One Last Corporate Job

In this week’s session, we played One Last Job by Matthew John in which we play a crew of thieves reunited for one more score in this hack of Lasers & Feelings (hacked further to run GMless) that includes a flashback mechanism (which we never engaged). Our crew consists of Benny the cocky Hacker, Peri the wildcard Grifter, Ruth the intimidating Bruiser, and Cyclops the charismatic Scrounger. We’ve been hired by geneticist James to steal back his top-secret research from his former employer, NuTech Pharmaceuticals from their corporate headquarters in a skyscraper downtown.

Our story begins with Peri and Ruth infiltrating the company as a window washer and a security guard to gather necessary intel. On the night of the score, Cyclops bluffs his way past the front desk as a painter with a work order for painting on one of the upper floors. Assisted by a disguised Peri, we roll our equipment into the elevator and begin. Outside via a direct connection through the wires entering the building, Benny runs technical interference and manipulates the cameras to hide our approach and keep the guards in the dark. Meanwhile, Ruth times her security rounds to rendezvous with us and swipe us into the research lab.

It takes us a while to find the right workstation. When we boot it up and try to get Benny connected remotely, the advanced network security blocks his access, though he manages to maintain control of the security cameras. Benny tries walking Peri through the steps to directly retrieve the data, but no matter how many times she tries, Peri can’t get logged in. When another guard arrives on the floor, Ruth intercepts him and offers to complete his rounds for him so he can go on break, which he surprisingly accepts, meaning she doesn’t need to take him out. After failing to login, we give up on making off with the research undetected, and Peri and Cyclops attempt to remove the hard-drive from the computer. When that fails, we decide to take the whole computer, so snip its security cable and return to our painting cart. Hiding the computer among the supplies on the cart, we successfully exit the building with the computer in our possession.

Back at our safehouse, Benny finally gets his hands on the computer and quickly realizes the machine is a honey pot rather than a repository. He tells us all to get out of there, but before we can act, a flotilla of vehicles arrives blocking our escape. In walks James dressed in an expensive suit and introduces himself as the Head of Security for NuTech Pharmaceuticals. He tells us he appreciates our help in identifying flaws in their security protocols, and offers us a job working directly for him on special operations. Frankly, why he wants us after our abysmal performance is beyond us. When he threatens to turn us over to the police along with the evidence of the job we just pulled if we refuse, we realize we have little choice. Looks like we’ll be working the corporate side of the street for a while.

Coming for the Other City

In this week’s session, we played the duet game For the Other City by Thomas Manuel on the StorySynth engine. We play as two detectives working a case together across the barrier between two cities occupying the same space in different dimensions. Our two cities are: Imperial Rome, expanded and continuous until the twenty-first century—corrupt, unified, and technological—and Kembe, a city in a world of scattered, isolated city-states—honorable, superstitious, and traditional. Detective Junius Rufio comes from Roma, and his partner is Detective Phan Bora from Kembe. Two bodies were found with a calling card bearing the same line of poetry, one in each city, and we are brought together to solve the obviously-linked cases. It turns out to be a long and difficult case, one where no suspects emerged until very late.

For the other city

After examining the crime scene in Kembe, Phan takes June to her favorite teahouse, where they discuss the case and decide they must track down the poem for clues. Perhaps we can discover where the cards were printed. Through contacts at a Roman university, we learn that the line of poetry is from Catullus, who wrote political satire so the crime could be politically motivated, despite sounding like a poem of passion. The Catullus line goes: “I hate and I love. And why? I don’t know … but I feel, and I’m tormented.”

Retracing the Kembe victim’s steps reveals that they went willingly into the blind alley where they were killed, likely lured or tricked there by the killer. Broken glass at the scene ends up being bits of specially treated Roman stained glass. We share a spicy Kemban meal, and Junius begins to appreciate this strange, foreign city. To solidify that connection, Phan gives Junius a small totem of a many-armed monkey god from Kemban mythology, explaining that Kembans believe this brings good fortune, and we’re going to need all the luck we can get to solve this case.

After we follow the trail to a print shop that’s been replaced by a poetry bookstore, Phan insists we allow the bookseller to come for an interview on their own schedule. Junius becomes suspicious of Phan when the bookseller is killed before they can arrive for the interview; perhaps, he thinks, Phan is connected to some sort of anti-Roman plot in Kembe. Next, we turn our attention to the crime scene in Rome, which is a treasure trove of clues. Junius points out the killer wore shoes with an unusual tread on the bottom, and he find a flower unknown in the Roman world at the scene. Phan finds a small piece of twisted metal she identifies as the tip of a ceremonial Kemban dagger, daggers that have a pair of corkscrewing blades that could have created the gaping wounds in the victim’s body. Also, a witness saw the victim calmly walking into the alley with another figure, a tall man with dark hair in his early 40s. Unfortunately, a large grey cloak hid any distinctive Roman or Kemban clothing, so we still don’t know which side the killer may come from.

Junius repeatedly calls into his Roman police headquarters but never has anything to share with Phan; she begins to wonder if he’s hiding evidence from her. Is he truly trying to solve this case? Before returning to Kembe, we find the Roman printer of the embossed cards with the poem on it. Although we can’t identify the purchaser from his records, we learn they also ordered a blueprint that shows a Roman structure situated in what appears to be Kembe itself. Back in Kembe, Phan sees a Roman senator exiting her police station after taking an unusual interest in the case. Later Junius is contacted by his captain, who tells him the case is being closed down, so he should drop it. Rather than give up, we go together to the Roman Senate where Junius sees the distinctive prints from the crime scene in the muddy streets. In the archives, Phan discovers that the Empire will soon face a critical shortage of raw materials and is in desperate need of more.

At last we have enough information to formulate complete theories. Phan believes the Senator is trying to manipulate and push the two cities into a cross-dimensional war because he hopes to save Roma from the impending crisis. She goes to the Kemban government to warn them of the looming threat. Junius, on the other hand, knows that Romans respect nothing as much as treachery, trickery, and violence, so he believes the Senator may be the architect of Roma’s war plans, but he is likely acting in an official capacity to create the pretext the Empire needs to invade. However unlikely a conviction might be, Junius decides to arrest the Senator to expose the plot and possibly avert a war.

Epitaph for a Photographer

This week we played one of my favorite games, Epitaph by Marc Hobbs of Less Than Three Games. In this game, you collaborate to create the life story of a character together. We chose to center our story around a steampunk circus carnival in the Victorian era, a world without imperialism or colonialism, and where global travel is quick and easy thanks to steam airships. Our character, the departed—named Joseph Forrester—loved photography and had an easy facility with language. His goal in life was to collect a single sentence written out in every language by a native speaker of that language. His sentence is: The stars shine equally brightly on the blessed and the grotesque alike. Of course, not even a global traveller can visit every place and secure every language, but his collection was vast by the time of his death. Below is the list of key people we identified in his life and the timeline of his lifespan.

Overhead shot of group of people sitting around a table covered in dishes while a warm glowing light shines from the right.
Epitaph cover courtesy of Less Than Three Games.

Key People

  • Lucky (he/him), harsh carny mentor
  • Eliza (she/her), aunty in fact if not in law
  • Imogene (she/her), fire-breather and big “sister” that he looked up to
  • Patrick (he/him), love of his life


Joseph Forrester (he/him)

Born 1849 – Died 1918

Born 1849 over the Atlantic
  • Born on board the carnival airship while it west flew over the Atlantic.
Age 10 (1859) – Attended a child’s birthday party
  • Scene : (Departed, Imogene (chaperone), and birthday girl). Imogene escorts Joseph to a birthday party of a local girl, while the circus is stranded repairing the dirigible. She convinces him to bring a big pink bear that is a prize from the games as a gift.
  • Reflection : One of his few glimpses into the world of a stationary kid.
Age 15 (1864) – First day he picked up a camera
  • Remembrance : Eliza remembers when Joseph grabbed a camera that he wasn’t supposed to touch. He had been lost and tried many things at the circus but never found anything that fit until he grabbed the camera. His hands knew what to do right away and he never put it down. It was great to see someone finding themselves.
Age 16 (1865) – Dia de los Muertos & the Portuguese Women
  • Snapshot : Two older women wearing Day of the Dead face painting, wearing marigolds in their hair, and carrying candles. Face painting was put on at the booth in the carnival, and want to preserve it despite the Day of the Dead being a reminder of transience. Joseph takes their photo and gets his sentence in Portuguese from them.
  • Reflection : He believes that while things fade, you can remember them better with a photograph.
Age 21 (1870) – When Lucky saw that Joseph would be okay and a true asset to the circus.
  • Remembrance : Lucky watched him becoming a real asset to the circus, speaking to the guests in their own languages, welcoming them, charming the children, and convincing folks that the circus was magic.
Age 38 (1887) – Meeting his beloved Patrick
  • Snapshot : Close up portrait of forty-ish man wearing a brown tweed suit, worn at the edges with a big handlebar mustache. In the background is the ironworks of the Eiffel Tower just beginning to be built.
  • Reflection : Patrick reinvigorated him, giving him new reasons to live, to do, to travel, and to see.
Age 42 (1891) – Patrick decided to travel with Joseph
  • Snapshot : Patrick meets the circus dirigible when it lands at a cobblestone-paved aerodrome in the middle of Quebec City. He tells Joseph that he doesn’t want to meet occasionally anymore; he wants to travel with him for always.
  • Reflection : This is when our relationship became real, permanent, like an engagement or a marriage.
Age 52 (1901) – When the circus patrons questioned his place in the troupe
  • Snapshot : Ringmaster and magician owners/leaders of the circus ask him whether he is making enough of a contribution to earn his place.
  • Reflection : Realized that he might not be able to stay with the circus forever and began to plan for how to see the world if he couldn’t travel with the circus.
Age 53 (1902) – Discovers his talent for advertising
  • Snapshot : He seeks other ways to contribute to the circus and uses his gift for languages to create large circus posters tailored to each locale and language.
  • Reflection : There’s always a place for someone if you look for it.
Died 1918 in Osaka, Japan
  • Succumbed to the Swine/Spanish Flu while visiting Osaka, Japan.


  • Imogene: She brought together everyone from the circus and light candles on small boats, and send them out into the Atlantic carrying photos of the sender with something written out in another language on it.
  • Aerialist: Aerialist remembers how Joseph wasn’t a performer or roadie, but how he was the one you went to when something went wrong. He was the one who listened, probably would take your picture. He was special by not being special. One time when hit the net three times, Joseph was there to talk to. He was the most real person the aerialist had or would ever meet.
  • Patrick: Creates a book to keep Joseph active in his life. The book pairs photographs of the places they’ve been, the people they met, and the sentences in the languages of the places that Joseph collected over his life. He takes it out often and flips through it, and shows it to anyone who comes to visit him in his dotage and tells them about Joseph.