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Thursday, January 31

Welcome to the Show: Part 6 – The Academy

“Welcome, ladies,” shouted the drill sergeant. “You’re about to embark on a wonderful journey into a little place I call home. You? You’re going to call it hell.

“Throughout the next five years, I am going to make you suffer as you have never suffered before. Oh sure, you’re all bad asses, I know, I know. You think it’s not going to be that tough. You think I’m not going to break you. Hell, I don’t have to break a sweat. You’ll do that on your own.

“In the next few years, we’re going to beat you, torture you, terrorize you, and then when you think you’re going to die, we’ll start all over. And if you’re not tough enough, we’re going to kill you. You think I’m kidding, assholes? Look behind me.”

The drill sergeant pointed to a four-story needle of the flattest black.

“That spire has the real names of over two thousand cadets and black ops who died honorably in training or duty. The last time you were that person was when you stepped onto this campus. The next time you become that person is when that name is inscribed on the Spire.” He stared ominously. “Some of you will be up there soon. And those of you who aren’t will be envying the ones who are.” ["_blank">MORE]

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Wednesday, January 30

Firebrand!

http://www.firebrand.com

So you no longer have to slog through YouTube to find commercials.

Firebrand, the hottest spots from the coolest brands, on TV, web and mobile, will celebrate “the Holiest Day in Advertising,” with the launch of its first national holiday campaign, “The Road to Firebrand Monday.” The multi-million dollar media buy will include spots on cable networks like MTV, G4, Sci Fi and VHI, as well as online video placements on TVGuide.com, YouTube, MySpace and Facebook, among others.

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FreeCreditReport.com Commercial

This commercial makes me laugh.



They say a man should always dress for the job he wants
so why am I dressed up like a pirate in this restaurant?
It’s all because some hacker stole my identity.
Now I’m in here every evening serving chowder and iced tea.
Should have gone to freecreditreport.com (yeehaa!)
I could have seen this coming at me like an atom bomb.
They monitor your credit and send you email alerts.
So you don’t end up selling fish to tourists in t-shirts.

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Madness in Freeport - Part 1h: The Sea Lord’s Palace

“I do indeed,” said Gwendolyn. “I’ve heard many odd things.”

Kham slowly spun her out and then brought her back to him. “Such as?”

“Strange noises and lights from the top of the lighthouse,” she said. “And strange dead things at the bottom.”

“Now that’s interesting. What kind of dead things.”

“Two horrible creatures with the head of an owl and the body of a bear,” she said with the slightest hint of a frown.

Kham couldn’t keep from staring at her hair. It really was a dark shade of green. “Owlbears,” he said matter-of-factly. [MORE]

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Tuesday, January 29

Welcome to the Show: Part 5e – Joe’s Story

"What's this all about?"

"You and I seem to be working towards the same goal. We need to find whatever it is that's murdering people. And according to what you just told Detective Gallagher, we think you're on to something." She smiled. "Of course, I wouldn't have come out and explained the whole thing to the police."

"They threw me out."

"As well they should. You see, Mister Fontaine, we believe in dealing with these sorts of matters more...discreetly." [MORE]

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Monday, January 28

Madness in Freeport - Part 1g: The Sea Lord’s Palace

Beldin nodded back at him. “Beldin Soulforge. The Bloody Sea, hmm? That’s the name of your ship?” He continued to sip from his mug.

Xavier chuckled. “Aye. Tho I suppose ye wouldn’t know o' such things, bein' a dwarf an' all.”

“Mi 'aladhremmin Onara,” sang Ilmarė. She spoke of wandering amid the tree-woven lands of Onara.

“Don’t be so sure,” said Beldin. He peered into the contents of his mug. “I’ve had my share of sharks. Even eaten sea urchin once.” [MORE]

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Sunday, January 27

Welcome to the Show: Part 5d – Joe’s Story

"The first appearance of the name Azazel is in Leviticus 16:8. Basically, God orders Aaron to place lots upon two goats, reserving one for God and one for Azazel. The first goat set aside for God is sacrificed. Aaron takes the second goat, the one for Azazel, places his hands on it, and makes confession for all of the Israelites. Then he leads the goat out into the wilderness and leave it there. That's where we get the term scapegoat."

Gallagher laughed. "You learn something new every day! What does this have to do with the Jackson case?"

"In short, Azazel is an eater of sins. And X-investigations believes that there may be a possessed demon hopping from body to body..."

Gallagher stopped laughing. "You're serious?" He took a long slurp of his coffee, put it down on counter where the cop was still leering at Silvie's calendar, and jabbed a finger in Joe's chest. "Do you know how much crazy stuff I see down here? If you haven't noticed, Mister New York City, this is New Orleans. We don't need demonic possession as an excuse to kill each other down here. You keep that up and they'll start saying the loa did it!"

"I didn't mean to--"

"Yeah, yeah." Gallagher pointed for the door. "Get out of here before I change my mind." [MORE]

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Saturday, January 26

Madness in Freeport - Part 1f: The Sea Lord’s Palace



Their conversation was interrupted as they switched places in the quadrille. Ilmarė had to wait until she was facing Arias again.

“You mean Anton?” Ilmarė turned caught Arias’ hand again. He was an excellent dancer. “Wasn’t he assassinated?”

“Yes,” said Arias with a frown. “Milton’s much more interested in a neutral Freeport, and that’s turned out to be a rather lucrative arrangement for our people.”

“Lucrative how?”

“We have exclusive rights to all shipping for material to build that lighthouse of his,” said Arias.

“Whatever would the Sea Lord want with a lighthouse?” asked Ilmarė, feigning ignorance.

Arias laughed. Ilmarė hated the sound. “I have no idea, but it doesn’t really matter. As you well know, m’lady, long life has its advantages. We’ll enjoy the Sea Lord’s money long after he’s dead!” He laughed again, as if the jest wasn’t in appalling taste.

“Charming,” said Ilmarė. [MORE]

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Friday, January 25

Welcome to the Show: Part 5b – Joe’s Story

Joe flashed her a pained smile. "The agency I work for is often one step ahead of the police. I'm more interested in what you reported. You said you shot your assailant?"

"Y-yes," said Dawson. "I shot him."

"How many times?"

She looked confused.

"Ms. Dawson? How many bullets did you fire at the man who attacked you?"

"...all of them," she said after a moment.[MORE]

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Thursday, January 24

Madness in Freeport: Part 1e: The Sea Lord’s Palace

Kham zeroed in on a pretty blonde in a midnight blue gown. A single gold ring adorned her right hand.

“That’s a beautiful stone,” he said, sidling up to her.

She met him with a ready smile. “You’re too kind. I’m Petra Fricke.”

“Kham val’Abebi,” said Kham, kissing her hand in greeting. "Shall I have the pleasure?"

“I’d be delighted,” she said with the same sparkling smile.

They made their way to the dance floor as the next song commenced. It was a slow waltz.

“It’s funny you should mention stones,” said Petra. “Are you a craftsman?”

“I know many trades,” Kham turned her slowly about. “Why do you ask?”

“I’m the leader of the Craftsmen Guild in Freeport,” she said.

Kham held up one of Petra’s manicured hands as she waltzed around him. “You don’t have the hands of a craftsman.”

Petra giggled. “Alas, we have not received much work in the past three years.”

“Don’t tell me.” Kham caught her by the waist and resumed the waltz. “This has to do with the lighthouse.”

“It does indeed,” said Petra with a coy smile. “The craftsmen are being left out some lucrative work. Instead, Drac brings in orcs from outside of Freeport.”

The music slowly faded to a stop. Kham bowed before Petra. “Thank you very much for the dance.”

Petra put one hand to her mouth and tittered. “I think we shall meet again, Kham val’Abebi.”

He led her off the dance floor. “I certainly hope so,” said Kham with a wink. Seconds later, Kham walked straight towards a green-haired beauty at the other side of the room. [MORE]

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Wednesday, January 23

Welcome to the Show: Part 5b – Joe’s Story

"So did the guy comp you?"

"Volk? He's a kook. Or he was one...then something ate him."

"Ate him? What kind of thing ate him?"

"A Mardis Gras float...look, it's complicated. We’re crossing some serious occult territory. I’ll explain when I get back…"

"No, we've got something else. This one's big."

"So is Volk. Did you not hear the part about something eating him?" [MORE]

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Tuesday, January 22

Second Draft of Dun Completed!

I've now got a proposal-ready draft of my modern horror novel, Dun, and will begin pitching it this week to agents.

Combining Japanese-style viral horror with the creeping dread of Robert W. Chambers’ The King in Yellow, Dun posits the question: What if years of subliminal advertising could be subverted to drive you mad? An unwitting couple, struggling to determine the future of their long-distance relationship, discovers the answer on a cruise ship when a video that drives people crazy is unleashed. It’s up to the FBI to get to the bottom of the conspiracy before the Brotherhood of the Yellow Sign releases the video on its final target: the world’s biggest conference center in Salt Lake City.

Special thanks to Fred Durbin, author of Dragonfly, who gave the book a thorough edit. Wish me luck!

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Madness in Freeport - Part 1d: The Sea Lord’s Palace

Vlad looked over at the Council seats arrayed in the center of the room. “Which seat is yours?”

Baldric hushed him. “About that. Listen, lad. I may be havin' overstated me candidacy fer th' Captain’s Council. I thought I had a lock on 't, but now thar’s an e'en greater chance that I might get th' position.”

Vlad took a sip of a wine glass that a servant placed in front of him. “How?”

“Ye know,” Baldric whispered, “now that one o’ them be gone.” He raised his voice when Thuron looked over. “Nay t' speak ill o' th' dead, praise be Yarris!”

Vlad shook his head. “Politics.”

“It is said that in politics,” said Thuron, “your enemies can’t hurt you, but your friends can kill you.”[MORE]

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Monday, January 21

Welcome to the Show: Part 5a – Joe’s Story

Joe waited a moment for Volk to leave, then walked over to the window. He was much more interested in Mardi Gras festivities than the ramblings of a boring professor.

The parade was passing just outside the main entrance to the hotel. A moment later, Dr. Volk appeared in front of the restaurant. He paused briefly to look both ways over the crowds and then descended down some stairs to his left into the street. At the same moment, a huge dragon float was passing by. The hair stood up on the back of Joe's neck. Something was wrong.

The head of the float bobbed stiffly this way and that, and occasionally a little puff of steam escaped its mouth. As it passed Dr. Volk, the head bobbed quickly towards him and then away again.

Dr. Volk was gone. Joe looked around for him.

He spotted a pair of legs protruding from the mouth of the dragon. [MORE]

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Sunday, January 20

Madness in Freeport - Part 1c: The Sea Lord’s Palace

Marcus laughed out loud. “He’s Drac’s crony. Drac recently sent Melkior to the mainland and came back with something strange.”

“What kind of strange?”

“Candles made of yellow wax and engraved with magical symbols.”

“Summoning candles,” said Ilmarė. She squinted over at Drac, who was in deep conversation with Melkior.

“That’s what I fear,” said Marcus. His frown shifted to a broad smile. “I used to support the Sea Lord, but these past few years, he’s really turned out to be quite the snake.”

“You have no idea,” said Ilmarė.[MORE]

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Saturday, January 19

Welcome to the Show: Part 4d – Hank’s Story

As they entered Hank’s room, Hector closed the door. His demeanor changed.

“Now Hank, I want you to listen to me very carefully. Because there’s a video camera on us, I’m going to keep my back to it. But the camera can see you, so you have to remain calm. Okay?”

Hank swallowed hard. What the hell was going on?

“Sit down on the bed please.”

Hank stiffly reclined onto his bed.

Hector rattled the bottle of medication in his hands. “First, I want you to know that I believe you. I think something did happen in Belize that you’ve never quite recovered from.”

Hank nodded.

“Second, because of that experience, I am authorized to extend an offer to join a very elite organization.” Hector held up one hand to forestall any other questions. “Hear me out first.”

He handed Hank a plastic cup of water and two pills on a napkin. [MORE]

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Friday, January 18

Madness in Freeport - Part 1b: The Sea Lord’s Palace

The room erupted in applause. Milton handed each of them a gold medal with a pirate ship engraved on it.

Vlad and Beldin accepted their award without comment. Ilmarė’s lip curled, but she kept her tongue.

“Nice speech,” said Kham.

Drac merely shook Kham’s hand with a smile. They were shown to a table near the dais, and the music and merriment began.

“Now what?” asked Vlad out of the corner of his mouth.

“Now,” said Kham, “you learn to duel without your sword.” He grabbed a bottle of wine, two glasses, and disappeared into the crowd. [MORE]

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Thursday, January 17

Welcome to the Show: Part 4c – Hank’s Story

Mal held up a hand. “That’s okay, that’s okay. You’re a good boy, Hank. You’re saner than the rest of us in here, including the Doc. You shouldn’t be here. You should be outside.”

“But…it’s so hard…”

“Oh, I know.” He patted Hank on the back. “I know it is. But life’s not like those comic books you’re so fond of. Life’s hard. Don’t worry; you’ve got skills to compensate. You’re the only one who doesn’t call me uncle in this joint, so that’s something.” He smiled. [MORE]

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Wednesday, January 16

Real Antarctic Folks Review The Thing

Being a big Thing fan, I couldn't pass this up:

John Carpenter's "The Thing" is the first important film about industrial American life in the Antarctic. It is based on a short story called "Who Goes There?" by John W. Campbell. (The short story has a fictionalized setting based on Richard Byrd's Antarctic expeditions, which occurred from 1929 onward.) The movie is enjoyed at the stations as a rich Antarctic document, interwoven with classic Antarctic myths and probably accidental accuracies, but it is scarcely recognized off-continent beyond old-school horror fans. (In his otherwise comprehensive book "The Ice", Antarctic academic Stephen Pyne remarks only that the movie is "clumsily filmed".) Made in the '80s, with analog, plaster, and an ocean of fake blood and bile, with decapitated heads that grow spiderlegs, with flamethrowers used safely indoors, the horror movie's lurching technicalities and gruesome thrills have long shielded the picture from the stingy praise of Antarctic stamp-collectors and other tuck-shirted buffs.

To alleviate this stifling gridlock of cinematic injustice, Big Dead Place offers this All-John-Carpenter's-"The Thing"-Review Section. We encourage you to watch the movie and send us your review. The movie was shot in Vancouver B.C. If this timeless Antarctic film does not quibble about location, why should you? There are no geographic prerequisites. Reviews from tropical islands are encouraged, provided they are even barely coherent and somehow treat the film's Antarctic-ness. [MORE]

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posted by Michael Tresca at 10:50 PM | 0 comments links to this post


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Madness in Freeport - Part 1a: The Sea Lord’s Palace

“I’ve never been to a ball before,” said Vlad out of the corner of his mouth. He wore a vest of leather studded with polished brass rivets. Over the armor he wore a military coat that ended just above the knee, snug gray pants beneath, and black riding boots. Vlad also wore black gloves and a top hat. He wore his sword belt, but his weapon was left at the door.

The landscaping within was well tended, with tall trees and numerous gardens of flowers. They traversed a white stone path that led from the gates to the palace beyond.

“It’s easy,” said Kham. “Smile and ask women to dance. They’re not allowed to say no.”

Ilmarė snorted.

“Really?” asked Vlad.

“Really,” said Kham. “It’d be impolite.”[MORE]

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Tuesday, January 15

DVD Review: Next

Throughout the movie, Next plays fast and loose with the timeline. At any point in time, we're never sure if we're seeing the future or if Johnson is actually experiencing the future. Depending on your perspective, this is either an interesting twist on the action genre or really annoying. The ending pivots on the phrase, "I made a mistake..."

Was it a mistake? I don't think so. This little movie works with what it has. Sometimes it might overreach, but for the most part it's an exciting science fiction action thriller. [MORE]

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DVD Review: Ocean's Thirteen

There's a lot of problems with Ocean's Thirteen, not the least of which is the superhero status of our Justice League of Swinging Hip Guys. There's too many of them. They're all really rich at this point. And it's hard to conceivably rouse them into action, even if one of their buddies got hurt. Or to put it another way, when Superman can punch you through a wall with his fist, does he really get that upset if you cut him off in traffic? Does he even drive in traffic? [MORE]

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Welcome to the Show - Part 4b – Hank’s Story

It was the summer of 1994, Belize. The University of Pennsylvania, in cooperation with the Programme for Belize, sponsored a field season in the northern part of the country. Hank, along with about sixty other people, went along. The expedition was directed by Dr. Paul Hughbanks, who wanted to complete a new survey of a large, empty stretch of northern Belize, as well as conduct several excavations.

The season was very unlucky, with equipment failures, transportation troubles, and logistical mishaps from the very beginning. After a particular nasty stomach bug swept through camp, the season finally started to look up when a survey team heard rumors of a large, unregistered site in the nearby jungle, a place called El Cacao. There was no record of it, and nobody had ever excavated there or even surveyed the place. Dr. Hughbanks leapt at the news, hoping that a major find might turn their season around.

The only voice of protest raised was Kyle Woodson. Kyle pointed out that the group had no permits to dig at El Cacxao and that drug smugglers were supposed to be lurking in the area. Hughbanks would not be dissuaded, however. He assembled a survey team, and set out on the long hike to El Cacao. The team got to the ruins, only to find that they weren’t deserted…

“No, it wasn’t deserted,” said van Dyson. “The police reports indicate you encountered a large band of cocaine smugglers that were camping among the grounds. Then what happened?”

Hank hesitated. “There was a…misunderstanding. Four students died. They chased us all the way back to the camp.”

“Who chased you?”

Hank lowered his head.

“Who, Hank?”

“The Grays,” he whispered. [MORE]

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Monday, January 14

Chapter 22: Madness in Freeport - Introduction

This is the third in the Freeport series of modules, "Madness in Freeport," written by Chris Pramas and (loosely) set in the Arcanis setting. You can read more about Arcanis at http://www.onaraonline.org. Please note: This adventure contains spoilers!

Our cast of characters includes:

· Dungeon Master: Michael Tresca (http://michael.tresca.net)
· Beldin Soulforge (dwarf fighter) played by Joe Lalumia
· Kham Val’Abebi (val rogue/psychic warrior) played by Jeremy Ortiz (http://www.ninjarobotstudios.com)
· Ilmarė Galen (elf bard/fighter) played by Amber Tresca
· Vlad Martell (human fighter) played by Matt Hammer

We played this adventure immediately after “Terror in Freeport,” in an 10 hour marathon gaming session. Tiles were used, miniatures were used, music was used…it was great.

This adventure consists primarily of four scenes. The first is a fancy ball, heavy on role-playing. It was very interesting, actually, as Kham, Vlad, and Ilmarė were able to get themselves into (and out of) quite a few sticky situations. Mostly, Beldin chased around a frog (trust me, it makes more sense in the story)

The second scene takes place in flooded caverns. This part was long and painful because Quintus wasn’t with the party. It’s also the beginning of Beldin getting seriously messed up, as his stats are drained. And drained. And drained. Kham, our resident pirate, boater, and sailor, tries hard but doesn’t really do much besides let people take on traps. As I’ve mentioned before, our party isn’t all that good at standard dungeon crawls.

So by the time they got to the third scene, the underwater temple, everybody was pretty cranky. The quest was standard “find widget A to get widget B,” which can be a bit boring. That, and Beldin was still a mess. And killing ghosts is hard.

The fourth scene is the payoff though. The battle to the top of the tower was great, especially because we used e-Adventure Round Tower tiles. Ironically, the main bad guy was much less of a threat than his bodyguard N’Tal, who nearly killed the party off by pounding them with evocation spells.

Still, we get a cinematic finish…and you gotta love any adventure that ends with a bang! [MORE]

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Sunday, January 13

Welcome to the Show: Part 4a – Hank’s Story

As Hank reached the trees and looked back for Rachel, a realization hit him. He could hear the shouts, the screams of the dying, the frantic clamor of the birds, even the ragged gasps of his own breathing…but not the gunfire. He stared at one of the men, watching the muzzle flash from his rifle, and realized that it was utterly silent.

He wondered why, but then he was suddenly seated before the review board, the people who were reviewing the incident. They were going through their final statements and a sound reached Hank, like dripping water.

Drip.

He glanced up from his folded hands, looking for the leak.

Drip.

It was Dr. Nowlan—a stream of blood was leaking from his ear into his glass of water, the red blossoming through the still liquid.

Drip.

Hank gasped. They were all bleeding from their ears and looking down at his suit, saw that he was too. [MORE]

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Saturday, January 12

Terror in Freeport - Conclusion

Thuron ran his hands along the moss and chuckled softly to himself. Then he lowered his eyes. “Here I must make a confession. I have lied to you all. I went astray for the best of reasons—but nonetheless I went astray. I can only swear to you I had no part in what you are about to see.”

“Why do I get the feeling,” said Kham, hands in his coat pockets, “that I am not going to be happy about what I see.”

With that, Thuron spoke a few hushed syllables in prayer and slid open a crypt. There was a rush of air, a billow of incense, and they found themselves looking at the body of...Thuron![MORE]

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Friday, January 11

Welcome to the Show: Part 3e – Jake’s Story

Ramirez shrugged. "I have a lot of time on my stake-outs. But I meant no disrespect. What the hell would a crime lord like Alzis want with your son?"

Jake shook his head. "I wish I knew. He wanted me to go see him. He even handed me a plane ticket..."

"A plane ticket?" Ramirez leaned forward. "Let me see it."

Jake fished the ticket out of his vest pocket and put it on the table.

Ramirez snatched it up. "This is good. I can trace this. If he bought it with dirty money, maybe I can figure out how the Network launders it--"

Jake yanked the ticket out of Ramirez's hand. "Not if it endangers my son."

A flash of aggravation crossed Ramirez's face, but he retained his composure. "No, of course not. I'm not married myself, but my brother is. Two kids, cute as pie. What did Alzis say about your son?"

"He told me to be a good father. Said he doesn't want Alex to grow up to be like him."

Ramirez nodded. "So weird Uncle Alzis shows up one day, gives you a plane ticket, and wants you on the first plane back to California." His eyes were wide and bloodshot. "I've never seen this kind of behavior before. Do you know what this is?"

"What?"

"Alzis is AFRAID of you. And Alzis is afraid of no man." [MORE]

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Thursday, January 10

Terror in Freeport - Part 10b: The Temple of Althares

“I don’t like this,” said Egil over the din.

Kham turned, his back to the altar to Althares. “Me neither.” He nodded towards the female cultist. “Say, Thuron?”

“Yes, Kham?”

Everyone stopped talking. Kham hadn’t lowered his pistols. He was focused on the Althares sister.

“Doesn’t your order take a vow of poverty?”

“Yes,” said Thuron.

“Thought so,” said Kham.

BLAM! BLAM! [MORE]

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Wednesday, January 9

Welcome to the Show: Part 3d – Jake’s Story

"Oh good, you're here," said a smooth voice.

Jake turned around to see a thin, fine-looking Arab staring up at him from a nearby table. He was dressed impeccably in a white suit. He indicated the only other chair at the small table. "Please, have a seat."

Jake hesitated, looking back at the band he was responsible for.

"Oh, don't worry, they're quite safe. While at Club Apocalypse, they're under my protection. Please." The man smiled again, but it was the smile of a shark. "Sit."

Jake nodded and slowly lowered himself to the table. There was a drink waiting for him.

"Having something to drink?”

Jake shook his head.

“Oh that's right, no more alcohol for you. A Coke then, hmm?"

Jake looked down. He took an experimental sip. Yep, it was a Coke.

"My name is Stephen. Stephen Alzis. I own the Apocalypse Club." [MORE]

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Tuesday, January 8

Terror in Freeport - Part 10a: The Temple of Althares

“And what of you?” asked Thuron.

“I’m going to stay here,” said Ilmarė, standing between the pews at the center of the temple.

“That is wise,” said Thuron. “Surely, if we pray hard enough, perhaps Althares will protect us.”

Ilmarė snorted. “You misunderstand.” She hopped up onto one of the pews and drew her bow. “I can kill humans better from this vantage point.” [MORE]

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Monday, January 7

Welcome to the Show: Part 3c – Jake’s Story

Jake was standing naked under the night sky in the chill desert mountains. He heard a coyote howl and turned to see a large coyote staring down at him from a nearby boulder.

The coyote tossed its head, turned away, and led Jake towards a cave. Somehow, he knew it was a sacred cave.

The pair wended their way down fissures in the mesas and rock hills until they arrived in a cave mouth, from which ran a shallow stream.

Jake's nostrils were suddenly assaulted by the smell of blood--the stream was running red.

The coyote howled mournfully. Jake got the sense that something dark and malevolent was stirring in the cave.

Wind, with the stench of an abattoir, rushed from the cave mouth as a flailing shadow began to emerge.

Jake woke up in a cold sweat. The experience made it official. It was time to call his shaman.[MORE]

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Sunday, January 6

Paper & Pixels Proposal Finished!

My proposal for the non-fiction book, Paper & Pixels: The Evolution of the Fellowing in Fantasy Gaming, is off to McFarland Publishing. Pixels & Paper follows the evolution of the fantasy role-playing game, from Tolkien's Fellowship of the Ring, to pen-and-paper role-playing games (Dungeons & Dragons), to text-based games (like Zork), to Multi-User Dimensions (MUDs like RetroMUD), to Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPGs like Dungeons & Dragons Online) to the 4th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons which includes a digital initiative that allows users to role-play over the Internet. I examine how the social dynamics of the four-person party (fighter, healer, blaster, thief) has evolved across the different mediums and how the impact of anonymity over the Internet changed the foundation of role-playing games that by their very nature require social, face-to-face interaction. This book is particularly relevant given that the latest version of Dungeons & Dragons contains many elements that some detractors feel were copied from MMORPGs -- in essence, the gaming industry has come full circle.

I should know if the publisher is interested in a month or so. Wish me luck!

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Terror in Freeport - Part 9b: Verlaine’s House

“That assassin…” gasped Ilmarė. “I recognized her…she tried to kill Baldric!”

Kham recognized her too. It was the notorious Jesswin, the deadliest assassin in Freeport. He decided the Brother of the Yellow Sign was much more influential than he first thought—they were hiring expensive killers.

Kham padded after her. He would teach this Jesswin a thing or two about assassinations.

Jesswin cocked her head. She heard him. [MORE]

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Saturday, January 5

Welcome to the Show: Part 3b – Jake’s Story

Palmer was tall, dark and skinny, with dark black hair, a thin beard, and a mustache. Like everyone else in the club, he was dressed all in black. He was chatting with a man in a brown overcoat with a fedora on his head.

"He sucks blood then?" asked Karl, fascinated.

"Quite! He has three brides he feeds on, actually," said Simon. "He was most famous on Mad, Mad House, if you've seen that show."

"I loved that show!" shouted Spider. "That was the one with all the freaks living in one house, right? Crazy stuff. The witch was hot."

Jake rubbed his forehead. "When do you guys get a chance to watch television?"

"Tivo!" Karl and Spider shouted together, clinking their glasses. [MORE]

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Friday, January 4

Terror in Freeport - Part 9a: Verlaine’s House

The door at the other end of the long ramp opened into a large cellar, well stocked with interesting vintages.

“We’re in Verlaine’s house,” said Kham. He took a bottle off the shelf and popped the cork with one hand.

“How can you be sure?” asked Vlad.

Kham pointed at an open create with his boot. “The Bierce Vintners stamp was on the crate we found in the old snake temple too.” He took a swig. “This is where they’ve been delivering the crates of magical bricks, disguised as bottles of wine.”

“So Verlaine’s in on it too,” said Egil. “This is very troubling.”

“This whole city is a mess,” said Ilmarė. She peered up the steps.

“Actually, Freeport’s usually like this,” said Kham. “Only there are less snakes.”

Ilmarė hushed him. She craned her neck to listen.

“Combat. Upstairs.”

There was a cry of agony. Kham took a swig of a potion and rushed up the steps. [MORE]

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Thursday, January 3

Welcome to the Show: Part 3a – Jake’s Story

Jake carried the speakers in with some effort. The interior decor of the Pit was designer Grunge: walls were painted a deep red and scrawled with graffiti; the threadbare carpets were pockmarked with cigarette burns. Lighting was subdued, mainly reflected from the spotlights focused on the stage. The stage itself was fenced off with wire mesh and flanked by huge speakers.

"Thanks, mate," said Karl. "If things get hairy, you give 'em a shave, right?"

Jake smirked. "Sure."

"Great." Karl laughed maniacally. "Cause it's about to get f**king nuts!" [MORE]

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Wednesday, January 2

Game Review: BioShock

I didn't really want BioShock. The name didn't exactly thrill me, and the concept was a little hazy. Some guy underwater in the 50s being attacked by weird monsters in diving suits? What the heck was that all about? But my brother talked the game up so much that I put it on my wish list. I got it for my birthday and was instantly hooked. [MORE]

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Terror in Freeport - Part 8b: The Serpent’s Nest

Ilmarė skidded into the room. “There you are!”

“Took you long enough,” said Kham. “Didn’t you hear the signal?”

“What signal?”

The fake Egil spun on Kham with drawn blades. He faced two more of Kham’s pistols.

BLAM! BLAM!

“That signal,” said Kham. He holstered his pistols and drew Fleshripper. [MORE]

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Tuesday, January 1

Combat Missions is HERE!

That's right, just four years in the making (maybe more, I lost track). This book took so long to come out that Spycraft actually went through an edition change. But it's out, finally. I've seen the .PDF and it looks great!


See the World, Meet Interesting People - and Kill Them!

In every nation, for all the eons of history, there have been those that stand a watch, who fight for those who remain blissfully unaware of the need for battle. Combat Missions features fifteen challenging assaults against a wide variety of seemingly-unrelated foes. These missions are ideal for one-off inserts into your existing serial, or run in a series. In the Combat Missions campaign option, your agents face off against a sinister conspiracy, brought to light through the apparently unrelated events, and they must bring it down before the conspirators bury them.

Product Information

  • Publisher Stock #: PCI 2002
  • Author(s): Michael Tresca
  • Artist(s): Jason Walton and Ruben Smith-Zempel
  • Pages: 96
  • File Size: 5.91 MB
  • Original electronic format
  • You can download the .PDF here. You can also buy the print version from Noble Knight Games.

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DVD Review: Spider-Man 3

I still nurse a grudge against Joel Silverman for mucking up the Batman series by stuffing it with way too many villains in the belief that it somehow bolsters the franchise. And yet I understand: each supervillain means another toy, another lunchbox, another backpack that gets created. They are literally worth millions, and to justify the budgets of superhero movies, action figures and other returns add up.

But that's a cynical way of looking at it. What happened to just focusing on making a good movie?

Spider-Man 3, as you guessed, fell victim to the same problem. And that's a shame. At one point my wife turned to me and said, "you know, this movie isn't nearly as bad as everyone made it out to be." I agreed with her. It was the scene when Peter was talking to Aunt May about proposing to Mary Jane.

Fifteen minutes later, she changed her mind. [MORE]

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Book Review: Lovecraft

Lovecraft details the life story of Howard Phillips Lovecraft, a sad tale of a child prodigy who struggled with his potential. The comic merely adds a layer of the supernatural and bizarre over Lovecraft's own, which is a lot easier to do than one might think given that Lovecraft's father and mother were both committed and died in mental hospitals. By giving Lovecraft a dual life in the Dreamlands as Randolph Carter (a fact, as Lovecraft's "The Statement of Randolph Carter" was based on a transcription of one of his vivid dreams) and possession of the Necronomicon, we have a tale of one man against the unknown. Poor Lovecraft transforms from a struggling, brilliant author to a lone hero against the dark. [MORE]

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Welcome to the Show: Part 2e – Sebastian’s Story

Unlike its neighbors, Jebel Tezma was riddled with fissures and caverns. Inside, it was stiflingly hot. Sudden gusts of oven-hot air blasted from unseen cracks and crevices, sending black sand into Sebastian's eyes.

"Michael?" shouted Sebastian. "Are you there?”

The noise carried strangely through the shattered mountain. Sebastian's voice continued to rise and shift and came back at him from a different fissure. "Are you there?" it asked again.

"Sebastian?" came back Michael's incredulous voice. "Is that you?”

"Is that you?" asked the mountains.

"It's me!" shouted Sebastian. "Where are you?”

"Where are you!" shouted the mountain.

"Get out of--" Michael's response was cut off. "Get out!" was all the mountain said.

A humanoid form slithered out of the darkness behind him. [MORE]

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