The Strange: The Estate

After leaving the Ninth World in our last session, our group of adventurers emerge into a translation room at The Estate to be confronted by armed guards, alarms klaxons ringing and lights flashing.

“Unauthorised translation in the gate room!”

Eventually, after a debrief, Asher and Mafini are given leave to do as they will, whilst Bhaltair is questioned a bit further, given he is not actually the original (and in his new form looks disturbingly generic, having been unable to settle on one look, ended up an amalgamation of all possible ones, with his blue crystal cypher effect manifesting on Earth similarly to Epidermodysplasia verruciformis). After a month of recuperation, the trio are sent off on an assignment, what their supervising officer hopes will be a simple one for the PR department – investigate some weirdness at a Minnesota high-school science fair and make contact under the auspices of the Morrison Fellowship Prize. Serena is still MIA, her clone somehow trapped between worlds and lost in The Strange, though it is hoped her original is still safe in the Ninth World Research Recursion.

Sent off to Minnesota, the trio investigate. Mafini visits the house whilst Bhaltair and Asher go to the school. Mafini, after some bungling, discovers the person of interests mother tied up in the basement but isn’t equipped to help, so leaves her and rendezvous with the others back at the school, who in the meantime have learned that Gwen certainly has developed something far beyond what, well, anyone on Earth should normally be able to develop, certainly not a child in high-school. Her mother is super-protective, overly so, and seems to be dead inside, like a machine more than a mother.

The team notice some OSR agents are also there, interested in the girl, so Mafini, using his fame as a magician to good effect, distracts one and manages to sleight-of-hand his gun away. Eventually the team leave, ready for the official appointment with Gwen and her mother, though they are not sure what to expect given what Mafini discovered in the basement.

An interview at Gwens house soon goes south and her mother attacks, but the team quickly dispatch her. It’s soon apparent, if it wasn’t already, that Gwen is quickened and has somehow tapped into her abilities to give her tremendous scientific skill. She built her ‘replacement’ mother as a helper, but it went wrong, becoming over-protective and eliminating anything that came between her and her daughter – even the real mother. Using the abilities of her daughter to create a powerful energy conversion system, she was using the original mother as a power source and had captured two OSR agents (because they couldn’t defend themselves due to one having his gun stolen…) to serve as backups.

The team tried to erase the agents memories, but failed, electrocuting them instead. They eventually headed off, dropping off the mother at a hospital and taking the girl into custody to receive counselling and treatment for her trauma. They also returned to The Estate with several new cyphers.

Numenera/Strange: Maws the Merrier

Continuing on from our last session, and absent the player of Bhaltair Rook, the characters carried on fleeing the village where they had caused so much trouble on the backs of their stolen Ithsyn. As they fled, they spotted a large, grey structure in the distance, a dull metal monolith. Getting closer, they passed a series of natural-looking stone pillars when suddenly the ground began to tremble. Earthquake!

Luckily, the tremors subsided quickly, but it was enough to send on of the Ithsyn into a panic and it ran, emitting its natural gaseous defence mechanism which addled the brains of Mafini who was riding it. Meanwhile, the others retained control of their beasts and examined the pillars, which after the tremors were revealed to have metal poles underneath carved in strange, red symbols that glowed and pulsed ever so faintly. Selena looked around, using her sight beyond sight to look for clues and saw that this monolith seemed to be at the centre of a vortex of ultra-dimensional energies – and Mafini on his panicked beast was heading right for it! Translating the glyphs, it seemed to be about some kind of warning to beware some kind of energy and they decided to stay back rather than chase after their comrade.

Whilst this was happening, Mafini saw that the monolith had an entrance and that two guards, dressed in garb similar to the guards from the village, were handling a small group of prisoners. He was spotted hurtling towards them and waved at to come over, but not in control, Mafini deliberately fell from the beast, and spun a tale, identifying himself as from the village and using the Ithsyn gas as a cover to explain why he didn’t know much about this place or why he was here. Convinced, it was explained that these prisoners were to be given to the Maw for judgement for their crimes. Mafini explained he was guiding some travellers to Charmonde and was just passing through and went back to his group to explain the state of affairs.

They felt that this ‘kangaroo court’ of hurling people to their deaths in this ‘Maw’ was no kind of justice and so they decided to help free the captives. They plan was to charge them on their Ithsyn and for Mafini to use illusions into helping confuse and and disarm them. However, Selenas Ithsyn panicked and she found herself hurtling towards the Maw on the back of the green-gas-farting bird creature, confused by the gases effects. The others leaped into action, chasing after her and Bhaltair, extremely interested in this ‘Maw’ zoomed again, running over a guard and diving towards it to better examine the thing. Eventually, the battle came to a close, after a lot of gas-induced confusion, shattered chains and illusory cobras. Interrogating the one remaining prisoner, the other having fled, they learned, despite him attempting to lie, that he was sentenced to judgement by the maw for raping a woman. So he didn’t leave unpunished, Asher cut his face, marking him forever with two scars down his cheeks and sent him on his way, providing mercy from the fate of the Maw.

Meanwhile, Bhaltair was frantically examining the strange vibrating sphere of void that was the Maw. Excited, he babbled about it being some kind of gateway, but the characters worked out it was neither and translation or apposite gate, but just a space-time warp, though quite how that worked in the context of a recursion was unknown. Bhaltair also got the sense that there were a great many apposite gates within the place beyond the portal, based on his examinations and on Selenas account after she peered into the void with her sight beyond sight and saw strange lights, metals disks and beams stretching off into darkness.

After some debate, they eventually decided to try and translate back to Earth, even though this Selena and Bhaltair were not natives to the Earth recursion and there may be some trouble. As they began translating, the earthquake started up again, but they were already in their new selves on Earth before they had time to react to anything that may have been happening in the monolith.

We ended the session there, since Selenas player was ill, I was quite tired and we were missing Bhaltairs player and next session, we’ll decide on what new Foci each of them have and what form Selena and Bhaltair choose to take.

Book Review: AngularJS Services

I’m quite new to AngularJS, having never really used it for much of anything and having barely made it through the tutorials. However, I find the general philosophy of it very interesting and what I do know about it sits very well with me. I definitely want to know more, so when I was offered a copy of AngularJS Services by PacktPub to review, I was happy to give it a read.

To start off with, the book explains it’s not for beginners, but for developers with at least a basic understanding of AngularJS. However, I found that as I progressed through the book, my existing experience in programming and other Javascript frameworks gave me enough of a grounding to understand what was going on, as each chapter is well written and explains each concept well.

Starting off first with an explanation of just what services are and covering the basics of MVC and how services integrate into that architecture, the book immediately starts off with some good tips on best practices, which while not in-depth, give beginners like me with experience elsewhere a lot of useful pointers.

The book then rapidly goes into the design process of creating services, again bringing up several best practices which will serve you well in general, as well as specifically for developing service code. Again, this is all very useful even for beginners, despite the book stating earlier that it is aimed at a slightly more experienced developer.

I think I might prefer that the book either fully embrace catering to one or the other, than dedicate almost two chapters of fairly generic development best practices and little to no information about basic AngularJS knowledge itself, but I guess it would then either be a much larger ‘Learning AngularJS’ book, or a much smaller book that would be less useful for intermediate and fledgeling AngularJS developers that don’t have a lot of ‘best practice’ experience and knowledge yet.

In much the same vein as before, the next chapter deals with testing, giving a very brief overview of using Jasmine to do BDD-flavoured tests, which a few examples. It doesn’t go into any of the setup of Jasmine itself , but does give some useful, service-orientated examples of using Jasmine’s mocking capabilities to help make service tests less brittle.

The next four chapters actually cover a range of examples of writing service and using a number of AngularJS features to make highly flexible, decoupled code that can handle a number of tasks, from OAuth, to external CRUD data management, to Google API integrations and business logic tasks.

Throughout the book, the event messaging pub/sub model is heavily endorsed and used to great effect, the code and accompanying text explaining it’s benefits and how using it really makes the app a lot easier to maintain. Even if you cared nothing for AngularJS or services in it, the coverage and examples of using a pub/sub model to decouple and simplify application code here is excellent and makes the book worth it almost by itself.

While the book skims over the code fairly quickly, the code files for it are available so you can see everything in action.

All in all, it’s not a bad book. In all honesty, I think it split its focus too much and should have focused more of its efforts on covering the actual coding of services and more in-depth examples of building them over all of the best practice material because as it is, it feels a little lacking when it comes to learning about services in any real-depth, but doesn’t give nearly enough for an absolute beginner to really make any headway. That said, if you know AngularJS fairly well and only need a little nudge in the right direction to really help you ‘get’ angular services, then the book is a definite step up from the somewhat sparse official documentation on angular services.

So, would I recommend this book? I think the answer is yes if any of the following are true:

  • You know AngularJS but have no idea what services are or how to use them
  • You know AngularJS but want to level up your knowledge about best practices
  • You are an absolute AngularJS beginner that wants some reference material for when you get more advanced, but wants to pick up the basics of best-practice development early

Numenera/Strange: Remembering the Way Home

We had the next session of my hybrid Numenera/Strange game yesterday, and the big reveal was made.

Another round of A Penny For My Thoughts was completed resulting in:

  • Asher being involved in another failed op due to experimenting with buttered toast and cats
  • Selena fleeing the ex-husband from an earlier memory in a Wacky Races style rocket car, resulting in an innocent bovine getting killed
  • Bhaltair going to a Bananarama hard rock comeback concert in Europe, getting drunk and mistakenly ending up in Amsterdam
  • The Great Mafini involved in a bet to eat cheesecake with chopsticks versus his stagehand swallowing a live goldfish, which goes horribly wrong resulting in the “disposal” of three people

So, we’ve learned a bit more about the world and the characters. Mostly that Mafini is even more of a psychopath than last session revealed, Bhaltair is an even odder, stranger person than before, Asher has a history of failed stake out ops and Selenas history is positively surreal, almost cartoonish.

At this point, the players refused to complete their therapy, pulling out the cables that fed them with memory fluid. The facility computer became more and more aggressively insistent, until finally it deposited a robot into the room not dissimilar to the repair droids from Fallout 3. After more refusals, it vaporised Mafini to the shock of all and the others leapt into battle, using their mysterious abilities and skills to assault the droid until it was destroyed. Selena used shatter on the locking mechanism of the door to their therapy room and they discovered a corridor lined was doors leading to rooms like theirs, some occupied by non-human skeletons. At either end of the corridor was an arch, one pitch black, another illuminated with light dappled as if reflecting off of water. Exploring the lights arch, they found a room lined with huge glass tubes, most broken or empty but 4 occupied by a thick greenish soup. One was emptying and revealed a perfectly fine Mafini, spluttering a bit, and naked, but otherwise intact. Bhaltair, using his technical know-how, manipulated the control panel on the track to release Mafini who had all his memories intact but knew nothing of the last sessions events or being vaporised. In fact he knew why they were there and who they all where.

The four strangers where in fact all members of an Estate recon team sent to explore and report back on the maturation progress of the Numenera recursion. The recursion was a home grown one made as part of an experiment by the Estate to explore the effects of mass engagement of Earth natives with the source fiction for a recursion on its maturation rates. The rpg Numenera and the recursion was created by two agents in the research division, an Agent Germain and Agent Cook. However, soon after the team translated in, whilst exploring, a rent in the ground opened beneath them and thats where Mafinis memories ended.

On further investigation of the tubes, they discovered copies of themselves inside, one each. Asher, based on Mafinis new memories, and the events prior, vaporised himself using a cypher salvaged from the robot and soon enough the tube with his naked self emptied and he woke up, memories back.

Bhaltair decided to try and open his counterparts tube using the same method he used to free Mafini (and Asher after the tube emptied) but the device refused with a loud alarm. The players figured that the facility would only allow one of them to exist at once and without equipment, they had precious little with which to smash open the tube. Bhaltair instead decided to prise off the panel in the hopes of being able to override the safeties stopping its release but failed, causing the tube to destroy its contents, killing his original.

Selena, having seen Bhaltairs original destroyed decided to leave her self in the tube, they could come back later when they had other equipment. Mafini, with all his memories, remembered that the Numenera recursion was rich in cyphers which could usually be found by smashing things, which he proceeded to do, spreading broken glass everywhere and consequently cutting his feet. However, he did find several cyphers, a canister that destroyed dead, organic matter, 3 biomorph injectors and a crystal virus. Mafini couldn’t identify the latter however, but the odd Bhaltair quickly worked out what it did and slapped it on his forehead, his skin soon getting replaced with this hard, flexible blue crystal. They also found a Chiurgeon sphere in the remains of the robot, an artifact that can repair organic matter.

Eventually, after exploring the dark arch, they found the hole through which they must have fallen into the facility. It was an easy climb up and Mafini and Asher figured, based on the terrain, that they were likely near the Black Riage mountain range, up near the Eastern borders of Naverene. They could see a settlement in the distance, so decided to head there for supplies.

However, as they made their way, Selenas See the Unseen ability kicked in and she spotted an invisible man, or weirdly, several echoes of the same person all overlapped, approaching. It was a dimensional husk and it attacked. Mafini used his illusory powers to clothe himself and intimidate the creature with a massive gun, which partially worked. A round of combat ensued but the players tried to negotiate with the angry, tortured creature, Mafinis persuasive powers as a Spinner and Selenas empathic abilities working together to try and calm it. Unfortunately, Mafini managed to engage it and it attacked, but it missed every time and became so despondent that it followed the advice of the players to try and clone itself in the facility that it threw itself into the crevasse.

The players then continued on to the village, Mafini faking a vast cache of riches in order for them to buy equipment. However, when buying clothing, his skills failed him and he was caught out as a thief or con-artist. A scene began to form but after agreeing to pay and leave the village, Mafini dumped the bag of illusory shins and in the midst of a “gold rush” they made their escape, stealing a set of tamed Ithsyn and riding off (if feeling a little ill from one of the Ithsyn releasing its defence gas).

Selena and Bhaltair couldn’t translate to Earth, since they had no proper memories of it, but Asher and Mafini, having their original memories, could. They planned to potentially translate back, bringing Bhaltair and Selena with them, when they found a safe place to rest and begin the translation trance.

Strange Numenera Desserts You’ve Forgotten

I ran the first session of the new roleplaying game I’ve been planning last night. It’s an odd game, because we are playing The Strange, but the whole game is taking place in a Numenera recursion, so it’s effectively playing Numenera, but with the types from The Strange.

After a couple of hours spent generating characters, we ended up with the following:

  • Asher Zamir, a Clever Vector who Hunts With Great Skill
  • Bhaltair Rook, a Mad Paradox who Processes Information
  • Selena, an Empathic Paradox who Sees Beyond
  • “The Great Mafini”, a Clever Spinner who Crafts Illusions

Due to the nature of the starting scenario, we skipped player connections, but I did ask them all for some basic background and got them to answer some basic questions to start off with, namely “How/Why where you recruited by The Estate” and “Do you have any significant others/friends/family in your life?”. Basic info we started with was:

  • Asher – ex-Mossad, recruited into The Estate for his skill set, no friends or family, but some close contacts from Mossad work.
  • Bhaltair – was involved in/triggered a Strange incident and was offered recruitment or prison. No family or friends, loner due to his mad tendencies.
  • Selena – discovered the existence of The Estate herself and joined up. Estranged from her family, disconnected from any friends she once had. No significant others.
  • “The Great Mafini” – recruited ‘by accident’ during an Estate op that managed to pick him up instead of the actual target. During de-brief recognised his talents and made him an offer. His farmer-family is still around, as well as a few friends back home, but doesn’t see them too often. Has friends/colleagues on the stage magic circuit, but has a bit of a rep as an arrogant arsehole. Had a relationship with a woman called Jessica who went on to become his stage assistant, but blew it by fooling around. Realises what he lost and wants her back.

After that, we kicked off the main game, which is when I threw away everything they had done background-wise, including their names, because they all woke up without any memories in some kind of strange chamber.

The chamber was dimly lit and the players found themselves secured with simple synth straps into chairs like this:

A tube lead from the outside of the chair into their arms, which seemed to be pumping them full of a slightly luminous green liquid. There was a total of eight chairs around a table in the room, but only 4 were occupied (by the players). Some of the players struggled in their bonds and found the synth straps holding them in were ancient and had denatured, easily splitting apart after they struggled at them. No-one yet had removed the tubes from their arms, when a mechanical voice echoed out into the chamber, a voice they also felt intruding inside their minds…

At this point, we started playing a simultaneous game of The Strange/Numenera and a cut down, somewhat modified game of A Penny For My Thoughts. The mechanical voice guiding them through some kind of “therapy” to restore their missing memories collectively. It was the first time any of these players had played A Penny For My Thoughts (I think) and we skipped a lot of reading and processes, condensing the process down into simply:

  • Each player contributes 5 memory triggers / random memory fragments that are not necessarily their own memories
  • Choose a random starting player, they become the Traveller and get a random memory trigger from the list generated earlier.
  • They choose another player to ask a Yes/No question, which they then answer with “Yes, and…”, elaborating on the answer.
  • They do that again for each player.
  • The machine then selects another person to ask one more question.
  • The Traveller then recaps the trigger and their questions and answers into a coherent scene, then starts describing the events following that scene.
  • When a decision or choice comes up in the description, another player interjects (or the machine chooses one to if no player does) and they make the decision for the Traveller, who then carries on.
  • This is done twice.
  • The new memory is then recorded/written down/whatever and the Traveller chooses who will be the next Traveller.
  • Rinse and repeat until each player has 5 memories.

I was tracking memory ‘points’ by way of the penny mechanic, but quickly abandoned it in favour of the machine streamlining the process by just making them do things as needed. We got through one round of memories by the time we had to end the session. Of course, whilst this was going on, the players could do things in the physical game world and didn’t just have to sit there and deal with the “therapy” they were being put through. Two of the players got up at the end of the first round of memories, and one of them ripped the luminous green tube out of the arm of another. That player immediately lost the connection he’d felt to the others minds (and the others felt him disappear from their minds also). The machine was not too happy about this and warned the player without the tube that the “procedure would be aborted if therapy was not resumed”.

Now, the memories immediately went to some weird places, quite possibly because they have a character with the Mad descriptor in their midsts and also because the machine is ancient (not to mention some surprise extra info I have yet to reveal). They did recall details about the world, such as their were in the Ninth World – a new humanity that was living on the remains of 8 great prior civilisations that had spanned the stars and perhaps even further at some point in the ancient past. The remembered things about the Steadfast and The Beyond and enough basic knowledge to understand the Numenera setting but everything else was fragments, especially when it came to themselves. As the memories were being built using the game of A Penny For My Thoughts, a theme emerged rather quickly.

Desserts.

Yep, desserts – every memory seemed to have desserts of some kind play a significant role. This was entirely without any prompting from me, which makes it all the more awesome. A quick summary of the memories are:

  • Bhaltair memory 1 – remembered deliberately sticking a tuning fork into an electrical outlet whilst eating banana bread, to see what would happen. This was barely 2 months ago, so done recently as an adult. He was naturally electrocuted, but this was due to his rubber insulation suit not being properly zipped up. With his ‘positively charged tuning fork’, he went to the fridge to get an old boot full of custard, which was to be used as some kind of organo-chemical matrix in some kind of experiment involving said tuning fork.
  • “The Great Mafini” memory 1 – remembered eating a wobbly, raspberry-flavoured blancmange with his cat at home. He had a heckler of one of his stage shows tied up in his basement, who he’d covered in blancmange due to discovering the heckler had a fear of it (possible allergy?). He went down to the basement because he was getting concerned about the guys suffering and the repeated, desperate promises he would never heckle him again, nor post any bad reviews about him. However, he decided to play some more mental torture on the guy by handing him some lotion and saying “it puts the lotion on the skin, or it gets the hose again”
  • Asher memory 1 – remembered eating ice cream at a french cafe. It was with a fellow Mossad operative during a stakeout, tracking some yakuza. Whilst eating the ice-cream they both got brain freeze and his partner was so afflicted he cried out in pain, blowing the op. They fled to the Parisian underground, lost their tails but blew all their money and had to walk back to their sleazy hotel safe-house on the outskirts of Paris.
  • Selena memory 1 – remembered punching a heckler during a show. It was a dark time in her life when she’d been forced into working in Amsterdam’s red light district, dancing and doing jelly/mud-wrestling. The heckler turned out to be her bosses wife, who she’d had a bit of a fling with and the punch led to a fight. However, they worked things out and the wife of her boss left him to runaway with her. They did try and return to the boss though, in hopes of getting into a 3-way relationship, but that all fell through due to the boss being a terrible person and trying to push them both back into the jelly-wrestling scene, so they ran again, fleeing to the middle-east, though once there they didn’t like it much.

So yeah, things got a little crazy, and it’s clear not all the characters are entirely the most stable of people. All this emergent information though gives me great things to work with for their backgrounds and tying the characters into the story (as well as for introducing complications later) and I might never have got this kind of detail straight-up asking for background information. It’s one of the reasons I chose A Penny For My Thoughts, a game I dearly enjoy all by itself, as an optional section in the game for them to go through, and I’m glad they’ve done at least one round. We’ll see what happens in the next session as to whether they continue and if Asher puts his cable back into his arm or risks “the procedure being aborted”.

A Rather Strange Evening

Yesterday evening into the wee hours of this morning, I was getting up close and personal with The Strange, the new roleplaying game from Monte Cook Games. I ran my first ever session having had a quick couple of read-throughs of the PDF for my in-real-life group, then had the pleasure of experiencing it from the other side of the GM screen as a player in a game run by Lucas Fox, accompanied by a player and the GM of a Numenera game I play online (which Lucas also plays in).

The TL;DR of this is simply – it’s a blast, I loved both running the game and playing it.

For running my game, I’d been captured by the idea of emulating the classic D&D cartoon. My players, all knowing each other in real life, played themselves and we started them off with only a descriptor – no types or foci – to represent their mundane, naive place in the world of The Strange. The game started at a fun fair, not something some of the players would normally bother with if not for the fact that there was a big geeky draw – a replica of the roller coaster ride from the D&D cartoon intro. Obviously, it was more of a haunted house ride than an actual dimensional hopping roller coaster, but for nostalgia’s sake the players were all up giving it a go at least once.

After much queueing, they eventually got onto the ride, but not before noticing a somewhat out-of-place man in a suit with a briefcase, looking a little nervous. They mostly just made jokes about him until a hulking brute of a man started pushing his way through the queue, clearly looking to cause some serious damage to the man in the suit. The suit quickly opened his briefcase to reveal some shoes, a hammer and a crystal ball. Taking the hammer, a hit the coaster carts and they suddenly lurched into high-speed, the safety restraints activating and locking in the few people that had already gotten into the cart (namely the players). As the cart rocketed into the ride, the suit touched an earpiece. “They’ve caught up to me. Rendezvous compromised. Requesting evac!” But then to everyone’s surprise, the huge man’s arm raised up the back of the rear cart, somehow he’d managed to jump and hold on and now he was climbing towards them all!

With the situation about to get a whole lot worse, the suit just swore, unable to move easily to defend himself in the safety harness, so he touched his earpiece again. “Going to do an emergency recursion. Got civilians with me, coming in hot.” He pulled the crystal ball from his briefcase and through it ahead of the roller coaster and it shattered into a strange portal, the players screaming as they rocketed through it into a dark, dense forest. Luckily, the portal closed just in time to stop the man coming through, well, at least all of him. He head made it through, but it wasn’t the face of a man any more, but some kind of grey, dog-like beast. The players were flipping out at which point I decided it was best to make them all choose a focus and type :D

This left us with our four players as:

  • Barry – An Inquisitive Spinner who Works Miracles
  • Alana – A Strong-willed Paradox who Practices Soul Sorcery
  • Greg – A Weird Paradox who Embraces Qephalim Ancestry
  • Ian – A Tongue-tied Vector who Wields Two Weapons at Once

As you may guess from the foci above – they weren’t on Earth any more. They were on Ardeyn. They clothing had all changed, their mobiles no longer worked, or were even mobiles at all. Most striking of all was Greg, who was some ebony-skinned, slightly canine looking creature. Surprised and shocked by the changes and the sudden assault on their minds and a wave of new knowledge and understanding rushed into their heads, they floundered, unsure of themselves until the suit, now also an ebony-skinned humanoid like Greg had become, introduced himself. He apologised for what was happening, but was also shocked by what he was seeing. The players had taken surprising well to the translation and their changes, especially Gregs drastic change, confirmed his suspicions – they were all Quickened, imbued with an innate connection to the Strange. However, there wasn’t time for any of that – it wouldn’t be long before more of those like the man chasing him came after them and he couldn’t complete his mission baby-sitting a bunch of civilians. He’d take them to a nearby safehouse in Ardeyn. Barry had a new-found knowledge of geography, and worked out they’d landed in the Green Wilds. Lucky for them, Agent Neal, as the creature had introduced himself, knew of a converted qephalim ruin deep in the forests that the Estate had a base at. Without explaining much further, he told them to stay quiet and follow him – these forests were full of Sarks, and two qephalims wandering around would be sure to draw their ire.

Unfortunately, they ran afoul of a group of 4 Sarks and due to some botched stealth rolls, were spotted and a battle ensued. Several bad rolls happened, including a 1 on Greg using his Kindred of Death ability which actually ended up infusing an injured Sark with deathly energies, raising it up to a level 5 creature instead and granting it the qephalim mythlight lance ability. After a protracted battle, mostly saved by the efforts of Barry’s healing abilities and Alana’s brutal Exception uses, they emerged victorious, though hurt. After some time, they reached the ruins Agent Neal had spoken of, an immense, black-stone mayan pyramid set into the side of an gigantic tree which must have been almost a quarter-mile in diameter. Awed, they followed the agent inside the dark temple, the only light the faint glow of his and Gregs mythlights. Eventually at a dead-end, the Agent touched a stone on the walls to reveal a modern-day looking numeneric keypad. He tapped in a code, got scanned by some kind of laser, then gave a voice print verification and the dead-end wall opened with a ka-thunk, revealing some kind of command centre filled with equipment circa 2000, so a little outdated, but not too much. Fill of other agents and analysts, some dressed in normal Earth attire, others clearly Ardeyn natives, a large stone golem in a suit greeted them and after a brief talk with Agent Neal, had armed guards escort them to a holding area whilst he debriefed the agent. The players waited patiently, browsing through some old National Geographics and Cosmo magazines in the waiting area.

Eventually, the golem returned and gave them a choice. Their lives would never be the same, Quickened as they were, they’d forever be a target, a resource to be abused and exploited by those that could make use of their talents. The Estate could keep them safe, erase their memories, keep an eye on them – they could go back to their old lives and forget everything, living under the careful watch of the Estate. However, they had proven themselves capable, they’d handled themselves well (especially since they had no equipment or weapons) and taking to translation surprising well for first-timers. As Quickened people, the Estate could use their talents and they’d be safer knowing their enemies than living in ignorance. With the right training, they could become agents of the Estate, if they were willing to try.

We ended the session with, after some deliberation, them accepting. They were translated to London, then escorted on a first-class train journey home and we called it a night. When they translated back, I ruled that their new Quickened state translated their knew knowledge and abilities back into Earth-compatible forms, so their focuses switched, leaving them on Earth with new abilities granted by their new foci as:

  • Barry – An Inquisite Spinner who Solves Mysteries
  • Alana – A Strong-willed Paradox who Works the System
  • Greg – A Weird Paradox who Conducts Weird Science
  • Ian – A Tongue-tied Vector who Wields Two Weapons at Once (it’s a draggable focus)

Effectively, this meant they’d developed new abilities and knowledge, just by virtue of translating back and forth, which probably isn’t exactly how it’s meant to work, but worked well enough for our purposes. All in all it was a fun game, even if not a whole lot was accomplished. The players did far less in the fun fair/intro-Earth portion of the session than I’d expected but that wasn’t a problem and it allowed us to speed through to the meat of the Strangeness. Of course, lots of questions remained unanswered – what was Agent Neal’s mission? Who was he meant to have met and what had happened to them? Who/what was that guy chasing him? And of course, since their pursuers head was in Ardeyn, does that mean his soul is in the Night Vault, and will sinister forces learn things from it or give it a chance at revenge?

Almost immediately after wrapping up that session, I got to play in another game, resurrecting a character of mine I had generated in a play-by-post playtest game of the Strange – Casey DeBraun, a Brash Paradox who Is Licensed to Carry. I’d built her initially as a sort of female Indiana Jones, but she ended up playing out as far more of a bitch than I planned, constantly disrespecting our ‘newbie’ agent who hadn’t been filled in on the Strange or any weird abilities and only referring to her by computer application names when I needed her to do things (she was a tech). I wont explain too much since the whole game is on youtube, but it was a blast and I nice change to play a contemporary-modern setting game (I tend to end up playing in fantasy settings mostly).