone to speak with her spirits first.

They found a storage chamber full of grains given to the monks in tribute, purple cloth such as their robes were made of, and the like. Asad guarded the door and she spread out a cloth on the ground and knelt down to commune with the spirits.

She told them she was unbinding them, that they were free and she was free of them, they could come or go as they pleased. They freaked out and created a small tornado within the storage room, laying waste to everything within, all around her, nad then disappeared... and all was quiet.

"Asad?... Asad, will you come to me? I am alone. For the first time in many years... I am alone."

And Asad entered the chamber and barred the door, and Embraced the Lover.

When they left the chamber, she had fashioned a (classic pulp magazine cover girl style) shift or tunic out of some of the monks' purple fabric and a rope belt.

The monks' chanting was everpresent, and mixed with the sound of the monster's roar. They were linked.

They made their way towards the center of the monastery, where the Bell was located. All through the monastery they found monks chanting, deep throat-singing chants, with their hands in mudras resembling claws. They were summoning and strengthening the Yeti to defend the monastery. They all ignored Asad, and he them.

I'm a little fuzzy in the memory as to exactly how things went next, but soon Asad and Aita were almost to the bell room, and the Yeti attacked, slamming Aita against a wall and knocking her out cold with a splatter of blood against the wall (killing her? the dice had yet to decide whether she would live...).

Asad fought the beast again with his scimitar, putting all his heart and soul into wearing it down, to little avail, taking hits from the claws... Through the next arch he saw the Bell itself, in the center of the monastery... in a great round room, the floor covered in sand, the bell a tube of metal on a dais...

The sight of his goal gave Asad strength, and he started to prevail, when...

The Creepy Old Monk limped from a corridor nearby and walked up to the bell. The Creepy Old Monk bared his arm and cut his own palm with a dagger, and let his blood drip on the bell. and the bell vibrated along with the roar of the Yeti and the chants of the monks.... And the blood, by the power of the bell, gave form and flesh and strength to the Yeti, and the tide of battle was turned against Asad.

The Yeti knocked Asad to the ground and held him down, its claws holding him to the ground by the neck, like a pitchfork... It raised its other claw to strike him the death blow...

And a vortex of angry wind spirits kicked sand into the face of the now-enfleshed Yeti, shocking it so that it pulled its claws away from Asad and he got away free.

Asad himself sprang to the bell and the Creepy Old Monk, and dashed the latter to the stone dais, cracking his skull like an eggshell. (I'm getting fuzzy on the order of events, that might have happened shortly before or after this.)

As the Yeti loomed over him, Asad stood over the bell and Established Mastery Over the Goal (as mentioned in the rules -- got a die there and his Go ended) by cutting his *own* palm and bleeding over the bell.

On my Go I responded:

As the blood fell on the bell a new spirit arose, Asad's own soul-form, and it gathered to it the sands (Asad, a man of the desert...) and even as the yeti was born of spirit and mist and snow, a Djinn arose from Asad's spirit and the sands... Asad's consciousness blurred and wavered, and as his body fell he awoke in the Djinn's body, and faced the Yeti, Monster to Monster.

And the Yeti tore into him, rending the sand with the force of the ice and wind. The Yeti was on his home turf, strengthened by the old monk's life force, and even a Djinn was no match for it...

I *think* this was where the match ended. I could be wrong. But I think that was it. I took a short break for a phone call and Joe added up the numbers and chose: * attaining the goal (free), * saving the life of the Lover, * killing the Monster. He did not choose to save his own life, though because he got the Goal he didn't die, he was badly wounded.


Then began the Red Rage. But in Djinn-form the Red Rage took physical form -- an unquenchable fire in his heart, which fused the very sands into molten glass, so that instead of a Sand-Djinn, he became a Djinn of glowing, molten, pure crystal -- transparent magma.

The Molten-Glass Djinn destroyed the Yeti, and steam and the smell of burnt flesh were all that was left. Across the monastery, the chanting monks who had sustained and strengthened the Yeti ended their chants and drooped forward, blood dripping from their nostrils and eyes, dead, to a man.

And then Asad as the Molten-Glass Djinn turned back to his body, and his consciousness fstarted to flicker back and forth between monster-self and man-self, and through that haze the man-self stood up and with great difficulty struck the bell a clear, loud blow, and in that instant the curse was ended.

(This was another slight retroactive edit -- we had this happen without the bell struck at first, and then shortly thereafter we realized it ought to happen *because* the bell was struck, so we decided that was how it happened.)

The Djinn and the man were severed, and the djinn, fifty feet tall, strode out of the monastery, leaving clouds of billowing steam in the snow behind it... and it began walking back to the Desert Lands, and many a legend tells of the time that the man made, as it were, of ice glowing with fire, strode through the mountains surrounded by hot clouds, its glow reaching up into the heavens.

For the curse had always been the Red Rage, and that rage was now no longer a lurking presence in his heart but a beautiful, elemental Djinn.

Asad lost consciousness and awoke in the care of Aita, at her spring, where she'd carried him back with the aid of her no-longer-bound spirits. The first blow from the Yeti to his leg had lamed him, and without the rage in the depth of his heart to push him on, it would cripple him. But it mattered no more -- without the rage his warrior's ferocity was no longer necessary. He could just be a man now, not a warrior, fierce and feared. He was no longer burdened with the curse.

Asad stayed with Aita in the mountains, ending his story as part of the game.


some notes -- so much of this seems as if it would have been planned out beforehand, but not a damn bit of it was. I was astounded at how well it all held together and cohered. Both Joe and I have read Graham Walmsey's "Play Unsafe" chapter on reincorporation, and its source material in Keith Johnstone; I'd recommend either or both as good background in how to do a game like this well. But I was pretty blown away by some of the reincorporation Joe did -- he way he reincorporated the freed air spirits as a help to him during the final fight? most of all, how he made the Red Rage he'd come up with during the fight in the chamber of punishment into the curse he was here to rid himself of, and making the split into Man and Djinn into the manifestation of the ridding of the curse? That was stellar.

I was surprised to find myself creating Aita as so innocent and shy. I wouldn't have expected myself to do that, given the sexy nature of the game, but it was what came to mind and it worked beautifully. Perhaps it was in overcompensation for that that I pushed kind of hard to get her naked, and even in bondage, at the insistence of the creepy old monk (who in retrospect I suppose is my evil lecherous avatar in the story... good thing he got what he deserved!).

I felt kind of bad making the whole monastery kind of creepy and evil. Like Alec Baldwin and the Dalai Lama were going to go shout FREE TIBET and kick my ass. But it's the way it came to me. I blame Lovecraft. (The "whole monastery creepy and evil" thing was unexpected to Joe too... he expected the old monk to be the monster in disguise.)

Overall the whole game was a creative high at a level I haven't experienced in a while. Several times during the game I restrained myself from whooping and hollering at how awesome it was.

I know this kind of awesome isn't exactly unknown in well designed story games with creatively engaged players. But I just don't get to play such very often, and it was a big deal to me.

Well done Ron!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Whoops! Adam Black is just down the hall.

If you got here by following the web address given for Adam Black in the S/Lay w/Me game book, smack Ron upside the head and click here.

(I KID. I'm glad he got it out for GenCon, even if it wasn't in time to proofread it thoroughly enough to catch the mistaken URL....)

(And S/Lay w/Me kicks ass and has a bunch of my art in it too. Woot!)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Brief Danger Patrol

I printed out Danger Patrol and brought it along to the "Car Wash" tonight, and actually got to run through a scene of it. Players were Dave VanDyke, Matt "Kub" Kubiak, and a fellow whose name I forget, I had just met him; he was a boardgamer but hadn't tried RPGs before. Robb and Jason had some important video games to play and couldn't be bothered; to be fair, that's kinda why they show up in the first place, not to play hippie games.

Dave and Kub chose randomly (semi-randomly -- Kub drew Alien Professor and I suggested he might want to swap Alien out cause it's kind of a DIY style) and we ended up with Max Powers the Psychic Professor, and Vance Granger, the Two-Fisted Explorer. (TODO: ask Dave the other player's name; it was mentioned once but it went right out of my sieve-like brain.) Our third player, the one who hadn't played RPGs before, chose a Robot Commando named THGHUS (pronounced "Thuggus").

I gave them the teaser, then asked for "Previously..." and we got some setup involving Max uncovering a Neptunian assassination plot, and THGHUS and Vance getting into some trouble with the Neptunians in a rescue plan that got complicated (somehow involving Vance and a Neptunian princess...)

So cards for all those things went out on the table. I explained that we were probably only going to do one scene tonight but all those were available for future scenes, or adding to the existing scene.

Following the suggestion in the rules I cut down the number of crimson apes by two since we had only three players -- TOTALLY unnecessary. "Three hits, no roll" powers are freaking BADASS, and they waded through the threats fairly quickly, even after I decided that the apes turned out to be six-hit threats after all, not three.

It only took two rounds.

First round: the Professor uses his telekinesis to remotely steer the damaged rocketcar to safety (Danger: he landed it on the only nearby surface -- a tanker of rocket fuel! -- safely). He also plugs into the currents controlling the malfunctioning traffic controller system using his gadgets and brings them back into sync. Two threats gone. Like that. (He got a second action because he used a power token for the first.)

Then THGHUS got out his hidden weaponry and lit up the immediately threatening ape, only wounding and angering it, and ending up with the ape hanging off of his robot body which was hanging from the fin of their rocket car by a damaged arm! (only Bashed, no major damage, but still, you could see sparks flying and stuff.)

Time for Vance. Vance is an Explorer, and knows a thing or two about crimson apes. He climbed down THGHUS's body to get eye to eye with the creature. After fending off some wicked blows by the ape, he hit it with a dominance attack -- essentially a staring and screaming contest, or something like that -- which forced it to acknowledge him as alpha. (He made him wear the Cone of Shame, if you will.) The now-docile ape climbed the poor robot's body and sat meekly in the vehicle, just as...

The one remaining ape, who'd been ignored all this turn, dropped onto the car and smacked poor Powers upside the head. (Reduced Hit!) Ape Two was pretty angry to see what had happened Ape One... after all, Ape Two had been the ORIGINAL Alpha. (Danger!)

The next turn though, that ape had no chance. Professor Powers came up with some rubber science about the metal implants in the backs of the apes' heads (which we hadn't noticed up till that point) and how they'd be adversely affected by the currents in the navigation system, which he'd already gotten under his control (3 free hits on an ally's attack for rubber science!). This added to Vance's two-fisted haymaker, so that just as he cold-cocked the ape, the thing's implant went haywire, sending it into a twitching frenzy and making it an easy target for THGHUS's weaponry.

We cut it off after one scene, though we briefly discussed what the interlude scenes would probably have been and where it would go from there.

Fun little game considering I had to do zero prep beyond what was done for me in the rules. There was no discernable difference in play experience between the experienced gamers and the complete newb, except for one point where he got a little caught up in scanning his powers list and it had to be pointed out that he could do anything he darn well pleased, what was on the sheet was just stuff he got an extra bonus for doing.

If I was going to do this again, well, I'd probably pile on the threats a bit more. But maybe the players just got lucky. Or maybe two turns was fine for an intro like this, and if they kept on going, they'd have felt the impact of the power tokens they'd spent pretty soon.

Anyway, yay! I got to run a game!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Some Demons

I've been mulling around an idea for a Sorcerer game.

Inspiration: certain cartoons with humanoid demons and such in them. David Trampier's "Wormy," anything fantasy by Vaughn Bodé, James West, maybe in a more serious vein, old children's book illustrations (Arthur Rackham, Sidney Sime).

Demons (aka imps) are little projections of id-charged ectoplasm from another universe, who can be brought into ours via various ancient rituals. The rituals, and their names, are all old school and traditional -- magic circles, abracadabra, names from the Goetia, the whole nine yards. But the demons, once they're here, have quite modern tastes and attitudes. They tend to be a bunch of little vulgarians, perhaps with Needs for boozing or getting high, cult movies or gambling, sating themselves at all-night buffets, or what not. But of course they're bursting with arcane power.

I'm thinking of two different kinds of Sorcerers, primarily. The NPCs are going to include a bunch of pretentious sorcerous weenies, people you love to hate. A grim gothy sorcerer lord, an ancient bearded cultic badass, and so on. The PCs are going to be primarily ordinary schmucks who happen, by design or by accident, to have gotten access to the old traditions of sorcery and gotten involved with them. It'll be kind of like "play yourself as a sorcerer," but not literally yourself, just the sort of person you might know and hang out with if they were real.

So besides the contrast between the freaky old rituals and the down-to-earth imps would be accompanied by a contrast between the earthy demons and the annoying NPC sorcerers.

Anyway, I've been thinking about this for a while, and started doing a little demon concept art last night.

Blood Red

Do you like art depicting chicks in chainmail? Battle babes? Warrior women? Witches? Demonesses? Of course you do, so go and check out James West's newly revamped Blood Red Comics.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Lady Blackbird - Session 2

The details of the Lady Blackbird game I ran last week are starting to get hazy, so I'd best try and get something written up.

We started with the gang arriving at Nightport and breaking up into several groups. Snargle stayed behind on the ship to work on some security issues. Kale took his mysterious package for delivery and payment. Lady Blackbird, Naomi, and Vance went to meet with August Cross, the information broker.

Kale rented a rickshaw and rode to the estate of Giovanni Canter to deliver the package. The man had no idea who he was, who Harwood was (Harwood was the guy who hired Kale to deliver the box back on Haven) or what was in the box. Upon opening it, a metallic, clockwork monkey was discovered. It came to life and killed Canter and his bodyguard with its razor sharp claws. Kale decided he wanted this monkey so he could examine it closer, and through some clever tactics, and a bit of luck, disabled it with some wire deftly inserted into a hole in the clockwork creature's chest. He quickly loaded it back into the box, emptied Canter's safe and dashed back to the waiting rickshaw. He decided to go to his favorite tavern and celebrate a bit before heading back to The Owl.

The Lady, Naomi and Vance met with Cross at his fancy office. It turned out, he didn't accept money, but only traded in secrets. He knew who all of them were, what with the bounty on them and all. He wanted to know how a Stormblood like Lady Blackbird had come to be intimate with a Fireblood like Uriah Flint. He had also demanded secrets from Naomi and Vance, and they agreed, though he told them he would gather his payment from them another time. They were in his debt. He wrote something on a sheet of paper, placed into an envelope and sealed it with wax. It would lead them to a man who knew how to navigate the Remnants and find Flint. After leaving, they started off to Vance's favorite tavern, when they were ambushed! The ambushers were all human, except for the large, trollish arm that grabbed Lady Blackbird from the shadows...

Snargle, back on The Owl, was busy setting traps and crawling around through the air ducts. He got a visitor: it was Violet! He was freaked out, but let her on board. She wanted to warn him that Noah was on the warpath. She told him he needed to get the rest of The Owl's crew together and get out of Nightport now! There was a lot of awkward conversation, and an even more awkward hug, and Violet left. Snargle ran around the ship, preparing for the worst. Then it arrived. Noah and his hired thugs showed up. Snargle cut all the lights on the ship and prepared himself. He got several of the thugs with his traps, and the others, he ambushed from the air ducts. In the end, it was just Noah, who was very jumpy at this point. Snargle lured him into the mess, and pushed him into the small, walk-in fridge, slammed and bolted the door. As Noah watched through the tiny window, Snargle changed his shape into something vaguely Noah-like. He walked out to the gangplank and looked down at the rest of Noah's men. Could he trick them?

The Lady, Naomi and Vance were surrounded. A Shadowblood troll had just grabbed Lady Blackbird and was dragging her back into the shadows. Vance used his Warpblood to teleport Lady Blackbird to safety (?) on the top of a nearby lamp-post. Naomi confronted the troll. She'd fought trolls before, and made quick work of him, pounding his skull into pulp. Kale stumbled across the scene, heading to the same tavern as the Captain. He grabbed the rickshaw from the rickshaw boy and ran to help the others. Lady Blackbird summoned up a strong wind to clear a path for Kale. She jumped down from the lamp-post and she and Naomi started running to the ship. Vance hopped in the back of the rickshaw and Kale grabbed ahold of it and started running. Vance laid down some suppressive fire to keep the thugs from following or getting too close.

They got back to the docks to find The Owl surrounded and Noah walking down from inside the ship. Snargle, pretending to be Noah, hoped that the Captain would not shoot him without asking questions first. Everyone got onto the ship and Vance walked up to Noah/Snargle and realized right away that it was Snargle... the goblin was not very good at making a perfect shape-shifting disguise, so his "Noah" had a goblin-ish skin tone and Snargle's yellow eyes. Noah/Snargle told the men to stand down. He was going to have a meeting with Captain Vance. The Owl closed up and took off.

Snargle quickly and snivelingly told Vance what had happened and begged not to be shot. Vance told him there'd be no shooting. At this point there were a couple of refreshment scenes, but I can't quite remember the particulars (maybe some of the players can pipe in and help me out.) There was some history set out between Vance and Noah having served together in the Imperial Navy. I also remember a nice little exchange. Kale was being cagey about what was in the box... he was loathe to tell anyone about the clockwork monkey until he had a chance to examine it.

Kale (to the Captain): I would never endanger the ship.
Snargle (sotto voce): What about the crew?

Vance let Noah out of the freezer and they had a nice talk where the Captain let Noah know he was their prisoner for the time being. Noah was not happy, but resigned to his fate. He was locked up in the extra berth.

The note from August Cross was opened. It contained a set of coordinates. Snargle looked at them and was concerned. They were up. Way up. Like, up near the edge of where the atmosphere was. He'd never flown so high before. The Owl could handle it, it was just... strange. He had no idea what could be up there. So up they went, through the cloud-deck and above it. Eventually, the clouds were far below them, and they saw something queer: stars. The sky above them was dark, and stars flickered. Everyone was glued to the portholes.

Then as they approached the coordinates, they saw something. A chunk of rock. On that chunk of rock: a lighthouse, with its light sweeping through the dark sky...

More to come after the next game in two weeks.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Demons of Finlay

I really want to play in, or run, a game of Sorcerer for which which these are the illustrations.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Lady Blackbird - Session 1, Part 2

Lady Blackbird - Session 1, Part 2

We had taken a break and started up again with a refreshment scene. Captain Vance and Lady Blackbird were in the galley (with Naomi lurking nearby, keeping an eye on Cyrus) drinking some tea. There was polite palaver and some apologies. Eventually the rest of the crew joined them and they discussed the next step.

Fuel was still low. Snargle was pretty sure they wouldn't make it to Haven with what little they had. Kale suggested they try and contact Noah who was likely in the area. Snargle seemed a bit dubious. Noah, we discovered, what the captain of The Kestrel, another smuggling ship. He had a bit of history with Cyrus and The Owl. Most recently, The Owl had taken over a client from Noah, and a rather lucrative contract. When they had last met, at Nightport , there were words and blows exchanged, but as Cyrus pointed out "no one got shot". Snargle sent out a coded signal to The Kestrel, and they waited.

Eventually, they were contacted, by Violet, the pilot of The Kestrel (insert non-stop "Violet-the-pilot" comments here). It turned out that Snargle had a bit of a crush on Violet, and Paul really played the shy Snargle to the hilt. There was an awkward conversation between them until finally Cyrus showed up, got Noah on the wireless, and they got down to business. The Owl was hauling some spirits from Olympia, in particular several barrels of 120 year old brandy, and six bottles of Ambrosia wine. Cyrus was willing to trade those for some fuel. Noah seemed amicable to the trade and they agreed to rendezvous in a few hours.

(It wasn't until the drive home after the game that I realized we had a burgeoning, perhaps one-sided relationship between and goblin and human named Violet... where had I heard that before? Oh yeah, the sample characters from The Shadow of Yesterday. I swear, I didn't plan it. I just grabbed one of the names off the list. I think Snargle has a better chance than Oliphant though... at some point, I don't remember exactly when in the game, Violet agreed to meet up with Snargle someday, for a drink maybe.)

The Kestrel showed up and hovered next to The Owl and the ships lowered their gangways to each other, and the captains met outside. Cyrus noticed that Noah seemed to have more thugs/muscle on his ship than he'd had before and in fact brought three of them over to The Owl, which was sort of against the smuggler's code. They inspected the goods but Noah seem dissatisfied. He hinted that there needed to be more in their trade... he wanted the Lady Blackbird!

(I have to admit, I took this idea from Paul. He made an off-handed comment about how it would suck if there was a bounty out for Lady Blackbird. I thought to myself "it would suck indeed... for you guys!" So yeah, bounty on Lady Blackbird, and The Owl too I guess.)

Cyrus played dumb, and stalled, while Snargle, who'd been listening from the bridge, called Lady Blackbird and Naomi in their berth and warned them. The two snuck to the gun turret and crammed themselves in. Noah's thugs searched The Owl, finding some of the smuggling compartments, but they didn't find the women (they were not the sharpest of goons). Noah was not happy, but took the wine and brandy and left, but warned Cyrus that he'd be keeping on eye on him. Everyone on The Owl breathed a sigh of relief when The Kestrel flew off, after giving them their much needed fuel. Snargle said bye to Violet.

Finally, they made it to Haven. Lady Blackbird, Naomi, and Cyrus headed off to the Boarshead Tavern, where the Lady was to meet her contact, Silas Quinn. He told them that there had been some trouble in the Remnants, some sort of pirate civil war. Uriah Flint was there, but the way to his hold was hidden. He suggested that she travel to Nightport, and find a man named August Cross, who was an information broker. If anyone could help her, it was this man Cross.

In the meantime, Kale had been going to various shops, buying supplies for the ship; food, parts, and other necessities. He also met some of his underworld contacts and took a job. There was a box, locked, about four feet long, by two, by two. He was to deliver it to a certain person in Nightport and would be paid handsomely, and in fact, got a chunk of change upfront. Kale decided not to mention this job to the captain until they were on their way. I assume Snargle was daydreaming about Violet during this time. Actually, he was fiddling with the ship, but I'm sure daydreaming was involved.

The ship was en route to Nightport. It was night, and everyone was in bed. Snarlge was in his hammock-like bag in the cockpit, and was awakened by a blipping sound. There were ships on the sonar! Three of them, closing fast! He shouted over the com and everyone scrambled, dashing to the helm. The three ships were The Kestrel (naturally), The Raven, and The Sparrow (these last two ships were captained by associates of Noah).

Snargle hailed The Kestrel, and a rather apologetic Violet answered. Cyrus demanded to talk to Noah, but Violet said her captain had nothing to say, and cut the transmission. Cyrus ran to the turret, and prepared for battle. He targeted The Sparrow's bridge, and the 37mm blew a hole through it. The Sparrow started to sink, and Cyrus hailed Noah, saying if The Kestrel and Raven, didn't back off, they'd follow The Sparrow down to the Lower Depths. The ships backed off, and Noah again warned that he'd be keeping his eye on Cyrus. The two ships headed down to try and rescue The Sparrow. The Owl continued on its way to Nightport. That's where we wrapped things up for the night.

So later this month we're going to meet up again and see what happens when the gang gets to Nightport. Gotta say, it was a helluva fun game. Everyone really got a chance for their character to shine, and there was some crazy-cool action.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Lady Blackbird - Session 1, Part 1

Last night I ran a session of Lady Blackbird. What follows is an account of the game.

I had five players, so all the roles were taken. Lady Blackbird was played by Randy, and really did a lot with her Stormblood abilities. Tammy played Naomi, and was scary. James took the roll of Captain Cyrus Vance, and played him with panache. Chris was the sneaky and clever Kale, and Paul was Snargle, and really brought the funny to the table.

They started out in the brig of The Hand of Sorrow, in cells with electrified bars, while two somewhat disinterested guard played cribbage nearby. Plans were hatched, and the cribbage playing of the guards was constantly criticized by Cyrus. Snargle changed his color to match the metal bulkhead. He then squeezed between the bars and jumped up to a steam-pipe that ran along the ceiling. He dropped down next to the control panel that electrified the cells and turned off the juice. Then many things happened at once.

Kale picked the lock of the cell he and the Captain were in, and Cyrus dashed out towards one of the guards. Naomi kicked the cell door off its hinges of the cell holding her and Lady Blackbird. She dashed out, grabbed one the guards and snapped his neck. Cyrus, using a length of chain from one of the bunks in the cell (Naomi was kind enough to tear the chain from the bunk for him earlier) rushed the other guard. Sadly, Snargle thought he was being helpful by tripping the guard, who fell at Cyrus' feet and under the chain's swing. The guard then gave the Captain ye-olde-groin-punch, and drew his rapier. He never go a chance to use it, since Naomi came up behind him and snapped *his* neck. Yikes.

The Captain hatched a plan of escape. Snargle and Kale would wear the guards jackets and be leading to their commanding officer. He knew a way up to the upper deck of The Hand of Sorrow that should be lightly patrolled. Kale was working on booby trapping the door to the brig, using some wire to electrify the door, when the communication panel in the room crackled, asking for Private Bell, now being played by Snargle. The goblin altered his voice and answered. He was told, by Captain Hollis, to prepare the prisoners for transportation. Troops would be sent down momentarily to escort them to interrogation. It was time to go!

Cutting through the galley, and down some nearly empty corridors, the group made their way up to the deck of The Hand of Sorrow About two hundred yards away was The Owl. Between them and their boat was a platoon of troops practicing marching drills. Behind them, another platoon doing fencing practice.

Lady Blackbird summoned up a bolt of lightning, and blasted a fuel depot on the other end of The Hand of Sorrow, hoping to cause enough of a distraction to let herself and the others slip unnoticed to The Owl . Well, the best laid plans... She indeed blew up the depot, but the lightning got a bit out of control and surged in all directions, with her at the epicenter. Not terribly subtle. Then an alarm went off. Prisoners had escaped! Uh-oh. Plan B was enacted : run like hell to The Owl!

Running and jumping over prone troops (with Naomi carrying the exhausted Lady Blackbird, and Cyrus hobbling along with his groin injury), they finally made it to the boat. The four men guarding The Owl prepared to do battle, but the Captain shot two of the men dead and ordered the other two to hook up a fuel line to The Owl, which was almost running on fumes before they were captured. As Snargle pulled The Owl away from the larger ship, the fuel hose disconnected and sprayed flammable liquid all over the deck of the Hand of Sorrow. A well placed ricochet shot by the Captain ignited it, and they were off!

Snargle dropped The Owl down underneath The Hand of Sorrow and set course back towards Haven. Then a dozen small blips appeared on short range sonar. Imperial Dragonflies! (I see the Dragonflies as being very similar to the "flaptors" from Miyazaki's "Castle in the Sky.")

The Dragonflies opened fire on The Owl. Kale modified the engine output to create a huge trail of black smoke, while Snargle tipped the nose of the boat down, diving towards the Lower Depths. The Captain manned the 37mm. Eventually, with The Owl skimming across the surface of the Lower Depths, the number of Dragonflies dropped to two (Lady Blackbird had joined the Captain in the cramped gun turret and had sent strong, short gusts of wind at the smaller craft, forcing them to fall back, or crash into each other). Cyrus was having an impossible time hitting the last two with the cannon. He pulled his two pistols out, and with Lady Blackbird's help, using her wind magic, he took out the last two Dragonflies.

Flush with victory, Cyrus turned to Lady Blackbird and kissed her on the cheek. She drew back and smacked him across the face, and climbed down from the gunnery turret in a huff...

OK, that's enough for now. More coming soon!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Arcus and the Eyes of Chaos

With Ed over this past weekend, another session of Barbarians of Lemuria was played. Another nice, short game, clocking it at about 2 1/2 hours.

Arcus Thaal had traveled to Oomis for a bit of trading (he is a merchant these days) and met up with his old friend and mentor, Tarune. Tarune, who had taught Arcus the trade years ago in Satarla, had retired to Oomis, and owned a rather nice manse in the heart of the city.

The two caught up, laughing about old times. Tarune said that he had a little job, and that it was fortuitous that Arcus had arrived in Oomis when he had; he needed someone he could trust. A client had hired Tarune to find the lost temple of Malfasgiar of the Eleven Eyes, the Lady of Chaos, and retrieve the 11 rubies that made up the eyes of her statue.

Arcus, along with the laconic guide, Larn, trekked into the Jungles of Qush on kroark-back. After a few days, they found the temple. Arcus entered via a crack in the domed roof, and all was going perfectly; he'd found the statue and the rubies, as well as an offering bowl filled with uncut black diamonds. Then the Grooth arrived...

They had ambushed Larn outside the temple and was dragging him into the temple. Arcus had scampered up the rope and was dangling near the ceiling. The leader of the Grooth noticed the Eyes of Malfasgiar missing and began shouting. He looked up and saw Arcus, who held up one of the Eyes for the brute to see, and with a wave and a smile, exited through the hole in the roof.

Arcus ran across the roof, towards the entrance. He had noticed a bunch of loose stones when he had climbed up earlier, and now pried them loose. As the Grooth ran out of the temple, he pelted them with stones, taking out over half of them. He then swung down into the temple, rapier in hand. He was outnumbered, but his swordplay was too much for the uncouth savages, and they were handily dispatched. Larn was merely unconscious, and when he came to, the he and Arcus quickly left the temple.

They returned to Oomis several days later. Tarune and Arcus celebrated far into the night. Eventually, Arcus stumbled off to bed, but he did not sleep long. He was awakened by Jalandra, Tarune's lovely slave girl. She seemed frightened. She was there to warn Arcus that her master was insane, and that he had sent an assassin to kill Arcus. As if on cue, the shuttered window smashed open and a man, dressed all in black, wielding a Kir, jumped in.

Arcus disarmed the assassin, but the man was nearly as deadly without his knife as with. Eventually Arcus got ahold of his rapier and stabbed the assassin through the heart. Jalandra quickly told Arcus that Tarune was in league with the Yellow Druid who secretly ruled the city, and that he was gripped by the Madness of Morgazzon. He was now performing some dark ritual with the Eyes of Malfasgiar. She begged Arcus to take her with him, away from house of madness

They dashed down the hall, and looked down from a balcony into Tarune's study. The man was standing in the center of a magic circle. Eleven of his servants were lying dead around him, and on the breast of each one was one of the Eyes. As Arcus and Jalandra watched, the bodies melted and warped, wrapping around the Eyes, and transforming into eye-tipped tentacles. Arcus tried to use magic of his own to plant the Kir he had taken from the slain assassin into Tarune's chest, but a tentacle of Malfasgiar swatted it aside. Cursing, Arcus jumped down off the balcony and started cutting and slashing his way towards Tarune. Finally, he stood just outside the magic circle, and his friend turned towards him, madness and hatred in his eyes. Arcus knew there was nothing he could do, other than slay his old friend, so he did.

The remaining tentacles burst into flames, catching the books and shelves and tapestries in the study on fire. Arcus grabbed one of the Eyes (figuring if somehow the other Eyes survived the fire, no one would be able to perform the ritual again) and climbed back up to Jalandra, and the two of the escaped into the pre-dawn.

Three days later, they were on the galley Arcus had chartered, in the Gulf of Satarla. Jalandra had a confession for Arcus; she was the daughter of King Keldon of Oomis. Her father was under the spell of the Yellow Druid Ilkthar. The Druid's staunchest ally, Tarune, had wanted her, so she was given to him. She wanted nothing more than to find a way to overthrow the Druid and save her father. Arcus said he would help her in any way he could. They sailed off towards Satarla...

So once again, Barbarians of Lemuia delivers the goods. Another fun little scenario. I was a little concerned that the combats, especially the fight with the Grooth would be too tough, but Ed played smart and sneaky so it worked out perfectly. I'll have to start scheming up the next game. I wonder if it should be Arcus trying to help Princess Jalandra save her father. Hmmm...

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Flex Mentallo vs. Watchmen: Bet On The Muscles

(This is double-posted from my boring non-gaming blog here.)

A few months ago I happened upon a torrent of the comic _Flex Mentallo_ by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely. It's a mixed-up, trippy, postmodern superhero fable, twisted and kind of beautiful. I enjoyed it.

Not until reading this essay did I consider that it is also a kind of rebuttal of Watchmen, the Dark Knight, and all such Dark, Gritty Superhero Comics.

As Comics for Serious quotes:
"Only a bitter little adolescent boy could confuse realism with pessimism."

-The Hoaxer

I dig Watchmen, I do. I'm gonna have to go see that movie, despite the fact that I virtually never see any movies. But in the back of my mind is going to be Flex Mentallo, Man of Muscle Mystery.

The thing about Flex Mentallo is that acknowledges all the cynicism, it faces it squarely -- reading the endnotes in issues 2 and 4 gives as a history of the fictional Flex Mentallo comic as cynical and messed up as anyone could possibly come up with -- and it walks straight through it with a smile on its face and hope in its heart, to the other side.

I'm actually not a huge comics dude. I probably know multiple people who have literally read hundreds or thousands of times more comics than I have. I haven't ever written or drawn my own superhero comics, in the main, but I have come up with many superheroes, because one of the roleplaying games I played a lot as a kid was Villains and Vigilantes, one of the earliest superhero RPGs. And reading Flex Mentallo, and watching it name-drop dozens and dozens of nonce superheroes, gave me that feeling of the excitement of coming up with characters and villains for V&V and Champions back in the day. There's something special there, some kind of magic creating them.

I'm thinking of the self-consciously cheesy/retro game Jim and I ran in college, my character Phantom Fighter with the ability to phase out like Kitty Pride, and his martial arts telescoping staff/nunchuks... The Villainous Doctor Crime... and back much earlier, when I was in high school, maybe even middle school, my brother's streetwise martial artist, Archangel .... I remember getting out How To Draw Comics the Marvel Way from the library, and drawing endless heroes, animal-powered, semi-robotic, flying, diving, armored, armed, magical, mutant, scientific, alien, interdimensional.... All that stuff came back to me reading Flex Mentallo.

Maybe it's the traces of fever I think I still am running today, from the flu that won't go away. Or maybe there's really something there.

Who wants to play some V&V?

Friday, February 06, 2009

Starving Artist Needs Gigs

Ed here. I need to look for sources of extra cash, and every little bit counts; illustrating the cover for Thy Vernal Chieftains was helpful and if there is anybody else out there who needs to buy some art, drop me a line. edheil at fastmail dot fm.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Arcus Against the Black Druids

The other day, I finally got a chance to run Barbarians of Lemuria with Ed, and what follows is a run-down of the game. First off, I have to say, that it was pretty awesome. Really a breeze to run, and a lot of fun.

Ed made his character, Arcus Thaal, a former noble from Parsool. He had begun dabbling in magic, much to the chagrin of his Tyrus-born mother, who disowned him. For a few years he led a hard life as a thief, eventually turning to a more honorable profession, that of merchant, and settling in Satarla, specializing in the finding and selling of antiquated and magical curios.

The game started with Arcus being hired by a lovely noblewomen, Alastriona. A package had come to her by ship from Urceb, and had been stolen by a group of thugs, the Blood Shadow gang. She desperately wanted the package back, was offered Arcus quite a bit of gold.

He went undercover in a tavern in the seediest part of Satarla, and making use of his carousing trait, made contact with the thieves, pretending to be interested in buying strange and/or mystical items. They set up a a midnight meeting at the gang's hideout.

When he arrived, all the thugs had been beaten and knocked out. In the back room of the hideout, he found out why... a woman, a thief, had beaten him here. She had the package and took off through a window. Arcus realized that he had seen her earlier at the tavern. Had she been there too, trying to find out where the package was? Had she overheard him making a deal to meet with the Blood Shadows? Also, he was able to give a name to her face; Zaydara, a well known thief of both treasures and hearts.

He chased her across the rooftops of Satarla, keeping her in sight, but making sure she did not know he was following. Finally, she entered an inn, and he followed her inside. She was not in the common room, so he assumed she was upstairs. He confirmed this with the landlord while renting a room for himself, right across the hall from her. He planned on waiting until she was asleep, then break into her room and steal the package back.

After some time, he went upstairs to his room, and through her door he heard the crack of a whip and a muffled cry. He kicked the door to her room in! There she was naked and bound and surrounded by... Black Druids! It appeared that were getting ready to torture and kill her. Arcus would not allow such a lovely lady, even a professional rival, to die at the hands of those foul Druids! He waded into the room, cutlass and dagger in hand, cutting them down quite handily, using hero points to turn successes into mighty successes.

After freeing her, Zaydara told him that the leader of the Druids, one that the acolytes had called Adranath Va'al, had taken the package to the docks, where a ship awaited to take them away under the stealth of night. The two of them made their way swiftly to the docks. Along the way she explained that she had been hired by someone else to find and steal the package, but she had no idea that the Black Druids were behind it.

They found the boat in question and snuck aboard. The lead Druid, Adranath, came from below deck to talk to the captain. This was their chance. Arcus summoned up magical fire and set the sails on fire, causing a distraction, while Zaydara, cudgel in hand, started fighting the sailors. Arcus leapt into action, rushing Adranath Va'al with his blades. The Druid was too quick for him and side stepped his attack. The Druid then called upon the foul name of Tharungozoth, and a dozen shadowy tendrils, tipped with obsidian curved claws appeared around Arcus, cutting and gashing him. Things were not looking good for Arcus.

Then he got a brilliant idea. Since the Druid was too quick for him to hit, he decided to take the Druid, at least temporarily, out of the picture. Again calling upon his arcane arts, he caused the mast of the ship to swing at the Druid, hitting him and knocking him from the deck of the ship into the cold water of the bay. With the leader of the Druids gone, Arcus took care of the acolytes and the rest of the sailors. He and Zaydara left one standing and told him if he wanted to leave the burning ship alive, he would get the package that the Druids had brought aboard for them. The man complied and they all got off the ship, which was now completely ablaze.

Arcus thought to tell the city guard that there was a Black Druid in the water and to apprehend him, but when he scanned the dark water for Adranath Va'al, there was no sign of him. Had the Druid drowned, or had he escaped? Arcus had the feeling he had not seen the last of the Druid.

He and Zaydara parted ways, and Arcus promised to bring her a portion of his payment for all her help that evening. The next afternoon, Arcus called upon Alastriona at her home, where he discovered that she was an alchemist. She showed him the contents of the package. It was a silvery-green metal tablet; the Tanshazgar Tablet. Actually it was only one part of five. She had another of the tablets. When they were all brought together, and the code they were written in was deciphered, it was said to tell the secret of making the mythical metal, janium. The game ended here, with Arcus and Alastriona sharing a passionate kiss...

Whew. That was the game, basically. I'm sure I skimmed over some minor stuff. Again, nice and easy to run. Of course, I've read over the rule book several times, absorbing the setting. Also in the last three weeks I've read the first three of the Thongor books, as well as the first two collections of the Savage Sword of Conan comics, so I've got the genre crammed into my brain.