• Con on the Cob 2007: Day 3 – Interviews


    Con on the CobThough I was presented with numerous opportunities to get my game on again today, I abstained. Today was all about earning my press badge, so I wandered around the convention with a digital recorder and badgered people until they agreed to talk to me. Alas, due to a compatibility issue between operating system and digital recorder, I am unable to retrieve the interviews, or I’d spend a little pre-party time editing and uploading them. For now, I will provide a teaser list:

    • Brannon Hollingsworth of The Wandering Men. Brannon is one of five authors who collaborated on the upcoming, novel Skein of Shadows, and tie-in RPG setting, Crown: City of the Fallen.
    • Matt Duhan of Gozer Games. Matt designed Collateral Damage: The Anime Board Game.
    • Larry Elmore, legendary fantasy illustrator. Larry’s paintings have appeared on numerous roleplaying game source books and novels, and he helped define the look of Dragonlance. Recently, Larry did the cover for the final issue of Dragon magazine.
    • Sean Patrick Fannon of Talisman Studios. Shaintar is Sean’s forthcoming fantasy setting for the Savage Worlds system.
    • Steve Kenson of Green Ronin. Steve was the lead designer for Mutants & Masterminds: 2nd Edition and is currently working on the Wild Cards setting book, due to be released in August of 2008.
    • Evil Mike of Pinnacle Entertainment Group sat down for a few minutes to talk about The Savage World of Solomon Kane, the new licensed Savage Worlds game based on the works of Robert E. Howard.

    Maybe, just maybe, I’ll score another interview or two before I leave tonight.

    Once the interviews have been retrieved from the digital recorder and edited (to add intro and outro material as appropriate), they’ll be up on the Con*Live blog/feed and where ever else I can put them.

  • Con on the Cob 2007: Day 2 – Solomon Kane


    The Savage World of Solomon KaneThe Savage World of Solomon Kane
    Game Master: Evil Mike
    Scenario: Schläfrige Höhle”Schläfrige Höhle” (which translates roughly to “sleepy cave”) was the title given on the sign-up sheet for the game, though I suspect that Evil Mike changed the actual adventure at the last minute.

    If you (like me) aren’t a Robert E. Howard fanI have nothing at all against Robert E. Howard; I’ve just never read any of his novels., you may not be familiar with Solomon Kane. Fear not! Wikipedia has a very informative entry about the character. In a nutshell, he’s a gun-slinging, sword-wielding Puritan bent on vanquishing evil in 16th century Europe and Africa. Sounds like he’d be fun at a party, right?

    Solomon Kane mixes muzzle-loaders and swords with witches, warlocks and the horrors of the undead. In The Savage World of Solomon Kane, player characters follow what is called “the Path of Kane”; in our particular adventure, we had all at one point met Solomon Kane and were being guided by Kane’s shaman friend, N’Longa. Our party consisted of:

    • Erlich Goettler (played by me), a German woodsman who wields a two-handed great ax.
    • Montigue Bonet, a former thief. The Frenchman wields a short sword and an intense curiosity.
    • Richard Pettijohn (played by Gus), an English bowman.
    • Enigo de la Vega, a rapier-wielding Spaniard.
    • Joseph Smith, an English hunter armed with a mighty blunderbuss.
    • Sven Jammerhagen, the mighty Norwegian whose two-handed sword deals death with every blow.

    After an adventure in Germany’s Black ForestWas there cake? No. I do not believe there was cake., the heroes travel to the English farming village of Chelsea. Enigo has his rapier sharpened by the town blacksmithI swear that is not a euphemism. while Sven and Erlich quench their thirst at the local tavern. Meanwhile, Montigue and Joseph seek forgiveness of their recent sins at the local church. The priest and the blacksmith reveal that several of the townsfolk have disappeared in recent months, apparently vanished without a trace while working in the fields outside the walls of the town. Enigo and Richard visit the sheriff, an elderly man clearly unsuited to deal with these mysterious disappearances. The sheriff asks Enigo and Richard for their aid, and they agree, recruiting the remaining party members to the cause.

    Though it is already dusk and they learn that all of the apparent abductions have occurred after sunset, the party decides to investigate the cornfields, enlisting the aid of the sheriff’s honorary deputy, though he is only willing to assist them after assurances that he will be protected and no small amount of intimidation.

    As they travel to the fields, the deputy relates the legend of Jack Harrison, a warlock who was supposedly burned alive in those very fields by French marauders who sought to destroy Chelsea’s mint. The deputy’s tale is scarcely finished when the party stumbles upon three mutilated corpses, who the skittish deputy identifies as Mr. and Mrs. Johnson and their young son.Hmm. That’s a little unsettling.

    The sharp-eyed Montigue spots something unusual on one of the bodies: fresh pumpkin seeds, still wet and covered with pulp. Eying the nearby scarecrows, Sven marches into one of the fields with Montigue following close behind. As Sven nears the scarecrow (whose head is not, as the Norwegian suspected, a pumpkin, but a burlap-covered bundle of straw), the horrible hodmedod comes to life, pulling a scythe from behind its back!

    Montigue steps around Sven and delivers a quick blow with his sword, rendering the scarecrow to little more than tattered burlap and scattered straw. Enigo runs to assist and the very ground seems to come alive, a hulking creature with a glowing pumpkin head rising from the soil to strike at the Spaniard. As quickly as the creature appeared, it is gone again, melting into the cornfield without a trace.

    “Pumpkin Jack!” the deputy cries, seeing the enormous being with its glowing head. The nervous little man faints dead away and his lantern goes dark. Richard Pettijohn readies his bow and sends an arrow through the air toward another scarecrow, while two more of the animated creatures—these, like Pumpkin Jack, with orange gourds atop their shoulders— advance on Joseph and Erlich. The creatures are quickly dispatched, but Smith is unable to accept that they were animated by supernatural means; surely, the hunter says, the scarecrows were carried by bandits who fled into the darkness when the straw men were destroyed by arrow, sword and blunderbuss.Smith has the Doubting Thomas Hindrance, which was played quite nicely by his player.

    Once assured that the immediate threat has been vanquished, Goettler and Jammerhagen examine the tattered remains and discover strange gold coins, which Bonet identifies as having been minted at precisely the time when Jack Harrison was said to be burned alive in the fields. The deputy notes that the mint is nearby, through the woods at the edge of the field, but Pettijohn insists that the body of the young boy be returned to the village before the party continues to the mint. The deputy volunteers to carry the body back to the village, allowing the party to carry on toward the mint, and perhaps the warlock.

    In the dark forest, the adventurers hear strange noises that they are unable to identify. Without warning, eight massive spiders descend from the trees and, after alighting on the forest floor, ensnare several members of the party with their webs. Soon, swords are swinging once more, some with the purpose of cutting away the sticky webbing, others with the intent of destroying the attacking arachnids.

    In the heat of battle, Joseph Smith’s mighty blunderbuss misfires, sending a shot directly at Enigo de la Vega. Acting with near-preternatural speed, Sven Jamerhagen throws himself into the path of the blast, taking a near-fatal shot that would surely have killed the smaller man.During this game, we made use of the Savage Worlds Adventure Deck. Each player began the game with a card that could alter the course of events at some point of his choosing. In this particular instance, I was holding the “Noble Sacrifice” card, which would allow me to take all of the damage dealt to one member of the party standing adjacent to me. Unfortunately, Erlich and Enigo were not adjacent to one another. Fortunately for Enigo, players are allowed to trade cards with one another and the hardy Norwegian was standing next to him. Sven’s player and I switched cards and Enigo was spared from death, much to the dismay of Big Mike.

    Erlich’s massive ax swings again and again, first freeing the woodsman from the sticky silken strands, then smashing two of the spiders. Steel blades flash in the light of the waning moon and soon the eight-legged horrors are all dead.

    In the aftermath of the battle, Erlich heals two of his companions’ minor wounds, but is unable to repair any of the damage done to Sven Jammerhagen by the mis-fired blunderbuss. Despite his wounds, the Norwegian presses on, unwilling to rest until the malevolent spirit that terrorizes the villagers has been defeated.

    When the adventurers arrive at the abandoned mint, they are met by none other than Pumpkin Jack himself. The pumpkin-headed warlock mocks the men, unwittingly revealing a weakness that the sheriff’s deputy had either forgotten in his retelling of the tale or simply did not know: magic weapons that the warlock himself forged.This was an exceptional bit of cooperation by Joseph and Montigue’s players, who played a combination of adventure cards that resulted in the villain running off at the mouth and revealing his weakness. Each player can play only one adventure card per game, so the timing on this was perfect. Montigue slipps into the mint, hoping to find one of the weapons hidden within, while Erlich, Joseph, Sven and Richard prepare to do battle with Pumpkin Jack.

    Enigo, who did not approach the mint with the others, wheels around when he hears a noise behind him. A monstrous spider, easily ten times larger than those the men fought in the forest, is bearing down on him! The swordsman turns tail and runs, shouting a warning to his companions as he leads the giant arachnid directly toward them.

    Sven Jammerhagen, faced with horrors beyond his ability to comprehend, flees Pumpkin Jack’s glowing visage and finds himself instead locked in combat with the massive spider. Though he is severely wounded, the Norwegian still wields his sword skillfully, cutting the beast down even as two more trundle out of the woods.

    Meanwhile, Montigue has located precisely what he sought: a finely forged French rapier hidden in the mint. Drawing the blade, the former thief races back into the fray and finds his hopes realized as the enchanted sword deals incredible damage to Pumpkin Jack, where Enigo’s efforts with his own rapier had proven ineffective only seconds earlier. Weakened by the eldritch energies coursing through the French sword, Pumpkin Jack is destroyed by a blast from Joseph’s blunderbuss. Its master slain, the remaining spider attempts to flee back to the safety of the woods, but is cut down by Sven’s mighty sword.

    Evil vanquished, townspeople safe once more, the six adventurers once again resume their journey on the Path of Kane, not knowing where N’Longa will send them next, nor what horrors they’ll face once there.

    If it’s not immediately obvious, this game was a blast to play. Evil Mike was a great Game Master; he kept things fast and fun, rewarding players when they did something particularly clever and punishing them when they were playing Enigo.Evil Mike and Allen (Enigo’s player) were well acquainted, and Evil Mike apparently had a history of killing Allen’s characters. Under some circumstances, targeting one player for death might seem…well, dickish, but I think everyone at the table would agree that it was done in such a way that it kept the game fun and didn’t take away from anyone else’s (or even Allen’s) enjoyment of the game. Having witnessed the Savage Worlds combat system in action earlier in the day, it was great to get the opportunity to dive in and give it a go myself.

  • Con on the Cob 2007: Day 2 – Savage Worlds


    Con on the CobI’ve written a few posts about our Savage Worlds game, which is just getting started. In fact, it’s so early in the game that full-fledged combat has yet to ensue.

    After buying some new diceGaming geeks can never have too many dice, so I picked up a full set of polyhedrons: black and red w/gold numbers. I also grabbed a black-and-red velvet dice bag. Gus bought a new set, too, but I was disappointed that he didn’t spring for the hematite set; is forty bucks too much to spend for seven or eight dice? this morning, we stumbled on a game of Savage Worlds in progress and combat had just begun.

    Savage Worlds by Shane Lacy HensleyInitiative is determined by a deck of standard playing cards, with the Joker being wild (the player who is dealt the Joker can go whenever he wants, even if it means interrupting another player or NPC). This seems to work pretty well and saves the Game Master the hassle of having to keep track of each player’s initiative; a quick looks around the table (cards are dealt face up) tells him who goes next.

    Combat was handled very quickly, and soon lead was flying every which way. The Englishman sauntered to the center of the bar and whipped out his twin pistols, putting down two of Val Resnick’s goons before their guns cleared their holsters. Sledge and The Swede burst in the back door, and soon the barking of the six guns was joined by the thunder of a shotgun and the rapid tattoo of a Thompson machine gun.

    Each time a gun was fired, the player rolled two dice—his attack roll and a six-sided “wild die”—and used the higher result of the two. Any time a die rolled its maximum value, that die was re-rolled and the new value was added to the total. The base target is 4, and a successful hit may have one or more “raises” depending upon how well the attacker rolled (every 4 points over the target results in a raise). These raises may cause additional damage and certain Feats add attack and damage bonuses or even allow multiple attacks in a single round (e.g., Double Tap). The result was usually quite dramatic as bullets and buckshot peppered the gangsters and their foes alike.

    Savage Worlds game in progress at Con on the Cob 2007
    The whole thing was fun to watch, and each player added his own cinematic flair to the gunplay, be it a snappy comment, a twirling pistol, or even offering a helpless, trussed up accountant a cigarette. I walked away with a good feeling for how the Savage Worlds system works and a strong desire to have my grizzled gumshoe kick some ass.

  • Savage Worlds: Meet Mack Noland


    Savage Worlds by Shane Lacy Hensley
    If you’re at all curious about the character generation process in Savage Worlds, this entry may be of interest to you. I’m going to describe in detail how I went about creating Mack Noland prior to our first gaming session. If you’re the type of person who cringes at the thought of hearing about someone else’s roleplaying game character, you’re probably going to want to give this post a wide berth and come back a little later in the week.

    I make no guarantee that I did this the right way, but I followed the character generation guidelines in the core rulebook to the best of my abilities. Experienced Savage Worlds players should feel free to point out any areas where I may have mis-stepped.

    The first step in character generation is choosing a Race. The game Gus is running is set in New York, New York on our fair planet of Earth sometime in the 1930s, so the only Race available was (presumably) human. Thus, Mack Noland is a genuine human being, and that means his first Edge is free. More on that in a bit.

    The next step is Traits, which are made up of Attributes, Skills and Derived Statistics.

    The five Attributes are Agility, Smarts, Spirit, Strength and Vigor. Each Attribute begins at a base level of d4 and costs 1 point to raise to the next level (d6, d8, d10 and d12). Starting characters get five points toward adjusting their stats, and this is how Mack’s Attributes looked initially:

    Agility d6 (1 point)
    Smarts d8 (2 points)
    Spirit d6 (1 point)
    Strength d6 (1 point)
    Vigor d4 (no change)

    Instead of choosing Skills next, I decided to pick Mack’s Hindrances, those physical and personality flaws that are going to make life interesting for him. Each Hindrance is classified as major or minor, depending upon how much impact it will have on the character’s life. Characters can have as many Hindrances as the player wants, but they only get “points” for one major Hindrance and two minor Hindrances. These points can be used to raise attributes, get additional starting funds, buy additional Edges, or add Skill points. Mack’s Hindrances are as follows:

    • Lame. While on the police force, Mack was wounded in the line of duty. The bullet is still lodged deep in his right leg, so Mack walks with a pronounced limp and carries a cane with him where ever he goes. This is classified as a major Hindrance and reduces Mack’s Pace (one of the Derived Stats) by 2.
    • Ugly. Never a pretty boy to begin with, Mack had a rough-and-tumble life as a young lad on the streets of the Big Apple. His nose is markedly crooked, having been broken twice in street brawls, and he sports a jagged, white scar on his left cheek, stretching from the outside corner of his left eye to just above his jawline. This is a minor Hindrance and gives Mack a -2 to his Charisma (another Derived Stat).
    • Doubting Thomas. Mack doesn’t believe in anything that can’t be punched, stabbed or shot. Thanks to this minor Hindrance, Mack will suffer a -2 penalty to Guts rolls when confronted with supernatural horrors that he cannot deny.

    Once Mack’s Hindrances were assigned, I used the 2 points I gained from the major Hindrance to bump his Spirit Attribute from d6 to d8. Mack’s final Attributes are as follows:

    Agility d6
    Smarts d8
    Spirit d8
    Strength d6
    Vigor d4

    Next it was time to choose a number of Skills for my disgraced-cop-turned-private-investigator. Starting characters get 15 points of Skills, to which I added the 2 remaining points I gained from Mack’s minor Hindrances. Each Skill is tied to an Attribute, and buying and/or raising a Skill costs one point per die-level (the levels again: d4, d6, d8, d10 and d12), and raising a Skill beyond the level of the corresponding attribute costs 2 points per level. Mack’s Skills are:

    Driving (Agility) d6 (2 points)
    Fighting (Agility) d6 (2 points)
    Gambling (Smarts) d4 (1 point)
    Guts (Spirit) d8 (3 points)
    Investigation (Smarts) d8 (3 points)
    Lockpicking (Agility) d4 (1 point)
    Shooting (Agility) d6 (2 points)
    Streetwise (Smarts) d8 (3 points)

    Once the Skills were selected, I calculated Mack’s Derived Stats: Pace, Parry, Toughness and Charisma. The base value for Pace is 6, but Mack is Lame, so his Pace is reduced to 4. Parry is calculated by adding 2 to half of the Fighting Skill (2 + 3), so Mack’s Parry is 5. Toughness is 2 plus half of the Vigor Attribute (2 + 2), so Mack’s Toughness is 4. Finally, Charisma has a base value of 0; Mack is Ugly, so his Charisma is -2.

    As a Human, Mack gets one free Edge, and I chose Investigator, which gives him a +2 bonus on all Investigation and Streetwise rolls, as well as a +2 bonus to Notice rolls made while searching through evidence. Each Edge has some prerequisites, and Mack’s Attributes and Skills were specifically geared toward meeting those: Smarts d8+, Investigation d8+ and Streetwise d8+. The character Rank requirement for Investigator is Novice, which is the Rank at which all new characters start.

    Once all the numbers were in place, the only remaining tasks were to buy Gear and flesh out Mack’s background. New characters get $500 in starting currency, so I equipped Mack with a Smith & Wesson .44 revolver, a blackjack, brass knuckles, a lighter, a cigarette case, street clothes, a cane, and just under two hundred bucks of folding money.

    As for the background, most of the significant details had come into light while I was assigning Attributes, Skills, Hindrances and Edges. He’s a grizzled private investigator who used to be a member of the NYPD until he was forced into early retirement following a bribery scandal. Mack was innocent, and the charges of accepting bribes were never proved, but his reputation was ruined and upper brass used his old injury as an excuse to force him to retire, then took advantage of a clever loophole to deny him his pension. Down but not out, Mack got a private investigator’s license and his since gained a reputation among his former colleagues as a royal pain in the ass, owing mostly to his uncanny ability to spot the clues that the police detectives overlook and beat them to their crime-solving punch.

  • Gamestuff: Savage Worlds, Session 1


    Savage Worlds by Shane Lacy HensleyChris, Gus and I got together last night to play Savage Worlds a role-playing game by Shane Lacy Hensley, published by Great White Games. I picked up a copy of the core rulebook at Con on the Cob last year, Chris picked up the Explorer’s Guide1The Explorer’s Guide is essentially the same content, with errata and updates, as the core rulebook at a third of the price. I’m not bitter. At all. at Origins in July, and Gus downloaded the Explorer’s Guide last week.

    Gus volunteered to run the game early this week, specifying that the setting would be New York City sometime in the 1930’s/1940’s and we’d be playing in the pulp/action/horror genre. Chris and I spent an hour or so last night generating our characters and finished up just as Gus arrived.

    Chris is Templeton Dirge, a professor of the occult at New York University. Dirge is everything a professor of the occult should be: arrogant, filthy rich and British. He’s smooth and sophisticated, has a keen eye for detail, and just might be a handy guy to have around when fists and bullets start flying.

    I am Mack Noland,2Mack didn’t have a last name until Gus called him “Mack No-Last-Name”. I grabbed the first letters of each word, and declared that his full name was “Mack Nolan”. That … Continue reading a grizzled ex-cop turned even-more-grizzled private investigator. Mack walks with a limp, looks like he’s been on the wrong end of a baseball bat and a carving knife a couple of times, and doesn’t buy into any of this spooky supernatural horsepuckey. On the other hand, he’s a damn good private dick and he’s packing heat.

    As our story begins, the Professor and the P.I. are complete strangers, but a mysterious postcard from none other than John D. Rockefeller summons both men to the famed industrialist’s stately manor to discuss the acquisition of “a book”.

    Met at the door by a butler, Dirge and Noland are ushered to Rockefeller’s library and informed that the master of the house will join them shortly. While the Professor peruses the impressive collection of literature, the Gumshoe smokes a cigarette and makes himself comfortable in an armchair that likely cost more than the annual rent for his office and apartment combined.

    Moments later, the butler returns, explaining that Mr. Rockefeller has been delayed and offering refreshments. Ever the gentleman, Dirge requests a cup of hot Earl Grey tea, while Noland gruffly demands a glass of whiskey. The beverages arrive in a matter of moments, and an uncomfortable silence occupies the room while both men sip their drinks.

    As the last of the whiskey burns its way down Noland’s throat, there is a disturbance in the front hall. A loud pounding on the manor’s front door precedes an equally-loud demand that the door be opened, on no less authority than that of the New York City Police Department.

    Neither Dirge nor Noland makes a move to open the door—surely that’s the domain of Rockefeller’s manservant—but after it becomes abundantly clear that the butler has no intention of fulfilling his duties and the police make their intent to batter the door down if necessary, the P.I. sets his empty whiskey glass down, exits the library, and opens the door…to find the barrels of five service revolvers and one Lieutenant Bill Dillinger—a familiar face indeed—staring back at him.

    The Occultist and the Gumshoe quickly explain their presence at the Rockefeller manor, turning the mysterious postcards over to Lt. Dillinger, who reports that they’ve received word of a disturbance. Dillinger crosses to Rockefeller’s study and opens the door, then invites Noland to have a look in the room. Instinct tells the P.I. what the Lieutenant already knows: John D. Rockefeller lies dead on the floor, a bullet hole in the center of his forehead. Around the bloody hole, someone—presumably the killer—has drawn a large, black spider. The gruesome sight stirs a dim recollection in Noland’s mind, something about a vigilante killer dispatching criminals in a similar fashion and leaving the eight-legged embellishment as his macabre calling card.

    Dillinger confirms Noland’s suspicions, mentioning a series of killings attributed to an outlaw the police refer to as “The Spider”. “But,” the Lieutenant says, “this guy only kills criminals, and Rockefeller’s clean. No ties to the mob whatsoever.”

    Noland sneers at this. “You and I both know, Bill, when we’re talking about as much money as Johnny’s got, there’s always something stinking up the cellar.”

    Dillinger places both men under arrest and Noland turns his Smith & Wesson .44 over to the boys in blue, noting that the chamber is fully loaded and the gun clearly hasn’t been recently fired. Dirge is unarmed, and while he is being frisked his keen eye spots something out of sorts on the desk: a rectangular area, roughly the size of a book, conspicuously absent of dust.

    “Looks like the butler hasn’t been doing is job,” Noland comments gruffly.

    “That’s just it,” Dillinger replies, “the butler was let go weeks ago.” Rockefeller, it seems, has yet to hire a replacement.

    “Are you going to come along quietly” asks Dillinger, “or do I need to have the boys cuff you?”

    Noland and Dirge agree to cooperate and Dillinger forgoes the handcuffs.

    As the police escort their suspects out of the manor, a shot rings out in the darkness and one of the Lieutenant’s men collapses. A second shot fells another flatfoot and Dillinger barks at his men to retreat. Noland and Dirge duck behind the tall pillars outside the double doors leading into the house as a third shot catches another of the officers in the shoulder.

    “Hey, Mack,” Lt. Dillinger yells, perhaps coming to the realization that his suspects are telling the truth. “You want your gun back?”

    Noland responds in the affirmative and a second later his trusty .44 is soaring through the air in a graceful arc. The Detective snatches the revolver out of the air, then follows Dirge back into the house.

    The Professor, unarmed and recognizing that he has nothing to add to this particular fracas, ducks into the study to get a better look at the crime scene. Meanwhile, Noland races to the library, returning a moment later with a lit kerosene lantern. Running out onto the front steps of the manor, the P.I. lobs the lantern into the darkness, hoping to shed a little light on the scene and perhaps reveal their attacker. Alas, Noland isn’t a young man anymore, and the limp he sports as a result of a gunshot wound suffered in his days on the force slows him down; the lantern doesn’t fly as far as he’d hoped, and when it lands, the kerosene lights the hedge lining the driveway ablaze.

    After a few tense moments it appears that the gunman (or woman) has fled, so Dillinger’s men assist their wounded comrade to their patrol car and the Lieutenant returns to the manor. The attacker has been playing possum, however, and the next bullet catches Dillinger in the shoulder. Returning from the study, Dirge hauls the Lieutenant into the safety of the house while Noland closes the door behind them. A moment later the sound of two explosions comes from outside, muffled by the manor’s thick walls, and Noland surmises that the police cars parked in the driveway have been obliterated, along with their unfortunate occupants.

    Dirge and Noland drag the wounded Dillinger into the library, where the Professor attempts to staunch the bleeding while Noland’s attempts to ring the police are stymied by a decidedly dead phone line. Satisfied that the unconscious policeman won’t bleed to death before help arrives, Dirge suggests that finding another way out of the house may be in order. Noland agrees, but before leaving the library he retrieves the postcards from Dillinger’s jacket pocket and Dirge avails himself of the incapacitated lawman’s service revolver.

    The two men conduct a quick search of the ground floor and find what appears to be a servant’s entrance near the kitchen. Gun drawn, Noland kicks open the door only to find a beautiful, frightened woman hiding behind it. Sensing that the situation requires far more finesse (and, quite frankly, charm) than the P.I. is capable of, Dirge intercedes and attempts to calm the blonde, berobed damsel. “Put the gun away,” the Occultist advises, “and fetch the young lady a drink, won’t you?”

    “Oh, I’m the butler, now?” Noland grumbles, but holsters his revolver and returns to the study, where he breaks into Rockefeller’s well-stocked liquor cabinet and pours a generous glass of brandy.

    The booze seems to have a calming effect on the distressed dame, and as she starts to sip her second glass of brandy, she finally speaks. Her name, as coincidence would have it, is Brandy, and she knows something about a book; specifically the Book of the Dead.

    “Sumerian or Egyptian?” Dirge asks, surprising the woman with his knowledge of the subject.

    As the Occultist and the Damsel discuss the nuances of necronomica, the trio adjourns to the study, where Noland notices that Brandy—if her confused glances at the empty spot on Rockefeller’s desk are any indication—had expected to find a (if not the) book.

    Brandy is caught off-guard when the Gumshoe confronts her, but nothing could have prepared either of them for the next words to come out of Templeton Dirge’s mouth.

    “Brandy, my dear,” the Professor says, smirking slightly, “your hair seems to be somewhat askance.”

    Instantly, Brandy’s demeanor changes. Before either man can react, the young woman peels back a blonde wig to reveal a head of short, brunette hair. In the same motion, she shrugs out of her all-concealing robe and draws a pistol from the shoulder holster on the form-fitting flight suit she wears beneath it.

    Dirge persuades Brandy to lower her weapon and offers his postcard as evidence that—whatever her business with Rockefeller and the Book of the Dead may be—he and Noland are not involved and neither man means her any harm.

    Brandy tells Dirge that the book missing from Rockefeller’s desk is a diary believed to contain the location of the original Egyptian Book of the Dead.

    The trio moves their conversation into the library and the Professor is in the process of checking the dressing on Dillinger’s wound when Brandy draws her revolver again, aiming the weapon at the incapacitated officer. Dirge positions himself in the line of fire and Noland levels his .44 at Brandy.

    “You don’t understand,” she protests. “He’s here for the book, too!”

    This time it is Noland who persuades Brandy to lower her gun. The lieutenant clearly isn’t a threat in his current condition, and it’s a bit much to ask the Detective to take the dame’s word against an old colleague’s. Brandy holsters her pistol once more, then cocks her head to one side. “Listen,” she says. “Do you hear that?”

    The sound of approaching sirens would normally be a welcome one, but Brandy insists that they must all flee before additional law enforcement personnel descend upon the manor. Against his better judgment, Noland agrees to accompany Brandy, but not before leaving a hastily scrawled note for the unconscious Lt. Dillinger: Bill. We didn’t do it. Really. Mack.

    Any compunctions Templeton Dirge might have about fleeing the scene of a crime are overwhelmed by the idea that he might actually be on the trail of the original Egyptian Book of the Dead. He, too, agrees to go with Brandy, and soon the trio is roaring away from the Rockefeller estate in the raven-haired beauty’s sporty roadster.

    To be continued…

    1 The Explorer’s Guide is essentially the same content, with errata and updates, as the core rulebook at a third of the price. I’m not bitter. At all.
    2 Mack didn’t have a last name until Gus called him “Mack No-Last-Name”. I grabbed the first letters of each word, and declared that his full name was “Mack Nolan”. That was a bit to close to Mack “The Executioner” Bolan for my liking, so I tacked a “d” on the end.
  • NaNoWriMo, Day 05: Confuzzled


    Let’s take a quick look at the numbers, shall we?

    Given an optimal daily output of 1,667, today’s target is 8,335. When the zero words I wrote today are added to the zero words I wrote yesterday and that number is added to my Wednesday-through-Friday total of 2,762 we see that I have made absolutely no progress since Friday, and I am 5,573 words off the pace.

    Thank you, Con on the Cob, for being a convenient excuse. Had I not attended, I would have had to conjure up some sort of lame reason that I didn’t get any writing done this weekend.

    One of the things I picked up at the con is a print of “Responsibility” by Nigel Sade. It’s a stylized version of the emblem Spider-Man bears on his chest. Sade has done similar works titled “Vengeance” (Batman), “Power” (Green Lantern) and “Justice” (Superman). If I’d had another thirty dollars in my wallet, I would have bought the “Vengeance” print as well. All four works can be seen at Studio de Sade. Click the image on the left for a much larger version of the graphic.

    I also bought Savage Worlds, a roleplaying game from Great White Games. The entire idea behind Savage Worlds is to make roleplaying “fast, furious and fun”. I’d probably classify the system as “rules-light”; the core rules are contained in a single 139-page book rather than spread out over separate weighty tomes for players and game masters. Leafing through the book, I see information on everything from orcs and elves to aerial dogfighting and car chases. I’m already imagining a crazy blend of Crimson Skies and The Road Warrior and I haven’t even read the chapter on Game Mastering yet.

    Captain America by RAK

    Last and least (in terms of size), I bought three of Robert A. Kraus‘ Superfreeks. These were available in several different sizes, but I opted for the $100 bill. Each Superfreek (I bought Captain America, Batman and Optimus Prime) replaces Benjamin Franklin’s head on the $100 bill, and each mock bill is signed by the artist. You may be wondering what wise old Ben Franklin ever did to deserve such treatment. Well I’ll tell you one thing he didn’t do: transform into a semi-truck.

    Tomorrow night, the gang is getting together to record the second half of The Round Table Season Two, Episode 5, which we had to postpone Friday night due to technical difficulties. Wasn’t I supposed to be writing a novel this month?