The Captain is Dead Trial of the Captain by Seth Anthony

The Admiral’s face loomed large on the bridge’s heads up display. Based on her furrowed brow, tight lips, and steely gaze, the Captain could tell she wasn’t happy.

“Captain, help me understand why you thought it would be a good idea to meddle in the affairs of another species.”

This wasn’t the first time the Captain had heard that particular line. “Help me understand” was the Admiral’s way of handing you just enough rope to hang yourself. The Captain knew this all too well, having barely escaped that noose more than once.

“It’s simple, really…” the Captain replied cooly. “If we didn’t make contact with those aliens, we would have lost any chance at all of recovering the Mark II McGuffin Gun. You’re the one who gave the orders to recover it. So, I did.”

The admiral shifted in her chair, the high collar of her uniform barely hiding the pulsating vein in her neck that indicated to the Captain that his answer only had tightened the proverbial noose she had provided.

“Well, Captain – you got yourself into this mess and now you’ll have to get yourself out. We are going to have to play by the aliens rules. Our laws don’t apply here. You must defend yourself in their court of justice. There’s no other way.”

The Captain swallowed hard. Sure, he was a fighter, but he much preferred weapons to words. This was going to be tricky and now it was clear that he was going to get no help from his superiors. He was just doing what they asked him to after all!

“Fine, Admiral. I’ve gotten out of more difficult situations than this. Just do me a favor and make sure to note my victory in my record when this is all said and done. Alien Law might just be my new specialty. Captain out.”

The screen flickered and went black. The problem was now squarely on the Captains shoulders and it was time to solve it.

“Counselor – I want a full run down of everything we know about this species and their legal system. I need to know it inside and out. I’ll be in my quarters once you have the report compiled.”

Arriving in his quarters, the Captain sunk into his desk chair. The victorious strut he had performed upon exiting the bridge hid his anxiousness. He knew well that this was going to be a long night and that tomorrow was going to be even longer as he argued his innocence in front of the alien arbiter.

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“Captain!” boomed the voice of the alien judge, perched high upon a throne overlooking the Hall of Justice. “You are charged with murdering one of our people in cold blood while trying to steal a proprietary weapon from our species. Not only did you show complete disregard for his life, but you showed just how callous your race is. What do you have to say for yourself?”

This was the Captain’s chance. His bridge crew watched from the gallery, each of them looking more worried than the last. As he glanced at their faces, he remained calm, even smiling a bit, hoping that his confidence would gain him the day. But, the tension in the room was palpable. He approached the table upon which the weapon in question was laying. He reached for it, but his hand was quickly slapped away by one of the guards.

“You would dare take up arms in this palace of peace, Captain?” cried the arbiter. “How much more cowardly can you be?”

The moment was neigh.

“Your honor, I meant no disrespect, but my argument hinges on being able to hold the weapon to demonstrate why I am not to blame for the death of your kinsman.”

The arbiter pondered for a bit, then ruled “You may touch the weapon, Captain. But, our guards will have their rifles trained upon you. One tiny move – one moment of hesitation, and they will lay waste to you.”

The Captain nodded with understanding and picked up the weapon. “You see, your honor, it is impossible for me to have killed your fellow. This weapon, while incredibly powerful, can only be discharged in one very specific way. The wound that caused his death could not have been inflicted by me, as the angle is all wrong.”

The Captain whirled the weapon around, placing the barrel underneath his chin. “You see, the wound obviously went upwards, through his skull. It would not have been feasible for me to pull the trigger from this angle. Look…”

That’s when the First Officer spotted it. The small, blinking red light on the side of the Mark II McGuffin Gun. The safety was off, but the thought registered a moment too late. Before he could utter the shout that was building in his chest, it was over. A pulse of light burst from the barrel and straight into the Captains throat. The bridge crew, with one accord, let out a scream as they watched their Captain’s lifeless body slump to the floor.

The Medical Officer rushed to the Captains side, placing his fingers on what was left of his neck. In a trembling voice she announced “The Captain’s dead.”

With a roaring laugh that couldn’t have been any more excited, the arbiter slammed his staff on the ground and proclaimed “based upon the evidence provided, we find the Captain guilty, by reason of incompetence. Guards, take the crew into custody. They are all accomplices now!”

The crew, looking to the First Officer, saw the blank expression on his face. They left it to the Janitor to ask the question that was all on their minds… “What now, sir?”

The Captain is Dead is an upcoming new release from AEG that features co-operative gameplay as players race against time to repair malfunctioning ship systems, deal with hostile aliens, and warp the ship out of danger. Releasing in 2017.

Seth Anthony is a life-long gamer. Most recently, he served as a Community Organizer for Alderac Entertainment. Prior to that, he was employed by Games Workshop North America. A proficient amateur, he dabbles in writing and game design in his spare time. He’s employed professionally as a Web Designer and Social Media Manager.

The Captain is Dead Commission of Inquiry by Douglas Sun

The Commission of Inquiry cites the following crew log entries as especially relevant:

 

FIRST OFFICER

We all know that space travel is stressful. Every one of us, I think, has felt the strain of a mission making us a little crazy at some point. The Admiral has been very reassuring on this. He seems to take little alarm at much of anything.

Today the Captain got up from his chair and wandered about the bridge, looking over the crew’s shoulders and pushing buttons on their consoles. The crew promptly undid whatever the Captain had done. Shortly thereafter, we received an alert from Engineering about an unidentified hissing noise coming from the main engine. The Chief Engineer is looking into it — at least, I think he said so, it’s hard to tell with his odd Scottish accent.

tcid-admiral
FIRST OFFICER

The Captain returned to the bridge and stood by his chair. “Red Alert! Order the crew to general quarters! There is a thief on this ship!”

“A thief, sir?” I said.

“Someone has stolen my pants!”

“Sir, you’re wearing your pants.”

“Oh. So I am. Someone has stolen my strawberries!”

Just then, the Cyborg came onto the bridge, working a floor buffer. “Coming through. Don’t mind me, folks; just making the floors shiny and smooth.” Several bridge crew crossing his wake slipped and fell.

“Sir, our stores of fresh food were depleted long ago,” I said, “The galley is currently consulting the ‘cooking with protein bars’ chapter in the ship’s documentation.”

The Captain pointed to the Cyborg. “You! You did it!”

“What? You can’t prove anything!”

“You took my strawberries!”

“Oh. I thought you were talking about something else. Naw, that wasn’t me.”

“Don’t let him fool you,” the Captain said to me. “This man is an impostor! He’s a bioengineered life form designed to look exactly like us so he can infiltrate the Galactica and subvert us from within!”

“Sir, he’s a cyborg.

“Oh.”

“Carry on,” I said to the Cyborg.

“Whatever. Sniff you jerks later.”

The Cyborg left the bridge. The Captain sat down in his chair again, muttering  to himself.

Let this log entry record that I am now concerned about the Captain.

 

CYBORG

So I’m buffing the floor in the science lab, just like the First Officer ordered. So I knocked over the terrarium with the big spiders. So I knocked over a jar full of radioactive whatchamacallits. You know what? It ain’t my job to

clean it up.

Those meat bags are always telling me, do this, do that. Well, if they don’t like the job I do, they can bite my shiny metal —

Oops. Hello there, First Officer. How ya doin’?

 

CAPTAIN

I have searched this ship from stem to whatever they call the back part, but have found no trace of my strawberries. I proposed interrogating the entire crew, breaking them on the wheel until they revealed the truth. But the Counselor told me that we don’t have a wheel, and that it would be illegal in any event.

I therefore draw two conclusions:

1) The entire crew is against me.

2) They are in cahoots with aliens, who have taken my strawberries to their home world for purposes that remain obscure.

I asked the ship’s computer for advice. But it kept telling me that searching the ship’s inventory found 0 strawberries, and asking me if I wanted to play chess. I pressed various keys in an attempt to reboot it, without success. Then the screen turned blue and it stopped responding.

Piece of junk. I knew I should’ve upgraded to a Pentium. The video card’s crap. too.

 

FIRST OFFICER

It was horrifying.

We received an alert from Security that the Captain was seen heading toward the teleporter room.

The Admiral was on the bridge at the time. I suppose that his experience and seniority make it easier to maintain a calm, detached demeanor.

I immediately ordered that the main view screen shift to the teleporter room. The Cyborg was there, buffing the floor. “Don’t mind me,” he said to the Teleporter Chief. “Just making sure the floors are nice and smooth and shiny, just like my metal— oops.” Just then, the Captain stormed into the room, and the Cyborg slipped out behind him

“Beam me down to the surface,” the Captain said. “Those aliens have my strawberries, and I’m going to get them back, or die trying.”

“Um. Sir, there isn’t a planet within a thousand parsecs of here. I’d be teleporting you into empty space.”

“Are you disobeying an order from your Captain?”

“Wait. Did you say, ‘strawberries’?”

“Why… yes….  Don’t know how they got them, but they’re serving them in the galley right now. Better hurry if you want some.”

“Hot damn!”

The Teleporter Chief ran out of the room.

“Idiot,” the Captain muttered. He fiddled with the teleporter controls, evidently setting the timer. “Alright, you aliens,” he said as he went to the platform, “I’m coming for you now.”

Then he stopped. “Hold on — this is crazy. There isn’t a planet within  thousand parsecs of here.” But as he turned around, he slipped and fell back onto the dematerialization beam mark just as the beam activated.

Then he was gone.

No one on the bridge said anything. In the background, there was a loud rumble over the intercom feed from the engine room. The Chief Engineer yelled. “She canna hold much longer!”  From the science lab. the Science Officer shouted something about glowing giant spiders, then screamed, “Game over, man!” The computer was singing “A Bicycle Built For Two” in a dirge like voice. No one could believe what we had just seen.

Then the Admiral put his hand on my shoulder. “It’s all right, son. He’s in a better place.”

“But, sir—“

“I know. The Captain is dead. But have you seen what they’re serving in the galley? Protein bar casserole and protein bar compote for dessert. He’s in a better place.”

 

The Captain is Dead is an upcoming new release from AEG that features co-operative gameplay as players race against time to repair malfunctioning ship systems, deal with hostile aliens, and warp the ship out of danger. Releasing in 2017.

Douglas Sun has been a gamer since the late ‘70s and a professional writer, designer and developer since the late ‘90s. He contributed to Decipher’s Star Trek and The Lord of the Rings roleplaying games, and was line developer of the Legend of the Five Rings RPG. During the D&D 3rd Edition open license boom, he contributed to many d20 books for AEG and Eden Odyssey. He blogs about gaming and other nerdy things at “I Think We’ve Been Playing It Wrong” and he is running a Kickstarter campaign for a series of modules for D&D 5th Edition, called Places by the Way, until December 18.

The Captain is Dead: Clean Up Call by Jon Del Arroz

Acting Captain’s log, star date… I don’t know what a star date is, why am I even saying that? Sounded right, I guess.

It’s Tuesday. I’m in the Captain’s ready room, but I’m not supposed to be here. I saw the Captain making logs on this device when I was emptying out the trash bin and getting the dust off the windows. That’s right, I’m the ship’s Janitor. Starships need a Janitor just like anywhere else, and well, I’m the only one here. The Captain Is Dead.

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The Captain went down planetside to wherever the ship is orbiting. It looks like a hazy green colored planet. He’s into green things, strange green drinks, green girls… I’m not judging, but it always seems to get the Captain into trouble.  I saw him leave with a couple of Crewmen in red shirts toward the end of my shift. Did I mention my shift has been over for four hours? I’m definitely logging for time and a half.

Anyway, he’d been down on the surface for a while by the time I’d cleaned up after the lunch rush in the mess hall. Do you know why they call it a mess hall? I’ll give you one clue to how these slobs leave the place after they’re done eating.  The ship rattled during that shift. Some torpedo or laser or something smashed right into deck three, which I’m sure they’ll make me clean up once this whole mission is over with.

The First Officer yelled over the comm about our engines being hit, that aliens had sprung a trap on the surface, taking out the Captain and the red-clad crewmen. Then the First Officer told everyone to abandon ship. Scary stuff. I saw members of the crew running up and down the corridors and every which way like they’d been mind-controlled by some Treldellian frenzy virus. The ship rocked again after another attack. This time a bulkhead collapsed from the ceiling. It grazed my head and knocked me clear out.

I woke up with a real dinger and no Medical Officer aboard to help me. I’ll be filing for workman’s comp for sure whenever we get back to Starbase. After figuring out where I was, I walked the corridors hoping to run into anyone, but it looks like the entire crew disappeared. They left tracks in the hallways too. It’s gonna take forever to mop once this is all settled.

First thing I did after that was head to engineering. I didn’t want the ship to be destroyed because of some weird explosion from the red-dark-anti-positive-matter reaction or whatever it is that makes these ships go. Do I look like a Chief Engineer? Well, I hoped to pull up an emergency engineering Hologram program, but I couldn’t figure out how to do that either. Computers aren’t my strong point. I couldn’t figure anything out, but everything seemed to be working fine. I think someone tricked the crew.

That’s when I heard footsteps. I have an access card to everywhere, including top secret clearance lockers in engineering, where all the good technology is stored. I slipped in there when I heard voices from down the hall. I could understand them thanks to the translator chip that they installed in all of our ears before we went on this mission. Don’t ask me why they spent money on the janitor for that. Government contracts never make sense. I’m just glad I had it!

From beyond the door I heard their sinister, alien voices. “Good, good! Now we’ll have our own top of the line ship that we can reverse engineer. The emperor will be pleased. We will bring our home system honor and glory!”

“How did you know that you could dispatch the Captain and so easily trick these fools into leaving their posts?” another asked.

“It was easy. Everyone knows the Captain never has been able to resist green temptations. No matter, he’s dead and gone now, along with those brightly dressed Crewmen he had with him. Who in their right minds would use that color and make their people into walking targets to shoot down?”

The second alien laughed.

My eyes went wide. The Captain was dead, and the crew in escape pods. That left only one person to defend the ship. I waited until the aliens were gone, and snuck through the maintenance tubes conveniently placed throughout the ship to the captain’s ready room. I tried to find some button to communicate back to the fleet, but all I found was this lousy log recorder. What’s this thing even for, anyway?

I figure even though union rules probably specify that this is not my problem, it’s my duty to take over. I may not have the training that the rest of the crew does, but I hope to be able to save the ship in the only way a Janitor can. I’m going to spill my mop bucket and leave wet floors… without putting up a proper warning sign! We’ll see how they like to mess with my squeaky clean starship after that slip and slide.

Acting Captain out.

 

The Captain is Dead is an upcoming new release from AEG that features co-operative gameplay as players race against time to repair malfunctioning ship systems, deal with hostile aliens, and warp the ship out of danger. Releasing in 2017.

 

Jon Del Arroz writes science fiction from the San Francisco Bay Area in California. He first gained notoriety for his webcomic, Flying Sparks, which has been hailed by Comic Book Resources as “the kind of stuff that made me fall in love with early Marvel comics.” He has several published short stories, most recently providing fiction and flavor for Alderac Entertainment Group’s weird west card game, Doomtown: Reloaded. He recently released his debut novel, Star Realms: Rescue Run, which is available in print and ebook editions at: http://bit.ly/starrealmsnovel

Some Phase History

So about ten years ago I was deeply focused on AEG things and we had agreed to not work on any new games internally for a while.  I semi adhered to my own rule for a while but I own AEG because I love working on games so I went outside the house and called up my buddy Erik Lang and told him about this idea I had for a two sided card game.  I told him I wanted to work on it as therapy and would love to work on it with him.  The only rule was we would do it slowly.

So a few days later I was sitting in my back yard and I called him again and started talking about the game.  He listened to me jibber jabber for about 20-30 minutes then he said something about the game that made me realize he had done more work on a prototype than he was letting on.

“Erik, did you already design a game?”  I could almost here him shrink on the other end of the phone. 

He said something like “Just a couple. “

I laughed.  “A couple of games?” 

“Yes a couple of games I couldn’t help myself.”

So much for therapy I thought. 

I love Erik Lang.  Our conversation about Phase and early prototypes of the game got me through a rough patch.  He is every bit as nice as he seems and even more talented than any single designer deserves.  Erik sees past the problems directly into the fun.  The early versions of Phase were beyond broken but super fast card flipping fun.  He knew long before I did with Phase that FUN trumps everything. 

10 years ago AEG was deep into the CCG business and BROKEN was the scariest word you could utter to a game designer.  22 years in and I realize that while it can be done working too hard to bring balance to chaos can also take the fun out of a  game.   

Phase was handed to Jim Pinto and Brent Keith.  Jim was tasked with building a new worked and he did an amazing job since the art ordered for the base game happened 10 years ago and the quality stands up today.  A testament to him and the artists who worked on Phase. Now let me tell you about about Brent.  He is a super talented grinder of a designer.  He did a lot of behind the scenes grunt work on our CCG design and was never really in the spot light. 

He took my baby (Tomb) and whipped it into shape for me and the game Infinite City is easily one of the three most requested games for us to reprint.   He is a great designer. 

We gave Brent the ridiculously hard job of taking the super fast, super broken game, we had and putting the reigns on it.   He added a lot to the game but we missed the speed of the earlier versions and we were in the middle of major conflict about what type of games we wanted to make so we shelved it. …..

…… until Jeremy came along.  Jeremy took the idea that every individual card was every type of card in the game to the next level.  He changed the way we handled costing and added a few additional tweaks and we were split.  The people who loved it loved and the ones who did not hated it.  So we shelved it again.

There are a list of reasons, but not good reasons, why we did not publish Phase after each of its iterations.  In all forms including this one it is sort of a love it or hate it game.  If you cannot get past the fact the cards have two sides and there is some info that is not hidden then this game is just never going to be for you.

I think the thing that finally got Phase off the shelf was us not having the pressure of being in the competitive card game business any longer.  Bryan took on the project and pulled a lot of the ideas from each iteration into the product we have today.   It took some convincing to get him to not worry about every possible combination. I was there for the inception and completion of the game and think it’s a sharp, unique product. 

There are few things that NEVER changed about Phase

Double sided cards and the idea that it was a sandbox game and we wanted players to bend and break it to bits.  (My original ad campaign that I pitched the idea with is still the one we are going with) 

I think it might be even better that we waited. It’s been 24 years since Magic released and we know so much more about card games now than we did back then but maybe there is chance that we have forgotten how much fun it can be to make a deck full of plague rats (Tip of the hat to Carol from All Star Games) or find an abusive combo no one else sees before an event. 

The Lost Years- It has been 10 plus years since we started this project.  This is my recollection of how things went but I am sure I have missed something important.   Apparently an early version of the game that had the original credits was not passed on to the last team to work on Phase.  So a few of us were not credited as we should have been.  Those folks include but are not limited to.

Myself- Original Concept and Design

Erik Lang- Original Design

Jim Pinto- Design and Art Direction.  This will be rectified in the next printing of the game and in the updated online version of the rules. 

Anyone working at AEG in or around 2005 for playtest and world building.  Ping us if time has forgotten your contributions to this wonderful game. 

Enjoy.

Z

The Captain is Dead: Incident on Second Watch by Ed Greenwood

First Watch:

First Officer reported to the Captain that the ship’s water supply had been recycled the maximum number of regulation times; immediate replenishment recommended.

Captain concurred, ordering landing on nearest safe planetoid to take on fresh water.

First Officer relayed order to Science Officer, adding secondary order to locate best candidate planetoids and report back immediately.

Science Officer reported one inhabited planet with Starbase facilities and two uninhabited planetoids, all with safe (atmospheres tested Full Green) atmospheres, carbon based lifeforms but no sentience beyond Level Y, ample available fresh water for ship siphoning. Starbase landing fees and water fees expensive, planetoids free landing and water for the taking.

First relayed same to Captain, Captain ordered landing on the nearest of the uninhabited planetoids [File Ref: 33456*).

Watchtime 55647: Landing made without incident on shore of largest freshwater lake on the largest continent.

Captain ordered full-array replenishment. Water siphons deployed. Solar panels deployed to run water pumps and recharge onboard batteries.

Watchtime 55650: Science Officer reported atmosphere around ship tested and acceptable for internal compartment replenishment; no infectious micro-organisms detected upon triple-test.

Watchtime 55651: The Captain ordered bulkhead irises opened throughout the ship and compartment recirculator fans set to maximum, for complete air exchange. Orders executed, estimated completion Watchtime 55700.

torpedosystemonlineSecond Watch:

Watchtime 55670: Captain ordered a torpedo drill: the first practice deployment of the new AI “semi-sentient” torpedoes. SOS flare torpedoes specified, not warhead equipped units.

Watchtime 55671: SOS flare torpedoes loaded. First away launched into stable planetoid orbit. Torpedo failed to enter stable orbit, instead circling planetoid and homing in on the ship. Science Officer testified that an unidentified Crew Member said “Can’t wait to end this foolishness and get home” within hearing of AI unit during launch; Science Officer suggests that the torpedo interpreted that remark to mean it should “home in” on the ship once fired.

Watchtime 55672: First away struck ship. Ship was in shields down state. Torpedo impacted torpedo firing tubes, destroying the empty tube it was launched from and significantly damaging adjacent tubes containing unlaunched torpedoes in ready state. Sensors reported onboard electrical fires. Visual confirmation from many crew members in the form of thick smoke spreading rapidly from compartment to compartment.

Watchtime 55673: Captain issued ship-wide alert, conveying his suspicion that inside the ship walls, wiring insulation had ignited.

The Captain was then observed to use an emergency breaking bar to pry open a wall section, stating that he wanted to create a firebreak before the “forefront edge of the fire” reached it. The Captain successfully removed an interior wall panel and ordered a power shutoff for the bridge.

This order was apparently misheard or misinterpreted by an unknown Crew Member or Members: a ship-wide power shutoff occurred. Interior compartments were plunged into darkness. Some confusion resulted. Bulkhead irises and intercom are on their own isolated backup battery power systems, but in the darkness these were apparently shut down as well.

These systems were then brought back online by an unknown Crew Member or Members, but the power shutoff was reversed at the same time.

Watchtime 55674: The Captain had apparently deployed a headlamp and a battery-powered laser cutter and was severing wiring to create a gap so the fire would run out of insulation to use as fuel, at the time of all power systems return throughout the ship.

Captain suffered apparent electrocution and was observed to fall, cutter in hand, across the gap he’d just cut, completing the circuit. Crewmen in contact with wiring, at sites throughout the ship, were blasted forcibly away from their locations and came into involuntary contact with walls, machinery, controls, or fellow crewmen.

Many unidentified Crew Members were judged by various Crew to be temporarily dazed or stunned. The Medical Officer wishes to go on record as follows: “If non-medical terms such as ‘dazed’ or ‘stunned’ are to be recorded in the ship’s log, such inclusions should only be made as part of such phrases as ‘More dazed and stunned than usual.’”

He reports being unable to yet reach a safe location from which to personally examine the Captain, but ventures a tentative diagnosis that the Captain (whose body seems to be on fire) may be deceased.

Several Crew have offered the so-far-unsubstantiated suppositions that the Captain’s fall created so-called “short circuits,” which the Chief Engineer has in past stated should instead be termed “undesired relay completions.” There is no dispute, however, as to the observed occurrences that directly followed:

  1. All other torpedoes launched, apparently without application of ignition launches by any Crew Member.
  2. Electrical fires broke out at many locations throughout the ship.
  3. Unattended controls came online and were triggered, without direct supervision of any Crew.
  4. The ship’s thrusters fired, causing it to lift off (unpiloted) from the surface of the planetoid.
  5. Random machinery, all over the ship, began to function without direct supervision of any Crew: the robochef was observed to spit out an endless succession of ready-meals; the sewage recirculator ejected the contents of its tanks into the oxygen regenerator chambers; the cyborg repair bay thrust out diagnostic tentacles at all passing Crew; and the solar panels retracted and redeployed rapidly and repeatedly; this was observed to cause the unpiloted ship to begin to spin and yaw in random directions and velocities, in midair.

 

Latest Situation Report:

The fired torpedoes are all homing in on the ship.

The ship is flying on an erratic trajectory through the lower atmosphere of the planet, at above-regulation velocities for close-to-planetary-surface maneuvering.

The ship’s internal gravity is going on and off rapidly and repeatedly and at random, causing loose objects to fall in all interior ship areas in a manner akin to fired projectiles.

The ship’s security backup computer has interpreted all of this as a successful takeover of the ship by unknown hostile forces and has initiated self-destruct countdown.

And the Medical Officer now confirms:

THE CAPTAIN IS DEAD.

 

 

[file ends]

 

The Captain is Dead is an upcoming new release from AEG that features co-operative gameplay as players race against time to repair malfunctioning ship systems, deal with hostile aliens, and warp the ship out of danger. Releasing in 2017.

 

Ed Greenwood is a Canadian-born fantasy writer and the original creator of the Forgotten Realms game world. He began writing articles about the Forgotten Realms for Dragon magazine beginning in 1979, and subsequently sold the rights to the setting to TSR, the creators of the Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game, in 1986. He has written many award winning and best-selling novels, as well as numerous articles and D&D game supplement books.

A New Law – Blood Moon Rising Fiction / Epilogue

Check out the newest Saddlebag Expansion, Blood Moon Rising, available now! Ask your local game store about it today!

A New Law
by Jeff Bailey

For the first time in hours, the streets of Gomorra were quiet. But this was a new kind of quiet.

With Montreal, the quiet was because Dave knew who to tell to shut up.

With Grothe, the quiet was respect for Abram as a good and devout man.

With the plague, the streets were quiet and deathly deserted.

However, this quiet was the paralyzing fear shackling the hearts of everyone around. The only sound was the snap of collapsing timbers, as the office of Dave and Abram burned.

With the fiery corpse of law and order at his back, Mario Crane stood defiant and victorious. “YOU LOUSY RATS!” his voice roared through the silence. “COME OUTTA YOUR HOLES!”

Front doors opened tentatively and boots clicked on wooden porches. The fire had woken them up, but the voice promised terrible consequences for tardiness. Mario’s eyes swept over them with inhuman contempt.

“I run this town now. You all work for me, ya hear? You do your jobs, and I’ll take what’s mine. Anyone steps outta line won’t live long enough to regret it.” Mario began pacing, boiling over with energy. “Let’s show your new boss the respect he deserves. On your knees! Right now!”

A few onlookers knelt on their porches, and a few stepped closer to be seen kneeling. One old man stood next to his rocking chair nearby, confused and hesitant. Mario drew his pistol and shot him through the chair, sending bloody splinters everywhere. Amidst dreadful screams, everyone kneeled.

“Good! The smart ones get to keep breathing. Stay kneeling until I say. I may let you stand … perhaps tomorrow.”

Benny McGill looked at the twilight on the horizon. Midnight was three hours away. He moved around others in the gang and waved to his boss.

“Boss? These folks are gonna need sleep at some point.” He saw dark anger on Mario’s face and recoiled. “I’m just sayin’ … we won, right? They’re ours. There’s no need to push it.” Mario’s hand jerked towards his holster at the comment, but only to put his gun away. Benny relaxed … a little.

Mario spoke softly. “Come here, please. Let me explain things to you.”

Benny timidly approached. “I’m your man, Boss. Tell me what to do.”

Mario’s arm slung around Benny’s shoulder, and they moved towards a nearby lamppost. The gas light still glowed, white against the red of the flames. Mario’s hand gripped the leather of Benny’s collar.

“Benny, is it? We’re bringing a new era for this town to light. Do you know what the worst part about new light is?”

Benny shrugged. “I dunno.”

Mario’s hand swiftly moved to the base of Benny’s skull and slammed it forward against the lamppost, bending the steel at the base and collapsing his face around the metal.

“MOTHS! USELESS FLAPPING MOTHS!”

The town seemed to take a breath all at once, but nobody moved as Benny slid noisily to the ground. For a moment, the crackling flames couldn’t drown out the thick, oozing gurgles as Benny’s lungs worked one last time.

Mario stared for a moment at his own hand, holding a scrap of leather and hair. His eyes grew wide and he flexed his fingers.

Then with a sweep faster than most could see, Mario kicked the lifeless body towards the bonfire. The body bounced off the wall with the force of the kick and landed on a wooden crate. But in the moment Benny had touched the first wall, he’d caught fire, and now so did the crate. Mario shouted, “Show’s over! All of ya, go to bed!” He swiftly turned and walked off into the night.

Jonah and Pancho Castillo quickly ran over and pulled the crate away from the wall of the next building.

“Bollocks,” said Jonah, looking at Benny’s pyre on the crate. “This weren’t the plan. Gomorra is our bleedin’ oyster, but we aren’t supposed to eat it before she gives up her pearls.”

Pancho smiled weakly. “This is no bueno,” he said as he reached into his cloak to pull out a cigar. After a second’s hesitation, he lit it using the Sheriff’s Office. “We need El Presidente, not El Diablo. He keeps this up, either they’ll all run away or sharpen their pitchforks and die trying to get free.”

Jonah looked back to Pancho and nodded. “It’s bloody awful is what it is, mate.” He looked at the receding form of their leader in the firelight. “I’ll have a talk with ‘im.”

* * *

Epilogue
by Brett Satkowiak

Lord, have mercy.

I knew I’d be back here someday, but I never thought it’d be like this. The smell still hits me like it always did, that salt blowing in off the sea. It’s just as jarring now as it was every single day when I woke up. But today it’s the view that really packs a punch.

The street’s littered with debris and the occasional body. As far down as I can see, there’s nothing but more of the same, and not a sound to be heard but the wind, blowing through the shells of the buildings. No horses … no piano from the Killer Bunnies … no explosions from the Research Institute … no Willa Mae shouting after the kids … no laughter from the circus … no screams either, thankfully.

I walk along in disbelief, hoping to hear something, anything to show there’s still some life in this town. But there’s nothing … just ghosts.

Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

“The horses are ready.” I knew I couldn’t be alone with my thoughts forever, but the voice still takes me surprise. Guess I was getting used to the silence. “We should hit the road, if we hope to catch up with Sarah.”

I nod gently in agreement as I cast my gaze back to the ground, kicking a charred hunk of wood down the way a bit. “I know, I know,” I say. “I just … I never should have left.”

“Forget Crane. Regret’s the real killer out here. You did what you had to do. And if you didn’t, we wouldn’t know the truth about Adler or the rest of the Fourth Ring.”

“Maybe.” I know he’s right, but looking at what’s left of Gomorra, the guilt weighs a ton.

Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.

“Look, Jack, I can’t thank you enough for what you did here … taking down Crane and all.”

He brushes me off again with a wave of his hand. He’s an uncommon type out here in the West … as proud as they come, but humble about it at the same time. It’s the mark of a hero … which makes his past even harder to believe.

“I admit it was fun for awhile,” he says, reaching in his vest pocket. “But I swear this thing’s cursed.” He holds his palm open, revealing the star I wore for so long. The cool of the metal strikes me as I pick it up and flip it in my hand. I think I knew the first time I put it on that it wasn’t meant for me. Something about it never quite fit. From the stories Wendy told, it seems that the Sheriff of Gomorra was a mantle that didn’t fit well with anyone. Jack probably wore it as good as anyone could have.

I chuckle lightly a bit. “I suppose that’s why Wendy wouldn’t come near the thing.”

“Abram, that woman’s seen more pain connected to that star than either of us will ever know. If you ask me, she’s made out best in this whole mess.”

“And you don’t know where she went?” I’m not sure why it matters. She was right there by me all the way when I started down this path. When that path led me back here, I guess a part of me thought she’d be there at the end.

“No. After what happened with Lucy, I think she’d had enough. The last any of us saw her, she was riding east. Wherever she’s at, I just hope she found a little bit of peace, you know?”

I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now.

“Alright, I’ve seen enough.” I turn to walk back toward the horses, hitched to the post outside the Sheriff’s Office … or what’s left of it. “You sure you want to come with us, Jack? I imagine you’ve earned your ride off into the sunset too.”

“You know, I tried the happily ever after thing. Turns out it’s hard to be happy when you know everyone else is pretty miserable. Besides, it also turns out that mining’s pretty boring. Obviously, there isn’t much left to do here, so I might as well help you take Essex, Blackmore, and Adler down instead. Everybody needs a hobby, right?”

“He that is slothful in his work is also brother to him that destroys.” I recite as I mount the horse, pulling back from the post and pointing her north.

“The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runneth into it, and is safe,” he says, following suit.

I smile. He’s seen things here in Gomorra that go beyond Ivor and the circus, but he hasn’t seen the Fourth Ring like I have … or like Valeria and Sarah. Part of me wonders what he’ll think of all this when he does. But for now, I can’t help but feel hopeful knowing he’s with us. I can certainly see why Wendy chose to give him that star.

I turn it over in my hand a bit more as we head on down the road. It’s funny just how much this piece of metal has seen. My eyes look down to my side where Evanor bounces gently along the saddle with each of the animal’s steps. As I do, I’m reminded of the fact that the blades has seen even more. This is the right choice. The battle for Gomorra is lost, but maybe it was always meant to be.

Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead.

I grip it strongly in my hand one last time before rising up to throw it into the burnt ruins of the office.

Suddenly Jack stops, spinning his horse around to look back toward the southeast. He stares intently through the remains of the buildings, clearly looking for something in particular.

“What is it?” I ask.

He continues to stare as he speaks quietly. “I thought I saw something at the ol’ Whateley place. A face in one of the upstairs window.”

I position myself for a look as well. While the building managed to weather the storms that ravaged this town in recent months better than anything else around, it’s looked just as lifeless as the rest of it.

“I don’t see anything. If someone else wants Gomorra, let them deal with that cursed place and whatever Nicodemus might have left behind in his wake. We’ve got our own demons to worry about now, Jack.”

He stared for a few moments longer, his keen eyes looking for any signs of movement. “You know what they say about old habits.”

“I do. But it’s time for us to pick up some new ones. Let’s get moving.”

I kick my horse into a gallop past the Research Institute, toward the city limits. I steal every glance I can as I pass, trying to remember the town we’d all given up so much trying to hold on to. But once I passed, I refused to look back. We did what we could for her while she lived. And now we’ll do what we can to avenge her, hoping that it wasn’t all in vain.

The Lord bless thee, and keep thee. The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee; the Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.

Blood Moon Rising Preview – De Annulos Mysteries

This preview is for the upcoming Pine Box Expansion, Blood Moon Rising, arriving in stores October 10, 2016! Ask your local game store about it today!

De Annulos Mysteriis
By Brett Satkowiak

deannulosmysteriis_card“It’s one of three volumes,” Valeria explained, pointing to the tome that lay open on the sheriff’s desk. “This is the first one, and each is over three hundred years old. Hawley had us buy it off a collector in Virginia. She said she had the others, but at the time, we thought it a waste. It took me months to begin a translation and I had to start anew several times because Kahler intermingled at least four different languages. I mean most of it’s gibberish, just the ravings of a lunatic. But now that we’ve seen –” She winced slightly at the memory. “– what we’ve seen … I’m sure of it. It’s all about the Fourth Ring. This book predicted this. I don’t know how, but it did, and –”

“And the other two predict something else,” Abram finished. “Hawley said this wasn’t over. He said there was more, which is why we have to go.”

Wendy stood across from him, arms folded, brow furrowed as she processed all of this. “I get it. But why’s it have to be you?” Wendy asked.

“ ‘Cause I don’t know of anyone else,” Abram shook his head. “We were the only ones who heard Ivor’s words. Whoever these people are — this ‘Fourth Ring’ — someone needs to stop them, and for all we know, we’re the only ones who even know they exist.”

“But what about us?”

“You’ll be alright. I don’t think we could ask for better timing. Pasteur’s cure is slow, but it’s working. And whatever’s left of the circus has made for the hills.”

“And Sloane?”

“From what Lucy told us, I don’t think we need to worry about her for a while. And by the time she comes back … you’ll be ready.” He extended his hand, in which laid a silver star with the word “Sheriff” emblazoned across it.

“I told you before, Abram. I won’t wear that badge.”

“I know. But you’re the best person to find someone who will.”

Wendy sighed, taking the star from his hand. “I really can’t talk you out of this, can I?”

“When Hawley died, he said that more would be coming. He said they wouldn’t stop. Valeria’s book seems to know something about them. Whoever this Kahler fellow is, he saw this coming, all of it. And if we can find those other books, maybe we can get ahead of them. It’s the best way to keep Gomorra safe.”

“Prescott’s outside with the wagon,” Valeria said, closing the book and packing up the remainder of her things. “We should be going.”

“Go ahead,” he said. “I’ll be right out.” Abram turned back to Wendy and sighed. “Look, I can’t explain it, but there’s more to it.” He reached down and wrung the handle of the sword hanging at his side. “I have to do this, Wendy. Whoever this Fourth Ring is … I have to stop them. Standing there in front of Hawley, seeing that twisted grin, hearing that name, I knew … this is why I was brought to Gomorra.”

Wendy grimaced. “Damn it, I hate bein’ right.” She reached out and pulled Abram in close, squeezing him tight. “You hurry back.”

Abram returned the hug. He released her and smiled, squeezing her arms with his hands. “I will,” he said. And with that, he turned and walked out of the Gomorra Sheriff’s Office.

Dice City Crossroads

DESIGNER DIARY

 

When I first designed Dice City, my goal was to create a game where you would change the faces of your dice. To make the game less fiddly (and also able to be produced at a reasonable cost) I ended up “simulating” that through the players’ boards. On the board, the various slots were now creating a grid of sorts. However, since each row was a separate die, there were no “relation” between the various rows. Each one was independent of the rest – it didn’t “care” what the other dice did. That meant that although there were many abilities that were row-related (as in “do something based on what else you have built in the same row”) there was no column-related ones. After all, the columns weren’t “representing” anything. The rows were your dice. Your columns? Nothing.

But that is about to change!

With Crossroads, I decided to go into that territory and start playing a little bit more with the spatial aspect of the players’ boards. After all, there was already a grid in front of the players. Why not take advantage of that? The trick however, was not to swim in the same waters I had swam before. It was very tempting to just use the “same” abilities that were already row-related and make them look at columns this time, but I wanted them to be different. Moreover, there were other things to consider as well. Rows have 6 spaces – columns have 5. This immediately made the math slightly different. One other important change was that in a row, you (normally) have only one of the locations get activated each turn. When talking about columns though, you may have multiple dice in the same one. All these differences were opening up new design space that I was eager to use.

What was very important was to give each card type a good column-related ability that helps with its strategy. The economic card had to be able to produce resources, the Military one should generate more Army, the Cultural location had to be VP related and the Civic one should manipulate your dice somehow. Many ideas were tried and in the end the abilities that were kept, were really fresh and allowed for interesting gameplay. In fact, we even had 2 Civic cards made since we liked so much the way they were interacting with the rest of the board.

Apart from the columns there was something else that I wanted to explore further: Gold. “All That Glitters” introduced the gold commodity and had some locations that were taking advantage of it. There was potential for more though, and we quickly came to the conclusion that we should include some new gold-related cards in this set as well. Once again though the key was to create something different and not just more of the same. In “All That Glitters” the abilities were quite straightforward. Most of the cards directly converted gold to one of the other resources. This time, some more radical ideas were tried. Bank for example allows you to “store” gold on it and cash it later in the game for a LOT of resources. The Conservatory spreads Victory Point tokens in your city while the Treasury does something unique in the game. 

In the end, those new abilities not only introduced new things to the game, they opened up new strategies as well. Combined with the column-related cards, very cool combos emerged and play-testers were now exploring more and more options during the game.

The expansion was completed by putting some more “regular” abilities in each card type, helping you towards the various strategies. The funny thing is that when you start to work on a game, there are times you struggle to find enough interesting abilities. After a while though, more and more ideas rush through you and you try to find space to fit them all! The final count for Crossroads was 16 different locations (4 in each type). The rest of the new ideas, would have to wait for the next expansion, and the royal decree that would announce them…

All in all this expansion is going to add a lot of variety in your games, giving you exciting new things to try out!

I hope you all enjoy it.

Vangelis Bagiartakis

Dice City All That Glitters

DESIGNER DIARY


You probably know how the saying goes: “All that glitters… is not gold”. Well, in this case, the opposite is true! All that glitters is the first expansion for Dice City and it introduces… GOLD!

When sitting down to design Dice City’s first expansion, I wanted to introduce new things to the game. One of the early thoughts I had was the use of gold. It would be a “wild” resource (you would be able to use it in place of any other resource) but it would also allow you to do other things with it as well.

The first thing that such a new resource required, was a way to get it. In other words, a “Harvest” location that would always be available for players to buy. What better name than “Goldmine” for it? To differentiate it from the other Harvest locations, its cost was set at 3 resources – one of each type. Appropriate, since gold could be used as any of those resources after all.

Trying to come up with different and interesting uses of gold for new cards’ abilities, ended up being harder than it initially seemed. The main problem was the “difficulty” in getting the gold. Since it wasn’t available in any way in your initial board, you had to a) build a Goldmine, b) land on it in order to get Gold and c) land on the location that made use of it. On one hand, that made such locations more difficult to be of good use. On the other hand, it allowed us to put more powerful abilities on them that rewarded the players who went through all this trouble. The best thing though, was that they allowed for different strategies to exist. You could focus your entire game on getting Gold and using it effectively or you could even ignore it altogether. The option was there and even if 2 players were going for the same overral plan (i.e. get many Trade Ships or attack the most Bandits), they could approach it quite differently.

Apart from balancing the cards to make going for Gold worthwhile, it soon became apparent that a few more changes needed to be made. The first one was that Gold could not be considered a resource. Due to its scarcity it was much more powerful than wood, stone and iron. Thus, it wouldn’t be fair to be able to “manipulate it” as if it was one of those resources (like getting more through a Storehouse or a Marketplace). Similarly, the Goldmine could not be a Harvest location since that would also create problems (like its interaction with Merchant Guild for example or with some of the new cards). The other change that was made had to do with the quantity of Gold. To prevent the game from going on for too long due to some of the Gold strategies, it was decided to limit the number of available tokens in the game. Gold was now finite and if many people were using it, it would run out after a point. In addition, running out would trigger the end of the game as well.

Not only did this solve the issue we had, it also made the game more dynamic. Players now needed to pay attention to what their opponents were doing. If you were going for gold, you had to make sure you got it quickly (but not overdoing it). If you weren’t going for a strategy involving gold, you needed to keep in mind the quantity left or risk seeing the game end unexpectedly. In other words, it had an impact in the game no matter how it was used, which was exactly what we wanted.

Besides gold, All that Glitters introduces many other exciting locations as well, with each of them allowing for interesting new strategies to be followed. Warehouse for example makes it easier to pursue that 20-VP Trade Ship. Armory allows a player with many resources to convert them to Army strength. The Library allows a Cultural strategy to shine while the Hospital makes deactivations not “hurt” as much.

In the end, we were very happy with how the expansion turned out to play. All that Glitters brings with it fun combinations to try, new paths to follow and changes in how you need to approach things!

All in all, a… golden expansion! 🙂

Vangelis Bagiartakis

Blood Moon Rising Preview – The Caretaker

This preview is for the upcoming Pine Box Expansion, Blood Moon Rising, arriving in stores October 10, 2016! Ask your local game store about it today!

The Caretaker
by David Orange

Theo Boyer-Whateley wiped his lips. The white linen napkin contrasted with the floral swirls of his paisley shirt. He gave a contented sigh. “Once again, cousin, your menu choices are both creative and delicious.”

“You’re welcome, as always. But know tonight was a most special dinner,” said Nicodemus Whateley.

“Do tell.”

Nicodemus looked wistfully around the room. “It is time for us to leave.”

“Why on earth would we do that?” Agitated, Theo ran his fingers through his hair.

“Not much of a town anymore. If ever there was.” Nicodemus gave a rueful laugh. “Certainly not my town.”

“Wait a minute. You’re not only mayor of Gomorra, California — duly appointed at that — but you’re also head of the most powerful wizard family this side of Wichita or at least the Rockies.” Theo locked his fingers behind his head before resuming his animated brushing. “And that ritual of yours took care of those blighted like nobody’s business.”

“Gomorra once served our family’s ambitions, but not anymore.”

“But, but,” Theo sputtered in confusion.

“It is time for us to go. Whateley Isle awaits us and what remains of our family.”

“But the Estate holds fantastic energies and fearsome powers. You can’t just leave the manor unattended.”

Nicodemus feigned offense with a gasp. “I would never dream of doing such a thing.” He threw one final bite into his mouth before wiping his mouth and throwing the napkin to his plate. With a follow me gesture, Nicodemus led the way out of the room and up the stairway. After walking down the hallway, he stopped and opened a door.

Theo followed his cousin inside as his eyes widened in shock and admiration. “A child? What darkness are you conjuring that you would start robbing cradles again?”

Nicodemus laughed. “No, this one is our blood. I conjured him for a purpose. Just as this house hides great secrets, so this small boy possesses ample power to ward off any who seek to destroy or defile the Estate.”

Was that green light, almost fire-like emitting from the baby’s eyes? Theo blinked, and the light vanished, if he had even seen it at all.

Theo felt a hand on his shoulder. “It is time to leave.”

thecaretaker_cardNicodemus reached a hand into the cradle, caressing the child’s face with his index finger. “You know, I’m really gonna miss this place. Take care of it for the family, won’t you, child?” The baby gurgled and waved his stubby little arms as the two men departed, each to their rooms. They met at the bottom of the stairway.

Nicodemus opened the entryway closet and lifted out his carpetbag and a purple duster.

“You have been planning this for a while.”

“Ever since you showed up in Gomorra, Theo. My stewardship was never for Gomorra, but always about the Whateley legacy. It took you coming here to remind me of that.”

With that, Nicodemus led his cousin out the door and into the moonless night. A baby cooed, and as Theo turned to look back at the Estate, he caught a flash of green from the upstairs window. Perhaps it was just the rustling of the wind along with a trick of the light. A low rumble, felt more than heard, shook the ground beneath them. Or …