Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Leaving Las Vegas

Being my memories of the airport boarding gate as we waited for our return flight home from Las Vegas.

Our flight was supposed to leave at 8.30p. We got to the gate around 7.45. And we waited while all the horrid cacophony of slot machine noises blared around us. Our plane was delayed. At 9 we asked what was going on. Mechanical trouble, another plane en route. More and more the bing ching ring tingle clack roar of flashing lights and mind-numbing hums and electronicly produced tunes tore at my ear drums.

10.30, still no plane. The one that was supposed to be the replacement couldn't leave its airport because of a bomb threat. I'll bomb threat you god damn purveyors of slot machine hells!! but that won't stop the bells and whistles, whirs and chirps, clacks and ratchet clicks as one-armed-bandits rob me of my sanity. Red eyed tired and boiling with rage I stare down the clock, daring it to strike Midnight.

Unfeeling, uncaring, the giant garish digital clock reads 12.30a. We are finally boarding. The laser light show provided by the horrid machinery is not celebratory. It is mocking. Taunting. Laughing at me with all of its many grating metallic voices.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


I played my first game of Dread last night. I was host and ran the plot "Beneath a Metal Sky" found in the back of the book. The first surprise came when I found out that not everyone in my gaming group had seen the movie Alien. But the biggest surprise was how much fun it was.

I never had any doubts that I would enjoy the game. I was, however, concerned that others might find the game mechanic (Jenga tower) too gimicky. On the contrary, at the end of the game one player remarked cleverly "The game mechanic is such that the terror actually builds." As host I tried to narrate what challenges the character was trying to overcome while the player was pulling a block. I did this primarily for two reasons. It filled the time and provided a link between the time it took to pull a block and the time it would take to accomplish the task. For the few pulls where I didn't narrate, other players interrupted with humor. I didn't bother to try to stop them, because I wanted a fun game. If that meant the game wasn't as 'scary' I was ok with that.

One thing that definitely did not surprise me was how much the plot changed from what was written. I want to let my players do what they want as long as it makes sense. It made sense for them to shoot the one man who could operate the escape pods on the Auerbach. After all, he had just shot and killed a member of their crew. They didn't really uncover the whole truth, but that was partly my fault. I wasn't very clear on how much information I should give them and where.

There were a few good answers on the questionnaires. The first one made me go "oh cool" right off the bat when I read it. One player decided that the thing his character feared most was "hallucinations" or a general loss of the ability to believe his senses. This was perfect, as the radiation levels on the Auerbach would tend to cause that to happen if the group were exposed to the elements. Unfortunately, the crew came well-equipped with exploratory suits. Another memorable answer did not become apparent until late in the game. On the captain's questionnaire it asks "what food that most people like can't you stand?" The player intimated that the captain had survived a ship-wreck that left most people turning to cannibalism to survive. So the food he couldn't tolerate was ribs. At first I thought it was mere silliness and almost made him change his answers. But I wanted to let my players do what they want as long as it made sense. He explained it. It made sense. Then later when the crew encountered one of the strange zombie-like monsters, the fear of cannibalism and disgust with ribs came into play. The tower almost fell as the captain tried to maintain his composure.

I hope that the players would be willing to play another session of Dread, this time with a home-brewed plot line. I know that I'm hooked. The only trouble I foresee is the lack of continuing characters from session to session. Perhaps if I were to adopt a more consistent time-line or plan a more longterm storyline. Depending on how characters exited the game, they could be brought back in another session. Hmm....

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Getting Nerdlier

Lately I've been getting even more nerdly. If that is possible. Perhaps it is my nigh-constant self-exposure to YSDC. I keep listening to their podcasts and wanting to make something like it. I think my nerdly heart knows no satiety. I am always longing for ten more minutes of nerditude. One more post on the forums. One more session of gaming. One more chance to write a great story.

Perhaps I will someday... soooooon!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The King in Yellow

The French authorities are clamoring for the destruction of and suppression of a newly written play titled "The King in Yellow." This critic received an advanced copy of the 'heretical' play and scarcely felt the need to finish the bloody thing. It is pure banality! The piece reads like dictations from parliamentary sessions.
The author, one Monsieur Castaigne, dares call himself a playwright. In fact his is more akin to the profession of a parliamentary page. His play drags along at such a tedious pace I could not even force myself to finish reading the damn thing. In the openning scene we are introduced to the characters in such a contrived fashion that they hardly seem believable. Give me the misfortunate characters of Dickens any day! These poorly developed personnages fail to show even a modicum of emotion, whining on and on about how the queen must choose an heir.
Perhaps the French tastes have sunk since their days of glory. These days, it seems, we see more and more plays which merely repeat the gruff dialogue of the streets, telling stories so old and worn they seem laughable.
If the French wish to burn this play, so be it. I see no need to keep such literary rubbish around.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Backstory for Dr. Phillip Gabroman

The Symposium on Unknown History is a world-renowned event held once every four years. This year The Symposium is being hosted by the Erwight Raleigh Museum of Natural History and features an expert on the subjects of sunken continents and ancient lore: Dr. Phillip Gabroman (b. 1943).

Dr. Gabroman earned all of his three PhD’s from Miskatonic University in 1962 at the age of 19: making him the youngest graduate to earn three PhD’s at once. The more illustrious universities – Yale, Harvard, Dartmouth – only recognize one of his degrees: Ancient Mythology. He has been on many expeditions to exotic locations, including a National Geographic documentary in search of the lost continent of Mu at the age of 23.

The documentary was a complete failure and Dr. Gabroman became the laughing stock of academic society and was left bankrupt. He disappeared in early 1967 and resurfaced in 1988: in Peru. A missionary group was decommissioning a corrupted and neglected Spanish colonial-age sanatorium and bringing the patients to America for study and treatment. He was found, delirious, in the depths of a basement yammering and gibbering.

For six years he had been kept locked in the darkest most isolated cell while his mind purged itself through hell-fire. The pale, emaciated, scholar’s broken mind conjured up terrifying images and summoned the most inhuman screams from his tortured soul until his voice gave out. The staff completely ignored him, except for the rare feeding. He was alone with his terrible thoughts and his mind slowly cleansed itself while his body was ravaged by the effort.

After spending an additional two years institutionalized in America, Dr. Gabroman was deemed mentally fit to reenter society. He maintained a fairly low profile, scratching at the poverty line by writing hokey “non-fiction” about lost lands – like Mu – featuring bland cliché plots stolen from the pulp magazine “Weird Tales.”

In 1988, the aging Doctor was invited to speak at a science-fiction convention in Boston. His lecture on the lost continent of R’lyeh shattered even the strongest theories. Dr. Gabroman provided undeniable proof that over the millennia, the lost continent had shifted and was located somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Doctor was granted an Associate Professorship at Miskatonic University and spent the next 17 years utilizing the university’s vast library and resources to continue his research.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Eye of the Storm

I have survived to see the eye of the storm. The fearful thoughts from which this journal sprang have dissipated in the faint rays of the sun. I didn't sleep last night. But I did dream.
It is that horrible dream which I have tried to record here, only to find the harder I fight to remember, the farther it flees from my mind. And thankfully so. I do not want to recall that terror, that unbearable hopelessness. Yet, I continue to transcribe the things I saw.
The visions were not the cause of the fear I felt in that fitful slumber. There was something else. Something that even now as I write will not return to me. Something that horrid man in the mask said. Some strange truth he spoke. My mind will not let me hear the words.
The hurricane whirls and spins with me at the center. Calm winds soon become strong gales and rip the pages from my hands. I overturn my table as I start upright. There in the shadowy corner where the clouds gather and the fog swirls. He appears. He is speaking but I will not let myself hear. My knees lose feeling and I fall to the ground. Am I screaming? What is he telling me? Why can't I move?
The howl of the winds dies down and I lift my head from my desk. The faint rays of the sun fall on my shoulder, but I feel little warmth. As the clouds clear from the sky I shudder, knowing it is merely the eye of the storm.