Talien's Tower
Subscribe to Talien's Tower on Facebook, Twitter, email or via the Site Feed

Sunday, November 30

Game Review: Mass Effect

Mass Effect is ultimately a giant sandbox that's somewhat different from KOTR, only with none of the cachet of Star Wars. The main plot line, the one in which you save the universe, is a lot of fun and makes for an interesting game. But you'll have to sit through a lot of elevators to get there. [MORE]

Labels:

posted by Michael Tresca at 8:27 PM | 0 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.

DVD Review: I Am Legend

I Am Legend could easily have been an egotistical macho romp in a world gone mad in the vein of Mad Max. Instead, it is a thoughtful meditation on how communities define ourselves, even if your only friend is a dog. Although the director flinches at the uncompromising ending that could have been (and is on the two-disc special edition), I Am Legend is a serious entry in both science fiction movies and Will Smith's string of blockbusters. [MORE]

Labels:

posted by Michael Tresca at 7:42 PM | 0 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.

Book Review: How To Survive a Robot Uprising

HTSARU awkwardly straddles the real and imaginary worlds of robots and tries to be humorous to boot. Because it never focuses on a particular kind of robot uprising, HTSARU has difficulty explaining what to do except in the most general terms. This makes the book only kinda-useful as a survival guide and only kinda-amusing as a humorous flight of fancy. I am still woefully unprepared for when Red enacts his revenge. [MORE]

Labels:

posted by Michael Tresca at 3:28 PM | 0 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.

Book Review: Mask of the Sorcerer

Ultimately, this is a tale of a boy becoming a man becoming a sorcerer becoming a god. It is the rare fantasy tale that casts divine aspiration in a different context from the typical Greek god mode. It never feels forced or false. While it occasionally wanders into incomprehensibility at times, Mask of the Sorcerer is a breath of fresh air in a genre crowded by typical fantasy conventions with trite cosmologies. [MORE]

Labels:

posted by Michael Tresca at 1:56 PM | 0 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.

Saturday, November 29

NaNoWriMo Completed!

Technically, I didn't really do National Novel Writing Month correctly. I had a prewritten novel that I started last year with NaNoWriMo 2007. But the birth of my son derailed things for awhile. This was my chance to finish up the young adult fantasy novel I had been working on, and I did that in spades! Awfully Familiar is my longest novel yet, clocking in at approximately 90,000 words. But I was already at 60,000 words by the time NaNoWriMo 2008 came around. I just needed to write another 30,000, which is exactly what I did this month.

Paper & Pixels, on the other hand, had barely been started with a few thousand words. It's a non-fiction book, which means it requires quite a bit more than just words made up in my head. This was a terrible struggle, and cranking out 20,000 words took a lot of effort. This is definitely the hardest NaNoWriMo ever.

But the good news is that I accomplished two goals: I finished the rough draft of my young adult novel and I made excellent headway on my non-fiction book. My plan is to continue writing Paper & Pixels at a slower rate while I gather more sources, conduct interviews, and flesh the book out overall in time for a 2009 mid-year submission.

Thanks to my son, Brenden, who chased the cat around in the background while I was ignoring him (sorry kid, I'll make it up to you I promise!) and my long-suffering wife, who shepherded cat and kid while I busted ass on this crazy thing called NaNoWriMo. [MORE]

Labels:

posted by Michael Tresca at 6:23 PM | 0 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.

Jack Frost: Part 3 – The Ghosts Speak

The investigation wasn’t going well. Jim-Bean tried to torch organic material in the restaurant, but it was unaffected. When he set the flamethrower to frozen burger patties, they remained frozen.

Jim-Bean went to bed hungry. That’s when he had the dream.

Jim-Bean saw bloody snakes across a frozen wooded landscape and writhing in the loins of shrieking women and men, their fangs dripping blood and poison. Glowing mists shimmered and swirl in the vault of an enormous cavern, coalescing into cold green stars. The stars were eyes, great, distant eyes, cold and malevolent and hungry.

Toward the end, an enormous mound of red earth rose above the trees and the writhing bloody snakes, sucking the stars and shimmering mists into its bulk.

Jim-Bean woke up, sweating and hungry. And all he could think of was Archive and his bloody finger.

He stepped out of his tent for a smoke…and bumped into Hammer. [MORE]

Labels:

posted by Michael Tresca at 1:48 PM | 0 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.

Chapter 41: Truths of Purity and Corruption - Introduction

This is a Year One Living Arcanis Nishanpur adventure, “Truths of Purity and Corruption” by Kimberly Wajer-Scott, set in the Arcanis setting. You can read more about Arcanis at http://www.onaraonline.org. Please note: This adventure contains spoilers!

Our cast of characters includes:

• Dungeon Master: Michael Tresca (http://michael.tresca.net)
• Beldin Soulforge (dwarf fighter) played by Joe Lalumia
• Kham Val’Abebi (val rogue/psychic warrior) played by Jeremy Ortiz (http://www.ninjarobotstudios.com)
• Sebastian Arnyal (dark-kin sorcerer) played by George Webster
• Ilmarė Galen (elf bard/fighter) played by Amber Tresca

This adventure is the last of the Canceri modules. I merged all three of the holidays in the adventures together to take place over one eventful week just to make things easier. Although it doesn’t quite conclude what’s happening in Nishanpur, it certainly brings the political situation to an inevitable conflict. This lets Sebastian leave the place with a sense of closure.

Similarly, Vlad finally gets his day in court. He doesn’t so much get closure as he gets to live; but that’s pretty much the same thing.

This adventure also wraps up the whole arc in Nishanpur, explaining what Quintus was doing there, why von Grebel was turned into a vampire, and just what Leonydas and his Nierites have been doing all this time. [MORE]

Labels:

posted by Michael Tresca at 1:39 PM | 0 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.

Friday, November 28

Jack Frost: Part 2 – Christmas in Dixie

It became clear that the rest of the team immediately disliked Sprague's agents as unpleasant necessities. Almost everyone was afraid of them.

“Let me get this straight: We work for Sprague. Sprague’s team is in charge of security. So we can requisition whatever we want?”

Hammer nodded. “Pretty much.”

“Good,” said Jim-Bean. “Because I’m requisitioning a flamethrower.” He clicked the request through his cistron. [MORE]

Labels:

posted by Michael Tresca at 7:59 PM | 0 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.

Fox and Geese: Conclusion

Prior Andreas seemed surprised when the Touched were brought to him.

“Ve are housing dem, for now, in de old chapel of de Confraternity, in de Trade Quarter.”

“Look, I’m grateful for the healing and all.” Kham put his lenses back on, his sight restored. “But if you don’t tell me where Quintus is I’m afraid I’m going to have to shoot you.”

Andreas folded his fingers. “Vhen you said dat Quintus vas not normally Touched, I prayed to Illiir to grant him mercy. And he did. Vhen he awoke from his stupor, he asked vhere he was. Vhen I told him, he fled.”

“That’s it?” Ilmarė looked crestfallen. “That’s all he said?”

Andreas nodded. “He said something about a mission. I believe your friend knew his vay around Nishanpur. He strikes me as a man who can take care of himself.”

“He usually can,” said Sebastian with a wry smirk. “I wonder if he was aware of us that whole time.”

Kham shot Ilmarė a look. “I hope not.” [MORE]

Labels:

posted by Michael Tresca at 7:57 PM | 0 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.

Thursday, November 27

Jack Frost: Part 1 – Welcome to the Village

They were escorted, firmly but politely, to the largest tent, where they met their ostensible mission leaders. The room was occupied by six suspicious-looking men in expensive overcoats, thirteen scientists and doctors, and a dozen soldiers wearing the maroon beret of US Air Force Rescue and Recovery. Jim-Bean picked out Tucker among Warner’s men –Tucker and Hammer were what passed for diversity in Majestic-12's ranks as the only two black men.

One of the plainclothes agents stood. He was s a middle-aged man, thin and wiry, with black hair, pale skin, cold eyes, and a southern drawl.

"Welcome to Willis County," he said with a touch of irony. "My name is Alphonse Lewis, Assistant Director of the Counter-Intelligence Field Agency, and I'm in charge of this operation. With me here are Lieutenant Colonel Neal Warner, and Major Louis Sprague." He nodded to a short, graying man in an Air Force uniform, and a tall, hawk-like man with blonde feathered hair in a dark suit. "Lieutenant Colonel Warner is leading the field operation. Major Sprague is in charge of operational security. I expect each of you will listen to them carefully. [MORE]

Labels:

posted by Michael Tresca at 10:11 AM | 0 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.

Fox and Geese: Part 5b – Scouting the Corpse Gate

All hell broke loose. The fireball caught the Nierites by surprise, incinerating crate and warrior alike.

Just as Sebastian cast his spell, Beldin cut the reins of the horses. The explosion and the appearance of the dark-kin drove them to maddened flight. The horses galloped forward, crashing into sacks of flour and knocking one Nierite off of his perch.

One of the Swords of Nier, who looked just like all his other companions, pointed at Kham. “Witness the full beauty of Nier’s glory!”

Kham tapped his lenses with one pistol-fisted hand. “No thanks, I…Althares!”

There was a blinding light, so bright that it felt as if it had ignited the back of Kham’s skull. And then all he saw was white.

The sound of an arrow whistled past his ear. “What now?” came Ilmarė’s voice.

“I’m blind!” shouted Kham. “The bastard blinded me!”

“Well get out of the way then, you’re blocking my shot!” she shouted back. [MORE]

Labels:

posted by Michael Tresca at 10:09 AM | 0 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.

Wednesday, November 26

Jack Frost: Prologue

The hills flattened out, slowly, gradually, and the forest thinned to either side. Then, ahead, came a yellow glow blinking in the air, the strobe of an ordinary streetlight to signal caution. Other lamps shined beyond it, silvery-pink and constant, illuminating the shop fronts of a handful of two-story buildings. The post office was easily the finest structure, with sculpted concrete pillars of a Classical design that seemed ostentatious among the simple businesses of Willis. Christmas lights blinked cheerfully in red and green in several windows and the limbs of trees.

Slowing for the blinking cautionary light, silhouettes were visible within a building near the road ("Hank's House," proclaimed the shingle). The shadows of men and women gathered for a nightcap, perhaps, before they joined their families.

At least they seemed to be patrons; but perhaps that was a trick of the light, to make shadows look like the men and women one would expect. There was no movement to be seen, not in Hank's House, not in the streets, nowhere but for the swaying yellow light. But there, ahead, on the covered sidewalk leading to Hank's, someone was waiting.

Closer …

It was a man, perhaps 50 years old and heavy-jowled in worn denim overalls and a thick fleece coat. He seemed to be waiting; certainly he was not moving.

Closer…

No fog of breath billowed in the shadows from his opened mouth. His eyes stared, watching, empty, dry, and a strand of ice hung unattended from his mouth. [MORE]

Labels:

posted by Michael Tresca at 7:13 AM | 0 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.

Fox and Geese: Part 5a – Scouting the Corpse Gate

The place indicated by Gavrin where the Oathbinder’s clergy were gathering Touched turned out to be an empty warehouse near the Vein Canal. Outside, it looked shabby, deserted. Although the place looked run-down and abandoned, there were no windows or cracks in the plaster walls on the first floor through which to view the inside.

“There’s no windows on the first floor, but there are on the second.” Kham pulled out two potions from his coat. “And since the cat-girl couldn’t make it today, I’ll be filling in for her with a little help from Falthar val’Abebi.”

He downed a potion. Nothing happened.

“Jump potion,” said Kham with a grin. He drank another potion and disappeared from sight.

A minute later, Kham returned from his reconnaissance. “Shipping doors are sturdy. There’s a smaller entrance for employees to enter but it’s locked too.”

“Great,” said Beldin. “So how do we get in?”

Kham shrugged. “Something went down in there. There are Nierties trying to pretend that they’re the Confraternity of Just Death, and doing a piss-poor job of it. I heard them talking about waiting for a cart to arrive, probably with the Touched in it.”

“You mean that cart?” Ilmarė pointed at a horse-led covered wagon that was already in front of the warehouse. The driver got out and knocked on the doors.

“Ah crap, that’s our way in!” Kham looked around desperately.

Beldin pounded out of their hiding place towards the man at the door.

“What is he doing?!” whispered Sebastian.

“Taking charge,” Kham whirled to pursue the dwarf. “About time somebody did!” [MORE]

Labels:

posted by Michael Tresca at 7:11 AM | 0 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.

Tuesday, November 25

Jack Frost: Introduction

This scenario is a combination of, “Jack Frost,” from Pyramid Magazine by Shane Ivey and “Temple in the Ice” by Michael LaBossiere. 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:

Given the opportunity to link in every modern scenario involving Ithaqua I could get my hands on, Jack Frost was too tempting to pass up. Jack Frost involves Delta Green agents going undercover in a Majestic-12 operation. Since our characters ARE Majestic-12 agents, there was very little tweaking necessary to fit them in.

The scenario theoretically takes place over three days, but I counted the first visit of Ithaqua as the events of Cold War. Thus, there were just two days to figure out what was going on and resolve it. After the moral dilemma with the agents facing the pending death of an innocent, I wanted to create another morally gray situation to stop Ithaqua.

The rivalry between the two organizations of Majestic-12 fit perfectly with Sprague and Warner, who hate each other’s guts. Having them both in action and showing who they reported to helped crystallize Majestic-12’s hierarchy and bring home the high stakes that are involved on both sides.

Because the agents already knew what caused the freezing effects, much of the investigation was skipped entirely. At first I was disappointed, but then I realized that the dreams Jim-Bean was having were more than sufficient to move the plot along. I also retained the Eye of Ithaqua from the other scenario so there was a “remote control” means of conducting a sacrifice.

Finally, I introduced our Guppy stand-in, a female geek who has a crush on Jim-Bean. Of course.

Defining Moment: A downed pilot lends a hand to Hammer. Literally. [MORE]

Labels:

posted by Michael Tresca at 6:44 AM | 0 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.

Fox and Geese: Part 4 – True Suns

“You’re sure this is it?” asked Kham.

Like most of the Trade Quarter, the buildings had shops and restaurants on the ground floor, with residential dwellings on the floors above. They had little difficulty blending with passers-by while they waited near the burnt-out chapel of the
Confraternity.

“My sources tell me that the Confraternity of the Just Death has been seen poking around here, near their old chapel. Apparently they’ve been lying low, afraid of persecution.”

Ilmarė snorted, but didn’t add anything else.

After a time, a brown-haired man in whitish-gray robes slowly made his way down the street. With a quick glance to see that he wasn’t followed, he ducked inside the chapel.

“That’s our man,” said Sebastian.

Kham pulled his cloak further over his head. Sebastian did the same.

“Stay here with Quintus,” he said to Beldin. “If you hear any loud noises, hit people with your axe.” [MORE]

Labels:

posted by Michael Tresca at 6:43 AM | 0 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.

Monday, November 24

THE HORROR #3: WE ALL FALL DOWN

My RPG column, The Horror takes a look at Sanity and how to lose it, in We All Fall Down. [MORE]

Labels:

posted by Michael Tresca at 6:48 PM | 0 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.

The Robot Apocalypse is Nigh!

"What we have here are the beginnings of something designed to enable robots to hunt down humans like a pack of dogs. Once the software is perfected we can reasonably anticipate that they will become autonomous and become armed.

We can also expect such systems to be equipped with human detection and tracking devices including sensors which detect human breath and the radio waves associated with a human heart beat. These are technologies already developed."


Run! Run for your lives! [MORE]

Labels:

posted by Michael Tresca at 6:46 AM | 0 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.

Cold War: Conclusion

Archive handed the Eye off to Hammer. Hammer ran for the rest stop.

Jim-Bean met him at the door. “Hodges killed Zelazny and Ko! He set it up so that—“

“We KNOW!” shouted Hammer.

“We have to destroy the Eye!” Archive shouted over the screaming wind. He had his own pistol out, scanning the sky, trying to look everywhere at once.

“You can’t,” said Jim-Bean. “It’s indestructible. Trust me I tried!”

Hodges appeared in all his terrible glory. He had turned into a huge, stretched parody of his former self. Frozen drool continued to drip from a vicious maw of canine teeth. His nose was gone, his hair whipping wildly behind him. Wicked claws jutted from his fingertips. His legs ended in burnt stumps; there were no feet to speak of. He floated thirty feet above the parking lot.

“GIVE ME THE EYE,” he snarled, audible over the wind. He pointed, and a blast of white energy sizzled past Archive, just missing his head.

“Fire!” shouted Archive.

Hammer turned and fired both Glocks at Hodges. A direct hit. Chips of ice fell off of him.

Hodges laughed.

“No, I mean USE fire!” shouted Archive.

Hammer got what he meant. He passed Jim-Bean and ran with the globe towards the gas station. [MORE]

Labels:

posted by Michael Tresca at 6:33 AM | 0 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.

Part 3b – Brother, Who Art Thou Really?

“Tah dah!” shouted Kham as he led an expressionless man back into the back room of the Velvet Glove.

The booming legionnaire who had once been known as Quintus was unmistakably his old self. His hair was cut once more to military length. His beard was gone. Kham had even found a Coryani-style toga for him, although it was obviously not a military uniform.

Kham patted Quintus on the back. “Just give him a gladius and a cause and you’ve got your old Quintus.” He led Quintus over to the table and, with a gentle push on his shoulders, made him sit down.

Sebastian stared into Quintus’ unfocused eyes. “What do you think happened to him?”

Kham grabbed a bottle of Savonan wine left just for him. “I don’t know.” He uncorked it with his teeth and took a drink. “But whatever it is, we’re going to find out a way to fix it. There’s nothing a little magical healing can’t fix, we just have to find the right healer.”

“We still don’t know that it’s Quintus.” Ilmarė stood away from the legionnaire, arms crossed. “They faked von Grebel’s death with an imitation corpse. Who’s to say they can’t do that with a living person?” [MORE]

Labels:

posted by Michael Tresca at 6:31 AM | 0 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.

Sunday, November 23

Cold War: Part 4 – The Ceremony

“This is no ordinary snow globe,” said Archive, pointing to drawings of the snow globe, among other sketches.

According to the specifications, it was a simple glass sphere about four inches in diameter.

“The inside of the globe has a small representation of this rest stop, and tiny flakes flurry downward without every settling. You don’t even have to shake it.”

“The Eye of Ithaqua,” whispered Stride, who had followed Hammer over. “It is a powerful focal point for cult rituals, and serves as a conduit between Ithaqua worshipers and their cold god.”

“Where is it?”

Archive pointed to Jim-Bean, who was stumbling over to them. “I gave it to him.”

“Great,” said Hammer.

A blast of freezing cold wind shrieked through the front doors, nearly blowing the glass doors off their hinges.

Jim-Bean tried to grab the donut counter. He was barely audible in the shrieking storm.

“I know…who the murderer…is…” he slumped to the floor. [MORE]

Labels:

posted by Michael Tresca at 7:14 AM | 0 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.

Fox and Geese: Part 3a – Brother, Who Art Thou Really?

Leading the legionnaire of the Temple Quarter and through the city was the equivalent of herding a small child. As they continued slowly through the crowds, a homely looking gnome struggled to reach them. He was dressed in simple robes that could have been white once, but had since grayed. He received several buffets from the crowd before he reached them.

“Greetings…” whispered the gnome in a wheezing voice through teeth half-rotten, “I recognize you…you vere in the Bone Market earlier…”

Kham stepped in front of Quintus, pistol ready. “That’s close enough, ugly.”

“Ah, no, I harbor no ill intent towards you...You did as you saw fit, as must ve all...But I thought you should be made aware...dat dere is more to dis dan you may know…”

Kham shook his head. “We’re just attracting all kinds of crazies today, aren’t we?”

“Ah, indeed...I vas vitness to de dispute in the Market there...and to your actions...I am...Brother Gavrin...and I have seen and heard many things...One of my...lesser stature…is often overlooked...”

Beldin stood nose to nose with Gavrin. “Out with it, half-breed. What do you want?”

“Dose dat you aided have dark intentions indeed…” [MORE]

Labels:

posted by Michael Tresca at 7:11 AM | 0 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.

Saturday, November 22

Cold War: Part 3 – Smoke ‘Em Out

The magazine stand in one corner of the convenience store was blazing away. The flames spread quickly to one wall.

“Fire extinguishers!” shouted Hammer. “Go!”

They spread out, looking for fire extinguishers. A few seconds later, the extinguishers managed to stop the blaze before it became an inferno. By that time, the massacre that was happening outside had stopped. The White Shadows were all dead.

Over the smell of smoke, there was a different odor—the sharp tang of gasoline in the air.

“That fire wasn’t an accident,” said Hammer. He looked suspiciously at the other patrons. “All of you, I want you to line up along this wall. We’re going to question you individually. Everyone stays in my sight.”

The other patrons and staff, wary of Hammer’s Glocks, did as they were told.

Archive was torn between watching the thing outside and trying to understand what he was reading.

“What’s that thing doing?” asked Jim-Bean, nonplussed by the ruckus over the flames.

“It looks like it’s…” he squinted through the frosted glass, “building a huge mound of snow in the center of the parking lot.” [MORE]

Labels:

posted by Michael Tresca at 7:20 PM | 0 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.

Fox and Geese: Part 2 – Sympathy for the Devil

Knights of the Red Fist, mounted on screeching red monstrosities, crashed into the Bone Market. People ran screaming, scattering to the four winds as Vorlerath Demons, Sarishan Priests, and the Swords of Nier

Kham ran as fast as he could. “What the hell are those?” he shouted over to Sebastian.

“Melatorn Devils.” Sebastian was sweating from the exertion. “Demonic mounts. For the Knights.”

“Yeah I figured that out,” said Kham.

“Can’t you run any faster?” shouted Ilmarė, who had easily pulled ahead of them.

“Do YOU want to carry him?” Kham shouted back. [MORE]

Labels:

posted by Michael Tresca at 7:18 PM | 0 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.

Friday, November 21

Cold War: Part 2 – Who Goes There?

The wind howled outside and the snow continued to fall. The building was dark and cold, with icy gusts reaching into every corner of the structure. The woman running the donut shop had lit a couple of gas lanterns in her corner of the rest stop, but it was still dim and shadowy.

Hammer fiddled with his cistron but to no avail. “Cistrons aren’t getting any reception. The CB might work better. I’m going outside to radio for assistance,” said Hammer. “Keep an eye on the rest of these people.”

The wind screamed and raged all around as Hammer stumbled out into the snow. It was surprisingly deep, almost to his knees. He couldn’t see much with the snow whipping past his eyes.

Abruptly, the blowing snow, illuminated occasionally by the flickering parking lot lamps, suddenly turned a blinding white.

One by one, the headlights of cars came on. Over the moaning of the storm, a cacophony of horns and car alarms went off all at once. Somewhere nearby, glass broke. [MORE]

Labels:

posted by Michael Tresca at 6:36 AM | 0 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.

Fox and Geese: Part 1 – Voices Carry

A group of men in the garb of Sarishan priests were arguing with a group in the accoutrements of warriors of Nier. Their voices rose steadily, and many people moved away from what promised to become a fight. No one had summoned the guards; in fact, they seemed to be intentionally ignoring the affair.

The point of contention was a group of plainly dressed folk standing idly behind the arguing men.

“Dese men are not your property, warrior,” said one of the Sarishan priests. He was easily identified by the Mark of Sarish on his forehead, an inverted triangle between two parentheses. “You have no claim over dem. Leave us.”

“Neither are they yours, priest,” replied a Sword of Nier. “You have no more right to constrain them. And I will not see them led like calves to slaughter.”

“They don’t have any of the typical caste markings of Nishanpur,” said Sebastian. “Who they are, whether foreigners or field hands, is impossible to say.”

Some of the six people look fearfully at the arguing group; others stared vacantly, or were preoccupied with small objects. They consisted of a human female, a dark-kin female, and the rest were all male.

“Quintus,” whispered Ilmarė.

One of the men, with a slightly more muscular build than the others, had a tattoo on his left arm, partially covered by the sleeve of his shirt. It read “Legio Occultus…”

“The Legion of the Triumphant Rays of the Invisible Sun,” said Ilmarė in disbelief. [MORE]

Labels:

posted by Michael Tresca at 6:34 AM | 0 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.

Thursday, November 20

Cold War: Part 1 – Cold Bath

Inside the men’s room was the corpse of the man with silver hair. A crossbow bolt jutted out of his chest. It was the silver-haired man they saw making his way to the bathroom.

Hammer went through the Ko’s jacket. He found a wallet containing an Illinois driver’s license, a couple of twenty dollar bills, and an empty vial.

The other man wasn’t carrying any identification, but Archive found his wallet and dead cell phone in the pockets of his coat, which hung on a hook inside the rest room. His Portland State driver’s license identified him as Dr. Anton Zelazny. He had some credit cards and one-hundred and fifty dollars in mixed bills.

Hammer stood up and looked around the bathroom. All of the stalls were empty. A trashcan stood against one wall and a condom dispenser hung on the other wall. The mirror behind the sink was broken, and ice standing in the sink had frozen right out of the faucet.

Hammer ran one finger along the sink. “There’s a thin layer of frost covering the entire room.” The room was freezing.

“I never saw icicles big enough to kill someone outside,” said Archive. “It looks like he was gored to death.”

Hammer peered in the trashcan. “What’s this?” He dug into it and pulled out a valise. Archive popped it open on the sink.

It contained some papers and a snow globe. Archive scanned the papers while Hammer continued his investigation.

“There’s a partial footprint in the blood on the rest room floor, near Ko’s body. It seems to be the print of a large wolf or small bear.”

Archive looked up from reading the papers. “How did a bear fit in here?” [MORE]

Labels:

posted by Michael Tresca at 6:31 AM | 0 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.

Fox and Geese: Prologue

The bitter winter was giving way to a mild, wet spring. With the midday sun blazing above, Kham found himself in the heart of Nishanpur; the Bone Market. Despite scattered damage throughout the city from the massive earthquake last winter that was still being repaired, life goes on. The most prized and expensive items from all over Onara could be obtained in the Market, from silks to swords, so long as the swords were of Sarishan Steel.

“I’m telling you,” said Kham over his shoulder. “It was him. I saw him with my own eyes.”

“Was this before or after you lost Vlad?” asked Beldin disapprovingly.

“After.” Kham’s head snapped back to address Beldin. “And no, I wasn’t that drunk. I know what Quintus looks like!”

“It can’t possibly be him,” said Ilmarė. “There is no reason for Quintus to be here. In fact, it’s the last place on Arcanis he would want to be.”

The Bone Market was packed with folk of military bearing. Nierites from all over Canceri have had gathering at Nishanpur, as well as Hunder, Vrain, and other sites where temples to the Lord of Battles were prominent, for weeks now. Within days the holy festival of Kindling Dawn would signal a celebration of renewal for all who follow the Judge of the Gods.

In preparation, many were buying imported foodstuffs for feasts, incense and animals to offer in sacrifice, and even extra slaves to help tend to guests during the annual gathering. Unfortunately, the festival happened to be the same week as the Burning Man festival of the Nerothians.

“Well, I know what I saw. And he was just shuffling down the street around here.” Kham peered through the crowd. “He looked terrible; beard and everything. But it was definitely Quintus.” [MORE]

Labels:

posted by Michael Tresca at 6:28 AM | 0 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.

Wednesday, November 19

Cold War: Prologue

It was close to midnight. Patrons were waiting for the plows to come through so that they could get back on the road. Of the staff, there was also a stern-looking woman running the register at the convenience store, and a teenage kid with long hair and an apron who handled the short-order cooking.

Hammer sat down next to Jim-Bean. At one booth was a long-haired college student with John Lennon glasses, an Army jacket, doodling in a sketchbook filled with Gigeresque drawings. Two executive types, one in a good suit and conservative overcoat, the other overweight and wearing a garish power tie, were huddled in another booth. Sitting by himself and staring out at the snow was a bookish man in a tweed jacket and smoking a pipe. Another man with thick silver hair and keen, dark eyes walked towards the rest room. None of them matched the description of Ko.

Archive joined them. “My guess is that Ko’s guardian was trying to cover their tracks. Maybe it can shapeshift into a person…” The limo driver’s body was found in the front seat, the corpse bloated from repeated poisonous bites.

“As if we weren’t paranoid enough—” began Jim-Bean.

The lights flickered.

“Oh great,” muttered the counter waitress—and then the lights went out altogether. [MORE]

Labels:

posted by Michael Tresca at 6:55 AM | 0 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.

Chapter 40: A Game of Fox and Geese - Introduction

This is a Year One Living Arcanis Nishanpur adventure, “A Game of Fox and Geese” by Kimberly Wajer-Scott, set in the Arcanis setting. You can read more about Arcanis at http://www.onaraonline.org. Please note: This adventure contains spoilers!

Our cast of characters includes:

This adventure really depends on the kindness of PCs. Since the main characters are “The Touched” (basically, mentally deficient NPCs), it’s questionable if your traditional adventuring party would give two figs about what amounts to a babysitting job. So I had to tweak the adventure to include a character we haven’t seen in awhile.

This Touched character ended up providing plenty of motivation for the party. In fact, he was almost too much motivation, as the PCs focused on him to the exclusion of the other Touched. It worked out fine in the end though. [MORE]

Labels:

posted by Michael Tresca at 6:52 AM | 0 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.

Tuesday, November 18

Chapter 26: Cold War - Introduction

This scenario is a combination of, “Cold War,” from by the Unspeakable Oath #11 by Scott David Aniolowski and “Exit 23” from the Dark*Matter d20 book. 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:

We usually play three sessions at once, which makes for some interesting gaming when we get to the third session. Sometimes, the urgency to complete the session causes some brilliant ad-libbing. And other times, I just rush through the plot to get to the meaty part – usually combat – which I know will take longer. Cold War is one of those scenarios.

Cold War is really meant to be played as a one-shot wherein the PCs are cultists, struggling to determine the traitor in their midst and battling a rival Tcho-tcho cult. The connections to the rest of the Ithaqua-themed scenarios were too good to pass up, and I saw an opportunity to use this scenario as a bridge to Jack Frost, which I’ve been itching to play for awhile.

I also wanted to use Exit 23, which is basically “The Thing” at a gas station. Using the escaped Ko as a lure, I set up a complex mystery that involved double-crossing, cultists in disguise, and an ice monster stalking the frozen wastes. It was supposed to be a cat-and-mouse game of stalk and be-stalked as the PCs struggled to determine who committed a murder and…

Then Jim-Bean, using his Sensitivity to Psychic Impressions power, solved the mystery in one round. This required quick thinking on my part, which is to say that the scenario went from a slow build to a frenetic series of attacks. This confused the hell out of everybody. At one point, I had to have an NPC take one of the PCs aside and explain the plot.

It didn’t really help. It also highlighted how fragile the PCs are against supernatural threats. When more than one shows up, they’re pretty much doomed. In the end, two of the three characters were near death and it took a careful shot from Hammer to save the day.

Defining Moment: Jim-Bean figures out the murderer by focusing on the Eye of Ithaqua. And the murderer figures out that Jim-Bean figured him out. [MORE]

Labels:

posted by Michael Tresca at 6:27 AM | 0 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.

Silence, Silver, and Secrets: Conclusion

The figure of Haron von Grebel stepped into view. Oddly, however, he moved no further.

“It seems I owe you a debt,” said von Grebel. “You have defeated Markeshia, the one who made me. In doing so you have released me from the servitude I would have suffered under her.” The stoic Nierite, now become something he never intended to be, looked over Sebastian with an appraising eye. He then retrieved a holy symbol of Nier from beneath his tunic. “Give this to Ashrem val’Virdan at the Temple of the Everlasting Flame. Tell him what has happened. He will heal you. Our debt is cancelled.”

Sebastian took the symbol. “And what of your bride? Will you leave her be?”

Haron paused as he turned to leave.

“Tell my family I am sorry. I will not see them again. They will believe if you say that I have been destroyed. Better that they think me dead – at peace and consigned to the eternal flames of Nier. I would ask that you tell them that, rather than the truth.”

“We will,” said Beldin. “I swear on it.”

There was a hiss of air, and von Grebel disappeared as quickly as he’d come. [MORE]

Labels:

posted by Michael Tresca at 6:25 AM | 0 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.

Monday, November 17

An Outbreak of Alchemy: Conclusion

Archive dreamed. He saw the All-Mother, her teats providing nutrients to all. Scientists in lab coats had great milking machines hooked up to her, and the milk flowed. It was disgraceful, to treat the All-Mother like a common cow. And yet, it was so right.

He dreamed of feasting on flesh; sweet, succulent flesh. The flesh of long pork. Someone offered him a hunk of meat on a plate. It was a human hand. Delicious.

The fingers were fried. He took a bit of the pinky and savored the taste. It crunched between his teeth.

A scream. Archive was torn out of his reverie. He awoke, drenched in sweat, in the car. A car alarm was going off nearby.

Archive looked out the window. The man had exploded from the impact, totaling the car. A few seconds later, another man fell, and this time he didn't hit a car.

People were running and screaming. Sirens wailed.

"Archive!" shouted Hammer's voice from somewhere. "ARCHIVE!"

Archive fumbled for his cistron. His fingers felt like dead sausages. "Yes?"

"There's an older man walking out of the building." Ko's image flashed on the cistron screen. "Stop him!"

Archive pulled down the window. Sure enough, a man matching the picture was walking out of the Equitech building holding a small black and white cat. A limo screeched up beside the car.

Archive discovered his pistol was still in his hand. He lowered the window and took aim. [MORE]

Labels:

posted by Michael Tresca at 6:26 AM | 0 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.

Silence, Silver, and Secrets: Part 4d – Tale of the Body Thief

“Got it!” shouted Beldin. “Stand back!”

With another mighty blow, the splint shattered the spider web of cracks that marked the entrance to Markeshia’s tomb. The floor collapsed and gave way.

Ilmarė hopped down into the hole. It was a small chamber with a sarcophagus in the center. Markeshia’s likeness was engraved on the top, a peacefully slumbering form that belied its owner’s true nature.

Beldin grunted as he pushed against the heavy stone lid. “This will only take a minute.”

With a heave, he shoved the lid off of the sarcophagus.

Sebastian had his hands up. Beldin stared down into the sarcophagus. Nobody said anything.

“Well?” Sebastian edged closer to peer into the coffin. “Beldin?”

Markeshia sat straight up. “Defend me!” she shrieked. [MORE]

Labels:

posted by Michael Tresca at 6:23 AM | 0 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.

Sunday, November 16

A SONNET • by Gabe Dybing

Every Day Poets is a magazine that specializes in bringing you fine, short poetry. Starting on 1st November 2008, Every day at 12:01am Pacific Time (8am GMT), we will be publishing a new poem of up to 60 lines/500 words or fewer that can be read during your lunch hour, on transit, or even over breakfast.


Check out Gabe Dybing's latest here.

Labels:

posted by Michael Tresca at 6:50 PM | 0 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.

Awfully Familiar is Complete!

The first draft of Awfully Familiar is now complete! The entire story of Scrap has been written. I'm sure there a lot of rough patches (I had to go back and add in details that enhanced the story a few times), but overall I'm pleased with the end result. Awfully Familiar is the tale of a rat who has dreams of being a human boy, as he struggles to survive snakes, ogres, and witches. If he's smart and fast enough, he just might save a Kingdom from itself. It's 90,000 words in total.

28,545 words so far

I'm hopeful this young adult fantasy novel about a talking rat will find a publisher. If you're interested (cause, ya know, all these publishers read my blog I'm sure) let me know! [MORE]

Labels:

posted by Michael Tresca at 3:37 PM | 0 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.

An Outbreak of Alchemy: Part 9 – Going Down?

The air whistled past Jim-Bean as he flew down the elevator shaft. The odds of him landing on the elevator without reaching terminal velocity were looking increasingly slim.

He became aware of a distant clatter, like thousands of hammers punching into metal, above him. When he looked up, he caught sight of a black-and-white centipede-like thing with a human face.

The thing was climbing downwards at a terrific rate, spiraling the entire length of the shaft as it sought to keep up with Jim-Bean's descent. The horrible face paced him, clicking and growling. Jim-Bean couldn't reach his gun; it was all he could do to hold onto the cable.

Jim-Bean let go. He was close enough. The elevator had stopped when he snapped the cable.

He missed the emergency door and slammed into the roof of the elevator. Ribs cracked. Temporarily stunned, Jim-Bean could only think of what the centipede-thing was going to do when it caught up with him.

To his surprise, it slithered past him through the door.

Gritting his teeth to focus through the pain, Jim-Bean drew his pistol and peered down into the elevator.

He caught sight of Ko's feet being dragged out through the elevator doors.

"What the hell…" said Jim-Bean to himself. Was that thing actually trying to SAVE Ko?

He hopped into the elevator after it. When he turned the corner into another office hallway, the second elevator had just opened and closed nearby.

"Hey guys?" asked Mung I Peng, who had just stepped out of the elevator. "Has anyone seen my badge?"

Jim-Bean handed him his badge. "You dropped this."

"Oh thanks."

Jim-Bean ran for the stairs. [MORE]

Labels:

posted by Michael Tresca at 7:47 AM | 0 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.

Silence, Silver, and Secrets: Part 4c – Tale of the Body Thief

“Don’t look at them!” shouted Sebastian.

The shambling monstrosities with wicked, leering faces culled from the depths of hell, trudged forward with the patience of the dead.

Ilmarė frowned. “These are mere servants. We’ve nothing to fear from them.”

“It’s true.” Markeshia clucked her tongue. “Dese vere merely slaves. If they were truly Devil Kings, you’d all be dead by now. But I think dey shall suffice.” The barely clad vampire lifted her arms and howled.

When Beldin and Sebastian didn’t respond, the elorii looked over her shoulder. They were paralyzed with fear, eyes wide in color-drained expressions of terror.

“Oh, for the love of Osalian,” muttered Ilmarė. She pointed at her companions. “Leithia achas!”

The dark-kin and dwarf snapped out of their paralysis, gasping for breath.

“Now,” said Ilmarė, “do something useful!”

Sebastian stumbled backwards as one of the Devil King servants stretched a hand towards him. “Don’t let him touch you, they have the plague!”

The crumbling fingertips reached for Sebastian’s cheek but then stopped. The Devil King servant hesitated. It recoiled, confused.

Before the Devil King servant could gain advantage of its position, it was smashed sideways by Beldin’s axe.

“Get a hold of yourself Sebastian!” shouted Ilmarė. She knocked an arrow with her serpent bow and fired at Markeshia.

The vampire snatched the arrow out of the air. “You’re not fighting a mere human, elf. I have lived longer dan you.”

Behind them, near the doorway, a pack of wolves bayed. Beldin slammed the door shut with one foot, sweeping an arc before him.

“And,” Markeshia’s full lips split into a devilish grin, “I have many tricks up my sleeve.”

“That may be,” said Ilmarė. “But I have something you don’t have…” she ducked low. “A sorcerer!” [MORE]

Labels:

posted by Michael Tresca at 7:44 AM | 0 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.

Saturday, November 15

An Outbreak of Alchemy: Part 8 – Die Hardly

Hammer looked around in desperation. Security would be on the roof any second and there was nowhere left to go.

Fortunately, someone had conveniently left a mini-copter on the roof. He suspected it was for Ko, and that his original plans were to escape that way. Unfortunately, he didn't know how to fly a chopper.

Hammer considered struggling with the controls. If he tied it to the roof and got the rotors going, maybe he could crash it into the building…

That was too ridiculous, even for him. Instead, Hammer pulled a knife out of his boot and stabbed the gas tank.

Gas spilled all along the roof. Looking about, Hammer spotted a fire hose and unspooled it. He tied it around his waist. If it worked for Bruce Willis, it might work for him… [MORE]

Labels:

posted by Michael Tresca at 7:33 AM | 0 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.

Silence, Silver, and Secrets: Part 4b – Tale of the Body Thief

“According to Dracuul, the cloaked figures’ destination was a wrecked shell of a house near the ruined Palaces of the Devil Kings.”

Beldin eyed the structure in front of him. “I don’t like the sound of that.”

“That little flying rat told you all that?” asked Ilmarė.

Sebastian sniffed. “Dracuul is an excellent tracker. I suspect the answer to our missing corpse lay within.” [MORE]

Labels:

posted by Michael Tresca at 7:31 AM | 0 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.

Friday, November 14

An Outbreak of Alchemy: Part 7 – Do You Expect Me to Talk?

Jim-Bean woke up with the wind shrieking all around him. Was it one of those dreams where he was flying? He remembered black smoke, and then…

He looked down a dizzying thirty-eight stories to the ground below. Vice-like grips held his wrists and ankles.

Oh right. [MORE]

Labels:

posted by Michael Tresca at 6:44 AM | 0 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.

Silence, Silver, and Secrets: Part 4a – Tale of the Body Thief

Von Grebel’s family lived a modest home, unornamented, but clean and in good repair. Sebastian knocked on the door.

A man answered with the look of a smith, with a strongly built frame despite his graying hair. A woman stood behind him, older still, her hair unkempt and tangled, her robes frayed at the edges.

“Yes?”

“We have news about Haron von Grebel,” said Sebastian gravely.

“I am Yehumik Hatar, who are you?”

“Sebastian Arnyal, but that is not important. We’d like you to identify a body.”

“You have it with you?”

Sebastian indicated the figure in sackcloth draped over Beldin’s shoulder.

“Bring it in, please.”

Ilmarė snorted. To walk around with a corpse was inconceivable to elven sensibilities, but then they were in Nishanpur, where corpses walked the streets.

They entered. A young girl, not more than fourteen years of age, quietly seated herself on a stool next to the man.

Beldin gently lowered the corpse to the floor. He cleared his throat, indicating the women.

“It’s fine. If it is Haron’s body, his fiancée and mother have the right to see it.”

Beldin arched a busy brow in surprise. The older woman had to be von Grebel’s mother. Which meant the young girl was his bride to be. With a shrug, he peeled back the sackcloth from the body. [MORE]

Labels:

posted by Michael Tresca at 6:41 AM | 0 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.

Thursday, November 13

Wisdom from World Fantasy

Fred Durbin has posted a recent entry about his visit to World Fantasy Con in Calgary [MORE]

Labels:

posted by Michael Tresca at 6:44 AM | 0 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.

An Outbreak of Alchemy: Part 6 – Smelly Cat

Hammer noticed that Ko's temperature had risen considerably. The man was sweating. "Bhzang," he gasped.

Hammer pushed him against the wall. A bolt was stuck in the man's shoulder. "Some security," he said, gripping the bolt. "They're doing my job for me."

He yanked it out. Ko screamed, but it was a weak, delirious cry.

Hammer realized a bolt was sticking out of his own shoulder. He pulled it out; there was a smeared white paste on the tip. Poison.

"Huh." Archive's mumbo-jumbo really did work. "Tell me where you get your drugs."

"Wha?" asked Ko, delirious.

"Your drugs. You get them from somewhere. You're manufacturing Blink. I know you manufacture it here. But there's an ingredient that only you know. What is it?"

"Mother's Milk?" Ko asked a space a foot to the left of Hammer's head. "She provides all. She is the one source of all life…" Ko slumped to the ground, unconscious.

Before Hammer could say more, the sound of many skittering claws clattered along the outside of the elevator.

"What the hell is that?" asked Hammer. [MORE]

Labels:

posted by Michael Tresca at 6:38 AM | 0 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.

Silence, Silver, and Secrets: Part 3a – The Witching Hour

In the icy water, was a human-sized body floating face down. It was clothed in a torn and dirty tunic and leggings. The tunic was caught on a splintered piece of wood along one of the pilings at the edge of the canal. The body bobbed back and forth in the current, a grisly buoy.

Something small and furry crawled its way out of Sebastian’s robes onto his shoulder. “Dracuul! Follow those men!”

The little bat flapped off in pursuit.

Ilmarė frowned down at the corpse. “That’s not by any chance the corpse we’re looking for?”

Beldin reached down to fish the body out of the water.

“It can’t be,” said Sebastian. “And yet…”

“You haven’t even looked at the body!” Ilmarė found all of Nishanpur to be a disgusting mess. She didn’t relish the idea of plunging back into its alleyways looking for a stray corpse. “How can you be sure?”

“Because,” said Sebastian, wiping away the hair from the back of the corpse’s skull to prove it was still intact, “Kham shot von Grebel in the back of the head.” [MORE]

Labels:

posted by Michael Tresca at 6:37 AM | 0 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.

Wednesday, November 12

Quote of the Day

"Man is the only animal that laughs and weeps, for he is the only animal that is struck with the difference between what things are, and what they might have been."

--William Hazlitt

Labels:

posted by Michael Tresca at 12:18 PM | 0 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.

Gen Con Indy08 Show Charity and CCF

So it turns out that the Christian Children's Fund DIDN'T reject Gen Con's donation; it was the other way around!

To be clear, Gen Con made the decision not to donate to CCF; at no time did CCF refuse to take charity money from Gen Con. Gen Con chooses a show charity long before Gen Con Indy 2008 ever takes place.


Alas, I got caught up in the blogosphere hype as well, so my apologies for spreading a false rumor. [MORE]

Labels:

posted by Michael Tresca at 6:34 AM | 0 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.

An Outbreak of Alchemy: Part 5 – Elevator Muzak

In the elevator, Jim-Bean slipped Hammer his pistols back to the tune of "The Girl from Ipanema." He was careful to turn his back to the security camera.

"So how does that work?" Hammer surreptitiously tucked the pistols into his belt.

"How does what work?"

"The whole mind control thing." They passed the tenth floor.

"What?" asked Jim-Bean innocently. "I’m just very convincing."

"Yeah, right,” said Hammer, unconvinced.

Jim-bean shrugged. "Believe what you want." They passed the twentieth floor. "I hope Archive's okay," said Jim-Bean. "He's pretty messed up."

"We're not going to have a lot of time when we get to the top," said Hammer. "My guess is there's another elevator to reach the top floors. So we're going to need to hustle. I figure we have a couple of minutes tops before security gets here."

They passed the thirtieth floor.

"I'm sure you'll figure it out. This is wetwork," said Jim-Bean. "Your specialty, right?"

"Not quite," said Hammer. "I deal with captured targets. I thought it was YOUR specialty." [MORE]

Labels:

posted by Michael Tresca at 6:31 AM | 0 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.

Silence, Silver, and Secrets: Part 3a – The Witching Hour

“Are you sure this is the place?” Sebastian asked irritably. Ilmarė had joined Sebastian and Beldin, having recently disembarked from the Bloody Vengeance.

Slogging through the dirty, narrow streets and alleys of the Corpse Quarter was an unpleasant task at best. Trying to find a single missing body among the surly inhabitants of the Quarter was like trying to find a match in a bone-bed.

“That’s what my sources said.” Beldin gripped his axe, equally aggravated.

Questioning the denizens of the Corpse Quarter didn’t help much either. No one had seen a body matching Haron’s description, and most of the shopkeepers and other public folks responded in a surly fashion.

“No sign of Kham either,” said Ilmarė. “And what of Vlad?”

“In prison, near as I can tell,” said Beldin. “They Nierites won’t even disclose where they are keeping him. I think they’re afraid of another rescue attempt like the one on Kham. He’s being treated as a political prisoner.”

“Vlad?” asked Ilmarė in disbelief. “Are we talking about the same human?” [MORE]

Labels:

posted by Michael Tresca at 6:29 AM | 0 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.

Tuesday, November 11

An Outbreak of Alchemy: Part 4 – Going Up

Hammer checked Archive's pulse. He was alive but delirious. "Great. One man down and no leads."

Jim-Bean was staring up at the sky past him. "I wouldn't say that."

The alley opened up onto a main street that was in front of the Equitech Building. Hammer tapped a few keys.

"Interesting. Dawn Biozyme leases five floors of the Equitech Building, but Blacknet's missing the plans for the top three floors. Somebody's hiding something important up there."

"Ko?" asked Jim-Bean.

"Must be."

They dragged Archive back into the vehicle. Hammer gave him a shot of anti-venom while Jim-Bean brought the car around to the front of the building.

"Is that going to work?" asked Jim-Bean.

Hammer shrugged. "If Bhzang is one of the major poisons it'll keep him from asphyxiating. But we're running out of time. Ko's going to be warned in a few minutes…"

"Wait," gasped Archive. "Give me your hands." Archive reached into his pocket with his good arm with considerably effort.

"Uh, now is really not the time—" began Jim-Bean.

Archive grabbed Jim-Bean's hand and pressed something cold against it. He lifted the back of his hand to look at it.

It was an ink stamp of a tiny scarab.

"We're not going into a club," said Hammer. "I don't see how…"

Jim-Bean shushed him. "If he wants to stamp your hand, let 'im."

Hammer dutifully offered his hand and Archived stamped it as well.

Jim-Bean took Archive's pistol out of his shoulder holster and placed it in Archive's good hand. "If anyone besides us tries to get in the car, shoot them."

Archive looked past him and muttered something. Hoping for the best, Jim-Bean closed the door to the car. [MORE]

Labels:

posted by Michael Tresca at 6:59 AM | 0 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.

Silence, Silver, and Secrets: Part 2b – Lasher

Beldin flexed his fingers. Marekal bellowed and roared, playing up to the crowd.

“Marekal’s the bouncer for The Velvet Glove,” said Ayrus. “I’d warn you about this place but you’ve already challenged him to a duel, so it’s a little late for that.”

Beldin tied up the various ends of his beard into a single knot. “I can take care of myself.”

“I’m sure you can,” said Ayrus. “Just remember, he’s a dark-kin and you’re not.”

“I’m familiar with dark-kin too.” Before Beldin could continue, a bell rang. Marekal pounded towards him. [MORE]

Labels:

posted by Michael Tresca at 6:57 AM | 0 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.

Monday, November 10

An Outbreak of Alchemy: Part 3 – Jumping at Shadows

They turned down an alleyway. "This is a shortcut," said Tony.

They stopped short, facing four short men dressed in white ninja-like outfits. They held haedong jingeom, traditional Vietnamese blades, in one hand and hand crossbows in the other.

"The White Shadows," said Archive. "Tong Shugoran's enforcers."

Tony fled.

"So much for your new friend," muttered Hammer.

The White Shadows all wore white, featureless blank masks that only had eye slits. They crouched forward as a group, blades out. [MORE]

Labels:

posted by Michael Tresca at 6:56 AM | 0 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.

Silence, Silver, and Secrets: Part 2a – Lasher

“You must be looking for the Commander’s corpse,” Ayrus said matter-of-factly.

Beldin took a sip from a mug the bartender provided. “I might.”

“You and the rest of the Nierite army. I wouldn’t try too hard though. Seems that they caught one of the murderer’s compatriots; nearly caught the killer himself, but he’s a wily fellow.”

Beldin nearly spat out the contents of his mug. “Oh?”

“Yeah, a val’Abebi, right? They caught his Milandisian friend. And the Nierites like nothing more than capturing a Milandisian after the defeat of Leonydas’ army. You know him?”

“I know of him,” Beldin said carefully.

“They think this Kham guy is the leader of a rebellion they staged. He’s obviously organized enough to coordinate a break out from prison; then there was the incident with the Burning Man…”

Beldin nodded. “I heard. You think he’s behind that too?”

“The Autocrat thinks so, and that’s all that matters,” said Ayrus.

“Hey!” shouted a gruff voice from across the bar. “Hey, you! Dwarf! You’re Beldin, right?”

Beldin turned around. “Who wants to know?” [MORE]

Labels:

posted by Michael Tresca at 6:54 AM | 0 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.

Saturday, November 8

NaNoWriMo Update

I dozed off, exhausted from the expenditure of magical energy that Yaga had taken from me.

I was lying in the street when the two burly men who had thrown Piper out of the Wizards School found me. I hadn't moved since the incident with Piper.

The man who stood before me, or rather his feet, as that was my perspective at the time, had curled shoes. Only a wizard had curled shoes.

A man grabbed each of my arms and yanked me upright. I got the distinct impression I was in trouble.

“Where is he?”

I got a good look at the wizard. He had curled eyebrows and a curled goatee, both a reddish brown. His nose was long and narrow. His hair wafted like a flame upwards, unruly and unkempt, but that’s wizards for you. He wore an outlandish outfit that made him look a bit more like a clown than a wizard, with a flaring collar. It was all purple, of course.

“Where is who?” I asked.

“The word magician! I know he was here. I can sense him!”

“You mean Piper?”

The wizard stroked his chin. “Yes. Piper.” He looked me up and down. “Who are you?”

“Tesso,” I said. I didn’t have a last name so I didn’t provide him one.

“Tesso, hmm?” The wizard extended his hand in what can only be described as a condescending shake, as if he half-expected me to kiss his hand rather than shake it. “I am Heer Halewijn, Guild Wizard. I have been recently assigned this district. And as Guild Wizard of this district, it is my distinct responsibility to monitor all unlicensed magic. And this …” the words dripping from his lips, “… PIPER, has violated the law.”

“You already had your chance,” I said, feeling oddly brave given the circumstances. Black had long since left, leaving me to face these three men alone. I had nothing to lose. “Piper applied and you rejected him.”

“I think you’re lying,” he said. “A little magic will pry your tongue loose.” He snapped at the two guards. “Hold him.”

The men tightened their grip on me. I wasn’t going anywhere.

Halewijn chanted something. As he did so, I could feel energy drain out of me, the same rush I felt when Piper did his magic.

Halewijn blinked. He looked back at the two men, and then at me. “What in …?”

“What’s up boss?” asked one of the men.

“The spell!” Halewijn shouted, as if he were bellowing over the roar of a crowd. “It didn’t just read the boy’s thoughts. It read everyone’s thoughts.” He rubbed his temples, struggling to regain his focus.

The two men eyed each other nervously.

“You’ve been stealing from me. Corwin, Spindle, you’re dismissed. I will no longer need your services.”

The men backed away, hands on the hilts of their weapons.

“Or I could just turn you into toads … “

They turned and ran.

Halewijn rubbed his temples for another minute. Then he gave me a curious stare, as if he were burrowing into my soul.

“I see now that you were telling the truth. But that leaves me with a single question: what do with you?” He snapped his fingers. “As punishment, you will be my servant. Come along.”

And that was how I became Halewijn’s apprentice.

13,478 words so far

Labels:

posted by Michael Tresca at 5:21 PM | 0 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.

An Outbreak of Alchemy: Part 2 – The Black Lotus Trading Company


"I don't suppose anybody speaks Vietnamese?" asked Jim-Bean.

Hammer shook his head. "I speak a lot of languages, but Vietnamese isn't one of them."

Hammer hit the bell for service at the counter.

Archive looked around the shop. After a moment, he clipped a leaf from one plant, rubbed the wax off the stem of another, and combined it with dirt from a third. Then he popped it in his mouth.

"What the hell are you doing?" asked Hammer.

Archive spat out the contents into one palm. "Learning Vietnamese." He separated the paste into two separate balls and then plugged them into his ears.

Jim-Bean just shook his head in disbelief. [MORE]

Labels:

posted by Michael Tresca at 5:20 PM | 0 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.

Silence, Silver, and Secrets: Part 1 – Violin

Swords of Nier flanked them at the bar. They had been heavily involved in the tussle surrounding Burning Man, and most of them showed it, with large bruises on their faces and hands where they were pummeled with ice and hit by the Nerothians.

“That festival is ridiculous,” spat a particularly striking young Nierite. She had red hair tied up in a bun and sparkling green eyes. “It’s an insult the Sword of the Heavens.”

“Maybe you shouldn’t attack what you don’t understand,” Vlad muttered without looking up.

“You know what’s going to happen,” said the woman. “The Nerothians are going to use it as an excuse. With that criminal that they broke out of prison, the heretics are going to rebel, I just know it.”

Kham pulled his hood over his head a little lower. “The Burning Man festival is just a celebration of life over death.”

“Oh yeah?” sneered the Nierite woman. “I think it was a symbolic slaughter of Nier! And then there’s the fact that we can’t find the Commander’s body…”

Vlad nodded towards a poster to Kham’s left. Kham looked over to see a sketch-artist’s accurate rendering of his face.

“You know what Nerothians do with the bodies of the enemy?” asked another of the Nierites on the other side of the bar. “They animate them…make them…do things.”

“I’d like to get my hands on that son of a bitch who murdered him,” said the Nierite woman. “I’d string him up by his loins and light his guts on fire.”

At that moment, Kham and Vlad locked gazes. Kham nodded his head slowly. Vlad took a deep breath.

What the hell? There was no way they were going to leave the bar without being spotted.

In one motion, Kham grabbed the Nierite woman by her hair and kissed her deeply.

The woman gasped for breath as Kham let her go. “Wow,” he shouted at the top of his lungs. “She really did set my loins on fire!” He hopped up onto the bar. [MORE]

Labels:

posted by Michael Tresca at 5:18 PM | 0 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.

Friday, November 7

Book Review: Yokai Attack!

Ever since the Worst-Case Survival Guide came out, there has been a series of "pocket guides" of every sort, from detailing how to hunt vampires to surviving a zombie attack to how to be a superhero. There are very few worthy of more than a single read. In Yokai Attack's case, it's an excellent combination of graphic presentation and gentle humor that makes the book a worthy reference. For monster-philes tired of the same old ghosts and ghouls, Yokai Attack is a refreshingly accessible look at Japanese monsters. [MORE]

Labels:

posted by Michael Tresca at 11:24 PM | 0 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.

NaNoWriMo Update

We reached the dock with a thump. Lycus carefully lifted me off his shoulder and placed me onto the dock. He didn't step out of the tub.

I could tell by his eyes that he had already made up his mind. "You're not coming with me, are you?"

Lycus shook his head. "Here. I weaved this for you."

Lycus took a little black harness made of wool out of his pocket. He shrugged it on over my body. It fit perfectly.

"This is excellent craftsmanship!" I exclaimed, touched by his gift.

Lycus tucked the magical key onto the pouch on my back. "I had a great teacher." He patted the key on my back. "Keep it safe."

"And what about you?"

"I have to find Vasilissa, Scrap. She saved my life."

"If you hang onto that tub, Yaga will find you soon enough," I said. A world without Lycus seemed very frightening indeed.

"I want her to find me." Lycus undid the latch holding the broom to the back of the tub and dropped it in the water. "No more running."

"And when she finds you?"

Lycus grabbed the pole again and shoved off. "There's got to be something to exchange for Vasilissa that Yaga would value. I don't know what it is, yet, but I have to try."

"Just don't trade anything you'll need later," I said. "Like your soul."

Lycus smirked. "You neither," he said, receding in the distance. "When you see the boys, say hello for me!"

If I could cry, I would have. "I will! Goodbye Lycus! You've been a good friend!"

"Goodbye, Scrap. I'll see you soon!"

I didn't believe him.

Lycus let the current take him further downstream and soon he was out of sight.

I turned back to face the long road to Calximus City. There was no Lycus, no Will, no Scrap, nobody. Just me. I had come full circle, facing down ogres, evil princes, eagles, cats, monstrous rats, and witches. Now it was time to forge my own destiny; to get Black's boys back safely, and maybe, just maybe, forge my own path to being a human boy.


11,709 words so far

Labels:

posted by Michael Tresca at 5:08 PM | 0 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.

An Outbreak of Alchemy - Part 1 – Ghost Drama

"Do you see that?"

Hammer looked sideways at him. "No," he followed Jim-Bean's gaze. He was staring at the fire escape door to the import shop. "What do you see?"

"Nothing," said Jim-Bean, "what’s up on that fire escape."

What Hammer didn't see was a translucent man staggering down a set of stairs, starting from the third floor and stumbling down, almost to the street. Although the fire escape was currently pulled up, the ghost image staggered down as if it were extended down to the street.

"Looks like a symbol," said Hammer. "Of a dragon."

"I think I saw that shop on the way over here," said Archive matter-of-factly. "Black Lotus Something…"

Jim-Bean's gaze went from the street back up to the fire escape. The scene was repeating itself. It looked like the ghost is being helped by two people down the stairs.

It was a phantasm, caused when a traumatic event was imprinted on the environment for future playback. The environment stored the energy created by the traumatic event and played them back at a later time.

“And why, exactly, should we be looking into this shop?” asked Hammer.

“Just a hunch,” said Jim-Bean. [MORE]

Labels:

posted by Michael Tresca at 6:43 AM | 0 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.

Silence, Silver, and Secrets: Prologue

A purple-haired elorii strode into the Bone Market of Nishanpur, looking around in distaste. It had been no simple feat to enter the city with her weapons intact; the Nierite hang-up about Sarishan steel made it that much harder to smuggle her elven thinblade in. Fortunately, coins and her natural beauty won the day. The flirting, with humans no less, made her feel dirty. She scanned the Market for a place to bathe.

Her eyes lit upon a large, vaguely human-shaped scaffolding in the center of Bone Market. The structure was stuffed with twigs and straw.

One of the Swords of Nier caught her gaze. “Ugly, isn’t it? Looks like they’re going to go ahead with their Burning Man festival anyway.”

The elorii arched a delicate eyebrow. “Festival?”

The Nierite shock of red curls flexed as he shrugged. “Something the Nerothians do. We’ve repealed the curfew, but you should be careful tonight. A pretty lady like yourself shouldn’t be alone on a night like this; the whole week is a festival.”

Ilmarė peered at the Nierite out of the corner of her eye. It was a clumsy come on. She was about to respond when the scaffolding was lit. The flames leaped high into the dark sky.

Even the Nierite soldier appreciated the sight. “Not bad,” he rested one hand on the pommel of the wavy-bladed greatsword that all Swords of Nier carried with them. “Even the Lord of Flame enjoys a pyre such as this.”

Then the barrage began. Naked, ash-smeared figures emerged from the darkness. Armed with balls of snow and chunks of ice, they assaulted the burning effigy. The sizzle and hiss of the snow hitting the fire filled the air.

“What?” shouted the soldier. He whistled and pointed to other similar accoutered Nierites, who drew their swords and advanced on the naked Nerothians. “Stop them!” [MORE]

Labels:

posted by Michael Tresca at 6:40 AM | 0 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.

Thursday, November 6

An Outbreak of Alchemy: Prologue

The center of Tcho-Tcho activity in New Chinatown was the Dragon of the Black Pool market that specialized in imported foods from Southeast Asia, particularly spices and seasonings for Tcho-tcho cuisine. The market filled most of the block.

Hammer stopped the car and got out near the harbor. They flashed their badges at the police who let them through.

"I don't know why we're investigating this," said Jim-Bean. "We should be looking for Ko—"

"Do you know how many 'Ko's there are in New Chinatown?" asked Hammer. Before Jim-Bean could answer, he replied, "a lot. Any unusual activity is worth checking out."

They approached two corpses. "Construction workmen discovered a very strange pair of bodies…" began Archive. He trailed off when he saw the bodies. [MORE]

Labels:

posted by Michael Tresca at 6:32 AM | 0 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.

Chapter 39: Silence, Silver and Secrets - Introduction

This is a Year One Living Arcanis Nishanpur adventure, “Silence, Silver and Secrets” by Kimberly Wajer-Scott, set in the Arcanis setting. You can read more about Arcanis at http://www.onaraonline.org. Please note: This adventure contains spoilers!

Our cast of characters includes:

Well, well, well. Where last we left our heroes, Kham had just shot a Nierite officer in the back of the head after escaping from prison. That was totally unexpected but not out of character for Kham, who was getting more than a little aggravated with the law.

Far be it for me to let such a thing pass without comment! Kham’s victim turns out to be a lot more important than he could have ever guessed. And the stakes are higher than ever, thanks to a little thing called, “whoever doesn’t show up to the game but was in the last session gets to be held hostage.”

Can I hear three cheers for railroading? [MORE]

Labels:

posted by Michael Tresca at 6:30 AM | 0 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.

Wednesday, November 5

NaNoWriMo Update

"I'm so sorry!" said Will, his normal grin carved into a sorrowful pout. "I didn't know!"

"Quiet you!" hissed Yaga. She tossed Lycus like a rag-doll onto the floor of her hut. I couldn't see Ivasik; if he was in the room, he was wisely hiding.

Stirred by the commotion, Dawn walked in, eyes wide.

"What happened Mama?"

"It's time," said Yaga. "The boy was trying to escape. Tonight I shall feast. Strip him down, tie him up and throw him in the pot."

There was sadness in Dawn's eyes, but she began to bind Lycus' arms. He said nothing, staring defiantly up at the witch.

"As for you," Yaga pointed a long clawed nail and I felt my will sap from me. I took a few stuttering steps out from Lycus' sleeve. "I think you'll make a nice addition to my menagerie."

She stalked over the shelf full of pickled creatures and pulled out an empty jar. Yaga slowly unscrewed the lid.

"Did you seriously think you could hide from me? I know the secrets of all that I create!" She reached down and plucked me up by the scruff of my rat neck. Then she dangled me over the jar.

This was it. I was a goner. Think, Scrap, think!

"Wait!" I squealed. "I can be of service to you!"

Yaga paused. I could see below me the noxious fumes of whatever was in the jar. It didn't look pleasant, and it smelled worse. All she had to do was stop squeezing her nails together and I would become a pickled rat.

"I'm listening."

"I have…power within me. I served the Marquis de Carabas in this fashion. I enhanced his spells!"

"Oh?" asked Yaga, a hint of amusement in her voice. "Is that so?"

"Why would I lie? If it's not true you can always pickle me. But surely as powerful a w—" I caught myself, "sorceress such as yourself can sense it."

Yaga's long nose drew closer, so close I could make out the wiry hairs that were on it and sticking out of it. How did I imagine this was a kindly old lady? Magic, I thought.

She sniffed at me, like some sort of predator. "Yes, yes I do smell something about you. Hmmm." My heart finally stopped pounding when she put the lid back on the jar. "Let's do a little test, shall we?"


8,334 words so far

Labels:

posted by Michael Tresca at 2:55 PM | 0 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.

An Outbreak of Alchemy: Introduction

This scenario, “An Outbreak of Alchemy,” is a Mystic China adventure by the late Erick Wujcik. 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)
  • Jim “Jim-Bean” Baxter (Charismatic Hero/Telepath) played by Jeremy Ortiz (http://www.ninjarobotstudios.com)
  • Kurtis “Hammer” Grange (Fast/Dedicated Hero/Gunslinger) played by George Webster
  • Joseph “Archive” Fontaine (Dedicated Hero/Acolyte) played by Joe Lalumia

When I needed an Asian mad scientist who was refining Blink into something more dangerous, I had to look no further than Mystic China. The scenario is a little incoherent (much of the description of the Equitech building is in William Davis Ko’s stat block), but the ingredients were all there: ghosts, mutated dead bodies, and a doddering old scientist who just happens to know the secrets of life and death.

Because this scenario is light on details, Critical Locations was very useful for filling in the blanks. I used the Black Lotus Trading Company from the Cold War scenario (which is also the bulk of the next chapter) to provide a starting point for the agents, but I needn’t have bothered as they didn’t stick around for long.

The real action was in the Equitech building, and as my players were fond of telling me, it was just like the Nakatomi building in Die Hard. Comparing the scenario to Die Hard made the agents bolder. There are only so many ways off a 40-storey building…

By far the biggest surprise was Ko’s pet. I used a monster from Oriental Adventures which is suitably bizarre, and true to form, it caught the agents by surprise. They were so confused as to what it was (and what it was capable of) that they alternated between trying to kill it and trying to run from it.

At heart, this is an assassination attempt and the agents did an excellent job of getting past security. They just weren't entirely sure what to do once they got to the target.

Defining Moment: Archive wakes up from his drug-induced stupor just in time to give Ko a parting shot…and discover he’s missing something very important. [MORE]

Labels:

posted by Michael Tresca at 6:53 AM | 0 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.

Heart's Blood, Fire's Vengeance: Conclusion

Kham ducked into an alleyway. Sebastian was waiting for him there.

“Well?”

“It’s bad,” said Sebastian. “Very bad. The sketch artist has pictures of you everywhere. But there’s something strange about the wanted posters.”

“You mean besides the fact that I’m now wanted in two different cities?”

Sebastian nodded. “Oh I wouldn’t worry too much about Freeport. As far as anyone knows, you’re dead. That’s what happens when they can’t recover your body in all the chaos. And that’s what worries me.”

“Okay, now I’m actually starting to worry. What are you talking about?”

“Commander Von Grebel,” said Sebastian. “The man you said you shot in the head? His body is missing. The wanted posters that list you aren’t for murder. Not yet, anyway. If we can get to the body or ensure it’s never found…”

“Then I might just have a chance of getting out of here alive.” Kham shook his head. “Your hometown sucks.”

Sebastian smirked. “So does yours. But…”

“But we wouldn’t have it any other way.” Kham threw one arm around Sebastian’s shoulders. “I know, I know.” [MORE]

Labels:

posted by Michael Tresca at 6:44 AM | 0 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.

Tuesday, November 4

The Fortress: Conclusion

Caprice took the oxygen mask off and pointed the paramedic to Jim-Bean. "You should check him out. He got shot in the shoulder."

The medic shrugged. "Not a scratch on him."

"What?" Caprice rubbed his forehead. "I saw him get hit by a sniper's bullet!"

"Maybe he got lucky," said the paramedic, hustling off to deal with other cops who were in worse condition.

Hammer ambled over. "Got the analysis back from SINNER. There's a lot of smoke but we were able to get a name, William Davis Ko, and a location, somewhere in the Chinatown district of Chicago."

"Not much," said Caprice with a frown. "How's Sarah?"

"She'll live," said Hammer. "She climbed down the drainpipe before we did, then dismantled it just in case anybody followed."

Caprice allowed himself a smile. "So Sluggy wasn't so fat after all."

"Oh he was fat enough. She was in such a rush that she didn't do a good job of it. Sluggy did the rest." Hammer started to walk away. "That reminds me..." He handed Caprice a business card.

"What's this?"

"An agent was snooping around. Said he heard some up and coming rapper was new in town and he wanted to hear your album."

"What did you tell him?"

Hammer nodded at the card. "See for yourself."

Caprice flipped over the card. It read in hasty scrawl:

"Snow Dog, Can't wait to hear about your new album, The Blizzard. Call me." [MORE]

Labels:

posted by Michael Tresca at 6:42 AM | 0 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.

Heart's Blood, Fire's Vengeance: Part 6b – In View of the Eye

Saggy, hooting lemures hopped through the portal behind the chain devil.

“Can’t you close the portal?” shouted Beldin. He batted aside an animated chain.

“The dagger!” shouted Sebastian. He clawed his way towards it, battling wind and chains. The portal was a roaring maelstrom of fury, belching demon after demon. “Remove the dagger!”

Vlad sliced one of the lemures in two. It melted away into a nauseating pile. “I can’t reach it!”

Sebastian moved closer. If he could just grab hold of it…

Chains snaked towards him. Sebastian put up one hand. “Magis arma!”

A glowing field of force deflected the barbed chain. He rolled back towards the dagger and grabbed it with both hands.

“I’m not…” Sebastian gritted his teeth. The wind was so strong that he could barely see. Tears streamed from his eyes. “…strong…enough!”

“No one is, mortal,” the devil echoed in his head. “Look upon me and despair.”

Sebastian caught sight of the chain demon’s face. They parted. It was his mother’s face. [MORE]

Labels:

posted by Michael Tresca at 6:39 AM | 0 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.

Monday, November 3

NaNoWriMo Update

Soon I saw it. Another fence, this one made of traditional iron, long since rusted. It had fallen apart and the gate was partially off its hinges. The graveyard was apart from wherever the village might be; perhaps out of superstition.

Yaga grunted. "Now, we will create some soul seeds." She stepped out of her tub. Then, holding one bony claw out before her, she closed her eyes.

For a moment nothing happened. Then slowly, something nudged the earth near one of the tilted gravestones. The ground wavered as if it were quicksand, and a corpse slowly floated to the surface.

"The soul seed is created from the heart, or where the heart used to be." She held one hand over the ribcage. "It is the very essence of the person's soul." Yaga closed her eyes and concentrated.

There was a flash of red light beneath the ribcage.

The corpse turned to powder, almost indistinguishable from the cemetery grounds. Yaga reached down and delicately plucked a single gemstone from the ground. She unscrewed the lid and tossed the gem into jar with me. It was easily the size of my head; peach-pit sized, at least.

"Now let's see if you can do any better, hmm?"

She screwed the lid back on and, holding me under one arm, extended her hand again. Yaga closed her eyes.

I closed my eyes too. This had better work…

I could feel the energy flow out of me and into Yaga, and from there out into the many corpses buried beneath the earth.

"Sorry fellas," I thought to myself. "I don't have any choice."

There was an explosion. Yaga took a step back as every corpse in the cemetery bobbed to the surface at once. Yaga stared, wide-eyed, as the energy continued to flow from her fingertips.

A red wave of heat thrummed from her outstretched hand, pulverizing the corpses. In each of their places was a single gemstone.

Yaga chortled, a horrible sound. "Magnificent!" she shouted. "I can harvest my seeds in half the time!"

"Will you let us go now?" I squeaked.

"Let you go?" Yaga pulled the jar near her to stare at me with one bloodshot eye. "Oh, no my dear. You're not going anywhere. You're about to become my familiar."


5,382 words so far

Labels:

posted by Michael Tresca at 5:05 PM | 0 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.

The Fortress: Part 6 – How Much Do You Weigh Again?

Machete and Sluggy were already at the top of the roof, all other routes of escape having been cut off. From their vantage point, one alleyway was still a viable option.

"Climb down that pipe!" shouted Machete, pointing at a long drainage pipe.

"I dunno dog," rumbled Sluggy. "It looks pretty flimsy--"

"Dammit Sluggy!" Machete shouted. "Will you stop bitching and start moving yo fat ass!"

He hopped onto the pipe and started clambering down it with ease.

With another doubtful glance down at the four stories below them, Sluggy started making his way down the pipe.

Machete hopped lightly to the ground and dusted himself off. "I can't believe I gotta deal with this sh--"

Metal shrieked over him as the huge shadow of Sluggy blocked out the moonlight. Machete let out a squeak as Sluggy landed on him.

"Told you I was too heavy," said Sluggy. He rolled off Machete and then flopped the unconscious man over his shoulder. [MORE]

Labels:

posted by Michael Tresca at 6:59 AM | 0 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.