Galactic: Save the Galaxy

This week we played Galactic 2.0 by Riley Rethal as a group of spies working for the Liberation against the authoritarian Mandate in a galaxy some distance away. We mostly followed the plot guide created recently by Randy Lubin. We are ace pilot Jacob Quam of the bird-like Qaddin race, double-agent Luna Moonglow who we think is now on our side, Theta a diplomat with a droid companion known as AWK-3, an astrablade-wielding Nova named Juroden Nightflame who has yet to find his destiny, and con artist and inveterate gambler Bolma Anluso.

Galactic cover showing a ragtag group of misfit rebels with planets and stars in the sky behind them.

Our story begins when Jacob Quam arrives with a message from the Liberation that we need to make our way to the ancient Nova city of Tusinda, but it takes some time for him to convince us he’s legit. Luna Moonglow is also concerned with proving her trustworthiness and brings us information about the Mandate’s powerful new mega-weapon to prove her loyalty. She knows that the device is in a heptahedron configuration and connected to the excavation going on at Tusinda. Theta’s ex-lover is an archeologue working at the dig, but before we blast off to investigate, Bolma meets with Forn Wie, one of her underworld contacts, and learns that the weapon plans are kept in the palace on Tusinda. As we hurtle through hyperspace on Jacob’s ship The Star Cracker, we learn that Tusinda is now a modern city built atop the ruins of an ancient Nova Temple that is being excavated by Mandate archeologues in search of some as-yet unknown ancient Nova artifact.

Once we arrive, the group splits up with Bolma, Luna, and Theta racing to the regent’s palace to obtain the weapon plans and Juroden heading to the dig site to find the artifact before the Mandate does. Jacob Quam can’t be enticed to help without further payment, so we leave him with the ship where he is visited by Binn Hobb, his arch-rival, who mercilessly mocks Jacob’s ship and hygiene until letting slip about the great treasure believed to be hidden in the Nova Temple. When we enter the palace, Bolma is sent to intercept Triga, Theta’s ex, and after much discussion gains her trust to learn that the temple’s ancient meditation chambers contain unique meditation crystals that, when configured correctly, can power the mega-weapon but that the archeologues can’t seem to find the chamber with the key crystal. Meanwhile at the temple, Jacob has caught up to Juroden and together they stumble into the secret meditation chamber through luck and intuition. Juroden takes the sacred crystals while Jacob hauls away the mundane treasures for sale on the black market. Back in the palace, Luna and Theta infiltrate the room with the weapon plans and steal them.

Once we regroup and realize the Mandate’s plan, we decide to change the key crystal on the plans and leave our counterfeit crystal where Triga and the Mandate can find it. Once they construct their new weapon with our replacement key, the crystals will compress the Space Between rather than expel it, causing the weapon to implode and ending the Mandate threat … for now.

Mage Against AI

We took another journey into Mage Against the Machine by Jordan Palmer in which we play a group of time-traveling wizards seeking to undo the AI apocalypse that destroyed our world. We are Galen who fondly remembers the familial love of meals at her grandmother’s house and the elation of casting her first spell to reverse time, Arabella with memories of first kissing her girlfriend Olivier and winning the robotics competition in high school, Draco who won a spell-casting competition and graduated from Wizarding College, Quill who created sleep magic and slept through history to emerge into our apocalypse, Gwendolyn who loved her fishing village home and her understanding parents, and 99 who remembers his twelfth birthday and being saved from a rogue AI drone.

Our retracing of history begins by visiting 99’s birthday party when he received an AI tutoring tablet that led to his becoming friends with a tech-kid named Gary. In order to stop Gary from learning about AI from this tablet, Galen twists time so the two boys never meet. Our next stop is when the AI controlled tide modulation machines were installed at the beach in Gwendolyn’s village. Arabella tries to dim the AI’s intelligence but Quill must make the machine hydrophobic before we succeed in blocking the apocalypses advance at this moment. Draco remembers graduating with Sol Shadowend as his class’s valedictorian before becoming a leader in the development of AI. Gwendolyn casts a spell to make them roommates hoping that will slow Sol academically, but Galen realizes that it’s the connection to the famous visiting wizard that leads to Sol’s place in history so casts a spell to switch the wizard’s affections to the salutatorian. Galen remembers a particular family meal when the government announced their advanced AI drone program was, but 99 casts a spell that makes the public especially scared of this development, leading to protests that undermine the program.

Long-haired woman in a witch's hat and the same woman on the other side asleep on a pillow with crescent moons on it.

Arabella remembers when her girlfriend bought her an AI pet that she momentarily lost at a lake, which created glitches in its programming that changed the development of AI consciousness. Draco casts a spell to make the lake deeper so the pet is lost forever and never recovers. We return next to when Gwendolyn’s parents disappeared after the AI manufacturer introduced more changes to the fishing village, but Quill casts a spell that brings the community together for every meal, making it so that her parents are never alone and so impossible to simply disappear. At the spell-casting competition that Draco won, one contestant is disqualified for using an AI-enhanced wand, but Gwendolyn casts a spell that relaxes the contestant so they are never tempted to cheat in the first place. We return to Quill’s memory of emerging from her time-sleep and dreaming of robots to better understand this new world she’d emerged in, a dream that created a new kind of robot. Gwendolyn tries to prevent Quill from sleeping but Quill is a powerful sleeper, so Galen casts a spell to eject the sweeping robot out of her dreams, but again the sleep is too deep. Arabella casts a spell to destroy the robot before it goes into the dream, but dream stuff can be made from anything, so Draco casts a spell to ensure the robot’s experience in the dream is short-lived enough that it doesn’t gain insight into the infinite possibilities of the dream world. Finally, to prevent the sweeping robot from becoming sentient on the day Arabella won the robotics competition, Quill creates a solar flare that disrupts the global AI network so the sentient machine’s newfound consciousness cannot be uploaded into the AI collective.

Once we return to our own time, we realize that almost all of our memories have been inverted by our manipulations of the timestream. 99’s birthday party becomes a memory of grief, Gwendolyn’s memories of the ocean turn resentful, Draco’s graduation from college becomes despair as he grows jealous, Galen’s family meals become oppressive from so many expectations and so little privacy, Arabella’s memories of her girlfriend become filled with anger as they fight after the loss of the AI pet, Gwendolyn grows bitter toward her parents as they expect more and more of her, and Arabella becomes ashamed to have ever used AI tech in the first place. One memory disappears as Draco never won the spell-casting competition, and one memory remains exactly as it was: Quill’s memory of emerging from her long slumber and dreaming her way to knowledge of our world.

Another Querulous Dram

This week we played The Wizard’s Querulous Dram by Lizzie Stark and Jason Morningstar a second time, playing wizards who meet via scrying devices to choose which of the heirs from two neighboring kingdoms will marry to form one larger kingdom. Once again the choice was too easy and obvious for us, so before we play again, we need to change the descriptions of the four possible heirs to create more controversy. This time our negotiations between the small kingdoms of Black Mountain and Smallwood is presided over by Dobra the Mysterious, a swamp witch whose being blackmailed by Prince Winthrop and is most concerned with plentiful issue from the royal pairing (you can’t eat royal babies if their aren’t any royal babies). Representing Smallwood are Hegedus the Fair, their Secretary of Magic, who’s learning the dark arts from Prince Winthrop and who believes victory for Black Mountain’s democratic rebels is inevitable and must be prepared for; and Gyongi the Proud, their Court Wizard and secret father of the rebel leader who wants the Smallwood heir appointed monarch and not consort. The representatives from Black Mountain are Zoltin the Serious, their Secretary of Magic, who truly wants whatever is best for both lands but whose work is complicated by the adoration of Princess Tiffany; and Belobor the Wizard of No and Court Wizard, who seeks to destroy the rebels above all but wants to keep Prince Chadwick as their lover at the same time.

We settle fairly quickly on the pairing of the two Princesses, Tiffany of Black Mountain, the most beautiful and lover of celebrations, marrying Aster of Smallwood, who over-plans and overachieves at everything but has not-so-secret sympathies for the democracy rebels. This satisfies the Smallwood sympathies for the rebels, but Gyongi must accept Aster being relegated to consort, for Belobor insists Tiffany be monarch to protect royal prerogative. To further mollify Gyongi, the new capital shall be in Smallwood, although the combined army shall be led by a Black Mountain general, so perhaps there is still danger. Dobra is concerned about the question of children, but the others promise to use their magics to ensure the line continues, so she has no objections. The wedding is held in Black Mountain serving Smallwood delicacies, to symbolize the unity of the new kingdom before the new rulers head off to Smallwood to begin their reign.

An incomplete drawing of two princesses holding hands, one with purple eyeshadow and shawl, the other in pink.

Time Venture

This week we delved into Venture by Riley Rethal once more, this time as a group of adventurers living on the Taiga against the great mountains in a small outpost town, Hadna, on the edges of a great empire. Our group includes the lanky and pale, silent and secretive rogue Dave; Reinhardt the Just, a paladin who believes in a higher power and is dedicated to protecting the weak; the ripped and rash fighter, Lydia, whose more likely to let loose with her wrapped knuckles in a bar than sell her sword arm; Quill the wizard in a witch’s hat too lazy to ever cast a spell; and Ivris the cleric who serves Unphin the Unmoving, god of the mountains.

Our story begins with Lydia and Quill returning to Hadna from a mountain trek arguing about why Lydia insists that Quill walk into town. In Hadna itself, Ivris interrogates Dave about the clock he’s lost to Elnor and his gang and whether he can get it back with the help of a little magic. Reinhardt approaches Lydia about her family and how our group has replaced the families we left behind or lost, as Lydia’s was in the great war, and each believes that the Watchmaker’s clock can change one’s fate. In a tavern, Quill keeps pressuring Ivris to come back to her bed, but the cleric rebuffs her advances. Finally, Dave asks Reinhardt to lead their effort to recover his lost clock, which is magical and an heirloom.

After Lydia acquires a cart and donkey to carry Quill, we make our way through the seedy back-alleys to the underground tavern where Elnor’s gang dwells. Elnor tells us about his obsession with clocks and time, calling his gang the Keepers of Time. He tells us about a prophecy he found on the back of Dave’s clock and explains his plan to capture time by controlling all the timekeepers in Hadna, even the King’s pocket watch. While Reinhardt and the rest of us keep Elnor and gang’s attention, Dave swipes the clock back and quietly walks away; before anyone notices, he’s gone.

We catch up with Dave ourselves later and immediately escape into the hills with him, the clock, and the donkey cart. When we examine the clock, we discover that Elnor misread the prophecy entirely: it wasn’t about five fools gathering, but being placed in the light of the full moon, which at the right moment, will reveal the Watchmaker’s will. Dave explains how he found the clock from a man frozen in an avalanche and how it saved him from servitude to cruel masters. Out in the mountains, Dave discovers that if he (but no one else) moves the hands of the clock, which had stopped working long ago, he can shift us through time, so we shift ourselves to the night of the full moon. Under its light, Dave speaks in the voice of the Watchmaker, asking what needs to be rectified. It seems we each get to change one moment in history, to correct one mistake.

Lydia returns to a moment before her family and home were destroyed in the war and rescues a peace envoy whose mission could avert the war entirely. Dave returns to improve his parent’s lives, so they will not be so destitute and uncaring as to sell him into servitude. Reinhardt changes a rescue of the king he performed, so the assassins don’t get as close and the king doesn’t become paranoid and fearful. Quill understands better how to approach Ivris about her experiments in exploring dreams in the hopes of finding a god’s true name and succeeds in getting the cleric’s cooperation back at the tavern. And Ivris decides to save her moment for another day.

Raised by Mechs & Working for the Corp

This week we played a pair of games in the Story Synth Gallery that we’d not played before. First we played Raised by Mechs by Ralph D’Amico in which we are the biological remnants of humanity birthed and raised by a mechanical mother on a distant world and now entering our teen years. We remember the thrum of machinery when we gestated inside mother so sleep better with white noise, but not all embryos survived so mother recycled those that did not. We honor their passing as our internal holidays, the memory of them being enforced by Mother on all of us. One of us has a mechanical arm after mother replaced the one destroyed through an accident. Another of us has her filtration system to replace a failed kidney, and one of us was saved from an attack by the wild creatures of this planet. Others of us are comforted by the video gaming screen Mother provides, and she always sits us down together for dinner to monitor our health and ensure proper nutrition.

Mother was once our entire lander but as their systems began to fail, nuts and bolts found loose throughout our home, a system repair and reboot was necessary, after which Mother no longer extends throughout the entire lander, limited to a few keys systems and her remote. During the downtime, she left her most loyal son in charge, which makes him feel important and powerful. Afterward, she implants a communication relay inside his mind so she can see through his eyes and communicate with him when she can no longer be present. Mother grieves for the programmers she left behind on Earth, and for fear of failing in the mission, so we fear when she grasps us and puts us in isolation when we disobey or endanger ourselves.

Some of us believe that we’re ready to live on our own, but mother insists such ideas are dangerous. Mother tells us that we need her to survive and that the life on this planet is unintelligent and can be appropriated for our use. But even her most loyal son begins to doubt her on this, seeing that the Earth we come from was dying due to overuse and callousness. We believe we must learn to love nature, live sustainably, and avoid killing. We do not expect to find other humans in space—evolution doesn’t work that way—but human settlers find us and we must decide whether to go with them. We each consider leaving Mother, but each decide to stay either because of loyalty or fear or the great adventure, we believe that we are different than the humans we left behind and do not want to break up our family.

Next we played a quick session of Working for the Corp by Ken Davidson in which we play the security team at a megacorp in a cyberpunk future, fending off an infiltration by Runners trying to steal precious Corp intel. We struggle with the corporate rules and office politics, the neural feedback from the interfaces, the knowledge that the Corp will take whatever we make, with the technicalities that keep us in our place, with the rating system that grades each worker, with the mysterious projects we’re not allowed to understand even as we work on them, and the rumors of mergers orchestrated through blackmail. In the end, only one of us chooses to defend the company outright, while the rest of us protect ourselves or open the door on our our way out.

Until We Sink into Secrets

During our last play session, we played Until We Sink by Magnus Jakobsson.

We are:

  • Martin, the hotel manager with a sunny disposition who used to be an activities director on a cruise line.
  • Ira, an adventurous pilot that did an emergency landing on the island as she became obsessed in her adventures forgetting to give her plane the maintenance it needed.
  • Cricket, the surfer who has been chasing the biggest waves. They heard of an upcoming storm that would bring the biggest waves in the world to this island and now they want to be here to ride them.
  • Bill, the hotel caretaker who is very handy but gets nervous around guests, and
  • Howard, the gossiping retiree who left a hectic career in journalism and is on the island to wind down.

As we play, ominous things keep on happening on the island. The first day, the only other guest at the hotel, a sport fisherman, is found dead on the island at the base of a cliff. Martin insists that there is nothing to see and that all guests should avoid the scene as the authorities are handling the investigation.

On the second day, on a palm tree behind the hotel, a message appears carved saying: “We Meet Again Martin”. The typically jovial manager starts acting weird and is suddenly hard to find on the premises.

On the third day, a seagull dies after eating Martin’s sandwich. While Martin freaks out about this and goes into hiding again. The rest of the guests discuss what is the best way of mourning the death of the seagull.

On the fourth day, Cricket finds a large bone at the beach while surfing. They bring it back to the hotel to show it off. Ira thinks the bone should be donated to a voodoo priestess in Wisconsin as she knows it will be put to good use there. Martin wants the bone gone from the island.

On the fifth day, two strangers appear on the island. They are rough, loud, and get visibly drunk as time passes. They leave eventually. This leads Martin to confess that the island is controlled by a Spanish cartel and they came to threaten him as they thought he had killed their esteemed guest, the fisherman, who was from an Italian organized crime family.

On the sixth day, the island sinks. The guests had gone to the cliff to see if they could learn more about the fisherman and Cricket to catch the biggest waves that were expected that morning… but the island sank instead and we are all now in a small boat in the Pacific Ocean, waiting to be rescued. Except Ira who is trying to pull her plane out of the sunk island… it makes a great anchor.

Family-Friendly Fiasco

This week, we tried another online session of Fiasco by Jason Morningstar, but this time we used the Insta-Setup from The Museum playset by Angela M. Webber and Richard Malena and skipped both the Tilt and the Aftermath tables to speed up play. We chose to set our story during a school sleepover/lock-in at a science museum. Our collection of school kids include troublemaker Steve and his reluctant accomplice Ari (teacher’s pet) who need to find out the truth about a creepy teddy bear that keeps appearing all over the museum. Steve, who brings all the Lasers, doesn’t get along with Gregoria and all her Feelings, but Gregoria and her online BFF Katie are determined to get revenge for mean comments on the videos of their favorite YouTuber, costumer and cosplayer Corynne Thorn. Katie is from a different school but knows Ari and her brother Ron, who answers to Spock as readily as his own name, from summer camp. Katie carries a secret torch for Spock while Ari has roped her brother into playing the recorder to accompany her singing in an upcoming talent show.

Our story begins with Gregoria and Katie meeting in real life for the first time as all the kids are filing into the museum’s cavernous entrance. Gregoria has profiled Corynne’s bully online and believes that she will be able to identify her if they fly their fandom flag and watch people’s reactions, but when they watch a Corynne video, a teacher confiscates Gregoria’s phone. Next Steve visits Ari as the kids are setting up sleeping bags in the atrium and talks to her about the mysterious teddy bear appearances and how it moves about the museum, convincing her to assist in the search for it but agreeing to wait until after band practice. At band practice, Ari must persuade Spock again to participate, but he agrees when she reminds him about the extra-credit, so they run through her number a few times with Steve waiting in the wings to begin the search. After practice, Katie catches up to Spock while he’s in the Egyptian wing of the museum in front of the famed empty sarcophagus. Spock explains all about grave-robbers and other facts about the exhibit while Katie manages to flirt without frightening him away.

Drawing of two women: girl Gregoria Spring in her school uniform and woman Corynne Thorn with multi-colored hair and platform shoes.

As Ari and Steve begin their search in earnest, they try to track the bear based on its previous appears, checking the Rocks and Minerals exhibit, the Egyptian room, and the Fossils and Dinosaur exhibits, but don’t find it until they go to the Air and Space room. Unfortunately, a teacher finds them, leading Steve to stuff the bear behind the seat of a plane, and carts them off to the administrator’s office, where Steve provokes the teacher to give him detention by constantly talking back. Gregoria shows up later in the same administrator’s office looking for her phone so she can confirm the online bully’s identity, but when Steve hears about her plan, he makes it clear that he thinks her whole plot is dumb—bullies are best ignored and not given attention.

The next morning at breakfast, Ari is talking with Gregoria about what it means to stand up to bullies and whether dropping laxatives in her drink is really the best way to teach her a lesson. Ari makes it clear that none of us think what she’s doing is right, but that we’d all support her if she wants to confront the girl and tell her how her actions are harmful. When she agrees, Ari lends Gregoria her phone to make the confirmation: the preppy-girl Karlaygh. Spock is sitting nearby and threatens to tell a teacher about their plans, but they convince him to back down once he understands that they won’t be playing any tricks, just talking. When Katie shows up and learns of the change in plans, it’s time to act because, as Spock points out, there she is. With the whole gang (sans Steve) behind her, Gregoria goes up to Karlaygh and confronts her on what she’s been doing online with Ari chiming in that these kinds of comments are wrong. Gregoria explains that Corynne is doing good in the world, raising money for charities and that when you attack her, you’re also attacking all those who love her and need her. Karlaygh tries to explain how she was having a bad day, but Gregoria points out the comments are on different days. Karlaygh backs down and says she’ll stop trolling for fun, but Gregoria says it’s okay to troll some people like politicians but regular people with followings don’t deserve it.

Later, once the teacher’s give the kids some free time, Steve leads the gang back to the Air & Space room where they find the bear but moved again, this time sitting in the pilot’s seat of a plane. Steve plans on cutting the bear open with his pocket knife to discover the truth but hears a small voice saying “No, that’s my bear” as he grabs it. Sitting behind the bear in the plane is a small boy about 4 or 5 years old, the son of a museum administrator who lives upstairs and often comes down to play in the evenings, even though he’s not supposed to. Steve makes him promise not to leave his bear around anymore so it won’t frighten the museum visitors. In epilogues, we see Ari freeze during the talent show, leaving Spock on stage to perform a recorder solo. Afterward, Spock thanks Ari for getting him up there and consoles her for not being able to perform. Much later, Gregoria goes to a meetup with Corynne and relates the whole story, but Corynne tells her not to worry about the haters and gives her a shout-out in her next video.

Microscopic Enchanted Forest

This week, we created the history of a forest in which various magical and supernatural creatures struggle to learn to live together beneath the vaulted canopy using Microscope by Ben Robbins.

Our history begins in a period of escalating conflicts between the various peoples when a forbidden child is born among the snake people, who are so long-lived that births are unusual and strictly regulated. This child promises to be a savior but none can yet foresee how. Not long after, Queen Uniqa of the unicorns and King Hip of the hippos marry and the hereditary Hippocorn Republic is born along with their first child. Shaka, the snake savior, becomes enraptured by the ideals this rising power embodies and joins the republican army under General Hiparth to become a great warrior. Decades later, General Hiparth deposes the monarch for interfering with the functioning of parliament but must seize personal control to restore order. The General rules the new Hippocorn Empire with an iron fist and begins by enslaving the gnomish peoples, who maintain their traditional parental gift to their children during the years of bondage by replacing gemstones with flowers trapped in amber. The forest spirits flee the Empire by going through their hidden portal to another realm. Meanwhile, the werewolves are rounded up into a ghetto to keep them from roaming the open forests, but the sprites create a black market to provide much needed goods to the suffering werewolves. Not long after anti-sprite slurs appear on birchbark signs in the forest, Shaka leads a rebellion to overthrow the Empire and defeats the emperox using a glove woven from hippocorn hair and weaponized with werewolf claws.

Hand drawing of a snake person, a hippocorn, and an air mermaid flying above them.

To replace the fallen Hippocorn Empire, a ruling council arises and determines in its first meeting that it serves to handle only those things that the individual communities cannot handle internally or that occur between communities. There is a bit of a controversy when two council members—the representatives of the gnomes and the mairmaids (air mermaids)—are found to be having an affair, causing people to question whether they were acting in the best interests of all. Gnomish weddings become famous and popular because gnomes invite everyone to every wedding and serve the finest foods. The Forest Council begins to collapse when the mairmaids become the Council hosts and monopolize power by moving the meetings into the clouds, where only flying creatures can participate, breaking the people’s faith in the council, which soon dissolves. With no council to keep the peace, the werewolves and mairmaids get into a dispute when the mairmaid lantern festival—a festival of lanterns filled with swirling smoke-filled bubbles and bright lights that ends with a giant rainbow lantern shining everywhere—disrupts the werewolf first-turning ceremony by throwing off too much light. Eventually, the two groups find a way to combine their activities and resolve the dispute on their own, which launches a renaissance of growing peace between forest creatures.

The Renaissance officially begins when now-old but still-vital snake person savior, Shaka, marries a werewolf princess, showing that different peoples can unite in peace. A group of malcontented hippocorns and sprites worried about the little folk being left behind unite in opposition to these events, but this does not deter the spirit of the age. The Spirit folk return and begin an art movement using diaphanous layers to create sounds, images, and sculptures known as Spirit Baroque that culminates in an enormous Woodstock festival where many peoples celebrate together. A new council forms after the festival’s success and the werewolves build a temple with a giant moonstone to commemorate this new period of uneasy peace. The sprites, no longer fearful of the new order, form an alliance with the centaurs. Elves and gnomes decide they can share a garden that they have both claimed for decades and build a compound together at the garden. In the compound, the elves teach the gnomes the magic necessary to reanimate the flowers trapped in their amber gifts, and together they populate the garden with these ancient flowers. The sprites begin creating fashion accessories out of castoff bits from various creatures, like hippocorn fur and mairmaid scales, showing off the beauty of syncretic art. Our history ends with the erection of a statue to honor Shaka after the end of their long, full life.

Cheating an Ungrateful City

Tonight we played two short games, Cheat Your Own Adventure by Shane Mclean and For the Ungrateful City by Alexi Sargeant.

In our game of (Don’t) Cheat Your Own Adventure in the world of Illuminati University, you find a special card with your name on it that provides access to unlimited funds. You decide to head over to the casino to place impossible bets, where you choose to play the Poisoned Chalice in which you bet that your clone doesn’t drink the poison. When your last remaining competition finally succumbs, she claims you were cheating and dares you to drink from the chalice to prove you’re not using anti-poison. You grab the cup and quaff it down, which imbues with you mysterious energy and power, so you leap through the window and become a superhero fighting crime throughout the city. You’re surrounded by villains one day when your powers mysteriously vanish, so you convince them you can fulfill their financial dreams and withdraw whatever funds they request using the card of limitless cash. As they’re leaving satisfied, you choose to join one villain named Bryan on a sailing voyage around the world, where he tells his story and says he’s ready to go straight. When he’s arrested at one port of call for his past crimes, you decide to return to the casino where you get embroiled with the mobsters who run the place, but since you’re related to one of them, they don’t harm you. Unfortunately, someone in the casino realizes that you’re underage for gambling in this city, so they call the authorities. Before they arrive, you revive your superpowers and fly off to resume fighting crime. After weeks of crime fighting, your grades at school begin to suffer, so you decide to find someone worthy of inheriting your powers and taking over your crime fighting duties. When you call down the lightning to transfer the powers, however, the lightning not only transfers the powers but takes your life. And since we refused to cheat, the story ends there.

In For the Ungrateful City, we are a group of superheroes in an underwater city that will soon face an unprecedented threat. Zip is a manipulator of electricity who can throw lightning bolts, leading most citizens to admire and fear her, the champion of the city’s downtrodden. Mr. Clear, who can turn invisible and erect force fields, dreams of the city’s potential to bring the people of air and water together, but is saddened to see the reality of their interactions turning cruel. Freefall, a human from the surface world, first came to the city with his mother and gran when 16 so the pressure of the oceans could offset the outward pressure caused by the emergence of his telekinetic powers. Jala is a water nymph with the ability to control water in all its forms who some fear could be more dangerous than the threat the city faces, but most believe the city leaders have her under control. Finally, the city’s official protector is Courage, whose brother had preceded him in the role before dying on a mysterious mission that the city leaders have yet to tell him about, but he knows the city’s secret foundations. When the threat finally materializes, we each choose to defend her—Freefall to earn the acceptance of her citizens, Mr. Clear because he sees beauty in her potential, Zip to protect the common people, and Courage to protect his brother’s legacy and the city’s past—all except one. Jala turns out to have been the looming threat all along and uses her vast power to try to take over the city as her teammates stand against her.

Truth & Daring: Never Croak!

Tonight we played Truth & Daring by Tim & Kristin Devine (a hack of Lasers & Feelings) about a group of kids who call ourselves the Tads and meet in The Tad Pad, a treehouse in the woods, full of walkie-talkies, camping gear, and fishing supplies. Our motto is “Frogs never croak!” and we mostly hang out at Toys 4U, a local shop. We are: Crystal a clumsy collector of all things whose determined to complete her Garbage Pail Kids set; Ray a dramatic artist whose always creating; Riley the mischievous new kid whose hand buzzer won’t be her biggest prank; Casey the curious woodsy explorer who plans to discover something, anything; Sal our would-be grifter seeking riches, honest or not; Joe the techie gamemaster with an extra set of dice and character sheets always at hand; Devon the daredevil athlete who wears a tracksuit and a small towel around his neck at all times; and Margaret our brainy nerd with her notebook of answers and several library books of info at the ready.

Hand drawing of some members of our group, including the creature in the water.

Our story begins with Casey, Sal, and Joe in the woods looking to show Riley the creature we’ve suspected lived there for years. After much tramping around and discussion, we decide that we’ll have better luck at night and agree for the whole club to sleep over together by the pond. Crystal has Devon and Ray over to her house to help her prepare for the sleepover, knowing her mom is over-protective. After recalling the messy accident when Ray spilled the Kool-Aid all over her kitchen for his spill-life, we decide that Devon must be the one to talk to Crystal’s mom about the sleepover, and Ray rushes out but bumps into Mrs. J on his way down the driveway.

That night at the sleepover, Riley wants a marshmallow roast, but we’re worried about starting a fire. As we talk about the creature, an amphibious thing with fur, Ray shows off his cubist rendering that may be cool but doesn’t help us visualize what we’re looking for. One of the marshmallows that we’ve tossed into the pond disappears, and we get very excited and begin tossing more marshmallows and watching them sink. Finally, the creature rises from the water like a great hairy frog with enormous bulging eyes and a taste for marshmallow. We lure it closer and Joe and Sal pet it, but is this a young one? What if its mother comes looking for it? We name the creature Marshmallow before it splashes back into the water. We all scramble to hide when we realize two people are traipsing out to the pond and beginning to walk around it in our direction. They seem to be two men working for the government who are taking readings of the pond; they notice an oddity at one point, something that will surely bring them back for another look in the future. Miraculously, they never notice us, not even Ray pretending to be a tree, and continue to move around to the far side of the pond.

The next day, back at the clubhouse, Casey and Margaret return from the pond with some strange-looking devices that seem to have been set up to continue taking readings. We decide we have to return them to the pond, but slightly sabotaged, but if we truly want to save Marshmallow and protect them, then we’re going to have to pull an even bigger prank…and get caught doing it. In a montage, you see us preparing our prank. Joe creates posters promoting our monster viewing at the marsh while Sal sells tickets to neighborhood kids for the viewing. Ray works in his studio creating an elaborate papier mache monster while Crystal collects fur and other bits from the forest for decorating the monster. Riley builds elaborate traps and create the right effect for viewers, including croaking sounds catapults to launch marsh muck while Margaret creates shoes for leaving fake monster footprints all around the marshes. Margaret also rigs up a way to set off the government scopes while Devon makes sure the grown-ups and other government goons find out about the viewing and show up at the right time.

We’re in the middle of our big show with the local kids when the government goons show up and see that the monster everyone is talking about is made of papier mache even if it does set off their radioscopes. Sal tries desperately to convince them that they owe us something for all this work, but they leave without arresting anyone convinced that they’ve been chasing our prank monster rather than a real one. After they’re gone, we all sit together out by the pond tossing marshmallows out to our friend and make a solemn promise never to reveal the truth about Marshmallow and to always protect it. Frogs never croak!