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Tuesday, March 31

Playing the fool in comedy games

April Fools! Shouting that phrase used to mean you were tricked by someone, but today’s article is no trick....
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posted by Michael Tresca at 10:02 PM | 0 comments links to this post


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When Dungeons & Dragons meets Terminator

What do Dungeons & Dragons and Terminator have in common? They were both on Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles...
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posted by Michael Tresca at 9:32 PM | 0 comments links to this post


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I'm an Examiner!

I was recently named the Gaming Lifestyle Examiner for the Hartford edition of Examiner.com. See: http://www.examiner.com/Hartford-Games_and_Hobbies.html

I'm looking for any news topics related to gaming. If you have a topic to suggest, a product you would like reviewed, or are interested in conducting an interview, please send me a note at: http://michael.tresca.net.

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


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Chapter 36: Dreams Dark and Deadly - Introduction

This story hour is a combination of “Dreams Dark and Deadly” by Michael Szymanski from Cthulhu Now, “Little Slices of Death” by Monte Cook from D20 Call of Cthulhu and “The Truth Shall Set You Free” by Bruce Ballon from Unseen Masters. 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:

When I learned that both of the Joes would be available to play and we’d have every single player back in action, it was time to bring Guppy back into the fold. I had planned this for months, but I wasn’t sure when exactly to spring the scenario on them.

In the interim, I ran a separate email campaign with my brother as Guppy slowly descended further and further into schizophrenia. I used Fight Club and Dreamscape as inspiration and set up John Grant’s fake business as the Puschky Real Estate from Mugshots Two: Taking Care of Business.

By far the best part of this scenario was the role-playing between Guppy, trying to convince the other agents that there was a vast conspiracy, and the rest of the players who thoroughly enjoyed grilling Guppy and not believing him. I was practically in tears I was laughing so hard.

Unfortunately, the momentum established in the beginning of the scenario wasn’t easily sustainable. Several days in one facility made it hard to keep things interesting for everyone, and when the PCs split up it became even more difficult to keep everyone engaged. Archive suffered most of all in this regard, not having official access to the facility, with Guppy a close second as he was poked and prodded but otherwise helpless.

There is a huge reveal at the end of the scenario, but given that the agents already thought Guppy was insane, they’re not sure if they believe him. [MORE]

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


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Serpentine Path: Part 1b – The Hand of Fate

Kham dreaded attending the Grand Church, but he knew it fell to him to perform the ritual for his cousin and, by proxy, make up for his absence at his father’s ceremony. Kham held the incinerated remains of Pallas high above his head. Mourners he had hired surrounded him.

Kham chanted the Altharu Akbar:

Praise be to Althares, Lord of the Universe,
the Mercygiving, the Merciful!
Ruler on the Day for Repayment!
You we worship and You we call on for help.
Guide us along the Straight Road,
the road of those whom You have favored,
with whom You are not angry,
nor who are lost!

He concluded the prayer in Altherian with “Assalamu alaikum.” It translated to, “peace be with you.”

The funeral procession traveled slowly from the Grand Church to the gravesite, in a horse-drawn hearse. Kham walked beside it in silence. [MORE]

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Monday, March 30

Player of Hell: Conclusion

"So that was a real vampire, right?" asked Caprice, hanging out at the apartment they had rented in New York City. His feet were up on the couch as he flipped through the channels. "Not the illegal immigrant we murdered last time?"

Archive hushed him. "That guy was magically enhanced by the Gaunt. So in a sense he was a vampire."

"Sure," said Caprice. "Whatever helps you sleep at night." [MORE]

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


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Serpentine Path: Part 1a – The Hand of Fate

The city of Althre’ was truly a wonder to behold. Althre’ was a mountaintop labyrinth composed of sculpted rock and delicate-looking bridges that stretched for miles, connecting the expanding boundaries of the city. Every building was a function of beauty and utility. Every piece of stone was a carved work of art, every street a wonder.

Sebastian, Beldin, and Vlad had wandered for several days through the city in awe. At first, there seemed to be too many scenic wonders to visit. Kham, delayed for days by his mothers actions, eventually met them there. He acted as their guide, showing them such wonders as the Vault of Memory, the Vault of Utility, one of the Shrines of the Gift, and the Great Library of Althares.

“Normally I’d take you to see the Council of Wisdom,” said Kham with a bit of pride in his voice, “but they’re in session and admittance is forbidden except for official business. I’ve got to go visit the Grand Church of Althares.” He nodded at a restaurant labeled, “The Hand of Fate.” “You can hang out here until I’m finished.”

Kham led the way into the restaurant, only to discover that The Hand of Fate was being used as a wedding reception for a priest of Althares.

“What are those nine owls for?” asked Vlad.

Kham craned his neck while he waited for the restaurant owner to meet them. “Those? That means this is the priest’s ninth wife.”

“Ninth wife!” Sebastian peered into the room with consternation. “Did he kill the other eight?”

Kham smirked. “Worse. He just married them.”

“Nine wives,” said Beldin in disbelief. “Now that’s stamina.” [MORE]

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Sunday, March 29

Player of Hell: Part 4 – Coffin Up Blood

Mays ran into the room, screaming hysterically. It was sparsely furnished, with a single coffin at the end of the corridor. Droplets of blood made it easy to follow his trail.

Hammer had both Glocks out. "I don't like this Hot Pants."

"It'll be fine," said Caprice, pumping the supersoaker again. "Just keep an eye out for freaky-looking old chicks."

Mays stopped screaming and slumped in front of the coffin. Archive checked his pulse.

"I think he fainted." [MORE]

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Serpentine Path: Prologue

Kham stood before in a reception room, created specifically to impress visitors. It was in the typical Coryani style, with lounges and low tables, cushions and tapestries. He hated it.

Luca Gracchi reclined on a divan, watching Kham with partially lidded eyes. She was still attractive despite her years. Her arched eyebrows were carefully plucked, her eyelids exquisitely painted, her curly wig the brightest red. Luca’s erotic skills were legendary, and her age was seen as little hindrance to a woman so schooled in such arts. Her political influence was due largely in part to her bedroom prowess.

She was also Kham’s mother.

“It’s nice of you to visit,” she sneered at him. [MORE]

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Saturday, March 28

Player of Hell: Part 3 – Welcome to My Home

A motley parade followed behind the blood-drained graduate student holding out an MP3-player before him: a mystic with a leather patch and two agents armed with a supersoaker and a fire extinguisher.

The MP3 player led Mays through a very bad part of town, but nobody crossed their path. If the denizens of New York City were interested in harassing them, they thought better of it.

Mays pointed at a pile of old boxes behind a locked gate. "She's down there."

Caprice took two tools out of one of his pockets and fiddled with the lock for a moment. It sprung open.

Hammer shoved the boxes inside, which revealed two heavy metal doors. He wrenched the doors open. Steps yawned into the darkness below.

Caprice pushed Mays ahead of him towards.

"Wait, I don't want to go inside!" wailed Mays.

"Don't be such a baby," said Caprice. "We may have trouble finding her down there." [MORE]

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Chapter 50: The Serpentine Path - Introduction

This is a Year Two Living Arcanis adventure, “The Serpentine Path” by Derrel Weaver, 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:

I was happy with the way this adventure turned out. It was a four-part marathon played on President’s Day weekend. Everyone’s playing for keeps this go-round, and it shows.

This war with Ssethregore is a huge deal in our campaign; it ties up Dril, Holden, Kham, and Calactyte’s story arcs, concludes with the reemergence of a major villain, and sets into motion some cataclysmic events that will have far-reaching repercussions.

And oh yeah, characters are gonna die. This is a war, and with war come sacrifices… [MORE]

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Friday, March 27

Player of Hell: Part 2 – …With Fire

Caprice squirted the supersoaker and missed completely, soaking the wall. The lighter ignited the stream of flames, setting the curtains on fire. The room was bathed in a hellish light.

Archive held up the leather patch that had the Elder Sign on it. "Behold the power of the Elder Sign!" he shouted.

That got the hag's attention. She shrieked, recoiling as the eye at the center of the Elder Sign opened to stare at her.

She vanished in a puff of smoke, like the witch out of the Wizard of Oz.

Hammer ran into Mays' kitchen and returned with a small fire extinguisher, spraying the room before the flames could spread.

Mays bolted upright, gasping in his bed. "Did you get her?" He looked around and then focused on the wall. "What happened to my wall?"

Caprice pumped the supersoaker several times. "She uh … shoots fire out of her eyes."

"I told you your makeshift flamethrower was a bad idea," muttered Hammer. [MORE]

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Sibling Rivalry: Conclusion

“Ilmarė, wait.”

The elorii paused. Quintus and Ilmarė stared at each other for a long moment.

“When I had heard you were poisoned in Milandir, I feared the worst. I went on this quest with the hope that I would find you. And then this all happened.” Quintus hugged her to him. “When I was in that closet, when they were cutting me up…all that kept me going was the thought of you. You were all I could think of, even though I knew you were a thousand miles away. And you found me. You found me.”

“I'm sorry,” said Ilmarė. “I'm sorry...”

“Hey...hey...it's okay!” He hugged her tighter.

“Your new body is different…so thin,” said Ilmarė. “Am I hurting you?”

“No…no…it feels good...” He hadn’t been hugged or barely touched in so long.

Ilmarė disengaged and looked at him with a familiar smile.

“Back soon, you said you'd be back soon.”

“I know. I was on a mission I couldn’t share with you. With anyone. The contubernium were my family. With you gone, they were my world. Now they’re gone too.” Quintus met her gaze, looked her over with a smile. “You look...wonderful. I like your hair.”

“I’ve…I’ve found someone else,” Ilmarė said softly. “An elorii.” [MORE]

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Beware Data Rot!

Data rot refers mainly to problems with the medium on which information is stored. Over time, things like temperature, humidity, exposure to light, being stored not-very-good locations like moldy basements, make this information very difficult to read. The second aspect of data rot is actually finding the machines to read them. And that is a real problem. If you think of the 8-track tape player, for example, basically the only way you can find 8-track cartridges is in a flea market or a garage sale. The problem, strangely enough, is not so bad on the older stuff, but quite bad on the more recent stuff. So we can read tapes here at the museum that are 50 years old. [MORE]

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Thursday, March 26

Player of Hell: Part 1 – Fighting Fire With…

A few hours and a hundred bucks later and the college student in the apartment next to Mays was vacated. Surveillance was placed in every room with wireless cameras. On one of the black-and-white monitors, Mays slept fitfully in his bed.

Caprice and Hammer sat at a folding table and watched the screens while they sipped coffee. Archive sat at a table and flipped through a musty tome.

"According to De Graecorum Hodie Quorundam Opinationibus, the vrykolakas does not lie in its coffin during the day. It feeds on blood like other vampires but when it kills a victim it devours the entire corpse. The noted German metaphysician Hasselberg speculates that the creature does this to prevent to creation of a competitor, and that a victim slain by a vrykolokas will rise again as a vampire."

"Yeah, right," said Caprice. "So we break out the silver bullets and the wooden stake …"

Archive shook his head. "The only thing that has proven to be a reliable means of scourging the creatures is the use of fire."

Caprice yawned and checked his watch. "It's two in the morning. Nothing's happened so far. I'm not even sure why we're doing this mission—"

"It's not a mission," said Hammer. "Think of it as a favor for Archive. He saved my life plenty of times."

Caprice shrugged and went back to blearily staring at the monitors. "Wait a minute!" [MORE]

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Sibling Rivalry: Part 17 – A Family Rediscovered

“That is because I am not from Grand Coryan at all. I lied to you, ashamed of my heritage. I am a descendant of the val’Emman as are probably many who now call themselves val’Virdan.”

Quintus triumphantly threw open the lid. Instantly, a crystal jewel the size of a human fist floated up out of the chest, sparkling with a warm ruddy glow from within.

“And now, with this, the Mentagi, the legacy of the val’Emman family can be rediscovered and their descendants may take their rightful name once again!”

Quintus grasped the Mentagi crystal. A brilliant white light spread from his hands to his arms, and then engulfed his entire body. He floated up in the air. The divine energy was so bright that they all covered their eyes. [MORE]

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Wednesday, March 25

The Twitter Illusion


"Twouble with Twitter" sous-titré
by LePostfr
Yes, I'm on Twitter. But I feel obligated to show this video, which is so bitingly true it breaks the Internet.

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Player of Hell: Prologue

"Let me see that MP3 player," said Hammer.

Mays handed it over.

Hammer held it up, turned it around a few times, tapped it on the table. "There's no battery compartment to it."

"You can't take the batteries out of iPods either," said Caprice, clearly skeptical.

"That's not what I mean." Hammer held up the MP3 player. "It doesn't look like it should even work." He put one of the ear buds to his ear. "Mind if I play it?"

Mays shook his head. "Be my guest."

Hammer hit the play button and nodded for a moment. "Britney Spears," he said, smirking. "Interesting play list." [MORE]

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Sibling Rivalry: Part 16 – Singarthan Outpost

Ilmarė hopped down from the cavern ceiling. She nodded at Quintus. “It’s ready.”

Vlad and Beldin took up a position in front of the tunnel. Beldin held only his axe Windcutter in both hands, glowing with magical a force field that illuminated him. He almost looked like a celestial giant of old…only smaller. Sebastian stood behind them.

“Ready?” asked Quintus. He sat behind Sebastian on the cold ice floor.

“Ready,” they said in unison.

“Ilmarė, go.”

Ilmarė took a deep breath and sang. She sang one long, pure note and held it. It reverberated throughout the chamber.

A few seconds later, the shadows of the Singarthans were visible in the tunnel. Hear song was audible even through the roaring of the waterfall.

The first troll rounded the corner. Ilmarė raised her voice to a higher pitch. The huge weakened stalactite above the troll cracked from the note.

The Singarthan looked up just in time to be skewered by the stalactite. It was buried under the rubble.

“Got it!” cheered Vlad. “That’ll teach—“

His celebration was cut short by a massive sharpened spike that pierced his shoulder, pinning Vlad to the wall ten feet behind him. He gasped in pain. [MORE]

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Tuesday, March 24

Chapter 35: Player of Hell - Introduction

This story hour is from the scenario “Player of Hell” by Michael C. LaBossiere. You can read more about Delta Green at http://www.delta-green.com. Please note: This story hour contains spoilers!

I wanted to continue the undead-battling goodness from No Man’s Land so that Archive could continue to shine. I also knew that two of my players would be late, so I figured that in and came up with a quick scenario that wouldn’t take too long but would keep the group entertained. It also was uniquely suited to their talents: supernatural (Archive), surveillance (Caprice), and combat (Hammer).

This is a standard vampire hunt, with a slight tweak because it’s a vrykolakas. This meant that the agents weren't entirely sure what they were facing going in. On the other hand, when I gave them a prop that clearly explained the vrykolakas' strengths and weaknesses, they pretty much ignored it – perhaps because in a Cthulhu campaign, a vampire is never just a vampire. Both Caprice and Hammer flatly didn't believe that Mays was really being stalked by a vampire, so they took none of the advice until they had evidence it was the real deal.

Ultimately, this little scenario was actually the most exciting of the three. There were a hilarious turn of events, poor planning overcome by brute force, and a climactic scene in the vampire's lair.

This is all a setup for another scenario -- it reintroduces Simon Magnus, last seen in Chapter 0. The famous vampire hunter now has his own television show! To get an idea of how I imagine Magnus, think of V. V. Argost from the Secret Saturdays. [MORE]

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Sibling Rivalry: Part 15 – The Tomb of the Frozen Gods

The sound of ice being struck and chipped echoed just above that of falling water in the distance. A sudden crack of a whip punctuated the intensity of the incessant groans and whimpers indicative of those forced into labor.

There were a dozen pale white goblins being forced to chip into the northern ice wall by a strange-looking beast. It had a long nose like a troll, but that was where the similarities ended. It was over seven feet tall, almost as wide, and had a stony gray carapace that covered its shoulders, back, outside of its arms and legs, its chest, and the back and top of its head. Its hands ended in four thick talons, also covered in the same hard carapace. Its broad face was slashed open by its toothy maw with a large nose topped by two piercing orbs, denoting a cunning mind and completing its menacing countenance. It was dressed in leather boots and a gold and mauve tabard cinched at its thick waist by a broad metallic belt.

“Singarthan trolls,” whispered Ilmarė. “I’ve never seen one before.”

Inside the far wall were scores of skeletal remains dressed in the armored regalia of legionnaires of the First Imperium.

“The artifacts!” shouted Quintus, betraying their position. [MORE]

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Monday, March 23

A Love in Need: Conclusion

That night, the news showed an aerial shot of a structure, a roadside motel, sitting along a side road, surrounded by a vast, empty, brown wasteland. The image trembled from the rumble of helicopter blades whirling.

Several news vans, police cars, and ambulances were parked around the blackened motel. People milled about the scene. Behind the motel, a backhoe tore into the ground. Cops circled the back-hoe, digging with shovels.

”This is a live shot of the Prairie View Motel, in the eastern side of McKinley County,” said a newscaster. “We've been told police have been working out here for several hours, but the details we're getting from them are sketchy at best. What we do know is that they've borrowed some equipment from a local farmer, and started digging in the rear of the property. What they're looking for though, we're not exactly sure.”

The camera shakily zoomed in on the backhoe. As the machine dragged its teeth out of the earth and rose into the air, a dirt-covered corpse hung from the metal claw.

”Oh, God!” shouted the newscaster. [MORE]

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Sibling Rivalry: Part 14 – Double Whammy

Ilmarė padded ahead, listening every so often. The floor was covered in snow, but she seemed completely oblivious to its effects.

“It’s clear,” she whispered.

Vlad started walking forward when something cracked beneath him. For a second he and Quintus stared down at the floor.

Then it gave way. With a yelp, they collapsed into a pile of white snow.

Sebastian peered down into the shaft. “Are you all right?”

“Yes,” shouted Vlad. “The snow broke our fall.”

“Broke YOUR fall,” came the muffled response from Quintus, buried beneath Vlad.

Beldin threw down a rope.

Ilmarė sniffed. “It must have a weight limit.” Then she cocked her head. “What’s that sound?”

Sebastian looked around. “What?”

“I hear…hissing. As if something is burning.”

They both smelled it. A coppery taste filled the air.

Above the pit, a red circle was slowly glowing brighter and brighter amongst the stalactites.

“Pull faster!” shouted Quintus. [MORE]

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Sunday, March 22

A Love in Need: Part 11 – David Phones Home

The three agents limped from the hotel. The rain was finally starting to let up, which let the fire from the truck spread to the motel. Unhindered by the storm, it roared across the rooftops.

Jim-Bean turned back. “We’d better get the dog head …”

“Forget it,” said Hammer, limping through the parking lot. “It’s too late now anyway.”

“But that’s our evidence!”

“Of what? Our mission was to apprehend Jawolalski and determine his sources. We have the names of the corporation and the drug. David’s gone, Kraygen’s a puddle of mush. We can hotwire the pickup truck and get the hell out of here.”

Hammer stopped short. David stood in the middle of the parking lot, eyes wide. [MORE]

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Sibling Rivalry: Part 13 – Lair Entrance

The further they traveled up the mountainside, the worse the weather became. The wind picked up, gusting at times as fast as fifty miles per hour. The temperature had dropped to a bone-chilling ten degrees Fahrenheit.

They came to a wide chasm some, one hundred and fifty feet wide. Spanning it was a bridge made of ice. On the other side of the chasm, the mountainside continued with a large round ledge and an even larger cave entrance.

“That’s got to be it!” shouted Quintus. “We need to…” The rest of his explanation died in his throat as a monstrous shape began to form from out of the fog.

“Troll!” shouted Ilmarė. She drew her bow and fired. The arrow stuck in the long-nosed, slouching thing but didn’t stop it. It ambled across the bridge on its knuckles, gorilla-like, screeching as it came.

“I’ve got it.” Vlad drew his sword and shield and stepped forward to face the beast. It backhanded him and he fell, sliding perilously close to the edge of the bridge.

“Careful!” shouted Sebastian. “I can’t use my magic here or I’ll collapse the bridge!”

Beldin stepped forward. “Leave it to a dwarf to take care of a troll.” He drew Windcutter. “Come on then, beast. You’ll not be knocking me down so easily!” [MORE]

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Saturday, March 21

A Love in Need: Part 10 – What’s Up Doc?

The three agents closed in on Room 9. The curtains were closed.

Archive covered the door with his pistol. Hammer grabbed a chair from one of the other rooms.

Jim-Bean rolled his eyes. “What are you doing, mate? It’s a bloody hotel room. It’s not that big!”

Hammer ignored him and hurled the chair through the glass window.

Glass shattered. Hammer caught a glimpse of Kliss, her arms and legs bound to a chair, her mouth covered with duct tape. There was a rope wrapped around the leg of the chair leading towards the door. Kliss shook her head violently, tears streaming from her eyes.

Jim-Bean grabbed the handle of the door. “We can just walk right through the front—“

“NO! WAIT!“ shouted Hammer. [MORE]

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Sibling Rivalry: Part 12 – The Village of the Sheliac People

The boy led them down an invisible trail through a series of small caverns and out into a surprisingly warm valley.

The sounds of goats and yaks braying echoed through the canyon walls. A curtain of mist rose up from the numerous rents in the valley floor, obscuring the humble mud and stone shacks that dotted the landscape.

“Hinod?”

A woman’s voice calls out the boy’s name as she came and swept him up in her arms. Through tear-laden eyes, she thanked them in her clipped language.

From the center of the village, a number of men are emerged from their huts. They were a short-limbed people, obviously human, but of a strange mix. Dark, matted hair and a broad flattened nose was a common trait that both the men and women of the village shared.

“They’ve got gold necklaces and jewelry that they can’t possibly have made themselves,” Beldin whispered to Sebastian.

“That’s the same metallurgy and color of the gold as the Centurion medallion I discovered,” whispered Quintus. “They were obviously made by the same craftsman – or at least the styles are similar.”

Sebastian nodded. [MORE]

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Worlds.com Plans to Sue WOW and Seocnd Life

Worlds.com CEO Thom Kidrin is putting the entire virtual worlds industry on notice: His company claims the idea of a scalable virtual world with thousands of users is its patented intellectual property, and Thom told us he intends to sue anyone who refuses to enter into licensing negotiations -- including giants such as Second Life and World of Warcraft, a property of Activision Blizzard (ATVI). [MORE]

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Friday, March 20

A Love in Need: Part 9 – Orgy of Evidence

Hammer and Jim-Bean ran into the front office.

“OH, GOD, PLEASE NO!” shouted a man. ”I’ll give you money. As much as you want!”

There was the sound of a struggle, but it was distant. When Hammer pushed open the door to the back room, he caught sight of who was screaming.

It was a film playing on a video monitor. A man, Andrews, was begging a killer in a mask for his life.

A wall of monitors all displayed different angles of the motel rooms and grounds. Video cameras and equipment were piled all over the place. There were shelves of tapes lining the walls, each one hand-labeled: Steve and Sharon S., Glen and Flo D., John A.

“Damn,” said Hammer. “We were so worried about Jawolalski we never even considered Kraygen.”

“I think he’s working with the alien dogs,” said Jim-Bean. “They were doing some sort of surgery to the kid.”

“What kind of surgery?” Hammer knew better than to ask Jim-Bean how he knew.

“I don’t know. They took something nasty out of him and put it in Andrews. Whatever it was, it’s like BIOSAN-4 only worse. It was so powerful I got infected just getting inside Andrews’ head.”

Another shelf was stacked full of dusty watches, jewelry, toy dolls, truck stop souvenirs, a collection of rearview mirror crucifixes and rabbits feet, drivers licenses of various people ... all victims.

“Why do I get the feeling Kraygen’s not human?”

Something bumped beneath them. Jim-Bean and Hammer trained their Glocks on the floor as the mat shuddered.

Archive smashed open the trap door, Glock pointed upwards.

Jim-Bean rolled his eyes. “That’s a good way to get shot—“

A trashcan came hurling through the glass at the front of the office with Kraygen fast behind it. [MORE]

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Sibling Rivalry: Part 11 – Trapped!

The small animal led them down a snow-covered trail, barely visible through the snowfall. After a few minutes, the kid stopped and brayed louder. The kid has led them to a tiny crevasse.

“There’s someone down there!” shouted Vlad.

A boy, unconscious, was wedged into the bottom of the crevasse.

Beldin looked at Sebastian. “Think you’re up to it?”

“Let’s hope so.” Sebastian threw off his cloak and unfurled his wings again. He descended the crevasse, flapping his wings for lift to slow his fall. [MORE]

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Thursday, March 19

A Love in Need: Part 8 – The Motel Room

Archive ran to the second room, one that didn’t already have a corpse in the bathtub, and gently lowered Kliss into it. He turned on the spigot and began assembling a healing poultice. He could keep her alive, at least until they were able to get proper medical help. But she would be horribly scarred for the rest of her life.

The power went out. Silence. The room fell into total darkness.

There was screams from the bedroom. Archive stepped out, Glock at the ready.

Nothing. It was pitch black.

The power flashed back on. The room lit up. The television flickered back on. A horror movie onscreen screamed.

Someone began banging on the wall.

Archive spun, not sure where to point his pistol.

Suddenly, the power went out again, sending the room back into dark silence. [MORE]

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Sibling Rivalry: Part 10 – A Very Large Corpse

“I had no idea you could fly,” said Vlad.

“I suspected,” said Beldin, huffing and puffing up the cliff face. “I’m surprised you kept it secret this long.”

There was a history of keeping secrets between the dark-kin and dwarf that strained their relationship.

“I can’t fly, exactly. I can glide. Up and down. I get very tired, although my wings grow stronger every day. Perhaps one day, I will be able to fly.” Sebastian seemed almost wistful.

“It is a gift indeed.” Quintus spoke over Vlad’s shoulder, connected by his harness. “But one that would not be looked kindly upon by everyone.”

“That’s an understatement,” added Ilmarė.

“I do not think my…disability, will be so charitably received.” [MORE]

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Wednesday, March 18

The Horror: I'll Just Play World of Warcraft

An interruption has quite an effect, in my action horror gaming column, The Horror!: I'll Just Play World of Warcraft.

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A Love in Need: Part 7 – The Plan

“What was all that screaming?” asked Kliss, stroking the boy’s hair in an effort to keep him calm.

“Jawolalski’s dead,” said Tageret, out of breath. “There’s a corpse in the bathtub. And I don’t know for sure but I think I saw a dog head flopping around in a fish tank.” He addressed Kliss. “Take your car and get out of here. You and the kid.”

Archived looked back and forth between them. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

“Where are we supposed to go?” asks Kliss.

“How much gas do you have?” asks Tageret.

“Half a tank.”

Tageret checked his watch. “It’s almost three. You can drive till dawn on that. Just keep moving.”

Making up her mind, Kliss nodded. She snatched up her keys and dragged David behind her.

“Wait!” Archive got up from the bed. “We don’t know if it’s safe.”

But it was too late. Kliss pushed the boy around to the passenger side. Then she yanked open the door to the driver’s side … [MORE]

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Sibling Rivalry: Part 9 – Up the Mountain

The last week of travel had been one of the most perilous periods they ever faced. Besides the treacherous terrain, howling winds that threatened to blow the unwary off the mountainside, and the constantly looming risk of an avalanche, packs of winter wolves have been hounding their every step.

“The wolves seem to possess inhuman cunning,” said Beldin. “They’re always just out of sight.”

“They’re extremely intelligent,” said Ilmarė. “The fiercest of Osalian’s children.”

“Well, they’ve avoided every trap we’ve laid out for them,” said Vlad.

“Perhaps they are waiting for the mountain itself to finish you and then dine on your still-steaming corpses,” said Ilmarė.

They ignored her. [MORE]

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Tuesday, March 17

Do You Suffer from Flying Polyps?

If so, then you need ELDER SIGN (tm)!

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A Love in Need: Part 6 – Jaws

Rain pounded the moonless landscape, hitting so hard that the up-spray was as fierce as the downpour. Occasional bursts of lightning took snapshots of twisted Joshua trees.

The lights of the motel become fainter. The sodden muck tried to swallow their feet. Hammer pulled himself from the quagmire, climbed a rise and hurried over it. Lightning flashed and he caught sight of the maintenance shed.

Jim-Bean and Tageret arrived on the other side. The door swung open and closed in the wind. The chain that normally locked the shed had been snapped in two.

With both Glocks out, Hammer peered around the opening into the darkness of the trailer. Another flash of lightning illuminated the outline of Jawolalski’s form, his back to them.

“Jawolalski!” shouted Hammer. “It’s over. Get up.”

Jawolalski didn’t move. Hammer nodded to Kraygen and he flicked on the light. [MORE]

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Sibling Rivalry: Part 8 – Quintus

Quintus was locked away in a side closet with only the carved corpse of his assistant as company.

“Easy,” whispered Ilmarė. She put her hands on his forehead, calling to the spirits of the air to heal him. “Easy.”

“What happened?”

“The Voei…” whispered Quintus. “They took us alive…planned to present me as a sacrifice for the tribal chief.”

“What…” Vlad looked down in horror. “What did they do to you?”

“On the second night following the raid, I tried to escape with my assistant…”

“The stories are true,” Sebastian said grimly. “They really are cannibals.”

“We were captured,” continued Quintus. “As punishment they killed the assistant. And then…and then…”

Beldin looked away.

“THEY ATE MY LEGS!” Quintus trembling hands felt at the stumps that were once the top of his thighs. “I’ll never walk again.” His eyes were filled with tears. He turned to Ilmarė. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” [MORE]

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Monday, March 16

A Love in Need: Part 5 – What’s in the Box?

The box in the trunk smelled like some type of chemical. The sides were stained from the inside by some kind of bluish fluid.

Jim-Bean moved to pick it up when the box moved. Something was wetly flopping inside the box.

Exchanging a glance with Jim-Bean, Hammer slowly reached out to pick up the box up. It shuddered.

Hammer opened the door to the additional room he had rented from Kraygen.

“Hey!” shouted Jim-Bean to Kraygen, who was standing in the doorway to Dr. Kliss’ room. “You got a fish tank or something?”

“Sure,” said Kraygen. He jogged back to the office and returned with an algae-covered, dried out husk of a fish tank with smelly gravel. “Ain’t had fish in this for years.”

“Thanks.” He took it from Kraygen.

“So what’s in the—“

Jim-Bean closed the door on him. He turned back to Hammer.

Hammer placed the box on the nightstand next to the bed. Jim-Bean placed the fish tank over the box.

“Ready?” asked Jim-Bean.

Hammer nodded. “Ready.”

Jim-Bean focused and stretched one hand towards the box.

It slowly, carefully tore open, seemingly of its own accord. In the darkness, a single eye glittered from the feeble light provided by the single bulb above them.

The thing shuddered. Something wet and pink slithered inside. With a sudden jerk, it twitched its way out of the box. [MORE]

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Sibling Rivalry: Part 7 – Voei

The Corlathian Mountain range was not just a series of high peaks. The foothills, where the expedition located their campsite, were full of crevasses, winding passages, ravines, and canyons. Outcroppings and ledges covered many of the trails.

Every sound was magnified throughout the valley. The ruins of an ancient temple, its back to the valley wall, loomed before them. They had to struggle through the hip-deep snow.

Ilmarė froze.

“What is it?” asked Vlad.

“Shh!” Ilmarė cocked her head. “Listen.”

“Sounds like…breathing,” whispered Sebastian.

Ilmarė pointed two fingers at her eyes and then at small plumes of steam coming from mounds of snow. The telltale signs of a mammal’s breath… [MORE]

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Sunday, March 15

A Love in Need: Part 4 – The Prisoner

The motel room was illuminated by a police cruiser. The flashing lights were eerie in the rain. An athletic, middle-aged man in a sheriff’s uniform stepped out of the sedan. There was a second person in the back of the cruiser.

“You the manager?” he asked Kraygen.

“Yeah?” asked Kraygen nervously.

The stranger carefully held out his police I.D. “Office Tageret. I’m transporting a convict. The law grants you the right to decline us service – but the roads are flooded and I could use a room.”

A muffled cackle came from the back seat of the sedan.

“… it’s an emergency.”

Hammer walked over, flashing his own badge. “Agent Hammer, Counter-Intelligence Field Agency. Who’ve you got there?”

“Jawolalski, Jason Jawolalski.”

Tageret dragged Jawolalski out of the cruiser and over to the room that Kraygen unlocked for him.

Jawolalski’s long black hair was tied in a ponytail. He had brown eyes and a two day’s growth of beard.

“That’s our man,” said Hammer. Jim-Bean joined them from the other room, his arm drenched in blood. “CIFA put out the APB. We’ll take him off of your hands.” [MORE]

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Sibling Rivalry: Part 6 – The Campsite

True to his word, Torric was up at the crack of dawn, ready to guide them to Quintus’ last known campsite.

“We will take care of Calactyte. He is still unconscious; it will take days for him to recover. It is not safe for him to travel until the worst of the storm passes.”

“Thank you,” said Sebastian. “I know you will treat him with as much kindness as you’ve treated us.”

Outside, a cold wind blew unmercifully and seemed to cut directly through outer clothing. Of the red snow, only a crimson, oily smear remained, giving the cracked and blackened landscape the appearance of a seeping wound.

“Why is that snow red, anyway?” asked Vlad. [MORE]

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Saturday, March 14

A Love in Need: Part 3 – Vector

Jim-Bean approached the boy, brow furrowed.

“So kid. Did you see anything? Anything you want to share?”

The boy just stared at him with his dead eyes.

Kliss came over. “He’s just a boy. Can’t you see he’s in shock?”

“Oh I can see all right. And in my experience, the cute little kids are the most dangerous.”

Kliss blinked. “You can’t be serious. I think you’ve been reading too many horror novels, Agent …”

“Jim-Bean,” he said. “Don’t worry, this won’t hurt a bit.”

Jim-Bean lifted the Realizer crystal around his neck with one hand and focused on the boy. [MORE]

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Sibling Rivalry: Part 5 – The Inner Ring

As they made their way around the Inner Ring of the Shrine, they came to a stone staircase leading upwards. At the base of the staircase, curled up in a fetal position, was a member of the Black Talon egg clutch.

“Calactyte?” asked Sebastian in surprise. “Is that you?”

The ss’ressen was shivering uncontrollably, its eyes rolled up into its skull.

A figure, hidden in the shadow of the staircase commented in a voice devoid of any emotion, “I have been watching the beast for the better part of the evening wondering if I should kill it put it out of its misery or let the cold do my work for me.” [MORE]

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Friday, March 13

A Love in Need: Part 2 – The Room

“Crikes, this is rough,” whispered Jim-Bean, looking around.

The room, if it could be called that, had stained shag carpet. There were torn farm animal print curtains. Cigarette holes were burned into the paisley bedspread draped across the bed. Artificial plants hung in the corners of the room.

Archive rushed Andrews into the bathroom and placed him in the tub. The bathroom was no better. It had a broken tile floor, a rusty faucet and a water-stained commode.

Archived turned on the faucet. Brown water splashed out, gushing several roaches out with it. The bugs scurried around the sink and then slither down the drain.

“Anyone have a first aid kit?” shouted Kliss. “He’s in shock, he’s losing blood.”

“We just happen to have one,” said Jim-Bean. He tossed a rucksack onto the bed.

Archive tore it open and ran back into the bathroom. He snapped on a pair of plastic gloves. Then Archive peeled back Andrews’ shirt, causing blood to weep copiously into the tub.

“That doesn’t look good,” he said to Kliss. The look on her face confirmed his diagnosis. [MORE]

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Sibling Rivalry: Part 4 – The Squatter’s Corner

A thin man, unshaved and unwashed, cradling a small child, came forward to speak with Vlad.

“I beg your pardon, noble sir. My name is Jozeph, a freeman from Milandir and one of the faithful of our Mother Church. As is written in our holy books, I have taken my family and set off on a pilgrimage to the First City. Our caravan, full of pilgrims from various parts of Milandir and even Ulfia, were beset by bandits as we were traveling across the plains of Dagha. Most of my fellows were slain. My family and I would have been killed too, had it not been for the Soldier-Saints of Dagha. They arrived and killed or chased off the bandits. In their kindness they treated the wounded and escorted us here to convalesce with the Ansharans.”

Vlad watched Jozeph apprehensively. The child reached out for him and grabbed one of Vlad’s fingers.

“Though we are very grateful to the monks and priests of the Suffering Goddess for their kindness these past two months, we are desperate to get home. I am not a rich man, but I do own a small shop where I sell my wares. I am a cobbler by profession and would gladly repay you in services or wares if you were to visit my store in Luchek. “

“That is not necessary,” said Vlad.

“I only ask for enough money to purchase a horse for my wife and child to ride and for some food for the trek.”

Vlad hesitated.

“Please kind sir, I beg of you. I don’t know how much longer we can stand to be in this place of misery and sorrow!”

“How much do you need?” asked Vlad.

“One hundred imperials.”

“Done!” Vlad handed him a coin purse from his belt. “Anything for a fellow Milandisian.”

A great cry of hope and despair went up from the room as Vlad handed over the gold. People mobbed them both with every sob story imaginable. [MORE]

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Thursday, March 12

A Love in Need: Part 1 – The Motel

The Prairie View motel was a one-story, L-shaped structure. A rustic portico ran the length of the front, affording sheltered access to each of the twelve units and the office. A primer painted pickup truck sat outside the office, under a "$19.00 A NIGHT" sign that hung over the office screen door. Above that was a crooked "VACANCY" sign.

A bell above the screen door of the office jingled as Hammer entered.

The tiny wood-paneled room had several security video monitors on the walls behind the desk. The image of Hammer entering the office filled the screens.

Around the room, a few stock scenery pictures hung on the wall and a stuffed jack-a-lope, a rabbit with glued-on antlers, rested on the counter. At the rabbit's feet was a desk bell, with a sign: RING ME.

Hammer rang the bell.

There was some rustling, then a man with a nametag identifying him as Kraygen appeared from the back room. He was in his forties, five-foot nothing and a hundred thirty pounds in his sweaty t-shirt and jeans.

He caught a glimpse of Archive carrying the bloody Andrews in a fireman’s carry towards the motel. "Jesus, what happened?" [MORE]

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Sibling Rivalry: Part 3 – The Dining Area

The large room was half-filled with members of the faithful eating a frugal meal. On the far side of the chamber area were a few Ansharans tending a large simmering pot from which porridge was served to a line of waiting pilgrims.

Beldin licked his lips. “Good, food. I’m hungry.”

The room was subdued, with only minimal conversation and the clatter of wooden spoons scraping against bowls to accompany the muttered moans of pain coming from the next room.

Beldin got in line to partake of the evening meal. When it was his turn, he discovered it was watered down gruel.

They sat at the table while they consumed the soup.

“This is disgusting.” Vlad made a face.

Sebastian slurped his gruel. “While it may appear unappealing and tasteless, it’s quite nutritious.”

Vlad looked around in search of a better meal. He stared over Beldin’s shoulder. “Ilmarė?” [MORE]

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Wednesday, March 11

A Love in Need: Prologue

Hammer turned the windshield wipers on as the storm whipped itself into a frenzy.

“So we flew out here for what again?” asked Jim-Bean, cracking a window so he could blow cigarette smoke out the crack.

“Remember Jason? The guy who gave Lucy Ennis that ‘potion’ that reanimated her dad?”

Jim-Bean rubbed his forehead. “How can I forget.”

“Well Jason Jawolalski was sighted in McKinley. Our job is to pick him up.”

Archive, sitting in the back, chuckled. “So that’s why you brought me?”

Hammer nodded, struggling to see through the downpour. “You did a great job with those Nazi corpses, so I figure if this Jason guy gets creative with his potion you’ll come in handy.”

Jim-Bean flipped on the radio. It reported flood alerts and chimed six o’clock.

“As I recall, the Elder Sign was useless against Henry Ennis—“ began Jim-Bean.

“Elder Signs vary in magical strength,” Archive interjected, cutting him off. “The one I have now is much more powerful.”

“Sure,” said Jim-bean. “Whatever.”

Distracted by the conversation, Hammer glanced up in time to see a silhouette in the path of the car. [MORE]

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Sibling Rivalry: Part 2 – The Altar of Suffering

They were led by the legionnaire into another dimly lit chamber. Central to it was a large marble statue of a woman in obvious agony, enwrapped by twin thorned vines that dug into her flesh. Her face looked upward to the heavens as if in supplication and her mouth was open in a silent scream.

Arrayed about the statue was a small group of kneeling pilgrims. A priest intoned a prayer and the faithful about the statue whipped their backs in time to the cadence of his song. The legionnaire motioned for the priest to come over. Another priest slid into his place and the ritual continued without skipping a beat.

“Are you Torric?” asked Sebastian.

“I am.” He was obviously a half-orc.

“Have you been to Quintus Aurelius Ignatius’ campsite recently?

“I have. I was there a few weeks ago. The campsite is a day and a half’s travel from the Shrine on foot. Do you require an escort?”

“That would be wonderful, are you available?”

“I am. Unfortunately, this will have to wait until morning as the bizarre weather of the Blessed Lands has struck and the Red Snow, has been raging outside since sunset. These storms usually only last through the night; we should be able to head out in the morning.”

Beldin sighed. “Then I guess we’re stuck here.” [MORE]

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Tuesday, March 10

Chapter 34: A Love in Need - Introduction

This story hour is from the scenario “A Love in Need” by Brian M. Sammons in “Secrets.” 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) 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

A Love in Need is a quirky scenario about the unlikely romance between an alien sorcerer and a giant fat woman who is protective of her dying son. I was ready to run the scenario straight as is, but couldn’t help altering the plot to fit it into the rest of the campaign’s overall mythology. Thus the alien sorcerer became a protomatter steward, the mother was altered by the Mi-go, and the child is actually a biogenetically engineered source of BIOSAN-6. In other words, he’s Patient Zero of a virus that could wipe out protomatter once and for all.

The agents are completely ignorant of the real story. They’re after Jason, the mysterious boyfriend who gave a potion to Lucy Ennis. But that’s just an excuse to lock the agents up in a motel. From there, it’s a slasher flick on steroids, combining the best of Joy Ride, Identity, and Vacancy. It was all over in the span of just two hours.

The content of the potion has a tie to a future scenario. And that scenario involves a certain animated object that has no business being animated. I had no idea the effect it would have on this scenario.

This is also the first time I used a rule I invented from one of my sourcebooks (Blood & Blades: The Profiler’s Guide to Slashers). It had the exact chilling effect I intended.

Finally, we get to see just how far Hammer is willing to go to protect the Conspiracy.

Defining Moment: There’s something moving in the dripping blue cardboard box. Something Jason calls his pet. [MORE]

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Sibling Rivalry: Part 1 – The Shrine of Anshar

An Ansharan priestess, wearing the plain robes of her order, stood before the Gate.

“Stand before the opening,” she said imperiously.

The dwarf, the dark-kin, and the Milandisian lined up in front of it.

“Are any of you carrying an excess of blastpowder? We can store it for you, for a fee.”

Sebastian smirked. “Kham’s not with us today, so no.” [MORE]

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Monday, March 9

No Man's Land: Conclusion

“There are several chapters of Mein Triumph devoted to the concept of alternate timelines,” explained Archive. “One such timeline leads to a German invasion of the American mainland. It is implied in Mein Triumph that the unforeseen advent of nuclear weapons prevented the Jews from provoking that war.”

“A timeline we prevented,” said Jim-Bean. “Right?”

“I hope so,” said Archive. “But we won’t know for sure until …”

“January 19, 2038,” said Hammer. “Then it’s run, revel, or suicide.” [MORE]

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Sibling Rivalry: Prologue

Not long after Paolo Tuminardo left, the door swung open and a figure in a very heavy cloak and hood entered. Small amounts of snow fell from his shoulders as he pulled back his hood.

The face revealed that of a young man, with a thick tangle of black hair and a ready smile that seemed out of place among the dour and no-nonsense people of the Widow’s Stone. Scanning the room, his eyes fall upon Vlad. His infectious smile became even broader.

“Vlad!”

Vlad stood up. “Decimus?”

Decimus walked over to their table.

“Greetings, my friends. For those who do not know of me, I am Decimus -- a humble facilitator. I’m sorry to meet you under such mysterious circumstances, but it would not be seemly to make such my patron travel to meet us.”

Sebastian and Beldin met Decimus with a quizzical look.

“Meet us about what, Decimus?” asked Vlad. “Last we met, you were trading in a contract for your freedom.” [MORE]

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Sunday, March 8

No Man's Land: Part 5 – Those Who Have Fallen

Across the field from the broken window was a semicircle of sandbags from which a large machine gun barrel poked up, pointing his way. Plaques explained that the foxhole beyond contains a Maxim Machineengewehr 42 machine gun that was estimated to have killed more than four hundred soldiers.

Archive shoved one of the shelves off of him. The tank cannon had blown a hole in the trench and everything near it. Archive guessed that whatever magic the Nazi sorcerer had used to reanimate the dead had also armed the weapons.

Archive held up the Elder Sign. The two skeletons manning the machinegun powdered to dust. He turned and ran down the ramp into the trench on Hammer’s side. He had to stop the tank before it fired again.

In the trench, two dead soldiers strode forth, straight towards the spot where Jim-Bean was. Now it was just a pile of dirt.

Jim-Bean’s hand burst out of the debris. Spitting dirt, he crawled up the sloped side of the trench as the soldiers walked mechanically behind him. He was a bloody mess. The protomatter that suffused his body was working overtime to keep him alive. If he survived, Jim-Bean knew he’d be hungry enough to eat a cow later. [MORE]

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Chapter 49: Sibling Rivalry - Introduction

This is a Year Three Living Arcanis adventure, “Sibling Rivalry” by Henry Lopez, 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/dwarven defender) played by Joe Lalumia
  • Ilmarė Galen (elf bard/fighter/seeker of the cerulean sign) played by Amber Tresca
  • Sebastian Arnyal (dark-kin sorcerer) played by George Webster
  • Vlad Martell (human fighter) played by Matt Hammer

This is one of those adventures that feels like a season finale, even though it isn’t. Plenty of former PCs show up, including Calactyte and Quintus. It explains what they’ve been up to and why they haven’t been in contact for some time.

This adventure also kicks off the inevitable conflict in Coryan that will have far-reaching implications, as far as Freeport. War is coming, and it will affect everyone.

I was pleased that this adventure had our most combat-heavy PCs (the sorcerer and two fighters) to go toe-to-toe against war trolls. War trolls are nasty mothers. In case you’re wondering, I classified war trolls as giants for purposes of the dwarf special ability ‘cause…well, because it’s stupid that normal trolls are considered giants but war trolls aren’t. All of the Singarthan trolls were converted from the original adventure, with Warrior Caste trolls becoming war trolls and Arcane Caste trolls becoming regular warmage trolls. It worked out nicely. [MORE]

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Saturday, March 7

Delta Green: The Engagement of Rules

The new book will feature rules on disabling wounds, called shots, suppressive fire, stress disorders as a replacement for the stupid insanity of Call of Cthulhu, relationships, and flashbacks. AWESOME! [MORE]

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No Man's Land: Part 4 – Lest We Forget

The main part of the exhibit was a full-scale, original trench in a reconstructed battlefield. A ramp led down between walls of dirt, giving the impression that the visitor was descending into the ground as you walk along. The display tag at the bottom of the ramp explained that the exhibit was an actual WWII trench, carefully dug up and transported from the fields of France. Hammer understood how Whitcher had managed to create the skeletons: he had plenty of raw material.

The trench’s structure was well supported by sandbags and wooden slats, and great care had been taken to preserve and secure the sod walls with a durable coating. Stepladders were placed every dozen yards or so to allow visitors to peer over the ten-foot high dirt walls.

The ground around the top of the trench was bare of all grass and vegetation, but lengths of barbed wire spiraled across the field. The walls and ceiling were painted to show gray clouds overhead and forests and farmhouses in the distance. Hidden speakers played the sounds of men shouting in German, biplanes passing overhead, intermittent gunfire, and occasionally a mortar explosion.

The atmosphere in the trench was as realistic as the curators could make it, and the whole effect was more than a little bit disturbing.

Above the trench stood a tremendous metal vehicle about eight feet tall, ten feet wide, and fifteen feet long. It was covered with heavy iron plates held in place by bolts at least an inch in diameter. The display tag identified the metal behemoth as a Renault tank with a 37mm cannon. The tank rumbled forward a few feet before the turret whirred towards Jim-Bean.

Of course, thought Hammer. Of course Whitcher had animated a tank crew. He could do nothing but duck down as the tank blasted away at Jim-Bean above him.

Whitcher may have been a Nazi sorcerer but he was still human. The blast caused him to pause as well as dirt rained down all around them.

Hammer squeezed off two shots with his Glock. Whitcher ducked around a curve in the trench and chanted something Hammer couldn’t hear, his ears still ringing from the tank’s attack.

Hammer’s flesh started to feel very, very warm. It was like someone had suddenly pressed his face next to a hot flame and no matter where he turned, he couldn’t escape it.

Gritting his teeth, Hammer advanced on the chanting Whitcher. [MORE]

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Brothers: Conclusion

When they returned to the Widow’s Stone, their guide was waiting for them.

“Paulo!” Sebastian said with false enthusiasm. “You seem to have lost track of us.”

“Yes,” Paulo looked embarrassed. “The gentlemen ordered the carriage away with such venom that I went for a wild ride.”

“Not a very good guide,” muttered Beldin.

Paulo cleared his throat. “The dwarf is right, being a guide is just one of my duties, and I’m not very good at it. In truth, I am here to relay a request on behalf of Domina Gracchi.”

“You mean spy on us,” added Sebastian. [MORE]

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Friday, March 6

Brothers: Part 5 – Universita Degli Studi

Sebastian led his motley crew of companions through the twisting halls of the Universita degli Studi.

“The one name we have is Roberto Anzalone. He’s a professor in the Department of Letters.”

“So that’s who we’re going to see?” asked Vlad.

Sebastian shook his head. “Professor Anzalone is not at the university. We’re meeting Paulo Bacci, a colleague of Anzalone’s in the History department.” He paused. “Maybe it’s best if you all wait out here.”

It wasn’t every day that a dwarf and a fully armed Milandisian entered a scholar’s quarters. [MORE]

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No Man's Land: Part 3 – Gallery

The Gallery was devoted to showcasing the weapons used by frontline troops during WWII. It was larger than the adjacent forum, and it was difficult to see from end to end because the display cases have been arranged to create the effect of a trench-like hallway. The displays featured various weapons used by frontline soldiers. Scratchy recordings of speeches made by politicians of the era drifted from the speakers occasionally. Interspersed among them were clearer recordings of elderly veterans describing their experiences from the war.

One wall of the room was actually a floor-to-ceiling window overlooking a recreation of a WWII battlefield. Other museum visitors walked below, along a trench, before passing through a doorway. At the far end of the diorama was a sandbagged foxhole in which two figures in German uniforms manned a machine gun.

It took Hammer a second to realize why the other visitors hadn’t reacted the ruckus in the gift shop. It was because the sounds of realistic warfare echoed beyond the Plexiglas.

“Look Martha,” said an elderly man, pushed along by his more mobile wife. “They hired actors to man the machinegun!” [MORE]

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Thursday, March 5

Lovecraftian School Board Member Wants Madness Added To Curriculum

Lovecraftian
Arguing that students should return to the fundamentals taught in the Pnakotic Manuscripts and the Necronomicon in order to develop the skills they need to be driven to the very edge of sanity, Arkham school board member Charles West continued to advance his pro-madness agenda at the district's monthly meeting Tuesday. [MORE]

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No Man's Land: Part 2 – No Man’s Land

The museum was meant to be an interactive, educational presentation of conditions and equipment in the trenches of Western Europe in WWI. “No Man’s Land,” as the exhibit was called, was a modern facility. There were no stairs in the exhibit; access was provided by wheelchair-friendly ramps leading to and from the gallery. The arrangement served to accentuate the feeling of going down into the trenches.

Hammer, Jim-Bean, and Archive entered the forum. The room was dimly lit and popular music from the war era played faintly from speakers hidden in the shadows of the ceiling. Most of the available light came from the five cases that displayed items once used by soldiers stationed in the trenches. Beside the main door stood a box for donations; next to that was a door leading to the museum gift shop. At the left was a ramp leading up to the gallery.

The display cases contained items such as shaving kits, gramophones, medals, and honorariums from various countries. A plaque below each item described what functions it served and how the museum came to own it.

As Whitcher fled up the left ramp, four soldiers entered from the gift shop on the right. People screamed. They were dead, each skeleton wearing a WWII helmet and the tattered remains of its German uniform clinging to its bones.

Jim-Bean gaped at the resurrected corpses. “What the hell?”

The front row of soldiers got to one knee while the back row took aim with their rifles.

“He must be in a rush,” said Archive. He held the leather Elder Sign over his head.

The eye at the center of the sign blinked, and the lid lifted up again a beam of flame arced forth. The four Nazi skeletons burst into blue dust.

Jim-Bean hustled people towards the exit.

“Look familiar?” asked Archive, pointing at the blue dust. “This dust is signs that the necromancy that the same necromancy is at work …”

But Hammer was already off and running into the gallery. [MORE]

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Brothers: Part 4 – The Angel

Out of the unimaginable blackness beyond the gangrenous glare of the moonlight, there flopped rhythmically a hybrid, winged thing that no sound eye could ever wholly grasp, or sound brain ever wholly remember. It was not altogether crow, nor mole, nor buzzard, nor ant, nor vampire bat, nor decomposed human being; but something in Sebastian’s mind recoiled at the mere sight. It flopped limply along, half with its webbed feet and half with its membranous wings.

“Byakhee!” shouted Beldin.

“The same one that flew Livius to safety!” shouted Sebastian.

Vlad rammed the double doors and bounced off them. “He locked us in!”

“Good,” Beldin whirled on the thing. “It’s not going to get away this time!” He barreled towards the byakhee. [MORE]

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Wednesday, March 4

Boom Goes the Dynamite Revisited

So we all know about Brian Collins of Boom Goes the Dynamite.

This video purpotedly explains the origin of the phrase. SPOILER: He thought it up as trash talk during a game of Mario Kart. Great.

However, the narrator of this puff piece then rambles on about how "Mario Kart" was incorrectly transcribed as "Mario Cards." That's just plain hilarious, right?

Except the narrator then goes on to state that by confusing "Kart" with "Cards," Collins will be "forever associated...with images of 15-sided die and dark and lonely basements. As if Collins needed more bad publicity."

WTF dude. First of all, there isn't a 15-sided die. Second, dice have nothing to do with card games. Third, there's something cruely ironic about a snarky narrator posting a YouTube slam about a major news organization getting its facts wrong, when said narrator can't get HIS OWN FACTS STRAIGHT.

Seriously, you couldn't spend five seconds on Google to at least make the slam accurate? It's a 20-sided die! READ A BOOK!

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No Man's Land: Part 1 – Which Whitcher?

Hammer took photos of everything and uploaded them to the Blacknet database. Caprice, back at their temporary headquarters in New York, fed them data on the drive down.

“You’re sure this isn’t a joke, right?” asked Caprice, on speakerphone over the cistron.

“It’s not a joke, Hot Pants,” said Hammer tersely, speeding through traffic. “What did you find?”

“The social security number you gave me is the most misused number of all time,” explained Caprice. “In 1938, wallet manufacturer the E. H. Ferree Company in Lockport, New York decided to promote its product by showing how a Social Security card would fit into its wallets. A sample card, used for display purposes, was inserted in each wallet. Company VP and Treasurer Douglas Patterson thought it would be a clever idea to use the actual SSN of his secretary, Mrs. Hilda Schrader Whitcher.”

“Great, Whitcher’s not even real,” said Jim-Bean in the driver’s seat.

“I wouldn’t say that,” replied Caprice. “For someone who isn’t real we’ve got quite a bit of information on him.” [MORE]

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Brothers: Part 3 – Villiers’ Studio

Inside was a big, high-ceilinged space. It was dimly lit, but had stall windows and a skylight. The sun had set and the radiance from the moon and stars fell in patterns down on the floor and up the walls.

Thomas crossed to one side of the room. He lit an oil lamp and then a couple of candles.

The illumination revealed a jumble of easels, paints, palettes, brushes and so on, along with many finished and unfinished canvasses.

Thomas got the grappa and some glasses. He cleared some armchairs and a big old sofa of some sketches. “Please, sit.”

“You have some amazing paintings,” said Sebastian carefully. The paintings were abstract, dark, and very bold, in the shades of maroon, scarlet, black, and silver. They were skillfully executed, if not to everyone’s taste.

Thomas continued to talk. “I really do admire Livius. I’m sorry I couldn’t go with him. I’m honored to have called them brothers. As the Brothers of the Yellow Sign, we believe that the trinity of Illiir, Nier, and Larissa are actually other deities, older gods. The parallels are many and obvious.”

Vlad stood up and walked over to one of the paintings. There was a piece of paper pinned to an easel near him. Words and names jump out. One of them was, “The King in Yellow.” It was a description of a planned treatment.

Thomas looked over at Vlad. He stopped talking.

“Is everything all right?” asked Sebastian. [MORE]

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Tuesday, March 3

No Man's Land: Prologue

Jim Bean peered over Hammer’s shoulder. “What’s in the envelope?”

Hammer emptied the contents on the hood of his car. There was a palm-sized scrap of pale tattooed leather, a ten dollar bill, and a folded sheet of paper.

Jim-Bean opened the paper and read it. “Huh. The Earth Died Screaming by Tom Waits.”

“What?” asked Hammer.

“It’s a song. These are the lyrics. It’s on an album called Bone Machine, released in 1992.”

“Never heard of it,” said Hammer.

“You have now,” said Jim-Bean with a smirk. “It’s signed XOX, Palimpset. There’s also a bloody thumbprint on it.”

“Weird.”

Archive held the leather up to the light. It was about four inches in diameter and roughly circular. There was a stylized star tattooed on one side in red metallic ink that glowed faintly

“That’s not all that’s weird,” said Archive. “This is an Elder Sign.”

“The what?” asked Jim-Bean.

“The Elder Sign is a powerful weapon against the servants of the Great Old Ones and the Outer Gods, and can be used to drive them off.”

Hammer was staring at the bill. “This has to be a hoax.” He held it up so Jim-Bean and Archive could view it.

The bill was slightly larger than normal. It is made of some sort of plasticy material that didn’t crease or easily tear. It was rainbow colored and had a holographic portrait of Hitler on the front. The back contained barcodes, embedded circuitry and a U.S. flag with 57 stars. Text on the bill was in both English and German. The bill was dated "Series 2034.”

Jim-Bean frowned. “I can check this easily enough. Let me have it.”

Hammer handed him the bill.

“I wouldn’t do that,” said Archive. “If this has something to do with the Karotechia then it might be magically—“

Jim-Bean held the bizarre bill with between forefingers and thumbs and concentrated.

“OW!” He shouted, clutching his temple. “Damn it!” [MORE]

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Brothers: Part 2 – Colombo’s Office

They set out for the Navigli in the late afternoon. Paulo negotiated the journey with a carriage driver.

Once aboard, the vehicle moved away from the city center on the small roads and bridges of the community. It was foggy and there was no other traffic. Rain had set in, falling in a steady drizzle.

For much of the journey the carriage had to crawl, at other times it pushed slowly through crowds of local residents. The driver frequently stopped to give Colombo’s name to passers by.

Finally, they pulled up to a rather squalid terrace.

”This is it,” said Paulo. He told the driver to wait and stepped out of the carriage. The others followed behind him.

A faded legend above one door announces: OFFICE. Sebastian knocked on it.

Upon his knock, someone called, “Vieni qui!”

“That means enter in High Coryan.” Sebastian pushed the door opened.

The door gave into a room about ten feet on each side with a desk, two chairs, and a single shelf of books. On one wall was a painting. Although it seemed to be a supper with Illiir at the center, the artist had painted the scene from the back and no faces were visible. On another wall was a very faded painting of a young priest with a cardinal.

Behind the desk sat a toothless, bald man with one milky white eye. He wore a sour expression. In front of him sat a slim man with a gaunt face and longish straight black hair. A small cup of coffee was set before each man.

“Hello,” Sebastian said with a slight smile. “Are you Thomas Villiers?”

“Che?” asked the older man.

“Thomas Villiers?” Sebastian repeated.

The older man looked to the younger, who just smiled and shrugged.

“Thom-as Vil-liers?” Sebastian repeated slowly for the third time.

Finally, the younger man laughed. “I’m Thomas.” He pointed at the older man. “This is Giuseppe Colombo. I can speak both Low and High Coryan fluently. You must forgive my rudeness. I was just admiring your efforts, it reminded me a great deal of myself just a few years ago.” [MORE]

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Monday, March 2

Chapter 33: No Man’s Land - Introduction

This story hour is a combination of two scenarios: “Schrodinger’s Dilemma” by JonnyX and “No Man’s Land,” by Stan!, is from the Wizards of the Coast Web site. You can read more about Delta Green at Delta Green. Please note: This story hour contains spoilers!

Our cast of characters includes:
This is one of the first scenarios that actually freaked out the character as well as the player. George, who loves investigations, was intrigued by the notion that Hammer sent a package to himself from the future. As they slowly verified that it did indeed come from the future, he became steadily more and more freaked out by the implications. There are other things in the package Hammer receives that indicate he might not be a nice person. This freaked out everybody.

I was really impressed by the players’ deductive abilities. They collectively figured out the decoded message without much help from me.

Although Hammer was the focus of the first part of the scenario, the latter half was really Archive’s. This is the first time the living dead are used in force, and it’s up to Archive to take on Whitcher’s undead German army. Given the opportunity to use every World War I cliché imaginable, I milked this scenario for all it was worth [MORE].

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Brothers: Part 1 – Reunion

The Widow’s Stone was a well-known taverna in the city. Though the bleak weather made outside drinking and dining out of the question, the taverna had a central fire to warm chilled bones and a large supply of Savonan Red.

Vlad’s back was to the doorway when they entered, but he was unmistakable. The big man had a mane of black curly hair that he only occasionally cut. It was short now, as he had been pressed into military service only recently.

He turned at the sound of the dwarf entering the room.

“Vlad!” shouted Beldin. The usually gruff dwarf’s features flashed a smile. “You’re back!”

Vlad hopped up from his seat and gave the dwarf a bearhug. “It’s good to see you!” He smiled at Sebastian. “And you too Sebastian.”

Sebastian smiled and grabbed a seat. “How are you?”

“He’s grown a beard too!” Beldin looked like a proud father.

“I just got back from the goblin uprising in Milandir,” said Vlad. “Things seem to have settled down, but there was some mention of a rift? Something about the King’s Players…” he trailed off, looking at Sebastian uncertainly.

“Yes,” Sebastian began. “We…we closed the rift to Carcosa.”

“I didn’t realize my father had been framed.” Vlad looked down at the table. “But now his soul is at peace, and the real killer is seeing justice.”

They were silent for a moment. Paulo cleared his throat. [MORE]

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Sunday, March 1

See No Evil: Conclusion

Hammer stepped out into the sunlight in front of the Merriweather Center, Colm’s book in his hand.

It was called The Project. The report presented a global vision of a worldwide strategy for the Black Brotherhood. Local policies were drawn up in the different regions in accordance with its guidelines. It acted as a means of defining the points of departure of that policy, then set up the components and the most important procedures linked to each point of departure. Finally it suggested several missions, all of them linking the Neo-Nazi organization Karotechia to Al-Hazzan.

Archive limped out behind him.

“So who’s behind all this stuff?”

“Nazis,” said Hammer with a sigh. “I hate Nazis.”

A confused deliveryman waved a package. “I have a delivery for Curtis Grange?”

Jim-Bean snatched the package from the worker and, after shaking it, tossed it to Hammer.

Hammer peered down at the nine inch by twelve inch manila envelope. The destination and return addresses were identical—they contained Hammer’s full legal name and residential address.

The stamps were a commemorative White House and U.S. flag stamps issued in 1992 at twenty nine cents each.

Archive peered over Hammer’s shoulder. “Who’s sending you a package from ten years ago?”

“And how would he know you would be here at this time on this date?” asked Jim-Bean.

“I don’t know,” said Hammer. “But I should.” He looked out at the sunset. “This address is in my handwriting.” [MORE]

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Brothers: Prologue

The day was overcast as a carriage brought Sebastian and Beldin into the center of Sweet Savona. Small, crowded streets characterized the area. Fine old palaces and apartments could be found there, as could most of the good tavernas.

A tall, slim, and handsome man approached.

“You’re not Kham,” said Beldin. The dwarf’s fingers flexed, ready to grab the axe across his back at any moment.

He was clean-shaven, with short dark hair and a strong jaw. He was dressed in a well-cut black outfit and shoes. He held himself erect and seemed a little stiff and formal.

“Hello signori,” the man bowed his head slightly. “My name is Paulo Tuminardo. I will be your guide here in Sweet Savona.”

“Where’s Kham?” asked Sebastian. The dark-kin was a little less tense his dwarven companion, but still kept his arms by his sides should he need to cast a spell.

Paulo held up one hand. “Ah yes, you must be looking for him. I apologize, my services have been secured by Domina Luca Gracchi—”

“You’re not answering the question,” said Beldin. [MORE]

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posted by Michael Tresca at 7:41 PM | 0 comments links to this post


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The Cute Cat Theory Talk at ETech

As I always suspected, where technology goes, its earliest adopters are porn. This theory is expanded to include activism as a close second. In short, your technology is not successful until it's used to foment rebellion and distribute porn. [MORE]

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posted by Michael Tresca at 4:25 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.