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Monday, June 30

Chapter 14: Nemo Solus Sapit - Introduction

This scenario, “Nemo Solus Sapit,” is a Cthulhu Now supplement “The Stars Are Right” by John Tynes. Guppy can read more about Delta Green at http://www.delta-green.com. Please note: This story hour contains spoilers!

Our cast of characters includes:

In chapter twelve, quite a bit of damage was inflicted to the campaign’s overall theme of secrecy and the paranormal. When an Indian agent single-handedly rescues a jet from a terrorist attack by strapping a bomb to his chest and parachuting to safety, it’s bound to get some attention. I had originally envisioned the agents resolving the event by landing the plane, but as always my players surprise me.

So I rolled with it. Two things happened as a result of that scenario: 1) Majestic-12 is even more pissed at the agents and decided to punish them, and 2) a major news outlet (GNN) took a personal interest in Guppy. This leads up to a scenario that I’ve been eager to run for years now: committing one of the agents to an insane asylum.

That’s right, Guppy’s going right back to where he started, an asylum. Has he been committed? Disavowed? Is he really nuts? This scenario required a bit of flipping back and forth between the agents investigating the disappearance of Guppy and Guppy trying to survive in the sanitarium.

The original version of the scenario suffered from much the same problem I have with a lot of the modern scenarios for Call of Cthulhu: they’re chock full of really interesting ideas and characters, but no clear way to introduce them. There are two cultists with personality disorders that don’t really come up in play unless the agents happen to stumble upon them at precisely the right moment. The horror of their insanity isn’t amped up; in fact, the horror of Damon Newcomb’s mental illness seems to hinge almost entirely on the fact that the man is willing to eat a cat. And ultimately there’s no big reveal – the conflict between the two bad guys just happens to the agents and they’re expected to escape (or not) rather than there being an actual resolution to the plot.

How did I resolve it? By my usual hack tactics: I ripped off the movie script of the awful Halle Berry movie Gothika. I have this theory that bad horror movies make for great scenarios, and Gothika is no exception. By dividing up the scripted events amongst characters on the inside and the outside of the asylum, the plot of Gothika actually fits better for this scenario and gives the agents on the outside something to do.

There’s something of a metagame philosophy to the original version of this scenario, with the assumption that one of the players is co-opted to be part of the occult conspiracy. As a player, I dislike this tremendously; I’ve had it happen in two different campaigns to my character, and in both the betrayal felt more like the other player being a jerk and less like a major contribution to the narrative. Instead, I’d much rather have the player suffer through being in an insane asylum rather than simply have him gobbled up by the bad guy and used as a foil.

I used audio files from Session 9, one of the scariest horror movies ever. If you’re a fan of horror, YOU MUST GO OUT AND RENT RIGHT NOW. It too, deals with an asylum and the tapes help flesh out poor, pathetic Damon. [MORE]

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Cold Visitor - Prologue

The farmer looked Vlad up and down. Then he lowered his weapon. “The name’s Jennings. Someone gave me two imperials three years ago to let him use the hill. Then they gave me another imperial to leave all this stone here until he needed it.”

“Who?” asked Dril.

“I don’t know,” said Jennings. “Didn’t look at them much. But since the things have been here, it’s been nothing but bad luck. The land around the copse stopped yielding—crops come up swollen, sweet, and rotten. And then there’s this damn snowstorm…”

“Just like last time,” said Beldin.

Jennings pointed a path out of the copse. “Everyone out. I’m going to bring blackpowder down here and blow these accursed things up.” He raised his rifle and fired at one of the slabs of granite.

The pellets slapped into the monolith. As they sang off it, there was an awful shriek from above.

Kham looked up from where he was kneeling in the snow. “Oh, crap.” [MORE]

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Sunday, June 29

Grey Matter - Conclusion

Sprague, his feathered gray-blonde hair spiked like a bird of prey, was sitting patiently when Warner entered. Like Sprague, Warner was a military man. Unlike Sprague, he was a ten-year veteran of the Army who wasn’t yet considered washed up. His military buzz cut gave him a lean and hungry look.

Warner sat down across from Sprague. Sprague waited.

“We have ascertained RAGDOLL’s final position, but…”

“Yes?” asked Sprague.

“The wreckage at the Axelrod Building is substantial. It'll be some time before anything's recovered.”

Sprague allowed a sympathetic smile. “This has been a terrible tragedy, Lieutenant Warner. And I can only stress that if you'd notified me earlier, it might have been avoided.”

“I appreciate your candor in the matter,” said Warner, death in his eyes.

“And I yours, Neal.”

“Perhaps in the future technology will allow a more thorough investigation of the wreckage,” said Warner.

“Perhaps.”

“There is another matter,” began Warner, “one that I'm reluctant to...”

“Please,” said Sprague with an encouraging gesture. “Go on.” [MORE]

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Chapter 30: Cold Visitor - Introduction

This is a Devil’s Workshop adventure set in the Arcanis setting, written by Lee Hammock and Jason Walton. 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
  • Ilmarė Galen (elf bard/fighter) played by Amber Tresca
  • Kham Val’Abebi (val rogue/psychic warrior) played by Jeremy Ortiz (http://www.ninjarobotstudios.com)
  • Nauris Drilian (human rogue/ranger) played by Mike Best
  • Vlad Martell (human fighter) played by Matt Hammer

So I was a big meanie. Instead of letting the PCs get back home to Corinalous, I decided it’s high time the Unspeakable One let everyone know he hasn’t forgotten them. And he does it in a big way.

This adventure merges the monolith summoning sequence in Tatters of the King with the adventure Cold Visitor. This is a good thing too, because the scenario in Tatters of the King assumes that the PCs will find the monoliths but be powerless to move them. That may be true in a regular Call of Cthulhu campaign, but in a world where magic is commonplace, it’s just a matter of hiring the right wizard to cast the right spell and—voila!—Hastur’s return is completely foiled.

Since the summoning actually works (sort of) the first time in Tatters of the King, I decided there should be far-reaching consequences. Because Kadath is known as the “cold waste,” the return of the Old Ones is “after summer is winter,” the Herald of the King adventure took place in a terrible snowstorm, and this adventure requires a paraelemental plane of cold…it made sense to equate the Unspeakable One’s return with the cold. This is where it’s firmly established; whenever there’s a really bad snowstorm, it just might be a gate to Kadath.

This adventure is a complete rip-off of The Thing, one of my all time favorite horror movies. We had just the right mix of paranoia, tragedy, confusion, and terror. Unfortunately, the adventure itself is rather vague in how things should unfold; fortunately, the ad-libbing made for a much more interesting game.[MORE]

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Friday, June 27

Grey Matter: Part 3e – The Alien

“Now what?” asked Hammer.

“We’ve got to get rid of it.”

They exited onto the street, passing ambulances, fire engines, and police cars.

“Get rid of it how?”

“I dunno. We’ve got C-4 mate, it’s not hard to figure it out.”

“You mean kill him?”

Jim-Bean’s eyes were on the road. “Him? Are you pissing me? It’s barely an IT!”

There was the telltale sound of a pistol being cocked. Cold metal pressed against Jim-Bean’s temple.

“I can’t let you do that.”

Jim-Bean didn’t turn his head, trying to keep the van on the road. “What in the bloody hell is wrong with you?”

“Our mission was to remove the Grey. That’s what we did. We’re returning him to Majestic-12.”

“Return it? Are you barmy? We were supposed to eliminate all evidence!”

“That’s not what I heard.”

“Well I know what I heard, and I don’t think putting a pistol to my head was part of the mission.”

“I can’t let you harm him,” Hammer repeatedly mechanically.

“Listen to yourself, mate. It got inside your head! That’s not you talking…” [MORE]

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Poetry by Nick Ozment

Nick Ozment has a couple brand new poems up in the Summer 2008 issue of THE SMOKING POET here: http://thesmokingpoet.tripod.com/id21.html

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Grey Matter: Part 3d – The Alien

Goodrich plugged his key into the wall. Jim-Bean felt his way up the wall and found the opening for the key. He plugged it in.

“One…”

Hammer dragged the cryogenic tube backwards on its wheels, firing around the Gray who sat placidly amidst the chaos.

“Two…”

Hammer swung the cryogenic tube around, his back to his assailants for a terrifying moment. He was relying on the smoke, confusion, and maybe even the Grey to keep him safe.

“Three!”

They turned the keys and Hammer shoved the tube forward. [MORE]

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Shattered Dreams: Part 6 – Dream Master

With a great sigh Nubuto rose from his bed, stepping forward. "Give me the blade.”

“I don’t have it…” said Kham. But then he realized it had been right there all along, hanging from his belt like an old friend.

"It is only a shadow of the original, but a shadow will be enough." Nubuto put out both hands.

The figures of Nubuto’s parents shimmered with rage as they moved between Nubuto and Kham. “No, son! You cannot do this!” his father cried. “Your quest! Your vengeance! You must be avenged!”

Kham struggled to take Fleshripper from its sheath. Sweat broke out on Kham’s forehead as he slowly drew the wicked, jagged edges from the sheath. It did not want to go. He didn’t want it tot go.

Nubuto shook his head. “I am dead. What need have the dead for vengeance?”

“What about us?” his mother shrieked. “Would you kill us as well?”

Nubuto looked at her for a long moment, then turned away. “You, also, are already dead.”

With a concentrated effort, Kham handed Nubuto Fleshripper.

Nubuto raised the blade…and snapped it across his knee as though it were a fragile stick. [MORE]

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Tuesday, June 24

Grey Matter: Part 3c – The Alien

It was unclear who fired first. The security guard jerked backwards even as his shot went wide, grazing one of the rival team’s guards. Hammer ducked down behind the cryogenic tube as gunfire peppered the air over him.

Goodrich, a crack shot, finished off the wounded thug and then dove behind the tube along with Hammer. The cistrons clattered to the floor.

Jim-Bean picked them up and deposited them in his bag.

“It doesn’t have to be like this!” snarled the agent formerly known as Oberschmeier.

Klaxons went off and whirling yellow lights descended from four corners of the room.

The unmistakable hissing of gas permeated the gunfire. Everyone stopped firing.

“What the hell is that?” shouted Hammer.

“HALON system,” barked Goodrich. He started crawling towards the gas masks on the wall. [MORE]

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Shattered Dreams: Part 5 – Interpreting the Dream

The silver path they followed took them through the swirling dreamscape, but the images were darker, older, and more twisted than before. Half-seen visions from their worst fears lurked through the craggy ruins of architectural styles not seen for centuries.

Kham noticed a high window in a brown building on his right. Ragged curtains flew out in the wind, fluttering like streamers. They must have been moving in a freak breeze, because a flag about them hung limp. Suddenly, they whipped out of sight, and for a second a pale face replaced them. It looked directly down at Kham, with an unreadable expression on its frozen, paper-white face.

“You okay Kham?” asked Vlad. Kham had stopped, staring up at the distance building. But the mists obscured the face and the building.

“I’m fine,” said Kham, shrugging Vlad off.

Finally they were surrounded in fog so thick they could barely see the path a foot ahead. Then, through the fog, a small cottage was visible. It was made of rotting, crumbling wood with a dirty straw roof. Standing in front of the cottage, listlessly hacking at the barren ground with a rusty hoe, was a brawny, barrel-chested dwarf with scarred brown skin and fiery red hair and beard. He showed no notice of their arrival.

The dwarf looked up, blinking slowly. "Hello. Who are you,” he said in a flat monotone without any apparent interest in the answer.

Kham stepped forward. “I know you,” he said. “I’ve seen you in my dreams. You’re the Creator, aren’t you?”

“I am he,” said the dwarf. “My name is Nubuto, and I created Fleshripper.”

“We’re here to destroy it,” said Kham. “It’s been twisted into a weapon of evil.”

"Ah," the dwarf said sadly. "I had hoped that it would serve as a tool for good, but I see now that that is not the case. Very well…I will do as you ask. Take my hand." He extends one callused hand towards Kham.

As Kham grasped the dwarf's hand, the grip became a vise. Then the dwarf’s body erupted into a much larger, uglier and much more muscular shape.

"Your soul is mine!" it bellowed through misshapen teeth as its massive arms began to squeeze. [MORE]

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Monday, June 23

Book Review: Eye in the Sky

In some ways, Dick was light years ahead of his time. Although the novel is obviously dated by references to McCarthyism, the challenges posed by each world couldn't be more apt for our modern times. The first world, created by Silvester, is a fundamentalist's dream, combining geocentric Christian and Islamic beliefs. Dick skewers both religions with one deft chapter, and the reference to Eye in the Sky has (among other parallels) a literal manifestation in Silvester's God. That's right, he's a big Eye of Sauron, so big that it looks like a gigantic lake. [MORE]

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Grey Matter: Part 3b – The Alien

“Tell me, Herr Doctor. As a plastic surgeon you must know something about ze pulmonary system. Have you found any evidence of capillaries in ze fingertips?” He held up the three-fingered hand.

Jim-Bean lowered his mask. “That’s a trick question. It’s a dummy. It doesn’t have a circulatory system.”

“Oh quite ze contrary. I see evidence here dat it does indeed have such a system—“

BEEP-BEEP, went somebody’s cistron.

Jim-Bean looked at Hammer. Hammer shrugged at Jim-Bean. They had both put their cistrons on vibrate. And yet there was a distinctive ring to their cistrons that was unmistakable.

BEEP-BEEP.

Oberschmeier looked at his assistant.

BEEP-BEEP.

“Is somebody going to get that?” asked Goodrich in irritation.

BEEP-BEEP. [MORE]

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Shattered Dreams: Part 4b – Interpreting the Dream

“There!” shouted Vlad, pointing.

A young boy was locked in battle with five Reavers. He was pushed back a step at a time, until finally his sword was struck from his hand, dissipating instantly.

The boy fell to his knees and begged. “Help me! Someone! Anyone! Help me!”

Vlad drew his sword, but Kham put one hand on his shoulder and shook his head.

“But the boy…” said Vlad, frantic. [MORE]

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Sunday, June 22

Grey Matter: Part 3a – The Alien

Hammer typed furiously into his cistron. Jim-Bean’s cistron, set to vibrate, hummed in response.

Jim-Bean fished it out of his pocket. It read. “PROBLEM.”

“?” typed Jim-Bean back.

“HOLES IN HEAD,” responded Hammer.

Goodrich was barking angrily into the phone. He didn’t like unannounced guests.

“Y?” tapped Jim-Bean, growing annoyed.

“HEALED,” Hammer typed back.

Before Jim-Bean could respond, Goodrich turned his key in tandem with the security guard and the next expert walked through the door. [MORE]

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Shattered Dreams: Part 4a – Interpreting the Dream

"We need to rest,” said Vlad. He was favoring one arm, which had been struck by a glancing blow from a Reaver’s axe.

Medricas chuckled. “You’re in a dream, my friends. What need have you of rest?”

They exchanged glances. “What?” asked Vlad.

“Will it,” added Medricas, “and you shall be restored.”

They all closed their eyes. After a moment, they opened them again. Nothing happened.

Except for Ilmarė. She glowed with a golden aura.

“How did you do that?” asked Dril.

Ilmarė pursed her lips. “Like this.” She closed her eyes again. A scratch on Dril’s face healed instantly. “I meditate every day. Your untrained minds are not accustomed to such focus.”

Kham rolled his eyes. “Can you do that for everyone?”

Ilmarė shrugged and closed her eyes again. They were all briefly engulfed by a golden light.

“Reminds me of Quintus’s healing magic,” said Vlad.

The elorii bit her lip but said nothing. [MORE]

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Saturday, June 21

Grey Matter: Part 2b – The Axelrod Building

They entered the spacious lobby. In addition to the comfortable couches and chairs that filled the lobby, numerous flat screen televisions played GNN newscasts from around the world. Two bored security guards sat at the front desk.

Jim-Bean identified the guards immediately. Wackenhut.

“Cheers,” he said smiling at one of the guards. “My associate and I are here to see the…” he made air quotes, “alien corpse.”

“One of the experts huh?”

“Yes, that’s me. I’m a plastic surgeon, one of the best. I’m sure you’ve heard of me.” Jim-Bean nodded to Hammer, who silently procured a flyer they printed up just for the occasion. It had a picture of Jim-Bean smiling at the camera and a long list of the clients he performed plastic surgery on – all celebrities who wouldn’t be pleased to see their name on the flyer.

The guard didn’t bother to look at the flyer. “Your name, sir?”

“Chan.”

“First name please?”

“Jack.”

The guard froze in the middle of typing his name in. “Jackie Chan?” He suppressed a smile. “You probably get that all the time.”

Jim-Bean chuckled. “Oh, of course.” He carried a lunch bag in one hand and a heavy medical bag in the other.

“You don’t look Chinese,” said the guard.

“Right.” He winked at the guard. When the guard just stared at him, he added. “I’m a plastic SURGEON." [MORE]

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Shattered Dreams: Part 3 – Through the Looking Glass

“Reavers,” snarled Beldin. The dwarves had weld marks binding their shadowy armor shut over their bodies.

The troop as one turned to gaze at the Solani dwarf, then began moving towards him, despite the fact that their feet were marching in a different direction entirely.

“So that would be the evil we’re here to defeat,” said Kham.

The woman sneered. “I can smell the stink of heroism on them,” she cooed in a voice like a whisper. Her words echoed from all around, causing swirls of color and light as they passed through the fog of dreams. “Kill them.”

Vlad drew Grungronhozarr. Beldin drew his battleaxe. Dril drew a scimitar and dagger. They waited as the Reavers closed.

Two of the Reavers fell as bullet holes appeared in their helmets. Another spun sideways, the victim of two arrows jutting from the eyeholes of a helmet.

At a cliff high above them, more dwarves battled men in armor of shimmering light, dueling upside-down on the underside of the cliff face. Fading into view through the fog was a massive melee between dwarves and hobgoblins on one side, and men and dwarves on the other, fighting on the top of a strange purple lake.

”You’re getting better.” Kham holstered two of his smoking pistols and drew two more. “That’s a difficult shot.”

Ilmarė smirked. “Unlike you, I learn from my mistakes.” Another Reaver fell from carefully aimed arrows. [MORE]

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Friday, June 20

Grey Matter: Part 2a – The Axelrod Building

Jim-Bean sat in the passenger’s seat, feet propped up on the dashboard. He took a long puff of his cigarette and blew the smoke out the side of his mouth towards the semi-open window of the van.

“Okay, so here’s the plan…” began Jim-Bean.

“Wait,” said Hammer. “Since when do you start telling me what the plan is?”

“’Cause I’m mission leader,” said Jim-Bean with a grin. He took another puff. “I’ve got our credentials right here.” He tossed Hammer a wallet.

Hammer flipped through the wallet. “You’ve got to be kidding me. I’m not even the right ethnicity for this cover!”

“Oops, that’s mine.” Jim-Bean snatched the wallet out of his hand and replaced it with another one. “You’re security.”

Hammer stared at him. “YOU’RE not the right ethnicity for that cover either.” [MORE]

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Shattered Dreams: Part 2 – Dreams Revealed

Vlad appeared as the hero he imagined himself to be. He was accoutered in shining full plate, filigreed with gold. He seemed nobler, stronger, more sure of himself.

Dril, on the other hand, was a creature of shadowy darkness. A black cloak billowed around him. Red eyes shone from beneath a deep hood.

“That’s about how I would imagine you two would look,” said Kham. “But the dwarf. Wow, Beldin. You must have some ego.”

Beldin’s change was the most dramatic. He was taller then them all; huge, muscular, handsome, and virile. His eyes blazed with silvery fire and his skin was golden. He was a god among men, an ancient titan of old, before the curse of Illiir brought the dwarves low.

Beldin gold skin turned slightly bronze on his cheeks. He was blushing. “This is who I truly am,” he said with a grimace. “It is a reminder of the glory that was before the Age of Man.”

“And you look exactly the same,” said Vlad to Ilmarė.

Ilmarė shrugged. “Elven souls are unchanging across time. I am exactly who I wish to be, no more, no less.” [MORE]

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Grey Matter: Part 1 – The Broadcast

“I pulled another agent off of a very important mission to help you. He’s a specialist in social engineering.”

“Oh yeah?” asked Hammer. “Who?”

“Baxter.”

“Baxter? You mean Agent Jim-Bean?”

Sprague didn’t bother to confirm his identity. “We’re dropping him off via the SPIDER network.” SPIDER was a huge network of clandestine transport vessels based out of various Majestic-12 locations across the United States. “He’ll be there shortly. Good luck.”

Hammer sighed. “Yep. A suicide mission.” [MORE]

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Shattered Dreams: Part 1 – Nightmares Return

“I am going to send your souls into Fleshripper. When you are ready to return, remember that you have this.” He brought forth a gemstone of cut glass and handed it to Kham. “Break this after you have destroyed the source of the sword's power, and your souls will return to your bodies. I do not know what you will find within the sword, but remember that not all things may be as they appear. Do not trust your eyes, and take nothing for granted.”

“Right,” said Kham. He sat in the center of the circle of companions.

Corinalous passed his arms above his head, muttering something under his breath. A light, silvery thread connected all those who sat before him. “The fate of thousands of souls rests on you. Good luck.” He looked at Kham. “Draw the sword.”

Kham drew Fleshripper.

Corinalous nodded, then said calmly, “Drive it through your heart.”

Kham balked. “Excuse me?”

“Drive it through your heart, boy,” snapped Corinalous. “It’s necessary for the ritual.”

“I can help,” said Ilmarė. [MORE]

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Wednesday, June 18

Grey Matter: Prologue

The opening promo shots revealed glimpses of an alien corpse in a cryogenic tube that was more than sufficient to prove that the show, unlike many others, was indeed real.

“This is not a farce or a publicity hoax. To verify the amazing evidence we plan to present at eight p.m. on Friday next week, a team of renowned biologists, doctors, and zoologists are flying in from Miskatonic University to inspect the corpse and attest to its authenticity. None of these learned gentlemen have any prior contact with this station, this network, or GNN. You cannot afford to miss next week’s exciting…Visions from Beyond!”

“Oh,” said Hammer, “this can’t be good.” [MORE]

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Shattered Dreams: Prologue

“I’ve never been totally truthful with you, son.” He nodded towards the huge sword that was never far from Kham’s side. “That…thing and I were acquainted before. And I knew I had to get it as far away from you as I possibly could.”

“That’s why you were always gone? Because of a stupid sword?”

“Fleshripper’s not just a sword, son.” Corinalous’ gaze fixed on Kham. “You can feel it already, can’t you? It’s like a leech in your soul, drawing out your life; and yet you cannot bear to be parted from it. I thought that I could control it too. After much research, it became clear that there was only one thing I could do: I used an ancient ritual to bind my life force to the sword. After that, it could no longer steal the souls of its victims, and it could no longer exert its will so easily on its wielder. But I was wrong. The sword has a great power, one I could not contain. It slowly draws upon the soul of its wielder, until eventually that soul is consumed by the sword as well. You’ve probably felt that pull before, and I imagine it’s stronger now.”

Kham nodded, wordlessly. It was almost unbearable, the urge to kill his own father. [MORE]

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Tuesday, June 17

Chapter 13: Grey Matter - Introduction

This scenario, “Grey Matter,” is a from the Conspiracy X sourcebook, Nemesis. 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:
Sometimes my players throw me a curveball. In this case, I found out that one of the players couldn’t make it the night before the session. With only three PCs in total, this could have been a disaster. Fortunately, I had been planning to commit one of the agents to insane asylum, so this fit right in with the rest of the plan to make Guppy disappear.

The mission the two agents participated in turned out to be perfectly suited for their talents. Jim-Bean’s smooth-talking disguise (if you can call it that) and Hammer’s fast guns were precisely what was needed. The original scenario assumes the agents will basically sneak into the place, but once I saw how that the team was going to go through the front door, I decided their rivals would do the same. Overall, it was a fun if a little odd scenario.

I used footage from the real alien autopsy online to kick off the mission. Then I realized that, since Hammer had actually seen the aliens close-up, he was in a unique position to confirm the authenticity of the body. I also got the chance to introduce rival Majestic-12 agents into the mix and let the team know that even though they’re supposedly all on the same side, they can be wiped out at any time.

This is another one of those scenarios that, although it provides a means for the agents to walk through the front door by acting as one of the so-called experts, blithely assumes they will break into the place. It’s surprisingly light on details, such as where guards are placed, how security responds, etc. In fact, it’s much more focused on what the various NPCs will do rather than the response to a breach in security. Since there’s no map (a problem neatly remedied by Critical Locations), the scenario becomes even more confusing.

I had the script from Terminator 2 ready to use as a template for a rival team’s raid on the office building. But since the agents walked through the front door, I had to change tactics mid-stream. I decided the agents’ cover was so audacious it required a suitably ridiculous response. So instead of a stealth mission in the cover of darkness, the rival team was a covert op in the bright light of day. And I had a chance to test Jim-Bean’s capacity for fast talk. After all, why have a Charismatic Hero if he never gets to be Charismatic? [MORE]

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Chapter 29: Shattered Dreams - Introduction

This is a Living Arcanis adventure set in the Arcanis setting, written by Jeffrey Witthauer and Jeffrey Meehan. 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
• Ilmarė Galen (elf bard/fighter) played by Amber Tresca
• Kham Val’Abebi (val rogue/psychic warrior) played by Jeremy Ortiz (http://www.ninjarobotstudios.com)
• Nauris Drilian (human rogue/ranger) played by Mike Best
• Vlad Martell (human fighter) played by Matt Hammer

This adventure, known as “the one where Kham gets rid of Fleshripper,” took an interesting turn. For one, we changed the main character of Corinalous to be Kham’s father. Corinalous is the right age as well as a val’Abebi, so that fits nicely.

For another, mixing the events of The King in Yellow with the dream world seriously warps the reality of the game. What’s real and what’s not? As if Kham didn’t have enough problems, this adventure forces him to face the ghosts of his past. Literally.

Unfortunately for our heroes, even after they complete their mission within the sword, they’re not going to get back to Arcanis that quickly. [MORE]

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Monday, June 16

Hot Air: Conclusion

“Polish authorities apprehended a man who was originally thought to be a terrorist wearing a bomb vest, dangling from the Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw. The identity of the man, believed to be an Indian, is unknown at this time. However, preliminary reports indicate that he was not, in fact, a terrorist but a government agent possibly in the employ of American or British authorities. Whatever his identity, one fact is clear: he was responsible for stopping the hijacking of Indianational 270.”

An image of the Indianational jetliner appeared.

“Indianational left London today carrying four hundred passengers en route to Bangalore. It was taken over mid-flight by a terrorist group known as Al-Hazzan, believed to have links to Al-Qaeda. How the agents managed to board the plane or retrieve the bomb is still a mystery. We'll stick with this story and bring you updates as…”

Ian Goodrich swallowed hard. It was good, but there were not enough answers. An Indian agent working for Americans? There was only one person that could be.

“Mr. Goodrich,” came the intercom call. “Call for you on line one. It’s the Chairman.”

Goodrich’s stomach knotted up. That was the call he was dreading. He picked up the nearest phone. The other techs gave him room. [MORE]

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Baumann's Prize: Conclusion

Corinalous stood over the corpse of his friend, shaking his head. “Oh Flint. I told you not to pursue this.”

Kham peered at the words. “Leviathan, we offer these gifts in your name. O Master of the Seas, guide us as we struggle in your foul name. Bloody One, grant us strength.”

“Leviathan?” Vlad took a step back. “Did you say Leviathan?”

Between the unhallowed words, Kham could make out one design that was almost familiar: an octopus’ head. As he looked closer, he realized something strange about the design: five stars circle the dome of the octopus.

Corinalous lifted up a heel of the dead gnome’s boot and, twisting it slightly, pulled out a carefully folded piece of parchment.

He handed the parchment to Kham. It was browned, faded and roughened to the consistency of leather.

They stepped out of the room and downstairs. Sebastian took Bobbin aside to explain what happened.

Kham unrolled the parchment onto a nearby table. It expanded into a cracked five-foot square map, with wear along the edges.

The map had no indications of scale or direction; the trails of latitude and longitude began at the margins of the map, but they didn’t extend more than a few inches. Five islands rendered in ochre by an unsteady hand dominated the map, forming a rough circle.

Four of the island drawings featured terrain markings—mountains, jungles, natural harbors, and so forth. In addition, a unique icon sat below each of the four islands: a prosthetic hook, a spyglass, a ship’s bell, and a pistol. The fifth island was blank, save for a symbol in its middle—an octopus head and crossbones with five stars ringed above the dome of the head—and a single word beneath it: R’LYEH.

“That’s the sign of Leviathan,” said Vlad again, tapping the octopus head. “So the Leviathan cult has finally made it to Freeport.” [MORE]

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Sunday, June 15

Hot Air: Part 5 – Bombs Away!

“Guppy,” said Hammer, his voice taking on a carefully modulated tone, “I can’t let them get into the cargo bay.”

The door shuddered. Heavy luggage was piled in front of it. Guppy tried to give himself every advantage he could.

“I know,” said Guppy.

“Then you know what we have to do.”

The Indianational planes were specially built to be both cargo and passenger planes, which made them not particularly good at either.

“Yes.” Guppy dropped what he was doing and shrugged his parachute on. He tapped a few keys on his cistron, enabling the override of the main cargo bay door.

Yellow warning lights flicked on and a klaxon roared as the huge door began to open. Guppy pulled his breathing mask over his face. [MORE]

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Baumann's Prize: Part 5 – Baumann’s Sitting Room

Two guards charged forward from the opposite side of the room, only to be met by Vlad and Beldin. A door opened as Kham entered…

“Ah HA!” shouted the swashbuckling elorii on the other side. He lunged forward with his rapier, spearing at the air where surely someone must have entered.

“Ah ha your damn self,” said Kham. Two pistol blasts caused the elorii to twist backwards. Unfortunately, it also caused him to lose his invisibility. The two combatants separated from each other across the door while the battle raged outside of the room.

They were in a circular room filled with bas-relief carvings on the walls. The craftsmanship was incredible, depicting strange serpent men engaged in a wide variety of activities. In the center of the room was a round, sunken couch appointed with plush cushions. Scattered about the place were cages filled with exotic birds.

“Dad!” shouted Kham.

Chained to the wall at the far end of the room was a gaunt older man, wearing a blue robe and cracked pince-nez. He looked up, almost unable to speak. “Son!”

“We can’t have the family reunion interrupted,” said the elorii. With a flourish, he pulled a wand from his puffy shirt and pointed it at the doorway. “Casses!” [MORE]

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Saturday, June 14

Hot Air: Part 4 – High, High, High

The terrorists didn’t see or hear him. A man who looked like the leader of the plane was in front, instructing two other men who were piloting the plane but clearly not pilots.

One of the men, the leader, spoke in Arabic. “The Karotechia will be pleased.”

It was odd, hearing an exotic word like “Karotechia” in amongst the other Arabic words. But Hammer didn’t have time to ponder its meaning.

Hammer uncoiled himself from the service elevator and sent it back down. He crouched next to the entrance to the pilot’s compartment.

The door is open, Hammer thought to himself. The door is open. That’s all I need.

He counted to three, breathing deeply to steady himself. Then the world slowed down. [MORE]

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Baumann's Prize: Part 4 – Basement Storage

An effeminate-looking elorii in swashbuckling grab stood safely at the side of the stairs, egging his companions on. Near as Kham could tell, he provided no value whatsoever.

“THREE!” A fourth sea dog lunged, only to have his cutlass caught by the wicked curve of Beldin’s axe. The dwarf twisted and the man spun sideways.

Kham ducked his head into a rectangular room. A long table with many chairs dominated the center, while double bunk beds lined the walls. It was the crew’s quarters. Kham closed the door.

“FOUR!” Beldin had yet to actually move from the steps. One sea dog hurled his cutlass in frustration. It bounced off Beldin’s shield.

Kham ducked inside one room when the elorii wasn’t looking. It had beautiful rugs adorning the floors and was lit with golden candlesticks. There was a plush couch along one wall, a carved wooden armoire, and a comfortable-looking bed.

“Must be a woman’s quarters,” said Kham. Then he realized it was probably the elorii’s. [MORE]

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Hot Air: Part 3 – Al-Hazzan

“Did you disable it?”

Guppy wiped the sweat off of his brow. “I think so.”

“You THINK so? Guppy, you have to be really, REALLY sure about this.”

“I said I think so, all right?” growled Guppy. “But there’s a failsafe. A manual detonator”

“A failsafe? How many detonators on this damn thing?”

“Three,” said Guppy. “And I can’t disarm that one. Not without setting it off.”

“So they can still set it off manually.”

Guppy nodded. “This is supersarin. One drop can kill a man. If it was dispersed over a populated city, the death tolls would be in the millions…”

The roar of supersonic jet engines rattled the interior of the jumbo jet. The cistron link was filled with chatter in different languages.

“Jet fighters,” said Hammer. “What the hell are they doing out there?" [MORE]

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Baumann's Prize: Part 3 – Basement Door

Kham came back into the room. “I can’t find my father anywhere! I’ve torn the other rooms apart.”

Sebastian turned towards his new friend. “Rebecca? Do you know the way down?”

She nodded. “I do. I can show you if you like, but I can’t go down any further.”

“Why not?” asked Beldin.

Rebecca’s features narrowed with distrust as she took in the dwarf for the first time.

“Why not?” repeated Sebastian.

“Because the boss wouldn’t like it.”

Kham kicked the Well-Dressed Man with his foot. “You mean this wasn’t him?”

Rebecca shook her head. “Nah.”

“So the whole Well-Dressed Man act was a façade for something else,” said Sebastian. “Your father’s probably down there with him, her, or it.” [MORE]

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Friday, June 13

Pyramid Article: The Thuggee

Introducing the Thuggee prestige class for 3.5 D&D:
Thuggee myth speaks of a monster in early times so huge that the deepest ocean could not cover it. It devoured humans as soon as they were created. Kali slew it with her sword, but each drop of blood the monster shed created a new demon. Kali continued to butcher the new demons, but growing weary, she paused to catch her breath. From the two drops of sweat that fell from her sprang two human beings. Giving them her handkerchief, she commanded the men to strangle the demons. After completing this mission they wished to return the handkerchief, but Kali bade them retain it and give it to their progeny to kill those not of their kind...[MORE]

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Part 2 – Someone Set Us Up the Bomb!

After rifling through an endless pile of luggage filled with cameras, underwear, and cosmetics, Guppy suddenly froze.

Hammer looked up. “Did you find it?”

A large green container sat ominously in one corner. It is most conspicuous because of its lack of markings or identification.

“I think that’s it.”

Guppy slid his toolkit over to the container. He snapped a pair of magnifying goggles down over his eyes and began examining it.

Hammer watched impatiently. “So?”

“It’s a bomb all right,” said Guppy.

“Can you disarm it?”

“I think so.”

“Good,” said Hammer. “You do that and I’ll take care of—“

“I didn’t say it was THE bomb. I said it’s A bomb.”

“You mean there’s more than one?” [MORE]

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Baumann's Prize: Part 2b – Main Smoking Den

Kham fired two shots, but the Well-Dressed Man seemed to know where he was aiming before he fired. He twisted and the two pistol blasts perforated the wall behind him.

“Next time, I’m dumping the overcoat,” he muttered.

“Rebecca! Stop them!” The Well-Dressed Man took a deep breath.

Drug addicts stumbled around clumsily, struggling to find sanctuary. Some of them ran half-naked out of the curtained alcoves. [MORE]

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Wednesday, June 11

Hot Air: Part 1 – Now Boarding Indianational

The pilot gave Hammer a thumbs up. He unsealed the hatch above, disrupting the pervasive silence inside the Resolution with the roar of two planes thousands of feet in the air. Above them was a rope ladder and ten feet of space between the Resolution and the Indianational.

Hammer snapped his breathing mask on and turned to Guppy. “Go!”

It took a moment for Guppy to realize Hammer was addressing him. He snapped on his own mask, unbuckled himself and began making the rapid crawl up to the aircraft’s bottom entry hatch.

Suddenly, red lights flashed around the edges of the tube near the hatch of both planes and a low, urgent beeping barely pierced the screaming wind outside.

Hammer shouted from below, “We’re hitting turbulence!”

Guppy hooked his cistron up to the cargo bay door. He tapped furiously on it. There were safeguards in place that would alert the pilot to an open door, especially when in mid-air.

The beeping became more insistent.

“We’re losing the seal!” shouted Hammer. “What the hell are you doing up there?”

“I’m working as fast as I can!” shouted Guppy. “It doesn’t help when you yell—“

There was a wrenching sound as the seal began to lose suction. [MORE]

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Baumann's Prize: Part 2a – Main Smoking Den

The dark-kin made his way over to the man. “I’d like to buy some drugs,” he said stiffly.

The old man chuckled and abruptly turned to face Sebastian. His eyes were milky white. “That depends on what kinds of flavor you’re looking for. Snakeweed will cost you three silver, ghoul juice costs one doubloon, and abyss dust costs two doubloons.

Sebastian pretended to think it over. “Two vials of ghoul juice please. One for me and one for my friend.” He slipped two gold doubloons onto the counter in front of the man.

A young man stumbled out of one of the cubicles and collapsed on a nearby couch.

The Well-Dressed Man felt in front of him for the coins. He rubbed each coin between his fingers. Nodding to himself, he turned and slid the coins through the grate behind him. A few moments later, gnarled hands handed him three vials. He spun back to place the vials before him.

“You’re blind,” Sebastian said out loud.

“I am,” said the Well-Dressed Man. “Is that a problem?”

Sebastian shook his head. “Not at all. It’s just that you gave us one too many vials.” He could feel Beldin tense up behind him. [MORE]

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Hot Air: Prologue

“May I remind you that you are a member of a counter-terrorist unit dedicated to dealing with precisely this situation?”

“But we’re boarding another jet in mid-air! And there’s only two of us!”

“If Al-Hazzan detonates that supersarin over a populated city, millions will die. I expect you to do whatever it takes to stop it.” The screen winked out.

“But…” Guppy trailed off. “He just hung up on me.” He looked up at Hammer, who was webbed into a seat across from him. “He just hung up.” [MORE]

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Baumann's Prize: Part 1c – Rudolph’s Exotic Book Shoppe

Ilmarė and Vlad entered the dimly lit shop, with bookcases lining the walls. Carpet completely covered the floor and a floor-to-ceiling curtain concealed the wall opposite the door. An elderly man sat hunched over a desk in front of the curtained wall. A candelabrum burned in front of him, shining light on the book he was reading.

The man looked over the rim of his glasses as Ilmarė entered. “Hello.” He motioned to the bookcases. “Take a look and see if there’s anything you like. If you need help, just ask.” He returned to reading his book.

Ilmarė leaned forward. As she did so, a purple lock fell across one eye. She tucked it back under the hood of her cloak. “I’d like to see your exotic book reading room, please.”

The man stared at her. Then he motioned behind the curtained back wall to a door at the far end of a passage. “The password is: Froese.”

Ilmarė nodded and pushed the curtain aside. It led to a dark passage that culminated in a large door.

Steeling herself, the elorii made her way to the door. A slot abruptly slid open. A pair of squinting eyes greeted her. “What’s the password?” asked someone in a gruff voice.

“Froese,” said Ilmarė. She waited.

Nothing happened. Vlad slowly started to reach for the hilt of Grungronazharr. [MORE]

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Tuesday, June 10

Chapter 12: Hot Air - Introduction

This scenario, “Hot Air,” is a Spycraft mission from Combat Missions by Yours Truly. 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:

What was I thinking? With just two agents, I decided to have a go at a deadly scenario, Hot Air. Hot Air is inspired by Executive Decision, which is about an anti-terrorist group attempting to thwart a terrorist hijacking in mid-air. It’s also noteworthy in that Steven Seagal, Halle Berry, and Kurt Russel are in it. And Seagal dies in the first ten minutes.

We almost reproduced this film exactly; I wrote the scenario for a full complement of mid-level agents, and 2d6 damage nearly killed Hammer. It took quite a few rolls and spent action points to get the scenario back on track.

But once it was back on track, things moved quickly. Not only did they move quickly, it turned into a pretty amazing scenario. And of course, there’s the mention of one important phrase that ties all this back to Delta Green territory.

Defining Moment: Guppy, faced with no other alternative, decides to become a hero at grave risk to himself. It involves parachutes and bombs. [MORE]

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Baumann's Prize: Part 1b – Rudolph’s Exotic Book Shoppe

Sebastian and Beldin entered a dimly lit shop with bookcases lining the walls. Carpet completely covered the floor and a floor-to-ceiling curtain concealed the wall opposite the door. An elderly man sat hunched over a desk in front of the curtained wall. A candelabrum burned in front of him, shining light on the book he was reading.

The man looked over the rim of his glasses as Sebastian as he entered. “Hello there.” He motioned to the bookcases. “Please look around and see if there is anything you like. If you need any help just ask.” He returned to reading his book.

Sebastian swallowed and stepped up to the desk. “I’d like to see your exotic book reading room, please.”

The man motioned behind the curtained back wall to a door at the far end of a passage. “The password is: Drac.”

Sebastian nodded and moved towards the curtain.

“Nobody mentioned anything about another password,” muttered Beldin from behind his scarf. [MORE]

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Monday, June 9

Last One Out: Conclusion

Sprague’s expression was frosty on the cistron. “Good job agents. I didn’t think you could pull this off.”

“That place was run like a military prison,” said Hammer. “You sent us on a suicide mission.”

“Every CIFA mission is a suicide mission,” said Sprague. “Don’t ever think otherwise. Still, you did what you came to do. Unfortunately, Wells did manage to create a drug known on the street as Blink. There’s a unique ingredient that Wells used to create it, stolen from the Sparkle, Inc. facility, that causes severe hallucinations and addiction. We think it was distributed in Florida, California, and New York as testing grounds for an expanded distribution network.”

“So you want us to go after those locations?” asked Caprice.

Sprague shook his head. “Not now. We’ve got bigger fish to fry.” He paused. “One other thing: None of you were exposed to the drug, were you? We picked up that explosion on satellite.”

Hammer looked at his teammates. Caprice shook his head.

“Guppy?”

Guppy was staring at his hand. [MORE]

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Baumann's Prize: Part 1a – Rudolph’s Exotic Book Shoppe

At random intervals, people who looked more like derelicts than scholars wandered in and out of the shop. They entered the shop in a rush and cast furtive glances in all directions as they approached the entrance. Patrons leaving the shop seemed disoriented or drunk, often stumbling in the street.

“I’m going in invisible.” Kham tapped a clear vial in one hand with his thumb. “Sebastian, Beldin, you go in and say the passphrase: I’d like to see your exotic-book reading room, please. I’ll sneak in behind you.”

“I recommend we all keep our cloaks up and scarves across our noses,” said Sebastian. “If those mercenaries really were working for this Well-Dressed Man, they may know what we look like.”

“And THAT’S not suspicious.” Ilmarė’s arms were crossed.

“Trust me, the clientele here all looks like that,” said Kham. [MORE]

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Sunday, June 8

Last One Out: Part 4 – The Escape

Guppy flinched as Hammer’s command barked in his ear.

“If you would stop shouting I would be able to concentrate on taking the shot…”

“Guppy…” growled Hammer.

“Okay, okay. Caprice, you see them?”

“Yeah, taking the shot.”

Guppy and Caprice fired. The machinegun that was spraying Hammer’s location stopped moving.

“Clear!” said Guppy.

“Evacuating now,” said Hammer. “All positions, pull out.”

Guppy turned to climb down the ladder…

And came face-to-face with one of the guards, a knife in his mouth.

“Mother trucker!” shouted Guppy, stumbling backwards as the knife slashed hid tactical vest. [MORE]

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Baumann's Prize: Prologue

As they stepped outside and made their way through the streets, they were greeted with a Freeport in varied states of wakefulness. There seemed to be a change in the quality of the air. It felt more energetic and alive—and tense.

Ilmarė sighed, loudly. “Great,” she said. “Orcs.”

There was a long line of orcs emerging carrying cargo cross the street.

“I’ve heard that the city needs cheap labor to assist with several construction projects.” Beldin watched the orcs tromping around in droves. “But I never thought they meant this cheap.” [MORE]

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Friday, June 6

Last One Out: Part 3 – The Processing Plant

The office had a small, decently furnished bedroom, kitchen, dining area, and office. A HAM radio sat on a batter desk, along with a satellite phone. Hammer could make out Wells, strapped to a chair and moaning. Montoya was talking to him. Two guards stood near the entrance.

Hammer kicked the door open and fired his silenced pistols at point blank range into the guts of each guard. They crumpled to the ground.

Montoya whirled and then dove sideways. Hammer heard the click of a weapon being reloaded.

He ducked just in time as machinegun fire peppered the doorway.

“Now!” said Hammer into his mic. [MORE]

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Chapter 28: Baumann’s Prize - Introduction

This is an adventure set in the Freeport setting, "Black Sails Over Freeport," written by William Simoni. 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
  • Ilmarė Galen (elf bard/fighter) played by Amber Tresca
  • Kham Val’Abebi (val rogue/psychic warrior) played by Jeremy Ortiz (http://www.ninjarobotstudios.com)
  • Sebastian Arnyal (dark-kin sorcerer) played by George Webster
  • Vlad Martell (human fighter) played by Matt Hammer

I tinkered quite a bit with this adventure, merging the drug den from Black Sails Over Freeport with the drug den from The Consequences of Vice (TCOV). It wasn’t too hard, given that TCOV has no map and not much of a description of the drug den.

Thus, a relatively minor but interesting character known as Drake becomes the “well-dressed man.” Drake is a blind rogue/monk who specializes in staff combat. And he’s Enemy Number One. Or is he?

True to form, Kham was much more concerned about finding his father and much less concerned about getting revenge. Although he did slip in a good measure of revenge during all the rescuing.

Conversely, the power of a 6th-level sorcerer becomes apparent. Sebastian can cast three fireballs in a row. When you’ve got multiple bad guys bottled up in a room, it’s a slaughter.

I intentionally pared down some of Captain Baumann’s grandstanding because…well, because it’s ridiculous. Not only does Captain Baumann have a flight of birds who are “trained to harass only strangers who enter the chamber,” but she makes a four sentence speech and then uses a magic item (teleportation gem) that I would never allow characters to own, all so she can make a clean getaway. Can you say, “railroading” kids? I knew you could!

Still, because the stakes were so high, the adventure took on a completely different tone that made up for some of the ridiculous cheese. Unfortunately, Kham also managed to pick up a new vice…[MORE]

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Wednesday, June 4

Last One Out: Part 2 – Negotiations

“You can’t—“

“Oh I think we can,” said Hammer. “Mrs. Wells, this man has been abusing your trust. He hasn’t been negotiating a release at all; he’s been sponging off of you, dragging out the negotiations and pocketing a portion of your good faith payments. He’ll drag this on all year if you’ll let him.”

Julio took a menacing step forward. His two thugs drew their pistols. “Stop talking.”

“Mrs. Wells,” said Hammer. “It is our informed opinion that, as Mr. Julio here is a member of your employ, you have the right to fire him.”

Barbara Wells looked back and forth from Barbara to Hammer. She folded her arms. “Julio, you’re fired.”

Hammer drew two pistols and pointed them at the two thugs. “That’s all I needed to hear.” [MORE]

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The Consequences of Vice: Conclusion

“Where were you, anyway?” asked Sebastian.

“Finn’s.”

“Finn?” shouted Beldin. “But he’s the one who murdered Frederick Haddon!”

Kham leaned back in his chair. “It wasn’t Finn. It’s hard to explain. The Syndicate doesn’t deal drugs. They consider it…dishonorable.”

Vlad suppressed a laugh once he realized Kham wasn’t joking. [MORE]

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Tuesday, June 3

Last One Out: Part 1 – The Wells Estate

Hammer looked back and forth between the men and Barbara. “We’re not here to cause trouble. We’re just trying to help.”

“Uh huh. You can help somewhere else. You are foreigners. We know this kidnapping business better than you.” He turned to Barbara. “If you have the government involved Simon will surely die.”

Barbara was struggling to hold back tears. She hugged herself tightly.

“Fine, we’ll go. It’s clear you’ve got this under control. Let us know when you make progress.” He handed Julio his card.

Julio threw the card on the ground and slammed the door in Hammer’s face.

“I can’t believe you just took that,” said Caprice as they entered their van on the perimeter of the Wells’ villa. “You’re going to let them do our job?”

“Yes,” said Hammer. He took out a laser microphone. “That’s exactly what I plan to let them do.” [MORE]

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The Consequences of Vice: Part 4b – Finn’s Syndicate

Kham knocked lightly on the door labeled “Finn.” Finn’s raspy voice summoned him in.

As always, the short and chubby val’Borda sat at what might as well have been his throne. The guards that were never far from him closed the door behind Kham.

“Good to see you again, Kham.” Finn’s hangdog expression didn’t match his words. “Have a seat.”

Kham did as he was told.

Finn sighed. “You must understand that this is a terrible thing, what this Well-Dressed Man has done. He has killed someone who owed me money. That is just bad form.”

“You mean Frederick Haddon.”

Finn nodded. “But on top of that, he impersonated my organization. And for him to do such a thing is inexcusable. I am very angry with this man. And so I come to you.”

Kham straightened up. This time, he had nothing of value Finn could take from him. Not even Beldin’s Sign of Drac. Well, there was always Fleshripper, but he preferred not to think about what might happen if they tried to take it from him.

“My men didn’t kill Frederick. You know how I operate. Killing people is bad for business. I take pieces of people until they remember they should pay their debts. But they can’t pay their debts if they’re dead.”

“I’ve seen your work,” said Kham.

“This Well-Dressed Man, he sells this drink.” Finn sighed again. “It’s instantly addictive. Once you get hooked, you never get off of it. On the street, they call it Ghoul Juice. I call it poison.”

Kham swallowed. “I’ve…heard of it.” [MORE]

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Monday, June 2

Last One Out: Prologue

The chopper hummed a staccato beat all around them as Sprague briefed the team on its mission. They all looked glumly at their cistrons.

“…as of today,” continued Sprague, “there will be no C-Team and N-Team. You are all members of the same team.”

“What’s our designation?” asked Hammer.

“Sprague’s Team. Or S-Team if you prefer.”

Caprice rolled his eyes. “Of course.”

“What was that?”

Caprice didn’t answer.

“That’s what I thought. As I was saying, we’re going to do things by the book. As CIF agents, you’re expected to actually serve your country instead of running around looking for aliens and ghosts. So you’re about to start earning your paycheck by doing some real work.” [MORE]

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The Consequences of Vice: Part 4a – Finn’s Syndicate

As he rummaged around the room for a wineskin, he got a glimpse of himself in the polished bowl near his bed. It was then that he fully understood Ilmarė’s revenge.

His long locks had been cut off, left on his pillow in a neat little pile. As if it weren’t obvious enough as to who had defaced Kham’s body, his fingernails were painted purple and silver.

Kham couldn’t help but chuckle. The elf had gotten him good. He owed her one. [MORE]

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Sunday, June 1

Last One Out: Introduction

This scenario, “Last One Out,” is a Spycraft mission from Combat Missions by Yours Truly. 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:

  • Game Master: Michael Tresca (http://michael.tresca.net)
  • Hank “Guppy” Gupta (Smart Hero/Field Scientist) played by Joseph Tresca (http://www.creepyportfolio.com)
  • Kurtis “Hammer” Grange (Fast Hero/Sharpshooter) played by George Webster
  • Sebastian “Caprice” Creed (Fast/Smart Hero/Techie) played by Bill Countiss

Although Combat Missions is now in a completely different format for Spycraft, making it much less useful on the surface for a d20 Modern game, the original draft was for Spycraft 1.0. I decided to put it to good use.

It’s not all that hard to find Delta Green connections to the missions. In this case, it’s tied to the mysterious production of a new addictive drug known as Blink. Can you think of possible mythos connections? I sure can!

I also felt it was important to wrap up what was largely a supernatural story arc involving monsters from beyond, Coyote, and an ancient ritual (Blade’s story arc) and shift gears to the other characters in the game. For Hammer, that’s interesting “mudane” combat missions, which the Spycraft book provides in spades. For Guppy and Caprice, it’s dealing with aliens, drugs, and mental health issues.

I used Sprague’s promotion as case agent to really change things up – they’re essentially under new management, and new management doesn’t tolerate laser guns or talk of stupid supernatural stuff. If Drake represented the Delta Green way of thinking, Sprague is the Majestic-12 way of thinking. Fear not though, those elements are still there – they’re just not as embraced by Majestic-12.

[MORE]

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The Consequences of Vice: Part 3b – Mind Your Own Business

When the blast cleared, Vlad stood at the center with Grungronazharr in both hands. His companions were largely unaffected, although the same could not be said for their surroundings.

“Nobody mentioned the sword!” shouted Marta over her shoulder at her companions, who were standing on the rooftops of buildings on either side of the alleyway. “Now what?”

“Press them!” shouted Glinfield, an Altharian wizard garbed in red and black robes with a matching kaffiyeh. It was he who had cast the fireball.

Marta shook her head in aggravation and surged forward to engage Vlad in sword to shield combat.

“Th’ dwarf is mine!” shouted Thaim Hammerforge. He pounded his pole-hammer into the ground and it ignited with Nier’s holy flames. Then he took a menacing step towards Beldin.

Nobody bothered to ask Garadon what he was doing, because he rarely communicated with humans. It made him difficult to hire for a job, but his success spoke for itself. It was precisely why Glinfield had hired him. Although Garadon was an elorii, he seemed to have a pathological hatred of his own kind. Everyone knew he would target Ilmarė.

“Great,” said Rooster Tumblefoot, a redheaded gnome with a fan of spiked hair in the middle of his otherwise shaved head. “I get the leftovers. Do I go after the stoned idiot stumbling down the street then?” [MORE]

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D&D 4E Back to Press

A WotC spokesperson has informed ICv2 that Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition has already gone back to press more than a week before its scheduled street date next Friday, June 6th. Sell-in of 4th Edition has “far exceeded expectations” and even though the initial print run for 4th Edition was 50% higher than the order for the previous D&D 3.5 Edition, WotC has now realized that it is necessary to go back to press to meet anticipated reorder demand. [MORE]

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PX Poker Night: Conclusion

The agents were flown out to Offut Air Force base in Omaha, where they received excellent medical care.

Caprice was the only one not drugged up. When Sprague walked into the room, he wished he was.

Major Sprague was in full military dress. “Surprised to see me?” he asked with a deadly smirk.

Caprice didn’t say anything.

“That’s what I thought. Yeah, I’m part of Majestic-12 too. Longer than you’ve been in the club, that’s for sure. We think that the Greys fled because Agent Guppy here was carrying alien weapons technology in direct violation of the Accord—“

“Fled? We weren’t carrying any weapons! You took them away from us, remember?”

Sprague waved him off. “We were all affected by the SONNET testing. Who’s to say what happened? From here on out, its regulation arms only.”

“Wait…Majestic-12 tested that weapon on us?”

“We were an unfortunate casualty,” said Sprague. “The base was an area where Greys are active. Majestic-12 had to test the SONNET weapon as a safeguard if the Greys ever break the Accord.“ [MORE]

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The Consequences of Vice: Part 3a – Mind Your Own Business

Vlad watched Kham wander off down an alley, muttering something about a boat. “Should we stop him?”

They were following a few paces behind.

Ilmarė shook her head. “Leave the fool to his delusions. He knew the risks when he drank that vial—” The elorii froze.

“Still,” said Beldin, “this IS Freeport. He could get seriously hurt or...what is it, Ilmarė?”

“Trouble.” [MORE]

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