Friday, June 18, 2021

The Buried: A Wretched & Alone Game - Logs 10-14

 (Listen to logs 5-9 here.)

TURN 10

DRAW: 4 CARDS

CARD 1: LIGHT ON - QUEEN OF DIAMONDS - Rounding a corner you find Todd. You never liked them anyway, they were always sucking up to McManus. Still...it would have been nice to find someone alive.

CARD 2: LIGHT OFF - KING OF CLUBS - Some...creature...is following you. You have seen a glimpse of it, but the horror of that quick glance almost drove you mad. All those legs...all those sightless eyes. Pull from the tower. Do not discard this card. Set it to the side, and if all four Kings have been drawn, then the creature has caught you. You won’t want to be alive for what it’s about to do to you.  Pull: Two 1s.  7 dice remaining.

CARD 3: LIGHT OFF - 6 OF HEARTS - Someone dropped a granola bar! Just ignore that little smear of blood on the end, it doesn't mean anything, surely.

CARD 4: LIGHT OFF - ACE OF SPADES - You are getting a better feel for these tunnels, almost making sense of them. Do not discard this card. Set it to the side, and from now on rolls of 4 or higher will remove a token from the Ace of Hearts, if you have located it.

Token Check Roll: 4   Remove a token.  Total tokens remaining: 8

===============

TURN 11

Only 15 cards left and I still need to remove 8 tokens. It’s not looking good.  

DRAW: 2 CARDS

CARD 1: LIGHT OFF - 6 OF SPADES - You hear crying, but it sounds wrong. Like something just pretending to be human. Could it just be the acoustics? Do you look? Roll a D6, and on a 4, 5, or 6 pull from the tower.  Roll: 5  Pull  One 1. Six dice remaining.

CARD 2: LIGHT ON 9 (last charge) - ACE OF CLUBS - You have found an altar in the heart of a cavern. The walls are glowing with a pale luminescence, revealing a structure made of human bones. It seems to represent a creature with far too many legs, and a slavering maw big enough to swallow you whole. Pull from the tower. Do not discard this card. Set it to the side, and if the King of Clubs has been pulled, you can shuffle it back into the deck. Pull  Three 1’s. Three dice remaining.  King of Clubs is shuffled back into the deck.

Token Check Roll: 5 Remove a token. Seven tokens remain.

===============

TURN 12

DRAW: 4 CARDS

CARD 1: LIGHT OFF - Ace: You find the body of McManus. The prick survived the cave-in, but someone got him. There is a pick-sized hole in his head. And whoever did it, didn’t even search the body! You find his pockets full of snacks, and an almost full battery pack with 5 charges. Do not discard this card. Set it to the side to remind you of the 5 charges. Once expended, you can discard.

CARD 2: LIGHT ON - 5 OF CLUBS - Something has been visiting you as you sleep. It leaves you little presents. A severed rat head. A gnawed finger bone. An inky purple stone. Darkness. Pull from the tower. No Pull.

CARD 3: LIGHT ON - 5 OF HEARTS - You hear a trickle of water. You follow the sound, eventually coming to a crack in the wall, where the water is falling. You manage to get a few sips, but hurt yourself. Pull from the tower. Zero 1s.  3 dice remaining.

CARD 4: LIGHT OFF - 10 OF HEARTS (Oops, I learned later that I accidentally copied the description for the 9 of hearts. No matter, I’ll just use the 10 of hearts description when I pull the 9) - You are so thirsty...so...so thirsty. Do you suffer the hurt to your sanity by drinking your own urine, or do you suffer the pain of dehydration? Pull from the tower.  Pull: One 1. Two dice remaining.

Token Check Roll: 1 No tokens removed. Seven tokens remain.

===============

TURN 13

DRAW: 4 CARDS

CARD 1: LIGHT ON - 9 OF CLUBS - You see yourself standing before you. They look as surprised as you are, then horrified, and then they turn and run. You feel compelled to do the same. Darkness. Pull from the tower. No Pull. It really is uncanny how many times I had my light on when I pulled darkness cards.

CARD 2: LIGHT OFF - 2 OF SPADES - The path forks. One way heads down, but you think you can hear water. The other, though, goes up, the direction you need to go. Roll a D6, and on a 4, 5, or 6 pull from the tower. Roll: 3 No Pull.

CARD 3: LIGHT ON - 9 OF DIAMONDS - You find Rolly. Your best friend, the guy who’s always had your back in the mines. He’s dying, nothing you can do, but he asks for a sip of water. You can’t refuse him. Pull from the tower.  Pull: One 1. One die remaining.

CARD 4: LIGHT OFF - 2 OF HEARTS - Who would have thought that lichen could survive down here...or that it would be so tasty?

Token Check Roll: 4  Remove a Token. Six tokens remain.

===============

TURN 14


DRAW: 6 CARDS.  Well, this is it. That’s the last of the cards. All four kings will have been pulled by the end of this turn.

CARD 1: LIGHT ON (Last Charge) - QUEEN OF HEARTS - You’ve taken to licking the moisture from the walls wherever you can find a wet patch.

CARD 2: LIGHT OFF - 7 OF CLUBS - You find a door, and your heart soars! But when you open it, there is only void beyond it. Not even your light can penetrate it. Darkness. Pull from the tower. Pull: Zero 1’s. One die remaining.

CARD 3: LIGHT OFF - 9 OF HEARTS - (This is actually the description for the 10 of Hearts per error back in turn 12.)  Those bones there look fresher than most. And blessedly not human. You’ve heard of eating the marrow before...time to give it a try. That rock there should do to crack them.

CARD 4: LIGHT OFF - KING OF HEARTS - You have found a small cluster of pale green glowing mushrooms. Your hunger is so great that you can’t help but try them. Within minutes you are sick and throwing up. Darkness. Pull from the tower. Do not discard this card. Set it to the side, and if all four Kings have been drawn, then the poison of the mushrooms has killed you.  Pull: Zero 1s.  One die remaining.

CARD 5: LIGHT OFF - QUEEN OF CLUBS - How is there an image of you carved into the stone? One clearly very, very old.

CARD 6: LIGHT OFF - KING OF CLUBS - Some...creature...is following you. You have seen a glimpse of it, but the horror of that quick glance almost drove you mad. All those legs...all those sightless eyes. Pull from the tower. Do not discard this card. Set it to the side, and if all four Kings have been drawn, then the creature has caught you. You won’t want to be alive for what it’s about to do to you.

THE END

====================

THE AFTERPOST

The Final Board (at least the top portion)


I played every card in the deck. I eliminated every tower dice except for one. I logged every prompt. I think I got about as much out of this game as I could.


I do want to address the last couple of turns. Not that anyone has questioned this, but I do feel it needs some additional explanation. Back in turn 11, I was instructed to shuffle the King of Clubs back into the deck. The way I did this in my system was to put that card at the bottom of the card column, highlight it in black to cover it up, then use Google sheets “Randomize” function several times to rearrange the cards that were still unrevealed. I certainly didn’t expect that the King of Clubs would end up on the bottom of the column, making the final card to be drawn. As you might expect, it made me question whether or not the “Randomize” function actually worked.

So, in typical Tev style, I had to run some tests.

At that point in the game, I would have had 14 unrevealed cards, including the returned King. So, with all cards revealed and the King of Club at the bottom of the stack, I highlighted the last 14 cards and hit the “Randomize” function several times. All the cards did change places. However, the King of Clubs did reappear in the last cell several times during my test, frequently enough that I’m confident that my shuffle mechanic did indeed work, and, merely by chance, the final order left the King as the last card to be drawn.

I enjoyed the Wretched & Alone style of gameplay and the journaling nature of storytelling. I also had fun recording and producing the audio logs. As a result, I have built up a large library of journaling games, both W&A and other systems, and will certainly be playing and posting more in the future.

As always, thanks for reading (and listening). 

Matthew 8:11-12  What's this?

Monday, June 7, 2021

The Buried: A Wretched & Alone Game - Logs 5-9

(Listen to logs 1-4 here.)

Audio Log 5


DRAW: 6 CARDS I’m really burning through these cards. But when I think about it, until I draw the Ace of Hearts it doesn't really matter how many cards I draw. There is no advantage or disadvantage to drawing more or less cards on a turn. You are going to draw the exact same cards regardless of whether they are one or two in turn or five or six in a turn. And finally, the number of cards in the deck below the Ace of Hearts does not change. (I'll explain the importance of that later.) So in the end, drawing 6 cards doesn't really hurt me.

CARD 1: LIGHT OFF - 10 OF DIAMONDS - You find a note, you think in Sam’s handwriting. All it says is ‘Watching You. Never Run.’

CARD 2: LIGHT OFF - JACK OF DIAMONDS - You find Matt when you round a corner. Bastard survived the collapse, but it looks like they aren’t long for this world. They beg you to put them out of their misery. Pull from the tower.   Pull: Sixteen 1’s.   46 dice remaining.

CARD 3: LIGHT ON - 8 OF DIAMONDS - You hear laughing in the distance. It's impossible to tell from which direction it came from, but after hearing how unhinged that laugh sounds, you are just glad it's not there with you.

CARD 4: LIGHT ON - KING OF DIAMONDS - SIMON comes looming out of the darkness, a bloody pick in his hand, and madness in his eyes. Pull from the tower. Do not discard this card. Set it to the side, and if all four Kings have been drawn, then your struggle with SIMON has failed, and you have died.   Pull: Six 1’s.   40 die remaining.

CARD 5: LIGHT OFF - ACE OF HEARTS - You are on the right path, you know it. The air seems just a little bit more fresh, and the tunnels seem to be trending upwards. Do not discard this card. Set it to the side, and place 10 tokens on it. Each day after writing in your diary roll a six-sided dice. On a roll of six, remove a token. If you remove all tokens, you have found the way out.

(Now the number of cards drawn each turn is important. Since each turn gives you another chance to remove a token, the greater number of turns, the more chance to remove tokens. To draw out the number of turns, now I want low card rolls.)

CARD 6: LIGHT OFF - 5 OF SPADES - The path forks...both ways look identical though. Which way do you go? Why? Did you choose right? Roll a D6, and on a 4, 5, or 6 pull from the tower.  Roll: 5   Pull: Five 1’s.    35 Die remaining.

Token Check Roll:  2  No Tokens are removed  Total Tokens: 10

======================
Audio Log 6


DRAW: 2 CARDS   That's better.

CARD 1: LIGHT OFF - 4 OF HEARTS - You have found a small stash of food. A couple of granola bars, a bottle of water, a battery pack with 1 charge. Why were they left here? Who left them?

CARD 2: LIGHT ON - 3 OF CLUBS - There is something in the dark. It will hover around the edge of your light, but in darkness, it comes close. Sniffing. Following. Muttering. Cackling. Touching Darkness. Pull from the tower. Light on - NO PULL  

So far I’ve been doing a decent job of timing these darkness pulls.

Token Check Roll: 4  No Tokens are Removed.  Total Tokens: 10

======================
Audio Log 7


DRAW: 3 CARDS

CARD 1: LIGHT OFF - 4 OF CLUBS - Someone has scrawled, in blood: VOIDLIGHT! The SHAMBLER comes! Rejoice! DIE!

CARD 2: LIGHT ON - 3 OF DIAMONDS - In your sleep, someone robs you of a granola bar. How on earth could they manage that? You see their footprints in the dust, but you soon lose the trail. Pull from the tower.   Pull: Eleven 1’s.   24 dice remaining.

CARD 3: LIGHT ON - 9 OF SPADES - The tunnel narrows badly. Do you try to squeeze through? You can’t see how far it’s like this, it could slow you. But it could be the way. Roll a D6, and on a 4, 5, or 6 pull from the tower.  Roll: 2 NO PULL

Token Check Roll: 3  No Tokens are Removed.  Total Tokens: 10

=========================
Audio Log 8


DRAW: 4 CARDS

CARD 1 - LIGHT OFF - 3 OF HEARTS - You wouldn’t eat human flesh, would you? It hasn’t gotten that bad yet, has it? The fact you are even considering it plays hell with your stress. Pull from the tower.   Pull: Six 1s.  18 dice remain.

CARD 2: LIGHT OFF - KING OF SPADES - You round a corner, lost in thought, and are now teetering on the edge of a crevasse. Pull from the tower. Do not discard this card. Set it to the side, and if all four Kings have been drawn, then you have fallen into the crevasse, breaking both legs. Death soon follows.  Pull: Three 1s.  15 dice remain.

CARD 3: LIGHT ON - 8 OF HEARTS - You find a small pool of water, enough to refill your bottle even. Water has never tasted so clean and cool.

CARD 4: LIGHT OFF - 4 OF SPADES - You stumble upon a crevice. Do you try to jump across, or find a way to go around? Darkness. Roll a D6, and on a 4, 5, or 6 pull from the tower.  Roll 2. NO PULL.

Token Check Roll: 6  Remove a token.  Total tokens: 9

===========================
Audio Log 9


DRAW: 5 CARDS

CARD 1: LIGHT ON - 2 OF DIAMONDS - Mark comes out of the darkness, catching you by surprise. Before you can react he has run past you, racing off in the direction you just came from. You can’t catch him, but do you follow?

CARD 2: LIGHT OFF - JACK OF SPADES - You’re having a breakdown. You just need some light damn it. But you know you should save charge. Darkness. Pull from the tower. Roll a D6, and on a 4, 5, or 6 pull from the tower. Roll: 3  NO PULL. Heck, I’m rocking these pull rolls.

CARD 3: LIGHT OFF - 7 OF HEARTS - You find a rat, limping along. It’s been hurt somehow. It’s food...but at what cost? Pull from the tower.  Pull: Four 1s.   11 dice remaining

CARD 4: LIGHT ON - JACK OF HEARTS - Those bones there look fresher than most. And blessedly not human. You’ve heard of eating the marrow before...time to give it a try. That rock there should do to crack them.

CARD 5: LIGHT OFF - 6 OF CLUBS - Something has been visiting you as you sleep. It leaves you little presents. A severed rat head. A gnawed finger bone. An inky purple stone. Darkness. Pull from the tower.   Pull: Two 1s.   9 dice remaining.

Token Check Roll: 1  No Tokens are Removed.  Total Tokens: 9

To Be Continued . . . Here.

Thursday, June 3, 2021

My Solo Roleplaying Journey

Recently, through some connections I have over at Geek To Geek media (the gaming website, not the dating site), I had the opportunity to write an article about my journey into solo roleplaying. You can read it by clicking on the link below. I hope you enjoy it and all the other content over at Geek To Geek. Thanks for reading.

Tev's Quest for a Solo RPG

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

The Buried: A Wretched & Alone Game - Logs 1-4

(Read the Introduction and hear the first log here.)

 Audio Log 1

DRAW: 3 CARDS

CARD 1: LIGHT ON - QUEEN OF SPADES - One granola bar does little good. But if you could use it to catch rats...is it even worth trying though? Roll a D6, and on a 4, 5, or 6 pull from the tower.  Roll: 5  Pull: Eleven 1s.  89 Dice remaining.

CARD 2: LIGHT OFF - 2 OF CLUBS - You find a set of bloody footprints. As you follow them, they grow wider and wider apart, first as though they are leaping...then impossibly far apart...until they just vanish.

CARD 3: LIGHT OFF - 7 OF DIAMONDS  There are footprints in the dust, so you follow. They vanish though, and try as you might you can not find them. Not even the ones you followed here. Are you losing it? Pull from the tower.  Pull: Nineteen 1s - 70 Die remaining.

(Note about "Darkness" - Obviously, following some of the prompts while in utter darkness is incongruous. For example, how can you follow footprints in a pitch-black cave? The way I handled that was by considering the light to be turned off for at least some period of time during the events described for the card, if not its entirety. Should that particular card have a "darkness" penalty, the misfortune would naturally occur during one of the periods that the flashlight is turned off.)


===================

Audio Log 2

DRAW: 5 CARDS. Crap!

CARD 1: LIGHT ON - 6 OF DIAMONDS - You catch sight of Mark running around a corner. You chase after, but you quickly lose sight of him. Why was he running? Where did he go?

CARD 2: LIGHT ON - JACK OF CLUBS - It chitters, and skitters, and titters as it races towards you in the dark. It dances around the light, and when it's dark its claws touch you...sensuously. Darkness. Pull from the tower. (Does not apply as light is on.)

CARD 3: LIGHT OFF - 8 OF SPADES - You stumble upon some odd carvings. They make your eyes hurt to look at them, and they seem to glow. Do you try to read them? Roll a D6, and on a 4, 5, or 6 pull from the tower.  Roll: 1-No Pull

CARD 4: LIGHT OFF - 10 OF CLUBS - You see the spirit of all the dead members of your mining team. They watch you with dead, hollow eyes. Even though they are the dead ones, you feel that they look more sorry for you.

CARD 5: LIGHT ON - 8 OF CLUBS - You find a strange purple rock. You put it in your pocket. Later, you find an identical one, and pick it up too. Only when you reach into your pocket, there are now 4 stones. Later, they vanish.


===================

Audio Log 3

DRAW: 2 CARDS

CARD 1: LIGHT OFF - 4 OF DIAMONDS - You have found Jared, the poor soul seems to have been badly injured in the cave-in, and only made it this far to then die. You manage to find a battery pack with 3 charges.

CARD 2: LIGHT ON - 10 OF SPADES - The tunnel splits again. One way is as good as another, right? Probably not, but what choice do you have. Besides this one of course. Roll a D6, and on a 4, 5, or 6 pull from the tower.  Roll:1 - NO PULL


===================

Audio Log 4 

DRAW: 3 CARDS

CARD 1: LIGHT ON - 5 OF DIAMONDS - You can’t tell who this is...because it looks like something has eaten their face. A foul stench, like burning tar fills the air. What happened to them? Pull from the tower.  Pull: Eight 1’s  - 62 Die remain.

CARD 2: LIGHT ON - 3 OF SPADES - You stumble upon a crevice. Do you try to jump across, or find a way to go around? Darkness. Roll a D6, and on a 4, 5, or 6 pull from the tower. I have the light on, no roll.

CARD 3: LIGHT OFF - 7 OF SPADES - You find some water, but it looks oily. Do you drink it? Did it hurt? If you make a darkness pull, you missed the rat carcass in it. Darkness. Roll a D6, and on a 4, 5, or 6 pull from the tower.  Roll: 3 - No Pull

(Listen to logs 5-9 here.)

The Buried: A Wretched & Alone Game - Introduction

 Before I get started I need to give credit to Semicolon, a fellow poster at RPGsolo.com, a solo-roleplaying forum that I frequent.

First of all, I’ve been aware of the game Wretched and the variations made using the Wretched & Alone SRD for over a year now, but it wasn’t until I read Semicolon’s playthroughs of Final Girl that I realized the game’s potential. I already owned a few W&A games and knew there were several others free on itch.io. I began looking through some of the rules a little more closely and immediately became interested in playing. (Another reason I never looked into them too closely before was that they required a tumbling block tower, something I didn’t own nor thought would work well with my play style and game environment.)

If you are not familiar with Wretched & Alone games, they are journaling games, which means the point of the game is to write a journal of your (or your character’s) personal experiences within the story. To create the story, the player uses a six-sided die, a deck of regular playing cards, and a tumbling block tower (like Jenga). For each day/turn, the player rolls the die and draws that many cards. Each card corresponds with a writing prompt for the journal. Some cards require you to pull a block from the tower, representing something or some kind of stress that is deteriorating throughout the game. After each turn, you are supposed to use the prompt from the cards to write a journal entry that moves the story forward. You lose the game when you draw all four Kings or the tower falls. There is a win condition, but it is very difficult and nearly impossible to achieve. But winning isn't the point. Creating a story/experience is.

The specific title I am playing for this thread is called “The Buried.” In this scenario, your character is trapped underground after a cave-in and needs to find your way out. I chose this game specifically because it addresses one of my greatest fears: being buried alive. I’m not a claustrophobic person. I have no problem with large crowds (except for the fact that it is generally uncomfortable to be in one) and I can get on a full elevator with no problem. However, the thought of being trapped in a very tight space with no easy way out (i.e. coffin, small diameter storm pipe, etc.) scares the dickens out of me. I even react poorly when simply reading about it. For example, if you are a Song of Fire and Ice fan, there is a point in the books where Tyrion makes a ship voyage while encased in a wooden barrel. I could feel my anxiety rise just reading about that. So I thought playing a game that explores some of those themes might help to create a more emotional game experience. (In the end, it didn’t, probably because the setting was an open cave system and not a tight space. A large part of my anxiety is having extremely limited movement.

As I mentioned before I do not own a tumbling block tower. Also, I typically play a game over multiple settings and those often not in the same location. Therefore, using a physical tower was out of the question. Officially, the games state use of a tower is optional, however, it is so much a part of the tension and failure cycle, not using that mechanic would be to cheat the player out of an integral part of the experience. Luckily, other players have come up with several alternatives (typically using dice) that statistically mimic the length of an average tumbling block game. The method I chose to use was what I call the 100-d6 method. You begin the game with 100 six-sided dice and each time you are required to pull from the tower you roll the dice instead. Any dice that come up with a “1” are removed from the pool. If at any time you run out of dice, the tower falls.

This leads me to mechanics and the second way in which RPGsolo user Semicolon inspired this thread. In another post, Semi had asked about using some type of computer mechanic to lay out playing cards on a computer screen in a particular pattern One of the suggestions I offered was to use a spreadsheet program and type card designations (Like 2S for 2 of spades) in the cells to represent their position on a table. That sparked an idea in my own head about using a spreadsheet for all kinds of game mechanics, such as shuffling and revealing cards and rolling dice. If I could make this work, it would allow me to play a game like W&A using a spreadsheet to simulate all the mechanics, keep track of the game, and allow me to access it whenever and wherever I might be.

For “The Buried,” I created a virtual tabletop using Google Sheets. First, I listed every card in a single column, one card per cell. Next, I highlighted each cell in black, covering up the text. To “shuffle” the cards, I used Google Sheet’s randomize tool, which mixes up the contents of a selected range of cells. Then, whenever I needed to reveal a card in the game, I simply selected the topmost unrevealed cell in the column and removed the highlighting.

For my dice tower, I drew a 10 cell x 10 cell border to designate an area of 100 cells. In each of those cells I placed a formula that randomly chose a number between 1 and 6. Whenever I had to pull from the tower I would force the spreadsheet to refresh and generate numbers in each of those cells. I selected all the “1s” and deleted the formula from those cells, leaving only the remaining “die.” I even jazzed it up a bit by programming the sheet to turn the cells that contained “1s” red so they were easier to spot. Additionally, I had another cell keep track of the number of squares/die remaining.


In case anyone is interested in playing or has played “The Buried,” I want to address a couple of changes I made to the original material for narrative purposes. For starters, I changed most of the names used in the game. Early on I noticed several of the original names were uncommon and I wanted to make them more mainstream. I did keep the Foreman's name and I used a name generator for my character. Beyond that, I renamed all the characters using names that held some sort of significance in my life.

The second change is with the light mechanic. “The Buried” gives your player a limited light source which you need to conserve. For each card you draw, you need to determine beforehand if your light will be on or off. Some cards present consequences if you are in the dark. What I altered was what light source itself. The original game describes it as a battery-powered helmet lamp. I decided to use the flashlight on a cell phone instead.

Finally, I am NOT an actor, so please offer me a little grace as you enjoy this playthrough.

Credits:

All sound effects used were found at the following sites. (See the full list of sounds here.


and


============================

AUDIO LOG INTRODUCTION



Continued here.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Eastern Wastes of America: Chapter 3 - Sean

(Read the previous chapter here.) 

(The above contains affiliate links.)

Scene 1 [Tension Lvl: 5]:

[Mile 3: Severe conditions, vehicle]

Remember the Angel? The car we passed a mile or so back that Nate couldn’t start? Well, it turned out it wouldn’t have been of much use anyway. We were maybe a mile past the houses when the entire highway became impassable, at least for vehicles. The asphalt wasn’t just severely torn up, it was blocked by a small commercial passenger plane, or what was left of it.

The plane must have been either shot down during the war or disabled in some other manner. Exactly what the pilot was trying to do was hard to determine as the aircraft appeared to be approaching the highway from a perpendicular direction.  The aircraft lay across the eastbound lanes and a trail of torn-up asphalt, ground, and debris crossed the westbound lanes. If he was trying to land I would have expected the plane to be me lined up with the road.

Regardless, the plane didn’t survive. What remained was a black, burned-out carcass that had clearly been here for weeks. Nate climbed inside to search for anything useful. All he found was a bunch of charred human remains. [Is there anything salvageable on or around the plane? (Bad) No  - No encounters]

[Mile 4: moderate conditions, structure   What kind of structure? Impressive/Work]

Roughly a mile further down the road, as we neared the Columbia Hill overpass, we encountered the dragon.

“What is that?” Nathan gasped. 

Up ahead, in the median between the east and west lanes, say an enormous grey stone statue of a dragon. The beast was facing us, crouched on its haunches, its long neck and head extended to survey the highway. Large wings were folded into its sides. Though unable to be seen from our current vantage point, I knew from past trips that its great tail lay curled on the ground behind it. For all the creature’s size and foreboding, it appeared to be grinning enigmatically.

We Encountered The Dragon

“That,” I explained, “Is Smaug.”

“From the Lord of the Rings?”

“The Hobbit,” I corrected. Fantasy is not one of my favorite genres -- I prefer modern settings and characters I can relate to -- but of course everyone’s familiar with Tolkien. At least I thought so. “What you’re really asking, I suspect, is what is he doing here?”

“Yeah. You don’t often find giant statues on the interstate.”

“From what I’ve been told--this was before my time--it's a product of the ‘Great Highway Beautification’ project of 2050. My parents told me that Pennsylvania’s governor--well, the governor’s wife actually--made a push to clean up Interstate 80. It had grown neglected and she wanted it to be more welcoming to people traveling through the state. A source of pride that Pennsylvania takes care of its roads.

“The plan was to have businesses and organizations adopt and fix up different sections of the highway. Most of the participants simply manicured the landscaping and planted flowers and trees. Others partnered with the DOT to repair run-down sections of the road. Many of the overpasses were cleaned up, restored when necessary, and sometimes even painted with murals or other pleasing imagery. 

“One artist, however, had a bigger vision. He saw the world as a place full of magic and wanted to bring some of that to the project. So he submitted his plans for this statue. As you can expect, the debate went on for weeks. Most people thought it whimsical and loved the idea. It might even become a landmark bringing people to the state. Others thought it was gaudy, not in line at all with the vision of the project, and would only invite vandalism, costing the state unnecessary dollars to clean up.”

“So, which side won out?”

I cast a side glance at Nate to see if he was really as dull-minded as his question appeared, however, the grin on his face assured me he was just being flippant.

“Impressive, isn’t it?” I asked as we stopped alongside the monster to admire the craftsmanship.

“Yes, it is. So are we going to meet up with some orcs or ents down the road.”

“Nope. This is the only one.”

After a few minutes, Nate and I continued our journey west.

[No encounters]


Scene 2 [Tension Level 5 (in the game, this began as part of the previous scene, so TL was still 5)]:

[Mile 5: moderate conditions, single building]   

“It’s getting late. Perhaps we should begin looking for a place to hole up for the night?”

Despite it being only mid-afternoon and there were still several hours of sunlight left, I had to agree with Nate. It had been a long day and I wasn’t used to walking so far. Rest would do me good. 

About ten minutes later we reached a place where the interstate crossed over a small local road. Poking over the trees, we could see the top of what might have been a barn.

“What about that?” I offered. “If it’s abandoned it would make a good shelter. If the residents are still around perhaps they’ll be willing to put us up for the night.”

“I prefer abandoned,” Nate said but agreed to give the place a look.

We left the interstate and tracked through the brush back to the smaller road we had just crossed over. Following it in the direction of the barn, we soon realized that it was more of a driveway than a road, as it ended in front of a house that stood east of the barn. Several other smaller outbuildings stood nearby and beyond the barn lay a wide-open field. Nate suggested we leave the road, circle around the barn, and see if we could find a window. [Not exactly a “single building,” but Google Maps showed a single homestead in the vicinity so I felt that was close enough.]

“Hopefully it’s empty,” he explained. “If so, even if there is someone still living in the house, we can probably sneak in and stay the night without them ever knowing.”

“You really aren’t very trusting, are you?”

“I’ve learned not to be. Trust me, you will too.”

Creeping around the side of the barn furthest away from the house we found a dirty window. I carefully wiped away some of the filth and looked in. To Nate’s dismay, the building was not abandoned. Inside was a man who appeared to be in his late 50’s to mid 60’s. His hair was gray and his beard was full but trimmed. He appeared to be poking around the engine of a large tractor. Hearing other voices I looked around and spotted a Flat Vision that was on and showing some sort of news broadcast. He must have it hooked up to a solar generator and network uplink. 

Oh, yeah. One other thing. The man was a Mutee. Out of his right side, about midway between his shoulder and hip, protruded a third arm. While the arm appeared to be fully formed, the hand itself was deformed, having only three fat fingers, almost like a claw or talon.

[Is there anyone in the barn? (Bad) Yes. How many? d2=1  Male/Female (even/odd)=Male

Is the man a mutant? d2=2 Yes -  Roll on Omega Lite tables: Mutation - 1 extra arm (1 extra attack or shield);   Defect-crude arms  (-4 with handheld weapons or manipulations, but only with extra hand)

What is the man doing? Deactivate/Deity]

“I wonder if he’s friendly?” I whispered to Nate.

Just then, an image of the former Vice-President, now President after murdering his predecessor, appeared on the flat vision. He seemed to be holding some sort of address. He spoke about the safety and comfort the Western United States could afford its residents. When the man in the barn heard the President speak, he picked up a shotgun that lay next to him and, with his mutated hand, shot at the screen without stopping what he was doing. He missed, partly because he didn’t really aim, but mainly due to the poor grip his three malformed fingers had on the weapon. The President droned on, encouraging all Easters to leave the wastelands and seek shelter in Tech-West society. This was too much for the man because he finally stopped what he was doing, took the shotgun in his good hands, and promptly blasted the flat vision to bits. A shame, really. Finding a new one will probably be a bear, you know, with the collapse of society and all. [The President was the deity, and the man . . . well . . . deactivated him.] 

“Okay, now we know he has a gun,” Nate said, stating the obvious.

“I’m going in.”

“Wait! Are you insane? You’ll get shot.”

“I’m a teenage girl. How threatening could I be?”

Nate shot me a look that let me know he was thinking about the boys in the house backing down from me and my crowbar when they couldn’t care less about his own weapon.

“My hands’ll be empty,” I sighed. “But have your rifle ready, just in case.”

Quietly we moved along the barn until we found a door that was open. Unfortunately, the man’s back was to the door so I had no choice but to inadvertently sneak up on him. I took several steps inside while Nate waited outside, out of sight.

“Hello?” I said, making sure to speak in a soft voice. I held my arms out to the sides, empty palms up.

The man startled and spun around, ejected the spent round from the shotgun, and pointed it at my chest.

“Drop to the ground!” he ordered. [Reaction Roll: 4 - Hostile] Picking up a wrench with his third hand, he walked slowly toward me.

Without hesitation, I did as he said and hit the deck. Nate, short on patience, burst through the door and aimed his sonic rifle at the approaching man.

[All three make a communication roll to see how much influence they hold over each other. The roll will add modifiers for Mind and Conversation Skill. The farmer has a Mind Stat of 10 (generated on Don Jon’s MicroLite20 character generator)

Alyssa: 6+1MND+1skill=8   Nate: 10+0MND+1 skill=11   Farmer: 17+0MND+1skill=18]

The man seemed unphased. “Shoot me if you must,” he said, “But I’m not takin’ my farm without a fight.”

“Nate! Lower your gun,” I demanded. [Another Conversation/persuasion roll. A: 21  N: 8]

When I saw that he put it down I turned my head back toward the man, lifting it to face him as best as I could.

“I didn’t mean to startle you. We are not here to take your farm. My name is Alyssa. He is Nathan. We were just looking for a place to spend the night.”

“We don’t need any food or anything,” Nate adds. “Just a roof.”
[Alyssa rolls with advantage for this check since Nate lowered his weapon. A: 11 or 12  Farmer: 8]

The man held the gun’s sight on me a few seconds longer before reluctantly lowering the barrel.

“Name’s Murphy. Sean Murphy,” he offered as an introduction. “I’d apologize, but I’m alone, my family’s left me, and this farm is all I got. You can’t blame me for being skitterish.” [Any family on the farm? (even) No]

Sean Murphy

“We saw you working on that tractor before we came in,” Nate explained as I stood. Perhaps it was his way of getting Sean to warm up to us.

“Yep. Damn thing keeps stalling. I was barely able to limp it back to the barn this morning.”

“Any idea what the problem might be?” Nate asks as he carefully takes a few steps in the direction of the vehicle.

Sean didn’t stop him, but moved to join him next to the tractor. “Might be the fuel filter. Not sure.”

“Fuel filter? It’s not electric?”

“You’re obviously not a farmer. Electricity doesn’t generate the kind of power needed to run a tractor in the field. And even if it did, the battery would die in a matter of hours. Not great when you’re putting in a full day. Nope. These things still run on good ‘ole fashioned synthetic fuel.

“Anyway,  I had a mechanic in town who used to take care of these things for me. Unfortunately, that’s not so much an option these days.”

“I take it he left after the bombings, or . . . “ Nate lingered, waiting for Sean to confirm whether or not the mechanic was killed.

“It’s a bit more complicated than that,” Sean answered and offered nothing more.

“Have you looked it up on the Nets?”

The farmer laughs. “Of course, but you can’t find anything these days. Tech-West has blocked most of the useful sites. Y’know they only want us to access things they control. I’ve scoured what information slips through the cracks, but so far haven’t found anything. If I can’t get this thing fixed, I’m about done for.”

I assumed Nate doesn’t know much about tractor engines since he didn’t offer to try and fix it himself. Instead, he glanced toward the ruined flat vision. Often, they double as a touchscreen computer terminal. “You got another terminal around here? I work in computer technology. Perhaps I can get by the Net-blocks.”

“I got one in the house you can try.”


Scene 3 [Tension Level 6]:

[It takes a  Tech skill check against a DC 20 (hard) to see if Nate can bypass the blocks on the computer. Roll: 1 (Really? A 1?).  He cannot access the Net.  Why? New/Ancient]

Sean’s computer was ancient. I remember having one of these models when I was in elementary school, but my father replaced it years ago. The machine took several about five minutes to fully boot up, a sure sign that very little maintenance had ever been performed on its internal software, and I saw Nate’s shoulders droop when the TWOS 4.0 (that’s Tech West Operating System version 4) splash screen appeared. 

“This isn’t looking good already,” Nate remarked. “It doesn’t look like this system has been updated in quite some time.”

“Hmm. I guess I really never had a need,” Sean explained.

TWOS was currently up to version 6 and anyone who needed to squeeze every bit of power out of their system, those people primarily being gamers, graphic designers, and media producers, made sure to keep their operating system up to date. Others could get by with one previous version, as most programs would still run. Two versions, however, and things get a bit trickier as developers like to move forward and not linger on outdated tech. To be honest, I wasn't even sure Sean’s computer could run the newest programs. But for getting on the Nets and running a small farm, this was probably all that was needed.

“Most of the security leaks for version 4 have been accounted for by now,” Nate explained. “I know a lot of tricks with V 6, but I’ll see what I can do. I was really hoping your system was running WorldSys. I’m more familiar with that O.S.. Regardless, without access to my software packages or the ability to download and install anything, this might be a lost cause.”

While Nate tried to work his magic, I decided to take the opportunity to get to know a little bit about our host. 

“Sean, I see pictures of you with an attractive woman and two children. Are they your family?”

“Yep. That would be Rose and my children, Lucas and Gracelynn.”

“In the barn, you told us that your family had left you. Do you mind me asking what happened?”

[Sean’s story was derived from three BOLD waylays.
Easy foes - quiet animals - resolved by fate
Epic - Storied Otherworldly - resolved by a scarcely used ability
Personal - Harsh Rival - resolved by the people]

“Just before the bombings,” Sean began, “Things were pretty normal around here. Lucas graduated from high school last year and chose to remain on the farm and help me instead of going off to college. The plan was for him to take over the farm eventually. Gracelynn still had several years of school left before she graduated. 

“Like most folks around here, we first learned of the attacks through news stories on the holo-vis. Military bases and big cities like New York, Atlanta, and Nashville seemed to be the main focus, so while the news was disturbing, personally we felt rather safe. Besides, we still had a farm to take care of if we had any hopes of a successful harvest this fall. You don’t happen to know anything about Machreek, do you?”

I shook my head, indicating that I didn’t.

“Machreek is a plant that is a natural repellant for many types of crop-eating insects. The supply store in Mausdale had just received a large shipment of Machreek seed and, while it’s still too early to plant the stuff, I wanted to be sure to purchase what I would need. See, the farmers around here love the stuff and if you don’t grab it when you can there might not be any when it comes time to plant. Lucas volunteered to go to town and pick some up. It was four days into the war and still, we had not heard of any threats to rural areas so I didn’t see any harm. Besides, he had a girl he liked in town and was itching to see her. We had no idea that would be the day Tech West would decide to bomb Mausdale.”

Day four. The same day my house was bombed. I could relate.

“The bombs that fell around town were gas. Lucas told me that within minutes a thick, green fog blanketed the streets. It was gone within a half-hour and everyone seemed fine. In fact, they all assumed the bomb was a dud.”

“Did you get hit?” I asked.

“Nope. In fact, all I heard was a few explosions. Never saw any of the stuff myself. Lucas came home and seemed fine. However, a couple of days later he began to feel ill and came down with a fever. He stayed in bed and rested. His blond hair turned white and began to grow thicker on his arms, legs, chest . . . even his face. Soon he was covered in a layer of fur. Not only that, but his legs grew thicker, his feet grew wider, and the tops of his ears grew longer. Whiskers sprouted from his cheeks. He was turning into one of those bunnymen.”

“Bunnymen?” Nate asked, taking a break from the computer to listen to the tale.

“Bunnymen,” Sean confirmed.

“Is there an echo in here?” I snarked.

“I think they call them Hoops,” Sean continued, ignoring my comment. “Seen ‘em on the holo-vis science shows. Some lab in California was messing around with injecting humans with rabbit DNA or something. The result was a giant rabbit that walked and talked like a man. I thought they looked like one of those aliens from those sci-fi stories and now my son was turning into one of ‘em.”

“So you kicked him out?” I asked.

“Lord, no. I loved him no matter what he was. No. He left on his own. Had to. He tried to help around the farm, but the transformation did some weird things . . . other than change his appearance. It seems anything metal he touched turned to rubber. After he inadvertently destroyed three or four tools we felt it was best that he not try to help out. I had no idea when or if I’d be able to replace any of them. It wasn’t long before he began to feel like a burden, not being able to contribute. Our plans for the future were gone. At least, that’s what Lucas believed. He began to wonder how the rest of the people were getting along in Mausdale. He wanted to find out. Perhaps, he might have a home there, with others like him. Rose and I didn’t want him to leave, but every day he grew more depressed. Eventually, we agreed that at least in town there were others who knew what he was going through. And there was also his girl. We wanted him to be happy.

“After that, it was just the three of us, Rose, Gracelynn, and me. Until about a week ago, that is. One afternoon a caravan of vehicles drove up our driveway. In the lead was Bruce Schmidt. Behind him were several other families from the neighboring homes and farms. They were all heading west. They didn’t see much of life left here with the collapse of society and they were uncomfortable living so close to a community of mutants. They were going to take Tech West up on their offer of refuge to anyone willing to flee from the east. Personally, I didn’t trust the West and I told him so. Was sure they would either be imprisoned or forced to vow allegiance under the penalty of arrest. I told him Rose and I were staying put, but Bruce didn’t let up and he begged Rose to get her to change my mind. 

“I suspect Bruce didn’t give a hoot about me. Who he really wanted to go with them was Rose. You see, Bruce’s wife passed a little over a year ago. Rose would often drop Gracelynn off at her friends but not come back for a couple of hours. Could never prove it but I suspect she and Bruce were seeing each other on the side. Regardless, I didn’t trust the man and had no intention of following his advice.

“Unfortunately, Rose didn’t feel the same way. She said she thought Gracelynn might have a chance for a normal life out West. She questioned whether or not the farm would even be habitable in a few months, or would it be overrun with lattterbugs, giant spiders, and seps? I told her she was being foolish, when several of the others, many of them Gracelynn’s friends, joined Bruce in encouraging us to go with them. In the end, Rose decided that leaving was the best course of action and if I didn’t agree that was fine with her. I could stay. Regardless, she was taking Gracelynn with her.

“I was only one man. They were a mob. I had no choice but to watch my wife and daughter pack up our car and drive off with a smug Bruce Schmidt. Now it’s just me, the farm . . .” he glances toward the front door and the barn beyond it, “And a broken tractor.”

“And unfortunately it’ll probably remain broken,” Nate announced. He had gone back to working on the computer but now had turned back to face us. “I tried, but I can get through. I even searched through sites I could reach but found nothing about tractors. I’m sorry.”

“It was a long shot,” Sean admitted. “I didn’t expect you to do much. I hear rumors of a secure Net being built here in the east. I might be able to find something on it, but right now I don’t have access, nor do I know who to talk to about it.”

[What happens next? d6 1-2: Sean asks for help  3-4: Alyssa offers to help  5-6: Nate offers to help.  Roll: 2 (I intentionally didn’t throw in a “no one offers to help” option because I have an idea of where I want to direct this story.)

Mood, per UNE: Sociable]

“Where are my manners?” Sean Murphy said, suddenly realizing something. “I haven’t offered you anything to eat. It’s nearly dinner time. I can whip up some fresh eggs and a little leftover pork from a hog I slaughtered a couple of weeks ago.”

“Breakfast for dinner?” I remarked. “You can’t beat that.”

“It’s been a long time since I had a home-cooked meal,” Nate added eagerly.

We all moved to the kitchen. It had a small nook with a round table where Nate and I sat while Sean retrieved a bowl with eggs from the fridge and the bundle of meat from the freezer. He confirmed my initial suspicion that the farm was equipped with a high-capacity solar generator. Two actually.

“Most everyone out this way has one,” the farmer explained. “Even before the war power service to the farms wasn’t always reliable, especially in the winter.”

The stove he cooked on was gas, fed by a large outdoor propane tank. That worried him a bit, since the spare was empty and the current tank was less than half full. 

“Don’t exactly know what I’m gonna do when that runs out. Cook over an open fire, I guess. They might have some propane available in town, but I’ve pretty much kept my distance from the bunnymen. Besides, Rose took my car. Couldn’t get there and back easily even if I wanted to. Which brings me to somethin’ I’ve been thinking of asking you. I know you two are just passing through and have your own plans. But I’ll admit, I’m an old man and I can’t do these things all on my own. I was hopin’ y’all might consider helping me out.”

I saw Nate begin to open his mouth to protest when Sean cut him off. “I’m not askin’ you to stay and help on the farm. Wouldn’t think of it. But, if you could just delay moving on for a couple of days, perhaps you could head into Mausdale for me. It’d be great if you could find Jesse, he’s my mechanic, and see if he’s willing to come out and look at the tractor. Also, and I realize this might be wishful thinking, if you happen to run into Logan, please let him know what happened with Rose and his sister. Maybe he’ll consider coming home.”

I looked across the table at Nate. His face was hesitant, but he wasn’t exactly giving me a “not on your life” glare either.

“He needs the help,” I implored.

“I know. But my family?”

“It’s been weeks since the attacks. Do you think anything is going to change if you arrive a few days later? Either they’re there or they’re not.”

He threw me a warning glance at my implication that they might not be fine and well.

“I’m just being realistic. We can do something meaningful right here. Right now.”

I let that sink in for a few moments.

“You’re right,” he finally admitted. “I’m just eager to learn something . . . anything. I don’t want to keep hoping if there’s nothing to hope for.”

“There’s always something to hope for, but right now I think we need to give Sean some hope.”

Without waiting for a response I turned to our host who was crossing the kitchen with two plates of hot food. “Mr. Murphy, we’ll do it. Tomorrow we’ll head into town and see what we can find.”

“This looks good,” Nate exclaimed as his plate was set down before him. In addition to the scrambled eggs and a slice of pork, Sean had added a couple of biscuits. “Really good.”

[Do they both agree to help Sean? (even) Yes  +random event  (Tension level resets to 1)

To refresh everyone’s memory, when a random event occurs I will draw a GMA card and use its Norse Glyph to inform the event.  I drew Jera.  According to the GMA instructions, Jera indicates that some kind of recent effort pays off, next step is made clear or a roadblock is removed.] 

After we were finished, Sean led us to one of the upstairs bedrooms.

“I have something to show you. Perhaps you might find it helpful.”

Opening a closet, he pulled out a suit of dark grey, rubberized flex armor. I was clearly used. There were gaps in some of the seams, scuff marks all over, the knees and elbow pads were worn thin, and it was missing half of the right sleeve. Still, it was better protection than what either Nate or I were wearing.

[Does Sean have a relic item? [Tension level 1] (even) Yes
I felt armor would meet two of the random events indicators. A reward for agreeing to help (recent effort) and it removed the obstacle of Nate not having any protection.

What type?  1-4 flex  5-7 sheath 8-10: force field  Roll: 4=flex armor  
What is its condition: 1-3: Full protection;  4-5: Some damage (-1 to protection); 6: significant damage (-2 to protection). Roll: 6   Instead of +6 bonus to AC, this suit only has +4]

“I found this at the army surplus store last year,” Sean explained. “I didn’t need it, but I thought it might be neat to own a suit of armor. Rose gave me an earful when I brought it home. Said it was a waste of money. But it really was a really good price, most likely ‘cause it was all beat up. Anyway, I don’t have a use for it. Couldn’t fit in it now even if I wanted to.” He held up his extra arm in case we had forgotten. “I thought one of you might be able to use it.”

We gladly accepted the gift and decided Nate should have it. It was more his size and I at least had some protection from my leather jacket and jeans.

“So, we have a plan,” Nate said. “We have protection and weapons. Now we just need to hope that we can persuade a couple of giant man-rabbits to help us.”

I was already thinking about that and believed I had an idea that might work. It all depended on Sean’s farm.



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Romans 8:24-25 What’s this?