Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Realms Toowoomba Session # 49 [RPG]

[24 Kythorn 1372]

At a dock in Silverymoon, the kenku trapsmith Ralkin farewells Katanya and Flindle, the gnomes he escorted safely from Startop Mountain. As thanks, Katanya gifts him with two small gems that her brother had cut during their stay in the city. Katanya says that she and her brother have decided not to return to Mirabar but are planning on starting over in Waterdeep, and that Ralkin should look them up if he ever visits the city.

Passing through a wealthy part of Silverymoon on his way back to the Blind Dwarf Inn, Ralkin runs into a familiar face. Having just come from having her hair styled and dyed to subtly resemble flames, Mellia is surprised to see the kenku again after he left the group a couple of tendays ago. The two talk, and Mellia explains that the group plans to travel to Thay to rescue Cain, who has been, in her words, "misplaced." She tells Ralkin that the others have gone through a magical portal at the behest of Terrigo Multivar in order to buy passage for a future journey to Thay. Ralkin says he happens to be looking for work, and the two agree to meet the next morning to travel to Multivar's residence together. Later that day, Ralkin sells the gems given to him by Katanya to a funny little man who says his wife needs a new pair of shoes.

Late that night, inside the complex on the other side of the mirror-portal, Myst's ward against intrusion wakes everyone from their slumber. The four-armed master of the complex, T'Klack, has suddenly appeared in their midst, and reaches out to grasp Gelkar's corpse. T'Klack slowly starts to fade away, explaining that Gelkar died in battle and is entitled to the honour of becoming part of his trophy room. Myst reacts quickly, and his hand begins to glow with arcane energy. When he touches T'Klack, the being seems to grow somewhat confused. Fargrim and Daisy then work together to yank Gelkar's corpse out of T'Klack's hands just before the threat fades away.

Dolcetto says the group is going to have to be watchful of the bodies of their slain companions. Later, while she and Fargrim are on watch, Dolcetto announces her intention to reconnoitre the area. The dwarf refuses to let her go, however, saying that she's gotten herself into enough trouble already.

[25 Kythorn 1372]

At Wayward House, Mellia successfully casts a new spell that she has been developing for several days. The spell allows her to send a short message to someone she knows, regardless of distance, and it then allows a short response. She sends a message to Cain, telling him that the group is coming to rescue him and asks him to confirm his location. His reply is somewhat vague and ominous, but he confirms that he is indeed in Thay.

When Ralkin arrives, Mellia tells him that anything he can do to speed her companions' return from the mirror-portal would be appreciated. She gives him a note and two potions to give to the others. Ralkin is taken to meet Multivar, and the kenku queries the old wizard about the stolen amulet the others have been tasked to retrieve. Multivar seems evasive, but describes the amulet as being black and in the shape of a spider. With little further ado, Ralkin jumps through the mirror-portal at the appropriate time.

He appears in front of the complex, startled to find that an acidic rain is falling from the sky and sizzling against his feathers. Turning around, he's even more startled to see a massive two-legged monster with a long tail and huge teeth running towards him, followed closely by a halfling clad from topknot to toenails in scaly hide armor! Ralkin hastily pulls open one of the slats in the metallic doorway and leaps through, less concerned with what may be inside than with what is definitely outside. The halfling follows, and introduces himself as Syd, and the large beast, which he calls a megaraptor, as Garry. Syd says he doesn't know where he is, and asks Ralkin for help. The kenku is cautious, however, and instead begins to call out to see if any of his former companions are present by imitating Mellia's voice. As he does so, Garry gives a loud roar.

Hearing the roar in the room where they had been resting, Daisy rushes around the corner to see Syd and Garry. Daisy is as excited as a child at a Midwinter feast, and receives permission from Syd to pat Garry. Meanwhile, hearing what sounds like Mellia's voice, Fargrim and Dolcetto come around the corner to find Ralkin instead. Fargrim greets Ralkin and introduces him to Dolcetto as an excellent scout, but the sorceress and the trapsmith are not particularly friendly to one another. Soon, introductions are made all around. Syd's ability to converse telepathically is found to be particularly off-putting to Dolcetto. Syd explains that he was camping one night in the Evermoors when he awoke to find a strange, four-armed creature had bit him! Although the halfling tried to struggle, he found that his limbs would not respond. The next thing he knew, he was laying in front of the large, square metallic doorway that led into the complex. Hearing a nearby roar, Syd spotted a beast that he was able to calm and befriend, giving it the name Garry.

After Dolcetto explains the group's purpose in coming to the complex, Syd agrees to help them find the amulet in exchange for help in returning home. Dolcetto tries to enlist a similar commitment from Ralkin, but the kenku is busy examining the trigger for the razor-wire trap in the ceiling. An attempt to deactivate the trap goes awry, and Ralkin finds himself caught in the sharp net! Dolcetto says he should be left there a while to learn his lesson, but Fargrim cuts him loose. Ralkin carefully gathers together the razor-wire for future use.

Later, after Dolcetto has explained that the group was just in a terrible battle that claimed the lives of two companions, Syd displays the ability to cast healing magicks. Conversation turns to what Daisy calls the "invisible man" who guards the display room of weapons. Intrigued, Ralkin moves towards the door and realizes that he can converse with whatever is on the other side. Daisy happily chatters to it, and Dolcetto, perhaps reluctantly, agrees to leave it alone for the time being.

Even with some healing from Syd, the adventurers are still hurt and decide to rest another night. The bodies of Gelkar and Markus are rolled up inside sleeping bags and tents. Dolcetto works on writing a new spell in her book, while Daisy and Syd make music. Fargrim asks Myst about the unusual shovel with healing properties that Gelkar wielded; Daisy is able to hold it with no difficulties, but the dwarf finds it saps his strength. Myst, however, knows little about it. The sage is able to hypothesize, however, that the longsword taken from Iskenvar may host a rare and difficult-to-create enchantment that makes it usable only by those with orcish blood.

[26 Kythorn 1372]

In the morning, the group moves out in a marching order set by Dolcetto. She also gives the group instructions that if they are attacked by more large creatures like the flesh golems, they should fall back into a narrow corridor so only one of the constructs can advance at a time. When the group reaches the ghastly trophy room, Ralkin examines the lift mechanism and is convinced it must be trapped. He is lowered down on a rope and removes a gear from the assembly in the hopes that doing so will deactivate the trap. When the others try to activate the lift, however, it seems to be broken. Using a magical spool of rope that was in Gelkar's possession, Dolcetto arranges for everyone, including Garry with two corpses tied to his back, to reach the lower level of the complex safely.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Hell Frozen Over: Chapter Thirteen [BUFFY]

CHAPTER THIRTEEN: FOUR YEARS AGO

Everything was quiet—almost eerily quiet, as there were no crickets chirping, alarm clocks ticking, or police sirens blaring like there would be back in Sunnydale. Cordelia tried not to disturb the silence as she carefully and slowly rolled out of bed and dressed in jeans and a warm jacket. She walked to the door and lifted up the latch ever-so-slowly, glancing around to make sure no one was awake. She slipped out the door and closed it quietly behind her.

It really is beautiful she thought to herself. Without the light pollution of the city, the stars were brilliant and sparkling. Mountains in the distance loomed up large and imposing, while the snow nearby, illuminated only by the moon, stood out in a confusing mix of foreground and background.

She hurried across the snow towards the direction of one of the slopes, hoping she had timed her escape correctly and that he would be there to meet her. In truth, there was no need for her to have been so cautious— Cordelia was seventeen and it wasn’t as if she needed the others’ permission if she wanted to have a midnight rendezvous with Chad on the slopes. But sneaking out was so much more exciting and romantic that it simply seemed like the thing to do.

In actuality, however, she hadn’t escaped the cabin without being noticed. Xander had been awake the whole time, and had correctly surmised the purpose of her leaving. He hadn’t been able to sleep a wink that night, feeling restless while his thoughts dwelled on Amara. Although he knew intellectually that it was simply a crush, puppy love, an infatuation, it didn’t change the fact that he couldn’t help but think about her. She was everything he had been looking for, and surprisingly, she actually liked him too. And she’s not even embarrassed of me like Cordelia. He rolled over and arranged the blankets again, trying to get comfortable for again. A few minutes after Cordelia left, he gave up and started getting dressed. If she can go out in the middle of the night to meet her boyfriend, I can do the same thing. Though not with her boyfriend. Or my boyfriend. With a girl! Xander often bantered with himself like this in his head—most of his famous one-liners occurred when he decided to verbalize this internal monologue.

He also lifted the latch of the door slowly and passed through. He started walking in the direction of Amara’s cabin. He wasn’t expecting to see her, though he hoped he might. Instead, he thought that a brisk walk might tire him out enough to help him finally fall asleep. When he reached her cabin, he was disappointed but not surprised to see that the lights were out. I guess I could act like a stalker and try to wake her up anyway, he thought, but quickly rejected the idea. He still wanted to see her tomorrow and not scare her off.

Xander jumped as he felt a hand on his shoulder—he had been so sure he had been alone outside, except for Cordelia and Chad, of course.

“It’s only me, silly,” said Amara. She was dressed just as he had seen her that morning, and looked ready to jump on a board and fling herself down the slopes at any minute.

“Amara! Hi,” Xander gave a nervous little laugh to relieve the tension he felt. “I couldn’t sleep, so I thought I would walk about a little.”

“And stare at my cabin?” she said with a grin.

“Exactly. One of my favorite hobbies really: standing outside of some girl’s house, staring at it for hours on end with a creepy look on my face. Explains why I’m so popular back in Sunnydale.”

“Doesn’t it though?” she said rhetorically. “Well, I’m up too. Come on then,” she said, grabbing his arm and pulling him away from the cabin. “We can go exploring.”

“Exploring?”

“Yeah. The lodge has been closed down for years. Who knows what’s in there? Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?”

Xander hesitated. “Amara, have you heard the stories about the resort being haunted? Poking around a strange place after midnight is sure to bring any ghosts right down on us.”

“You’re silly,” she said, smiling at the look of earnestness on his face. “Ghosts aren’t real. And if they are, you’ll be there to protect me, right? Besides—it’ll make the whole experience that much more fun.”

He still wasn’t exactly keen on the idea. The lodge looked strangely menacing in the moonlight, and he spent enough time back home walking into spooky places and encountering dangerous things. But this is not the Hellmouth, he reminded himself. And if she wants to go look around, why not?

They walked around the building a few times before finding that one of the boards covering a window at the side of the building was loose enough to pull off. With a solid pull, Xander also managed to wrench the window up, enabling them to peer inside. Even with the moonlight, it was so dark they couldn’t see anything but a small patch of the floor.

“Wait here,” Amara said, sprinting off into the night, only to return a few minutes later with a gas lantern in hand. “Isn’t this exciting?” she said. “I feel just like Nancy Drew in one of those old books.”

Xander had already been in enough “exciting” situations to last a lifetime, but he couldn’t help but smile at her enthusiasm. In fact, his experiences made him feel like an old pro at this “skulking-about-spookyplaces- at midnight” game.

They climbed through the window and lit the lamp--it illuminated only an area about twenty or thirty feet away. They noticed that the floor was covered with a thick layer of dust, which they kicked up everytime they walked, causing it to swirl about them and be reflected in the lamplight. Around them, couches, chairs, and small tables were all covered with dingy white dust cloths.

“This must be the lobby,” Amara said. “See, there’s the bar.” She pointed at another object covered with a dust cloth. “And there’s the fireplace.”

Man, Chad would be pissed if he found us here, Xander thought, but then caught himself. Good. He can go crying to Cordelia all about it.

Amara grabbed his hand again and left it there this time. “And up there must be the guest rooms,” she said, pointing to a curved staircase, which led to a balcony overlooking the lobby. Doors must have led from the balcony to the guestrooms, but they were too far away to be seen with the lantern.

“So what’s on the agenda for tomorrow,” Xander said, becoming unnerved by the place. “More skiing—or breaking and entering? You know there’s this great restaurant we found down in the town and—“

“Oh Xander, didn’t I tell you?” she said, apologetically. “This is my last night here—I have to leave in the morning.” Her face looked odd in the lamp light—almost translucent.

“Ah,” he replied, obviously disappointed. “Well, we can still write, right? I am mighty with the pen,” he joked lamely.

“I . . . don’t think that’s a good idea. You how it always works out. It’s okay in the beginning, but then we start receiving letters from each other less and less often, until one of us simply never writes back and then . . . It’s better to just end it on what we had—a great day together, something memorable.”

“Of course, you’re right,” he said, trying to smile. The award-winning Xander jinx comes into play once again, he thought, but then resolved to try and make the best of it.

They started up the stairs slowly, still holding hands. Xander held the lantern with his other hand and shone it about every few steps. The lamp jiggled as they stepped on one stair that creaked loudly, just like in an old horror movie. They chuckled a little at their own hesitation and continued up the stairs to the balcony.

Suddenly, they heard that same stair creaking and realized that they weren’t alone.

Meanwhile, Cordelia and Chad were having a great time on the slopes, enjoying a midnight ski. Cordelia was still shaky, but Chad was there everytime to steady her. She was attracted to him, partially out of the belief that Chad was simply much more mature than boys her own age, including Xander. In fact, when she was away from Xander, she had difficulty remembering what it was she ever saw in him. It sure isn’t his taste in fashion, she realized, watching Chad ski quickly down the slope in front of her, showing off as if it were a slalom race.

She plunged her skipoles into the snow and pushed off, hoping to catch up to him and surprise him. He had turned by then though, and stood watching her as she wobbled in his direction.

“You’re learning fast,” he said admiringly when she finally reached him. “But it’s getting cold and we’ll have to walk back up since the lifts are turned off. You know, I have some hot cocoa in my cabin—we could warm up there.”

She smiled to herself at this obvious line. But still, hot cocoa and Chad didn’t sound like a bad combination. Even with the “Slayerettes” along, this trip isn’t turning out so bad after all, she thought, as they turned to begin trudging back up the slope. All of the girls in Sunnydale are going to be so jealous when I tell them about Chad.

They heard the loud whine of the snowmobile coming towards them before they saw it. Chad didn’t know what to think—he kept one locked up securely behind his cabin for maintenance of the resort and emergencies, but he was pretty sure no one else in the area had one. And besides, they weren’t allowed on the slopes.

The pair stood waiting expectantly as the snowmobile approached. Chad could see that it was his, but he didn’t recognize the two curious looking figures who were riding it. They were dressed completely inappropriately for the weather, as far as Chad was concerned, in not much more than jeans and leather vests or jackets with Tshirts underneath. As the snowmobile grew closer, they realized it was going fast and headed towards them.

And then they realized it wasn’t going to stop!

Chad panicked and stood there frozen, with his mouth gaping open, but Cordelia pulled him out of the way just in time. The pair of skiers fell on the snow, with Cordelia finding herself on her back, half buried in a soft spot, and Chad struggling to extract himself from Cordelia’s skis and poles.

He managed to reach his hands and knees just as the snowmobile came back for another pass.

“Duck!” Cordelia shouted, but it was too late. The man on the rear of the snowmobile thrust his hand out and grabbed Chad by the back of his jacket, and incredibly, held him aloft for several dozen feet before throwing him face down in the snow. The man on the back of the vehicle jumped off on top of Chad, while the driver turned the snowmobile around and headed back towards Cordelia. Still unable to get to her feet, she screamed as she realized the man planned to ram her with it! She screamed again when she realized from his face that he was a vampire.

From out of nowhere, a blur of pink and blue jumped towards the vehicle’s driver and tackled him, knocking him off of it and into the snow. The snowmobile careened wildly and then tipped over on its side, its tracks still moving in the air as its motor continued running.

“Buffy!” Cordelia shouted. She could hardly believe her eyes. Buffy was there rolling around in the snow with a vampire in nothing more than her pajamas.

“Now’s . . . not really a good time for conversation,” Buffy spat out, as she struggled to gain the upper hand on this vampire. He was on top of her now, trying to sink his fangs into her throat. He was incredibly strong, but she knew how to use her leverage. She kneed him in the stomach and then put both feet on his chest and kicked out, sending him sailing into the air only to land relatively softly in the snow near Cordelia.

Buffy jumped to her feet and sprinted after him, landing a solid kick to his jaw as he tried to stand up. With one quick motion, Buffy grabbed the top of one of Cordelia’s skis, still attached to the latter’s foot, and kicked it hard. It broke with a snap. Buffy held the broken piece and turned it away from her just as the vampire leapt on top of her. He disintegrated as they landed on the snow, covering her with a fine shower of dust and ash.

“Get it off me!” shouted Cordelia, trying to wipe scattered remnants of the dust off of herself. “And then go help Chad!”

Buffy ran over to where the other vampire was, but it was too late for Chad. The vampire got up and looked at Buffy, his teeth and lower jaw dripping with warm blood. The Slayer! he thought to himself, suddenly unsure—but it was too late to back off now. He deftly stepped to the side as Buffy charged him, and thrust his elbow out, hitting her with a glancing blow on the side of the head. She staggered slightly, but spun around and drove a fist into the small of his back and then executed a perfect jump side kick to the back of the head, knocking him into the snow. He rolled down the hill several feet, before slowly standing up and running for the snowmobile to escape.

Buffy pulled the same trick on one of Chad’s skis, arming herself with another makeshift stake before she headed down the slope after the vampire. She reached him just as he had started to push the snowmobile back on its wheels, which were still spinning. She aimed carefully with the stake, but he dodged at the last second and the stake slammed into the vehicle, splintering into useless pieces.

He backhanded her with a vicious swipe, but Buffy managed to roll with the blow. She wasn’t sure what she was going to do now though, unarmed. There simply weren’t many ways to kill a vampire—a stake through the heart, sunlight, holy water, decapitation. None of those are an option she realized as the vampire, seeing her vulnerability, changed its mind and decided to attack.

He grabbed her with both hands around her throat. She thrust her hands straight up between his, and broke his grip. She punched him quickly in the solar plexus with a solid right uppercut and then swung her left fist around, catching him the jaw. She saw the snowmobile still on its side, spinning ineffectually, and instantly devised a plan.

The next time he lunged for her, she clotheslined him with her forearm and simultaneously swept his legs out from under him. He landed on his back right in front of the snowmobile. With a powerful kick, Buffy tipped it over. As soon as its treads found traction, the snowmobile zoomed forward.

Ugh! thought Buffy as the vehicle crushed the vampire’s skull. I hope that counts in the decapitation category, she thought, because if it doesn’t that thing is going to be so disgusting to fight. As the snowmobile kept on running driverless down the slope, the small explosion of dust and ash from the vampire’s corpse told her that her fears were groundless. She ran over to Cordelia and helped her up.

“How did you know I was here?” Cordelia said, glad that Buffy had come but slightly disappointed that she hadn’t been as sneaky as she had thought.

“I heard the snowmobile motor and woke up and saw that you and Xander were gone. And then I just followed it.” With the stress of the combat over, Buffy finally realized how much she was freezing—she wasn’t even wearing shoes. “Chad’s dead. I’m sorry, Cordelia. But now we have to think about Xander have you seen him?”

“Huh? Xander?” Cordelia said, still trying to process Chad’s death. “No . . . I don’t know.”

They hurried back up the slope to their cabin, and Buffy hastily pulled on some warm clothes and boots while Cordelia locked the door securely and began piling firewood onto the fire.

“Hey Buffy?” Cordelia said.

“What?”

“Where’s Willow?”

Buffy looked around frantically. “She was here. I know she was. I told her not to go anywhere! We’ve got to go look for them.” She ran over to the bundles of firewood, trying to find anything that would suffice for a stake. If only I would have brought my Slayer bag . . . I thought that by leaving it, I was leaving the Hellmouth behind. It was stupid to think that I could ever escape the horror movie that has become my life simply by leaving Sunnydale.

Something heavy hit the door, causing its hinges to groan.

“They’re coming!” Cordelia shouted. “Buffy, they can’t come in here unless they’re invited, right?”

“I don’t know—we don’t really live here, we’re just visiting remember?” she said, as she began pushing one of the beds towards the door. The door splintered open before she could reinforce it—but she was ready. She picked up one of the makeshift stakes from the mantle where she had left it and flung it at the door just as a vampire stepped through. It disintegrated and Buffy readied for another. But all was quiet.

“Enough of that, Slayer,” she heard a voice call from outside. Buffy peeked out the windows and realized the cabin was surrounded by vampires. “We have something you might want,” the voice continued. Castillo was furious that two of his employees broke with the plan and had attacked the Slayer on the slopes. He had had this “Buffy” watched long enough to know that she was a match for any random attack—only a careful, orchestrated plan would defeat her.

After all, he hadn’t lured her all the way to Arctic Ridge with tickets she had “won” just to have his employees mess it up at the crucial moment. But his underlings had received a fitting punishment for their disobedience, he realized, and he could always adjust his plans to fit changing circumstances.

“Oh yeah, what’s that?” shouted Cordelia sarcastically. “A trip to Bermuda?”

Willow’s face suddenly appeared in the door, with a large hand on the back of her head. She didn’t look hurt, but she certainly looked scared. She was still wearing her pajamas and shivered from a combination of fright and the chill air.

“This,” said Castillo, in a voice as cold as the world outside.

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Diary of Jizana M'Rell Entry # 3 [RPG]

RECORDING ROD ACTIVATED

MASTER ENCRYPTLOCK ENGAGED

RUN TIME 245/12765 22:00

BEGIN VOICE RECORDING

I guess it's been a while since I've recorded on this stupid thing--I only hope the new encryption code works.  I'm going to have to jump around, there's just been too much going on for me to play narrator like in a docuvid.

Several days ago we found these ruins to the south of the academy.  All this time I had been investigating these ruins in the library and I came across this one book, on restricted level four of the library, on Sarama, and I was pretty sure these ruins had something to do with it.  Anyway, the other initiates were either being lazy or gutless that night and I had to do what Sian would call some "pretty persuasion."  (speaking of whom, I have to find out where she is and contact her as soon as we get off this blackhole planet.)  So we went, and I'm in this old, abandoned building, with the ancient seal of the Jedi inscribed on it, and I hear this voice from out of nowhere talking to me--it told me it could give me knowledge that the other Jedi never would, and that he was an old Jedi Master.

I didn't think too much about it with everything going on, but later when I was working in the library, still trying to figure out more about Sarama, the voice came to me again and told me that it would make the restricted books accessible if I agreed to share the information I gained with others.  It seemed like a fair trade--after all, I do believe knowledge should be disseminated and that keeping it locked up only does more harm than good; and after arguing with the Jedi about it, it's not like I could turn around and do the same thing.  But something about the whole idea seemed too easy and I thought it was too risky.  Still, I kept the offer in the back of my mind.

And I guess I should have told you about the break-in earlier.  Well, there was a break-in earlier.  At the embassy, and me and one of the new recruits (whom I've been forced to show around, by the way) helped stop this lizard-like humanoid from breaking in and sending a message out on one of the holocomms.  We eventually tracked it back to the west woods, but couldn't follow it any further because the woods are so dense and because it's apparently "off-limits" by order of the Most-High Jedi Knowledge Tyrants.

So where I was going with this was that a few days after, Orowisp, one of the others in our barracks, was apparently attacked by something or the other and was screaming all over the place.  Because someone had saw someone running from the direction of the embassy towards the west woods again, I thought it was probably another of the lizard creatures.

Not that I'm a huge fan of Orowisp or anything, but it always pisses me off when creatures go around picking on other creatures because they're bigger or stronger.  And that lizard creature we encountered was bigger, stronger, and had some nasty Force powers.

So I did it.  I went to the library and after waiting around long enough and keeping myself open to the Force, the lift tube opened and level four was accessible.  I went in quick, grabbed what turned out to be a datacard on Sarama, replaced it with my orientation card, and then left--I couldn't have been in there for more than three minutes top.

These encryption codes better be good or else this is likely to be my last entry.  So what did I find on the datacard?  Only something that would shake the galaxy and forever change the way Jedi and the Republic operate.  I won't go into it all, but basically the datacard is some kind of log by Carn Sokol, telling about how the Republic went all imperialist on this planet Ishtar because it had certain natural resources, and tried to "quarantine" the native Saramans; but somehow it all went haywire because the Saramans had powerful telepathic abilities, and although peaceful, caused amazing amounts of pain to the Republic scouts and miners.  So Sokol, in an act I can actually admire somewhat, went against orders and secretly removed all of the Saramans from Ishtar and relocated them to another planet, covering up his tracks the entire way--except that Daxanarion and Gen Brightwater were in on it.

So what does all this matter?  Guess which planet Sokol moved the Saramans to--Ossus.  And guess what the Saramans look like--lizard creatures.  And according to Sokol, if word of this ever got out there would either be a bloodbath or a revolution.

It's clear to me what happened to Orowisp was probably an attempt by one of the Saramans to communicate with her and she simply couldn't handle it.  Although, Sokol did speak about a faction of the Saramans who didn't want to be removed, and it could be this faction is trying to cause trouble.  I should also note that I saw Sokol sneaking off to the westwoods the other night--he must be in communication with the Saramans too.

Now I'm sure you're wondering Mr. Recording Rod, as I'm asking myself, "What is Jizana going to do with said world-shattering information?"  And the answer, of this day is, "I don't know."  I tried explaining some of it to a few of the other barracks mates whom I trust, without telling them so much that the Jedis will be able to suck it out of their minds (like I think Daxinarion tried to do to me earlier), but they thought I was being hypocritical and some of them stormed off.  And they were right, because I am doing to them what the Jedi do to us, that is, keep information away out of these paternalistic or selfish desires.  But if word gets out that we know what we know, and we're still on planet, I don't think any of us are going to make it off planet alive, unless our brains have been sifted, filtered, and reconstructed by the Shadow Division.

All of us in the barracks received a message from Carn Sokol (coincidence? right.)  that in a few weeks we'd be heading off planet to visit EPS industries on Hebia Prime.  There's a chance, if I can gain access to an unsecured holocomm, that I could inform certain members of the political and journalistic worlds about this whole Sarama cover-up.  This would at least force the Republic to confront what it's doing when it colonizes and then "quarantines" the natives while removing all of its natural wealth off-planet.  Because imagine how many planets this happens to where the natives don't have a Jedi Master around to "save the day"?  Of course, in the short run who could predict what would happen to the Saramans on Ossus?  And, no one may believe me since Ossus is a hidden planet and I doubt I could smuggle the Sarama datacard off the planet.

Right now the datacard is in a secure place, but I don't know for how much longer.  Vasonja came to me last night and told me that the "unseen" (i.e., the voice from the ruins) had been appearing to her and telling her that I was hiding information.  She went to Daxinarion, and now apparently the whole faculty knows about our trip to the ruins and that the "unseen" is contacting us, and is especially interested in me.  If the "unseen" was watching where I hid the datacard, and tips off the Masters, I could soon have the mental abilities of a Refresher Droid.  I have a back-up plan though.

My life sure has gotten "interesting" all of a sudden, hasn't it?

END VOICE RECORDING

RUN TIME 245/12765 22:32

RECORDING ROD DEACTIVATED

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Buffy Comic Project: "The Death of Buffy, Part 2"

Buffy the Vampire Slayer # 44

(Dark Horse, Volume 1, 1998-2003)

Creators:  Tom Fassbender & Jim Pascoe (story), Cliff Richards (pencils), Joe Pimentel & Will Conrad (inks)

Setting: After Season Five

T.V. Character Appearances:  Xander, Spike, Dawn, Giles, Willow, Tara, Anya, Buffybot, Clem

Major Original Characters:  Trio of Demon Brothers

Summary:  Having obtained the scroll they were seeking, the mysterious trio of demons dither before deciding to read it.  Whatever is written inside is bad, and the demons decide they need to find a witch to help them.  Meanwhile, Xander attacks Spike and nearly dusts him before he's stopped by Willow, Tara, and Anya.  They tell Xander that they need Spike to help patrol now that Buffy is dead.  Anya suggests fixing the Buffybot to help convince the world that Buffy is still alive, and Spike reluctantly shows where he's hidden its pieces.  They manage to get it working, though it still has several problems.  Weeks pass while the demons look for a witch and the Buffybot helps patrol Sunnydale.  Dawn takes a moonlight walk alone in a cemetery, upset over the activation of the Buffybot as a replacement for her sister.  When she's attacked by vampires, Spike saves her.  Later that night, in Willy's Bar, Spike is entranced by the demons and forced to reveal that he knows a powerful witch (Willow).  Afterwards, Spike finds Willow first and tells her what he was forced to tell the demons.  She decides not to wait, and instead seeks them out.  When she finds them, she says she's willing to listen to what they want, but first she has some questions about resurrection spells!

Review

The issue starts in an intriguing way, and I'm genuinely curious what's on this mysterious scroll.  And even though the human-looking demons haven't been given names yet, watching them bicker is pretty funny.  This story-arc is a really nice continuity implant to fill in the details of what happened during the summer between Season Five and Season Six; we see who came up with the Buffybot idea, and I assume we're about to see how Willow gets the info on how to bring Buffy back.  Very entertaining and interesting overall, and definitely much better than

normal for the series.

Notes

*  There's a lot of talk about why they have to keep Buffy's death a secret or demons will overrun Sunnydale because it has a Hellmouth; but the Hellmouth has been around for a long, long time, and the Slayer's presence in Sunnydale is only a few years old.  Who protected the city then?  Perhaps the Mayor?

* The trio of demons apparently once had a fourth brother: the very creepy Doc.

* In good foreshadowing (if it wasn't retroactively written!), we see Giles call and inquire about how much a plane ticket back to England would cost.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Shadowrun Returns [GAMES]

For one of the planned breaks from our on-going Forgotten Realms campaigns, one of our players offered to run a Shadowrun one-shot.  The game setting sounded reasonably interesting (a mash-up of cyberpunk and fantasy), but otherwise I didn't really have a good feel for what the world was like.  As a happy coincidence, I was fishing around for a new computer game to download and saw Shadowrun Returns offered for $ 15 on Good Old Games.  A turn-based RPG is right up my alley, so I went for it.

There's a lot I liked about the game and a little I didn't, but I think what stands out for me the most is the gorgeous backgrounds.  Admittedly, I don't play a lot of modern games, but I was blown away by the quality of the artwork and how it perfectly established the feel of a gritty, slightly futuristic urban landscape for noir storytelling.  It instantly gave me an understanding of what stories in the Shadowrun universe could be like.  Speaking of stories, the one in Shadowrun Returns is pretty solid.  It starts with a classic hook, as an old runner ally is found dead and your character gets the Dead Man's Call: a pre-recorded video offering 100,000 Nuyen (currency) if you find his killer.  The trail leads to a serial killer and interdimensional invasions in an organic way, and the writing supports the gritty cyberpunk world well.

In terms of mechanics, the turn-based combat system works quite well.  I like how many options there are for customizing a character, as you can be sorta good at a lot of things or really good at one or two things.  The character I created, Big-C, was a troll who only fought hand-to-hand but (against type) was a pretty good decker.  A bruiser with a deep, deep, heart of gold, he was fond of terse replies and sticking to business.

There were a few drawbacks.  The backgrounds, although beautiful, are not particularly interactive, and a lot of cool-looking things really are just scenery.  The gameplay is very linear--apart from an occasional side-encounter, the story is on rails and there's no skipping from point A to point C without stopping at B first.  Despite that, I had a great time with the game and I'm looking forward to downloading the other official campaign created for it, set in Berlin named Dragonfall.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Screamer [GAMES]

One of the games I downloaded from Good Old Games several months back was Screamer, a realism-light auto racing game released in 1995.  The controls were simple to learn: left arrow (left), right arrow (right), up arrow (accelerate), and down arrow (brake)--that's it!  So, easy to play and pretty fun at first.  The game has both individual practice races and a bare-bones "league" mode, which requires you to get at least third place in a series of tracks.  The leagues go from pretty easy ("Rookie") to harder and harder.  The first couple presented a good but fair challenge and I really enjoyed it, despite the fact that, for whatever reason, the game would crash rather frequently.  The Pro league amped up the difficulty considerably, and I couldn't even do better than 8th place on the first track despite repeated tries.  Since it kept crashing, I felt like I had a good enough excuse to delete the whole thing and move on with my life.  I will say, in the game's defence, that my son loved watching me play and he often pretended he was controlling the cars by pulling on a USB cable . . .

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Realms Toowoomba Session # 48 [RPG]

[24 Kythorn 1372 continued]

In the mysterious complex on the far side of Terrigo Multivar's mirror-portal, the adventurers remain stymied by a door guarded by a magical trap. Daisy volunteers to try opening it, and suggests that if every other door in the corridor opened by pressing four panels, then the four corners of this panel should be pressed. The others seem dubious, but when she tries it, the door opens! 

Before she can explore what lays beyond it, however, the strange purplish haze observed by Myst coalesces into a four-armed, insect-like humanoid creature. With clicking mandibles, it appears it is trying to communicate, but only Dolcetto and Myst understand. The creature names itself T'Klack, and says that the adventurers have pleased it by entering into its home and passing the initial tests it has placed in their path. It promises to meet those who survive the next test in an arena for the honour of battling to the death. The creature then begins to fade into mist before disappearing completely.

The adventurers decide to explore what lays beyond the door opened by Daisy. They see a wide room with high ceilings that is a museum or trophy-collection of some sort: massive skeletons, preserved animal heads, and grotesque stitched-together bodies are all displayed with obvious care. Daisy is extremely upset to see that several animal corpses are on display, and begins slamming her axe into the wall. Dolcetto tries to calm her down, but has little luck, and decides to venture into the room to explore it further. She reaches a far corner of the room and notices an open space in the floor and the mechanism for a rope & gear-operated lift. Before she can investigate further, however, three of the giant patchwork corpses begin to twitch and groan before taking herky-jerky steps towards her!

Dolcetto reacts quickly and dashes out of the room, while Daisy, enraged, dashes into the room and begins hacking at one of the creatures with her greataxe. Fargrim initially takes the defensive, but is drawn into the fight as one of the creatures heads for the corridor. Markus finds himself briefly trapped, only to find his rapier won't pierce the abominations' thick, fleshy hide! Fortunately, Gelkar bravely pulls him temporarily out of harm's way; his own attacks on the creatures with his shovel, however, seem to have no effect. Dolcetto summons creatures to help distract and delay the attackers, which she identifies as flesh golems. Myst stays on the far side of the corridor, unable or unwilling to assist in the battle.

Daisy's axe repeatedly cuts into her opponent, but Fargrim's axe (made out of a strange, red metal) seems to have more effect. The vigor of the flesh golems' onslaught catches both of the adventurers by surprise, and each is knocked into unconscious during the battle. Gelkar manages to revive Daisy, and Markus throws a vial of acid at one of the golems to destroy it! Another one focusses on him, however, and he risks staying within its reach in order to ready another attack. The decision proves fatal, as a stone-hard fist catches Markus in the face and smashes his skull against the wall, killing the swordsman instantly. Dolcetto grabs Markus' rapier and then casts a spell to make the area underneath the golems slippery. One of the them falls, and Daisy quickly moves in to decapitate it. 

The remaining golem continues fighting, undeterred. Gelkar is knocked to the ground during the fighting, with a jagged wound from a collision with a glass display case. As he bleeds, the adventurers manage to destroy the golem and then rush to his aid. Myst, Dolcetto, and Daisy scramble to try to stop the bleeding, but their frantic efforts are in vain: the heroic Gelkar expires.

In the aftermath of the tragic battle, Dolcetto takes command. She says the party needs to retreat, heal, and then return to finish their mission. Once the magick that has brought them here expires, they'll be returned to Silverymoon and can attempt to have Markus and Gelkar raised from the dead. Myst and a badly hurt Fargrim and Daisy agree, and carry the bodies of their fallen comrades to a secure room where everyone can rest.