Friday, May 20, 2022

Hello From CDI

The first of the two video projects I mentioned in my last post is complete, has been posted, and is doing rather well (at least compared to any other video I have posted).

As mentioned before, this video has absolutely nothing to do with roleplaying games, solo or otherwise. Instead, it is a revised version of a video I made with my wife as a work project. She is a Clinical Documentation Specialist and the field she works in is called Clinical Documentation Investigation/Integrity, or CDI. In a nutshell, she works in the medical industry reviewing patients' charts for accuracy and specificity. When Adele came out with her song "Hello," it wasn't long before my wife's creativity kicked in and she started thinking about creating a CDI parody based on the tune. 

Last year, she was required to present an educational project for her job. Somehow her supervisor allowed her to write and record her song parody and create a music video as her project. I might be expected, that version was geared more toward education, with a lot of slides full of definitions, charts and articles, and software screenshots that might be helpful to her department.  However, it was our intention to make a second version that was more lighthearted, fun, and safe to post publically (without any proprietary images related to her company). Additionally, it's useful whenever someone asks, "So what do you do as a CDS?"

As for the second project, which is a roleplaying game, the gameplay is complete and I am preparing to start working on the video portion. Look for that in the upcoming weeks. Also, I should be resuming my Eastern Wastes campaign soon so that should be close on the video's heels.

Friday, April 8, 2022

Eastern Wastes Of America: Chapter 10 - Destroyer of Eternity

 (Read the previous chapter here.)

(The above contains affiliate links.)

[Scene 1, Tension Lvl:3]

“What was all that ‘discuss your relationship’ talk about?” Nate asked once we started down the hall in search of a computer that could get us access to the warehouse’s inventory. He and I had just left Charlotte and Sebastian in the warehouse’s lunchroom. Charlotte was recovering from a nasty encounter with a security robot and Sebastian was staying behind to keep an eye on her.

“Charlotte’s pregnant,” I stated plainly.

“What do you mean she’s pregnant?” he asked shocked.

“I mean she’s going to have a baby. Or a litter. I don’t know. Not exactly sure how hoops work.”

“How do you kn . . . Oh. The sickness. So she told you?”

“Yes. And so far Sebastian doesn’t know. And Charlotte wanted to keep it that way. So, unless it’s obvious they’ve talked about this, I wouldn’t say anything to him.”

Up ahead, the hallway turned to the right. Before that, however, was a closed door on our right <per oracle roll>  Finding it unlocked, we stepped inside and was in yet another rather unused office. This one wasn’t even completely set up yet, as many of the items, such as the computer and flat monitor, were still in their original cartons. Nate just wanted to move on but I took a quick look around. All I found was the dried carcass of a dead mouse caught in a trap. <Alyssa made a successful search roll and the oracle confirmed a find. Per GMA: Feral Vault>

At the bend, the hallway continued to the right and a door stood to the left. Of course, we tried the door and found behind it a janitorial closet. While there were no computers, we took some time to search hoping to find some useful items. Nothing interested Nate, but I discovered several cans of light brown and red spray paint. Suddenly, I had a curious idea. I didn’t know if it would work but I threw serval cans in my pack just in case.

<Alyssa’s successful search roll turned up a “trick weapon”. What that means exactly will be revealed later.  Additionally, in the process of making several oracle rolls to determine what type of room this was, I triggered an event. The rune was Wunjo 
 which represents joy and happiness, pleasure, or a spiritual boon.  This will also be revealed later.>

We made our way from the closet to the next door. Finally, we found an office that actually looked like it had been occupied. Everything was set up, neat and clean, and personal items decorated the room.  Pictures and certificates hung on the walls. More pictures and knick-knacks adorned the desk and a bookshelf. What was very obvious in what had, up to now, been a rather quiet office hallway was a steady clacking. Looking around, I spotted the source of the noise. On the bookshelf was one of those desk toys that has a row of suspended steel balls. I think it’s called a Newton’s Cradle. When you pull back and release the ball on one end, the kinetic energy causes the ball on the opposite end to swing out and back. Theoretically, the two end balls swing back and forth perpetually until someone, or something, stops them. <A successful search of the room revealed something that was “Distractingly Eternal”.>

While I stood mesmerized, Nate plugged his little box into the computer and started working on hacking the password. <Nate will need to make a hacking check. The better he rolls, the more info he can get. DC5-Hacks password; DC10-Finds Map of warehouse; DC15-locates the automotive supplies.>

Clack -- Clack -- Clack

“I’m in,” he cries, jolting me back into the moment.

“You cracked the password? Can you find what we need?”

“Don’t know yet. It’ll take a few minutes to figure out how to navigate their network.”

Clack -- Clack -- Clack

“Okay, this is helpful.  I’ve found a map of the warehouse, but it just has areas labeled with vague product types.  What we really need is a database or specific product location spreadsheet.”

Clack -- Clack -- Clack

“Here it is! Let me search for filters . . . I think this is the one we need. It’s on shelf AA42.  Now all I need to do is find that on the map and . . . “

Clack -- Clack -- Clack

“Oh my goodness! Can you just shut that thing up!”

“But, I think this has been going since the building was deserted,” I said dumbfounded. “Wouldn’t stopping it now be sacrilegious or something?”

“Don’t be an idiot!” Nate shot back with uncharacteristic hostility.  “That has not been going for over a month. That girl we found in the other room must have started it.”

“I don’t know. I really believe it has been . . . “

My words were cut off by the sound of a framed desktop picture that Nate had flung across the room crashing into the Newton’s Cradle.

“Nate!” I yelled, bending down to pick up the tangled mess up off the floor.

A few more mouse clicks and Nate had found what we needed on the map. He stood up to leave while I was still trying to straighten out the balls and strings on the toy.

“C’mon. Let’s go!” He urged. I gave a couple more tugs on the hopelessly knotted strings before resignedly tossing the relic aside.

<Nate rolled a modified 20 for his hack check.  This had the following effects:
1. Nate can use the same password to log into any computer (at least for inventory/administrative reasons).
2. Party will be able to shift one hex to the left or right of the direction they roll on the Hexmap (to simulate knowing the layout of the warehouse).
3. Specific item find counter (on hexmap) is increased by 30%. (Not 100% because they might pass other useful items before reaching the filter, but they will find the filters faster.)>

[Scene 2, Tension Lvl:2]

“I’m gonna be a father!”

When we got back to the breakroom, Nate was nearly bowled over by an excited Sebastian who practically hopped into his arms. Yes, I said hopped. Up till now, Charlotte and Sebastian, heck, practically all the hoops we’ve met so far have walked with a human gait. Sebastian’s current exultation, however, must have removed any inhibitions about embracing his rabbit nature and now he was hopping all over the place.

“I guess you told him?” I asked Charlotte who just nodded back.

Sebastian bounced my way and gave me a great, big hug. “Charlotte’s going to be a mother.  All is right with the world!”

“We’re in a war zone,” I reminded him.

“So? We still have children to raise. A little Sebastian, or a little Charlotte.”

“Or both,” I suggested.

“Oh! That’s right! She might have a litter. Even better!”

Out of Sebastian’s line of sight, Charlotte rolled her eyes. She was not thrilled at the thought of having a litter.

“What’s most important now is that we get Charlotte to safety,” Sebastian explained, calming down a bit. “What did you two find out?”

Nate told them about the search. To my disappointment, however, he left out any, mention of the Newton’s Cradle. I mean, that was the really amazing find, wasn’t it? He also discovered that the room behind the well-secured door we passed earlier was the security office, A fact he failed to mention to me.  He thought if we go back there we might be able to hack into the security system and disable the cameras and robots.  Sebastian was on-board with that. Anything that made the trek out of the warehouse safer for Charlotte was okay with him.

<Much of the previous scene was dictated by the earlier event that was drawn in the janitorial closet.  My original intent was to make some oracle draws/conversation rolls between Charlotte and Sebastian to determine if the pregnancy was discussed and what Sebastian’s reaction would be. However, since the event Rune indicated joy and happiness, it just made sense that it referred to Sebastian’s reaction.  What this means in game terms is that Sebastian will make decisions based on protecting Charlotte or in response to things that happen to her.>

About ten minutes later we are standing at the heavy door and Sebastian is running his bare paws over the lock area of the door. The door is thick and the rubberized area doesn’t fully penetrate, so it takes him several rounds of rubberizing, scraping, and rubberizing before he can pull the door open. <Sebastian had to make a Physical skill check to see how fast he could get the door open. The better the roll the faster it took and the fewer random encounter rolls needed to be made. They were able to make it through without any robots spotting them. However, there is a camera just beyond the door pointed right at it that will require a DC20 to destroy before attracting a robot.>

Behind the door was a short hallway and another door, basically a man-trap protecting the security room. More importantly, there was a security camera mounted just over the far wall that was focused on the door we just forced open. Nate was quick with his rifle, but no sonic beam blasted the camera to shreds.

“Damn!” he exclaimed.  “Dead cell.” <Nate failed the DC 20 check and rolled a Nat 1 on his attack, indicating a dead power cell.>

Acting fast, I pulled out my crowbar and ran at the camera. Reaching it easily, I shattered the lens into a billion pieces. Unfortunately, I wasn’t fast enough to stop it from alerting the security robot <28hp> that was currently rolling toward us. Sebastian and Charlotte took shots at it <S hit for 1>, but the thing was more concerned about who destroyed the camera, as it ignored them and fired its laser at me, hitting me square in the chest and throwing me back into the door. <9 hp damage>.

I shook my head to clear the cobwebs and ran out of the hall into the warehouse where the robot had closed the gap and was now attacking the group with his claw. That was a good time to try my secret weapon. I pulled out one of my spray paint cans and tried to push my way through to the robot. As I did, Charlotte is hit hard <6 hp damage> and stumbled away from the battle.  I used the opening to aim and the mechanical eye and push the nozzle. The robot was moving in Charlotte’s direction and the paint sprayed harmlessly behind it. <Spray Paint required a Physical challenge based on DEX. DC12 = the paint hits for partial coverage (-2 to melee attacks, -4 ranged) DC16 = full coverage (same as partial, but with disadvantage)  Alyssa failed the check.>

Sebastian jumped in between the robot and Charlotte. “Stay away from her!” he yelled as he swung his pipe into its side. <6hp damage, plus a successful distraction roll to draw its attention away from Charlotte> The robot immediately responded with a swing of its own, hitting Sebastian right in the chest and doubling him over <10 hp damage>. While the robot’s focus was away from me I took another shot with the spray can. This time I hit it square in the “eye” <Phys Check=17>. I gave an extra long blast to make sure it was covered. Unfortunately, I failed to release the nozzle as I pulled the can away and ended up spraying Sebastian, who had recovered and stood up, directly in face. <S rolled a Nat 1 on the next turn, losing an attack>

The effect of the paint was about as good as we could have hoped for.  The robot, unable to see, just flailed about wildly with both its arms. I was concerned it might start shooting off its laser in random directions, but so far it held fire and just rolled aimlessly and flailed. This gave us a chance to back away safely. Charlotte took a couple of shots with her laser pistol, but the robot’s wild movements were too erratic for her to get a sure aim and she missed with both. Nate, however, had better luck. Having loaded a new power cell, he fired and caught the twirling machine in the wide cone of the rifle’s blast. Gears, wires, and other bits of metal and plastic flew from the machine until it finally slowed down and fell to the ground defeated. <12 hp damage>

“What the hell, Alyssa!? Are you trying to blind me!?” Sebastian was still rubbing his eyes, trying to get the paint out. “What was that anyway?”

“Spray paint?” I said. “It worked. The robot couldn’t see us.”

Having regained some semblance of sight, he glared at me. “And I couldn’t see it!  You could’ve got me killed!”

I know it was serious but, seeing a nearly six-foot-tall, black-furred bunnyman standing in front of me with a tear-streaked face covered in light-brown paint, it was all I could do to keep from laughing.

Quickly we all moved into the hall and closed the door behind us. It took Sebastian a few minutes more to disable the lock on the inner door and we were in the security room. Nate went right to work hacking the security camera while Sebastian, Charlotte, and I tended to our wounds. <Medical and healing kits were used. C: +9hp  A:+6hp  S:+4hp  Sebastian still has uses left in his healing kit>

We were in the security room

“That was surprisingly easy,” Nate said from his spot in front of a wall of monitors.  “I’ve shut down all the cameras and robo . . . oh crap! I spoke too soon. They have some type of anti-tampering software loaded, of course. My hacks are being overturned and everything is live again. This is going to a bit more time.”

While Nate continued to work on the security I searched the room for anything useable. <A and S made successful searches. Is there anything to find? (even) Yes, and . . . it’s a pretty good haul.> In a cabinet I found two handguns. When I wsa sure the others weren’t looking, I stuffed them in my belt under my jacket. I wasn’t trying to necessarily hide them from our new friends. I just felt Nate and I’ve been doing a lot of the work since we’ve been in the warehouse and we deserved a little reward of our own. The easiest way to get that? Just take it and not tell anyone else. <There was a total of 25 bullets that will be split between Nate and Alyssa>

Meanwhile, Sebastian found a medical box with a lot of supplies <Med Kit (4 uses)>. I used some to patch up more of my wounds (+12hp) and suggested he do the same. He declined, choosing to save it in case Charlotte needed it later.

“It's not great news,” Nate told us, “But I’ve made some progress. Can’t shut down the robots, but I was able to disable the cameras. Not much, but it helps. That being said, I had to introduce a virus to confuse the camera system and the anti-virus is fighting against it.  The cameras could come back at any time so I suggest we try to find the parts as fast as we can.”

<Hacking the security system.  Initial Tech Check: DC5: locate cameras (+2 to sneak rolls) DC10: disarm camera or robots  DC15: disarm both.  Nate’s roll = 11  Random system: camera.

Next, I rolled another Tech Check  to see how effective the disarming was: DC1-10: 1d10 turns  DC11-15: 2d10 turns  DC16+: Permanent  Nates roll=8>

[Scene 3, Tension Lvl:3]

We left the security office and Nate suggested we stop at the distribution center’s control hub, since we would pass it on the way.  If he could hack into that, we could have the automated retrieval system just fetch the parts for us, as well anything else we might think of. Smart thinking, but yet another thing he discovered back in the offices that he failed to mention to me.

While we walked, I motioned to him to hold back.  Once the two hoops were in front of us, I passed him one of the handguns and some ammo. He gave me a questioning look.

“You’re not the only one with secrets,” I said and sped up, leaving him wondering what in the world I was talking about.

We arrived at the hub without encountering any security robots or cameras except for the one that was now overlooking the control area. It was stationary, suggesting it was still inoperable, but Nate had Sebastion shoot it out while he examined the hub controls. <A random event was indicated when I consulted the GMA for details of the area. That event will be revealed at the end of this chapter.>

The main computer system was located on a raised platform. It had several monitors, a few keyboards, and miscellaneous other computer equipment that meant nothing to me.  Near the platform were several bins ready to be dispatched to pull product. Just beyond them was a conveyor belt that disappeared into a rectangular cut out in the wall. I assume that was where the product was unloaded from the bins and placed on the moving conveyor to be sent to the packing area.  Near the opening in the wall was a door, which probably led to the said packing area.

Nate at the Control Hub

With his previous experience with the Wamazon computer system, Nate quickly hacked into the system and navigated the retrieval program. He programmed a bin to pick up the fuel filters Jesse needed, as well as few additional mechanic’s tools that were located in the same area. <These were actually found during the hex rolls to get here, but it made more sense in the narrative for the group to not stop and pick up anything on the way but have the bins collect it for them.> The bin rolled away and the rest of us hunkered down behind the bins that remained, in case a security robot wandered by.

<It will take the bin (2d4) 6 turns to retrieve the items.  In the meantime, I will roll once per turn for wandering robots. 1-in-6 chance.>

“What was all that about secrets?” Nate asked me while we waited.

“You didn’t tell me about the security office. You didn’t tell me about this control hub. I thought we were a team?”

“You’re upset about that? You were more interested in that stupid toy than our mission.”

“What toy?” Sebastian asks.

“There was one of those perpetual ball machines in an office we explored. You know, the type that swing back and forth.”

“It was still going,” I broke in. “Since the office had been abandoned. It would have probably continued forever if Nate hadn’t thrown a picture at it.”

“It would not have kept going forever,” Nate argued, exasperated.

“We’ll never know now, will we? Destroyer of Eternity!”

Nate sighed.

“Where is that bin?” Charlotte asked. “Shouldn’t it have been back by now?”

“Let me check the computer and see where it is,” Nate said.

He stood up and headed for the platform. As he was climbing the steps he was suddenly hit by a laser blast which knocked him to the floor. <A positive encounter check. Robot 30hp. The group failed its Subterfuge check to successfully hide from the approaching robot.  Additionally, the cameras were only out of commission for 4 turns, so they are now live, as well.> Without hesitation, Nate rolls over, aims, and fires back at his attacker (7 hp), hitting it square in the chest.

It took the rest of us a moment to realize what was happening, but quickly we had our weapons ready and were poking our heads out to get a bead on the robot. Unfortunately, the other carts and raised podium kept us from getting a clear shot.  Nate, however, still had an open shot. (10 hp). But that also meant he made an easy target as well (hit for 11hp, down to 12 total).

As he scrambled to hide behind the bank of computers, the security bot switched its attention and began rolling toward those of us behind the bins. Charlotte hit it with shots as it approached (10hp). Instead of riding as well, I ducked back and readied my crowbar. As soon as the robot came around the corner of the bin I swung and took out its legs. The thing fell face down and I smashed the back of its head until it lay still. (5 hp, reducing it to -2)

“Nate!” I called out.  “You good?”

“I’m good.”

“Where’s that bin?”

“It’s still near the automotive products.  I think it’s stuck.  We’ll have to go to it.”

<Okay, do you remember way back at the end of chapter 8 when I drew a random event that I said I would hold until the appropriate time? Well, now is the time. The symbol was Naudizand one of the explanations was "an almost-complete quest requires an extra step". My original plan was, should the group make a successful roll during the hex crawl to find the filters, I would consider that roll a fail and make them continue until they make a second successful roll. Narratively, I could see them coming across a different bunch of auto parts but not the filters. However, when they arrived at the control center, that would no longer work because they could program the bins to pick up the exact part. Therefore, the next option would be to obstruct the bin in some way to force the group to go to it instead.

How many turns to reach the bin? (d4) 3>

The trip to where the bin was stopped wasn’t too bad. We were able to take out another camera without alerting any robots and Charlotte pulled some card and board games from a shelf as we passed by.

<Move 23: Direction 7 - Room - The room is the previously described door. They walk past.

Move 24: Direction 9 - Hall and camera. Hall doesn’t make sense so I’ll just handle it as a 75% chance of camera. There is a camera and Nate makes his sneak roll.

Move 25: Direction 9 - 50% chance of robot and 50% product. No robot and the randomly generated product is a children’s card game.>

When we reached the cart it was obvious what the problem was. Wedged under one of its front wheels was a small box that must have been knocked off the shelf when it retrieved the filters and tools. We still had room in our original bin, so we transferred the new items to it. Sebastian saw a single air compressor and remembered Jesse needed a new one, so he grabbed that as well. Now that we had what we came for, it was time to leave.  <It will take (d6) 6 moves to get to the door through which they came in.>

[Scene 4, Tension Lvl:2]

We knew we were getting close to the exit when we began to see signs of our earlier passing: camera remnants hanging from the walls, shattered or disabled security robots lying on the floor. Sebastian led the group and was continuously looked back to check on Charlotte.  Was she doing okay? Did we need to slow down? While I think she enjoyed the attention at first, after about the third or fourth inquiry her responses started getting shorter and it seemed to me a bit irritated.

“Still fine. You don’t need to check on me every five seconds.”

“I just want to take care of our family,” Sebastian explained as Charlotte rolled her eyes. He had turned to face us and was practically walking backward.  “I think the exit is just down this next aisle.”

As soon as he faced back forward and reached the corner, a robotic arm reached out, grabbed him by the neck, and flung him into the shelving on the far side. He fell into a crumpled heap on the ground.

Damn! We were too comfortable. Too sure of ourselves.  We dropped our guard.

Charlotte jumped with a start and fumbled the pipe in her hand, dropping it to the ground. Nate pulled the trigger on his rifle, only to drain his last power cell (Nat 1). One of us down, the other two weaponless, we had to gain an advantage. For that, I grabbed my paint can and sprayed at the robot’s head. Luck was with me as I gave it a thick coat of brown paint across its eye lens.

<Robot has 21hp. Due to paint, attacks at -2 with disadvantage and defends at -2>

Just like the other robot I had sprayed, this one started to spin and flail out aimlessly with its arms. Nate switched to his weighted so and we had to be careful not to get within the robot’s attack. Still, we were able to get a shot in here and there. (Both hit for a total of 12 hp)  Charlotte retrieved her pipe and looked for an opening. It would have been better for her had she not because the moment she got close enough its arm hit her in the side and she went down. The robot must have sensed that he hit something because it stopped spinning and focused its grabs and swings in Charlotte’s direction. This made it much easier for Nate and I to approach it from behind and strike in its weak places, quickly disabling it.

Without hesitation, we tended to the unconscious hoops. Using supplies from the medkits, we helped them revive and get to their feet. Both were dazed and it was a good thing that Sebastian was correct when he believed the exit was just at the end of the aisle. Nate helped me lead both of them out the door and shut it behind us before slumping to the asphalt to rest against the Steel Plated Turbo-Thingy Omega-Dildo, or whatever this beast of a vehicle is called.

Nothing followed us out of the warehouse. No person, animal, or creature passed by. We just sat quietly for the next ten minutes, thankful to be out and alive.

After a bit, Sebastian stood up and brushed himself off.

“Enough rest,” he said. “Let’s get this stuff loaded and head on home.”

“Not yet.” We all turned to look at Charlotte who had a determined look on her face.

“What do you mean not yet,” Sebastian asked. “We need to get you home and safe.”

“No. That woman, dead in the warehouse. Her baby might be out here. We need to find it.”



Okay, there is a bit to unpack here regarding the end of this chapter.

First of all, what’s up with Charlotte?  Back when they reached the control hub I mentioned that I drew an event that would be revealed at the end of the chapter. Well, this is that event. The rune I drew was Raido which GMA describes as” travel, evolution, moving forward, gaining perspective”. Some of the in-game suggestions are “a quest, a journey for the sake of some greater objective or learning an important secret”. As was hinted from her lingering at the dead woman’s body, Charlotte’s pregnancy has her thinking more deeply about motherhood and what that means.  Even though it is not her baby, she is developing this sense of protectiveness. Therefore, the event is that she feels obligated to take on the quest of finding the baby, either to save it or let those who are guarding it know what happened to the mother.

On another matter, I took the liberty of condensing the last several moves through the warehouse in the narrative to save time and keep the story more interesting. There were actually two robot encounters and several product searches. By now, however, I was getting tired of basically writing the same combat encounter over and over again (and you were probably getting tired of reading it) and I was ready to get out of the warehouse. So I included the products in the previous scene and used the highlights of both battles to form one final fight.  For those interested, the detailed moves are listed below.

Move 26: Direction 10 - Blank spot

Move 27: Direction 3 - Camera (that exists and triggers robot) and product chance.  The resulting battle knocked Charlotte to 0 hp and Sebastian to -3 hp.  Both survived. Also, it was in this battle that Nate used up his last power cell. The product was something Jesse asked for.  This was the air compressor that was acquired when they reached the stuck bin.

Move 28: Direction 6: Product that would benefit the service center. These were the additional tools that Nate programmed the bin to retrieve along with the filters.

Move 29: Direction 3 - 50% product chance that resulted in nothing.

Move 30: Direction 8  - 90% product.  Random-cables.

Move 31: 50% chance Robot/50% chance Product.  The group rolled a natural 1 on the sneak check, so the robot got a free attach, targeted Sebastian and reduced him to -2hp. In the end, the robot was destroyed and everyone survived.  No product was found.

Finally, my thoughts on the Abandonded Warehouse Hex Flower. As you may recall from the start of the warehouse adventure, this is a tool I created myself based on Goblin’s Henchman’s Hex Flower concept. This game was the playtest for the tool. For the most part, I am pleased with the result.  If I ever do revise it, the part that needs the most work is the hall/room mechanic. My original thought was that the additional hexes would determine movement from room to hall to room, etc.  In reality, this didn’t make much sense in the game and, as you know from reading this playthrough, once I entered an office area I ditched the hex flower and used other methods for creating the office map.  What I am considering doing with the warehouse tool is just use one “room” symbol and pepper it in a few hex across the flower. A player landing on one of those spaces would encounter a door exiting the warehouse and it is up to them to determine what the door leads to (hall, closet, office, etc) and how to run exploration beyond the door.  If you are interested in downloading and using my Abandoned Warehouse Hexflower tool you can find it here on DrivethruRPG.
Eph. 5:25-29

[Note from Terrence "Teviko604": It's no secret that I'm no speed demon when it comes to posting these episodes of Eastern Wastes. I only have limited gaming time and each chapter typically takes several hours to play through.  Then there's the time it takes to write the narrative, proofread and edit, possibly manipulate a few images, and finally post (which has its own additional formatting that needs to be done.) Needless to say, one chapter often represents several weeks of playing and preparation. But it's something I enjoy doing.

Which brings me to the point of this note. Now that I've pretty much wrapped up the warehouse portion of the story I will be putting this campaign on hold, probably for a couple of months. It's not because I'm tired of this story. I am having fun with it. Also, I still have several things I need to resolve (such as the Alex mystery) before I end this campaign. No, the reason I will be stepping away for a bit is to pursue some other interests I have, specifically a couple of video productions I want to put together.

The first has nothing to do with solo roleplaying. It is a song-parody project my wife originally did for her job that we want to revise to be more interesting and accessible to the general public. While it has nothing to do with our genre, I might post a link here when it's done for anyone who is interested. The other project is completely solo roleplay-related. It is a playthrough of a solo map-making game and I will certainly be posting them as each episode is completed.

I expect each of these to be rather time-intensive in and of themselves, and then I always have other hobbies and interests that I enjoy spending time doing. Oh yeah . . . there's also serious responsibilities that take up most of my day. So yeah, I just wanted to let you know in advance so you're not waiting and waiting for chapter 11, wondering if it will ever come.]

Friday, March 11, 2022

Love Sinks: Weeks 9-10

 (Read previous week here.)



We’re down to the final eight. Let’s see, there’s Wayne, Eddie, Cedric, Leon, both Matts, Geraldo, and myself. All of us get along pretty well. We’re like a band of brothers. We’ve gone through transformations together. We’ve experienced the ups and downs of this whole process. We’re tight. Friends for life . . . Oh no, that doesn’t mean we’ll be fine if Nadre picks one of the other guys. Love is war! <I chuckle, exposing my words as feigned aggression.> Seriously, we each have our own relationship and any of us would be devastated to be let go.

This week we flew to Greece and were all invited to a dinner with the royal family . . . No, not all twenty-seven brothers and sisters. Just the King and Queen who traveled to the Mediterranean specifically for this event. Also, since we’ve had plenty of time to adjust to breathing underwater, that’s where the dinner was held: underwater. Have you ever tried to eat underwater? I guess not. It’s not easy. Food keeps wanting to float off the fork.

Having had a formal dinner with the Princess already, I had a leg up on the rest of the group. I think several of them made the same faux pas I did at that first dinner, drawing unapproving glances from the court. But that passed and the conversations began. King Olkin Benbani was happy to answer questions about Atlantis and engage in friendly chit-chat. Queen Fenae, however, was much more direct. It was clear that her concern was solely Atlantis and how this relationship with the surface will benefit them.

She asked each suitor what they have to offer Atlantis. Not what they had to offer her daughter, but Atlantis. Several explained how they would care for the Princess anyway and try to make her happy. Each time the Queen would respond, that’s nice, but how will you contribute to our city? Wayne is a geologist, so he offered his services to analyze the ocean bottom around the city. Geraldo, the architect, could help with new buildings or renovations once he studied their style. To be honest, the Queen didn’t seem very impressed and several times I noticed King Olkin place his hand on her arm . . . I assumed it was some unspoken signal for her to be patient or friendly.

When she got to me, I was honest. I told her I was interested in learning about her home and had the means to help tell their story to the world, but what I was most excited about was fulfilling Nadreall’s dream of traveling the surface world. I told her I could take her to see ancient ruins, national parks, big cities, small towns, even a trip on a plane, something the Princess couldn’t even conceive of before being on the show. Seems that was a bit too much for Queen Fanae. She said that certainly was not going to happen and accused me of being a bad influence for encouraging the Princess's wandering thoughts. She reminded me that Atlantis had withdrawn hundreds of years ago to escape the surface world’s corruption and the city has survived and thrived by keeping itself secret. The only reason she allowed Nadreall to do this show is to build positive public relations with the surface for the purpose of future trade. Atlantis’ has no intentions of integrating with surface society and she wasn’t going to allow me or anyone to make attempts at luring any Atlantean away from the city. You want to know something really crazy? She cited the surface “historian” Hans Christian Andersen and his account of the “Little Mermaid” as an example of the danger to anyone lusting after the surface world . . . I know. I tried to tell her but she just refused to listen.

That’s about when Nadreall had enough of it. She shot up . . . floated up? . . . from her seat and let her Mom have it. <Impersonating Nadreall, and rather poorly, I might add.> “Enough, Mother! I will not have you demonizing my friends like that. You might think it’s best for us to only be concerned about what the surface people can give us, but frankly, that’s selfish and self-centered. The surface is an amazing place and I think every Atlantean should see it.” The Queen started to speak, but Nadre cut her off. “I know. I’m your daughter and I will mind what I say. Well, you have twenty-seven other children who can mind you. You don’t need me!”

And with that, Nadreall stormed off.

The Queen was speechless. I was doing all I could to keep from laughing, though in the back of my mind I was concerned that she would put an end to the whole thing and I would never see Nadre again. King Olkin was doing his best to calm his wife but took the time to release us from the table. I glanced at Wayne, Eddie, and Matt R and motioned that we should try to find the Princess. I think Geraldo also tagged along . . . I don’t know. They were still at the table when we left. Either they were too in shock over what had just happened, or perhaps they’re rethinking everything. Who wants that for a mother-in-law?

We found Nadre sitting in a circle of coral, crying. We joined her and apologized for upsetting her parents. She assured us that the only person we upset was her mother -- she could tell her Father liked us -- and it was her who needed to apologize. Her mother is out of touch with the modern world, she explained. The Queen thinks separation keeps Atlantis safe, but that is exactly what’s destroying it. They are depleting their resources, which is why they needed to make contact with the surface in the first place. Their culture and advancements have stagnated compared to the rest of the world. In Nadreall’s opinion, her mother is being foolish. But, she is a princess and has responsibilities, even as the youngest and, as some might say, the least significant, and despite what Nadre said at the table, ultimately she will have to go home. She just hopes she can gradually change her mother’s mind.

The Rolls:

Draw: 1 Card

King of Hearts: While having a formal meal with the Heir’s parents, the Queen of Atlantis becomes openly critical of you and the influence you're having on the Heir. Who immediately leaves the table? Why? (What’s the Queen’s beef? Q.C. Break/Success  Atlantis has had a successful record of keeping itself safe through a policy of separation. Concern that breaking that policy too much will cause Atlantis’ downfall.)
Do not discard this card. Set it to the side. If this is the final King drawn of all four Kings,
the Heir admits you were never a good choice and eliminates you from the remaining
contestants. The game is over.

Token Roll: 4

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *



. . . That’s an understatement. This was a horrible week. First, we had that dinner with the Princess’ parents, and then this last photo shoot. I should have seen it coming . . .

Okay, let me go back a bit. There were two one-on-ones and a group date. Wayne and Leon got the one-on-one’s, which meant the rest of us were on the group date. We were taken to the set of a Greek television game show. It was a trivia-based competition and we were split into two teams. Matt R, Eddie, and myself on one. Matt P, Geraldo, and Cedric on the other. Nadreall took over for the host and quizzed us about the ocean and sea creatures. Turns out, I’m not that well versed on ocean trivia. I couldn’t tell the difference between a porpoise and a dolphin. I had no idea what Norfolk Canyon was. I couldn’t even name five types of coral . . . Yeah, our team lost and it was probably due to me. I missed the most questions of anyone. But, I’m not surprised. Besides being ocean illiterate, I was concerned about Nadreall. She seemed very distracted. She wasn’t her usual cheerful self. She lost her place with the cue cards several times. The next day we had a promotional photoshoot and I was hoping to discuss things with her.

The photo shoot was at the underwater ruins of Pavlopetri, a sunken city just off the southern tip of Greece. Before the shoot, however, we were all to meet the Princess at her cottage and be shuttled over together. When we arrived at the cottage, the crew was doing some last-minute cleaning and carrying out some trash. That’s when things started going downhill. Poking out the top of a trash bag I saw the corner of Issue #1 of Golems. Before the show, we were asked to send the Princess a gift that would give her some insight into who we are. Naturally, I sent her a copy of the first issue of my brother’s and my comic. Now I’m watching that gift be thrown away. I didn’t know what to think. Was this an accident? Are her feelings for me not as strong as I thought? Either way, I felt it was rather inconsiderate to just throw away my gift.

We finally get to go inside and, since we’d been waiting for a while, I needed to use the restroom. I was peeking around looking for the room when I walked past Nadre’s bedroom. I could see a picture of Wayne sitting on the dresser and at first, I thought that was cute. She must have had all our pictures. But quickly I realized that I didn’t see any others. I stepped inside the room just in case they were out of view, but nope. Just Wayne. Has she already made her decision? Should I just go home? What’s the point? Right then I made up my mind to ask her about it later.

Pavlopetri itself was amazing. Mostly it was just the stones and blocks in the sand, but there were some structures that were partially still intact, a few walls here and there. Throughout the shoot, I could tell something was up with Nadre. She was subdued, like at the game show. Still not her usual outgoing self. This day was turning into a real mystery and I was going to get to the bottom of it.


After the shoot, I had some time to pull Nadreall aside and ask her what was going on. She tried to brush it off but I wasn’t letting her off the hook. Finally, she admitted that the dinner with her parents earlier in the week brought her some clarity. As much as she would like to live her own life, she is a member of the Royal Family and, as such, has certain responsibilities. Yes, the original plan was just as her mother said, to use the show as a means to build bridges with the surface world. If Nadre could actually find a mate that could benefit Atlantis, that would be a plus. It wasn’t until she actually explored our world for herself and learned about each of the guys that Nadre grew more and more enthralled by our world. Ultimately, however, her life was back in Atlantis.

Needless to say, I was hurt by what she said and a bit angry that she would abandon her dreams. I asked about my comic and Wayne’s picture. She explained that of all the men, the Queen actually liked Wayne, or at least his geological knowledge. So, when her parents came to visit her in her cottage, Nadreall put out Wayne’s picture to appease her mother. She claimed that she hadn’t made up her mind yet, but was tired of defending us to her mother and thought the Queen would fuss less if she believed Nadre was primarily interested in Wayne. Nadre meant to remove the picture before we arrived, but it slipped her mind.

The comic, however, was intentional. Regardless of how she felt, Nadre knew that she couldn’t choose me. Her parents -- sorry -- her mother wouldn’t approve and I wouldn’t be happy not being able to travel the world with her. She had to start distancing herself from me and getting rid of anything that reminded her of me was the first step. That is when things really went south, as if they hadn’t already.

I lost my cool. I criticized her mother, calling her selfish, old-fashioned . . . cruel, I think. I suggested that she was keeping the Princess prisoner. Then I lashed out at Nadreall, calling her weak. How could she let her mother destroy her dreams and ruin her life? I suggested Nadre was choosing to waste her life and even said, “I guess you really had me fooled. I believed you were a strong woman who was going to follow her own path. Not your mother’s.” 

Well, there are a couple things. First of all, regardless of what Queen Ferea might say or do, she is Nadreall’s mother and the one thing you don’t do is criticize someone’s mother to their face. But more importantly, you don’t criticize someone directly to their own face, especially if you are hoping to have a relationship with that person. The Princess simply cut me off and told me it was time for me to leave. As she escorted me to the limo-sub I could see some of the other guys staring at us. I was loud and I’m sure they heard a lot of the argument. Before we parted, Nadre and I did have a quick hug, though it was cold and more of a formality.

Crazy thing is, I’m still in love with her. Those feelings just don’t go away. I’m going to miss her and I really hope she gets to see more of the surface world someday.

Exit Interview in the Limo-Sub:

Well BEEP. I really BEEPed that up, didn’t I?  I guess that's what I get for being loyal. I stood up for her. I made sure to honor her wishes and dreams. What did it get me? A sub ride home.

I’ve always let my fears keep me from getting close to someone. What if I do or say the wrong thing? What if they think I’m too nerdy? They’re so attractive, why would they want to be with someone like me. Finally, I was able to break through and make some real connections with Nadre. I’m embarrassed to admit this, but this was the closest relationship that I’ve ever had with someone . . . romantically, I mean. <eyes begin to water> I should have kept my mouth shut and went with the flow. I knew what I was getting into, right? She’s a Princess. Why did I think that she would leave that all behind? I’m so stupid!

Not only did I lose the girl, but I’m going to miss out on Atlantis and all those experiences could have meant for the comic. Yes, I know that must sound selfish, but I don’t care. I’m just so . . . I just have all kinds of emotions right now. I’m not thinking straight. I’m just ready to go home.

. . . So where do I go from here?  I’m not sure. <I look at my hands and arms, then look toward the front of the sub> Hey, do any of you guys know where I can get my old skin back?

The Show:

In preparation for Darin’s exit, this episode was edited in a way that focused on his most negative interactions. The game show segment focused mainly on Darin and his horribly wrong answers.  Some confessional excerpts that were used included, “I missed the most questions . . .  I’m not that well versed on ocean trivia . . . our team lost . . . due to me.”

None of the time at Nadreall’s cottage was aired, so viewers never saw the discarded comic or the picture of Wayne.  Additionally, any reference to those items in Darin’s conversation with Nadre or his confessional was left out of the show, so viewers did not have any of this context as they watched Darin lose his cool with the princess. Nadreall’s decision to stay in Atlantis was mentioned but glossed over. Darin’s critique of the Queen was edited to sound like they were actually critiques of the Princess. Primarily, the most insulting of Darin’s comments were shown.  “You had me fooled . . . I thought you were a strong woman . . . you’re weak . . . selfish . . . cruel.”  And from the confessional: “The Princess cut me off . . . and escorted me to the limo-sub . . . How could she . . . Nadre . . . was cold.” Nothing about Darin still being in love with the Princess.

And from the limo-sub ride: “Well BEEP . . . I guess that's what I get for being loyal . . . I’m embarrassed to . . . think that she would leave that all behind . . .  I’m going to miss out on Atlantis and all those experiences could have meant for the comic . . . I should have kept my mouth shut . . . I’m so stupid! . . .do any of you guys know where I can get my old skin back?”

The Rolls:

Draw: 4 Cards

Three of Clubs: Contestants were split into teams and pitted against each other with trivia questions about the ocean and sea creatures. The Heir provided the questions. Your team scored the worst. Whose fault was it? Roll for balloons.  (Use A of diamonds to ignore roll) 10 balloons remaining.

Five of Hearts: The Heir goes with you to a photo shoot for the show. Later, you notice they have a photo with another contestant displayed in their room. How do you react? Roll for balloons 4  Six Balloons remaining.

Nine of Hearts: When the show began, you were allowed to send one gift to the Heir to share something about yourself. You discovered it today in the garbage. How did you react? Roll for balloons.  5  One balloon remaining.

King of Clubs: This episode casts you as the villain. No matter what you did, it was portrayed poorly and the audience responded in kind. Roll twice for balloons. 4 3  Do not discard this card. Set it aside. If this is the final King drawn of the four Kings, the Network has stepped in to remove you as a contestant. The game is over.  Doesn’t matter. My balloon roles have ended the game for me.

Gen. 1:9-10; Col. 1: 15-16  (What's this?)