Wednesday, August 14, 2019

A Camping We Shall Go

Hello dear readers. I’m coming to you with another story of trial. This is the story of Malcolm, a young man whose parents are taking him to camp. It’s a place he doesn’t really want to go to. It’s a place he fears. There are those who would say he has good reason to. His parents, James and Grace, chose this place for him. They’re worried about him. That’s what they’ll tell you. James and Grace think this is what’s best for Malcolm, because deep down, they’re angry with him and they’re not sure what to do.
I’ll be up front with you about this. Malcolm is going to be fine, eventually. Right now he has to sit through a rather brutal meeting. One that his parents are very excited about.

The room was comfortable. Two soft chairs facing one another sat in the middle with a long sofa against one wall. It was decorated in tones of green and brown, recreating the nature that was just outside the building. There was a small table by the door with a couple of brochures sitting on it.
James picked one up and idly thumbed through it. He turned it back to the cover showing a picture of smiling campers and counselors standing by a large bonfire area. They were all waving at the camera and smiling. The sign for the camp hung at the top of the image; Camp Divine. Across the bottom was the camps motto, “We fix families through understanding.” A small note at the bottom listed the camp as being funded by the Christine Jorgensen Foundation. James wondered who that was and started to ask Grace if she knew.
A door at the far end of the room opened and a young man entered. He was wearing a sterling white t-shirt and khakis; carrying a clipboard. He smiled at the family. Walked over and shook James hand. “Hello, I’m Chip. Head counselor here at Camp Divine.” Chip looked at the clipboard. I believe we’re here to meet about Malcolm.”
“Yeah,” said James. “Malcolm.”
Chip smiled at James. Looked to Grace and then turned to the final member of the family. “And you must be…”
“Sarah,” said Grace. “This is our daughter Sarah.”
Chip smiled at Grace. “Of course. Why don’t you and James sit here on the sofa while the two of us will talk in the chairs?”
James and Grace sat down while Chip walked to the large chairs in the center. He indicated one and sat in the other. After they were both seated he smiled again. “That’s a lovely dress, did you choose it?”
“No, my mother picked it out.”
“And your hair,” said Chip. “Did she do that as well?”
“Speak up Sarah,” said Grace. “I did her hair. She looks so good in braids.”
Chip smiled at Grace. “I appreciate you wanting to help. I’m going to need them to answer me.”
“If you want us to be quiet,” said James. “Why do we need to stay for this?”
Chip smiled at James. “I’m sorry. I do get excited. Always anxious to start. I need you here in case I have any questions for you. Mostly, I need you to hear this. You need to hear their words and know how long this has been going on. We can’t start the rehabilitation process until we all have the truth.”
Grace put her hand on James wrist. “We need to do this for Sarah.”
Chip smiled at Grace. “Of course.”
Chip returned his focus and let his smile fade into a look of concern. “How long have you felt this way?”
“A while.”
“I need you to be as specific as possible. It helps in the process. No one will be mad. There’s no judgement here. We need to hear it. They need to hear it.”
“Since I was five, maybe less.”
“Oh God,” said James.
Chip smiled at him.
“Sorry,” said James.
“You’re what?” asked Chip. “Fifteen maybe sixteen?”
“You’ve been aware of this for a while. Have you had any problems?” asked Chip.
“A couple of girls at school. There’s a guy that’s been giving me problems.”
“Any violence?”
“It’s okay,” said Chip. “You’re with people who care about you now.”
“Yeah. Trevor, he grabbed me and…”
Chip reached out and rested his hand on theirs. “It’s okay. You don’t have to go into detail. The fact that it happened is enough.”
“Any friends? Have you told anyone?”
“Yeah. My friend Linda. She knows. A couple of others.”
Chip reached into a pocket and pulled out a handkerchief. “Take this. Use it to dry your eyes.” Chip motioned around his eyes. “Your makeup’s running. Why don’t you clean that up too? You’ll not be needing it here at camp. In fact, there’s a bathroom right through that door. Go in, fix yourself up and when were done we’ll take everyone to the room.”
After they were alone Chip smiled and turned to James and Grace. “Seems like a pretty typical case. Bullying, isolation, and a couple of people as allies.”
“Is that really typical?” asked Grace.
“More than I’d like it to be,” said Chip.
“I was a little nervous about bringing her here,” said James. “But a buddy from work told me about this place. Dan Mason, you helped his son last year.”
“Michael,” said Chip smiling. “He’s one of the counselors here.”
“Dan talked this place up pretty good. Said you fixed his family. Michael’s getting married.”
“I know,” said Chip. “I’ll be attending the wedding. We’re all very proud of the Mason’s they’re one of our more successful treatments.”
“One of,” said Grace. “It doesn’t work all the time?”
“As I’m sure you were told when you signed up for camp, nothing is certain,” said Chip. “We’re better than some of the others. We have just under a fifty percent success rate. We do our best, but it’s not perfect.”
Grace turned away. Her shoulders slumped slightly.
“Look,” said Chip. “I’m going to get us back on task here. When we’re all back together I’m going to have us go through that door.” Chip indicated the door he’d entered through. “I have a couple of orderlies on the other side. Some of our guests can be a bit resistant. I find it best to be ready.”
The door to the bathroom opened and everyone stood.
“Let’s go this way.” Chip walked to the far door and opened it on a long hallway.
There was a door on the far end and several large windows in one wall. Two large men with thick arms stood on the other side of the door. Their t-shirts pulled taunt across their massive chests.
The group began walking down the hall. Out the window several campers ran around playing. Some stopped to wave at Chip.
“Look honey,” said Grace. “Everyone looks like they’re having fun here.”
Chip smiled at Grace. “Absolutely. I pride myself on how much fun our campers have. You’ll get to meet some of them later on. We want to get everyone settled first.” Chip started pointing out different points out the window. We have the tennis and basketball courts. There’s an Olympic sized pool. There’s a nightly bonfire. And we have a full kitchen with an excellent cooking staff. There’s even cooking classes if you want. I understand you like cooking.”
“I guess.”
Chip pointed to a large two story building. “Over there are the dorms. That’s where you’ll be staying with the other campers.”
“Wait a minute,” said James. “I thought you were taking us to her room.”
Chip smiled at James. “No we’re going to your room. Malcolm will stay in the dorms with the other kids.”
“Sarah,” said James. “Her name is Sarah and my wife and I aren’t staying here.”
“Of course you are,” said Chip. “That’s the whole point of camp.”
“No,” said James. “The point is for you to fix our daughter. That’s what your brochure says.”
Chip smiled. “I’m sorry for the confusion, but our brochure clearly says we fix families. Right now there’s nothing wrong with Malcolm. The problem is you and Grace. We’re going to run you through our reeducation and prayer process. In the end you should be far more enlightened.”
Grace began to back down the hall until she bumped into one of the orderlies.
“What about Don Mason and his son Michael?” asked James. “You fixed Michael.”
“Not at all,” said Chip. “We fixed Don.”
“But Michael’s getting married.”
“To a wonderful young man named Jeff. They met here at camp. We’re all so proud.”
An orderly stepped forward and placed his hand of James shoulder. Chip smiled.

Well, dear reader, there you go. Camp Divine has another couple of residents. I do want to take a moment to say this. I hope that I got all of the terms and ideas correct here. I’m old and learning. I still don’t have it perfectly down to what it’s supposed to be but I’m trying. I hope that’s enough. I apologize if I’ve fallen short in that.
As for Malcolm, I want to reassure you that he’ll be okay, He’s going to have a wonderful time at the camp. It’s helped a lot of young men, women, and non-binary youth over the years. Malcolm may even return as an assistant or counselor in the future. Many do. 
Now for Malcolm’s parents, I can’t say. They’ll eventually go back to their lives and Malcolm may or may not be a part of that. It’ll be up to them. Sadly, the therapy isn’t perfect. There is, after all, only a slightly under fifty percent success rate.

If I made any mistakes in terminology, please let me know in the comments. I'm trying to do good here. I fall short, but I want to do better.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Ko’lel Theorycrafting

I’ve been following the development of Super Fantasy Brawl. If you’ve stopped by over the last couple of weeks you may have noticed.
One of the things I love about fantasy worlds and stories is the theorycrafting. The conversations that come up about the characters, storylines, and the possibilities. My brother and I will spend hours discussing the Marvel and DC Cinematic Universes.
Where I run into a stumbling block with Super Fantasy Brawl in regards to this is that none of my immediate friends are into the game and the world; I’m working on it. This gives me no one to talk to. The other hurdle is that there isn’t a lot of it available yet.
However, I’m a lunatic and wanted to take a crack at one of these bits of lore I sort of stumbled into. I’m going to start with a little history for people who aren’t up on this stuff and to set a baseline of what I know.
Image from Super Fantasy Brawl from Mythic Games

This is a very basic overview. Fabulosa is a world of magic and peace. People gathered and discussed the heroes of old. Then as people do they began to argue over who was the best. In order to put long arguments to rest champions are summoned from throughout time and sent to an arena to fight in teams of three. This is the Super Brawl.
The winners of the Super Brawl will get a wish granted. Each of the revealed champions fighting in the arena have been recruited and pulled from the different points in their lives to fight one another. They’ve all agreed to this.
As players we don’t know how they will decide who wins the tournament for story purposes. I suspect that if they hold a grand championship at some point the team used to win the event will be the team that wins season one. These heroes will get their wishes granted and get to remember what happened.
For the purposes of this theory I’m going to suggest what if Ko’lel is one of the winners.
This theory started when Stu and Az were having a match on a livestream during the Kickstarter Campaign. I made the comment in chat that Ko’lel’s back story made her essentially the gnomish John Wick. The two of them stopped playing to discuss whether or not this was true and what it meant for the character. One of the things that came up was the question, “if she was John Wick then who would kill To’paque, her chameleaptor.”
The general train of thought came down to it would either be the Fabulosa equivalent of the Russian Mob, some type of bear, or the Moontouched, werewolves her people were at war with. After they got to this point they got back on track and resumed playing the game. This sparked a question in me. It also gave me the final piece of my theory.  
During the war with the Moontouched the Yunkayan Forest was destroyed and Ko’lel’s people scattered. Her wish is to see her forest saved and her people restored. So, if she wins and gets her lands and people restored then that’s where the problem comes in at.
If they go with the John Wick comparison and kill To’paque it has to be one of her own people that does it. Most likely the son of a chieftain or other tribal leader. Then when she goes to demand reparations, trial by combat, justice, or whatever method of vindication her people use the killer’s father will try and stop her. Most likely by hiding their child and ordering Ko’lel killed.
This will start the downward spiral of death, murder, and revenge that will eventually lead to Ko’lel doing what she’s really good at. I honestly think the last thing that will happen in this is that she’ll be standing on a hill watching a major city burn. A city that had once been a cultural center. It will be on fire, people will be panicked, terrified, and broken. Worst of all it will have been her actions that caused the destruction.
In the span of a few days she’ll have done the thing the moontouched army couldn’t succeed at. She’ll have completely destroyed her people. I think in that moment with full knowledge of what she had to do to save the forest and her people; all of the fighting and work she did to succeed. In that moment she’ll close her eyes and ask to go back to the arena. She’ll ask to go back to the fight.
And they’ll take her because now she’s a different legend. Before she rode into battle on To’paque and they were a team. Now she fights alone and the question becomes is she still champion material without her friend. I think they’ll take her back and offer her a second wish. I’m just not sure if she’ll ask to save her people again, save To’paque, or be allowed to face the chieftain’s son in combat.
I accept that this story is horribly tragic and the definition of be careful what you wish for. I really hope I’m wrong and she doesn’t have this chain of events happen. However, I also hope I’m right, because a good bit of tragedy makes for the best heroes.
Luke had to lose his hand to find his father. The fellowship had to fail in getting Frodo to Mount Doom in order to all be in the right place to defeat Sauron. Thomas and Martha Wayne had to die for there to be a Batman. Does that mean that Yunkayan has to burn for Ko’lel to learn what’s really important in life? I don’t know.
I can’t wait to find out, though.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Prey for the Hunters

I'm very inspired by this universe and can't wait to learn more about its lore. I honestly have a question I'll probably fire off over the next couple of days just to see what folks think. Anyway, I'm not sure if these characters have ever met but I thought this would be a fun way to have them run into one another.
Hopefully it's at least possible. Let me know what you think in the comments.

Image from Super Fantasy Brawl by Mythic Games. 

Night was falling. Deryn swore. Her prey would be harder to follow in the dark. There would be no moon this evening. It would make finding her quarry nearly impossible.
After four days she was nearly on him. He must be close the tale tell foot prints were getting deeper. The mud was fresher. Not having dried from lengthy exposure to the air. She’d guessed she was near his location.
Deryn crouched down and side stepped into the heavy foliage next to the path. She kept her movements small and precise so as not to draw attention. She moved her bow down from her back and made sure the load was secure. Her eyes never stopped scanning the forest. Looking for any sign of him.
It was a small bit of color; a blue scarf. She could see the end of it past some leaves. She watched it to make sure it was her target. Even with her attention drawn to the scarf it wasn’t her sole focus. She let her gaze move back and forth across the trees. She strained her hearing for the sounds of ambush.  The scarf could be a trap.
She caught a blur of movement off to one side. Not a trap. A diversion. She pivoted in place, raised her bow, and took aim at the retreating shape through the trees.
A cloud of ravens exploded from the underbrush; blocking her view.
“Stay your hand hunter!” the voice was hollow and echoed slightly in the night. A thick mist rolled in around her. It blocked her view in all directions. The cries of the crows made it impossible to hear the retreating footfalls of her prey.
She shifted her balance to the balls of her feet so she could move in any direction at a moment’s notice. The better to avoid an incoming attack from any direction.
The mist in front of her parted and a form poured from the dusky woods. He was tall and gaunt. He wore dark robes covered in black feathers. A dark fog flowed from beneath his robe clinging to the ground and making the terrain hard to discern.
“I have no desire to fight you, Deryn.” The shades voice was deep and booming; with the finality of tombstones.
“You stand between me and my quarry,” said Deryn. “If your words are true, you’ll move and let me pass.”
“Normally I would stop the preying of one person on a weaker target,” said the shade. He made no move to let her leave. “You’re reputation as a good and noble person has reached even my ears here in the deep woods. So tell me. Why do you hunt this man?”
“He’s a monster,” said Deryn. “He murdered a family. He killed them in cold blood. He fled into the night. And right now, you’re letting him escape justice.”
“He is in my woods,” said the shade. “Lost in my mist and fog. He’ll not wander far. But tell me, are you sure?” asked the shade. “I sense neither evil nor malice in his heart. Had he committed the acts as you say, it would have stained him in some way. I would know.”
“There were witness.”
“Still,” said the shade. “I sense no darkness in him.”
“You’re wrong.”
“Am I?”

* * *

Androth stumbled over a tree root. He was moving in a straight line. He was certain of it. He was also certain he’d passed that same tree three times. He stopped and leaned against a tall oak. There must be a way out of this damned fog.
The mist parted and the shade, Nevamor, rose up before him. “Murderer!” shouted Nevamor, his voice booming through the trees.
“No,” cried Androth backing away from the shade. “I didn’t do it.”
Androth turned and fled into the woods. Branches tearing at his clothes and hair.
The fog before him parted and Nevamor appeared in his path.
Androth screamed, turned, and ran at an angle to escape the shade. He tripped on a root. Slamming down on the ground he crawled. His fingers digging into the soft dirt as he tried to pull himself forward.
The mist parted again and Nevamor stood before him.
“Cease your flight and face justice.”
Deep tears welled in his eyes digging tracks through dirt caked to his face. “Why is this happening to me?”
“The family,” said Nevamore. “The lives you took. Repent now and perhaps I shall find mercy.”
“I didn’t do anything,” said Androth. “I didn’t kill anyone.”
“Do not lie to me.” Nevamor rose higher in the air looming over the broken man before him. “Confess your crime. Tell me of the family.”
“It wasn’t me,” said Androth. “I saw it though. Four men. Large men. Dressed in fancy clothes. They stood over those people with bloody weapons and bottles of wine. I ran. I shouldn’t of run. I should have found the magistrate. But I’m a coward. I just left. I was afraid of what they would do to me. Then that woman came for me in the night. She’s out there now.” Androth’s words fell away replaced by deep sobs. “I suppose I am guilty. I guess I do deserve her justice. I should have tried to help.”
The mist parted revealing Deryn standing a few meters from Androth.
“Are you satisfied?” asked Nevamor.
“Do you know the men he described?”
“They were the witnesses.” Deryn turned back the way she had come. It would be a couple days walk to get back to the village. It shouldn’t be too hard to find those men. She turned and took a step towards her new goal. She stopped. “I’m sorry. You didn’t deserve this.” Then she stepped into the deep woods and was gone.
It took several minutes but Nevamor waited for Androth to compose himself. He kept looking in the direction that Deryn had walked as if expecting her to change her mind and return.
“What do I do now?”
“There’s a druid enclave to the west of here,” said Nevamor. “I shall guide you to them. They will care for you until you’re able to do so yourself.”
Nevamor reached out a hand and helped Androth to his feet. He turned and began floating into the woods. Androth followed a few feet behind. After a couple of minutes a skeletal crow dropped a blue scarf on Androth’s shoulder. “Thank you.”

If you're interested in the games lore and characters check out the Super Fantasy Brawl Facebook page.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

A Clever Girl

Listening to the lore discussions this week on YouTube I was inspired to write another story. I wanted to focus on one of the other characters I really like, Ko'lel. I'm loving the lore that keeps coming out about the game and can't wait to see all they have planned.
Image from Super Fantasy Brawl by Mythic Games. 

To’paque raised his head and growled. Ko’lel paused and began gathering her weapons. She knew not to doubt To’paque’s senses. Even if she hadn’t detected anything the raptor’s senses were much more finely honed than her own.
She slid the saddle on To’paque’s back making sure to tighten the straps just enough. She grabbed her blowgun and slid it into the holster across her back; giving it a slight tug to make sure it would come free when needed. She tied the quiver of poison needles to her belt within easy reach of a quick grab and load.
 There was a noise from somewhere else in the ruins. She paused and listened to try and detect which side of the old temple her quarry was now. It took a long moment by she heard another noise. Someone had stepped on one of the piles of dried leaves she’d left scattered about the area. It sounded like they were in the western part of the temple.
Ko’lel scratched To’paque’s chin as she moved to climb on his back. “How many do you think there are old friend?” Firmly mounted in saddle she clicked her tongue. To’paque shifted his stance becoming more aggressive. After a half a breath he lunged forward, jumped up onto some vines, hopped past a patch of large jungle blooms, and vanished through a hole in the ceiling.
To’paque moved across the ruins using crumbling walls and branches to follow a nearly impossible route. The few times they were forced to the ground to move from one area to another would only leave tracks the invaders could hardly follow. It didn’t take long before the pair had found their quarry.
A group of Moontouched had entered the ruins. The group was large, thirty warriors. They had fanned out into one of the larger rooms; an old prayer center.
To’paque and Ko’lel dropped gently on top of an old statue that had once stood thirty feet high with outstretched arms that reached across the room. Now it was a crumbling reminder of a better time. The pair hunched down and used the statues head to hide their presence. Ko’lel wanted to learn who she was up against.
The Moontouched moved with precision and purpose. These weren’t ordinary soldiers; this group was highly trained and required few instructions. They had worked together for a long time and knew their jobs well.
Sentries covered the doors in groups of three. A few were scanning the upper walls of the room looking for entry points. Another group watched the canopy of trees that had replaced the toppled ceiling. A few moved to the center of the room and set out maps and journals. It was hard to tell but Ko’lel thought some of them might be maps of the area.
One of the Moontouched walked the room making quiet comments to different groups. A word here, a gesture there. Anywhere he pointed someone quickly went and made a change or rechecked a location. Ko’lel smiled, she had found their commander.
He was tall and proud with broad shoulder. A long red cloak hung from his back. His armor was dark with bone ornamentation. A heavy blade hung at his side.
She would have to keep track of him. If she could remove this one from the fight it would demoralize the others. If she timed it right they might route. With a group like this, trained experienced fighters, you never removed the commander first. His second would just step in to fill the role. If you brought them down in the heat of battle it could sow confusion while the rest figured out what had happened.
She watched the group looking for more targets. Over time she picked out a few more likely subjects. Another warrior in red that the commander paid deference too. Possibly a favored officer of family member. A few other officers or squad leaders; the ones who took command of individual groups when the commander wasn’t close enough to give orders. A few older veterans who seemed to have been there a while and might be easy to remove. Finally a young recruit who hadn’t yet found his place as he was constantly being sent from one group to another; he might be easy to pick off while moving alone through the ruins.
Ko’lel decided to try something. She waited until the young recruit was moving between groups and fired a small stone from her blowgun at him. The pebble bounced off his armor with no effect other than to get his attention. When he glanced up she took that moment to have To’paque bound up into the canopy of leaves and branches; exiting the room.
She heard the recruit raise the alarm behind her. There was commotion and excitement for a few moments as she moved To’paque to the cover of the tall flowering branches of a nearby tree. They nestled into a nook in the tree and waited to hear what came next.
The Moontouched leapt into action. She recognized quick tactical movements from the men below as they quickly executed prepared actions. Small squads fanned out and covered different areas. Soldiers drew battle lines and started scanning the tree line looking for her. But they were looking too far away. They quickly passed her hiding spot and tried to find signs of her from deeper in the ruins and forest. After several minutes they slowly moved back to the main area.
Then she heard the commander yelling. The young recruit was being dressed down for raising a false alarm. The other soldiers laughed and the young man was sent away. Ko’lel considered picking him off but he was sent in the wrong direction for her to reach him quickly without giving away her presence.
With the recruit banished to the jungle the rest of the Moontouched returned to their duties. However, now the tension had been broken. Where they had worked in silence before small talk and laughter were heard through the camp.
Ko’lel smiled. Now that they were distracted she moved to signal reinforcements. She signaled To’paque to stay in place and climbed to the highest branches of the tree. She removed colored fronds from her pack and formed them into a bundle; three red and a violet. The reds indicated ten soldiers each and the violet marked a commander.
It was a good method of communication. The fronds were bright and easily seen from a distance. Finding them in a tree would only stand out to someone familiar with the jungle. These fronds grew in the ground around the base of trees. The rest of her people would easily be able to spot the fronds and know their significance. Outsiders were unlikely to follow the same thoughts.
Ko’lel crept back to To’paque and waited. It didn’t take long before a shrill whistle cut through the air. It passed for a bird screech, but the type it mimicked nested much farther north this time of year. She scanned the tree line looking for a sign of where her people might be. She spotted two yellow fronds hanging from the canopy of trees. Twenty gnomes. They’d be outnumbered but they had the element of surprise. It would have to do.
She climbed onto To’paques back and brushed his neck, as much a way to prepare him for what was to come as a sign of affection. She slid her blowgun from its holster and prepared her attack. The gnomes would wait for her signal. They knew she was here and would expect her to lead the charge. She looked for the commander trying to keep stock of where he was in the mass below. He’d moved out of view and she couldn’t see him anymore.
Oh well. He’d be along in a moment.
Ko’lel fired a dart from her blowgun at one of the soldiers she had marked as a squad leader. The dart struck him in the neck. It was a moment before the poison took hold. Another moment after that and he was gone. As Moontouched moved to see what was wrong she let out a battle cry and urged To’paque out of their hiding spot.
He leapt from the trees into the mass of troops. The pair landed in the middle of the group of Moontouched forcing them back in a burst of fangs and claws. Before the enemy could respond To’paque had flexed his legs and they were gone. Leaping effortlessly into the trees once more.
Gnomes dropped from the canopy of trees over the Moontouched and the battel was on in earnest. The initial assault went to her people, felling a few of the Moontouched. The enemy recovered quickly and many of them joined the battle shifting into their bestial wolf form. Ko’lel’s people used their quick movements and small size to get out from under the thrust of the Moontouched counter attack. Some gnomes still fell under the fury of the assault.
Ko’lel and To’paque bound into and out of the combat. Poison darts and claws cutting into the enemy. Ko’lel spotted the enemy commander. He stood on the outskirts of the battle.  The commander’s sword was raised above his head, its blade glowing with a destructive red light. He was about to strike down on an injured gnome.
Ko’lel whistled a command to To’paque and the pair leapt in the direction of the commander. They hurtled over the intervening forces and landed behind the commander. To’paque’s tongue shot out and wrapped around the commanders neck. With a vicious tug the commander was pulled backwards.
The commander swung his sword wildly trying to slash at To’paque. Ko’lel moved in the way. She used her blowgun to block the attack. The glowing red blade dug deep into the reed blowgun ripping a chunk from it. It would be useless now but it didn’t matter. Ko’lel had to protect her friend.
The commander dropped to one knee. His swings coming slower and with less force behind them. He tried to move forward. Force his way free.
To’paque hunkered down and dug in his claws. He pulled back. Forcing the commander backwards off his feet. He drug the semi-conscious commander. Forcing the Moontouched to fight to get his footing. Fight for his breath.
Across the camp a scream of rage tore through the air. Ko’lel looked up to see the young recruit from earlier. Unlike the other moontouched he had not yet adopted his wolf form.
He began moving forward when he convulsed. Inches added to his height. His shoulder broadened. His armor strained, cracked, and tore. He dropped to all fours as the spasms subsided.
He stood. His body torn and cut from where his armor tore from him. With sword and claw he charged at Ko’lel across the clearing.
The commander still fought. Ko’lel didn’t want to leave him until the job was done. Until he was gone. She jumped onto the commanders back, pulled a dart from her pouch, and stabbed it into the commander’s neck.
The recruit reached a small skirmish. Three gnomes had engaged a Moontouched soldier. The recruit slashed into the gnomes. His long claws drew blood. A small body flew from the melee and landed in a crumpled heap. The Moontouched soldier reached for the recruit. The recruit tore into the soldier with his fangs.
The soldier fell to the earth.
Ko’lel began to feel a sense of panic. What was wrong with this recruit? She drew another dart and stabbed the commander. Then another. And Another.
The recruit reached another melee in the middle of the room. Three Moontouched were about to finish off a gnome. The recruit stabbed the gnome through his spine. Then with no recognition of friend or foe he slaughtered the Moontouched in his way as well.
The commander fell still. Finally succumbing to the assault of tongue and poison. To’paque released the body and Ko’lel mounted the lizard. She quickly signaled a retreat. The other gnomes broke for the forest. They took those they could reach with them.
Ko’lel urged To’paque and the pair launched into the trees. She hazarded a glance back to see if there was any pursuit. The Moontouched gathered around body of their commander. The young recruit having released his wolf form knelt next to the body. He cradled his commander’s head against his chest and screamed to the heavens.

If you're interested in the games lore and characters check out the Super Fantasy Brawl Facebook page.

Monday, June 24, 2019

A Talk of Glory

While I've not heard how the characters for Super Fantasy Brawl are recruited to the Arena I couldn't help wonder if it was a bit something like this.

Image from Super Fantasy Brawl by Mythic Games

The room was sparse but nice. The furniture was comfortable and hand-made. A table, some chairs, and a warm bed filled the space. At the foot of the bed was a dark chest, similar to the one he had placed at the end of his bunk in the barracks.
It reminded Dugrun of home. Except the walls. These weren’t like the keep in the Frostfel Mountains. The walls at home were smooth grey stone. These were a coarse tan sandstone. He ran his fingers across the surface of the nearest one. It was rough and weak. Though there were no tool marks which showed a level of care to them.
There was a sturdy door in one wall. Though, thick oak by the look of it. Iron braces held it together. It was undoubtedly locked. Dugrun would see to that in a moment. That and a way to defend himself, his hammer, shield, and war horn were absent.
He turned his attention to the last feature, a wide window was fixed in a far wall. A set of curtains similar to the ones his mum had were hung over them. One side was pulled open to reveal a bright sky with few clouds. A harsh sun shone down from above marking it close to midday.
He heard a cheer from outside the window. There was a crowd. From the sound, it was massive. Dugrun moved to see the view and perhaps get a better idea of what was going on, who had taken him, and maybe even how they had done it.
Far below a battle was being held in an arena. Five warriors clashed around three statues. No wait, it was six. One of them had been burrowing under the sand and burst out to attack a tigeran warrior. The crowd cheered as the gladiators blades clashed.
“There’s a bowl of stew on the table fer ye.”
Dugrun moved back from the window and grabbed one of the chairs. He held it in front of himself to ward off any blows from the person. A stout figure sat in the shadow of the closed curtain. Dugrun tried to make out some features of the shadowy form who watched the match below with a detached interest.
“Who are ye?” asked Dugrun.
“A friend.” The figure kept his eyes on the fight below.
Dugrun began to move towards the door behind him.
“Calm down,” said the figure. “If they’d wanted to hurt you they’d have done it. You’re safe.”
Dugrun paused and slowly set the chair down and sat angling himself to be able to see the door and the figure obscured in the window.
“Eat the stew before it gets cold. It’s yer favorite.”
“Not possible,” said Dugrun. “I only like me ma’s stew.”
“Try it then.”
Dugrun reached out a cautious hand and took the bowl. He sniffed the thick mixture of gravy, meat, and vegetables. It certainly smelled like his ma’s. He dipped a tentative finger in the liquid and tasted it. It was his ma’s.
“Told ye it was yer favorite,” said the shadow.
Dugrun ignored the two spoons in the middle of the table and took the half loaf of bread. He tore a chunk off and began scooping the stew up with the crusty ends as he had when he was a child.
“How do ye have me ma’s stew?” asked Dugrun. “She’s been gone for…”
“Some six years,” said the figure. “I know. It’s what they do here.”
“It’s not all they do here,” said Dugrun motioning towards the window.
Outside there was a crack of thunder and the figure let out a bark of laughter as the crowd cheered.
“What happened?” asked Dugrun.
“Gwaien,” said the figure as if it had answered the question. “You’ll understand later.”
“Is that what they mean for us to do?” asked Dugrun. “Fight for the crowds?”
“Aye,” said the figure. “If ye wish to. I did.”
“What if I say no?” asked Dugrun. “Will they just let me out of the locked room to go home?”
“Ye can leave when ye want,” said the figure. “Doors not locked. Exit’s out and to the right. Third door down. It’ll take you home. Yer kit’s in the chest.”
Dugrun walked over and opened the chest. The figure was telling the truth, Dugrun’s hammer, shield, and war horn sat neatly placed in the chest. They had been cleaned and polished to a shine. He strapped everything in place and walked to the door.
“Thank ye fer the stew. It brought back good memories.”
“It always does,” said the figure.
Dugrun opened the door and looked out of the room. He was in a large barracks. The outer edge of the room was ringed with doors; some open and some not. A large practice area was set in the middle of the room. Several training dummies were set around the room at regular intervals.
A large troll in heavy armor was eviscerating a trio of dummies with his claws. As soon as he was done he stepped back and yelled, “Again.” The dummies quickly stitched themselves back together. The troll took a deep breath and started again.
“Do ye want to know the prize fer fightin?” asked the figure.
Dugrun looked back at the figure in the room. “Is that yer job?” he asked. “To recruit me?”
“Not exactly,” said the figure. “I’m more here to get you ready to be recruited.”
 “What could they possibly offer me?”
“What do ye want?”
“Money, power, the usual,” said Dugrun.
“No,” said the figure. “I didn’t say ‘what do ye think they’re offering.’ I said ‘what do ye want?”
“They don’t have it,” said Dugrun.
“Try me.”
“Home. I want a home.”
“Just any old place,” said the figure. “Nice little picket fence and some roses? That’s what ye’d like?” The figure paused. “Tell me what you want. Deep down in the core of yer being. In yer soul.”
“Dundurin,” said Dugrun. “I want them to last. I want them to thrive. The mountains and my people who live there.”
“What,” asked Dugrun.
“Done,” said the figure. “If you win, they’ll live on for all time. Just as ye asked.”
Dugrun stopped. “How do they do that? How is it possible?”
“It is,” said the figure. “I’m not good at explaining it. They’ll have someone along who can do better than I.”
“What do I have to do?” asked Dugrun. “How many do I have to kill? How long must I play in their games? Is it till I die or become so broken I can’t go on?”
“Neither,” said the figure. “All of them. There’s a tournament going on below us right now. Each of the wizards involved have chosen a few heroes and villains from throughout - whenever and we face off to see who makes the best team. Be a part of the team that wins everything and ye’ll get yer wish.”
“How long does it take?” asked Dugrun.
“That is a hard question to answer,” said the figure. “The tournament is a few weeks but you’ll take part over most of yer life. Stepping in and out depending on where in the tournament the match is taking place.”
“How many fights have you had,” asked Durgun.
“I don’t believe I’m allowed to say. Don’t want to spoil the surprise.”
“Is there ever an end to it?”
“Aye,” said the figure. “I just fought my last match a few hours ago. I’m spending time to watch an old friend face their final opponent. They let ye do that.”
“I’m meant to replace ye?”
The figure laughed.
Dugrun’s hand rested on the shaft of his hammer. “What’s so funny?”
“Nothing,” said the figure. “It’s just that I remember asking that question and getting mad at the answer. It just struck me now. The things ye remember.”
“Any advice before ye leave?”
“Watch yer left,” said the figure. “Beware the skies, and try and remember to make new friends. Ye’ll be working with and against everyone here. Ye’ll not like them all but ye will love some. Some will be like brothers and sisters. One may be more. When ye remember to let them.”
Dugrun let go of the door handle. “Can they really do it? What you said?”
“Yes,” said the figure.
“Then I think I’ll stay.”
“I know.”
Dugrun looked at the figure through the curtain. “Have you recruited so many that you never fail?”
“Yer the first,” said the figure. “Ye’ll only ever take part in this little chat twice. Once from that end. Once from this un.”
“Thank ye,” said Dugrun. “What’s yer name old timer?”
“Not sure I’m allowed to say.”
“Then how will I speak of ye?” asked Dungrun. “I must call ye something when I speak of this?”
“If ye must call me something call me Warden.”
“Goodbye Warden,” said Dugrun as he exited the room.
“Good luck,” said the Warden smiling. “We’re gonna need it.”

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Tuesday, June 18, 2019

A Classic Family Game

This past Saturday was Free Role-Play Game Day, or Free RPG Day. This is a fun little event that happens every year. A bunch of publishers chip in and build a box of sample modules and other bits to help promote the hobby. Stores all over get copies of the box and run events over the course of the day. People can show up and play in games, get free copies of some books, and spend the day talking to people about games.
I spent my Saturday at my local game store, Epic Loot in Centerville. Every year they put together a great experience where people can come and try new games, meet new people, and spend their time enjoying themselves. They set aside their large game room and reserve tables for this. I was going to run 3 games for them.
I got my adventures ahead of time and read through and prepared to play them on the day. I was excited to see that one of my games was the adventure from Goodman Games line of Dungeon Crawl Classics. It was a fun adventure that should take around two to three hours. And it was a character funnel.
If you don’t know, a character funnel is a very deadly dungeon where players get two or more randomly generated characters and go into an adventure where it is designed to kill them. The extra characters are so they can keep playing after death. I had a ton of fun reading this and was excited to see how the game would go.
When I arrived Saturday morning and went to my table I met my first group and was immediately nervous. My players were a family. A father and his two kids, a son and a daughter. In itself this was not a problem. My fear came from the ages. The children were roughly four and six. I was about to run a four and six year old through an adventure that was designed to be punishing, difficult, and to murder their characters. I wasn’t sure how well they’d take it.
We introduced ourselves and the dad told me that they had seen him playing with his group the night before and wanted to try a game. When he learned about Epic Loot’s Game Day he decided to come down and try out a game with the kids. Normally, an admirable goal and one I would have welcomed heartily.
I didn’t want to shoo them away and I didn’t want to tell them they couldn’t play. I decided to go with tact. I explained the system and the game to them. I told them what would be happening and how the game would work. I made sure to stress the lethal nature of the adventure.
The dad said they’d be okay and the kids were excited to play. With that covered we rolled up two characters for each of them. (Due to age, I’m not going to use their names or share any of my pictures from that sessions.)
DCC funnels are a fun experience. You get a level one character that is completely randomly rolled. This includes traditional things like the hero’s statistics and hit points, but also throws race and equipment into the hopper. Being level zero, they don’t even get adventuring classes. Which is why we had a party consisting of a gypsy, a farmer, a blacksmith, a glove maker, a baker, and seamstress. The racial makeup included a human, two halflings, and three dwarves.
The daughter had the strongest characters with the best stats and full hit points across the board. The son was the weakest with the lowest stats and two characters with a single hit point each. They entered the dungeon and everything went well for them until they got to the first trap.
We were all having fun and the daughter managed to have one of her characters set off the trap. She died instantly in a single dice roll. I held my breath. How would she react? We’re we finished playing now? Was this the end of our time together?
Now, I realize there was an easy fix for this. I could have not killed her character. I could have run the adventure on easy mode, let the characters live, and let the kids just win. I thought about it. I really did. Ultimately, the reason I didn’t go with it was that I had made a big deal about how hard the dungeon is, how hard the encounters are, and how deadly it is. I felt that if I’d gone through all of that and then let them all just win it would diminish the experience. A funnel is a specific kind of things and I wanted to give them that. Also, the next slot had a session of Dungeons and Doggos and I figured they could have the fun family friendly session there.
I made sure to highlight that they each got two heroes for when one of them died. I even pointed out how in a funnel when I was a player I lost all of my characters but someone who still had extras gave me one of theirs. I’d hoped that I had seeded enough of an upside that losing a character would be easy or at least, not hard. I really hoped that the dad would be the first to lose a character so the kids could laugh about it. Unfortunately, it was the daughter.
She laughed. She thought it was funny that she’d died. With that out of the way we moved on. Over the next two hours I killed five of the six characters. They were killed by traps and monsters. In the end the final room, the son had one of the best moments I’ve ever had playing an RPG. He saw an army of soldiers coming to destroy him and asked if he could run over them using their helmets as stepping stones. I let him roll for it. He failed. He managed to survive one more round because I made some remarkably bad rolls. Which I didn’t fudge. In the spirit of the funnel I rolled everything in the open. He managed to force his way through the army, the only one left, and face against the warlord. He raised his spear and hit. The warlord staggered. Swung back and missed. The son raised his spear, his family cheering him on, and struck the warlord in the chest killing him instantly.
He won.
He defeated the enemy and with the last line of story from the module asked if he could go on and face the next threat hinted at in the last line.
There’s a second adventure in the module. The dad took a copy and promised them they could play it at home with mom.
I was glad I was there for it. I’m glad I let myself run the adventure. I’m glad I didn’t let them win. I maybe let a couple of things go their way that might not have otherwise, but I didn’t let them win.  In the end we all had fun. The kids laughed for a few hours. Dad got to play games with his kids. I maybe helped get two new players into role-play games.
I always have fun on Free RPG Day. I have many stories from all the years I’ve taken part in this event. However, I think this will be one of the better memories for me. Because of who it was and how it went; how badly it could have gone.
To that family, if you’re out there, thanks for letting me play with you.