Monday, 19 September 2016

The Cells S01E04 Scene 10

Continuing the story of The Cells, a Primetime Adventures game.

Spotlight character: None for this episode.

Someone doesn't want the Council looking into government installations. Lazarus decides to hunt for them by visiting more and more facilities. Spending a lot of time looking at science and technology efforts, he finds his way to a hydroponics research centre. While there he discusses with the scientists how to accelerate food production. The men in coats nod along, especially when Lazarus suggests additional funding if they take it down a particular path.

While talking with them he gets a phonecall from the General.

"Mr Moore, I was wondering if you might join me at Citadel Centre hospital."

Lazarus checks his calendar and sees that it's empty. "I'm a little busy just now, but I could be there in about four hours."

"Mr Moore, I really will make this worth your while."

"Hmm. I'll be there a little earlier."

"See what you can do."

The military is taking a public relations beating. A sex scandal comes to the fore, with female officers coming forward with allegations. For once the media is raking someone else's muck.

When Lazarus eventually arrives at the hospital, a young officer greets him and says, "Sir, when you're ready, the General has requested your attendance. I have strict orders to take you to a meeting point at the back of the hospital. Please come with me, sir."

Still with a black eye from the events at the Cells, Lazarus has been seen in the media doing his job. He's made no attempt to cover it up for this meeting.

"Very well, lead on."

"Hell of a shiner you've got there, sir."

"Hell of a story too," replies Lazarus.

"Well, the world does revolve on stories, doesn't it."

"Yes. Do you have one for me?"

"I think you're about to go beyond my pay grade, sir. This is where I leave you." He takes Lazarus to an elevator. A man inside it is operating it.

Lazarus turns to the soldier who has walked with him. "I'm quite sure you don't want to pay the price for my pay grade."

The elevator descends, much deeper than it should. The doors open and the General is waiting. He's made no attempt to delay, unlike in the past.

"Mr Moore, thank you for joining us. Let's walk and talk. See, this attention we're getting in the media is causing us some trouble. We're wondering if you can making it go away."

"I think you said something about making this worth my time."

"I did, didn't I? Well, you see, Mr Moore, toward the end of the war I lost a number of high ranking officers due to a lack of youngberries. The fountain stopped flowing and lots of important people in the military got sick. So we realised the danger we were in and there were certain experiments conducted. One very brave soldier stepped up and he responded to artificial youngberry trials in an interesting fashion."

"What do you mean by 'interesting?'"

"You have to see for yourself." The General leads Lazarus into a small room. There's a man in a hospital bed, with a red line of infection running down him. He skull swelling out into grey mottled skin and one large unblinking black eye. Patches of the grey skin have taken both his hand and his leg and he kicks and twitches as he looks up at the visitor. His restraints hold him in the bed.

The General says, "This is what happens when you mix youngberries with a synthetic strain that our scientists developed. It seems to have brought out some latent element in the youngberry. This is what we saw as a result."

"Is it merely a deformation or have you noticed anything else."

"It's actually changed his DNA, as we understand it."

"As an improvement?"

"The process is incomplete as far as we can tell."

"I see," says Lazarus. "So this is a transformation in progress."

"I think the proper word might be 'invasion'."

"What are you suggesting, General? Be clear. Be specific."

"Do you know where the youngberries came from? They were first harvested from Tunguska. Massive meteorite site."

"Yes well if we're going to engage in fanciful speculations about alien origins of youngberries then we're going to need more than somebody who looks like the film adaptations of a bygone era. Certainly what has happened to this person is extraordinary."

"I thought you'd be impressed."

"But I'm yet to be convinced that this is of extra-terrestrial origin." Lazarus looks away from the General and studies the patient to see how aware they are, to see if they are blinking "kill me" in morse code or any other subtle clues. None of these suspicions have any evidence, but the man is quite sick.

"General, you said this is a process. Do you have photographs of last week, the week before."

The general hands him a file on the patient. There is clearly an interaction between the man's DNA, the synthetic, and the youngberry.

"Is this the only person this has been observed in?"

"That's the thing. We reached out quietly and we would have had to make a double of this officer before Global came down on us."

"There's another?"

"No, Mr Moore. This is the only example of this interaction."

"And Global doesn't know?"

"They're unaware. But if this media attention continues on us, Mr Moore, we will absolutely be exposed."

"What happened to this man's family?"

"They've been compensated."

"Adequately? Because this would require something significant."

"Think what you will of me, Mr Moore, but I take care of my people. This man's family will not want again."

"I see. And what are your plans for this man, this person?"

"Well, to be honest, Mr Moore, my lead scientist recommends that we get a sample of your blood with the possibility of a cure, seeing as you seem to have an immunity to the cancer-causing properties of the youngberries. You see this man before you? I understand that this is a difficult situation and I understand that you have leverage over us right now. We need this media problem to go away."


"Who has left my muck un-raked?!"

Saturday, 17 September 2016

The Cells S01E04 Scene 9

Continuing the story of The Cells, a Primetime Adventures game.

Spotlight character: None for this episode.

Still at the home of Sergei and Sheila, Hal Turner shows her the wax seal and asks, "Was this a veterans group that Sergei was in that I might need to reach out to?"

Although the factions from the war are well known, this particular symbol is different enough to be unfamiliar.

She says, "Oh, um. Yeah. I have seen that. That was a group of guys that Sergei used to hang out with. Risers he called them."

"Over at the soldiers bar?"

"I really don't know. One of them was missing an eye and had some facial burns. The other was a red head with a long biker beard. I don't think Sergei liked them. I didn't like them. But they helped Sergei get his job down at the docks. I haven't seen them in over a month and I don't think Sergei was friends with them any more."

Even though the conversation goes a little longer, Sheila can give no more useful information. But after Hal leaves she picks up the phone, wipes the tears away, and calls someone and says, "Ok you bastards. I made it go away. I think... you can just leave my family alone now. I've done what you've asked. Just leave us in peace."

A distorted voice speaks back, "If you're seen talking to that man again, we will take your kids."

Thursday, 15 September 2016

The Cells S01E04 Scene 8

Continuing the story of The Cells, a Primetime Adventures game. I feel like I should remind you that Cathy is a guy. Zach just gives out irreverent nicknames.

Spotlight character: None for this episode.

Lazarus Moore is apprehensive about wasting time in the Cells complex any longer than he has to. He quickly gathers statistics about the place, attempting to calculate what the population could have been, the size of the hospital and other facilities.

"Zach, there is almost nothing else to learn here. Unless you've got something else that you're not telling me then it's time to go."

"There's another set of cells," replies Zach.

"On site or another site?"

Zach turns to Sgt Cathy. "Does your handheld have something about Odessa on it?"


"So it's a secret complex," muses Zach.

Private Thompson says, "That has a kind of block-ops feel to it, sir."

Zach says, "Alright Lazarus, you want to get out of here. Just one last thing. I want to see my cell, then we can go."

Lazarus turns to the sergeant. "How much time do you think we have before the General's people get here? They know we're here. I'm sure of it. Nobody leaves facilities like this unattended and unwatched. And if not them then it will be someone else." Turning back to Zach he says, "Zachariah, you have five minutes."

Zach runs.

He finds the cell and remembers the moment he stepped into the cell for the first time, realising that he'd made the wrong decision. It's a stark, empty room. He tries to turn around to convince the guards he's changed his mind. He puts up such a fight that he is sedated and locked in. As he passes out he says, "Call my dad. He'll tell you who I am."

Back in the present, Lazarus is trying to leave the Cells, fearful of whomever might be watching. The four of them reach the edge of the facility doorway and are about to step out as a shot rings out. Private Thompson's brains splatter over Zach. Sgt Cathy grabs Zach and Lazarus and pulls them back behind cover.

"Down!" Cathy shouts. "Stay down! Do not move, the two of you!" He pulls out a gun, ready.

"What... what the fuck?" pants Zach.

Lazarus' pulse races. He's had a lot longer to be afraid of death than anybody else.

"They shot him!" says Zach.

"Yes," says Lazarus, "and we are alive. It's shit. I'm not going to argue with you about that, but you need to keep it together now."

Lazarus, former canon of the Path, knows the secrets of the confession booth and knows Zach's father. "You don't want your dad to find out you died a coward, standing up. You have to keep it together and get through this, otherwise he will think even less of you than he does now."

The underhanded plea fails. Zach doesn't keep it together and aimlessly runs back into his Cell to curl up into a foetal position on the floor. Cathy attempts to fight off the attackers and dies in a hail of bullets. Although they aren't dressed like soldiers, they move like soldiers. Lazarus sees five different ways out of it but spends so long considering which is the best that he and Zach are overrun and black-bagged.

Lazarus, hooded, has his hands zip-tied behind his back. He's hauled into the back of a van and hears, "We've lost visuals on the other one. Bring up infra-red and schematics. Hunt him down and bring him back."

Radio chatter continues. "Yes, we've got one of the targets."

The camera cuts to inside the bag. Lazarus is mouthing a calming, meditative mantra to regain focus in the middle of the chaos.

The attackers, carrying an assortment of weapons and wearing irregular clothes, give all the appearance of a military unit trying not to look like a military unit. Although he can't see through the bag, Lazarus reconstructs the scene in his mind from the sounds of the action around him. "If he wanted me dead, I'd be dead now. What do they want?"

Back in the Cell, Zach hears booted feet approaching. His survival instinct kicks in and he scrambles to find another way out. He leaves the cell and goes down every stairway he can find. Down, down, ever down.

The not-soldiers call out, "Hey mister pretty boy. You're just pissing us off. The longer you take the more I'm going to take it out on you."

Zach finds a spanner and throws it far away from his position to try and trick the soldiers. They fall for it and run in the other direction. Now free to choose his escape he remembers that they've captured Lazarus.

Zach find his way to a radio. He picks it up and tunes it until he hears voices.

"You there, General?"

"No one here by that name. Come out, boy. Make it easy on all of us."

"Have you killed my friend?"

"Not yet. We can do that quick or slow."

"I doubt my actions are going to influence your decision in that regard."

"Oh you'd be amazed." There's a sound of movement and the sound of a grunt as Lazarus' voice can be heard in the background.

"Back off, General. I've got options."

"I think you'll need to be more persuasive than that."

Zach hears footsteps coming closer to him. He tries to change radio channel to find anyone else. "To anyone who's listening! This is the son of Cardinal Erasmus Templeton. I'm being hunted down in the Cells by the General and his men. They're not wearing military fatigues. They're acting upon their own to take out the established government."

He's in luck's way. A news helicopter has been passing by and veers around towards the cells. A powerful searchlight flashes over the facility. LAzarus hears a soldier say, "Sir, we've been compromised. Option two? Yes? Immediately."

Lazarus is picked up immediately, with the sense that he's about the get a bullet in his head. He has a moment of seeing all his plans unfinished and lamenting this horribly. However, he's thrown from the back of the van and lands heavily on the ground. The van races away.

The spotlight from the helicopter catches Zach running out towards Lazarus. Lazarus stands on his own two feet and walks upright.

"Look," he shouts, "if you're someone I know, please take this bag off my head."

Zach unzips the black bag. For all of Lazarus' composure he can't help but breath a sigh of relief.

"Thank you, Zachariah."

"For what it's worth... well, I think I've gotten us into some deep shit."

"Yes, well we'll even out ledgers later."

The news that night carries two stories of paramilitary attempts to destabilise the government. It plays beautifully. The story of councillors inspecting a government facility and then being attacked closely follows on the story of the funeral. In the story Zach says, "I suspect that the people behind this were also behind the tear gassing as well."

The media starts asking questions. Uncomfortable questions about the General actions for the year of the Cells. All those helicopters. All the people who disappeared.


I just want the guards to say to Zach, "Yes we know who you are" and close the door.

When Zach has tricked the guards and is compelled to rescue Lazarus, "Lazarus, you *are* a monster!" "What, with these puppy dog eyes?" "Yes, made from real puppy dogs!"

"Great, I've got a bag over my head and my hands tied behind my back and I'm not paying anyone to do this to me either."

Zach puts the hammer back in subtle.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

The Cells S01E04 Scene 7

Continuing the story of The Cells, a Primetime Adventures game.

Spotlight character: None for this episode.

Hal Turner goes to visit the widow of Sergei Nobakov, Sheila. It's a house in the Ditches. Hal steps out of the chauffered cars, leaving the driver. Sheila, a nice looking woman who wears the wrinkles of a war on her face. A small boy, perhaps four years old, peeks from behind her.

"Yes, can I help... oh!"

"Ma'am, my name is Captain Hal Turner."

The penny drops. Her voice trembles in shock. "No. No... no..."

"I'm afraid I have some bad news about your husband, Sergei."

Sheila bursts into tears. Hal puts his arm around her shoulders in comfort. She buries her head in his shoulder.

"He just came back. This can't... no..."

"Ma'am," says Hal, knowing that he can't possibly promise anything. "I promise you I'll do everything in my power to find out what happened."

The camera slowly pulls back from the pair. She leans onto Hal, unable to stand by herself.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

The Cells S01E04 Scene 6

Continuing the story of The Cells, a Primetime Adventures game. This scene jumped between the present day and flashbacks a bit. I hope I've represented it well enough.

Spotlight character: None for this episode.

Back in the present, Lazarus and Zach continue to investigate the Cells. It's a re-purposed prison, with ready-made security features. Many of the systems are switched off. The staff know that the people are there voluntarily.

The walls have been repainted into friendlier colours. Drunk-tank pink is used liberally throughout. More recreational facilities have been added.

Today, the facility is deserted.

As Zach picks up a flashlight, Lazarus turns to him and says, "We need to get out of here quickly. There is nothing here for us to learn. We're going to see empty cells. Unless there is something hidden in an office drawer or filing cabinet there is nothing here for us."

"I want to make sure."

"Then be quick. You can run faster than I can. Where's the office? You're looking for former prisoners. Former cellmates."

"I guess," he replies. "I just wanna know what's going on here. I wanna make sure that the reports and the reality are the same thing. You've got a good idea. Let's start with the office."

Sgt Cathy holds up the schematics of the facility and they follow it to the administration area.

Meanwhile, in the army's data centre, the general walks in and says, "Simmonds, you summoned me?"

The General

Simmonds flicks up a screen, taps a couple of buttons to open a video feed of Zach, Lazarus, and the security guards walking around in the Cells.

"Oh I see," says the General, sighing. "Well, I suppose we'd best see how this plays out, gentlemen. Get a team scrambled down there will you. Follow theta protocol."

Back in the Cells, Zach looks for cameras to see if they're running. However, the place smells like a hospital. A clean team has been through since it was last used.

Zach rifles through what little files are left to try and find his cell number. Zach, ever an untrustyworthy person, searches every unexpected hiding place in the office. Ventilation shafts, behind cabinets, under desks... then he remembers from his time in the Cells a time he snuck around the building to hear through a ventilation shaft a conversation. He can't make out much, just a phrase. "I'm not sure about B. I think it might be time to move on to the Odessa Complex." The conversation continues, but the sound of high heels is all he can hear as the people speaking move past the vent.

Still remembering his time in the Cells, Zach sees Alex in the cell. He's pacing.

"Thirty paces. Ten paces. Then forty, fifty, sixty. Gotta get your thousand steps, Zach. Seventy. Eighty. Zach... Zach, you're in the way."

"Just move around me."

"Zach... please... just... Zach could you...

"Move around me."

"C'mon Zach... just a bit..."

Zach moves out of the way and Alex keeps pacing.


Theta protocol?! Do you know how many revisions it took to get to that one?!

Friday, 9 September 2016

The Cells S01E04 Scene 5

Continuing the story of The Cells, a Primetime Adventures game.

Spotlight character: None for this episode.

Lazarus Moore, former Canon of the Path, now apostate

A flashback to the Cells. Lazarus Moore is in his cell, getting the shit kicked out of him by his cellmate. It's vicious and it's horrible. The man shouts, "You monster! You monster! You fucking monster!" Blood streams down Lazarus' nose. We see it for just a fraction of a second.

The scene changes to a darkened cell and while the cellmate is sleeping, Lazarus is whispering into his ear for a few seconds.

Again we see daylight and Lazarus is being beaten.

And again at night Lazarus is whispering into the cellmate's ear.

The next daylight moment shows the cellmate sitting on his bed, despondent. Days and weeks pass and the cellmate wastes away. One morning he's found dead.

Lazarus sits calmly as the guards take the dead man body from the cell. Although the effect of the youngberries helps Lazarus to heal faster, a small cut on his face still shows.


Lazarus actually whispers, "Beat me up" to his cellmate.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Oh Car Wars, take my money!

As I write this in part of the way through listening to an interview with Scott Haring, developer of Car Wars. Not just developer today but developer back then. 

From the little clues he's given away it's getting me excited about sixth edition (Does it have an acronym yet? Can I just start saying CW6 now?). He's saying things like "drive fast and blow things up" and "faster play" and "simpler play."

I really liked Car Wars back in the day. I liked making spreadsheets to help me design cars. In fact, I might have spent more time on the spreadsheets than the designs, and more time on the designs than the play. 

Hmm. That tells you something. 

1. I like spreadsheets. 
2. Car Wars had a high entry point. 

Today I play with spreadsheets much more than my Car Wars games but if the imaginary hype in my head is anything to go by this situation might change. 

So I'm still excited about Car Wars and especially CW6 (see? It works!). 

As they say, "Take my money now!"

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

The Cells S01E04 Scene 4

Continuing the story of The Cells, a Primetime Adventures game.

Spotlight character: None for this episode.

War hero, Captain Hal Turner, goes to the morgue to identify the body of his dead friend Sergei Andrej, found dead in a previous episode. A senior police officer, Detective Mason, meets him.

"Thank you so much for coming down, Captain. Just step through into the morgue."

The morgue assistant helps to remove the red sheet from the body. Hal looks down and says, "I know him. It's Sergei."

Sergei Andrej, deceased veteran

"It was very strange, Captain," says Mason. "This man... we've established the idea that although many veterans struggle, this man had his life fairly much together, his wife speaks highly of him and his efforts to raise both the children and to be a good husband. He's got a regular job, unlike a lot of the vets, and seems to be putting food on the table for his family. So we're a bit confused by the suicide element of it."

"Where did you find him?" asks Hal.

"He was found in a hotel bathroom in Thorne Valley."

"That's a nice area."

"Honestly, sir, it doesn't make a great deal of sense to us. We're putting facts together but we don't have a lot to go on right now."

Hal looks down at Sergei and sees the rope marks around his neck.

"Detective, how does a one-armed man tie a noose?"

"Sir, I don't have all the facts at this stage. I'm noting your concern and we will be looking into it. He did leave this for you, sir," he says and hands Hal a piece of paper with an unbroken wax seal on it. The seal shows a circle cut in four. "We haven't disturbed it yet, sir, out of respect."

Hal opens it and reads the letter. Just four words are written there, "The Circle will rise again."

Memories of the war come flooding back. The Circle was one of the factions that fought in the war; the faction that Knightfather Roland fought for.

Detective Mason continues, "Does this mean anything to you, Captain? This is complete news to me."

"I don't know. We... our conversations were usually of a personal nature. We talked about our families. We talked about the hardships of being an injured veteran. This sort of thing? I think we're just tired of it. In some ways I spoke to him to get away from this sort of thing and to reach out to the salt of the earth, the common man, so I don't know."

"Well sir, if you do become privy to this sort of information, here's my card. We really would like to hear from you. Anything to help with this. Believe me, we'll be giving it our attention. Anything for a member of the Council."


When Hal opens the letter from Sergei, it reads, "Captain, I have longed for your body. We are free at last! Your wife has left you and we can at last express our true feelings for each other!"

When Hal remembers the Circle faction, opposing factions were named. "The Square!" “The Ring!” “The Dot and the Line!” “The Circle and the Ring and logos so similar that you can’t sure who you’re shooting.” “The Circle and the Near-Spherical-Ellipse! You need a protractor to find out what side you’re on.” “Damn parallax error! I’m looking at an angle!”

Monday, 5 September 2016

The Cells S01E04 Scene 3

Continuing the story of The Cells, a Primetime Adventures game.

Spotlight character: None for this episode.

Zach has made his way back to the Cells that night, taking two security guards with him to meet Lazarus there. Zach doesn't use their real names, instead giving them nicknames Sgt Cathy and Private Thompson.

"We'll be arriving in a minute or so, Sir," says the sergeant.

"Good. Thank you," replies Zach, curtly.

"We've scoped out the area. Stay close to us. There was some rogue activity in the area when we extracted you from the Cells. We'd like to keep a fairly tight lid on it, just to be on the safe side."


Zach turns to Lazarus and hands him some pages. "That was on Quiver's USB."

"Is this the list of names?" asks Lazarus.

"It's somewhat redacted, but yeah. There are some people in there I wanna find."

"And you believe they're still there?"

"I don't know but if they're in there I'm gettin' them out. I don't care what the rules are. Not necessarily today. Today's mission is to find out if they're there."

Dark gives way to light as Zach opens the door to the Cells.


Zach in the Cells, sharing a meal with a young man. He looks a lot younger than he is; green, nervous, and unsure of himself. They're both wearing orange jumpsuits.

"Alex," says Zach. "You're not eating half your meal. What's wrong with those?"

"You can have them."

"Well, if I'm going to have them beans, you can have whatever this goopy shit is that you seem to like."

"It's alright. I'm fine. I've got no appetite anyway."

"You have to eat, man."

"Oh god. Are you my mum?"

"No," says Zach. "But, seriously, do you wanna die in here? Of fucking starvation, no less?"

"Can you breathe properly in here? It feels like they're doing something with the air. It feels too closed in."

"You're not good in small spaces?"

"I didn't think it would be a problem."

Over and over again, day after day, Zach and his cellmate have the same conversation. Alex falls deeper into despair, wasting away.

Friday, 2 September 2016

The Cells S01E04 Scene 2

Continuing the story of The Cells, a Primetime Adventures game.

Spotlight character:
None for this episode.

On the way back to Central, in a large state vehicle, Kate is sitting next to Hal. She stares out of the window as the rain pours down.

"I just can't believe he's gone," she says. "He just... left. He just walked away. All his plans. Everything we talked about... he just walked away. It doesn't make any sense."

Hal sits in silence, refusing to reply to his cheating wife.

Hal Turner, War Hero

Kate looks over at Hal and sighs deeply. "So what are we going to do now?"

"Well, you were about to leave me. Do you still want to? I'm not going to stop you."

"Thanks Hal," she replies. "I don't know any more. I feel like... I feel like the rug's just been completly pulled out from underneath me and... I mean, you and I have been apart more than we've been together. You don't want me to stay, do you? I wouldn't want me to stay."

"I'll leave that to you," says Hal.

The car arrives at Central. The two of them keep up appearances enough to walk into Central, going their own separate ways once inside the building.

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

The Cells, S01E04 Scene 1

This is an actual play report from the PTA game I've been playing in for the last year or so. Steve Dee posted play summaries for the first few episodes before he had to bow out. But since then there haven't been any updates. So I'm going to try and pick up the baton and continue the story. Enjoy.

Spotlight character: None for this episode.

The camera pans in above Citadel and focuses on a long black car with a military escort ahead and behind. It's the hearse, carrying the body of Quiver, to a place of contemplation for the Path. It's a neo-modernist pagoda, scattered with reflecting pools. The coffin is painted in four different colours to represent the four elements of the Path. In older times the body would have been quartered; today it's much more symbolic. Ultra-conservative sects appoint someone from the family to cut the body up with a bonesaw, but not here in this civilised place. Gathered for the ceremony are the council members and other dignitaries.

Agent Quiver

Zach is in a pinstripe suit. Hal stands with his wife, Kate. He's again refusing to wear his military uniform, especially for the funeral of the man who was sleeping with his wife. Attendees are wearing tokens or sashes of red, the colour of mourning. Lazarus wears the red of civic government, not the red of the Path. Political commentators notice the difference, but the general public doesn't care for him.

It is, of course, raining.

Knightfather Roland, though present, does not lead the service. Rather, Cardinal Templeton delivers all the necessary pomp. He tells a lovely story and draws everyone in, but the focus is not on Quiver. As he speaks about duty and honour, Kate starts shaking beside Hal, a mere fraction from losing it. Hal puts his arm around her to offer comfort.

Zach has come prepared, however, and secretly presses a valium into Kate's palm. She's initially surprised but realises that she needs this. Discretely she "blows her nose" and pops the pill. Hal's gesture is missed. He reaches out to support her but she turns away. Hal is left looking awkward.

The Cardinal comes to the end of his speech, claiming that the world is darker for Quiver's passing. Hal keeps a stony face throughout. The ceremony ends, the press take photos, and the coffin presented to the four pools. Mourners throw rose petals onto the canal as it draws the coffin away. The service ends and the people begin to move on towards the wake.

Before he can make his way there, the media approach Zach and ask him for comment. "Quiver was a good man. He meant well with every one of his actions. I have nothing more to say." Ever the media focus, they then seem more interested in who made his suit and the questions become more inane.

The press descend on Hal and Kate. "Captain Hal, how do you feel about losing a key support in the council's infrastructure? Will the council be able to move forward and do anything meaningful with this terrible loss?"

He replies, "It is a setback but the council has been chosen to be able to approach obstacles from a number of angles and we will find a way forward." They lap it up; the words of a war hero. Hal seizes on the opportunity and says that the council will continue to work with the military and the General, but saying it in a way that casts the tiniest doubt on the intentions of the military.

Avoiding the media, Lazarus heads directly towards the main entrance. An unassuming man in a grey suit sidles up to him, puts him arm around Lazarus' shoulder and guides him to one side, giving Lazarus no option but to go with him. Lazarus complies. The man shows him an ID badge from Global. "So you've lost Quiver. What now?"

"We need a replacement. One who is quick and effective. There's a lot we need to do but we can't cut through the nonsense."

"We can take care of that. This city needs to get itself back in order. We need to be shown to be in complete control after this. Just because Quiver managed the fiasco out the front of Central doesn't change the fact that you're all in a precarious position right now."

"Could you get somebody with fewer personal problems this time? Perhaps someone who can keep it in his pants?"

"You know, I've got just the man."

"Good. Send me a brief," says Lazarus. "Next, we need to accelerate the technological advances in order to feed the people. The people here are unruly and need to be pacified. They need food and need to feel as though we are listening. We need a cultural event. One where the people are free to express what life is like after the white , without breaking rules of which side they were on and who we fought for. Just allow them to be... edgy. Let them feel as though they are criticising us. Keep them a little happy."

"Redirect them? Is that what you're saying?"

"Yes. While we can do the more important things."

"Mr Moore, I think we're going to be able to work together well. We'll have a briefing for you within the hour, sir."

"I look forward to it. I'll see you back at Central."

"No. You won't."

Monday, 29 August 2016

I burned my D&D books

Once upon a time I was a fundamentalist Christian. The earth was only 6000 years old, Angels and Demons were invisible spirits doing the spiritual bidding of God and Satan, and we were living in the end times.

And I loved playing Dungeons and Dragons.

Somewhere deep inside, however, this couldn't last. Too many Jack Chick tracts. Too many sermons in the dangers of this and the peril my soul was in. The devil was in those D&D books and they were the reason I wasn't pure.

So I burned them.

A Players Handbook, a Dungeons Masters Guide, an Unearthed Arcana, an Oriental Adventures, and some Greyhawk campaign material. They all went into the flames.

To my surprise they burned with multi-coloured flames jetting out of the covers. It was the colour of spirits being tormented! They fled those books and went back to their dark lord.

My parents were upset that I was destroying expensive books. My church youth pastor was happy for me.

These days, however, I wish I'd kept them. Partly because I'm something of a collector. All those pop culture conventions and stores nudge me towards my wallet. Also, partly because I'd like to play them again. I know it's an older edition, but the nostalgia play is powerful.

It'd also be cheaper than buying the latest edition. :)

I remember some of the artwork from those books. There was one picture on the same page as the cavalier that always stood out to me, as well as a paladin fighting through demons.

Maybe I'll find a D&D game a convention somewhere and sit in for a session. Maybe that will scratch the itch.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Paper Craft Games

Our house has become something of a paper craft design centre.

My kids have started making board games full of 3D elements. I think they like making the games more than playing the games. 

This is a recent example. It's a roll-and-move game with no title. The goal is to get home (the little house in the corner) and it's full of exception rules that aren't known when we start playing. 

"You need the sword to do that."

"If you land here you pick up a card."

"You have to roll the exact number to land on the house."

Like I said, I didn't know any of these rules when we started playing. They just come up in play.

That's what it feels like playing some games with adults too. Some games have a few core rules that are easy to convey to new players, and then are followed up with truckloads of exceptions and addenda.

"But if you have the gem card and your team mate is in the blue sector, then you can't launch the missiles."

Honestly, I feel like I've played that game before. It's probably some nine hour board game with dice, cards, and a cult following. 

What's all this about? Why am I talking about the games that junior school children make? I'm making a plea to game developers. Don't make your game opaque. People want to play your game. If it's complex, fine, but find a way to communicate the exceptional nature of the rules to players. 

I guess there's also a responsibility for people explaining games to new players. Don't surprise them with rules exceptions. It's bewildering. I accept it from my kids because they're in junior school and still figuring things out. I don't want to accept it from adults. 

Ok, enough preaching. The other outcome from all this was my kids' first dungeon crawl. They seemed keen on playing something with a dragon and swords so I hastily cobbled something together.

I sketched a map, made some quick rules, and they made the scenery. Ok, so it was just the cage for the dragon. 

Anyway, they were two heroes - a wizard and a warrior - who were going to rescue their friend the dragon. I geared it around the typical crescendo model. First encounters are small with a reward that can be used later. Later encounters are tough boss fights. 

All the rules were written (fairly sparsely) on two pages, with a map on the third. See, I'm taking my own medicine about rules clarity.

And after all that, they enjoyed it! One of them tried hard not to smile. The other one asked to play it again straight away. 

"It's better than all the other games we made today, dad!"

Achievement unlocked. 

Monday, 1 August 2016

Cheap but good advice for gaming in a group

I know a few musicians. One of them posted a piece of advice from Chick Corea and it makes good sense for story games too.

The earliest reference I could find to the origin of the advice was here. I thought about re-writing it to address it to the gamer, but then I remembered how smart you all are. Take his musical advice and riff off it.

1) Play only what you hear.

2) If you don’t hear anything, don’t play anything.

3) Don’t let your fingers and limbs just wander - place them intentionally.

4) Don’t improvise on endlessly - play something with intention, develop it or not, but then end off, take a break.

5) Leave space - create space - intentionally create places where you don’t play.

6) Make your sound blend. Listen to your sound and adjust it to the rest of the band and the room.

7) If you play more than one instrument at a time - like a drum kit or multiple keyboards - make sure they are balanced with one another.

8) Don’t make any of your music mechanically or just through patterns of habit. Create each sound, phrase and piece with choice - deliberately.

9) Guide your choice of what to play by what you like - not by what someone else will think.

10) Use contrast to balance the elements;
high - low
fast - slow
loud - soft
tense - relaxed
dense - sparse

11) Play to make the other musicians sound good. Play things that will make the overall music sound good.

12) Play with a relaxed body. Always release whatever tension you create.

13) Create space - begin, develop and end phrases with intention.

14) Never beat or pound your instrument - play it easily and gracefully.

15) Create space - then place something in it.

16) Use mimicry sparsely - mostly create phrases that contrast with and develop the phrases of other players.

Beautiful stuff.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

The Perfect Game?

I think I've almost played the perfect game. At Go Play Brisbane last month my game of DramaSystem using the lyrics of Queen II was perhaps the best game I've ever run, and one of the nicest storylines I've been involved with.

All credit to the players. They were interesting and inventive. They rose to the occasion, and played the hell out of that game.

I'm delighted and relived about it too. I'd had this idea for a game years ago but never had just the right moment to play it. So now that it's happened, it was worth the wait.

Maybe I will never run it again, just because of how much I enjoyed this one. It was close to the perfect game.

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Cheat Sheets

I like cheat sheets at the table. For games that have lots of rules and examples, a cheat sheet helps speed things up. 

I especially like them for convention play. It's likely that someone at the table hasn't played the game. A cheat sheet helps them to be involved faster.

A good cheat sheet can't replace a rule book or a GM's requirement to know the rules. At the most it should be a one page document with the core rules and perhaps page numbers for obscure rules. That lets the players know that there are rules for other things but that they won't need them all the time. 

If there isn't one available for a game that in running at a con, then I always make one for players. They need it. The limited time slot needs it. I want to maximise the time spent telling the story and minimise the time spent checking rules. 

After all, it's supposed to be about the story, right?

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Go Play Brisbane, my session is full!

On a whim I decided to prepare a DramaSystem pitch based on the lyrics of the Queen album Queen II (released in the early 70s). The idea was to run it at Go Play Brisbane in April. I've never run DramaSystem before but I really want to.

After a long weekend it seems that the session is fully booked, much to my delight and surprise.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Shakespearean Magic

I'm not well-read in Shakespeare but I'm interested in running a one-shot game that riffs off some of his fantasy & comedy works. I'm thinking of plays like A Midsummer Night's Dream, for example.

When I think about plays like that one, it seems that Shakespeare's magic falls into three broad categories.

Disguise - characters changing form into another human, or another creature, with enough difference to be unrecognisable to (most) others.

Emotional manipulation - characters falling in love with other characters at first sight, especially with others they explicitly don't like.

Minor weather manipulation - a fog, a rain shower, a wind.

But how accurate is that? What have you observed?


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