Welcome to the Data Haven

•December 2, 2008 • 13 Comments

Hello chummers.  😉

My name is J, but I also answer to Insomniac.  This blog will soon be the home of all my Shadowrun stuff that I have scattered around the Net.  Primarily a place to grab run notes, I plan on reviewing sourcebooks, posting fan fiction and perhaps even commenting on the game itself.

If you’re not familiar with Shadowrun (in the P&P RPG style, rather than the video games), it is a near-future, dystopian, cybernetic future game where fantasy elements have been re-introduced to the world causing an interesting blend of magic and machine.  The storyline is in-depth and there are so many things going on at once that Game Masters should have no shortage of material.  However, if you find yourself short on material, hopefully some of the future posts on this blog will help with that.  🙂

While I will occasionally pipe up like this, the bulk of my posts will likely be “in-character” as my grumpy, sleep-deprived sysop alter-ego, Insomniac.  He runs a board in the Seattle Matrix where shadowrunners can look for work.  He’s a no nonsense kind of guy, but he does welcome some discussion.  So if you’d like to comment on run notes, feel free to do so in character and become part of the dialogue.

Well, I think that’s it for now.  Hopefully, you’ll check back from time to time.


>>Oi!  Who’s grumpy?  Anyways, I figured I’d step up and introduce myself.  The handle’s Insomniac and I run my own little corner of ShadowSea.  If you need work, I’m your guy…assuming legality ain’t a scruple you tend to have.  If you think the shadows might be the place for you, then loiter for a bit and see what’s around.  Who knows…maybe you’ll be the next best thing round here.  Or maybe you’ll end up as the next red stain on the asphalt.  Either way, these should be interestin’ times, omae.  Perhaps I’ll see ya round.
>> Insomniac
“The shadows never sleep, so why should I?”

Shadows Over Las Vegas – Consequences (#Shadowrun)

•November 28, 2022 • Leave a Comment

It’s been a bit but the Vegas campaign has wrapped up and I will hopefully get the material posted here, in case others care to follow in the group’s footsteps, or use the material for their own campaign.

The team has had roughly a week to settle into their new safehouse when they are contacted by Brick-Base.  “Hey guys, I’ve got a line on some work.  Sounds simple enough.  I should mention that Mr. Johnson has asked for your team specifically for this job.  We can discuss what that looks like during the meet.  Meet you at the Classic at 8?”

Scene 1 – An Ongoing Feud

The Classic is a brick and mortar restaurant in the Downtown core styled in mid-20th century Vegas.  The place looks like an old diner with the wait staff carrying on that aesthetic.  The media system pipes classic Rat Pack music and the place completely and shamelessly cashes in on old Vegas nostalgia.

In the back corner of the restaurant sits Brick-Base.  The diner table in front of the massive troll seems almost comically small, even though the booth is one of the few that was “built for trolls”.  The massive bouncer sits with a large diner burger the size of a dinner plate (troll-size me!) which he is heartily digging into when the runners arrive.

He waves them over when he notices the runners enter.  He seems in high spirits and offers to buy them food, if they’re hungry.  Once everyone has arrived and has any food they might have ordered, he gets to the matter at hand.

“So, I’ve had a Mr. Johnson come and ask for you guys directly.  It’s a good sign that your reputation is getting to be better known out there and better jobs are bound to come in.  Until those better jobs come in, I’ve got another job for you for the time being.  A member of the Verontesse caught wind of your good work against the Koshari and he has a job he’d like to see done with your usual skill.  His sources have located a Koshari arms cache and he would like to keep extra firepower from making it into the hands of his opponents.  Since you guys have some brand recognition, I talked him up to 7,000¥ apiece for the job.  It sounds like a simple smash and grab…but it’s the simple jobs you have to watch for.  You guys interested?”

On paper the job looks straightforward.  Behind the scenes, the Koshari have set up the team to fall into a trap after their extensive meddling.  The Mafia believe that the Koshari are hurt worse than they are and aim to press the advantage.

Once the team agrees, Brick-Base smiles and nods.  “All right.  The cache is supposed to be stored at the Hunter’s Yard scrap yard.  If you don’t have a chemsniffer, I recommend you pick one up, as finding a metal gun in a scrap yard is going to be a needle in a haystack.”

Hunter’s Yard
Local Scrapyard
Possible Sources – Underworld Connections, Vegas Business Contacts
2/3 – The Hunter’s Yard is a scrapyard in the northeast part of the city, along the border with Nellis.
4/6 – One of the larger metal scrap yards in the city, Hunter’s turns a tidy profit on the throwaways of modern civilization, recycling what can’t be repurposed.
6/8 – The owner, John Hunter, is an independent businessman.  His lineage shows that he is 25% Zuni and has shown himself to be sympathetic to the Koshari.
8/10 – Not only do part of Hunter’s profits go to the Koshari, he has made pieces of evidence go away as part of his service to the group.

Matrix:  The primary network they access is PuebNet, represented by a dreamcatcher rimmed by idols from each of the tribes that make up the nation.  The iconography here is simple, a vast prairie with rolling hills and deserts, each landscape varying slightly depending on the city you log in from.  For Vegas, the prairie is split by bright lights, a long road and large stacks of poker chips.  The old Welcome to Paradise sign standing prominently over everything.

Scene 2 – Under Development

Hunter’s Yard is an old scrap yard, by modern standards.  It doesn’t employ robotics or drones that heavily and the place is ringed in dingy, corrugated steel fences, stained a dark red from the recent red rain that falls on the city.  The areas surrounding it are equally as dirty, with several derelict businesses dotting the area.  The only businesses that thrive here are those that cater to the airmen out of Nellis… restaurants, bars and other services can be found here, but most retail shops that have tried to establish themselves here have fallen flat.

There isn’t much local to the area the runners can use for high ground unless they go much further away from the scrap yard, where new condominium towers are being built.  Cranes and high rises could serve as a good sniper vantage point (but will find them guarded).  On the Nellis side, the area is vastly undeveloped, with security fences and Air Force personnel patrolling the area diligently.

Hunter’s Yard has its own Matrix node, though it is spartan in its utility and infrastructure.  An intrepid decker is likely to need to hack in to get anything to do with the employees.  The system has been ramped up in anticipation of the runners’ arrival.

Astrally, the area feels “dirty”.  No background count, but given that it is, for all pretense and purpose, a landfill… the astral space gives a feel of being unclean.  There are no spirits on site (but can be called) and no astral defenses to be seen.  The majority of the Koshari on site are waiting to spring their trap from under the garbage heaps, so that their auras are hidden from astral surveillance.  Getting 5 or more successes on an assensing test will also reveal the underlying feeling of anticipation.

Matrix:  Hunter’s Yard is a scrap yard.  Its Matrix needs are few and the system reflects that.  Minimal iconography has been employed, using a scan of an impossibly clean scrap yard.  The system feels vast and vacant, with only a handful of icons available to the end user.  As a non-employee, it provides a biography of the yard, their hours of operation and a disclosure of the environmental precautions they take.  IC is very heavy for such a basic system.

The main lobby of the system is very basic and often has more IC than icons moving about.  The iconography are basic humanoids for other users and drones for IC.  The system’s defenses are weak, but abundant.  In the security system, the user is able to track the location of any vehicles on the property, using a network of motion detectors positioned around the yard.  Cameras also dot the landscape.  The commlinks of the employees are locked away in the Admin portion of the system.

Host Rating: 6
ASDF Ratings:  Attack 9, Sleaze 6, Data Processing 7, Firewall 8

Security Processing:  Patrol IC is running all the time.  One standard Security Spider online at all times.

Once the alarm is raised, IC activates in the following order:  Probe, Black IC, Marker, Binder, Crash and Jammer.  If an IC gets bricked, a new version of the IC is rebooted rather than moving to the next.  There are no spiders in the system.

Scene 3 – The Trap is Laid

Once the runners have laid out their plans and they’re ready to go in, they may feel that the complex is underguarded.  There are a handful of Koshari on patrol, as well as the usual employees who are actually slinging the metal (they are still armed).  They all wait for the signal, though they will still engage if presented a target.  The runners will need to figure out how to best get to where the guns are stored with the active patrols.

When the runners get near the scrap metal trailers in the back right of the yard, the trap will be sprung.  There are pill boxes made of scrap erected throughout the wall of metal, a spirit will be called in and three distant snipers will take aim at the runners, looking to take them out.  Inside one of the trailers is Atahsaia (from the casino job), who has been hired to intercept the runners, should they gain access to the trailers.  When the runners encounter him, he greets them with the quote “Ever heard the name Eric Lasseter?”

Koshari on visible patrol are carrying HK-227X (Acc 5(7), 7P, All Modes, RC (1), 28c, Retractable Stock, Smartgun, Sound Suppressor) instead of Ceskas

Koshari in the pill boxes are using Colt M23s (Acc 4, 9P, -2 AP, All Modes, RC 2, 40c, Sound Suppressor, Bipod)

Snipers carry Ruger 101s (Acc 6, 11P, -3 AP, SA, RC (1), 8m, Imaging Scope, Shock Pad, Silencer).

One carries a Parashield Dart Rifle (Acc 6, 15S (Narcoject), SA, 6m, Imaging Scope)


Massive Troll Enforcer  (the name is a Zuni cannibal demon)

B11  A4  R3  S10  W3  L2  I3  C3  Edge 2

Init 6+1D6, PL 12, ML 4, SL 5(7)

Qualities:  Exceptional Body, Adrenaline Surge, Did You Just Call Me Dumb?, In Debt, Distinctive Style

Skills:  Acting Group 3(4), Athletics Group 3, Close Combat Group 6, Firearms Group 4, Perception 3

Knowledge Skills: English (Native), Zuni 4, Poker 3, Koshari Establishments 3

Gear:  Armante Suit (8), Commlink Rating 4

Weapons: Knucks (Acc 12, 11P, Reach 1, AP 0)

Spirits of Beasts and Earth are also on hand to complicate matters…

If the runners overcome the obstacles thrown in their path, there really is a weapons cache concealed within the trailers.  They can pull a few crates that ship SMGs, or there is one larger crate with an Ingram Valiant with a couple of belts of ammo.  There isn’t likely a way they can take it all.  They will get paid regardless of how much they make off with.  As they’re loading up the vehicle with weapons, T-Bone will get a call from Valley Hospital.

“Excuse me, is this Dominik?  Yes hi, this is Doctor [Amelia] Evans from Valley Hospital.  I wanted to call you as your brother Victor was admitted a couple hours ago.  He was shot several times during a drive-by shooting at the VIP Room.  He is going to be fine…most of the injuries were superficial.  PuebSec is currently interviewing him about the incident, but he asked if you could swing by in a few hours.  Said he has some forms for you to sign.  Is that a possibility?”

Scene 4 – The Aftermath

Valley Hospital is exactly what you’d expect from a downtown, public hospital… underfunded and overpopulated.  The doctors here desperately want to do right by their patients, but there are simply too many needy patients and not enough doctors.  The doctors they do have are the ones that value human life more than the all-might nuyen, but they are haggard and exhausted most of the time.

When T-Bone (and the others, if desired) arrive and they drop Dr. Evans’s name, they are told that she is currently in surgery and cannot talk to visitors.  If they ask about Victor Ellison, they are directed to the recovery ward.

After being bounced from nurse to nurse, they find Brick-Base sitting on the floor on a cot mattress too small for his massive frame.  “Hey, you made it.  Don’t be all worried about me.  My armor took the worst of it… plus PuebSec wants to give me some civilian award because I used my body to shield those in line.  Pretty sure I was the target… I think the Koshari have taken notice of you.  I’ll be turning down Koshari jobs for a while… your Johnson was also gunned down and he wasn’t as lucky as I was.  Lucky for you, the Mob is always in the market for guns… I found someone who is willing to honour your original contract.  You’ll get paid… just deliver whatever you got to this address.”

“Someone you guys messed with is looking for some payback… and they’ve hired someone to do some digging.  I’m going to do some digging of my own, but keep your ears open for any rumours.  Someone took a stab at us today… we need to show that no one does that and lives to brag about it.”

>> Not sure this one is such a great idea. You can only irritate the belly of the snake so much before it turns on you.
>> Deathrattle

>> That’s the trick, isn’t it? Do the job well enough to make sure they don’t know it’s you. Otherwise, it’s just a matter of time.
>> Harrow

>> Just how little attention do you think these sorts of people are paying? Most of the time, when they don’t come after you, it’s not because they don’t know you’ve hit them, but rather because it’s not worth the expense. Make it worth their while and soon enough, you’ll know just how much forgiveness they’ve already shown.
>> Wraith

A Quick Review – The Magus (#RPG #Magus)

•May 15, 2022 • Leave a Comment

During the height of the pandemic, I got into experimenting with solo RPGs. I figured that, since I couldn’t get together with friends, there was no reason to not experiment with story-telling. One of the systems I’ve tried recently is an indie RPG called the Magus, which I grabbed off of itch.io for a very reasonable price, if you find yourself interested. Much like my previous solo RPG journey while playing The Adventurer, it is a journaling RPG, where the experiences of your protagonist is recorded and read through their eyes. However, there is more crunch to The Magus, using dice to determine your fate in loose terms that help guide your narration.

In the grand scheme of things (and because I’m a fan of rolling dice), I found that I preferred the dice rolling mechanic to the card drawing system of The Adventurer, but I chalk that up to personal preference. Ultimately, I found the experience both challenging and quite enjoyable. I will post my end result at the bottom of this post, in case you are interested in reading what came from it.

The Game

The premise of the game is that you are a wizard that has struck out on their own, either of their own volition or forced out by those fearful of your power. Spanning seven events, you will shape their life and the results of their studies, for better or worse. You make friendships (or merely useful acquaintances) and learn spells… but there is a cost to power and you must decide whether the risk is worth the potential reward. The dice determine your success, failure and even the nature of the spell you learn, but ultimately it is your role as the chronicler to decide how those outcomes actually manifest.

One of the things I liked about The Magus is the moral dilemma that you are placed under with each choice you make. The choices you make initially, seem simple, but as the depth of power you seek grows deeper and darker, the choices you make carry more weight and the ability to harness those gifts gets more difficult.


As I mentioned above, The Magus uses a full suite of dice to help you navigate the game. A d6 and d4 help you to determine what random people your wizard encounters or what knowledge they stumble upon, while d8s, d10s, d12s and d20s all potentially play a roll in how fate fortunes your lone wizard. Roll the dice and see what you find, how you fare and learn the nature of the powers you hope to wield. Armed with these shards of knowledge, you write a journal based on those outcomes, detailing their reactions, their emotions and how the world around them views their actions.

The Magus is around 50 pages in a downloadable PDF (though the author is testing the waters for a hard copy, should there be enough interest), though the content of the pages are not jammed with text, but is rather artistically laid out to maintain its theme.

The Book

The book is laid out in a landscape format, chock full of art to help convey the theme. The rules are laid out well in the front half of the book, while the back half are the different scenarios you might encounter. So, while 50 pages may sound like a lot for a journaling RPG, less than half of the book are actual rules. The majority of the book are actually random results tables to help you flesh out the story.


Your character is the main character for the game. Whether they are good or evil remains to be seen. Ultimately, all the characters are your characters, but the one you chronicle for will be your protagonist, with other introduced via random prompt. Not much is known from the start, aside from some random prompts as to why you’re alone and why you are seeking power. The rest is what you make of it.

Final Thoughts

I enjoyed writing my short story using The Magus as a guide. I spread the writing out over three days, but you could write it all in one sitting, or pace yourself and do one entry per day (as you might do if you were actually journaling). I barely scratched the surface on the different variations you could get using the different prompts in the book. In addition, there is now an expansion called Through the Looking Glass, which gives you alternative prompts for each entry in the back of the original book.

If you enjoy guided writing and developing characters, I do highly recommend acquiring The Magus. It’s an inexpensive indie game that can help you explore the darker side of seeking power. On one playthrough, you could play a misunderstood mage, hoping to prove people wrong about him and on a subsequent adventure, an unapologetic dark wizard, aiming to bend the world to his whim.

If this interests you, check out The Magus and build your own world… so long as it lasts. My first mage’s journey is available below.

The Chronicles of the Magus Azalin

Day 1

To any who should read this, my name is Azalin.  I am the fourth son of Osim, a humble merchant who always did his best to look out for his family.  I was always the smallest child; picked on and tormented by my elder siblings and peers.  It was to escape this torment that pushed me onto my path for power.

I was in the midst of another beating at the hands of my schoolmates, when I cried out for what friends I had to help me.  Why it happened, I will never be sure, but this time my cries for help were heard by something else.  In a burst of power, those beating me and anyone standing close by to observe, were blown backwards as I hovered just off the ground.  Something inside of me had awoken.  The look of fear on those who had been mercilessly laughing before was invigorating.  However, I knew that once word traveled that I had awoken as a Magus, the authorities would be along promptly to see me in chains.  Such was the fear of magic that the standing regent would see all who possessed magic put to death.

So, despite this new unlocked potency within me and wanting to exact revenge for years of punishment, I opted to flee.  I returned home to grab a few bare essentials and left for the nearby riverboat.  I couldn’t care about the implications for my siblings, but I wouldn’t bring disgrace on my parents.  So, I boarded the ship, sailed out to the sea and moved down the coast, beyond the reach of the regent’s witch hunters.  With my paltry few possessions, I pawned them to make rent for a small hovel above the local apothecary’s shop.  It was here I would begin my studies.

Day 4

It took some time to track down any readings about magic, what with it being outlawed.  Eventually, I caught wind of a spell whispered about in the night markets that sprung up around town, called Twilight.  The rumour was that the spell could enable you to move about quickly at night and be almost invisible, even just standing in another person’s shadow in the day.  I decided to give it a try.

I went out to the market the next day, after a night of intense study.  I was pretty sure I had it rehearsed to perfection.  I strode through the market square, as people bustled about their busy day.  As I loitered among the crowd, I stood in front of a market stall and stepped a foot in the shadow of a woman studying produce opposite me.  I said the words “Encompass all, as per a shadow in Twilight” so that they would be carried off on the breeze.  I looked around and no one acted as if they’d heard me and I waved to get the attention of the stall owner.  He didn’t act as if he’d seen me, so grabbed a loaf of bread and started walking off, prepared to run if needed.

Nobody reacted.  It had worked!

I had much more to learn, but my first true spell was under my belt and I now had an easy way to keep myself fed while I worked.  Things were definitely looking up!

Day 7

A strange occurrence today… I met a man with a strange talent.  He seemed to be able to pierce my illusions.  I was making my rounds in the market, taking what I needed under the veil of shadow.  I had just finished collecting what I needed, when he stopped me.  I had attempted to duck under his reach, when he adjusted for my movements.  He could see me!

Thankfully, he hadn’t seen me steal the merchandise I was carrying; he merely wanted to pay me for the rum I was carrying.  He explained that he was a sailor that was down on his luck and merely wanted to drown his sorrows.  Despite my not inquiring further, he explained that he had professed his love to a woman in a distant city, who had been a longtime friend.  She rejected him outright and with a tone of incredulousness.  So, he came here to run away from his rejection.  I identified with him in that regard.

While listening to his tale, my spell had slipped from my mind and the local guard moved in and demanded I accompany them.  It would seem that standing at the edge of the square with an armload of stolen goods is a fair way to garner attention.  Before I could answer the charges, this man I had only just met squared off with the guards and told them that I was no thief, but a friend of his.  When the guards persisted, he punched the Captain square in the jaw!  We took that moment of disbelief by the guards to flee down an alley and once we rounded a corner, I pulled the man beside me, whispered my words and motioned for him to be still and silent.

The guards ran past us, despite being no further than an arm’s length away at one point.  Once we were in the clear, I thanked the man for his help.  He introduced himself as Edmond Barrows and we exchanged pleasantries.  I told him that I was a scholar of history (not a complete lie) and was furthering my studies here.  It turns out he was staying not too far from me.  I may be down one bottle of rum, but I strangely made a friend today, it would seem. 

Day 8

Last night, I tried to focus on my studies, but my mind kept drifting back to Edmond.  Why would someone stick up for another in the face of violence, when they don’t even know them?  It was something so outside my own experiences growing up, it didn’t seem likely that anyone was ever truly that altruistic.  Perhaps he saw me as an easy mark and a way to get cheap (or free) food and drink.  No matter his reasoning, Edmond has something I don’t:  brawn.  Having a big man that is willing to stick up for me is the opposite of what I’m used to, but in this strange city, I welcome the companionship.

Day 10

While it is contrary to my reasoning for being here, I have spent the past couple of days familiarizing myself with other parts of the city with Edmond. I haven’t strayed far from home much in the time I’ve been here and there is so much more to this city than I even knew!  There are larger markets, a commercial district, public baths and even a library!  While I don’t expect to find tomes of magic just resting on a shelf, it will factor into my research nicely. 

Edmond’s spirits have been on the rise with each day away from the woman that scorned him.  In the first days we spoke, he talked about little else other than his ‘fair lady’, but as time passed he sobered up for longer and longer periods.  Imagine my surprise when I learned that he was an educated man as well!  He had studied at a foreign university, learning language and commerce.  He could have been rich as a merchant, but instead chose to pursue a career as a sailor.

I told Edmond about the power coursing through my veins.  He knew already, of course after our incident with the guards a few days ago, but I talked about my past, my awakening and the risks I take by pursuing this course.  Edmond was sympathetic to my family’s rejection over something I had no choice in.  Both of us had been shunned by those who should love us most and with that came some understanding about each other.

For the first time, possibly in my life, I have someone I can trust.  It is a strange thing, having someone to confide in.  Perhaps I do have a place in this world after all.

Day 17

I don’t know what to make of today’s events.  I had been spending a considerable amount of time at the library, reading up on ancient empires and the magics they used to control their territory.  It would seem that the actions of this empire is the main reason cited for why magic remains banned to this day.  They used their magic in some horrible ways.  

Over the past couple of days, people have been giving me wary looks.  Edmond has noticed it too.  While Edmond might have been the only one to pierce my illusion, my appearing out of thin air didn’t go unnoticed by those in the market that day.  To compound the issue, my choice in reading material has also attracted some unwanted attention.  This morning, I went out to run errands without Edmond, which turned out to be a terrible idea.

I was in the shopping district and was purchasing some fresh herbs… I’ve been relying on Twilight less, but had I been using it, I might have avoided all of this.  A crowd of people gathered around me, threatening to run me out of town.  Several were carrying weapons of opportunity and others still ran off to get the guards, whom I had been trying to avoid. 

I asked them to step aside and let me pass, but they refused.  As they closed in around me, I was reminded of my youth… and these bullies wouldn’t be chased off by a parent or schoolmarm.  While I can definitely say it was not my best moment, I want to be honest; I panicked.

Something I had read in one of the many books I had been reading popped into my mind.  Since I wasn’t thinking rationally, I latched onto it and used it.  Unlike Twilight, which was a spell of subtlety, this spell poured out of me like a torrent of summer rain.  “Unleash the wrath from beyond, for I am your key” is what I said.

The sensation I felt from those words was almost indescribable.  I felt this hard kernel of white hot heat in my chest, only for that energy to burst outward.  The energy felt hot and wet, almost like blood and everyone around me was thrown back.  Weapons shattered, shop stalls were bowled over like reeds in a sharp wind and people were tossed like rag dolls.  When I saw my opening, I ran.  With the destruction I caused in my panic, no one would follow me.  As I ran, I could swear I heard … laughter?  It was hard to tell, as I simply ran back to my shelter and wasn’t paying full attention.

Once I got back to the relative safety of my room, I went over my books to try and figure out what exactly I had done.  In my reading, I learned that I had improvised some text from one of the ancient empire sources I had been reading.  Perhaps historians had got it wrong and I accidentally corrected it… whatever the case, the spell had been called “Blast of Demons”.  The power had been terrifying and yet exhilarating.  I had knocked away a group of angry men like they were no more a nuisance than a swarm of gnats.

Earlier this evening, Edmond came home and he asked me about what had happened at the bazaar.  I told him that I didn’t know.  I don’t know if he believed me.  When I asked him why, he told me that several townspeople were mauled and those that weren’t didn’t seem to remember anything.  My surprise was genuine when he told me that.  I knew nothing about maulings or why no one would remember a spell like that.

It was later still, long after sundown when the missing pieces fell into place.  I swore I could hear voices in my apartment, but there was nowhere a person could hide in the tiny hovel I called home.  I turned down my lantern to a mere flicker and I could see three silhouettes in the corner of my eye.  They were humanoid, but certainly not human.  One had long, sharp claws and grinned maniacally.  Another was hunched over, like its upper body weighed too much and had giant club-like hands.  The third was female… I think.  She was sultry and curvy and gave off the most enticing presence.  If you ignored the spikes, horns and maw of shark teeth, she might be beautiful.

I was frozen in place and didn’t dare move.  I closed my eyes and whispered a small prayer.  When I opened my eyes again, the figures were gone.  I felt that paralyzing fear relax only to smell a fragrance that was a mix of roses and viscera and I heard a lusty voice in my ear.

“You have released us and we thank you.  We will keep you safe from those who would do you harm…for now.  You are the key.  But know that a key that never unlocks the door serves no purpose.  Serve a purpose, and you will be safe.”

Even now, as I write this down, my blood pumps like ice in my veins remembering her words.  In my desperation to save myself, I may have released something terrible into the world.  I desperately need sleep, so I can correct this… but I feel as though I might never sleep again.

Day 18

I’ve been researching steadily, trying to find out how to send the creatures I unleashed back to wherever they came from.  I have had no success.  It would definitely help if I knew where that was, but I wasn’t entirely focused when I cast it.  If there were any early indications, I certainly missed them.

In the moments I have been able to pull away from my studies, I have been spending time with Edmond.  His down-to-Earth view on the world is refreshing and it reminds me that there is more to life than study.  He has been working to get the locals to not fear me so much and I appreciate his efforts.  Especially since they seem to be working.

In talking with some of the other villagers here, they have mentioned an increase in deaths of late.  Horrific maulings in the dead of night, or livestock torn apart and their entrails devoured.  I have a sinking feeling that I know the cause, but I dare not mention what I’ve seen.  I continue to see those demonic forms in the corner of my vision, looming menacingly close to me.  They likely know what I’m trying to do, but I hope not.  If they understood, I doubt they would let me finish…but I have to try.

Day 23

A strange occurrence happened today.  I met someone.  She is strong, resourceful and wily.  Her name is Arabella and she is…was… a monster hunter.  She would travel the wild areas beyond the city gates and slay fearsome creatures, bringing them back as curiosities or charging a fair wage to rid a village of a troublesome threat.  Her stories are wild and so outlandish, I wonder if they are more legend than fact.

When I asked her why she stopped, she told me that the last creature she faced (a massive, spiked bear, if her story is to be believed) dealt her a nasty blow.  She now no longer recognizes faces.  A strange affliction to be sure, but seeing how others around interacted with her, she definitely treats others like strangers until she hears their voice.  She had approached me because for a moment she thought she had had a flicker of recognition.  I was sorry to tell her that she was mistaken, but after we spoke for a time we found ourselves speaking freely.

Despite hunting the most terrible creatures, she is an optimist.  She dreams of a better role for the Empire and driving the monsters away from settlements so that her role is no longer required.  When she lost her ability to recognize people, she realized that hunting a monster only to not remember who offered the reward was a fruitless position, so she has opted to become a bodyguard instead.  Keeping her charge close can deflect a lot of that confusion.

As I heard her stories and the things she has done, it made me think of my current situation.  Could she slay creatures visible only out of the corner of your eye?  I didn’t want her to think me insane, so I haven’t mentioned the creatures I see to her yet.  But if I can cultivate a friendship with her, perhaps she could be part of the solution.  Having a fetching woman along with me would certainly give me a reason to get out of my home more…

Day 25

After spending a nice meal with Arabella, I was returning to my home when I was approached by an old crone.  I had barely noticed her when she gripped my arm with more strength than I would have thought possible for a woman of her age.

She spoke to me in harsh whispers, muttering about seeing what lies beyond death and that I was the only person who might comprehend her knowledge.  The depth of insanity I saw behind her eyes reminded me of the creatures I was being haunted by.  I pulled my arm away, told her I wasn’t interested and hurried away.  Those eyes tracked me all the way up the road until I rounded the first corner.

It was unsettling and it made me wonder… am I right in pursuing this knowledge?

Day 32

What have I done?  I was on a breakthrough in my magical research.  A way to send these baleful demons back from where they came.  I read tomes and scrolls of ancient knowledge in a drive to find the key and I had found it.  If I was the key to the door, then surely I could use that to push them back through the way they came in.

I slaved over that formula for days and even slept at my desk a few times.  Edmond pleaded for me to get out every once in a while and I promised him I would, but I was so close to a breakthrough in my research… I had to complete it.

Then, this morning I awoke, face down on my desk and when I looked over my notes in my sleep-deprived state, I had finished the formula.  It should have worked.  The method was flawless.  This would free me from my torment.

I brought the materials I would need in the early dawn’s light and walked to the ocean’s edge.  Standing knee deep in chillingly cold water, I spoke the incantation.  As the last words passed my lips, the ocean felt like it would freeze around my legs and before I could catch my breath, I was swept underwater.  The water itself seemed to be dragging me out into the middle of the ocean.  It was dark and mind-numbingly cold.  In my panic as I was dragged down, it had failed to register that despite being at crushing depths, I was still breathing.

Almost as fast as I had been dragged under, the pulling stopped and I was floating in the cold darkness of the ocean.  Two great eyes opened in the deep and stared at me.  Stared through me.

“You…” it spoke to me.  “You do not comprehend.  Why do you search when you fail to understand?”

I wanted to speak, but feared that I would be swallowed up by the ocean.

“You seek to control power you are not prepared to access.  With my guidance, the power of the universe could be at your command.  You seek to prove yourself?  Allow me to show you…”

I couldn’t answer.  I needed to get to the surface, but this force held me down.  I wanted to flee from those eyes.  Instead that voice laughed at me and I was dragged further down into the darkness.  In my panic, I screamed…

I awoke in my bed, bathed in sweat.  It had seemed so real…could it have only been a dream?  As I swung my legs out of my bed, I found my legs plunging ankle deep in icy water.  I was on the upper floor… How could there be water here?

I ran out into the hallway that ran outside my residence to find water flowing down the hall.  I was not the only one investigating all of this water.  It had flowed out onto the street in massive quantities.  Everyone had likely suspected it to originate from my room, but it was flowing out from a room down the hall.  It was very soon that I realized the water was from Edmond’s room.

The city guard that had kicked in the door suggested I not peer inside, but I had to.  The room was soaked and the smell of the sea dominated the space.  Edmond was laying in bed, bloated up like a balloon.  Water ruptured from his body in several places and poured out of him in volumes impossible for a body to contain.  I fell to my knees and sat numb in the frigid water as the guards escorted me back to my home.

My best friend was dead.  It had to be because of that vision last night, right?  What else could cause that?  I ran to my desk to check my formula that I had devised the spell from.  I could now see that some of the handwriting was different.  It was my handwriting, but shaking as if being controlled.

The spell I had created was supposed to be “Return to the Infinite Void” and with a few changed elements, the newly translated spell was “Impossible Ocean of Altered Sorrow”.  I didn’t fully comprehend what the spell had done, but I had definitely disturbed something terrible.  Edmond had paid the price for my dabbling.  Even though I just woke up, I’m still exhausted.  I will rest and then destroy my research.  I now understand why magic was banned.  The risks are too great.

Day 33

For the first time in a very long time, last night I got drunk.  Arabella was there and she consoled me on the death of my friend.  The guards took Edmond’s body to the beach, so the seemingly infinite amount of seawater erupting from his body would return to the sea, rather than flooding the town square.  I wanted him to have a proper burial, but that doesn’t appear to be an option.

I want to tell Arabella about all of it, but I don’t know how she would take it.  Would my scholarly pursuits be an affront to everything she believes?  Would I be a monster in her eyes?  I couldn’t risk it.  

Something is changing in the world after that voice in the dark spoke to me.  Monsters of all sorts were starting to emerge across the land and traditional weapons were proving to be vastly ineffective.  The Empire had lifted the outright ban on magic, in order to discover ways of defeating these new beasts.

So, having reflected on events, I can’t abandon my research.  Especially since I may have been the one to begin all of this.  I have to keep up the fight.  I have to find a way to stop this, once and for all.

Day 42

What a strange experience.  We had been working on a new spell.  One that would correct everything.  The spell would be taxing and would have to be considerably more powerful than anything we’d tried before if we were going to try to correct this.

After vigorous and tireless research, we thought we had it.  In order to see the spell done before these creatures truly took over the world, we had to act.  We even went without sleep.  We simply had to complete the task at hand.

We completed it.  The spell has no direct translation to the human tongue… the closest translation was something like “Alternate Corruption of True Creation”.  What a spell!  Being able to reshape the very fabric of creation!  We could locate the abominations roaming the world and simply erase them from existence.  We finally had a way to win back this world.  It is only a matter of time.

Day 60

It has been a tireless effort, but we have the opportunity to rest.  We taught the mages of this world our methods of fighting the blight facing this world and together we have been working to correct the growing danger.

With our work done, we can now settle into a life of comfort.  Our only regret is that we couldn’t fully eradicate the creature Azalin.  We are forced to coexist in this single body amidst his cries of torment, which grow increasingly tiresome.

He was the key and with some careful revisions to his work, we threw the door open wide.  The plague on this world known as humanity will be wiped out, or at the very least, driven to the most remote sections of the land.  To think our liberation would come at the hands of a small human with petty revenge in his heart.  Thanks to his short-sightedness, we are here.

We are free.

So, what now?

•April 26, 2022 • 2 Comments

It’s been a while since I last posted on this site. It hasn’t been entirely due to laziness… there is a part of that quiet time that has been considering what role the site is going to play for me in the future. You see, with Heroes for Hire actually doing pretty well, asking people to pay me to write and run material for them when I give material away for free here does seem a little counter productive in a few ways…

As the title says… ‘So, what now?’

I still intend to post my one-off runs and the campaign I’ve been currently posting will go up when I get free moments here and there (despite how little of the Vegas campaign is posted, the campaign finale is being run as I type this. The material I post here will get a little broader… more systems, more general knowledge posts and more gaming stuff in general. What is likely to decrease is the amount of run hooks I post, which I’m sure will be an area of contention among people who have been following this site for a long while. It was, after all, the primary purpose of the Haven.

Still, while I’ve been deciding the fate of this little blog, I have been very busy running campaigns and trying out several indie systems while I’ve been locked down for the pandemic. Expect me to weigh in on those soon. I hope that people will stick around while the blog changes course slightly. If there are any types of articles that you’d like to see here, leave me a comment and we’ll see what I can cook up.


Shadows Over Las Vegas – Patch of Sand (#Shadowrun)

•December 14, 2021 • Leave a Comment

It’s been a week and a half since the bank heist when Zaray calls up Hugh.  “Hey buddy… listen, I’ve got a friend who needs a team.  Payment’s unusual, but I think it’ll work for ya.  If you’re interested, come by Rena’s House of Pancakes and Bondage around 9PM.  Show up hungry.”

Scene 1 – Strange Bedfellows

Rena’s House of Pancakes and Bondage is a well known spot in Vegas in the shadowrunner community.  Rena is an incredible pancake chef and a renowned dominatrix, but she is also a well-established fixer.  Often the patrons here are affiliated with the shadow community.  The location is still open to the public, as Rena’s pancakes are known as the best in the city, despite the strange pairing.

Zaray is in the forward lounge, which spares the visitors from the bondage portion of the restaurant, save for the scantily clad waitstaff, wearing the bare minimum of leather and vinyl they can get away with.  Zaray is hitting on one of the waitresses when the team shows up for the meet, at which point, their fixer turns his attention to them, freeing the waitress.

“I’ve taken the liberty of ordering us a huge stack of pancakes.  We’ll get down to business when they get delivered,” he says, rubbing his hands with anticipation.  Being used to working with shadowrunners, the pancakes are delivered right at 9 for the group to dive into.

As Zaray loads up his plate, he starts into his spiel.  “So, Rena had some extra work she didn’t have the people to deal with… naturally, she turned to me,” he says, looking chuffed with himself.  “In any case, our client needs some new digs.  Something to do with his mentor or something.  In any case, he’s found the perfect place… but someone already lives there.  They refuse to sell, so our client wants to be more forceful.  He wants you to strongarm the owner into turning over the deed to the property, preferably without destroying the residence in the process.  In exchange, he offers you his current property, which he no longer wants, which you can use as a safehouse.  The place is off the books, so it can’t be traced by bank records.  Overall, not a bad deal.  Whatcha think?”

The deal here is legitimate.  The team is going to be given a piece of property as payment.  The details on who they are going after are fuzzy for good reason…

If the runners agree to the terms, Zaray flashes them a thumbs up with a mouthful of pancakes.  After he’s able to swallow, he says “Fantastic!  I’ll let Rena know.  Here’s the address… good luck!”

Zaray will tell them that the house is outright owned by the current resident, but he will hesitate to tell them that the owner is a Koshari boss…

Matrix:  The primary network they access is PuebNet, represented by a dreamcatcher rimmed by idols from each of the tribes that make up the nation.  The iconography here is simple, a vast prairie with rolling hills and deserts, each landscape varying slightly depending on the city you log in from.  For Vegas, the prairie is split by bright lights, a long road and large stacks of poker chips.  The old Welcome to Paradise sign standing prominently over everything.

Scene 2 – The Home of the Rich and Powerful

On the Northwest side of Vegas are a large subdivision of larger properties that back onto the Mojave.  The address the runners were provided are one of these larger homes:  a large, designer home with a manicured lawn backing onto red sand and scrub brush.

The home is owned by a man simply called Raven.  His birth name is a traditional Zuni name that he often gets butchered when others try.  His piercing dark eyes and jet black hair led to the nickname.  He is cold and calculating, which has not endeared him to his neighbours.  He doesn’t fraternize with the others in his neighbourhood, so information about his life is scarce.

He has an entourage on site that protects him, including his spiritualist, who is a mage.  There is physical security in place as well, that protects the property itself.

Security Features include:  hidden cameras, wireless signal dampening (Noise 2), flash-paks, wards, barrier spells, spirits

Once the runners have subdued the Koshari boss, he will direct the runners to a key that opens a storage unit.  The deed is stored in that location.  The storage unit is in the city’s west end, in Spring Valley.

Scene 3 – Stealing from the Underworld

Spring Valley is its usual quiet and unassuming self when the runners show up in the local U-Stor-It storage facility.  With row upon row of climate controlled storage units there is plenty of personal property here that is at risk should things go sideways.  Naturally, the Koshari units are well guarded, so of course things can go any direction.

The guards on duty are supposed to be notified whenever a unit is going to be accessed, so showing up unannounced is going to raise the alarm pretty quickly and cover will be light in each of the hallways.  The Koshari are going to rely heavily on spirits, drones and hit and run maneuvers until help arrives.

Security consist of guards armed with SMGs with Frangible rounds, as well as a small assortment of on-site drones, with a Force 4 Water Spirit on call should the alarm be raised.

Once inside the storage unit, they will find an assortment of contents:  drugs, guns, magical goods and a heavy safe that contains the deed as well as several other important documents.  Keep track of what the runners steal… the Koshari will take great offense if they make off with too many items.

The other items of note are:

  • A Force 3 Power Focus, cursed with an imp that redirects a portion of the spell cast through it back at the caster
  • A PSG Enforcer (pg 39 Street Lethal) sniper rifle that is wanted by PuebSec for a handful of police assassinations

Both items are locked away in a signal proof and sealed container in the storage unit.

Once they acquire the deed and escape, they will receive a digital “key” to a condo in Paradise that they are welcome to do with as they please.

>> There’s plenty of cheap real estate on Vegas’s outskirts… why displace the rightful owner of a house? Sounds like a recipe for making enemies.
>> Ty Qun

>> Mentors want what they want… there must be something about that house. Still, I agree with you. The current owner is not going to be thrilled about being driven out of his home. Especially if the rumours on the ownership are true.
>> Desert Striker

>> Certainly not wanting to make enemies that would make living in Vegas trickier. It’s already quite the place for backstabbing.
>> Media Junker

A Quick Review – The Adventurer

•November 24, 2021 • Leave a Comment

So, as a distraction from writing the same stuff repeatedly and wanting to try something new, I looked into a so-called solo RPG called “The Adventurer“. I say so-called simply because it doesn’t really have a lot of the trappings of an RPG and is more like a mechanic for adaptive storytelling, which is still a very useful skill for GMs and players alike in order to tell more fleshed out stories. For $5, it wasn’t exactly a steep price to pay for a little writing experiment.

The game is an exercise in journaling. Boiled down to its essence, you are writing a journal for an adventurer that is on some sort of quest. What kind of quest? Whatever type you want. What setting? Pretty much anything you’d like. You simply choose a setting and write until you feel the journey has reached a satisfying conclusion. All you need to play is a notebook/laptop to record your journal entries and a standard deck of playing cards.

You split the deck up according to the instructions in the rulebook (a real quick read, I might add) and depending on what you draw, it randomly provides you the location, people, things and obstacles they encounter along the way. You simply adapt the prompts provided to the story you’ve chosen to tell and write that day’s entry. That’s pretty much the gist of it.

Overall, I like the simple mechanic of the game and it could very easily help with generating elements of a character backstory or take a walk through your chosen setting through the eyes of someone who resides there. There are also optional rules for generating the world you’re part of at random. You use the same deck of cards (divvied up differently than when you’re playing) to divine the state of the world, using yes/no questions or more open-ended questions via concept prompts. My first attempt at using it, I decided to try something purely random and I’ll post the results of my game below. If you’re looking for writing ideas, you could easily spend more for a less efficient system. Check it out and try your hand at chronicling a long journey through the unknown.

The Road Home

I’ve included the divination questions I used to develop a rough idea of my setting, followed by the journal entries afterwards. Hopefully, it’s an enjoyable read.

Is it warm out? – No

Is there snow? – Yes

Am I in civilization? – No

Is there magic in the world? – No

Is the nearest Kingdom friendly? – Yes

Am I a criminal? – No

Am I a soldier? – Yes

Was I on the winning side of a battle? – No

What am I seeking? – My Family

Have I been travelling long? – No

What was the war over? – Broken Trust

12 December 1578 – Waxing Crescent

It’s been a couple of days since the New Moon.  Things have been quiet since this past morn, which leads me to believe that my suspicions were true:  that last great clash may have signalled the end of the conflict.  I hope that the war has ended… enough have died on both sides.  I never agreed with King Hydon’s justifications for the war in the first place, but he is my King and I obey him in all things.  This conflict cost us heavily… many of my battle brothers will not be returning to their wives.  Even my days as a Knight of the Lunar Order are likely at an end, as the wounds I suffered have robbed me of much of the strength of my left arm.

This damnable snow has slowed my progress, but I can now see the glow of the lights of my home on the horizon.  A week of travel should see the city gates before me and then to my loving Catherine.  For now, I must gather more wood for the fire if I don’t wish to freeze through the night.

13 December 1578 – Waxing Crescent

I was fortunate today.  I came across a small farmers village… a couple of farmsteads and barns.  The people and livestock had moved on, likely in response to the war, though there were a couple of chickens left behind.  I managed to track a fox that was hunting the stupid birds and despite my wounded arm, I managed to trap and kill the creature.  Between the fox and the chickens, I have food to carry me through the next few days and the fox’s pelt will help my armour to not be as cold against my skin.

The farmers even left some grain in their silo.  Between the stone fireplace and a straw bed, I believe I will sleep better tonight than I have in a week.  It delayed my trip home, but it was a much needed respite.

14 December 1578 – Waxing Crescent

I knew my luck wouldn’t hold.  I am still hunkered down in the farmer’s house.  It snowed heavily through the day, to the point that the road was invisible to my sight and there were no stars to guide me.

My supplies have also been reduced, as a traveling merchant found this place much as I did.  He was wary of me initially, but when I offered him some of my game, he offered up some wine he was peddling.  He says his name is Ivan and he came from the East.  I have never been that way, but from what he tells me he has traveled far and this sort of weather is common.  I welcome the company, but I long to be heading home.

16 December 1578 – First Quarter

Something is not right.  I parted from Ivan at dawn yesterday and made my way through the deep snow once the clouds had parted and I could navigate by the sun and stars.  The journey has been slow and the air sharp.  In addition, there has been no shelter since I left the cottage, so I am exhausted.

I have found a newer battlefield.

It appears that the forces of King Ledea continued to press forward after my forces were defeated.  I don’t know how we didn’t cross paths, but I suppose if I had, I might be dead.  There are not many dead here from Ledea’s army, so I must assume Hydon’s men were quickly routed.  I made shelter by an overturned cart to break the wind, in order to start a fire.  In searching the battlefield, I found a small wooden box addressed to a Winnea.  I suppose I will try to locate its owner when I get back to the city.  I have also made a new friend:  an old dog.  Perhaps it belonged to a soldier before, but I found it scavenging for food.  I offered it some chicken and now it clings to me like it has known me its entire life.  No mind, I appreciate the company.  Especially if I’m going to see more signs of conflict in the coming days.

18 December 1578 – Waxing Gibbous

I found an old shed built by the riverbank.  Judging by the smell of it, a fisherman uses the space for cleaning what he catches.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that his equipment is here.  Not that it would matter much if he had.  I never had the knack for fishing and the river is vastly frozen over.  It gives me a place out of the wind at least.

I’ve named the old dog Jake.  He seems to like the name… or at least he comes when I shout it, if nothing else.  He may be an old boy, but he is proving useful.  He seems quite skilled at catching small game.  It’s not much, but we got to have roasted rabbit tonight for a change of pace.

As the sun was setting, a stranger came up the road from the direction I was heading.  I tried to get him to stop, but he was in a hurry.  He stopped long enough to note my armour and he thrust a tome into my hands, saying it would be safer with me.  It is to my embarrassment that I could not tell him that I was never taught to read, but he did not linger and continued down the road.  I had hoped to hear news of the battle.

20 December 1578 – Waxing Gibbous

It is with a heavy heart that I pen these words.  Hawksburg has fallen.

I can see the city from where I rest tonight and the palace is ablaze.  It seems that Ledea would not be assuaged.  Knowing King Hydon as I do, he would not have yielded.  He was always headstrong and stubborn… It was his headstrong actions that kicked off the war.  He felt Ledea would make no noise if Hydon snatched some of the allied King’s land to feed his people.  Rather than simply stealing the land, he could have worked out a deal with Ledea… but Hydon said that would show weakness and his method showed guile.  He was a fool.

I desperately want to push onward to the city, but I am tired, hungry and sore.  If Ledea’s soldiers remain, I would be in no position to fight, should it come to that.  I think my wound from the battle is getting worse as it aches all the time and the smell is off-putting to say the least.  I had found sanctuary in a Temple of the Moon for the night, but the priest had been inflicted with a grievous injury.  He bade me welcome all the same, but there was nothing I could do to help him.  I said the Eternal Night Litany for him as he slipped from this world.  It seemed to bring him some peace in his final moments.

It appears that the holy text from the temple is missing and on reflection, I realized that the book that was thrust upon me by the stranger appears to be the missing book.  The stranger was likely the one who murdered the priest and stole the book, only to realize it was not worth the trouble when he ran into a Knight of the Order.

21 December 1578 – Full Moon

Hawksburg is my home, though it feels strangely foreign today.  I walked through the city gates, seeing the splintered remains everywhere and the smoldering wreckage of the library straight ahead.  The local Governor kneeled before a large number of the soldiers of Orewell and Ledea’s flag flew over the city square.  The Governor was in the midst of ceding the city to their new ruler.

It was only a matter of time before I was noticed walking into the city and the soldiers surrounded me.  I was hardly in any position to offer a fight.  They stripped me of my weapon, armour and regalia.  After sleeping in my battered plate for a week, I welcomed its removal.  They let me hang onto Jake at least.  The box I found was taken and while they say they would locate the owner, I don’t put much stock in the words of conquerors.

I’ve been allowed to keep my journal and a quill to pen this bitter homecoming.  They have sent for a doctor to treat my arm and provided me with a bucket of water to wash with while I rest in jail for the night.  I hope they will see that I am no threat, so I might return home.  The guards refuse to tell me which parts of the city saw fighting, so I don’t foresee much sleep for myself tonight.

22 December 1578 – Full Moon

This may be my last entry.  Recording my journey home has been one thing I could lean on day after day to keep the solitude at bay.  Today, the doctor came and said that he needed to operate or my injury could still kill me.  However, I demanded to be allowed to see my wife before the surgeon does what he must.  I can tell the wound festers and must be cared for, but if I should die in the treatment, I want the journey to matter.

I went to our favourite park in the city’s lower quarter.  Mercifully, much of the area had been spared in the conflict, though the monument to King Hydon has been unceremoniously toppled into the snow.  Despite the aftermath of battle all around, the local children made sculptures in the snow.  It was heartwarming to see something untouched by war.

Then she was there.  My Catherine.  She stepped into the park and spotted me, favouring my right side and streaked in dirt from the road, but alive.  She ran across the park and despite the smell my wound gave off, she wrapped her arms around me and hugged me tight.  Most of the men of the city had not returned and she had felt that the same fate had befallen me.  Though it hurt to do so, I hugged her tightly, kissed her and told her that thoughts of her carried me home.  I promised to return to her after my injury is treated, though I am skeptical.  Many men do not recover from these sorts of infections.  I expect days of pain ahead, and if I emerge out the other side I hope to spend my remaining days in Catherine’s embrace.

A Glimpse of Normality

•October 28, 2021 • Leave a Comment

It’s been a long and quiet summer here this year. With the ongoing pandemic, it hasn’t exactly been conducive to gaming, though I have tried to get in some board games in when I can. I still don’t have an ongoing Shadowrun campaign, scheduling for 7th Sea has been extremely difficult and I’ve run a few sessions of Ten Candles to help fill the void… the fact of the matter is, there is still a lot of caution and mistrust around regarding vaccination status and risk vs reward.

So, with the added caution, it was some reservation that I agreed to attend my favourite local convention, Phantasm when it opened its doors in mid-October. With all of the COVID precautions in place I opted to still attend. It was a very different vibe than past conventions… Phantasm has always been a smaller gaming con, but the main gaming room was downright spacious this time around, with tables spaced apart for social distancing. All players were masked and proof of vaccination at the door also helped to curtail the population. It was also only a single day affair as opposed to a full weekend event.

Whether it was just from being able to indulge in my nerdiness, socializing on a larger scale for the first time in over a year or seeing faces I had grown accustomed to only seeing on social media… it was great to go out and enjoy something that (for me) was normal. Sure, everyone was masked and many of the people I enjoy chatting with were unable to justify the long drive for a single day. At the same time, I got to sit down with a mix of old friends and fresh faces, play Shadowrun, 7th Sea and Ten Candles in an absolute binge of GMing, junk food and fraternization.

As an added bonus, I even won the convention’s Hammer of Plot, their storyteller of the year award. It’s nice to know that sporadically gaming over Discord hasn’t dampened my ability to busy a table with a crisis of the moment. It gives me hope that we can adjust to the reality we’ve been thrust into with this pandemic and return to a new normal.

I have plans for the future… a new Shadowrun game that will be mostly improv, low-prep and player-steered. I’m excited to try my hands at Blades in the Dark, which I recently picked up and have high hopes for, as well as blowing the dust off my board game shelf more frequently going forward. As we settle back into our new normal, I will need to find a new personal comfort zone. Before the pandemic, I was able to host game nights every Friday night. Since then, I have divorced, moved and seen my professional life change. My Friday’s are no longer feasible. With luck though, I will find a new way to regularly indulge in my favourite hobbies, that fits within my new life.

Once we’re out the other side of COVID, I have so much gaming to do…

Shadows Over Las Vegas – A Vegas Classic (#Shadowrun)

•October 28, 2021 • Leave a Comment

A week after the call to the Mojave, Grifter is called by Mr. Johnson.  “Hey Grifter.  You remember Mr. Chen?  He was impressed by your team’s performance and would like to hire you again.  Would you be willing to meet under the same conditions as before?  A team rep at the Nugget for 7:30 tonight?”

Scene 1 – A Tour of Fremont Street

The Nugget has undergone several overhauls over the years and it is the nicest stop on Fremont Street, though it is still outclassed by the massive resorts along the Strip.  The street is still quite busy, but regardless of the foot traffic a limo pulls up at 7:30 sharp.  A chauffeur gets out, rounds the vehicle and pulls the curbside rear door open.  Addressing the chosen runner he motions into the back of the car.

Sitting in the back is a manicured Chinese man.  He looks bored by the whole situation, wearing a handful of gold rings on his fingers and a crisp suit that likely costs more than the team member’s rent for the year.  “Welcome.  Please, help yourself to the bar.”  The man motions to the driver and the limo pulls away from the curb.

“I must admit… your team surprised me last time.  You were very efficient in completing your task and throwing off suspicion.  Making that fool Lasseter take the fall for everything was very clever.  So, there is another matter I need taken care of in town, in order to secure my company’s future here in Vegas.  It is, regrettably, not overly subtle…”

“In the tradition of this city, I need you to rob a bank.  A specific bank…Nevada State Bank and Trust.  It’s an old institution, but I would not assume that their security is that old.  There is a safety deposit box I require and I am not the…shall we say, rightful owner.  I want the box delivered to me, undamaged and sealed.  Anything else your team can liberate can be considered a bonus.  I would request you take a few extra boxes, so the true target of the theft is obscured.  Since there is a risk to your team for something so… old-fashioned… I’m offering your team 12,000¥ apiece.”

Chen genuinely needs what’s in the safety deposit box for his plans.  He feels that since the team were such overachievers, they could have a chance to pull off the job.

If the team signs on, Chen steeples his fingers and smiles.  “Perfect!  The safety deposit box I am after is B-31.  I want the box delivered undamaged… obtaining the key would be nice, but ultimately unnecessary.  Anything else you manage to steal is yours to do with as you wish.”

Mr. Chen will field questions about what they’re transporting:  it’s not explosive, not particularly fragile, but that if the seal on the box is broken, the contents will be useless and they won’t get paid.

Mr. Chen
Black Ops Recruiter
Possible Sources – Corporate Contacts, Shadowrunner Contacts
2/3 – The only name that exists for this man is Wu Lei Chen.  He has only existed since about 7 years ago.  All previous records of him have been deleted.
4/6 – His stomping grounds are in Hong Kong.  He works for the Pacific Prosperity Group.  No idea why the PPG is interested in an inland desert city.
6/8 – Several AA corps that are part of the PPG have been expanding into Europe of late.  This could be tied to the expansion of the shipping network.
8/10 – Chen is pulling his weight around for Wuxing this time around…

Nevada State Bank and Trust
Financial Company
Possible Sources – Corporate Connections, Financial Sector Contacts
2/3 – Nevada State is an owned subsidiary of the Pueblo Corporate Council.  The national government purchased the bank from the old Ute government.  Many of the former Ute citizens bank through the company.
4/6 – The bank is one of the few organizations in Las Vegas that still maintains a vault for physical items like art, gold and sculptures/artifacts.
6/8 – PuebSec themselves serves as the on site security.  While equipped to deal with minor threats, they will bring in reinforcements quickly.
8/10 – Their security system was recently updated to include new features that are inaccessible from the main Matrix system.

Matrix:  The primary network they access is PuebNet, represented by a dreamcatcher rimmed by idols from each of the tribes that make up the nation.  The iconography here is simple, a vast prairie with rolling hills and deserts, each landscape varying slightly depending on the city you log in from.  For Vegas, the prairie is split by bright lights, a long road and large stacks of poker chips.  The old Welcome to Paradise sign standing prominently over everything.  The Noise on Fremont Street confers a penalty of 3.

Scene 2 – The State of Finances

Nevada State has a few branches in Las Vegas, but the branch they’ve been hired to hit is the branch in Sunrise.  It’s a single story bank location that caters to those who come and go from the Strip to deposit winnings, or withdraw money to gamble with, so the bank is often busy and is open later than most banks in the city.

There is a security guard stationed at every entrance in and out of the bank and the building has a two-layer ward:  a ward preventing astral recon and a second protecting the vault.  Cameras are very prevalent throughout the bank with pressure plates in key places.  Retractable, armoured shutters protect the tellers and the passage to the vault at the first sign of trouble.

The Matrix Host within the bank is interleaved… there are three separate security systems, each overlapping in coverage.  Suppressing the cameras can be possible, but at the risk of exposure, while suppressing three separate systems.  Some security measures, such as the shutters, are manual and cannot be retracted by the security grid.  If one system detects a breach, the other supporting systems will go to an alert.  Turrets, armed with gel rounds, will take out any intruders they detect.

Inside the vault, a bound air spirit has been tasked to prevent any unrecognized aura from escaping the vault.  The vault also has safeguards preventing the early removal of safety deposit boxes, by having injector tips at the corners to inject Narcoject into the would-be thief.  All security measures are designed to be non-lethal.

Scene 3 – The Heist

The bank is a modernized affair, with active AROs, marble floors and clean decor.  The digital side of the bank will be somewhat suppressed if they choose to break in after dark, but security is cleanly integrated into the facade of the building.

The runners have two different environments to contend with, depending on when they break in.  Going in during the day will draw more public attention, provide hostages and mean that security’s response will need to be more measured.  Going in after dark means that security will be more prevalent and will show little restraint in attempting to subdue them.

Security Guards using average to above average stat lines.

Lone Star Castle Guards (as per Rigger 5)

Features:  Light Weapon mount with Ares Predator V, Targeting Autosoft (3), Smartsoft, Smartsafety bracelets

Armed with: Smartgun, Stick’n’Shock Rounds – (6S(e) DV, -6 AP Total)

MCT Gun Turrets (as per Rigger 5)

Features: Standard Weapon Mount with SCK Model 100 mounted

Armed with:  Smartgun, Folding Stock, Gel Rounds – (8S, +1AP Total)

Bound Force 6 Spirit of Air

Additional Powers:  Elemental Attack, Fear

Force 5 Spirit of Man

Additional Power:  Control Thoughts

Assuming the runners can subdue security, access the vault and get to the safety deposit box that Mr. Chen wanted, they will have to get away from PuebSec.  

Matrix:  Nevada State Bank is an old institution, pre-dating the Awakening, the Great Ghost Dance and the split of the NAN.  That said, after all of those events took place, the Ute Nation held a referendum (as they always did) and the public opted to keep the name.  It remained a separate entity as a private bank until the Crash of 64, when they lost most of their digital records and much of their clientele’s recorded wealth.  The resulting lawsuits left the bank bereft of capital and when the Ute Nation similarly collapsed and was absorbed by the PCC, the bank was bought into by the government.  Saved from extinction, the company now has branches all throughout the PCC.

After the Crash, the bank kept most of their desert themed system untouched, save for switching the Ute iconography for Zuni and Hopi.  The “plains” look of the system walks the user through the different landscapes the PCC tribes call home.  Icons are designed to fit into a tribal village motif, with personal icons appearing as classic Natives in traditional garb, while IC and security icons sport streaked warpaint made of flowing code.

Host Rating: 8
ASDF Ratings:  Attack 9, Sleaze 8, Data Processing 10, Firewall 11

Security Processing:  Patrol IC is running all the time.  One standard Security Spider online at all times.

Once the alarm is raised, IC activates in the following order:  Probe, Black IC, Sparky, Killer and Track.  If an IC gets bricked, a new version of the IC is rebooted rather than moving to the next.  If the system is being overrun, one new Troubleshooter logs on after 2D6 turns.  Their priority will be to lock down the system any way they can.

Scene 4 – In Hot Pursuit

With the heist complete, odds are the alarm was raised and if PuebSec isn’t already on scene, they will converge on them shortly.The reinforcements will come in the form of cars, motorcycles, spirits and a helicopter.

Police Reinforcements have a slightly better than average statline.

Buell Spartan Motorcycle (as per Rigger 5)

Dodge Charger (as per Rigger 5)

Additional Features:  Rear-facing Road Strip Ejectors (6 Zapper Strips) (10S(e) Damage to Vehicle), paired forward-facing AK-97.

Loaded with APDS (-6 AP Total) and Smartlink (+2 Acc)

The motorcycle cops are just trying to keep an eye on the car, to relay location.  If pressed, the motorcycle cops will attempt to shoot the car with their sidearms, which have tracker rounds in them.

If the runners can shake their tail and escape the police, they will need to lay low for a while and potentially ditch their car to avoid PuebSec.  Good to his word, Mr. Chen will pay them for the delivery of the safety deposit box, whenever they choose to do the hand-off.

>> You have to be insane or desperate to try and rob a bank these days. Which is Mr. Johnson?
>> Mercury

>> I’m gonna go with the latter. The stuff he’s after is hard to come by, stores well and doesn’t need to be accessed much. He pretty has to go in and get it.
>> Dine

>> You know what Mr. J is after do you?
>> Haz-Matt

>> Yes.
>> Dine

>> Care to enlighten us?
>> Haz-Matt

>> No.
>> Dine

A Quick Review: Ex Novo

•June 3, 2021 • Leave a Comment

After hearing about an interesting RPG that could be run solo, as well as in groups, I took a look at a simple system released by Sharkbomb Studios. The game is called Ex Novo and I first heard about it from a YouTube video, where solo RPGs for the pandemic were discussed.

The idea of a solo RPG was intriguing, but I wasn’t sure it was something for me. The idea of Ex Novo, of a city-building RPG, really struck me though and being only $10 for the PDF, I though it would be an interesting experiment, if nothing else. Having played around with the system, it can lead to some satisfying results.

The Game

The game, at its basic premise, is simple. Select a setting (fantasy, sci-fi, etc), the size of the city and how long the city has stood. Then the players either choose or randomly determine the geography, where the initial city was founded and why. Who runs the city and what factions make up the city’s elite.

With the situation of the founding created, the players then roll on a series of tables to discover the events that shaped the city’s growth and expansion. The game encourages making choices in the city’s lifespan that are fixed past events that were pivotal in the growth of a city, if the city is part of an existing campaign and there are core plot points that require certain events in the city’s history. The use of citizen and power points allows the group to track which factions have the most influence, as well as determining city density.

The system is vastly comprised of random dice roll tables, with ‘what-if’ questions for each result to guide the player(s) into figuring out how each event might manifest in the culture they’ve created


The game is mechanically simple. It recommends a pencil and paper for drawing the layout of the land, tokens to represent citizens and power as well as 3d6 to handle all the rolls in the game. Cue cards can be useful in recording the different factions that govern the city. The group works together to decide what the land looks like, how it is divided up and the initial factions that run the land. Using this handful of tools and a series of tables, the group tells the story of the rise of this city.

The entire rulebook is less than 50 pages and most of that are tables. The game is very rules-light and the only real limitation is the creativity of the group.

The Book

The book is a simple PDF, comprised vastly of tables and sparing artwork. The artwork is simple linework, which for the system of building a city using hand-drawn maps, the artwork showcasing that the maps don’t have to be an elaborate affair is appropriate. The editing is clean and pretty clear (I wasn’t very clear on how power tokens worked after my first read-through). It is simple and not overly elaborate, which is well-suited for a $10 game.


There aren’t characters to Ex Novo per se. The factions and citizens of the city may count, or the facets that make up your city. The city itself is probably the closest amalgam to a character, and its factions, districts and people are simply elements of its personality.

Final Thoughts

I enjoyed my first run through of Ex Novo. It proved to be an interesting thought experiment exercise and I see a lot of potential for use in conjunction with other systems. Ultimately, that is how I used it for my initial experiment and it fit well into the system I was using.

In my current 7th Sea campaign, the players encountered an old ruined Mayan city, partially buried in an ancient lava flow. They explored the ancient temples and found it to be some form of holy site. By adventure’s end, they realized that the island’s reputation of being cursed seemed vastly overstated and opted to build a base of operations for reaching out into the Western Atabean. As a thought exercise, I used Ex Novo to design what the city was like before the catastrophe that brought the city to its end. It took about two hours and seeing how the city rose from a humble settlement to a medium-to-large urban center was interesting. I now have an idea of what other mysteries lay waiting for the players as they excavate and claim the island for themselves.

I could see this being a powerful tool for GMs running their own homebrew settings, where, as an extension of a group’s Session Zero, the group could work together to develop the city that would form the center of the campaign, building the tapestry that they will call home and having a hand in shaping who their characters are, based on the world the group has built for themselves.

If you enjoy world building and designing your own world, I think that the $10 you would spend to pick up Ex Novo could be money well spent. Seeing how my doomed Mayan city came out, I see myself using this system again to flesh out the world as my pirates explore the New World in 7th Sea, or a settlement on an outer rim world in Firefly. The applications for the system are quite expansive in a hobby about creating all new worlds.

Shadows Over Las Vegas – The Past Comes Back (#Shadowrun)

•June 3, 2021 • Leave a Comment

This was the fifth entry in the Las Vegas campaign.

The team is contacted by Brick-Base.  He asks them to meet him in the alley behind The VIP Room that evening at 10PM.  If asked for details on the job, he says that the job is investigation and destruction based.

Scene 1 – Quick and Dirty

The VIP Room is a second-rate dance club just off of Fremont Street, with cheap beer and dollar slots for those who had already spent most of their money on the Strip.  It’s also where Brick-Base works his day job as a bouncer: a role no one in the city would question why a troll worked the Downtown area.

Right around the 10PM mark, Brick-Base takes his break and steps into the back alley.  After lighting up a cigar and taking a heavy pull off of the massive Cuban clamped in his jaw, he turns to the assembled team and whether all are present or not, he gets down to business.

“I don’t get much time for my break, so let’s get down to it.  I got a call this evening from a Mr. Johnson who has a task they claim is urgent.  They’ve received some intel about some dicey magic rituals going on outside the city limits in the Mojave.  They want you to investigate the site, look for signs of magic use and, if you find any, destroy the site to prevent any further magical contamination.  Due to the risk of going to the Mojave and the short timeframe, Mr. Johnson is offering 15,000¥ apiece.  Are you interested?”

While Brick-Base doesn’t know this, the job is a setup.  Mr. Johnson has authorized Brick-Base to negotiate with no upper limit on the pay, so long as the team agrees to the terms.

Once the team is on board, Brick-Base will provide the team with GPS coordinates of the site in question.  “Legwork will be difficult on this job… the site is caught up in the weird magic out there… even satellite imagery is unreliable.  Best of luck out there.”

Matrix:  The primary network they access is PuebNet, represented by a dreamcatcher rimmed by idols from each of the tribes that make up the nation.  The iconography here is simple, a vast prairie with rolling hills and deserts, each landscape varying slightly depending on the city you log in from.  For Vegas, the prairie is split by bright lights, a long road and large stacks of poker chips.  The old Welcome to Paradise sign standing prominently over everything.  The area around Fremont Street is on the fringe of the spam zone surrounding the Strip.  The area has a Noise modifier of 4.

Scene 2 – Into the Desert

The Mojave has sprawled in the past decade, making it much larger and the dominant feature South of the city.  Barriers have been erected along the sides of I-15S to prevent the blowing sands from burying one of the main arteries and or out of the city.  However, once the runners have driven an hour and half outside of Las Vegas, they arrive in a small desert town called Baker, that has been all but erased by the desert wind.  Turning North on the old Death Valley Road can only get them so far before the road is too buried in red-yellow sand for vehicles to proceed.  The rest of the journey Northward will have to be on foot.  Blowing sand makes the journey difficult to see more than a couple meters away.

As they near the structure that corresponds to the GPS coordinates they were given, they see an animal trot out of the blowing sand.  The animal seems unperturbed by the whirling sand and as it sets its eyes on the runners, they hear a voice in their head.

“Travelers… you do not belong here.  Return to your caves of metal and stone.  You are not of the desert.”

If the runners do not heed the spirit’s warning, it declares:  “Very well.  If you will not leave my dominion, I shall force you out.”  It de-materializes and summons creatures of the desert to push the runners out.

Deathrattle, Nova Scorpion and Coyote from Running Wild

Free Beast Spirit (Force 6)

Extra Skill: Sorcery

Chosen Optional Powers:  Concealment, Venom

Free Spirit Abilities:  Vessel Trading (Force * 2 vs Int + Will), Banishing Resistance

Once they have bested the free beast spirit, they are free to enter the building, which is labeled as the Hopi’sinom Kiho (Hopi Tribal Heritage Center).

Scene 3 – Rival Faith

The Hopi Tribal Heritage Center is a sandstone building decorated in tribal artwork and imagery, devoted to their relationship with the Mojave and the surrounding lands.  However, the building appears dormant, as sand has built up against the side of the building and a single car sits in the parking lot, seemingly forgotten save for a blind, designed to try and keep the bulk of the sand out of the car’s inner workings.

Inside the building is equally deserted, though the building looks more like a tourist trap, with information on the history of the Hopi people, cheap tribal-looking merchandise and vials of desert sand for people to “carry the spirit of the Hopi people with them”.

The basement looks a little different, as it is not set up for tourists, but more to serve as a community center for indigenous peoples.  A large ritual circle has been erected in the middle of the main room and the back room is warded (a magical lodge).  Inside the lodge is an elderly Hopi man, reading a book of folklore.  He seems both delighted and shocked to see someone in the building.

“Hello!  Tatam!  Is there something I can help you find?”

If asked about the circle in the main room (in case it hasn’t already been assensed), he tells them that it is used for telling tales of their people and not magic.  The magical lodge he resides in is used by their membership to help them reach out to their ancestors.  Hopefully, they will learn that he is just a kindly old man and they’ve been duped.

In the main room, smoke grenades are thrown in and the basement begins to fill with thermal smoke.  A group of radical Christian thugs, led by a zealot of a hitman enter the room and begin to hunt for any “redskins” as well as Parallel, as per their contract.

Zealots are low level thugs, used to bolster their numbers

The Apostle

Christian-Themed Assassin

B6(8)  A5(7)  R6(10)[11]  S6(8)  W4(6)  L3  I5(7)  C3  Edge 4  Ess 0.04

Init 11+1D6 (18+5D6), PL 8(13), ML 5(7), SL 4(5)

Qualities:  Toughness, Guts, Exceptional Reaction, Tough as Nails 2, Addiction (Severe, Jazz), Code of Honor (Religious Doctrine), Prejudice (Radical, Non-Christians)

Skills:  Acting 4, Athletics 3, Close Combat 5, Firearms 3, Perception 4 (6), Sneaking 5, Demolitions 4, Throwing Weapons 5, Pilot Groundcraft 4, Gunnery 3, Archery 5

Augmentations (all Alpha Grade):  Reaction Enhancers 3, Wired Reflexes 2, Aluminum Bone Lacing, Cybereyes 4 ( Low-Light, Smartlink, Vision Enhancement 2, Flare Compensation, Vision Mag, Thermographic), Ultrasound Sensor 6, Cerebellum Booster 2, Adrenaline Pump, Cortex Bomb (Area)

Gear:  Light Security Armour with Helmet (18) [Shock Weave, ChemSeal, Chem Protect 3, gas Mask Skinlink], Commlink Rating 6, Grapple Gun, 1 dose of Jazz
Weapons: Unarmed (Acc 8(13), 10P, Reach 0, AP 0), Ares One Monosword (Blade, Acc 5, 11P, Reach 1, AP -3)

Heavy Crossbow (Archery, Acc 5(7), 10P, AP -3, SA, RC 0, Ammo 4m, Added Smartlink), 50 Barbed Bolts, 50 Incendiary Bolts

The cybernetic monster of man may explode, but it’s possible his commlink survives, to tell them of a contract on their collective lives.  On being set up for an ambush, the runners will want to likely reach out to Brick-Base.  Upon following up, their fixer tells them that the employer’s credit was no good (transaction originally looked like it went through, but they just discovered that the cred was forged) and they have since ghosted.  Brick-Base provides them with commcode that called him with the job.  If Blue Screen backtraces the call, it points them in the direction of Boulder City.

Scene 4 – Tracking Down the Deadbeat

The area that the signal draws them to is just a couple blocks from where Parallel grew up.  The building is an old Christian Church that has fallen into disrepair with the return of the Native American shamanism to the area.  Our Lady of the Sacred Word is an old chapel that has been spray painted by a few teenagers in recent years.  The signal that the runners traced is still active inside.

When they step inside, they find the desecrated interior filled with gang tags, empty bottles of booze and spent condoms.  The large Christ on the Cross at the head of the Church has been tagged with a swirly moustache and a pirate eye patch, as well as several anti-corp and anti-government slogans on the walls.  At the prayer rail is a single man, an empty bottle at his side and when he hears the runners approaching, he rises to his feet on unsteady legs.  He has an Ares Predator V in his hand, held in a sloppy grip.

“So… you survived.”  When he turns around, Parallel recognizes him as Michael Baker, the father of one of the people that he accidentally killed when his magic wasn’t controlled.  “Came to exact your revenge on me, have you?  Maybe do what you should have back then, hellspawn?”

He motions around to the Church and the state of it.  “Do you see what you and those like you have done?  You have sent this entire society into a pit of depravity.  Even the Pope… the man seen as most holy, condones your kind.  Now this is the state of the Lord’s work… so please.  Kill me… take your petty revenge and allow me to have a hope of seeing my son again.”

He stands arms wide, expecting to be cut down in cold blood.  If the runners don’t kill him, he will try to antagonize them with insults and shooting at them.  If they don’t kill him, he will later commit suicide, rather than carrying on.

>> You couldn’t pay me to go into the Mojave… too much there trying to kill you.
>> Havik

>> You’re a shadowrunner… we always have things trying to kill us. What is so special about the desert compared to drones, spirits and dragons trying to murder us?
>> Overture

>> Predictability. I know corpsec will shoot me dead, that a mage will burn me alive or a dragon will eat me. The desert will just make you disappear and kill you for sport.
>> Havik

>> You speak like the desert has a mind of its own.
>> Overture

>> Well spotted.
>> Havik

A Quick Review: Into the Black

•April 28, 2021 • Leave a Comment

Out of curiousity, I picked up a small, independent RPG book by a small Canadian publisher named Monkey’s Paw Games. The game is called Into the Black and I first heard about it from the website Dicebreaker in a recent post they made. They described Into the Black as:

“Into The Black is a lightweight RPG love letter to Mass Effect without the military trappings”

So I was intrigued. Being only $10 CDN for the PDF on DriveThruRPG, I figured why the hell not? Now, it is an “ashcan copy”, meaning that the book is likely going to change further with playthroughs, editing, etc. Still, I was curious enough to drop the cash and take a look.

The Game

When DB said the game was a love letter to Mass Effect, they were not kidding. There are many elements from the Mass Effect games that are very clearly incorporated into the setting. The lack of political/military trappings is where the game distances itself from Mass Effect. There is no Commander Shepherd, no Reapers, no Cerberus… at least, not unless you want there to be.

The basic premise of the game is: at some point, your life, body and/or skills became the property of one large interplanetary corporation and they tend to collect rather violently. Your best bet is to head into deep space to try and avoid the collectors. Between you and your crew, you owe one million credits and you need to work off your debts in order to gain your freedom.

That’s about all that’s written in stone. The rest of the setting and story is up to the group.


The game is extremely simplistic, needing only a D20 and a few D6s. The game is rules light and improv heavy, so if you’re a fan of mechanical games, then this may not be the system for you. The system uses a mechanical system called PinkHack, which is a roll-under system (roll a D20 and try to be lower than your attribute/skill level). In terms of building a campaign, you can plan out every detail of your star cluster, or let fate decide using random tables.

The entire rulebook, including rules, character creation, setting and random tables is less than 100 pages, so getting started is likely to be pretty quick.

The Book

Being a slap-dash sort of PDF, the book is exactly what you might expect. The rules are not overly coherent in the book and may take some “reading between the lines” to get what they’re aiming at. With the exception of the chapter intro pages, the art in the book is not professional and likely placeholders for final artwork, should the full product come to light.


Character creation is really simple in the book. There are only three classes and six races. The choices you make are few and if you are really up for a challenge, you can let fate decide, as there are random generation tables for all parts of creation after race. The gear you choose and the powers you select will vary depending on your class, race and Vocation (what you did before you fled the company).

Once the team has been made, then you pick a ship that you might have stolen in order to escape. Naturally, different ships have different strengths and becomes an extension of the crew.

Finally, after the crew and ship have been chosen, there is a random creation process for developing a star cluster that you will try to survive in. As part of a prospective Session 0, you get a blank piece of paper for each sector and drop a small number of d6 on it. Where they land determines the position relative to the star and the number showing determines whether it’s a planet, space station or empty space. So every time you play a campaign, the space you explore will be different and random.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I think Into the Black has a lot of promise. Playing it as it exists today, it will take a GM that is very comfortable flying by the seat of their pants, as there is virtually no setting to build from. It is a long series of random tables to generate the universe around the players and govern that universe’s responses to their actions.

I’m not a huge fan of the use of D20s (as I have stated in the past), but this one has a different approach, where improving your attributes and skills make a marked difference in the odds of success (every rank in a skill is a 5% better likelihood of success). I do like the random universe creation and the light mechanics of the game. As much as I love Shadowrun, not every system needs weighty mechanics to enforce their game’s laws.

The game has a flexible enough mechanic to allow for epic battles against impossible foes (like Reapers), for cat-and-mouse games of avoiding your debtors, while paying the bills (like Firefly), deep space exploration or any combination in between. If you’re looking for a mechanic-light sci-fi space game, for only $10 you could definitely do far worse than Into the Black.