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Friday, February 29

Lethal Legacy: Part 7 – Mexican Standoff

Hammer jogged into the room with his pistol at the ready. Everyone but Blade was present.

“What the hell?” shouted Randy. He grabbed the shotgun and aimed it at Hammer’s head. “You mind telling me just what the HELL you’re doing?”

There was a click. “I’d put the gun down if I were you.” Jim-Bean had his SIG-Sauer aimed at Randy’s head.

“Why don’t you put your weapon down first, then we’ll talk. “Mary had an automatic pistol aimed at Jim-Bean.

Guppy crawled under the table.

Archive put up his hands. “Now everybody just calm down.”

“Calm down?” Randy took a menacing step forward. “You want ME to CALM down? Why don’t you tell old Randy what the HELL that THING was outside, huh?”

Belinda, Randy’s eldest daughter, hair short and lower lip pierced, skidded into the room with an M-16 semiautomatic rifle.

“WHAT THE F**K IS GOING ON?!” she screamed at the top of her lungs. [MORE]

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Madness in Freeport - Part 21: The Water Shrine of Yarris

Kham stood over the basin, shaking his head. “Oh, Margy. You stupid, stupid girl.”

Draped over the lip of the basin was the body of a young woman. The shaft of a crossbow bolt protruded from her back. She was dressed in leather armor.

“Looks like your companion was not all that she seemed,” said Ilmarė. “You should be careful what you say to the impressionable.” She glared at Kham. “You nearly got Beldin killed before with your careless words.”

“I didn’t tell her to go here!” said Kham. “She was so interested in my adventures. Now I know why—I was her mark.” [MORE]

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Thursday, February 28

Lethal Legacy: Part 6 – The Guest Room

Hammer passed through the kitchen, where Mary was boiling some soup. The kitchen was a huge room with a ridiculous number of surfaces, shining pots, and pans hanging from copper hooks. There was a large selection of knives, cleavers, and meat saws.

“Mrs. Kalms, can I have a word with you?”

“Sure.” Mary put down an oven mitt. “What can I do for you?”

“Did you know a Douglas Drebber?”

Mary bit her lip. “How do you know that name?”

“We came across it in our investigation. We were wondering if you could give us more details.”

“There are no details to share,” she said curtly. “That was a long time ago. Now if you’ll excuse me, my pot is boiling over.” She hustled back to the oven, head down. [MORE]

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Madness in Freeport - Part 20: The Hall of Columns

The lighthouse was guarded by a roving patrol of four fast-moving ships full of marines, circling the island. The lookouts that watched from within the lighthouse by day were not on duty at night. They approached in total darkness.

“Does anyone else find it strange that there are no guards at night?” asked Beldin.

“Whatever Drac’s doing up there, he doesn’t want any witnesses,” said Ilmarė. “We can use that to our advantage.

“Yes, we can,” said Kham, “but that involves everyone keeping their mouths shut.” [MORE]

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Wednesday, February 27

Lethal Legacy: Part 5 – The Sunroom

Randy leaned forward. “Let me tell you what I think. I think Richard Jacobs was part of a cult. And I think he was initiated into that cult when he was very young.”

“Do you have evidence of this?” asked Hammer.

“Did you know that Richard Jacobs, was raised by the Labib Home for Children until 1937, and then transferred to St. Matthew’s Orphanage?”

Hammer shook his head.

“Do you know what organization funded the Labib Home for Children?”

“Uh, no?” prodded Archive.

“MegaCosmos. Let me tell you what I think: I think MegaCosmos used that orphanage to fund a cult, the Cult of the Black Brotherhood.”

Jim-Bean rolled his eyes. “Here we go…”[MORE]

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Madness in Freeport - Part 19: Milton’s Folly

“Now what?” asked Vlad.

“First, we get back to the Temple of Althares. I need to deliver a package to them.” He patted his coat pocket.

“And then?” asked Beldin.

“Then,” said Kham, “maybe we go to the top of that lighthouse and tell the King in Yellow that his subjects are revolting.”

Ilmarė wrinkled her nose. “They really are, too.” [MORE]

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Tuesday, February 26

Lethal Legacy: Part 4 – Walking in a Blizzard

Following the road was simple enough, but with darkness falling the world became a black and white blur.

Guppy tripped over a tree branch. When he looked up, a huge lumbering mound turned to look over its shoulder as it strode away. He caught a glimpse of its glowing red eyes.

Blade helped him up. “You okay little buddy?”

“I…did you see that?” Guppy pointed, gawking. “It was huge!”

Blade peered into the blowing snow. “I can’t see anything.”

“If that’s the thing Drebber summoned,” said Archive, “we’d better get moving.” [MORE]

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Madness in Freeport - Part 18: Receiving the Jade Serpent

Alissstar was overjoyed to see them.

“Thank you! Thank you for doing asss I asssked. Pleassse put the artifactsss there on the altar.”

Kham dumped the armor, the vial, and the fangs on the altar. “There. We’re kind of in a rush, so if you could speed this up a little…that’d be great.”

“I ssstill need your help,” said Alissstar.

Ilmarė slapped her forehead. [MORE]

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Sunday, February 24

Lethal Legacy: Part 3 – Lich Street

Archive scanned it. “This book has instructions on how to make Dust of Suleiman.” He looked over at the capped ingredients. “Olibanum, sulfer, and saltpeter. Yep, it’s all here.”

“Don’t tell me,” said Hammer, his examination of the dead body complete. “The last ingredient is…”

“…a mummy, yep.”

“What’s it for?” asked Blade.

“According to the book, protection against dread and unwanted visitations,” said Archive.

“Can you make more?” asked Hammer.

“Sure, but…”

“Make it. I have a feeling we’ll need it.”

“Why would we need some dust from a dead man?” asked Jim-Bean critically.

“I think that Drebbers summoned something he couldn’t control. And if I had to guess, he sent it to take out his ex-wife.” He pointed at the picture.

Blade clicked on his Cistron. “I’ll call the police and let them know about the mummy.”

Archive finished cooking the ingredients and poured the powder into a jar while Blade talked with the police.

“We don’t have to worry about Drebbers,” said Blade. “He’s dead.” [MORE]

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Madness in Freeport - Part 17: The Pit of the Great Serpent

At the center of the pit was a gigantic snake. Its skin was yellow with decay. It reared it head as they entered, baring a set of gleaming white fangs.

“This is the manifestation of Yig, right?” asked Vlad, his blade out. “How powerful do you think it is?”

“Prepare yourself,” said Beldin. “It likely wields magic beyond our reckoning.”

“Do you hear yourself?” asked Ilmarė. “You just used the word ‘reckoning.’ I fear you mind is more scrambled than I thought.” [MORE]

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Game Review: Blacksite: Area 51

In the era of Bioshock, Halo 3, and Gears of War, Blacksite is proof that graphics alone are not enough to make a great game. The developers should be ashamed of themselves, but I can't tell you who they are because while I was forced to watch the end credits...the game crashed. [MORE]

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Lethal Legacy: Part 2 – Black Goat Quarterly

“Do you know where we can find him?” asked Hammer.

Wilton’s eyes flipped to the Brit. Jim-Bean still kept one hand threateningly at his belt, but he kept quiet.

“Yes.” He looked at his subscriber list. “According to this, he’s at…”

Guppy tapped more keys on the Cistron. “Lich and South Powder Mill,” said Guppy.

“That’s it. It’s a walk up in the French Hill neighborhood.”

They stepped out into the street.

“What’s your deal?” asked Blade. “You looked like you were about to take the guy’s head off.”

“Let’s just say the occult and me don’t get along,” muttered Jim-Bean. [MORE]

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Madness in Freeport - Part 16: Yet Another Statue of Yig

Kham peeked out around the hallway. “Oh good, you got the door open.”

“Where were you?” Ilmarė asked.

“Nowhere,” said Kham. He tucked something white and round into the folds of his jacket. “Just securing some precious cargo.” [MORE]

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Saturday, February 23

DVD Review: The Simpsons Movie

It's not that the Simpsons movie isn't funny. It's that it's extremely uninspired, given the fine pedigree of writers for the show. The mutant squirrel that becomes the symbol of Springfield's pollution best sums up the lack of inspiration. There already is a mascot of Springfield's solution: the three-eyed fish. The fact that the movie didn't use it shows just how underutilized the Springfield cast really is. [MORE]

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Lethal Legacy: Part 1 – Miskatonic University

Archive looked at his Cistron critically. “Miskatonic University?”

“Miskatonic University?” asked Jim-Bean. “You don’t mess with that place. Why do we have to go there?”

“Something about a stolen mummy,” said Blade, recovered from his burns. Both he and Guppy had been in and out of Arkham Hospital for a week.

“There’s nothing wrong with Miskatonic University,” said Archive. “I got my degree in archaeology there.”

“We’re supposed to meet with Dr. Joseph Bread,” said Hammer.

“If we get a chance, I’d like to meet with Randy Kalms after this,” said Archive. “He contacted me about the events at the Paradise Theater. Said that he was connecting the dots on cults, something about a grand conspiracy theory.”

Hammer’s brow furrowed. “I don’t like the sound of that.”

“Me neither,” said Archive. “But the only way to find out what he’s really doing is to talk to him myself.” [MORE]

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Madness in Freeport - Part 15: The Servants of the High Priest

The room’s furniture had been separate in a very deliberate fashion. Both sides of the room had a single desk, chair, mattress, and closet. A line was drawn down the center of the room with white chalk.

“Hurssst is a traitorousss lying ssson of a toad! You mussst kill him before he betraysss you! I will help you find the treasssure of the temple!”

Standing on either side of the line were two shadow serpents shouting and pointing their fingers at each other.

“Arnesss is a yellow-bellied dirt eating sssack of ssslime. He ssseeksss to trick you into doing hisss bidding and killing me. Kill him firssst before he leadsss you into a trap!”

Kham looked back and forth between the two ssanu.

Then he closed the door. [MORE]

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Friday, February 22

Chapter 2: Lethal Legacy - Introduction

This scenario, “Lethal Legacy,” is from the Call of Cthulhu supplement, “Last Rites,” by Ian Winterton. You can read more about Delta Green at http://www.delta-green.com. Please note: This story hour contains spoilers!

Our cast of characters includes:
This scenario was played right after The End of Paradise and was considered by the group to be the more interesting of the two. My suspicion is that this is because the scenario involved a combination of investigation and combat, with an alien opponent that had unknown capabilities. I was able to slowly introduce each of the creature’s powers, giving the PCs a rising dread as to what was to come.

And of course, I had plenty of NPCs to mess with, a whole family of gun nuts. I used Jack Nicholson’s performance as Melvin Udall in As Good As It Gets as the template for Randy Kalms in this scenario to spice him up a bit. The rest of the family was largely in the background…except the youngest, Luke. I’ve learned in horror that going after the weak link really makes the group feel vulnerable, even if it’s not “one of their own.”

An important part of The End of Paradise established that a foster home was actually raising cultists. Here, Randy Kalms lays out the entire campaign in one breath. It’s not all factually accurate (I’m not going to give ALL my secrets away in one fell swoop!) but it’s a good start and provides a framework for a conspiracy (Majestic-12) vs. a conspiracy (cultists across America). And two members of the cult conspiracy are about to start an all-out turf war.

Although the first scenario was creepier in tone, this one was much more freeform with moments that ended up being disturbing only because that’s how they played out. When you have a dimensional shambler with levels in telepath, you’d be surprised what you can pull off…

Defining Moment: The defining moment in this scenario is when Guppy, who was talking to the rest of the team, slowly turned around to see the dimensional shambler looming over him through the window. I showed the players a picture from the scenario and it totally freaked them out.

Relevant Media

[MORE]

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Madness in Freeport - Part 14: Sseth’s Prison

“I hate to interrupt this conversation,” said Kham. “But do you by chance know where the Venom of the Serpent is?”

Sseth responded with a riddle:
“I create life and also nourisssh it.
I contain life and the future for sssome.
I am firssst, although some sssay I came lassst.
I am fragile, yet ssstrong enough to hold preciousss cargo.
What am I?” [MORE]

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Thursday, February 21

The End of Paradise: Conclusion

“Well that went well,” said Jim-Bean.

“Drake’s going to have our asses on this one,” said Hammer. They were at the Arkham Hospital again, where Blade was recovering from his burns.

Archive shrugged. “I don’t think so. The authorities cited the existence of an unknown basement—“

“I TOLD you there was something weird in the basement!” shouted Jim-Bean. He got a dirty look from one of the nurses tending to Blade.

Archive cleared his throat as he read off of his Cistron. “The basement was used to dump a large collection of nitrate films that were taken out of circulation. A weak floor under the weight of the crowd and the combustible movie stock combined to produce the disaster, which killed dozens and injured more than a hundred.”

“But,” added Guppy with a smile, “no credible reports of the film coming to life exist.” [MORE]

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Madness in Freeport - Part 13: The Serpent Scales

The large room looked like some sort of gymnasium. Rotted matting covered the floor, and various combat dummies were scattered throughout the area. T

The walls were lined with racks that held rusting and tarnished weapons of all sorts.
Standing in the center of the room was a shadow ssanu holding a crackling spear and wearing a suit of green scale mail.

“Finally!” said Ilmarė. She drew a bead on the ssanu.

In a loud, deep voice, Vrosh spoke. “Come, young onesss. Come for your lessson. You mussst be ssstrong to fight for Yig.” With that, he assumes a fighting stance, brandishing his spear. [MORE]

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Wednesday, February 20

The End of Paradise: Part 9 – Opening Night

In the theater, the film started to stutter. The image rolled and jumped, going in and out of focus. The images of the film changed to the footage from the basement, of men in suits and faceless masks. There was a grinding sound from the projection booth.

The image was jumping so much it was hard to make out. Good-natured calls of “Focus!” came from the boisterous crowd. Then the image steadied, the men took off their masks, and a blinding light filled the room.

The projector was unmanned. Hammer kicked over the projector, but the light continued to beam from somewhere.

“There’s no film in the projector!” shouted Guppy in horror. [MORE]

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Madness in Freeport - Part 12: Infirmary

The walls on either side of the room were lined with rotting sedan chairs. Along the far wall was a stone table with a shelf above it holding various jars.

“Great,” said Ilmarė. “More snakes.”

Most of the chairs were empty, but two of them contain the shadowy forms of Valossan serpent priests.

“Come clossser,” said one of them. It motioned with barely visible hands for them to advance. [MORE]

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Tuesday, February 19

Madness in Freeport - Part 11: Prayer Room

“Whoa,” said Kham. “Don’t look at the snake’s eyes.”

“What snake?” asked Beldin.

“Vlad,” said Ilmarė, “cover Beldin’s eyes too.”

Before Beldin could look, Vlad looked down at the ground and covered Beldin’s eyes with one hand.

“What?” muttered Beldin in confusion.

The eyes of the mosaic serpent glowed with a green light. In front of the head was a stone table on which a large book rests. Kham gingerly stepped past four large piles of dust shaped like serpents. [MORE]

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The End of Paradise: Part 8 – The Furnace

“Did you hear that?” asked Blade.

There was a clanging sound coming from the furnace.

“Just noisy old pipes,” said Jim-Bean. They all froze to listen.

The banging became more insistent, as if someone were inside and banging for help.

Jim-Bean ran over to the metal hatch. It was hot to the touch.

“Isn’t this thing natural gas?” asked Blade, dubious.

Jim-Bean wrapped both hands around the handle and yanked hard.

As he opened the hatch, Jim-Bean got a glimpse of the interior of the furnace, full of flames. A burning man screamed…[MORE]

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Monday, February 18

DVD Review: Stardust

And so it came to pass that Stardust, which ran far too long, was the rare film with more budget than it knew what to do with. And thus the special effects were amazing, the acting pretty good, the plot not so much, and the conclusion, while thrilling, a little trite. So the adventurous critic, only somewhat amused by Stardust, watched Princess Bride instead, which while not having nearly as much of a special effects budget, had twice the charm.

And he lived happily ever after. [MORE]

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The End of Paradise: Part 7 – The Loading Dock

“Everybody out!” shouted Hammer.

The volunteers at the Paradise looked confused.

“Take a coffee break,” said Jim-Bean. “There’s a Starbucks a block from here.”

Sara looked flustered. “You’re not shutting us down are you?”

“Not yet,” said Blade. [MORE]

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Madness in Freeport - Part 10: The High Altar of Yig

“Where are these artifacts anyway?” asked Ilmarė, rubbing her temples.

“I do not know their exact locationsss,” replied Alissstar. “I sssuggessst you asssk the other priessstsss you meet in the temple.”

“You’ve been down here for hundreds—maybe thousands—of years,” Ilmarė began to pace. “You’ve basically got nothing to do with yourself but mope around down here. These four artifacts are the only things that can put you to eternal rest. And YOU DON’T KNOW WHERE THEY ARE?” Ilmarė threw up her hands. “Now I know why the elorii overthrew your people,” she shouted. “Because you’re a bunch of idiots!”

She stalked out of the room and down the ramp.

Vlad smiled sheepishly at Alissstar. “She’s been having a bad day. We’ll bring the artifacts back to you soon.” [MORE]

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Sunday, February 17

Game Review: Crackdown

If you're a fan of Robocop, Judge Dredd, or the Tick, get Crackdown. You'll be shouting "SPOOOONNN!", hurling chimneys, and leaping across rooftops in no time. Unless you're not a fan of the Tick, in which case you'll appreciate laying down the law the old fashioned way: with a rocket launcher. [MORE]

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Tom Salta Scores Leading Game Titles in a Customized Space

Another article about Tom Salta in Mix Online:

MixMagFeb08-Salta.pdf

Go Tom!

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The End of Paradise: Part 6 – Frank Long

Archive leaned down to make eye contact with Long. “Mister Long, do you know anything about the Sound and Light Club?”

The old man suddenly became animated. “Sound and light, sound and light. That’s what movies are made of! Sound and light, yes. Movies on the screen, the silver screen, movies in your head, the silver head.”

Archive and Jim-Bean exchanged glances.

“So you were a member of the Club?” asked Jim-Bean.

“The club, yes, the club. Not a club. No, no. A church. Yes, a church. A church not made with hands. Look ma, no hands!” Long held up his hands and laughed.

“Do you know anything about the Club’s connection to the Paradise?” asked Archive.

“They say it’s coming, Paradise is coming,” replied Long. “I’m due. I’m owed. I paid my owes. I’m first in line. I’m last to stay. I can’t wait. Paradise is coming.”

Jim-Ben twirled his index finger at his temple and mouthed “nutter” to Archive. Archive sighed. [MORE]

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Madness in Freeport - Part 9: The Serpent Portal

Ilmarė scanned the text. “It reads, ‘All those who would enter the temple must pass the test of the fangs. Reach into the mouth of Yig, and your courage will be rewarded.’”

Beldin stepped up to it. “Obviously, this is a trap only a dwarf can handle. I’m sure it’s poisoned.” He thrust his hand into the serpent’s mouth.

“What the hell are you doing?” shouted Vlad. [MORE]

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Saturday, February 16

Madness in Freeport - Part 8: Black Dog’s Treasure

When the huge door was opened, a low moan seemed to come from the walls of the chamber itself. There were nine chests lining the walls.

“Finally,” said Beldin. “This must be the real treasure!”

Vlad pulled out his crossbow. “Careful Beldin. Stand behind me.”

The dwarf looked over at him in irritation. “Why should I?”

“Because you’re not feeling well,” said Ilmarė. “And your judgment seems to be impaired.”

“That’s ridiculous,” said Beldin. [MORE]

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The End of Paradise: Part 5 – Arkham Asylum

“What about the book?” asked Jim-Bean.

Archive hefted the book. “Mostly, it talks about a deity known as The Key and the Gate. He seems to have globes, thirteen in number, that are his servitors and do his bidding. Most interesting is Vual, who takes the ‘form of a dark mass and speaks in all tongues’…maybe an allusion to movies.”

“I’ll show you the room,” said Jim-Bean. “You’ve got to see it. It’s freaky down there.”

“We may want to make a detour first,” said Archive to Blade. “I just found the address of the only surviving member of the Sound and Light Club.”

“Where is he now?” asked Jim-Bean.

A dark expression came over Archive’s face. “Arkham Asylum.” [MORE]

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Friday, February 15

Madness in Freeport - Part 7: Deadly Spikes

“Okay,” said Vlad, “so according to Kham, this beach is also trapped.” He nodded toward the right.

Near the shore off to the right was a skeleton impaled by a large stake jutting up out of the sand. As more of the chamber came into view, they could see at least two more skeletons impaled the same way.

“Spike traps,” said Kham. “Buried in the sand.”

“Great,” Ilmarė smoothed down her hair again. “Since you’re the expert on traps, you tell us what to do.”

Kham took off his lenses and polished them on his jacket. “I’m an expert at avoiding traps, not setting them off. That’s Beldin’s job.”

“Okay!” said Beldin. He stepped off of the boat.

“No, Beldin wait!” shouted Vlad. [MORE]

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The End of Paradise: Part 4 – Visiting Mary

Mary Green was lying in bed, her body connected to a traction apparatus to help her pelvic bone set properly. Her arm and leg were in casts, and there were bandages on her head. Her eyes were bruised. She was attached to a pulse monitor and other medical instruments that constantly beeped and whirred.

The beeping from the machines increased suddenly and a buzzer sounded. Mary cried out briefly and then her face went slack. The noise from the machines was terrible, a cacophony of electronic sounds that made no sense.

Two nurses and a doctor rushed in. The staff began emergency procedures and went straight to defibrillation. As they used the paddles to jolt electricity on Mary’s body, the lights in the room went out with each burst.

As the lights flickered and Mary’s body spasmed, the television shorted out. Images of a ballet dissolved into static, and the sound of a film projector came through. Then the screen showed the hospital room, as if a camera were mounted inside the television.

Guppy saw himself in bed, and the pulsing lights. A blurry figure stood next to Guppy, with indistinct hands stroking his face. Then the screen exploded in a burst of electricity, sending fragments of glass blowing into the room. [MORE]

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Thursday, February 14

Madness in Freeport - Part 6: Illusion Trap

They emerged from a narrow tunnel into a large, natural cavern. A slim strip of beach lay along the far wall. Ten large, ironbound chests sat on the sand.

“I’ll go this time,” said Ilmarė. Beldin was still weak from the attack, confused and muttering to himself about a woman named Isabella.

“Once again,” said Kham, “THAT is a sign that we should not go onto this beach.” He pointed at a skeleton that lay half in the water and half on the beach. Its arms were stretched longingly toward the chests.

“We need to find the Jade Serpent of Yig,” said Ilmarė. “And I don’t see how we’re going to do it by sitting in the boat.”

Kham shrugged. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you.” [MORE]

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The End of Paradise: Part 3 – The Ceiling

Guppy heard it too. It did indeed sound like breathing. It was very faint. He couldn’t identify the source, except that it seemed to come from beyond the ceiling in a general sort of way.

He looked closer. A nearby scene of a Bacchanalia was hinged—it was some sort of small door.

“Did you hear that?” asked Blade. [MORE]

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Wednesday, February 13

Madness in Freeport - Part 5: The Shining Saber

Beldin harrumphed. “It’ll be a dark day before a dwarf becomes afraid of picking up a ready blade.” He yanked the saber out of the corpse it was sticking out of. He held it up, waiting for the corpse to react.

Nothing happened. Beldin kicked the skull and it rolled into the water’s edge. “See? Nothing.”

Then he heard the babbling. It was a persistent muttering whine that threatened to upend Beldin’s universe. He had a brief, irrational moment where he seriously wanted to run himself through with the saber. [MORE]

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The End of Paradise: Part 2 – The Basement

The three projectors were mounted on top of massive wooden thrones, covered in gold leaf and blanketed by dust. Each was elevated on a dais about eight inches high. A mural showing the night sky as seen from the roof of the Paradise covered all the walls and ceiling.

The floor was decorated with a forty-foot-diameter circle of inlaid marble, within which were a number of twisted sigils. The floor was stained in numerous places.

Jim-Bean kept his pistol at the ready. “Great. This is the part where the creepy movie ghosts come out of the film and eat me.” [MORE]

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Tuesday, February 12

The End of Paradise: Part 1 – Opening Scene

They passed the abandoned car. Guppy peered into it and promptly gagged.

“What is it?” asked Blade. He peered over Guppy’s shoulder.

A dead dog lay in the driver’s seat, erupted belly roiling with maggots.

“What?” echoed Jim-Bean.

“Nothing.” Blade shrugged. “Just a dead dog.” [MORE]

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Madness in Freeport - Part 4: The Watcher

Ilmarė slipped the rope around her waist. “Got it.”

“Okay, now we’re going to—“

Vlad and Beldin were both nearly yanked out of the boat as Ilmarė disappeared into the murky depths.

“PULL!” shouted Vlad.

Milandisian and dwarf yanked hard on the rope. Ilmarė appeared, sputtering.

“Are you two trying to tear me in half? There’s something trying to eat me down there!”

“PULL!” shouted Vlad. Ilmarė was unceremoniously flopped up onto the prow of the boat.

“Well, at least you're safe—“

WHAM! The boat spun around in lazy circles as the boat hit something, hard. [MORE]

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Monday, February 11

Madness in Freeport - Part 3: A Swift-Moving Current

The tunnel beyond the cave entrance was narrow and damp. Water dripped from the ceiling, and the sound of the surf echoed all around them.

“Nice of Baldric to let us borrow his boat,” said Vlad.

Beldin held on for dear life as they entered the partially submerged tunnel. Kham held the rudder while Vlad rowed. Ilmarė stood at the prow.

“Yeah,” said Kham. “Well, Baldric’s got his eyes on the Captain’s Council. The more Councilors we eliminate, the more likely he’ll have a shot at getting elected to one of the open slots.”

After traveling a short distance, the sound of rushing water became deafening as their boat began to move quickly in a swift current.

“Hold on!” shouted Kham.

The tunnel wound to the left and then back the right as the boat careened wildly down into darkness. The rowboat slammed hard into a rock in the water. The boat jerked sideways.

There was a SPLOOSH!

“Beldin?” asked Kham from the back.

Beldin blinked and looked over the edge. “That wasn’t me.”

Ilmarė’s could be heard further down the tunnel. “Kham, you are the worst sailor ever.” [MORE]

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Chapter 1: The End of Paradise

This scenario, “The End of Paradise,” is from the D20 Call of Cthulhu rulebook. You can read more about Delta Green at http://www.delta-green.com. Please note: This story hour contains spoilers!

Our cast of characters includes:

I was really jazzed about playing this adventure, because it took place in an old creepy movie theater. I saw the Blair Witch Project in one of these old, musty-smelling theaters; it was torn down shortly after we saw the movie. I had my special effects and music all queued up and ready to go.The problem is that the scenario focuses on one building. And as is the typical result of any haunted house-style scenario, smart PCs will eventually decide to burn the place to the ground. Because the structure is inanimate, it can’t really “go on the offensive” until the plot dictates it should. So that forces the GM’s hand: either have the events slated for the haunted house happen when the PCs attempt to blow things to bits, or else they manage to avoid the climax by doing the smart thing and torching the place.

Since this scenario involves Yog Sothoth, I decided I had carte blanche to play fast and loose with the timeline. In addition, I wanted the PCs all together for the final battle and one of them was in the hospital. By moving time around, I was able to ensure that everyone was present for the big finale.The problem was that the big finale is almost impossible to predict or avoid. Or to put it another way, this scenario railroads the crap out of the PCs. In writing this story hour, I discovered that the obvious thing to do (investigate how Mary hurt herself by investigating the scaffolding) is expected to be the SECOND thing the PCs do after they visit Mary in the hospital.

This makes no sense; sticking to my rule that things should happen TO characters rather than hear about them from NPCs, I had one PC suffer the same fate as Mary and then go to the hospital…then all the disturbing events at the hospital happened to him. Although they didn’t enjoy the showdown, my brother liked the horror elements, especially the creepy film stuff (he and I both have this fear of creepy old films for some reason, I blame our dad’s love of old Sci-Fi). Was it successful as a story? Read on to find out.

Defining Moment: The defining moment in this scenario was when Guppy flipped out in the hospital. That wasn’t a failed sanity check; Joe just role-played his character logically.

Relevant Media

[MORE]

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Sunday, February 10

Madness in Freeport - Part 2: Gareth the Old Sea Dog

Ilmarė sang. Her voice soared. Higher and farther than anybody in a gray place dared to dream. It was like some beautiful bird flapped into the drab little cage of Freeport and made the walls dissolve away...and for the briefest of moments—every last man in Old City felt free.

Gareth and Vlad wiped tears from their eyes. Kham adjusted his lenses. Beldin just snorted in disbelief at the whole thing.

“I be havin' nay idee what ye jus' sang about,” said Gareth. “Truth be, I dasn't want t' know. Some things be best left unsaid. But I like t' think ye be singin' about somethin' so beautiful that 't canna be expressed in words, an' 't makes me heart ache on accoun' o' o' 't.”

Gareth leaned forward and patted Ilmarė’s hand. “Thank ye very much. Now, th' trick t' findin' th' caves be th' tides. Ye be havin' t' go only a wee miles west along th' coast until ye be seein' two tall stones stickin' up ou' o' th' water. They be tall, almost a full mast high. When th' tides be low, a cave will appear on th' isle, arrr. All ye be havin' t' do be get yer boat in th' cave. Once inside, I can’t be much help t' ye. I be nere let inside, but I know 't’s dangerous. Black Dog sure did love his booty!”

They thanked Gareth and stepped out of his ramshackle home.

“That was beautiful,” said Vlad to Ilmarė. “What did you sing about?”

“It was actually a satire about farmers,” she said. “Not that he could tell the difference, since he doesn’t speak elorii.” [MORE]

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The Beginning of the End: Conclusion

“CIFA’s official mission is to develop and manage counterintelligence programs and functions that support the protection of the Department of Defense, including counterintelligence support to protect DoD personnel, resources, critical information, research and development programs, technology, critical infrastructure, economic security, and U.S. interests, against foreign influence and manipulation, as well as to detect and neutralize espionage against the DoD.”

“How big is it?” asked Kurt.

“That’s classified,” said Drake.

“And the budget?” asked Hank.

“That’s classified,” Drake said again.

“What about…” began Joe.

“Please ask me another stupid question, so I can shoot you in the head right now and be done with it.” [MORE]

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Saturday, February 9

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

Beldin met Vlad at the door. Ilmarė pulled a half-dressed Kham behind her.

“Time to go,” she said.

“But I was busy,” grumble Kham. He blew a kiss to Margy.

“I know what kind of busy that was,” said Ilmarė. “And we’re after a different kind of serpent. Let’s go.”

And with that, she half-dragged Kham out of the ballroom. [MORE]

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Welcome to the Show: Part 9 – Satan’s Playroom

“So what are we doing, exactly?” asked Jim.

“Surviving,” said Drake. “This is an exercise in restraint and control as much as combat ability. The object of this session is to overcome your opponents without getting seriously hurt. I will be monitoring you and providing some... additional challenges from the room’s systems. Begin!”

The entire wall on the far side of the room slowly lifted up. They stepped out into simulated sunlight.

The room was as huge as a football field. A waterfall ran down one side to form a small pool. A raised cliff formed of faux rock defined one corner of the room. Two towers stood in the center, along with trees, rocks, and scrub. There was the false sound of birds playing over and over in exactly the same pitch.

“So this is Satan’s Playroom,” said Kurt. He loaded his Glock. “Let’s do this.” [MORE]

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Friday, February 8

Movie Review: Cloverfield

Another review from Nick (I don't see movies in the theaters lately with my 6-month old):
Post-Hiroshima Japan had Gojira. Post-9/11 America has Cloverfield. It’s not just the first giant-monster movie that actually managed to terrify me. It’s one of the scariest horror movies I’ve seen in a long time. [MORE]

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Movie Review: The Eye

My new buddy from World Fantasy Con, Nicholas Ozment, just posted a review of The Eye at http://www.downinthecellar.com.
The filmmakers follow the original pretty closely. They deliver a story that is interesting both in its exploration of the unreliability of our senses and its depiction of a woman struggling with horrific visions. The visions could either convince her she’s insane or, if they’re real, possibly drive her insane. Overall, we get acting that is passable but not noteworthy, an intriguing premise and fairly engaging storyline, and some scary scenes. One such chilling scene is the ghost in the elevator—it’s frightening here, but if you really want to be unnerved, see it in the original. [MORE]

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Welcome to the Show: Part 8c – Stress Simulation 7.0

“Do we have any more anesthetic?” asked one of the other surgeons.

The other one slowly shook his head back and forth.

“…for what?” asked Joe.

“Ready?” The chief surgeon asked the others. “One. Two. Three.” They lifted him together and placed Joe on a cold metal table.

One of them tied a tourniquet around the top of his thigh. The cinch of the tightly drawn rubber tubing put pressure on his femoral nerve and he started to struggle.

“Wait, what the hell are you doing?”

“This leg’s coming off,” said the chief surgeon with steel blue eyes. “The quicker, the better.”

“What?” shouted Joe before an assistant shoved a piece of plastic into his mouth. They strapped it around his head. [MORE]

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Thursday, February 7

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

Glenfield darted over to a small cage in one corner of the room. Beldin watched him open it to retrieve the toad.

“Who’s Burkhart?” asked Beldin.

“Oh, that’s my toad familiar.” Tarmon made a sympathetic noise. “Poor thing hasn’t aged well. He’s just not all there anymore.”

Behind Tarmon, Glenfield looked up with a horrified expression. The toad wasn’t in its cage. [MORE]

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Wednesday, February 6

Welcome to the Show: Part 8b – Stress Simulation 8.5

As the carbon dioxide built up in his lungs and blood, Jim’s breathing became more labored. Then something whirred near his face. A cool breeze snapped him out of his stupor.

Air! Beautiful, glorious air!

For a moment he was so grateful he could have cried, just basking feeling of the wind on his face. But then it slowly dawned on him that coffins didn’t come with fans. They had buried him on purpose. This was a test.

Well Jim wouldn’t give those bastards the satisfaction. He’d show them that PISCES men were made of sterner stuff.

Then the fan shut off. [MORE]

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Tuesday, February 5

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

“As a genuine hero of Freeport, you must tell me all about your adventures!” She took a long slurp from the mug. “Surely you must have come across quite a bit of baubles as you loot dragon lairs, steal from titan treasuries, pilfer from kings...”

Kham nearly coughed. He looked around. “Isn’t that your father over there?”

Margy refused to look over her shoulder. “Oh, is he? I didn’t notice.”

Kham smirked. He knew exactly what she was doing. An aristocratic young lady with a man of ill character such as himself would certainly cause a stir, especially with her father.

Kham was only too willing to oblige her. [MORE]

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Monday, February 4

Welcome to the Show: Part 8a – Stress Simulation 2.5

The television flickered back to a news broadcast. “…a small nuclear explosion,” said a distraught report, her hair matted from what looked like blood. Smoking rubble was behind her. “I’m here in Washington, D.C. The death toll is believed to have reached over ten thousand citizens, including most of the House, the Senate, and the President.”

The screen flashed to footage of wreckage and bodies. The reporter broke down weeping at the end of the emergency broadcast as the screen went back to the emergency standby message.

A siren blared in the distance. Jake got up. He was dressed in nothing more but his boxers.

It wasn’t the sound of a normal siren. It was the type used for major emergencies like hurricanes. Or terrorist attacks.

Jake heard people talking excitedly outside his apartment door. Doors slammed all across the apartment complex. People were evacuating. [MORE]

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Sunday, February 3

Terror in Freeport - Part 1j: The Sea Lord’s Palace

“Young Master Bedwyr here wanted to meet his hero,” said Thuron, his eyes scanning the room. “I thought you might have time to speak to him.”

“Uh…now’s really not—“

Bedwyr stepped into the room and out of Thuron’s grasp. “Wow are you really Vlad Martell?!”

“Yes,” said Vlad. He looked over at Brock, who stepped out from behind the door.

“I’ll be going,” said Brock. He lowered his voice so only Vlad could hear. “If ye change yer mind, let me know.” Then he ducked out of the room.

“What was that all about?” asked Thuron. [MORE]

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Saturday, February 2

Welcome to the Show: Part 7 – The Curriculum

“Welcome, grunts, to Academy training!” shouted the drill sergeant. “Training is divided into two equally important areas: education and drills. Each day is equally divided. One month you’ll do book learning in the morning, followed by a hearty lunch and drills in the afternoon. The next month it’s the other way around.

“Just in case you dumb jocks think this is going to be a cakewalk—and believe me, it isn’t—you’re going to actually have to crack a book. Several books. Your curriculum includes Basic Science, Parascience, Technology, Philosophy and Logic, Social Sciences, History, Languages, and Literature and the Arts. If you geeks think you’ve got this information down pat, you’re welcome to test out. In fact, we expect you to test out of at least two subjects, because we wouldn’t have recruited your dumb ass otherwise.

“Take a look at your schedules. Ah yes, I’m lookin’ at you, creampuff. I see the look on your face. The drills look hard? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

“There’s three kinds of drills in your first year. Stamina, Severe Exposure, and Mental Strain. You’re going to start out with ten-mile runs, then marathons, and finally a triathlon. Swimming, cross-country running, bicycling, and mountain climbing. The second part of stamina training involves standing still for extremely long periods of time.

“After a nice twenty-mile run, there’s nothing like a couple of days in the wilderness without food or water! We’re going to send you to Summer Camp. We’re gonna spring this one on you three times a year, and you won’t know when. There’s only an eighty five percent survival rate, tough guys, so gird your loins.

“Finally, there’s the mental stuff. That includes isolation tanks, torture…you’ll see what we mean. Don’t worry yourself, Romeo, I’ll be gentle.

“During this time you will receive ten excuses a year to place out of any drill for any reason, no questions asked. You just get marked as absent. I don’t need to tell you that nobody has remained at the Academy for a single day after an eleventh absence.”

“Now for the good news: After six months, when you’ve finally had all you can take, we’ll send you on furlough to some out-of-the-way island in the Bahamas. Everything is paid for; it’s a regular a week in paradise. Trust me, you’ll need it.” [MORE]

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Friday, February 1

Terror in Freeport - Part 1i: The Sea Lord’s Palace

“Absolutely. I know ye can do 't. I can lure Drac into this room. Ye follow th' lad in, do what ye need t' do, an' then escape ou' one o' th' windows an' climb o'er th' wall. When things calm down, th' truth about Drac be sure t' be revealed. Ye’ll be hailed as heroes fer thwartin' his plan.”

Vlad crossed his arms. “I don’t know about this.”

Brock put one hand on Vlad’s shoulder. “Ye be havin' t' be sure. Think hard, Vlad. If we’re goin' t' move on this, thar canna be th' least wee shred o' doubt. I need t' know if ye be havin' proof that Drac’s behind all this.”

“I do,” said Vlad.

“Would ye be willin' t' swear before a judge an' jury…e'en take an oath before Sarish himself?

“I’ve seen the proof with my own eyes.”

“That's what I thought,” Brock’s lips became a grim line. “Then we have' t' kill him.” [MORE]

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