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Topics - BioSpark

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1
Rise of the Runelords / The beginning and end of the arm of Gorum
« on: August 14, 2019, 09:31:02 AM »
Before Tung's return to Sandpoint
---

An orc shambles unsteadily through the streets of Magnimar.  Not a totally unusual sight in a city of this size but this fellow is drawing attention and plenty of it.  Tung is used to the stares of other people and he's used to knowing that he's being spoken about in hushed tones.  None of this bothers him.  Certainly not as much as the pain he's in.

He looks up and down the street he's stood on.  It's a familiar place but not that familiar and he's having trouble getting his bearings.  He sniffs the air.  There it is.  Incense.  He follows his nose to a temple, the one that only a short while ago restored a dear old friend to his former glory.

Despite the late hour, an acolyte came to greet the traveller.  A young elven lady, having been assigned the graveyard shift due to her low ranking in the church, stepped forward.

"Welcome weary traveller, how may we be of... OH, HEAVENS PRESERVE ME!"

Tung stood, swaying slightly.  His entire right arm was missing below the elbow and the stump was still bleeding heavily.  He felt quite light headed now.  He knew a little about healing and he knew light headed meant something bad but it was getting a little harder to really organise his thoughts.  That was also bad.

"Tung, follower of Gorum.  Need assistance.  Please.  Been accident.  Maybe need sit down, too."

And with that, Tung slumped face first to the ground.

He awoke somewhere nice.  It was cool and there was clean linen underneath him.  Sunlight.  He wondered for a while if maybe this was the afterlife but decided, all considered, that this was unlikely.  The astonishing pain radiating from his right arm was proof against that.  He tried to sit up.  The room began to spin.  Maybe sleep was best for now.  He imagined what Gruumsh would have to say about this.  He smiled.  Things were so much better, even now.

A fabric partition around what he assumed to be a bed of sorts parted and in walked a priest.  An older human man, unfamiliar but with a kind face.

"Well, well, well.  Tung, is it?  We have been in the wars, haven't we?"

"No."

The man looked at him quizzically for a moment but quickly remembered that some racial stereotypes were unfortunately rather well earned.

"I am sorry, it is a figure of speech.  You've been rather badly injured, I mean.  Now, would you care to tell me how it happened or would you prefer that I didn't know?  Rest assured that anything said here will remain in the strictest confidence."

"Tung not speak Common very well.  Getting better at it.  Not good yet.  You speak Orc?"

"Regrettably no.  I could send for a translator if necessary?"

"Thanks.  No need.  Tung climbing.  Training.  Gorum needs strength, Tung strong but not as strong as Orc should be.  Fell.  Arm broken, stuck in crack."

He could tell that the priest wasn't buying his story but, unfortunately, it was the plain truth.  He'd been practicing what he considered essential non-combat skills.  Swimming, running, survival skills and the like.  A trip up a nearby mountain had resulted in tragedy when a gust of wind had upset his balance.

"I see.  And... you were there for how long?"

"Dunno.  3 day?"

"Without food or water?"

"Snow."

"Okay, but food?  You do not carry a pack or other carrier, I notice.  You did not have rations?"

"No.  After 2 day, arm go black and stop hurting.  Couldn't move fingers.  Think it died.  Cut it this morning.  Dug it out of rock.  Weak.  Hungry.  Ate it."

Tung related the full story.  He certainly knew that a loss of sensation in a limb and a change of colour was very serious.  The arm simply needed to be removed and that was that.  It wasn't his arm any more, it was dead flesh.  To Tung, there was no difference between it and a side of beef.  Any unnecessary burden had to be eliminated.

The priest, paling as the story was related, looked at him for a very long time once Tung had stopped talking.

"Well, that is quite the tale.  I think I would suggest that you do not relay it to anybody in polite company and I will press you no further for details.  Now, we have a number of options available for treatment.  Restoration is very popular but generally an expensive option.  Some prefer to simply heal the wound and wear concealing garments.  A robe or loose fitting shirt can hide many things."

"No clothes.  Get in the way.  Cultural thing, human not understand."

"Of course, of course.  The other option would be a prosthetic."

"What."

The priest sighed internally.

"A replacement limb.  New arm, yes?  The practice is in its infancy at the moment but it is quite amazing what a skilled craftsman can come up with given enough time."

Tung considered this carefully.

"A new arm.  Made out of something not-arm?"

"Wood is the common choice."  Said the priest with an encouraging smile.  "Some nobles favour precious metals which, frankly, is a little vulgar to my mind.  Ceramic can suit those who work in hot environments.  Bakers and such.  Metals are popular among those who work in dangerous environments who, coincidentally, tend to be those who most require prosthetic replacements."

"That.  Tung want that."

"As you wish.  We would ask for a token donation for the cost of the healing magic used to bind your flesh but..." the priest's eyes briefly took in Tung's lack of clothing and non-lethal belongings "Well, this is, of course, entirely optional."

Tung pulled a lump of hacksilver from his loincloth.  It was the size of his fist and distressingly warm.

"You save Tung life.  You save Jiro.  Owe great debt.  This cover payment?"

The priest made quiet choking noises as he looked at a modest fortune.

"... that will... do nicely, thank you."


Tung wandered the streets.  A good meal was had which certainly helped his mood.  He entered the artisan's district full of purpose with an uncharacteristic smile on his face.  Purveyors of every service imaginable lined the streets.  Jewelers, carpenters, enchanters... at the end were the smiths.  He could tell by the ambient heat and the smell.  It smelled of good, honest work.  He liked that.  One by one, he tried each of them, tried to explain his needs but was turned away.

"You want a what?!"
"Not worth my reputation, mate."
"Stupid idea, it'll never work."

Until eventually, the last store on the row.  The proprietor was an Orc, clearly well into his old age but with plenty of fight left in him.  But then, you didn't live as an Orc for long without some strength in your bones, not even this deep into civilisation.

"You speak Orc?"

"Aye, just.  It's been a long time since anybody's come speakin' the mother tongue and if I'm honest, I've got soft and slow in my old age but I'll get by, I reckon.  Name's Slock and I'll thank you not to comment on it.  What do you need?"

Tung sighed with relief.  Finally, someone he could talk to.

"Well, this is delightful.  Simply put, sir, I've been afflicted with a minor disability and wish to overcome it with steel and ingenuity."

Slock narrowed his eyes suspiciously.  "You're not from these parts, lad, are you?"

"Quite so.  I'm a barbarian by trade and thought it would be quite appropriate, almost poetic in a way, if I were to perhaps have my new physical aid be a representation of my craft."

Slock closed his eyes and carefully parsed the sentence.  "You... want an arm that can grasp a weapon, yes?"

"Almost.  You see, I have a weapon that was once used by my patron to communicate with me.  It was a very significant moment in my life and I want to, in some small way, acknowledge his acceptance in a physical way.  With my very flesh, as it were."

Slock paled.

"Please tell me you wish to have your weapon melted down into a replacement arm."

"No."  Tung braced himself.  This was the tricky part.  "I wish to replace my arm WITH an axe in its entirety."

"Yeah, I was worried that you'd say that.  Look, I'll be straight lad, I won't do it.  It's madness, dedicating a limb to a god.  Unless it's one of them mad evil gods and I don't hold with them.  Anyway, orc with an axe arm, what's people going to say there?  'Oh, look now, here comes that monster with an axe hand.  Run, run, Mr. Choppy-Axe-Hand is coming for your kids!'.  You'll become a bogeyman  I've lived with humans for years, they're all like that.  You need a different kind of smithy for that.  Who are you serving, anyway?"

"Do you know Gorum?"

Slock looked at him carefully.  "Heard of him, yeah.  Respects the steel, he does.  Oh... alright, just hold a moment, will you?"

He stamped heavily on the boards under his feet.

"RANDOLPH, I'VE GOT A LIVELY ONE HERE FOR YA."

The sound of tiny feet moving at unsettling speed.  The sound of a trapdoor quickly opening.  A tiny head popped over the counter, blackened with soot, not a single hair upon it and wearing a pair of heavy smoked goggles on a rotting leather strap.

"Yis?" it squeaked.

Slock began to talk quickly in a language Tung didn't know.  He apologised after a few minutes of this, telling Tung that Randolph only spoke Gnomish.

"Oh, that's quite alright."  Tung said in what he hoped was a polite way.  "I've never met a gnome before."

"Yeah, he ain't a gnome.  He's... he's just like that..."

They went back and forth in a conversation involving many expansive and frantic gestures which sounded more like an argument.  Eventually a piece of parchment was produced and Randolph began to draw rapidly without ever breaking from the conversation.  A further ten minutes of this and then:

"Axe."  Demanded the tiny man.

"What?"

"Axe!  Show Randolph.  Give Randolph."

Serrated Fang was placed on the counter.

Slock eventually closed the shop.  Tung sat on the floor.  Randolph was still drawing and shouting but Slock gently assured Tung that this was just his way and not to worry too much.

"ARM."

"No arm."  Tung hoped this creature understood any Common at all.  "Ate it."

"Good arm, good arm!  MEA-SURE-MENT."

Tung lay his arm on the counter.  It was, with incredible speed, wrapped tightly in gauze which was painted with an unidentifiable, evil-smelling gel.

"And... what happen now?"

Slock was obviously trying not to laugh at this point.

"You wait." spluttered Randolph  "Cast dry.  Eight hour."

"But it's night ti-"

"EIIIIIGHT!" Randolph shrieked.

And so Tung stood until morning.  Food was provided, solid orc fare the likes of which he hadn't tasted in years.  It made him homesick.  Having to be fed due to his lack of limbs was embarassing but Slock seemed to find it hilarious.  Throughout the night, Randolph stood and simply stared, unmoving, at the arm.  He never lit so much as a candle nor removed his goggles.  Tung was becoming deeply afraid of him.

Morning came and without warning, the man sprang into action, scoring a line down the cast and breaking it into two with a small hammer.

"Mould!  Come back, five days."

The tiny head retreated.  The sound of a trapdoor.  Tiny feet scampering down stone stairs.

"What, exactly, is that creature?"

"He's human biologically but really, he's just Randolph, lad, and I don't ask any more questions than that.  Alls I know is he came with the building and I'll be damned if I'm going to try to make him leave.  He gives me the willies.  Now he's either going to invoice you on receipt of goods or he's going to forget, in which case there's usually no charge.  Payment is his own business and I've given up on reminding him.  Best bring some coin on the day just in case."

Tung took in as much of the city, its sights and culture as he was permitted to.  Being a large and heavily populated area he wasn't as discriminated against as he was used to.  Certainly some clothing would have helped significantly but then, Magnimar was open minded and used to barbarians.  5 days later, back to the shop.  Randolph was already at the counter along with a concerned-looking Slock.

"YOU.  ORC.  How strong spirit?"

Tung looked at him carefully.

"Tung... has faith in Gorum?"

"NOT RELIGION.  MIND.  How strong mind?!"

"Oh."  Tung didn't understand the relevance.  "Not good."

Randolph's usual screaming lowered to a normal speaking volume.  "Orc drink big-big?"

"Not much."

Randolph bit his lower lip.  "Might be that it is being good time to starting?"

"No."

Randolph reached up to the counter top, straining under the weight of a bundle wrapped in linen.  He unwrapped a device comprising a gleaming metal elbow joint mounted to a thick wooden shaft which had been carved into a beautiful copy of an orc arm, accurate down to even the popping veins.  At its end, where a wrist would start, was the head of Serrated Fang.  He undid a clasp at the elbow joint which opened the end of the contraption revealing a vast array of gears and neat metal cabling.

Randolph began to yell again.  "Randolph explain procedure.  Then orc decide.  Here anchor pin.  We HAMMER directly into bone.  Tensor cables wire directly into tendons.  PAINFUL.  DANGEROUS.  You understanding Randolph?!"

Tung slowly nodded.  He had endured much these past months but this tiny, screaming human was too intimidating to defy.  He reminded Tung of Gruumsh.  He simply stated how the world was going to work and it changed accordingly.  Instead of rage, Randolph spoke in mechanisms.

"Just do your work."  Tung told him quietly.  He could feel himself beginning to cry.  Slock solemnly locked the shop door.  There would be no further custom today.

2
Rise of the Runelords / Tung: a user's guide
« on: May 07, 2019, 12:52:58 PM »
Goblins
   Can Jiro see or is anybody likely to tell him?
      Will Gorum care about the circumstances?
         Kill them
         ELSE kill them but apologise
      ELSE is Jiro going anywhere soon?
         Wait 5 minutes, return to "Can Jiro see...?"
         ELSE grumble

Combat
   Ask Jiro if we need to keep any of the targets intact
      Try not to forget which ones but maybe accidentally do it anyway then apologise
      ELSE smash
   Can I hit it?
      Smash
      ELSE use less power attack.  Can I hit it now?
         Smash
         ELSE uh... can Jiro or Beshka do any weird buff stuff?
            Smash with caution
            This has literally never happened.  ABORT.
   Is it dead?
      Are you raging?
         Eat it up, yum-yum
         ELSE feel revulsion at what you have become.  Then kill something else
      ELSE is it Jiro?
         OH GOD, IT'S HAPPENING AGAIN.  DON'T EAT IT.
      ELSE is it Samantha?
         Your dark task has come to completion.  Definitely eat it.
      ELSE return to "Can I hit it?"

Social interaction
   Does it speak Orc?
      You're probably going to kill it soon, let's be honest
      ELSE ask if it speaks Orc a few more times
   Is it friendly?
      It won't be if you keep talking to it.  Go do something else
      ELSE try really hard to make friends, no matter how angry it gets, especially if it's Venn Vinder.
   Is it in a position of authority?
      Bellow at it, tell it that you disagree with its philosophy/religion
   Has the conversation lasted for more than 5 minutes?
      Let somebody else handle it.  Ask Garren for synopsis later.  Garren doesn't mince words.  We like Garren.

Information gathering
   Can we help with Knowledge religion or nature?
      Feel like the smartest person in the universe
      ELSE find something pretty to look at


Are you working with...
Jiro
   You owe him a life debt.  Defend at all costs.

Beshka
   You are not sure if she is literally a child and at this point are afraid to ask.  Defend at all costs.

Icarus
   PEEP PEEP PEEP
   Kind of a cool guy

Fripflop
   You find him charming in an undefinable way.  You are convinced that Samantha is somehow his wife, his daughter and his craft project.  Weirder things happen where you come from, though.

Samantha
   You think she is fear personified and would destroy her were you not convinced that she is full of spiders and darkness.

Garren
   You think he's a kindred spirit.  Gets sad about things sometimes when he should just burp lightning at them.

Sabina
   You are trying to work out how to kill her before she tries to steal your magic eyeball.  You think she is 3 people and you don't know if you trust any of them.

Gorum
   You aren't sure if he's listening but it seems to make Jiro happy to know you're worshipping him.

3
Rise of the Runelords / A crumpled, stained note
« on: May 02, 2019, 12:16:39 PM »
A few months ago, I paid a small amount to have a literate citizen of Sandpoint write a letter on Tung's behalf.  It was right after we brought back Jiro when thoughts of "what happens when we die?" were at the forefront of Tung's mind.  The below is that letter.  If he dies in combat in any future session, this will be somewhere among his belongings, probably crumpled up and stashed in a secure fold of his loincloth.  Just thought I'd post this since I was going to at some point later on, anyway.

After several IC weeks of being exposed to blood and sweat, it's a dreadful object.




Hello,

If you are reading this, I have died and you have found my body.

I hope you know who I am already.  If you do not, I am Tung.  I am a member of the Serrated Fang tribe but they are dead and will not be able to help you.

My tribe do not have any burial rites.  Traditionally we eat our dead but you probably do not want to do this.  I will not ask you to.  Do with my body what you will.  It would be nice if it were used for something nice, maybe to help some plants to grow.

If I am carrying any goods of value, please return them to my friends.  My friends are Jiro, Fripflop, Beshka, Garren and Sabina.  They are probably somewhere near Sandpoint.  Ask around for Fripflop because he is a frog and will stand out.

Please leave me with at least one weapon.  It does not have to be a good one.  It would be nice if it was a good one but it does not have to be.  I need to be able to defend myself when I get to whatever happens after this life.  It is very important to my identity.

Please do not attempt to resurrect me.  I will not come back if you do.  If I am dead I am with my god now and he will probably get very angry if I try to leave him so I will not leave him.  I have not lived a good life and I am unlikely to do better with a second chance.  If I die in combat and I die defending a good cause or a good person, that is probably the best I can hope to do.

I am sorry that you had to find me.  I hope it did not upset you.

If you knew who I was then goodbye and I am sorry I could not do better.  I am sorry I could not be a better Tung.  I hope I was enough.



Tung of the Serrated Fang, Eye of Gruumsh.


"Eye of Gruumsh has been crossed out.  An addendum has been added in Orc.  It is in considerably less neat handwriting, looking more drawn than written.

At the time of writing, I am no longer a worshipper of Gruumsh.  Despite this, please do not attempt to resurrect me if the opportunity arises as I will not return.  I have already had my second chance and am satisfied with the life I have lead.  In death, I hope to find peace and in that peace, I hope you too find closure.

Thank you.

4
Rise of the Runelords / An awkward exchange
« on: April 04, 2019, 02:14:11 PM »
In a quiet corner of the Copper Dragon sits a moderately disfigured and scarred orc.  He stares at a blank sheaf of papers covered in marks.  Some would charitably call them "words".  He occasionally jabs at one with a stick of charcoal, adding more marks.  He is clearly trying very hard to do something but isn't quite grasping it.  He occasionally roars in frustration and pounds the table before stomping off to buy more paper.  He's attracting attention from around the bar but definitely not assistance.

The following text has been edited to remove the worst of the spelling errors, grammatical atrocities and unsettling stains.


Dear mother and father.

I don't think you can read this.  I don't think you can read but I think you can't read this because you are dead.  I am sorry that you are dead.  I have been practicing my letters every day and am getting quite good.  I have been practicing my Common too but I am not yet so good at Common.  Orc is easy to talk in but not so good to write in.  Don't think I'm ready to write in Common yet.

I have turned my back on the way of Gruumsh.  He was not a good god and Jiro told me it was bad to do things because he shouted at me.  Jiro was right.  I am looking for a god who will better accept me for who I am and what I can offer.  I am not sure who that is yet but I am sure that the correct choice will make itself known to me in time.  The priests say that the gods have mysterious ways.  I don't know what that means.  Gruumsh always had really straightforward ways.

Now he is gone, I hope you are in a better place.  I hope you are in any place, really.  I hope you didn't get sent somewhere bad when your god went away.

Tung can't send this to you.  Don't think post person goes to where you are.  Well... maybe Tung could give letter to post person and then Tung could kill post person... no.  That is stupid idea.  Tung will hold on to it, give it to you when he dies.  Maybe Tung will go to the same place.  That would be nice.

Tung miss you, mother.  Tung miss you, father.  Miss the others too.  Tung will do his best for you.  Better than he did for bad, gone Gruumsh.




Later now, up on Chopper's Isle.  Tung sits and meditates.  Like the last time, he feels peaceful and also like the last time, something is preying on his mind but without the same dread as before.  He no longer hears the voice in his head urging him to further and further violence, he is beginning to feel happier and more confident in himself.  So he sits and he waits.  Open your heart, they said, and the right god will find you.  A lot of thoughts are running through his head.  They're hard to control.  He imagines violence and bloodshed.  Not that uncommon, really, it comes with the rage.  Part of the price to pay for the power, maybe.  But there's something else, now.  He feels an urge not to kill, not like Gruumsh wanted him to, but to fight.  To win.  Death is simply a means to an end but that end goal is conquest.  Success.  Might, not as a tool to destroy but to assert.  He feels something touch his back.  He reaches around with some difficulty and when he withdraws his hand, it's bright red and wet.  He does not notice any pain, no wounds.  Serrated Fang, his unimaginatively named axe, is dripping with blood.  Tung is certain that he cleaned it recently.

A name resonates in his mind.  Gorum.


Tung... does not know the proper way to talk to a god.  Tung is sorry.  Tung will learn if Tung meets priest of... Gorum?  Is you Gorum?  That is good name.  Sound bit like orc name.  Does you speak orc?

Tung waits for a moment.  It becomes obvious that the incredibly personal service he is used to receiving from his god can't be expected from a major deity.

Maybe you does.  Maybe you doesn't.  Tung will pray in Common.  Tung is sorry, Common is not good language for Tung.  Tung's mouth does not like the words, finds them hard.  Tung will try.

Tung fighter.  Barbarian fighter.  Tung hits things until they don't hit back and when things keep hitting back very well, Tung gets cross and bites them.

Tung worshipped Gruumsh before.  Maybe you know Gruumsh.  Is you one of the... om... ni... one of the gods what knows all there is to know?  Gruumsh said he was.  Lied.  Maybe you is.  You probably weren't friends, Gruumsh didn't like friends.  I hear a lot about you, though!  God of combat, yeah?  Tung like that.  Combat is what Tung does.  Combat and learning things, Tung likes that.  Tung would be happy to fight for Gorum if Gorum would have Tung.  Tung do some bad things.  Maybe Gorum will have to forgive some of them.  Tung deserve punishment for some of them but tries to be better, now.  Jiro helps with that.

Tung has lots of friends who fight with him.  Please look after them; they all good people.  They not good fighters like Tung is but they fight in other ways which are also good.  I seen picture of you, you look like big empty living armour.  Maybe you similar sort of thing to Samatha.  She big empty girl who good fighter.  She frightening.  She get worse every passing day.  You maybe know Jiro already because he died one time but came back so he probably seen you in afterlife.  He nice.  Thinks about stuff a lot.  Garren is also nice.  Talks to Tung lots.  Gets almost as angry as Tung does.  He... social outcast like orc are, we have lots in common.  Beshka is like child human but is not child.  She do magic.  Not stupid wizard magic, earth magic.  Better magic.  She keep bird that like god of birds.  Big, angry bird.  Icarus.  Icarus talk lots too; they pretty good for a bird!  Fripflop is frog but not frog.  Talking frog.  Dunno how, maybe magic make him talk.  Strange frog.  Good friend, thoughtful about pretty things.  Samantha either his wife or his daughter or his pet or all three.  Dunno about Sabina.  Sabina contains a few people, don't think Tung trusts any of them.  They fight good with bow like elf would but they tricky.  Fine for now, though.  Bodger... bodger would make good barbarian.  Bodger is dangerous, dangerous thing.  Don't know about their pet.  Bodger likes skin but not when it's attached to living stuff.  Don't know how Beshka feels about that, Beshka likes things to have skin on them.

Tung is on long, noble quest to kill goblins what threaten safety of town of Sandpoint.  Sandpoint people are good and help Tung and his friends.  Friends think we trying to find runelords.  Don't know about that.  We found out some things about them but they seem like they dead now.  Goblins are bigger threat.  Goblins are bad news for good people, that's why Tung kills them.  Not good for fighting, too weak, but okay for eating.

Investigating murder right now.  Bit complicated.  Think magic involved so ain't no understanding anything because magic not something we can understand.  All lights and then boom, your friend is in 20 pieces.  Magic not good.  Tung know about magic.

Hope Gorum don't mind prayers.  Must seem like small thoughts compared to all the thoughts Gorum must listen to.  If Gorum offers guidance, Tung will obey.  Tung ready for better new start.

Tung thank Gorum for listening.

5
Rise of the Runelords / The eye of Gruumsh closes
« on: March 25, 2019, 08:53:44 PM »
Evening falls on a band of travellers.  Men, women and children, some elderly, some sick.  The strongest among them do what they can to assist those who are beginning to falter but while it is never spoken aloud, the group know that given their current situation they will not all survive the journey.  Several have fallen already and they are not certain of where they are even traveling to.  They are refugees driven from their home by bold warriors; warriors now celebrating the kind of fame and success reserved for the greatest of heroes.

The refugees are orcs.  The heroes are of various races, finally compelled to violent action following one raid too many.  The orcs have no remorse for their crimes.  After all, they are strong.  Humans, elves and their kin are weak.  Why shouldn't orcs take what they need?  That has been a proud tradition of most races throughout history.  Numbers now dwindling, it is time to find a new way.  Hiding does not come easily to them, proud fighters all, but in the face of extinction...

It has been 3 months since their search for a new place to call their own began.  Supplies are running low and a cold smell in the air suggests snow.  Without shelter, this will be a bad night.  In the near distance, scarcely two hours' walk from where they stand is a mountain range.  In the light of a nearly set sun, it looks terrible.  Peaks jab at the sky with craggy, snowcapped lances.  Less a mountain range, more an arrangement of sheer rock walls.  No creature quite in their right minds would consider an ascent, not even if fully prepared, able bodied and with the benefit of warm weather and daylight.  There appears to be no better alternative.  Their leader, the largest and therefore ruler by default, makes a difficult decision.  Perhaps there will be a cave.  She hopes.  She prays.


Somewhere outside of the perception of mortal minds is an orc.  Well, mostly an orc.  Biologically.  On a plane blighted by endless war, a place of violence, scorched earth, the smell of blood and the crowing of carrion feeders, this orc is throwing a tantrum of unfathomable proportions under a cloudy, blood red sky.  Mortal orcs are so worthless.  Utterly incompetent, weak, lazy scavengers.  Those are just the orcs he actually approves of.  CIVILISED orcs, now they REALLY make his blood boil.  Orcs who dared to defy him, dared to find other deities, who live among humans.  Orcs who trade.  Orcs who contribute.  Orcs who defy their very nature, growing soft and fat in their pursuit of an easy life.

This is the domain of Gruumsh.  An ancient god of orcs and part of an extensive pantheon, worshiped by thousands (if not millions) of orcs and even the occasional member of other races.  Whilst certainly not the most powerful god in existence, his strength is enough to give even the likes of mighty Khord pause for thought.  He is anger incarnate.  Not an avatar of war, that is far too ordered and civilised, but a representation of slaughter.  In the dark domains he represents, he has few equals.  Unfortunately, self control is not one of his most celebrated virtues.

As he screams bloody murder to his followers, inspiring them to bouts of uncontrollable rage, he lashes out with his chosen weapon, a tremendous spear.  Not at anything in particular but anger and violence are the only ways in which he has to express himself.  No poet, he.  With one almighty thrust, he feels something he's never felt before.  Something gives way.  He pauses, he looks at the spear.  Something.  A different... texture to the air.  A slight trick of the light, a different tone to this empty space.  He must have rampaged through it one million times or more but today, it's different.  He examines it, gains no further understanding and decides to continue to probe this oddity in the only way he knows how.  He strikes repeatedly at the air with spear, tooth and claw.  The anomaly is larger, now.  He can feel something almost ripping.  It's almost as large as he is, insofar as he can tell, and from it comes a new sensation.  He can taste the presence of others.  Divine beings.  A new plane of existence, perhaps?  Gruumsh lacks the intelligence to be truly curious about much but this is strange.  He pushes against the space, forces an arm into it.  The arm is no longer visible.  His legs follow, his body, another arm, finally his head.  What he finds is a new place.  Bland would be his first word to describe it.  Here is a plane of barren earth, devoid of life and without any influence.  Obviously a divine place undiscovered by any god.  He will begin to claim it for his own immediately but... something is missing.  He feels weak here, almost threatened.  Something more is needed.  He cannot sense the souls of his faithful worshipers.  Perhaps this place is so far from what he knows as home that in this strange realm, he has no worshipers.  He closes his enormous eye and concentrates, seeking out compatible souls.  Yes.


In the sky above the Devil's Teeth mountain range, a star shines brightly.  The orc tribe have been navigating by its light these past weeks but now there is a change; it is extinguished; an ill omen indeed.  Their wise man, an ancient druid, looks to the sky with his leader.  This is no magic that he recognises.  Discussions begin, fears and concerns about the meaning of this occurrence.  The leader falls silent mid-sentence.  Her eyes shine as she looks to the heavens.  The star is back, now burning a brilliant, sickly green.  She hears a voice call to her.  It doesn't speak in Orc, nor in Common but instead in a far older language than that.  She hears the ringing of steel in chorus with the screams of the fallen, the meaty sound of blade striking flesh with deadly intent, the gentle drumming of sprayed arterial blood on dusty earth.  This voice doesn't speak in Orc, it simply is Orc and resonates with the pride and glory that being an orc entails.  The leader drops to her knees and begins praying and sobbing frantically.  Her companions follow her lead.  Soon they stand, brimming with purpose and determination.  There are no words, they simply stride confidently toward that star, directly to the mountains.  They do provide a cave which houses a large family of wolves.  No match for an orc tribe.  Their guiding star has provided both food and shelter.

Years pass.  The tribe colonises the mountain range, moving to its frozen heart.  Times are hard, the first winter in particular claiming many lives, but they eventually learn the skills they need.  They take up farming, learn to build shelters rather than taking them from weaker creatures.  They discover art (in their own primitive way) and learn to work with tools requiring more finesse than an axe.  The Serrated Fang tribe is born, named after their prominent lower canine teeth.  Gruumsh fosters his new flock providing care and guidance.  He is not a particularly nurturing soul but in these difficult starting decades he is willing to put his anger aside.  The Serrated Fangs do fear him and his demands but overall are grateful to him for his efforts.  Once certain that they would survive and that they were completely, hopelessly devoted, Gruumsh brought in some less... savoury traditions.  Ritualistic mutilation and sacrifice became a part of day to day life.

As Gruumsh's power grew, so did his ego.  Finally, a land to call his own, free from the constant oppression of that pompous fool, Larethian.  All he desired now was a larger flock.  To his dismay (and increasing fury), his little tribe never left the mountains except in times of dire need.  They feared other races now and preferred to keep to themselves.  They never spread his word, they never expanded.  They bred, though.  Near constantly, he thought.  After several generations in which Gruumsh permitted only those seen to be the strongest and bravest to couple, their offspring were now strong beyond his wildest and most fevered dreams but stupid.  So very, very stupid.  Certainly a beneficial trait in a devotee, not one of them thought to question him, but this new tribe could barely walk without forgetting to step using alternating legs.  Even if they had encountered other races, their ability to communicate was severely hampered by their tremendous lower jaws and (in extreme cases) 6-inch canine teeth.  They reluctantly returned to the raiding ways of their forefathers but only out of necessity.  They never killed, never took too much, never took what they could make or find for themselves, always made sure their victims had enough to survive and recover.  It was almost like another form of farming in a barbaric way.


Rumours spread, sparse rumours, about a one-eyed orc tribe in the mountains.  Few sightings were confirmed but it became common knowledge that a race of hulking brutes were certain to descend upon the nearby settlements any day now to finish the grim work they'd started.  Everybody claimed to know somebody affected by a raid though not one could provide a first-hand account.  And so, this tiny corner of the world came to know the many Eyes of Gruumsh and through them, they saw a fledgling god.  A new, tiny but apoplectic fish in a very large pond.  In Golarion, that was the the true birth of Gruumsh.

The villagers are getting restless now.  They gather pitchforks and torches.  Enough is enough, it is time for action.  Gruumsh watches with an unblinking eye.  Violence, delicious and senseless.  This will be the making of his little tribe.

There was only one survivor.

6
Rise of the Runelords / A civilised discussion.
« on: March 20, 2019, 07:20:28 PM »
Tung sits slumped on the floor that evening, his slender build and tremendous height, even while seated, giving him the look of a clothes horse casually tossed against a wall.  He declines repeated offers of seating.  He doesn't feel comfortable on real furniture, it's unfamiliar.

He idly glances toward Jiro


"Look, Tung know it not your fault.  Orc did this to you.  Hope you don't think we all like that.  I mean yeh, we is but not... all is.

Tung not make this point well.  Tung wouldn't hurt friend Jiro, though.  Jiro orc now.  Special not-real orc.  Word... is... hon-our-ary.  Jiro always talk about honour.  This Tung's honour to Jiro

Maybe Jiro not so good as orc but very nearly.  Very good for human.  Elf.  Half...

...

Yeh...


So... you get to live again, right?  You think you gonna do things different now you seen the other side?

7
Rise of the Runelords / A tense exchange
« on: October 17, 2018, 07:47:34 PM »
Tung prays frequently.  Often apprehensively, always enthusiastically but his relationship with his god is complicated.  Gruumsh is a merciless god of slaughter.  Tung wants to be a pacifist.  As an old, largely forgotten god, Gruumsh has free time in abundance to provide a very personal service to his worshippers.

Tung prays silently in his native language.



Hail Gruumsh, strongest of all, knower of all, conqueror of all.

Today I think I  made some very tangible progress toward finally finding a stable, long term home.  The climate in the small region surrounding this town of Sandpoint is comfortable.  There is sunlight, there are sea breezes and the people here are, perhaps owing to their life on the coast, somewhat more accustomed to seeing unusual species.  I can walk freely with pride, without fear of persecution.  The guards and citizens merely watch from a careful distance and whisper respectfully where they think I cannot see them.  Rarely, if ever, do they attempt to assault or belittle me.

"And yet they still judge you, One-ton.  They still see you as a monster.  Why do you tolerate this?  Live up to their expectations, raze their homesteads, feast upon the fallen, show them the folly of their prejudice.  Their neighbours will watch, learn and respect."

That would only confirm their fears.  And I have politely asked you on numerous occasions not to call me... that name.  I do not care for it.  It was given to me by my captors and it stirs troubling memories.

"Oh, the brave warrior is offended?  Good!  Take that anger, use it, act like an orc for once in your life.  You do not like the name?  It is a human name, given to you by a human, is it not?  I will use your orc name when you convince me that you are an orc.  For now, you act like a human, I address you as they do."

As one of them did.  He does not represent his people.  But fine, if it gives you pleasure.

I found some travelling companions today.  A diverse troupe to be sure but I believe we found companionship in our differences from the common folk.  They seem trustworthy, we have broken bread and shared meaningful conversation.  They are tolerant and willing to listen.  I hope to get to know them better in time.

"Companions?  I have seen them, One-ton.  I see all.  What you call companions, I would call fodder.  What warrior travels with a toad?  A lizard?  Halfling?  ELVES.  Orc does not and has not ever fraternised with ELF."

At least one a half elf, as if that mattered.  Anyway, for a god so incensed by the persecution of our people, you have a strange approach to other races.  We attended a festival today, do you disapprove of that, too?

"A festival in worship of a FALSE GOD."

Different regions, my lord.  Different customs.  Their way is as valid as ours.  I do not care for their system of worship if that provides you with any comfort.  I must say that for a deity, you apear terribly insecure.

"So the weakling is growing a backbone?  This confidence ill suits you, pup.  I am unused to seeing such bold behaviour, excepting your little episodes."

We do not discuss that.

"Oh, I think we do.  We had one today, didn't we?  I felt it.  I felt your anger, One-ton."

It was in self defence.

"How does eating sentient creatures qualify as self defence?  You lost control.  You should do it more often."

They were threatening the defenceless.

"And for that, you decided that they needed to die.  They woke up this morning as you did, One-ton.  They had aspirations and families.  Broods, at least.  But no, the orc decided that they no longer deserved to live.  That their gore should slide down your chin, their blood wet your throat.  You made that choice."

I do not understand why you are attempting to hurt me.  I thought you would be pleased.  I slew many for a just cause.

"Slew many?  GOBLINS.  You slew VERMIN.  Slay one hundred flies for me, One-ton, see how much praise I heap upon you.  And still it took every ounce of strength you had!  You kin would not have struggled.  No, they would have taken the largest by the leg, beaten the rest of their company to death with their own comrade then would have KILLED THE ELVES FOR GOOD MEASURE."

That would be madness.

"THAT IS THE RAGE, WHELP.  It is who you are!  BARBARIAN, NOT DIPLOMAT.  THE WILL OF YOUR TRIBE.  It is who you could be if you would relieve yourself of this ridiculous insistence on communicating with other species rather than taking your place as a dominant, powerful driver of the weak!  No orc, you.  No.  HALF-orc.  Diluted, diminished, LESSER."

I count 5 kills this day, possibly 6.  I dedicate them to you.  May your endless wrath and boundless strength endure.

"You sicken me."

The feeling is mutual.

8
CHANGELING / Paradise lost
« on: August 07, 2018, 11:09:03 PM »
At long last, the strange journey had reached an end for this unlikely band of companions.  They had endured much and learned more still.  Learned about each other, the greater world around them and most of all themselves.  As each made their preparations to retreat into their fey selves for good, Frederick came to a final conclusion.  He had been right all along.  This was utter nonsense.

After struggling time and time again to make rational sense of this new world and the associated flood of information for several months, he ultimately concluded that of the fey, perhaps half of them were reasonable people, capable of conversation and rational thought.  The others he considered so mired in whimsy, in their own beauty and their almost theatrical approach to life that they were completely alien to him.  Barely to be considered sentient by any reasonable mortal understanding of the term.  He hated them bitterly.  The frivolity, the endless mirth and joy, that they had so much to teach but would so often withhold.  So full of life, so full of love, always (he perceived) to be denied to him.  He would be the butt of their collective joke no longer.  No, their world was not his but he would make good use of their gifts.  With his command of the magical arts, no "adult" would ever exploit him, ever belittle him or ever defy him again.  Did Habibi have the power to strip him of his arts?  Possibly.  There was but one way to find out.  He turned his back on his former friends, pausing only to spit a curse at the leprechaun, and walked out of their lives.

Down weather beaten and dark back streets he slowly trudged to what he used to consider his lodgings.  The memories were fading fast but a slight hint of his former life still nagged at him.  It was 4AM.  No other would be out at this time of night, it was quite safe to walk alone.  He considered his efforts to understand where he had gone so wrong in his life.  Why his eternal youth?  A curse?  Why not?  The important part was that it gave him someone to blame.  How could he, always careful, always sure of himself, be expected to have struck a fair deal with a magical creature?  And as a mere babe, naive and innocent?  Simply prey for a predatory beast, that's all he was.  That was closure.  Closure was important.  Keeps a fellow grounded, removes self-doubt.

As he settled down under a familiar bridge for the what was left of the night, curiously empty of the usual discarded and forgotten members of London's greater community, his troubled and selfish mind danced.  Dreams of power, knowledge and boundless cruelty fuelled by the ill informed and prejudiced notion that the entire world at large owed him a debt to repay the countless perceived injustices he had endured over the past century.  Never to dwell upon the pain he had brought to the world in return (such acts were always justified after all).  Tears of rage mingled with stifled laughter as his rational mind, overflowing as ever with banality, struggled to cope.  He punched and kicked the brickwork around him, scratched at his arms and legs, scarcely aware of his actions or the pain they were causing him.  His skin split and blood trickled to the stones beneath him.  He imagined himself a tyrant.  He imagined himself a sorceror.  Not a leader of men but a driver of the weak.  There should be so, so many weaker than he.  He dreamed himself an immortal nightmare incarnate.  The perfect union of dreams and human inginuity!

Frederick was abruptly snapped out of his fevered reverie by a soft voice.

"Such a messy boy...  Well little Freddy, I can see you are enjoying yourself.  How have you liked your birthday present so far?"

He reflexively tightened his grip on Mr. Patch while rummaging in his satchel for one of his heavier shivs.  That voice...

"How quaint.  No, no, don't bother.  You couldn't harm me even if you knew what or where I was.  I've been watching you, Frederick, and I'm very pleased with your progress.  Do you know how much suffering you have caused these past decades?  I have witnessed it all and, I can assure you, it was sublime.  Pure ambrosia.  I really admired your creativity in particular."

Frederick's stomach turned.  He'd been waiting for this moment almost his entire life and he wasn't prepared!  No time to plan!  This creature still held all the cards!

"Have you come to gloat?" the boy asked.  "I do not understand what more you expect from me, miserable shade, but you can torment me no longer.  I have turned this situation to my advantage at long last.  I am no longer the child you chose to torture.  One hundred years have changed me.  You hold no power here.  Leave me now; you have had your amusement."

On the other side of the river, unseen by the rabid child, an emaciated, elderly troll sadly shook his head.  This one had the tinge of glamour about him but it had been buried by banality.  He watched the child screaming at something only he could see.  For such a sharp mind to be reduced to shouting meaningless syllables into the night.  Maybe society would be better for the loss of this one.

"Ah, hark at him!" the voice laughed, "Such a brave, brave boy!  To think, you still believe you can make demands of an entity such as I.  That is quite delightful!  I expected nothing less of Frederick, the schoolboy terror who imagines himself a god!"

Despite his fear, Frederick could feel the red mists beginning to descend.  What right had it to speak down to him?!

The voice laughed, softly.  "Do you know what makes it all the sweeter?  Would you like to take a guess, little Freddy?  Go on, guess.  But you have to promise me that you won't get cross when you find out..."

Mr. Patch twitched.  His head turned to look over his moth-eaten shoulder.

"You owe all your new found power to me."

Frederick lost his composure.  He screamed, threw the bear to the ground.  It stood, looking directly at his owner.

"Oh, my poor, lost little Freddy.  It's scary, isn't it?  Don't despair, old friend, for I intend to make amends!  I can make you one last offer, dearest Frederick.  Think of it as thanks!  Thanks for the years of careful ownership and tender, loving care.  A binary choice.  No more tricks, I know you hate tricks, but a simple, branching path that you will commit to for the rest of your life.  Are you ready?"

Frederick, now retching with fear and disgust, did not answer.

"Two paths.  I restore what you gave of your own free will.  You choose your predetermined destiny and cast out the last shred of Frederick Connor.  No peaceful coexistence, your human self will die and become something much greater.  I will continue to loan you but a fraction of my strength and in doing so, you will retain your unnatural youth.  You will, provided you don't make any foolish mistakes, live at least one full millenium.  Not immortal, goodness no, but prolonged.  You will be able to continue to pursue your boundless, soulless quest for knowledge, learning but never experiencing.  I will spend the rest of your life within your bear and if you ever let it out of your grasp, I will punish you terribly."

Sweating bullets, Frederick managed to croak: "Or...?"

"You discard me.  Kill Persistence Clearwater, the man you forgot before you ever came to know him.  Symbolically cast out the last remaining fragment of innocence you have, finally complete our original contract and live as a human.  Commit me to Mother Thames and the curse is lifted."

Freddy's frenzied screaming echoed down the river.  The Sluagh once known as Persistence Clearwater, still unborn thanks to Habibi's magic, died.  Overwhelmed by denial, Persistence passed as he would have lived, quietly, unnoticed and alone.  He would not be missed.

With barely a second thought, Frederick, insensible with fear and grief, ran at the toy and aimed a kick squarely at its head.  It tumbled slowly through the air and landed with a faint splash.  He watched it as it gently bobbed along, bumping into stones and accumulated rubbish.  He watched it until it was well out of sight, for well over an hour in case, against all odds, it swam back.

But no.  It was gone without ceremony or acknowledgement.  He sat and carefully watched the water for a while until the sun began to rise, a new day dawning on him.  He clutched his foul little pouch of blades and tools to his chest as if it were the bear he'd lost.

The troll quietly left.  This one was beyond rescue.

By the end of the week, Freddy had the body of a late teen.  His fey self now stripped from him, his endless springtime was fading into summer, not that he understood why.  He was thrilled at the prospect of a new life.  At long last, he would get what he so sorely deserved.
By the end of the following week, he had the body of a matured adult.  Thrilled further still he began to frequent the city's pubs and clubs, as if to prove he could.  Drunkards were easy marks for sticky fingers and sweet words.
By the end of the third, meagre savings and spoils of petty theft now spent on cheap alcohol, he was penniless.  He realised that his usual "lost little orphan" act was no longer a way to gain resources or sympathy.  He was also noticing a stiffness in his joints.

As he struggled from meal to meal, the horrible truth dawned.  At a rate of roughly one year per day, he was aging.  It didn't stop.  Within two months, he had the body of an elderly man, his body and mind finally united.  The cold wind hurt his joints and the hard ground, previously an annoyance, was sheer agony to sit and sleep upon.  This was the beast's final insult, he realised.  The end would come soon.

On the last day of Frederick Connor's life, he climbed carefully onto a bus.  He aimed to reach his old family home.  He didn't know why, exactly, but then he didn't know why he did a lot of things these days.  He was growing confused and scared.  Walking slowly along still familiar streets, his thoughts as slow as his aching legs, he reflected that he hadn't travelled to this part of town for over 80 years. His family would be long dead, of course... ah, but with old age came nostalgia.  To see the old place would bring comfort to a troubled, weary soul.  To his dismay, the entire street was now a building site intended for a large industrial park.  He walked to where he was certain his front door had been and closed his eyes.  He could still see them.  He reached his hand out and turned a doorknob, no longer there.  He saw mother, sewing at her little table in the kitchen.  She gave a cheerful wave.  Father was there in the living room, looking over the top of his paper, eyes full of pride.  The same as every other day he'd come home from school.  He was finally with his family again.  He wept.

His senses dulled by the weight of years and distracted by remorse, he never heard the footsteps behind him.  What he did notice, however, was the heavy impact of a walking stick on the back of his head.  An insistent pressure placed itself upon his back.  He fancied he could feel a warm, wet, metallic-smelling something pooling around him.

"Well, if it isn't little Freddy Connor..."

Shit.

It had been quite easy for Gerald, the former tutor explained.  The rumours about a little boy who never grew up were well known throughout the criminal underworld, an underworld that Frederick had forced Gerald into by using him as an intermediary for his dirtier jobs.  A recent lack of regular communication from his tormentor, coupled with the increasingly strange nature of the few messages he had sent over the past year had emboldened his teacher into conducting a few investigations via a number of uniquely interested parties.  Frederick had made a number of powerful enemies, enemies who knew nothing of his identity but were all too keen to follow up on even a fanciful rumour, especially when it came from a source as credible as that sweet elderly chap who, tearfully, would regularly purchase controlled substances or order physical beatings on behalf of "that gentleman".  They'd taken to inviting him home for tea and a chat, in the end.  Even hardened crooks are occasionally capable of sympathy, especially when some of them had been taught by Gerald in their youth.  You rmemebered being taught by Gerald.  He was that one teacher, the one who really cared how you were feeling, no matter how bad a kid you were.  Gerald loved his students.

Frederick's movements had been followed, particularly in the recent weeks when he'd begun to allow himself to get careless in his frantic search for a cure for aging.  Even the public had taken notice; his face had been in newspapers and #YoungOldFred had been a social media sensation for a solid week.  And so, finally finding Frederick at his weakest, Gerald explained exactly what he thought of the man.  It didn't take long.  How he had endured years of fearful depression, his emotional distance driving out his wife and children, had to resign from a long term career and his place as a respected pillar of the community.  A life of pain, all at the hands of one sadistic little boy who just couldn't bring himself to forgive, learn acceptance or even to admit any kind of fault.

Gerald Turner.  The only mistake in a meticulously planned, century-old campaign of terror.

"And that", he concluded in a dreadfully level tone, "is why I've come for you today.  You're older than I am now, Freddy.  But then, you always have been, haven't you?  I still don't know what you are but I know this: you can't fight back in this sorry state.  We're equals now."

This last remark lead to spluttered, furious cursing as Frederick, now insulted, attempted to fight back.  He achieved nothing.

"Oh for God's sake, show some grace.  It's over, Frederick.  It's finally time a silly little boy learnt his lesson."

Frederick screamed in impotent rage with lungs that weren't up to the task.  He wheezed, struggled, spat, cried, pounded his fists.  His tantrum was all for nothing.  His now 100 year old frame could barely support him.  It certainly couldn't help him as Gerald, face set with solemn determination, brought around his other hand to swing a slender iron pole into his knees.

Frederick was left alone for days.  Writhing in pain, weak and unable to move, his soft cries for help would never be heard..  Gerald's contacts saw to that, much as they saw that any evidence was removed swiftly and professionally.  Eventually the body was found, an inquiry was launched but quickly resolved.  A old man, a possible victim of dementia, had wandered off his normal route and had simply slipped and fallen heavily in a remote part of the city.  Already malnourished, he had wasted away.

Elsewhere, a bear floats out to sea.  It, like its owner, will forever remain lost.

9
CHANGELING / A cracked, leather-bound journal
« on: October 18, 2017, 04:04:28 PM »
Hidden in a large encyclopedia in the bottom of his satchel, Frederick keeps a personal journal.  It is an old book.


2016

So begins another year on the streets.  Gone are the shoppers of December with their deep sympathy and deeper pockets, instead are the thrift shoppers of January.  Then there is I, a modern day Pan, the boy who never grew up.  Still my own body sickens me.  I would make a resolution but to believe, after all this time, this year to be anything "new" is laughable.

Regardless, the research must continue.  To lose purpose is to lose hope.  Without hope, my mental development will become as stilted as my physical.

Received a message from Turner early morning on the 3rd.  He actually thanked me for the chance to prove himself useful.  Dear God, the man is actually getting worse!  Must check up on that, could be a ruse; that kind of thinking wouldn't suit him but it's far from beyond his abilities.  He indicated that there may be others like myself working on the Crossrail system.  Only rumours, of course, but as an unemployed street urchin, what other demands have I on my time?


Arrived at the nearest entrance.  A construction site, nothing more, nothing unusual save for one or two labourers with decidedly inappropriate attire for a manual workplace; long sleeves and hoods unsuitable for work with dangerous tools.  That stuck in my mind somewhat so I took to the old standard and engaged in a little busking to justify my loitering.  A little dirt on the face, artful arrangement of the clothes, it usually brings in enough revenue for at least a hot meal for the night.  This time a small variation, I kept the routine to songs from my childhood.  Normally this only plays well near the dungeons or the tower, places where those inclined toward history but not to reading congregate. I drew a crowd, mostly of other dark-clad oddballs.  They requested a meeting the following day.

It is here that I must assert even unto myself that I am no fool.  For a group of oddly-dressed strangers to seek the company of a small boy, it takes not a genius to come to some rather obvious conclusions but I fancy that, if faced with an assailant who expects the fighting skills of a boy, the element of surprise would aid me.  Where surprise won't work, a well placed needle can incapcitate even the best.

I arrived at the agreed time.  I was told, by one of those hooded spectres, that we would be going to school.  He brought with him a procession of eager children.  I know exactly how this particular tale traditionally ends and wanted no part of it so I bade him good day then followed at a respectable distance.  Folk with such terrible deeds behind them can make good colleagues when sufficiently motivated.  And yet, against all odds, he was telling the truth.  In some forgotten corner of this filthy city there was, indeed, a school of sorts under a railway arch.  I was offered a hot drink, rather watered down but an excellent start, and told by a roguish looking gent that I was brought here because I was different.  I asked in what way.  I have never known anybody quite like the man for being able to answer a question without conveying any information of actual use so I put things plainly: that I am an adult cursed to live in the body of a child.  He indicated several others who share my burden and indicated that I might spend a while among them learning their ways and teaching their young.

I see little to gain from this relationship of any real quantity.  While these are a strangely personable and friendly people, they speak in riddles and withhold information wherever they can.  That said, the quality of the knowledge they hold about my problem, now that is unparalleled.  I simply cannot turn them down.


2017

It began with a simple offer.  There was to be a festival in the Bernie Spain gardens.  I would find other "odd" people there.  I, again, asked for an elaboration on this choice of nomenclature and got as much of an answer as I honestly expected.  Though this man has given me much, I shall not miss him and his cryptic ways.

Dearest Patch and I took to the park in plenty of time to observe the proceedings but also to be seen.  I find it helps to establish a character when working in a public place.  A down and out child happily playing with dogs in the park is never truly observed yet they are offered the perfect chance to observe for themselves, hidden perfectly in plain sight.  A few other likely candidates were present.  Nothing... implausibly strange, considering I was attending a festival, and it was hard to discern anybody that the underfolk would consider "odd" amongst the general, despicable flamboyance of today's youth.

One group stood out, slightly.  A man well engaged with the business of personal intoxication and another, better dressed, whom I assume to be a friend and enabler.  Pitiable if that's the case.  Still, they were friendly, even to someone like myself.  The drunkard was a little too free with the phrase "little chap" which put my teeth slightly on edge, admittedly.

A great commotion arose from the Thames.  Large boats arrived at a nearby wharf and folk clad in a variety of garments alighted.  Some dressed in ostentatious finery, some no more grand than myself.  The great majority took a knee and bowed deeply.  No.  Respect must be earned, it is not freely given, and if I am to be any judge, from their bearing that these people are a little too accustomed to unconditional adoration.  That left me mildly revolted.  They spoke in Celtic and English, addressing the crowd.  Now, my mastery of that language is not absolute but they clearly spoke of a King and Queen of the Thames and the coming of a new season.

Well, that settled everything.  I was to be indoctrinated into a "religion".  It would not be the first time, in my years of occult research, but the poor souls around me were thoroughly enchanted and clearly didn't recognise the obvious signs.

A strange sickness overwhelmed me at that moment.  A lightness of the head, a feeling that my feet no longer adhered to the earth.  It would appear I had been drugged.  I sank into a reluctant slumber.

On awaking, we appear to be in a monochrome circus tent.  I am concerned, to put it... mildly, but appear to be in no immediate danger.  My new companions are taking this well in stride, some revelling in the proceedings but I have grave concerns.  The two who are addressing us, fops who enjoy the diversions of cheap parlour tricks, seem to be enjoying the confusion and are welcoming us to their fold.  We have awakened into our true selves, alledgely.  While this may well go some way toward explaining why I have reached such an advanced mental age within the body of an infant, I feel that I am not being told exactly what is going on.  These creatures have warped my body beyond recognition into one of those dreadful wraithlike beings from the hidden school.  They talk of magic and kin, they talk of an endangered community, they speak in stories and laughter.  If they expect me to be so free with my trust, they are going to be sorely disappointed.  My identity has been stolen from me.  I daredn't look at my own reflection right now for fear of who will look back.  Somebody WILL take responsiblity for this.

Unfortunately, if their talk of magic is true (which it seems to be), the possibilities are quite dizzying.  It will be worth humouring them and their pompous ways for now, if only for the power I could stand to gain.

Patch appears to have escaped unscathed, as have my other implements.  I will hold on to Patch.  Right now, he represents my only anchor to normalcy and is therefore a truly valuable asset to my continued mental wellbeing.

10
Subject review #22495.
Name: Mr. Tenenbaum
Known alias: Tenenbaum, "The Help" (greatly discouraged)
Reviewed by: Operative Tam Jenkins

Subject is to be considered safe and to be permitted free access to any level of the facility to which he expresses an interest.  Areas of security clearance reserved for staff in a command role should remain off limits unless requested directly by the relevant authority.  To date, Tenenbaum has expressed no interest in exploring the facility yet has reviewed the publically available site plans in great detail in order to "better get the lay of the land".

Subject has, thus far, remained cooperative in all requests made of him.  Demeanour is polite, if a little stiff.

Mr. Tenenbaum is an enigma, even to those who know him well.  He wears his heart on his sleeve and insofar as he experiences emotion at all (yet to be ascertained), he shows no signs of hiding his intentions from anybody.  Despite this, previous clients have reported significant difficulties with getting the measure of him.

Tenenbaum (always Tenenbaum or Mr. Tenenbaum, never addressed informally) is a classic gentleman's gentleman.  He is well trained to remain in the background, being the grease behind the wheels of men larger and more consequential than himself.  He is unused to receiving praise or recognition for his efforts for when his job has been done well, it is scarcely possible to tell that he has even been involved.

Nothing is known of his personal life.  He does not admit to hobbies or interests, preferring "to maintain a strictly professional relationship, please".  Until quite recently, his professional life has been a series of contractual obligations to tend to the lives and manage the staff of all manner of people, from Spanish nobility to British military tacticians.  A skill with languages has been observed.  Anybody who can afford his services can enjoy his expertise, he does not pick and choose his clients (he claims to have worked in the employ of dictators, diplomats and martyrs.  He does not judge), but his fees are quite extraordinary.

After all, as a super-powered valet he is thought of as a hot commodity.

Tenenbaum does not openly manifest his powers in public, he simply makes it clear to his employers that he does, indeed, possess abilities above and beyond that of your average person.  He makes sure to only advertise himself in specifically chosen publications, those who are sympathetic to his unique condition and who will not endanger nor exploit him.  Should he ever suspect that his powers are being used for anything outside of the terms of his carefully worded contracts, he will leave with a curt apology and simply terminate the business relationship with a minimum of fuss.  His employer will find themselves unable to contact him a second time.  A contract was necessary for his involvement within the New Sentinels (his insistence) and a copy is available on request.  It is a significant tome and largely beyond the comprehension of anybody without a significant grounding in legalese.

His powers are, primarily, increased speed and intelligence with some minor inclination toward telepathy.  A gentleman's gentleman should ideally be able to perceive his employer's needs, to be at hand at all times of day almost immediately and to recall messages, appointments and tidbits of useful diplomatic and cultural wisdom to aid in the flow of conversation.  He does not disappoint.  However he has a knack for picking up knowledge as he works.  He displays a knowledge of history which suggests, at times, that he was present for events he could not possibly have been alive for and often knows a client's needs before they themselves have realised them.  A small number of his prior engagements have been ended by clients who became unnerved at how constantly present and aware, within a moment's notice, the man was.

Tenenbaum is always well presented with slicked-down blond hair, parted neatly to the right, and a pencil moustache.  He speaks with an upper-class South British accent.  He appears to be in his late 50s, trim and athletic.  Official age has been provided as 61 but some clients have expressed doubts and suspect he may be far older.  The only deviation from the classic valet image of a black suit and white gloves are his shoes, quite obvious reinforced.  He has made every effort to have them tailored into classic dress shoes but apologetically claims that standard footwear simply cannot take the strain.  Should replacements be required, a specific supplier in Oxford, UK has been named in his contract.  Replacement suits, made to very exacting specifications, may also be procured from this supplier.

His only possessions appear to be 5 matching suits (dry cleaning instructions attached) and 5 matching pairs of shoes.  Tenenbaum travels light and travels often.

He admitted himself to this organisation a number of months ago, unusually not contacted by a field scout.  He had been in the employ of a fellow super, "Bert Petal", who approached us recently and Tenenbaum followed 3 days afterwards.  His opinions about his current employer are not known but his tone is rather more clipped around them.  A supporting role in combat appears to be the best suited to his personality, he is highly lacking in combat-viable skills and powers, so he can often be found towards the back offering encouragement.  His skill is in being in the right place at the right time to avert catastrophe or just to offer hot and cold refreshments at times of social conflict.  He insists that his suit will be a perfectly reasonable "costume" and has waved away any idea of having a codename of any kind.

He is simply Tenenbaum, a man devoid of agenda or intent.  That is both his name and his vocation.  He lives to serve.

11
King of Thorns / A moment of calm
« on: October 30, 2015, 12:34:13 PM »
As is appropriate, after combat and before periods of rest, Figaro believes it to be necessary to pray to his god to thank them for successes and report on what acts he is performing in their name.  The prayers often have the air of a clerk seeking approval from a master who does not regardly them fondly.  While Figaro's interpretation of events tends to be accurate (lying to a deity can be a really creative form of suicide after all), the reports tend towards self service and ommission of certain details.

Figaro has yet to be informed that many gods, Khors likely included, are omniscient and know exactly what events have transpired...



Noble and eternal Khors,

I have arrived in the Zobeck, the free city as it is known, with relatively little incident and I thank you for the protection you have provided me thus far.
I sought lodging in a rustic inn or tavern (I can't quite remember in what manner to which such an establishment should be referred) and met with some old friends in the hopes of securing honorable work.  My surroundings are humble but I am persevering and am at least comfortable.

A hooded stranger entered and told us of recent kidnappings.  Children being taken from places of safety for some reason or other.  We were warned to be wary of recent movements of the Cloven Nine.  I confess I was shocked that their presence is still being felt in this area as it has been many a year since I last heard tales of those foul ne'er do wells and had assumed that the capable warriors of this area had taken care of them.  It appears that Zobeck's finest are perhaps not as capable as I have been lead to believe.

As we spoke, a red glow emanated from the door and a second hooded stranger entered.  I feared that there was a fire in one of the industrial buildings nearby (I hear that such facilities are prone to accidents when poorly managed) but this chap in the hood seemed responsible.  One of our party rose to investigate and I personally sensed an aura of overwhelming evil, so rose in kind to inform the bartender and apprehend the scoundrel personally but was prevented from carrying out my duties by the presence of a number of bloated, blackened corpses which rained from the very ceiling.  As we were in a cellar, I cannot even imagine what disgusting visions were presented to those above us.

The corpses moved to block us from their master and fought with the uncoordinated vigour of the recently resurrected dead.  Disgusting creatures, but most enthusiastic.  I dealt one of them a solid blow with my mace but alas, the weapon passed through it like I had struck a stream of falling water!  We were clearly outclassed and outnumbered and my way to the real foe was heavily impeded so I took up a defensive position, set my shield steady and instructed my comrades to form up behind me to gain a tactical advantage over this rabble as had been instructed to me during my years of service.  Thankfully, we have a number of magicians in our party and with some quick thinking, they were able to achieve what mundane weapons could not.  I was preparing to leap from the table and seek the aid of the local constabulary, as is the right and proper procedure in a civilised city such as this, but our party was able to deal with the problem before it escalted into something more severe.  Well done, us!

The leader of this band wore some kind of magnificent bronze mask which was apparently the key to preventing its maw from opening into some kind of hellish nether plane.  You alone may know how it achieved even basic functions like sight or speech but it matters not.

I performed a minor act of healing upon one of our number and upon the clockwork publican who had suffered a grievous wound.  I believe that they will make it through without much difficulty but pray that you watch over them.  They fought valiantly.

We agreed to take on the job.  Protecting innocent children is a cause worth fighting for.  As I look at our party and their demonstrated skills, I can report to you that I am travelling with one of those nature wizard types, a clockwork mage (whether he is made of VERY sophisticated clockwork or simply wields it is something I expect to learn in the fullness of time), a traveller sort, a gentleman who favours those barbaric curved swords and a... creature of some sort?  I'd be inclined to say she has something of the khobold about her but there's a touch of something else in her features.  Regardless, she appears to have unfortunately sticky fingers and I shall have to keep careful stock of my personal possessions around her.  Overall, it's a diverse set of skills and personalities and I look forward to working with them all.

I believe that by presenting us with unkillable shades, you are presenting me with a test of courage.  I would like you to know that I did not falter in the face of adversity and remained resolute and determined in the name of honourable duty.

I remain ever your humble servant.

May the light of your wisdom shine always.

12
King of Thorns / Figaro Beauchamp
« on: October 25, 2015, 06:34:15 PM »
"It's a genuine pleasure to meet you!  My name is Figaro Beauchamp.  I used to be a noble of some repute from a small kingdom some distance from here.  Khorsburg?  No?  A very small place, I'd be surprised if you knew of it, you don't appear to have the bearing of a seasoned traveller.  I'm here because I've left all the politics and parties behind for the time being.  Living in the lap of luxury was EVER so tedious, you know?  A bit of rough and tumble with the salt of the earth, that's just the ticket!  Gives a man a respectable air, a steely gaze and a firm handshake, what-what!"

Figaro Beauchamp genuinely was a minor noble from a moderately distant country and did indeed come from a wealthy background of privilege.  He was generally regarded by his peers as being more than a little dim and completely oblivious to the lives and struggles of those beneath him in society.  Despite that, he always meant well, always tried to aid his fellow man and had enough of a winning smile that he normally didn't cause offence.

Two years ago, he got the idea that to truly be respected, a noble should aid his country by offering himself to the service of his military.  He hired the greatest fencing tutors money could buy and threw himself wholeheartedly into his studies becoming, academically, quite an accomplished duelist.  He enrolled, waving away the offered clerical and command positions and instead stating that "one wishes to be one of the lads, to really get to grips with what it MEANS to be a man!". He joined with the White Hussars, believing them to be dashing and romantic, something that fit with the persona he believed he conveyed to others.

A life of leisure and luxury means a life with very little danger or conflict.  During his very first experience of real combat, Figaro learned that he was a coward.

The enemy charged, his company roared and threw themselves into the fray but Figaro hesitated, tears welling in his eyes.  He retreated in the confusion and miraculously survived, avoiding both physical injury and the attention of his commanders.  He left his nation that day, knowing he'd find greater honour in being unaccounted for, assumed dead, than he would as a coward and deserter.  His country and family would mourn him as a hero while he fled as a traitor.

Now Figaro is a mercenary for hire, though he prefers the term "freelance saviour of the unfortunate".  He still has the yellow streak and the same perception of himself, an honest and fair ruler of men, but now he must make ends meet and is willing to apply himself to any task that he seems capable of so long as it helps him to reach an end goal that he perceives to have been the "right thing to do" for all parties involved.  While he tends to plant his foot firmly in his mouth around those less fortunate than himself, a much smaller group than it used to be, he's fairly charming in conversation having been extensively trained in etiquette from a young age.

As a self-proclaimed people's hero, a career as a paladin felt appropriate, swearing to serve the public good and defend the downtrodden.  He serves Khors, having been told he was a god of nobility, but has since been told of the implied obligations to throw himself into honourable combat and hopes that fear of upsetting a divine being will be enough to spur him on to feats of bravery in a pinch.  Figaro may be the only paladin who feel apprehensive about his daily prayers, especially in light of his abdication.

He's also very, very unwilling to go anywhere near his former home.  If he were discovered to have lived, he expects a prison sentence at the very least and the humiliation would be more than he could bear.  He's used to shame.  He's not used to being a villain.



Physically he's around 5"9, solidly built and has blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail.  Has suspiciously white teeth and equipment that looks well polished.  In conversation, he makes eye contact rather more than most and adopts stances that suggest he was taught to use conversation as a diplomatic weapon before he actually learned to chat socially.

13
Student Nationals / A game within a game
« on: March 10, 2015, 12:55:59 PM »
A few years back during the final request for Witchrule submissions, I started putting together a scavenger hunt for the Nationals as a diversion for long commutes (if you're not of a drinking persuasion, if you're driving, if you're travelling from outside of Huddersfield etc) or just to highlight the tropes that you're likely to come across.  Figured it might provide some entertainment.

To my knowledge, almost all of these have happened at least once and they're all very possible.

--Updated for 2017

---

The Nationals, a metagame, scavenger hunt or EXCEEDINGLY ill advised drinking game.

Actually using this as a drinking game will likely result in death so, like, drink responsibly and stuff.

Points are as follows:

1 point for something common
3 points for something uncommon
5 points for something rare

Each item can only be claimed for once and you’re not allowed to use yourself as a source of points unless specifically stated.

The journey

Common
•   Successfully reaching the venue by car or coach without the need for bathroom, comfort or lunch breaks where the venue was under 2 hours’ drive
•   We visit the realm of the Burger King
•   At least 2 hours are spent in a pub prior to leaving
•   Our destination has a distinctly different climate or weather
•   A team member regrets the weight or bulk of their luggage
•   At least one team member has brought luggage equivalent to or larger than a suitcase yet less than 25% of said luggage is made up of clothing, toiletries or anything a responsible adult would take on a weekend trip
•   Someone gets lost

Uncommon
•   Successfully managing to secure a train carriage with no other passengers (whether by luck or by driving out all other passengers) to ourselves for over 90% of the journey
•   Meeting another student society at a motorway service station
•   No member of our team has work on Friday morning
•   We travel more than 150 miles
•   At least one member of our party started at a destination more than 50 miles from Huddersfield
•   You start the day with the main group but travel apart from them (most likely in a shared car due to lack of rental coach space)

Rare
•   We enter another country
•   We are required to leave early enough that we're not able to get the traditional pre-journey breakfast
•   A member of the party falls asleep or becomes hung over before reaching the venue
•   All members of our team arrive at the station or coach pickup point and are early by 30 minutes or more, plus no members of the team had to make their own way in (discounting members from outside of Huddersfield)
•   You volunteer as a designated driver

The games, prizes and awards

Common
•   At least one player has some kind of impractical novelty die
•   At least one player is using Lucozade or equivalent as a means of remaining conscious
o   +3 if they have had enough that it's obviously impairing their judgement
•   In a roleplaying category, one player is obviously playing to win but failing
•   In a wargaming category, at least of one your opponents is fatigued from having to paint their army into the wee hours of the morning
•   In a wargaming category, at least of one your opponents has brought a list which is clearly designed to win tournaments
o   +3 if you beat them
•   At least one player is hung over
•   In a roleplaying game, someone suggests the application of fire to resolve an otherwise mundane problem
•   A player, in the Paranoia category, chooses to openly register their mutant power
•   A PC, in the Call of Cthulhu category, suffers sanity loss
•   In a board gaming category, you forgot the rules due to complexity, hangover or being distracted by a colourful object
•   Over the course of the weekend, you manage to negotiate the use of a nonstandard unit of currency (for example, a bottle of beer for a sandwich)
•   Somebody in another society wins Scooter in the raffle and doesn’t know why this is a VERY bad thing.
•   HUGS places in the top 20
•   During the awards ceremony, you begin to feel the beginnings of an unspecified but deadly convention plague which will render you useless for 48 hours starting tomorrow morning
•   More than half of HUGS decides to avoid the awards ceremony entirely
•   Someone is wearing an item of decidedly non-standard headgear
•   You bought dice you didn’t need from Bob the Dice Man
•   Someone says something which you're pretty sure if a reference to pop or gaming culture but is too old or obscure for anybody to get
•   Most players are familiar with the system
•   Someone purchases a stack of charity rerolls but winds up hoarding them for a perfect moment which never comes
•   Someone references any of the following in your game:
o   Monty Python
o   Monty Python and the Holy Grail (only half a point)
o   Star Wars
o   Tolkien
o   The Simpsons
o   Internet memes
o   Bacon
o   A popular video game series (half a point for references which double as Internet memes, zero points if you’re playing a game themed around that series)
o   Khorne
o   A previous roleplaying experience which has relevance to the situation, but only from the point of view of the person telling the story

Uncommon
•   In a roleplaying category, one player is obviously playing to win and it seems to be working
•   Someone is trying to abuse the charity reroll mechanic in an attempt to win
•   Most players are unfamiliar with or new to the system
•   A player, in the Paranoia category, admits to having played Paranoia before
•   Your team decides to purchase charity rerolls but to avoid using them to prevent an unfair advantage
•   Charity rerolls do something unusual
•   A person is in your game who didn't choose that category but was either transferred due to oversubscription to their first choice or simply got lost
•   A player proves that they can't be allowed responsibility of anything dangerous or important
•   At least one player was physically unable to reach their game
•   No members of your game are or were hung over today
•   In a roleplaying game, the liberal application of fire was actually a good idea and helped in any way
•   In a roleplaying game, all party members focused on a common goal at all times and nobody tried to be a hero
•   In a board gaming category, you contributed the game
•   In a board gaming category, you resolved to buy a copy of a game after the Nationals
•   IC singing
•   The traders sell something related to your game.  +3 if they actually sell the entire game (+1 for board gamers).  Dice and CCGs don't count.
•   At least one player is still wearing some element of their costume from Saturday night (doesn’t count if the costume is game appropriate)
•   At least one player has turned up in a game appropriate costume (the inverse applies for Victoriana, anybody dressed in normal clothing scores 3 points)
•   If the reroll reward doubles as a collectable gimmick (themed dice set etc), one person in your game completes a full set
•   Someone in HUGS or VAGUE wins Scooter and isn’t aware of why this is a very bad thing
•   Someone is wearing a tshirt from a franchise or website that you recognise
•   During your game, someone obtains fast food from a franchise but you’re unable to find the location of said franchise
•   You win a raffle prize
•   The recipient of the charity money sends a representative who obviously, but politely, has no idea what the Nationals are
•   Points are assigned for a category quickly and with a minimum of out of context but amusing anecdotes
•   You place in your category
•   HUGS places in the top 5
•   You bought dice you actually needed from Bob the Dice Man
•   Someone references any of the following in your game:
o   Mel Brooks’ movies (only 2 points for The Princess Bride)
o   The Hitchhiker’s Guide
o   Discworld
o   Pulp Fiction
o   Futurama
o   Star Trek
o   A previous roleplaying experience which is relevant to the situation in a way which is obvious to all participants

Rare
•   At least one player gave up on attending any game in their category at all
o   +20 if they somehow didn’t place last in their category.  Joint last counts for this
•   A player in your category didn't sign up for it but still placed in the top 3
•   A player, in the Paranoia category, is found guilty of Machine Empathy
o   +5 if they weren't a machine empath
•   Someone buys more than 10 charity rerolls
•   A non-reroll charity donation advantage is available (shake a magic 8-ball/decision dice for example)
•   Someone buys charity rerolls just to donate to the cause or as a souvenir
•   Runners are employed to fetch food and coffee
•   No members of your category were hung over throughout the entire weekend
•   In a competitive category, you won at least one game by default because none of your opponents arrived
•   In the Paranoia category, you survived with a full 6 pack (and were probably cheating.  Well done)
•   No PCs, in the Call of Cthulhu category, suffer sanity loss
•   IC dance
•   Someone in your game found a practical and game relevant use for a D100
•   At least one player is still wearing their FULL costume from Saturday night (doesn’t count if the costume is game appropriate)
•   Someone references any of the following in your game:
o   Any of the D&D movies
o   Family Guy
o   A real life experience which has full relevance to the situation (+10 points if you’re playing in a futuristic setting, +5 for a historic/fantasy setting, +20 and some suspicious looks for Call of Cthulhu
•   The recipient of the charity money is present and seems to actually be aware of who we are and what we’re doing
•   If the charity reroll item doubles as a game, someone starts playing a round of it
•   You place first in your category (congratulations!)
•   HUGS wins the Nationals (add +30 bonus points)

The nights and the rooms

Common
•   HUZZAH! (+1 point for each time but not per person, + half a point if someone grumbles about it,  -10 if you’re found to be attempting to provoke HUSSARS into shouting it)
•   A corset
•   An item of unorthodox eyewear
•   A feeling of uncleanliness that no amount of showering will remove
•   For ale drinkers, completing a full tour of the pumps
•   An individual with a costume concept that needs to be explained
•   A element of a costume is destroyed, lost or discarded over the course of the evening
•   The bar runs out of food
•   You become involved in a board or card game but aren't quite sure how
•   An additional game is arranged during the evening (the pub quiz does not count, nor do clear areas for card and board games)
o   Upgrade to uncommon if said game is worth any team points
•   The bar staff were unprepared for the number of people who would be attending
•   A drinking game begins
•   Somebody adds your name badge to their collection
o   Upgrade to uncommon if you get it back
•   If attending the afterparty, the HUGS toast is issued
•   In a standard hotel, the afterparty is told, in no uncertain terms, to quiet down
•   The campus grounds are comfortable with you drinking on premises
•   A completely explainable injury the morning after
•   You’re involved in some kind of selfie

Uncommon
•   Unwanted nudity
•   A member of the bar staff politely tries to understand what we’re here for or what a roleplaying game/wargame/LARP is
•   A team with a costume concept that needs to be explained
•   A costume is worn which must have guaranteed a lot of personal space for the wearer on public transport
•   The bar runs out of spirits
•   The bar serves some form of novelty drink or has a cocktail menu with items on it more complicated than “rum and coke”
o   +3 if the bar has been convinced to mix a society's signature drink (or isn't too snippy about selling the components and letting you mix your own)
o   +10 if that drink is the HUGS drink, "Green"
o   +20 if that drink is part of the official drinks menu for the night
o   +30 if that drink is "Green" and is part of the drinks menu
•   The bar plays a song so universally popular that most people begin to sing
•   An individual turns up in a obviously well made, well thought out costume but it references something obscure enough that they’ll have difficulty in winning the contest
•   HUGS obtains a dedicated seating area for 30 minutes or more
•   The bar staff were prepared for the number of people attending on Saturday night
•   VAGUE fields an elaborate team costume competition entry
•   Someone makes a profit on a pub trivia machine
•   A photograph is taken that you’d prefer wasn’t uploaded to Facebook
•   Dancing begins
•   A team costume arrives which will certainly have some kind of performance aspect
•   You amass a collection of over 5 name badges
o   +3 if this isn't your first rodeo and your collection contains more than one of your own badges
•   You obtain a name badge from someone in your category
•   The afterparty is offered a dedicated room to avoid disturbing other patrons
•   Waking up with more people in your room than you expected
•   Some form of unexplainable injury the morning after
•   The bar notices a drinking contest is starting, complains and so a more discreet drinking game must be started somewhere else
•   The bar is comfortable with outside food
•   Your accommodation doesn’t serve bacon
•   You spend the night with more people in your room than said room is designed to accomodate
o   Upgrade to rare if you have the sad responsibility of being the keeper of the room key
•   The Philosopher’s Drinking Song begins

Rare
•   Wanted nudity
•   A team in which every member has turned up in costume
•   The bar runs out of beer
•   You obtain the name badges of every member of a society
•   You obtain a name badge from a different year
o   Add 10 if it's from a different year and from your current venue
•   Having stolen a name badge, you trade categories and successfully pose as that person in their game
o   Add 10 bonus points if you place in their category under their name
o   Add 50 if you get them into first place
•   HUGS obtains a seating area for at least half our party for the entire evening
•   The bar was fully prepared for the entire duration, had ample stocks of food, snacks and all kinds of beverages and was well staffed throughout (+100 points)
•   Waking up with more people in your bed than you expected
•   In student accommodation, you convince the security staff to attend the afterparty
•   The bar is comfortable with (or at least indifferent to) outside drinks
•   You, for any reason, could not obtain any component of a cooked full English (not wishing to have a full English doesn’t count, you must have been unable to)
•   The entire hotel is booked out with Nationals attendees, almost guaranteeing zero noise complaints (no points if staying in halls of residence)
•   HUGS wins a drinking contest
•   HUGS wins the pub quiz
•   The Philosopher’s Drinking Song begins and nobody has to pause to recall the lyrics

14
Metro 2033: The Dark / Free Metro2033 for the next 9 hours!
« on: November 08, 2014, 08:51:55 AM »
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I love these guys.  Rogue Legacy is worth your time, too.

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Metro 2033: The Dark / A battered and burned voice recorder
« on: October 30, 2014, 01:23:41 PM »
In the depths of Pierre's kit is a worn out voice recorder which serves as a journal.  Formerly for recording memos while on the busy streets (the earliest entries tend to be simple "buy eggs, rent due Monday", the more recent memos are darker in tone and punctuated with the sounds of scraping and sometimes gas cookers.  Cooking up the evening's medication is often a good time for quiet contemplation.

Woke up in Vidjenka.  Miserable headache, not sure how I even arrived here in the first place.  Currently carrying... 25 rounds, a handful of knives, somebody else's sidearm and enough hits for a week.  Christ!  You think you can trust a dealer then he pulls a stunt like that.

Vision still seems reasonable, still able to walk.  Seems like I got off lucky.

Nothing much to say about this settlement.  Same as all the others, filled with the usual no-hopers.  No hope, no dreams, no direction.  Just fine by me, a place like this, people can hardly work up the effort for any serious crime.  If you can even call it "crime" in this environment.

Guard duty's mandatory here.  That's good, I approve of that.  We all need to work together to drag ourselves out of this hole.  Wound up sat around a campfire with a small group while our supervisor settled himself down nice and cosy.  Asshole.  Slight commotion outside, couple of us took point around the door, some guy with a rifle sticks his head out.  He'll get it bitten off if he's not careful but guy's got a pair, I'll give him that.  Goddamned dog rooting through the filth trying to find a meal, I guess.  We were all glad about that one.  All the ghost stories we're being told aren't helping anybody's mood but at least they're keeping the population careful and cautious.  Again, I approve of that.

Uneventful night.  Found a new dealer soon enough.  Price gouging scumbag but at least he wasn't selling drain cleaner.  I've known guys that would.  Cooked up as much as I could afford and finished with...  yeah, this doesn't taste right.  It'll get you there, I guess, but it's some rough shit.  Not marketable to anybody with any cash and any sense.  Good enough for me.  Just enough time left to chase off the demons for a couple more days before bed.  Needle's getting blunt again.  Might be time to hit up a pharmacist.

Slept in a hostel.  Clean enough, fairly secure.  Home sweet home.  Woken at an ungodly hour by our superior from last night, the leader of this settlement wanted a word about some problem or other.  Brought to see the rest of the team from last night.  Seem like an unusually stable group of guys.  One looks like about as much of a scoundrel as I am, one's... some kind of engineer?  Then there's a guy in the back, sounds like he makes a living in a weapons chop shop and some guy with one mother of a rifle.  Could be a lot worse.  We're to be paid to head to Pavaleskia, looking for a kid, the leader's stepson or something.  Name sounded like Artium.  Got himself in some trouble recently, we've been asked to bring him back alive if possible or to bring back a keepsake as evidence if he won't come willingly.  That's never a good sign.  This guy's fearing the worst and down here, the worst isn't worth contemplating.

Steady journey, got a cart.  Cart cut out, but that's to be expected when nobody's made anything new for 20 years.  Some kind of whistling noise picks up.  Weapons maker fella starts getting himself all suspicious, aims down the length of the tunnel.  There's nothing there.  Our superior starts muttering about getting out of the tunnel, tried my best to reassure him, he starts walking into the darkness.  One of our guys clocks him, goes down like a baby with a belly full of milk.  Sweet dreams.  Car moves on, car dies, that noise gets louder, kind of sounds like somebody screaming?  This place is getting to me.  Everyone tries to keep their shit together, someone from the rear guard charges out of the oncoming darkness, guy with the rifle blows out his kneecap.  Jesus Christ, I won't forget that in a hurry.  Noises stop, more damned ghosts, more damned stories.  Got to get a grip.  Dose the kid in the car up, he doesn't survive the trip.  There's a couple doses I'll never see again.  Next time I'll just give him 'em my belt to bite on, no time to consider a bedside manner out here.  Car starts, gets us to safety.  Got to be thankful for the small mercies.

Went to see the local markets.  Found another weasel of a dealer, tried to convince me to pick off some guy named Bourbon headed out to Seleska recently.  Owes him something.  I ain't above killing but you're going to need a better reason that him making a bad deal with you.  Guy with the rifle comes up from behind, gets all hot under the collar about the name Bourbon.  Sounds like he's got a better reason.  Fine, I don't like doing dirty work for people who can handle their own problems but I've barely got a fortnight left before I start getting sick in a real hurry.

Gun pressed to my head.  We're being blamed for the kid in the car.  Can't say I can argue that point very well, there's blood on our hands, our fault or not.  Gonna be one hell of a day.

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