Sunday, December 29, 2019

Review: Romance of the Perilous Land

I'm a little hesitant to review a game I've never played. I'm hesitant to review anything, ever, for that matter. I'm excited about this one, though.

Romance of the Perilous Land is a beautifully illustrated and practically laid-out game set in a synthesis of British fantasies including not only the familiar Arthurian tales but less well-known (at least to me) legends and folktales.

The rules are likewise a clever synthesis of systems, including old school D&D-ish stuff, Fifth Edition D&D features like backgrounds and edge/setback (advantage/disadvantage), and a few things that remind me of 7th Edition Tunnels & Trolls. Of the pieces I didn't recognize, I'm not sure which are his own invention and which came from other games I'm not familiar with. In any case, piecing all those components together into a coherent whole is every bit as much of an achievement as making all the rules up.

I love the magic. Items range from homespun charms to rarer enchanted items like the hand of glory, to unique legendary artifacts. The spell-casting system works kind of like the way I always pictured the old school D&D system working. Instead of the somewhat absurd memorize-forget-rememorize routine, the idea is that, in preparing a spell, you're making a special charm, which you then use to cast the spell quickly on the spot. Malthouse has rebuilt the system around this concept instead of just changing the chrome. I'm too lazy to go into more detail, but it's really cool.

The magic (especially the spell list) is one of the things that makes me think this system would work well for Middle Earth in addition to the setting provided. I'm a little torn on whether I'd want to do this, though, because the Perilous Land setting is great, and one of the main reasons I bought the game. One drawback, though, is that there's no map. Maybe this was intentional. After all, folklore almost never gives you a map, just "beyond so-and-so" or "many days' ride" and stuff like that. I would still kind of like to have one.

I'm not sure about the spell names, either. They're atmospheric, but long. Seems like writing them down in stat blocks multiple times might get old. I dunno. I haven't tried it yet.

The setting is, as I said, a synthesis of Arthurian myths and other legends. In melding everything together and making it his own, Malthouse takes some liberties, but that's inevitable and I like the result. In addition to locations, the book provides factions, major characters, gods, and a bestiary that I can't wait to put to work.

This game looks like all kinds of fun to me. Right now it's like half price on Amazon, too.

Full Disclosure: I've known Scott online for several years and helped publish some of his earlier work.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Most People Stop with the Z

I took a nap after work and got treated to one of my favorite kinds of dreams. Sometimes it's exploring a weird, impossibly labyrinthine house, sometimes it's a neighborhood or a city, and sometimes it's the woods. This one was mostly woods. Those are the best.

It started out in the neighborhood I grew up in. After some nebulous task and a conversation about it being unseasonably warm, I decided to go for a walk. The neighborhood had these sidewalks that wound around behind and betweeen a lot of the houses. There were several wooded patches and rustic-looking little playgrounds scattered around. That was where I headed. Just like in reality, it had been a long time since I had been there.

One of the little playground things was nearby. A lot of space had been cleared out but of course the whole area was bigger because there's always another corner to go around in dreams. I was surprised to see that they had even added two full-size swimming pools. There weren't any people around, though. Actually I didn't see any more people for the whole rest of the dream.

I wandered off another way, ended up at this one walkway that went up a hill towards the edge of the neighborhood and dead-ended. The rest of the trails were kind of clustered in an interior space but this one was just a straight shot off on its own. I don't know if the dead-end was always the plan or they just ran out of space. Both of the parallel streets also dead-ended when I lived there, but they've been extended since then. Anyway, I guess those two things were the main reasons this particular trail fascinated me as a kid.

So anyway, in the dream I walked up to the end, noticed the backyard of a house where one of my friends had lived. I saw the newer houses along the same line. At first I was going to turn back, but I could see that at least some of the forest was still back there, and enough people had walked that way to make a path that continued the line of the paved part. The new houses were odd and kind of cheap-looking, like decorated storage sheds or manufactured homes.

I started seeing weird trees with long twisted branches and stuff, which made me glad I had come this way. Past the houses, I got to the crest of the hill. It was familiar territory. The walk down led into a bunch of pines. I also saw a cleared area with rows of, I dunno, some kind of lettuce-y thing with big dark leaves and I heard dogs barking.

Up ahead, where there used to be power lines that traced the edge of the subdivision, there was a road. There was another wooded area on the other side of the road. I wanted to go farther, but the cats woke me up.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

2019: Keep on Livin'

"There’s this emperor, and he asks the shepherd’s boy how many seconds in eternity. And the shepherd’s boy says, ‘There’s this mountain of pure diamond. It takes an hour to climb it and an hour to go around it, and every hundred years a little bird comes and sharpens its beak on the diamond mountain. And when the entire mountain is chiseled away, the first second of eternity will have passed.’ You may think that’s a hell of a long time. Personally, I think that’s a hell of a bird."
--The Twelfth Doctor

I've been feeling stronger this year. I'm not there yet. Is anybody ever really there? It's nice, though, to get to one of these self-indulgent little retrospectives and, instead of saying, "I think I might make some progress next year," actually saying, "I think I made some progress this year."

Starting off the year... ugh. January is like coming out of an amusement park and realizing that your car has been stolen. A big thing early on was trying to get a better hold on my time. Backing away from Facebook helped some. I also found new ways to sneak in writing time at work or wherever. Anything to turn that post-holiday slog into something better. It paid off in more progress on The Nameless Way and a brighter outlook in general.

The Scrap Pile campaign wrapped this year. I think Curtis and Tom might try picking it up, but this year Tom's prequel was the only move in that direction. I didn't set out to end the campaign. I love the Scrap Pile. I had plenty of ideas for more scrapventures, although the heroes and their antics were starting to feel a little stale. Stuff just came together, though. A long-running plot (not even mine, for the most part) ended in one character's death and a lot of post-betrayal bad feelings (in-character, not real world). It just felt right. At first it was just a hiatus to make way for a new team but eventually I decided it was over.

Partly, that was because of my new most bestest thing, Defenders. It was originally just going to be a one-shot for Carnage. Despite having re-watched everything and taken copious notes, I was a little nervous about doing justice to the shows and to a real-world setting I've never even visited, so I ran a playtest first for some friends. I had a great time. Charlie and Kyrinn were game to keep it running, so run we did.

Glasses: After years of slogging along with readers, I finally got prescription glasses with progressive lenses this year. It may not sound like the sort of thing that's worth mentioning, but it made a huge difference to me. I'd almost call it life-changing. Everything is so much easier.

Escape: City of Heroes is back! It's in the form of a bunch of quasi-legal third party servers, so I have no idea how long it'll last, but for now I can play the game again with a whole swarm of other people, and that's been great.

Facebook: Eventually I missed hearing what my benighted friends were up to so I created a new Facebook account and deleted the old one. I still refuse to use Its messenger or even keep the FB app on my phone. I'm not happy about feeding that monster, so I'm trying to limit my contributions. Apart from a comment here and there, I avoid adding content. I post a lot less on FB than on MeWe or Twitter. Anything substantial on Facebook appears only as a link to somewhere else (whereas I even post complete blog entries on my MeWe page). There's almost certainly an algorithm to make sure the posts of people who do this are never seen by anybody, and Facebook users are conditioned not to click external links anyway, but fuck it. And of course I avoid using Its peripheral services or liking anything from a page that doesn't belong to me or one of my friends. I'm under no illusion that anything I can do will impede Facebook in any way, but that doesn't mean I have to help It.

Conventions: I didn't go to Gen Con this year. That was really just because of dayjob bullshit and a long trip I had to take. I didn't want to cancel and I missed seeing all the people I usually hang out with there, but it turned out to be kind of nice skipping all the hassles, so I'm planning to skip next year too. I did go to Carnage and had a great time. The Defenders event went over well. The others were all right. And of course there were friends I hardly ever get to see and there was booze to drink. And I love that resort. I also went to BASHCon, which is always a laid-back good time.

Maggie's Farm: Oddly enough, there's a little bit of game publishing news. I'm slowly pecking away at a compiled edition of the three Qalidar books that organizes everything in a friendlier way and might include a few extra bits. My pace on this is very leisurely. I just pick it up whenever I can't decide what else to do. I might even finish it before I die, but if you're looking for odds, your money would probably be better invested in that flawless blackjack strategy your uncle told you about.

For next year? Keep waking up. I feel like I actually got somewhere this year and I mean to celebrate it, but I've still got a ways to go. Keep sneaking off to write at work. Stay aware of things that screw with my head and waste my time. Either manage them or dump them. Don't let people derail me and drag me into their agendas.


And another one, and another one...

Maybe exercise more. 

Saturday, November 30, 2019

I Want Your Cray-Cray

Session 3-4 Recap (10/26/19 and 11/16/19)

Dazzler created a distracting lightshow while Jessica made an opening in the far wall, then picked up Alison and jumped to the next building. The two split up and made their way across town.

Jessica went to Trish's place while it was still dark, but Trish wasn't home. She did some research and tracked down the woman Barrigan had called. After conning her way to the executive floor with trendy coffee, she made her way to Danning's office and confronted her. Danning wouldn't talk and was confident that Jessica wouldn't dare try anything because she'd never get back out. Jessica grabbed her, smashed a window, and jumped out to land on an adjacent rooftop.

Dazzler, meanwhile, was busy tracking down Flame, convinced that, despite having put the last person who used that name in jail, somebody with an agenda was burning down all her venues. The search led her to Turk Barrett and some Italian guy named Tyrone at Josie's.

Despite some awkwardness about her reason for leaving Harlem's Paradise (one of these days I need to post my after-the-series background stuff), Jessica called Luke and asked for his help with her captive. Luke, pleased to hear from her, agreed to help out. On the way, Jessica found out from Sugar that Luke wasn't currently seeing ("having coffee with") anyone.

While Jessica was interrogating villains and getting laid, Dazzler was trying to keep Tyrone on the hook. At some point the two got back in contact. Morbius the Living Vampire showed up for no particular reason. He had psychic illusion powers to which Jessica was immune, but every attempt triggered a Kilgrave vision. Unfortunately for him, he didn't much like bright light and Dazzler had plenty of it. They dumped him in Luke's quiet room with Sheila Danning.

Danning, eager to not be locked in with a vampire, gave up the location of Flame's HQ. As Dazzler and Jessica had suspected, it was an organization, not an individual. This turned out to be in a trendy gym over P.F. Chang's close to Times Square. Dazzler picked out some workout clothes for her and Jessica, who wasn't thrilled at being dressed in pink and absolutely refused to wear the leg warmers.

At the gym, Jessica went about distracting the jocks. Dazzler went off and distracted the staff. Everyone was distracted, but nobody was doing anything. Eventually Dazzler did lead the manager away from her office, giving Jessica the chance to break in to the locked rooms behind it. There she found files detailing the buildings Flame had burned down and several sets of Flame gear. She took pictures and sent them to Costa so he could get a search warrant.

While they waited for the cops, Jess and Ali kept an eye on the building from outside to make sure none of their targets escaped. Jessica saw the manager climbing down the fire escape in a Flame suit and grabbed her in a leaping tackle. Though pinned, Flame was able to activate her gauntlets and burn Jessica's legs. Jessica, in pain and angry about the whole situation, hit her on the hip as hard as she could, breaking the bone. Flame passed out and Jessica turned her over to the police with a warning that she had fallen from the fire escape and broken her hip.

Dazzler went off for a hookup with Ward (once she got Danny to leave) while Jessica, hating herself for seriously injuring someone by letting her anger get the better of her, tossed back a few more drinks and headed over to Trish's place. She opened up to Trish about her frustrations and how Dazzler is "all rainbows and unicorns," and "she made me wear PINK!"

and credits.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Kiss Me, Fat Boy

I saw the first incarnation of It (and read the book) as a child. I didn't think I was a child at the time, but I was. I've just wrapped up the new version as an old person. I missed it (or should I say I missed It?) in the theater and had to wait for the digital release, so I made an event out of it. I waited for Tom to go to work, turned off all the lights, lit a couple of candles, and watched both chapters of the recent version back-to-back. I didn't go so far as to re-watch the old one because, for one thing, that's a lot'o watching, and for another, I've seen that one so many times that I could probably recite the lines with the sound off.

One thing I noticed just now while browsing for pictures: The menace of Tim Curry's Pennywise came almost entirely from his voice. Bill Skarsgard's Pennywise is both visually and vocally terrifying. I think a lot of this is down to budget, makeup choices, and special effects, though. I don't want to do too much of that kind of comparison. Okay, okay -- one more: nobody will ever say "kiss me, fat boy" with as much verve as Curry.

What really made me want to share my rambling thoughts on these movies was a new theme, or an old one I never noticed. The ending in the book and the first adaptation kind of mixed it up, so maybe King never intended it, but it's clear in the new version. I can't remember if the bit about Bill's books never having good endings was in the novel. If not, I think this is why it's in the movie.

Anyway, what I'm seeing here is a story about people reclaiming their identities. I'm not talking about identity as in some kind of racial or cultural bullshit. I mean it in the sense of who they really are. Over time, as we all do, they had lost themselves in faded memories. Even though the effects of that past remained, they could no longer see the source. If you don't know where your wounds came from, you can't learn from them. You can't grow beyond them. This really stands out with Bev, who, escaping an abusive father, hooked up with an abusive husband, and Eddie, who threw off his dependence on his mother's placebo medicine as a child, only to get sucked right back into it as an adult.

Chapter Two spent a lot of time making the heroes recover memories of a time that was cleverly slipped past us in Chapter One. It even went so far as to materialize their past selves as "tokens." And of course the tokens themselves, in the end, had no power over the monster at all. It was having found them, or what they represented, that made them strong. Once they found themselves, they could grow. The more they grew, the smaller their fears and self-destructive impulses became. They were able to get to the heart of their collective Shadow. They didn't simply destroy it, though. Destroying it would be denying that it, too, is part of them, so they tore it up and ate it. Together.

(Pardon the heart pun. I just had to.)

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Scylla and Charybdis

The Defenders campaign is still a delight. When we started this, I was worried about a couple of possibilities (I mean, apart from the usual things GMs worry about) because it was a campaign based on a TV show.

One was that the players would ignore the established details of the characters they were playing and just sort of make it a generic super-hero game.

The other was that they'd go to the opposite extreme and slavishly limit themselves to the actions they'd seen, never expanding on their characters, making the resulting story little more than an endless rerun, no matter what scenarios I threw at them.

I've been lucky to get players who haven't fallen into either pit. What I'm seeing (and yeah, often enough I do feel like a spectator instead of a narrator) is a group of characters that are clearly rooted in the established history, but are evolving in creative ways as they go, coming to life in ways I could never have predicted.

Sunday, November 10, 2019


I've heard people talk about Death stalking us, and that has a ring of truth to it, but it's not that simple. The stalking metaphor suggests that Death hunts us, tracks us, like it doesn't know where we are. I don't think that's true. Death doesn't stalk and pounce on us. Death herds us. Death harvests us. That's why it's drawn with a scythe instead of a bow. No turn we take is a mystery to Death, because, whether we see it or not, it left us no other path.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Many Colors

I've been reading the Intervention and Milieu series by Julian May. Recently, it's been slowed down a lot because I hurt my foot and have had to drive more often and take the bus less. On my recent trip, I listened to the audiobook version of The Many-Colored Land. Well, the first part anyway. It wasn't that long a trip. As far as I know, this is the only one of her books that's been audiofied. I hope there are more.

Anyway, what struck me is that, while the books I've been reading are interesting, the characters are nowhere near as engaging as the ones in the Pliocene Exile. Apart from my spirit animal, Uncle Rogi, the characters in the Milieu books are almost all super-talented overachievers. Nobody has the dangerous charm of Aiken or the goofy wildness of Stein or the redemptive arc of Richard or the just plain awesome broken awesomeness of Felice. The relationships feel more political than affectionate.

I mean, sure, Marc is interesting because he's going to be the badass rebel of rebels, and Jon is interesting because he's basically a new life form, and the others are all neat people, but nobody in the Milieu books so far feels as brilliantly larger-than life as Group Green in The Many-Colored Land.
Anyway, I'm not dissing the other stuff. I'm just freshly amazed at the awesomeness of the Pliocene series.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Kickin' it Elderly School

Tom brought back Elder Tunnels for Halloween this year and I wrote the intro, so I thought it would be fun to post it here too. I mean, nobody's buying this because they gotta get my silly introduction, so I'm pretty confident that I'm not costing Peryton any sales.

Introduction to Halloween 2019 Elder Tunnels follows the break:

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Defenders Session 2

We had a bit of player-shuffling from last time. Danny and Jessica's players dropped out because they were just in it to help me test the convention version. (One of them hates Marvel. The other one has a thing about only playing "original" characters and maybe some Scrap Pile related hangups.) Trish's player switched to Jessica. Dazzler is still Dazzler.

This session officially makes it a campaign instead of a one-off, and I'm loving it. I'm getting that same buzz that I used to get with the old campaign. I've only got two players, but they've turned Ali & Jess into the coolest buddy cop duo ever, so it's working. If there are more players later, that's great, but it's totally not necessary. 

Session 2 Recap (10/12/19)

A few weeks passed. Cross's lawyers got him and Croit out of jail, "pending further investigation" Superhuman incidents were becoming more frequent. During a break in Dazzler's gig, she and Jessica saw a news story pop up about another one, a gray-skinned man named Bruce Landers who was taken down by "heroes" armed with CTE's new anti-superhuman stun guns.

Meanwhile, a fan approached Alison with flowers and then tried to shoot her. Jessica threw a chair at the guy, lifted him up by his belt, and asked him what he was doing. After a little friendly persuasion, he revealed that Bo Barrigan (the mobster from last session) had put a price on Dazzler's head. Jessica kept his belt. Also, there was a fire.

Wondering if there could be a link between the attack, the wave of berserk superhumans, and Cross's "undertaker" machine, the two decided to check out the scene of one of the recent incidents. At a nearby park, they poked around in the dark and, at first, didn't find much. Jessica suggested a new use for Dazzler's ability to absorb sound and she tried it. Absorbing all the sound she could and doing her best to tune into the flavor of it, she was able to trace the effects of a low-frequency sound pulse to a nearby mailbox.

Jessica tore open the mailbox, only to find that the device they were looking for was actually taped to the bottom. It was a metal box, held closed by screws. Jessica gathered up the letters and took them to another mailbox while they considered whom they might know who could help with tech stuff.

As three o'clock closed in, they decided to call Danny Rand. Danny was groggy, but willing to help out, so they brought it to his apartment on Fifth Avenue, where they also found a slightly put-out Colleen Wing. Apparently they were getting back together, but she still lived in Chinatown and was just here for tonight. Danny couldn't reach any nocturnal scientists, so Ali and Jess slept in the living room so they could hand the gadget over in the morning.

In the morning, Danny called Ward for help finding the right department. He came by to take them there and flirted with Alison a bit. Jessica left on a personal errand while Ward and Alison went to the lab. While the scientists did their science stuff, Alison visited her manager to discuss her uber expenses and Jessica's bar tab.

Jessica, meanwhile, took a cab to Jersey City, where Trish had been hiding out since the night she escaped Croit's lab. Trish was a little on edge from the whole fugitive thing and did not at first realize that Jessica just wanted to spend time with her sister and make sure she was okay. Eventually they hugged it out and talked for a while.
The lab discovered that, as expected, the box contained a sonic aggression booster. It also had a simple radio-controlled on/off switch. Shelving that for the moment, the two followed up on Alison's suspicion that the mercenary, Flame, was involved with last night's chaos, but he was still in jail.

Dazzler's next gig was a few nights later at The Glass Door, an industrial bar on 37th street, across from Fogwell's Gym. It was a rough neighborhood and not a great bar, but she still had a reasonable crowd. While Dazzler played her first set, Jessica began to notice that everyone was being really obnoxious. The bourbon tasted like it had been watered down, the stools were uncomfortable, and something smelled bad. She was just about to punch some guy's head off for spilling a drink on her when she realized what was happening.

Alison also caught on, and immediately started absorbing all the sound in the bar except the music, also broadcasting calming light patterns. With the device still active, it was much easier to locate, even though it gave her a headache. She pointed Jessica to its location and Jessica destroyed it. Then they noticed that the building was on fire.

While they were helping people get clear of the building, someone tried to taze Jessica. She pulled up a parking meter and threw it at him, instantly knocking him to the pavement and unconsciousness. They found out that people were getting these stun guns from a guy named Tommy Forkbeard (a Barrigan flunky) at a honkytonk bar in Red Hook. Alison confronted Forkbeard (who did, in fact, have a long, forked beard) while Jessica came in through the back. After another brawl, they found out that Forkbeard didn't know much beyond Barrigan's location in another part of Brooklyn.
They knocked out Barrigan's guards and strong-armed him into talking. He got his supplies from someone named Sheila, who he only knew as a voice on the phone. They got him to call and set up a delivery, but he could only leave a message on her machine because it was the middle of the night.

Shortly after, sirens blared, blue and red lights flashed on the windows, and a voice over a loudspeaker demanded that they come out with their hands on their heads.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Defenders: Project Undertaker

Session 1 Recap (9/21/19)

Alison Blaire (Dazzler), worried about her safety after having tangled with a local mobster, hired Jessica Jones to protect her at her performance for retro night at The Plank, a run-down club on the 41st street pier. Danny Rand (Iron Fist) had been tracking a red motorcycle which had been seen at several arsons across the area. He found it outside an old warehouse next to The Plank. Ali's set and Danny's surveillance were interrupted by a thunderous explosion which shook the building.

Jessica ran out to see what was going on while Ali made sure the audience and staff got out of the building safely. Danny saw a man in a sci-fi looking costume with tubes and stuff (Flame) running out of the now-burning building towards the cycle and shot it, blowing it to pieces. Jessica, looking from a higher vantage point, also saw four people running off in the other direction. While Danny fought Flame, Jessica ran into the building to see what was going on. She found Trish Walker fighting with some sort of mutated human. Putting aside her surprise for the moment, Jessica took hold of the man and led both of them out of the building.

The man said his name was Marcus Daniels and he had been abducted by a Doctor Abner Croit and experimented on with genetic material taken from enhanced humans. Trish revealed that the same people had a deal with private security contractors at The Raft to experiment on powered prisoners. As part of this deal, she and others had been taken off-site to locations like this. Jessica agreed that, at least for now, she couldn't send Trish back to that.

While everyone was comparing notes, the police arrived. Trish slipped away before they saw her and watched from the shadows. A bunch of uniforms showed up, along with Detective Costa. Some of the uniforms had funky taser-looking devices. One of them muttered, "We don't have to be afraid of your kind anymore," to Jessica. The police arrested Daniels and "Flame" and asked the others to come in for a statement. From her outside vantage point, Trish noticed that a sphere around one car (the one Daniels was in) was getting darker.

Jessica managed to hang back and talk to Trish. While the cops pulled away, they saw the car with Daniels in it rust to pieces. Daniels got clear and looked like he was about to attack them, then screamed and shriveled into a mummified husk.

After the police interviews, they did some detective work separately and then got together to investigate Doctor Croit, They went to his apartment in the Chelsea, where Jessica figured out his password (SelfishGene) by looking through his book collection. She found some information about his employers, Cross Technological Enterprises, ("Where tomorrow begins today") and several emails from the Director of Environmental Compliance, William Cross, that just said things like, "see me" or "we need to talk now." Danny found a key with a handwritten tag that said, "Rudy's." On the way out, they spotted some cops watching the area, so Trish slipped away and stayed in hiding for the rest of the night.

At Rudy's they had a few drinks, ate some free hot dogs, and tried every door in or next to the bar, but the key didn't fit anything. Eventually, they noticed the old building across the street with the art deco entrance and the top three stories that looked abandoned. The key fit there. As they were entering, a Jessica was shot from behind. She told the others to go on while she dealt with the sniper.

Jessica spotted him withdrawing from edge of a building across the street and leaped to tackle him. She noticed once she got close that nothing near him made any sound. After a couple of acrobatic throws and some of punches, Jessica took The Silencer down.

Meanwhile, Danny and Alison proceeded into the art deco building. They pressed five in the elevator and, near the top, started feeling a little dizzy. When the door opened, a man wearing a skull mask said, "Senior Muerte welcomes you to your doom!" Their last thought before passing out was that "Senior Muerte" was a terrible name.

They woke up in a concrete cell. Danny's guns and Alison's radio were missing. A monitor screen lit up, showing Senior Muerte, a man in a business suit, and four armed guards. The suit identified himself as William Cross and bragged that he had taken Alison's "light show device," along with the guns, so she was powerless. He also said they were about to be the final test of Project Undertaker.

He checked a comm screen and turned to Muerte. "Montoya, the other one is here. Get down there and take care of her." Cross flipped some switches on a panel and a low rumble spread through the room, buzzing in their skulls. Danny and Alison began to feel inexplicably angry at each other.

Jessica, arriving in the lobby and noticing that one elevator was on the fifth floor, hit the call button, then opened another one across the hall pushed the five button, and stepped out before the doors closed.

Meanwhile, Alison, recognizing that Cross was using a sonic weapon on them, started absorbing the sound, negating its effect. She used the energy to laser through the door and escaped with Danny. They followed a tunnel to a stairway and found themselves backstage in an abandoned theater. They found Danny's guns and Alison's radio in the work room. After wandering around a bit more, they got to the stage, where there was a bunch of equipment set up. Cross and some guards were there. Alison dazzled the lot of them, but Cross activated something on his chest and suddenly revived, eyes glowing. He picked up one of the obviously heavy machines and threw it. They dodged, and Danny used the Iron Fist to wreck Cross. Then they tricked Muerte into returning and ambushed him.

They took the villains to the police and had a nightcap at Rudy's.

Monday, September 16, 2019


"Painted crabs! My master must feed!"

I hate it, but on some level I also admire the balls it takes for Microsoft to send me an annoying notification telling me that it won't be sending me annoying notifications for a little while.

I might have gone a little overboard with the "MyPetIn5Words" tweets.

"Writer Tom Taylor... teases that not everyone will survive issue No. 1."
It's that Zorro-lookin' guy who bites it, right? He has "throwaway" written all over him. Gotta be the Zorro guy.

Irish whiskey is what scotch would taste like if it didn't hate you.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019


I dreamed I was in Hell. It started when I was just in a restaurant with my family. Two of the three people with me are dead in the real world. I was with my mom, my dad, and my brother. We were eating out. I was looking forward to it. They had some kind of chicken sandwich thing that I liked, and of course I love my family.

Thing is, I couldn't find the thing I wanted on the menu. I kept looking, and the waitress kept coming back. I knew it was there, but I couldn't make out the details. I couldn't read it. People started getting pissed off at me. Somehow, I ended up sitting on the floor, and I still couldn't get my order in. Everybody was mad at me, and finally I got mad at them, too. Eventually, I said I was going to the fast food place next door. Nobody cared.

I couldn't read the menu at the fast food place either, but the guy at the counter suggested something and I said that sounded great. Time passed, people got their orders, and I got nothing.

I'm not sure when, but I found myself in front of a different counter. I was told to hit a flappy thing to determine my punishment. I was confused by that, but I tried anyway. I missed completely. I was in a place with lots of white and silver, but that wasn't comforting. People were bustling around. No one was happy. They laughed at my failure and handed me a brochure. I could tell that it involved dental aberrations or… I'm not sure. Something about serial killers. Something about brain cancer.

What was clear was that I had a choice, and, looking at the brochure, I COULDN'T FUCKING UNDERSTAND IT. Again. I knew my options were all horrible. I also knew that even choosing the least horrible of the horrible options was beyond my power. I thought about killing myself, but, of course, I was in Hell. You can't escape that way when you're in Hell.

I woke up. I was glad it was just a dream, but

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Go Asterisk Yourself

When you're about to write a word but you think it's objectionable and needs an asterisk or a dash in place of one of the letters, how about picking another word? If you don't have the guts to say "fuck," instead of "f*ck," you should just shut the fuck up.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Random Dreams

I dreamed last night that I was at Carnage and I had already missed my D&D adventure and had nothing done on my Defenders adventure. Of course, I also dreamed about having a hideout in these weird secret tunnels, and a horror LARP in some snowy place in Wisconsin that turned into real supernatural horror in the middle.

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

Out of Order

I was suddenly hit by the inspiration to do a couple of chapters from the perspective of one of the villains (well, a sort-of-villain, anyway -- it's complicated) so now I've got this thing going on where I'm writing stuff out of order and I have three chapters-in-progress instead of one. Thank Grodd for Scrivener.

Monday, August 05, 2019


I didn't go to Gen Con this year because of dayjob bullshit and an extra trip I had to take. I didn't want to cancel and I missed seeing all the people I usually hang out with there, but it turned out to be kind of nice skipping all the hassles. I'm not sure I even want bother with it next year. Or ever.

I know, I know, I've said this before and still ended up back in Indy. Whatever. It's Monday.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Praising or Burying The Scrap Pile

Not long ago, my long-running Icons campaign came to a good stopping place. I decided to run a D&D adventure and then have everybody come back with new characters. (Much as I love the original characters, their dynamic was getting a little stale, despite a few fun shake-ups.) The other day, I proposed that, before we start, I do a one-shot to test out my Defenders adventure for this year's Carnage convention. Some talk of spinning that into a whole campaign followed, after which a couple of players suggested that this would mean the death of The Scrap Pile.

I have some cool plans to kick off the next phase of the campaign but, if it is over, I'm okay with that. I'm really proud of what we did there and I'm satisfied with the ending we've got. There are a few things that were never resolved, of course. They never really found out much about Covenant, and some plans I had for The Unbeholden, one of the first villain groups they went up against, never really took shape. That's just how it goes, though. There are always gonna be loose ends. I tended to leave them on purpose, anyway, so I'd always have ideas for the next adventure.

The Scrap Pile came from a team Tom and I created on the City of Heroes MMO. Later, I wrote a couple of stories about characters from the group. Even later, when I started my Icons campaign, I set it in the same world and the group, at a loss for a name, decided to just go with Scrap Pile. The game took a new, somewhat appalling, direction with the addition of Disco, and off we went.

The Scrap Pile campaign survived at least two long breaks and the departure of one of its founding members. It gave us four giant-sized annuals, an anniversary crossover event, and a Christmas Special.

The team went to outer space, other dimensions, Atlantis, and even Canada.

They fought a bunch of villains I made up, but they also fought Deathbird, Blastaar, The Destroyer, The Headmen, Man-Wolf, and Baron Karza, among others.

One of the players is writing a novella about his character (I'd link to his web page if he had one).

So, will I pick this back up and return to Beta City with these guys if that's the way the wind blows? Hell yeah, in a heartbeat. If it's over, though, I'll celebrate its glorious end with the same enthusiasm.