The Saga of Pun Pun, the Kobold Part 3

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The past fortnight has gone very quickly.

We arrived back in town after our long journey back from the giant wasp escapade.  The fighter made a lot of noise the entire trip back.  I was not aware that a being could make so many groans, sighs and grunts per league.  Maybe this is also part of his training.  The fighter keeps telling me that he is a girl.  However, he doesn’t want to partake in the traditional anal sweep to be sure.  I am very confused, as he told me that if I try, I will pull back a nub.  I am not sure what a “nub” is, but I think that must be his male genitalia, after all, if the fighter was a girl, there would be nothing to pull back.  The ways and traditions of the surface dwellers are very confusing.

Dre is in high spirits.  He continues to chatter, sing and bang on things.  I am not sure what his specific role in the tribe is.  I know that he is not the witch doctor, as the Druwitch is fulfilling that role.  The Third is very quiet.  I haven’t seen him at all for the last several weeks.  He may be hiding under conjured rocks again, and I just don’t know where to look.  I kind of like The Third.  He is a very interesting surface dweller.

We arrived back in town late at night.  We would have arrived earlier, but the fighter insisted on walking at a slow pace during the entire return march.  I have heard of elite fighting forces that march at a very slow pace to show their prowess at synchronized movements. It is a martial skill, to be able to march at a maddeningly slow pace.  The fighter may be practicing this.  He kept wincing as though in pain, while making sounds like “ugh”, “ah” and “eee”, which I think may have been some sort of cadence to help the slow march return to town.  I was very surprised though, as I thought that a marching cadence was something that was done rhythmically to help everyone keep in step.  I tried to follow along with the fighter, but whatever he was doing did not transfer to the shorter step of a Kobold.

When we arrived back in town, late at night, we went to Commander Knowles office, and found that the door was locked.  Dre knocked loudly on the door but it appeared that Commander Knowles went somewhere else for the evening.  The fighter showed leadership by insisting that the party find a bunk at the nearby barracks and bedding down for the night.  I volunteered to stand watch at the door, ready to report first thing when Commander Knowles came in the next morning.  The rest of the tribe is getting better at being stealthy.  I was looking at the door when I mentioned that I would stand guard, and by the time I turned around, the rest of the tribe was gone out of sight.

I spent the entire night waiting for Commander Knowles.  At first bell, Commander Knowles came in, I reported to him about our successful mission.  Commander Knowles seemed to be distracted, and only responded by saying something like “yeah, uh huh, ok, go get some sleep”.

I found the rest of the tribe, and napped until they were ready to get up and report to Commander Knowles.  The fighter and Dre had an unusual ritual for waking up.  They moved stiffly, and appeared to be in pain.  Their faces winced in pain, as their bone joints popped and snapped and they kept mumbling something about “couvfee”.  They were bleary eyed until they drank the hot smoky brown liquid.  The couvfee seemed to have magical powers that made them feel much better.  Shortly after drinking the hot smoky smelling brown liquid, they appeared to be much more awake, and their eyes no longer were bleary.  The fighter was also really cranky until he had two cups of couvfee.  Dre mixed lactated extract of a mammal’s breast into his couvfee.

The druwitch didn’t seem to need this type of ritual.  She woke up, tended her weasel familiar, then made sure her goat mount was OK, then she started looking for food for herself.  I was impressed that she would take care of her familiar and mount before taking care of herself.  The druwitch may be an OK being, for a gnome at least.  I am not sure that we can trust her, since she is a gnome, and they are all horrific creatures that spout demon spawn from their fingers.  Cross a gnome, and you will see their pleasant faced aura drop, and the true horror of their being comes out, fiery eyes, smoke escaping from their nostrils, tentacles escaping from their armpits.  Gnomes keep the glamour, or aura up making them seem like likable creatures until they are crossed, then they lose their glamour spell and true evil beings come out.  It is best to keep the druwitch on my good side. I am still trying to figure out what this demon wants.  Probably to steal the souls of unknowing creatures.

We reported to Commander Knowles and met a new member of our tribe, and he is *dreamy*.  I would brood an egg for him any day of the week.  His name is Zedar, and he is 100 percent Dragonborn.  Tall, dark and handsome, He even is a spellcaster.  Think of the possibilities of having a clutch of eggs with this amazing creature.

I am sure that he likes me, but he is playing shy and hard to get.  I just can’t overplay my hand, and let him know too much that I want him..  Need him.. must have him as mine.  Normally, we Kobolds are not latched to a specific mate.  We share mates, and that helps make sure that the generations are well mixed.  But in this case, Zedar is mine, all mine.  If anyone tries to get between us, there will be consequences.  Dire consequences.

But enough, for now, about Zedar.  As truly beautifully amazing as he is.

We met with Commander Knowles and he told us what our schedule was going to be.  As entry members into the Order of the Crown, we must prove our selves by performing normal patrolling, guarding and escorting as directed.

Commander Knowles wanted to have us designate a leader.  I know that I am not a leader.  I am a simple Kobold.  The obvious leader was the fighter.  He knows how to take a punch and not die, maybe be very injured, but not die.  This is very important for a leader, as inevitably, some young turk will try to take your leadership away, and you need to be able to have the snot kicked out of you and still live.  The fighter has demonstrated this skill several times already, so that made him my first choice as leader.  The rest of the tribe agreed.  The Third was hiding so well in the office that no one noticed who he voted for.

When I nominated the fighter, I told Commander Knowles that I nominated Layalot, the Vigilante to be the leader.  The fighter looked confused, and he corrected me.  I need to remember that is isn’t Layalot, it is Liealot.

Commander Knowles gave a small clear orb to the fighter, we are to come and report any time that the globe glows or pulses a glow.  I am glad that the responsibility for this orb was given to Liealot, not me, as I don’t always wear clothes, and I might leave it in a pile of my robe, only to return and find it stolen.  Liealot, the fighter always covers his body with multiple layers of clothing.  I am unsure of what these surface dwellers are doing, hiding their bodies in shame.  I wear a simple robe to keep the burning gaze of the hateful orb off my body.

The Order of the Crown appears to be testing our abilities.  The missions so far appear to be pretty straightforward, without much intrigue.  The first mission we went on was to patrol the market during the day.  Our presence was intended to make the market goers feel safe, and hopefully keep the cutpurses away.

The tribe goes on the mission, and we wander through the market.  To be honest, we really didn’t have any training, and we were simply trying to not look like fools.  Shortly after we arrived at the market, we were assailed by a butcher who was trying to get us to purchase spiced meat.  He wanted three silver pieces for a portion of spiced meat.

The fighter and I knew that the only reason you “spice” meat is to cover up the rot.  This is a perfectly acceptable practice in Kobold tribes.  Meat spoils, and sometimes lesser beings need to have some way to hide the smell and taste of meat that has turned.  I have never had this problem.  My stomach is cast iron, and I can eat anything.  While the spiced meat sounded very appealing, spending an entire day’s wages on turned meat did not seem like a good way to spend money.  Besides, I needed to save my salary for paying for training by the Order of the Crown.

We pushed on, and shortly after that, there was a loud cry, and a horse drawn carriage bolted towards us.  The carriage careened through the crowd.  We quickly noticed that there was no one guiding the carriage, the horse was running wild.

We all jumped into action.  The druwitch and Dre started moving people out of the way, Zedar, the fighter and I ran towards the carriage, hoping to leap onto it and grab the reigns to halt its wild ride.  As it got close, I leaped into the carriage and grabbed the reigns and pulled hard on them, trying to stop the horse.  I may be small, but when I need to be, I can be very strong.  The fighter lept into the carriage and also grabbed the reigns and pulled even harder.  Zedar tried to leap up, and instead brushed by the side of the carriage.  Thankfully, Dreamboat was not injured.  Dre tried to leap onto the carriage as it passed, and missed, falling face first into a puddle.  The druwitch kept people safe.

The fighter and I stopped the carriage, and I immediately melt into the crowd, looking for more danger.  This was a good thing, and Liealot knew what to do, as the leader, he immediately took the credit for the tribe’s actions.  Being the leader, he basked in the glory of the successful mission.  As a Kobold, I understand that a simple tribe member exists only to make the leader look good.  I have no aspirations to be a leader, as having praise heaped upon me makes me feel uncomfortable.  It is good that one member of the tribe wants this praise, and is willing to take it from strangers who within a half a bell will likely not remember the name of their benefactor, and within two bells will forget the entire ordeal.

The shaman of my tribe told us several times that no one remembers the names of the heroes.  Only the bad ones are remembered.  If you want the glory, you should be a bad person who does despicable acts that will be remembered for generations.  I am not bad, and have no desire to become bad.  I worry that Liealot the Vigilante may be interested in being remembered.

The druwitch finds what likely spooked the horse. .  The horse has a large bite in her leg, about the size of a giant rat.  The druid patches up the horse, and I go for the high ground, looking for any other giant rats in the area.  There are none to be seen, but there are several sewer holes and grates.  It is likely that the culprit is in one of the sewers.  No one wants to go into the sewers to look for rats.  The druwitch and the fighter are adamant that the sewers are not in our patrol area.

We have some downtime after the market patrol, and Liealot convinces me that I should go with her to her church.  As a Kobold, the concept of a church is very interesting.  As near as I can tell, Liealot’s church takes money from the members and then sings, prays, and uses most of the money to build great monuments to their belief system, and gives a small pittance to the poor and needy.

I find this very odd.  I keep hearing from the surface dwellers about how Kobolds are sub-beasts, and obviously not civilized.  This is confusing to me.  The surface dwellers allow some portion of their people to live in squalor, and make them beg for alms.  Then some of the wealthier surface dwellers begrudgingly give small portions of their wealth to the church, presumably to cleanse their beings for a better afterlife, and the church then gives a very small portion to the beings living in squalor.

The surface dwellers also must pay more of their money to the nobles, so that the nobles can live a comfortable life, and apparently all the nobles do is breed, eat and occasionally ride their horses around the area, looking down upon all that they rule.  Meanwhile, farmers, craftsmen and merchants work hard to make something that they can trade to get the medicine, food, and lodging they need.  The nobles take their money that is taxed from everyone and pay a standing militia to keep the people under control.

This is civilized.

Kobolds work for the good of the tribe.  We all have jobs, and work to get things done.  There are no nobles.  Kobolds do jobs that are in line with their abilities to keep the tribe alive.  We have no possessions, so there is nothing to tax.  When we are attacked, we all fight to protect the tribe.  No Kobolds live in squalor.  No single Kobold goes hungry.  They all succeed or fail together.

This is not civilized.

The trip to the church was an eye opening experience.  At one point, Liealot told me that he was going to fast.  He wasn’t moving very quickly to start with, and ended up not moving very quickly while he was fasting.  Liealot had a long explanation about how he wouldn’t eat or drink while fasting, except that he would eat or drink small amounts.  I don’t see what not eating or drinking or only eating or drinking small amounts would help you go faster, but he seemed to think that this was a good thing to do.  Something about cleansing his soul.  I don’t know about this church thing.  They did have magnificent buildings, and beautiful ornamentation.  I decided not to ask Liealot about how may starving beings living in squalor could have been fed if they had a small wooden structure instead of an enormous cut and polished stone structure with massive gold arches.  I also decided not to ask if the beings who were living in squalor were fasting to cleanse their soul, or if they were simply starving to death.  These are questions for later.

Dre spent his downtime going from tavern to tavern, looking for work.  He evidently makes money by performing in front of people, hoping that they will put coin in his hat while he performs.  I don’t know how successful Dre is, as he appears to drink and eat his earnings instead of banking them.  Dre has a curious performance style.  He speaks rhythmically, while pounding on things.  I observed him doing this on the street in the market one afternoon, and many people seemed to show their appreciation by hurrying by him and not making eye contact.  Some people would throw coppers into Dre’s hat, but the vast majority of people hurried by.  Some of the people who had hatchlings would place their hands on the hatchling’s heads and turn the gaze of the hatchlings away from Dre as they hurried by.  Several of these people did not understand that Dre is not a street person, and actually has a good paying job.  They would say things to their hatchlings like “if you don’t learn to read, you will end up doing this” and “People who can’t get into the infantry are left with jobs like this”.  I am not sure if they were providing guidance that their hatchlings should, or should not busk for change in the market.  I was kind of surprised that Dre was the only busker that I saw who didn’t have a sheaf of paper with an official seal from the city prominently displayed near his hat.

The Third successfully hid behind conjured rocks the entire fortnight.

The druwitch spent her time getting to know other druwitches, hoping to learn more.  I can see that she is busy trying to develop her coven, so she can become stronger, and eventually do what covens of witches do.  I figure that she is working to open a portal to bring Orcus and his minions into this plane of existence.  That would be bad.  I don’t understand why a seemingly rational being would want to bring Orcus into this plane.  Orcus is a bad hombre.  After some careful thought, I realized that the druwitch’s mount is a goat, which ties her to the cult of Orcus.  Orcus is part goat, with goat head and legs, and is covered by goat hair.  I will need to keep an eye on the druwitch.  The church that Liealot attends may be a good thing to be close to, as they may be able to help destroy the coven of witches who are trying to bring Orcus here.  I need to bide my time and gather information so that I can get help in destroying this coven before things get too out of hand.

After watching the goings on at the church, I decided that I could be more useful working for Temujin, the armorer.  He is the cow/human halfbreed.  I know how half elves are made, an elf and a human have marital relations, and you get a half elf halfbreed.  The same thing applies to when a dwarf daddy mates with an elf mommy.  Similar to half orcs.  Now, given the comments that the farmer had on our trip to defeat the wasps, about us not bothering the animals in the stalls, I wonder who buggered who to be Temujin’s parents.  It is probably best not to ask.  There may have been some magic involved, or possibly too much ale.

Anyhow, for a cow/human haflbreed, Temujin seems ok enough.  He lets me work in his armory making fire arrows all day long during the downtimes.

At one point, Dre came in wanting some better armor.  Now Dre has an odd sense of humor that doesn’t seem to be understood by many other beings.  Dre started asking about how to improve his armor, as he only has simple leather armor.  There is not hing wrong with leather armor, as that is what I wear. Dre wanted to be tougher.  Evidently, his training of being beat into the ground to toughen him up is not going as well as it is going for Liealot.  Temujin shows him various armor types, and Dre is upset that he will have to pay for any improvements to the armor he has.  Dre is enamored with the plate armor, and thinks that would be pretty sweet, but recoils at the exorbitant price that Temujin wants for the plate armor.

Dre starts asking about other forms of armor, and mentions that he would like to have Kobold armor.  Temujin says that Kobold skin is no better than other leather, and Dre presses the point, joking (I think) by saying that my skin would make a good hat.  Now by this time, I have been working in Temujin’s armory for several days, and have made a nice selection of fire arrows for him, and Temujin appears to value the weapons that I am making.  Temujin impresses upon Dre that this is not something to make fun about.  Dre tries to play it off as a big joke, but Temujin seems to take offense to the comments.  The moral of the story is, it is OK to joke about those not in your tribe, but never joke about those in your tribe.

Our next job is to act as an escort to the tax collector.  The tax collector’s name is Nemen, and he is a pretty serious person.  He takes his job seriously.  He has a book, a backpack and a short sword.  We talk about his experiences, and ask if he has ever had brigands try to take the tax money from him.  He tells us a couple of tales about being attacked where one of the escorts was killed, beheaded even.  Nemen tells us not to worry, as we are going to be in the market area during the day, and that should be pretty quiet.  Now if we were going to the docks, or outside the walls, there might be more problems.

We follow Nemen throughout his rounds, and things are pretty quiet.  Nothing notable happens. It looks like the citizens aren’t happy about paying taxes, but they understand that someone has to provide the nobles with the lifestyle that the gods granted them.

Several more days of downtime happen.  I make more fire arrows for Temujin.  Liealot and Dre go to the church district and busk for money.  There is much discussion between them about how much of the funds need to be donated to the church.  Liealot wants half, Dre wants a small percentage.  After a full day of singing and playing their instruments, they have gathered about 50 copper and a silver.  Dre promises to give all of it to the poor.  This seems to make Liealot happy.

We are sent on another patrol.  This time, something exciting happens.  Liealot and Dre see something suspicious.  Dre goes over to talk to a person wearing brown pants and a green cloak, and has a bag.  Zedar stands and looks menacingly at the guy.  Liealot stands back and looks really agro.  I climb up the side of the building and wait to see what happens.  If this bad guy does anything to Dre, I will rain down fire arrows from above.  Dre demands to know what is going on, and the bad guy stands there and argues with Dre.  Lialot and the druwitch notice that people are walking towards the bad guy, and when they see the might of the Order of the Crown’s presence at this location the other people quickly turn around and go away.  The druwitch decides to follow one bad guy who turned away, and chases him down.  He claims that he has done nothing wrong, and when asked why he was running, he tells the druwitch that he was running because she was chasing him.  Well, I would probably run if a demon filled gnome was following me also, but that’s not the point here.  The druwitch brings the runner back and starts interrogating him.

Now I am not an expert in interrogation, but when the bad guys say “I have rights” and they don’t want to talk, that is obviously proof that they are doing something wrong.  If you have nothing to hide, then there is nothing to be worried about from the Order of the Crown.  The arguments proceeds, things get heated, and the druwitch tells her familiar to sniff the bad guy.  The weasel sniffs the guy and his bag, and doesn’t react as though anything is bad.

Then another group of the Order of the Crown arrives.  The leader of this group has a silver badge, and appears to have a different take on the situation than Liealot has.  The silver badge leader informs Liealot, the druwitch and Dre that people have rights, and they can’t just wave swords at them and threaten them.  Liealot seems to take this news better than the druwitch and Dre do.  They think that the silver badge guard should back them up and force the bad guy to open up his bag.

I hear the fighter say in a loud voice that someone should keep an eye on the bad guy.  That is my queue.  As he leaves, I follow him.  He wanders through the alleys and eventually ends up in a tavern.  I follow him in, and for a guilty piece of work, he is one cool customer.  He drinks a couple of flagons of ale, eats a meal, plays a dice game with some other patrons, and leaves the backpack that Liealot was convinced had contraband in it sitting on the bench near his cloak.  He was so confident of his position in whatever criminal gang he was that he left the bag outside of his direct reach.  This must be a very highly placed bad guy.  He knew that no one would touch his bag.

After a while, he retired for the night, and I followed him out of the tavern.  It was dark, and I lost him after he turned through several alleys.  I went to the barracks and woke up Liealot and reported what had happened.

Liealot asked if I followed the correct bad guy.  I think I did.  He was a furry mammal that had brown pants, a green coat and a bag.  How many of them could there be in a city of this size?  Come to think of it, there were a lot of people milling around and they all looked pretty much the same to my eyes.  But Liealot doesn’t need to know that.

Our next mission is night guard duty.  We essentially stand around and wait for something to happen.  This is not a very exciting job.  Almost nothing happens.  The biggest thing that happens is that a drunk adolescent comes up to us and hands Liealot a scroll.  He says that he found it, and thought it looked important.  Liealot and the druwitch thank the young mammal for the paper, and they look at it.  It is full of all sorts of mumbo jumbo, and Dre thinks it is a land deed.

I find the whole thing confusing.  The concept of a person owning something is still odd to me.  After all, the tribe is all.  The tribe occupies the area that we live in, work in, and hunt in.  We only occupy it until we are forced to move somewhere else.  The surface dwellers seem to be very focused on having tangible things that they can touch, and they go to great lengths to document their specific relation to the things that they own.

We have several days of downtime, then on another night, we are sent on late night patrol.  This one seems to go quietly, until the druwitch sees something move in an alley.  She approaches and says she sees a rat tail, a big rat tail.  I scamper up the side of a building to get a better line of sight to shoot with my shortbow, and the tribe attacks the two giant rats.  It doesn’t go well for the giant rats.  The druwitch kills one, and the fighter finally scores a victory by smiting it in two.  The way that the fighter carried on after that single stroke of his greatsword, you would think that he had vanquished an entire armored line of battle hardened orcs.

As we are looking at the corpses of the two giant rats, the druwitch spies more movement in the alley across the road. They run over and attack, and the druwitch uses a spell that sounds like a clap of thunder followed by a huge gust of air.  Two of the giant rats are hurt.  Then everyone but me gets into the fray.  The problem is that in order to snipe successfully, I need an opening to shoot at the bad guys with.  If the good guys stand between me and the bad guys, it is hard to shoot at the bad guys.

Zedar does some dreamy magic, and I lose all concentration of the encounter, since I am busy watching that amazing bundle of masculinity work his magic.  I wish I could say that the rest of the party did something, but to be honest, Zedar was so amazing that all I could do was watch his masculine arms wave as he swayed rhythmically, pumping his hips in a wild gyration… ooooooooooohhhhhhh nelly, it was really something to behold.  I could watch that man work all day long, and then on through the night.  He could fertilize my eggs anytime.  Wowzers.  What a dragonborn male.

Whew.  Is it hot in here, or is it just me?

Anyhow, after killing five giant rats, we need to keep moving.  Things are going well, when all of a sudden, there is a series of sharp barks.  And a pack of dogs is charging us.  Dogs are bad news.  They can bite you.  Worse yet, they can body slam you, knock you down, and then bit you.

The druwitch pops off a spell, and one of the five dogs stops attacking, and starts wagging his tail.  Dre tries to fairy fire the remaining dogs, but only is able to lite one of them up.  Zedar steps in, and casts some form of arcane spell that infests a few of them with fleas and ticks.  Interesting choice.

I scramble up the building wall.  I figure that dogs can not climb buildings, so I can get up high, and shoot arrows down on the dogs, while keeping myself safe.

The dogs attack the druwitch, and she is really badly bitten, and looks really bad.  She is up, but not by much.  The fighter steps into the fray, and is mauled by the four unfriendly dogs.  It doesn’t go well for the fighter.  She does her patented “impress the enemy by allowing them to knock me out” thing, but oddly enough, the pack of dogs is not impressed.  Zedar steps into the fray and kills a couple of dogs, but is taken down by the pack also.  Zedar seems to have the same fighting style as Dre and the fighter have, where you want to impress your enemy by showing your dedication to absorbing their blows.

With the fighter and Zedar down, it is up to Dre, what is left of the druwitch and me to finish off the dog pack.  We slowly whittle them down, and are able to stabilize Zedar and the fighter before they die.

We patch up Zedar and the fighter as best as possible, and they start to say that we should return to the guardhouse to report.  I think that they, along with the druwitch want to quite for the night.  This will not do.  We still have two more bells to finish our shift.  Just because they were mauled by dogs does not mean that we should quit.  What would Commander Knowles think?  Here we are, hired to do a job, and just because three of the tribe are just about to collapse under their own weight, we should quit?  That seems like a really bad idea.  That is not sharing the tribe’s burden properly.  Because three of the tribe members are barely able to walk, some other tribe members will need to come and work extra hard.

In the end, the fighter, our leader, decides that we need to go back to the barracks.  He is the leader, and he does have the orb of position, so we must follow what he says we need to do.

As we are proudly walking back to the barracks, the leader is once again chanting his cadence of “ooh”, “ugh” and “ahh erk” as we move slowly along.  Dre is out of sorts, I would have expected him to be beating a tattoo on his drums to keep us in time.  I think that Dre is also concerned about how we will be seen by Commander Knowles for cutting our patrol time short.

On the way back, we hear a commotion in one of the alleys.  Looking down the alley, there are four thugs robbing a fifth person.  The druwitch calls out in a loud voice “halt”, then casts a fireball onto one of the thugs.  The thug takes the full force of the fireball, and still lives.  The fighter gains momentary composure, stands fully erect, raises his greatsword in the air and says “Disperse or regret being born” or some such thing.  It might have been a loud “ooh, ugh, erk”, I don’t remember for sure, but I will give him the benefit of the doubt that he said something mighty and impressive.

The thugs run away as I try to reinforce their retreat with a fire arrow. I missed, because the thugs were moving so fast.

As soon as the thugs turn and run, the fighter rotate his great sword and starts using it as a crutch, and assumes the posture of what I normally see with invalid humans, all crouched over, and continues the marching cadence of “ooh, ugh, erk” as he slowly moves along towards the barracks.

The druwitch undergoes the same amazing transformation, remarkably gaining 40 years in age as soon as the bad guys move away.

I didn’t see what Zedar did, but I am sure that he looked graceful, sleek and beautiful the entire time as he stood magnificently behind me, just out of my view.

Dre seemed to be pretty much unphased by the entire thing.

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So we gathered at Dice Age Game Emporium yesterday.  Sue was still away.  Mike keeps denying that she is in the Witness Protection Program, but we all wonder.  This thing about flying out constantly likely means that she is either an undercover spy, going to third world countries to help Make America Great Again, or she is testifying in some major federal case, and is sequestered.  In any event, either of these alternate fact stories are much more interesting than her cover story of going to visit her daughter to care for her daughter’s cat while her daughter is training.  I mean, who else but a super secret spy organization would come up with such a mundane cover story?

Mike did have his government minder, code name “Bill” back.  Bill’s cover story is that he is Mike’s brother.  I am not sure what happened, but “Bill” started showing up occasionally after Mike retired from the county.  “Bill” also seems surprised by stories that Mike tells about his college VW van, and other things that Mike shares about his life.  So far, our association with Mike, Sue and “Bill” have not yielded a visible tail from the Trump kleptocracy.  Maybe I am still falling under the radar, since there must be many more people who are being assigned minders.

Bill (real Bill, not Codename Bill, the minder) was here today.  He had great stories to tell about the Barry Manilow concert.  There were granny panties flinging everywhere.  In addition to the granny panties, there was also Depends undergarments flying around.  Bill wanted to keep away from those, and told us that he successfully dodged every depends bomb, but reveled in the flower printed cotton goodness.

Eric was there talking about how he could be the best director of a government IT department. The biggliest, The most best ever. Better than anyone ever before, and his reign as Director would result in massive improvements in clarity, thruput and also general satisfaction of the entire world.  Then he said that he wouldn’t do it unless he was paid at least 3 times the top end of the job as being offered.  It was kind of confusing. To offer that type of service to the public, then pull back and say “nya nya nya” provides a confusing view on the entire interaction.

Collin was there ready to dominate and crush all opponents.  He was in fine form, smiling with his teeth showing, but fully capable of showing his teeth without looking as though he was ready to rip you throat out for standing in his way of total boardgame domination.  Since Sue was not there, we had no ritz cracker / mac and cheese / Satan’s anus dish to make Collin retch and recoil in horror from the gaming table.  That horrible nasty dish seemed to put Collin off his game.  That may be a good thing to bring in the future to help keep him off his balance during gaming.

Shari was also there, ready to have fun while sowing the occasional or more often chaos.  Shari seems to revel in chaos on Saturdays.  I have worked with Shari for about a year (I think), and she is totally into the job at work.  I hesitate to say “normal”, because, well, that isn’t Shari.  She is polite at work, keeps the boat rowing towards the goals, you know, all the right work things.  Then on the weekend, we see the alter work Shari.  It is an interesting flip that happens.

So what did I do?  Well, I brought games.  Board games to play.  Eric and I were talking on Thursday evening, and he told me that he bought a new game to him, but a used copy of the Heimlich Maneuver.  I was confused, and we finally realized that he was talking about “Heimlich and Company”  This game was published in 1984, and won the Spiel des Jarhes in 1986.  It has been published under several names, and here are some pictures of different boxes and names that I found on the Interwebs.

As you can see, it has been published under a bunch of different names over the last several decades.  Why does a game from 1984 warrant so many editions, names, along with being played at all in 2018?  After all, most board games that were published over 30 years ago never see the light of day a couple of years after they are published.

Well, this game is really simple.  I mean really really really simple, but it is a lot of fun.  You have to have the right group to play it.  I know, you keep seeing me write this about just about every game that I talk about.  But for this game to go from being kind of fun to really fun, you need players who are willing to stab each other in the back.  It is about spies, after all.  Everyone who watched Mission Impossible, James Bond, the Borg Conspiracy, or any other good spy flick knows that spies are always trying to subvert each other.

I played this game for the first time about 5 or 6 years ago, and found a copy of the Rio Grande games version of “Top Secret Spies”  Eric found an older version.  The main difference between the two versions is that my copy had an extra deck of cards that allows for variant play to spice up the game.

The core game is a lot of fun on its own.  The Rio Grande version of the game is still available, and the website has the following description of the game:

As in any spy story, the action in this game can be turbulent and confusing at times. The players search for top secret information on seven spies, hidden in a safe, which keeps being moved from place to place. Whenever an agent is able to crack the safe, more information becomes available. Each player is the chief of secret service in his country and sends his best agent in this race for information. The players should be careful to keep the identity (color) of their agents secret. To better conceal his agent’s cover, each player can move all agents in the game. The player who has managed to move his agent marker the farthest at the end of the game, has collected the most information and wins!

Sounds easy, right?  It is.  Every player has a card that has the color of their agent on it.  That card needs to be secret, it is a spy game, after all.  There are corresponding pawns on the board with the same colors as the agent’s cards.

Each player, in rotating order, rolls the die, which allows the player to move any combination of pawns clockwise around the buildings to a new building.  The die is a modified D6, where it has five sides, each with a unique number between 2 and 6, and then the sixth side as a “1-3”, which allows the player to decide how many pawn actions they want, between 1 and 3 pawn actions.  So if you roll a 5, you can move 1 pawn 5 spaces, 5 pawns 1 space, 2 pawns 1 space and one pawn 3 spaces etc.

Each building has a score.  This score is from 0 to 10 and a -3.  When a pawn lands on the space as the black safe, each pawn scores based on the current number of the building they are standing on.  The outer score track has wooden disks that have the same colors as the pawns.

After scoring, the person whose turn it was when they landed a pawn on the space with the safe then moves the save to a location which has no pawn on it.  When any player reaches 42 points in a scoring action, the game is over, and the player with 42 or more points wins the game.

Pretty simple.  However, the strategy comes from finding a way to subvert the other players and gain victory points while giving victory points to your competition, to hopefully not allow anyone to know what color your pawn is. This leads to lots of gameplay where people look like this:

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Shari, “Bill” and Bill are intently trying to figure out how to tank the rest of the players and get the winning move.

We played three times.  Each game took between 20 and 30 minutes.  When we finished the first game, I asked Collin if he wanted to play another time, and he shot me a crooked grin, and said “yes, of course” while looking pretty chuffed about this.  Collin also borrowed my copy to take home and torture his family with.

After playing three games of whatever you want to call this, Heimlich Maneuver, Top Secret Spies, or whatever, we decided to play another game.  I brought Cosmic Encounter and another one of my favorite board games “Power Grid”.  I have a ton of board games, probably really a ton of board games.  I love playing games, RPG’s, board games, mini games, etc etc.  I am not a big fan of video games.  My wife and kids love those, I prefer the human interaction face to face as opposed to knowing that you need to face your opponent and push “up up left left right down up up down down” to kill the bad guy.  Ok, I get it, there are games like that, and there are some really amazing MMORPG’s, along with other RPG’s which have some pretty amazing game play.  It just isn’t for me.  Kind of like how I don’t want to ride in Mike’s VW van.  But that is another story for another time.  I probably should let him tell that one.

I was pretty excited about Cosmic Encounter.  I bought the Broken Token insert, and I have three of the expansions, so I now have the ability to play with 7 players.  I asked Roy to order me the expansion that allows for the 8th player. Because, 7 players isn’t enough.

I only have a few board games which allow for 7 or more players.  Most of my board games allow for 2 to 4, or 2 to 5 players.  I just got one shipped from Kickstarter called “Texas Hold ’em Zombies”  I originally backed it because it had a cool deck of zombie poker cards, which would be helpful in any Savage Worlds game with… you guessed it…. zombies.

This was the card that sold the entire game to me.

poker cards, joker

Ok, I am a sucker.  I admit it.  A zombie game, with a pretty cool poker deck, but a goblin sitting on a bunch of dynamite, as the joker card.  Uh huh.  I was powerless to resist.

The game play is a modified version of poker.  I am not a huge poker fan.  I do use poker decks for Deadlands and Savage Worlds.

As I was saying, most of my games are for smaller groups, It is kind of hard to find a game that will play well for more than 5 players.

So, we looked at the two games, Cosmic Encounter and Power Grid, and decided on Power Grid.  Eric had played it before, so had I.  It had been a while for both of us.  Surprisingly, Collin had not played it before.  Spoiler alert, Collin enjoyed the game, and will likely need to buy it really soon.  Power grid is a pure strategy game.  I really enjoy it.  I have the base game, plus several expansions, including:

  • Benelux / Central Europe map
  • Brazil / Iberia map
  • Europe / UK map
  • The new power plant card set

There are five pairs of maps that I don’t have.  I also don’t have the Robots expansion.

Each map has several new special rules for play, that changes things up enough to keep the game interesting.  The Robots expansion allows for an “AI” to add robot players that follow some form of a script to expand the number of players, not to add additional player slots to the game, but if you only have 2 or 3 players, you can use the robots expansion to simulate other players to allow for more complex play.

Now, if you were to walk up to a group playing Power Grid, and watch the play, you might be put off.  The board is ugly.  Well, all of the game boards are ugly.  Well, ugly may be the wrong word.  With all of the fancy graphics and design elements being pumped into modern gaming, Power Grid looks just…. meh.  Not bleh, but meh.

Here is a picture of the America map that comes with the base game.  All of the maps pretty much look like this in style.

Image result for power grid board game

Looking closer at the game board, it looks like this:

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This is not an attractive game.  At least from my view.  There is no real chance, as in something that adds random play elements, such as cards or dice.

There is a little chance, but it is really related to how the players interact, who has the most powerful system, and what order they are bidding on things.

OK, so how do you play this game?

Let’s see.  I am going to give a high level look at it, as the game is really complex.

First of all, all players are put in order of play.  The order of play ends up being the player with the most cities to the least cities, in the event that two players have the same number of cities, then the play order for those players with the same number of cities is based on the number on their highest value power plant.

What?

It really isn’t that hard.  Kind of.  maybe.  sort of.

At the end of each round of play, the player order resets, and the player order is configured based on the last round of play.  For instance…

  1. Blue – 4 cities
  2. Black – 3 cities, highest power plant valued at 08
  3. Green – 3 cities, highest power plant valued at 05
  4. Red – 3 cities highest power plant valued at 03
  5. Yellow – 2 cities

For *BIDDING* on new power plant purposes, the order goes from 1 to 5, in order.  There are eight power plans visible to the players.  The first four power plants are the ones that are currently available to bid on, the next four show what the upcoming market will likely be, with a lot of caveats.

In the picture below, you an see that there are four power plants, 03, 04, 05 and 06.  These are the power plants that are being bid on.  07, 08, 09 and 10 are the upcoming power plants.

Starting in rank order, the first player must place a first bid, or pass.  If the first player passes on an initial bid, then they can not bid on any other power plants.  Say for example, player one wants to bid 3 Perry Bucks.

Capture

OK, it isn’t called Perry Bucks, it is called “Electrum” or some such thing, but Rick Perry Megabucks is better than Electrum in my view, and this is my blog, so there it is.  If you don’t like it, write your own blog and make your own jokes.

So Blue, player one in this case, bids 3 Perry bucks on power plant 03.  The player must bid at least as much as the number in the upper left hand corner of the card, which gets mondo expensive later in the game as new cards are played out.

Each other player can decide whether or not to bid up that card.  If everyone passes, then Blue gets to buy it for 3 Perry bucks.

If yellow wants that power plant, yellow can increase the bid as much as they want, usually by one over the previous bid.  Then it comes around to everyone who has not passed on this particular bid to determine if they want to jack up the price or not.  In the end, there is kind of a game of chicken going on, to see if you can jack up the cost on someone else, or not.

Once someone purchases a power plant, they can not bid on another power plant during this turn.  When a power plant is purchased, it is removed, and a new power plant is randomly drawn from the stack.  This can disturb all of the other power plants, causing the market to shift.  During the majority of the game, players can only bid on the four power plants that are in the top row, knowing that something better may always be coming up.

After everyone has had the chance to initiate a bid, or pass on initiating a bid, then the game progresses.

In this case, the players then get to purchase fuel, in reverse order.  The fuel is purchased such that the player with the lowest score buys first, going up the line to eventually having the player with the most cities on their grid purchasing fuel last.

There are four types of fuel, coal, oil, garbage and nukes.  Since we are playing with Perry bucks, the coal is clean coal.  It is unfortunate that I purchased my copy of Power Grid during the Obama era, so coal markers are dirty brown.  I am sure that in games purchased in the Trump era, clean burning green coal markers are used.

The available resources are shown on track.  The players purchase the resources in reverse order lowest number of cities to highest, as in from 5 to 1 on the list above.

This provides a distinct advantage to the players who are lagging behind.  The cheaper resources are available first to the players who make the least amount of money

So in the photo above, if the yellow player has one power plant, that uses three oil to power two cities, the yellow player can purchase the oil they need (three of the black cylinders) at four Perry bucks apiece.  Now, each player can store twice as much oil as they can consume on one turn, so the yellow player can purchase three additional oil tokens at five Perry bucks apiece.  This insures that the yellow player has fuel for the next turn, at a set price and jacks up the cost of oil to the other players who are purchasing resources after them.

The other players may not be interested in oil, they may be powering their power plants via garbage, nukes, or coal.

In the picture below, you can see that power plant 20 uses three coal to power 5 cities.  The player has enough coal for one turn to burn that many resources for the five cities.  Power plant 26 uses two oil to power five cities.  The player has enough oil to power five cities for one turn.  Power plant 35 is a power plant that is more efficient, and shows up even later in the game, and uses one oil to power fie cities.  The player has two oil on that power plant, which means that they will be able to power 5 cities this turn, and five cities next turn.

Some power plants allow you to burn some amount of garbage, or consume some amount of nuclear material to power some amount of cities.  There is also wind power, which can be very expensive at first, but requires no purchasing of materials to power the number of cities for each wind plant.

Some cards also allow you to consume a combination of coal and oil to power a number of cities.  This allows some flexibility.

So why is all of this important? You bid on power plants, which can allow you to be more efficient, and you buy resources which can allow your power plants to power cities, and you can build new connections to cities which also costs Perry bucks.  At the end of each turn, you count up the number of cities that you can actually power, and get Perry bucks back based on how many you can power, not the number you have.

Each player can only have a maximum of three power stations of any combination.  IF you want to acquire a new one through bidding, you have to sacrifice one of your existing three power stations.  When you go to power your cities, at the end of the turn, you consume the entire amount of resources to power your plant, even if you don’t need all of it to power all of your cities.

In other words, if you take the power plants in the picture, above, 20, 26 and 35, and you only need to power 10 cities (instead of the 15 that are able to be powered by the entire group of power plants), you only need to burn the resources from two of the power plants (5+5=10)

If you have 9 cities to power, you still need to consume the resources from two power plants, since your power plants each produce enough power to power 5 cities each.  If you had a power plant that produced 4 and 5, you would only need to burn what you needed to, the extra one that you produce by consuming all of your resources are wasted.

If you have 11 cities to power, you need to produce power from all 3 power plants, consuming the resources to produce all 15 power, wasting 4 power.  You can’t burn one oil to only produce half the power.  You can only use the resources in each power plant once.

This means that you have some difficult choices to make.

Now things still aren’t over.  Now, you can elect to expand your empire, and hopefully power the cities.

In the picture below, the finger is pointing at Fargo.  If you are the blue player, you can connect to the city in Fargo for 10 Perry bucks, plus the connection fee in the circle, which would be 6 Perry bucks if you were coming from Minneapolis or also 6 Perry bucks if you were connecting from Duluth.

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In the first stage of the game, only one player may have a house token in any city, each costing 10 Perry bucks plus the connection fee in Perry bucks.  For instance, the connection from Minneapolis to Chicago cost Blue 10 Perry bucks to build the first house in Chicago, and 8 Perry bucks for the connection.  If they only could connect via Duluth, then it would be 10 +12 Perry bucks.

This is important, because the game is all about expanding your empire, while also denying other players access.

Once any player has seven cities, powered or not, then the game allows players to purchase a second house in a city for 15 Perry bucks plus connection fee.  It is important to note that no player can have more than one house icon in any city.  This means that no one can have a monopoly, blocking people out of expansion.  The expansion may be expensive, but it is possible.

At a specific point in the game, enough of the power plants have been purchased that a third phase opens up, and players can purchase a third house token in any city at 20 Perry bucks, further opening up the markets and expanding.

The order of expanding and buying cities in markets is based on the player who has the lowest number of houses on the track order to the highest, just like purchasing resources.

This is likely where the explanation of the game using Rick Perry as a joke point falls apart.  No one in their right mind would suggest that there should be a fair Republican method of expanding power consumption where the underdogs would get any sort of fair play.  That is ludicrous.  But this is really a game that was designed in Europe, where they think differently than in ‘Merica.

Playing the game on the ‘Merica board means that it is actually a fantasy strategy game and as such, no comparison should be made to the actual American “free trade” market that is under the Trump Presidency.

There is no way that you can look at this Trump Appointee who couldn’t even say what branches existed in the Department of Energy when he was asked about it, after saying that he would eliminate the Department… and then was appointed.  It is very confusing.

Image result for rick perry state of the union

Here is PRick (the P is silent, after all) trying to look all butch, dreaming of shooting at something.  You gotta love his hands on the gun, looking out at the 1,000 yard line, dreaming of being a hero, when there is no ammunition in the gun.

Image result for rick perry gunship

Personally, I think that PRick is just a big used douche.  I associate him with a used condom.  Something that reduces the pleasure, provides limited stimulation and makes sure that nothing happens because of its use.

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I believe PRick Perry is a useless fuckhead who should probably stay on Dancing with the Stars, a show that I have never watched.

Image result for rick perry dancing with the stars

And here is another shot of PRick trying desperately trying to be cool and relevant.

Image result for rick perry dancing with the stars

FYI PRick, wearing your hat backwards looks massively stupid.  If you are not a mechanic, don’t do it.  You just look like a 65 year old man who is desperately trying to stay relevant.  You might as well complete the look by wearing your pant waistline around your thighs, showing off your boxers.

Whew.  I think I got it all described.

So how did the game go?

Well, the first problem was that I assumed that the game was for 7 players, not 6.  I miscounted, or misunderestimated the number of players in the game.  That meant that someone had to sit it out.  Shari decided to sit it out, but then Eric had to go early, so Shari finished the game for Eric.

It was a lot of fun.  I don’t think that it was Mike or Bill’s cup of tea.  They seemed to enjoy the group dynamic, and playing the game, but Eric, Collin and I were really into it, more than I think Shari, Bill, “Bill” and Mike were.

That being said, we had a good time.  I was in a good position to win, but I misjudged that Shari was going to force the game end one turn sooner than I planned.  Collin was upset, since he was not the winner.  Collin likes to win.  He likes to crush his opponents even more than simply winning.  Given the opportunity, Collin wants to win by a landslide, not just a single victory point.

That being said, I think that Collin will be purchasing this game.

The Saga of Pun Pun, the Kobold Part 2

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Journal Entry – Translated on February 9, 2018

Things just keep getting better and better.

I spent many days and nights feasting on the amazing banquet that is offered to the Gods out of the back doors of the homes and businesses in town.  It is amazing, every day, the people who live here provide offerings of food to metal containers behind the buildings, and once every few days, the acolytes of the gods collect all of the food and move it off to a large hole.

In the meantime, anyone who wants can feast upon the offerings.  No one seems to care, as long as you close up the container with the offerings.  Their god is amazingly benevolent in making sure that all beings can survive off the offerings.  Rats, bats, dogs all benefit from the magnificence of the great god that rules over this city.

After several weeks, a strange tall human started trying to catch me.  I successfully hid from him for a week or so, but I was not canny enough to keep away from his constant hunting.  He caught me in a net, and before I could get out of the net, he wrapped up the net and took away my weapons.  I was terrified.  I had survived so long, and wasn’t being a problem.  I made sure that I always left it clean after I feasted on the offerings to the gods.  No one seemed to mind the rats or dogs, but for some reason, the big human took a special interest in me.

I was taken to a cell and placed overnight.  It was confusing, as the cell was locked, and the bars were small enough that I couldn’t get through it.  Also, the lock was extremely good, and even though I tried very hard to pick it with my fish bone lockpick, it wouldn’t open for me.  I suspect that some magic was used to keep the lock closed.  Looking back on it, it was a good thing that I didn’t try to escape.  Things worked out beyond my wildest expectations.

The man let me stay overnight, and he fed me good quality rations.  They even provided a bucket for me to relieve myself in.  This was an upstanding place.  The next morning, the man started trying to communicate with me.  He knew a little draconic, and started teaching me common.  He limped when he walked.  He moved with a grace of a fighter, even with the limp.  He was patient, and let me try to figure out how to correctly say things in this new “common” language which was not meant for my lizard like jaws.  His name was Knowles.  He had a word used in front that lots of people here have as a first name, Commander.

Kobolds generally have unique names, at least within any specific generation.  Kobolds have a long roster of names, and as one Kobold dies, that name becomes available again.  Usually, a tribe waits a few egg cycles before using the name again, to hopefully reduce any confusion, after all if a Kobold cleric is named Vruprol, and Vruprol dies, the if another Kobald is hatched and given the name Vruprol and that Kobold is a fighter, there may be some confusion.  Confusion is bad in a tribe.  Tribes need cohesion.

The big beings had funny sounds that I could not make with my lack of lips.  Things like “water”, which I could only pronounce as “ater”  “Meat”, “meet”, “Pete” and “Eat” were also confusing.  I understood pretty much what the human was saying but I couldn’t say it properly according to him.

Things went well enough, as he decided to keep me around instead of sacrificing me to some god, or doing what Kobolds do with useless creatures, kill them and then use their bodies to grow new fungus.  Now, as a Kobold, I really understand that I am just a cog in the wheel, and there are tens of thousands of Kobalds which are more useful as a group, compared to any individual Kobald.

This does not mean that I welcome a useless death.  I want to be useful, and belong to a tribe, doing things as a group. A Kobald needs a tribe.  Commander Knowles said I would be a member of his tribe, the Order of the Crown.  He told me to show up tomorrow at 9 AM to become part of a new tribe.  Time doesn’t mean a lot to Kobalds.  We live in the dark, and the concept of 24 hours as the amount of time that occurs between when the hateful burning orb rises above the horizon, until it comes back and rises above the horizon again might make sense, but the people on the surface do something really odd, where they decided that for some reason, the “day” starts while it is still dark out, and then some number of hours later, the hateful burning orb rises, and they call the time when the pain is at its highest point in the sky “noon”, or maybe even “12 occult”  This is all very confusing, after all if you want to reference some known point, why not start counting when the burning orb first rises above the horizon?  Why are there only 24 hoors in a day, and why is it a day, when it includes the hateful orb being above the horizon and below the horizon, but they call the painful horrors from the orb “daylight”.

The people who live on the surface of the earth have become immune to the pain and suffering from the hateful orb, burning in the sky.  Some people even act as though they look forward to it.  I have heard that there is something called “summer” where the hateful orb is in the sky longer than during the winter when I arrived here.

We must take the good with the bad, after all, we have no control over the bad.  I have heard about a magical creature called a vampyre, who lives only at night, shunning the hateful burning orb in the sky.  These vampyres must be very wise and good, to know better than stay out in the light.

But that isn’t important,  I was going to be a member of a tribe.  I was told to arrive at 9 AM, and when it became obvious to Commander Knowles that I didn’t understand, he said “three bells”.  Now that made sense.  After the hateful orb rises, the watchmen strike a bell once, then later, twice, later three times and so on.  I knew that I needed to be at the tribe’s gathering point, Commander Knowle’s office at three bells.  I didn’t want to be late, so I showed up on the stoop right after two bells, and sat outside in the shade, waiting to be invited into Commander Knowle’s office.

I was minding my own business, sitting in the shade, and all of a sudden, the shade got even darker.  I looked up, and saw a very large fighter in chainmail armor, with a shield and very large sword.  The shield had the emblem of the horrible burning orb on it, and I knew that this fighter was a bad person.  Anyone who worships the burning orb that pains the eyes and skin must be bad.  There is no other excuse.

The fighter started talking. Or at least I think he was talking.  He might be a she.  I am not good with understanding the sex of these surface creatures.  No one has let me do the finger test to see for sure if they are boys or girls.  For some reason, the surface dwellers all wear cloth or armor, and don’t let you touch the parts that allow you to know what sex they are.

This big fighter in armor started demanding to know what I was doing there, and generally was extremely rude, implying that I was not an intelligent creature, much less here to be a member of the tribe.

The big fighter had some really odd personal qualities.  Her main fighting style became obvious later.  Her style was to step forward into the reach of the monster, then allow the monster to hit her, while she collapsed to the ground unconscious.  I am not a student of war, but I don’t believe that it is an effective way to fight by attempting to subdue your foe by having them wound themselves after they hit you and knock you out.  Maybe I am missing something, but this happened to a bunch of the surface dwellers that I was going to become a tribe with.  This may be a fighting style of the large surface dwelling creatures.  Enough of these tribe members seemed to do this over and over again.

Maybe this type of beat me up and knock me out fighting style is important to build up the toughness that is required to be a surface dweller.  As I said, things are really strange.

After a while of listening to this fighter generally be rude and obnoxious, I learned her name.  She said she is a girl, but I was not allowed to insert my finger into her anus to tell for sure if she was a girl.  Like I said, odd things with these surface dwellers.

Her name was Layalot the Vigilante.  It might be Liealot the Vigilante.  I am not sure.  I can tell you that her name Layalot or Liealot seemed to fit her, since her primary method of fighting was to collapse under the attack of her enemy.

After Layalot and I went into Commander Knowles office, we were joined by a very short surface dweller.  He kept pounding on things and making obscene sounds with his mouth.  He was brash, and interrupted everyone a lot.  He said that his name was Snuggie “dre” Brownbottle.  Dre was interesting.  He also had the collapse before your enemies fighting style down.

I am beginning to wonder if experience fighters are the type that you want to avoid.  After all, they can definitely take a beating.  After a while, they are ready to take another beating, and another beating, and another beating.

Like I said, Dre was very rude to Commander Knowles, and generally to everyone in the room. He talked a lot, made rude noises from his mouth, and kept slapping everything in the room.  After watching him for a while, I deduced that his hitting things all the time must be a way to constantly work on toughening up his hands, so he can take a longer beating before being dropped to the ground unconscious.

Soon thereafter, I was introduced to another tribe member.  He had the longest name of all, Soren Percival Montiller the Third.  Evidently some surface dwellers have lots of names that take a long time to say, to help show how important they are.  I am not sure what he does, other than hide behind rocks that he conjures out of thin air, and then suffers burns on his arms.  Third seems to be very quiet about what he does.  I really don’t know what he does, other than hide behind rocks and get burned arms.

The last tribe member was a small witch.  She kept telling me that she wasn’t a witch, but I knew that she wasn’t a sorcerer or a cleric.  She had a furry mount, and a weasel familiar.  She was a gnome.  I know what gnomes are.  They are untrustworthy horrible creatures who will slit your throat at the drop of a hat.  Kobolds have a long history with gnomes.  They are not to be trusted.  Her familiar, the weasel, is able to go and do errands for her.  She kept trying to correct me when I called her a witch, and called herself a “druid”, which obviously is a surface dweller’s word for a witch.

So the new tribe met with Commander Knowles, and are each given a copper badge, as a symbol of our association and rank within the Order of the Crown.  We are told that we are the lowest level of associate in the Order.  That is OK.  Eventually, if we live, we can move up and gain more usefulness to the tribe.

Being a member of the Tribe of the Order of the Crown has advantages.  First of all, we can have free food and lodging in any guardhouse in the nation.  Also, we get paid three silver every day.  I don’t know when we will be paid, but it is good to know that we are members of the tribe.

The Order of the Crown is an independent arm that provides special help outside of the normal things a standing army would do.  It seems that the standing army is able to go toe to toe with invading orcs, goblins and such, but they are not good at taking care of special missions.  The Order of the Crown exists to fill the gaps that a large standing army can not do.

That sounds really like it is in line with my skills, and I will be able to help the tribe do what it must do.  I just hope that I can live up to what Commander Knowles expects of us.  I would hate to be kicked out of a second tribe.  Of course, if I weren’t kicked out of the first tribe, I would be dead now, killed by the goblin horde that wiped out my first tribe.

We are given our first mission.  We are to go and see why a remote stable of horses is being attacked by giant wasps.  We ask some questions, like how big is a giant wasp?  We are told that they are the same size as me.  That seems pretty bad.  But we must follow the orders of Commander Knowles and do the work of the tribe.

I have never seen a giant wasp.  I have seen other bugs.  Insects, spiders, bees, and even normal sized wasps.  Bugs that sting are not to be messed with.  They hurt.  When they bite you or sting you, you feel immediate pain, and the area puffs up for a long time.  Wasps are delicious, if you cook them in a fire and then eat the legs.  The bodies are full of bitter gooey nastiness. I don’t suggest eating the bodies.  Now bees and spiders taste good.  Not as good as grubs and other larvae. But it is all good food.  Especially if you are hungry.

So we are sent on a two day march away from the town, to where the stables are.  We spent an entire day walking under the scorching painful orb.  We spend the night in a farmers’s barn.  Dre tries to impress the farmer with his badge.  The farmer seems to want to make sure that we don’t disturb the animals. The seems to think that I want to fertilize the horses eggs.  I try to explain to her that I lay the eggs, not fertilize them.  She seems to know all about standing on top of things to fertilize horse eggs.

Once again, this surface world is very confusing.  I don’t understand why someone would think I would fertilize horse eggs.  We did run into a creature that was half horse, half human.  Temujin was the boss of Commander Knowles.  Temujin was part horse, part human, or maybe he was some other thing like part goat, part human, maybe part cow, part elf.  All of these mammals of a type look the same to me. I am not trying to be rude, but in my view, there is far less diversity in the surface dwellers than they would want to let you think.

They seem to take great pleasure in defining themselves as unique beings, like “I am a dwarf battle brawler of the honeybadger clan”, or “I am a half elf half human, my elf side comes from the Sea Elf race…”  They all revel in their uniqueness.  Two half elves can sit there and bicker with each other based on what specific group of subelf group they can draw their heritage to.  They also have strong delineations in their occupations.  It isn’t enough to be a fighter, you can be a ranger, paladin, barbarian, Swashbuckler, Gladiator, Noble Warrior, Great Weapon Fighter, Guardian fighter, Knight, Slayer, Champion, Battle Master, Eldritch Knight, Banneret, and on, and on and on and on.

There is something important to these surface dwellers to uniquely define your self as though there is no one else who is like you.  It isn’t enough to be a member of the tribe who contributes to the overall good and needs of the tribe.  These special surface dwellers need to define themselves as something unique, special and important.  I am not sure that this is a bad thing, but they spend a lot of time focusing on this, instead of focusing on the good of the tribe.

So we rested in the barn.  No animals were violated. We left in the morning.  The druwitch decided that we should go cross country.  The fighter agreed.  We went across the land instead of staying on the roads.  We arrived at about 6 bells at the stable.

Several of the tribe tried to talk with the stable keeper.  The stable keeper confirmed that this was a location where the giant wasps were attacking the horses.  The stable hand said that the wasps come from the forest, nearby.  We went over to the nearby forest, and started thinking about what to do.

The druwitch knew a lot about the animals, and she told us that wasps are most active during the daytime when it was warm.  The druwitch spoke to her familiar, the weasel, and sent it into the forest, looking for where wasps live.  The rest of the tribe stood around in the field, near the forest.  I figured that was folly, and found a good bush to hide under just inside the forest.

After a while, the weasel familiar came bolting back out of the forest and jumped on the druwitch’s shoulder.  Then three giant wasps flew out of the forest attacked the party in the field.

It was kind of sad.  I think it must take a huge amount of training to learn how to fight by being knocked out by your opponent, hoping that when they hit you, they hit you so hard that they kill themselves in the attack.  This seems to be a very ineffective way of attacking, but the fighter and Dre both were amazingly successful at it.

The Druwitch used a spell that created a painful sound that really hurt two of the giant wasps.  Third created a rock that hid him from everyone else.  The fighter first tried to impress the wasp by shaking her sword and shield at it menacingly, then the wasp stung her.  I popped out and killed the wasp that was attacking the fighter, with a flaming arrow.  The fighter then fell down and was knocked out by absorbing the attack by one of the wasps, I popped out and shot another wasp.  The Third grabbed Dre’s body and drug him under the rock he had conjured.

This chaotic fight was very confusing.  Kobolds are known for fighting a lot.  But we try very hard to kill the opponent, not succeed by absorbing their attacks, or conjuring a rock and hiding in it.  I have a lot of things to learn about the surface.  Things are very different here.

So all three giant wasps are killed, and the druwitch heals the fighter, who in turn heals Dre.  There is some sort of magic going on here, where the tribe members touch each other, and utter foul oaths and then magically the other tribe member gets better.

Things are becoming challenging.  The fighting method of the tribe means that we need to rest, so we decide to sleep until around midnight and then pursue the wasp nest by following the druwitch’s weasel into the forest.

The tribe starts coming up with ideas as to how to deal with the inability of two of the tribe members to see at night.  I make several suggestions, that are not well received.  My first suggestion is that we should have the two night blind party members act as bait, and walk with torches 50-ft to the right of us while we sneak up on the nest.  This seems like a good idea to me, but the druwitch and Dre think that this is not a good idea.  The fighter and the one who hides under rocks also think that they don’t want to be bait.

It is decided that we should all walk in line, where the druwitch is going to follow her familliar, and then we will have one of the nightblind members, then me, then another nightblind member, then Dre.

We follow the weasel familiar for a short period of time, and all of a sudden, the weasel stops and climbs up on the druwitch’s shoulder.  I look up, and see a huge ball in the tree.  Everyone eventually sees it.  I suggest to the druwitch that I take some oil up and douse the ball, and light it on fire.

The druwitch gets all agro and tells me that if I start a fire, she will slit my throat.  She is adamant that the forest is important, and must not be destroyed.  We have an existential conversation about whether we can kill grass (ok), bushes (ok), trees (not ok).

As the party is discussing how to deal with this, I climb the tree, and start investigating the ball.  It is buzzing slightly, and quite warm.

At this point, the druwitch does something completely unexpected.  I was not allowed to start a fire, but the druwitch creates a fireball, then torches the ball.

This is where things got a little weird.  The ball lights up, and the entire 15-ft wide ball drops on the party, crushing them, and doing some awful things.

It was very impressive watching the party destroy the nest structure by allowing it to fall on them, knocking all of them into the ground, and hurting them in the process.

The Third runs away.  I don’t think he liked having a giant wasp nest dropped on him.

Layalot is encased in a wasp egg.  It is pretty gooey and slippery.  She roars in defiance, rips the egg apart, and then is stung and knocked out by the queen wasp.  It is amazingly impressive watching her take so much damage.  I don’t know how any being could take so much damage and not at least impress her foe into thinking that attacking was a bad idea.  But that may be an issue with fighting beasts as opposed to intelligent beings.  I know that if I hit a foe, and they took the entire damage and dropped unconscious, I would be very impressed with their dedication to their cause.

I pop out from the tree branch, and hit the queen wasp with an amazing arrow show, and kill her.  The Third comes back and hits the other wasp.  Dre hits with some form of magical attack, and it goes down.

Now the issue is to deal with the fighter.  Her body is lashed to the druwitch’s goat, and is dragged back to the forest edge.  The trip back to Commander Knowles office takes two entire days.

I am looking forward to hearing from Commander Knowles if we solved his mission the right way or not.

Non RPG Day – Cosmic Encounter 02

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We met at Dice Age Game Emporium again, to celebrate the fact that Bill made it back from the Neil Diamond concert.  Or so we thought.  Bill didn’t make it to Neil Diamond, since he as sick.  He must have been really sick to not make it to Diamond’s final tour.  We all had ideas of Bill standing on stage with Neil, singing along while playing boss bass rifts, and catching the granny panties that the women threw at Neil.

This has been a tough couple of years for Bill. Barry Manilow called it quits.  A few of the BeeGees died.  The Captain and Tennille stopped touring before Bill was born, and Bill will live his life knowing that he will never see them in person, he just has to rely on the dynamic energy from YouTube videos from their gala past.

Now, Elton John has announced he is on his final tour.  After all, he will never be able to hear Elton and Kiki Dee sing “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” or Circle of Life from the Loin King.

Bill puts on a brave show.  He keeps wearing Tee Shirts from punk bands in the 1980’s but when Roy plays Whitney Houston songs on the store speakers, I see Bill quickly wipe a tear from the corner of his eye.  He blames it on an eyelash, but we all know what it really is.

Bill, you aren’t fooling any of us.

So Mike shows up with his brother, Bill (I think that was his name), and Sue is still in another world.  Mike told us that Sue texted us to say that she was in a Games Workshop store in Tulsa, or maybe it was Birmingham, or possibly Shreveport.  It is all rather confusing.  She did say that the Games Workshop was pretty small.  Mike said something about how they had a still in the back, and were selling corn liquor in mason jars to go with the gaming supplies.  This actually sounds like a pretty good idea, if the corn liquor is of a high enough proof.  I figure that if you mix the moonshine with super glue, you can have a lot of fun.  If you add a few drops of inkwash, maybe some Reikland Flesh shade, and a lime for some flavor, you might have something.

Collin, Shari, Bill and Bill’s girlfriend Monique were late.  Shari had a birthday, and she decided to have ice cream for breakfast.  That was all fine and dandy.  We ended up spending the time that we were waiting on them chatting and looking at Eric with his clean shaven face.

Eric for some reason, decided that he needed to shave his face.  He has a great beard.   I have a beard,and that is all fine and dandy, but I get irritated if my beard isn’t trimmed pretty often.  I literally get kind of pissy if my beard gets too long.  Eric can grow it out.  He doesn’t do a full on Gandalf beard, but he grows a pretty awesome beard.  I am not jealous, well, not much.  My beard is pretty much all grey, Eric’s beard has little or no grey in it.

Mike took a picture of Eric without the beard and sent it to Sue.  Sue did not understand why Eric shaved his beard off.

Collin came with the intent of winning all games at any cost.  This is nothing unusual for Collin.  He tends to play that way every time he comes to play.  Collin is a very competitive person, when it comes to games.  He is a canny player.  He will stab you in the back, stab you in the front and generally find a way to convince you that he won’t do it again as he then tanks you.  I like Collin, a lot.  I don’t know why he is this way, highly competitive.  But he is.  He wants to win, but not just win, he wants to annihilate you, you, you, and you.  We played two games today, and Collin won both.  I could see that it caused him great physical pain knowing that he only beat me by 1 point.  He was satisfied that he beat everyone else by 50% or more in victory points, but in the second game, I had 31 victory points, and Collin only had 32.  That one point was not enough.  Two would have not been enough, just winning is not enough.

Collin the Barbarian

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Shari was all jacked up from eating ice cream for breakfast.  It was her 29th birthday, which makes it kind of awkward knowing that Collin robbed the cradle, and she has a 22 year old son.  I think that Shari is exaggerating that she is only 29, but that is what she keeps saying.  Oh well, that is between Collin, Shari and her truant officer.

I don’t know Monique or Bill (Mike’s brother) well enough to make up shit about what they were doing today. I figure that I need to know someone before I can take a few “facts” and spin them into falsehoods that are of Trumpic proportions.

So what did we do?

Well, I can tell you that the soda machine was not operating properly.  You see, on Thursday, the soda machine burped, and all sodas were $0.50 instead of $1.00.  That was kind of nice, but on Saturday, the soda was back to its normal price.  That kind of sucked.  OK, it sucked more for Roy when the machine was undercharging.  But it was kind of nice for a while.

We started out playing Cosmic Encounter again.  I like Cosmic Encounter,  It is a lot of fun, and this group is the appropriate type of group to play with.  We are all backstabby, shivvey and willing to switch alliances at the drop of a hat, and no one takes it personally.

That makes Cosmic Encounters work.  Being nasty backstabbing goblins is where you need to be as an effective player.  The game play was actually pretty balanced.  Well, in the way where everyone plays and gets victory points, loses victory points, then no one is able to stop Collin from taking the 5th victory point and win the game.  Alliances were made, broken and generally a lot of fun was had.

We also played Camel Up, or maybe it was Camel Cup.

Camel Cup is a wonky betting game where you are trying to figure out how to beat the others in betting on camels racing around a track.

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This game is a lot of fun.  Each turn, you take one action, which can be to randomly select a dice to roll and move one camel, take a bet, bet on which camel will likely win, and a few other things.  You can put down a card on a spot on the track where if a camel stops on that space, it will either back up one space or go forward a space.  There is a weird mechanic where if a camel lands on the top of another camel (like in the picture above where the green camel is on the yellow camel which is on the orange camel) then they can all move together.  If the orange die is randomly selected then rolled, then the entire stack of camels moves forward.  If the yellow die is randomly selected and rolled, then the yellow and green camel go forward.

Each die can roll a 1, 2 or 3.  If the white die is randomly selected and a 2 is rolled, then the white camel would go on top of the other three camels.  If then the orange die is then rolled with a 2, then the entire stack of 4 camels would go forward and land on top of the blue camel.  Each time that all five of the dice are rolled, the players go through and resolve some short term gambling.  The game ends when the first camel crosses the finish line.

It was a lot of fun.

This is not as long of a blog post as normal.  After all, we weren’t playing RPG’s.  We just had some fun with some board games.

We also had a lot of fun with good friends.

That is what Saturday gaming is about.

The Saga of Pun Pun, the Kobold Part 1

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This will be an ongoing story of Pun Pun, the Kobold trapmaker.  Pun Pun is a first level character in a D&D campaign that Daron is running on Thursday nights at Dice Age Game Emporium.

The story is translated from the Draconic runes that Pun Pun writes in her journal.  The translation is using Google Translate, which sometimes doesn’t get everything exactly right.  The journal is also from Pun Pun’s perspective about the adventure.  If any other party members ever read Pun Pun’s journal, she will likely be highly embarrassed since it is from her perspective of what happened while trying to stay alive.  If any other adventurer’s think that Pun Pun’s journal is not correct, and confront Pun Pun about it, she will probably tell the other adventurer’s to keep their own journal, after all, the party should have a bard.

Journal Entry – Translated on February 2, 2018

I finally scraped up enough money to purchase a book for my journal.  It is amazing, with pages and pages of open white paper, just ready for me to record my experiences so I can read it back again, if I want to remember things clearly.

Let me introduce myself.  I am Pun Pun, a Kobold trap maker of the former Kobold den of Schlark.  I say former, because its demise is why I am running around with these tall beings.

I was born of a clutch of eggs deep in the mountain.  Things were warm, dark and moist.  The best kind of place for a Kobold egg to be incubated.  The Schlark tribe was a small offshoot from another tribe, the Cksrrr. It might be hard to pronounce some of these names, for non Kobolds, but we tend to name things based on what our mouths can pronounce.  The tall beings tend to try to make things all musical, to their ears.  To my ears, it just sounds like a lot of screeching and scratching.

Anyhow, Cksrrr was getting too big.  At least it was before the Schlark tribe went away.  The food was getting scarce for such a large tribe, and the elders were worried that a large presence of Kobolds in the Cksrrr tribe area would gather unwanted attention from the Duregars, Drow, Goblins, Dwarves, Elves, Illithids, and so forth.

Kobolds need to keep under the radar.  After all, other larger beings can decimate a clan or tribe without trying too hard.  This is why we resort to traps.  If we can thin the attackers away, but misleading them to the wrong tunnel, or possibly crush them with rocks or let them fall into a pit that has spikes coated with our bodily waste, then that can reduce the number of bad guys coming to kill us.

So the Schlark tribe moved from the Cksrrr trib area.  The Schlark tribe was busy building an area to live in, farming fungus, tunneling out new areas to live in, and to allow the tribe to grow, along with setting traps for any bad guys who might want to hurt us.

Things were going well. I was born, and like all Kobolds, I fell into the marshal lifestyle.  Constant training to fight, looking for food, giving up anything that we found to the good of the order.  We weren’t allowed personal possessions.  Everything belonged to the tribe.  That was my downfall.  Well, I had several downfalls.

First, I wasn’t very good at fighting.  OK, I was really bad at fighting.  Kobolds are supposed to run into the battle and know that if they are killed, their bodies will be used to fertilize the fungus that will feed the tribe.  This is supposed to be good.  I don’t know that I disagreed with the die for the tribe, become fertilizer thing.  That seems to make sense on the surface, and I didn’t disagree with it.  Things are scarce in the caverns.  Especially when the Duregar or other awful things want to kill you.

You see, I didn’t like pain.  Pain hurts.  My other broodmates were all tough and resilient.  When we went to train with swords, they all took the beatings from the elders to learn how to fight, endure the pain and also not flinch in the moment of utter destruction.

Now, because I wasn’t a good fighter, I didn’t get the first crack at the food in the brood.  This meant that I never grew as much as the other Kobolds.  The elders would toss a bucket full of fungus and grubs into the pit where we were kept, and the biggest Kobolds would eat their fill, leaving little or no food for the smaller Kobold.  I was able to survive, but the other smaller Kobolds died, and were used as fertilizer in the fungus farms.  I spent my sleeping periods carefully extracting food bits from the claws and jaws of my larger sleeping brood mates.  After all, I may not have been able to eat from the pail, but I could eat what they did not eat.  This work caused me to have very dexterous fingers and  I learned to sneak around a lot.  Generally, it is a good thing when you are a very small Kobold to be able to be not seen.

You see, I didn’t get this.  I saw the Kobold mages, and how they stood back and cast spells on the enemy.  They only felt pain if the foot soldier Kobolds failed.  That seemed like a better idea for me.  Since they could still help the fight, but not feel pain.  Well, it turns out that I had no aptitude for magic.  In fact, I needed to keep away from the mages, since my lack of aptitude could actually make the magic fail.  I don’t know if this is right, but I think that the mages knew that I would not be a good resource.

So I spent time tending the fungus patches. This took a lot of work, as each of the kobold bodies, along with any other bodies needed to turn the corpses occasionally, or the fungus would become tough.  Nobody wants to eat tough fungus.  I didn’t really have any great strength, and the smell of the corpses really made me sick.

I tried everything to stay as far away from the corpses as possible.  The smell was pretty awful.  This is where I found my true calling.  While I wasn’t a good close in fighter, and didn’t have the fortitude to be a good gardener, I DID have the ability to repair, reset and construct new traps.  This was my calling.  I could make a trap out of anything, well, almost anything.  I learned fast, and made myself valuable.

Then disaster struck.  Remember that part about Kobolds not keeping anything personal.  As in, we all go around naked, and there is nowhere to hide anything.  Well, I found something that I wanted to keep.  Actually, I killed a rat.  Now, big people might not think anything about killing a rat.  After all, they are “small” to the big people.  But when you are a Kobold and a stunted one at that, a “normal” sized rat is a big deal.

I was pretty proud of killing the rat.  I killed it with a shortbow and arrow. The tribe had an armory of weapons that were taken from dead enemies.  The patrols and other work parties would take the appropriate weapons from the armory to defend themselves.  When you are surrounded by taller enemies, this means that many of the larger weapons won’t work.  A longsword for a human is taller than two normal Kobolds when one Kobold stands on the other’s shoulders.  Crossbows for elves are balistae for Kobolds.  A shortbow for an orc is a longbow for me.  A Drow’s hand crossbow is just about the right size for a real crossbow for the larger of my kind.

This means that we must take spears and cut them down to a manageable size.  This is a good thing.  We like spears.  After all, once we cut the spear in half, we have another long length of wooden pole that can be used for other things, like traps, training weapons, and the sort.  The longer spears are also good for putting in pit traps, so when the unsuspecting monster falls in, they skewer themselves on the spears pointing up from the bottom of the pit.

I take no joy in killing monsters, humans or demi-humans.  I am not a monster.  I simply want to keep my tribe safe, while living my life.

Where was I?  Oh yes, I was talking about killing the rat.  It took three shots, but I vanquished my foe.  It was a mindless beast who just wanted to eat me.  I was having none of that.  I retrieved the arrows from the rat corpse, and saw that it had a pink hairless tail that was about as long as my arm. For some reason, the tail spoke to me.  Well, it didn’t “speak” to me.  I am not one of those types who feels a connection to nature.  But there was something about that tail that made me realize that I needed a trophy of my harrowing experience of killing the giant rat.  This was the first thing I had ever killed in self defense.  The only other things that I had killed were the grubs I popped into my mouth for nourishment.

I came up with an ingenious idea as to how to keep the rat tail, the token of my bravery.  I laced it into my gums, between my lips and teeth, so I could get it back into the brood, and hide it properly.

This was a good plan, since I mentioned earlier that we ran around naked and that left a very short list of locations to hide a rat tale.

Except.  When I returned from my trap work, and returned my weapons, the outer tip of the rat tail had worked its way out of my cheek, leaving a pink tendril hanging out of my mouth.  The master at arms saw it, and demanded to know what it was.  I ran, because I knew that I had erred in the most egregious way.  It didn’t take long for the tribe to corner me and pull the tail out of my mouth.

I was banished from the tribe. I was branded on my thigh with the mark of a traitor to the tribe.

A lone Kobold, as in, no friends, no help, no weapons, nothing.  That was really bad.  Kobolds live by groups.  They die alone.  Well, they sometimes die in groups also.  But being along is hard on a Kobold. I goes beyond just being easy to eat.  It also goes to the inner will of the Kobold.  We need a tribe, members, other beings to live with.  This is how we draw our strength.

I hid.  I cowered.  I found the darkest hole that would allow me to survive until I could figure out how to make it back to the tribe and grovel my way into the safety of the group.  Being alone in the caves is a fate worse than death.  Maybe, I could enslave myself to the group.  Maybe if I made amends, the tribe would allow me to have my corpse be used to grow fungus for the tribe.  Not a great life, but better than being stuck outside, waiting to be eaten by some passing monster, and then having your ribs used as a toothpick.

After an extended period of time, I heard marching feet and voices.  When you are outside the nest, out of contact with your tribe, time has no meaning.  I don’t know if it was 2 minutes or 2 years, but I heard the stomping of feed, he banging of drums, and the guttural sounds of monsters marching.  I sneaked close to the noise, and found a raiding party of goblins.  They were injured and bloody.  Their weapons had nicks and scars.

The goblins had a tribal mark, or some sort of mark.  Every one of them had a blue eyeball with a red iris painted on their shields and armor.  The iris was a circle, like a human’s, not like what Kobold’s eyes look like.

They were coming from the direction of the Schlark tribe.  When I got to the tribe’s cave system, I found dead Kobolds everywhere.  They were massacred by the Goblin raiding party.  After all, who else could have done it?

I checked all of my tribe mates, and found them all dead.  They were all here, and all of the eggs in the clutches were destroyed.  After a while, I found a bow that had a broken string, and some spare springs, along with 20 arrows in a quiver, and couple of daggers with scabbards.  I was able to scrounge up leather armor, a haversack, some food and a water skin.  I also found the niche where we kept the maps of the lands, so I could try to find a way  to the surface.  With the traitor’s brand, along with dead tribe, I had nothing left for me underground.  I needed to find some magical rings, talismans or some other thing which would allow me to extract the revenge on the goblin tribe that had murdered my tribe.

It took a long time to make it to the surface, but I found an exit from the cave system.  I found the surface to be harsh.  The wind blew constantly, there was a bright glowing orb in the sky which simultaneously warmed my cold blooded body while assaulting my eyes.

The smells of the surface were awful.  There were animals who gorged on plants, and then were eaten by other animals.  The balance of the world was excessive, compared to what I was used to.

I found that hiding my appearance helped me move around the humans.  The dark brown cloak that covered my body and allowed me to hide among the shadows and move without being seen too much.

The large people live life in a way that is exceptionally wasteful.  They throw food out in the bins while the rats and insects feast on the remains.  I found this to be very useful.  There were few if any fungus that was eaten by the surface dwellers, but I learned to enjoy the taste of meat, even when cooked, although it causes me very bad breath and gas.  The humans also eat something called “bread”, which appears to be some sort of baked grain.  Grain is their version of Kobold’s fungus, I guess. The human’s form of bread tends to be very rough and full of bits of things.  This is not horrible, but it is nowhere as bad as the bread that Dwarves eat.  The humans take the bread and cut it, toast it over a fire, then slather juices from their meat on it.  The elves have a more refined version of this bread.  It is soft and has a texture that is very hard to chew with my rows of pointed teeth.  The elf bread tastes sweet, which is not particularly appealing.

I have found that the elf bread is good for gathering, and feeding to insects which seem to thrive on it.  The insects provide a tasty meal for me, and have the added advantage of  causing following surface dwellers to pause before following, when I throw a handful at them.

Non RPG Day – Cosmic Encounter

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Yes, sometimes, we don’t play an RPG on a day.  Sue is gone.  Bill is gone.  I decided to bring in Cosmic Encounter, by Fantasy Flight Games.

Bill said he had a concert to go to.  I think it was the Neil Diamond farewell tour.  You know, you gotta see the classics while you still can.  Nothing against Neil, except for that awful POS Heartlight.  You know, that little diddy that he wrote after watching ET.

Now, the song isn’t really bad.  It is sappy and syrupy.  But here is the deal.  In 1982, I lived in Mount Vernon, Washington.  At that time, there were really only three radio stations that we could listen to in the Skagit Valley.  Two were FM stations from Bellingham, and the third was an AM station that was in the valley.  On a good day, you could listen to music from some Seattle radio stations, but it was sketchy at best.  It depended on the weather, height of clouds, and whether you were listening to a clock radio or a radio that had an external antenna.

So one of the FM radio stations was a butt rock station.  It specialized in playing long playlists of Winger, Ratt, Survivor, Night Ranger, and other butt rock from the 1980’s, and the other station, KNWR was a computer run station from back east.  It was an automated radio station, one of the first.  It was also “adult contemporary” music.  They got a small list, and I mean small list of songs that they ran over and over again. It changed out somewhat regularly, but during a single day, it seemed that you would hear heavy rotation of the same song.  They liked to play songs from Kenny Rogers, Lionel Ritchie, Hall and Oates, Sheena Easton, Toto, Chicago (you know, the Peter Cetera love song Chicago, not the cool Chicago from the 1970’s) and of course Neil Diamond.  Lots of Neil Diamond.

I believe that the Psychology Department at Western Washington University was using KNWR to experiment on the listening public, to determine if playing the same songs over and over again could induce psychosis in the general population.  I swear hearing the same lineup of soft rock, and not classics, but songs like Ebony and Ivory by Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney 5 to 7 times a day couldn’t be a random element.  It had to be purposeful.

Once again, I have nothing against many of the artists.  But when you listen to the radio as a kid, and 3 different Air Supply songs are played in 30 minutes, you have to ask, “Who the fuck thought this was a good idea?”

Now, I don’t want to take anything away from the talent of the guys in Air Supply, Toto, Hall and Oates, Dan Fogelberg or any of the other groups.  They wrote a good song.  I can appreciate their talent, even though their music is not my cup of tea.  I tend to lean more towards Bauhaus, the Clash, Dead can Dance, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, and The Cure.

What Bill sees in Neil Diamond, I don’t know.  But then, music is a personal thing.  If a 22 year old male wants to go and sing along with Neil as he belts out classics like Song Sung Blue, Sweet Caroline, Cracklin Rose and America, good for Bill.  I won’t think any less of him.

Sue is back in inbredland.  Now, Mike keeps trying to talk up the people of inbredland.  He was talking yesterday about how he was impressed by the people there.  He saw people with tattoos, posts, and even an occasional hipster.

Looking online, I find some interesting pictures for Google searches for “southern hipster” such as:

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and

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I see the resemblance.  However, they look a lot like extras from the movie Gator, with Burt Reynolds.

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So I will say something about the movie Gator.  Every scene in that movie has people sweating.  It looks hot, and nasty, in every damn scene of the movie.  I mean how do people live like that? More importantly, why do people live like that?

I mean, why would Sue want to go there?  OK, I get that Sue is going there to support her daughter.  Her daughter has some training, and Sue is there to take care of her daughter’s cat, or some such thing.  But damn.

I need to be clear here.  I don’t have anything really against the people there.  I like to joke about inbredland.  My family background is a bunch of people who were kicked out of northern Europe, from places which were undesirable at that time.  Silesia – which has been either Poland or Germany, along with Ireland, Scotland, and some other countries.  They came to America, and my mother’s side of the family settled in Oklahoma, and when the dust bowl came, my Grandfather Homer broke his brother Jethro out of jail to go and take the family to California to pick fruit (ala Grapes of Wrath).

I have no relatives that came over on the Mayflower.  My relatives were hardscrabble fighters who found a way to get to this great country, and make a life for themselves.  I don’t feel that I am superior to any other person.  That doesn’t mean that I don’t find it amusing to refer to certain areas of the country as “inbredland”.   It is all bluff and chuff on my part.

I have been all over the country.  I like where I live, in the Pacific Northwest, since we tend to not have cockroaches, high humidity, high temperatures, tornadoes, hurricanes, etc.  We do get a lot of rain (at least west of the Cascade mountains), and we tend to have fairly temperate weather.  The politics generally agree with me also.  The housing is getting overly expensive.  While that doesn’t affect my wife and I, I worry that my children will have good housing options.

So where was I?  I was talking about Sue going and helping her daughter out with her daughter’s cat.  You see, when Sue goes away, Mike gets kind of lost.  Well, Mike doesn’t really get lost, we simply interpret anything he says in a way which makes it sound like Mike is lost.  I am not sure what exactly is going on with Mike, but we generally tease him mercilessly and make him miss Sue even more.

Mike was not in the best of sorts yesterday.  He was complaining about having to wake up super early to get Sue off to the airport.  Mike evidently sees any day where he wakes up before 10 AM as being ungodly early.  We don’t know what time he actually woke up.  He was all bleary eyed and drowsy.  That isn’t too much different than a normal day for Mike.

Collin and Shari brought their daughter to Dice Age.  We all tried to get their daughter to regret that decision.  I won’t name her, since she is under 18, and probably shouldn’t be discussed on the Internet.  Nothing bad happened, but in keeping with the normal discussion nothing is off limits.

It didn’t take long, but the daughter soon walked away to paint minis, or at least that was her official reason.  She probably just wanted to get away from all of us and our strangeness.  She was polite, but we could tell, it was important to not be associated with us.  That is OK,

So we met at Dice Age Game Emporium and found several things.  One is that beer now is served at noon, instead of 5.  That caused some consternation as everyone (but me) got some sort of beer or hard cider.  One of the players, who will remain nameless, but her name rhymes with Hairy, managed to snarfle down Mike’s drink, in addition to hers.  So Mike had to get another one.  I am not sure what happened for sure, but it involved moving tables, then moving tables again.  This is another example of how Sue needs to be here for Mike, since Sue would have shepherded the bottles to make sure that in the table move, “Hairy” would not have snagged the wrong bottle.

But that has nothing to do with the game.  We played… Cosmic Encounter.  This game has been around since about 1977, and has been through five different publishers.  I played the second publishing by West End Games version in the mid 1980’s.  I skipped the Mayfair edition, which was supposed to be pretty good.  I also skipped the Avalon Hill version, which just about killed the game permanently.  A few years ago, I picked up the base game by Fantasy Flight, and played it a couple of times.

Cosmic Encounter is a game that you need the right mix of people to make it fun.  If you have players who are willing to be nasty, dicks and horrible awful people, ganging up on each other and preying on the weak, the game is a lot of fun.

If some of the players are not dicks, or want to be friends, then this game is pretty bleah.

The game involves trying to destroy enough of your enemies that you can take over five planets that are not yours.  The play involves randomly deciding who you are going to attack. assigning some level of resources, then asking for help attacking the other player.  The defending player then asks for help.  This can be pretty straightforward, or you can barter things to go with the help.  Then when people commit their ships (resources) to the fight or defense, or not either, then the two players directly involved in the fight then lay down a card that defines how much they are going to support to it.  This card is played upside down, with only the player who played it knowing at first what it is.

Each player has a race, which is different, that gives them some form of stupid power that makes the game pretty awful.

Here are a couple of cards to see the power.  The power is the paragraph(s) that are in the white box near the bottom of the card.

Mimic

and

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and

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The card also includes a yellow box, saying that the card is mandatory, or optional.  Mandatory means that you have to play it, even if it would create a victory condition for another player.  Optional means… well, optional.

The bottom of the card includes one or more orange boxes to show what phase of the game on each encounter that you can play this.

There are three levels of play that are denoted by the color of the lights in the upper right and left corners of the card.  These are green for beginner, yellow for intermediate and red for advanced play.  It is recommended that you play all players with the same level.

Like all Fantasy Flight games, you get a good box of stuff, but if you spend lots of extra money, you can get the expansions which add new play to the game.  Each expansion includes 15 to 30 new aliens, and more cards to add to the game play.  The base game also only comes with enough pieces for 5 players.  There are three expansions which add pieces to allow up to 8 players total, one new player for each of the expansions added.

The game play starts out with one player turning over a destiny card.  That destiny card defines what that player must do.  This is good, as it balances the game out to make sure that people don’t be total dicks against one player, rather, the game determines who you are going to be dickish to.

The game table essentially looks like this at the start of the game:

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Each player has four ships on each of five planes of the same color.  In the middle is the Warp, which is where you track victory points for each player, and also stack your destroyed ships.

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Oh sorry, that isn’t the Warp, that is some nasty shithole of a craptastic fucking ballsack.

This is what the Warp looks like.

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At the start of the game, there are no ships in the Warp.

Each player starts out with a handful of 8 cards.  These cards include Negotiate cards, Encounter / Attack cards, Artifact cards, and some other cards.

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These cards are held in the player’s hands, and used in the fight for the planet.  The player only draws up to 8 cards when some specific things happen.  The first one is when the player plays all of their encounter and reinforcement cards, leaving only artifacts or negotiate cards, they can dispose of their hand, and draw 8 cards immediately.  Alternately, if they use their last card (and have no cards in their hand), they can only draw 8 new cards when they need to draw a card, as in they are involved in a battle.  This causes some wonkyness in the game play, but it is OK, and makes for some fun interaction.

When the turn starts, the offense player first takes one ship of their color from the void, then chooses a destiny card, which decides what planet color they are going to attack.

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They don’t get to choose the poor unfortunate planet, unless the card they draw instructs them to choose.  This helps balance the game a lot.  The offensive player assigns the number of ships that they want to contribute to the fight, 1 to 4 ships.  The defensive player already has the number of defending ships on the planet.  Then the offensive player states who, if any players they would like help from.  The defensive player then states who, if any players they would like help from.  The potential allies only tell what they are going to do, if anything, one at a time, going from the defensive payer, clockwise.  The allies can only help an offensive or defensive player, not both.

So why, would you want to be an ally?

Funny you should ask.

If you are an ally of the offensive player, and the offensive player wins the encounter, you can place one or more of your ships on the planet, which gives you a colony, and a victory point.  However, if the offensive player loses, then you lose your ships to the Void without compensation.

If you are an ally of the defensive player, and the defensive player wins the encounter, then for each ally gets to pull either a card from the deck, or retrieve one ship from the void of their color for ship that was offered as an ally.

If the encounter is resolved with a Negotiate card, then the allies of the offense and defense return their ships to their colonies and the game continues.

I am kind of mashing the explanation of this up, since the game is pretty simple, but there are a lot of moving parts.  Bear with me, this is a pretty cool game.

So, we now know why people would want to consider being allies, because if you are an ally of the defense, and the defense wins, you get a boon, cards from the deck and ships back from the Warp.  If you are an ally of the defense and the defense loses, your ships return home.  If you are an ally of the offense and the offense wins, you get a colony on the planet, which equals victory points.  If you are an ally of the offense and the offense loses, you lose your ships.

The offense and defense player can decide that they want help from anyone, from specific players or no one.  This is important, as this can be used to block players from winning positions through alliances.

So the offensive player has determined which planet to attack.  This means that if the defensive player has four planets, three with 5 ships each, and one with 2 ships, the offensive player probably wants to go for the one with the fewest resources, to make the attack easier.  The offense and defense define who they would like help from.  The other players decide if they want to help either player, and to what level (one to four ships for each ally).  then the Planning stage starts.

The Planning stage is where the offense and defense players decide which card they have in their hand they want to play.  This could be a Negotiate card, or an attack card.  The attack card range in numbers from 0 to 40.  They are seriously unbalanced, where there are a couple of zeros, a 30, a 40, and a bunch of small value cards.  Since the hand is randomly drawn, you get some really wild results.

Both cards are played upside down.

This is important, since all of the players have alien powers.  I played one game where my alien power was to swap the two player’s cards.  In my case, I had a couple of 0 point cards, so I played my 0 card,  then used my alien power to swap them from offense to defense, before the reveal.  This didn’t help, at all, because I was hoping for a good card, instead I got a negotiate card.

This meant that I automatically lost the encounter.  My 0 card would have “won” the encounter, but since I swapped them before knowing what they were, I negotiated, which was bad for me.

I will get back to the negotiate card in a second.

So if Blue is the offense, and places 4 ships to attack orange, with 3 ships, and no one wants to be allies, the Blue has an advantage on the attack, since they have more ships than the defense.

Then say, Orange plays a 12 card, and Blue plays the best card they have, a 7 card, when the cards are flipped, things don’t look so good for blue anymore.  Since they have 4 ships, plus a 7 card, for 11 total points on the encounter.  Orange has a total of 3 ships and 12 points on the card, so they have 15 total points for the encounter, which means that they will win, unless someone plays a reinforcement card to even things up.

In this case, orange prevails, and Blue sends 4 ships to the void, weakening the blue player.

Now, if Blue, the offensive player had won, they could press the attack, and turn over another destiny card to attack another time.  Since Blue lost, they don’t get to do any more attacks.

If any other players had helped out the offense or defense, then the number of ships that the offensive allies had contributed to the encounter would add to the total of the offense score, and the number of ships that the defensive allies had contributed to the encounter would add to the total of the defense score, which may have been enough to change the encounter results.

If one of the players plays a Negotiate card, then that player loses the encounter, however, the losing player gets to take one card from the hand of the winning player for each ship lost.  This is all great and fine, but if the winning player has 2 cards, and the loser lost three ships, the loser only gets 2 cards, and the winner gets to draw a new hand really soon.

Pretty simple, right.  Doesn’t sound like much of a game.  Resource management.  Worker placement, a wonky randomizing element.

The best part of the game is that each player has a unique alien power.  Sometimes, you might play an alien that every time he loses ships, he gets to select what other player also loses ships.  You may play an alien that has a power that revives all of their lost ships as zombies…

There are also flair cards, which allow the players to maybe have some super powers, or a good major power that can change the game play.  Here is an example of a flair card.

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There are ten flair cards in the deck.  The flair cards are randomly drawn.  Each specific alien has one flair card matching their alien, plus some other random cards.  If you are the alien race that matches the flair card, you get to use the Super Power – and put it back in your hand when you play it.  If you aren’t the same race as the flair card, you get to use it with the yellow text box, and once you use it, you put it into the discard pile.

The super power seems overpowered, and it really is.  As long as you can keep it in your hand, you can keep cycling it in and out of play, however if you ever need to discard your hand, or if it is the last card in your hand that you play, leaving you with no cards in your hand, you must place it in the discard pile, hopefully getting it again sometime later in the game when the discard pile is shuffled up again.

There are also artifact cards, which can be really horrible and change things just as things look peachy for one of the players.  Here are some examples of artifact cards.

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So what about Saturday’s game?

Well, the first time we played it, I lost miserably.  I love this game, but I usually suck royally at it.  You know that a game is good for you when you can enjoy losing.  It didn’t take long and the other players were figuring out how to screw each other and get victory points, while keeping me at exactly 0 victory points.  It was kind of brutal, but like I said, I love this game.  I don’t mind losing.

As I told everyone after only one player won, everyone who didn’t win lost, and we could all get worked up about ranking the losers, but in the desire to keep everyone happy, we just all need to know that we all lost, and are losers.  I don’t remember who won the first game, it might have been Collin.  All I know is that I was one of the four losers.

The second game was different.  I played the zombie alien race, which allowed me to never lose any ships to the warp.  It ended up being pretty tight at the end.  There were a bunch of players with 3 and 4 victory points each.  In the end, it just was a game of keeping Collin from winning.  Shari got into it, and punished Collin brutally.

It was fun.  This game is pretty wonky, and needs the right group to play.  If you need fair game play, and some sort of balanced game with no backstabbing, this is not the game for you.  It ultimately ends up being close to Flux in that the cards make for a lot of chaos in the game.  I don’t care for Flux, because Flux is all about how can you just have a game that resets every turn.

Cosmic Encounter is more of a wonky party game.  It is a good game for friends, but like the Paranoia card game, probably wouldn’t be a good game at a convention.  There is too much likelihood that you are going to get someone who acts like they have a stick up their ass, and gets whiny and snivelly when the other players come and beat on him.

Star Frontiers Episode 02

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So we met on Saturday at Dice Age Game Emporium.  It was kind of a slow start, as the group slowly trickled in.  Eventually the entire group was there.

For some reason, Sue brought a monstrosity.

Evidently, there is a thing.  I don’t know what it is, but I associate it with the same thing that brought President Trump into power, where people bake macaroni and cheese on a bed of crushed Ritz crackers.  That may be OK.  Boxed Mac and Cheese on a crunchy base, well, probably a soggy base.

But then Sue went full on Republican lunacy, and added marshmallows.  Now anyone who has been reading my blog, or knows me, knows for a fact that marshmallows come from Satan’s Anus.

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I am not making any comments good or bad about Satan, well. actually, Satan stands for things that I don’t agree with, but nothing should ever be eaten that comes from an entity’s anus.  Simple.

Last week, someone brought a package of Peep candy and tried to leave it in front of me.  I simply took the package and put it straight in the trash.  Peeps are awful.  The difference between peeps, marshmallows in a bag and marshmallows in a bottle are just variations in how the shit is packaged.

Peeps involve Satan being artistic and moving his butt around as he forms the peeps.  Marshmallows in a bag are where Satan cuts the stream of shitty marshmallow goop as he poops them out.  Marshmallow creme (in the bottle) is where Satan had diarrhea and could not control his crap, and just filled up bottles.

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Exhibit 1, Satan’s Runny Bowels in a Jar

So what does this have to do with a bunch of friends getting together to have a good time?

Funny you should ask.  Normally “friends” getting together would involve “friends” being “nice” to each other, not having one particular “friend” poke at the bear, by providing some monstrosity of southern pride cooking as a joke.

To be fair, boxed mac and cheese on Ritz crackers, alone might be OK  Boxed mac and cheese just has a salty presence, and needs something to make it palatable.  I usually cover mine with a good hot sauce, or maybe some salsa to give it a decent taste.  I can see the potential of a base of Ritz crackers being good, kind of like how cheesecake has a crust of crushed graham crackers.

But the marshmallow thing.  I can’t begin to tell you about how marshmallow is the most revolting thing in the world.

My brother loves marshmallows.  No, I don’t hate marshmallows because of my brother.  My brother is a really decent guy, and I love him.  But the marshmallow….

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He used to eat the snow balls, you know, the pink coconut nasty crap piles..

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He also would eat some other Hostess shit pile, where it came with two slices of chocolate cake with a layer of marshmallow between.  He would also eat peanut butter sandwiches with the shit from the bottle.  The most disgusting thing was when he would add marshmallow creme to ice cream.

Now, Sue has said things to me like “He protests too much”, implying that I was making up my disgust for marshmallow, and actually, I like marshmallow.

Trust me, this is nothing made up. I despise marshmallow.  It causes me to have a truly visceral reaction.  I am not a fan of anything that is frothed or foamy.  The feel of that type of thing in my mouth is repulsive.  I won’t eat meringue, whipped cream, and really don’t like root beer floats because of the foam at the top.  When I get a beer, I wait until the foamy head has gone away before I drink the beer.  I like beer, but I don’t like foam.

A few years ago, there was a big cooking trend, where everything had foam in haute couture cooking.  Every cooking show had some guest chef finding ways to add foam to any form of sweet or savory dish.  I could not understand why people would want this type of mouth feel.

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Now, even though I don’t like this type of thing, marshmallow is the king of nastiness.  I can’t put my finger on it, but marshmallow is uber nasty.

So many of the people thought it was funny to laugh at my responses to the “comfort food” that Sue brought.  I took notes,  your characters will all die painful deaths, in every game, forever.

For some reason, this made Collin excited, as demonstrated in the following video:

We also discussed the things which were actually said in the previous gaming session, but were reported with a fair and balanced approach.  Several people at the table were happy that I used discretion about reporting about what was said, as compared to what was actually said.

That is the benefit of writing a blog as opposed to being a news writer.  A news writer has a moral obligation to report the truth.  As a blog writer, similar to a talking head who needs to spew out 2 hours of venom and trash on cable TV or an AM radio station has no obligation to be truthful.  The only obligation is to make sure that you are entertaining the people who are reading or listening, or watching the filth that you are spewing.  When people get bored, then you need to shift your views or say something even more vile and hateful to keep the minds of the audience interested.  IF no one is interested, then you can’t sell advertising.

That is where a blog is awesome.  I don’t need to keep the minds of the people reading this interested.  This is my fucking blog.  I will prattle on about whatever I fucking want to.  Nobody is paying me through advertising.  I just keep the poor reader hooked, hoping that at some point in my diatribe, that I will actually say something related to the plot hook that is called the “blog title”.

Star Frontiers.

There, I said it, I circled around so that after reading 1,000 words of twaddle about marshmallows and “friends” who think they are funny (You know who you are… ok, to be very clear Sue.).

I have a friend who reads this blog, but does not play with our Saturday group.  We play on Thursday evenings.  She was not aware of how I determine how long to prattle on before talking about the gaming.  Eric filled Loren in last Thursday, and explained that the amount of prattle is directly related to how long it takes for the Saturday group to go from sitting at the table to actually beginning to play.

You see, the Saturday group is a group of people who genuinely enjoy each other’s company, so we spend time annoying the rest of the customers at Dice Age Game Emporium by talking about everything and anything prior to playing.  We also tend to spend time during the game, talking about things that are not relevant to the game, but are relevant to a group of friends having a good time, where the game is simply a construct or a reason for us to get together.  We could probably also go to a bar and sit around and drink and have a good time.

Come to think about it, it might be cheaper if we all just went to a bar and got drunk every week.  Even though drinking at a bar is expensive, it could not be anywhere as expensive as the gaming hobby.

Where was I?

Oh yeah, Sue brought marshmallow casserole, Collin was expressing his joy, and it was Jen’s birthday.  Jen tried the casserole.  She took one bite, and didn’t go back for another.

Mike tried the casserole, and didn’t go back for another.  In the end, Mike decided that the chickens in his back yard would like the casserole.

We also talked about the week in politics.  Our national leaders have managed to squander their abilities again, and were successful in shitting err shutting the government down on Friday night.  They had one job.

This is the problem that I have with many politicians, probably most if not all.  In general, on a good election cycle, about half the registered voters bother to get off their butts and vote.  And, when they tally the votes, it ends up that the parties get elected to office by slim margins, as in 53% to 47% or so.

Then the elected officials go into office saying that they have a mandate of the people to do X.  Really, you got about 1/4 of the voting population to agree to vote for you, and you need to only listen to the loudest constituents who you happen to agree with, or paid you the most money?

So the president sets the stage, saying at first, “I will sign any bill that comes to my desk…”, quickly changing his message multiple times, ending up with “I will only sign a bill that agrees with the particular whims that I have when it gets to my desk, understanding that my whims may change at least 45 times during the short time between when it arrives on my desk until I ink the last letter on my signature of the bill, or steve, or tom, or whatever this thing I am scrawling on is”

After writing the previous paragraph, I now understand why the porn star was paid $130,000 to spank Donald Trump with a Forbes magazine while watching three hours Shark Week.  I mean, if you had to spend three hours with him, you would want a sizable pile of money too.  I can just hear The Donald saying “Forbes, no, National Geographic with the naked titties on it, no, Time, no, the Wall Street Journal with the naked titties, no, Penthouse, no, Highlights with Goofus and Gallant oogling the naked titties, no, Boys Life… the one with the Norman Rockwell’s naked titties picture on it, no Forbes, no I got it, I want Sunset Magazine – with the naked titties…”

So we have a group of people who are elected by about 1/4 of their constituents who are busy trying to change the world to meet their particular view of how things should be done, without regard to the rest of the people who didn’t vote for them, and without regard for the humanity that they are serving.

Look at the DACA thing.  Regardless of how the children in DACA got here, they were brought here by their parents, and they lived their lives growing up here in America.  Through no fault of their own, they are here.

They are human beings.

Let that sink in.

The people that are being threatened to be thrown out of this country are human beings.

Does that fit in with your moral system?

Human Beings who were brought to this great country by their parents, need to be kicked out.  What does that say about your values, if you agree with this?

After all, we all know that is is only furriners that cause havoc for this country.

They are human beings.

I am here through no fault of my own also.  I happen to have been born here in this country.  I didn’t do anything other than exist, and have all of the benefits of living in a 1st world country with benefits which should be available to all people.

So, a group of people come to this country, to have a better life than they had in their old country.  By some measure, they survive and hopefully thrive.  Their kids live the American kids life to some measure.

And somehow, these kids who were brought here need to be kicked out of this country like trash, because why?  They are immigrants.  My family came from immigrants.

Irish, English German, Polish, Scottish, and probably a bunch of other groups which were not well received when they came to this country in the early 1900’s.  I am a northern European mutt.  I remember stories about how my great grandfather (of English descent) was very upset that my grandmother married a German.

People need to get over themselves, and look at the fundamental tenants of the world’s major religions.  They all come down to Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.

I could go on.

I will leave this after saying …

The government in Washington appears to have devolved to a bunch of two year olds who are only able to view the world from their immature self centered perspective.  Unable to reach compromise, which is apparently defined as “if you don’t do what I want, you are a poopyhead and I don’t like you anymore”, they would rather sulk or have a tantrum than actually provide what they were elected in office for.

Please note that I am not calling out any particular individual, party or group.  I believe that the entire group of elected officials in DC fit the paragraph above.

Grow the fuck up.

Star Frontiers.

Yay.

You have read through almost 2,200 words of twaddle about marshmallows and politics to get to the game.

Star Frontiers.

Capture

The players started out where they left off last week.  All regretting Sue’s decision to bring a marshmallow shit pie.  Err, I mean realizing that things were dire.

You see, I am not a mean or petty man.  But when my “friends” hoot and holler about the marshmallow shit pie for any amount of time over 10 seconds, it just registers that they need to be taught a lesson.  That lesson involves pain, horrible pain…

I mean, the party made it through the night, quietly thinking their own private thoughts about why and how they got to this planet.  Hoping that they at least crash landed on Volturnus.  I mean, if anyone is going to send out a rescue party, it would be to the planet where they were supposed to be going, right?

Star Frontiers has a set of rules associated with space travel.  Astrogation is one skill that must be rolled against.  It is possible that the pilot made a bad astrogation roll, and they ended up several hundred light years away from where they intended to go.  Or maybe, things went swimmingly.  Who is to know?  I am sure that it will all work out, or it won’t.  In any event, it should be interesting.

It is important to note that whetever planet they are on, the party has not found any marshmallows yet.

I read the following to the players several times.  It takes quite a few times of repeating the text to get focused on the game.

Capture

Mike appears to be hallucinating.  He is having trouble focusing on anything that is going on.  He keeps looking for the proper pair of dice to roll.  Sue has three sets of D10 dice, all of them are swirly pretty dice.  Mike keeps reaching over and looking for the ones that roll well.  First he tries the purple / green swirly ones, then the red / green swirly ones, then settles on the silver / purple swirly ones.

Sue seems to realize that Mike is reacting to eating the marshmallow shit pile, and takes pity on him, saying things like “I know it hurts, I am so sorry for doing this to you, but I told you before we walked in to not to try the shitpile”.  Collin, Bill, Shari and Eric are all happy that they allowed Mike to try eating the marshmallow shit pile first, and then observed him for any ill effects prior to trying it themselves.  Sometimes, it pays to risk not getting food, just to make sure that you won’t have excruciating pain and potential brain damage.

Jen tried a bite of the marshmallow shit pile, then left quickly with an entourage to have her stomach pumped.  She came back later, looking pale and a little green at the gills.

Everyone thought it was a great joke when Sue brought it in.  I was the only one laughing in the end.  I knew, not to eat the marshmallow shit pile.

The party trudged on in the desert.  I gave the players a hex map, and Bill chose to be the mapmaker.  Each hex was 8 KM across.  They could cross two hexes per day in the desert. 20180120_164529.jpg

Bill’s character was very interested in mapping out the area, and determined that given their water and food on hand, they could to to a specific radius from the crash site before not being able to get back.

Around the party about every 500 feet was a strange Lilly pad type of plant on a long skinny stalk.  Collin cut the stalk, to see if there was water inside.  They found a thick viscous fluid in the stalk that ran out.  The part of the stalk between the cut and the ground quickly lost all of its gooey liquid and collapsed to the desert floor.

Mike tasted the gooey fluid.  It was the most awful combination of sweet, spicy and sour, and it coated his mouth with its foul flavor.  Nothing would remove the horrible flavor and cloying texture.  Yes, the texture was cloying.  Mike drank a bunch of water, and found that didn’t help.

Eric chose to try tasting it, after all, a bug may find things taste different than a puny human.  Eric found that it tasted like the traditional wedding feast food that the Vrusk eat.  Now, that is not a good thing.  The Vrusk wedding feast is intended to provide the most foul and inedible food possible to the happy couple.  The intent is to let the couple know that no matter how bad things are in their marriage, they are never going to be as bad as the wedding feast.  This simple tradition has made it so that Vrusk never marry more than once.  Never.  The food is so foul that it usually hospitalizes the Vrusk couple for several weeks with dysentery like symptoms for several weeks, if not months.  If the couple is strong enough to survive the shit fest, then they can have children.  This is all part of the Vrusk method of only letting the strong mate and pass on their genes.

While Eric found this to be disgusting, he also realized that there might be a money making opportunity here.

The party tried to see if they could turn the cut stalk with the leaf into an umbrella, but found that once the gooey ooze gushed out that the stalk and leaf became limp.

When the party looked around, they found that they could see everything in their hex, and into the next hex.  The only nearby hex that seemed to have anything was to the east, where they saw a short stack of rocks.

Now, this area is like the nullarbor plain in South Australia.  It is so flat, that you can see the curvature of the earth if you stand on the hood of your car.  It is dry, flat, and dry, and more dry.

The party moves out toward the stack of rocks, and finds that it is a cairn with a fibrous mat lashed to it.  Not terribly unlike this:

Matsurah Well

Only, there is no Omar Sharif coming to save the party.  Nor are there any Huwaytat tribe that will offer the protagonist any relief.

As they party moves closer to the stone cairn, they are attacked by the Star Frontiers equivalent of a Sarlac (note that I am misspelling it, to only include on C, instead of the two C’s to avoid litigation from Disney who now owns the Sarlacc).  The ground opens up beneath them, and Collin and Sue are attacked by psuedopods.

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Now, not withstanding the idea that Disney will hopefully turn the Sarlacc into a Disney princess. the Sarlac (1 C) grabs Collin and Sue, and starts pulling them into the gaping maw.

Things go badly.  We play the rules wrongly.  Then we retcon it and play it properly.  You know, it helps if you are going to play a game to do it right.  But then, I blame it on the marshmallow shit pile sitting in the middle of the table.  I mean who can concentrate with this staring at you?

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In fact, that marshmallow shitpile may need to become a new monster that the party will fight.  Let’s see.   Stats.

CR 15, Damage Resistance 200, 3,000 hit points, Requires will save versus nausea, retching and vomiting.  It acts like an ooze, where cutting it in two simply makes two horrors instead of 1.  The only weakness is ingestion by the party members who spend the next 4 to 12 months in the ICU on life support.

But where were we?

Oh yeah, the Sarlac (which looks remarkably like the marshmallow shit pile, gives up slowly.  It snatches the characters, pulling Eric and Collin into the pit of despair.  The party decides it is a good time to drop some grenades into the monster.  Mike tries to drop a doze grenade in, and fails.  I mean he is standing right next to it, and just has to roll the grenade into the maw.  Nope, he rolls poorly.  He chose the wrong dice from Sue.  I decided that the grenade is on the lips of the Sarlac, but he forgot to pull the pin.  Mike tried the same thing with a tangler grenade, and rolled poorly again.

Now, this seems to be a thing with this group.  When the roll needs to be high, they roll low.  when the roll needs to be low, they roll high.  When that fails, they just roll just outside the target number’s requirements.  It doesn’t seem to matter how awesome their characters are, what the game system is, or whether or not the roll must be successful, they just roll poorly.

I mean watching the party, you would think that out of 100 rolls, at least half would be above 51, and half would be 50 or less.  Not this group.  They roll so many botched rolls in a row, it is painful to watch.

Where were we?

Oh yeah, the party shoots into the Sarlac, causing it to get really pissed off.  I mean when you have 200 stamina, and someone shoots 5 SEU hand laser fire in it, and it does 5d10 damage, it is no surprise that the Sarlac beats the crap out of anything that it can reach with its tentacles.

The party finally manages to throw a couple of doze grenades and a tangler grenade into it.  This pisses the critter off, a lot.  The third tangler grenade, plus the 50 + stamina damage cause the critter to stop fighting.  However, the doze grenades cause Mike and Collin to be zonked out, sleeping like a baby.

Well, it was a little more complicated than that.  The tentacles beat the crap out of everyone but Shari, who bravely stood back waiting for her opportune time to fight, and Bill, who spent his time cataloging the flora and fauna of this planet.

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Sue helps out the players several times by hitting them with stim shots, and other medicine that could help them.  Mike bravely jumped into the Sarlac pit and stabilized Eric during the middle of the fight.

In the end, Sue managed to perform surgery on herself, gaining extra health / stamina back, but she was unable to help anyone else.

The party investigates the stone cairn, and finds that it is a well.  They restock their water. and trudge on.

Now, the module rules say that you need to roll for wandering monsters once per 12 hour period.  On a 1 or a 2, you get a wandering monster.  And I keep rolling 1’s and 2’s on a d10 for wandering monsters.  Bwoooohahahahaahahahahaha, I mean wow, that sucks for the party.

After a day’s travel from the well, the party is once again in the dark.  As they move on, they begin to smell carrion.  Rotting meat.  They ask “Can we see anything flying above, like a vulture?”  I say “no” without making a roll.  It is pitch dark after all, how would they see a carrion flying critter in the dark, where there is no moon?

As they continue forward, the stench becomes stronger, and they hear whining, as in animals whining, crying.  Mike moves forward, and sees a lump on the ground ahead of him.  The lump has an abrupt end on one side, and on the other side, the lump gently tapers down to the ground, and in the middle of the lump are several short spiky things poking out of it.  It is dark, and Mike doesn’t want to get too close.

Mike goes back to the party and reports what he found.  Bill takes copious notes.  Eric is convinced that they should continue moving on, since he has all of one hit point left.

As the party are discussing the situation, Sue feels something lightly tugging at her backpack, she whirls around and finds a large lizard has stolen a ration pack from her pack and is consuming it.  Sue says “the food that I kept at the *bottom* of the pack?”  I reply, yes, and your pack is now completely shredded, and all of your equipment is spread around the ground.

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The lizard critters stand about 4-ft tall, and now think of Mike as their mom.  They walk in front of mike like a lovesick puppy, tripping him with love.

Sue is unhappy. But then, I randomly rolled who would fall in the Sarlac pit, and Sue was one of the beneficiaries.  I randomly rolled to see who would have their pack rifled through, and it was Sue.

Honestly.  6 players.  I roll a d6 to see who is the one attacked, etc.  Sue kept coming up in the random die roll.  It had nothing to do with the marshmallow shit pile.  I start with Mike next to me as 1, and count counterclockwise.

  1. one person to the left of Mike
  2. Sue
  3. Sue
  4. Sue
  5. Sue
  6. Sue

No, really I roll randomly.

  1. Mike
  2. Sue
  3. Eric
  4. Bill
  5. Collin
  6. Shari

I kept rolling 2’s.  I felt badly, so I decided to go the other way, counterclockwise from Share, to the left.  I kept rolling 5’s then.

So the party is moving on.  As they continue their Frodolike journey to Mordor, I mean to wherever this long trudge will take them, the two lizards all of a sudden dispensary, running as fast as possible from the party.  Then out of the sand a giant mouth full of teeth grabs.. you guessed it, Sue (randomly rolled) and another grabs Collin.

The teeth hurt.  They do some pretty massive damage  The teeth chew up most of the party in one bite or another.  Someone I think it was Bill decides to dangle their tangler grenade above the ground, holding it by the pin, while Shari jumps in and out of the area with the grenade, to try to get one of the sand sharks to bite the grenade.  Shari is lucky, as the summoned the shark right at the grenade.  The grenade goes off, and the sand shark can not get back under the sand again.  Bill ties a rope around the critter, and they heave it out of the sand.  It is trying to hack out the tangler grenade like a cat with a huge hairball.

The other sand shark runs away after the party kills off the first sand shark.

By this time, just about everyone was a very low hit points, except for Shari and Bill.  They are pretty much unscathed.  Everyone else is looking up the rules trying to figure out when their characters are “dead’ as opposed to just unconscious.

Star Frontiers is a pretty brutal game.  It assumes that the players have access to a hospital, and presumably the funds to pay for the hospital, because in this future world, there is no government health care.  Natural healing takes a long time, as in 1 stamina point per day of complete rest.

If you have a surgeon, you can heal faster, if your surgeon / medic is good or lucky.  So far, Sue, the medic has shown that she is lucky at healing herself and performing surgery on herself, but not so much for the other players.

More to follow.

Star Frontiers Episode 01

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So we started playing Star Frontiers, an RPG published by TSR in the early to mid 1980’s.  I loved the hell out of that game when I was in middle and high school.  It was the game to play with my friends who didn’t want to play Traveller.  Now, there was a game.  I loved Traveller.  GDW did an amazing job on that game.

So we arrived at Dice Age Game Emporium at noon, and started into our normal pre game BS’ing.  We had a good week of news to cover. including President Trump’s latest missives.  Well, actually, President Trump’s latest missives are pretty much what we talked about.

Of course, the first story this week was how Alex Jones defended the size of President Trump’s genitals.

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What does Alex Jones’ knowledge of President Trump’s genital size have to do with anything related to gaming?  Probably not much.  But in this day and age, it is important to try to keep reality separate from fantasy.  Now that we know that Alex Jones of Infowars has intimate knowledge of President Trump’s ballsack and dong, it helps to reinforce my overall belief that we are simply in the middle of a Call of Cthulhu adventure.  We can only hope that one of the old ones will come soon and remove us from the reality we are in.  I mean, after watching what is happening on the national political scene for the last… oh… two decades…  I hope that it will happen soon.

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Then we found out that President Trump decided to say that people from Haiti, certain portions of Africa and El Salvador were not someone that we should be trying to bring to this country, since they were “shithole” countries.  He then asked why we don’t bring in people from countries like Norway.

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OK, I know that this is not related to the gaming, except for my constant amazement that we can become more embarrassed by this TV reality star each week than last week.

Then of course, Trump couldn’t be outdone, since it was early in the week, so we found out that he also *allegedly* paid an adult star $130,000 just before the election to keep her quiet about a weekend she spent with him in 2006, a year after Donald and Melania were married.

Now, I say “allegedly”, but let’s face it.  This guy doesn’t have the best track records.  I mean he cheated on wife 1, with girlfriend A that became wife 2, and he cheated on wife 2 with girlfriend B that became wife 3.  He had his thing about grabbing women by the pussy…  He also came across many times as a cad…  And I only have been giving a few of the highlights.

I know, I know, this is not related to the gaming session?  It isn’t.  Maybe it is.  It is mostly related to my general disgust with the President.

I could call him names, like the Cheeto in Chief, Andrew Dice Trump, Dumfuck, Dumbass, Shit for Brains, Dumbass.  None of those would really be appropriate to demean the office of the President by calling the sitting president any of these names.  But then, it is demeaning to the office of the President to have a total fuckhead in office.

I am sorry, did I offend you.  Well, too bad.  I really am not sorry if you are offended.  President Trump and his ilk is a cancer on this country.  I understand that reasonable people can disagree.  President trump isn’t reasonable.  He is a horrible person.

I need to stop.  I can’t begin to explain how much I dislike this President.

So what did we do in our game?  Well, we made up characters for Star Frontiers.  This took about two hours, since we were busy chatting, and learning things about each other.

I won’t say who said what.

I am not sure that I should repeat any of the things which were said.  Some of them were highly questionable.  I will say that I confirmed that my price for my dignity is $130,000.  That seemed like a lot of money.  It still seems like a lot of money.  Shari did say that she would need more than that to sell her dignity.  Sue seemed to take some solace in knowing that I had established a dollar amount for selling my dignity.  Mike was pretty much aghast.  Collin was pretty sure that he would sell his dignity for less than I would.  Bill simply buried his head in his hands, and wondered how best to get out of the game store.  Now Bill had quite a quandary.  He came with his parents in the family car.  There is no direct bus service from Dice Age to where he lives on 78th St, so he had at least three bus transfers, and would need about 6 hours to get home via C-Tran.  He didn’t have bus fare. and his phone battery was probably dead, which is why he just sat there and lamented his poor choice for the day.

Many things were said.  Too many to repeat.  Many were of the type which should not be repeated.  I am OK with people saying things, but I need to have them write their own stories.  I don’t want to provide questionable information on the Internet. at least questionable information about other people that is unsubstantiated.

It is fine to joke about Jirimiah on the Internet.  He loves us.  We pasted googly eyes on his bell.  We joked at his expense.  We made fun of him.

So the party put together one character each.  Mike and Collin played humans.  Ken doll humans.  As in, Ken Doll – no genitalia humans.  Mike was very concerned about the lack of genitalia on the human.  Collin didn’t seem to car, but Mike was very concerned.  I was slightly concerned that the human looked like he came from Norway, as opposed to an African nation, El Salvador or possibly Haiti.  I mean, with all of the humans in the world, why is the only human that is shown dissected a blond haired blue eyed guy?

kendoll

Sue, Bill and Shari decided to be Dralisites, or amoeba people.  They seemed to think that it was a good thing to be a large amoeba.  Especially if they could have multiple arms and legs, along with other appendages.  Many jokes were provided about the function of specific appendages.  Shari also talked about her theory of how humans were made in groups of five, as in five fingers, five toes, two eyes.  I am not sure that I heard the entire argument, but it seemed slightly off to me.

drala

Eric decided to be a Vrusk.  Now Eric was excited about playing an insect, thinking that he could rear up on his hindmost set of legs, and attack with four arms on each side of his carapace.  Unfortunately for Eric, eight of the appendages are used to move around, and only two are left to fight with.

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No one wanted to be a Yazirian.  This may be the party’s downfall.  No one wants to be the glider wookie.  The glider wookies have battle rage, and can do massive damage to the other guys.  But then, who wants to be a glider wookie?  I always liked playing Dralasites.  I liked them a lot when I was playing.  Glider wookies are tough and fight mean, but aren’t useful for much else.

Yazirian

Now, Mike decided that he needed to have more character definition.

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Eric was very artistic with his interpretation of the Vrusk character.  There were several people who were coloring in the coloring book.  There were also googly eyes.  Lots of googly eyes.  Biggly googly eyes.  The best googly eyes.  Unfortunately, there wasn’t $130,000 worth of googly eyes.  That would be amazingly awesome.

Capture

So what happened you ask?  You scream “I have put up with over 1,300 words and we still aren’t talking about the game”  Yes, you have read over 1,300 words, not 130,000 words, only 1,300.

Well the party was hired by the government of Truane’s Star, to carry out a preliminary exploration of the newly discovered planet of Volturnus.  The party is to map as much as possible, and if they meet any intelligent races, to make friendly contact and learn as much as possible. There was a previous expedition to Vortunus, but they disappeared as soon as they entered the Zemulon system.

As the party boards the starliner that is taking them to Volturnus, the steward gave them an interior plan of the starship.  The steward also took their weapons and armor, which became a bigger problem for the party later on.  But more on that later.  The steward put the weapons and armor into a weapons locker, and then gave the party a map of the ship, showing them how they could find observation decks, the galley, and other rooms to pass the time in.

They are also provided information about how to get to the lifeboats, and how to use them.  The party is informed that once someone enters a lifeboat, it will leave exactly 60 seconds later.

The trip seems uneventful.  The trip took about 7 days to get up to 10% of light speed, then they jumped through the wormhole, then spent about 7 days decelerating back to stop near the planet.  The trip was successful, in that nothing really bad happened… yet.

About three hours before they were supposed to leave the ship, the party hears a fight out in the hallway.  The party investigates, and finds that there are two piratey looking people out in the hallway.

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Well they probably looked more like this…

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OK, we have established that the people out in the hallway are involved in a scuffle, and they look like pirates, but there are no alarms, klaxons, or other bad things going on.

The party assumes that the pirates are bad guys.  I try several times to interject that there could be a party going on, and these people could be party goers.  No, that will not do.  The party attacks.

Well, they try to attack.  They punch, kick, bite, and maybe even growl a little, but they keep rolling high on their dice.  In this case, rolling high is not good.  Rolling low is good.  Shari manages to roll 100 like a half dozen times.  Eric does even better and rolls something like a dozen times with a 100.

Collin gets all pissy because his dice keep rolling high.  He complains that my dice are rolling low.  Scratch that, both Eric and Collin get pissy because my dice are rolling well.  Shari, Sue, Bill and Mike are all pretty much certain that my dice are loaded.

The party takes damage from the two pirates, and then start trying to grapple and take advantage of the rules for punching a kicking a poor unfortunate grappled person.

Any doubt about the pirates being party goers is eliminated when another piratey guy comes along and shoots several times at Bill.  Lucky for Bill, most of the shots miss.  Most of them.  Well, maybe not most, but some of them.  I don’t remember for sure, because Bill attacked the pirate and the pirate dropped his pistol and ran away.  Bill is pretty happy about getting a pistol, but he doesn’t bother looking at how many charges are left.  More on that another time, I am sure.

In the end, the party overpowers the Vrusk and Dralasite pirates.  They decide to tie them up.  Now tying up a Dralasite may not be a good idea.  These guys are amoebas, but Eric is convinced that since he knows how to tie up a pork butt for smoking, he can tie up a Dralasite.

Sue decides that she needs to try to find the weapons.  They are stored in a weapons locker in the bridge.  Sue tries several things to try to get there.  I keep asking her things like “how do you propose to get through a locked security door” and “How do you propose to squeeze through a locked pressure bulkhead” and some such things.  Sue looks at me with her best angry look.  Not sure if it was angry or pissed off, or what.

No matter how many times Sue gave me that look, you know, the one where she simultaneously shows me that I am number 1 in her book, she was not prepared for when she opened the door to the bridge, and found four pirates all with long range weapons.  The four pirates shoot at Sue, and do 21 damage.  It was bad.  Sue, as she ran away, found that the weapons locker that held the weapons and armor from the party had been was completely destroyed and everything was gone from inside the cabinet.

This caused consternation in the party, since, of course they had spent all of their money on weapons, instead of hookers and blow.  The party was very upset, since they had spent a lot money on good stuff.  Well, not a lot of money, but when you don’t have much money and you spend it all on stuff that is now gone, the party tends to get a little pissy.

Sue runs away, as fast as possible, making me repeat several times “yes, all of the weapons and ammo are gone”.  It is clear that she is not happy.  As the party starts to consider what to do, they feel the ship shudder, and an odd wind starts blowing towards the far end of the ship.  Their ears pop.

That is enough information to let them know that they need to start moving towards the escape craft.  Things are going badly on the ship.  The pirates run away also.

Sue is the first one to the escape craft.  She says “I get on the ship”  I ask her for clarification, and she realizes that once the ship is boarded, it leaves in 60 seconds, period.  So she quickly says “I stand next to the entrance of the ship”.

The party scrambles onto the escape craft, and it launches.  The escape craft makes for the planet Volturnus, at least that is hopefully where it is going.

You see, in Star Frontiers, there is a rule about how the jumps occur.  If the navigator makes a good role, then the ship gets to where it needs to.  If the navigator doesn’t make a good role, then the ship can jump anywhere, and be off by a long distance.

While the party is convinced that they are going to Volturnis, they only know that they are headed to a planet.

Midway through the atmosphere of the planet, things start going wrong.  There is a large sparking electrical fire on one of the computers, followed by a large explosion and fire outside.  The ship lands, and the fire starts spreading.

The party barely has time to grab the survival packs that are in the ship before exiting while the fire and smoke expand and hurt them.

The next morning, they realize that they are on a desolate, dry planet.  Hopefully, it is Volturnus.

More to follow.

Paranoia Episode 02, 03 and 04

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So I have been remiss in blogging about the ongoing RPG sessions.  I am not sure why.  I took several days off over the Christmas / New Year’s holidays.  I had plenty of time, while also hanging out with the dogs, my wife, kids, and gaming, along with some playing of games I got on the Steam sale, and painting miniatures.

Blogging is kind of a labor of love.  No one really reads the ongoing rants of a middle aged gamer who is just writing because.  Well, maybe some people do, but there isn’t a huge return on investment.  I do like doing it, because it helps me just get stuff out in a written format.

I went to college to get an engineering degree.  In college, we spent a lot of time doing math, science and trying to get drunk as often as possible.  The professors kept telling us that communication was the most important thing, being able to communicate was going to get us farther in our career than just being able to solve math problems.

Turns out, they were right.  Almost everything I do at work is communicate.  Well, that is a gross oversimplification, but it is pretty accurate.  I need to able to express complex concepts to others.  Quite often, the other person is angry or upset.  Other times, I need to be able to explain to coworkers what I would like to get accomplished.

As a manager, I spend my time doing several things, including – but not limited to; getting funding for projects, determining how to create and use budgets, figuring out what is going on that is keeping the engineers and technicians who work for me  from being able to do their job (I call this moving things out of their way so that they can be successful), listening to people and seeing what I can do to change the playing field to accomplish their goals.  Figuring out how to help the people who report to me be successful.  Creating the overall vision for the program

You are probably saying “Yeah, yeah, what a bunch of new age crap”.  Actually, not.  There is a hierarchy in the job, where some people do the work, and other people manage the people, budgets and process who are doing the work.  It makes for interesting times, trying to figure out what I have accomplished.  When I was an engineer, actually designing stuff, and solving discrete problems, I could judge my effectiveness by saying thing like “I put 11 projects out last year”, “I updated the signal timing for 3 arterial corridors this year”, or “I finished writing the specifications for the project today.”

Now, a manager, I say things like “What the heck did I do today?”  and “Wow, that was a lot of meetings today” and “Hmmm, we want to do X, it is appropriate, legal and justifiable, but it doesn’t fit the standard process.  How can we create the chain of information that will satisfy the auditor’s requirements?”

So what does all of this have to do with Paranoia?  I don’t know.  I was just rambling on about stuff, and thinking about the game play in Paranoia.  I try hard to not create the situations that are in the game, as it is the full on game of inept management trying to kill every one of the players, while allowing the players to try to kill each other to curry favor from the Computer, our friend.

Playing Paranoia is actually like working in the most dysfunctional work environment possible.  Every player is a boot licking toady, trying to get a leg up on the other players.  It is not unusual to have the players try to kill each other’s characters.

Every thing that the players say, or do is subject to the computer asking uncomfortable questions.

For instance, in one game Collin’s character was the Team Leader, Shari’s character was the equipment officer, Eric’s character was the happiness officer.

Long story short, Shari decided that the best way to keep from having to answer to our friend the Computer for misuse of the computer provided equipment was to confiscate it.  Since the computer provides no information (useful information, that is) about the issued equipment, and she is responsible for it, she determines that it is best to take it away.

Now, the happiness officer has to deal with the fact that the specific equipment that was issued by the Computer, our Friend, has been taken away, which is making the party unhappy.  The Team Leader is the one who has to answer to the Computer, our friend, because the Team Leader has allowed the party members to not have their Computer, our friend, issued equipment.  The Team Leader can not make the Equipment Officer give up the equipment.  The Team Leader decides the best way to solve this problem is to assassinate the equipment officer, using one of Shari’s clones.  While Shari’s clone +1 is being reintroduced through the Alpha System Complex, the Team Leader takes out the equipment and hands it out.  This makes the happiness officer happy, since the computer was questioning the Happiness Officer’s ability to keep the team happy due to the inability of the Team Leader to keep the Equipment Officer under control.  The Computer, our friend, is satisfied with the outcome, since even though a valuable clone was wasted, the Team Leader solved the issue of the assignment of the equipment to the party members.

This is actually pretty usual game play in Paranoia.  Things go bad, and then worse.  You need to enjoy Schadenfreude.  You need to appreciate that when your party members accuse you of treason, assassinate you, or find a way to grovel and snivel themselves into a bootlicking frenzy, it is all in fun.  And there is nothing stopping you from doing the same thing back, except you need to keep in mind that you only can have four wounds, or five treason stars before your current clone dies / is killed, and you have a maximum of six clones.

In some ways, Paranoia is like the worst job you have every had. No, it is worse, far worse, than the worst job you have ever heard about.  The tasks are impossible.  There is no training,  Everything is broken, or works differently than advertised, you are undermined by your coworkers and your boss. You have very limited ability to affect meaningful change in the work place.  Your boss and coworkers will take credit for anything that you do right, and you will be made to suffer as your boss and coworkers shift blame for everything that went wrong.

We have been playing the old Paranoia game files.  The new box comes with three adventures, but the older adventures are pretty easy to mod to get into the new game rules.  After all, as the DM, if nothing else, just roll dice, and say “tsk tsk” or laugh maniacally.

Capture

In general, Paranoia adventures follow a standard path.  The party is given a mission brief, then they follow their I-Ball to the location where the mission starts.  Generally, the manager they are reporting to is a higher level clone, who has a tenuous grasp to their job and the manager is just about to hyperventilate  because they may lose their cushy job.  It is the responsibility of the red level operatives to accomplish the poorly described mission that they are given, without any real help.  Generally, failure means execution.  Generally, there is no way to not fail.

And then it gets worse.

In one game we recently played, each player was given weapons to help them solve the mission.  None of the weapons worked right.  In fact, the crate of weapons was the only thing left after other clones (not in the party) took all of the normal weapons.

Here are descriptions of the weapons from the module:

Autoload cone rifle: This is a standard cone rifle with a cumbersome autoload mechanism.  The whole thing weighs about as much as a color TV and is nearly as durable. It comes with two magazines of five shells each. The shells are not labeled. Of course they’re all high explosives. The charming feature is that, at the touch of a finger, the cone rifle fires all five rounds in less than two seconds.  If by chance the operator and weapon should survive the first use, the autoload mechanism is greatly disturbed by the shock of the first burst. Of course it jams immediately, and warning beepers sound. All five shells explode in 20 seconds.

Bombot: This is a miniature warbot about as big as a prize pig. It follows simple orders like ‘Go 400 meters north and blow up.’ It ignores all other orders. It contains enough explosive to obliterate a quarter of a city block. Anyone in line of sight of the bombot and within 100 meters is vaporized. Reduce the damage one step for intervening obstacles such as walls or for extended range. (Don’t get too technical. Kill them.)

Happygas: This looks like a flare gun with three unmarked canisters. The gas contained therein causes immediate and uncontrollable laughter for (1d20 divided by 4) combat rounds. After the laughter wears off, the victim has amnesia for another one or two rounds. The range of the gun is 50 meters. The area of effect is a 100-meter radius circle around the point of impact. (Sure, we know that includes the point where the weapon user was standing. He’s supposed to wear a gasmask. Oh well.)

Psionic trigger: This widget looks like a remote TV control connected by a cable to a
heavy backpack. The backpack contains a bewildering mass of wires, meters and widgets unlike anything ever used as a weapon. (It looks something like the Psionic Phenomena detector hardware available experimentally for some multicorder models, but ORANGE-Clearance citizens normally have never encountered such a thing.) It has a dial with ranges marked from 0 to 50 meters and a red and a white button—red for ON, and white for OFF.  This device triggers involuntary use of psionic activity in individuals within the range specified on the range dial. If the victim has a psionic (i.e., weird psychic mental) mutation, he involuntarily and impulsively uses it. Depending on the psionic power, the circumstances and opportunities for mischief, affected PCs and NPCs should have various types of psionic seizures. If an individual does not have a psionic mutant power, there is no effect other than an immediate and irresistible urge to eat anything within reach and marginally edible.  The device has a power pack good for ten rounds of psionic triggering. If the white button is not pressed, the effect continues until the battery wears out. The battery is a unique design and requires special (uh, nonexistent) equipment to recharge it.

Plasma generator: Exactly like the plasma generator described in the PARANOIA XP
rulebook, except the ball of plasma forms at the end of the hand projector and just sits there. It fl oats for four rounds, then dissipates. Somewhat disappointing, but okay for melee combat.

Gravitron-X: Close examination of this pistol shaped object reveals it is no more than a device for bringing two tiny pellets into contact inside a tiny chamber when a trigger is pulled. There is no hole for projectile fire, though the design of the object suggests it is pointed like a pistol. When the trigger is pulled, one pellet zips down though the gun material, the floor and anything beneath it, headed for the center of the earth.  The other pellet zips through gun material and up through the ceiling into the illimitable wastes of space. When the trigger is released, the pellets return.  Unfortunately, the ammunition is only one use, and apparently no reloads came with the weapon.  We think this weapon has something to do with gravity, but we’re not sure. At any rate, it doesn’t work any more, so don’t worry about it.

Of course, there is no manual for the players to know what these things are.  That is part of the fun of the game, trying to figure out how to survive this horrible world.

The weapons actually demonstrate some part of what type of player needs to play Paranoia.  There are players who want to role play, and have fun with the game.  They don’t mind if they roll a bad roll, and mess up.  Some game players can deal with this, and make the failure fun.  Some game players can not.

If you are a gamer who gets angry when you fail at a roll, and then become upset because the game didn’t go your way because of a natural 1, Paranoia may not be for you.  If you can deal with having things go badly, and actually enjoy it, then Paranoia may be for you.

During the game last week, the party had to pilot the U-bot to a remote location.  The party was give access to Emguli-O, an artiste, who only wanted to be able to make a good movie.  For some reason, the players found Emguli-O annoying.  I am not sure why, after all, he was pure Euro-Trash, talked over everyone else, made sure that the red level operatives knew that he was orange level, and a star, but not a treason star.

For some reason, the party also were provided with space suits, to go outside the Alpha complex, to swim around in the ocean.  Because, obviously, the space suits used in training like this are the same space suits used in, you know, space.

ScubaDiving_Astronauts

The players were given just the following graphic to go from.  True to Paranoia, there were no instructions at all for the U-bot.  Now, it would be one thing if there was a manual which had no useful information, or wrong information, but there was *no* information.

Capture

Now, the players didn’t know that the adventure had almost 80% of the information just about trying to figure our how to pilot the U-Bot.  The U-Bot was a killer bot.  It was designed to allow the party to fail.  Little did I know, running the game, that the party would help themselves to their own deaths.

Now the party was supposed to remember to do a few things.

First, they were going to be outside of the influence of the Computer, our friend.  So they were supposed to deploy signal buoy’s.  These were supposed to allow the Computer, our friend, to continue communicating with the party.

Second, the party was supposed to get Emgouli-O into the area to film preliminary shots of a newly found submarine base, presumably full of communists, for an upcoming TV show, Battle for the Stars starring Brad-R and Muffy-R.

Third, the party was to never allow Emgouli-O know that they were actually going to the remote location to snatch a communist that is residing outside of the influence of the Computer, our friend.

Now a lot of strange stuff happened.  Emgouli-O kept the party busy.  The party engaged with the U-Bot’s autopilot, Lucky.  Now Lucky was a talkative fellow.  It didn’t help that the autopilot was demented, and slightly batty.  It probably didn’t hurt too much either.

It is hard to explain what happens in a Paranoia game.  Things are at best, chaotic.  More likely, things are really odd, crazy and hard to keep straight.  You see, writing up a standard adventure, like D&D, Mathfinder, DCC or GURPS is pretty straight forward.  I have the module handy, and you can pretty much recreate the game session from the information that is in the module.

Paranoia has information also, but it is more of a concept, as opposed to being a script.  A lot of the game involves the crazy interaction between the players, the environment and the Computer, our friend.  This gets hard to remember, since things tend to become very fluid while playing the game.

So several things happened.  In no particular order…

The Team Leader, Collin character assassinated Shari’s character.  I am still not sure why, but this happened at the very beginning of the game session, before the party even left the briefing room.  There may be some undercurrents going on, not sure.

Emgulio-O had a great time.  The rest of the party, maybe not so much.

Lucky, the autopilot worked fine for a while, until it suffered a short circuit from a leak.  “I feel fxxdrrred.  erws.xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx”

Emgulio-O took entirely too many liberties with Bill.  It was uncomfortable for a while.  Bill tried to convince Emgulio-O that Sue was a good choice for Emgulio-O’s advances, but Sue had all the curves, but not in the way that Emgulio-O wanted.  Bill also realized that the space suits had a through and through pocket, where you could stick your hands from the outside of the space suit into the inner side for some extra touchy feely thing.  As I said, it was not very comfortable, and Harvey Weinstein-Y, I mean Emgulio-O offered an enhanced internship to Bill…

The Team Leader, Collin, shot up the inside of the U-Bot while underwater, and ended up killing the entire team when the U-Bot opened up and flooded the characters with sea water.  It turns out that the space suits were not any good for under water work.

Eric tried valiantly to pilot the craft.  He unleashed the guns, torpedos, and got the bot to float around upside down, release the anchor, and a lot of other things.  It wasn’t pretty.

The party killed themselves, well, Collin killed the party, along with Emgulio-O.  Now the problem was that the clones show up from their Alpha tube delivery system in the buff, as in entirely naked, except for their pixelated parts.  This should have been ok, except that when they reappeared as Clone X+1, they had no clothes to get into, and their space suit / diving suits were now in the water.

So much death occurred.

In the end, the party was trying to figure out how to get the U-Bot to float again, and Collin pulled the self destruct level.  Now the problem was that since they never bothered to put any buoys out, they never had a communications line to the Computer.  So as far as the computer is concerned, they didn’t die, they are simply not reporting yet.

Did we have fun?

Yes.

Will we do it again?

Not with these characters.  They all died.

Paranoia Episode 01

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In another example of my manic need to try out other games, I picked up Paranoia, the newest edition a few weeks ago.  I played Paranoia in the 1980’s. way back when it was the 1st and 2nd edition.  West End Games was the publisher.  The first iteration was kind of wonky, as it was too rule heavy.  The second edition was pretty good, for at least the first couple of years that it existed.  After a while, the adventures became a little trite.

So, knowing that I really enjoyed the first couple of versions of Paranoia, I asked my FLGS owner to order me the new box set.  It was pretty cool.  I went onto DriveThru Cards, and ordered the two sets of additional cards which were available on print on demand. They were really cool.

A word of caution.  For a $50 box, there were three paperback books, two decks of cards, about 50 cards each, some dry erase character sheets, and not much more.  The quality of the books is OK.  They are prefect bound, which looks like this…

download

Now, there is nothing wrong with perfect bound books.  But these ones have an annoying affect of needing to either bend the binding to accommodate a full open book, or you have to bend the pages around the funny little glued portion.  OK. that isn’t a fatal flaw, but in my case, I am really anal about how my games are kept, with the intent of keeping them as nice as possible for their entire life.  The perfect bound books require that you must bend the pages, or bend the spine, causing creases in things that should not be creased.

OK, that is not a huge gripe, but I will gripe about the cards.  The cards are cheap.  As in cheap like the Paizo Adventure Card Game quality.  Both the cards in the game box, and the cards I ordered from Drivethru Cards were crappy quality.

The printing on the cards was good.  However, the long term durability of the cards was suspect.  So, I needed to purchase about $10 worth of Fantasy Flight clear sleeves to protect them.  The cards were cheap enough that when I sleeved them, several of the cards chipped on the edges going into the sleeve.

A word to game manufacturers, Please, please, please go up a few quarters in price of components to get quality components.

Reading through the books, it became quite clear that the game was supposed to be taken out of the box, and played.  The only problem was, the pregens for this take it out of the box were printed in the Mission Book (the adventure guide)  The other two books included a player’s handbook, and a GM guide.  The annoying part of this, with a $50 game, was that there was no clear rules cyclopedia in the game books.  You have to hunt around in at least two books to understand how to run or play the game.  Additionally, you can only purchase additional player’s books via the Mongoose website.  The game distributors do not have the ability to order extra copies of the player’s guide.  You can purchase the PDF of the base box, for $29.99 from Drivethru RPG, or via the Mongoose website, but then you need to decide how your personal ethics deal with pirating the book to your friends, while your Friend Computer is watching your every move.

This is especially troublesome, as you can not purchase a PDF of just the player’s guide on Drivethru RPG.  You can only get the entire Red Clearance Edition box of PDF’s.

Additionally, there is a Player’s Guide to the Alpha Complex, but it is only available as a PDF.  No printed version is available.

The dilemma here is that this game is best played without distractions.  Having a tablet, phone or laptop with the PDF’s up creates a situation where people can start referring to emails, posting on social media, and other things that are not conducive to gaming.  I have no problems with people doing that, but when I run a game, I like people to be engaged in the game, not in something else.  In the case of Paranoia, no clone in a position of power, or the Friend Computer ever wants to repeat things.  Having hard copies of reference material allows me to tell the players to put their phones in the middle of the table, and if anyone picks up a phone, then they get a treason star.

This ended up causing a good thing.  Well good as far as the Friend Computer was concerned.  During the game, I took William aside and talked with him about what to do, and the players took another phone and put it onto William’s chair.  As we walked back, William took the phone and put it back on the table.  He got a treason star for that.  Then he complained, and he got another treason star.   The resulting chaos ended up with the players basically flinging phones onto each other seats and using books and paper to pick up the phones and putting them back onto the table without touching them.  During the game, I got a phone call from my daughter.  Of course I answered it.  The players were upset that I got to use my phone, and they didn’t get to use theirs.  Tough shit.  I am management.  Do as I say, not as I do.  Treason stars all around.

Another minor gripe from me is that the game came with one “Computer” dice.  Yes, grammatically, it should be “die”, not dice.  However, the manuals that come with the game make it very clear that they use the plural “dice” in every case, because it would be confusing to call the d6 a die, with all of the characters who die a lot.  The alternately correct use of the plural noun is done to clarify who needs to “die” as in is currently, or will soon be dead, as opposed to rolling one “die”.

But the gripe from me is not about the use of the word “dice” instead of “die”.  The gripe is that the box comes with only one computer dice.  I like dice.  Any d6 with a special function needs friends.  I know that it is only a 25 mm d6 with a computer printed on the 6, but damn it, I like it.  And I want more.  The only way to get more is to go to the Mongoose website and purchase a bag of 4 computer dice for $15, and then pay another $8 for shipping.  Bleh. These dice are also not available through distributors, so you can’t let the FLGS get them and make a little money.  I am not excited at paying $23 for 4 d6’s.  Like I said, bleh.

The game books are written in a semi-understandable method of communication.  Unfortunately, you need to go through a lot of different things to figure out what to do, how to play, etc.  The introductory adventure in the Mission Book does a pretty good explanation of how to get things done.

However, if you are using the Paranoia books as a guide to figure out how to do something, good luck.  I mean it.  The books are not very good at explaining how to actually run or play a game.

Do I like the new version of Paranoia?  Yes.  A lot.  I like it enough that I bought several older version PDF’s on Drivethru RPG.  The books read well.

Following is a series of basic rules that I compiled into a handy list.

Head’s Up Display

You have an Iball. This Iball links you to the Computer. This also allows you to view dta on all other clones, including their registered name, number of treason stars and other information.

Station in Life

As an infrared, you are the lowest of the low. You must suck it up from everyone. As a Red level operative, you must do everything that you are told to do by everyone with a higher level.

Mutant Powers

It is treasonous to have a mutant power. It is more treasonous to use them. Register as a mutant to keep from being eliminated. Mutants are dangerous.

Secret Societies

Secret societies are treasonous. If approached by one, report it to the Computer. The computer may want you to become an operative to help bring down the treasonous society.

How to Advance

Survive, learn to bootlick, grovel, suck up, and, report all real or imagined treasonous activity to the Computer. Remember, where there is smoke, there is usually fire.

Treason Stars

You can have a maximum of 5 Treason Stars. Your clone will be recycled when you get five treason stars. You get treason stars for treasonous acts. It is not treasonous to report fellow opertives for treason.

All registered mutants gain 2 automatic treason stars. Using a mutant power without registering as a mutant is treasonous. Reporting a non-registered mutant to the Computer may help reduce your own treason star count.

XP Points

You get XP points for doing missions. You can also get XP points for reporting your fellow team members for treasonous acts. You will need XP points to level up to higher levels of clone. XP points also buy things.

Stats and Skills

Used to build the dice pool. Positive stats are “good” while negative stats are “fun” If your skills are positive, add up the total number of positive stats that you want to use, justify them, be prepared to be ridiculed, report ridicule as treason. Then roll the dice, plus the Computer die (the red one).

5’s and 6’s are sucesses.1-4 are not sucesses. You want lots of sucesses.

How many sucesses do you need?

0

An average task. Any ordinary person should be able to do this unless they have negative numbers on their skill

1

Requires a small bit of effort or knowledge

2

Quite hard

3

Dififcult

4

Very difficult

5

This would be hard, even for an expert

6

Beyond the realm of normal human ability

If you are using a skill that a negative, create your dice pool. In that case, you want 5’s and 6’s. Any 1, 2, 3 or 4 is a failure, not a null value. Failure is fun. Revel in it. This makes the GM’s job hard, as he needs to figure out what happens.

The computer dice is always rolled. If you roll a computer symbol, then something happens that involves the computer. This could be bad, worse, or devastating. It could also be something that generates a lack of continuity in the plot.

Moxie

Moxie is used to do several things. Including:

  • Add dice to your pool
  • Activate mutant abilities
  • Lose it

You have limited moxie. When you use Moxie, it is gone, unless you spend 50 XP per moxie point to regain it. You can also buy extra moxie points for 200 XP apiece.

When you use Moxie to activate your mutant abilities,

Wounds

Every wound results in adding 1 to the task roll. Alternately, each wound removes one of your successes. Take your pick, it is all the same to your betters.

You will notice that I have used alternate spelling facts here.  This was not a mistake.  This was done specifically to see if any of the treasonous players would contradict the published information by the Friend Computer.  The computer does not make mistakes.  The computer will, however provide some level of alternate facts or disinformation to see if any of the clone citizens are treasonous and will… need forced reeducation applied as necessary.  Collin tried to point out a spelling error on the sheet, and was labeled as a treasonous clone.  It was not pretty.

So how was the gaming?  It was a lot of fun.  We started out early in the morning by four of us going to the Black Friday sale at Guardian Games.  Guardian Games is a pretty awesome game store in Portland Oregon.  If you are ever in Portland, I suggest you go to Guardian.  I have been in game stores all around the country.  When I travel to other areas, I always try to drop in on a game store if possible.  I haven’t seen one yet that compares to Guardian.  The really cool thing about that store is that they serve lots of genres well.  They have a good stock of RPG’s, board games, card games, CCG’s, LCG’s, and miniatures.  When I say good stock, I mean amazing stock.

We went down at 7:15 in the morning on Black Friday, and looked around.  When I say “we”, I mean Eric, Collin, Eric’s friend Michael (not Friend Computer), and me.  Eric drove down in his new Mazda, and told us that the car was driving itself on the freeway.  I think he was kidding.  I am pretty sure that I saw him steering with his knees.

Mike didn’t want to go.  He made up some excuse that he didn’t need any more games, but we all knew that since he retired, he didn’t roll out of bed until at least 10:30 AM, later if possible.

We show up at Guardian, and there was a line of gamers outside, waiting for the early opening time of 8 AM.  The line extended all the way along one city block, then we rushed to the end, and were in about the 100th customer position.  There was nothing scientific about me counting.  I estimate that we were the 100th customer.  We arrived at about 7:45 AM.  By the time the line started moving just a few minutes after 8 AM, the line stretched around the corner, and for another city block.

Guardian has an amazing sale on Black Friday.  They stack a huge amount of games onto tables, and sell them for $5 apiece.  Other stuff is amazingly priced.  Large boxes of Hordes miniatures were half price.  They had a Troll blood box army, normally priced at $140, half price.  There were stacks of Warhammer and 40K books for $3 to $7 apiece.  Other games were being offered at amazing prices.  Everything sold before 10 AM was 20% off.  It was pretty cool.

I didn’t get anything.  I did talk Brian and Collin into buying copies of Dungeon Fantasy powered by GURPS and the DM Screen.  They were 20% off after all. They were also hard to find.  Of course, now that Brian and Collin have the boxes, they will probably be available everywhere.

Eric bought a couple of $5 games.  One was a Keyflower game.  Collin was more hardcore, and bought Twilight Struggle.  I have played Twilight Struggle.  It is called “Struggle” because if you screw up any action in the first few rounds of the game, you struggle for the rest of eternity to not have your ass kicked.  Good game, but unforgiving.  And if you are playing as a novice against someone who knows how to play, good luck trying to have fun.  We came back to Vancouver and then went out to lunch at Don Taco.

Now Don Taco has amazing food.  It is a hole in the wall Mexican restaurant, that is really good.  They have the best carnitas.  Their green sauce for the chili verde carnitas is pretty good, but the carnitas are amazing.

We all met at Don Taco.  Ate, then went to Dice Age to play Paranoia.

So how was the game?

After all, I made you sit through almost 2,500 words of blather about tasty Mexican food, Guardian Games, and other incoherent crap about the quality of the game components and availability of physical copies and PDF copies.

The five clones woke up in a cold, white room.  The clones are wet, and naked.  Pixels cover their private parts.  Their Iball informs them of the names on their co-clones.  The Iball also provides a heads up display showing how many treason stars are on any other clones.

The door opens, and Roz-R-HYT-2 comes in and starts telling them what they will be doing.  Mid discussion, an explosion occurs.  The room rocks, and a piece of synthcrete drops onto a cleaning bot, damaging it beyond immediate repair.  Roz informs them that they don’t need additional training at this point, and Alpha Complex needs them to take the damaged cleaning bot to be repaired.  The characters are told to stand by the entrance, they get dressed and start thinking about how to take on their initial mission.

Bill tries to fix the bot, but only succeeds in shocking himself, however, the bot starts rolling on its treads, backwards into a wall.  Shari tries to pick it up, and struggles with the bot as its trying to continue moving on the treads.  The party is able to pick up the bot and move out into the hallway.

the Friend Computer informs the clones that their role is to take the broken bot to a specific location.  To find that location, the clones see a large yellow arrow on their heads up display.  The downside of the arrow is that it blocks most of their vision, except upon the periphery.

The Friend Computer tells the party the following:

Congratulations on joining the Alpha Complex workforce, citizens! Please accept 1 XP point each as a bonus. XP points can be spent on necessities or luxuries, including increasing your security level. Before you leave the briefing room, ask yourself the following three questions.
One. Do I have all my equipment with me?
Two. Do I know where I’m going?
Four. Do I know what to do when I get there?
Six. Do any of the people around me look like mutants, terrorists or other forms of traitors?

Collin starts to question the number of questions, and the order, then he catches himself, knowing that it is traitorous to question the Friend Computer.  Each clone has their mop.  The mop was issued by the Friend Computer, and must not be lost.

The Friend Computer reinforces this to the clones by informing them:

Citizens! Please recall that issued equipment is your responsibility, and there will be penalties for not taking care of any materials assigned to you. If you leave your equipment in the room it may fall into the hands of terrorists.

The cerebral cortech helps the party by showing the direction to go via a large yellow arrow that blocks most of their vision.

As the clones move down the hall, they see a pop up message from Friend Computer, which informs them that the terrorist Wossname the Not Dead is in their proximity, and he may be after the clone’s mops.  On the periphery of the message and yellow arrow, the clones see a man in a black uniform like theirs sprinting down the corridor towards them.  He looks terrified.

The clones decide to take action.  Shari does her best impression of a scrub bot, holding an actual scrub bot.  Eric tries to hide on the side of the corridor.  The rest of the clones are trying to make themselves scarce.  The clone, apparently Wossname the Not Dead trips over Eric’s leg, or maybe it was Bill’s mop, maybe it was Mikes body, but somehow, the man trips over and breaks his neck.  The corpse of the man lies in the hall.  The clones are not sure what to do now.

But there is a problem.  A mop was broken.  One of the clones now has a broken piece of equipment that was provided by the Friend Computer.  A squad of Troubleshooters  thunders around the corridor, resplendent in their red armor, laser pistols drawn, and halt by the corpse. Their leader fixes you with one metallic eye.  ‘Which of you is responsible for this?’

Things seem to have gone very badly for the clones.  Not even out of the infrared class, and they have already broken a mop, and now they have killed someone who red clearance operatives were chasing.

The Computer interrupts: ‘Congratulations, Infrared Working Party! You have aided Alpha Complex with your selfless act of quick thinking. One less terrorist is one more reason to sleep well tonight. Each of you receives 500 XP points immediately. This is enough to raise each of you to Red level. Well done!’ The Troubleshooters applaud while looking incredibly annoyed.

The Computer continues: ‘However, sensory feedback indicates the destruction of valuable Alpha Complex equipment, specifically a revised standard mop. Infrared Working Party, each of you has five XP points deducted as a lesson in taking care of valuable items in your care.’

‘In recognition of your abilities, you are being reassigned to a new mission, where there will be less chance of damage to equipment. Await new briefing details. Thank you.

The clones are now four XP away from promotion to red level.

As the clones stand about a large scrub-bot appears from a hatch in the wall and makes itself busy ingesting the corpse of Wossname, the broken mop and the smaller scrub-bot. Roz-R-HYT reappears from down the corridor, bearing a sheet of paper. ‘I suppose you think you’re clever? The sector’s in crisis and you go around interrupting the work of Troubleshooters. I’m not impressed. Plus you’ve been reassigned, effective immediately.

‘It says here you’re to go to Sector HOY, where you must find a plug, unplug it, and plug it back in again. Don’t ask me questions: I know as much as you do. Cerebral Coretech will guide you. Keep hold of your mops. This is a 150 XP point mission. And – oh great. Apparently I’m coming too.’

A notification pops up in everyone’s Cerebral Coretech, directing them to the nearest Production, Logistics and Commissary depot.  Production, Logistics and Commissary turns out to be next door to the Technical Services department that you were supposed to deliver the scrub-bot to. PLC, your Cerebral Coretech reminds you, is where you get mission-critical equipment from. A bored-looking technician looks up at you.  ‘Infrared Work Party to sector HOY? Wait there.’

The technician hands the equipment to Roz, ticking each one off on a checklist. ‘Crowbar – issued the last one an hour ago. Breathing apparatus – we’re out. Jetpacks…’ he gives Roz a long-suffering look. ‘Scrub-bot, now, we were supposed to have one come through from Technical Services but there’s been some sort of a hitch. You got mops. They’ll do. Sign here.’ Roz sighs, signs, takes the megaphone, and gives out the rest of the equipment.

Roz keeps the megaphone for herself, but gives the grapple gun, body armor and medkit to the clones.  The clones must sign for each of the pieces of equipment.  There is a handy form that the clones are not allowed to read but are required to sign to obtain the equipment.  Shari signs her name for the body armor.  Eric signs Collin’s clone’s name for the medkit.  Bill signs his own name for the grapple gun.

Sector HOY is not very close. Roz leads you to a bank of turbo-elevators and punches in your destination. The doors close behind you. The elevator drops, changes its mind, goes briefly sideways, and then up.  ‘It’s meant to do that,’ Roz says. ‘At least, it does that.’  The ride seems to go on for a while, and it’s not possible to tell if the elevator is moving any more, or just standing still and vibrating.

After a while, Eric decides to open the door by pushing the button override on the control panel.  As the doors open, through the gap you see that the elevator has stopped about a meter below the red-carpeted floor level. No, the floor is moving. In slow motion a wave of viscous red fluid cascades into the elevator compartment, covering you up to your waist. It smells of strawberry flavoring. Outside, the huge lobby area is awash with it. The guiding arrow appears, pointing straight ahead. Your destination, it says, is subsector K15.

The red substance is Red Dessert Topping (RDT) which tastes like a thickened version of Hawaiian Punch.  The meter deep RDT liquid makes moving very hard in the rooms and hallways.

The clones start exploring the hallway and rooms.  All other clones are moving about, trying to do normal work as though nothing has gone wrong.  It may be a normal thing to have a meter of thick gooey RDT in the hallways and rooms.  All around the area are floating pillows, chairs, tables, and other furniture.  The party chooses to lash together parts and pieces to create a raft.  Now the Friend Computer didn’t ask too many questions about how the furniture pieces were lashed together to create the raft, but then the story needed to keep moving on. This isn’t Pathfinder or Call of Cthulhu after all.  There are no d20 modifiers in this game for raft lashing.  There may need to be, but in this case, raft lashing is not a skill.

The clones move out of the lobby and down the passage in the direction of the glowing arrow. Away from the big spaces, the flooded sector seems largely deserted. Going is slow. The red fluid slops lazily against the corridor walls.  Most of the doors are closed; through the ones that aren’t you can see ordinary rooms, their contents bobbing about.

As the clones explore the area, hoping to find equipment, the rooms they venture into include:

Red-level dormitories. Beds, chairs, small lockers with personal
possessions. Nothing of value.

A Troubleshooter break-room. There are two Red-level laser pistols hanging in holsters from a rack on the wall. It is strictly forbidden for Infrared citizens to use Red-level equipment,

In his room, Collin snags the laser pistols.  This is where the backbiting really starts in earnest.  Shari informs the Friend Computer that Collin has stolen two laser pistols.  As this is going on, Eric steals the two pistols off Collin, and plants them on Mike.  In the end, Shari looks like a tattle tale, while Mike gets offed for holding the two pistols that Collin swiped and Eric stole off Collin and planted on Mike.

While this was all going on, Collin managed to take out the two holsters and drop them to the ground under the RDT liquid.

After a few hundred meters you come to a crossroads. The guide-arrow says to turn left, but that corridor has a red stripe at eye level, meaning that only Red-level and higher citizens can go that way.

This is where the clones realize that Roz is a nasty piece of work.  The clones ask what should be done, after all, Roz is the leader, NOT COLLIN.  We established that early in the game, when Collin thought he might want to suggest some ideas.  Collin was quickly informed via the assignment of treason stars that he was not a leader.  Infrared clones have no status in this world.

William decides to go down the hall, as an infrared clone.  Soon as in by the time that William’s clone moved less than 10 meters down the hall, Roz says ‘Computer! an Infrared citizen is in a Red-level area.’ The voice of the Computer booms from nearby speakers: ‘Infrared citizen! Immediately vacate the Red-level corridor. You now has
one Treason Star. Citizen Roz-R-HYT, receive 30 XP points for your vigilant attention.’

Roz is very happy.  William is not.  Over the next few minutes, different players send clones down, and then report on each other, with Roz getting XP and the clones getting treason stars.  Things go badly for a while, then the party figures out that they need to tough it out, and all go down the prohibited hall and take the hit, while Roz is talking about getting vat grown synthesteak tonight.  Roz is pretty happy.  Initially, she thought that it was going to be a bad thing to have to ferry these snotnose infrared clones around, but it has ended up rather profitable, and entertaining at the same time.

As the clones move on in the hallway, the corridor widens out into a large food-service area. Islands of what looks like congealed Breakfast Mix float serenely between the counter-tops that protrude above the low waves on the liquid. High above, sparks flicker
between shattered lighting-fixtures hanging from the vaulted ceiling. Then there’s a yell of ‘A-HOY sector! Torrents amidship on the scurvy bow port!  Overclock the mainsail and prepare to be motherboarded!’ Five people row into view, paddling a long table with sheets tied to its legs. A black flag with a skull dangles limply from one inverted table-leg.

Somewhere around this point, William realizes that this game isn’t fun.  It is actually like work.  As in his everyday job.  He is given menial tasks, and must do horrible work, and is punished for thinking on his own.  Also, there are backstabbing assholes who are trying to undermine him at every step of the way.  This isn’t fun.  This is just like a normal day.  He is spending his paid holiday doing what a job would normally entail.  What William doesn’t realize is that Mike, as a retired person is the only one not acting out his normal duties.  I am a manager, and as a manager, every day, I act as the Friend Computer.  My job is to make other people regret coming in to work that day.  If I do my job right, they aren’t consciously aware of this.  Instead, there is just enough reward given to them as hollow attaboys that makes the workers think that they are truly valued, but in actuality, aren’t.  Collin, Shari, Eric and William are all part of the cogs in the machine making it turn on sweat and gristle, to make middle management successful.

The PC’s decide to parlay with the pirates.  They could chose to fight, parlay, surrender, wade to safety, or something else.  By parlaying, the clones decide, as in Shari decided, that these pirates must be a member of a secret society.  Shari reports to the Friend Computer, who drops in several yellow level operatives who essentially nuke the entire area.  By this time, each of the clones has been killed at least once.  They have lost equipment, and lost parts and pieces of their uniform.  By the end, some clones will have lost all of their uniforms.

But that is later on.  The action by the yellow level operatives cause all of the clones to have no wounds or treason stars.  This is because all of them died, and are respawned.

The guiding arrow points down a darkened corridor. The walls are narrower here, the ceiling is lower and more wiring has been exposed and eroded by the Red Dessert Topping. After another few minutes the passage opens into a circular room with a wide spiral staircase ascending upwards. A thick stream of red dessert topping pours down into the area from above. The clone’s Cerebral Coretech pings gently to letting them know they have arrived. There is no sign of a plug.

Up the stairs, it looks like something bad has happened. The staircase becomes a tangled mess of smashed metal and bits of Alpha Complex, blocking the way. Red Dessert Topping pours through the gaps in the rubble. Collin queries what is es their Cerebral Coretech map, and is informed that the exploded remains of the Red Dessert Topping storage vat, the remnants of which are still pouring down the stairs.

All of this makes sense somehow.

Collin tries swimming down in the RDT goo, and finds out that as a newly minted clone, he is unable to swim, and drowns in the depths of RTD.  His clone respawns.  Throughout this entire adventure, at any point where someone is killed, there is a mad dash to steal whatever mop and equipment that is left behind by the newly dead clone.

The players seem to get right into the overall game and make sure that they are ready to steal the dead blind.  This is good.  I am concerned that they should be watched closer during the player’s normal 9 to 5 job.

Something stirs in the gloom of the red sea. Long, sinuous lengths as thick as a clone’s arm uncoil from the bottom of the pit and quest upwards towards the light – and the clones.

Fighting ensues.  The bot slams tentacles into the clones.  Collin uses an action card and stuns the bot for 6 rounds.  They kill off three of the six tentacles.  Eric pulls out a bazooka by a special action card, and misses badly, and kills off most of the party.  Never fear, new fresh clones appear and continue to fight.  Mike approaches the monster and is whipped by a tentacle, and his armor fails miserably.  Collin takes his purloined grapple gun and attempts to shoot in the air to be able to rise above the mayhem.  I think he wanted to wait it out.  Now this is where it gets a little weird.

William plays a card that allows him to take the object from Collin, so we decide that Collin shoots the grapple gun, but the sweet sticky RDT causes Collin to lose a grip on the grapple gun.  William grabs it and retracts the grapple wire to shoot up to the ceiling.

Now that wouldn’t be weird, but then, William had to make it weird.  You see, William’s clone died, and took the uniform with it to the depths of the RDT pit.  With no uniform, William was naked as a jaybird.  William decides that as his action, he will pee on everyone but Roz.  You know, you don’t want to piss off management if you can simply fuck with the other employees.  Well…  William flubbed his rolls, and he ended up peeing on Roz, along with everyone else, while the tentacle monster was whipping around and doing nasty damage.

Roz is having nothing to do with being peed on by a naked infrared level nube.  Now, if it were an orange level operative, she would have to take it.  But this will not do.  She shoots William, and kills him.  As the body of the clone drops 60-ft to the RDT surface, another William clone drops in on a chute, naked once again.

Normally, Roz is as effective as any other NPC in a game that I am running.  No help at all.  But in this case, Roz will not accept being peed upon, even in mistake.

Eric notices a black cable.  He thinks that he can electrocute the RDT and maybe kill the bot off.  He does so.  The party members feel a wave of something coursing through them, and I hand out mutation cards.  The electrical surge through the RDT caused mutations in the characters.  As we all know, any mutant must declare their mutation and automatically get two treason points, or they are treasonous for hiding their mutation.  Do you think they registered as mutants?  No.  They didn’t.  This could become fun.

Now that the bot is disabled, the party members decide to try to see if they can unplug the bottom, and get the RDT to drain.  Shari takes the helmet from Mike’s power armor and creates a diving bell.  Eric decides to hold his breath and sink.

In the end, Shari finds another obstacle. A dead clone is attached to the plug, drowned, though their Cerebral Coretech still identifies her as Daphne-G-***-6, where the three stars are garbled characters instead of a sector name. Around her neck, on a cord, is a key to a storage locker, with details of the location of the locker stamped into the metal. It’s in sector THA.

According to Cerebral Coretech, there is no sector THA.

Shari is pretty stoked.  After all, this may be important.  Eric opens the plug, and the RDT starts draining, fast.  Eric and Shari are sucked down the drain and drown, and return as newly developed clones.  Shari is excited… “Do I still have the key?”  “No, your dead clone had it when she was sucked down the drain”.

The clones didn’t bother plugging the drain back when it was done draining.  There shouldn’t be a problem with that, right.  Let’s see.  The clones lost all of their mops, all of their signed for equipment, and didn’t complete the mission as required.  What could possibly be a negative outcome from that?

During the debrief, it comes to light that the clones lost equipment, didn’t fulfill their mission as required, and lost their mops.  In several cases, the clones were also naked, having lost their uniforms.

Things go from bad to worse as Roz takes credit for everything that went “right” or “sort of right”, and piles the errors and problems onto the infrared clones.  That is of course what infrared clones are for.

The debrief officer is Vernon-Y-HYT-2, who wants nothing to do with these sorry excuses for clones.  Vernon rapid fires questions at the clones like:

  • ‘Explain the reasons for your appropriation and misuse of Sector HOY tables/benches/doors/mops/grenades/foodstuffs/Production, Logistics and Commissary paperwork/ et cetera.’
  • ‘You are responsible for the destruction of a valuable SKW-1DD0 unit
    maintenance bot. Can you explain your actions?’
  • ‘Could you identify the source of the red dessert topping?’
  • ‘How did you get past the rogue clone known as Infrared Beard?’
  • ‘Did you observe any anomalous behaviour in any of the clones around you?’
  • ‘Are there any clones you would like to commend for their helpfulness and loyalty to the Computer?’
  • ‘Are there any clones you would like to report to the Computer as possible enemies of Alpha Complex?’
  • ‘What are your reasons for believing this citizen may be an enemy of Alpha Complex?’
  • ‘What are your motives for wanting this citizen to be classified as an enemy of Alpha Complex?’
  • ‘At any point did any clone try to recruit you into a Secret Society?’
  • ‘We identified a power surge that cost the Computer a great many lost kilowatts. Were you responsible for this?’
  • ‘Explain the shocking condition (or loss) of your mops.’

In the end, the clones barely survive.  They are caught unawares of the requirements which was written into the contract that they signed for equipment.

The contract states in part:

I agree to return all equipment in better shape than provided to me in the first place, under penalty of termination. In the event that I argue about the quality of the [redacted] or returned equipment, the Computer will terminate the clone to my left, not me. The clone tot he right of me will also get a treason star. I will get 2 extra experience points for helping to rid these horrible incompetents. In the event that I return a piece of equipment that was not issued to me, Both clones to the left of me will be terminated. This termination may occur at the time of return, or at any time later, when the Computer deems the appropriate time. There is no specific tagging of the unique clones which will be terminated for this action.

William was given the first opportunity to take advantage of this contract provision, but apparently didn’t read it, and wasn’t listening when the Friend Computer recited it to him.  When the Friend Computer asked him if he wanted to follow this stipulation, which would award 1 treason star to Shari and immediately recycle Collin’s clone, Bill didn’t agree, so he was terminated.  Upon reappearing, the Friend Computer turned to Shari, and asked her the same thing.  Shari decided to use the clause in the contract, which immediately terminated William, again, and assigned a new treason star to Mike.

Nobody bothered to register as having mutant powers.

This will be good.