No More Boundaries

This week we played No Boundaries by Marc Hobbs as a group of workers at a failing chain bookstore in an outdoor mall outside New York City. We are prankster Blythe the barista and fill-in storyteller, garrulous Dwight the gift wrapper, slacker Pete the shelver, and bitter Sonja the poetry specialist. We arrive on New Year’s Day and wait for the manager to open up and chat about our Eves. Blythe arrives with green hair, having stayed home to dye it as part of her training to be a hairdresser. Dwight is wearing a three-piece suit and tells us about the party at a billionaires mansion. Pete spent the evening whooping it up in Times Square with his surfer buddies. And Sonja complains about how she and her friends were removed from a boat house party where they had every right to be.

In the first part of the year, our corporate overlords decide that we need to add sporting equipment to our stock. Dwight and Sonja end up wrapping a set of golf clubs for a customer who insists that each one be wrapped individually and isn’t pleased with our book themed paper. In the lounge, Pete is chilling with Blythe and Dwight when Sonja comes in complaining about the basketballs in the poetry section, but before going back out there, Blythe dyes Pete’s hair in the sink. Blythe aids Sonja in selling a bicycle to a customer, even though neither of them know anything about bikes. On a smoke break with Pete and Dwight, Blythe suggests they go together to Hawaii if the store closes down, and all consider their futures.

Red stick figure stands in front of bookshelves loaded with book with section heads stating "Business" and "Failure".
Image courtesy of Less Than Three Games from Itch.io

Over the long summer, the company offers an all-expenses paid trip to New York City to the employee who sells the most membership cards. While Pete is trying to sell a card to a customer, Blythe keeps needling the customer and gets him to write the check to her in exchange for her employee discount. Pete offers to meet the customer out back to sell him some weed. In the lounge, Dwight hears from Sonja rumors about the store: the manager Tall Dave may be leaving, and the higher ups may be catching onto Pete’s side business out the back. In a big smoke break out back, everyone is out of cigs after Tall Dave has been replaced by a real ball-buster who is making us all miserable. Blythe convinces us to sabotage the membership card contest to ensure the company has to shell out to send a winner some distance to get to New York.

For the end of the year, corporate starts a partnership to sell Taco Bell in the café, which excites Pete to no end and depresses the rest of us. Blythe decides to incorporate an anti-Taco Bell message into story time and brainstorms ideas with Sonja, who suggests a taco house in Hansel & Gretel or telling the kids about Willy Wonka & the Chalupa Factory. On a smoke break, we all discuss whether that Hawaii idea is real, and everyone promises to support Sonja with Dwight tending bar, Blythe styling hair, and Pete running the store. If we could steal a bunch of books before we leave, it might make opening our own easier.

At the end of the year, the store finally closes, our final workday New Year’s Eve. That night Pete holds a pity party with his surfer friends and Sonja joins in, uncertain what to do with herself. Blythe is packing for Hawaii, prepping the stolen books for shipment, and wondering whose coming with her. Dwight decides to live blog the celebrations in Time Square, hoping to outdo the professional announcers and get noticed.

Collective Downfall

This week we played the setup of Downfall by Caroline Hobbs. Using the words swarm, steam, and salt, we created a fantastic world where insectoids harvest salt from natural saltwater hot springs to build their nests and interlocking units. We call our haven the Saline Swarm. Our society depends on each individual showing loyalty to their station, to the collective, and to our traditions.

Like many entomons, we each serve a specialized function in the life of the colony. Each mating pair provides eggs to the Collectors who come each cycle gathering our spawn to sustain our communal endeavor. When a particular cohort hatches, the hatchlings are put into a family under a single Carer, each brood distinguished from others by the colors splashed across the hatchlings’ carapaces. Although each brood is intended for a particular function after their molting comes, before an individual joins a functional unit by performing the ritual signal dance for that profession. If someone insists on learning the dance of a different function, there is nothing to be done but welcome them into the new function with the appropriate professional stamp upon their foreheads.

Each function and each structure in our nest is built from the salt that Harvesters bring from the salt plains. We use interlocking structures shaped like blown-glass, with curved interiors coming to a point at each end. The Architects long ago determined this was the strongest and most efficient structures to be erected with the salts. The guild hall for each professional function is stamped with the interlocking shape for that function. Our relationships vary just as in any other civilization, but we are careful to reserve specific greetings for only our most intimate companions. The interlocking of the forelegs creates varied patterns that show the nature and closeness of each relationship. When a particular cohort comes to the end of their cycle, they go together to a specific place in the salt plains and splay as one upon the ground and fade away while the salt-crystal lamps burn in their honor.

We don’t know it yet, but our colony is destined for collapse. The head of each guild sits upon the ruling council, and our cast consists of three Elders on this council. Drax the Pairings Master, who arranges the mating pairs that will produce the broods the colony needs, has been fighting against the council’s loyalty to the old ways. He insists that we need new professions to address the diminishing returns from the salt harvests—explorers or hunters to find new salt deposits or venture beyond the salt plains. If the deposits and yield continue to diminish, our entire civilization will falter. Opposed to Drax is their old friend Lapida the Harvester, who objects to the implication against the harvesting guild and believes we should just put our heads down and continue the work rather than creating fanciful new functions. Asima the Lamp Crafter, who grew up with Drax in the same brood, feels both of them are too worked up. Asima knows Drax isn’t insulting the Harvesters but also that they worry too much. Surely everything will end as it should.

Clash in the Sky at Ikara

We played another session of Clash at Ikara by Randy Lubin on his storysynth engine, this time as a group protecting a floating monastery in the sky filled with a holy library of magical tomes. The monks are scholars not fighters and have been protected for centuries by the clouds. Human raiders have begun to master flying mounts and devices and raiding Ikara. To protect their magical trove, the monks have asked us to defend the monastery and drive the raiders away.

Our Strategist has joined to safeguard the knowledge that he wants to study to improve his strategic thinking. The Tinkerer has always loved books, especially those with practical applications. A military Veteran has also joined seeking peace, knowing the terrible costs of war. A well-known Sage is friends with one of the Ikaran monks, so joins our band. The martial Virtuoso joins simply because he hates bullies and cannot bear to see the defenseless overrun. Another joins our group, this Tagalong seeks the whereabouts of her brother lost long ago, who may be at Ikara.

To prepare for the raid we know is coming, we each show the monks how to act rather than wait passively. The Veteran learns that the raid will be delayed because the raiders must prepare the potion bombs they use when flying and are having supply issues. The Sage uses the additional time to drill the monks and teach them rudimentary tactics—how a group can work together and use sandbags and other fortifications as cover. The Strategist collects shards of glass and reflective metals and shows the monks how to use them to blind attacking flyers, and studies how to use the clouds to confuse the raiders. The Tagalong notices that the tunnel through the floating island under the monastery creates a natural whirlwind that could be used against the attackers. The Tinkerer notices the broken masonry from previous attacks and builds a pair of catapults to fling this rubble at the raiders. Finally, our Virtuoso advises the abbot that to secure victory, they must sacrifice the great yew tree in the monastery’s garden to the sky goddess Altara because the monks have lost the god’s favor. When the Strategist disagrees, the abbot decides to wait for their protectors to speak with one voice before acting.

Large yew tree rises up to a white sky between the walls of a monastery.
Photo of yew tree at Muckross Abbey Cloister by Johanning courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Once the raiders attack and the battle begins, we each must act as we see best. The Strategist has lain traps throughout the grounds for the raiders, such as hidden openings through which they fall. When given the chance to sacrifice himself to free captive monks, the Strategist instead moves to make the prisoners a burden for the bandits. The Veteran attacks recklessly with her Infinity Sword and disables and captures an entire cadre of raiders. The Tinkerer sees a bomb dropped into the courtyard and covers it with a metal helm and his body, sacrificing himself to save others. But the Sage uses their medical knowledge to save the Tinkerer from certain death. The Tagalong sees a group of monks—is that her brother—trapped in the fire from an incendiary potion and succumbs to the smoke while rescuing them from the flames. The Virtuoso sets the yew tree ablaze, releasing the poisonous smoke into the air before launching into the sky aboard a sphinx, destroying many raiders. The Strategist sees the monastery’s beloved mascot, a young acolyte, in danger but cleverly rescues them. The Tinkerer, injured but mobile again, leads the monks in using the catapults to take out the bandit leader, a terrible brute with a large beard and brandishing a large axe, bringing the raid to an end. We have won.

With their leader gone and forces decimated, it’s years before the earthdwellers are organized and developed enough to consider another raid. The Strategist stays at the monastery and writes new books on strategy to be added to its shelves. The Tinkerer helps to rebuild and introduces many innovative solutions. The Veteran, still seeking peace, becomes a monk and stays. The Sage plays chess with their old friend and stays to study medicine. The Tagalong recovers and learns what happened to her brother all those years before deciding to return to earth and move on. The Virtuoso tells the Abbot that now that they have earned Altara’s favor, they must build her a shrine where the yew tree once stood, then he leaves to find others who need his leadership and protection.

Doubled Love Balloon

This week we set sail once again on the Love Balloon by Ray Chou and came together for hijinks and romance. Julie Plover is our airship’s Activities Director, working to ensure everyone enjoys the cruise. Staying in the Presidential Suite are Dane Cabot, a charming playboy out for fleeting romance, and Eris Show, a shy professional performer who’s living a double life. In three single suites are Terry Spear, writer of paranormal holiday romance novels about wolf billionaires; Blake Duran, a has-been action celebrity looking for a way back to relevance; and Hermes Diabolite, a stage magician whose memory is beginning to fade and whose sleight of hand is no longer so sleight.

Our story begins with Julie escorting Eris, overcome by the crowds at the mooring station, through the back halls of the airship to her cabin. Dane will apparently join her later, as he is too busy charming Hermes while securing a dove that threatens to fly away from the aging magician. At one of the airship’s bars, Terry runs into Blake and gushes over his past triumphs and suggests that he would be perfect to play a werewolf billionaire in an adaptation of her work. As the airship flies on to our first port of call, our cast tumbles into each other some more. Hermes runs into Blake and they discuss their respective histories in the movie and entertainment business. They bond over Blake’s films (Vital Organs and Bloodsport 7) and their near-miss collaborations over the years, so Blake asks Hermes if playing a billionaire werewolf would be a good career move. Meanwhile, Terry bumps into Eris in the airship’s library, who they mine for story ideas before pressing The Wolf King of Passover into the young woman’s hands. In a dining room with a lounge piano, Dane is chatting with Julie about her life and her work until he decides to sing her a song.

The Love Balloon, a game of ... hijinks, humor & romance appears in the left hand corner with two figures dancing the Charleston to the right in a field of soft pink.

At the Seven Geysers, Blake leaves the ship and runs into Dane camped out behind the observation glass as they wait for the famous 49-minute geyser to erupt. Blake is obsessed with how to reinvent and reinvigorate his career, throwing multiple ideas (playing Corazon Aquino, releasing an album) at the young man, but Dane suggests he doesn’t need reinvention but new additions, to expand himself rather than begin again. The old actor is quite taken in by the interest the young man shows in him and expresses his hope to see him again as the geyser erupts. Earlier on the ship, not long after most had gone ashore, Julie encounters Eris in the ballroom dancing alone, suggests she consider going ashore, but ends up dancing with her to help the young woman learn the foxtrot. Overcome, Eris dashes off to her room.

Back sailing the skies, there is a masquerade as the airship heads back to port. We begin with Julie talking about the cruise and whether the aging actor has found what he seeks, until Eris interrupts on her way inside. Blake asks Julie to show Dane to his table when he arrives and heads inside. Julie discovers Eris in the restroom and asks her to come out and dance, but doesn’t notice when Dane emerges from the bathroom, so gives him her kerchief and directs him to Blake. After a brief talk with Blake, Dane asks him to get some drinks and disappears. When the foxtrot starts, Eris dances with Julie, who notices her neckerchief sticking out of the girl’s pocket, and tells her not to shut herself away. When Blake arrives, Eris runs away and Dane returns still with Julie’s neckerchief and when a dancer bumps into Dane, knocking his hat and mask off, it’s revealed that Eris and Dane are the same person.

Crying profusely, Julie pulls Eris away from the crowds and tells her that she is nice no matter who she appears to be. Blake suggests her two parts need to be brought together and explains how much he’s learned from the roles he’s played. They agree to meet to watch an animated film tomorrow morning when Julie has downtime before the ship approaches its destination. After the cruise, Blake provides the voice for an animated series about a billionaire werewolf in which Eris gets a voice role too.

Follow the Wolves

We played Follow by Ben Robbins this week, forming a movement to advocate for werewolves’ civil rights. Our group consists of romantic idealist Fantina Lycanfyl and her child Kal, violent revolutionary Lupin Pires, armchair rebel and peacemaker Herbert Allen, experienced international legal advocate Regene and her documentarian friend Findal, Debbie Boland who doubts our group’s abilities, and the impatient true believer Victor Forthright.

We begin our quest to secure werewolves their rights by trying to organize a protest of an injustice. We think we’ve found the perfect moment when Lupin is fired because he couldn’t work one full moon night. Regene begins building a legal case and learning about the obstacles werewolves face in our society. Regene argues for legal action and creating a community support center, but Lupin wants to fight in the streets while Victor advocates for an immediate rally. In our meeting to settle on a plan of action, Fantina sees the value in both and Herbert tries to bring the two sides together. Eventually, we compromise by planning to hold a rally to raise funds and consciousnesses supporting a community center that can give werewolves a safe space to meet and seek legal and medical aid. However, the group fails to pull everything together in time for the date set, so Debbie decides we’re too disorganized to be effective and leaves the group.

Follow rpg logo over alpine mountain peaks
Follow logo courtesy Lamemage Games.

Regene shares secret information with Fantina and Victor about famous pop star Irina Saari hiding her werewolf status, and together decide that it would help our cause if she could be convinced to reveal her true nature. Regene plans to meet with her alone to begin recruiting the star. Despite being sworn to secrecy, Fantina tells Kal, who in turn reveals the truth to the rest of the group and a considerable number of her friends at school. Kal and Lupin’s child (Lupito) form a fan club at school for Irina and Lupito gets his whole class into Irina’s music, while his father creates a major online “Werewolves for Irina” fan destination site. Herbert leads his pack of youths on a pilgrimage to follow Irina from concert to concert and keep up a howling section at all her shows. Regene decides now is the time to approach Irina and intercepts her when Irina is collecting the Wolvesbane Nectar needed for the transformation-suppression drug that both Irina and Regene use to keep their wolf-natures under control. After much discussion, Regene convinces Irina this could be good not only for all wolves but a professional coup for her. Soon after, Irina releases a new album called Secrets and begins a media tour during which she reveals her secret. Kal is so inspired that they decide to become a singer and leaves the group to follow that dream.

Finally, we decide to build out and open the community center, but the building Regene secured during our protest challenge is in desperate need of repairs. Knowing that it would take months to complete the restoration, we decide that the restoration itself can be the center’s first community-building project, like an old-style barn raising. In support, Herbert leads his pack door-to-door evangelizing for the center and asking for people’s help. Victor puts donation canisters in stores throughout the city, while Fantina and Lupin organize a bake sale at the local farmer’s market and Lupito leads a children’s talent show. Fantina is everywhere during the restoration, working on the kitchens, the roof, the bathrooms, and the decor. Regene runs into Irina working at the center one day, and they discuss when Regene might stop using the wolvesbane and reveal herself until they’re interrupted by Findal and his documentary camera. With the support of the community, we succeed in opening the community center to aid werewolves across the city.

In epilogues, we see Lupin settled at the community center, less violent and more happy than ever before. Victor practically lives at the community center and his family comes all the time. Findal completes and releases his documentary about our movement at film festivals and travels with Regene when she leaves for Madagascar to help the werewolves there. Fantina grows restless and begins to look for another cause to support, while Herbert, pleased with how peaceful we were, often brings his entire pack around to the community center to hang out and enjoy the newfound space.

Venture to the Bane

We played Venture by Riley Rethal this week, as a group of adventurers commissioned by the royal family to rescue the Prince, lost in the haunted forest. We are well-known in the kingdom for our skill, honor, and (most of us) loyalty: Sebastian the honorable Paladin, Topaz the scavenging Rogue, Dalavarr the weather Wizard, Aloisius the doubting Cleric, and Claresta the impulsive Fighter.

Our adventure begins being called to the palace and taken to a hidden royal garden to meet the Lord Chancellor who explains that our mission is delicate and must be kept secret, but the Prince was lost recently on a hunting mission, pulled into the haunted forest and did not emerge. All fear that the Bane has taken him and recall what we’ve heard of the creature: its rows of razor sharp teeth, that it is a cursed human, that it guards the forest, that it is intelligent, and that it prefers to be left alone. We ride for the point where the Prince was lost. On the road, Topaz decides to unload some items she picked up at the palace: a pair of chainmail gloves that Sebastian accepts without asking their provenance, but Claresta rejects the steel dagger with the runes because it’s too puny a weapon. Sebastian takes a quiet moment to ask Aloisius why the cleric does not trust him. Aloisius explains that the fervor and breadth of the paladin’s faith are disconcerting to him, who has never felt such divine passion, but trusts that he will do his duty.

At last we enter the forest, but we keep finding ourselves emerging back where we started. Dalavarr attempts to conjure a wind to dispel the forest fog, but first the fog envelopes us and as it clears, we find ourselves in a market, populated by fae folk. Dalavarr warns us of the dangers of bargains with the fae, but we find ourselves the object of much attention. One goblin is amused by us and approaches to offer help to the strangers out of place. Learning we seek the Bane, he laughed at us for thinking we could find the what we seek when entering the Bane’s forest, and suggests we return with the intention to fill this bag he hands us with forest bark, which he trades us for a lock of Dalavarr’s half-elven hair.

Taking the goblin’s advice, we return to the forest seeking bark but find, instead, a line of mushrooms marching through the forest. Topaz purloins one and returns to the group, but the mushroom taunts us relentlessly until we give up on them leading us anywhere. After catching up with the other mushrooms, we’re able to trade showing us the bark near the Bane’s home in exchange for creating a new damp place for the mushroom’s home. Topaz sneaks up to the Bane’s window and sees the creature sitting together at a table with the Prince. Sebastian takes the lead and calls out to the Bane, who is suspicious but eventually lets us into the house. The Bane tells us that he will not release his companion and that we must go, but Sebastian volunteers to stay in the Prince’s place. We all agree to come back to visit regularly, so the Bane agrees to release the Prince. We agree to return at least every fortnight, and we bring oxen as a gift.

In the epilogue, Claresta asks the Prince if he can summon woodland creatures to do his chores (No.) while Topaz ponders how to use the royal boon that she’s earned. Dalavarr, having a long-time secret crush on the Prince, spends much of the trip back talking and getting to know the young man. And the Prince agrees to keep the Bane and the pact secret. Once we’ve filled the goblin’s sack, it disappears to return to the fairy realms.

Epitaph for a Bartender

Tonight we played Epitaph by Marc Hobbs, a new game in which you explore the life of a character you create together.

Premise

A bartender named Mason never leaves the contemporary Midwestern city he is born into. He dreams of writing a book of the definitive and original drinks he mixes throughout his career. Mason, unlike most, sees and recognizes the fae folk who live among humanity for what they truly are.

Epitaph cover courtesy of Less Than Three Games.

Timeline

Born 1933 in Traverse City, MI

Age 18 (1951)

Mason graduating from high school and saying goodbye to Opal.

  • Snapshot: Mason hugging Opal in their graduation gowns, saying goodbye as she goes to college and he prepares for the Korean War draft.
  • Reflection: Feels great nostalgia for Opal but wishes things had ended better.

Age 18 (1951)

Closing up the bar by himself for the first time (a few months after graduation).

  • Snapshot: Mason is standing in the dark bar with all the chairs and stools on top of the tables looking into a glowing hole in the wall, which houses a miniature bar. Two sprites with wings are serving drinks to other fairy folk inside.
  • Reflection: Feels privileged to have gotten to witness that moment and the fairy folk. He’s grateful to not be one who overlooks things.

Age 19 (1952)

Mason’s first encounter with Fenwick the selkie.

  • Snapshot: Shorter person in an oversized cloak with hood sitting at the bar smiling while waiting for Mason to serve him. Mason is wearing a puzzled expression on his face.
  • Reflection: Finds it amusing how clueless and skeptical of Fenwick he was initially.

Age 28 (1961)

First time Mason met Bethany.

  • Snapshot: Mason and Bethany at the bar on his birthday with streamers and balloons in the background, with Mason leaning over the bar talking to Bethany, who is smiling but not into him. Mason falls for that smile.
  • Reflection: Mason loves this memory; it makes him happy.

Age 35 (1968)

Mason serving a new drink inspired by a faun to a human (hairy hoof).

  • Scene: Local boy tries the drink after insisting that Mason remake it so that it uses only locally sourced or other non-exploitative ingredients. He really likes it and says he’ll bring his friends.
  • Reflection: Mason is extremely proud of his accomplishment to create this new drink, but feels guilty about not trusting the fae when they suggested the drinks.

Age 40 (1973)

Mason and Bethany’s long-delayed wedding.

  • Remembrance: Bethany remembers how long they had waited and their two children (age 6 and 3) in attendance. She feels their love will endure, and was so grateful to have her children in attendance. She remembers falling for him slowly due to his good humor and soft laughter, and how he was always there for her.

Age 43 (1976)

Mason starting to write his book.

  • Snapshot: Mason sitting at his kitchen/dining table with a toddler at his feet, a 6-year old sitting with him, and a 9-year old walking by. Mason is writing out the recipe for an old-fashioned that he believes he has at last perfected and deciding to write a book of his drink recipes.
  • Reflection: Mason sees this as the best decision he ever made.

Age 57 (1990)

Mason and Fenwick arguing over a drink recipe.

  • Scene: Fenwick claims that a Pale Sea Water needs more sea grapes, but Mason realizes that he served Fenwick a Manhattan by mistake. A young professional walks up to the bar and orders two Manhattans, ignoring the dispute between the two.
  • Reflection: Mason remembers with fondness the friendship of the selkie, even if his certainty and stubbornness were frequently frustrating.

Age 70 (2003)

Wake for bar’s previous owner who had sold the bar to Mason ages ago.

  • Snapshot: Mason sitting surrounded by his family including his new grandchild in his daughter’s arms and the many people who know him or his predecessor. People are raising glasses and hugging and consoling one another as they gather in an irregular semicircle around the bar with Mason at the center.
  • Reflection: Mason feels contentment when thinking about this event, when so many wonderful friends came together to remember someone who meant so much to them all.

Died 2017 in Traverse City, MI (Age 84)

Eulogies

  • To honor Mason, the Sprites who work in the weefolk bar-within-a-bar paint the signature inlaid in the glasses his unique drinks are served in so the signature actively shimmers like phosphorus and the signature never fades.
  • His children pull together all his various drink notes and recipes into a proper book that is printed as well as a hand-bound version that preserves his original papers that they keep at the bar.

Angel Tourism Street Magic

This week, we played I’m Sorry Did You Say Street Magic by Caro Asercion and created a grand, ornate, sprawling city that serves as the center of a great world religion but now sees more tourists than believers.

Downtown is the center of town where there is more shopping than cathedrals, but the roads are made of decorative colored bricks in patterns that come together at the very center into a central mosaic, the Angel Mural. All roads lead to Mural Square, but the origins of the mosaic are lost to the annals of time. Nearby is Hotel Row, a strip that caters to the many tourists who visit the city, famed for its nighttime amphitheater that’s hidden from the street view by the many hotels where laser light shows originate. Elsewhere in Downtown is Stenlake Art Museum full of modern art works and an arboretum, and Sten Lake itself, surrounded by a park with duck-shaped paddle boats for tourists to ride.

A crane waits at a bus stop overrun with water.
Image courtesy of Caro Asercion.

Working your way up from Sten Lake and Downtown, you come to the Holies, the neighborhood where the most temples and the offices of the faith’s hierarchy reside. Opalescent spires climb up the hills until you come to the Crystal Palace at the crest of the great hill, an animal sanctuary characterized by lush foliage, a sun-warmed, dense jungle right inside the city. At the bottom of the hill, closest to Downtown is where the Night Service is held 24 hours a day, providing unceasing ritual and regularity to the working people of the city, who come to visit it regularly as a right of passage. On the far side of the great hill lies Dry Bones Cemetery, which is creepy and largely deserted by the living. Its cobblestone paths and gnarled bare trees lead to the Heaven-bound Mausoleum, a massive crypt built centuries ago which leads underground into the heart of the hill, full of unlit torches and seemingly endless coffins. The Ghost Guide tries to keep the stories of the crypt and the cemetery alive, but the murder of crows who roost in the graveyard see themselves as the true protectors of the tomb and drive off those who become too curious.

Around the other side of Downtown lies the University District, which is large and friendly, full of cafes and restaurants and Art Deco university office buildings. The heart of the District is University Library with eagle statues atop its steel and mirrored glass facade. Next door to that is the Robert Burns Memorial Hedge Maze, constructed of varying shrubbery of multiple colors with an angel statue at the center. The most popular place in the District is the Fox Den, an open air asian bistro with the most famous foods and cherry blossom trees growing between the tables. The Burrow is the Den’s basement after-hours club with colored lights and 80s night, where the bartenders and DJs entertain into the wee hours. Cyrus the Aussie bartender is a notable standout and can always hook you up if you need a guy.

Three events punctuated our evening of play. The Angel Festival downtown brings in lots of tourist dollars to the city’s economy, even if they can be destructive and leave a mess. Sten Lake is the venue for an outdoor fundraiser to maintain the Crystal Palace, but it creates tension as the Holies resents that such events must be held Downtown. And the University holds regular Midnight Madness Movie nights at Dry Bones Cemetery, but such a widespread event is loud enough to wake the dead. Will it?

Power & Grace & Demons

This week we played Power & Grace the super heroic Lasers & Feelings hack by an unknown author (let us know if you know the creator). We are the Silver Guardians, a well-financed group of superheroes operating from our hidden island base who are always dealing with our overlarge rogues gallery. One of our number—Moonwind the alien acrobat—is missing for this adventure, but our newest member, Bolt the eager speedster, is available for her first adventure with the team. The series regulars who appear this time are: the Electric Shepherd, the arrogant controller of technology who believes the chips in his brain make him better than humanity; Heavy Metal the wisecracking cybernetic brawler from the future; and Glacier, a 7-foot tall ice spirit sent to protect the Earth bonded to a human being.

Our story begins with Electric Shepherd luring Glacier to a public park and convincing him to create multiple ice sculptures of her when a portal opens near a group of playing children, a portal showing a winged demon with a scorpion tail in another dimension. Shepherd tosses a phone into the demons mouth, which causes an explosion that starts a fire that endangers the children, but Glacier quells the flame with sheets of ice. Later, back at our base, Glacier and Shepherd reveal that they discovered magical cards from a game the kids were playing that must have opened the portal, and teenage Bolt explains that the cards are from a collectible card game called Demon Wars that kids all over are playing. The group decides to approach the creator of the game Dustin Kamil, so Bolt poses as a young fan to lure him into a park where we can question him without alarming the public. Before we can begin, however, he unfurls additional cards which summon a large creature that is the combination of a dragon, a squid, and a parrot. As we’re fighting the creature, Dustin attempts running away but is easily caught by Bolt, and the rest of the crew take out the creature through a combination of electrical overloads delivered through Glacier’s ice by Shepherd and a haymaker from Heavy Metal.

During questioning, Dustin mentions Dr. Arcane, which leads to the group investigating their old mystical foe and uncovering his plot to use this CCG to weaken the wall separating our world from a demonic realm to summon the dreaded beast, Ghraiodrih, which saps the will to enable him to enslave the whole country. Our research makes it clear that to summon the beast, he’ll need to cast a specific spell at Stonehenge, so we race there to stop him. Upon arrival, we learn he’s brought much of our rogues gallery with him, including the gelatinous Ooze, the unpredictable Wacky Arsonist, the megalomaniacal cat-man Leonine, and the Poison Child who drips with venom. But having fought these so many times before, we go to work taking each one out: Heavy Metal slams Leonine with a massive stone, Glacier freezes Ooze in place (although a small portion melts away into a nearby drain), the Arsonist is put to sleep by the gas from Shepherd’s drones, and Bolt brings down Dr. Arcane and the Child as they attempt to fly away using a mini-cyclone. Their scheme thwarted, we hand the villains over to the authorities and set about to clean up the Demon Wars game first by buying the company and replacing all the existing cursed cards with mundane facsimiles.

Gas Mining Archipelago

We played Archipelago by Matthijs Holter in a fascinating futuristic world where orbs and bubbles are the primary building blocks of society, a gas mining colony sent from Earth into the atmosphere of one of the outer planets. We live in a floating city above the surface, with tubes descending from the Steamworks into the atmosphere to collect rare gases needed back on Earth, a Food Lab where instant food pellets are manufactured, where the weather is manufactured and projected onto our bubble skies by weather control companies like BluSky, and a giant magnetic Accelerator is used to send our mined gasses toward Earth for pickup and collection. We are Jon Ronny, a food scientist at Food Lab tasked with finding new flavors; Sorter 5, an autonomous bot at the Steamworks who maintains a fan wiki about weather art; Zayre, the best gunner working at the Accelerator; and Quain, a renowned weather artist at BluSky who lives across the hall from Jon Ronny.

Our story begins with Sorter 5 making a routine drop-off of argon bubbles at the Accelerator for Zayre to fire off toward Earth in which Sorter 5 learns about a micro-weather concert soon to be held in the Plaza. After having gotten his new-flavor marching orders, Jon Ronny seeks ideas by exchanging messages with the administrator of the weather wiki and gets the Arthur theme song and images of weather and food as inspiration. Later Quain visits Jon while the chemist is busy in the kitchen concocting his latest food, chocolemon bars, and learns that Quain was inspired by the weather of his archival, Kaze. In the final scene of Act I, Zayre is approached by a pair of bumbling interns who have inadvertently sent a bubble of precious gas hurtling off-course. Zayre performs a series of mental calculations and uses a pair of empty bubbles to correct the course through a series of bank shots like a set of billiard balls in space.

As Act II begins, Jon Ronny tries pitches his new chocolemon bars to suits at the Food Lab, but they get lost in marketing ideas and separating the flavors, or making them diet, so he walks away to start his own independent food pill company called Better Pills to showcase his new flavors. After learning that the Steamworks will be replacing their generation of sorter with the latest generation, Sorter 5 is introduced to Dr. Moneybags, who wants to buy the robot to place in his collection as a fine example of their beautiful and stylish generation of bots, and getting paid to be admired seems like a good idea to them, at least as long as reasonable work hours can be negotiated. After Raze comes to work for BluSky, Quain and Raze are brought into HR to discuss the mess their making of the skies by competing with each other, and the way their animosity is poisoning the atmosphere at the office. To save their jobs, they each agree to make pleasing skies and refrain from backbiting at work. Meanwhile, Zayre receives a job offer to help develop Accelerator-powered human space travel, and has a long talk with her mother before deciding to take a chance and move to Earth for the role.