Archive for August, 2012

Slipping into Shipstream

30 Aug

There won’t be a stream today, but the next stream will be soon. Why the delay? Because you can have a chance to be on it! Simply mail an envelope containing your true name and a pinch of your dead skin cells, and I’ll begin the process of selling your soul into ethereal slavery. And if you wanted to be on the stream, read below!

As I understand it, the game The Ship involves a good amount of players at once. Well, Jibar, Phase, BlackFox and I are going to be playing it at a date to be determined, and it seems like there might be the opportunity for some of you to hop on if you’re in the neighborhood. Spots will be minimal, so don’t run out and buy the game in the vain hope you might get to play it with some Z-tier internet butt-tacos or anything, because it’s not guaranteed.

But if you’ve already got it, watch this general area for a date and time.

 

 

On Inconvenient Lizards: The Redemption of Cahmel (Let’s Play Skyrim, Part 7.5)

23 Aug

Beyond the dead Dunmer dumbass lay, to my mild surprise, the actual “barrow” part of the barrow. Thousands of years of entombed Nords lay bare in bare cubbies in a stone tunnel so that even in death, they might completely freeze their asses off. I can’t say I really felt the need to go exploring; as a general rule, Nords with pulses are boring enough. Besides, I had the claw, so any further murdering I did was going to be pro bono.

On the other hand, the Dunmer started running into the tunnel, not out of it. So either he knew something I don’t, or through the tunnel is the shortest least-dangerous way out of here, or he was soundly and comprehensively stupid.

I’d technically scientifically proven the last case, but I plugged on anyway.

Within the slushified brain of one of the withered corpses, some violent, primal instinct was firing for the first time in centuries. Along with a couple dozen stimuli, all of them bad news, came dim recollection. Untold years ago some skinny-ass greybeard had asked if he’d mind volunteering to protect something, and that it’d be a big help, and the conversation that had followed had been long and full of big words and his memories of it were all pickled in crappy mead, but when he lay on his deathbed dying of sheep syphilis his last thought had been, “Ah, wait, hang on, am I supposed to do something?” And now whatever peace he’d, purely for the sake of argument, earned was being snatched away and he felt his old rusted-up body had been stuffed into a small cold hard box and filled to the brim with murderous energy. His back hurt. He was freezing cold. He was pretty much naked. He was waking up, and he was stupid, and he was mad.

Hissing, growling, he pushed himself out of his cubby, saw me, and charged.

Which was an important piece of data. Apparently sheep syphilis destroys the part of the brain that remembers not to charge someone holding a longer axe.

I think I heard his teeth break against each other.

 

Stream Tomorrow

22 Aug

Another Cahmel post, and a Cahmel stream, will come tomorrow. The post should go up first; the stream will be at about 5:00 PM PST. There, square, etc.

Note that this will probably end up being the final Shivering Isles stream.

 
 

On Inconvenient Lizards: The Redemption of Cahmel (Let’s Play Skyrim, Part 7)

21 Aug

"What do you think of those falls?" "Pretty bleak." "Yeah. Let's build that barrow here."

Bleak Falls Barrow was an example of the “holy frozen goat testicles this is sweet” school of architecture, which was phased out when modern Skyrim adopted its modern traditions of perpetual boredom. Note the use of sweeping stone spires that take advantage of the modern topography. Were the same structure constructed today, it would be six feet tall and made of straw and sheep turds.

The ruins were desolate and freezing and a million miles from anywhere worth being, and several miles from any town in Skyrim. But on the plus side, they were infested with bandits.

The foyer(?) of the barrow held a brazier and a few guards on patrol. The area around them was fringed with deep, cool shadow.

"I think I just heard an axe cleaving through steel plate and smashing apart the life-giving organs within. It's probably nothing."

After considering my equipment and my environment, I dealt with the threat in the most efficient manner devisable. I first tucked myself into a dark corner, away from any of their sight. Then I waited until one of the patrolling guards moved away from the others, and while the other two were distracted, I planted an arrow in his head.

He didn’t even scream as the shaft buried itself into his skull. I waited for him to fall forward, his own momentum carrying him away from the firelight into shadow, but instead he slipped to his knees. His torso wobbled unsteadily on its waist, pitching back and forth, towards shadow and towards light again. I held my breath, readied another arrow…

The body slipped backwards towards the firelight, landing inches away from another bandit, who was currently gazing at the fire.

Slowly, silently, I nocked another arrow—never taking my eyes off the other bandit. I had to loose another shaft before she turned around, or I was rumbled. And then—I fought with the string, hands practically slipping off the arrowshaft in panic—I saw her begin to turn around.

She turned, and saw the body.

Then she walked briskly towards the wall.

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Barney and the New Suit

20 Aug

The Gentlemen were muggers, housebreakers, extortionists, ginrunners, and–collectively speaking–as dumb as a basket of rocks. Barney was going to do well here.

That morning he was roused by two men in threadbare, hand-mended jackets and trousers. The men were friendly and made lots of jokes, a few of which Barney obviously wasn’t supposed to get. He laughed at them anyway. One of the two had a rolled-up cigarette, which was probably at least partially tobacco, and he handled it with flourishing gestures like he was showing off a stopwatch or a diamond bracelet. The other liked to tuck his hands into his pockets, where he obviously had some kind of hand weapon. Neither smelled very good.

The first thing they did was get him a suit. They brought him around the block to a run-down clothiers, all broken windows and crumbling bricks, the sort of place Barney had assumed was closed down. They took him right past the racks of suits near the door and went for the tailor, a thin bald man, who was at work in the back. “The usual,” they said, and that was all they said. Then they sat down, watching and drumming their feet while the tailor stammered and took measurements and sweated. Barney’s new suit came from a rack at the back, and was adjusted to his dimensions in no time at all.

“It is comfortable, yes, sir?” he asked when the suit was fitted.

“It’ll do,” said Barney. The two men laughed and slapped the tailor on the back.

They brought Barney out into the alley, circling and nudging him. “Nice, isn’t it?” said the one with the cigarette.

“Sure is,” he said.

“You’re gonna want to take real care of it, aren’t ya? Treat it like a precious little flower, yeah?”

“Yeah,” he said.

“Wrong,” said the other, and he kicked Barney’s legs out from under him.

Both men laid into him. They’d obviously been waiting for this, and they were still as organized as a bag of loose pins, getting in each others’ ways and nearly tripping each other trying to kick and stomp him. Barney rolled with the attacks for a second while he decided how he should respond, but only for a second. This wasn’t the kind of situation Barney dealt with philosophically.

He caught one of their feet and threw it back, kicked at the other to push him away, scrambled backwards and up and away. That didn’t faze them much. They were still grinning like they’d been looking forward to this all day. They waited a second, glancing to see what the other was doing, and rushed him like they were trying to catch a runaway goose.

Barney rushed left and kicked Cigarette in the gut as he went by, nearly twisting Barney’s foot off of his ankle and bearing Cigarette to the ground at an ugly angle. Weapon-in-the-pocket stepped over Cigarette and grabbed Barney’s new lapels and pulled, and they both fell, tripping over the other man and sprawling to the ground. Barney tried to get up, and someone kicked him in the head. He threw a few random and savage blows at the pile and struggled to get to his feet.

He managed to get into a crouch just in time for Cigarette, who had made it no further, to smash his lip open. Barney grabbed him by the shoulders and pushed him into the wall. Weapon wrapped his arms around Barney’s legs and tried to pull him down, but Barney kicked savagely, and something that wasn’t Barney’s foot broke. Weapon screamed in sudden, unexpected agony, and Barney was released.

“Hold your fuckin’ horses,” yelled Cigarette.

Barney took a few steps back, hands raised to grapple. Cigarette raised his hands, glanced down at his moaning comrade, and helped him off the ground. Neither were smiling anymore.

“We was just going to muss your suit,” said Weapon. “It’s a Gentleman tradition for new lads.”

“Was that all?” Barney wiped his lip. “Well, no worries, then. I mussed yours plenty.”

There were no more jokes for the rest of the day.

 
 

Doctor Lee’s Circus of Sin: Part 4

17 Aug

Low on water, light-headed, weak-limbed, Simon and Tom made their way to Doctor Lee’s caravan. Though they didn’t know it, theirs was to be the final artifact required.

Simon went first into the caravan–a hot, claustrophobic space littered with half-written letters, faded signs, empty bottles of water. At its back was a steamer trunk. Simon told Tom to guard the door, and popped the lid open.

Sand demons leapt from the box and dove down his throat. Simon choked and gagged as most of the moisture was wicked from his already dry body. He collapsed, gasping for water, too weak even to stand.

Tom glanced out the door of the caravan. No-one was coming.

He sat down by Simon’s side, patted him on the head, told him everything was going to be alright…

…and gave him the last of the water from the suitcase.

As Simon regained his strength, Garret and Sandra arrived. By comparing notes, they discovered that they had every artifact except one. This, they presumed, had been found by the others.

“Let’s meet them, then,” said Simon, and stepped outside just as Leonard rushed him with a knife.

Leonard slashed him across the chest, dropping the old man, but not quite finishing him. He redoubled his grip and plunged downwards, but not before Sandra bullrushed him, driving her own knife into his eye.

Leonard hit the ground like a dropped skillet. Sandra barely had time to spit before she faded from sight.

One of them was saved, and now it was time for the rest to leave. They found the corpse of Polly in the church. She was beginning to awaken, to find that she was stuck here along with everyone else. She wasn’t too happy. She screamed, and begged, and insisted that it wasn’t her fault that she was here–that it wasn’t fair. The others had a different opinion.

***
And then they were waiting at a train station–Simon, Tom, Sandra, Garret–cold bottles of water in their hands, tickets in their pockets, with no idea how they’d come to be there. They wouldn’t be able to hear each other over the train whistle, if any of them had spoken, but none of them were going to. There wasn’t much to say.

(That was where the session ended. This is part of a planned trilogy of adventures, with the next one taking place in modern day Nevada. You’ll see more of it at some point down the line).

 

 

The Week to Come

15 Aug

Tomorrow’s stream is canceled on account of a power outage in my community, but I’m greasing up some other stuff to take its place. Specifically:

Friday: Final Western Game Post

Saturday: Cahmel Again

Sunday (probably not Sunday morning): More Barney

 

 
 

On Inconvenient Lizards: The Redemption of Cahmel (Let’s Play Skyrim, Part 6)

10 Aug

(See note re: stream below.)

“So,” said the town merchant, “the answer to your question is yes, I will buy these bloodstained garments, similar to those a bard might wear.”

“Outstanding.”

“…but I do have to ask: how’d they get the big axe slash in them?”

“They were like that when I got them back from the cleaners.”

“Cleaners? But they’re soaked in blood and gore!”

“Yeah. I didn’t tip very well.”

Before long he’d taken the garments, and the Stormcloak tunics, and a few frozen clutches of spider eggs, and some hanks of wolf fur, and some other stuff I’d carried around with the general adventurer’s understanding that it’d be useful later, or, failing that, that some sucker would give me good honest cash for it. I don’t know what he was planning to do with most of that stuff, but I wished him all the luck in the world marketing treasonous military uniforms and mishandled bug embryos to the half-dozen Imperial citizens that made up his customer base.

“Anyway,” I asked, “Did I hear you and your sister arguing about something when I came in?”

“Oh,” he said, “It’s nothing. Just a quest. You wouldn’t be interested in anything like that, Im sure.”

“As a matter of fact, I’m on a mission to restore my family’s honor through frightening acts of violence.”

“Oh. I stand corrected. Here are the details.”

Apparently a trinket of theirs, a golden claw, had been stolen recently. The thieves had taken it up to a hideout or something to the northish, in a place auspiciously named Bleak Falls Barrow. I was charged to go retrieve the trinket by any means necessary. I was promised a reward for bringing it back that probably almost approximated a tenth of the item’s value, but that was alright, because I wasn’t in this line of work for the money; I was in it for the respect. It’s much easier to get rich once you’re widely respected.

The journey out into the wilds was about what I’d expected: cold, dark, miserable, dreary, windy, and chock-bursting with slavering wildlife and bandits. Thankfully, the bandits were frankly pretty unimpressive. You’d think outlaws sneering in the face of Imperial justice in the most savage, inhospitable, violent country in the world would be made of something besides marzipan and nervous enthusiasm, but none of them managed to so much as cuss before I hacked them into cordwood. It’s somewhat surprising that they hadn’t already been wiped out by a patrol. Or a militia. Or a neighborhood watch. Or a bridge circle.

Who were these bandits stealing from, anyway? Travelers? I doubted enough people went through on a regular basis to support four or five people living in an austere tower. I mean, I suppose they probably hunted for food, which was for the best, since I doubted they could find any traders eager to take their custom. Actually, I wasn’t clear on what they planned to do with their loot in any case. Perhaps they buried it in the snow, like squirrels. It was a mystery to me.

Anyway, it was a moot point, because I wasn’t about to become a bandit myself. I had standards, after all: I’d never dream of making a living killing people and taking their stuff. I preferred the moral high ground, which was to kill people who kill people and take their stuff, and take their stuff. That is, the stuff they took off the innocent people. It all works out the same, and it’s most certainly probably more ethical, so all in all it’s rather like having a karmic middleman.

 

Stream Attempt

09 Aug

SHAMEFUL EDIT: God dammit.

No, nothing came up–I’m perfectly healthy. The fact of the matter is that I was working on something and I completely forgot I’d scheduled a stream for today. I sat down to the Word document at 4:15, started typing, and didn’t look up until 8:15. At which point profanity happened.

To make it up, I’ll be holding one tomorrow (that’s Friday) at 3:00 PM PST, and it’ll go as late as I can push it. I’ll see if I can find the window to do another interim one at another time, because I know people are all over the place geographically and a time that’s good for one person means missed sleep and pissed roommates for another.

I still can’t believe this slipped my mind. The only thing I can say is that I was working, and it was something for you people–something that’s currently 40 pages long and will probably end up at over a hundred. This is something I’ve had on my mind for ages.This is something I think people will be able to appreciate.

Anyway, I’ll have another Cahmel post up a little later this evening, which will necessarily include a rider pointing at this post. Again, I’m sorry and embarrassed all at once. Maybe soon I’ll be able to show you what I’ve been working on, and you’ll get a sense of where my time’s been going lately.

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World Creation III: Conclusion

07 Aug

I think I’ve just about finished cracking this world into shape. I like how it looks, I like how it works, and it’s got enough juice running through it that if I throw ideas against it, a narrative will lurch to life and stumble off on its own. The setting debuted last Wednesday in the first session of a long-form roleplaying campaign whose first chapter I’ve named “The Ragman Murders.”

The final tally is about 8 months and 88 pages of work, but keep in mind that the first half of that was iterative. It took a lot of grappling to settle on the alternate-history, nightmare-and-fantasy foundations of this project–that was certainly the most significant decision I made, but also one of the most difficult. I’m not sure I adequately portrayed just how much of this setting came together in a single month–before that it was slotting in ideas, rubbing concepts and motifs and hooks against one another, until all at once everything clicked into a solid and workable foundation. Everything after that was just building on that foundation as quickly as I could, because once I hit that vein of exciting, inspiring material, every idea I had felt solid and interesting and logical and pinwheeled into a dozen others.

Anyway, the campaign is looking like a blast. The player characters include a shallow face-changing aristocrat, his estranged nightmare-obsessed natural philosopher brother, a quick-thinking but hopelessly short-sighted con man, a Greek industrial spy, an honest tradesman accused of a horrible murder he may have committed, a drunken female Irish aristocrat who’s nearly given up hope of ever seeing her homeland again, and a beautiful, naive animated doll. It’s always exciting to see what happens when other people interact with your custom campaign setting. It’s like watching people construct a house out of tools you designed for them. If my only reward for having built the thing was having people make player characters in it, that probably would have been enough.

Anyway, we’re pretty well done here. I’m certainly not done with the setting–I’ve got my campaign, I’ve got Barney, and I have been working on a longer-form fiction project for a couple of months now. And I’ve got my notes, and can certainly answer any last questions any of you readers might have.

As for the next World Creation…well, let’s just say there’s something none of you know yet.