Ravenloft Campaign: the Last Dance (Session 2)

Evening October 1st, 755 BC, Pont-A-Museau, Richemulot

After our heroes gathered themselves and checked to make sure Nthntuck and Vinzent were not dead, they banded together and waited.  Vinzent and Tuck (shorthand to make life easier on both the writing and the reading) stirred after about 30 minutes.  No one had been able to find a way in or out beyond the big metal door, but Tuck was a trained tracker and immediately followed the rat’s trails into a pile of rotting and destroyed furniture.   In the furniture was a small chest with Falkovnian gold coins and a diamond, that Elaine found, then passed out mostly equivalent wealth to everyone, leaving herself a big ole diamond to replace the pieces of quartz she had been using as casting material components.  Tuck wanted none, and continued to throw aside furniture until he found a cupboard.  Opening the doors, he found a small hole leading behind to another stairwell.

With everyone’s help, they moved the furniture to see a gently sloping staircase that was covered in condensation.  The sound of rushing water and some mechanical clanking came from beyond.  They took the stair case, which gentle curved left until it ended at a large docking area, where two enormous waterwheels turned, powered by an underground canal.  One of the waterwheels was wooden, while a second was metal or stone and set into the far wall, spinning at a very different, more deliberate and mechanical pace than the wooden one.

Vinzent considered destroying the wooden waterwheel as the others looked about, seeing the only way out as a small hole in the ceiling that a metal rod attached to the far waterwheel  seemed to be going upwards into.  That or the canal, which no one could see very far down.  As Tuck checked the walls for any kind of hidden script and Drew for doors, Violet shapechanged into a wasp to check out the areas down the canal. 

The canal’s ceiling quickly slopes down at both the entrance and exit from this room, making escape through the canal questionable at best.  Violet then flew upwards, being able to fit through the small hole.  It traveled up and up, somewhere around 30 feet, before popping out into an attic of some kind.  It had a catwalk that lead to a door that was wedged shut but with no lock and the clock tower of the school on the other side.  Inside the room was a cacophony of noise from hundreds and hundreds of turned and grinding gears.  Too many for just the clocktower, Violet realized.

She came back down and told the others what was going on upstairs as Dimitri had a minor breakdown.  Then Tuck spotted Graves at the top of the stair well.  Graves ran.  The heroes pursued.

During the run, Dimitri made contact with Graves after a few failed attempts.  Graves ran all the way out of the basement and left the metal door unlocked, allowing our heroes to leave.  Standing in the servants hallway, they gathered their breath before Tuck picked up Graves’ trail.  They all went down a small corridor along the side of the house that lead to the ballroom, where the wedding was to be taken place.

The ballroom was much like the rest of the house, dirty and empty and rundown.  They looked about for Grave’s trail when a sudden whirring of mechanics dropped 8 couples of marionettes to the floor, that all began to dance.  Marionettes that were made of corpses, lacquered, screwed, nailed, and wired together in a macabre scene.  Horror checks were made.  Two failed: Drew and Dimitri.  Drew ran in utter terror back the way he came, while Dimitri stared dumbfounded and … almost intrigued.  Vinzent followed after Drew, Dimitri following them.  Tuck, Elaine, and Violet shrugged off the horror and continued to track Graves, back into the game room.

Drew was a mess, doing everything he could to leave.  Vinzent and Dimitri tried to help, taking Drew back to the library.  In the library, they found it ransacked.  Chairs overturned, books thrown off shelves, an entire mess.  Dimitri threw his hands in the air in frustration.  Meanwhile, Tuck, Violet, and Elaine all continued to follow Graves’ tracks, which lead to the library.  Which also lead to two sets of double doors being open and the sight of the mechanical dancers to very much be seen by everyone in the library … including poor Drew and Dimitri.  Dimitri was already oddly fascinated by the things, but Drew manned up and got his aversion in check.

Dimitri, Drew, and Vinzent search the library as Tuck, Violet, and Elaine head out into the main hall, checking on Madame Tuvache.  In the main hall, more of the marionettes fall to the floor, these ones armed and attacking.  Other than a very minor scratch along Tuck’s chest, the stupid things had a mechanical pattern and were very easily avoidable.  They headed back to the library.

There, Vinzent and Drew found a secret compartment in a clock on the mantle, which had three scrolls in it.  None of them could read the ornate writing, but they could tell two were the same.  With everyone in the library, Drew gathered his items as Tuck continued to track Graves, finding him heading into a side door.  It lead to a tea room, with a strange orange glass door.  Elaine tried to open it and got gunk on her hand.  After a few minutes it became corrosive and ate through her hand and down to the bone before they washed it off.

They found a very nice silver tea set (Violet has appraising and knows what everything is worth) and they dolled it all out not particularly caring too much for who got what.  Another tracking check and Tuck takes them out another door that leads to the main hall way.  It only takes a minute for them to traverse the warrior-puppets.  Dimitri’s obsession seems to only be getting worse, though he does calm his mind enough to finally succeed on an ESP attempt (after a few failures) on Graves, whom he still has psionic contact with.  He reads Graves’ surface thoughts:

“I’m sorry … I’m sorry … please go away … I’m sorry …”

They head into the East Wing of Jerterriere and find a small room that Graves’ footsteps led to.  They bust down the door to find the old gaunt man sitting on his bed. 

Vinzent: “Is Lambert here?”
Graves:  “Yes.”
Drew:  “Is he alive?”
Graves: “… no.”

Next time, they learn more from Graves, and try to find poor Madame Tuvache.


Ravenloft Campaign: the Last Dance (session 1)

And so it begins …

November 28th through 30th, 755 BC, Pont-A-Museau, Richemulot

Over the course these days, our heroes (setup and party member details here) reached Pont-a-Museau and headed to Jerretiere independent of each other, other than Drew and Elaine who traveled together from their hamlet in Mordent.  At the front gates of Jerretiere, a former dance studio, a tall gaunt older man named Graves met them, but wouldn't let them into the estate until the wedding day on the first of the next month.  He gave them money, earmarked for them by their mutual acquaintance Docteur Christophe Lambert, to pay for a few evenings at a local tavern and inn, the Drunken Fool.  

At the tavern, the six all eventually met each other.  They conversed a bit, though none were forthcoming with information about why they were there except the Har’Akir Caliban, who saw no reason to hide that he had been asked to come and officiate the wedding of Docteur Christophe Lambert to his fiancĂ© Madame Araby Tuvache.

October 1st, 755 BC, Pont-A-Museau, Richemulot

Everyone was met at the tavern just before sunset by Graves with his carriage.  Both the Mordent natives were cagey because of it being Nocturne, especially the shaman.  Nthntuck was suspicious of Graves and sat with him upfront after a little protest from the worn driver.  In the carriage, the others all piled in and met Madame Tuvache herself.

She explained how she and Dr. Lambert met and about his love of her first husband’s old dance studio and wanted to have their wedding there.  Also that he had sent out close to twenty invitations, but these six were the only guests to come.  But she was concerned about terrible noises of some kind of monster in the basement.  Vinzent was immediately intrigued at her proposal that all of them check out the basement for some gold, but Drew was incredibly reluctant and eventually the whole thing was dropped.

They arrived at Jerretiere and were brought in to the main hall.  They all sat together with Madame Tuvache.  Drew asked where Dr. Lambert was, but Tuvache blew it off, saying he was looking for the perfect flowers.  "He has a bit of a temper and can be a perfectionisht," she shrugs, and the others agree, especially Violet. Then, a terrible sound from the basement roared up into the main hall.  Tuvache, weeping with fear, once more pleads that they look into it, but this time no one is having it, all unwilling to go down there this evening.  Tuvache then begins to go into hysterics, and in rage over Lambert's insistence of using "this damned old school", she calls off the wedding.

With Vinzent and Elaine both urging they check out the basement, and with Dimitri, Nthntuck, and Violet not arguing against it, Drew gave in not wanting to ruin the wedding.  Nthntuck cast a Sanctuary spell over Madame Tuvache, and Graves escorted them through the game room and the library to the stairs to the basement, stuck back in the servant's quarters.  They head down, Graves leaving to take care of wedding matters.

In the basement, they find just a bare room with only a single armoire.  Vinzent takes a gander, but it merely holds a pretty nice looking clock, but the clock is broken, saying it is 5 til midnight.  A quick look around the room found two locked doors lead to other rooms.  

Drew checked the clock after Vinzent and rolled to commune with the spirits.  He succeeded, hoping to speak with his mother.  Instead he saw a small blue beetle spirit sitting atop the clock with an enlargened thorax and a skull symbol on its back.  He asked the beetle why it was there, and the beetle just clicked; the clock struck midnight.  A small dwarf miniature spun around and began to bang on a blue marble.  One that Drew at that moment noticed was filled with some sort of liquid or gas that was jostling.  He noticed just as it shattered, and he saw hundreds of the blue beetles pour out of the clock, covering the floor and making everyone cough.  Some form of gas had escaped, and was very poisonous.

A few took in a lot of the gas, but it sank to floor level quickly without too much exposure.  They checked the upstairs door only to find it locked.  Vinzent, tired of his charade, threw a bundle of sticks he carried with him to the floor so he could retrieve his hidden rifle.  Of course, this kicked up some of the poison, which he nearly choked and killed himself on.

With the door upstairs being metal, they decided to try to break into the two other doors. Neither of our thieves know how open locks well, and even if they did, neither carried lockpicks.  With some cracks from Dimitri’s hand axe and a shot of the rifle, they break into one of the doors, to find a wine cellar, though mostly empty of wine now.  Just a few centipedes and a chest that served as a rats’ nest, though three bottles were still there.

They bust their way into the next door to find a hallway, with a closet to the right and an unlocked door forward.  Nthntuck went ahead, footman’s mace in hand, as everyone else checked the closet, finding lots of gear including a sword and scale mail.  Nthntuck entered the next room, to find it glowing green with lots of red eyes staring at him.

And this … is where everything went wrong.  These rats, these one-hit-to-kill giant rats, nearly killed two part members, and no one could hit them for the longest time.  To say that our heroes are not combat monsters is an understatement.

Turn starts with Nthntuck casting Sanctuary on himself after the rats all attack him.  3 of the rats run off, and promptly attack the group in the hallway.  As Vinzent gets on one knee to shoot a rat, it launches itself through the air and lands on his face, ripping out a chunk of his cheek and scratching him up, dropping him to Death’s Door, bleeding from his face.  Dimitri pulls his hand crossbow and shoots at the rats now on Vinzent … 

and shoots Vinzent in the shoulder.  Meanwhile, the two rats that made their save drop Nthntuck in one round, ripping open his inner thigh.  Elaine creates a Chromatic Orb and completely wiffs on the roll to hit.  Drew tries in vain to use a sword, as he has no training whatsoever in it and all his weapons and such were left upstairs (he cast Weighty Chest on his belongings, so no one can screw with them, but he didn’t bother to bring them with him). 

Violet used a Beastmark to trick the rats into thinking she is one of them and went into the other room, scaring off the rats feasting on the dying Nthntuck.  Dimitri, abandoning his crossbow, tries to contact the rat that was clawing and biting into Vinzent’s face (who has now taken a permanent loss to Charisma).  And he does … only to roll a 20.  A natural 20 for psionics is BAD NEWS.  His mind does contact the rat, and then a strange purple energy surge happens as the rat kicks Dimitri’s mind out of its and its eyes glow purple before it scurries off, Dimitri completely unable to sense it psionically any longer.

Elaine grabs a shield from the closet and tries to protect Vinzent as Drew continues to slap at the rats in the hallway.  Violet gives up her Beastmark and finally pulls out her sling … and the slaughtering begins.  One sling stone into the head of the rat biting Dimitri.  Next round, more flailing from Elaine and Drew, until Violet kills another with her sling.  The last rat runs, Drew bandages Vinzent to stop the bleeding, and they take a small breather, as session 1 ends.

Session 2 means more exploring of the basement, and trying to find away up and out, plus confronting Graves, who they are sure is responsible.


Ravenloft Campaign: the Last Dance (cast and set up)

So a new gaming season has started.  And I cannot be happier to be in my favorite setting, Ravenloft 2nd Edition.  Quick overview if you don't know: Ravenloft is a realm of darkness, a prison plane for evil things, with actual souls down there as well who are struggling to survive.

Our characters are all heroes in their own right, though only just beginning their journey (in other words, I didn't start them at level 1, and wanted them all to have some power and skill to them before we started).  The schtick of the adventure is that all our cast met a man in their travels, Docteur Christophe Lambert, a Dementlieu surgeon.  They all received a unique letter asking them to come to his upcoming wedding in Pont-a-Museau Richemulot, which they all agreed to do.

 Our cast:
 - Vinzent Albrecht (Human Thief 3), a Falkovnian farmer drafted into war and given a rifle when the Darkonese Sorcerer-King Azalin Rex disappeared ... only to have the army be wiped out by undead at the border yet again.  He returned to his farm to find it ransacked, and has spent the past 3 years stealing to survive.
 - Violet Stout-Tallfellow (Halfling Hivemaster 1/Thief 2), a Tepestani Halfling gardener and druid (but only of bugs) who had an affair with Dr. Lambert 10 years ago, and has trekked a very long distance to come to the wedding, experiencing things along the 3 month trek to get there.
 - Dimitri (Half-Vistani Psionist 2), a Barovian born psionic, telepath, who left to make some money, got into a LOT of trouble in Dementlieu, and fled to Richemulot, where he now uses his mind-reading abilities and Vistani heritage (and alias) to scam people by "telling their fortunes."
 - Nthntuck (Caliban Cleric of Osiris 2), a member of the Order of the Green Hand who was formerly a high ranking and powerful cleric before he resurrected a desert vampire named Palik who drained his levels and his life away to his current state.  He is searching for Palik to bring the walking dead to justice.
 - Elaine "the Great" (Human Invoker 2), an invoker from a small hamlet in Mordent who was trained by the creepy old man in the town, calling himself Tenser the Magnificent.  She has just finished her apprenticeship and is heading to the wedding in Tenser's stead, as Tenser is now a hermit who does not wish to travel.
 - Allenthalis "Drew" Turner (Half-Elf Shaman 2), a Mordentish young man with the unique ability to see spirits (sometimes) and commune with them; his mother is a spirit that has continued to train him past her own death.

We've had two sessions, which I'll write about at a later date.  See ya soon for more.


IHAO ... on the Cornetto Quadrilogy (The World's End review)

(Side thing: This poster was my favorite poster ... and it is missing one of the pubs!  
Why the heck is that?!  After the Beehive and before the Hole in the Wall, they go 
to the King's Head.  Put it on there, poster!  ARG!)

Yeesh ... ok, I have a lot to say, but I'm going to do the short version right now.  Here it goes - this film is for the most part awesomely acted with lots of touching moments and a new topic for the Cornetto trilogy that has an interesting central conceit, but it falls incredibly hollow and flat at the end, and is kind of hamfisted in the beginning.

Still with me?  Ok.  Like I said, I have a LOT to say on this.

This movie's ending is the absolute most mediocre ending possible.  But it is worse than that, too.  Instead of ending, which implies plot, let's go with "epilogue."  That is much better.  The ending, the actual run up of the climax, is entirely contradictory to every single them they set in motion throughout the ENTIRE film.  There are huge gaps in logic, and is so sadly standard that it just feels beneath what I know Edgar Wright can do.  A lot of the shots in the film are just a little too close up, and the action is for the most part shakey cam, though not terrible, still prevalent, which is not good.

The opening is an expected (and subverted) monologue that sets up the plot of the film, and then a really really lazy introduction to the five leads via passing vignettes of what each one is currently doing and how that reflects their personalities: Steve is now about fitness and has a hot young girl; Peter is unhappy in his married life; O-man is ... all about business and talking on the phone.  You get the picture.  Instead of learning about the characters organically, we are force fed "these are the traits you need to know about these characters in the first 3 minutes so that you aren't lost, stupid audience!"  And that's incredibly terrible.

I'm avoiding spoilers, which is why I didn't elaborate on the finish ... but I have to reiterate: on the car-ride home, I came up with a better finish that was more in-line with the themes they presented throughout the entire film.  But perhaps that is just ego on my part.  I'll gladly share it if anyone wants to know, I'll just do it privately so that it doesn't spoil things.

Now it might feel like I'm just complaining and hating on the whole movie.  And that's INCREDIBLY wrong.  I am complaining about the first 3 minutes (which were awful) and the last 5 minutes (which were as Jason Schmidt put it "as if they were all just like 'ok, we just need to go ahead and wrap this up'").  But as soon as those first 3 minutes are done, we have Simon Pegg (playing the stunted Gary King who is still dressing like he dressed 23 years ago and still trying to relive those days, playing against his normally considered type and doing a fabulous job) going to each of his 4 childhood friends one after the other to convince them to go with him on this nostalgia trip.  And that is MAGICAL.

The chemistry between the 5 leads is unbelievably good.  And the way they relate to each other, now all 20ish years removed and telling about how their lives are now and remembering how it was then and seeing the subtle changes even though they are all the same kids they were, just more grown-up ... it was glorious.  And different from anything the Cornetto Quadrilogy (I include Paul now that I've seen it because it has all the same themes so it is a spiritual part of the films I believe, if not a direct one) to this point.  A special note to just how amazingly well done Nick Frost is.  I hated him in Shaun of the Dead and tolerated his goofiness in Hot Fuzz, but I find that the more "realistic" he plays, the more I love him and his performance.  He was so good in this movie, as well as in Paul.  Just truly phenomenal.  Well, that might be an overstatement.  This isn't Oscar-award worthy or anything.  But still, he is so much better playing "straight" to Simon Pegg's character-based antics instead of the other way around.

And from there, you get everything you expect.  Fun, high energy action (that is shakey cam shot, so your mileage may vary on how good you think it is) that has these guys doing a bunch of pro-wrestling and wu-shu/kung-fu moves which was glorious.  "Subtle" hidden meanings in little details just like Edgar Wright always works on.  And really, the rest of the ride is WONDERFUL ... until we get to the titular World's End, where everything goes ... not downhill, because that implies it hits the bottom.  More it becomes so ... boring, and standard, and hollow feeling.  It just isn't good.  It is "fine" but not good.

I cannot watch this without comparing it to the three other films.  And ranking them, because they each have different strengths and weaknesses.  But they all deal with nostalgic love to tropes and themes of particular genres the writers/creators love (zombie/horror, action/suspense, spielberg-ian sci-fi, apocalyptic sci-fi/kung-fu) and all deal with post-coming-of-age stories, with adults that are having a hard time being adults.  So I'll give grades for all of them, and put them in order, and try to give a reason why I believe they deserve to be where they are in my rankings.

First I'll do this one, the World's End, the last of the films of this type from these guys collaborating.  I really liked it, and thought it was very good for the most part.  I really want to rewatch it and try to absorb more (I think I found a hidden Edgar Wright -style meanings throughout the plot that is not immediately apparent, but I want to see more.)  Much like how when I watched Looper I loved the opening and hated the rest of the film, I feel like I need to grade this movie twice: The vast majority of the movie is a B+.  Little tiny things like at the end making everything orange/blue like ALL (hyperbole) movies nowadays and the shakey-cam fight scenes that made it difficult to actually see what as happening a lot end up making me unwilling to give it an "A", but it is very solid and the acting and writing for the 5 leads is amazing.  The ending is a solid C- for being so incredibly hollow and shoe-horned, and really unnecessary.  An edit of the film to remove a lot of that epilogue could help a lot.

Second, I'll remind about Paul, which I gave an A+, with a caveat to one scene which I feel deserves an F.

Third, Shaun of the Dead.  I don't actually like it very much.  I cannot deny the good in it, but overall, I just didn't care for it.  It felt small and uninteresting.  Shaun was the only character I really liked, which made me want to see everyone die (basically) which is the opposite reaction I should be having.  And the quirky twisty-twoo ending rings just as forced and hollow for me as World's End.  There are bits I like, but overall, I didn't care for it much.  C+ 

Fourth, Hot Fuzz.  Simon Pegg playing a brilliant character, great twists and turns, awesome cinematography and high stakes action!  If I hadn't seen Paul, this would have easily been the best film of the bunch.  The only "problem" is I feel it misses some heart.  Just some.  Just a little.  Just enough to keep me from going "man, I really want to put in Hot Fuzz" when I am just feeling like watching a movie.  It is just missing some spark of extra.  The "it factor" that is so hard to put down.  But still absolutely great.  A

That means ...

the Cornetto Trilogy (Quadrilogy) Report Card: 

Shaun of the Dead ............ C+
The World's End ............. B+*
Hot Fuzz .............................. A
Paul ................................. A+*

So if I've learned anything, it is that the shorter the title the better the movie.


IHAO ... on "Helen and Troy's Epic Road Quest"

I finished reading A Lee Martinez's newest novel "Helen and Troy's Epic Road Quest" the other day and I very truly loved it.  Who is A. Lee Martinez, you ask?  Well he is one of the best writers writing the best novels with the best schticks.  He is a guy who writes about awesome things with amazingly relate-able and complicated characters that all flow like amazing films and really, they all should be.  Divine Misfortune, the Automatic Detective, Gil's All-Fright Diner, Monster (it is a crime that only one of the five I just mentioned have wikipedia articles), and the one I just said above that I just finished, which I'll review below!

I am a sucker for the "quest" motif in fantasy and adventure stuff, and I think it was handled great here. I loved the orcs, I loved Helen and Troy's relationship, I loved the world. It is a great book, and would make a great film, to boot.

It isn't a perfect book, but my complaints are very minor. Sometimes the way the action is described, while nice and bloody like a quest is back in the old legends, is a bit jarring from the rest of the tone of the book. It is one thing to be smashed to a pulp (a semi-cartoony sounding bit of violence that is consistent with the tone Martinez set up) and to have your jaw all but hanging off and teeth being knocked out, which is a much more visceral and harsher bit of violence. It is a minor distraction that is in and of itself well written, though.

I also found it odd that there were moments where the books, which is mostly centered on Helen, seemed to think it gave equal weight to Troy. The limited perspective was probably (when on the protagonists) 70/30 in Helen's favor. I think the goal was to have it really be equally balanced, but Helen just ended up taking more of the protagonists perspectives, so when it did switch to Troy's perspective it didn't feel as natural.

Those two things might sound like big complaints, but they really truly aren't. They are minor things I noticed that in the end had no real impact on the fantastic story. I loved how the concepts of villains/heroes were twisted and turned. I loved the world that was set forward and the modernization of the old legendary Quest tropes. I loved the defiance of Fate (or fate) and how the book never answered really if fate was truly in control or just a good guess. Martinez's Helen is one of the best female protagonists I've read in a very long time, and Troy is a difficult character to write in the same veins as Superman (which Martinez has stated in the past on his website) that he took to very well and because a very good "mostly perfect" yet still flawed and intriguing character.

And the orcs! They were my absolute favorite characters, Nigel and Peggy and James and Franklin, all of them.

I could keep talking, but in the end, I think I've said everything that's important. You should read this book. Touching, adventurous, tense, funny at points, and thought provoking all throughout, which is the BEST thing a book can do in my opinion. Read this.

A or *****


Changeling NPCs Wiki

Eh, "wiki" is a bit much, but whatever.  Here are all the NPCs with all the "known" information about them.  As more is learned, more will added.


Hearthhome is a homeless shelter in southern Washington DC, in a not great part of town.  There are quite a few mortals and changelings that make their home in the shelter, as well as it being the home of the Hearthhome Freehold.  There are 4 major social courts of the Hearthhome Freehold, but no one is required to be in a court to join.  They do have to swear fealty to the ruler of the court who is running the Freehold during each season, though.


John Hearth, Elemental Fireheart (a candle), the Spring-King and acting Summer King.  He owns and runs Hearthhome, and was one of the founding members of the freehold almost 4 years ago.
Flowers, Fairest Flowering/Playmate (a rose), is John Hearth's adopted daughter.
Robbie D (Pitbull) and Robbie P (Parakeet), both Beast Truefriends and Jersey-style bros who enjoy partying and just enjoying life, despite their changed lives.
Capp, Elemental Woodblood (mushrooms), a homeless man who is very kind
Hank, Fairest Minstrel (John Morrison from WWE), a completely shameless busker with a guitar who plays with Sophia and Trinidad.  He is amazingly attractive, and just genuinely nice seeming.
Gogoat, Beast Broadback/Render (goat), a college student who enjoys being a pretentious hipster almost by accident, now spends time making and selling cheeses at farmer's markets and goblin markets.


VACANT - Summer King
Big Bad, Beast Hunterheart (a wolf), a biker who seems very angry.  He has a fetch he has tried to kill, but has been unable to do so so far.
Roach, Beast Skitterskulk (a roach), he works for DC sewer system along with Taps.  He is a not very well liked guy, being a troll and kind of a dick.  When he escaped Arcadia, he was in the sewers and came upon a sewer worker by accident, who he murdered and took his life.  He isn't proud of it ... he was just tired of being the one who got squished.
Pidge, Darkling Skogsra (a bird-man/tengu), a japanese homeless man who has a thing for birds.  He seems dour at best, and English is probably not his first language.
Flint, Elemental Earthbones (a big ole rock), a quarry rock with a "chip on  his shoulder" that was able to escape from the Leprechaun Baron’s realm before being smashed by a Crump.  When Crump (the PC) came to him, he exploded in rage, knowing exactly who Crump was and telling Crump for the first time that all the rocks he was smashing were actually people he was murdering.
Wreckless, Ogre Gristlegrinder (shark-like ogre), a phillipino-american professional eater on youtube and generally a huge diva.
Samson, Ogre Bloodbrute (gladiator ogre), a homeless man with muscles on muscles and hair to the back of his knees who is incredibly dim-witted, incredibly angry, and incredibly loyal to Ogres.  He is trying to put together an "Ogre Court" but doesn't actually know how to accomplish this goal yet.  But no matter what, "Ogres are for Ogres."


Chuck, Beast Roteater/Lurkglider, a homeless Condor that sells at the goblin market and searches for tokens.  He was the previous King Autumn, though how the court actually works is yet to be seen.
Scissors-Jack, Darkling Razorhand, a homeless guy with butcher knives for fingers.  He seems lost and very child-like ... until he begins to talk about politics.  Something about politics brings out an incredible intelligence that his nature does not show.
Layla, Fairest Shadowsoul, a professional “mistress” in Congress, and the most well-off member of the freehold.  Her shadow does not seem to match up with her motions most of the time.  She is owed a favor from Elizabeth and Hobcat in the future.
Zion, Ogre Corpsegrinder (an ogre frog-man), professional eater on youtube with Wreckless.  He seems the brains of supposed Ogre Court, though doesn't seem interested in running it.
Taps, Wizened Miner, a long nosed elfen man who also works for the city sewers.  He is a very "hands off" type.


Sophia, Darkling Nightsinger (entirely purple with white/silver hair and a sultry thick voice), a fiddle playing busker with Trinidad (her significant other) and Hank.  She is the Snow Queen, and general ruler of the Winter Court, though she always refers with Trinidad on decisions, though he is not in the court.  She runs the court with all the dignity, pomp, and circumstance of an actual medieval court.
Reba, Wizened Oracle/Chirurgeon, a “psychic healer” who makes her money faking tarot card readings, but actually does have the gift of seeing the future.  She is a former nurse as well.
Sweetheart, Darkling Illes, a hooker who is very ... shapely, but not necessarily attractive.  But for some reason, she oozes sexuality.  She purposefully obfuscates and lies, refusing to give truth to any she doesn't wish to.
Ali Baba, Elemental Sandharrowed, a homeless muslim who made his way back from Arcadia by accident, thinking he was in paradise.  He is now list-less and despairs for his knowledge, wishing for the blissful ignorance he had as a sand dune.
Manuel Santos, Wizened Brewer, (a living keg with arms and legs) owns a bar called the Black Cauldron, that houses a gambling game that Eric Vale was a part of in years past.


Calvin Hobbes, Darkling Antiquarian (a man made of paper, stuck in an old library) who now works in Office Max.  He refuses to have a court, seeing them as a waste of time, and he just wants to keep his human life going.
Daitya, Ogre Daitya (an ogre guard), a homeless woman with a magical Hedge Sword made of thorns.
Sarge, Wizened Soldier, homeless, stolen in Vietnam, freeing himself after slaughtering every other changeling he met on his escape, finding himself in China.  He made his way back and now stays in the Shelter.  He joined the Courts of the Four Directions, or Feng Shui, to survive, and has found they serve his purposes.
Trinidad, Wizened Thusser (a big blue troll), a Norwegian mandolin player.  He follows a court system from the more artic regions, the Night/Day court, and specifically is the Night King.  He helps make most decisions of the Winter Court with his significant other, Sophia.


Boston Whipperwheel, Ogre Cyclopean with a fae mount, a frog creature with seats inside of it.  He knows Turnip from his human life as well as Elizabeth, and is a "slaver" though he doesn't use the term - he sells humans to the fae.  No known court.

Lucky, Ogre Gremlin, works for the Lepreuchan Baron to find workers for his Realm with a hedge-thorn whip.

An Ogre Oni (a nosferatu looking vampire) & a Darkling Leechfinger (fat guy tentacle monster) who attacked Elizabeth and ran in the shadows.

The trumpeter, a Wizened Drudge working for the Leprechaun Baron, still in Arcadia

Jacob Odds, otherwise known as the Leprechaun Baron, a powerful fae who used to gamble with humans in the eighties, but has since moved on to other goals unknown, including buying up Crump's granite and stone warehouse.

Arnold Slatemore, Crump's fetch, scared away as Crump went to take back his life.

V, Eric Vale's fetch, who brokered a deal with Eric Vale to give Eric ungoldly amounts of money as long as Eric doesn't come into Wall Street, NYC, or kill V.


IHAO ... on NPCs

This started as just a bank for all the NPCs in my Changeling game, which you can read the first four little sections of on the blog.  But I ended up feeling like talking a little bit more: making NPCs.

An NPC, for people who don't know the terminology (though I highly doubt people reading this would actually not know the terminology, but if you don't, hey, how are you?  Doing well?  I appreciate you reading these) an NPC is a Non-Player Character.  That means in a roleplaying game (and also in video games) any character that you as a player do not have direct control over.  Video games have a little more ... wonkiness to the definition, what with pets and squad mates and yadda yadda yadda ... so perhaps a simpler version is "a character whose perspective is not the lens you see the plot through."  I actually like that better.

NPCs are necessary to storytelling.  You cannot have an entire game of just smashing things willy-nilly.  Those games get tiresome.  And even then, those games that you DO do that, someone had to guide you to go smash things.  And if those things that you are smashing are intelligent, like a boss or even just a leader minion, those count as NPCs, too.  A game with no NPCs is just a player ... and that's it.  If it is a group of players, all you end up doing is fighting amongst yourselves.

Doing games, and creating characters, is about expressing concepts that are important to the world of the story you are telling.  If you need to express ... that the city is incredibly poor, an NPC who is a beggar, perhaps even one that stole a silver coin from one of the players, is a much stronger way of involving the character and player into the world than just explaining "this city is incredibly poor."  NPCs create stories, and all should have stories.

In the same vein, they all should serve a purpose.  You cannot just have an uber-NPC around just to be better than everyone else, or just overpowered, or to "get players out of a jam."  All games should be focused on the players: they are the protagonists to the story you are showing, and if all you do is have uber-NPCs wandering around, then it defeats any power the players have, and overall deflates the story, making the players merely voyeurs in another character's story.  On the other side of that coin, you cannot just allow yourself to have pointless NPCs.  Every NPC should have a purpose.  They are the fastest, most entertaining, and most efficient way to present information to your players, and they will listen or ignore them at their own discretion.  If you start having too many (something I tend to do quite often) then the messages they are passing around become muddled.  Their purposes become mixed, and the players do not know where to move, who to listen to, and in the end, will more than likely not listen to anyone.

Using Changeling as an example, I needed to flesh out the world, because Changeling, by its nature, is an incredible social game.  To get their energy to use their fae powers, a Changeling character has to interact with NPCs.  To gain access to higher power spells, or artifacts, you have to interact with NPCs.  Hell, to survive, you have to interact.  It is a dangerous world, and very very few characters can survive alone.  Oh wait, they cannot because even if a player DOES try to do that, the character slowly goes insane from lack of Clarity as they keep themselves locked off from either side of their bodies.  And that's not even  including antagonists, clues, quest-givers, retainers, allies, and just cool pieces of information.  It is a LOT of NPCs to consider as you make your game.

And that's what makes it so magical.  That's what I love.  I had to create ... around 40 or 50 NPCs for this game ... so far.  I have yet to create all I need, because we are only in the first story of seven.  There are a lot of characters for my players to meet, and all of them need to serve a purpose and a plan for the story.  Which is the difficulty.  But I feel my players have really fallen in love with the concept of meeting these characters.  And that thrills me.  To hear Daniel exclaim how much he loves Roach because he sounds like Andy Richter (totally by accident/happenstance, because I have no clue how to do that voice) is wonderful.  To see people roll their eyes because the Robbies are bros and are just goofing around is magnificent.  To sit down with a player and just talk, over facebook chat, for long lengths of time, about small things like why they are hiding their name, or how the social system within this group of lost and hurting people works ... it is so fantastic.  To just be able to say "Ogres are for Ogres" and have my players wonder and try to figure out what NPC said that, and what it means, and why they said that ... it is all so thrilling to me.  To just be able to have conversations as these characters is wonderful.  They are the only characters I actually control.  It is the give and take of the game.  So I suppose it isn't fair to call NPCs that, because I am a player within the game, and those moments, arguing with a crazy cat girl about her wanting to break into the aquarium, they are what make the games come to life.

Then when the plots come in ... then they are hooked.  All because of a little extra work and well made NPCs.  That is gratifying.  And tabletop games are the only ones you can do that in.

But that's just my opinion.


Changeling Session Report 3 - Slatemore's

Firstly, I really need to get one making a video opening "credits" for our tv show.  This is really just for me to remember to do it than to share that detail with you.  All right.

The session starts with an opening montage of everyone waking up the following day, July 15th.  And it is a blistering 127 degrees.  That is Arizona-like high temperatures.  The group (sans Eric Vale, who is still at the Hyatt) meet up in the dining hall.  They find a letter telling them that there is a Summer Banquet this evening, at which point they can make their final pleas and the freehold will decide if they can join.  Their hear a strange tapping that becomes language they can understand, telling them to come outside.  Outside is Roach and Taps, Roach's co-worker for the DC Sewer system.  They tell them that they have the day off and they are to help take them around until 7.  Crump very much wants to figure out his life, and for the first time decides to check his pockets.  He finds a business card for Slatemore's Marble, Slate, and More, a stone company in Springfield, VA.  Taps says he'll take him there.  "Maddy" says she wants to go to the aquarium because "she is hungry" (she's a cat, you see, and having a hard time coping) so Roach agrees to take her there.

Meanwhile, Eric Vale tries calling his contacts in local gambling group (which he has dots in Allies, huzzah!) and gets a spanish guy, Manuel, who asks him for the password and proof he is Eric Vale.  Eric says there is no password, and talks about Jacob Odds.  Manuel agrees, and tells Eric to grab a cab and head to the Black Cauldron, a bar.

At the aquarium ... goodness, it is just ... the number of failures was just endless.  Roach pulls up and "Maddy" wants to take Hobcat in with her, but Roach eloquently puts it that they won't let a house cat into an aquarium.  Then Maddy tries to lie her way in and fails.  Roach buys tickets.  Inside, Maddy tries to steal a key from a worker to get back into employee access, and fails.  Roach laughs.  He explains a bit about the Summer Court, and Maddy immediately likes what she hears and asks how she gets in.  He tells her to go make a mortal angry with her, and it'll be easy.  Maddy is unequipped to make people angry, it seems, as the same woman she tried to steal from earlier she tries to make angry by hitting on her (the woman was wearing a wedding ring and a WWJD bracelet).  Instead, the worker just smiled and felt bad for the poor homeless girl.  Roach just laughs and tells her she should look into other court options, probably Spring.

Taps and the rest pull up to Slatemore's Marble, Slate, and More ... to find it in liquidation.  This did not make Crump very happy, as he was only stolen in the mortal world for 2 weeks.  So he bursts in ... and finds his fetch ... staring back at him.  His fetch runs, and Crump chases after him.  Crump tries to tackle him, but the fetch dodges out of the way.  At this point, Turnip, Yo-yo, and JJ all run after Crump.  JJ uses some Judo to throw Crump to the ground and keep him grounded.  Crump is a strong fella, though, and gets up and runs to the office, where his fetch has locked himself inside.  But barriers are nothing to Ogres, and he just cuts through it like paper with his Contract of Stone's Ogre's Rending Grasp clause.  Crump scares the crap out of his fetch, who just runs, leaving behind everything, keys, wallet, ids, everything, for Crump to collect ... well, after an argument and some problems with Turnip Husk who was holding a grudge from Crump hitting him earlier.

Eric gets to the Black Cauldron, and he and Manuel actually have a very pleasant conversation.  He catches Eric up on the group, on the fact that Jacob Odds has been gone for exactly as long as Eric has (13 years) and that Manuel is the only supernatural still gambling.  He also says he will introduce Eric to the freehold and vouch for him, as tonight is a big Summer Banquet to see if the freehold will accept new Changelings.  They drink to that.  Roach and "Maddy" continue having a decent time at the aquarium, before Roach realizes they need to start heading back for the Banquet.

Crump, trying to get things in order, learns the truth about his fetch: he was a terrible business man that ran his life financially in the ground in just two weeks.  A worker for Slatemore's told them that the place is sold and they have until September 22nd to get out of the warehouse.  Crump found the contract, and saw that it was signed by Jacob Odds.  Yo-yo used his Contract of Reflection to look into a mirror in the office, and saw it happen ... revealing that the Leprechaun Baron is Jacob Odds.  They do not have long to deal with this information, but it confirms for Crump that while he may have his life back, he isn't done with all this fae crap, so he agrees to go along to the banquet.

Once there, every character had enough time to speak to 3 different NPCs of the whole Freehold, who were all there for the vote that evening.  I'm not going to mention all the NPCs in the freehold, just the ones that each player talked to (and I actually have to have two more conversations with one of the players who had to leave).  I'll just mention the ones I remember, because it was a lot of character talking.

 - Eric Vale talked with John Hearth, Chuck the vulture, and Roach, trying to get a group together to help him with his quest to kill Jacob Odds.
 - Crump spoke first with John Hearth about feeling the need to join the Freehold, which Hearth agreed was wise, and made vague mentions of changelings losing Clarity if they don't.  Crump ended up talking with all the Ogres, who told him that "Ogres are for Ogres" and that they liked him.  He also talked with Flint, and learned the heartwrenching truth that every stone he crushed in the Leprechaun Baron's realm was a human, a person, destroyed and killed.  Flint was lucky to escape, and now has a chip on his shoulder about Crump.
 - Yo-yo talked about, looking to the psychic healer Reba, who told him she wasn't really psychic, it was just an act.  But when asking about fetches and help, she pointed him to Big Bad, though warned him he might not like what he heard.  In Big Bad, a Hunterheart Wolf, he found a ... comrade maybe, who hated fetches.
 - Turnip Husk talked with the Robbies, Robbie D and Robbie P, two Jersey Shore bros who were turned into pets (D was a dog and P was a parakeet) by their keepers.  They just had a good time and Iced Turnip, which he very much liked being forced to drink alcohol.  He then had a very long indepth conversation with the Sarge, a Wizened Soldier from Vietnam who was actually trained in the Courts of the Orient, and didn't follow the Seasonal Courts.  It was a very long, and surprisingly good conversation, considering Turnip's personality.
 - JJ spoke with everyone she could to learn of the courts.  She spoke with Pidge, a homeless changeling dark and covered in brown that had a pet pidgeon, about the Summer Court.  She spoke with Calvin Hobbes, who refused to join a court and just wanted to start life again.  He had nothing good to say about any of the courts.  She moved to Sweetheart (Darkling Illes), one of the Winter Courtiers, who told her not much about the Winter court, but that all of the changelings here today were in the freehold.  Whether this was politeness or actual misdirection, JJ was not sure.  She finally moved to speak with Scissors-Jack, who seemed very quiet ... until speaking of Court politics, which he rattled on and on about, seeming to love the politics.  He also made reference to the fact that he had some ... clarity problems.
 - "Maddy" immediately hit on Hank some more, who was both gorgeous and without any guile.  She spoke with Manuel Santos, the Brewer, wanting to learn more about the Winter court, and in the end getting a job and place to stay, if she wants it.  She then had a conversation with John Hearth, where he called her on her bullshit and lying, telling her he knew she was Elizabeth.  They talked a lot about family and she learned that Changeling cannot have children.  It was sad, and touching.  He pointed her to Sophia (Darkling Nightsinger), the Snow Queen of the Winter Court, and she learned that the Winter Court runs the most like a medieval court, with the Snow Queen and Trinidad, the Norwegian troll, as the Night King.  Elizabeth made a good show and impressed Sophia, who told her to "find a pristine snowflake" and if Elizabeth did, she would be in the Winter Court.  Thinking quickly, she found Layla, a Fairest Shadowsoul, and cut a deal with her: Layla would give Elizabeth a diamond if Layla could at some point in the future, give Hobcat a task he must complete, as long as it does not directly hurt him and she sends her best protection with him.  Layla agrees, giving Elizabeth a diamond ring.  Upon showing this to Sophia, she was impressed and agreed, dubbing Elizabeth "Lady Elizabeth of the Sorrow-Frozen Heart".

The session ended there, with next session picking up with the final rounds of them joining the Freehold (maybe) and from there ... well, we'll see.


IHAO ... on Magic the Gathering

I played a lot of disparate time periods and blocks, going in and out whenever the winds changed too much or something interesting was on the way.  I played the most in college, from Onslaught to Llorwyn/Shadowmoor.  I really loved playing Onslaught block, I even remember my first two rares from my first two boosters then ... well, I remember Butcher Orgg and the other one I sold to buy 4 more boosters that day but I cannot remember what it was other than a black rare enchantment.  Whatever.

From there, I remember doing Mirrodin and Darksteel drafts and tourneys (I made a Shunt Draft deck that when I drafted 3 of them and an Arc Slogger ... was just completely awful because of the sheer lack of things for me to shunt, but I do love that card still, as well as Arc Slogger who is amazing).  Then came Kamigawa ....

Man, I loved Kamigawa (except for Soulshift, but that was relegated to Green/White/Black decks which were awful, so that's fine).  Awesome rats, awesome goblins, awesome samurais ... what a cool set.  I had all sorts of great decks and probably bought 3 boxes of it in college.  I loved this set ... then Betrayers came out and just ruined the power-levels with the Jitte and the ninjas ... and then Champions came out and was awesome though it tried to do a mechanic about having 7+ cards in hand without ever giving a lot of ways to keep your hand that stocked beyond just slow play, so the Jitte still destroyed.  But still, I loved Kamigawa to begin with.

Then Unhinged happened.  And that was ridiculous.

Then it was Ravnica.  And that's when I got into the most.  I had block, tourney legal decks that I won stuff with.  We drafted a bunch, I scoured eBay for cheap boxes, it was pretty great.  The gimmicks were fresh and interesting, the guilds were all neat, the mechanics made everyone happy.  Awesome stuff.

I heard a lot of bad things about Coldsnap, but I loved it!  I wanted more and more, but my friends that played at the time all avoided it, which means I ended up avoiding it more than I wanted.  I still super want just a box of Coldsnap, I like it so much.

Then came Time Spiral.  The the color shifting that made me super upset because of how much I loved Magic theory.  But that aside, it was a super cool set.  I was currently getting into the history of Magic, the meta-themes, the old plots, and seeing all those show up again, all the references to the past, all the magic theory and stuff was so cool!  And then planar chaos ... and the colorshifting.  Ugh.  Made me super unhappy.  I didn't buy a single bit of Planar Chaos.  But Future Sight was phenomenal!  It did everything I loved from the first part, but in the future!!!!

Then Llorwyn/Shadowmoor.  We played the crap out of those sets.  4 or 5 boxes, a bunch of tourneys and drafts, it was a huge amount.  I really loved this set ... and I super hated it at the same time, which is why I stopped playing there.  It became easy-mode.  The power of cards were getting ridiculously over the top, and tribe decks were so easy to make that there wasn't competition and skill in deck-building any longer.  It was just "I'm playing elves" and then spending more money than the guy playing Elementals.  Or spending more money on Kithkin and that beating the guy who spent less on Merfolks.  I was not immune to this, as I spent way too much money on a Treefolk deck.  And it won.  A lot.  It was so strong it was basically indestructible.  Oh wait, it was, because of Timber Protector.

Not only that, it introduced the most powerful and worst version of that exact complaint (about the game becoming about money instead of skill and cards being too powerful) with Planeswalkers.  They are awful.  Dreadful.  Terrible.  I hate them with every fiber of my being.  And I know most people don't, and that's fine.  And I know it is hypocritical to like a few (Koth and Karn, plus I like the old characters getting cards, not continuing to make more new planeswalkers ... where is my Squee planeswalker?!).  But it just killed the game for me.  The game was no longer something where I could spend time putting together a deck where everything cost only 1 CMC and it still had a fighting chance, because everyone else would just spend 300 or 400 more than me and have eight planeswalkers and a billion Day of Judgments and other ridiculous things.  The skill was gone.

So I stopped playing.

Years passed, I moved away from all my college friends, got a divorce, moved back to Newnan, and Innistrahd came out.  I love Ravenloft, I love gothic horror, and I was making friends who were interested in playing again.  So I jumped in.  And I kind of liked it.  I played a lot of drafts, and it was fun for awhile.  Transform is a pretty fun mechanic.  Blue/Black zombies was a novel approach.  Some of the cards are truly inspired.  And I like the actual story of what is happening with the Planeswalkers, which is nice and all.  But something was missing for me.  So I stopped.  And then I lost my job and needed money and sold everything.

Then I met my now very tight friends.  And they reminded me of the joy of Magic.  The fun of finding combos and doing ridiculous things like building a deck around having an incredibly low CMC or shuffling all the time or playing every card so that the game has to restart.  The fun of magic is making a deck or a combination and just playing it.  It isn't about spending money on the cards, or using the most Try-Hard I-Gotta-Win-Or-I-Don't-Have-Fun decks.  It is about building a deck entirely around the concept of never being attacked, EVER ... or winning because you gave all your opponents a billion life ... or just playing a farmer working really hard to get his rot-farm off the ground.

Now, I say all this because I was supposed to be picking my favorite set/block.  And I'm pretty sure I could answer this emotionally from my memories (Kamigawa) or from what I just liked to buy the most (Odyssey) I think the honest to god answer is that I don't care about any of the blocks.  I like building casual fun decks and spending time laughing and getting upset and destroying each other and making none of Josh's decks work because we focus on him, and getting really upset because I get focused on when I pull out my best deck even though I know I need to be focused on because it is my best deck.

But that's just my opinion.


Changeling Session Report 2 - Hearthhome

Had another very good session, and met a LOT of NPCs, because I love to populate the world and let a more "sandbox" approach happen in games like this.

The group, in Boston Whipperwheel's Frog Taxi Van, discussed among themselves everything, trying to wrap their minds around it all.  It was chaotic, and difficult, with very little real answers.  Boston told them that all of this was above his pay-grade, but that he was taking them to Hearthhome where they could have a good night's rest and stay safe.  Two characters, "Maddy" and JJ, had heard of Hearthhome in the past, though neither knew about the Supernatural aspects.

In Arcadia, Eric leapt down and began to exit.  He entered the Hedge on a very small path, and found himself trapped between baying hounds to his back and an army coming for him at his front.  A quick look around (and a very good roll) had him spot something red in the thorns.  A successful wriggling through the thorns and Eric finds an exit sign and a doorknob in the ground.  Opening it, he finds the mortal world, perpendicular to him, and Boston's Frog Taxi Van waiting for him.

At this point, the characters all meet (for just a little bit) and we realize that Eric Vale is from 1989, being the most time displaced of the Lost (other than "Maddy" who asks if Ke$ha is Janis Joplin ... ).  Boston hands Yo-yo his cellphone, and he calls his home ... and finds himself on the other line.  The other him tells Yo-yo that he and his family is sitting down for dinner, but gives him a cell-phone number he can call tomorrow.  This leads to everyone talking about fetches.

Boston drops them off outside of Hearthome, but Eric isn't going to stay at a homeless shelter, so he asks to be taken to the Hyatt.  So they head off, leaving the others outside in the rain.  No one is really sure if they can trust this place or anything, really.  A homeless guy comes across the street and very pleasantly meets them.  His name, they jokingly say, is Capp, since he is a mushroom looking changeling ... but it is!  And he's super happy that they guessed his name.  He knocks on the storm door, and a little girl changeling of roses and flowers and sweetness let's them in, and he and she go off, leaving our characters wet and standing in the foyer-hall, waiting.

Eventually, a bald Bill Cosby with his head on fire comes to them and introduces himself as John Hearth, the Spring King and owner of Hearthhome.  He promises to explain anything they may want to know if they just head to the dining area.  They pass through a rec room with a handful of people in it, a few changelings, but also a few mortals.  Turnip Husk starts bothering a mortal, causing John Hearth to harshly drag him into the dining room with the others.  While there, they see a few other changelings walk by: a muscles on muscles huge long-haired latino-maybe guy, a slenderman with butcher knife fingers, and a very nice Condor man named Chuck, who brings them a bowl of Goblin Fruit, giving them each their first taste of glamour.  "Madagascar" immediately spends some to activate her Contract of Fang and Talon and talk to Hobcat again, who is clearly not very happy being in the mortal realm and knows very little about it.

Meanwhile, Boston drops Eric off at the Hyatt.  Eric pays him well (Resources ***) and heads in.  The guy at the desk is curious at Eric's name and asks for ID ... and sees one that expired 19 years ago.  Some quick fast talking and a greased palm and it isn't a problem, though.  Then a "back to the future" moment happens, and the guy says there was an envelope left for Eric in 1989.  He headed to his room, room 619, and tried to contact his former gambling group, but got no answer.  He called for room service, then heard a knock on the door.  He answered, and it was himself, well, his fetch (rolled very well on Clarity loss for a Fairest, I was POSITIVE he was going to lose it, but nope).

John Hearth answers the questions that the lost had about what had happened as best he could, and lays out that today is a free day for them.  They get a bed, food, somewhere safe to be.  But it'll only be for the evening.  Then they are on their own unless they join the Freehold.  The freehold charter is masked above the hearth in the rec room.  He also explains that he shouldn't be the one answering for them, but there is no Summer King, so he is the acting one.

The court system and general ... confusing nature of their new world made things difficult to swallow, and everyone reacted a little differently.  Yo-yo and JJ both very pragmatically looked through the contract and tried to talk with anyone that would give them information, starting with a cockroach in a jumpsuit named Roach (who sounds like Andy Richter) and then a troll playing a mandolin, though he only spoke Norwegian.  Turnip Husk tried to fast track his way into the Freehold once he learned that there was someone with weapons by breaking the glass the framed the Freehold Contract and signing it, but that clearly wasn't going to work.  He was not making good impressions.  Elizabeth decided to try and find Hank, a changeling who could speak with the Norwegian Troll.  Crump sat down and tried to sleep.

Elizabeth (sorry, "Maddy"), outside and alone, with a quick streetwise roll (my guys are very good at succeeding, good for them) she headed towards a late night spot where she could likely find live music, which is where she would find Hank, a busker on guitar.  She hears a trashcan get knocked over and turns to see two changelings, one a fat leech in a tank top, sandals, and atheletic shorts, and the other a ridiculously stereotypical bat-person.  They lay it on pretty thick what they are about to do to her, and she runs.  Well, she tries to, but the leech is surprisingly fast and sinks his tentacle arm into her left bicep, clearly draining her blood.  "Maddy" tries to attack the Leechfinger ... and gets a dramatic failure ... and gets tangled up and grappled tightly.  The bat opens his mouth and his jaw distends and he rips a huge chunk out of her right bicep.  In a round, she was down 4 lethal.  The players were crazy worried that this was a dead character, session 2.

The bat spat out the chunk of flesh from her arm, saying "Damn, I thought she was a slut.  Let's go."  And the two of them sink into the shadows ... literally.  Her screams caught the attention of those at the night spot, and an amazing beautiful changeling (Presence ****, Striking Looks ****), Hank, came to help, another changeling, Sophia, came as well.  They brought her back to Hearthhome.  Everyone reacted as you would expect having just missed a very brutal attack that could have been much worse.  John Hearth activated his Contract of Eternal Spring, Warmth of the Blood to downgrade most of the wounds.  He sighed, and explained that while the Hearthhome freehold may be the only one close to Washington DC, there are many changelings who choose to not join up and instead do their own thing.  It is a dangerous world when everyone is in it only for themselves.

While all that was happening, Eric and his fetch were finishing a sushi dinner.  His fetch, who says he is going by V now, explains why he is here: he wants to make a deal.  As soon as Eric came out of the hedge, V became aware of his otherness, and with Eric already well versed in occult knowledge, V figured out what would happen to him.  So he came and proposed a deal: as long as Eric does not enter NYC at all, and does not kill V, Eric will get more fae power to find Jacob Odds, the man who took him, and have access to all the wealth that V made in the 24 years Eric was away.  Eric renegotiated to just a small section of NYC, and V agreed, under the terms that if the oath is violated, everything that Eric was given would be taken back, with interest.  They shook on it, and immediately Eric's Wyrd flashed to 3 and his Resources became a magical ****** dots.

Next session, we pick up the next morning as we see about people joining the freehold, looking up their fetches, meeting more of the freehold as they gather together, and learning the mysteries of the lost Summer King and the lost Summer Contracts.


Changeling Session Report 1 - Trolls in the Dark

Here we go, last night was our first session of our new Changeling game.  The cast again:
  • JJ (Fairest/Telluric) a beautiful clock.
  • Elizabeth "Madagascar" (Darkling/Hunterheart + Runnerswift) a cat .
  • Turnip Husk (Beast/Swimmerskin) a fish.
  • Yo-yo (Fairest/Muse) a statue.
  • Eric Vale (Fairest/Gameplayer) a chess set.
  • Crump the 16th (Ogre/Stonebones) an ogre made of stone.

The game opened with a long camera move that shows Washington DC during the summer, specifically the mall, Washington Monument, and the Lincoln Memorial.  From there it goes through a grove of trees into the hedge, a huge mass of tangled brambles and thorns with strange fruits and strange creatures.  Lots of mood setting.

We cut to Crump the 16th smashing rocks in the bottom of a huge quarry.  A leprechaun, Lucky, all short and wearing green overalls, is sitting right next to him, whipping him with a huge vine of thorns and brambles and drinking a lemonade with a little straw umbrella in it.  This is how it has always been for Crump.  At one point Crump is given Lucky's lemonade to hold and just crushes it without thinking about it.

A trumpet blasts and a red carpet rolls down from the top of the quarry.  A little changeling servant with a trumpet announced the arrival of the all-poweful Fae Lord of this realm of Arcadia, the Leprechaun Baron.  And down comes a man in a very nice green Armani suit.  He tells Crump he needs him to pull his chariot.  So Crump for the first time ever puts his hammer down and goes to the top of the quarry to find a black Jaguar sports car, though it is fitted with a harness for Crump to pull.

Crump pulls it out of this little bubble of Arcadia into the hedge, staying on the path, before heading into another bubble that is completely different than the Leprechaun Baron's quarry.  It is a keep floating in the middle of space with the sun and moon spinning behind it like hands on a clock.  As he pulls the Jaguar up next to the keep, he sees two cats, one black and the other a strange wooden, six-legged cat with green stripes and exaggeratedly pointed ears and a statue of a man with a quill and a scroll.

As Crump pulls up the car, an incredibly beautiful blonde haired woman comes to the door.  Every time the "camera" switches to a new shot, she is in a new outfit, ranging from wedding dresses to bikinis to burkas.   As Crump follows the two fae and two changelings inside the keep, he keeps noticing the bits of lemonade on his hand.  He eventually sticks out his rock tongue to taste it, and suddenly gets a memory back to when he was human!  The shock has him lose basic motor skills and go crashing through a wall into a lost room filled with oddities, most importantly a beautiful clock made of stars, a fish in a fishbowl, and a chess set.

Through all of this, fireworks go off, and we see memories of 4 of the 6 changelings: the clock as it falls remembers being a high school gymnast and falling at a meet with talent scouts there, hurting her ankle; the black cat outside sees the fireworks that go off and remembers the same memory as Crump, though this is her as a human girl, homeless and being handcuffed for loitering; the statue's stone skin dusts off as he moves and remembers that same night as well, watching the fireworks with his wife.  As the changelings deal with their memories coming back to them, the fish gets on his back fins and tries to collect some gunpowder. "I'm going to need this."

The six-legged cat, Hobcat, tells them the basics of what is happening and suggests that everyone run before the Fae get there and just straight up murder them.  So all five of them plus hobcat (leaving the chess set, who was slightly mobile but did not make enough noise or motion for Crump to notice he was there) run out onto the path and leap off it into the nothing ... and fall through a hole at the bottom into the thorns landing in the Hedge Lake described in the opening.

The five of them introduce each other, and talk with Hobcat about some of the things going on as the fish, clock, and cat find themselves much more human than they were.  The fish goes swimming along the bottom and finds a big screen TV inexplicably plugged into the ground and showing static.  He swims back up and everyone swims down.  Hobcat throws some glamour into the tv and everyone drains out and finds themselves in the mall in Washington DC, wet and in the middle of a thunderstorm.  JJ, the clock now knows innately what time everything is, and tells everyone it is July 14th, 2012.  They all realize they've been gone for varying amount of times, from the few weeks for Crump to "Madagascar" alluding to perhaps decades.

As they argue, a taxi (actually a huge hobgoblin frog with seats in its belly) pulls up and an Ogre with a crazy third eye comes out, introduces himself as Boston Whipperwheel, and greets Turnip Husk (the fish) incredibly warmly.  He tells them they should all get in, and he will take them all to Hearthhome.

Back in Arcadia, the two Fae lords, the unnamed blonde and the Leprechaun Baron argue about their items being stolen and escaping and wanting them back as the little trumpet player looks at the chess set, whose pieces are spelling out the word go.  The little changeling unhappily wishes he could help, pulling out a stopwatch and showing the clock that time is all messed up here now that the walls are broken.  At one point, the hands on the clock (there are 6 hands: seconds, minutes, hours, days, months, and years) all line up for "5 years" and at moment, the chess set magically transforms back into a human in a very nice black suit ... but just briefly, as he turns back, scaring the little trumpeter and causing it to drop the watch.  The trumpeter puts the hands close to 5 years again, and the chess set becomes much more distinctly changeling, with a strange chessboard pattern covering his skin.  The trumpeter tells him he better run as he is forced to blow the trumpet.  The chess set, Eric Vale, pantomimes tipping his hat to the changeling, and leaps out the hole in the wall.



I like wrestling a lot.  There are moments and things I like more than others.  But when it comes down to it, I don't just like wrestling, I like the theory of wrestling.  What makes something work, what made something not, how to improve it, how to distill something down to its best.  As a writer and a wrestling fan who loves theory, this shows itself very well in fantasy booking.

"Booking" is the term for the basic setups of storylines and who wins and who loses what.  And I want to book a scenario for fun.  I'll do this every now and again, feel free to tell me I'm lame or wrong or right or whatever.

Heel Cena

The problem with Cena turning heel is that you have to make sure he doesn't just get cheered by all the people who want him to go heel.  Smart fans like me keep Cena face, which makes us angrier, and it doesn't matter.  So for this scenario to even begin to work, we need to find a way to make Cena heel to everyone.  Everyone has to hate him.

This job is way easier than I first thought.  Because half the fans (that's a generously low number I feel) already hate him.  The complaints against Cena are simple to understand:
 * He always acts like a dope with stupid jokey promos or EXTRA SERIOUS TIME promos
 * He never sells realistically
 * His matches don't get anyone over but himself
 * Every match he is treated like the underdog, even though he's one of the winningest "on top" guys ever, and has been on top forever.

Those things need to not change.  What needs to change is adding more things to make people hate him, and to make the fans that cheer start hating him too.  And that's where it clicked for me.  Come with me on this fantasy journey.

Let's say Cena holds the title for awhile then eventually gets in a predicament right around Summerslam where it is face v. face.  There are a handful of guys you can do that with for some real drama, and he performs as a heel in face v. face matches almost consistently  harking back to him v. Punk and both him v. Rock matches.  Daniel Bryan could work, though I suspect he'll be turning heel soon.  Sheamus is potential as well.  Punk again is possible.  But I think Undertaker would be a great choice.

So let's say Taker and Cena go mano-a-mano at Summerslam.  And the build to the whole thing is about crowd support, about the respect that Taker gets, and how Cena is about Hustle and Loyalty as well.  But things are wearing on him.  And walks in to Summerslam doubting himself.  This is a fairly standard build for Cena matches, and would put some doubt in who would win.  For our scenario, Undertaker wins.

Following that is Night of Champions.  Cena gets his rematch, but the fans are firmly on Taker's side.  The match is about Taker respecting Cena and Cena feeling bad about the whole thing.  His spirit is hurt.  Taker then says that Cena can choose any stipulation he wants for the match in a show of ultimate respect.  Cena takes a week and decides he wants it as a stipulation to clearly favors him.  Let's go with a cage match.

The match happens, and over the course of the match, Cena plays his role up, but Taker is veteran and the final spot comes where he finally almost has him beat.  AA, kick out.  Tombstone, kick out.  Give Taker a tombstone, kick out.  Cena musters up everything and finally plants Taker, then decides to climb.  As he gets to the top, he looks around, and the fans go nuts, because fan love spots from the top.  Taker gets up so Cena leaps down and does his guillotine leg drop, then pulls Taker up and gives him an AA ... but it breaks the side of the cage and throws Taker out.  Taker retains.  Cena is dumbfounded.

Cena demands another shot, and gets a "last chance" match at Over the Limits.  And there he loses super clean.  But gets up immediately after.  And is super pissed.

Next night, he delivers a promo.  He talks about how he spent years doing what the fans want.  But that's fine.  Because he knows what he company wants.  They want him as the face of the company.  They want him selling shirts and making movies like he always does.  So he's going to stay the face of the company.  He isn't allowed to challenge for the WWE title while Undertaker is champ.  But he can go after other titles.  So he will.  Cena is the WWE.

You have him debut a new shirt, Cena is the WWE, and then you have him start going for every belt.  At first, what's happening doesn't immediately catch on, and could be a while before they do.  But slowly and surely, Cena starts taking out and winning every belt.  He first goes for the US title, since that was his first title, and it is just competition at first.  Let's say Kofi has it again, because that's what they do, the put it on Kofi so he can lose it.  But he truly just destroys him on PPV like a jobber.  It goes maybe 4 minutes.  It was a crap match, but it firmly sets up heel Cena as the guy who no one beats.  He destroys a friend because he IS the company.

From there, he goes for the tag titles at Survivor Series.  If he eliminates both members, he wins.  And he totally does.

Then on to the IC at TLC in a ladder match, to give a fighting change.  But he takes it.

Then the Rumble, and he goes for the WHC and just absolutely is heel now and takes the WHC.  And is now holding everything except the WWE title.  At the Rumble, you set up someone, anyone really, who can be the next big guy, the next top guy.  Like Ryback COULD have been.  They win the Rumble, and immediately says that he is going to stop Cena.  Cena then destroys him.  Just out of nowhere, completely kills him, makes him tap out, AA through the announce table, just leaves him lying.  They set up a special Elimination Chamber where all of Cena's titles are on the line, and the current WWE title is in there too.  All titles on the line ... but Cena wins them all!  Cena now holds everything and IS the company!  So you have one heel Cena holding EVERY BELT ... but the next day as he celebrates and says he is the company, the rumble winner is back and leaves Cena lying!

They set up the match as if Cena loses, he is stripped of everything at Mania.  And it keeps getting bad.  You have the rest of the PPV set up contenders and finish other feuds that have been happening.  So it is all or nothing, Rumble winner v. Cena.  And there you crown a new WWE champ, strip Cena of everything, and now Cena is on a warpath, full heel mode.

That would be an amazing 6 months of story.  But, that's just my opinion.


Changeling: [untitled] - Setup and Session 0

I was previously running a Dungeons and Dragons game every monday for me and some of the good friends I had recently made through the theatre and their friends.  And that was a very fun game.  Dungeons and Dragons is a big destress for me as a DM, because it is about collaborative storytelling and watching characters interact in a world with elements I've created.  There is really nothing like table-top games.  We reached the end of the first book in our series of "novels" as I have set the plot out, with a lot of things happening, but mainly being a character leaving the group because a player moved away, another character dying and being replaced with a character that is incredibly well loved, and all the other characters hating each other and basically refusing to work together unless I give them "the sigh" and they all realize that I put together an actual something for them to do.

Some of that might sound bad, but really, it is a good group.  But I was ready for a change, a breather, a way to get all the characters on the same page, and time to give some separation for our buddy who moved. So I brought my other books up and gave two suggestions: a superhero game using a diceless system that, while not first-time-friendly, is still a very fun and good system; and a modern horror system, the World of Darkness.  We very luckily got three new people to join our group, one being my fiance, and what looked like it was going to be a group of guys all smashing things with super powers very quickly turned into everyone being really interested in doing the modern horror game.

From there it was picking a flavor, but we settled on Changeling.

I have run Changeling in the past.  I very much like Changeling.  And after a little bit of arm twisting, I'm positive all my players are super excited to play to.  Our first session is Monday, and it will start everything off, including teaching two new players how to even begin to play (but that'll be easy, I'm good there).

So I thought I would use this space to detail sessions, notes, and characters.  So lemme give a quick concept to the game, and a character breakdown.

The game will be Changeling: [untitled].  Yeah, I know, I don't have a title for the Chronicle yet.  But I do know the basics.

Our changelings will find themselves in Washington DC when they escape Arcadia and start their new lives.  They have all also given me plenty to work with for backstory, but I asked them to give me a story to mimic or homage over the course of the chronicle.  So there will be 7 or 8 "stories" - the opening one I use to get them together, then one of the ones they will pick will inform each story after, and then if I need it, a final story of my choosing to close the Chronicle.  I'm very excited for it.

Now, the characters:
  • JJ (Fairest/Telluric) was snatched and sold on the Goblin Market, transformed into a beautiful clock.
  • Elizabeth (Beast/undecided) was a homeless young girl taken by a creature in the dark and turned into a cat.
  • Turnip Husk (Beast/Swimmerskin) was a  lawyer who wanted an easy way out, responded to a "life of leisure" post on craigslist, and was taken into Arcadia and turned into a fish.
  • Yo-yo (Fairest/Muse) was an author whose rival sold him out and gave him to the fae, where he became a statue.
  • Eric Veil (Fairest/Gameplayer) was a gambler by trade, and knew a little of the occult, knowing one of his friends was a fae.  He made a wager.  And lost.  And became a game to be played.
  • Crump the 16th (Ogre/Stonebones) was a quarry worker and stone mason who was pestered by a Leprechaun and stolen away to become the Leprechaun Baron's 16th quarry miner after the last one crumbled to dust.

These six characters will together escape, form a motley, and try to find a way to survive in the real world, while avoiding the fae, dealing with other changelings, and other fairy tale weirdness.  It'll be a good game.

Tell me your thoughts.  I need a name for the chronicle as a whole, and I just generally am interested in hearing what any one of you is thinking.



IHAO ... on the Newsroom

Aaron Sorkin is not my cup of tea.

I know a lot of people like him.  I get that.  I also understand why ... I think.

Sorkin has a habit of taking sitcom situations and placing them in hour-long dramas based around a setting of politic or entertainment importance.  Studio 60 was a fake SNL.  Well, you know what, I have to take it back.  While most people, myself included, know Sorkin best for West Wing, he's done plenty of films and even an actual sitcom.  Which does not surprise.

The thing I do not care for Sorkin is that he doesn't write how people talk.  He writes how people think.  He crafts characters that do not have any actual realism.  They are people that exist in a purely intellectual state where all they do is talk and think deeply about things.  And looking at what I do, you'd think that'd be what I'd be into.  Except it isn't.  Because I care about characters.  Nuanced, flawed, talking like real people characters.  And Sorkin characters just are not realistic.  And are not nuanced.  Hell, I could make an argument from the Sorkin things I've watched that they aren't even truly flawed.  Sure, they have flaws, but things just go right for them anyway, despite their flaws.  They don't ever have to worry about their flaws, because the conflicts that come up are because of sit com scenarios that aren't character driven, but situation driven, hence the "sit" in "sitcom."

Anyway.  The Newsroom.

It was ok.  Olivia Munn was always a pleasure.  I think that's the only really good thing I have to say about it.  There were episodes where the drama of being in a newsroom and dealing with that stuff and the news and the troubles of ratings and all that was interesting.  But those were few and far between because the show is inherently flawed in its own premise.

It lives in a fictional past where this new network existed.  So every scenario is either about how this news network ALMOST said it the honest way everyone wishes the news did it, or they actually did but it didn't affect anything.  It is a show without an true consequences because it lives in the past.  Every decision and element is already decided.  And while there was some actual drama in a few episodes, none of that drama (except for the BEST episode which featured Olivia Munn having to take over at the desk for  day and while she knew the truth, her inexperience made her use off the record reporting to make a statement that her Japanese contact was too honorbound to actually say about the nuclear meltdown in Japan) was based on the actual workings of the news.

Look at the episode where they disgraced their "real news" credentials to talk about the Casey Anthony story so that they could make a new, hard-hitting debate style happen for the Republican Nominee Debate.  We, the audience, knows what happened here: they didn't host the debate.  Which means the entire crux of the episode, all the drama of them having to report the "disgraceful" news of Casey Anthony for ratings just to make sure they got the right to host the debate, the stupid blackout convienent excuse they use at one point to let a character express all their problems outloud intellectually with fake emotion that is immediately swept up because the power magically comes back on in a few minutes and they have to continue to report the Weiner Sexter pre-tape ... just every ounce of "drama" was pointless.  Because we knew what would happen.

If you cannot tell, I did not find the Newsroom good.  I understand why other people do, though.  I just prefer real drama with real characters with situations that make sense and have some mystery to them so that the choices the characters make actually have an effect.

But that's just my opinion.