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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in KingLeonard's LiveJournal:

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    Friday, August 10th, 2007
    9:17 pm
    It's a Boy!
    Alexander Ronald King, born 9lb at 20:30, 09 August. Mother, son and father all doing well.

    More pics and details after we get ourselves together.

    Mother and child - 1/2 hour old
    Alexander trying to figure out what's going on
    Thursday, February 8th, 2007
    4:08 pm
    I'm going to be a dad
    I will get around to finishing up this little journal on the game, but for now this special message.

    Ellen is pregnant. 14 weeks and counting.

    Baby is due 7 August.

    No, we don't know if it's a girl or a boy, nor do we intend to find out until the big moment.

    I am frickin' stoked.

    And terrified.

    But mainly overjoyed.

    More later.
    Monday, December 4th, 2006
    2:01 am
    We interrupt our irregularly scheduled updates...
    The War on Horror

    Left and Right sat at the bar, trading rounds as they got to know each other.
    "I mean, do I look like a terrorist?" asked Left, annoyed at having been picked for a random search earlier that day. "I mean, I'm no Arab. I don't even have a tan."

    "I know exactly what you mean" said Right. "This whole War on Terror's got everyone paranoid these days. I mean, just the other day I sent a box to the Cops with three heads I'd cut off a family out West. Took me ages to get the whole thing set up, because of course the family didn't want to cooperate [chuckle]. So I manage to drop it off in front of the local Police Station without being seen, cross the road and settle in to wait for someone to discover my little present. But does anyone even pick it up and give it a shake? Oh no. They call in the bomb squad, clear everyone for two blocks and detonate the whole thing. Some of my best cutting, shot straight to hell. Man, it's getting so no one trusts anyone anymore."

    Right took a drag from his cigarette and finished up his beer. "So," he said with a smile to a shrinking Left, "you got a family?"
    Tuesday, November 28th, 2006
    11:36 am
    Session Update continued
    Picking it up from where I left off...

    _________________________________________

    Cassie wasn't sure whether to collapse, scream or run forward and embrace her old friend. What she did know was that things weren't right.  This creature, a former comrade of hers, was supposed to be their enemy, the target of Teq's monstrous hatred.  With some caution Cassie began talking to Jay, only to find him as personable and friendly as she'd always remembered.  Perhaps slightly more distant than before, as if thinking of something else, but still engaging and charismatic.  Jay offered his condolences for the loss of her brother.
    "Can you bring him back?" she asked, her voice full of pain.
    "No, I can't.  But perhaps you can."

    Jay, "the Lord", asked her what the Annerley enclave had told them of the artifact, whether they'd mentioned exactly what it did.  Cassie thought about what had been revealed so far and said no. The community had been less than forthcoming with the exact nature of the artifact's power.  "That," he said, "is because they're not sure yet if they can trust you all. If they told you the whole truth they couldn't be sure if you were there for the right reasons." The creature came closer to Cassie, the animal features of the vampiric virus marking themselves across his face. The artifact was powerful, he told her. In fact, it was possibly the most powerful things the Sixth World had ever seen.  Within the crystal and bone had been captured the rarest of magics - a wish.  The wielder of the artifact could ask for whatever they wanted, anything at all, and it would be given to them.

    The power to change everything.

    Just imagine, he said to Cassie, if you could turn back the clock, change things for the better.  Imagine Samuel not dying.  Imagine not coming into Brisbane, or even Chicago.  In fact, imagine if the Containment Zone had never happened. Imagine if you could have all those wasted years back to spend in the pursuit of something meaningful.  But why stop there? Why be selfish? Why not do the world a favour and wish away all insect spirits, once and for all.  Wish that they'd never come. Wish that they'd never ruined so many lives.  So much good could be done with this incredible power.

    The power to change the story.

    Cassie stepped back to take in all that was being said.  The potential was enormous and all manner of possibilities began flowing through her head.  Jay began probing. Did she think it was a good idea? Could she do that for him? It was very important that she do this for him. And in return, he'd do something for her.  "Help us fight?" Cassie asked. Jay shook his head. "It's better if I stay quiet .  It would be much better for you if certain groups didn't know I was here. However, I do have some gifts."  From a small carry satchel he produced three ultrasonic guns that he said were fully functional. "Courtesy of Ren," he said with a smile. Cassie couldn't believe her fortune.  With three of the weapons perhaps things weren't so hopeless after all. Then Jay motioned to two of the spirits who brought over a large wooden box.
    "I thought you and your new friends might like these back," he said with a wicked smile.


    Outside things were getting frantic.  Beetle spirits were attacking from the South, Ants from the North and Wasps from the air.  A small child escaped from the safe haven and tried to run across the road to his fallen father, only to be picked off by a Wasp.  Fighting on instinct, Whitesnake strafed his weapon over the departing creature forcing it to drop the child.  He caught the boy with his other hand as he continued to fight back the intruders.

    From all sides the attackers seemed to be gaining in number. The defences were straining trying to hold them back, causing both fronts to retreat towards the ritual circle.  Whitesnake was wondering what on Earth had happened to Cassie and her fancy electronic guns, when he saw her out of the corner of his eye dragging a large wooden box out from her workshop and into the middle of the street.  He managed to fight his way over to her, checking she was alright. She was fine she said, but kept grumbling something about needing to come up with a better power source. Whitesnake shrugged and kept fighting, ignoring Cassie and her large wooden box, until curiosity got the better of him.  He stopped firing his Ingram Smartgun long enough to kick open the lid and peer down.  A shocked smile began to slide across his face.

    Teq was in a combat frenzy, the likes of which he hadn't felt in years.  One after the other he fought back spirit after spirit, slowly losing ammunition and energy.  He knew the enclave were terribly underprovisioned for a battle like this and it was only a matter of time before they would all be reduced to fighting with sticks, iron bars and bare hands.  Suddenly the street corridor shook to the thud of high caliber rounds.  He could tell by the sound before he saw the weapon; Ingram light machine gun, mounted on some kind of stabilisation from the sound of it.  Turning just enough he was greeted with the sight of Whitesnake in full flight, picking off enemy after enemy with his new toy.

    Cassie was sitting in the middle of this madness, desperately trying to figure out how to maximise the impact of the ultrasonic guns.  If only she could come up with some kind of powerful battery source, but there just wasn't anything available anymore.  She saw Darryl hobbling past taking ammunition to one of the defense positions.  Grabbing him, she screamed above the conflict whether there was any kind of power source in the enclave; a generator, even a car battery.  Darryl thought for a second.
    "The only car we have is up near the substation and it hasn't worked in years."

    Cassie ran this through her head a second time.  Substation?  Of course! The power had long since stopped flowing, but perhaps the industrial capacitors might hold enough juice after all these years for one giant pulse.  She collected all the working ultrasonic guns, as well as the spares she'd yet to modify, under her arm and ran across the conflict to the substation behind the shopfronts.  Whitesnake made a paltry effort to try and stop her, but realising that she had some kind of idea in her head he just fell back across the road and provided cover.  Once at the aging electricity plant Cassie put all fear and doubt out of her mind and began modifying the circuits as best she could. She tested the voltage and was surprised to find a surprising amount of current left in the capacitor.  Now all she had to do was keep the equipment from just melting when switched on.


    The fighting at the northern front was becoming desperate.  Teq was almost out of ammo, running on adrenaline and instinct.  With a short exchange of words he called for Whitesnake to switch fronts to bring the machine gun into play.  Moving to the Southern front Teq kicked over the wooden box he'd seen Cassie drag out.  Weapon after weapon fell onto the asphalt, the store of weapons the team had left in the Valley after running into the team sent to hunt them down.  Teq snatched up the grenade launcher and began clearing the advancing army back to the dwindling fire trough. Things seemed to be turning for the defenders, when a foul breeze whipped up from the South.  On the wind was the reek of their pursuer, the Foul One.  He was out there, waiting to come in and snatch his prize when both sides had worn themselves out.  Teq scanned the road and spotted the unmistakable shape of true form cockroach spirits in the darkness, advancing on them behind the current attackers.

    _____________________________________

    This is a draft.  I'll add more to it tomorrow.
    Saturday, November 25th, 2006
    1:07 pm
    Penultimate Session Update
    Thank you to all who took part in this game and brought it through to fruition. After many months off we finally got to the end and retired some character's stories permanently. Particular thanks go to the players in this game (Arran, Colin, Helga, Sean, Simon and Steve) who created a narrative more rich and full of unforgettable characters than I could have possibly imagined myself, but also to all who played in my Shadowrun games over the years (Hmm, let's see how I go... Alex G, Alex W, Bernard, Derrick, Gai, Joanna, Patrick, Richard and Wayne) that led up to this one, ostensibly the end of a very long series of loosely connected stories.

    Anyway, for posterity, I'm going to try and fill in what happened up to the end of the final session we ran last night. This will probably be at least a two-parter so bear with me. As always, feel free to use the comments to explain certain bits that you don't think I covered properly, or to correct inaccuracies.

     _______________________________

    The team stood in the middle of the street, surrounded by figures all staring at these outsiders. Luckily what initially seemed to be tension and fear among the enclave's inhabitants turned out to be a mix of curiosity and awe at these newcomers in their midst. The young man, smiling broadly as he looked each one of the team over, introduced himself as Darryl. With the same smile fixed on his face he made some ominous statements about the team having brought the artifact to them, but before anyone could react too negatively, he was chastised by an an older man with deep wrinkles and missing teeth, who introduced himself as Wayne.  The elder made the group feel slightly more at ease, although the almost reverence with which he spoke to them was more than a little disconcerting.  Yes, he knew about the artifact. Yes, they could activate it.  However, before any of this could be explained in any detail it was time to eat.

    The community guided the team behind the shopfronts to a series of makeshift shelters and a large communal fire spaced out across a large concrete carpark. The area was surrounded on three sides by the shops and on the fourth by an electricity substation. Wayne and Darryl showed them to the fire and introduced the team to the elders of the enclave as the meal began to be served.  The pickings were poor, with old, rotting fruit served on makeshift platters made from corrugated iron and hubcaps, but this was obviously the best these people had and they weren't going to start themselves until their guests had at least had first choice. With dinner underway, Wayne proceeded to fill in the team with the backstory of the amulet. He confirmed that according to his people's traditions this amulet had belonged to a great hero who had created it to help with a quest, but in the end the hero found himself unwilling to use its power. The amulet disappeared and fell into legend until around five years ago when his community here in Brisbane had been contacted by a research assistant from Mitsuhama. This assistant had mentioned that the corporation had acquired an artifact of African origins that they were unable to get any information on and hoped that someone from the African expat community might be able to assist them. Straight after that the insect invasion took place.

    News of the artifact took second place in the minds of the enclave's survivors until a few months ago when it became clear that certain groups had begun searching for the artifact yet again. When the team had managed to find the pieces Wayne knew it would only be a matter of time before they came to them for information. Teq, already aching to get moving again to confront "the Lord" and rescue Rose, gave a dry thanks to his hosts and began calling on his team to get themselves together. Wayne tried to convince them that the only way forward was to activate the artifact before the other forces searching for it captured it and used its power for unspeakable ends.

    Again, Teq was unconvinced and proposed a plan to rest for a few hours and attack the City Hall stronghold of "the Lord" before coming back to do whatever they seemed to think was required with this artifact thing. He and Whitesnake went off to get some sleep. Wraith, away from his father's stubborn single-mindedness, began to talk to Wayne in greater detail about the ritual required to activate the artifact. It wasn't long before Wraith had come up with his own plan to activate the artifact as soon as possible (a process that would take a twelve hour group ritual), then see if its power would be able to assist them on what he was already beginning to consider might be a lost cause. Cassie, trying desperately to avoid thinking about her dead brother, found a room to get working on trying to convert the ultrasonic sights into the "bug bombs" that Ren had seemed to think could be created.

    When Teq and Whitesnake woke up they were both more than a little surprised to discover a new plan that had been formulated without them. Teq wasn't happy, but grudgingly began to assist with setting up the ritual area required, digging up the asphalt in the middle of Ipswich Road to get to the bare earth beneath. Whitesnake, just happy to be taking orders from someone, began organising the area's defences, enlisting Cassie away from her tinkering to assist.  By the time the overcast sky began to darken with impending nightfall, the ritual area had been created, children and elderly hidden in a safe location and the defences had been laid with fire trenches at each end of the street.  Wraith joined the shamans of the enclave around the circle and prepared for the arduous trial of the ritual.  Cassie continued work in a makeshift workshop with three of the more technically gifted members of the enclave, desperately searching for the correct  implementation of the ultrasonic weapon. Teq and Whitesnake looked over their inadequate weaponry, counting what little ammunition they had left into clips for easy access in the heat of battle.

    The ritual began with a cry and settled into the intricate series of chanting that would last most of the night.  Soon the only light was the glow of the ritual fire in the centre of the circle, the artifact resting beside it.  An hour or two passed with the guards on the defensive perimeters getting progressively more uncomfortable, waiting for the inevitable attack . In the distance Whitesnake began to hear faint sounds, like soft slapping of flesh against something hard.  Activating his integral low-light sensors he peered down the dark well of Ipswich Road to the south to see what looked like naked and semi-clothed humans, flesh white and flabby with empty eyes, running towards the enclave's position as though driven by some invisible force.  With a signal the flammable liquid pooling in the trench across the road was lit and the southern defences braced for contact.  The creatures, mindless flesh form insect spirits, leapt at the line and met a wave of gunfire.  One after another the creatures pounded through the flames with no concern for their own safety, each responding to the hive mind driving them forward.

    To the north Teq could hear the sounds of battle behind him and knew to expect a diversion.  He peered out into the darkness and started to see the same creatures running up the hill towards his position.  With deliberate aim he started knocking off the spirits from long range as they quickly advanced, knowing that these flesh form spirits didn't have the same invulnerability that their true form brethren did.  As the enemy reached the top of the hill Teq signaled for their own defensive fire to be lit.  The combat had begun.

    The conflict raged for what seemed like hours.  Just as the creatures began to make headway, the defenders of the enclave fought them back with bullets, blades and fists.  The numbers seemed to increase in one last wave of attack, only to be repelled by the first working ultrasonic gun created by Cassie.  It's young operator helped drive the spirits back down the road into the darkness where they were met by other, larger shadows. Teq and Whitesnake counted the cost in wounded and arsenal.  They'd lost a number of soldiers on the front line and took this moment to rearm and reposition.  Again, Teq peered down the hill, watching the shadows moving in the darkness.  Alien cries rose up the hill towards them and it seemed that rival groups were attacking each other for a chance to attack the enclave.

    Darryl found Whitesnake and gave him a report on the wounded and the weaponry.  Whitesnake, peering down the street looking for the next wave of attack, took it all in and began rearranging the defences in his head to take these changes into account.  "Man," said Darryl, taking a moment to let his emotions out. "This isn't exactly the way I pictured my life turning out."  Whitesnake looked at the young man briefly and nodded in agreement. Darryl stood for a second, pondering, and then asked, "If you could change anything, what would you wish for?" 

    The question caught Whitesnake off guard as a million responses flooded through his brain. "Hmmph, that's a stupid question," he grunted.

    "Yeah, maybe, but I just thought I'd ask.  Hell, I'm not even sure I have an answer.  I mean, can you imagine it? Changing what you know for what you don't know. It would be great to wish that the Bugs never came to Brisbane, but how do I know that my life would have been any better than it wound up?"

    Whitesnake gave him a blank look.

    "Yeah, I know, I know, it's not like it could be any worse right?" smiled Darryl.

    The grizzled old street samurai felt his age starting to catch up on him as the one thing he'd always wanted kept screaming inside his head. "You talk too much," he said in his fading cockney accent and went back to scanning the darkness for the next, inevitable attack.

    At the northern end of the enclave Teq turned his attention away from the feuding spirits to the ritual going on behind him.  He was so angry at Wayne for tricking Wraith into hanging around to do the ritual here and now that he found it difficult to keep himself from just shooting the old man, grabbing Wraith and the amulet and just going to get his woman like he knew he should.  But, Wraith had made this decision, and an increasing part of Teq felt a sense of pride for the way his foster son was handling himself.

    A series of sharp cries turned his attention back down the street. In the amplified glow of his low-light receptors he could see that something, or some things, had achieved victory, or at least had decided to attack as a group first and share the booty later.  Whatever they were they had commenced climbing up the hill.  Taking time to aim Teq fired his explosive rounds at the lead spirit.  When the creature didn't immediately drop after being shot clean through the head Teq began to feel a little uneasy.
    "All units, second wave. Whitesnake, stay sharp at your end. They're out there somewhere."

    Combat was joined yet again. This time the foes were less human and more insectoid. Even for people that had grown up in a world where magic flourished, dragons appeared on TV, elves and orcs shared public housing lots in overcrowded, toxic slums, these horrific mutations of human and insect were enough to unsettle even the most strident defender.  The animals balked briefly at the still burning trough, then hurled themselves through.  Teq fired his weapons like a machine, dropping one creature after another until he ran out of clips.  Then he just started ripping at them, punching and striking with sheer force of will to keep the enemy at bay. There was only so much he could handle, even with support, and it wasn't long until the northern front was forced to begin retreating.

    At the southern front Whitesnake was concerned. He could tell that things weren't going well for Teq, but he didn't dare move a single defender off the line. He knew that an attack was coming, he just didn't know when or where.  When he heard the cry he quickly realised with horror where the enemy was.  From the darkness above swept wasp spirits, picking off defenders perched on the shop roofs.  With the enclave's attention turned to the sky, the second force from the south took that moment to attack.

    Away from the horrors outside, Cassie was almost ready to send out what she hoped would be her second working ultrasonic gun. She'd heard back that the first one had worked, but hadn't taken long to run out of energy. It's owner had been killed by a spirit when the power gave out suddenly and he'd had no other means of protecting himself.  Over and again, Cassie kept trying to figure out how she could increase the power, either the effectiveness or the length of operation.  Calculation after calculation ran through her head as her fingers ran over fine cabling, rearranging the oscillation to provide a different series of frequencies.  With a grunt of satisfaction she completed the second ultrasonic gun, even though she knew she was going to have to make the things faster.  She still had two ultrasonic sights left, but she might not have time to even get those done.  Passing the gun off to one of her offsiders, she told him to be careful and turned back to start on the third.  The young boy nodded wide eyed, took two steps through the door and screamed.  Cassie turned to see the boy being torn apart by the iron feeders of a giant cockroach. 

    Gathering together her tools faster than she could have thought possible, she started looking for a alternate means of escape while the creature's attention was still turned away.  She saw her third helper stare at the far wall in horror. Following his gaze she saw other, more hideous looking cockroaches starting to creep into the room from behind shelves against the walls.  There was no way out. It was all she could do to keep from panicking as her last assistant was set upon and ripped apart by the foul creatures.  In that moment she knew that she would die. One of the cockroaches turned its attention from the dripping remains of the boy and began advancing on Cassie.  She stared at it, trying to remain stock still as it searched around with it's substandard eyesight, checking the air for movement using two long feelers. The insect crept closer, the feelers sweeping closer and closer to Cassie. Then, as it seemed that the cockroach was about to step right on top of her, it disappeared with an almost audible "poof!"   As  she opened her eyes Cassie couldn't believe what she saw.  The cockroach spirits had gone, but coming in  from the same locations were huge humanoid creatures she immediately recognised as mosquito spirits.  It was almost enough to make her break down and cry, to be saved from one attacker only to be captured by another.  But the mosquitos didn't advance on her. Instead it seemed like they were guarding something, taking up positions as if they were bodyguards preparing a room for the entrance of a president.

    From the back of the room a figure began to take shape from a mist that had made its way inside.  In an instant Cassie recognised him as the vampire, "the Lord", her old friend and teammate Jay.

    ________________________________________

    The previous session's not done, but I'm too tired to continue.  More when I'm awake.
    Friday, November 24th, 2006
    4:19 am
    More back story and references
    You may recall back in this session update that I mentioned Romano's experience of what happened to him after being left in the city by Teq, Whitesnake, Wraith and Rose five years before.  The incident was quite gruesome, but definitely life changing.  That story  was based on a real event which I link to here.

    Family Saga, and Skeleton, Uncovered | NY Times

    About a year ago, a girl was born in this working-class town and was promptly flung out of a third-floor window. She tumbled down a thin air shaft, naked, her umbilical cord still attached. Her head smashed into the concrete 31 feet below. She died instantly. And there she lay, unnamed, buried in a grave of garbage and cigarette packs.

    The story gets worse.

    Please note, this story isn't pleasant.  Just a warning.
    3:59 am
    Final session tonight!
    Unless the players do something altogether surprising and throw things out of whack, tonight should be the final session. Some time down the track I'll do up session updates for the previous two games and conclude with what happens tonight.

    In the mean time, here's some additional game narrative going back to the first session back in February. Having taken a look at it again I realise just how poorly it's been written, but I don't have time to edit it right now.  I'm sure it will make sense to someone.

    ------------------------------------------

    You’re walking through an open field, the likes of which is rarely seen by a city boy like you. The sky is blue, the clouds are white and fluffy and the grass smells wonderful as you make your way over a small hill. Walking beside you is dog, appearing as a friendly German Shepherd; loyal and friendly, yet proud and protective. A stray insect buzzes between the two of you and fades away from hearing. The two of you talk without words and enjoy life.

    As you crest the hill you see a shallow valley with a quiet, still lake. Water birds rest on its surface and the sweet breeze creates the finest of ripples. Insects swoop over the surface, diving into the water and rising into the air. Along the edges the water reeds grow tall, bending slightly. Dog motions towards one set of reeds, darker and less distinct. As you walk towards them you realise that they’re not reeds at all, but a woman. Fine with short, dark hair she kneels calmly on the edge, peering at something in the water. As you approach she turns her head to look at you with a sad smile.

    “Why?” she asks. “Why are you doing this?”

    She makes no sense. You’re just walking with your totem, fulfilled by the knowledge that the two of you are one. You’re not doing anything wrong. You absentmindedly slap at a mosquito. The woman rises to her feet.

    “I don’t want to have to go. I don’t want to replace her. And most of all I don’t want to be your enemy.”

    What on earth’s she talking about?

    As you stand, facing each other, the woman seems to grow. Or maybe you’re shrinking. Her eyes hold power. Power you want. For some reason her presence makes you angry. You start to wave at the cloud of mosquitos forming around you. Then you start to grow, gaining in power and knowledge until once again you meet each other eye to eye. There! Now you and your totem can show her real power.

    You turn to your totem. Dog is no longer the powerful German Shepherd he was, but a mangy cur, emaciated and whining. The cloud of mosquitos settle upon the crying mongrel, slowly sucking it dry and turning it to bone and dust. The mosquitos rise from the destruction and surround you. Unable, or unwilling, to move you feel every bite suck the blood from your system and inject you with raw power. Insight, skill, magic, it’s all right there being fed to you as you in turn feed the insects. The woman continues her sad smile, sighs and turns away. You feel sad she’s leaving, but realise it doesn’t really matter. A great force rises up behind you, taking one last bite from your neck, sucking the last of the blood from you, filling you with the glorious face of…

    You wake up away from the others, breathing heavily, feeling drained, but strangely euphoric. You can feel the memory of the power. Best if no one else knows about this.

    ------------------------------------------

    You walk through the same pristine countryside, Dog once again at your side in all his power. Over the hill you find the same still lake and standing beside it is the same dark haired woman. She stands looking across the water, her back to you. Dog, happy to be by the water, is now a Terrier, full of joy and excitement. He leaps out into the lake, swimming with great enthusiasm, snapping at the water bugs and larvae around him. The sight of your spiritual mentor makes you happy, even if there exists a strange discontent. You join the woman beside the lake and look out into the distance. At the edge of sight you see what she’s looking at; a dark, filthy city, phallic structures bent and collapsing under the weight of their own corruption and suffering. It seems familiar, but unlike anything you’ve ever seen. You can feel it calling to you. What is this place?

    “That is my birthplace. And my tomb,” says the woman. Again, she makes no sense.

    “You enjoyed it didn’t you?” she asks. You nod, recalling the feeling of that alien power being fed to you by the insects. “I’m the same,” she says, “but for different reasons. I wish I wasn’t, but I can’t fight it.” She turns and faces you. “Of course, if you didn’t then I wouldn’t have to go, but we both know that’s not going to happen. You’ve already tasted it. And it’s tasted you.”

    You don’t know what to say. You feel the panic rise in you. Where’s your totem? He can give you guidance. Yes, there he is…

    The bloated carcass of dog floats on the stagnant water, alive with the motion of a thousand larvae, all burrowing their way through the decaying flesh. The larvae inch their way out of the lake, across your shoes and onto your skin, digging their way in to hollow you out. From behind you rises the same powerful force, sucking your soul out through two tiny holes in your neck. Each agonising second pounds with every heartbeat as you feel your being replaced with the maggots and larvae from below. Eventually your heartbeat stops; the larvae have eaten it. As they make their way higher and higher you can see the ripples of the maggots as they crawl under your skin, crawling down your arms and into your head. The insects have eaten everything, replacing all that you used to hold dear. You now know what’s truly important.

    Fuelled by the power of the insect you look back at the city, your true home.

    As you start to leave you turn and face the woman again. “You go on,” she says. “Your story starts before mine. I’ll be along when I’m needed. See you on the other side”

    You turn and walk towards…

    You wake up, away from the others and horribly weak. You feel like you’re going to die. Still, you know no one would understand if you explained it to them. Try and keep it a secret as long as you can. Something tells you it will all be over soon.

    ----------------------------------------

    Game on tonight!
    Friday, October 27th, 2006
    3:35 am
    Nothing happening for the last three months?
    Yeah, don't ask.

    Continuing my posting of stories that indicate our inexorable descent into a William Gibson novel, I offer this one.

    Team develops DNA switch to interface living organisms with computers | Physorg.com

    Researchers at the University of Portsmouth, UK, have developed an electronic switch based on DNA - a world-first bio-nanotechnology breakthrough that provides the foundation for the interface between living organisms and the computer world.
    Saturday, October 7th, 2006
    11:56 pm
    Chasing the meme tail - the RP character quiz
    This one's been bouncing around for a while now, so I figure I'd answer it here so I don't bother those with no interest in a bulk email. Of no interest to anyone but those I've gamed with in the past.

    Name 12 characters you have played in RPGs, before looking at the questions that follow. List your characters numbered 1 to 12, with the name of the RPG you played them in. Once you've picked your 12 characters, look at the questions and answer accordingly. (No peeking until you've picked your characters!) Put your answers behind a LJ-cut.

    O.K., this may be a stretch to get to 12. Most of my gaming's been done behind the GM screen.

    1: Fortrand Tricerion
    AD&D Neutral Good Cavalier. One of a set of triplets, each following a different aspect of the Good alignment.
    Wayne J's old... was it Forgotten Realms or Greyhawk? I can't remember.

    2: Alexander Norton
    Tremere Ancillae, Regent of Brisbane (because no one else wanted the job)
    Wayne J's Brunswick Street campaign.

    3: Benjamin Gutierrez
    Brujah Idealist, Prince of Brisbane
    Camarilla Vampire LARP

    4: "Gunner"
    Fianna Philodox Werewolf, member of Warrego 54 and all round top bloke!
    Camarilla Werewolf LARP

    5: Ptaleth
    Cleric/Mage of Thoth
    Colin's AD&D Return to Amber

    Dude, I'm not halfway and I'm struggling.

    6: Jeremy
    Aussie backpacker and innocent victim of fate
    Patrick's KULT Taroticum game - I can't remember his exact name, but I do remember the character vividly.

    7: Rose
    NPC Decker, ongoing through several Shadowrun campaigns, including RtBC (told you I might have to cheat)

    8: The Doctor / Romano
    NPC Leader of the Mater enclave - Shadowrun, Return to Bug City
    Richard may have created Romano, but I reinvented him as the Doctor so I'm claiming this one as mine.

    9: Roghan Greyforth
    Setite bon-vivant, Camarilla LARP
    How could I forget him? I know there are certain people at his introduction that will never forget the sight.

    10: Shinkansen
    Japanese Street Samurai, my first Shadowrun game

    11: Jan Hanover
    NPC mage, schemer, villain - Shadowrun Brisbane Bug City

    Hmmm, one more to get an even dozen

    12: The General
    NPC Leader of the Bowen Hills enclave
    Former military/shadowrunner, current dictator - Original Brisbane Bug City and RtBC.

    Whew, that was a struggle. Now, onto the show! (while trying not to give too much away about the NPC's)

    Tuesday, September 26th, 2006
    12:34 pm
    Nothing happening...
    I have an update of a half-game from almost two months ago that I never managed to finish writing, and the next session looks like it's been put on hold until halfway through October.

    So, here's a little booster to fill in the time, part of Wired's Body Hack series.

    Thursday, August 3rd, 2006
    5:30 pm
    Session Update Part 2 - 28 July 2006
    What a fun week this has been.  It's a bit rough when the highlight so far has been a Uni lecture on signal transmission teaching the technical differences between amplitude, frequency and phase modulation and how they relate to baud rates.

    How's your week been?

    Anyway, let's take this opportunity to finish up the last session before we get into the next session to be played tomorrow night.


    __________________________________________


    Ren opened the door to the ancient structure to reveal a packed interior.  Nearly every spare inch of floor space was covered with technical gadgets, wires, conduit and other computing and electronic paraphenalia.  Then, to add a macabre edge to the collection, it was finished with a strange collection of mummified animals, bones and organs in bottles of formaldehyde, collected insects and arachnids pinned to felt backings.  The place had a strange, funky smell, like it hadn't seen sunlight in years.  Ren immediately set his pack on a teetering mound of data chips, grabbed the ultrasound transmitter and headed upstairs.  Cassie followed, intending to be as much help as possible, thankful to have the technical endeavour to take her mind off her fears for Samuel.  Wraith and Teq continued on to the level above to head out onto the balcony surrounding the top of the structure, hoping to get the lay of the land.  In Teq's case, he was also hoping to see to see the City Hall building, and perhaps gain a glimpse of his nemesis, The Lord. Whitesnake took the opportunity to find a convenient bush and commence dry reaching, sweat pouring out of his body as it craved alcohol through the heavy stages of the DT's.  As the ailing Street Samurai passed out and started convulsing in his own vomit, Teq and Wraith headed downstairs to help their friend.  As he was leaving, Teq heard a sharp, subsonic boom, too short to be thunder, coming from somewhere in the West.  "A little early for what that soldier boy was talking about" he thought, and left feeling somewhat disturbed.

    The two brought Whitesnake inside and set about cleaning up the vomit and feces while Ren and Cassie continued work on the transmitter.  Realising that Whitesnake was in no condition to go anywhere the group decided to stay put for the night, hoping he'd get over the worst of it by morning.  Shifts were determined to keep watch while the others slept; Cassie first, Wraith second, then Teq.  Again, Cassie was relieved to have the time to keep her mind on the problem at hand.  Ren was convinced that with some careful modification the ultrasound transmission could be set to a frequency that would affect and repel the insect spirits. Between the two of them, with the other three sound asleep, they got the transmitter to a point where Ren was positive it would work.  Of course, without significant test subjects there was no way to prove it, but that didn't stop the pair feeling a sense of achievement.

    With that complete, Cassie woke Wraith for his watch and went to try and catch some sleep.  The young man went upstairs and took a look around from the balcony, breathing in the fetid, humid night air.  From towards the South West he could see a sort of glow highlighting the buildings of the city, prominent in the absolute darkness of the Containment Zone at night.  Uneasy at what was causing it, he went back inside and wandered downstairs to look around.  Ren was still up, digging around in some sort of pile looking for something.  As Wraith wandered past the barred front door he heard a high pitched click and whistle, similar to the one he'd heard earlier that day when one of the "Wanderers" had gone past.  Unsure what to do he quietly went upstairs to get the owner.  Ren figured it was probably someone looking for shelter late at night, which sometimes happened.  The Wanderers knew of certain safe spots and his place was one of them.  Wraith went downstairs and opened the door to find a youthful man with dusty blonde hair.  A little surprised at seeing someone other than Ren answer the door, the Wanderer apologised and said that if the place was full then he would try elsewhere.  Offering the man something to eat, the two struck up quite a stoic conversation.  Suddenly the newcomer froze, hearing something beyond him in the darkness.  Wraith, unsure exactly what to do, began to retreat from the doorway, inviting the newcomer inside.  Upstairs, Cassie, not quite completely asleep, heard the voices coming from downstairs and woke to find Ren lurking at the top of the stairway, peering down at something trying not to be seen.  Unable to figure out what was going on she walked up behind him and questioned him outright.  Ren seemed quite startled, trying to keep between her and the stairway.  Cassie realised that the new voice was strangely familiar.  Peering past Ren she saw the figure standing in the doorway and immediately recognised it.  As Wraith was turned to face up the stairs to see what the noise was, he was unable to see the face of Cassie's old companion, Jay, contorted and animalistic with fangs extended as he was about to attack.  Cassie yelled a warning down the stairs and Wraith instinctively cast an invisibility spell to hide.  The Vampire hissed his displeasure and stared at the voice that had warned his prey.  Seeing who it had come from he stopped for a second, his face softening in recognition.  Then, as Teq came barrelling through, guns drawn, to find out what all the commotion was about, Jay leapt straight up the side of the building and sprung into the trees, disappearing from sight.  Wraith immediately bolted the door shut and the group began to prepare for an attack.

    Asking Ren for help and information, it became obvious that their guide wasn't giving up everything he knew very willingly.  Eventually Ren cracked, his helpful and geeky demeanour changing and revealed that the Vampire, known to Cassie as Jay, was his "Master", known as the Lord.  He had been kept on by the new Master after the old Master, also called the Lord, had left.  His job had been to make contact with this group, whom his Master somehow knew was coming, and do whatever was required to help them find the artifact but keep them away from finding Rose.  Unable to cope with this latest revelation, Cassie slapped on a tranq patch to escape reality and get a solid ten hours of sleep.  Teq and Wraith decided that while they weren't ready to attack what was obviously some kind of Vampiric minion with special powers (he had survived the attack by the insect spirits two days before without a scratch), they also weren't ready to brave the open in the middle of the night with a potentially dangerous foe waiting outside.  So, a tense few hours commenced as the two sides waited until dawn.

    Sun up was felt more than seen in the concrete structure.  Whitesnake woke first, unaware of where they were or what had happened the previous night.  He saw Teq sitting against the wall, wide-eyed with guns trained on a strangely intense Ren.  When Wraith woke moments later, the three prepared to depart.  However, they discovered soon enough that one of their number was in no state to move anywhere.

    "Grab her pack" Teq told Wraith.
    "Shouldn't we wait for her to sleep it off?" asked the young shaman.
    "Nope. We've got to move. You may recall a precedent a few days ago where a certain someone made it clear that those who were asleep would be left behind when the rest of the group needed to move." Teq reached down and hefted the sleeping form of Cassie over his shoulder. "I'm not as much of a bitch."

    The group headed East and headed down to the Valley. Debating the wisdom of going back to their stash of weapons for fear of an ambush, they headed over the precarious Story Bridge and back towards the Hospital.  The whole way there the sky to the South West held plumes of smoke, causing a deep sense of consternation.  As they approached Vulture Street they began to see and hear frightened people hiding in alcoves and crevices, afraid to come out and face anything beyond the immediacy of their surroundings.  Not wanting to drag the tranquilised figure of Cassie through what was potentially a death zone, they found a quiet storeroom, surrounded by the terrified former inhabitants of the hospital, and set the still recovering Whitesnake there to look after her while she slept. 

    Teq and Wraith sombrely approached the building.  It became obvious very quickly that their worst fears had been confirmed.  Smoke poured from burning fires on several floors.  Bullet holes and large craters of steel and ferrocrete pockmarked the surface of the hospital building where it had been attcked.  The screaming relatives of the dead crouched around their loved ones who lay in the street.  As they entered the building the sick stench of carrion and burning flesh filled their lungs.  Working their way through the building the pair went floor to floor where the fires would allow them.  Somewhere around the top of the building they heard voices.  In one of the supply rooms two dirty figures were ransacking medical supplies. Unsure whether these two were strays from the attacking party or just two locals benefitting from the misfortune of others, Teq spent another two bullets dealing with them.  He then picked up the bag of supplies and took it with him, figuring they would come in handy.

    "So let me get this straight," asked Wraith. "We just killed two guys for stealing medical supplies that these people need, and figure the best way to deal with it is to take those medical supplies with us."
    Teq stopped, shrugged and handed the bag over to his son.

    About halfway down they came across the body of their companion Samuel, lying dead with his arm protectively around his companion Britney.  Considering the way the nuns had been treated at the monastery it was somewhat of a relief to find the two together.  Teq leant down and took the artifact from the body, along with Samuel's wallet and a few key trinkets that he figured Cassie might want.  Continuing on they heard another voice, this time far less coherent.  The screaming, frantic figure of Eddie came flying into view, panic stricken and shouting something about being attacked and the coming of the Lord.  Unable to take the noise after everything else that had happened, Teq gave the youth a hard whack that quietened him immediately.  Picking up the unconscious body they headed outside to search the area within the enclave buildings.  Here it became obvious that this was where the initial attack had come from, the majority of the enclave's dead and dying forces piled up near the breach.  It didn't take long to find the terminally wounded Romano, lying under a pile of attackers and defenders.  When he realised who it was he began frantically asking if they had seen Sahad, his second-in-command.  When they said they hadn't he mentioned that when the attack had begun he'd sent Sahad with as many people as he could to try and escape to the East.  Calmed that the group hadn't obviously been caught, Romano turned his attention to Teq who, realising the Doctor was beyond help, readied his weapon to put him out of his misery.

    "So," sputtered Romano, voice laden with resigned irony.  "Ready to finish what you started, eh?" He coughed a few times, blood sputtering from his lips. "Don't forget what I told you the other day you bastard. Learn to let it go.  If you don't learn to forgive you'll never forgive yourself."

    And with that a shot roared out, ringing between the buildings.

    The two started back to their companions, leaving the bag of medical supplies in the street for the frightened inhabitants to come out and get when they were ready.  As he stood up from leaving the bag Wraith noticed something out of the corner of his eye.  Up the hill towards Annerley, almost hidden by the twist in the road, stood the same african tribesman they'd encountered before.  Motioning for him to be followed he turned and hobbled out of sight. Wraith called out to Teq that he was just going to check something and wandered after him.  Teq, wondering where his son was off to, turned and followed him.  When he caught up he saw the tribesman standing off in the distance.  Realising what was happening he warned Wraith off going any further until they had retrieved the rest of the group.  Intending to wake up the still unconscious Eddie, he realised that he'd hit the young man harder than he'd intended. Eddie was dead.  Leaving the body by the side of the road they went back to collect their companions.

    Cassie had woken up in strange surroundings with Whitesnake sitting cross-legged in the dark, weapon placed before him ready to act in a moment's notice.  When Teq and Wraith returned it was all she could do to stop from leaping out at them asking whether they'd seen Samuel.  Teq offered Samuel's things and answered her questions. Yes, he was dead. Yes, the girl was with him. No, he didn't seem to have suffered.  In fact they seemed to have been at peace when they died.  Collecting herself, she joined the others and walked past her brother's final resting place, eyes turned away from the building so as not to look at it.

    Turning up Annerley Rd, the group made their way up the hill, past the body of Eddie, and towards the Mitsuhama Corporate Headquarters.  As they approached Dutton Park they caught a glimpse of their African guide, waiting patiently for them to arrive.  Once they saw him he turned and continued walking, always just on the edge of sight as he turned a corner or moved around a building.  The group followed, dispirited and tired, as the street terminated in a commercial zone, old storefronts lining the main road.  Walking out into the middle of the intersection they realised they weren't alone.  From the rooftops and alleyways they began to see the inhabitants, all dark skinned and dressed in tribal garb, wielding a mix of traditional and modern weapons.  Backing up against each other, ready to face this new threat, their guide stepped into view and walked up to them.  A huge white smile in the middle of a dark face, surrounded by feathers and beads of his traditional headdress, he spoke, his accent so broad as to seem completely foreign.

    "G'day fellas.  How's it gahn? We were wonderin' when youse would get here."

    __________________________________________________

    Game on Friday! Hopefully some answers and perhaps a nice bit of violence to set things right.
    Sunday, July 30th, 2006
    9:10 pm
    Session Update Part 1 - 28 July 2006
    Finally! I get to do a session update instead of just filling up the pages with filler.

    Thanks again to my players who continue to make me scratch my head as we march inexorably to the conclusion.  I have to admit, some of the decisions made have definitely been out of left field.

    To those who noticed, I will be posting the "guest dream sequence" I promised last time.  In fact, it will probably make more sense now having just finished last Friday's session.

    __________________________________________

    The team slowly woke up, tired and restless after their disturbing dreams. Except for Whitesnake; that would require him to have gotten back to sleep.  Despite the early hour, there seemed to be some sort of commotion outside.  Already dressed and ready to head straight into town and confront the disturbing revelations in his dream, Teq left the others to pack up and followed the crowd to see what was going on.  Making his way north past the stadiums of the old arena he found quite a disturbed gathering. Climbing to get a better view he saw what appeared to be a dead body lying next to the carcase of a dead insect spirit of indeterminate species.  Figuring it wasn't of too much importance, other than the effect ot seemed to be having on the locals, he started back to get the others in order.  As he made his way back through the crowd he came across "the General" coming down to see what the fuss was about.  Acknowledging each other in passing, the enclave's leader made mention of the inopportune timing of this event, with the majority of his security force out on another "provision-gathering expedition."  Teq said he would get the others and return to see if they could offer any help.  The General snorted at this, but smiled and thanked Teq.

    Meanwhile, Wraith and Cassie began talking about the artifact, the newly discovered scroll and the strange "Professor Hoo" that Cassie had met the night before.  She mentioned that the Professor had told her that while the artifact was of incredible power and that it needed to be activated by use of the scroll.  The scroll case was of particular importance; it acted as a sort of buffer or shield to the effects of the artifact, nullifying its power on the wielder.  If, as Cassie suspected, the artifact was some kind of giant "Bug Bomb", it was necessary to have the scroll case if they wanted to survive the inevitable mana explosion.  Wraith, wanting to ask the Professor a few more questions, had Cassie take him to meet the old man.  Leaving Whitesnake to get himself together, Wraith and Cassie went to the factory in the wool pavillion to try and track him down.

    The enclave looked just as grey and depressing in the early morning light as it had the previous evening; tired, demotivated drones marching to the beat of their guard as they went about whatever menial function they'd been assigned to keep the community running.  Entering the pavillion the pair was overcome with the same smell of burning paper they'd come to know the previous night as the inhabitants threw old texts on the blaze to fuel steam engines and water heaters. The guard assigned to the room immediately confronted them, asking what it was they wanted.  When told they were looking for Professor Hoo, a small, distinguished chinese gentleman, the guard answered "you mean DJ1496? He died last night. Heart attack."  Upon returning and mentioning this to Teq, there was immediate suspicion that the old man had conveniently died.  However he had, as Cassie reminded them, responded several times the previous night to her comments about getting him out by saying that his time was finished, he'd reached the end of the line and that his part in the story was over.

    Their belongings packed up and ready to go, the group made their way back to the crowd to try and get a better idea of what the commotion was about.  It seemed likely that the disquiet was disproportionate to what seemed like a simple insect spirit attack; something that would seem like a pretty ordinary event in a place like this.  Along the way they ran into Ren, craning his head to try and see what the problem was all about.  As they got closer, Cassie noticed that the person was strangely pale, even for a corpse.  As it was lifted to be taken away she noticed the two puncture marks on its neck.  The rest of the group was just as taken aback when they realised that the insect spirit lying on the ground was a mantis spirit, not known to be overly physically aggressive against humans. The General was instructing his men on how to deal with the corpse. "Traditional means of disposal. Garlic in the mouth, stake through the heart, chop its head off.  Then we burn the carcase."  Whitesnake, not feeling particularly inclined towards conversation, went with the locals to assist.

    Cassie, Wraith and Teq engaged the General in conversation over the issue.  The attack by the vampire, it seemed, was disturbing but not entirely surprising.  The General seemed adamant that it was the work of a particularly secretive and powerful player in the city that went by the rather grandiose name of "the Lord."  At the mention of the name the hairs began to rise on the collective necks of the group.  The mantis spirit, it seemed, was the more perplexing problem.  The Bowen Hills enclave had a non-violence agreement with the mantis spirits of the Desolation Angels, particularly in light of their distribution of goods.  Apparantly, for the first few years the supplies into the city had been provided by military drops to regular locations.  As the local scum started waiting for these drops and hoarding goods, the army started dropping in troops to keep the peace.  However, this started to become dangerous and expensive over the long haul so the military started to randomise the drop points. Then, about two years ago, the shipments began to suddenly appear in locations without being dropped from the sky.  It took a while to figure out what was going on, but eventually it seemed that the shipments were being dispersed by the Desolation Angels, meaning they had some sort of connection with someone very high up the military food chain outside the wall.  Other than security (who would be stupid enough to take on a pack of powerful mantis spirits?), no one could figure out why the system had become like this, but so long as the shipments kept coming in every fortnight everyone just adapted and got on with more important problems, like surviving.  Then, about a month before, the supplies had just stopped, dried up.  This had forced the General to take more drastic steps to keep his people alive, so he began to increase the number of "provision-gathering expeditions", pillaging smaller enclaves for anything of value and offering the inhabitants security within their walls or certain death on the streets.  In fact, his boys were out on a rather large expedition right now, which was how the vampire and the spirit had managed to get inside the perimeter.  With a queezy feeling about the location of this latest expedition, the group offered the General their farewells and made their way out of the enclave. Teq, as a means of a peace offering and to pay for their stay, left several boxes of machine gun rounds with the locals, much to the surprise of the others.

    The group was unsure exactly where to go to from here.  Teq was adamant that they needed to head straight into town to confront "the Lord", even though he was less than forthcoming about how he seemed to know the creature's whereabouts.  Cassie took Ren to one side and asked their guide to help her convince the others that they needed to go back to the Mater Hospital enclave.  Again, when asked why she was less than forthcoming.  Wraith was just as adamant that the best course of action was to find the African residents mentioned in Professor Hoo's documentation, somewhere called "Annerley".  The artifact, he argued, was their best chance at getting a result and only these people would know who could possibly be able to translate the original writings on the scroll.  Ren asked if it would be possible for them to stop by his place in Spring Hill.  He had some things he wanted to pick up and was itching to try out some tests on the ultrasound transmitter he'd finally been able to get his hands on.  Unable to agree on a single course of action, the others decided this was the best decision and followed their guide off the railroad and towards the city.  Along the way they heard a high pitched clicking noise, almost beyond audible levels.  Halting, another of the mysterious Wanderers walked past, with a short nod of recognition, on his way to parts unknown.  The group continued through the back streets and hills of the inner city suburb, avoiding confrontations and problems thanks to their guide, until they emerged between a hotel and a commercial block at what looked like a giant stone cone with a ballustrade and copper sphere at the top.  This, it seemed, was Rens "house."

    ________________________________________

    Too late to finish tonight and I've got study to do tomorrow before lessons on Tuesday.  I'll finish this one up in a day or two's time.
    Wednesday, July 12th, 2006
    4:25 pm
    More inspiration
    I remember reading this article around November last year in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.  It was a blogger's response to a story of survival and betrayal by the authorities around New Orleans in the aftermath of the disaster.  It struck me at the time as being so unbelievable as to be fictional, and yet the authors have authenticated their story.  This particular bit caught my attention, in particular how it relates to a group of people in a desparate situation, how in general people in desparate circumstances can act with humanity and consideration for others and how they respond to being betrayed and abandoned.

    __________________________________

    "Our little encampment began to blossom. Someone stole a water delivery truck and brought it up to us. Let’s hear it for looting! A mile or so down the freeway, an army truck lost a couple of pallets of C-rations on a tight turn. We ferried the food back to our camp in shopping carts. Now secure with the two necessities, food and water, cooperation, community, and creativity flowered. We organized a cleanup and hung garbage bags from the rebar poles. We made beds from wood pallets and cardboard. We designated a storm drain as the bathroom and the kids built an elaborate enclosure for privacy out of plastic, broken umbrellas, and other scraps. We even organized a food recycling system where individuals could swap out parts of C-rations (applesauce for babies and candies for kids!).

    This was a process we saw repeatedly in the aftermath of Katrina. When individuals had to fight to find food or water, it meant looking out for yourself only. You had to do whatever it took to find water for your kids or food for your parents. When these basic needs were met, people began to look out for each other, working together and constructing a community.

    If the relief organizations had saturated the City with food and water in the first 2 or 3 days, the desperation, the frustration and the ugliness would not have set in."

    They’re right. People in stressful emergency situations tend to cooperate rather than panic. It takes very little to turn people into part of the solution, rather than part of the problem. You practically have to work at it to get them to do anything else. But if you make them feel like they’ve been abandoned and are on their own, they’ll do whatever they can to ensure that they and their loved ones survive. You’d do the same.

    Making Light: What We Did On Our Vacation

    ___________________________________
     
    Anyway, I bring this to light because it had a profound influence on the way I envisioned the people inside Bug City, how they would come to rely on the food and supply drops and how the abrupt halt of these would affect them.  Again, I'm not sure I've really captured this in the game, but I bring it to youur attention to think about.  At the very least it's amazing that someone in charge hasn't been hauled over the coals over what happened in New Orleans last year.
    Monday, July 10th, 2006
    9:26 am
    Another missed opportunity
    A pity the dreaded lurgy kept us from another session.  Time to regroup and try again in a fortnight.

    While I'm at it and filling pages with influences and related material, here's a quote from the comments section of a page Warren Ellis linked to on the homeless in downtown L.A.  I read this not long before we started the game and it did have an influence on how I viewed the inhabitants of Bug City.  Unfortunately I don't think I've played it up as much as I should have. Either way, it's worth reading just to have the imagery in your head.

    _____________________________________________

    Link to Warren Ellis.com

    Downtown (L.A.) swarms with the homeless — but these aren’t your ordinary homeless, by and large. There are certainly a great number of functionally homeless individuals who aren’t too strung out or nuts to go about their day-to-day needs… securing food, shelter, hygene, et c.

    What’s really going down there is that there is this truly massive number of totally hopeless people. Hopelessly addicted to drugs, no concern for their health and welfare, alternately aggressive and totally withdrawn. Its like walking through Bob Dylan’s “Hard Rain”, or maybe the way I picture 1st century Jerusalem, choked with lepers and madmen. The streets are littered with amputees. Half of the homeless get around by wheelchair; it is really surreal. Toothless mouths in perpetual sneers or screams. There are open wounds, boils, sores. It has to be seen to believed. People screaming, just constantly screaming, with no rhyme or reason. People openly urinating and defecating in the gutter — or the street. I saw a woman bathe her baby in a plastic bucket, dabbing the washcloth in the filthy runoff. I was routinely approached with offers of crack, sex for money, et cetera, by utterly hopeless people.

    The more ‘together’ and functional homeless seem to cluster together in families and tribes, impromptu tarp-tent cities along the sidewalks, et c. Many of these individuals are also multiply addicted, and handicapped, in wheelchairs. More amputations, poor hygene, inability to maintain basic needs.

    To call it “heart-breaking” defies the true power of this place. It literally defies description. It really did a number on me — there’s no real SANE way to cope with it, other than the time-honored solution of total apathy, rejection — pretending these people don’t even exist.

    It isn’t like a city like Boston, where you can ‘come to terms’ with the homeless you frequently see — striking up conversations, sparing cigarettes and change, taking time to treat them like the human beings that they are.

    To an extent, some of the homeless in downtown Los Angeles seem hell-bent on rejecting their own humanity, on being desocialized, on becoming wild, feral, and savage within the heart of one of the most wealthy cities in America, if not the world. Skid Row exists within an easy walk of City Hall, of the celebrated Gehry designed Disney Opera House, of the Museum of Contemporary Art, of a cluster of corporate clusters… total squalor in the midst of utterly lavish wealth.

    Downtown LA is one of the craziest places I’ve ever seen with my own eyes. I spent something like eight months of lunch breaks there.

    I used to walk the neighborhood and find some cheap place to eat lunch, or walk through the masses offering me crack, cheeba, h, as I wandered up the steep hills to the LA Public Library to consult their remarkable offerings.

    I sort of never ever want to visit it again. But that won’t help — because I know all too well that it exists, will always exist as it does in my mind’s-eye; choked with misery, self-destruction, hopelessness; the sick, the dying, people literally rotting on the ground, urine-soaked gutters and streets hazarding human feces. The Third World in the heart of the First.

    ______________________________

    An interesting and thought provoking insight, made all the more poignant because it actually exists.
    Thursday, July 6th, 2006
    11:55 am
    Another article of interest
    I know I'm on record as saying that I don't believe the future will be outlined by the Shadowrun core rulebook, but sometimes it's nice to imagine "What if?"

    9:19 am
    Dream 4 - Tequila Sunrise
    I think it's fair to say that through this whole story Teq's sole concern has been to find Rose, his long term partner who left him two weeks before to return to Bug City.  He may have occasionally stepped back from driving the agenda in that direction as it's suited, and he's taken just enough interest in other peole's concerns just long enough to get them on board, but all in all his eyes have remained firmly on the prize.

    Which is kind of where I'm going with this.

    At this point, and I'm sure it's something that will play out as we approach the conclusion to the story (in other words Sean, no need to explain yourself here - do it in game), I'm still not sure whether Teq's obsession with finding Rose is a result of a deep feeling of love, affection and sense of redemption for her wanting to leave, a darker frustration that something that "belongs to him" has left to fulfill it's own desire, a real fear based on his experiences with Bug spirits, and those possessed by them, in the past or just an exhilaration and clear headedness coming from a straight forward goal after so many years in a corporate straight jacket, going back to his glory days as a high class, high paid runner.

    I'm thinking there's a little from each column. I'm just interested to see how the ratios play out.

    ___________________________________________

    You start awake, realising that you’ve drifted off, feeling a little disappointed with yourself for being so weak.  A quick scan of the area shows you that everything’s still fine.  All members of the group are sleeping soundly in the silence of the room.  In fact, the whole facility seems to have shut down for the night.  As you cast your eyes across Whitesnake and Wraith you see something, a female shape, flit past the door. Rising from your spot on the floor you creep over to the doorway, carefully peering around the corner.  The room beyond is cavernous, filled with the sleeping residents of the facility. There’s only one person awake in the whole room, standing at the other end near a stairway.  She’s turned, looking over her shoulder, smiling at you the way she always used to, back in the good days, back before all this happened.

    Rose.

    She was always the most beautiful woman you’d ever known and seeing her here almost takes your breath away.

    She turns away from you and walks up the stairs, a staircase you don’t remember seeing before.  You follow, question after question running through your head, so many things to ask her.  But most of all, you just want to touch her again, feel her love you.

    She’s standing on the roof of the pavilion over at the edge, staring back towards the city, draped in an almost transparent material. You fight hard not to rush directly over and sweep her up in your arms.  Instead you take step after measured step towards her.  She turns and faces you, smiling almost angelically as you hold your breath and continue to move forward.  You notice her glance past you and you turn back to see what she’s looking at, jealous that something else has grabbed her attention.  Looking back towards the North you realise you’re looking at Ascot, the house on the top of the hill.  Standing on the verandah is Lillith, the Desolation Angels’ girl you left the day before.  She looks at you with a mix of disdain and disappointment as she turns away.  As she does, you think you see her smiling, or is it a sneer?

    Strange, you think, that you can see her in close up from so far away.

    As ideas start to shift and move around in your head you feel her hand touch your shoulder.  You turn back to face her, feeling her body press against you.  You realise you haven’t felt this complete in years.  Where have you been, you ask? What happened? Why did you leave? What did I do wrong? I’m so glad you’ve come back to me now.

    She smiles and places her finger against your lips, shaking her head. She turns and points across the rooftop towards the city.  You follow her finger and peer through building after building.  There, standing taller than any skyscraper, is Town Hall surrounded in a divine glow.  The spire of the bell tower rises higher still, and at its zenith it sprouts a huge stone crucifix. You step forward, peering at a location you shouldn’t possibly be able to see.  At the end of your sight, hiding in the dark depths of the bell tower you see a figure.  You know who it is instinctively.

    You feel Rose press herself against you, running her hands over your back, up to your head.  Her nails are long and they scratch as they run across your skin.  Her lips begin kissing the back of your neck and you start to melt as you remember years gone by.  Passion is replaced by guilt, a feeling that you made some sort of mistake, like you’re responsible for what’s happened.  You feel that perhaps you can find redemption, that if you can’t rescue Rose you can climb the tower of Town Hall and mount yourself on the crucifix.

    Rose becomes more boisterous in her affection as she starts to use her teeth.  You can feel them find their way through the surface of your skin, taking small pieces of flesh with her mouth and nails.  Her hands on your shoulders are chitinous and the spikes on her arms puncture you and press her against her carapace.  You feel Rose consume you, feel the guilt drain from you, and you smile.

    You wake up.

    _______________________________________

    And with that little issue now dealt with we turn our attention to Friday night.  Hopefully we'll all be well enough (being flu season and all) to play.  All going well we should reach a point where I can post one more dream sequence that may explain a few things from a different perspective.

    As always, comments welcome, even if it's only to reiterate Sean's "You must be one sick so-and-so to think this stuff up."
    Wednesday, July 5th, 2006
    9:02 am
    Dream 3 - Chicago Cassie
    Our voyage into self understanding continues!

    So what happens when you get a young girl, intelligent but not overly attractive, who grows up as the overshadowed younger sibling of a handsome, charismatic, elven mage and media whore? Moreover, give the two a mindlink based on the brother's magical ability so they can hear and feel each other's thoughts and feelings.  Then stick the two in a combat zone in their home town where they need to utilise this familial closeness to survive and help others.  Have the rest of their family killed in that zone so that they only have each other left. Garnish with the brother taking all the media glory, moving the both of them to another country and finding themselves back in the same situation in another city.  Top it off by having the brother, for so long devoted to his sister, suddenly interested in another woman...

    ____________________________________________________

    You’re 6 years old.  Samuel is standing next to you, slightly taller as he’s always been.  It’s the Elf blood your father tells you.  That’s why he’s taller. Stronger. Better.

    The cord connects the two of you.  It’s rare that you ever let go of it.  With a plasti-steel can on either end the two of you can keep in constant contact, listening to each other’s whispered thoughts.  It’s helped save you a few times from bullies, and you’re very proud that you’ve even used it to save Samuel once or twice.

    Samuel’s been on the newscast.  He’s important.  He’s a star.  He loves it. Saving all those people because the two of you spoke together and shared each other’s thoughts and made it out; he’s wonderful.  Well, you both are, but he gets all the credit.  But that’s O.K., you don’t mind.  You’d prefer to sit and play with your “Junior Decker Electronics Activity” set, fiddling with the buttons, making sure the circuit has the correct polarity, checking calibration of signal integrity, so long as Samuel’s still on the end of that string.

    Only now Samuel has a new friend.  She’s prettier than you are.  She laughs at his dumb jokes and says stupid things.  Stupid Samuel doesn’t realise the things she says are stupid.  He just laughs and holds her hand.  You pick up the can and try to stretch the cord tight.  You want to laugh at him and tell him he’s being stupid, just like you always do, but now the string won’t go tight.  It’s loose, with more space between you.  You realise that to be able to talk to him you’ll have to move away from him, further than you ever have before.  The more you move back, the limper and more ineffectual the cord gets.  You start yelling into the can, hoping your voice will defy the laws of physics and carry to the smiling, fawning idiot.

    “Samuel! SAMUEL!!”

     It’s no use.  He’s out of sight, but he’s no doubt playing with his new friend. He’s ignoring you for the first time in your life and you hate it.

    The scream comes from right beside you.  Samuel is standing there, grown up, in dirty fatigues.  He’s enveloped in a pillar of fire, each lick of flame running down his throat as he drags in another breath to scream his pain.  You don’t try to reach him.  He’s burning, too hot.  The heat pushes you back away from his outstretched hand.  You turn and leave Samuel to his fate.

    You wake up in a cold sweat, gulping down your own ragged breaths.

    ________________________________________

    Did I mention I love dream sequences?
    :-)
    Tuesday, July 4th, 2006
    10:20 am
    Dream 2 - Wraith
    Next up we have an insight into the mind of a strange and quiet young man, Wraith.  Abandoned/orphaned (we've never been sure which) as a boy when the Zone came into effect and found by Teq, Rose and Whitesnake on their previous run into Brisbane, Wraith grew up the corparate life as a ward of Teq and Rose; difficult to do when you've spent the first half of your life as a poor kid and the the second half as a growing shaman of Bat.  Of course, with a grumpy old fart like Teq and a loving mother like Rose there was always bound to be a few Oedipal stirrings.  Given that Wraith has been stepping up in a group curiously devoid of real leadership (an element of Arran's play that I've been thrilled to see develop) this seemed like the perfect dream to have him question his ability and relationship with his foster father.
    ________________________________________________

    The results are in! It’s been a close fought election, but it seems the Party has managed to swing the necessary corporate votes to get you over the line.  Your lifelong ambition has been finally realised. You are the new Prime Minister of Australia!

    The party headquarters is going nuts! After so many years in the political wilderness you have led the grand old girl to the most crushing defeat of an incumbent government in living memory.  Everyone, from eminent political figures, to former leaders of the party, to grassroots members are coming up to and expressing their admiration at your leadership, eloquence and courage.  You’ve never shaken so many willing hands as you have in the last few hours.

    Teq and Rose are standing proudly at the foot of the stage as you walk to the dais to make your acceptance speech.  Teq is positively beaming, chest puffed out like he’s about to explode.  You smile at your adopted mother and father then look out into the vast crowd. It sweeps out into the darkness, beyond the scope of your vision.  It’s as if every person in the country is here to listen to what you have to say.  The noise of the applause is deafening.  Raising your hands to steady the crowd, the noise begins to diminish as you clear your throat.

    Off to the left you see a familiar face; the co-owner of the brothel you run in Perth.  Beside him are some of the girls who have worked for you, high heels, fishnets and heavy make-up out of place in this bastion of conservatism.  You try to speak, but this unexpected sight causes your voice to falter.

    A journalist takes this opportunity to spring a question.

    “Mr Prime Minister! Is it true that you are part owners in a notorious Perth brothel, and that you’ve made your fortune as a result of the sex trade for almost 30 years?”

    You stand frozen, unable to speak as the crowd starts to murmur its disapproval.  A bead of sweat dribbles down your cheek.  More journalists start asking questions.

    “Mr Prime Minister, is it true that there are at least 25 cases of accidental death of the women in your employ that have been covered up by the Police?”

    “What about allegations that you’ve used your magical abilities to sway voters?”

    “Isn’t it true that you’re just adopted street trash?”

    “That your mother and father just left you at an early age because they didn’t love you anymore?”

    “That even your adopted mother left because she was sick of you?”

    You stand, jaw open with no ability to speak.  At the foot of the stage, Teq stands there in his fatigues with his arms crossed across his chest, sneering at your fall.  Rose is nowhere to be seen.  She has left you.

    The flashes of the cameras blind you as the questions you can’t answer keep coming.  They drive you down, lower and lower, as you shrink back to that child left on the streets all those years ago.

    You wake up with a start.

    _________________________________________

    Tomorrow it will be Cassie's turn.  See you then.
    Monday, July 3rd, 2006
    3:57 pm
    Dream number 1 - Whitesnake
    I'm a sucker for the dream sequence in roleplaying games, partly because they allow for you to push the narrative boundaries and genre, partly because they allow you to drop narrative portents, but mainly because I love having control without the damn players derailing anything.

    Anyway, what will follow over the next few days are the text of the dreams the characters had while sleeping (albeit poorly) at the Bowen Hills enclave in the old Exhibition Grounds.  They should give a little insight into where the various characters' heads are at the moment.

    First up, everyone's favourite recovering alcoholic and expectant father, that sexy Street Samurai with a heart of gold (and bones of chrome), Whitesnake...

    (Don't forget, game's back this Friday after a fortnight off).

    ____________________________________________

    You’re lying in a bed.  It’s comfortable, a metal frame and a simple, homey quilt.  In places the mattress is a little lumpy, the blanket is slightly tattered, but overall the bed is elegant and warm.

    You don’t feel fulfilled.  Lying in the bed is nice, but it’s not the same as what’s over there.  To be honest it’s really just a sad replacement for your true desire.  You reach behind your back to feel the brick digging into your back, curving you out of shape.  In fact, the more you lie here, reminded by the brick digging into your back, the more you really want to leave the bed and find your desire.  You can see it from here, so tall and solid, the pattern of the bricks more desirable than anything you’ve ever known.  It’s time to leave the bed and go to your true love, but the quilt is tight, holding you in.  You struggle, becoming more and more resentful at the bed holding you there when you can see your true desire so close.

    You wrench yourself from the bed, pushing it behind you as you move towards the brick wall.  You look back briefly to see the quilt laying in tatters on the bed, a growing lump in the centre of the mattress. It’s been your life for so many years now, but it’s never lived up to the promise of the wall.

    You approach the brick wall, reaching out to touch it.  You can feel the fired clay surface rough against your fingers as you stroke its unresponsive surface.  You lie down against it, feeling contentment against its corrugated, unyielding face.  The wall gives nothing in return.

    You hear happy sighs, sounds of gratification, from nearby.  Immediately you’re hit by a wave of jealousy that your true love is sharing its concrete and jagged affection with someone else.  You start climbing your love, feeling your fingers and toes gain purchase in the tiny cracks.  Halfway up its surface you lose your grip and find yourself back where you started.  You try again, getting marginally higher before falling again.  You look back to your bed. The lump seems to have gotten bigger, but it’s hard to tell.  The bed seems further away.  You turn back to your wall.  Time and again your love shuns your efforts to reach its zenith until eventually your fingers creep above the top, pulling your head above its level.

    You peer down the other side.  There, your love is a bed, comfortable, elegant and occupied. Lying in it, content and completely at home, is Teq.  Your sense of jealousy, envy, is so great that you fall backwards off the wall to the gutter below, surrounded by bottles.  In the alcohol haze of betrayal and realisation, leaning against a wall that doesn’t even know you’re there, you see your bed off in the distance, right at the edge of vision, disappearing from sight.  The last thing you notice is a small stuffed bear, blue ribbon around its neck, resting against the pillow.

    You fall into a drunken stupor.

    You wake up.

    _________________________________________

    More dreams as the week progresses.
    Thursday, June 22nd, 2006
    10:22 am
    Not about the game, but connected all the same.
    Old Skool SR players will know where the game began.  A late 80's creation that imagined a pretty freaky world 60 years in the future. 

    2050.

    I'll be 80 when we finally hit that date, but I've always wondered what the world was really going to be like when we got there (and no, I don't believe we're going to hit the "Sixth World" on December 26 2011 and dragons and elves and dwarves are going to magically appear).

    Anyway, the BBC got together a bunch of eminent sociologists and urban specialists to have a think about what sort of cities we're likely to be living in when we hit the halfway point of the new Century.  Worth a look.

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