A Ghost Fiasco at Sucker Creek

Returning to the Sucker Creek playset for Fiasco by Jason Morningstar, we played a touching if disturbing ghost story about three small-town guys trying to make a way for themselves. Pete Camey is an older man obsessed with an abandoned cabin deep in the swamps, a big fan of the Manhunter YouTube channel, and a father still paying off his son’s 4WD truck. Gator Camey is Pete’s son, known for his deep emotional involvement with his XUV truck and his longtime rivalry with Rico Sanchez, who he always contradicts. Rico Sanchez is a second-generation monster-debunker known as the Manhunter whose YouTube videos debunk local legends about monsters and the paranormal.

Cover of Fiasco playset The Beast of Sucker Creek

Our story begins with Pete trying to talk Gator into finally taking responsibility for his life, but Gator is more concerned with taking apart his truck, putting it back together, and having a good time. Then we meet Rico out in the forest trying to film one of his videos to debunk a local legend about werewolves, when Gator arrives to heckle him and ruin the shot. We also see Gator antagonizing his father with his loud music of various genres while driving and dropping Pete off in front of a creepy cabin in the swamps. Next time we see Pete, he has tracked down the Manhunter at the local sporting goods store, where the celebrity is endorsing fishing gear, and he exhorts the hunter to prove that ghost stories about the old cabin where he last saw his wife aren’t true. Pete puts Gator up to driving the Manhunter to the cabin. When they hit an unseen stump in the swamp and his truck’s tire goes rolling away, Gator pulls the truck to a drifting stop and tells Rico and his cameraman they’re on their own. Rico makes his way to the cabin and begins to film at what he’s learned is called Wallover cabin, but as he explores the property, the atmosphere gets more and more surreal as fog rolls in, sounds echo through the house, and doors creak open and closed unbidden. We cut to black after the two run away in fright from the old haunted ruin.

As Act 2 begins, we find Rico at the local bowling alley interviewing Becky, Gator’s ex, who gives him a clue to the cabin’s history. Did a murder happen there? Back at their house, Gator talks with his father about his mother, learning how much she resented Pete for trapping her into marriage with a child, and decides that Dad is right: he should take charge of his life. After that tough talk, Pete walks alone to the cabin where he sees Jessica, his wife, who accuses him of never having loved her and only ever caring about the kid. She promises Pete a painful future as a rusty old cleaver falls from its hook and embeds in the floorboard. Rico returns to the cabin to come to terms with his fears and doesn’t see or hear Jessica’s taunts as Pete pleads with the Manhunter to finally prove the house isn’t haunted. Gator arrives just in time to hear Rico falling through a hole in the stairwell while exploring the house. Asking Pete to call 911, he confronts his friend about their long rivalry and carries him back upstairs to safety. Leaving Rico out front to wait for an ambulance, he finds his father talking to no one upstairs. Gator hears Pete in an argument with what must be his mother, hears the older man resigning himself to death, but Gator confronts him, trying to convince him that it’s okay, that they can get help. Pete confesses to having accidentally killed his mother in this house all those years ago, but Gator is ready to forgive and rushes to prevent him falling out a window that opened itself.

When Gator crashes into Pete, the two of them fall out the window onto Gator’s truck, both injured but alive. Pete is arrested to stand trial and plead guilty for Jessica’s murder, and Gator is left on his own for the first time, the son of a murderer with no future and a lost past. Rico recovers and makes a video explaining how he now believes in ghosts and is driven from the internet by the backlash from his fans.

Feeling the Laser Time Warp Again

Tonight we gathered for a session of Lasers & Feelings by John Harper to form the crew of the Consortium star cruiser Raptor, equipped both with fighter craft and a cloaking device, but seriously understaffed and whose grim-faced Captain Darcy is now confined to a medical pod. We remaining crew are intrepid soldier Lt. Dag Lively, the wily pilot Haley S. Comet, a savvy explorer named Derek Everstar, the ship’s dangerous staff scientist Hex Berillium, android doctor still seeking a medical degree Qx4G76, and hot-shot stowaway Xandus Max.

We start on a mission to the void to gather void crystals and study the strange energy they emit. While Hex, Derek, and Haley discuss how best to harvest crystals without endangering the ship, a sleek, swift vessel swoops through the void field and sucks up a hoard of void crystals in its tractor beam before heading out of the sector. As Haley tries to pursue, the Raptor is caught up in a swirl of void crystals, which clog the ships engines requiring the ship to be cleared before we can pursue. Meanwhile, the evasive maneuvers dislodges stowaway Xandus from his hiding place in the ship’s ventilation tubes, dropping his directly at the feet of security officer Dag Lively, who refuses to be bought off and escorts the scofflaw to Qx4 for examination and decontamination.

Once Derek and Hex have successfully cleaned the ship of any lingering void crystals and brought their booty aboard, Haley takes off after the pirates guessing their heading based on their last known trajectory. After landing us on Acaridiun 4, Dag, Derek, Haley, and Xandus head into the local drinking establishment looking for signs of the pirates who raided the crystal fields. At the bar is pirate queen Zor raising a toast to her crew and disparaging the name of the Consortium. After Dag announces our presence and is forced to back down when the entire bar turns out to be pirates, Xandus has a heart-to-heart with Zor, who used to be his lover, and manages to pick her pocket to secure the security beacon to her ship. As the crew fly back in their shuttle, Xandus whizzes by in the Zormobile and waves before landing with them on the deck of the Raptor.

Hex comes rushing out saying they have discovered that when a critical mass of the void crystals occupy enough space together, they can warp spacetime. As the group discusses what to do with this information and their very large concentration of crystals they now possess, the warping of spacetime begins and we find ourselves in new circumstances. Each of us finds ourselves as the opposite of what we were before and aboard a large pirate vessel bearing down on the Raptor, where we can see ourselves still standing and talking on the deck! Dag is now an unattractive quartermaster, Haley the ships lunch lady, Derek a museum curator, Hex an accountant, Xandus a stay-at-home dad, and Qx4 is the ships weapons array AI. We try a number of things to undo this madness and return things to normal, including trying to destroy the Zormobile, but Qx4’s programming won’t let him hit his target. Hex tries to buy us time by inciting dissension among the pirates by pointing out errors in the divvying of previous loot, but these pirates have discipline. Back on the Raptor, our old selves scramble to action stations and launch her drone fighters while Xandus boards the Zormobile and flies directly at the pirate ship. Qx4 fires another missile volley in an artistic arrangement, leading Xandus to realize that he doesn’t have to sacrifice himself and instead drops the cargo of crystals into the explosions from the missiles. Once the crystals are destroyed, the vortex collapses and the pirate ship disappears as we snap back into our old selves about the Raptor at our action stations.

Relieved that we’re out of danger and no longer possess enough crystals to set off another time warp, the crew relaxes, but Hex muses that all good experiments have to be repeatable, and Qx4 hovers ominously toward the Captain’s medical pod.

Jinkies! Here come the Wobs!

Tonight we played Jinkies! by Tobias Strauss, a game about teenage mystery solvers and their anthropomorphic mascot. We are the members of the gothic country band Wally and the Wobs, who travel from gig to gig in the Jumpin’ Jalopy singing our hit, “Snap to It!” in constant conflict with our arch-rivals, the proto-metal band Smooch. Wolly Wob is our anthropomorphic hedgehog mascot and tambourine player. Alex Janson is one tough broad who plays bass in the band. Henrietta Bunt is the weird one who always hangs with Wolly and plays violin. And Priscilla Barbs is our resident bookworm and plays the organ.

Table covered in papers and notes for playing Jinkies!

When we arrive at Lake Winnemuck, PA, for the Battle of the Bands at the local high school, we immediately run into Smooch and exchange taunts about who’s going to win before going to register for the event with the school secretary. Once we’re registered, the old janitor starts talking about all the other bands that have run off because of the curse of Tiki-Taki, a relic from the Bradley family that was recently stolen from the high school trophy case. Ever since it was stolen, a ghost has been haunting the town and the smart bands have high-tailed it out of town. Mr. Withers, the school’s principal, says not to worry about people making up tales about ghosts, but he closes the school and cancels the battle after a ghostly screeched song starts playing over the school’s loudspeakers. There’s no way we’re going to let a stupid ghost prevent us from winning a band battle, so we’ve got to figure out what is going on and bring the contest back.

First we visit Patty’s Melt Shop where we meet the other bands who haven’t cleared out, The Candy Stripers and the Feel Goods, and talk to Patty about the Bradley sisters and general rumors around town. Patty doesn’t know nothing about no ghost, but gives us lots of gossip about the Bradley family. So, we decide to check out their old house and speed away in the Jalopy.

At the Bradley House we split up to search more effectively. Hen and Wolly go straight for the kitchen where Hen sees something suspicious outside the window and Wolly finds a box of gunpowder. Upstairs Pris and Alex search bedrooms with Priscilla finding a suitcase of clean clothes and a bottle of poison hidden away. Alex finds nothing in the bathroom but falls through the floor into the kitchen onto Wolly when the floor collapses. Sproing! go his needles and disturb a family of mice living in the cabinets, who tell Wolly about all the people coming and going at the house lately. Hen finds someone wearing a large cloak hiding in the dining room closet; it’s Rosa the school secretary who claims to be the nighttime caretaker of the place while it’s up for sale. We hear a scream coming from upstairs and Pris comes running down after she sees the ghost of Tiki-Taki. Since Rosa was with us, she can’t be the ghost.

Close up drawing of Tiki-Taki, a large Hawaiian tiki mask with arms and legs and making an angry face.

We go to search the basement, which turns out to be an underground library. Hen starts pulling books off the shelves to find a secret passage, Pris finds a book with a secret compartment inside, Alex knocks over some bookshelves, and Wolly finds remnants of glow-in-the-dark paint. The ghost appears and a madcap chase ensues. Hen and Wolly pretend to be saloon keepers and sit him down for a drink, Pris blends into the background so she looks like a library ladder, Hen hides by poking holes in a book and holding it to her face to become a Tiki-Taki mirror image, Wolly accidentally hits a hidden spring and Sproings upstairs to safety, Alex successfully escapes the ghost, as does Pris, and then Hen manages to step on the hidden spring and flies upstairs to land on Wolly’s spines (Ouchie-Wowie!). They land on a silk mattress and find an arrow-shaped guitar nearby, more clues.

Henrietta comes up with a plan to capture the ghost. Using a pink book, she dresses as a female Tiki and lures him to fall through the hole in the second floor (which we’ve covered with a rug) into a waiting barrel in the kitchen. Priscilla solves the case by unmasking the ghost and explaining that old man Withers was an ex-boyfriend of a Bradley sister thanks to an old mortgage she’d found in a book and wanted to buy the old place cheap.

Afterward, we win the Battle of the Bands and get to meet Casey Casem, who invites us to play not only on his radio program but to perform at the BBQ fest in West Virginia, that is if we’re not afraid of the Creepy Carnival nearby. “Sproing! We’re on our way, Casey!” and everyone laughs.

Fiasco in a Vegas Pizzeria

Sitting in a pizzeria tonight, we played Fiasco by Jason Morningstar using the Vegas playset from the Fiasco Companion. Our cast includes George Campari, a former mobster who long-ago retired by purchasing a gas station on the wrong side of the exit from the interstate into Vegas; George’s son Bill Campari who pulls small-time grifts off the strip at older casinos like the Paradise; and Alec Sanders, an attorney who resents having a soul but remains a good friend of George and his family.

Back cover of Fiasco stating "Fiasco, a game of powerful ambition and poor impulse control."
Image courtesy of Bully Pulpit Games.

Our story opens with Bill waltzing into Alec’s office dressed like a bum to see if there is anything he can do to get back at Jack, owner of the Paradise Casino, who’s had Bill blackballed from his and all the older casinos. Alec agrees to take the case and shake some cages by threatening a defamation case. Later, George comes to Alec in desperation because he found a very old Cadillac abandoned at the gas station with a body in the trunk. Is it related to his old days in mob or just bad luck? Alec goes back to the gas station with George to investigate and see the Caddy arrive with another car that leaves right afterward, providing the evidence they’ll need to prove George wasn’t there.

That night, Bill goes home to check on his old man, but George turns the conversation back to Bill’s job prospects and whether Bill will ever get himself straightened out. The next day George and Alec are being questioned at police headquarters, but the sergeant taking their statement reveals they have strong leads of mob involvement that puts George in the clear, for now. Afterward, Alec takes George with him to see Jack at the Palace about the situation with Bill. They confront Jack and Alec leans on him hard, never having forgiven him for switching his story in an important case. With enough threats, Jack agrees to bury the beef and let Bill back in the neighboring casinos as long as he doesn’t come around to the Paradise anymore.

In the final scenes, Bill is accosted by a pair of mobsters in the parking garage of the office building where he took a job to please his father. They break his nose and take him away to see the boss. George gets a call at dinner from the boss demanding that George bring one million dollars to him or else Bill will suffer an accident. George grabs his gun and spare ammunition, and heads out into the night. Later, George arrives at Alec’s home with Bill having busted into the storage facility and killed several men to free Bill, and just as Alec has decided this is going to far and he’s got to call the police, more mobsters come screeching to a stop in front of his house.

In the aftermath, we learn that when Alec opens the door to talk his way out of this mess, the mobsters open fire and he’s killed. George is taken away by the mobsters and pulled inexorably and forevermore into their orbit. Meanwhile, Bill finds himself back on his own in the gutter trying to eke a living as a small-timer with no guts.