Sunday, November 29, 2009

SATLOF and Drunken Diplomacy

Saturday was the Society of Neffs annual Saturday After Thanksgiving LeftOver Feast (SATLOF). Orginally meant to a be a gathering of everyone's leftovers, its focus in later years has turned to drinking and some gaming, in addition to the gorging.

This year I had my copy of Zombies! returned to me from October's Game Day, as well as bring a copy of Diplomacy. The hard-core gamers (re: history and poli sci nerds) gravitated towards Dip, the average gamers played a spirited game of Zombie bashing. The opening board

The Players:

Russia: Adam Mosher - Pope Blippy showed some early game jitters, writing incohernet orders and single unit orders for the first two years of turns.

Germany: Steve O'Hara - Archi showed aggressive moves into the low countries and Scandinavia and frightened the other players.

Austria-Hungary: Hoyce - Hoyce made the traditional moves to control centers for A-H, but Italy's status change threw off his strategy.

Italy: Roy - Roy asked to play in the middle of Spring 1901 discussions, so we gave him Italy for Fall 1901. He had two problems (1) He was a turn behind everyone else (Italy was to be a static nation in 6-player) and (2) Everyone else had rushed to grab Italian control centers.

Turkey: Some dude who always shows up but we don't necessarily like. He played very aloof yet aggressive but his orders seemed incredibly ineffective.

France: Brian Woolever - Outside of BattleTech, he's a wild card, a mixture of rules incompetence mixed with the moves of a genius. I claimed France was a puppet of Germany for the first few turns, but in hindsight, that was just a simple non-aggression treaty. He did successfully stymie my fleet movements through the English Channel.
England: Oh yeah, I "umpired" and played England. With France blocking my tactics, I could only pick up Norway, and in a swift move of treachery, seized the Low Countries when they were open.

The Fit hitting the Shan
At this point, four events have occurred:
  1. Turkey has confirmed their desire to destroy Italy.
  2. Austria-Hungary uses it's pre-emptive invasion of Northern Italy to move in Marsailles (my suggestion) and into Burgandy, making a third front against Munich.
  3. Confusion by A-H and Russia have allowed Germany to survive.
  4. The English Army in Norway skirts the Arctic Circle to seize St. Petersburg, throwing Russia into chaos.

In the final turns of the full game, a joint Anglo-Prussian alliance allowed Germany to seize Sweden, the British took Moscow, and A-H took Munich.

At that point England and France were forced to succumb to political unrest (Both Wooly and myself had long rides ahead of us with tired wives, and a baby in my car). Both countries were placed in static positions, just as Italy was before Roy took over in Fall 1901. It's disapointing, since I had been planning a sweet Anglo-Prussian-Italian Alliance within the next 2 years to claim an Alliance victory of 18 Control Centers.

We certainly need to schedule a full day of Dip, instead of halfway through SATLOF, alcohol still required...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

(Myspace Repost) CoC: NEPA Coal Country #3

(From June 21, 2008 Gaming Session)

September, 1920—

Dr. Millheim was sitting in his office, perusing his recent occult acquisitions of Liber d'Ivonis and the Corbitt diaries when the phone rang. On the phone was Selwyn Robards, local lawyer and one of the many defense attorneys he's used while in business as a "Spirit Investigator." He wanted to meet with the good Doctor and his "associates" about a family problem. Millheim and Nicols went to the meeting.

At his law offices , Robards explained that his nephew, Jeremy Lombard had died three days ago. Police ruled it suicide, as it appeared he jumped out of his 4th floor apartment window. Robards would not believe the police report, knowing that Jeremy was a driven young man, "full of life", and "not the type of person to do those things." Robards only knew his nephew was a local reporter for the Kingston Journal and he was camping out on a case north of Kingston. Robards was willing to pay well for information refuting the police report, or any solid evidence that confirmed the suicide. Dr. Millheim agreed, asking only to use his phone, to call his good friend Steven O'Hara.

Nichols took Millheim to his favorite watering hole, a speak-easy named the Angry Welshman. Steven showed up, showed interest in helping out, and informed them that at this time, Angela was more willing to use her Shotgun on them than for them. Smitty, the owner, was a practical man, but for a share of the 'reward' he was willing to work two jobs for the next week, both with sawed-off shotgun in hand.

Smitty and Nichols went to Jeremy's apartment to see if the police missed anything. They found a locked apartment door, and the 1920's version of police tape, an "Official Police Business" notice on the door. The small apartment did yield some interesting clues: a Journal with entries stopping five days prior (with two pages ripped out), and a number of very rough drafts of his "big scoop" in the wastepaper basket. The journal noted the loss of livestock at some farm and the regular movements of a mysterious truck down the farm road. The rough draft mentioned a haunted house connected to the "Wyoming (Valley) Gargoyle", the Ghost of the Burning Man, numerous disappearances and tragedies, and the new activities of the its residents, which are merely alluded to, but no specifics mentioned. The pair snuck out the door just as the police pulled up to investigate a complaint of prowlers.

Steven and the Doctor went to the Kingston Journal, Jeremy's place of employment to get any additional info. The Journal was pretty much a bust; except for being over-diligent in his work and late with his deadlines, Jeremy was a model employee and co-worker, who primarily worked alone.

Meeting for lunch back at the Welshman, they can't find anything on Isaiah Turnbull, a farmer mention in the Jeremy's journal. Steven and the Doctor went back to apartment and waited till after the police presence left before they asked around about Jeremy. By luck they found one fellow who did see three men leave the building right before Jeremy's body was discovered. They then walked over the police station and through some sweet fast-talking got to look at the suicide note, which matched Jeremy's writing perfectly. Using further bamboozlement and a little sneakiness, the Doctor actually managed to find the police file of Brian Nichols "Person of Interest" in the death of Adam Mosher… in the pen filled margins, he noted "B.Nichols is a large, bald black man" and promptly left the station.

The next day the group traveled to the archives of the Wilkes-Barre Times-Leader and the Kingston Journal, and a short trip to the Library. In the dead files, they found an article written a year prior concerning the Ghost of the Burning Man, by one Jeremy Lombard. He connected the Burning Man to the Wyomoing Gargoyle of 1778(!).

The library produced a old journal noting the old Hobart house burning to the ground to the Ghost of the Burning Man (disregard the mention of two squatters living there and setting numerous fires to stay warm…) The property was purchased by the Hoesynth family, and under community protest, they built a large house on the property.

They also found two articles from 1913, recording the murder of young Jasmine Hoesynth, age 8. It seemed the police officer assisgned to watch over the family the night after the murder had a sudden and complete mental breakdown.

Dr Millheim took a long walk over to the old Hobart/Hoesynth house, known for its stone tower just peeking over the treeline along the river. He observed activity inside in the house and was bold enough to knock on the door and ask some Italian man with slicked-back hair where the river was, even though the river was 50 yards away.

Utlimately they found Isaiah Turnbull's farm, located between Kingston and Wyoming and dropped Jeremy's name to prevent and intimate acquaintance with the farmer's 20-gauge shotgun. They camped out at the farm together Wednesday night with no problems. Smitty remembered his liquor shipment was showing up very late Thursday night, so the rest agreed to do a bit more research in town and camp out without him that night. Oh, yeah, Dr. Millheim finally realizes the Hobart/Hoesynth house is right down the road from Turnbull's farm.

Trying to find out more about the house, the visited the Wyoming Historical and Genealogical Society. They did find the journal of Colonel Thomas Hartley of the Continental Army.

* History Lesson *

Battle of Wyoming occurred in 1778, with local Indian and loyalists butchering 200 militia men. General Washington order General John Sullivan to march from Easton to the Wyoming/Susquehana River Valley, finally ending in the Battle of Newtown near Elmira. While on this march Sullivan's men would use a scorched-earth policy on any and all Indian settlements.

Well before Sullivan reached what would be modern-day Wilkes-Barre, Col Hartley and his men performed a raid on local Loyalist and Indian settlements, or that's what the history texts say.

Hartley's journal stated that his mission was only particular Indian groups, and hunting an elusive beast with a blood-covered maw that frequent Elias Hobart's tower. With the help of a preacher, the "gargoyle" was killed. No sign of Hobart or his family could be found….

*End History Lesson*

That night the group camping out saw the large truck drive down the road from the old Hobart/Hoesynth house and onto the main road. It came back early that morning and parked in a garage around the back of the house. Without their trusty shot present the trio ran back to the Angry Welshman. They compared notes with Smitty, who found a striking coincidence between the mysterious truck and the truck delivering his liquor last night. It seemed like Grazziani Verducci, small time mobster and Smitty's liquor connection had something to do with the house.

An entire half-hour of real-time elapsed as the group argued what to do…Screw the supernatural clues, our heroes were more concerned that the goods Verducci forced on his clients were not true Canadian booze! Just after noon the group jumped back in Steven's Dusenburg and drove back to the house, parking the car in the woods.

Nichols and Dr. Millheim decided to try the garage as Smitty and Steven tried the front door. The plan was simple, Smitty was to knock on the door and pretend he was selling liquor door-to-door. Steven would hide around the corner with his wife's shotgun in case things might go bad. The sheer brilliance of their plan blinded them from considering that selling illegal hooch door-to-door (without a peddler permit to boot) might not be the best way to get in a house full of mobsters. They also didn't anticipate the lone person left in the house was Luigi, who seemed mentally unstable and hid a shotgun behind the door.

The ploy went south quickly. Smitty wasn't killed by the sudden shotgun blast and tried to wrestle it away from Luigi. Steven had trouble getting a clear shot.

Meanwhile, Nichols and Dr. Millheim got into the garage and found it empty, no truck, and no other vehicles. When the shotgun blast went off, they found a back door into the house and saw the mobster at the far end of the hallway. A full-out melee ensued and eventually Luigi got enough separation from the guys, not to fire his shotgun, but to be the recipient of Steven's (Even with 4d6 damage at point blank range, a dude with 17 hit points is one tough sonovabitch). Smitty put a extra shot in Luigi's head to finish the deal.

The fellas pulled Luigi's body inside and began a search of the house. A few odd books in one room, some nice furniture in another….. When looking in the bathroom, Steven was surprised by a headless Luigi pummeling his back. Smitty couldn't seem to get a decent shot off, Dr. Millheim went mad, and Nichols ran to the car.

They managed to put down the creature with large amounts of fire (and firepower) and found the singed but still legible missing pages of Jeremy's journal in Luigi's flaming coat.

After a quick and heated discussion, they decided to check out the basement, that is Smitty decided to find the booze. He couldn't find anything. A recovered Dr. Millheim then asked if he search for any hidden compartments and passageways. "No, why would I do that?" said the owner of the hidden speakeasy. Dr. Millheim and Steve went downstairs and immediately found a hidden passge filled with chemisty equipment leading to the motherload of Canadian Whiskey. Smitty was ready to grab a case or two, but the other two noticed another hidden door behind a pile of beakers. The new room emanated a bright blue light from a glowing pentagram in the floor. And this point Smitty realized he had had his fill of parabnormal crap and tried to dash up the stairs, only to find a blue glowing ghost at the top. Smitty stopped in the middle of the stairs, but the ghost dove down and went right through Smitty. Smitty kept his cool and proceeded to run out to the Dusenberg. After waiting a few minutes for the other two, Smitty and Nichols snuck off towards the tower, to hide from mobster/authorities/glowing ghosts.

Steven and Dr. Millheim debated what to do with the glowing pentagram. Steven initially wanted to destroy the pentagram, but his limited knowledge of the occult (ie the last session), convinced him that chanting the same chant as before would do the trick

Now, to be fair and comprehensive, somewhere between Luigi's re-appearance and the ghost appearing, someone decided it was a smart thing to set fire to the Living room and it had been slowing spreading. The smell of smoke was becoming a bit of a problem, even in the basement, so the pressure was on the pair. Dr. Millheim convinced Steven that destroying the pentagram was a better course of action. Five minutes later, the pentagram destroyed, the room exploded. Five more minutes and the intrepid Dr. and his trusty friend Steven staggered out of the burning house, only to be met by the local fire and police departments. A significant amount of fast-talking later, plus the pages from Jeremy's journal and the local authorities managed to ambush the mobsters and arrested them for murder, bootlegging, and a small slew of petty other crimes. Good news: The guys got a handsome sum for the investigation and Dr Millheim and Steve have contacts with the State Police. Bad News: A previously misplaced file on the murder of Adam Mosher was found and the fingerprints to Brian Nichols were now oddly linked to a series of gruesome murder-suicides in Slocum Corners south of town. Plus the investigators didn't find the ten grand in cash before they torched the place. Really bad news: The Angry Welshman is gonna need to find another supplier.

I nearly spit out my beer when Adam said he was going to work in a speakeasy, even better when he rolled enough starting wealth to actually own the speakeasy! I also realized Dr. Millheim might not miss a session due to psychotherapy since his new friend Smitty has a decent psychoanalysis skill (as all bartenders should have.) The desire to burn things worries me a bit, but I did allow those some post-game library use rolls for some follow-up research to offer a few more leads. It seems some person named Elias Hobart owned a small house and a stone tower near Newtown, New York as well (hmmm). Elmira (NY) Historical Society records had Hobart connected to some Church of the Astral Contemplation. Hmmm.. there seems to be a whole lot of churches contemplating stuff. What stuff, you ask? Perhaps that will be answered next session….

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

(Myspace Repost) CoC: NEPA Coal Country Game #2

(From May 17, 2008 Game Session)

Steven O'Hara was spending another leisurely August afternoon, polishing the chrome on his car. Of course, his custom built Dusenberg did not quite fit the middle-class neighborhood in Kingston, Pennsylvania, but a man with multiple advanced degrees should not be teaching at some Podunk Wyoming Seminary in the middle of Coal Country either. The special courier that arrived at his home reminded him of his short time doing government research for the war effort, getting urgent notices at all hours of the night, so it was a welcome distraction from his daydreaming into the shine.

Things tuned serious. It was a short note from friend and confidante Rupert Merriweather. Dr. Merriweather was one of his professors at the East Stroudsburg Normal School. He was every student's dream teacher: unpretentious, social to all people, and able to keep a secret when students made secret romantic rendezvous or discovered a cache of liquor. Heck, he was willing not only to partake in alcohol with his students, if you got into his good graces, he may be willing to procure it for you. Steven had kept in touch with Dr. Merriweather as he traveled to Arkham University near Boston for his Masters in Mathematics, moved to New Jersey for war research, and acquired a Masters in Physics from Rutgers University. Merriweather lived in Wilkes-Barre, and pulled some strings to get him the job at the Seminary two short years ago when job prospects seemed non-existent. It was only in the last six months that they had not met, other matters interrupting their friendship.

The note was handwritten and short. "Please meet me at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital, Room 402, Thursday at 1:00pm. Bring Angela. R.Merriweather"

The next day Steven and his wife Angela entered Room 402 at 1:00pm. They saw an emaciated Rupert Merriweather lying in a hospital bed, his lovely wife Edith at his side, with his pretentious twit of a son Edgar looking at them with crossed arms. Before Steve could even get a word, two other figures stumbled into the room. One was a much disheveled Nathaniel Millheim, his college roommate at East Stroudsburg Normal, and some other questionable man helping him in. In a raspy voice, Rupert actually made introductions to all. The questionable gent was Brian Nichols, an "associate" to Doctor (?) Millheim and whatever his endeavors were. Merriweather shooed his wife, son, and nurse out the door.

Merriweather was vague and barely coherent, but it amounted to "I made some mistakes with some friends many years ago. We've released something into the world, and with my death things could get worse." He motioned the group to grab a metal box, which Steven took. A few moments later, Merriweather started coughing up blood. His family and the medical staff rushed and rushed the group out the door. Halfway down the hall they could here the doctors say "He's gone."

Agreeing to meet at a local restaurant to go over the contents, a disbelieving Steven and Angela caught up with their college buddy "Dr" Nathaniel. In this alternate 1920's universe, either Adam was not even a casual acquaintance of Steven, or he never read the newspaper dealing with the Congressional Aide's grisly death... in town nevertheless.

The box contained an ancient Egyptian artifact, a deed and key to a house in Slocum Corners, south of Wilkes-Barre, and a journal detailing a "literary fraternity" Merriweather was a member of that dabbled in the occult. According to the journal, the group summoned some horrible being that killed one of their members, and drove another to madness. Luckily everything necessary to banish this thing was in the journal, or hopefully still at the house.

For a Cthulhu games, research was minimal and scant. Although the characters were interested in procuring some of the mentioned books (I don't think the University of Scranton has a copy of De Vermiis Mysteriis, especially since it was only St. Thomas College at the time.)

The next afternoon, they piled into Steven's car to take a daylight tour of the property: a long-neglected farmhouse with warding runes over each door and window. Through the solo investigation of the house by Brian, they found enough material to reverse the summoning, and decided to turn their afternoon jaunt to a midnight ritual (as per the instructions). The plan seemed easy enough, three people would chant the ritual at all times and one person would "watch" for shenanigans, whether mystical or real world. The fact that they would be armed with Mrs. O'Hara's personal shotgun made everyone a little uneasy (yay Angi and her 60% in Shotgun! ). Besides for the wailing and movement of the spirit, which had taken up residence in the attic, the first hour of the ritual went off smoothly.

At five after one in the morning, everything went to Hell. A truck pulled off the main road and onto the property. Out pops out the Luzerne County Sheriff, pissed off that's he's out there at this hour, and one Edgar Merriweather yelling at the investigators to get the Hell off of his personal property. Angela went outside, sans shotgun, and managed to delay the odd duo from entering the house. Soon, a moaning, blood soaked woman walked around from the right side of the house. The sheriff ran over to see if she needed any medical attention, and was promptly attacked by this walking dead. The sheriff was in a live-or-death struggle, Edgar was frozen in fear, and Angela dashed to the truck to grab the Sheriff's shotgun. Angela began firing shell after shell at this abomination as it tore into the Sheriff. Meanwhile Edgar got up enough frantic nerve to try to entire the house and (by ignorance) stop the ritual. He was stopped at the door by Steven with Angela's shotgun. After 20 seconds of crazed rants Edgar was pulled away from the doorway by another walking dead. Although Angela couldn't save either individual, her repeated blasts with a shotgun stopped both creatures (and amusingly enough, did not worry the closest neighbor a quarter mile away... at least until the next morning).

By two in the morning, the ritual succeeded and the spirit was banished back to wherever it came from....

The next morning, when State Police appeared, they found a grisly scene at the house, involving Edgar, the Sheriff; a local woman reported missing, and the local hobo engaged in some horrible (Satanic?) ritual/suicide. We'll see what CSI: 1920's Wilkes-Barre will pull out of this one, particularly if it puts THREE suspected murders on Brian Nichols...

Well, at least the group got an Egyptian artifact for their troubles (what to do what to do what to do).

Gameplay wise, it was amusing to see Steve only make 2 die rolls for his 20's alter ego all night. Angela (also played by Steve) was a combat monster. Hey, Angela's occupation was Dilettante, which in 5.6 CoC contains Shotgun as an occupational skill. Why argue? The other amusing thing was that after all the revelation, all the supernatural activity, and all the bloodshed. Steven O'Hara ultimately gained a point of Sanity. Just like in real life, little will faze Steve, short of duct tape and Jess beating the crap out of him.

(Myspace Repost) CoC: NEPA Coal Country Game #1

Since I haven't consistently been on Myspace for more than a year, I figured the smartest thing to do was to repost some of the good gaming blog entries onto a "real" blog. Some entries just don't translate well in copy-and-paste method, so I hope if Larry gets into another RPGA brawl at Mepacon next year, I can reference his story from April '08. Until then, here's the first game of our Call of Cthulhu NEPA Coal Country campaign (April 26, 2008):

Call of Cthulhu was going to be as simple as I could make it. Each player was going to run the 1920's version of themselves. We had Adam Mosher, congressional aide to Rep James P Casey (D). Rep Casey's shot for re-election was pretty bad so Adam was looking to pick up some extra money. Brian Nichols was a crooked bookkeeper with minor organized crime ties and a penchant for cheap booze and quick cash. They were both part of a team with noted parapsychologist and author Dr. Nathaniel Millheim.

For those of you who haven't played Call of Cthulhu, much less played The Haunting, go google the quick start rules for the system, find some people and play that scenario (it's included). Then come back so you're not spoiled. You won't be disapointed.

The three of them are hired by a slumlord named Francisco to investigate some peculiar goings-ons in his recently purchased property on Fell St in Wilkes-Barre. It seems his last tenants went mad and had to be sent to a sanitarium, and right after that episode he heard rumors of the house being haunted for many years previous. Armed with the keys, the address, a $100 advance, and Nichol's holdout pistol, they begin their investigation.

Now I was worried that the group would jump right into the house and get completely overwhelmed. Boy, was I wrong! They spent so much time researching the property they didn't even pass BY the house until Day 3! They did a good job thinking of info to look up and places to check out without Idea rolls, and they made MOST of their Library Use roll. You could tell Balls had played, he was the only one who put a good pile of points into that skill. Day one and two was trips to the Times-Leader, the courthouse, and the library, picking up useful tidbits of information, then meeting at the closest greasy spoon to have lunch/dinner and go over their information. They found records of insanity within the house since 1880, and a long line of landlords who quickly resold the properties running all the way back to 1866. They found out that the owner previous to the episodes was a Walter Corbitt, whose only mention in their reseach was a lawsuit by the NEIGHBORHOOD back in 1855 to force him to move due to his "inauspicous demeanor." His obituary listed a Rev Michael Thomas of the Chapel of Contemplation and Catholic Church of Our Lord as the executor of his will, so they decided to go visit the church (again, even before looking at the house).

They were shocked to find the church in ruins: the building was a collection of blocks of granite and burnt timber, with years of overgrowth covering it up. There was some odd "occultish" symbol that on the wall, so Dr. Millheim started snapping pictures of it. Suddenly the ground gave way next to him and Adam plunged into a secret basement (first damage inflicted!). As he dusted himself off he was shocked to find to skeletons dressed in robes laying on the ground (first lost sanity!). He couldn't anything of interest in the rotted file cabinents in the basement, but he did discover a large leather worm-eaten book, apparently written in Latin (hmmmm...) Despite Dr. Millheim's capable skill in Latin, he thought it best to get a priest to read the book for him (it was a Catholic Church anyway). The priests at a nearby rectory denied the Chapel of Contemplation was ever a Catholic church, but one priest was willing to go over the book they had found, a few minutes later the same priest was screaming bloody murder at the top of his lungs, and a younger priest was escorting them out of the church "for their own safety." It took some phenomenal rolls by Dr. Millheim to convince the younger priest that they needed the book back.

A quick trip back to the courthouse to check the Register of Churches and find that it was built before 1850 and was closed in 1912 by the county with no additonal information, they decide to spend the afternoon at the house (oh, after they stop off at another greasy spoon to discuss their info and their options). After looking around the non-descript two-story brick house, they knock on the door of the next store neighbor, the "Old Polish Lady". She's very old, very nervous with three big guys come to the door, speaking perfect English, and wasn't very helpful, yet the group spent a good 15 minutes trying to get info out of her. They finally gave up and went inside the house. As they walked through the living quarters nothing out of the ordinary caught their eye (that is, except the fine quality furniture and mahogany dining room table that a working class guy could afford, but that was never followed up on). Some storerooms netted some old journals which would be read later. The upstairs seemed normal, an empty unused bedroom, with a metal bed frame/springs and dresser, a children's room for the two boys the couple had, and a master bedroom for the husband and wife with nothing of great note in any. As the guys were standing in the master bedroom, a loud thumping noise could be heard down the hall, they investigate and they get closer to the empty bedroom the thumping stops. Thinking it was triggered in the master bedroom, they have Brian walk back down the hall into that room. There is then a scratching sound coming from the window in the empty room. Adam goes to investigate that, with the good doctor wielding his camera to get a picture of any odd activity. He might have gotten a good picture to, if the far wall didn't begin dripping blood. That caught him off guard as he stared at it, going, "What the???" Adam turned around, only to see the bed fly towards him, forcing him through the window and down the sideyard below. With the blink of an eye, the blood is gone, and the bed is back in it's orginal position. Going outside to retrieve him (and give him a little first aid). They attempt to recreate the scene with Brian at the window with no success.
The basement being the only thing left, they worked their way down the rickety stairs to a small dirt basement. The fact that one wall in the basement was made of wood, and the large ammount tools all about the room was the immediate focus of the group. Brian starting trying to tear the wall apart. They were all shocked when a large dagger floated out of the junk in the room and began attacking them (yeah, more SAN loss). Brian was simply amazed (minimal San loss, just shocked), Dr Millheim was trying to capture the phenomena in a an ash can, and Adam being the most direct of the group, spent many rounds trying to grab the thing out of midair. A few bloody rounds later (and some first aid on his cut hands), the dagger was no longer a problem. They finally managed to rip apart the wall, only to find a a two foot "crawl space" and another wooden wall inside. And let's not mention the rats. The group decided the best thing to do was open all the downstairs windows, go home and develop the (blurry) pictures and read the journals.

The next morning, they found another way to delay the inevitable, as Dr Millheim got a response from a letter he had written to the Sanitarium the parents were placed in Clarks Summit. They spent a good portion of the day driving their and didn't get much out of the experience, except the wife would mention an "evil presence" and it would throw dishes at her from time to time.

It was finally time to open up the other wall and with Brian and the good Doctor using tools in the basement, and Adam using a recently purchased pickaxe, they ripped apart the wall in record time. The other side a large room with a number of large pallets with a body on top. The body was quite dead, but it's skin still intact and tightly stretechd. Then body began to move. The group did whatever any heroic group would do: Brian threw their lantern at the creature, then Brian and Dr Millheim ran up the stairs, with Adam and his pickaxe took up the rear. At the top of the cellar steps, they locked the door and threw the three deadbolts, and moved upstairs to find the family's Bible (like THAT'S oh so going to frickin' help!) The creature burst through the cellar door and worked it's way up the stairs. When the creature got halfway up the stair, Brian pulled out his one-shot revolver, pointed it at the monster, and then quickly turned around and shot at Dr. Millheim, missing at point blank range. (Dominate spells are so much fun). Adam then swung the pick axe at Brian, thinking he had gone mad. The creature started tearing into Dr. Millheim, whose only defense was throwing salt at it. Brian crawled down the hallway, his only thought was jumping out a window in the Master bedroom to get away. Adam began wailling away at the creature, but taking tremendous damage from its claws. As Brian locked the door to the bedroom he heard a horrible death scream, as the creature ripped out Adam's lungs. (Having lost 5 SAN in the game he just made his roll to keep his senses to prevent him from being the second member of the fly-out-the-closed-window club). The creature made quick work of Dr. Millheim. *fade to black*

When the Wilkes-Barre Police arrived at the house, responding to multiple reports of gunfire, they found a bloody mess. The eviscerated remains of Adam Mosher, Congressional Aide lay in the upstairs hallway. They managed to revive an unconscious Dr. Nathaniel Millheim. It took a considerable ammount to fast-talking and persuasion for police to remove Dr. Millheim as a suspect. They are still trying to find Brian Nichols as a possible susptect in the murder of Mr. Mosher. Dr. Millheim was smart enough not to mention any sort of monster/creature, and once Francisco was reached he did vouch for the good doctor. About two weeks later a slightly remodelled rental property found a new tenant.

In other news, Olga Buchashevsky of N. Fell St in Wilkes-Barre has been reported missing. Police notice the forced entry of her front door, as they were investigating shots fired at a neighboring property. The elderly Polish woman, who has rarely left her house since her husband passed away in 1903, was not found in house and no one knows where she could be. If police can't find the woman within the next month, the county may seize the property in trust.

And there we have it. By the time I looked at the clock it was 9:30pm. Three very happy players and a pretty awesome ending (even better knowing that the creature only had one point left) I was impressed seeing Liberal Adam play a 1920's xenophobic version of himself. And I was kinda impressed with, given that (ahem) I had never run CoC before...ever.

Looks like this could be a good thing.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Mepacon, Gnomes, and Mice, oh my!

I have returned (and survived) from Mepacon (Mid-Eastern Pennsylvania Convention) in Clarks Summit, PA. What's that you say? Why is the Mid-Eastern Pennsylvania Con in one of the most northern bastions of civilization in Northeast PA? The con originated ten years ago in the Slate Belt between the Lehigh Valley and the Poconos, spent a few years at different locations (Easton, PA/Phillipsbug, NJ) until it moved up into NEPA, first in Scranton, then Dunmore, until this year's move to the top of the Northeast Extension.

Although the bi-annual con goes by seasonal nomenclature (Mepacon Fall 2009), Convention Director Ed Lehman reminded me that this would be Mepacon 17 if they enumerated the title. Seventeen cons of gaming, fun, and most importantly seventeen different t-shirts that have been printed in sizes small to large to gamer's small (3x). I still believe I have the my original t-shirt, a simple black tee with "Witness the Resurrection" on the back. This year's shirt was a pumpkin carving-esque design on an orange tee with "Grin and wear it" on the back. I managed obtained two of them, which I'll explain later.

I offered to run a full schedule of Gnome Wars games from earliest time slot (3pm Fri) though Sunday morning. Different scenarios would be run each slot, and, despite my panic from earlier in the week, these local gamers are perfectly content as long as most figures have at least a base coat. Christ, I've had regular players before for Burning Players and that uses green plastic army guys!

For the first time ever, I took enough time off of work to arrive at 3pm for the frist game. I know a certain type of gamer (RPGA/Organized play) is willing to travel some distance (Connecticut, NYC, Philly) for certain games, and I think that first slot is dedicated to them. RPGA/Organized play had a few packed games running, but everyone else sort of wandered around. My GW game "The Wishing Well" had one player, was full of tactical blunders, and was quite fun, despite that the fact that the last two turns I left essential figures exposed to artilery.

The evening slot brought a few more players for "The Farm" and utter chaos as the large table allowed some devastating flanking maneuvers, and the random deployement of reinforcements set-up a second battle on the one corner of the table. The Swiss player lost the only Alphorn, so all Swiss units hunkered down, either in the barn, or they jumped into a truck and sped off. The Swiss tank, on loan from the French, arrived on the final turn of the game, preventing a complete German victory.

Little Maja had a bad night, so I arrived about 30 minutes late on Saturday morning, proceeded to grab breakfast and finally lugged my stuff onto a much smaller table. There was a 40K Rogue Trader tournament slotted for the morning and they got the "big table". Most 40K con tournaments have zero players and this one was no exception. Even with larger conventions, it doesn't bode well (Historicon, I'm looking at you). Now for the afternoon and evening session the big table was given to Mike Sarno, who ran a very nice Modern Ops games. Modern Ops is an off-shoot of Savage Showdown, which in turn is a variant of the Savage Worlds RPG. Very nice vehicles and figs with basic terrain so the Americans, contractors, and local insurgents can duke it out:

The only game I got to run on Saturday was an impromptu "!!!" scenario. I had snagged up a rocketship birdhouse at Michaels for a few bucks which was perfect size to allow the Germans to begin the space race. The entire League of Gnomes mobilized to stop this violation (or lack thereof, no gnomish treaty covers space). The German crack marskman and top-notch medics held off most attacks, and some unfortunate tunnel collapses for the sneaky Swiss almost guaranteed victory. However the arrival and subsequent all-out charge by the Irish overwhelmed the 27th Leinekugels defending the left flank. The Irish seized a machine gun the Germans just pulled out of the barn and began firing it at the rocket which had just finished fueling.

The crater was quite impressive, and after the smoke cleared, the few survivors of the Swiss Ministry of Science could examine the site and hopefully picked up some information.

Between the afternoon and evening slots, there was a games raffle (for charity) and an auction (for charity and for profit). They did manage to sell over $450 in raffle tickets. It appeared that most people who bought the advertised "6 for $5" won at least one book, supplement, or pack of minis. By the time one of my numbers were pulled, the pickings were slim. I snagged "The Stars are Right," a modern day Cthulhu book with a pile of end-times related adventures. My players can hate me even more.

The auction isn't like it was in the days of yore, when the sheer weight of auction items could collapse a banquet table. I snagged up couple random books and Dragon mags that didn't get higher than a buck or two. The charity auction, I'm proud to say, was insane.

  • Box of Twinkies? $10

  • Cthulhu Print $10

  • Hollow Chocolate Duck $6

  • Mepacon T-shirt $16

  • Glass Bead necklace $10

  • 250 Issue run of Dragon, in two nice wheeled totes $40

  • and of course the "Mepacon Mystery Box" $25.

I won the Cthulhu Print (always goes between $5 and $15, I yelled out $10 to start to shut people up. Charity or not, I wanted one). I also split the mystery box with my friend Brian. Inside was a randome assortment of gaming goodneess: A pack of Star Wars minis, Three Dragon Ante (wotc), a pack of Pirates of the revolution, some beat-up 2nd Edition mods, Goatwood for Coc (good thing I didn't grab that at the raffle), some dice and other various things. The SW minis found a new home, Brian took what he wanted, and I took the rest. Oh yes, the mystery box also included a ticket for a free t-shirt, my second of the con (The first one I receieved for running three games).

The two other high points of the con: After 15 years in print, I finally played Robo-Rally. Ridiculously simple game that gets ridiculously hard. I love it!

My major purchase of the con (beyond the rocketship birdhouse). Was a copy of Mouse Guard:

Based off of a series of comic/graphic novels, you play the Mouse Guard, the defenders of the Mouse Territories, fighting against all enemies foreign, domestic, and weasel. Simple mechanics wrapped into a gorgeous hardcover book. The Mouse Guard don't fight orcs, they fight marauding weasels. You don't save the princess, you save the mouse village from the flash flooding of the spring thaw. What we see as fast moving runoff is utter death to a mouse! Of course the Mouse Guard don't slay dragons, they figure out ways to keep black bear away from the town's winter stores. I finished it last night and I can't think of anything bad to say. And yes I paid full price for the book! ($35)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Convention Crunch Time

Ah, the first weekend of November is complete. For most wargamers, that means they have survived another drived back from Gettysburg for Fall-In!, their vehichles swollen with lead-based swag from the dealers hall.

For me, it's the crunch week for Mepacon ( next weekend in Clarks Summit, PA. I'm running a full slate of Gnome Wars, so I'm desperately trying to finish the bare minimum for the game:
  1. Finish up the 3rd Swiss Engineers
  2. Base coats on both German units.
  3. Finish the 14th TC Bier Nurse and lone unpainted pickaxe
  4. Prime and paint the O-Scale barn I snagged up at Trains and Lanes a few weeks ago.

So far, the five miners that have been finished...

Along with the Plasticville O-Scale barn. O is the perfect scale for Gnome Wars buildings!