Fiasco at Hangin’ with Jesus

Tonight we played the new second edition of Fiasco by Jason Morningstar on Roll20 using the Poppleton Mall play deck. Our cast includes Andre, employee at Muscle Logic and fellow church parishioner with Sarah. Sarah loves the Lord and knows that through hard work and clean living she’ll find success and riches, so she’s opened a religious poster shop called Hangin’ with Jesus with her sister. Megan, Sarah’s sister, not only shares her drive to succeed through posters but is also a fitness enthusiast who regularly shops at Muscle Logic.

Fiasco poster from Bully Pulpit Games.

Our story starts when Andre and Sarah discuss their respective businesses at Sarah’s house until Andre goes upstairs to talk to Sarah’s young cousin Barry about his human growth hormone. At Hangin’ with Jesus, Megan and Sarah discuss how slow business has been and the need to move merchandise if they’re to meet their goals. The next day, Sarah helps Andre pick up the spilled contents of his bag as they’re coming into the mall and realizes that he’s taken Barry’s medicine. Andre visits Megan at her store and orders twenty posters to promote a sale at Muscle Logic; the posters show Jesus suffering as “Before” on one side and a buff Jesus triumphant as “After” on the other. Before Megan goes on a run in her Holy running outfit, she brags to Sarah about the big sale she made that day without telling her what actually sold. Later, Sarah leads Rev. Huntberry from church to Andre’s home to confront him about the stolen HGH, and the reverend makes Andre promise to tell Barry’s parents what he’s done before that week’s Bible study session.

The next day, after service, Andre explains to Bart, Barry’s dad, how he traded a video game for the HGH because he was using it to help people in need to get bigger and offers to buy more from him for $50 a dose. Megan meets Andre at Muscle Logic, buys mega-dose vitamins, and promises to have his posters ready for him the next day, even though the sample she made has gone missing. Back at home, she discovers why it’s gone missing, when Sarah scolds Megan about the cross-promotion posters that fail to mention their poster shop and that will cost them way more than they take in after all the extra photoshop and printing costs to create the composite picture. Earlier that night, before he’d returned to Muscle Logic, Andre was at Bible study with Sarah, who’d seen him shaking hands with Bart, not realizing that they had just settled on the terms of their drug supply trade. Once the posters are up in the mall, Megan manages to get arrested by mall security when they catch her writing Hangin’ with Jesus on a poster to fix things with Sarah. For her part, Sarah arrives later that day to find her store empty but wide open (where’s Megan?) and spends the day watching waves of people mobbing Muscle Logic to take advantage of the sale.

In the aftermath of this, Andre discovers he miscalculated and gave too large a discount on the sale and too favorable terms to Bart, so he not only loses money but must close down Muscle Logic. Megan ends up having a vitamin induced seizure when in the custody of mall security and the store ends up the butt of jokes in memes on TikTok. Sarah, despondent at the failure with the store, starts spending more and more time at church until Rev. Huntberry convinces her to go on a missionary trip to the Amazon rainforest to convert the entirely indifferent indigenous peoples.

Scalpels and Hearts at The Ward

This past week we played The Ward by Kevin “Chroma” Petker which we used to participate in the pilot episode of the day time medical drama, Scalpels and Hearts.

The protagonists were Charlie, the new and innocent intern, Samuel Johnson, the old and wiley nurse, Dr. Apple McFly, the iron-willed senior resident, and Dr. Jennifer, the young, arrogant and seductive cardiology specialist.

It was a muggy night in Manhattan, wee hours of the morning, around 3 am, when Manuel, the Head of Surgery, is carted into the ER. The EMT wants to hand the patient to the hospital, but their first contact at the hospital is intern Charlie, who not only is in over her head, but is also shocked of the encounter as she had an affair with Manuel’s wife earlier the day before. She ends up calling Dr. McFly to help her attend Manuel. Dr. McFly, or Bumble Bee, as some call her, takes charge and gathers as much information as she can form the EMT and deduces that it is an overdose of opiates that she is dealing with. She confers with Dr. Jennifer, who was leaving the hospital mysteriously late, and agree on a course of treatment. Unfortunately, Manuel does not respond as expected and needs to be brought into the ICU for further treatment.

The following day, Manuel’s wife, Manola, storms into the hospital, demanding to see her husband. She is received my Samuel who answers what he can, but is put into an awkward position when Manola demands that she is given a luxury room at the hospital where she can stay at while her husband is in the ICU. He informs her that such room is unavailable, and she does not believe that, reminding Samuel that she knows Thomas, the Medical Director personally and she can make his life miserable. Meanwhile, Charlie rejoices that Manola is at the hospital… and starts scheming on how to get Manuel out of her way!

Meanwhile, at the cafeteria, Dr. McFly is approached by Gerald, who is very disappointed with her as she flaked out on their anniversary dinner the night before. Dr. McFly is surprised by this as she thought they were only roommates… but then again, she had been giving lots of mixed signals, she HAD agreed to a fancy dinner after all, but she had been clear that they were only roommates, but then why did she have him as her emergency contact? And just like the night before when she had to call off the dinner because of work, this time work saves her again as we hear her name being called in the loudspeaker as a young man has just been brought in after being run over by a car.

Later in the day, we see Manuela, walking in one of the halls of the hospital, walking towards the luxury room she wanted to stay at. It is clearly not being used by a patient. Why did the nurse tell her it was unavailable knowing who she was? Turns out, the room was not really empty… Samuel and Jennifer quickly put on back their clothes as they notice someone coming into the room, just as the episode ends.

Mage Against the Machine

Tonight, we tried out a new game from Jordan Palmer, Mage Against the Machine for the first time. We struggled a bit with setup and seeing how to connect the two components, but we powered through to create an interesting story of time-traveling wizards determined to prevent the robot apocalypse through magical and mundane interventions in their personal histories.

An insectoid robot towers over three wizards in a circle casting a spell with Mage Against the Machine emblazoned overhead.
Mage Against the Machine cover art by Matthew Warwick courtesy of

After our various interventions, the robot apocalypse was no more, but our memories had been sacrificed to save the world. Claire’s fond memory of eating spaghetti one night at her aunt’s house, defining the love felt before, became a memory filled with acrimony as we successfully turned her aunt against the unreliable AI appliances but also caused a falling out between Claire and her aunt. Next, Burt’s joyful memory of rowing a boat on vacation with his uncle becomes a memory of grief as his uncle blamed him for watching too much social media after we disrupted the impact social media exerted on the world. Later, Burt’s pride at having built a functioning autonomous car for his child neighbor is transformed into shame after we cure the child of his learning challenges so he no longer relies so heavily upon AI mental health providers.

The next memory we tackle is Marcus’s gratitude when his parents move the family to a small apartment so they can afford to send him to Mage Middle School. His gratitude becomes bitterness for having been forced to move after we reset the mover robots that had previously driven them around town making him think they were moving far away. Next, Randall lovingly remembers the robot he built with his father that provided him with a surrogate while his father was busy working, but that becomes hatred of the robot that can never replace his father after we make the robot emotionally stunted. Later, Claire’s pride at graduating from college becomes shame after we invert the logic circuits of the school’s bots result in her being 1 credit short and never graduating.

Jeremy loses entirely the memory of when his robot saved him from bullies on the soccer field entirely after we reprogram the robot so it wants to please and will obey whatever orders it is given, including the bullies order to stand down. Finally, Marcus always felt great pride in his robot-free workplace as a magical shipping clerk at his first job, but that pride turns to shame when he loses his job after we magically incinerate the contents of a particular secretive box prior to it shipping out, preventing the military’s loss of their drone forces.

Starships & Scoundrels & Grasshoppers

Tonight online, we played Starships & Scoundrels by Michael Collins, another Lasers & Feelings hack, as the crew of the long-haul freighter Raptor: ace pilot and ex-Federal Bat Stewart, savvy doctor Wiley, and spacer mechanic Parker. The Raptor is an old clunker barely holding together, but the sensors work and she’s pretty nimble for such a large cuboidal hauler.

Our story starts after the Kawasaki corporation hires us to deliver a package to a blue planet in the Epsilon system, a package that’s suspiciously human-sized as we learn when we arrive at podunk shipping depot to bring it aboard. Scanning it aboard the Raptor, we discover there’s a full-on cryo-chamber inside, actively keeping something on ice. Next we find ourselves failing our customs inspection when the inspector finds the number of beings on board increasing over time. Parker spacewalks to unhook the grappling cables they’d attached to impound our ship, and Bat steers us away so effectively the we even make up for lost time.

Down in the hold, we find additional boxes, exact duplicates of the one we brought aboard except the serial number seems to be incrementing. Cracking open a box, we discover it contains a humanoid with the eyes and antennae of grasshoppers. We fail to defrost the bug in the med bay, but do get readings on what’s going through its mind—images of leaves growing, grasshoppers in suits shaking hands, and a unicorn running through a stream. Doc Wiley pulls out a dream manual and tells us these folks agreed to repopulate the blue planet but that the duplication sequence must’ve started early.

We have to refuel before we can make it to the blue planet. At the fuel depot, we hear the hyper-lanes have been shut down, stranding a bunch Federals in the system, Federals who Bat antagonizes, leaving us no choice but to blast away from the depot with the Federals in hot pursuit. Bat manages to elude the Federals and get us to Epsilon before the Federals catch up to us. By now the boxes and duplicates are stacked deep in the cargo hold as the duplication process continues.

As we arrive in the system, a grasshopper faced fellow joins us in the cockpit. He explains that their elders had sold this brood into slavery and if we delivery them to the blue planet, they will be worked to death. The crew agree to drop them off on a nearby moon before delivering the original box to Kawasaki, hoping they will think they just got a dud that hasn’t duplicated. When we get there, Kawasaki is none too pleased about the missing boxes and thinks we’re just holding out for more money. He gives us two days to produce the missing 1000 boxes and even agrees to up the price for delivery. Instead, we take the two day head start and start looking for a buyer for a 1000 slightly used cryo-chambers.

Follow the Salt Monster

Tonight online, we played Follow by Ben Robbins using the Dragon quest in search of an alien creature with telepathic abilities terrorizing a small modern city, luring victims into back alleys and hideaways before killing and feeding on them. Our fellowship consists of Professor Emil Higgins, the lone scientist who had watched the crash of the alien’s ship but considered a crank; Colonel Uther of the US Marine Corp, who’s determined to hold up his code to protect the world; and Maximillian, a local who survived an attack by the alien thanks to luck and help from his neighbor, Justin Case.

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

Our story opens with Prof. Higgins interviewing Max and Justin about the attack and beginning to piece together information that could help them discover the alien’s weakness. The two men relate how Max was outside salting their sidewalk and driveways when this multi-tentacled creature appeared behind him. He threw the handful of rock salt in his hands into the creature’s face when he heard a psychic scream as he passed out and the creature came upon him. Inside his home, Justin saw the attack and raced outside. The creature was preoccupied with his face and slow to react, so Justin managed to drag Max into his garage and lock the door behind them. Eventually the creature left and they were safe.

At the scene of the attack, the professor finds a residue not unlike that found at other attack sites, a slimy gel that quickly dries out and desiccates into dust. Max remembers the rash on his hands from the slime after the attack. The area was not well-lit but out in the open, as if the creature is becoming more desperate and daring in its activities. Later the professor and the colonel review police surveillance footage showing the creature leaving the scene and walking unnoticed past a group of pedestrians. Does it have a way to disguise itself from human perception? Prof. Higgins conducts a series of experiments on the substance found at the site to discover that the mucus breaks down when subjected to the potassium from the salt, suggesting it’s toxic to the creature.

Col. Uther and Prof. Higgins concoct a plan to lure the creature into the open using the connection it has established with Max, turning him into bait. After discussing the extensive security measures they plan and all the firepower they’ll bring to the trap, Max is convinced to participate but with trepidation. The team deploys in a cul-de-sac that ends near the woods, with an armored car to serve as a secure bunker and snipers armed with salt injection weapons surrounding the area. Prof. Higgins sets up cameras everywhere to document the event. After Max loiters in the area for several hours, the alien appears in the guise of a tall woman walking toward him prompting the team to spring into action. The salt weapons coat the creature in chemicals, and it shrivels up until it becomes nothing but a pile of mucus. Will the video footage reveal enough that the professor can clear his name?

Guns & Mojo in Monte Carlo

Online again tonight, we played Guns & Mojo by BeePeeGee, a spy hack of Lasers & Feelings by John Harper. We are the agents of Rayport, dedicated to stopping the bad guys by using Agile project management principles and high-tech gadgetry: old-money world-traveller from Lichtenstein the Commodore, true-believing tech-expert Magpie, and thrill-seeking cool-engine Ace.

We’ve been tracking weapons-dealer Chips Dayton for months when he suddenly organizes a new sale in Monte Carlo at the Lunar Hill Grand Metropole Hotel. With Director Darcy missing again, we’re unable to get sanction for the new mission and have to travel incognito in a laundry van after taking a commercial flight to Paris and the train to Marseille. The Commodore tries to get us a room, but instead is blackballed by the hotel concierge, so Magpie hacks into the hotel’s systems to create a cover as caterers that allow Ace and Magpie to sneak inside. Posing as waitstaff, they overhear Dayton talking with two potential buyers, Boyd & Percival, at the poolside bar about the prospects. Dayton is cagey but reveals that this buy will be bigger than the nuke that went on sale ten years earlier and tells them to keep their eyes on the Gulf.

The Commodore mingles with his contacts at the yacht club and makes a bet on the Maserati team to win that weekend’s race. He learns the gossip on a number of high rollers in town for the weekend: Brit Jack Hawkins whose sponsoring one of the race teams, American Rob Walker whose making a spectacle of himself, Swede Mats Andersen who loves wine and making only sporting wagers, and Frenchman Maurice Tringtingent whose clearly over-extended and making desperate bets.

The Commodore infiltrates the auction where Dayton shows a news report of a small island not only incinerated but sinking into the ocean. This demonstrates the firepower of the automated battleship he’s selling, and he opens the bidding on the ship’s control keys. The bidding goes back and forth until Magpie kills the rooms lights and sets off the sprinklers to allow Commodore to snatch the briefcase with the control keys, but once the lights go out, the case is locked down as Mats Andersen wins the auction just before the power cuts out. Dayton attacks Commodore and he’s in trouble, so Ace dashes in with double-guns blazing, kicks Dayton in the face, then leads Commodore toward the window, shooting it out just before they crash through.

Knowing Andersen was staying on his yacht, the team races to the marina and commandeer a speedboat to intercept. Magpie hot-wires and drives the speedboat to catch up to the yacht. The Commodore changes into a tuxedo after his suit was ruined and latches our boat to the yacht at speed. Ace jumps into the fray felling minions with ease and panache. Magpie notices Andersen slipping into the ship’s inner sanctum and throws a wine bottle from a table to prevent the door from locking. The Commodore goes for the communication room to alert the coast guard and Rayport headquarters. Ace catches the door when the bottle slips out and holds it open for the team as we all head down.

Inside we see a world map with Andersen’s various targets for the battleship, including landlocked Lichtenstein, accessed through a newly carved canal. The Commodore parleys with Andersen, who explains the secret history of Commodore’s mother and why Lichtenstein must fall. When Magpie tries to sneak around to stop him, Andersen activates a trap that clamps onto her ankles, but the Commodore pulls the rug which gives Ace the opening to tackle Andersen before he can spring another trap. Magpie quickly frees herself and Commodore secures the battleship control keys. When we head topside with our prisoner and the briefcase, the Coast Guard has arrived to clean up. Back at Rayport headquarters, we update the team’s Trello board: the Mystery Weapons Sale moves to Resolved, but a new card is added to the queue: Who built the Battleship?

Stardust Voyage of the Selene

Tonight we return to Final Voyage of the Selene by James Mullen for an online adventure on that doomed interstellar starship. Our story starts as we meet our cast beginning with Lt. Kazarian accidentally joined the crew of the Selene after being discharged from the service when he signs papers to book passage that instead institutes a new service contract. Ambassador Masiri boards from the planet Selassia where he has just successfully negotiated a peace treaty between the Selassians and Gargantia, their longtime rivals in the system. Juve Mahler sneaks aboard the Selene disguised as a technician when it docks at Tetan in search of ancient artifacts he’s heard are available on Earth. Professor Carris leaves Earth to find new avenues of research and books passage aboard the long-haul ship out of scientific curiosity. Chief Pryce joined the crew twenty-five years ago, fresh out of the Academy, to help out his best friend with his first captaincy and has been here ever since.

In the first Act, Juve Mahler talks to everyone he can about the interstitial dust that lines the spaceways in the Void through which we travel from one node to the next. Chief Pryce and Lt. Kazarian dismiss his talk as old wives tales, but Prof. Carris is intrigued by its promise of cellular regeneration. If only they could harness the ship’s neusmatron beam to harvest dust in great quantities, but the Chief shuts them down when they try. Carris tries again with Chief Pryce suggesting that they could go into business together collecting the dust if the Chief built a ship specially kitted for interstitial harvesting. Meanwhile, the Ambassador seems unhealthily obsessed with news of the election now ongoing back on Earth.

Act Two begins with Lt. Kazarian interrogating Professor Carris about his past experiments and confiscating his stash of the interstitial dust, claiming that it’s too dangerous to leave unguarded, but when Chief Pryce asks Kazarian where the dust is, he denies knowing anything about it. He plans on keeping the powerful hallucinogenic stardust for the exclusive use of the crew, but Juve Mahler keeps talking about the necessity of working with the crime syndicate if you want to deal in illicit goods. When Ambassador Masiri discovers them prepping the drug in the ship’s kitchens, they offer him information on his wife in exchange for his silence with the captain. As the act ends, Mahler is explaining how you can mix the stardust with the baobab plant to create metamorphic effects. Could they create a doppelgänger of the captain?

As the final Act dawns, Ambassador Masiri confronts Juve Mahler about the latest election news from Earth. Impressed by Mahler’s initiative and enterprising nature, Masiri promises that they can do great work together on Earth and places his hand on the youth’s neck, where Mahler gets a strange scurrying sensation. Mahler later finds a vorpian spider and believes this is what he felt racing across his neck, a vorpian that the Chief confirms could scuttle the ship if it runs loose through its systems. When Chief Pryce asks Professor Carris about the missing creature, they firm up their plans for a business venture in the future, but the Chief rebuffs the romantic overture from Carris, who turns out to have been one of the Chief’s teachers back at the academy. Smitten, Carris easily forgives the Chief when he confesses to having stolen adamantine serum from his lab back in school. When Lt. Kazarian arrives at the lab and tricks Carris to confessing that his research is based almost entirely on the advice of adolescent Mahler, the vorpian spider’s work is done and the ship crashes out of interstitial space.

Everyone makes it to a life-pod in this slow-motion disaster film and we see their fates play out. The Chief is dragged to an escape pod by Prof. Carris and builds the harvesting ship Carris needs to create his rejuvenation formula from the interstitial stardust. Carris becomes famous and rich, while Chief Pryce retires to write safety manuals. Lt. Kazarian makes it off the ship but never makes it to Earth, not ready for planetary life. Ambassador Masiri returns to Earth and is selected as the Vice Presidential partner of the winning candidate from the election. Juve Mahler escapes carrying the alien viral infection given him by the Ambassador to join the criminal syndicate. Will the alien intelligence inside him fight or focus his illicit ambitions?

Around the Couch

Tonight, we tried another game on For the Drama as part of our pandemic inspired online experiment, this time a silly bit of modern everyday life called Around the Couch by (I believe) Matthieu Bé, who runs the site. We play a diverse group of house mates who have been living with a monstrously large old stained couch in dark green pleather with a landscape painting with a unicorn on its wall side. Now, one of our number has gathered us together to decide whether to keep the couch or get rid of it. As we gather together, we remember various episodes from our history with the couch.

Red couch upholstery background on which words 'Around the Couch" appear in gold.
Image courtesy of For the Drama.

The couch had come with the house, perhaps predating the extended family that had lived here before us. It dominated our living room, forming a giant L-shape covering two walls and sat across from the communal television and was frequently covered in snacks. We often fought over the cupholders built into the arms, one of which we repaired with bright orange, thick thread. We have a rotation of which games take place on the couch so we’re all satisfied: video, board, role-playing, and story. A pillow with a cartoonish image of Darth Vader poorly cross-stitched upon it always sits on the couch, offering solace, kitsch, and humor.

We’ve had on this couch geek sleepovers with all night gaming, watched Blair Witch from its deep cushions, and fights over who should or shouldn’t be allowed to join the house. We sat around after two of our numbers married to remember how their relationship had developed in this house and on this couch, while the two exhausted newlyweds slept between us on the couch. We’ve prepped our costumes for ComiCon cosplay dropped on this couch, and left them out to embarrass each other when our parents came. When the viral epidemic broke out, our married mates argued about whether to go out, and she shook him awake after he’d fallen asleep on the couch, waking him from the strange dreams of another reality that seem to come to whoever sleeps with their head resting in the couch’s corner.

After all these remembrances, we go around and agree that we have to keep the couch. It’s too comfortable and resilient, full of sentiment and memories, and magical.

At this Precise Moment

Thanks to the recent outbreak of COVID-19 in Westchester, we decided to play online tonight and played a short session of At this Precise Moment by an unidentified author (at least I couldn’t find it), a Descended from the Queen adaptation of A Single Moment at For the Drama.

We start by naming our dueling warriors: Shen of the Mountain Clan and Yao of Clan Crane. They meet at the dawn of Spring as the snows begin to melt, flooding the river ford where their paths at last cross after two years of studiously missing each other. Yao moves to attack but Shen skips free leaping from boulder to boulder across the river.

Illustration artist: Soizic/ @tempetedigitale from For the Drama.

Then we flashback to see the two of them training together in a large monastery, rival prize pupils of an ancient master. Yao always admired how Shen’s determination would drive both of them to excel, pushing them beyond where they would have been otherwise. In the present, we see a tear fall down Shen’s cheek, having hoped to reconcile when at last they met again. On the night before their final test, Yao had confessed to love Shen, who didn’t know how to react and left the next morning never to return.

In the present, Shen throws a knife at Yao, who spins around causing the knife to pierce their sleeves without finding its target. Not long before Yao had confessed their feelings, Shen had saved them from dismissal from the school after Yao had drank all the Master’s rice wine and caused much mayhem in a drunken tirade. Shen had broken the empty bottle among the detritus and blamed it all on a training incident to protect Yao.

They had lived separate lives peacefully until two years ago when Yao’s actions had angered the elders of the Mountain Clan, who sent Shen to track Yao down. Yao had always been righteous about clans and status, while Shen was never afraid to go their own way. Shen had avoided meeting Yao all this time, just as they had avoided fighting alongside the Mountain Clan against the River tribes during their great battle so long ago. Shen was always convinced they were so much better than others that they could ignore what the elders thought. That’s why Shen had insisted on taking on all their Master’s challenges alone, even when Shen and Yao were teamed up and supposed to work together.

Back at this precise moment, Yao lays their sword across Shen’s chest, hoping to force them to stop and think before acting. That’s when Shen notices the scar cutting down Yao’s ear to their neck and remembered how dangerous they were. In that moment, Shen sees an opening in Yao’s defense and moves to strike the killing blow. Yao recognizes the vulnerability too late to stop the strike, but Shen slips on the wet rocks and the sword fails to land solidly and Shen falls into the icy waters. Yao regains their footing and goes bounding from rock to rock downriver to try to retrieve Shen from the swift-moving rapids.

Quiet Year on the Clock

This week we lived through a Quiet Year (game by Avery Alder) as a community living in a city reclaimed by nature after a long-ago apocalypse. Having harvested all the foods, metal, and fuel available in the ruins during the recently-ended war with the outsider Jackals, we struggle with building a community that will thrive next to a large municipal building in which a clock tower, miraculously, still functions. Luckily we have an abundance of small livestock to provide milk and eggs, and occasionally meat, as we follow the lead of the Clockkeepers, who maintain the Clock and order our days and months around the movements of time.

We work diligently to surmount the problems we face. We build a wooden barrier to protect our food stores from the rising river, and build a path that will allow us to transfer stores from the riverside warehouse to the clock tower. We build more permanent housing to address our disparate sleeping situation, harvest honey from the local bees, and fell trees from a dense forested area to create wood stores.

Drawing of our post-apocalyptic community including play materials for the Quiet Year.
Our communities map.

We send expeditionary parties into the sewer tunnels only to learn that the sewers are collapsed and impassible, upriver to investigate the sudden proliferation of red pollutants in the water, and into the subway system to search for our missing Clockmaster, who disappeared as he completed the ritual to exorcise the subway of the haunting sounds coming from it. The party upriver is turned back before discovering the pollutions source by raiders who have occasionally attacked our settlement, and the subway party returns without having found our missing leader. After learning of the scale of the raider threat, we begin to form and train a militia, build defensive fortifications eventually known as Fort Franklin in honor of our expeditionary leader who was felled by the diseases caused by the pollution, and make fire weapons using the fuel we uncover after the city’s stadium collapses due to our unsuccessful attempts to strip it of metal.

And we’re visited by many people over that year, including a wandering stranger who joins us for a time before leaving again and refugees from the upriver raiders who become permanent members of our community. From the subway emerges a group called the Parrish, who come, they say, in answer to the call of the Clock. When we learn the truth—that the Second Clockkeeper had conspired with the Parrish to eliminate the Clockmaster and replace him—we exile the Second and his followers and the Parrish, who disappear back down into the subway tunnels. With so many clock keepers gone, our lack of leadership makes it difficult for us to integrate the newcomers, who grow in size when the wanderer returns with more refugees from various places.

To remedy this, we institute a new weekly social gathering to bring people together and create more cohesion, and hold an election for leader. During the campaign, one candidate goes missing, but the election turns on the question of whether we should complete the damming of the river, a foolish project begun during a moment of strife in our community. The anti-dam candidate wins in a landslide and converts the project rather than abandons it, providing us with a lumber mill to process our wood stores and aid our building efforts, and to screen some of the pollutants still flowing from upriver. Giving everyone a voice in the running of the community brings us together just in time, as the Frost Shepherd arrives, blanketing the land and our community with freezing temperatures that still the river, still the clock which had ordered our lives, and drive us indoors for the foreseeable future. Our preparations in food, housing, fuel, wood, and social harmony should, however, allow us to survive and prosper through the long winter to come.