Neither Rain, Nor Sleet, Nor Gloom of Night…,p4

Part 4 of 4, by Jay Watamaniuk

An army of zombies, four priests who could all take my powers away and one who could resurrect anyone who was destroyed vs. Max and the two SAVE agents who were scratching around in the forest for sticks to use as prop weapons. Things were indeed looking pretty bleak.

graveMax said that the key to the whole thing was stopping the Priest of Maggot from being able to use his resurrection powers. The only way to do that was to have the players defeat Maggot and Max could finish the job by taking his power. The problem with this was actually getting to Maggot as he knew we had to be coming for him.

We had one thing to our advantage; Max was still immortal. He could be delayed, slowed and stopped but never killed. His other powers could be taken away (armor, mind control etc.) by the priest who had given him the power at each ritual except for my immortality. A cunning plan was taking shape as we sat and heard the priests and zombies search for us. We would start a fire for a distraction (not a real fire of course but a couple of glow sticks thrown for dramatic effect to indicate where a fire was started so organizers could describe what was happening to other players), and the two SAVE agents would sneak around behind Max as he walked toward the ritual area where Maggot was lurking. This was certainly the climax of the game coming up. We either defeated Maggot and the priests or they completed the ritual with an immobilized Maxmillion or switched the power to someone else and bring the Unnamed Horror into the world.

The organizer choose to ignore the set rules for combat and take a more cinematic approach as Max and his SAVE agents were attacked by strongman Mic, a few priests and zombies on their short walk. It was all done very well with people being tossed around, the organizer describing the flames everywhere, and lots of shouting. It felt like the big end scene in a movie. The SAVE agents were caught in an explosion at one point and wounded but they did manage to take a gun off one of the zombie mercenaries. I later learned the shotgun had only two bullets left. One was used to shoot Mic who grabbed at the SAVE agents. Only one shot left.

Max walked into the room where the ritual was to be done. Maggot was there with zombies, priests, my former aid Scott who had switched sides after Max had abandoned him and an unconscious mercenary to be used as a sacrifice and a heavy wounded archeologist who managed to survive up until this point.

“You betrayed us.” It was the Priest of Maggot.

“Yes, I did. I want to live. I want Maximillion to survive. You-“ Blam!

One of the SAVE agents had snuck up behind Max and fired her last bullet at Maggot. He went down. Max knelt and drained the last of his power to destroy him. Now it was a fight. The organizers then directed the combat that ensued. The zombies had no master and attacked anyone around them. The other SAVE agent moved into the room and attacked one of the priests. Chaos!

cabinp4iiiMax turned and began to leave. You see Max didn’t need to help this fight. He knew Maggot was destroyed and so the final ritual could not be completed. The humans were of no interest to him, nor was this fight. Recall Maxmillion was a bad, bad man.

And then Scott, the bastard, got his revenge. Scott was a former SAVE agent who Max had mind-controlled back many years ago when he came to investigate. He has been Max’s slave ever since. He was freed from that control during Day 2 and wanted some payback. He had waited patiently until the right moment. Max turned to move down the tunnel that led away from the ritual room (the tunnel being made from black plastic so you had to actually crawl through a dark tunnel to get to the ‘underground dig site’) and then Scott threw a single stick of dynamite which he recovered from the dig site. Wham! The organizer had the tunnel collapse on me and one of the SAVE agents. Scott and the other SAVE agent and anyone left in the ritual room were trapped forever. Maxmillian could not die…but it would be a long, long time before he could free himself. Daaaaaammmmn yooouuuuu!

Players: Dead but victorious over the Unnamed Horror
Maxmillion: Very powerful but trapped…for now
Scott: Dead- but still a bastard

Jay Watamaniuk has lived in such faraway and make-believe places like Thailand, Greece and Japan but has always returned back to Edmonton, Canada to put down some roots and to avoid the fricken’ huge insects that lived in those places. He has been BioWare’s Community Manager for over 7 years and has never once- not once- dressed up like a pirate at work. Shameful.

Neither Rain, Nor Sleet, Nor Gloom of Night…,p3

cabin iiitop
Part 3 of 4, by Jay Watamaniuk

Day 2

Some players were wounded, some were dead, some were in a different location then where they ended last night. What happened?

It took a while for players to piece together the events of last night but eventually they realized that bringing the second artifact to the surface (recall it was in an underground cave lost for hundreds of years) and fitting it together with the second ancient artifact returned some of Maximillian’s insidious powers. Maxy could sense the artifacts now and took possession and forced the players via nefarious mind control to bring the artifacts to him. Keep in mind none of this was part of the game it was done as the action between the end of Day 1 and the start of Day 2.

cabin iii2Day 2 also marked the arrival of the evil priests bent on collecting the pieces needed to finish the final rituals. Once the artifacts had been connected they were summoned to help Mic, who was really the Priest of Slugs (yes, lovely title). We finish the next ritual which restores Maximillian’s youth (much easier to be a villain if you aren’t scared of breaking a hip). Only three rituals to go before the Unnamed Horror wrecks havoc upon these pathetic creatures. Villainy!

Adam did a nice thing by not giving the actors all of their objectives at once. Each time we finished a ritual we found out what the next ‘ingredient’ was to fuel the next ritual. In that way we could play in a sense as well. Each priest had a special power most heinous power of all was the Priest of Maggot who could actually raise the dead. A priest who was killed could return to the ritual site and be raised by Maggot to return to the game. The twist was if a player died and was raised by Maggot they would return as a slave to Maggot (a zombie!). After the fourth ritual I was granted some of Maggot’s power but could only control only one at a time. The SAVE agents and mercenaries joined forces once the trouble started but it seemed pretty hopeless on the surface.

Until Maximillion switched sides.

Old Maximillion had another secret deep down. He wanted to stay Maximillion.cabiniii He wanted all the power of the rituals but did not want the Unnamed Horror to snuff his essence out. This was going to be very tough for me to get away with this. I was surrounded by evil priests all bent on summoning the Unnamed Horror, I had to convince the players to trust me enough to let me help them destroy the priests and I had a watchdog of a body guard, Mic who never left my side. I was also completely human for 30 minutes after the fourth ritual. Maggot had suspected I would betray the group so his plan (I later learned) was to leave me in the ritual area (a closed shack) and tell the players to come and destroy me while I was vulnerable. You see the thing Max did not know was that anyone could usher in the Unnamed Horror. I thought it could only be me. So now we have players vs. priests and immortal Maximillion vs. the Priest of Maggot who could resurrect himself.

Things happened pretty quickly once the fourth ritual completed. The fifth ritual meant certain death for me and disaster for this world for everyone else so I had to act fast to survive and I was running out of players as the army of zombies under Maggot’s control increased. Maggot told me to stay in the ritual house because it was safer. I knew it would be the first place the players would look (especially if Maggot told them about my current weakness). As I left I stole one of the artifacts needed for the final ritual. That would slow them down. I now needed away to get away from Mic. I spotted a zombie shambling slowly around (the former leader of the mercenaries who went mad and was killed). I walked up to her and whispered an order and walked quickly away. I did not turn back as I heard Mic get attacked by the zombie. He lost track of me in the darkness as I ran into the woods toward hushed voices of the last surviving players.

Only two SAVE agents had survived. Neither had weapons. Things were looking very bleak.

Tune in next week for the kidney-shattering conclusion to Neither Rain, Nor Sleet, Nor Gloom of Night…

Neither Rain, Nor Sleet, Nor Gloom of Night…,p2

Part 2 of 4, by Jay Watamaniuk

Day 1

I am being spoon-fed cold oatmeal by my personal assistant of 60 years and complete bastard, Scott. He is also an actor in this game and if you ever meet him call him a bastard. We want to keep up appearances as we are being observed by a small group of players looking through the window trying to sneak around and see what we are doing. As an actor I have a relatively easy first night as Kenneth Maximillian, 96 year-old mysterious, crazy billionaire philanthropist bent on protecting this piece of land from the indignities of archeologists and scientists who have come to search for artifacts. I have hired a crack team of ‘security experts’ (bloodthirsty mercenaries) to make sure nothing is disturbed and stolen. I even showed them a piece of machinery found that prove people were intent on digging up and disturbing the land in their search of artifacts.

cabin3My friend Scott, the bastard, was having far too much fun spooning this ice cold oatmeal at me indiscriminately with a priority being to get the oatmeal on me rather then in me. Bastard. There is a knock at the door. Two players, the local sheriff and her deputy had arrived to ask if everything was all right. They had heard a ruckus while passing and wanted to check in. It quickly became clear the ‘ruckus’ was old man Kenneth yelling obscenities every chance he got at his personal assistant. Maxy was a bad man you see. A very old and very bad man.

Now dear old Maximillion had a big secret which the players had not yet discovered. He was much, much older then he appeared and had something of a demon lurking deep down in his dusty guts. His loyal priests long ago wanted to complete a series of rituals in order to free that demon but were stopped after only one was complete and the artifacts scattered. Maxy is now immortal and has been looking for the artifacts ever since. He wants to continue the rituals because each would make Maxy more and more powerful…except the last one which will destroy Maximillion and release the demon inside upon the cringing world. For that we needed these artifacts and I was pretty sure they were on this land. This is why Max really didn’t want these scientists poking around digging stuff up and potentially foiling his evil plans.

So half the players were my mercenaries ordered to make sure nothing was disturbed and the other half were sent by a secret organization called SAVE that investigates paranormal events. They were very curious because over the last 100 years two teams of their agents have mysteriously disappeared in this area [cue evil laughter…then some old guy coughing].

Adam had taken one of the rooms in my house and decorated it as a personal museum. Players would (if they got past the mercenaries) sneak in and pick up one of six objects they found in there which would trigger an event. Based on the item they picked up they would be treated to a ‘vision’ which arrived in the form of a video projected on the wall of a series of black and white photos accompanied with a loud heart beat, which featured how Maximillion and his personal thug/toady Mic came to have this item.cabinend Some scenes took place during modern day and some from decades ago and far outside a normal lifespan. This was a big clue for players that Max was not just a cranky old man who hated oatmeal. Villainy! The pictures usually involved Mic stabbing someone or choking someone or stabbing then choking someone in order to obtain the item I wanted. The price of admission to these visions of course was a bit of sanity loss. You need to expect all sorts of things that slap your sanity around it’s a Cthulu game after all. Some of these videos revealed the locations on the site of important documents or items that would help explain the horrific history of this place. Some visions showed details of those two lost teams of investigators. Some were red herrings to throw the players off the scent. The visions ultimate purpose was to give players more of the back-story and why events are happening today.

For the first night I was not aware of what was going on at the crazy town (as we took to calling the site with all the old houses) but learned later the players were gathering clues and finding out more and more about the history the horrible fate of the previous SAVE teams.

The evening concluded when the players finally figured out how to extract an unconscious archeologist who had snuck onto the property but had become trapped in an underground tunnel. She brought with her an ancient and mysterious artifact which clearly had been constructed to fit together with a second artifact the players had found that very night.

When presented with a big red button; you press that button. The two incredibly dangerous artifacts were fitted together and…

Neither Rain, Nor Sleet, Nor Gloom of Night…,p1

Part 1 of 4, by Jay Watamaniuk

After a 2 hour road trip north of Edmonton and a few wrong turns myself and my friend Hal ended up at the site for the game. We knew it was the site because as you drive along the private side road you passed by dozens- and I means dozens- of old and abandoned shacks, houses, farmhouses, utility sheds and buildings of every description. All built in the years directly following World War II by a single man was had some very real demons that ultimately consumed him. He would create a structure, live in it for a time and then build another structure a few feet away and live in that for time. Amazing and tragic.
Each was built of slates of wood cut from the surrounding trees and hammered together with iron nails. This was the site of the game? It was chilling place in the middle of the day never mind late at night in the darkness. The players were headed for an exciting experience to be sure.

The main (and very modern) house of this working farm was huge and welcoming and completely off-limits for the game. Some players had already arrived and were humming about getting their bedding placed and starting the real purpose of any game- socializing. There were some of us who were known actors like myself but there were a few people Adam had recruited to be actors that did not reveal that fact. At a game you have actors, players, organizers and ‘actor-players’ who would play for part of the game but act for the organizers at critical points to move the story along.

After all the set-up of tents and whatnot it was time for the organizer to talk. Adam handed out folders to each player that contained their character sheet, rules for the site and general information on the game itself. The players had worked out their background in advance and this was just to review their actual character sheets. He explained how combat, skill checks, sanity and the rest worked in the Cthulu Live rules system.

He also explained how EVENT sheets worked. Scattered around the site were pieces of paper with the word EVENT printed on them. may 2009 021 Very easy to see. If a player spotted one they were required to walk over take the sheet, open it up and read the contents. These were events that did not need an organizer around to run. Jason, the co-organizer, took me to the site before the players arrived to see some of the EVENT sheets. The one I read upon walking across the floor of an open shack said that I feel myself slowly sinking into quick sand. I have three minutes to get another player to come and help me out. This was quick, easy and completely random to add tension to the game. Another idea I liked was using cell phones to give players who had special psychic abilities or were spirit mediums additional information via texting. This worked very well for giving players hints when needed over the course of the two days.

Jason also pointed out some actual traps he and Adam created that would get triggered by trip wires, opening doors and stepping on pressure pads. The effects of these varied from a popping balloon (a bomb) and sound effects going off to a bag of plastic bones dropping from the ceiling to scare the crap out of players. I nodded in approval and headed back to the main house to get ready for the start of the game.


The Show Must Go On

Part 1 of 1, by Jay Watamaniuk

Today I have spent time online looking over air mattresses sold at Canadian Tire. This is not the sort of thing I normally do over lunch here at work as I am usually heading out to get something to eat, facebookin’ or seeing how my brother is doing on that little space game he is working on.

A longtime friend of mine, Adam, has spent a huge amount of time planning out a weekend game that is running this weekend about two hours north of Edmonton in the wilds of Alberta. He says there will be enough room for all his players and all the actors to find a place to sleep and hang out. He is glossy with organizer madness in this final preparation week so much of what he says is a web of optimistic lies. Adam has a long history of not living in the same world as everyone else so I will bring a tent and my new air mattress.

Now Adam is very famous for going to extremes creating very impressive and intricate props for his games. He once constructed a special gem (used to stop a monster), a body (into which the gem was sewn) and a coffin (into which the body was placed) and buried the works in the ground marked with a foam grave stone. Players had to actually get a shovel and dig the coffin up and find the gem inside the body in the dead of night as the horrible monster was stomping across a field towards them. I understand it is very hard to do that sort of thing when hysterical with terror. It is a wonder none of us have been arrested for intense weirdness.

I am acting for Adam which is about the most foolish thing you can sign-up for because once you agree it’s like signing your name in blood to some contract spawned deep in the flaming pits. Actors have been taped to chairs in the woods without bug spray, made to wear latex masks while laying in the wet grass, marched out in the middle of the woods late, late at night in the dead of winter. Adam is apologetic for the hardships but it is difficult to remain upset with a person who so loves to tell a good story. The show must go on.

Last Saturday we were helping to finish up a few details of the game and stopped by his house. His kitchen table is covered in all manner of rigged electronic gear, lights, triggers, traps, bizarre props, fake weapons, documents and things that will all make sense come game day after it is all set in place. Most of his Friday I expect will be spent setting up his game world with fellow organizer Jason. When I arrive on Saturday I will tour the place careful to not slip any plot spoilers to players who will be busy getting ready for a long- and knowing Adam- harrowing game.

I was 21 and attending University the first time I left for the weekend to play a game. I didn’t know anyone and felt a little dumb but once the game got rolling I knew I was hooked. Now, many years later, as I look over my clothing, food, map, costume, BBQ stuff and camping tools I can’t help but look forward to facing whatever trials Adam has in store.

Now back to these sweet air mattresses…

Jay Watamaniuk has lived in such faraway and make-believe places like Thailand, Greece and Japan but has always returned back to Edmonton, Canada to put down some roots and to avoid the fricken’ huge insects that lived in those places. He has been BioWare’s Community Manager for over 7 years and has never once- not once- dressed up like a pirate at work. Shameful.