Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Child of Fire

Remember me talking about the Blackridge setting and the series of short novels I had in mind for it? No? That's okay. I was thinking about it the other day and rattled this out. If you want to find out a little more, click that link and scroll down past this post.


Lyssa checked the clock for the first time since‭… ‬okay,‭ ‬thirty seconds ago.‭ ‬The storm was almost here.‭ ‬She adjusted Professor Gathright's expensive lens array and looked at the sky.‭ ‬Glowing green and red wisps were already sliding across the horizon.‭ ‬In the grooves of the carved circle and its inscribed triangle,‭ ‬orange salt flickered with more than reflected light.

The crystal lenses lit up as the solar flare illuminated more and more of the sky. The electric lights around her surged with the induced current. One of them popped but the others, chosen with this phenomenon in mind, held up. Lyssa made some adjustments to the array and watched the triangle.

She gasped as a pale blue, almost invisible, flame sprang up from the concrete floor inside the triangle, rising to a height of six feet before thickening to a foot or so in diameter. Much as she wanted to see this, much as she trusted the work she and Professor Gathright had done, she had never really expected it to work. The fire shifted to a deeper blue and tightened into a human-like shape.

Electricity arced from surface to surface. Lyssa could feel the charge tingling in her skin and lifting her hair. The lights flared and faded, but they were unnecessary now. The fiery figure in the triangle grew unbearably bright. Before she had to avert her eyes, Lyssa saw its head tilt back, as if it were looking up through the lenses.

Something grabbed her head and turned her face irresistibly back to the shape of fire. She squeezed her eyes shut and tried to raise her hands to cover them, but her arms wouldn't move. The light burned through her lids, first red, then white. She begged. She sobbed. She screamed.

When the phantom hands released her, Lyssa collapsed into darkness.

Monday, February 24, 2020

BASHCon 2020

Had a great time at BASHCon this year. We missed out on gaming with Jerry because he put his Friday game in the system and a ton of people signed up for it. Tom and I would have been late anyway, so maybe it was for the best. The rest of us just arranged to get together for private games because convention registration was a mess.

Chili's was good, met Liam's friend Max, conversation, all that. Tom canceled his Saturday morning game on Saturday morning, which made his upcoming award ceremony even better.

All the usual stuff: vendors, auction, the always-awesome Phoenica restaurant, the cool student center. I got some loot and Tom surprised me with a t-shirt.
Cory ran Feast of Legends, an RPG designed by Wendy's as some sort of bizarre marketing scheme. The menu puns are hilariously corny. We had fun being all stupid and corporate the whole time. Cory hammed it up just right.
My Gangbusters game started off normal enough, with a gang of whiskey runners trying to find out how a rival gang was suddenly getting so much cheap, high-quality booze. Then it started getting weird, with a whole town coming out at night to search for bits of something in the grass, then screaming like pod people upon seeing an outsider spying on them. Then it was all monsters and slime and a meteor and a creepy old lady talking to metal box which she called, "mother." Tom has a bit more about it in his blog.

I always wanted to do a surprise session like this, because there's one thing about horror games that always gets lost because the players know they're in a horror game. If people were really exposed to freaky supernatural stuff, they would keep looking for another explanation. Part of the horror is the inability to accept it. And it worked, which is good because now they'll always see it coming, even when it's not, so this was my only shot.

At the El Vaquero after-party, Jerry and I presented Tom with his Quitters' Club award.

Sunday, February 23, 2020


I've been trying to make the second season (Session 5 on) of the Defenders campaign a little more "ramped up" and it seems to be going well. We've got more dangerous opponents, more mystery, and more guest stars. We even picked up a new player last time. The gang continues to surprise me as well.

Another thing we've done is to switch to an alternative dice-rolling method. Instead of both the player and GM rolling one die and adding the modifiers, it's almost all on the players. They roll two dice, one designated as positive and one negative. The total is then added to the same stuff and compared with a target number, usually the appropriate ability score of an NPC. In player vs. player rolls, we use the old method. Mathematically, it's the same, but it helps me focus more on what's going on if I let the players do all the rolling.

Session 7 Recap (02/22/20)

Over the course of the morning, they all eventually saw the latest Daily Bugle headline, Dazzler Lights up WITHOUT Props which showed a picture of Alison dazzle-blasting Pandora. The article, credited to "E. Brock" went on to describe the fight and continued to make the point that Dazzler had powers and was not just using stage lights and technological tricks.

There was also a short article about Moon Knight fighting a werewolf. This seemed odd to Ali, who had seen Moon Knight die, way back in the prologue. Don't worry about that, though; it's just one of those random unrelated plot threads I like to drop.

Eventually the three got together on a rickshaw because Jessica was using a Malaysian burner phone and the only ride-share app was "TurtleRabbit." Seeing the crowd of reporters, Jess pulled up her hood. One reporter asked if Jessica and Pam were Dazzler's "superhero gal pals" and Ali said the team was "Dazzler and Her Amazing Friends."

Alison wanted to talk to her manager, Harry Osgood, about her newspaper appearance and wanted Jess to interrogate Cassie, whose name was on the list, while they were there. Jessica actually bonded with Cassie about their shared issues with Alison while Ali and Pam talked to Harry.

Harry said he was disappointed that Ali had kept her secret, but he had been swamped with job offers since the news broke, and had several for Ali to choose from just for this coming weekend. She chose a concert at Stage 48 in Hell's Kitchen. Asked if this was really a good thing after all, Harry said Ali should be careful, but it was certainly a big opportunity.

Outside, Ali found out that, while Jessica had made friends with Cassie, she hadn't asked her anything about Hydra. At Ali's insistence, Jessica went back in and said, "By the way, are you a Hydra?" Cassie said she didn't know what that was about so Jessica followed up with a question about being sick after the incident with Kilgrave. She said she hadn't.

The plan after that was to split up, each one taking part of the list.

Alison started with Jackson Day, the closest one to where she already was. He was a dock worker and a first glibly denied suffering any illness after the incident. Then he got a pained look and adopted a completely different manner, saying that yes, he had been sick, and had suffered blackouts occasionally since. He had still never heard anything about a hydra, though. She thanked him and texted the others that they should look into him further.

Pam started with Dontay Jackson, a lawyer at Hogarth & Associates, but couldn't get in to see him until next week, so she moved on to Corwin Manson. Manson was a copy editor at the Bugle, and he hadn't been sick or heard anything about a hydra, but he did remember a chunk of a story that had never been printed. The reporter had interviewed and done background research on everyone present and noted that several of them were sick shortly after. Pam verified that Madelyne Pryor had been one of them and moved on.

Jessica went to see Madelyne Pryor, who was now an agent at the Perez Travel Agency. She found Madelyne in her office with a uniformed policeman who she introduced as Officer Macone. The conversation didn't last long before their eyes flashed and someone tried to telekinetically suck the air out of her lungs. Jessica grabbed Madelyne and jumped out the window, jumping to a nearby rooftop. Jessica kept trying to talk to her, but Madelyne, who was much stronger than she looked, broke free, took a swing at Jessica, and jumped away.

Jessica, enjoying the fight, followed and tried to foot-sweep her, but botched it. Eventually she got Madelyne to listen to her. She told Jessica about the bond of the Hydra units and their goddess, Fury, who promised them a wonderful new world of order and justice. Jessica convinced Madelyne to introduce her to Fury. Madelyne said she needed to arrange it because she couldn't reach Fury on her own. They exchanged contact information.

The information came a bit later. The next night, Jessica was to go to the for-pay parking lot where Midland Circle used to be. Jessica, Alison, and Pam got back together to do some more planning. The other two would hide nearby while Jessica went to her meeting. Before they left, Alison called Danny to fill him in on everything in case something went wrong.

There was nobody in the parking lot, but Jessica kept going and met a transparent, vaguely feminine figure. When asked if it was Fury, the shape said, "Yes, inevitably." Fury invited Jessica to join "my children" in bringing its vision of a utopia governed by superhumans to life and extended its hand.

Jessica accepted.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Contact Form

I had to take the contact form down. Okay, I didn't have to take it down, but spammers either found a new way to abuse these things or they've just now discovered my page. For quite a while, it served its intended purpose with no trouble, but lately the spam has been increasing steadily and I'm tired of deleting their broken-English attempts to sell me herbal remedies and weird random things I don't even understand.

Now there's just an email address in the sidebar. Hopefully the parasites haven't already evolved a resistance to this format. I'm sure they will eventually.

Sunday, February 09, 2020

Jessica Jones, Attorney at Law

Session 6 Recap (02/08/20)

Setup Info Sent to Pandora's Player: You've been pursuing a creep people have been calling the Mad Gasser. He gets in through upper story windows in Hell's Kitchen, knocks people out, goes through their stuff, and steals things. You finally caught him in the act. He uses weird mechanical stilt things to extend himself up and then gasses them. You've knocked him down and are beating the crap out of him in the street when we introduce you.

Jessica got home around 3AM and, having been the sober one for an uncomfortably long period of time, went down the street for a cartful of whiskey and got to work on it before she even made it home. When she charged her phone, she found several calls from a blocked number and a voicemail from a man who said he had turned off some cameras to help her out the other night and wanted to meet with her at the Dewitt Clifton Park tomorrow at 5PM.

Meanwhile, Alison woke up to a bunch of noise outside. She and Danny found a woman with Betty Page hair (Pandora) beating up a guy with a metal tank on his back and some kind of mechanical leg attachments (Mad Gasser/Stiltman). As Ali and Danny arrived on the street, Pandora punched out Stiltman. Then she grabbed his head. Both their eyes glowed and Stiltman started to shrivel up.

Alison used the man's screams to power a weak dazzle-blast. Despite its low power, the beam nailed the preoccupied Pandora right where it needed to, overwhelming her senses and stunning her for the duration. Danny went upstairs to call 911 while Alison (still in her nightgown) made sure Stiltman was okay.

Jessica, reminded of Alison by the "BITCH" scrawled on her door, decided to pay her back with a drunk call. This eventually led to Jessica, Costa, some other cops, and an ambulance showing up around the same time.

Costa got them all to come to the station and held Pandora, who had reverted to her other personality, Pam Schrodinger, for psychiatric evaluation, but kept her powers out of the report because he wanted her out of Powers Division custody in case he needed more information on Stiltman. He had been pursuing this guy for a while and wanted the collar to stick.

Jessica decided that she was Pam's lawyer now and kept throwing in objections and sidebars and referring to Pam as "my client." The next day, Pam was released but Costa (who apparently never sleeps and answers all calls because I enjoy bringing him in when I can) asked Jessica to keep an eye on her as a favor.

Reminded of the investigation by a text about Beefer's upcoming funeral, Alison, Jessica, and their new buddy Pam, got back to the Hydra investigation. Jessica shared the information she had gathered so far. The recap led to her eventually remembering that she had an appointment, so they went to the park to meet the anonymous caller. Ali, Danny, and Pam stayed hidden in case there was trouble.

Eventually the whole gang was talking with dude, a skinny kind of hippy-looking dude with a brown ponytail, which reminded Jessica uncomfortably of Karl Malus. He said his name was Dr. Leonard Skivorski, which elicited a snort of laughter from Jess, and that he worked at the Raft as a biopsychologist. He had ensured her entry and escape (although his friend "Micro" had helped him out with the computer stuff) partly because he knew about her investigation of the Hydra.

Kilgrave's ghostly image was particularly agitated during this conversation, nagging Jessica to the point that she occasionally lashed out at nothing and almost punched Alison once. Skivorski revealed that "ESPer Units" at the Raft were using superhuman biomatter to try to tap into a kind of microbial intelligence that had recently begun to manifest. He said they had been able to trace the manifestations back to November 20, 2015. The date immediately dug into Jessica's mind, even silencing her purple ghost. It was the day she broke Killgrave's neck.

Skivorski apologized for not having more information, but gave her a contact number and left. Investigating further, the team (mostly Jessica) got a list of the people who were present when Kilgrave died: Vince Hayes, Basil Elks, Jackson Day, Joey Macone, Cassandra Means, Ripley Ryan, Patricia Walker, Earnest Miller, Ravelo Ramos, Madelyne Pryor, Dontay Jackson, Corwin Manson, Doreen Green, Kubur Killington, Jason Macendale.

She got pictures and vital stats for all of them. For possibly meta reasons, they zeroed in on Madelyne Pryor, who said she had been sick after the incident, but was better now. When she found out she was talking to Jessica Jones, she hung up.

Pam said Ravelo Ramos sounded hot, but not much else happened.