Friday, December 16, 2011

Friday Creature Feature: Denzohld the Devil-King

"Body like Arnold with a Denzel face," the song goes. I've mentioned before that I always thought this sounded more like a monster from Babylonian mythology than a "mighty good man." I could see Denzohld the Devil-King with his army of goat-fish, breathing fire and wielding a barbed whip in his epic battle with Marduk. Further discussion led to a few additions, and now I have a Peryton RPG monster for you:

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Miscellaneous Updates

'Kay, so here's some stuff that's going on:

We stopped by the North Coast Gamers Holiday Game Bash last weekend but weren't able to hang around as long as we would have liked. Still, it was a fun visit and we had a good session of Walk the Sprial.

There was an overall positive review of Peryton RPG over at Trollish Delver, complete with a wacky troller who apparently doesn't know the difference between Tom and me.

Glow World, the second part of Tom's Quest for Trollstar is out too. It's an adventure for the New Khazan setting.

Tom has posted several installments of Trolls Upon Trolls, a series of monster write-ups for T&T. So far, he's got a Lope Troll, a Cave Troll, a Chaos Troll, and a Sea Troll. Readers are warned that these links are pure, unfiltered Tom. Enjoy in moderation.

Over on Google+, We've created a page for Peryton RPG.

It Came from Beyond the Stars, by Scott Malthouse, is out at DriveThruRPG and has already earned one good review.

Over at Troll Hammer, Paul Ingrassia has reviewed Tom's Under the Sundered Moon adventure (T&T, of course.)

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Carnage in Wonderland

My October was muted and dreamy, as it should be. While Halloween was a factor, lots of those dreams were also swirling around my plans for the upcoming Carnage 14. Despite some anticipated hitches, the preparation fell together rather easily. In between, I had also been entertaining myself by "checking in" on Facebook at various graveyards, shovel stores, occult bookstores and, once, "the Pawtuxet bungalow." I don't think anybody ever noticed but, in some ways, that made it even funnier. Have I filled in enough text to get past this picture yet? The ideal place to take it from would have been a little ways back, but since that would have put me in the middle of a busy street, I -- oh, here we are!

We took off early because Mike & Kelly were flying into Syracuse in the afternoon. I spent some time polishing off my notes and then sat back to enjoy the ride. Nothing much of note happened on the way, landing the four of us in a quaint old building in Little Falls, New York after a fancy dinner in a restaurant that looked like something out of The Godfather. A clock mysteriously fell off the wall. Tom has since decided that it was a train. Seems likely that it was something like that, but nobody heard a train at the time, and there hadn't been anyone nearby when it fell. Anyway, you can read all about the not-quite-spooky incident and the subsequent reenactment over at his blog. Apart from some unsettling dreams about demonic possession, I had a good night.

I love the drive through New York and Vermont, but there's not much more to say about it than I've said in previous Carnage posts. At the resort, we checked in, got settled, and headed out to the lobby to hook up with our friends, after which we had a reunion dinner at Leda's. But all that is just the introduction. It's how you get to Andre's Thursday night horror session. This year he was back to good old Call of Cthulhu, none of that fudgey stuff. As before, it was in the closed-off pool room, complete with professional lighting and sound effects, and this time there was even fog. The scenario, Horror at Harwicke Castle, was great. I'm not allowed to say much, but there was a haunted castle with buried secrets and lots of people died. What more could you ask?

The game ran until four in the morning. The lights were all out, so I went to the room, just assuming Tom had moved on as well. When I got back and he wasn't there, I sent him a text message, only to hear the buzzing of his phone on the counter beside me. Oh well.

I didn't get much sleep that morning with everyone bustling around and Tom showing up and announcing that he had been abandoned on a bench in the bar, so I eventually gave up and got moving. That afternoon, I played Mindwar, a psychic spy/conspiracy setting for Dream Factory, a collaborative storytelling style RPG run by its creator, Benjamin Grant. It was a cool introductory scenario, and I had lots of fun being sneaky and manipulative.

In the dinner break, I found my way to the bar, chatted with lots of people, and finally got a pizza with Monk, Kelly, and Tom. Then it was off to bust ghosts (or rather, marching cards, a grabby mirror, and a gigantified slacker) in Tyler's Girl in the Looking Glass adventure. There was a particularly troublesome multi-part ghost at the end, but my lack of sleep was catching up to me by that point so the details are kind of hazy. Something about an ecto-unicycle. The part I was awake for was lots of fun, though. 

I stopped by my appointed midnight game to let the GM know I was dropping out, and then went to bed. Of course, I knew I'd be missing at least one great party somewhere, but I was wiped out and needed to not be frazzled when I ran my game the next day.

After a good night's sleep, I got out the door in time for the lunch-mingling and ate something from the hotel's concession stand. We picked up on some sinister scheming that Tom and Andre had started the night before about a Troll Hoot style get-together for horror games. Other chatter and socializing meandered about. Everyone seemed to be having a good time so far.

There was a bit of shuffling with my event, but it was all handled smoothly. Apparently, somebody glommed up a bunch of tables without telling the organizers that he was going to need more than one, so I and several other GM's were moved into a different room. All my registered players found me and, since I had five out of six seats filled anyway, I really can't complain. This one was called Throne of Gorgudai, but it was really part one of The Other Tower, which you can read all about with a wee clickety-click

I'm a little fuzzy on the dinner mingle-break. I think that's when I got this picture of Ray hosting a tea party, but maybe not. Mostly I was thinking about my next event.

The Other Tower (part two) started fast. In addition to the three guys who pre-registered from the previous session (Steven and John had dropped out to play in that barroom brawl thing - apparently the GM gives you money) I had four last-minute joiners, one of whom I had to turn away because six is really all I can manage. So anyway, full table, and I decided to deviate from my plan a bit. Instead of handing out the fresh characters, I used some of my spare copies. Two of them were the same character as one who had dropped out, and one of them was a copy of someone who stayed in. If you want to know why this made sense, you'll have to read the summary.

The players for both sessions were great, and gave me a lot to build on for future sessions. Also, I got some good rules feedback for the game. Overall I'm very happy with the way it's going and can't wait to get on with the next one. And let me just say one more time, the players were awesome. I'll have to make sure that Carnage always marks some kind of milestone in the story.

I had finished up a little early, so I grabbed my laptop and made notes about the events in the game, hoping to remember as much of it as possible for the summary later. Eventually it got close to midnight, so I wandered over to Andre's Cthulhu Cognac Cave and joined the party. Naturally, Tom was already there, and told me about some girl who sat on his lap and broke the camera. Luckily, the only problem was that the battery door was open, and I was having too much fun to fuss about people sitting on Tom. Anyway, I was there till three or so but I'm not really sure when the party ended.

Well, you know. Sunday. Checked out, sat around, did an interview with Tyler which I dread hearing because I'm terrible at these things. When I stopped to talk to Ray, he informed that he was the hot chick. If you've been paying attention, you'll probably get the joke here, but I failed to make that connection at the time so all I could think to say was, "yes you are." Chatted some more, said goodbye, went outside, came back, said goodbye, left for a farewell dinner at Leda's, came back, said goodbye. But finally (sigh) we really did leave and start the long drive through the mountains to Syracuse.

After a somewhat confusing breakfast, we investigated a few potential horror hoot sites, including the Maplewood Inn, which was such a nice place that it got Tom thinking about turning it into a real convention. At the Knight's Inn, we were fully educated on an exciting feature called, "standard rooms." Before long, it was time to return Monk and Kelly to their home somewhere inside the Syracuse airport.

Tom and I punched in some new instructions to our trusty travel guide, Mavis, and were led through Ithaca to good old Tag's.

We sort of found Tag's by accident after our first Carnage, and it's been a regular stop ever since. After yet another tasty meal accompanied by Shock Top Ale, we were about to head out when Tom spotted a guitar signed by Foreigner and wanted to take my picture next to it.

"I'm not really much of a Foreigner fan. Why do-?"
"Oh, hell yeah. Take my picture."

I don't NEED no instructions to know how to ROCK!
Sooo. Yeah. That's Carnage.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Back from Wonderland

Carnage in Wonderland was awesome. It was a fun trip with lots of good friends and great gaming. I'll be updating this blog shortly with all the details, but Tom, speed-blogger that he is, has already got part one of his version up and able, so remember, don't believe his lies.

I can't get over how well the two-part pilot episode of the Walk the Spiral went. I managed to pull off one of my best GM'ing runs ever, but I also had two groups of excellent players without whom it could never have come to life. Like I said, more about that is coming real soon.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Lost in the Barrier Peaks

I run a lot of convention games, and I've noticed some people actually use it as venue for sort of disjointed campaigns, posting the events of each session online and catching new players up at the start. And I'm sure lots of people have tried running campaigns that work along the lines of the TV series Lost, with a group of characters starting off in a limited environment, surrounded by tangled history and tantalizing partial revelations. That being the case, there's nothing magically inspirational about combining those two, but...

Friday, September 16, 2011

Friday Creature Feature: Frost Wisp

Providing lots of spirits for the Peryton RPG is still a goal, given their importance in spell-casting mishaps and creating magic items. Here's another one, with a picture, even! The picture was a fairly lucky find, considering that I wrote the description before I saw it.

Thursday, September 08, 2011


I wrote something along these lines once, but this is better:
There’s a parasite that eats crabs from the inside. It enters the crab by penetrating a weak spot, then spreads long rootlike tendrils through the crab’s interior... The crab’s immune system fails completely to recognize it, and it soon takes over the hapless crustacean, body and brain... It looks like a crab. It moves like a crab. For all I know, it tastes like a crab. But it isn’t a crab. Not anymore...
Read the rest. There's more to it.

Click Here for the Rest

Friday, September 02, 2011

Friday Creature Feature: Shard Weaver

What? Friday Creature Feature? Oh yeah, I was doing that for a while, wasn't I? Okay, here's a Peryton RPG monster for ya. If you're more in the mood for Tunnels & Trolls, there's a new issue of Elder Tunnels you might want to check out. We'll talk about that schedule thing later.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Gen Con 2011: Beyond Good and Evil

In which we learn, among other things, that you can subtract from Awesome several times and still have an end result of Awesome.

So, yeah, a lot of things could have gone better this year, and I'm not just talking about the usual, "there was so much to do that I couldn't do everything that looked cool" thing. I mean stuff went wrong. You'll see what I mean.

But this isn't just any con. I'm sure it's possible to ruin Gen Con, but it takes more than a few mistakes and misfortunes to keep "the best four days in gaming" from living up to its nickname. No, really, they didn't pay me to say that. That's how I feel. I can see that I'm being ambiguous again, so I'll try and clear it up:

Okay, now on with the play-by-play. As always, you can click on the picture for a larger view, but you may find out that some of them are blurry.

We got out the door as soon as Tom could get home from work and get the car loaded, picked up Christy pretty much on schedule, and made it to the Stone Soup Inn (after stopping for Mexican food in a generic Ohio freeway town) by mid-afternoon. Then we hiked over to the convention center and shuffled through the line to pick up our badges and swag. The heat and humidity were abominable. Tom's Cthulhu Mansion table, for which eight tickets had been purchased online, was empty, so we had some drinks at Olives (in the Omni Hotel), then at The Ram, and finally hooked up with (Yog)Paul and headed over to Scotty's to meet Caed (the other Robin), Jeff (from Troll Hoot) and other people whose names always slip away from me. One of them was Australian.

We had some D&D-themed food specials (the waitress did an excellent job of explaining Otiluke to Tom) and chatted. I got a strange compliment on my hair: "it blows in the breeze even when there's no breeze." Maybe that means I'm a gorgon.

It was probably Wednesday's combination of multiple forms of alcohol with the delicious and very spicy "Elder Dragon Chicken" that led to my digestive issues. Whatever it was, it kept me in the room most of the day and I had to cancel both of my Peryton RPG Fiend Folio Frenzy sessions. So much for showing off my game. Late in the afternoon, I wandered downtown, ran into Mandy in the Crowne Plaza lobby, and did some shopping. Got a couple of cool metal six-siders with blue pips.

After wandering around a bit more to check out the new convention center, I grabbed a quick bite to eat and sat down for a few minutes. I wasn't there very long before Ken St. Andre, his son James, and a guy named Brent drifted by and shanghaied me into a game of Magic: The Gathering. I hadn't played in a long time and it was fun to get back to it, although I had no cards of my own with me and had to borrow one of Ken's decks. I won the round but, not having built the deck, can't take much credit. This is one of the things I love about Gen Con: you never know when a game is going to just drop into your lap.

After a bit more wandering and a brief exchange of text messages with Tom, I led Ken and James to Acapulco Joe's for dinner. I found Paul on the way and dragged him along, because that's what I do when I find Paul. When we finally got there, I took a picture and told them to look exasperated because of the long walk, but only James played along. Inside, we found Tom, Scott (Sligo), Caed, Jeff, Colman, and... uh... I think maybe some other people. I'm not sure. It was a big table.

Everyone straggled back to The Stone Soup Inn for a private session of Tom's Cthulhu Dawn adventure. I think we did more damage to each other than any of the monsters did to us. We ended up staying on the boat instead of exploring the blacked-out city, which caused us to miss most of the plot. I think there were too many players for a serious Call of Cthulhu game, but it was still a good time just because so many people were hamming it up and Paul's roommate kept accidentally blasting our characters with his shotgun.

I tried to sleep in because of the upcoming Apocalypse All-Nighter, but I guess I just didn't stay up late enough the night before. Anyway, when I got to Crowne Plaza for my 2pm Aqua Teen Hunger Force and the Book of Beards session, I found only two players and this thing just doesn't work without at least four. Even though he had them to spare, Tom rudely refused to kill off any of the players in his T&T game for me, so I had to cancel.

Before I wandered far, Tom reported to Mike (Monk) and Kelly that I might be bored, so they found me and we hung out for a while. I got to see character sheets for the stuff Mike was running, including a Beavis and Butthead one which, even after pasting the time and date into this very blog some time ago, I had somehow not known he was doing. Kelly and I wandered around a little while Mike worked some more, and then we had a pre-apocalyptic dinner at the Crowne Plaza bar.

I didn't have anything scheduled for the seven o'clock slot, so I sat between the tables for Tom's Cthulhu Over Casablanca and Mike's Drag Racing Zombies from Beyond the Moon events and worked out some last-minute details for my upcoming Doctor Who adventure, Web of Light. At some point during these events, zombies attacked, diverting through our room from Caed's popular Zombie Walk. Hopefully the other gamers (who were not actually part of the Apocalypse event but had been stuffed into the room with us anyway) weren't too annoyed when people dressed like zombies staggered around their table and pawed the character sheets.

Not long after a chicken finger run to a very crowded Steak & Shake, my Web of Light event got started. The heroes were searching for the Doctor in a haunted (?) house. After deciding not to split the party, the insatiably curious reporter and a rock star from the 80's still went off to explore the house's alternate incarnations while the rest stayed in their own version, only occasionally meeting walking skins and ghostly figures while the others confronted faceless cultists and soul-sucking televisions. In the end, they hopped across worlds so many times (yes, I kept count) that nasty flying spider things appeared to clean up the timeline. They did all have the sense to flee at this point, getting out of the house just in time to watch the whole thing get sucked into the void. It was a fun bunch of players and an entertaining show for me.

At some point in that paragraph up there, it technically became Saturday, but, to me, the whole Apocalypse All-Nighter was Friday night, so it's all staying under this header.

Next up (at 3am) was Aqua Teen Hunger Force and the Book of Beards. A few of the best Aqua Teen players from last year's opening session showed up again and had recruited friends. It was, predictably, an amazing session. We had Frylock, Shake, Meatwad, Carl, The Cybernetic Ghost of XMas Past from the Future, and the Love Mummy. Meatwad was infected by the proto-super-corn Frylock was growing in Carl's pool. Eventually, it started ordering him to kill. The Love Mummy was used as an improvised steering device on Frylock's moon rocket. The adventure finished a little early, so we worked up a sequel, "The Search for Shake" (because Shake had been lost in space). Everyone switched characters and they proceeded to track Shake to Ceres, where a cult of space trees ("we don't know - WE'RE TREES") had propped up his algae-encrusted body as a totem. The session ended at around 5:30 when Frylock's attempt to revive Shake using the cloner resulted in the entire house animating as a giant algae-Shake-cornborg.

Tom's game was wrapping up at about the same time. It turned out that no one showed up for his 3 AM game, so they had just kept running with the one before it (The Horrible Fate of the Haunted House Hunters - the same scenario I played in at BASHCon). Caed suggested we all go to Steak & Shake for breakfast, and Tom's ghost hunters jumped right on that. Yes, I still consider this to be Friday night. One mediocre cup of yogurt and "fruit" with gigantic OJ later, we said our good-nights and Tom & I were marching back to the Stone Soup through almost tolerable weather while the sun came up.

I slept through a lot of Saturday. Tom wandered off some time before I did. Eventually, I hacked my way through the steamy jungles of Indianapolis to meet the gang at Claddagh. After thinking of nothing but the joy of air conditioning for miles, I found the bastards eating outside. Out. Side. Tom's survival that day was a narrow thing. Four quick glasses of ice water later, though, I was comfortable and enjoying myself. I caught up with several people I hadn't seen much of, including but not limited to Jordan, Todd, and Christy. The ever-enigmatic Christy disappeared pretty early, though.

That was pretty much it for Saturday. Mike & Kelly were heading back and it seemed like my best chance to make it to the room in a group before the bars kicked Tom out at midnight or whenever. I had an event to go to in the morning anyway, and still wasn't sure I had recovered the fortitude to drink heavily. Apparently, I missed quite a party. If my extra sleep contributed as much to the quality of the next day's game as I think it did, though, it was worth it. Anyway, I like this picture even though I wasn't there when it was taken:

Tom & I grabbed some quick breakfast stuff and crossed the Venusian lowlands to run Lilith Be a Lady Tonight and another Aqua Teen Hunger Force and the Book of Beards session. Having already played with my crew from last year, I was all set for this one to be just okay, but I was very pleasantly surprised. Everyone got into their characters, and the guy who played Carl did a great impression. Scott was there and, even though he had never seen the show, he got it right away and gave a nearly spot-on performance as Frylock. Some of my own ideas had taken a more useful form as well. This time, I remembered that Les Barbes Bizarre was written in hair and read with the tongue. Carl got clowned and lost his skin in a botched attempt to adapt him for life on the moon. Rather than destroy or guard the book, they sold it back to Future Wolf, who gave them a ride home in his "believable hair ship" but otherwise paid in IOU's based on the success of the screenplay he was trying to sell.

I finished quite a bit before Tom, so it was time for some last minute shopping. I ended up making all my purchases from the Who North America booth, grabbing a "You Never Forget Your First Doctor" t-shirt, a TARDIS handbook, and a DVD. I had been meaning to pick up Destiny of the Daleks or Vengeance on Varos but, when it came to it, I went with Kinda (the first syllable is pronounced like "kin"), which I had never seen, on a whim. It just seemed like more fun to see something new than to simply build my collection, even if it was a bit of a gamble.

We met at Champions for the victory dinner. That would be Tom, Mike, Kelly, Scott, Ken, James, and... maybe that was it. A guy called G'noll and his wife showed up to say hello but didn't stick around. Tom hit the exhibit hall and bought novels from all the booth writers who had successfully guilt-tripped him earlier. We also spotted David Nett from GOLD and chatted with him for a bit.

Scott took us to over to Arsenal, his gaming hangout, and then we went over to Jordan's neighborhood to eat, hang out, and play more games. I'll let you decide which of those locations the picture at right belongs to. Monday (no, Monday doesn't get its own header), we packed up and checked out a bit late, then went to Acapulco Joe's for a farewell lunch with Mike & Kelly before (sniffle) taking them to the airport. From there it was on home to Cleveland, where we were greeted with weather that was actually pleasant, and some happy cats.

I watched my Doctor Who DVD and quite enjoyed it. In the end, it was revealed that, "there is great danger in dreaming alone," which made it a wonderful epilogue for this year's Gen Con. So, while I could never entirely give up the indulgence of dreaming alone, I mean to bring along a few companions as often as I can. I'm thinking anywhere from three to 35,000.

As for next year, role-playing Aqua Teen Hunger Force has become one of the great joys of my life. I'm not sure what that says about my life, but the game is definitely on my schedule, probably with the show's new title, Aqua Unit Patrol Squad One. My modified BEAN rules worked really well, so I plan to stick with that. Staying closer to the convention center is a possibility. Finally, I mean to do a Micronauts scenario using a modified Peryton RPG system (much like what I'll be testing at Carnage this winter) and borrowing not only from that comic book, but also from Rom and other Bill Mantlo tales.

And, as always, there's Tom's blog, Part 1 and Part 2. Don't believe his lies.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Gen Con Gen Con Gen Con!

One more day! (cue music)

Tomorrow morning, if all goes according to plan, we'll be on the road to Indianapolis for Gen Con. I'm really jazzed about my events for this year, especially the Aqua Teen Hunger Force one (yeah, I know the title has changed - I'll catch up next year), for which I've practically written my own game. I did not, of course, invent the core mechanic, or the idea of using food as a randomizer, which seems tailor made for a show about animated fast food products. Anyone who's interested, please do bring some generics by even if the event is sold out. People often don't show, and there may be room to squeeze in one more even if the official slots are all filled.

I'll be sure to post a travel log with pictures when I get back. Hope to see you there!

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Kidney Bean

What I should do here is write a review, but I hate reviews so here's what you get instead. The game you see on the right is "Bean!" and it's awesome. No, I didn't design it or have anything to do with designing it. I'm using it as the base system for my Aqua Teen Hunger Force adventures at Gen Con this year, though, and lots of other people play Bean and love it. You should buy yourself a copy just because you'll enjoy it and it's ridiculously cheap.

There's another reason I'm bringing this up, though. The guy who created this is a nice guy who has had some amazingly bad breaks in his life. Rather than go on about that, I'll just give you the link here. So, check out Bean. If you don't want it, but would still like to help, look at what else he's got for sale or just send him a donation.

This blog will return to its usual self-obsessed blather in 10, 9, 8, 7...

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Suburb of Horrors

Somewhere under a lost and lonely utility hutch of grim and foreboding aspect...
Eventually, I may have to use this. I've always suspected that there was something sinister under this place.

(Hint: Click the picture and look at the yellow letters in the middle of the box. If it still makes no sense to you, oh well. It won't be funny if I have to explain it.)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Space Disco

Unsure what kind of music I was in the mood for today at work, I opened up and stared at the blank "station" field. While I was trying to figure out what I should put in the search box, some mad voice whispered "space disco" in my ear.

Awesome. Totally freakin' awesome.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Wedding With Style

Now this is a cool wedding cake topper! Click the picture to enlarge it and take a look at the sort of beige book on the bottom left. Pity we had to be next to Orson Scott Card, though.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Dreams of the Cybermen

The Mystery Machine
Session 1: Dreams of the Cybermen

I ran this adventure at Troll Hoot IV, kicking off what I'm going to optimistically describe as a campaign. Shut up. It could happen. With the character generation, I decided to have them not only come up with their own backgrounds, but the story behind their being in a time machine together, and the nature of the time/space capsule itself. Here's what they came up with:

Merwyn Harkness: A descendant of Jack, but from the mid-21st century. She's a Torchwood agent, generally sort of a test pilot for weird junk that the agency appropriates. In the course of poking around in a new time capsule, she found a sonic screwdriver and discovered a temporal anomaly which led to an unstable bridge between 2040 and the 1970's. At this interface she found...

Ramsey Walker: A scientist who is generally altruistic but has somewhat questionable ethics. As a contractor for Torchwood, he had stumbled across a time corridor experiment and used used it to try out some new enhancement drugs on an ambitious athlete in 1976. Merwyn caught up to him, tagged him with an ankle bracelet, and was about to take him home along with...

Dallas Rugby: An American pro football player from 1976. He was the beneficiary of Ramsey's drugs which, so far, don't seem to have had any serious side effects. Nevertheless, Merwyn tagged him as well and was taking him back to the future for testing, concerned that whatever Ramsey did to him might unduly disrupt the timeline. Like any good sci-fi football hero, he brought his cleats and pads with him. In Merwyn's time capsule, he met and attempted to converse with...

Brock Snow: Technical assistant to Merwyn. Never developed much because his player was sleepy, unlike...

Doctor Wyman: Wyman putters around, stumbling into and narrowly avoiding danger like Mister Magoo, and wears the same glasses. Merwyn chose this man to accompany her because she hoped his divergent mind would have some luck deciphering the arcane technology of their not-technically-stolen time capsule...

The Mystery Machine: On the inside it's kind of TARDIS-like, but the outside is the Scooby Doo van. Torchwood "recovered" this device under ambiguous circumstances and they have yet to master its quirky, quasi-sentient controls, a situation which draws us tumbling through the time vortex with Merwyn, her crew, and her prisoners, when...

The communication panels started beeping and flashing. A communication from Torchwood was coming through simultaneously with some other kind of alert with a weird symbol from the Mystery Machine systems. Merwyn kicked the console and lost the Torchwood message completely, but cleared up the other one. The beacon was directing them back to 1976, a circumstance strange enough that Merwyn felt it was worth turning back to investigate.

After some more fidgeting, Wyman was able to pull up a map that led them right to an abandoned house in Dallas's neighborhood. There, they found signs of an explosion, radioactive particles, and several patches scattered around the walls that looked conspicuously untouched and even differently decorated, like pieces of the house from different times. In the center, in a small hemispheric indention, they found a piece of a mask that looked similar to but not quite the same as a Cyberman's faceplace.

The Cybus Industries Cybermen of the alternate Earth were familiar to Merwyn and Wyman. Ramsey and Brock only knew what the public knew: these metal men had appeared one day out of nowhere, clearly favoring Torchwood facilities for their HQ, abducted people, converted them to Cybermen, and then abruptly disappeared. Most people, Ramsey included, believed that Torchwood was responsible for creating the Cybermen in the first place. (Nobody is supposed to know about Torchwood but, come on, everyone does.) Dallas thought the Cybermen were a disco band, although when someone mentioned the Doctor, he revealed that he had a big fat book about Doctor sightings throughout history and various conspiracy theories revolving around him.

Before anyone could stop him, Dallas picked up the mask and pressed it over his own face. The mask sparked and hissed and Dallas could feel it twisting its sides towards him. The weird patches of other-time around the building flickered and shifted to other viewpoints and then the mask fizzed out and went dead. Merwyn scanned it with her sonic screwdriver which, when plugged back into the Mystery Machine, revealed that there had been a momentary time-corridor into the future, although the readout was maddeningly vague.

So off they went to what they would soon discover to be the planet Sarkis, orbiting a red giant star in the year 3073. They stepped out among the blue scrub plants to find a lumpy landscape with a cliff and a waterfall in the distance. Closer by, across a shallow, rocky river, was a sleek black landing pod with a stylized "GCE" logo prominently displayed in chrome.

Three people were setting up camp outside the lander, while Zora Trask, a thin older woman with short graying hair, supervised. Tasseker Zal, a weathered man wearing body armor and carrying what appeared to be a Dalek gun adapted for human use, stood idly by and looked around. The three who were actually working were Rick Janneks, a young man with a blond ponytail, Minsk Curran, a big bald man with a bushy beard, and Alice Unwin, a petite red-haired woman with pale skin.

Rick immediately waved to our heroes and went out to meet them, to Trask's obvious disapproval. Trask nevertheless took charge and made the introductions, noting immediately that Ramsey and Dallas wore radio devices that marked them as criminals and requiring that Merwyn sign several forms (on a data pad) acknowledging her responsibility for their behavior. GCE, it turned out, stood for Gnumetis Consolidated Enterprises, a corporation with controlling interest in a number of companies, which Trask listed proudly.

Rick and Dallas hit it off immediately and, while the others discussed the reason GCE was here, Dallas, discovering that Rick was a technician from a society far in advance of Merwyn's, asked for help removing his ankle tag. Meanwhile, the others (and of course Dallas' player too, because I wasn't about to have people leave the room or start passing notes) were learning that there was supposed to be an ancient cryogenic facility with, possibly, some operating Cyberman units preserved inside. Trask offered to share information with Merwyn and her crew if they wanted to help out, after signing the appropriate waivers, of course.

Merwyn agreed to cooperate, secretly planning to destroy any Cyberman technology that was uncovered to prevent it from being reactivated, and the rest of the team followed her lead. Everyone started setting up for the search. Wyman helped with the dig coordination system and took the opportunity to scan and study 31st century technology. In the midst of another conversation, there was a flash and a high-pitched noise and Zal said, "Ha! Got the little bugger!" as the seared corpse of a long rodent-like creature tumbled down from the ridge. Minsk was terribly dismayed and complained to Trask about the hired security man killing off the local fauna.

Also during the day's work, Rick managed to surreptitiously disarm Dallas's security bracelet. (Okay, I passed one note.) Dallas left the device behind at the site, going back and later making the point to Merwyn that he could have escaped, but he's not a criminal and shouldn't have to be shackled. Everyone went back to the Mystery Machine for the night rather than hanging out at the GCE camp. Somewhat frustrating, but I suppose I should have come up with a way to separate them from the thing if I didn't want them using it in what's really a perfectly sensible manner.

The next day they resumed searching and, again, in the middle of a conversation, Zal fried a creature, this time an odd sort of hyena-like ape-creature. No one, including Minsk, paid much attention beyond the initial startled look. They found a skeletal hand with cybernetic support structures holding the bone together, and it looked like much of the circuitry was still in good shape. Wyman was eager to help examine it and stayed at the GCE camp well into the evening.

Later that night, Minsk was seen leaving the camp. Wyman called the Mystery Machine to let his friends know and Merwyn and Dallas followed him and found him digging at a previously uninvestigated location. I don't remember why they left (maybe to go get Ramsey?) but they came back to find Minsk dead by a now-empty hole with his neck broken. Following a set of obvious tracks, they caught up with an old-series Mondas Cyberman (which none of them had ever seen before) staggering into the wastes with a crazy Frankenstein walk. They made several attempts to stun or restrain it, but the encounter ended with Dallas spending a lot of story points and crushing its head with a rock.

I'm getting a lot of this out of order. I started compressing events as I realized that the original build-up was going to be too slow and some of the more complex details were never going to be explored, and I've lost track of exactly how it played out because I was getting a little punchy too. Maybe they were split up. It would explain why so many things happened that don't seem to fit together. It's also possible that this stuff happened over two nights instead of one.

At some point they were attacked by cyber-masked hyena-apes and they found some odd crystals which Wyman discovered to be almost life-like in their complexity, but clearly inert, like some kind of petroleum product.

Back at the hole, they found that Minsk's body was missing, and had been dragged away by someone who didn't leave tracks.

They also spotted Brock wondering off and, noticing that he was acting strangely and had acquired an earpiece like a hand-free wireless phone gadget, subdued him. They then discovered that it was wired into his brain and couldn't be pulled out without killing him. I don't remember what Brock was trying to do. I think he was going to work on the headless Cyberman.

Later still, Ramsey managed to disable the earpiece and remove the external part, leaving Brock with wires dangling out of his now-deaf ear. They discovered at this point that the earpiece had little tentacle-legs so it had probably been able to move around on its own.

They found Minsk's body being operated upon by an egg-shaped techno-organic creature with five faces. It hovered a few feet off the ground and had a ring of metallic tentacles dangling from its lower body.

They were able to stun the creature with a sonic blast and haul it back to a cell in the Mystery Machine. Once it woke up, they tried to interrogate it. It communicated oddly. While the five faces and voices were clearly just masks for one personality, it would rotate a different mask to face the person it was addressing at different times.

The Quintesson at first attempted to negotiate for its freedom, but all its offers were rebuffed with "no, you were turning people into Cybermen." It then became rather sullen and started telling them that their actions were irrelevant and could not impact the project plan. Then it started smiling at Ramsey. At about this time, Trask and Zal showed up, demanding that the Quintesson be turned over to them, as all cybernetic organisms discovered on-site were considered part of their defined scope of work and therefore property of GCE.

When it became clear that our heroes would have none of this, Zal started to draw his pistol but was tackled by... I keep thinking it was Ramsey, but it would seem to make more sense that it was Dallas. I'm not sure. Whoever it was, he spent a ton of story points to pull this off so that he not only tackled Zal, but made him crack his head on the wall and fall unconscious.

After thinking for a moment, almost seeming to be listening to something, Trask offered a tight, insincere smile and agreed to leave the Quintesson with them. "Be advised, however, that, by the end of this quarter, our action item list will be updated."

And that was it. Questions were left unanswered, but it was a bit after midnight and it seemed like as good a stopping place as any we were likely to reach.

Monday, June 20, 2011

One Night in Upper Sandusky

When you play at this level, there's no ordinary venue. It's Toledo, or Indianapolis, or Vermont, or  or this place...

Okay, okay. It was really two nights. Fine. Just ruin the whole gag, why don't you? However you count it, we just wrapped up Troll Hoot IV (click away to find out what a Troll Hoot is) in Upper Sandusky, Ohio. It was two nights and a day of good solid geekery, and a great weekend away from the same old sights.

We got off to a good start straight from work and arrived early after an uneventful but somewhat interesting trip through the not-very-wilds of middle Ohio. It was a road we hadn't taken before, so there were some new sights to see. Different hills, other towns, sluggy brown Ohio rivers, stuff like that. I spent a lot of it scribbling notes for my event. Finding no one else there, we poked around the area on foot, ate lunch, and stopped by a convenience store for some snacks.

Trevor showed up, then the other Robin (Caed), Jeff, and Jerry. We milled about, trying to decide on place to have our kick-off dinner until Caed thought to ask the desk clerk at the hotel. She suggested M.J. Mugsy's downtown, which turned out to be an Italian restaurant with a great atmosphere. Oddly, we had the place almost to ourselves. One tasty meal and one snack/booze run later, we were back in the hotel and ready to start our first event.

The Null Queen
Traditionally, the Friday game at Troll Hoot has been more of a hypothetical construct. Seems like we've always had some people show up late and then, eager to reconnect and hang out, decided to skip that event. This time, we had it all together and were ready to start Trevor's Dynamo RPG playtest scenario. We made our own characters, fidgeting over the unusual attribute generation system and the wide choice of exotic races. We ended up with a human, two bird people, a goat-man, and a cyborg in our party. The adventure started with a bang when a crazed robot burst into the bar and, upon being subdued, declared that he had been sent to fetch us for The Null Queen. After a sort of Keystone Cops road trip to the ruins of Hollywood (now ruled by machine people) we shot up a few robots and a lot of scenery, installed new parts in our cyborg friend, and discovered that the Null Queen was a giant mantis who didn't like us (possibly because we blew up her house).

Journey Through a Strange Valley
Saturday kicked off with Tom's Tunnels & Trolls adventure. My wizard, Jerry's dwarf, and Trevor's troll shaman picked up after their last adventure while Caed and Jeff rolled up a couple of goblins to join us. As you might guess from the name, this was a wilderness trip through a geothermic nightmare where we were plagued by invisible steam sprites and poor navigation. Climbing out of the sauna, we spotted a dragon flying away from the peak and just had to check out its lair. More climbing and ice-walking fun followed, with Jerry finally hopping onto his shield and almost snowboarding to his doom in a frozen cave. After escaping the dragon, we were out of time, so we wrapped it up there and had some lunch.

On the way back from lunch, while Jerry and Tom were talking politics and everyone else was busy with other chores, I poked at the weird rock some more and took pictures of the hotel. Anyone reading this who knows something about geology, please tell me what this rock is. You can get a better view by clicking on the picture. Caed and I were thinking it must be some kind of fossil, like petrified seaweed or something. Where those wormy shapes were broken, I could see differently colored core, and there were little iron nodules scattered about the boulder.

Feast and Famine
Jerry's d20 Game of Thrones scenario was next. We had pre-generated characters, but still had to digest quite a lot of the setting's complex medieval hierarchies before getting started. Jerry got us into the action smoothly, and had everyone's full attention as we escorted our not-quite-dead dude-of-high-social-standing through the bandit-ridden countryside to a castle where sneaky bastards were already plotting to make his return irrelevant. Once exposed, the head bastard demanded trial by combat, and Jeff's character (the now-famous deserter-turned-hero, Brock) stepped up to bisect his champion in one chop. I've since heard that Jeff is particularly eager to play this game again, but all of us had a good time, and the story was interesting enough to make me want to read more of Jerry's campaign blog.

Dreams of the Cybermen
Thank Grodd for night people and the semi-employed. After a full day and night of gaming and alcohol topped off by a delivery from A.J's Heavenly Pizza (another excellent local suggestion from the desk clerk), it was their unorthodox sleeping patterns that saved my game from total oblivion. As it was, we completely lost Jeff, and Jerry had to struggle to keep his eyes open. I was a little punchy, myself. I suppose there could have been a more proximal cause for all this lethargy, but let's not go there.

I've described the session in detail in my next post, but basically we had Caed's Torchwood agent (Merwyn Harkness), Tom's 1970's football player (Dallas Rugby), Trevor's Magoo-dude (Doctor Wyman), Jerry's scientist and supplier of questionable medicines (Ramsey something), and Jeff's ... I don't remember what Jeff was supposed to be, but his name was Brock. Jeff fell asleep pretty early, so his character didn't play much of a part until I had him zombified by a robot spider later in the game. They were in a time machine with a TARDIS-style extra-dimensional interior that looked like the Scooby Doo van from the outside (Caed's idea). Anyway, I had a great time, and I'm pretty sure Caed, Tom, and Trevor did too. Jerry was engaged at least enough to make his character fun.

Trevor vanished into the night. The rest of us had breakfast together (waffles!) the next day and headed home. Tom and I took a drive around town, then meandered home by the back roads, stopping close to home at El Arriero, formerly El Castillo Grande, and still a great Mexican restaurant with style and a view of the lake.

And then there's Tom's summary. Don't believe his lies.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

A Dalek in Love

Gather round, folks, and let me tell you about the worst Styx song ever, "She Cares." It starts off fine, telling a nice little story about... well, apparently about a sniper who can't bring himself to finish off his target. It's possible he still wings her, though.

I tried to be the perfect soldier
I tried to be what everyone said was expected
Somehow I was selected
Well, my hands were steady, my aim was true
But deep inside of my heart I knew
That I lacked the will
I just couldn't shoot to kill

Or maybe it's just a trite metaphor for baggin' a piece of tail. Either way, after a sweet courtship like that, she's bound to fall in love with him too, and a hideous chorus emerges in which we learn that she treats the speaker, "like a human," with the back-up voices echoing soulfully to the syrupy tune, "like a hewwwmaann." Touching, right? If only we could all find someone willing to go that extra mile and treat us like humans.

In the next verse, he's psychotically jealous and unfaithful to her at the same time. While his amazement at her continued affection is becoming easier to understand, the notion of treating someone like a human (like a hewwwmaann) still fails to awaken any emotion whatsoever in me. After all, if the guy's that much of a dick, I'd rather he be alone and miserable than singing perky songs about the one girl who treats him better than he deserves (like a hewwwmaann) after he ruined her life.

But I thought, you know, maybe I'm not giving this song a fair shake. Maybe it's about someone who really should be surprised to be treated like a human (like a hewwwmaann). Maybe he's a Dalek! Thinking it over, I realized that you really wouldn't have to change much for that to work.

It was all downhill from there.

So come along, boys and girls, go get the song playing on YouTube or something and then pop back over here to read the revised lyrics along with it, 'cause there's no way I'm ever gonna sing for you.

She Cares (Dalek Version)

Designed to be the perfect soldier
I only knew that I was what Davros created
Somehow I was mutated
Well one arm's a plunger, one arm's a tube
Inside the armor, I'm squirmy goo
And I lacked free will
I only knew how to kill

And still she treats me like a human
She says she'll still be there
I may be truly evil, but I'll be there
'Cause I know she cares

I exterminate the lesser species
I'm programmed to ensure that mine is the only one
That's how I thought it was done
But I went to far, forgot my place
My scheme to launch Earth deep into space
Seemed a sure-fire win
Oh what a fool I've been

And still she treats me like a human (like a human)
She says she'll still be there (that she'll be there)
I've just killed all her family, but she's not scared
'Cause somehow she cares

I guess that's the way it goes, the way that it goes
And nobody knows what compels her
She's seen my highs and lows and never let go

Oh yes she treats me like a human (like a human)
She says she'll still be there (that she'll be there)
I can't process these feelings, my heart's impaired
But somehow she cares

I guess that's the way it goes, the way that it goes
And nobody knows what compels her
She's seen my highs and lows and never let go

And when the Doctor kills us all again
I won't have to feel alone
'Cause I know she cares

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Cool Stuff from the Mail

Okay, Tio was already here, but he's cool too.

Lost in Vicksburg

I dreamed I was traveling, catching buses in the rain and rushing through crowded airports. Naveen Andrews was in one of the airport bars telling stories, but I couldn't follow the plot because the bartender kept grabbing me to natter on about the flooding in Vicksburg. My clock radio may have been to blame for that last part.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

CSI: Transylvania

Dracula - Original Unabridged Version
Warning: this post has nothing to do with CSI anything. Not even Transylvania.

I recently finished reading Dracula (yeah, somehow I never got around to it before, but the magic combination of public transportation and Kindle has me catching up on a lot of reading) and noticed a couple of things. Lots of people whose jobs depend on reading books and saying clever things about them have read this book, so I don't really expect that I'm the first to make these observations, but hey, I've never heard them before, so maybe you haven't either.

The first is that I was kind of surprised to see Dracula described by Van Helsing as brilliant, but with a "child's brain." The explanation given is that this is a consequence of his transformation to a vampire and the condition is slowly fading, but his general description of Dracula's thought process is not a bad one for psychopathic serial killers in the real world. I wasn't expecting to see this in Dracula.

The one I found really interesting, though, is that Stoker seems to have gone out of his way to create a villain whose most fearsome natural enemy is the accountant. The Count has this grand plan to come creeping out of the darkest pits of the Old World and drag the people of London back into fangy serfdom, but he's got some issues. He has to sleep in his own special dirt, and he needs a place to hide while he's in a torpor. He even needs special transportation arrangements because he can't cross water unless somebody carries him. So how do you fight this dreaded monster from the past? You collate your documents. You make charts. You call up realtors and travel agents. Dracula may be more afraid of crosses and holy crackers, but what really kills him is modern bookkeeping.

So, you know, if you run into a vampire these days, don't bother making the sign of the cross; flash your smartphone at the bastard and watch him slither back into the Cold War.


Getting near the end of Season 4 in Lost (yeah, I can't believe I didn't get into this while it was on TV) and damn, that marine is an asshole! I guess it's sort of a "boy named Sue" effect, though. I mean, Keamy? Makes me wonder how bad his first name must be, to drive him into a field where he's called by his last.

"Hey, Wiggledog, come here and help me out with-"

"Shut up! Just shut up, damn you! It's Private Keamy now!"

"(chortle) Seriously? Okay, fine, Private Keamy."


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Troll Whoot

No, that's not "woot;" it's "whoot," as in "who" grafted into "hoot." You know, all with the puns and stuff.

So, with the Beta City story done (a while back, actually, but then I got sick for like two weeks), I'm ready to move on to other projects. The adventure I'm planning to run for Troll Hoot is not next on the list, but that's what's been on my mind. And hey, I've gotta do it eventually, right?

Aaand I just realized I can't say much about it because some of the players will read this. I can say I'll be running it with Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space, it's called, "Dreams of the Cybermen," it uses - sort of - the classic series cybermen (for which I don't even have to come up with stats thanks to the nifty Aliens and Creatures set) and it cobbles together a bunch of threads from the show with, of course, my own additions. One of the things I'm enjoying about watching the Sixth Doctor episodes is that, so far, they seem more interested in the larger universe and how the pieces interact. I'd like to capture some of that here. I'm planning to have the players make their own characters. It'll delay the start a bit, but I can provide templates to help and I think it'll be worth it.

Okay, so apart from gushing over that game and its supplements again and telling you I'm excited about an adventure I can't describe, what's the point of this post? I have to admit that I don't feel much obligation to provide a point. If you don't like aimless meandering scrawl, why are you reading blogs in the first place? However, there's also the Troll Hoot itself (which I've written about previously) to talk about. Troll Hoot IV is going to be in Upper Sandusky, Ohio. Kind of a central location for our group, and it was generally agreed that there's no point in looking for an interesting town when we're mainly there to play games in the hotel.

And, oh yeah, the Friday Creature Feature might resume this week, but more likely next. I keep coming up with stuff I want to reserve for surprise effect in adventures and can't just toss into the web.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Friday Creature Feature: Pig-Leg

Okay, this one is a bit silly (not like the completely serious "bloodbeard" from last time) in honor of April Fool's Day, but it's still a perfectly functional Peryton RPG monster. It was inspired by a misspelling of "peg-leg" (among other things) by students reading Treasure Island.

Since this critter has a punny name, it seemed almost criminal not to include Tunnels & Trolls stats as well. They're under the description.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Adult Gaming Products

I'll have a new critter up for the weekly feature tomorrow, but there's some news from Peryton Publishing that I thought I'd go ahead and share. Here's a quote direct from the web page:
This week, Peryton Publishing will be releasing its latest role-playing innovation, the Adult Series: RPG scenarios for the Pathfinder RPG and FUDGE rules system for unadulterated mature entertainment. Authors Ken St. Andre, Tom "Kopf" Loney, Hugh J. Hefner and Christine "Columbo" Crabb have thrust their long pens and juicy creative fluids into these tightly written portals to steamy, titillating adventure. With the art of S.Z. Crompton, Marcus DeParamour and Nigel Lowslo, we're proud to bring you some of the the finest R-rated and X-rated D&D scenarios ever designed.
For the full story, click here.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Reanimatrix Redux

Wayback Machine to the rescue! The years-dead Dunwich Herald site is now undead, allowing me to link to a couple of the old articles listed on my freelance writing page. Others were buried too far under the Antarctic ice for even Wayback to retrieve, and of course there's no help for the deadbeat Book of Exodi, but hey, check out the "Cup of Happy" article. I'm still kinda proud of that one. And of course I can't help but pat myself on the back for the line, "Wal-Mart, like most corporations, has been accommodating hairy toad-beasts in its offices and meeting rooms for a long time," in the Wal-Mart article.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Friday Creature Feature: Bloodbeard

Here's another critter from Qalidar converted to Peryton RPG as part of my slow progress towards restoring that setting to the game for which it should always have been written. And hey, special bonus, I've added the never-before-seen beard fungus mechanic to make it new and improved. See, sometimes you do get good stuff for free! Well, fungus anyway.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

About That Doctor Who Campaign

We're still playing. Not as often as I hoped, but just the fact that we've managed to get together on something approximating a monthly interval is good news for this group. I may start doing regular session logs again. Or not. Haven't decided. I've been kind of busy.

In case you were wondering, our heroes discovered that the Editor probably is a Time Lord, although Alan is convinced that he's from an alternate reality. He lost "the greater part of [his] past" when the Time War was locked, but was not fully trapped because of his "temporally distributed" cybernetic consciousness. How this might fit in with the story of the near-identical guy from "The Long Game" has yet to be addressed because the characters didn't see that episode.

They have since foiled the Editor's attempt to punch a hole through a string of alternate realities with a zygma (yes, that's how it's spelled) beam, commandeered his time capsule (yeah, I tried - unsuccessfully - to fight the inevitable tendency to call it a TARDIS) met my version of the cybermen and helped them defeat some of the walking tank cybermen from the show, tracked down a criminal from the group they were helping, and they're in the middle of trying to stop multiple Editors from constructing a "temporal lynchpin" which would cause a-bad-thing-that-hasn't-been-fully-revealed.

One thing I've discovered: the trick to making adventure after adventure feel more like an episode of the show, and avoiding the dungeon-crawl-ish sequence of "explore maze, find bad guy, kill bad guy, collect treasure, repeat" seems to be non-player characters - lots of quirky, chatty, non-adversary (although often morally ambiguous) NPC's with stories of their own. I'm finding that this is where most of my prep time goes anymore, and it seems to be a good investment. Once the extras are introduced, the story sort of twists and turns and solves itself in all kinds of ways that I couldn't have predicted. I suppose this wouldn't work so well with crappy players who just want their non-player allies to carry the lantern, but luckily I haven't had that problem.