Archive for April, 2010

It isn’t this bloody in-game. But somehow I got a bit carried away…

So Dan, Lyndon, Finbar and I kicked arse at Arkham Horror last Geek Night…

Dan was playing Monterey Jack, Lyndon Darrell Simmons, and Finbar Joe Diamond. I arrived from a beer run to see that I’d fetched up with the student, Amanda Sharpe.

I took an instant dislike to Amanda, for the simple reason that anyone who has spent two years studying at Miskatonic University and still thinks it is a good idea to look closely at disturbing paintings with a ‘hazy depiction of some horrible creature rising up out of the ocean’ is dangerously stupid and shouldn’t be allowed out of the house.

But I figured, it could be worse; she had a balanced stamina / sanity of 5-5 and managed to get herself a shotgun for her common item right from the off. Plus, her picture has her wearing glasses, which, as any fule kno, make everyone look a hundred times more awesome right off the bat.

And how very right I was…

Early on, we got a few gates shut – it was a close run thing, with Finbar doing some amazing work as a freelance Gug hunter (except for the one point where he sold two Gug corpses to a shady chap down the docks, who apparently wanted them to re-animate them and dump them over in the Black Cave, with the result that Joe Diamond managed to find his way into R’lyeh and go so completely insane that he not only dropped his colt but also became lost in time and space without bethinking himself to let go of the two Gugskin rugs he was wearing over each arm). Dan and Rory seemed to be constantly in and out of the other worlds, and Dan managed to seal the Woods for good, which saved us on more than one occasion.

Amanda’s special ability is essentially an ability to skip multiple lectures at once: every time she draws from the skill deck, she takes two cards and picks which one to have as a skill. I’d thought early on it’d be worth getting her back from the Bank to the University, therefore, but there had been rumours of a Terrible Experiment taking place at the University, and she isn’t exactly set for fighting…


Amanda didn’t feel safe trying to make it through the streets, especially with the noise of a pitched battle drifting over the rooftops, and it wasn’t as though she could afford the tuition without help anyway. However, she knew Jack had already found a scrawled sheet of paper on a desk in the Unnameable, and whilst he’d thought it was nonsensical and left without any useful information, she thought her lore skill might be high enough that she might have more luck.

Outside, investigators were working hard to dispatch the ghastly results of the Experiment, and she took refuge in the Unnameable until things had quietened down a little, little realising that a Portal had opened on the Unvisited Isle. She was already deep in the house, exploring the upstairs rooms and carefully avoiding the stairway to the attic when it dawned on her that the scrabbling within the walls was getting louder and louder, and she realised to her horror that the crawlspaces of the house were teeming with rats, tumbling over one another as they fought their way through the walls to encircle her.

Pausing only to thank heaven for her high running skill, she tore down the stairs, flinging herself out of the door as the rats swarmed behind her, and pelting headlong into the darkened streets.


The Merchant District is a bad place for a young girl to be out on her own at night, and Amanda had enough natural timidity to know how scary the area could be, but she was in such a state of blind panic at her narrow escape that she had no thought of stealth, and it was only when she was within a few feet of the centre of the street that she realised there was someone – or something – lurking in the shadows. Terror of the rats behind her almost forgotten, she charged forwards with reckless haste, driving her knee hard into the middle of the shapeless form. It howled, and as it shuddered hideous tentacles quivered above her head and she realised in shock that she had just kneed a Star-Spawn squarely in the daddysacks. For a lesser mind, unused to unnatural things, the discovery would have been too much, but not for Amanda: long nights working at the Bank of Arkham had given her more mental resilience than she thought and in a matter of seconds she had regained control of her terror, snatched the shotgun from her back and unloaded both barrels, firing and reloading again until the street was smeared with rancid ichor, and the windows of the Unnamable reverberated with the noise of the reports.

Badly shaken, and dragging a corpse behind her, the young librarian [yes, I’d promoted her to an LIS student for being awesome] staggered on towards Arkham Asylum, painfully aware that her damaged grasp of reality could only hold on for so long.


Spattered with gore, she made it to the desk, and the shocked night attendant was trying to get her to release her catatonic grip on the shotgun and get her a mug of coffee whilst she slowly recovered her wits when she realised she’d seen a figure moving in the Easttown streets, with the consequence that her conversation went something like this:

Amanda: O God! The rats! Horrible – screaming, so many… And the tentacles! So much blood, the squeaking! You have to help me, I think I’m going – wait! Wait! Stop right there!

[Exits. Loud Krrk-chhhck as she passes door, USL.

PAUSE. There is a dulled report, and a faint howl of pain. PAUSE. A second muffled explosion. PAUSE.

Amanda re-enters, considerably more bloodsoaked, dragging headless corpse of cultist, which she drops onto remains of Star-Spawn.]

Amanda: (cont.) – I think I’m going mad! Pills! Please, o God, please, get me some pills, or something, anything! These foreign voices in my head, the whispers, the rats! The chittering as they rise from the deep– help me, please, it’s like I don’t even know what’s real anymore!

Thankfully, Joe Diamond happened to swing by for a quick pep pill at the same time, and everyone was more than happy for him to give the screaming bloodied maniac a dollar to get herself checked out by the resident shrink in double-quick time. The doctors aren’t quite sure what to make of her garbled tales, but manage to soothe her enough that she re-balances her sanity. She checks out a moment later, still dragging the corpses behind her, and as she reaches the street she is met by a courier, who hands her a package: apparently her friends, the photographer and the archaeologist had been frantically casting away clues to protect the seal of the Elder Sign in the woods, and their good work has not been in vain: this is a trophy from the spoils!

Unwrapping the parcel, she finds an enchanted sword, seeming to hum gently in the sudden quiet of the night and, pleased to have an extra line of defence, she straps it to her belt, re-holsters the shotgun across her back, and moves cautiously towards the glowing light that seems to emanate from Independence Square: she’s sure it wasn’t there when she left the bank earlier…


Indeed it was not. She discovers a portal has opened, and is sucked through a twisted portal to the Plateau of Leng! All seemed quiet, however, and her system cried out for rest. She paused under the faint shade of a finely detailed ice statue seemingly depicting Ithaqua eating… well, she wasn’t sure, though it seemed pretty grim, even to her gore-smeared eyes, and her recent experiences made her scared to look to hard on hideous things. Still, with her eyes closed the peace gave her a welcome opportunity for her to restore some stamina before pressing on.

Seeing the portal back to Independence Square, she prepared herself for the physical exertion of forcing the gate shut – preparation which proved well worth it because whilst she had been in another world the gate on the Unvisited Isle had spat forth another surge of monsters, and the Merchant District was once again full of Hellish monstrosities. Thus it was that as soon as Amanda dropped back through into Independence Square she found herself bouncing off the head of a Dimensional Shambler, an experience which nearly frightened her out of her wits. Unable to risk the luxury of running away from the portal she had explored at such cost, she was forced to fight which, she did with a degree of skill she found almost frightening: three double hits from the shotgun saw the beast collapse with an almost pleasing look of pain.

Though she and her friends were sealing portals as fast as they could, the city was filled with evil, and the whisper in her head had become a roar: it seemed there was very little time left to linger.


She was able seal the portal with an Elder Sign she’d borrowed from Monterey Jack and paused to take stock: she was of shattered mind, but sound body. She was equipped for both magical and physical combat, and she was momentarily safe. One lens of her spectacles had cracked, and the weakness filled with viscera, leaving her vision permanently cross-hatched with blood. She was dragging around no end of bloody corpses, and it was starting to draw attention. For some reason, that seemed a greater priority than mental respite, so she found her way to the police station, locked the bodies and the gate token in the gaol, and so impressed the police that they appointed her the official Deputy Librarian Student of Arkham.

The offer came with a salary of a dollar a turn, which was more than she’d ever got from the bank, and since the bulk of the police force were dedicated to searching the streets for any photographers that were out violating the curfew, it made sense they should employ someone to seek out the monsters which made the curfew necessary. To this they added a regulation Deputy Sidearm and free use of the Patrol Waggon, as long as she didn’t break it. Vague recollections of Western tales, and vigilante heroes, stirred in Amanda’s memory, mixing with the whispering voices that swaddled her, and she accepted the role with pride.

When she got word that Diamond Jack, who had so willingly helped her restore her sanity, had himself gone insane trying to fight a Mi-Go in a bid to push through and seal the portal on the Unvisited Isle and had to be forcibly sectioned, she set out for the Asylum without a thought, running through the streets to the Asylum, leaving the patrol waggon behind solely so she could detour through Riverside and slaughter a zombie, with a perfect bullet-to-the-head from her Revolver, and an almost unnecessary dismemberment with the enchanted sword, with the result that when she re-appeared at the Asylum she presented such a terrifying vision that the desk clerk hid in the back office until she’d been dosed up on laudanum and dozed off in a chair.


The path to the Unvisited Isle was now clear, at least, and it seemed likely that someone would have to die to even the odds for everyone else. Amanda, with a strange mix of resignation and excitement volunteered herself, though said several times she was doomed, because to get to the portal she’d have to fight her way past a Cthonian, a Witch, a Formless Spawn and the Mi-Go that had only recently acquired a taste for human blood, but the massive dose of drugs supplied by the Asylum filled her with determination, for all they were a temporary and fast-waning fix.

Still, with everyone else trying to keep the streets clear, explore R’lyeh or simply get their brain back together, Amanda felt it was about time she took the opportunity to take revenge on the invaders.


Leaving the Asylum, she checked her equipment – shotgun slung over her back, Deputy’s Revolver holstered below her left shoulder, Enchanted Sword sheathed beside her left hip – muttered the incantation to empower herself with the Voice of Ra, and clambered into the Patrol Waggon, gibbering that she was about to die horribly, and feeling her sanity already ebbing away as the power of the magic she was using overrode the sedatives in her system.

The Waggon, of course, was top heavy, and it almost lost its grip on the slippery Merchant District streets, but Amanda hurled her full weight to the right and, with a horrible cracking noise, the waggon righted itself, hurtling on towards the Unvisited Isle. She could just make out the dim, segmented coils of the Cthonian in the distance, and keeping her left foot hard down on the accelerator, and her right knee jammed up against the steering wheel, she leant out of the window, opened with a volley of buckshot, and then flung herself through the door as the Waggon slammed into the Cthonian at fifty miles an hour, shearing through the monstrous bulk as it drove the worm back against a gaslamp, and spattering the remains against the wall beyond with such a gout of blood that Amanda’s already unravelling grip on reality began to unwind ever faster.


Amanda had the wit to roll as she slammed into the cobbles, and came up kneeling to attack the Witch with the shotgun – both barrels hit her full in the face, her corpse seeming to spin around the axis of her hips, rotating in the air before a shattered hand caught on the ground and dragged the rest of the corpse back to earth with a sickening crunch [This was amazing: I got five hits on four dice, thanks to that shotgun. Amanda was getting seriously badass].

By now, things were getting tense; the Formless Spawn emerged from the shadows, and it took all Amanda’s Bravery to will herself into the fight. There wasn’t enough light, and the bloody and shattered glasses were virtually worthless: she threw them aside in disgust, as the roaring whispers began to chant in triumph. Blinking, she tried to will away the bloodstained fragmentation of her sight, but found her head was too muzzy to realise the glasses which had caused it were gone.

Yet the network of bloodlines across her vision made it somehow easier to detect the Spawn and though her shotgun and revolver would be useless, the power of the Enchanted Sword, backed by the mighty Voice of Ra afforded her a narrow victory, to the howling delight of the insane private eye, now bouncing up and down in his straightjacket as he sensed the panic of his hated nemesis, the wretched Mi-Go.


Her success so far gave her a glimmer of hope and though her sanity was in tatters, and her mission to the portal long forgotten, the faint shreds of her awareness held together just enough for her to realise that she had to – that she wanted to – hurt this thing: any higher function that might have told her why was long past, but she had weapons, and she had an enemy, and she felt like she could never see enough blood pouring into the gutters. The Mi-Go lost its antennae to a wild swing of the sword, and curled desperately with a chitinous clattering of plates but whatever it thought of as flesh ripped open under the force of the revolver fire, and it slumped down. The Asylum rocked to Diamond’s scream of triumph and the Mi-Go’s multiple wings flapping feebly in its death throes until Amanda clambered over it, hacking and hacking and hacking with the sword until each alternating wing was shorn free and the remainder juddered in time to the pitiful clicking shrieks of her vanquished foe. With the guardians of the portal gone, Amanda’s bloodlust had little time to cool before she was dragged through the rift and driven to the Abyss.


Staggering, and struggling wipe her eyes free of the jagged bloodlines fighting to weave their way through her retina and leave her wandering blind, she moved on, and was just able to make out a dim form in the distance. She fired wildly: it looked as though she only winged the figure, but her rapidly-developed skill as a marksman gave her the chance to reload and fire again before the shape could turn. The second shell hit the creature full in the chest and it seemed to explode, its remains hitting the ground with the delightful flat squelch that told her of a good job well done. Approaching, she found it had probably been a cultist once, a youngish man, and wondered vaguely if it had any companions she could hunt down.

She was stumbling along in search of other life to quench when she was struck by deja-vu: she had returned to the Isle, perhaps some time ago, she wasn’t sure. There was nothing here but herself and the portal, but the noise of empty flesh flapping in the cold breeze shocked her, and it dawned on her that she needed to see the portal sealed, or more monsters might reappear before she was ready for them.


She succeeded on the first attempt, her power to fight the Universe seemingly infinitely increasing, and her collection of Clues was enough to slam the Isle shut for ever.

She looked for the Patrol Waggon, but what was left of it had been crushed into a truly hideous shape by the death throes of the Cthonian, and her brain hazily knew she would not be able to twist it back into working order. So it was on instinct and on foot, this time, that she headed towards the sanctity of the Asylum, where a gasping voice informed her through the letterbox to take the bottle of pills left on the step and eat three of them before she came in. The voice seemed friendly, but for some reason she hesitated: it had been some time since she’d extinguished a life, she was disappointed to find the whispers in her head were fading, and she was angry at the way the growing silence hurt.


Dimly, she was aware of her companions cheering that the last portal had been sealed, Shub-Niggurath finally defeated, and though she was rejoiced to have shared in another victory, the noise of the disturbance grated, caused a few synapses to twitch. She was after all, the Deputy of Arkham – it was only right that she should investigate the source of the riot, should disperse the demons, should restore the peace. The bloodnet of her vision seemed to triangulate the cries: she should go to the Black Cave, find the monsters before they came out, save Arkham from the Ancient Ones.

As she turned towards Rivertown, her foot kicked over a small jar of tablets, sent them bouncing down the steps. There was a muffled gasp from something in the grand building behind her, but she ignored it, following the tiny container as it rolled into the streets and trundled down the path towards Rivertown and the shouting. The little pills inside the jar tumbled together as they fell, accelerating, rattling, grinding gently against the glass… whispering.

That was better.

From ‘Cataloguing rules as party conversation’ to ‘Reports in relation to RPGs.’ All the fun that’s fit to Mark As Read, huh?

Eech. I should be working on a report, at this moment in time: essentially Your university is going to launch foundation degrees, how will this affect the library & the readers?. I hate that sort of stuff, because whilst I realise that we’re supposed to be demonstrating the use of the theory, I don’t feel comfortable making up backstory in order to have a platform on which to stand everything else. It’s a ‘pre 1992 university,’ apparently, and that’s about all the guidance we get.

That is not enough guidance, I feel: from there I can say anything from ‘but the library building was completely re-done with corporate sponsorship in 1998 and has seven floors, complete with Student Shop and Coffee Bar on the entry level, Floor 5’ to ‘the library is housed in the Old Building, is Grade I listed and has the unique feature of two floors, each with a periodical gallery, originally designated to house the Arts and the Natural Sciences. The central Loans Desk has been left as it was, though admin work now takes place at a new desk, installed opposite the exit. The University is currently discussing arrangements for external access to the second floor for disabled students, but it severly limited by the various prevervation orders in place.’

…The problem, basically, is that I want the briefing for this report to be Oblivion, and what I’ve got is Morrowind. Oblivion is a fantastic game, and I really do enjoy playing it. Morrowind may well be a good game, but I could never get into it, because it was too open ended.

At the start of Oblivion, you’re in clink, but you get let out by narrative imperative the Emperor, who happens to need the escape route in your cell, and who dies almost as soon as you’ve had chance to collect one of each base weapon class, learn how to sneak, pick a lock and work your way back to the plot. For reasons best known to himself, he gives you the Amulet of the Maguffin, the token of his Emperordom, and tells you to push off and find a monk who knows where his illegitemate-but-everyone-else-in-the-family-is-dead Son is. At which point, you can either do so, or wander off and do open-ended things. It’s a nice obvious quest hook, and you can catch it, or not, or catch it later as the mood takes you.

At the start of Morrowind, as far as I can recall, you get off a boat, wander through an administation building, and get told that there’s a guy who lives over in Villagetown and you should go and see him. Doing so results in his suggesting you work for him, possibly for some secret reason. Go and do a minor quest in Noobsville, quoth he, and then… uh… yeah, I dunno. There doesn’t seem to be a main quest there. Now bear in mind the first computer games I ever played were Hillsfar, Spellcasting 201 and Paperboy 2. I like obvious objectives in games. I’ve grown to enjoy the freedom of open-ended stuff, it’s amazing to be able to do something in some place and reap the consequences later – which is why Deus Ex was so mindblowing for me – but it’s nice to have a solid known objective you can fall back on, not only to get you started, but to give you something to aim for once wandering in the wilderness gets dull.

And having to make up my own character backstory in a piece of academic work kinda bugs me: what if I go with Option A, and say “based on the findings of the various studies we’ve done (qv), perhaps we can devote the fourth floor to books for Foundation Degrees, and create a seperate collection there,” and then go on to discuss advantages and limitations and things, and Juanita decides that she’s never heard anything so retarded in her life because what the Hell was I thinking imagining more than three floors anyway, why haven’t I talked about the crushing space constrictions affecting the library service?


Of course, I know what’s going to happen: I’m going to Exposit it to within an inch of it’s life; this report to the Vice Chancellor is going to be the library equivilant of Chapter One, the one that goes

“As you know, your father – the King – had no other children. I greatly fear that this attack by Mordok was intended to kill you too. For if you are not present at the Celebrations tomorrow you will be declared dead and Mordok will seize power!”

and to which the only possible answer is

“Faithful old Knight, the only person who apparently knows the secret way out of the Castle – although I’d like to point out that it’s also a secret way into the castle, and how did Mordok’s forces manage to get past the seventeen well-defended gates unoticed anyway? Fine, fine, we’ll leave that to page two-hundred and sixty-seven – but, Allegedly Faithful Old Knight Who Was Always Passed Over By My Father For The Stewardship, I know all that. What, you think I lived just long enough to fulfil the Prophecy and make some Outcast Friends With Secret Knowledge without spotting the lack of siblings!? Dude, lay off the musty tomes already. Nice mysterious sigil ring, by the way. Why’s it glowing ominously red?”

But I’ll feel bad about doing it.

And anyway, I want to be working on my Dissertation reasearch, but I can’t really do that before I pass Part 1!

Still, in other news: have my eye on a job which would be awesome. Shall have to wait and see…