GenCon Update – Bad News and Good News

Well, bad news first. I’m still waiting on a second proof copy of curse the darkness. It hasn’t even been shipped yet, which means that even if I check my email now and it’s been shipped (hang on – nope), it won’t get here until Thursday, which means that even if I place an order for the books on Thursday and have them shipped to the hotel at GenCon, they probably won’t get there while the con is still going on. If there was a way to know for sure, I’d feel better about it, but since the time between “place order” and “order is shipped” aren’t consistent (for my first proof copy, there was a lag of one day, for this one we’re coming up on three), at this point I’m going to say that we’re not going to have print copies of curse the darkness at GenCon.

Now, that said, I am going to assemble the Kits for the people who bought them and said they’d be at GenCon. That’s about 18 of you who responded to the survey and said that you would be or might be at GenCon, and bought Kits. (Those of you who bought books but not Kits, keep reading.) If you bought a Kit, please do stop by booth 1933 to pick it up. I’ll ship you the book as soon as it becomes available, but you should already have the pdf and this way you’ll have all the other goodies, too.

If you bought a book and you’ll be at GenCon, I’ll have your Character Pads (also booth 1933), at least, so if you want to swing by and grab one, awesome!

Now, I did promise some good news. We had some extra curse the darkness shirts made, so if you’re at GenCon and you want to buy a shirt, we’ll have them for $20 each, while they last. They’re very comfy.

So, bottom line: If bought a Kit and you’re going to be at GenCon, please come pick up your Kit. You’ll get your book ASAP, probably within a week or two after the con.

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Good News and Bad News

Well, let’s start on a high note. I got the proof copy of curse the darkness in the mail today. Behold!

Here’s my daughter, Teagan, holding it. My dog, Leo, seems to have sneaked in there, too.

Anyway, the books looks mostly fabulous, and therein lies the bad news. “Mostly” is not good enough. What happened was this: the pdf copy (that many of you have already downloaded) wasn’t optimized for print, and so the pictures came out darker than we wanted. For some of them, that isn’t a huge problem, but for a couple of them it utterly ruins them. So we’ve uploaded the correct pdf this time (we had the right one the first, just the wrong one got uploaded), and we’re now starting the process of approval, proof copy, shipping, over again.

What does this mean for you? Well, it might mean that I won’t have print copies at GenCon. That sucks, I know. It sucks for me, too, because I really wanted to be able to hand out books and Kits (and, y’know, sell a few, too), but it’s more important that the book look right. So if the book doesn’t wind up coming in before GenCon, c’est la vie, I’ll just mail everything out afterwards. (If you bought a Kit and want to pick up everything except the book at GenCon, though, I’ll totally do that because it’ll save trouble and money shipping.)

And what about the Kits? Check it.

So you’ve got (top left to right) a Suit Assignment sheet, five Player Mats, a Condition Assignment sheet (all laminated), a Character Pad, a bag with the candle stamp with little yellow Memory Points, a bag with the Symbol with little black Between Points, a copy of the book, a GM’s Deck (blue with the Symbol) and two Players’ Decks (red with the candle), and a Scenario Creation Pad (still at the printers, but we’ll have those next week). All of that will be packaged in an attractive cardboard box and shipped to you or handed to you at GenCon, assuming I can get the books in on time.

It’s all coming together, maybe not as smoothly as we’d all like, but considering the Kickstarter just wrapped in early June I think we’re doing pretty darned spiffy. And don’t forget – I need stories for the anthology!

Oh, and I have some exciting news about the curse the darkness Companion, but I’m gonna save that until I get confirmation on one remaining thing. 🙂

Two Ghostly Scenarios

So, here’s what happened. Yesterday, you’ll recall, I said I’d write a ghostly scenario in celebration of cresting $6K, featuring the ghost of whoever put us over. Yesterday afternoon, a pledge put us over $6K. So far, so good, I updated the story and the various social networks I’m on…

…and then someone else cancelled a pledge, and we were back under. But not by much (and by the way, I in no way begrudge the backer who pulled the pledge their right to do so. Ain’t my money until 6/6, and I don’t pretend to know anyone’s circumstances. I’m just glad that the backer was willing to pledge to begin with).

So a short time later, someone else pledged and put us up over again! And now we’re sitting at a comfortable $6224, so I don’t think I have to worry about dipping below $6K again (he said with a cautious glance at the main page). But it does mean I have two backers, both of whom deserve the reward for pushing us over $6K.

Who really wins here? You do.

Scenario 1: Crestmont

  • Where are you? We’re at a nursing home, or what’s left of one. Cresmont Nursing Home was an inner-city home for the elderly, not as horrible as some such places, but still pretty bleak. It was basically a place where lower-middle class folks put their parents and grandparents to die. The creatures from the Between rampaged through it shortly after He issued his rules, killing everyone therein – patients, staff, relatives. The structure of the building is intact, but the windows are smashed, some of the doors were torn from the hinges, and the whole place smells of death. It’s been looted, but the dead bodies made some of the supplies unusable.
  • What just happened? A burst of light came from the nursing home, illuminating the area surrounding it.
  • How are you following the rules? This scenario isn’t coupled to a particular group of people, just folks who are in the area. As such, it would be up to the players what in particular they are doing to follow the rules.
  • How are you breaking the rules? Entering Cresmont is enough to get His attention, not that this is something the characters will really know (by the way, it’s entirely appropriate to have your answer to this question be something that the players decide, but that the characters have no way to know. Hey, He’s many things, but “fair” isn’t really among them).
  • What is the goal? This is a pretty direct “put the ghost to rest” scenario, though a secondary but related goal might involved finding out what happened at Crestmont and why.
  • Who is the first ghost? Mary Frank, a speech therapist who worked at the nursing home, died in the onslaught. She was there doing therapy, and the reason that They attacked was that 10 residents had died the week before and a minister was there doing grief counseling. He apparently decided to make an example of the place, but Mary, an opinionated person on the best of days, tried to tell the minister to knock it off, since praying would get people killed. Her spirit lingered on after her death, and recently she managed to summon the strength to cause the burst of light. She wants her badge removed from her body, swiped through the card reader (yes, the place doesn’t have power, but that’s not the point) and taken off the premises.

This is probably a one-shot, and if I were running it, I’d set the Between Number (the number of Between Points needed before the characters draw His notice) pretty low.

Scenario 2: Open Source

  • Where are you? We’re at MIT in Cambridge. It’s spring, and the snow is melting off – it’s not bitterly cold but there are still piles of snow around and the ground is muddy. Like many universities, MIT had enough ideology going on that They took a lot of people in the first few years after the end of the world, but since then it’s become pretty inhabitable. Except for the Richard and Maria Stata Center, or rather, the Kirsch Auditorium. The auditorium is always cold, even the middle of summer, and although the power is intermittent to campus (maintained by a series of generators and other power sources – I can’t imagine that there aren’t still engineers around here!), lights in the auditorium tend to switch on a focus on where the podium was.
  • What just happened? A sound system that hasn’t worked in years bursts to life, and through the crackle of static, the words “Control over the use of one’s ideas really constitutes control over other people’s lives; and it is usually used to make their lives more difficult” are broadcast across the campus (if I were running the game, I’d base how much of that a character understands on their Active Focus card when we start).
  • How are you following the rules? Everyone on campus works to make the community function. This being MIT, a high number of Openers and engineers live here, and so there’s a lot of traffic and a lot of resources. Not only do people work to keep the stuff going where it needs to go, but someone has to make sure it gets distributed equitably.
  • How are you breaking the rules? The more people you have, the more likely it is that you’ll see hierarchy and, therefore, ideology. The folks who distribute goods have, on occasion, allowed themselves to be convinced (either through argument or other, more venal blandishments) to show preferential treatment. This isn’t really equitable, and it’s dangerous, because it’s definitely in violation of the rules.
  • What is the goal? Putting the ghost to rest is one concern, but the ghost isn’t really hurting anyone. Really, the goal here should be to find out who it is that is showing preferential practices in distributing resources and make them stop, before They come and wipe the whole place out.
  • Who is the first ghost? Shortly after people started noticing that weird shit was happening but before the destruction of Jerusalem, a programmer named Damien Eversmann gave a talk at MIT, espousing free software and the open-source movement in general. During the talk, which was passionate and empathetic enough to draw attention from folks just passing by, Eversmann just vanished, falling into what seemed to be a trapdoor (but was, in fact, his own shadow). Why did They kill him? Open-source is close enough to ideology that, especially in the early days of the apocalypse, it drew His attention. But Eversmann did not rest following his death. He never finished giving the talk, and he’s stuck in that moment. He wants to finish what he started, even though most of his main points (since they were about software) have ceased to matter in the world of curse the darkness. If a small group of people stands and listens to him, he’ll depart. Of course, doing so might well attract His attention, but will it still matter enough to be dangerous?

This one, I think, could probably go four or five sessions, and I figure maybe three sections of Wick per player to make the essential choice to light a candle.

We made it! …now what?

Holy cats! Three days in, and we’re at 103% funded. You guys are amazing.

I’m going to keep pushing, of course, because I want to have to come up with more stretch goals. I’m really jazzed about the notion of hitting $6K and writing ghost rules for curse the darkness, and I’m really hopeful that we’ll hit $7500 and do the fiction anthology. Beyond that? Not sure yet, but we’ve got some ideas. I’ll announce a $10,000 stretch goal when we hit our first one (which, as of right now, we’re a little less than $1K from making. We can do that today, y’all).

But for right now, everybody raise a glass (it’s gonna be coffee for me, because it’s morning where I am).

Kickstarter Scenario: The Ruins of Rynek Glowny

Today, the second day of our Kickstarter, we’ve hit $3389 as of this writing. Earlier today I said that if we hit $3000 by 5:00PM my time, I’d write a scenario set in a location chosen by the backer that put us over (kind of a mini-version of the $150 reward level, which no one’s claimed yet, I might add). The fellow who put us over that threshold, Stephen Joseph Ellis, requests that the scenario remind him of his day today, which I have to admit sounded pretty darned OK.

So:

Where are we? We’re in Krakow, Poland, in the Main Market Square (check it out, it’s pretty cool). The characters start out in what’s left of the Hard Rock Cafe. The building is still standing, but the interior is trashed. Shredded memorabilia lays strewn about; anything useful is long since gone. Paul Stanley‘s brown leather vest lies torn in two, draped across a smashed table. Strangely, a pyramid made of empty bottles sits on the bar, untouched, collecting dust.

What just happened? The bells at the Church of St. Wojciech started ringing, strongly, as though someone is pulling on the ropes extremely fervently.

How are you following the rules? The characters are in Main Market Square looking, specifically, for vitamins. Their community, living in the buildings nearby, includes a man deficient in vitamin B12, and his condition is worsening (you can get this vitamin from meat, but the man in question is vegan and refuses to eat meat. There is a contingent among the community that favors letting him find his own damn vitamins, then, but at least some of the residents – the PCs – are willing to help out. The man might even be among them now). Helping out the unfortunate fellow certainly counts as following the rules.

How are you breaking the rules? The Hard Rock Cafe is, in its way, a monument to the past. It’s a shrine to musicians and celebrities, and while He never forbade this kind of idol worship specifically, for purposes of a scenario it might well be enough to count as breaking the rules. This is especially true if the characters spend too much time picking through the memorabilia and not enough trying to help the sick man.

What is the goal? Find a stash of pills and get the guy some B12. If I’m running the game, then that pyramid of bottles is significant – maybe there’s a guy who’s obsessed with “the wasteland” that the Market Square has become, and he’s going to dog the characters’ efforts to find anything useful. He’s probably, then, the one ringing the bells at the church.

I figure this game is probably a one-shot, so everyone needs just one section of Wick.

And there ya have it. I’ll continue to set goals like this along the way for the Kickstarter, I think, because scenarios are easy and fun. 🙂

Actual Play from UBCon: The Dam

So here I am in Buffalo! (Well, strictly speaking I’m in Williamsville, because my awesome friends Autumn and Eric put me up for the night.) Last night I ran a session of curse the darkness at UBCon. We wound up with three players, two of whom I knew (Eric and my friend Andrea), and the third was a fellow who read the description and felt compelled to try it out (I always love when that happens).

Oh, before start, I have a present for you: The Symbol!

Art by Nigel Sade

Here’s what they came up with:

Where are you? In Buffalo, in the Central Terminal. Since the end of the world, it’s been used as a hub for a growing community, and the land around it has been used to grow food. The hydroelectric dam at Niagra Falls still works, and provides power to the community and the surrounding area.

What just happened? The power went out. Something’s wrong at the dam.

How are you following the rules? The community takes care of its own, and it has power, which means it’s a popular destination for people. The community has a working system of farming and other services.

How are you breaking the rules? As groups function, though, a hierarchy is inevitable, and one has started to form here. Vicki, Andrea’s character, is becoming recognized as the leader of the community.

What is the goal? Get to the dam and, if possible, fix the problem.

We have three characters: Vicki, the unofficial leader (she takes Mechanic as her Scope); Simon, an Opener (who refers to himself in third person); and Gerold, an engineer. The power goes out, and Vicki makes sure people have their flashlights and everyone gets to their emergency checkpoints and gets accounted for. Gerold goes outside and looks toward the dam – no soft glow in the distance, so nothing exploded or caught fire. The three of them talk, and figure that Vicki and Gerold should go try and figure out what’s up. They grab some supplies and Simon Opens a gateway to take them to the dam.

The problem, though, is that I drew a deuce for the Between Card, meaning I only needed two Between Points for the characters to draw His notice. Someone drew a black joker early on, and Simon only had 1s in two Attributes (meaning that one Character Challenge and he’s Exhausted), so he Refreshed. So when the characters stepped into the Between, they’re faced with a whole horde of Them…just watching.

Vicki and Gerold and freak out and run. Vicki is now Exhausted in Stability, but has a high card in Stamina and so keeps running. The characters finally managed to hunt each other down and navigate to the dam, but they’re freaked out – why are Them paying such close attention? The creatures don’t attack (maybe because they’ve drawn the Symbol on their toolboxes – see above!). Simon Opens, they step out…and Vicki sees a red dot on Simon’s forehead. Someone is on top of the gatehouse with a rifle. This begins our first Removal Challenge.

They all choose actions that curse the darkness – Vicki and Simon raise their hands, while Gerold raises his toolbox (showing the Symbol) and says he’s here to help. The guy on the gatehouse is all of 14, and he gets down, holding his sniper rifle, and approaches the characters. He says (after a Humanity Challenge and Gerold’s player defining a “Good with Kids” Scope) that he and his mother hooked up with this group of unpleasant, crazy people in Detroit who feel that He was trying to bring about Armageddon, but was interrupted by folks doing things like getting the dam working. So they’re here to complete the job. The kid is worried about his mom, who is part of the cult now, but seems swept up in it. The characters agree that this cult needs to get shut down, but they are justifiably worried about killing people (which tends to draw Their attention).

Gerold takes the rifle, since he’s unconvinced that the kid could really use it in a pinch. The characters decide to rappel down to a back door and go in that way, hopefully taking the cult by surprise. As they do, I start another Removal Challenge – the players don’t have a lot of cards in their Banks, but I have two black jokers on the table, meaning I can start a Removal Challenge whenever I want (new rule, getting tested! Seems to work just fine). They’re trying to rappel down and take on the cult, so all of their actions light a candle. They draw…Vicki and Simon get Succeed/Stay, so they get into the room past the back door and get a section of Wick, making the essential choice and lighting a candle. Gerold, however, draws Succeed/Leave. He helps the kid get into the room…and then the rope slips. All the other characters hear is a whoosh, and then the rope falling into the dark falls.

The player writes the kid (whom he names James, and gives him the Scope: Out of His Depth – I can always tell the players who have played FATE because their Scopes are like Aspects!) into memory. The rifle is gone (Gerold was wearing it) but James has a knife and is now well and truly freaked out. No Memory Conversation, largely because the situation is still dangerous. The characters listen at the door, and determine the other cultists are in a break room nearby. They sneak out the door and go upstairs, trying to get to the control room.

But Vicki slips on the stairs (she fails her Stamina Challenge, even using two cards from a newly-acquired Tactician Scope), an alerts the cultists. One comes out the door, and James stabs him without looking to see who it is (if I were feeling malicious, I’d have said it was his mom, but we were nearing the end). That gave him a third card in his Bank, so what the heck? One more Removal Challenge!

James pushes the stabbed guy into the room and looks for his mom. Vicki and Simon both shove their way in, too. Everyone’s lighting a candle, here. Vicki and Simon both draw Succeed/Stay. James draws Succeed/Leave, but Simon offers to switch with him, since it makes sense to him that Simon would protect the boy. The characters shove into the room, there’s a gunshot, and Vicki immobilizes the dude that shot…but Simon is dead, shot in the back. James finds his mother (whom Simon’s player now writes into Memory, calling her Anya).

The characters go upstairs, and find the people from the community who were working the dam dead. Vicki grabs a couple of Memory Points talking about those people (and guilting Anya a bit for her role in killing them), and they barricade the door, turn on the power, and wait. The cultists come back, try to kick in the door…but then the noise stops. Vicki looks out the dented door and sees half a shoe. Apparently They noticed the cultists.

Anya, an Opener, makes a gateway and the characters head back to the community to find someone to send back to run the dam, this time with better security. James and Anya now have a place to stay that isn’t run by crazy people, and the community carries on.