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Sunday, June 28

Chapter 40: Last Rites of the Black Guard - Introduction

This story hour is from “Last Rites of the Black Guard” by Ed Wetterman. 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)
  • Joseph “Archive” Fontaine (Dedicated Hero/Acolyte) played by Joe Lalumia
  • Jim “Jim-Bean” Baxter (Charismatic Hero) played by Jeremy Ortiz (http://jeremyrobertortiz.blogspot.com)
  • Kurtis “Hammer” Grange (Fast/Dedicated Hero/Gunslinger) played by George Webster

If you’re familiar with the Karotechia in Delta Green, you know that it is led by a triumvirate of Nazis on their last legs: the ancient Olaf Bitterich, the artificially sustained Gunter Frank, and the immortal Reinhard Galt. Advancing the Delta Green timeline thus causes a bit of a problem, because Bitterich should be dead of old age. The solution: Last Rites of the Black Guard (LRBG).

LRBG assumes the characters will conduct a séance, which isn’t necessarily something every group will try. Instead, I had our resident psychic character possessed by Aimee’s spirit and let him role-play out the answers with the other characters. Only after enough clues were gathered about what happened to the spirits did I reveal that there was once a Nazi living next door.

LRBG then moves to the second part of the scenario, which is essentially a death trap. Once the investigators find their way down to the secret door, it locks behind them and they are engaged in a fight for their lives with a Risen of Osiris, an undead monster. Since I adopted this monster to a Delta Green setting, I changed it to a Screaming Crawler. The effect is the same: the investigators have to slog it out in a toe-to-toe fight. My players were unhappy about this, expecting to uncover some plot-device to destroy it. The monster has no other purpose than as a guardian, which surprised my players, who expected it to be the old Nazi himself.

This scenario provided a mix of creepy investigation and slugging it out with a supernatural beast. Because of how the fight went down, Archive was taken out early, which left it up to the gunslinger and the faceman. The gunslinger enjoyed himself, the faceman didn’t.

Defining Moment: Since his incident with Yog-Sothoth, Archive is terrified of spheres. Which just happens to be the form an ABE takes… [MORE]

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Shadows: Part 1 – Great Room

The main floor of the Cresh House was in a deplorable state. The walls, once covered in paper, were torn and peeling. Water had stained, cupped, and warped the wooden floors, a testimony to the leaks from the floor above.

They were in a massive room with a polished marble floor that still shined even with all the grime and debris littering it. Two large fireplaces, each big enough for a grown man to stand inside, flanked the sides of the room. Instead of the expected curios and portraits that normally adorned such mantles, there were rats’ nests, chunks of fallen plaster, and filth. Across the room were several windows, though wooden planking concealed whatever lay beyond.

“Tell me something,” said Vlad. “You’ve been seeing this Countess woman for years…and you never suspected she was from Carcosa?”

Kham shrugged. “How should I know? She’s a madam. She always wore a mask.”

“And you didn’t find that strange,” Beldin stated matter-of-factly.

“No.” Kham peered into one of the fireplaces. “In fact, that’s what I was paying for.”

“You PAID her?” asked Vlad. [MORE]

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Thursday, June 25

Shadows: Prologue

It was an ugly day. The sun hadn’t shown its face at all, seemingly content to hide behind the swollen blanket of clouds that covered Freeport. Worse, the rain was nothing more than a drizzle, enough to awaken old stenches and stains, but not enough to wash the filth from the sewers.

“So this is Cresh Manor,” said Vlad.

Kham, Beldin, and Vlad stood inside the entrance to a veritable wilderness of overgrowth. The street behind them was just visible through the opening in the wall that now only sported one rusted gate hanging from a single bent hinge. The other half lay on the ground, burying who-knows-what beneath its heavy bulk.

“Yolanda said the portal is in the basement, so that’s where we’re going.”

As they looked around, the autumn wind blew through skeletal trees, sending their gaunt limbs rattling and clattering. The life inside them had long since flown, as did the birds and squirrels that once nested in their boughs. A narrow path wound through the tall grasses, stained in places by old blood, a few fluttering carcasses of rotting birds, and tatters of yellow cloth.

“The portal’s been compromised,” said Kham.

“How can you be sure?” asked Vlad.

“Trust me, I just know. I’m the Key to Carcosa, remember?” [MORE]

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Wednesday, June 24

Dead Letter: Conclusion

“What the hell was that?” asked Hammer.

Fiona sat in the middle between Hammer and Jim-Bean. She was still coming to. Archive drove and Guppy sat in the passenger seat.

“I think that was patient zero,” said Jim-Bean. “Whatever it was, it’s been dead a long time.”

“And infected with Sapphire,” said Hammer. “Site compromised. Initiate PURGATORY. Repeat: PURGATORY.”

“I remember that,” said Jim-Bean, “wait, you’re not…”

“I am,” said Hammer. “The entire site has to be wiped out. If that gorilla makes it out into the wild…”

“But the evidence!” shouted Jim-Bean. “We can trace this back to the Karotechia!”

“No time,” said Hammer.

Jim-Bean focused. He might not be able to gather evidence physically, but he had his own ways of gathering information. He concentrated.

Horst Jaeger was screaming frantically in German to a laptop microphone and webcam. A bandaged figure, with the same pale blue eyes as the big Nazi they encountered at the chemical plant, barked a command. Jim-Bean’s remote viewing couldn’t make out the location of the Nazi, but he could see his name written at the bottom of the screen: REINHARD GALT.

Jim-Bean didn’t speak German. Galt’s speech was slurred and there was interference in the wireless feed. He could make out the words “The Doctor” and “Rosetta, Texas.”

The signal suddenly went out. The laptop rattled. Jaeger looked up in fear… [MORE]

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Chapter 55: Shadows in Freeport - Introduction

This scenario is adapted from a Goodman Games adventure, “Shadows in Freeport” by Robert J. Schwalb, set in the Arcanis setting. You can read more about Arcanis at Onara Online. 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
• Kham Val’Abebi (val rogue/psychic warrior) played by Jeremy Ortiz (Jeremy Robert Ortiz)
• Vlad Martell (human fighter) played by Matt Hammer

I knew that one of the PCs would have to sacrifice themselves to save Arcanis, so I had a contingency plan all along to rescue whoever that was. Since that was Sebastian, arguably the most destructive character in the group, it meant that any adventure involving undead was going to be that much harder.

However, the last time our heroes faced off against ghosts, way back in Madness in Freeport, they were unprepared. Since then, both Kham and Vlad acquired ghost touch weapons. And both of them have bane weapons against Carcosan beings, which is precisely what they were up against. I changed many of the infernal references to Carcosan references instead, and just about everything that wasn’t undead has the Farspawn template.

That said, one big difference in how the heroes approached this adventure is that they had a mission. In the original version of this adventure, the goal is to find the children lost in the house, which means tearing the place apart. Instead, I changed the party’s goal: find the portal to Carcosa. They know it’s in the basement. And if you think about it, aren’t all portals to horrible places in the basement?

This means the adventure goes very quickly. Our heroes are in no mood to explore; they want to find the portal and get the hell out of there. So they skipped a whole section of the module with almost no prodding from me. Indeed, they made a beeline straight for the portal without knowing where it was!

What was supposed to be a creepy haunted house ended up being more like a raid on a drug den. But the adventure bridged the gap to Carcosa, and in that regard it was definitely a success. [MORE]

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Interview with Aldo Ghiozzi of Free RPG Day

I recently chatted with Aldo Ghiozzi, owner of Impressions Advertising & Marketing and the architect behind Free RPG Day. We talked about how Free RPG Day got started, how stores, publishers, and customers can participate, and where he sees role-playing games in the near future. [MORE]

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Tuesday, June 23

GSL now allows 3.5-compatible products

Recent changes to the 4th Edition Game System License (GSL) of Dungeons & Dragons now allow publishers to re-release third edition products with certain revisions.Specifically, "Section 6" was removed which prohibited publishers of third edition Dungeons & Dragons products to produce similar products for 4th edition. [MORE]

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Dead Letter: Part 20 – Going Ape

The sound of a roaring engine reached his ears. Hammer grabbed Fiona and dragged her out of the way.

The front end of a car smashed through the garage door, ramming into the cages in the back of the garage.

Hammer peered through the window. Jim-Bean, slumped over the wheel, looked up. “That enough of a distraction?”

Hammer frowned. “Yeah. Keep them busy, I’ll get Fiona to safety.”

“Oh sure,” said Jim-Bean.

Hammer fled, half-dragging Fiona with him.

Heavy breathing caused Jim-Bean to peer back through the front of the car, beyond the cracked windshield. Something huge and dark moved in the shadows of the now torn open cage.

Jim-Bean threw the car into reverse, but the wheels merely screeched. The vehicle was held fast by two huge, gangrenous paws that gripped either side of the front fender. [MORE]

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Naoke: Conclusion

Slipping past the lighthouse known as Milton’s Folly, the Nǎoké made its way into Freeport in the twilight. As she came slowly into dock, everyone line up on the deck rails cheering and waving and flags flying. Word of Baldric’s return had made him a hero, and his defeat of Cho Sun only cemented his reputation as a formidable candidate for the Sea Lord’s Council.

Passengers and their possessions went ashore in a scene of great noise and confusion. The milling port officials, crew, porters, hawkers, and would-be guides only added to the chaos. Clem, Tranco, and Estaboth slipped out into the crowd.

“I’ll take you to the Marquis Moon.” Yolanda was about to don one of her familiar masks. “You’ll be safe there.”

“We won’t if you advertise who you are. Keep the mask off for now. We’ll have to lay low,” said Kham. “Last time we were here, we pissed off the daughter of a certain powerful newspaper editor. And I’m supposedly dead in a botched rescue operation.”

Yolanda turned and screamed shrilly. “Patricia!”

Patricia had gone into the harbor. Vlad ran over to the edge of the dock. Patricia’s broad hat was on the quay and there were ripples on the water. The Milandisian dove in.

“She missed her step,” Francesca said, rocking herself. “She missed her step. She missed her step.”

“She jumped,” said Ilmarė. “Stupid humans.”

A man with a pad and paper was waiting for Vlad as he brought Patricia back to the dock. “Freeport News: can I have a word with you?”

“Damn it!” muttered Kham. “Ilmarė, do something before we end up on the front page!” [MORE]

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Monday, June 22

Dead Letter: Part 19 – I Know Nahzing!

Jim-Bean sauntered up to the front gate. He yelled at the guardhouse. “Hello?”

A guard stepped out, dressed in camouflage and carrying an automatic weapon. “This facility is private property.” He tapped the large sign that read: PRIVATE PROPERTY. “You must leave.”

“Oh that’s okay, I don’t plan to stay long,” said Jim-Bean. “I’m looking for Fiona Lin-Wei, have you seen here?”

The guard went into the gatehouse and picked up a phone. After a hushed conversation, Jim-Bean was ushered in.

“Jaeger will see you. Follow me please.” [MORE]

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Naoke: Part 13 – Desperation Island

Before the Nǎoké lay an idyllic scene: smooth beaches of fine, white sand, tall palms swaying in the breeze, the clear blue, placid seas rolling to the inviting shores. The gentle sloping landscape promised hidden grottoes with bubbling springs and tropical fruits falling from the trees.

“We’re anchoring here for some shore leave!” shouted Baldric.

The crowd gave a wild cheer. It had been twenty days since they left Nyambe.

Ilmarė sat with crossed arms on deck. With the advent of her pregnancy it had become difficult for her to stand for long periods of time. “This is a mistake. The island is too perfect.”

“It’s all we’ve got,” said Kham. “Besides, live a little! The weather is perfect!”

Most of the crew took rowboats out to the island. When they arrived, they discovered the island WAS perfect.

Bananas, mangoes, and papayas grew in abundance. Along the hillside were a number of different shallow caves.

“I’ll take a look around,” said Beldin. The dwarf led a team of men into the caves.

Each of the caves was no more than a slight depression, affording any occupants scant but adequate protection from any squall in the area. Only one, some thirty feet in diameter, could be properly called a cavern.

“There are markings here. Bring the torch over.” While Beldin could see in the dark, he couldn’t make out the markings on the wall. A sailor held a torch aloft.

Along the walls of the cave were various tribal markings, hieroglyphs of a long lost native population. It didn’t require any skill to read the tale, however. It proceeded from a quiet, peaceful existence, to tragedy and sorrow, resulting in the eventual death of the entire tribe.

Beldin hustled out of the cave to find the others. They were at the highest point of the island.

“I think we should leave,” he said gruffly. [MORE]

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Saturday, June 20

Dead Letter: Part 18 – A Real Bear

The Training Center was located off State Road 12, on a logging road deep in the Rocky Mountains north of Sonora, California. The terrain was mountainous with dense pine and redwood forests. The agents were positioned on top of a ridge overlooking the facility.

The Bear Flag Republic Training Center was a large compound surrounded by a ten-foot-high, chain-link fence topped with barbed wire. A two-lane paved road led up to a gatehouse, from which an armed security guard checked in visitors and monitored the compound on closed-circuit TV. Guards with dogs made one patrol of the compound every four minutes. Beyond the gate were several buildings of various sizes and a parking lot.

The lot contained a dark green Chevy Suburban (license plate UBER-01) and a black van with license plate AIK 834. In the center of the compound was a large, cylindrical tank approximately 100 feet in diameter and 100 feet high. The road led right up to the tank and encircles it. The other buildings in the compound were the office, the garage, and the barracks.

An unmarked tanker truck stopped at the gatehouse for clearance, then pulled up to the tank, connected a hose to it, and transferred its cargo.

“That’s got to be Sapphire.” Hammer handed off his binoculars to Jim-Bean. “Guppy, think you can override their security cameras? A place out here probably doesn’t have too many wires…”

Guppy tapped a few keys on his cistron. “Yes. It’s wireless all right. I can put in a repeat feed.”

“Do it.” He turned to Jim-Bean. “Jimmy, I need you to provide a distraction.”

Jim-Bean grinned. “No problem.” [MORE]

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Naoke: Part 12 – The Swimming Dead

It was Beldin’s turn at watch. The night was tranquil, the sea calm. Nothing, surely, would disrupt the Nǎoké’s journey now.

“You don’t have to stand watch with me, Egil,” the dwarf said gruffly. “I know your weak constitution isn’t accustomed to standing watch at these hours.”

After the attack by the Fang, Baldric had buddied up the lookouts with men and women he could trust. None of the pirates were among them.

Egil chuckled. “Thank you for your concern, Master Dwarf. But I wish to pull my own weight around here. I’m sure I can serve some good.”

Beldin shrugged. “Suit yourself.”

Despite all the turmoil, Baldric was happy with the outcome. Taking on two different pirate crews, despite the casualties, had bloated their numbers. Kham, Beldin, and Ilmarė were three more people the ship couldn’t afford in provisions and space, given that the Yolanda, Patricia, Francesca, Egil, and Tranco were on board too.

When he asked Baldric about it, the captain merely winked at him with his good eye. “I’m sure we’ll all fit just fine by th’ time we reach Freeport.”

Beldin’s reverie was interrupted by a gasp from Brother Egil.

“Egil? What’s wrong?”

The priest clutched at his throat. All he got out was, “Gluccck!”

“What is it?” Beldin’s axe and shield were out in a flash.

Egil fell to the ground. He vomited up seawater, as if he were drowning even though he was safe and dry on the Nǎoké’s deck.

A litany of gasps and groans reached Beldin’s ears. He whirled to watch sailors falling left and right, collapsing as something wet and rancid flopped its way onto the deck.

“Illiir!” whispered Beldin. [MORE]

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Dante's Inferno protest was staged

When is a protest not a protest? When it’s led by a marketing agency. [MORE]

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Friday, June 19

Dead Letter: Part 17 – Skin in the Game

True to his word, Hammer argued vehemently to have Fiona given a COCKTAIL. For a little while it looked like she might be given the 9mm retirement plan, but ultimately Sprague prevailed. It was easier to have at least one witness alive; if everyone died, it would look like ABC was covering up something, and Majestic didn’t need more GNN reporters snooping around.

Hammer, decontaminated and showered, took a look at himself in the mirror.

Maybe Fiona was right. Maybe he was becoming a cold bastard. But then, he did what he had to do. To protect everybody. People like his grandma in Manhattan.

His grandmother lived a life Hammer wanted her to maintain. It made him happy, thinking of her smiling at him from her porch, standing in the sunlight.

It was a fiction, of course. He knew that. But fiction was what counted as life for most people. The truth was ugly and violent. It killed Blade. And it would kill him one day too, if the package he had sent himself from the future was any indication.

In the mirror he looked tired, older. The job aged him. Gray streaks were sprouting at his sideburns. Hammer left the decision to pluck or dye them or do nothing at all to another day.

Hammer opened the medicine cabinet and popped some aspirin. Another day. He had killed the Karotechia sorcerer, Whitcher, just as his future self had indicated. But the other parts – the scar on his thumb, the woman with the tattoo – hadn’t yet come true.

Or did it? [MORE]

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Naoke: Part 11 – Heartbreak

Vlad looked glum. It was his turn to be lookout along with Brother Egil.

“You are troubled?” asked Egil.

“How can you tell?”

Egil smiled. “I know the heartbreak of romance. What happened?”

“I don’t know! That’s the problem!” Vlad rubbed his forehead. “I was late for one of our walks on the ship. I was still recovering from my injuries from that…thing Kham called Billy, on the island. I overslept.”

“So now Patricia’s angry with you?”

“Angry isn’t the word. She’s been staying in her cabin almost all the time. According to Yolanda, she’s suffering from seasickness. But I know that’s not true.”

Egil nodded sagely. “In my experience, one cannot rush such relationships.”

“You’ve had relationships?” Vlad stuttered. “With women, I mean?”

Egil chuckled. “No, but I have counseled many couples. My relationship is with Althares.”

Vlad coughed. [MORE]

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Thursday, June 18

Free RPG Day 2009

Saturday, June 20, is Free RPG Day! The goal of Free RPG Day is to get gamers inspired to play a new role-playing, which will in turn create sales through local game stores. [MORE]

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Dead Letter: Part 16 – Men in Black

Hammer, Archive, and Jim-Bean drove Fiona back to the nearest Majestic-12 facility. Guppy lay unconscious in the back seat.

“Tell her,” said Jim-Bean. “She’s seen too much already.”

Archive looked fearfully at Hammer, who was driving. But he nodded.

“We work for an organization, an organization of the highest level of secrecy,” said Hammer. “It’s a clandestine taskforce that deals with the elimination and obscuration of preternatural phenomena that pose a threat to our citizens and their country."

Fiona, dirt smudging her face and an ugly purple bruise on her cheek, looked askance at Hammer. “And what organization might that be?”

“Majestic-12,” said Jim-Bean. “But our cover is the Counter-Intelligence Field Agency.”

Fiona sighed. “So you ARE government goons.”

“We’re beyond the government,” said Hammer. [MORE]

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Naoke: Part 10 – Sole Survivor

The lookout on the crow’s nest shouted, “Land, ho!”

Not far away lay a verdant island, lush with vegetation. Though the island itself was rather small, no more than two miles across, it teemed with life. Most of the island was a dense jungle, and birds flew above the treetops in great number.

”Mariners anchor here and meet on th’ shore in informal gatherings,” said Captain Baldric. “To exchange gossip and inexpensive trade goods. Personally, I’ve never harbored thar. But if ye be willing t’ take a look, we can drop anchor.”

“No,” said Ilmarė sternly. “No more islands. We have enough stragglers and enough grief.”

“I’ll go,” said Kham. “I want to stretch my legs.”

“Me too,” Vlad added eagerly.

“Fine,” said Baldric. “Ye’ve got three hours to conduct an investigation, just in case thar be something of value.”

Kham and Vlad took six crewmembers with them. Given the extra mouths to feed, Baldric secretly hoped they would gather up more food. The ship was getting crowded.

They rowed to the island. The white beaches bore evidence that the place had been used as a port by many vessels throughout the years: old longboats and dinghies were here and there, along with the detritus that sailors left behind after an excursion ashore.

Kham led them deeper into the jungle. “Maybe we can find some fruit or something to eat.”

“Anything but rations!” said Vlad. The pirates shouted in agreement.

With a roar, a horned beast crashed through the jungle, plowing into Vlad and the pirates. Only Kham dived aside in time. [MORE]

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Scaring your players in role-playing games

The RPG Examiner offers examples of the different forms of horror in role-playing games and his success in using them in his own campaign. [MORE]

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Wednesday, June 17

Dead Letter: Part 15 – Safe at Last

Hammer creaked open the safe door. Fire and sparks lit the darkness around him. Plaster and wires hung from the ceiling. The explosion deafened him. His ears were ringing.

The world swam as Hammer stumbled out of the rubble. He looked around. All the Nazis were dead.

Klaxons continued to wail. The way back up the steps was blocked, but Hammer could make out the opening to the Sapphire plant, a stairwell on the other side of the room. He shoved some debris out of the way.

Hammer sensed movement out of the corner of his eye. He turned to look.

One blackened, burned hand shoved its way out of the rubble.

“Oh, no…” whispered Hammer to himself. He dug faster.

Like some Nordic god, the Nazi rose up naked out of the scorched earth around him. He was over six feet tall, with a very muscular physique and classic German features. His blonde hair was cut short, his face clean-shaven. He looked as if he could have stepped out of a World War II SS recruitment poster.

“No!” Hammer dug faster.

The Nazi reached over and pulled out a jagged piece of metal. Testing its weight in his hands, he slowly stalked towards Hammer with murderous purpose. [MORE]

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Naoke: Part 9 – The Prisoner

A huge force rocked the Nǎoké. Without warning, the entire vessel shuddered violently, as if struck by a great obstacle.

Vlad peered over the edge of the ship. “I don’t see anything.”

Whatever the ship had rammed into, it wasn’t visible. The vessel’s bowsprit, caved into the likeness of an angel of death, had been smashed to splinters. Judging from the cries of the sailors, it was apparent that the bow had taken damage. Though the sails were still filled with wind, the ship had stopped dead in the water, obviously because it had run directly into something. Yet nothing appeared beyond the ship but open sea and black night sky.

“Shh” said Ilmarė. “I hear something.”

Shouting sailors rushed back and forth between the bow and the storage lockers, quickly mending the fractured portions of the hull.

“I don’t hear anything either,” said Kham. “Besides the crew, that is.”

Suddenly the elorii hopped down off of the bow of the ship, disappearing from sight.

Vlad gasped. “Ilmarė?” [MORE]

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Review of PX Poker Night

The RPG Examiner reviews Pagan Publishing’s recently released Delta Green scenario, “PX Poker Night,” by Dennis Detwiller. [MORE]

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Tuesday, June 16

Dead Letter: Part 14 – It’s Been a Blast

“Gogogo!” Jim-Bean ran.

The horde had swelled to include every zombie in the facility, over one hundred, clawing and screeching, stumbling over each other to get to the sweet flesh.

The agents skidded out into the main hall. They were surrounded. The zombies began to moan softly, tightening the noose as they closed in on their prey.

“BY THE POWER OF THE ELDER SIGN!” shouted Archive. He thrust the phylactery before him and the zombies, as one, were thrust backward as if hit by a wave of force. The sign was losing its efficacy against them.

They dashed for the door.

“Fiona!” shouted Jim-Bean. “Throw Guppy’s satchel behind you. Now!” [MORE]

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Naoke: Part 8 – Needful Things

The lookout spotted an approach vessel. The ship flew the colors of Freeport.

“Looks like an unarmed merchant schooner,” said Baldric. “Crazy Bob! Flag her down!”

Crazy Bob used semaphore flags to contact the ship. In a few minutes, the two vessels were exchanging greetings and presently pulled abreast of each other. On the schooner’s hull were painted the words, “Jungle Scout”.

To their surprise, Aljandros Haddon stepped out onto the deck. He was a fabric merchant they had encountered on so many other occasions.

“Aljandros?” asked Kham. “You old dog, what are you doing out here?”

“My friend, is that you?” Aljandros seemed genuinely surprised. “It is! And you’re alive! That is wonderful!”

“How’s the family?” asked Vlad.

Aljandros turned serious. “They are with me, including my daughter.” He nodded back at the Jungle Scout. “It is no longer safe in Freeport these days for an aspiring merchant like myself.”

“We heard you had plans to join the Captain’s Council.”

“I did indeed. But then, with the dogs of war unleashed, you are either a politician or you are dead. So we venture out here, further away from the Hinterland pirate raids. Speaking of which, wasn’t this Cho Sun’s ship?”

“It was.” That was all Beldin said. [MORE]

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Monday, June 15

Dead Letter: Part 13 – Hasta la Vista, Baby

Gunfire erupted down below them in the security office.

“What the hell is going on down there?” shouted Jim-Bean.

Archive caught sight of a huge man in a full-body dark-green Kevlar body suit. It covered his body from head to toe. A swastika was emblazoned on one arm.

“Karotechia!” said Hammer, shocked.

Straddling the now bleeding Guppy and unconscious Fiona, the Nazi aimed his Luger at Hammer at the top of the steps.

“'Bthnk! Ftaghu! Fhtagn!”

Archive pointed and the Nazi froze in place, his finger on the trigger.

“My turn.” Hammer took a running jump and flipped over in the air down the steps, landing right in front of the big Nazi. With both pistols out, he put them to the Nazi’s chest and pulled the trigger.

The Nazi’s body jerked as the bullets sparked off of him, ricocheting around the security room. Hammer spared his Glocks a look of disbelief before he ducked for cover as the other Nazi stormtroopers fired at him. [MORE]

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Naoke: Part 7 – Soothsayer

It was the elorii’s turn to stand watch when she sounded the alarm. In the distance, two hundred yards off the starboard stern, a great geyser erupted from the ocean’s surface. At first it appeared to be a whale emitting air through its blowhole, but after a moment it became apparent that the phenomenon was all together different.

“What is that?” asked Vlad.

The jet of water rose thirty feet into the air, its source remaining hidden beneath the surface. The water was a majestic white plume and it sparkled as if motes of silver were contained in its stream.

“The Oracle of Osalian,” Ilmarė said in awe. “We must go to it.”

“Go to it?” Kham looked at the elorii sideways. “Didn’t you say before that you weren’t rowing out to any other islands?”

“This is different. The Oracle of Osalian has not appeared for hundreds of years. It is a sign of Osalian’s blessing that he has chosen to reveal its presence to me. I shall go alone.”

“Oh no you don’t,” said Kham. “I’m going with you.”

Beldin was already helping winch the rowboat down to the surface of the ocean. “We’re both going.”

They rowed out to the geyser. It stood immobile like a pillar, unwavering in its motion.

“Now what do we do?” asked Beldin.

”We must touch—“

But before Ilmarė could finish speaking, Kham dove into it… [MORE]

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Role-playing in the Land of the Lost

The recently revitalized Land of the Lost is tailor-made for role-playing, incorporating the pulp action of dinosaurs, time travel, alien lizards, and psychic crystals. [MORE]

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Friday, June 12

Dead Letter: Part 12 – Insecurity

Hammer ran into the room at the top of the stairs. Zombies howled and shrieked behind them.

He pointed down the steps. “The security office should be down this way!”

Jim-Ben and Archive slammed the glass doors shut behind them.

“Good, then we can set the C-4 and finally get out of—“ Fiona was cut off as a zombie smashed its arm through the glass door and looped it around her throat.

Fiona shrieked, clawing ineffectively at the zombie’s blood-encrusted arm.

“I can’t get a clear shot at it!” shouted Jim-Bean. “Stop struggling!”

Fiona’s eyes bugged. “STOP. STRUGGLING?” [MORE]

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Naoke: Part 6 – Sea Spider

Vlad squinted out at the ocean. It was his turn to be on watch. Eight days had passed since the journey began, and there was something to see almost every day.

Nothing.

Beldin, who couldn’t see quite as high over the rail, kept him company.

“We’ve encountered just about everything the Pale Sea can throw at us,” the dwarf said gruffly. “Sirens. Sea serpents. Pirates. I thought for sure that island we were on was going to turn out to be a giant turtle.”

“You thought that too?” Vlad laughed. “Captain Baldric says we’re a third of the way there. Hopefully it’ll be smooth sailing from here on out.”

Beldin grunted. “I doubt that. I have half a mind to become a pirate myself.”

“With that ring you took off of Cho Sun, you probably could be.”

Beldin looked down at his feet. “Did you feel that?”

“Feel what?”

Dripping saltwater, the huge furry leg of an arachnid slapped onto the deck, sending sailors flying.

“That!”

Two huge fangs were visible next, topped by a crown of beady black eyes.

“Sea spider!” someone shouted.

“Sea spider?” Vlad asked in disbelief. “Seriously?” [MORE]

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Can gaming make you a better worker?

Gaming in the workplace might sound like an oxymoron, but the RPG Examiner explains there are proven benefits to gaming that actually makes you more productive. [MORE]

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Thursday, June 11

Dead Letter: Part 11 – Brains

Hammer kicked open double doors to a large, multipurpose space that had stacks of plastic chairs and folding tables against the walls, white boards, a speaker system, and a wooden floor.

A guard from the second floor study and all the Research Vice Presidents were present. One female still wore her glasses, but her face and arms bore terrible bite wounds, her left ear torn off. A stocky, red-haired Caucasian woman in her early thirties lurched forward with a broken neck and her skull slightly misshapen. A frail sixty-year old Caucasian man’s head had been crushed and his jaw dislocated. The others bore similar bite wounds; clearly the dogs and zombies had gone to work on each other before succumbing.

“Back! Back!” shouted Hammer. He yanked the door shut just as the zombies slammed into it.

They retreated down the hallway.

“Bathroom!” shouted Jim-Bean. He sprayed the hallway just as zombies stumbled out into it. But they were ineffective, and the zombies fell over each other as they dashed towards them in pursuit.

They ducked into nearest restroom. It was one of those bathrooms with no doors.

Hammer fired a burst at one zombie as it reached the opening. Its head burst open like an overripe fruit. “There’s too many!” he shouted over his shoulder. “Archive, they’re all yours!”

He spun out of the doorway and back into the rest room as Archive slid out to face the zombie horde.

“By the power of the Elder Sign, I repel you!” [MORE]

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Naoke: Part 5 – The Isle of Song

Clem reached him a moment later. “Do you hear that?”

Kham sifted through the debris. “Hear what?”

“The singing. They’re calling us.”

“Calling us?” He looked at Clem. “You okay?”

Clem reached down and snatched something out of the nest.

“What have you got there Clem?” Kham’s hands slowly moved to his pistols.

“Nothing. We have to go to them. Can’t you hear them?”

Kham froze. He could hear something. Calling him. Tempting him. It was mixed in with the crashing of the waves, but it was soft and beautiful and longing.

“I think we should go.”

“Yes!” Clem clutched whatever it was in his hand to his breast. “We must go to them!” He started to walk off the side of the cliff.

Kham put one hand on Clem’s shoulder.

“Don’t try to stop me!” The man spun around and stabbed Kham in the arm with a sliver of what looked like glass. [MORE]

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Real Life: The RPG

Realistic. Lifelike. The highest praise for games revolves around the usage of the words "real" and "life" as if real life is the pinnacle of gaming. But as a game, Real Life sucks. [MORE]

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Wednesday, June 10

Dead Letter: Part 10 – The Running Man

The main entrance to the mansion proper was a covered car port. The driveway ran directly from the inner gate under the car port and around the front, ending in a turnaround outside the garage. Employee cars lined the driveway. Broad, shallow stairs led from the car port up to ten-foot wide oak doors. Bloody footprints led to the doors. The terrible stench of rotting flesh lingered.

“This isn’t right,” said Hammer.

“I think the chemical leak was just triggered just now,” said Archive. “Whatever happened here has been going on for awhile.”

A man thumped softly on the mansion’s front door, smearing gore from his now-damaged hand. Only when he turned was his face visible; a bloody, eyeless, ruin.

“Zombies,” said Jim-Bean with a frown.

Hammer took careful aim and pumped several bullets into faceless thing. It jerked. With a moan, it whirled and began dashing toward them.

“Fast zombies,” said Hammer. “Great.”

They all opened up on it. The zombie pitched forward, its legs torn out from beneath it as gunfire perforated its knees. It fell to the ground, twitched a few times, and finally lay still.

“Fast zombies, dogs…” Guppy blinked. “This is just like Resident Evil!”

“You play too many video games,” said Jim-Bean. [MORE]

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Naoke: Part 4 – Whaler

“Ship to the starboard!” rang out from above as the Nǎoké approached a becalmed ship, her sails furled. The ship in question was listing badly to one side, nearly taking on water because of the severe angle of the deck.

“I don’t believe it,” said Vlad.

Hanging from a spar by a complicated assembly of block and tackle was the sea serpent they had encountered the day before. The beast was a pincushion of spears, bleeding from countless wounds. Into the open mouth, a man lowered a bucket and retrieved an oily substance that was transferred onto the deck to large barrels. The ship was alive with activity, despite the pervading smell of death.

“They stole my fish!” snarled Beldin.

“That be the Long Day’s Night, out o’ Freeport,” said Baldric. “Th’ ship and crew are well known as mariners o’ exceptional skill and whale hunters unparalleled.”

Ilmarė sneered. “A disgusting habit. Osalian’s creatures should not be harvested in such a fashion.”

“I know this ship,” said Kham. “Their captain, John Amos, has a knack for avoiding dangerous seas. Wonder what he’s doing out here?” [MORE]

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Ghostbusters in gaming

The Ghostbusters are back with a new video game that seems like it’s been in development heck forever. The RPG Examiner reviews ghostbusting-themed rules for past and present role-playing games. [MORE]

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Tuesday, June 9

Dead Letter: Part 9 – Who Let the Dogs Out?

Howls and growls echoed all around them, an interruption to the staccato beat of the alarm that rang across the facility.

“Guard dogs?” asked Fiona, pointing her revolver everywhere at once.

“Worse,” said Jim-Bean.

A bluish-red hound, its flesh torn and hanging, lurched from the darkness and slammed Keith to the ground. He unloaded Jim-Bean’s Glock into its stomach, but the thing didn’t even react. It bit hold of Keith’s face and worried his head like an old rag.

Jim-Bean fired his HK in a spray, peppering the hound with bullets. Its head exploded and it fell off of the bloody mess that was Keith.

“I need a weapon!” wailed David. “Keep them off me!”

Jim-Bean didn’t get the chance to celebrate his victory. Something big and wet slapped into his back, knocking him to the ground. He rolled as teeth snapped at his face.

It was another hound. Jim-Bean struggled to maneuver the HK into position but he didn’t have room. It bit down hard on his arm. He screamed.

The hound’s head exploded. Fiona stood over Jim-Bean, both hands on the revolver, the barrel still smoking.

“Thanks,” said Jim-Bean with a smile.

“That was close,” said David, clearly shaken. “What happened to Keith?” He took a closer look. “Oh Jesus, look at his face! LOOK AT HIS FACE!”

Keith had no face. [MORE]

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Naoke: Part 3 – Sea Serpent

The ship’s sails were struck to permit a handful of sailors some time to attend to a leak in the Nǎoké’s keel.

“So…” asked Kham as nonchalantly as possible. “Who’s the father?”

Ilmarė was unflapped. “That’s none of your business.”

“Oh I know. I just figured I should ask.”

“It’s not who you think.”

Kham smirked. His throat was feeling better, although he would have the ugly scar across his throat for the rest of his life. “Well it’s not me. And I’m pretty sure it’s not Quintus…” he was watching her reactions, but the elorii’s beautiful features were impassive, as usual. “Shouldn’t you be resting?”

“I’m fine.” She turned to look out at the ocean.

“Look...” Kham rubbed the back of his head. “Sorry about pushing you through the portal.”

The elorii didn’t look at him. “I would have done the same to you, were you to reveal something I wanted to conceal about my past.” She patted her stomach. “Fortunately for the both of us, the child is fine.”

Kham stared at the deck. “Maybe you should consider…you know, retiring. It’s one thing for us to get into danger, but you’ve got responsibility now.”

Ilmarė didn’t say anything. She was staring upwards.

“I know, I know, I’m one to talk about responsibility. But I’m sure the father, whoever he is, would agree that he wants the child safe.”

Ilmarė blinked, speechless. The sea churned beyond the deck of the ship.

Kham continued to stare at the deck. “So it’s the silent treatment huh?”

“Sea serpent!” shouted Baldric from the stern. “Evasive maneuvers!”

Kham looked up. [MORE]

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Why real-life avatars are scary

The RPG Examiner draws on a variety of sources to explain why merging the anonymity of the Internet with real-life interaction might be a bad idea. [MORE]

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Monday, June 8

Don't Go TotLOL!

TotLOL.com, a free video site for toddlers, is shutting down because it needs a long-term sponsor to pay for costs and it doesn't have one. This is AWFUL news for me, because it’s one of the only ways I can get work done -- Brenden watches TotLOL in one window while I work in the other. There's got to be a sponsor out there! If you know a sponsor who might be interested, please let TotLOL know before the end of this month. The site closes July 1!

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Dead Letter: Part 8 – Little Fish in a Big Pond

Guppy stealthy made his way to the front gate. He had hacked the security camera with his cistron to provide a repeating feed. The only thing he had to worry about was the guards, and there was a window of a minute where the gate wasn’t covered. It was all going according to plan…

Until Guppy tripped. He rolled, tumbling out of control, past the olive trees and landed flat on his back in the road.

“Ow,” said Guppy without thinking.

One of the guards peered down at him. “Hey!”

Guppy looked up. He was a dead man.

Then the guard jerked as he was struck in the back of the head. He fell over on top of Guppy.

“Oof!” shouted Guppy.

The others joined him.

“What happened?!” asked Fiona, helping him to his feet.

“I fell,” said Guppy. He looked down. “Then he did.”

“Yeah, about that,” said Jim-Bean, rubbing the back of his neck. “I have some compatriots helping us out. Native Americans, actually.”

“Whoever they are, they’re crack shots!” said Keith, peering into the darkness. [MORE]

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Naoke: Part 2 – Pirates

“I don’t care how good Baldric is,” muttered Ilmarė. She had her eyes closed, enjoying the warm temperature of Nyambe’s calmer seas. The sun felt good on her skin. “These pirates can’t be trusted.”

Kham rubbed his throat. It had been three days since they had boarded the Nǎoké. The men muttered to each other in Khitani. Only Kham could understand them, but he didn’t share what they said.

“They’re the only crew we’ve got.” Kham’s voice was still gravelly. “We gave them a choice: join us or be marooned. They joined us.” Sometimes it hurt to speak.

Ilmarė opened her eyes. “Then tell me how that ship got so close to us without the lookout spotting it.”

Kham blinked. “What…” He looked over the side. “…ship?”

“All hands to battle stations!” shouted Baldric. [MORE]

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Interview with Jeff LaSala, author of the Darkwood Mask

I recently interviewed Jeff LaSala, fantasy author, game designer, and NY Specualtive Fiction Examiner. We discussed role-playing games, episodic fiction, and Rush.
[MORE]

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Sunday, June 7

Dead Letter: Part 7 – The B Team

Hammer and Archive flew ahead of Fiona’s team to scope out the plant.

ABC’s Gemstone facility was located at the end of a six-mile-long private access road off County Road 464. The facility was within ten miles of the Canadian border, which local Blackfeet still referred to as “the Medicine Line.” The Milk River ran past the facility and supplied it with water. There was also a rail line which crossed the Milk River and headed into Canada. The property was surrounded by an outer fourteen-foot chain link fence topped by razor wire and an inner twelve-foot fence also topped with wire. The two fences were separated by a thirty-foot wide kennel run; guard dogs patrolled the kennel run at night. The fences surrounded an area of about fifty acres.

The Gemstone facility consisted of a set of four low-lying bunkers arranged in a cloverleaf design around a central fifth building. The central building, known as the Aguas Mansion, included the administration offices, data processing, a security office, six research-project labs, cafeteria, medical center, and emergency decontamination facilities. Each of the four surrounding bunkers was a production unit.

There were also a few outlying buildings, including the waste-incineration building, the temporary staff quarters, the dog kennel, and the security annex and vehicle garage.

“The central building is a huge Chateauesque structure begun in 1901 and completed in 1903, built by a magnate from America’s Industrial Revolution,” said Archive. It had cast-iron roof cresting and steeply pitched hipped roofs. Its stone walls were a mixture of French Renaissance and Gothic styles, and it had tall, elaborate brick chimneys. “In the 1950s it was converted to a sanatorium. ABC purchased the mansion and surrounding olive grove in 1993.”

“A sanatorium,” snorted Hammer, peering through a scope of the sniper rifle. “Why am I not surprised?” [MORE]

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Naoke: Part 1 – The Nǎoké

Ilmarė, in a small boat rowed by Mashudu, watched the pirates stare at each other in shock as her magic took hold. If there were any wizards on board, they wouldn’t be casting any spells.

But she hadn’t counted on the pirate captain. She was on the other side of the Nǎoké; with all the attention focused on Vlad and Beldin, they hadn’t seen her boat.

She slumped backwards, exhausted. It would have to be enough.

The crack of thunder boomed overhead and suddenly it started hailing around her. Mashudu bravely did his best to keep the rowboat steady, but it was a lost cause. She dove off the boat into the water; she was safer in the ocean than exposed in the rowboat.

Mashudu was not so fortunate. Seconds later, Cho Sun pointed at their tiny vessel and a swirling vortex pulled the rowboat under. She gasped for air, struggling to find the surface.

Osalian help us, she prayed. If not for me, then for my child.

A trail of bubbles streamed from her nostrils. She followed them heavenwards… [MORE]

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Saturday, June 6

Where the Hell is Matt?

It's sappy, I know. But it brings a smile to my face every time.




If you watch enough times, you start to see little things, like the way people dance, what's in the background, who is in the crowd...

Maybe I'm watching it too much. That's okay, I don't care. It makes me happy. And Brenden happy. Brenden will now share his thoughts: yhjgi ih jnhjc.

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Dead Letter: Part 6 – The A Team

Fiona’s team consisted of Keith Bass, contributing editor; scruffy socialist and self-styled ecological Che Guevara and Dwight Jenkins, gofer, receptionist, part-time environmentalist and full-time horn dog. Jim-Bean guessed blowing up ABC was right up Bass’ alley. As for Jenkins, he undoubtedly hoped blowing up ABC would be right up Fiona’s alley.

Sure enough, they picked up Guppy just before getting on the road. Hammer was careful to leave Guppy in front of the Samson police station just in case.

Fiona drove. Jim-Bean sat in the passenger seat.

“You got any weapons?” asked Jim-Bean.

Fiona shook her head. “Just pepper spray.”

Guppy rubbed his eyes. “As dangerous as I know you are with that, I think I can help.” He opened up his jacket. There were sticks of C-4 along with detonators.

The others gasped.

“Where did you get that much explosives?” asked Dwight.

“Oh I carry it with me,” said Guppy nonchalantly, patting a satchel full of explosives.

Dwight and Keith exchanged glances but kept their mouths shut. [MORE]

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Naoke: Prologue

Vlad handed one of the oars to Kham. They were in the open sea, somewhere off the coast of Nyambe, completely at the mercy of Khitani pirates.

The Milandisian warrior didn’t need to look at his Solani companion to know that they were of the same mind. They weren’t going to go down without a fight.

“Do you think you can hit him from here?” asked Beldin. The dwarf squinted. It was over a hundred yards to the ship, and even further to reach the crow’s nest where Cho Sun held Yolanda hostage.

“No.” Vlad cranked his crossbow, his back concealing his actions to the pirates. “I don’t.”

Beldin grinned beneath his bushy beard. “Good. I was afraid this would be too easy.” He cranked his own crossbow.

Kham was uncharacteristically silent. With his throat cut by the King in Yellow he had difficulty speaking. He set to rowing, brow furrowed.

“Any wizards?” asked Vlad.

Beldin scanned the deck. “Hard to tell. Not familiar with Khitanis. But there’s a woman in robes on the aft deck. She’s as good a candidate as any.”

Vlad nodded. “This may be our only shot.”

“If I die, throw my body overboard.” Beldin loaded his crossbow. “I don’t want my stone in the hands of those mongrels.”

Vlad held his crossbow tight to his chest. “Don’t worry. I don’t intend to survive long enough to see you die. Ready?” [MORE]

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Friday, June 5

Dead Letter: Part 5 – My Friend Fiona

“What do you know about ABC?” she asked.

“Not much,” said Jim-Bean. “We know that ABC is an aggressive bio-technology research and production firm that seeks to patent new drugs and chemicals which have applications to human and animal medical needs. They also subcontract their chemical and pharmaceutical production facilities, producing orders for customers around the world.”

Fiona shook her head. “That’s just scratching the surface. The long-term corporate goal is to turn their own production facilities to the production of patented drugs that ABC produces.” She pulled out her Macbook Pro and booted it up, tapping a few keys. “ABC currently has twenty-tree drug patents pending. They are particularly interested in drugs that affect the central nervous system: anti-psychotics, anti-seizure medication, etc. Their first commercial product, currently undergoing FDA review, is a drug used to revive long-term coma patients. They’ve also been seeking artificial neurotransmitters which could be used to ‘bridge the gap’ in severed nerve ganglia. But they’ve been burning through money like mad with their research division.”

“I think that research has resulted in something,” Jim-Bean searched for the right word, “unnatural.”

“Unnatural how?” asked Fiona.

“Jason Jawolalski was dating a woman, Lucinda Ennis. She received a chemical from Jawolalski that she used reanimate her father’s corpse—“

“Stop right there. Did you say ‘reanimate’?”

Jim-Bean nodded. “Her father, Henry Ennis, killed several people in the town of Runville, Massachusetts, before he was finally destroyed.” The reality was that a Majestic-12 retrieval team had ferried the animated corpse off to a containment facility. There was no stopping Henry Ennis. “This chemical, called Sapphire, reanimates dead tissue. It took us awhile before we were able to track Jawolalski down. By the time we caught up with him, he was dead.” That was a lie too – Jawolalski was killed by the protomatter enlarged Phyllis Kraygen, but the details were unimportant. “Before his car was impounded, we found a box. A box that moved.”

Fiona leaned forward, intrigued. “What was in the box?”

Jim-Bean kept his expression grim. She was falling for it. “An animated dog’s head.”

Fiona gasped. The death of Jawolalski meant nothing her. But to kill a dog… [MORE]

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Chapter 54: The Nǎoké - Introduction

This scenario begins with a scene from the Necromancer Games adventure, “The Isle of Bonjo Tombo” from the Dead Man’s Chest supplement, set in the Arcanis setting and continues with “The Viceroy of India” adapted from the Tatters of the King Call of Cthulhu supplement by Tim Wiseman. 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
• Kham Val’Abebi (val rogue/psychic warrior) played by Jeremy Ortiz (http://jeremyrobertortiz.blogspot.com/)
• Vlad Martell (human fighter) played by Matt Hammer

Where last we left our heroes, they were in dire straits. Sebastian had sacrificed himself to save Arcanis by leading the King in Yellow to Carcosa. Kham, who ended up being the key to opening the gate to Carcosa, had his throat slit by the King in Yellow and barely survived. Ilmarė was pregnant and exhausted from her journey through a Ssethregoran portal. And their allies had been taken hostage by Cho Sun, the dreaded Khitani pirate. With no way home and few options, Vlad and Beldin are getting frustrated. And there’s nothing more dangerous that two frustrated fighters.

I changed the name of the ship from the original adventure (it was called the Rapier) to the Kitana, for want of a better “Khitani-sounding” name. But as Jeremy pointed out, that’s not much better. So I changed it to Nǎoké. It means “skull” in Chinese. I thought it fitting since Cho Sun and his men were known as the Brotherhood of the Skull.

This is the adventure where Beldin picks up a magic item that changes his relationship with the sea, for the better. This is also our heroes’ first real nautical adventure, complete with swashbuckling heroics, giant sea monsters (two!), romance, betrayal, and the pirate life. As Beldin soon discovers, the life of a pirate may seem glamorous on the surface, but deep down it ain’t pretty. [MORE]

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Thursday, June 4

E3 update: Sony PlayStation press conference

The latest on the Sony PlayStation press conference from my brother, Joseph Tresca of Eyeballistic, who is currently live in LA at the Electronic Entertainment Expo. The conference started with a compilation of PS3/PS2 and PSP games to the soundtrack ... [MORE]

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E3 update: Uncharted 2

The latest on Uncharted 2 from my brother, Joseph Tresca of Eyeballistic, who is currently live in LA at the Electronic Entertainment Expo. Even Wells, co-president of Naughty Dog, recently demonstrated Uncharted... [MORE]

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E3 update: PlayStation Portable

The latest on the PSP from my brother, Joseph Tresca of Eyeballistic , who is currently live in LA at the Electronic Entertainment Expo. Kaz Hirai, Chairman and Group Chief Executive Officer of Sony Computer ... [MORE]

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Dead Letter: Part 4 – Raising the False Flag

“No!” shouted Guppy. “I can see you are in it with them! The only way we can bring about balance to Mother Gaia is through force and fire!”

Fiona’s hand slipped under her desk. Her eyes narrowed. “Are you threatening me?”

“I’m threatening the world!” shouted Guppy, spittle flying from his lips. “I—“

Before he could continue with his rant, Fiona lifted a black canister and pushed the trigger. Pepper spray hit Guppy full in the face.

“Run for it!” shouted Jim-Bean.

Guppy shrieked, pawing at his eyes.

Jim-Bean hurdled a desk, shoving Jenkins aside, and slid down the banister of the steps to the lobby. Guppy attempted to follow, running blindly in the direction of Jim-Bean’s voice…

Only to smash his groin into a desk. He groaned, bent over in pain. [MORE]

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Drakmar: Conclusion

As Sebastian turned a corner, he came upon a small group of masked figures. As the rest moved off, the last turned to greet him.

“And I am Noss,” he said, swaying drunkenly. Noss doffed a blank, white disk of a mask.

“Sorry, who?” asked Sebastian.

“Noss. I’m Noss. Didn’t you ask just now?”

“No,” said Sebastian. “I didn’t.”

“Ah. Well, you look like you’re not from here. Were you born here?”

“No,” said Sebastian. “I’ve just moved in.”

Noss nodded. “I’m sure it looks quite different from last time. There is a great festival happening that has given rise to much excitement. A Stranger has come to the city who promises further upheaval—we wear masks in the Stranger’s honor, hoping that all will be to the good.”

“Me too,” said Sebastian.

“If you need help, I can act as your guide.”

“Yes, that would be nice. But there’s just one thing…”

Noss turned, and Sebastian was very close to him. “I need your mask.”

“What?” Noss’ expression turned to fear. Then his eyes became unfocused. He slid off the knife Sebastian always carried with him.

Sebastian picked up the mask and put it on. He walked away, whistling to himself as he stepped over Noss’ body. [MORE]

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Wednesday, June 3

Dead Letter: Part 3 – When the Man Comes Around

Hammer and Archive entered Full Wilderness’ lobby just fifteen minutes after Jim-Bean and Guppy. They asked to see Robert Jatik.

They were taken into Jatik's inner office, a large room with only narrow windows high up the wall. With the cool grays, buffs, and blacks of the furnishings, and only the sky visible, Jatik's office became a cave or a fort, perhaps a kiva perched on a canyon wall. The resulting privacy was partly welcome, partly intimidating as the morning light glinted away from Jatik’s silver hair and cast his halo into the surrounding air.

Robert Jatik was white-haired, blue-eyed, with a full trim beard and the deep tan and facial lines of an outdoorsman. He was about sixty, an intelligent-looking man. In keeping with his outdoorsman image he wore a wool plaid shirt open at the neck, along with well-cut dark linen trousers and expensive Italian shoes.

“We’re with the Counter-Intelligence Field Agency,” said Hammer, flashing his badge imperiously. “We’d like to speak with you about an urgent matter.”

“Gentlemen, please sit.” Jatik pointed at the two seats in front of his desk, then sat behind it. “What can I do for you?”

“We believe that a known terrorist is on your premises.”

“Oh my,” said Jatik, bushy eyebrows rising in concern. “Not one of my staff, certainly!”

Hammer shook his head. “Not unless you hire eco-terrorists.” He tossed a picture onto Jatik’s desk. “This is Jimmy Baxter. We’ve been monitoring him for weeks and believe he came here with an accomplice to try to convince the Ecotopian editors to print his anti-government screed.”

“Well we can’t have that,” said Jatik. “You believe he’s here, now?”

Hammer nodded.

Jatik buzzed his secretary. “Get Fiona on the line. It’s urgent.” [MORE]

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Drakmar: Part 8 – Escape

The healing potions worked on Kham’s flesh, but his throat wound seeped a vile yellow pus.

”We’ve got to get him out of here,” said Vlad. “Or he’ll die for sure.”

The gate pulsed with a white light. Vlad started dragging Kham towards it.

“Wait!” Beldin grabbed Vlad’s arm. “We need the Yellow Sign to be daubed in blood.” He cut a palm and dripped blood in a rough approximation of the Yellow Sign, as the tcho-tcho and the King in Yellow did.

Nothing happened.

The dwarf frowned. “It has to be human blood.”

“It has to be Kham’s blood. He’s the gate.” Vlad cut Kham’s palm, reopening the wound on his hand, and dripped the blood before the gate. [MORE]

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Tuesday, June 2

E3 update: Dante's Inferno

The latest on Dante's Inferno from my brother, Joseph Tresca of Eyeballistic, who is currently live in LA at the Electronic Entertainment Expo. [MORE]

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E3 update: Army of Two: The 40th Day

The latest on the sequel to Army of Two from my brother, Joseph Tresca of Eyeballistic, who is currently live in LA at the Electronic Entertainment Expo. [MORE]

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E3 press conference coverage

The latest from my brother, Joseph Tresca of Eyeballistic, who is currently live in LA at the Electronic Entertainment Expo press conference to discuss the latest gaming news: [MORE]

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Dead Letter: Part 2 – Lost in the Wilderness

Full Wilderness’ headquarters was located in the Bridgestone Building. The Bridgestone Building was packed with prosperous corporate and professional offices: it stood at the edge of Samson's financial district.

Beyond the humble pose of its non-profit corporation tax status, Full Wilderness occupied the whole of the thirteenth and fourteenth stories of the Bridgestone Building. Views, dramatic lighting, fine rugs, luminous wood inlays, photo landscapes (always without human form or participation), and excellent sculptures of whales, grizzly bears, porpoises, and other wilderness creatures decorated a long two-story high reception hall.

The lavish reception area was intended to impresses every visitor. The reception hall looked very much like a shared tribal space, where everyone sat around the camp fire. A stone fire ring actually existed, with stones of polished marble and quartz, and artfully asymmetric magnetite veins. The name at the center of the fire ring, FULL WILDERNESS, burned blue from bottled propane hidden in the base of the sculpture. Recorded bird calls and the sounds of water rippling over rocks occasionally came from hidden speakers.

“It’s like Disney-land meets PETA,” said Jim-Bean breathlessly, taking it all in. “This is great!” [MORE]

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To Drakmar: Part 7 – Stepping to Arcanis

All the time, the King looked into Sebastian’s eyes, and he was unable to not look back. He had the sensation of stepping into a void, followed by momentary brief confusion.

Again and again, Sebastian struggled to look away. But he kept finding his gaze slowly, inexorably, dragged back.

Finally, summoning up every fiber of his being, Sebastian stared at the spinning universe around them.

There was a moment of clarity. Sebastian saw stars, star clusters, and planets.

He remembered the phrase from Talbot Estus’ playbook, The Queen and the Stranger.

The stars that burn their charcoal death
Shrink back, they feel the hoary breath
Of he who ransoms great Carcosa
He flees where queen and prophet meet
Where twin suns fall but never set
Escapes the tomb of lost Carcosa.

“Twin suns?” thought Sebastian. “It has to be a binary star…”

Sebastian scanned the infinite horizon and was rewarded with a glimpse of twin stars amidst a patch of black.

And then he intentionally misstepped. [MORE]

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Book review of Got Game

Got Game is an excellent response for any parent or manager who fears that the next generation is a bunch of brain-dead brats. A book like this should normally be distributed in web format, but considering the audience (Boomers) perhaps dead-tree format is entirely the point. [MORE]

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Monday, June 1

Dead Letter: Part 1 – Finding Fiona

Hammer pulled up the briefing file on his cistron. Agents Archive, Guppy, and of course Jim-Bean were all present. Nobody mentioned Archive’s recent breakdown. He seemed all right after the explosion, which was good enough for the mental health review—barring the fact that he now had a phobia of spheres of all types, of course. But that was best left unmentioned…they all had their own personal hang-ups.

“What have we got?”

Guppy pulled up a web site. “The Ecotopian is a professional produced magazine printed on newsprint, running thirty-two pages an issue. It is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to environmental activism, published by Full Wilderness. Here’s the web site.”

The most recent issue had a cover story on a legal whale hunt undertaken by the Makah tribe of Washington State, a hunt opposed and occasionally intercepted by activists from the Full Wilderness organization.

Guppy continued. “CIFA believes that The Ecotopian has a radical, criminal agenda. The Ecotopian’s staff includes members of Earth First, PETA, ALF, and of course Full Wilderness.”

“Full Wilderness?” asked Hammer. “They’re out in the woods somewhere?”

Archive chuckled. “Full Wilderness is a non-profit organization that espouses the extinction of the human race through one hundred-percent birth control.”

Jim-Bean looked up from his reading. It was a long flight to Samson, California from the East Coast. “Full Wilderness’ program is unremarkably preservationist, advocating world-wide rescue of and protection of ecosystems, and of the abolition of industrial poisons.”

“What are you reading?” asked Hammer.

“One of Jatik’s books,” said Jim-Bean. “It’s very educational. The last book of his I read, A Task Received, summarized and viewed with alarm the state of the planetary environment; this book, Hard Lessons, summarizes the greenhouse crisis and outlines several dozens of procedures and actions designed to buy time for humanity to successfully adapt to lessened industrialism and lowered population. Jatik's books present the hypothesized crisis totally in positive terms: not only will planetary life survive and prevail, but the essence of human life will have improved when his program is carried out.”

“So Jatik leads Full Wilderness,” said Guppy. He brought up an article about Full Wilderness from Harper’s magazine.

“Jatik's title, council head, corresponds to president or chief executive officer,” said Archive. “Jatik pretends that the Full Wilderness organization is a tribe, and that all decisions are communal. Functions across the Full Wilderness year correspond to ceremonies one tribe or another of Native Americans practiced.”

“That’s got to be the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard,” said Hammer. [MORE]

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Drakmar: Part 6 – The King in Yellow’s Path to Arcanis

The King in Yellow was a thin figure, more than eight feet tall. He had human proportions and shape and wore tattered robes of yellow and white that whipped around him in a non-existent wind. His cowl was up, throwing a deep shadow over his face. Long sleeves covered his hands and arms that fell by his sides. His attention seemed at the same time focused and distant.

As Kham watched him, the hood momentarily flapped back as if in a breeze, and just for an instant showed a black space where the King’s face should be—here were depths unimaginable, deeper than the sky, and there was a brief sensation of falling.

The King’s words were heard and understood in their minds.

“Who will guide me?”

They all looked to Kham. This was his task to complete, they said without speaking. He was the key, after all.

Kham stepped forward.

“Give me your hand.”

Mesmerized, Kham could not refuse.

The King took Kham’s wrist, palm upward. In his other hand a small hooked knife appeared.

“Have you found the Yellow Sign?”

Kham nodded. The King cut Kham’s palm and held it out over the lectern that stood besides the Gate. The blood fell in a thin stream and though Kham’s hand didn’t move, the trail painted a perfect Yellow Sign on the marble. The light in the gate turned from white to blue. There was suddenly an unearthly keening that echoed all around.

The King let go of Kham’s wrist. He stood side by side with the ancient deity before the shrill gate, washed with its blue light.

“Will you guide me to your home?”

Kham paused. He couldn’t do it.

“NO!” he shouted. He reached for his pistols… [MORE]

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How Lovecraft saved role-playing games

Although some gamers may be familiar with Call of Cthulhu, many are unaware of the tremendous legacy the H.P. Lovecraft-inspired game bequeathed to the role-playing game industry. [MORE]

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