Eastern Wastes of America [Post-Apocalyptic: OmegaLite20]
#1
PROLOGUE:

The Second American Civil War was not fought over civil rights. Nor were lines drawn between economic classes, religious beliefs, or even loyalty to an organized political party. No, the Second American Civil war a battle over technology and scientific advancement and its application within human society.

And it was over within a week!

By the end of the third decade of the twenty-first century, American politics was in shambles. The needs of the citizens were a long-forgotten ideal as the Supremacy of the Political Party took center stage. Leaders were less concerned with ending poverty, fighting crime, protecting rights, and defending the borders, and more about making sure they were as uniquely distinct from their opponents as possible. Campaigns were no longer an exchange of ideas but a mish-mash of insults, criticisms, and blame all intended to convince the public that a candidate’s opponent was unfit for office while deflecting attention from their own shortcomings. Voters were eager to forgive the sins, failures, and opinions of those they supported (even when contrary to their own core beliefs), while quickly condemning their neighbor should they support someone else. Division grew, love lessened, and the rest of the world waited for the county to implode.

Fortunately, alongside this turmoil, the Anti-Party movement was formed. This grassroots movement grew in prominence until it reached national attention and the Anti-Party Amendment to the Constitution was passed, outlawing the formation and fundraising of any group organized for the purpose of supporting multiple candidates in several races. This didn’t solve the problem right away, since the party concept carried on, if even unofficially. However, without an officially recognized body directing its members how to think and vote, the party remnants began to splinter and dissolve. As individuals began examining issues themselves and relied less on a single source to feed them its own agenda, they found that they had much more in common with their neighbors than they thought. Societal walls came down and divisions lessened, and by the middle of the twenty-first century, there was a sense of unity and fellowship throughout the land.

Beneath this renewed sense of brotherhood, however, a new division was slowly growing.

Great strides were being made in the areas of technology and science. Advances in medicine and biology led to new ways to treat diseases and bodily damage. Genetic research, though still slow and uncertain, continued to offer promises of human engineering and the possible development of new life forms.  Computers became faster, smaller, and more integrated into every part of daily life. The military developed advanced weaponry that harnessed the power of lasers and sonic waves. Artificial intelligence, while far from anything resembling the self-aware androids often portrayed in digi-novels or holo-feeds, had become reliable enough to safely perform many tasks without human supervision, such as drive cars and fly planes, operate and troubleshoot all of a building’s electronic systems, perform janitorial duties, tutor students or teach entire classes, take out the trash or walk the dog, or any other menial or repetitive tasks. The goal of Big-Tech was to lessen the burden on mankind and fill it with a more healthy, leisurely existence.

With these advancements, however, also came those wary of the new technology. First and foremost were obviously those whose livelihoods depended on human labor or input.  As more employers purchased or installed computerized systems, more human-based jobs disappeared. Beyond that, many people whose jobs weren’t threatened still found reasons to be concerned. How dependable were these systems? What safeguards were in place to keep them from being hacked? Was biological experimentation being done in an ethical manner? Was a shift from work to leisure actually beneficial, or did it breed laziness, apathy, and lethargy? One of the biggest divides was within the military. While many in leadership considered fully automated defense system a way to protect the country while saving the lives of soldiers, others raised concerns of foreign cyber-infiltration or the inability of Mili-Tech, as it had come to be known, to react adequately to ever-changing conditions on the battlefield as well as a critically-thinking human could.

Gradually, this split in ideology manifested itself in a physical split geographically. In the early 2000s many technological and research companies were located in the western portion of the county, while the east was home to many factories, manufacturing plants, and military bases. As new industries developed or relocated they gravitated to “friendly” states. As a result, by the later half of the century the tech industry, including Mili-Tech, was primarily located in the most western portion of the United States, while manned production and military could be found east of a line reaching from Louisiana to Minnesota.

Surprisingly, the nation’s leaders recognized the growing division early and took steps to avoid the same polarization that came with the old party system. Foremost in this plan was to reassign the roles of the President and Vice President. The two were given nearly equal power. The President was assigned to oversee human-based ventures and concerns while the Vice President's focus was on tech and science interests. The idea was to have two individuals working toward different specific interests, yet of one mind concerning the overall interests of the nation. The hope was that debate, compromise, and agreement could be handled civilly at the highest government office. It was even decided to move the office of the Vice President, as well as a portion of congress, to the west coast. In a moment of wit, someone suggested the new capital should also be in Washington, thus the city of Spokane became the second seat of the United States government.

Unfortunately, even these best laid out plans were doomed to fail. Tensions continued to grow between the two groups, more commonly referred to as the Techs and the Humanitarianists. The President and Vice President found balancing the desires of their individual constituents while maintaining National interest more difficult than anticipated and, instead of coming together, the two offices grew increasingly contentious. Each side did what they could to put pressure on the other. Eastern manufacturers withheld products and resources necessary for the Tech companies to assemble their computers, robots, and other equipment. In a countermeasure, Tech-West either raised prices on components and software necessary for manned businesses to continue to function or refused to ship at all unless certain agreements were made or laws passed. However, despite these maneuvers, each group depended upon the other and neither was able to gain full independence.

Tech-West, however, held the advantage in this battle.

The eastern states could do little to develop their own science and technology industries in a short period of time, but western states could certainly build new manufacturing plants in a couple of years and develop relationships with foreign countries to import raw materials. Once western manufacturing reached a point that they could sustain themselves, they officially broke all ties with the east and outright stopped all scientific exports, including medical. The President declared the move an act of treason. The Vice President challenged him to do something about it. The result was war.

Tech-West struck hard. Within hours of the declaration, AI-controlled Mili-Tech aircraft were launched and heading east. Their first target was the military bases. Even though these bases primarily housed the majority of the nation’s soldiers, each had its own arsenal of Mili-Tech. Still, the armada from the west outnumbered them and by the end of the day, the eastern military was neutralized.

Less than twenty-four hours later, large cities, industrial centers, and transportation networks were attacked next. Nuclear weapons had been outlawed and dismantled years ago in a rare global display of planetary concern, however, the west still had plenty of conventional and biological bombs at their disposal. The bombing was relentless and non-stop for two days. Explosive weapons destroyed buildings, bridges, roads, and rails. Biological weapons covered vast areas with clouds of chemicals, many of them experimental. Some of these were poison, killing many who breathed them in. Others contained fast-acting mutagens which twisted and deformed all who were caught in their path, human and creature, alike. 

As damaging as this blitzkrieg was, western leaders knew many people would survive. Furthermore, many smaller towns were unscathed. For this reason, they launched one final attack to clean up and control this remnant. Survivors watched as large transport ships landed all across the eastern United States. Cautiously, they approached, primarily hoping the ships were dropping off relief supplies, but also willing to surrender if it meant they would be taken to safety outside of the warzone. Neither of these was the case. Transport doors opened and armies of android warbots and mutated beasts poured out to slaughter the survivors. 

By the end of the week, the President was dead and the eastern half of the United States was devastated and in ruins. Survivors, some still human, others mutants, gathered in whatever towns remained or hid in the wilderness. Transports returned to the west coast leaving behind their horrific cargo of robots and beasts to continue to terrorize those left alive. Around the globe, the rest of the world sat back and watched as this once great nation and world super power tore itself apart.

The Vice President (now promoted to President) and what remained of congress were quick to make moves to show the world that the United States of America was still a strong political power. A big part of that was retaining the ideology of a united nation. Unfortunately, the reality of the civil war suggested otherwise. The solution, however, seemed easy. America could still be a coalition of united states, as long as statehood was revoked from those defeated by the west. 

Therefore, mere weeks after the end of the Second American Civil War, congress unanimously passed a resolution declaring the states west of the ninety-fifth degree of longitude the new United States. As for the rest of the county, from then onward, would be known as the Eastern Wastes of America.


GAME INFORMATION:

Welcome back, reader, and thank you for your interest in my next solo campaign. My next story will have a post-apocalyptic theme. As you can probably tell from the prologue you just read, I’ve put a lot of thought into the background and setting. I didn’t want to just set my characters down in a random wasteland and send them off with little to no explanation as to why the world is the way it is. Nor did I want to simply fall upon the trope of the entirety of civilization being destroyed in some generic world war. So I spent a lot of time coming up with and writing an explanation before even a single die was thrown or oracle or table consulted, an explanation that frankly may not even play much of a role in the campaign other than giving reasons for the types of creatures and enemies the characters will encounter.

The rules system I will be using for this game is OmegaLite 20, a MicroLite20 variant based on the Omega World RPG. The system is similar to 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons in that combat is based on a d20 roll (adjusted for skill bonuses) against an armor class, damage is calculated by a weapon’s dice type, and success or failure is determined by a skill roll against a difficulty class. In typical form, I will give a brief explanation of the rules the first time a particular system or mechanic is used in the game, After that, I will rely on some type of short hand for the remainder of the campaign.  If you want a more detailed explanation of OmegaLite20 or any of the Microlite 20 games, the reference material is free and available online.


GM EMULATOR:

One of the few benefits of the pandemic is that a lot of game companies gave away products for free in an effort to entertain gamers while they were stuck at home. One product that I picked up was the PDF version of the GameMaster’s Apprentice Card Deck created by Nathan Rockwood and Larcenous Designs.  Each card in this deck is divided into several sections, each providing information the solo gamer can use to answer questions, create scenes, get inspiration, develop characters and NPCs, and even roll dice. Instead of printing out a physical set of cards, I will be using an image viewing program to randomly display an individual card when it’s time to draw. (Individual images of each card are included with the PDF version of the deck.) Like the rule system, I will explain how I am using the emulator as it comes up in the story, but there are a few items I wish to touch upon before we begin.
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Dice: While the cards do have a section to determine dice rolls, I will not be using that feature, at least not for regular dice rolling. I will be using physical dice (my preferred method) or a digital dice roller, such as the one included in RPGSolo.com’s game engine.

Oracle:  The oracle printed on the cards seems pretty straightforward at first glance, but it does have some intricacy and specific rules that I will establish right upfront. As with most oracles, you ask a question and choose a card to determine a yes/no answer. GMA does offer a Likely Odds option that allows the player to sway the outcome based on how likely a “yes” answer is expected: Even is a 50/50 chance, Good offers a 75% chance of yes, Bad offers a 25% chance of yes. 

Each option, yes or no, has two possible results: Yes or YES!, and No or NO!.  The YES! and NO! are intended to be emphatic results, but I will use them to add the “and” or “but” modifier. Whenever I pull one of these options I will roll a d2. A “1” will add “and.” A “2” will add “but.”

Random Events: Whenever I ask a question of the Oracle I will also check for a random event. For this, I will use the Difficulty Generator, or the number on the card just to the left of the Oracle. Each scene will have a Tension Level. Whenever a question is asked of the Oracle I will compare the Difficulty Number against the Tension Level. If the Difficulty is equal to or less than the Tension a random event occurs.  The method I will use to set the Tension Level is a simple progression. Tension will start off at “1” in the first scene. Every scene after that the Tension will raise by one until a random event occurs. When that happens, the tension will reset to “1.”

I will also use the GMA to determine the details of each random event. While my method might change or evolve over the course of the adventure, I am going to start off with the following steps. First, I will draw a Norse rune. The deck instructions have a table that provides descriptions and story seeds for each rune. That will provide a broad idea for the event. Then I will draw further cards and consult the appropriate generators (Verb/Adjective/Noun, catalysts, sensory snippets, tag symbols, etc.) to come up with the details.

Searching; Whenever I have to search an area, container, body, etc. I am planning on using the cards to determine the result of the search. Primarily, I will be using the Tag Symbols. These are ten different symbols that can be used in many different ways. For searching, I will draw a card and randomly choose a symbol. (Each card has three symbols, so I will roll a d3.) The resulting image will tell me if there is anything to find and what type of item it is. I have two sources for loot that I will be using for this game. One is a random post-apocalyptic item table I found online that produces mostly common, mundane items. The other is OmegaLite20’s relics table, which produces more significant, powerful finds. Using the Tag Symbols, one system might be a crown, sword, shield, or wand results in a mundane table roll; a tower or target results in a relic roll; while anything else results in nothing being found. Once again, this could always be adjusted based on the situation in-game or how well the system works in general.


GEOGRAPHY:

Unlike my past campaigns, this story occurs in a real-life location. Even though it is approximately 50 years in the future, locations, civilizations, and the land itself doesn’t change that drastically. I am not extremely familiar with the part of the country in which this story takes place: the northeast United States. I spent my early childhood in New York and, of course, I’ve visited or driven through many places in the northeast, but I certainly don’t know it anywhere as well as my current state and the state I’ve lived in for the last 46 years or so of my life. Therefore, I’m not going to make any claims of accuracy regarding my settings. I plan to consult maps, street view sites, and other resources to get a general idea of the locations I am writing about for at least a modicum of reality, but this is not intended as an ultra-accurate, highly researched novel. It is a fun roleplaying game that is primarily fanciful and I will be treating it as such. All this is to say, please bear with my ignorance of the places I am writing about and try to avoid critical posts and emails about how I’ve gotten everything wrong. (Now, the ones that offer some humorous insight, constructively compare my fantasy to reality, or generally leave us laughing or feeling good are always welcome and encouraged.)


POINT OF VIEW:

Finally, I am going to try something new with this adventure. I am going to try to present this story in the first person, at least for the scenes that involve the main character. (Scenes that don’t involve them will be written in typical third.) Not having written a solo-roleplay like this before, I’m not sure if this will work. I don’t see why not, but if it becomes too cumbersome I will just switch to what works best.

That’s about it. With all this background and planning you might think that I’m ready to start or have already played out a few scenes. Well, you would be wrong. I have a general idea about my primary characters and their backgrounds and how this whole story starts, but that’s it. As I mentioned before with the prologue, I haven’t rolled a die or consulted a single table yet. I still need to generate my character sheets, make up a few random encounter lists, and possibly even create a map or two before I start to play. Hopefully, I can get the first chapter out in the next two to three weeks.

Stay tuned. 
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#2
Awesome! I'm looking forward too it. I've enjoyed the post apocalyptic genre ever since discovering Project Zomboid on Steam and watching the old Colony reality show (info about the series here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Hv4ADUr-0E)
Unfortunately, they yanked the show when someone died during making of season 3 or something.
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#3
CHAPTER 1: LEAVING WOODVILLE

SYSTEM: OmegaLite20
TOOLS: GameMaster’s Apprentice Base Deck ; The Post Apocalyptic Forge; Artbreeder 

Preliminary Odds-and-Ends:

The information in this section is intended for solo roleplayers and anyone else who might be interested in my gaming process. If this isn’t you, please feel free to skip ahead to “Scene 1.”

As I started playing this campaign, it wasn’t long before I realized that while the OmegaLite20 system is intended to be a complete ruleset, there were times I needed additional information. Sometimes that was due to my unfamiliarity with the base MicroLite20 rules. Sometimes it was because the rules were unclear. And other times it was simply because I don’t have a lot of experience playing TTRPGs within the post-apocalyptic genre. In these instances, I consulted the following resources in this order:

1. The rules and additional material for Microlite20, primarily found in the Microlite20 RPG Collection.

2. For questions specifically related to post-apocalyptic tabletop gaming, I consulted any Gamma World rules and resources available online.

3. Online resources related to d20 tabletop games in general, such as the Hypertext d20 SRD

Skill checks in OmegaLite20 are a d20 roll plus any modifiers against a Difficulty Class, or DC. In a traditionally run tabletop game, the Game Master sets the DC for any challenge. Since, as a solo player, I have to set my own DC. I will be using the following scale as suggested by several d20 resources. 

  5   -  Very Easy
  10  -  Easy
  15  -  Moderate
  20  -  Hard
  25  -  Very Hard
  30  -  Near Impossible

If you have read any of my previous campaigns you probably already know how I run things. If not, here are things to keep in mind.  Assume that any names of fictional people and places are randomly generated unless otherwise noted. Whenever I use a tool or table to assist me in telling the story I will usually mention it, or at least add a [RG] tag after a specific item to indicate it was randomly generated. Anything not so noted is more than likely a product of my own creative imagination.

Finally, all character portraits have been created using Artbreeder. Thanks to Gerard over at the Alea Iactanda Est blog for introducing me to this amazing creative tool.  

That’s about it for the boring stuff, but I appreciate it when other solo players include this information in their own posts so I will continue to do the same.  Now on to the story.


Scene 0 - Background:

Idiot!

That’s what he must be. A stupid idiot. I mean, who else would refuse company and wander down a torn and ruined highway alone?

But then again, look at me. A 17, almost 18-year-old teenage girl following blindly after someone I don’t even know. Who’s the real idiot?

I guess I’m just ready to get out of Woodville and I’ll use any excuse. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it) I became trapped in our cellar after our town was bombed. Why West Tech would want to bomb a small Pennsylvanian town is a mystery that may never be solved, but they did. Anyway, by the time I was able to dig myself out everyone who wanted to skip town had. Whoever remained was simply content to stay put. I guess they felt safe.

Not me. I knew eventually any supplies we had would run out and we would need to look elsewhere. That would be a problem since most of the people still in Woodville seemed incapable of surviving away from home. That is why they stayed behind, after all. And what if armed raiders come through? No. I had to get out. But I knew there was safety in numbers so I bided my time until a group passed through that was willing to take me with them.

It’d be my luck that no such group came by. Oh, that’s not to say that people didn’t wander into town. They did. But most were either tired of traveling, specifically looking for other survivors to hunker down with, or just saw a source of easy resources. Whatever the reason, they either set up camp or found an empty residence and moved in. Woodville, Pennsylvania. Hundred-something residents and growing. A veritable population boom and I was stuck in it.

That is until He wandered through.

About two months after the bombing, this mysterious, dark-haired man came traveling east along Interstate 80. I just happened to be taking a run down by the interchange when I saw him. I hid behind a burned-out car and watched him.  Instead of passing by, he took the off-ramp that led into town. He must have been interested in the truckstop and other stores that bordered 80 as he proceeded to search the already thoroughly looted convenience stores, fast food joints, grocery store, and other shops. 

This man was unlike most travelers I had seen. For starters, he looked like he was on a mission. He had somewhere to get to and wasn't interested in a place to settle down.. The other thing was he looked like he could handle himself. He was tall and muscular, something that was clearly visible beneath the khakis and green t-shirt he wore. He was traveling alone, which meant he could survive. However, what stood out the most was the flattened barrel of a sonic rifle slung over his shoulder. 

I had only seen a sonic rifle on the holo-vision. No one in Woodville owned one and none of the other wanderers carried any relic guns. Typically, you had to be military or a member of a big-city security force to own a sonic rifle. Woodville Security could only dream of acquiring one. But this man had one, which meant he was either military, security, or, more likely, lucky enough to find one abandoned.

When the sun began to set and the shadows grew he walked over to an abandoned motel and entered one of the rooms, closing the door behind him. An hour passed and he didn’t come out. I assumed he had holed up for the evening. It was dark, growing cold, and I knew I couldn’t stay here all night, but I didn’t want to chance coming back in the morning only to find he had left. So I took a chance.

I crossed the parking lot and stopped about twenty feet short of the door.

“Hello,” I called out.  “Hey, mister. Can we talk?”

I waited, my heart pounding in my chest. 

Nothing.

“Hello?”

Suddenly, the door burst open and I was blinded by a bright light shining in my face. I put an arm up to shield my face. I couldn’t tell for sure, but through my squinting eyes, I thought I could see,saw the sonic rifle pointed in my direction.

“Get away!” He ordered. “Run! Fast!”

“Wait!” I begged. “I . . . I just want to talk. Are you heading west?”

“I’m counting to ten.”

“I want to go with you. I need to get out of here.”

I never heard him count, but I did hear a loud thump that I believe came from the rifle and a nearby car bucked up, its windows shattering into a million glittering jewels.

I did what I thought was my wisest choice at that moment.  I turned and ran.

And I ran all the way to my home. But I didn’t stay there. Instead, I grabbed the backpack I had previously prepared with some supplies and my weapons: a long-bladed knife, a crowbar modified with several spikes along its shaft, and a handgun with a full magazine. I threw on my leather jacket, slung the pack on my back, and returned to the motel. Screw the cold and screw his warning. I was following him whether he liked it or not.

[Time to introduce you to my main character.

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ALYSSA GARNER  
Pure human female.  Age: 17  Level: 1
STR: 12 (+1)   DEX: 13 (+1)   MND: 12 (+1)  Mental Defence: 11
Melee ATK: (+2)   Ranged ATK: (+2)   Mental ATK: (+2)
Primary skills (+3 bonus): Subterfuge, Knowledge 
Secondary skills (+1 bonus): Physical, Communication, Survival, Tech
Armor: Jeans and a leather jacket (AC: 13)
Weapons: Knife (1d6), Crowbar w/spikes (1d10), Handgun (1d6)
Gear: 31 bullets, 1 week rations, 1 healing kit, backpack with 10 rolls of duct tape and 
         7 paperback novels.
Any other details will be revealed during the course of the story.

The fictional town of Woodville is located in Pennsylvania, north of Interstate 80 at the location on the map currently occupied by the real town of Buckhorn. (Sorry, Buckhorn.) So, why Woodville and not just use the real place? That’s simple. When I was in high school I used to write a lot of short stories and several were set in my fictional town of Woodville, Pennsylvania. So of course, if I was going to set another story in Pennsylvania you know I’m going to incorporate my beloved Woodville. When I looked at Buckhorn in Google Streetview, I saw that this real-life town had the same feel as my fictional town (which in reality was based on the city I grew up in during most of my school years) and it felt like a good match.

While technically not a hexcrawl (I didn’t prepare any maps on any hexagonal graph paper), I will be running the travel portion of this adventure in a manner similar to one. First, I determined a destination for this portion of the PC’s travels. Next, I randomly rolled how many miles they had to travel to get there. (The result was also key to where I located Woodville.) For each mile traveled, I will roll on several tables to determine what they encounter. The first table is road condition: zero to mild damage, moderate damage, or severe/total destruction. The next table is a landmark, which can vary from one or more buildings, vehicles, other structures, objects, or nothing at all. Encountering a landmark doesn’t imply that said landmark is the only one in the vicinity, just that it is of particular interest to the story. For example, if I roll a vehicle, that doesn’t mean that is the only vehicle on the road. I would suspect there might be many. It only means that for some reason the vehicle is significant. Finally, I will make an encounter roll (1 in 6 chance). I will also be adding a weather option, but for this first chapter, I’m just considering the weather to be clear.

I am tracking my progress on Google Maps and will be posting progress images throughout the story. Another benefit of using Google Maps and a real-world location is that I can use Street View to inspire the story. While this story takes place approximately 50 years in the future (sometime in the 2070s), from experience I know that even after that much time certain aspects of geography don’t change very much. This gives me the freedom to be inspired by the sites along U.S. 80 as they exist today or change them up as necessary, chalking it up to progress, development, or just natural changes over time.]


Scene 1 [Tension Level 1]:

Mile 1: mild road conditions, vehicle. (Encounter rolls will be kept secret till reveal)
[Is the vehicle a car? Yes  Is it out of gas? No  What’s wrong with it? Immaculately/Unholy]

So that is how I ended up here, walking along I-80 on a brisk late April morning, following a couple of hundred feet behind a stranger carrying a bad-ass gun.

He knows I’m here. He’s glanced back several times but hasn’t acknowledged me (which sucks) or pointed his gun in my direction to scare me off (which is good). We're a couple of miles from the interchange and the furthest I’ve been away from Woodville since this whole thing started. I guess that means I’m committed. No going back now.

The pavement was in pretty good shape. A pot-hole here and there but no significant damage. Every now and then we’d pass an abandoned vehicle or two, but most had flat tires, broken windows, or were stripped for parts weeks ago. That changed when the man stopped to examine a white, three-wheeled vehicle that more resembled a dune buggy than a car. It was in much better shape than the other cars we passed and I could only guess that it was just recently abandoned. He opened the gas cap and took a whiff. It must have had gas because next he checked the dash and suddenly grew excited. I guess that meant the manual I.D. key was still in its port.

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By the time he climbed into the driver’s seat I was close enough to see the red angel wing and halo logo on the car’s side. That explained why the car might have been abandoned. My suspicions were confirmed when I heard the high-pitched screech and loud clacking come from the engine. This was a Compagna [RG] Angel, a vehicle that won unofficial awards for being the worst vehicle of its year. The design was flawed and the engine would stop, seize up, or sometimes even explode for no reason at all. The joke all over the Nets was that it should have been called the Fallen Angel, as it was obviously cursed! 

Mile 2: Moderate conditions, Group of buildings

We left the Angel behind -- actually, he left the car behind and I just followed -- which may have been for the best as the highway’s condition grew increasingly worse. At that moment a vehicle could have still maneuvered the larger holes and buckled asphalt, but I felt the conditions were signs of even worse damage ahead.

I looked up from checking the back seat of a vehicle that was stuck in a hole and saw the stranger walking off the side of the road. At first, I assumed he was taking a pit stop, but then I saw what caught his attention. Along a service road that ran parallel to the interstate stood several houses and he was going to check them out.

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[This was a nice surprise. I rolled “group of buildings” first, then, when I checked Google maps, guess what I saw at my current location? Five private homes lined up along a small two-lane road. Perfect!]

Of course, I followed him off the road. If there was anything useful to be found in these homes I wanted my fair pick of the spoils.  Having seen his anti-social side, I hoped he didn’t get a settler’s mentality and try to claim the house for his own, but if he did there were four other homes I could . . .

Without warning, the stranger stopped, pulled out his sonic rifle, and looked around.  I had no idea what had spooked him. I didn’t see or hear anyone or anything. Another second and it appeared he had keyed in on something because he widened his stance and aimed his weapon. I still didn’t see anything. Was he hunting ghosts?

That was when the ground burst open several feet in front of him and . . . Oh, Crap! . . . A giant shark leapt out and lunged at him.  [Successful encounter roll. The result from my modified OmegaLite Encounter Table was one Sep, or Land Shark. Only the Man made a perception roll to “feel” the rumble of the earth as the creature approached. Sep is randomly targeting the Man.]

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[Initiative is based on a DEX roll.  Order of action for this encounter is Sep (16), Alyssa (10), Man (5)]

With a look of determination, he followed the beast with the barrel of his gun and squeezed the trigger. That determined look changed to one of concern when the rifle failed to emit any pulse. I ran forward as the shark plowed into him, teeth biting into his shoulder. Using his hand and the butt of the gun, the man beat the thing’s nose until it released him and burrowed back underground.

[Round 1 - attack rolls use a d20 plus any modifiers
Sep attacks with a bite at +8.  4+8=12 vs. AC 9.  Hits for 2d4+6 damage (13)  Man has 19 hp. remaining
Alyssa begins running. She is 100’ away and it will take her two rounds to reach the battle.
Man: Sonic rifles fire a 30’ cone and always hits . . . unless you roll a 1. On a 1 the power cell is drained and the weapon doesn’t fire. The Man rolled a 1.

Note: As long as the condition of the characters is the same at the end of each round, the narrative will not always follow the exact order of initiative but instead be presented in a way that best tells an interesting story.]

The man tested his arm to make sure it still worked and, other than wincing with pain, he appeared okay. He quickly ejected the spent power cell and dug into his pack for a fresh one. I took the cue and pulled my handgun from its holster as I continued to sprint across the service road.. (Yeah, I carry my gun in a holster. My hope is that people will be intimidated by the sight of it and I won’t actually have to use it.)

[Round 2 
Sep remains underground for 1 round before its next attack.
Alyssa pulls out her handgun and continues running.
Man: Changes power cells.]

As soon as the new power cell is locked in place the shark emerges again and moves to clamp down on the man’s leg. He moved aside, but not before the creature raked its teeth across his thigh. Before it can burrow again, the man aimed the rifle and fired. This time the weapon emitted a satisfying “thump” and the shark’s skin rippled from the impact of sonic waves. By then I had reached the battle and took a shot at the fleeing monster with my own weapon. Unfortunately, it had disappeared under the earth a fraction of a second earlier.

[Round 3 
Sep randomly attacks the Man: 14+8=22 vs AC 9  Hits for 11 damage. Man down to 8hp
Alyssa shoots: 11+2=13 vs AC 15.  Misses
Man: Automatically hits for 3d6 = 2+1+3+6   Sep has 30hp remaining

How far are they from the nearest house? (d10x10)  60’  If they immediately run for the door, the Sep will get one more attack right before they reach it

Round 4:
The PCs run while the Sep burrows.]

I rush past the man and grab his elbow, pulling him in the direction of the house.

“Quick! Run!” I yell. 

He listens and runs with me, for which I was thankful as I didn’t relish the idea of having to drag him along against his will. 

Now I could feel the slight rumble of the mutated, air-breathing, aquatic freak hunting us for another attack. The rumble grew stronger and I knew we wouldn’t make it in time. The man had passed me and was just reaching the porch as I stopped and spun, raising my handgun. The beast burst through next to me. My shot went wild as it got a hold of my leg. I screamed and the man shot at the shark further down its body away from me. The shark let go and retreated underground once more.

[Round 5 
Sep randomly attacks Alyssa: 11+8=19 vs AC 13  Hits for 14 damage. Alyssa down to 20 hp.
Alyssa shoots: 5+2=7  vs AC 15.  Misses
Man: Automatically hits for 14   Sep has 16 hp remaining]

“Can you make it?” the man asked me. 

“Yeah,” I said, getting to my feet. 

He tried the door.  [Is it locked? (Even) Yes] “Damn! It’s locked.”

“Break it down!” I said, thinking this shouldn’t be a problem for him. I told you he was muscular, didn’t I?

[STR check against a DC10.  10 + 2 (STR Modifer) + 3 (Physical skill) = 15  Success.]

The man laid into the door with his shoulder -- the good one -- and the latch gave way. We both rushed in and closed the door behind us. Quickly, I moved to a window to keep watch. Several seconds later, the shark lunged one final time out of the ground and its head landed on the porch just outside the door. He worked his jaws, feeling around for anything it could grab. Finding nothing, it slipped off the porch and burrowed, never to be seen again.

[Image: _ioUwXLI-4tI6cPtCFZC7EGXWALrq3vh0fX7ErAc...dXzw=w2400]
Current Progress

________________________

Watch this space.
Reply
#4
Thanks Teviko. This is really good stuff. I enjoyed this first session and the setting and first person perspective into a shattered eastern USA and I think it's awesome you're using google earth. I always thought it would make a wonderful resource for a modern/near-future earth-based setting.

I'm also digging the d20 system as I own and play a few d20 based games. Question about the man's AC of 9... Seems kind of low to me. I'm just guessing here that the AC is a combination of a base of 10 + armor + dex. From his description, I guess he wasn't wearing armor, but maybe he just a sucky dex stat? Does the OmegaLite20 system you're using add any kind of class or level bonus to the AC?

On a different note, that Artbreeder site is amazing! Never knew such a thing existed! I enjoyed messing around with it a couple of days back while on spring break with my kids. We about died laughing with some of the things we came up with. But very cool. I appreciate you sharing those links!

Anyway, I'm looking forward to the next episode.
Reply
#5
(04-08-2021, 03:03 AM)Jingo Wrote: Question about the man's AC of 9... Seems kind of low to me. ... From his description, I guess he wasn't wearing armor, but maybe he just a sucky dex stat? 

Yes, you pretty much nailed it. He currently has no armor and a poor DEX. 

I will be posting his full stats in the next chapter, but in character creation stats are based on a roll of the best 3-out-of-4 (d6)s.  You roll up three STAT numbers then assign them to whatever STAT you want.  This character (Nate) had a 15, 11, and 8.  Since HP in this game is related to STR, I gave him 15 in that stat (because I like to pad a character on the side of health). Out of the remaining two, my background for this character would make him better at technology-related skills, so I put the higher number (11) to MND. That left 8 for DEX.

STAT modifiers are (STAT-10)/2 and round down.  8-10=-2. Divide that by two and you get -1.

AC is 10 + DEX Bonus + Armor bonus.    10 + (-1) + 0 = 9 AC.

In hindsight, considering the time of year I set my story and the geographical location, it is cold enough that Nate should probably have some kind of jacket, which could have been leather (which I am treating as leather armor for Alyssa), giving him a +2 for armor.  But I failed to think of that and since I've already started I will live with it. It shouldn't be too much trouble to pick up a jacket.

 Besides, I have a "T-Shirt" joke coming up that may not have occurred if it was covered this entire time.  Wink
Reply
#6
CHAPTER 2: HOUSE SEARCH

System: OmegaLite20
Tools: Gamemaster’s Apprentice Deck, Post Apocalyptic Forge loot tables; UNE

[At the end of Chapter 1, the PC’s entered a house. What are the odds that someone is in the house? d10 1-3 Bad  4-7 Even  8-10 Good   Roll: 7
Is there anyone in the house? (Even) No]

Scene 1 [Tension Lvl: 2]:

“Since when do fish swim in the ground?”

[Is the man familiar with Seps? (Good) Yes.]

“Since scientists spliced, mutated, and totally screwed up their genetics,” the man answered as I worked on cleaning his wounds. “Have you never seen a Sep before?”

“Nope.”

“Not even a science report on the Holo-Vis?”

“I’m not really the sciency type.”

After we were certain the land shark was gone and the house was empty (at least no one answered when we called), we set about tending to our wounds. Luckily, both of us had the foresight to pack healing kits. The man received some serious bites and I was glad we had a couple of containers of B.A. Heal brand spray healant. The B.A. stood for “Biological Accelerating” healant, but the general public attributed a more colorful meaning to the initials. After seeing how quickly the spray sealed up the wounds and began the formation of new skin, I admit I have to agree with the street definition.

[Healing kits allow 1d6 h.p. of healing after combat. Man heals 5 (13 hp). Alyssa heals 3 (23 h.p.)]

You would think two strangers meeting under these circumstances would have a lot to say. The reality was I wasn’t sure how to begin. So I started with the first thing that came to mind.

“Are you?”

He looked at me with a puzzled expression. “Am I what?”

“Irish?” I asked, nodding to his green t-shirt that sported a large white shamrock and the words, “Kiss Me, I’m Irish.”

He chuckled. “No. It’s just something I picked off a clearance rack in an abandoned souvenir shop.”

“What’s your name?” I said, hoping to have something to call him other than “you.”

“Nathan.  Nathan Collier.”

“Nate?” I offered.

“Sure.”

“I’m Alyssa.”

“Aly?” he suggested.

“No! Alyssa.” I was shutting that crap down before it even began and quickly turned the conversation back to him. “You’re heading somewhere.”

Nate raised his eyebrow, recognizing my words as a statement, not a question. “You sound sure about that.”

“Most travelers stop in Woodville. In fact, I’ve never seen anyone just pass through. You’re the first. All you were looking for was supplies and a place to rest for the night. Where ya heading?”

He took a moment. I suspect it was to decide if I was trustworthy, before thinking the heck with it. Who’s she going to tell?

“My parents.  Haven’t heard from them since the bombings. In fact, seeing tensions rise between the states, I was on my way home to see them and make sure they were okay.”

“Coming home? From where?” 

“Germany.”

“Vacation?”

“Work. I work for the Security Division of an international data collection company that is based overseas.”

Data Collection? That could mean a lot of things, but the one thing they all have in common is technology. “Tech For or Tech Is?”

“Huh?” Nate responded, confused.

Apparently, he wasn’t familiar with the local vernacular that expressed what side of the tech debate you were on. If you were “Tech For,” that meant you understood the benefits of technology and scientific advancements and that they would be useful tools to assist mankind in all areas, including industry, medicine, education, entertainment, etc.. However, if you were “Tech Is,” you believed that humans should be free of all mundane, time-consuming, or necessarily dangerous tasks. Instead, robots, computers, and other scientific advancements should eventually perform all jobs, resolve all conflicts, and supply all entertainment. With only a small handful of technicians, scientists, and medical professionals needed to maintain the systems, that would leave the rest of the population to live their lives pursuing their true dreams, desires, and pleasures.

“Do you believe that tech is a tool to be used by humanity or an ultimate replacement for humanity?” I explained. I stared at him in anticipation.

An understanding grin crossed Nate’s face. “I prefer to stay out of American politics. That’s one of the perks of living overseas. But I will tell you this, I’ve seen enough problems with computers to know that relying totally on them is a scary proposition. I wouldn’t trust ‘em. Besides, without purposes and goals and nothing but free time, people tend to become, at best, lazy, unmotivated, and bored, and at worse depressed and on-track to a fast death.”

“That’s a rather grim opinion of mankind,” I noted while also breathing a sigh of relief.

“Perhaps,” Nate agreed. “But I still think work has its benefits beyond just providing a service to the world. Let’s start searching this place for anything useful”

[Image: -b0rEQqEDzq84FztOXWmIzO_2iEYuWNS1F5Fi5vh...Wdow=w2400]

NATHAN COLLIER  

Pure human male.  Age: 33  Level: 1
STR: 15 (+2)   DEX: 8 (-1)   MND: 11 (+0)  Mental Defence: 10
Melee ATK: (+3)   Ranged ATK: (+0)   Mental ATK: (+1)
Primary skills (+3 bonus): Physical, Tech 
Secondary skills (+1 bonus): Subterfuge, Knowledge, Communication, Survival
Armor: None, only wearing a T-Shirt and khakis {AC: 9  (Base 10 + (-1) DEX)}
Weapons: Knife (1d6), Sock filled w/rocks (1d6), Sonic Rifle (3d6, always hits except on 1)
Gear: 1 week rations, 1 healing kit, Tech Tool Kit, Sack with a battery-operated charger, 11-8 packs of batteries. 6 Manual
          PCCs [to be explained later], 2 extra power cells]

I will draw a description for each house and three loot checks using the GMA Deck’s Tag Symbols. Crown, Sword, Shield, and Wand will be normal items. Target will be a Relic. As with the road object, it would be expected that each house is full of mundane items. The ones that are generated are the only ones that might be of interest to the story.

House 1: Description: Eternally Tragic   Loot Check: Crown, Wand, Tower (2 Mundane Items)

Nate and I returned the healing kits to our packs and began to wander through the first-floor rooms. Currently, we were in the main living room. One opening led to the dining area and, we assumed, the kitchen beyond it. Another led to a door-lined hall. We chose the hall first.

“I’m surprised you found a flight to the states, with the war and all,” I said.

“Actually, the bombing began while we were still in the air,” Nate explained. “Best as I can tell, the plane was more than halfway across the Atlantic when everything started and couldn’t turn back. We were flying into JFK and the pilot announced on approach that the runways had been damaged but he was going to try to land anyway. I guess major airports were on the top of the target list to keep people from leaving or reinforcements to land.

“The pilot did a commendable job, but couldn’t completely avoid the torn-up portions of the tarmac. The plane ran off the runway, wrecked, and the engines caught flames. Most of the passengers were able to escape the crash and we headed to the terminal for shelter. The next day there were more bombings, explosive and gas, followed by transports that were carrying bots and all sorts of mutated creatures. They swept over the grounds and through the buildings and we were forced into the underground tunnels and rooms to escape the manhunt.”

While Nathan spoke we peeked into several rooms that could be bedrooms or offices. It was unclear because they were clear of all furniture and in the process of remodeling. Ladders, paint cans, and rolls of plastic were scattered throughout. [Random Item 1: 50 s.y. of rolled plastic]

“We hid in those tunnels for two weeks or more. Every few days a group would venture out to see what the situation was and would return with reports of patrolling robots or wandering monsters. Once a group of ten tried to flee but were cut down by blaster fire and eaten by giant rats. There was only one survivor who made it back to tell us what happened.”

“How did you finally escape?” I asked as we returned down the hall to check out the kitchen and dining area.

“After several weeks, most of the bots were gone. We don’t know if they were picked up by transport or moved on to other locations, but with fewer on patrol, we began to discuss leaving. Several wanted to stay longer but I was itching to get to Nebraska to check on my parents. So I and a few others decided to try and run. Without boring you with the details, we obviously made it, or at least I did. One poor girl got tangled in a giant spider web and another man fought off a Warrior Bot so the rest of us could escape. We traveled together for a while, but each of us had our own agendas and eventually parted ways.”

I pulled out all the kitchen drawers looking for anything useful. There were towels, utensils, pots, and pans. Great items if you were going to start a Post-Apocalyptic Cooking Show but not very helpful for surviving in the wild. It looked as though all the canned and packaged food had already been taken, either by the previous owners when they left or by scavengers. What was left in the fridge had decayed to an unrecognizable state.  In fact, the only thing of any value was a tiny spray can of mace that was tucked in the back of an odds-and-ends drawer. [Random Item 2: Mace (one use, 1d4 damage, stun for 1d2 rounds)]

“Looks like this place has been pretty well cleared out,” Nate noted.

“Yeah,” I agreed. “I guess the owners didn’t want to hang around and took what they could with them. You wanna check upstairs?”

“Why not?” 

“You were alone when you arrived in Woodville,” I continued, still interested in this wanderer’s story. “Couldn’t find a travel companion? Not that surprising considering how you . . . “

 [Why was Nate stand-offish? Irksome/Scum]

“I met a few,” he cut me off. “But one night someone I thought I could trust rolled me and took my pack. Pissed me off. Stayed on my own after that. That’s why I didn’t want you near me. Didn’t trust you. Heck, still not sure I can, if I’m being honest.”

“I’m sure you’re being honest,” I said right before opening a door off the landing at the top of the stairs.

We were not prepared for what we saw . . . or smelled. The door opened into a large bedroom. Ornate wooden furniture lined the walls and a large four-poster bed stood centered along the far wall. In the bed lay a woman . . . or at least what remained of a woman. The body was in an advanced state of decomposition, with bones beginning to show and the sheet blackened from the sludge emitting from her body. Flies buzzed around the corpse. From the gray hair, I assumed she was rather old. The arms were folded over her chest and tucked underneath them was an old, leather-bound Bible. 

“What the F--?” Nate muttered under his breath.

I walked over to the nightstand where an empty glass sat. I picked it up and sniffed. Nothing, but I did see an empty pill bottle on the floor next to the table. I bent to retrieve it and showed it to Nate.

“Suicide perhaps?” I suggested. “But I’d say a better guess is that the family decided to leave and knew granny here couldn’t make the trip. So they helped her along peacefully.”

He gagged as he put his hand to his mouth. “Let’s get out of here.”


Scene 2 [Tension Lvl: 3]:

Neither of us wanted to spend another minute in the death house, so we quickly left and traversed the distance to the next home in the line.

“What about you,” Nathan asked. “Where are your parents?”

“Dead,” I said, simply.

“I’m sorry. The war?”

“Yes. It was the fourth day of bombing. Up until that time all the attention was on the big cities, military bases, and industrial centers.  We thought we’d be fine. What interest would Tech-West have in a small town like Woodville?

“My mom sent me down to the pantry in the cellar to get a couple of cans of green beans for dinner. Suddenly, there was a loud explosion and the ground shook, knocking me on my ass. Dust, bugs, and rat droppings fell on me and a couple of beams caved in. I heard a few other explosions, some near, others in the distance. The bastards were bombing us . . . Us! 

“I got to my feet and searched for the door. It was gone and the stairway was crumbled. I called out for my mom and dad but got no answer. I called out for anyone and got no answer. I tried to find a way out but couldn’t. My suspicions at the time, which later proved to be correct, was that the bomb had hit near our home and leveled it, killing anyone in the area. Anyone but me that is.

“I kept calling out but no one came to rescue me. The only saving grace was that the previous week we had received our monthly shipment from Wamazon and the pantry was full of food and water.”

Nate did his best to hold back a laugh but failed.

“You think this is funny?” I asked annoyed and ready to give him a whack with my crowbar.

“No,” he apologized, fighting back a smirk. “It’s just that name. It’s ridiculous.”

“What name?”

“Wamazon. I can’t help but think of all the jokes we made as kids when we heard that Wal-Mart was going to merge with Amazon and that was the name they decided to go with. What sound do distributors make when they merge?  Wham-azon!  What do you call a warrior woman who slaps you with a big stick? A Whamazon. Heh. At least it’s not as bad as Tar-Macy’s.”

I shook my head, having no idea what he was talking about. What’s wrong with Tar-Macy’s?

By now we had reached the door to the next house. Again, Nate had to break it in and again the house was empty. If people were abandoning their homes, why did they feel the need to lock the doors?  I continued my story as we searched.

[House 2. Any people in the house? (Bad) No. Description: Helpful/Training]

“I was trapped in my basement for almost two weeks. I learned later that the townsfolk avoided our street because they were afraid of radiation or something from the bomb. That and they were sure no one had survived. I did my best to dig myself out, but it was a slow process. Some days I was only able to remove one board. Finally, I cleared enough away to see the sun. Poking my head out of the hole I saw a kid, some boy, poking around the rubble. I called out to him and ran to get help.”

“That must have been horrible.”

“It was no vacation in Key West, I’ll admit. But I did have some books and enough light seeping through the cracks to read during the day and flashlight batteries to read at night.”

The house proved to be about as fruitless as the first. No dead grandma’s in this one, but it did have a home gym set up on the ground floor decorated with fishing paraphernalia such as nets and mounted bass, and, surprise, a few more rolls of plastic. This house didn’t show any signs of renovations so I can only guess that the local paint shop had a deal on plastic and the owners of the first house decided to share the wealth with their neighbors.  [Search: crown, heart, shield (2 mundane items)  Hand Fishnet, 50 s.y. of rolled plastic]

As we neared the third house in the row Nate stopped suddenly and sniffed at the air. [Nate makes a DC10 Perception roll with a 13] “You smell that?”

I hadn’t, but taking a deliberate whiff I detected something but didn’t know what it was. 

Nate looked around and pointed at some plants growing behind the house. “I knew it. Pot. Be on guard. There’s someone here.”  [House 3. Are there people? (Bad) Yes.]  “I’m surprised you didn’t recognize the smell”

“Why? Because I’m a teenager?”

“Well . . . “ Nate replied as if teens smoking pot was an assumed fact. If he was going to play that game, I guess I’d just have to throw it back.

“Yeah, I wouldn’t know. I didn’t like hanging with the nerds.” [Why doesn’t Alyssa recognize the smell? Avoid/Technology]

When we reached the porch I waved Nate off, opting to peek in the window myself. [Subterfuge Check (DC10) 13 + 3 skill + 1DEX = 17. Success!] Being careful not to be seen, I looked in the window. I got a clear view of the living room and saw three teenagers sitting on the floor, a light haze of smoke hovered around them. They were passing a joint between them. One of them was black man with his hair wrapped up in braids. Next, I saw a girl with short, curly brown hair dressed in a long, tie-dye t-shirt. If she’s wearing any pants, I couldn't tell. The third figure, however, was the most interesting. It was another male, seemingly of middle-eastern descent. He was much shorter than the other two but didn’t appear to suffer from dwarfism. Just short. But what stood out was his eyes. The pupils were overly large.  

I sunk back and relayed what I saw to Nate, including the wide eyes. He suspected the boy was a mutant and his eyes might indicate improved night or dark vision. I wasn’t familiar with Muties. Woodville wasn’t gassed during the bombing and, as I had told Nate just a moment ago, I wasn’t very interested in science. I’d have to pick his brain more about this when we had more time to talk.

[Are the people the homeowners? (Even) No.  To better get a feel for this group I drew another GMA card to reveal an “element.” The element drawn was “Air”, which GMA defines as “Life in its most dynamic form. Chaotic but friendly, social. In this specific case . . . Hippies!

Gender and descriptions were all generated randomly. Every NPC not in a town has an even chance of having some sort of mutation. One of the three rolled positive for mutations. Rolling on the OmegaLite 20 tables I determined he had a mutation of darkvision and a defect of being small.]

“I don’t think they live here,” I said. “All these houses are probably abandoned and they are just squatting.”

“Do we move on?” Nate asked, already looking in the direction of the next residence.

“No,” I objected. “There’s a chance they’ll be friendly. For all we know they’ve already scavenged everything useful from the surrounding homes and this might be our only chance to gather any supplies. That is assuming they’re willing to share. Do you have anything to barter?”

“A few PCCs and some batteries, but that’s it.”

Hmm. Nate had some Personal Compact Computers? Good to know.

“Good enough. Just don’t give them all away.”

We both grab our weapons but keep them in as non-threatening a position as possible, Nate's rifle pointed down and my modified crowbar at my side. We enter.

[Reaction roll: 2d6=5 Hostile. I guess they’re not so friendly and social after all.]

The black youth looked up and immediately yelled, “Intruders!” He jumped to his feet and began to charge, his short companion following right behind. Nate instinctively raised his sonic rifle but the two boys continued to approach. [Nate needs a DC10 Communication skill check to convince them to stop. I will use the DEX modifier since he is “communicating” with physical action instead of words.  5 + 1 Com - 1 DEX = 5  Fail.]  The girl remains seated, glassy-eyed. 

This was getting out of hand fast and I’d rather wanted to avoid any physical altercation, especially since it seemed obvious to me that they were being reckless and stupid due to their intoxicated state. Before my partner could fire I stepped in front of him (hoping he didn’t have a sensitive trigger finger) and held up my spiked crowbar. The black man stopped when his chest touched mine, our faces separated only by my weapon. We locked intent eyes until he eventually backed down and took a step back. [Same Communication check. 9 + 1 Com + 1 DEX = 11 Success!] Large man with a powerful rifle that could potentially cut you down in one shot and they show no fear. A girl with a crowbar and they cower. I am so disappointed by my generation right now.

[Using UNE for NPC conversation. Hostile (per situation) - surrender - future action]

It only takes a moment for the youth to regain his bravado. “I don’t know who you are, but I would suggest giving up now and leaving before me and my friends make you wish you’d never come in here.”

Stupid. 

“Your friend over there barely knows what day it is,” I said, motioning to the curly-haired girl who is staring off into space, following some invisible object with her eyes. “And we have a big gun. What’ve you got? A joint?”

He glanced at the smoking butt in his hand and embarrassingly moved it behind his leg out of sight.

“You don’t know what we’ve got!” This came from the smaller of the two, who tried to look threatening despite his barely four feet of height.

“Look,” Nate spoke up. “We’re only looking for supplies. We’re not going to take anything you need, but if you had anything extra you could spare . . . “

[hostile - surrender - current scene]

“We’re not giving up anything,” the first barked back. “Like I said, it’s best you leave now.”

Apparently, he was still unclear as to exactly who had the advantage, but I wasn’t going to argue.

“C’mon, Nate. There are still two houses to check.”

As we walked out the door they called out after us, “And don’t think about taking our plants.”

I glanced over at their garden and called back, “I prefer roses.”


Scene 3 [Tension Lvl: 4]:

The last two homes proved to be rather uneventful. There was nothing of any interest in the fourth house. The last, like the second, contained a home gym complete with lifting weights and one of those multi-exercise machines. The most interesting room was one of the second-floor bedrooms that were decorated with macabre artwork showing scenes of medieval torture and ritual executions. [See this site  for some examples.] On some of the tables in the room were similar statues and trophies. A stand with a uniquely L-shaped knife caught my attention. A little brass plaque on the stand identified it as a Tibetan flaying knife. [DC20 Knowledge check for info. Nate will have advantage as he is more traveled oversees. A: 1  + 1MND + 3KNOW = 5 Fail.  N: 11 or 20 + 1KNOW = 21 best. Success!]

[Image: A83iSkXuKKE17sOlTLyLk5stAfMg_BqX5noWBj6a...oMdQ=w2400]
Tibetan Flaying Knife

“According to Buddhist legend,” Nate explained. “An angry deity would use that knife to dissect and dismember unbelievers. Their goal was to cut out ignorance.”

I grimaced.

“I guess not all Buddhists are peaceful. I’ve seen a few flaying knives in museums and they are usually dull, only for show or symbolic ritual. This one, however, looks to have been sharpened.”

I picked it up and tested the edge with my thumb. Indeed, it was sharp and I decided to hold on to it.

Finding nothing else, Nate and I decided it was time to get back on the highway and continue the journey west.

[House 4: Are there any people in the house? (Bad): No   Description: Aggressive Standard Search: skull, Sun, moon  nothing
House 5: Are there any people in the house? (Bad): No.   Description: Hostile Artistic
Search: wand, shield, sword  3 mundane   
Weapons table  (see below),  Multi-function gym set, Dumbells body building.

Weapon:  1. melee 2. ranged  Roll: 1 melee.   Per Fallout Melee weapon generator: Knife (1d6) ]


ImageSource1
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Proverbs 12:11 (What’s this?) 
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#7
Before I post the next chapter I just wanted to take a moment to fill everyone in on what’s been going on in my gaming life lately. As you probably have seen, or not seen, it’s been a while since I’ve posted a story. I can assure you, it’s not because I haven’t been playing. I’ve been playing a lot more than I’ve been writing. In fact, I am far enough along in this current campaign to have enough material for the next chapter. In addition, I’ve played an entirely different game that I will be posting here, as well. However, for that one, I am doing something really different with the posts and I hope you enjoy them. But now, here is chapter 3 of my OmegaLite 20 campaign, the Eastern Wastes of America.
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#8
CHAPTER 3: SEAN

System: OmegaLite20 
Tools: Gamemaster’s Apprentice Deck ; BOLD ; DonJon’s random generators 


Scene 1 [Tension Lvl: 5]:

[Mile 3: Severe conditions, vehicle]

Remember the Angel? The car we passed a mile or so back that Nate couldn’t start? Well, it turned out it wouldn’t have been of much use anyway. We were maybe a mile past the houses when the entire highway became impassable, at least for vehicles. The asphalt wasn’t just severely torn up, it was blocked by a small commercial passenger plane, or what was left of it.

The plane must have been either shot down during the war or disabled in some other manner. Exactly what the pilot was trying to do was hard to determine as the aircraft appeared to be approaching the highway from a perpendicular direction.  The aircraft lay across the eastbound lanes and a trail of torn-up asphalt, ground, and debris crossed the westbound lanes. If he was trying to land I would have expected the plane to be me lined up with the road.

Regardless, the plane didn’t survive. What remained was a black, burned-out carcass that had clearly been here for weeks. Nate climbed inside to search for anything useful. All he found was a bunch of charred human remains. [Is there anything salvageable on or around the plane? (Bad) No  - No encounters]

[Mile 4: moderate conditions, structure   What kind of structure? Impressive/Work]

Roughly a mile further down the road, as we neared the Columbia Hill overpass, we encountered the dragon.

“What is that?” Nathan gasped. 

Up ahead, in the median between the east and west lanes, say an enormous grey stone statue of a dragon. The beast was facing us, crouched on its haunches, its long neck and head extended to survey the highway. Large wings were folded into its sides. Though unable to be seen from our current vantage point, I knew from past trips that its great tail lay curled on the ground behind it. For all the creature’s size and foreboding, it appeared to be grinning enigmatically.

[Image: o4Spde6JBVuQ0wLyKYLQUNuNhL6CZFxAk0u73TSa...aCXg=w2400]
We Encountered The Dragon

“That,” I explained, “Is Smaug.”

“From the Lord of the Rings?”

“The Hobbit,” I corrected. Fantasy is not one of my favorite genres -- I prefer modern settings and characters I can relate to -- but of course everyone’s familiar with Tolkien. At least I thought so. “What you’re really asking, I suspect, is what is he doing here?”

“Yeah. You don’t often find giant statues on the interstate.”

“From what I’ve been told--this was before my time--it's a product of the ‘Great Highway Beautification’ project of 2050. My parents told me that Pennsylvania’s governor--well, the governor’s wife actually--made a push to clean up Interstate 80. It had grown neglected and she wanted it to be more welcoming to people traveling through the state. A source of pride that Pennsylvania takes care of its roads.

“The plan was to have businesses and organizations adopt and fix up different sections of the highway. Most of the participants simply manicured the landscaping and planted flowers and trees. Others partnered with the DOT to repair run-down sections of the road. Many of the overpasses were cleaned up, restored when necessary, and sometimes even painted with murals or other pleasing imagery. 

“One artist, however, had a bigger vision. He saw the world as a place full of magic and wanted to bring some of that to the project. So he submitted his plans for this statue. As you can expect, the debate went on for weeks. Most people thought it whimsical and loved the idea. It might even become a landmark bringing people to the state. Others thought it was gaudy, not in line at all with the vision of the project, and would only invite vandalism, costing the state unnecessary dollars to clean up.”

“So, which side won out?”

I cast a side glance at Nate to see if he was really as dull-minded as his question appeared, however, the grin on his face assured me he was just being flippant.

“Impressive, isn’t it?” I asked as we stopped alongside the monster to admire the craftsmanship.

“Yes, it is. So are we going to meet up with some orcs or ents down the road.”

“Nope. This is the only one.”

After a few minutes, Nate and I continued our journey west.

[No encounters]


Scene 2 [Tension Level 5 (in the game, this began as part of the previous scene, so TL was still 5)]:

[Mile 5: moderate conditions, single building]   

“It’s getting late. Perhaps we should begin looking for a place to hole up for the night?”

Despite it being only mid-afternoon and there were still several hours of sunlight left, I had to agree with Nate. It had been a long day and I wasn’t used to walking so far. Rest would do me good. 

About ten minutes later we reached a place where the interstate crossed over a small local road. Poking over the trees, we could see the top of what might have been a barn.

“What about that?” I offered. “If it’s abandoned it would make a good shelter. If the residents are still around perhaps they’ll be willing to put us up for the night.”

“I prefer abandoned,” Nate said but agreed to give the place a look.

We left the interstate and tracked through the brush back to the smaller road we had just crossed over. Following it in the direction of the barn, we soon realized that it was more of a driveway than a road, as it ended in front of a house that stood east of the barn. Several other smaller outbuildings stood nearby and beyond the barn lay a wide-open field. Nate suggested we leave the road, circle around the barn, and see if we could find a window. [Not exactly a “single building,” but Google Maps showed a single homestead in the vicinity so I felt that was close enough.]

“Hopefully it’s empty,” he explained. “If so, even if there is someone still living in the house, we can probably sneak in and stay the night without them ever knowing.”

“You really aren’t very trusting, are you?”

“I’ve learned not to be. Trust me, you will too.”

Creeping around the side of the barn furthest away from the house we found a dirty window. I carefully wiped away some of the filth and looked in. To Nate’s dismay, the building was not abandoned. Inside was a man who appeared to be in his late 50’s to mid 60’s. His hair was gray and his beard was full but trimmed. He appeared to be poking around the engine of a large tractor. Hearing other voices I looked around and spotted a Flat Vision that was on and showing some sort of news broadcast. He must have it hooked up to a solar generator and network uplink. 

Oh, yeah. One other thing. The man was a Mutee. Out of his right side, about midway between his shoulder and hip, protruded a third arm. While the arm appeared to be fully formed, the hand itself was deformed, having only three fat fingers, almost like a claw or talon.

[Is there anyone in the barn? (Bad) Yes. How many? d2=1  Male/Female (even/odd)=Male

Is the man a mutant? d2=2 Yes -  Roll on Omega Lite tables: Mutation - 1 extra arm (1 extra attack or shield);   Defect-crude arms  (-4 with handheld weapons or manipulations, but only with extra hand)

What is the man doing? Deactivate/Deity]

“I wonder if he’s friendly?” I whispered to Nate.

Just then, an image of the former Vice-President, now President after murdering his predecessor, appeared on the flat vision. He seemed to be holding some sort of address. He spoke about the safety and comfort the Western United States could afford its residents. When the man in the barn heard the President speak, he picked up a shotgun that lay next to him and, with his mutated hand, shot at the screen without stopping what he was doing. He missed, partly because he didn’t really aim, but mainly due to the poor grip his three malformed fingers had on the weapon. The President droned on, encouraging all Easters to leave the wastelands and seek shelter in Tech-West society. This was too much for the man because he finally stopped what he was doing, took the shotgun in his good hands, and promptly blasted the flat vision to bits. A shame, really. Finding a new one will probably be a bear, you know, with the collapse of society and all. [The President was the deity, and the man . . . well . . . deactivated him.] 

“Okay, now we know he has a gun,” Nate said, stating the obvious.

“I’m going in.”

“Wait! Are you insane? You’ll get shot.”

“I’m a teenage girl. How threatening could I be?”

Nate shot me a look that let me know he was thinking about the boys in the house backing down from me and my crowbar when they couldn’t care less about his own weapon.

“My hands’ll be empty,” I sighed. “But have your rifle ready, just in case.”

Quietly we moved along the barn until we found a door that was open. Unfortunately, the man’s back was to the door so I had no choice but to inadvertently sneak up on him. I took several steps inside while Nate waited outside, out of sight.

“Hello?” I said, making sure to speak in a soft voice. I held my arms out to the sides, empty palms up.

The man startled and spun around, ejected the spent round from the shotgun, and pointed it at my chest.

“Drop to the ground!” he ordered. [Reaction Roll: 4 - Hostile] Picking up a wrench with his third hand, he walked slowly toward me.

Without hesitation, I did as he said and hit the deck. Nate, short on patience, burst through the door and aimed his sonic rifle at the approaching man.

[All three make a communication roll to see how much influence they hold over each other. The roll will add modifiers for Mind and Conversation Skill. The farmer has a Mind Stat of 10 (generated on Don Jon’s MicroLite20 character generator)

Alyssa: 6+1MND+1skill=8   Nate: 10+0MND+1 skill=11   Farmer: 17+0MND+1skill=18]

The man seemed unphased. “Shoot me if you must,” he said, “But I’m not takin’ my farm without a fight.”

“Nate! Lower your gun,” I demanded. [Another Conversation/persuasion roll. A: 21  N: 8]

When I saw that he put it down I turned my head back toward the man, lifting it to face him as best as I could.

“I didn’t mean to startle you. We are not here to take your farm. My name is Alyssa. He is Nathan. We were just looking for a place to spend the night.”

“We don’t need any food or anything,” Nate adds. “Just a roof.”
[Alyssa rolls with advantage for this check since Nate lowered his weapon. A: 11 or 12  Farmer: 8]

The man held the gun’s sight on me a few seconds longer before reluctantly lowering the barrel.

“Name’s Murphy. Sean Murphy,” he offered as an introduction. “I’d apologize, but I’m alone, my family’s left me, and this farm is all I got. You can’t blame me for being skitterish.” [Any family on the farm? (even) No]

[Image: 9xoNy2gCnnTYyECJKip3oa6ljRaCpZcn_l5CIqyA...nimg=w2400]
Sean Murphy

“We saw you working on that tractor before we came in,” Nate explained as I stood. Perhaps it was his way of getting Sean to warm up to us.

“Yep. Damn thing keeps stalling. I was barely able to limp it back to the barn this morning.”

“Any idea what the problem might be?” Nate asks as he carefully takes a few steps in the direction of the vehicle.

Sean didn’t stop him, but moved to join him next to the tractor. “Might be the fuel filter. Not sure.”

“Fuel filter? It’s not electric?”

“You’re obviously not a farmer. Electricity doesn’t generate the kind of power needed to run a tractor in the field. And even if it did, the battery would die in a matter of hours. Not great when you’re putting in a full day. Nope. These things still run on good ‘ole fashioned synthetic fuel.

“Anyway,  I had a mechanic in town who used to take care of these things for me. Unfortunately, that’s not so much an option these days.”

“I take it he left after the bombings, or . . . “ Nate lingered, waiting for Sean to confirm whether or not the mechanic was killed.

“It’s a bit more complicated than that,” Sean answered and offered nothing more.

“Have you looked it up on the Nets?”

The farmer laughs. “Of course, but you can’t find anything these days. Tech-West has blocked most of the useful sites. Y’know they only want us to access things they control. I’ve scoured what information slips through the cracks, but so far haven’t found anything. If I can’t get this thing fixed, I’m about done for.”

I assumed Nate doesn’t know much about tractor engines since he didn’t offer to try and fix it himself. Instead, he glanced toward the ruined flat vision. Often, they double as a touchscreen computer terminal. “You got another terminal around here? I work in computer technology. Perhaps I can get by the Net-blocks.”

“I got one in the house you can try.”


Scene 3 [Tension Level 6]:

[It takes a  Tech skill check against a DC 20 (hard) to see if Nate can bypass the blocks on the computer. Roll: 1 (Really? A 1?).  He cannot access the Net.  Why? New/Ancient]

Sean’s computer was ancient. I remember having one of these models when I was in elementary school, but my father replaced it years ago. The machine took several about five minutes to fully boot up, a sure sign that very little maintenance had ever been performed on its internal software, and I saw Nate’s shoulders droop when the TWOS 4.0 (that’s Tech West Operating System version 4) splash screen appeared. 

“This isn’t looking good already,” Nate remarked. “It doesn’t look like this system has been updated in quite some time.”

“Hmm. I guess I really never had a need,” Sean explained.

TWOS was currently up to version 6 and anyone who needed to squeeze every bit of power out of their system, those people primarily being gamers, graphic designers, and media producers, made sure to keep their operating system up to date. Others could get by with one previous version, as most programs would still run. Two versions, however, and things get a bit trickier as developers like to move forward and not linger on outdated tech. To be honest, I wasn't even sure Sean’s computer could run the newest programs. But for getting on the Nets and running a small farm, this was probably all that was needed.

“Most of the security leaks for version 4 have been accounted for by now,” Nate explained. “I know a lot of tricks with V 6, but I’ll see what I can do. I was really hoping your system was running WorldSys. I’m more familiar with that O.S.. Regardless, without access to my software packages or the ability to download and install anything, this might be a lost cause.”

While Nate tried to work his magic, I decided to take the opportunity to get to know a little bit about our host. 

“Sean, I see pictures of you with an attractive woman and two children. Are they your family?”

“Yep. That would be Rose and my children, Lucas and Gracelynn.”

“In the barn, you told us that your family had left you. Do you mind me asking what happened?”

[Sean’s story was derived from three BOLD waylays.
Easy foes - quiet animals - resolved by fate
Epic - Storied Otherworldly - resolved by a scarcely used ability
Personal - Harsh Rival - resolved by the people]

“Just before the bombings,” Sean began, “Things were pretty normal around here. Lucas graduated from high school last year and chose to remain on the farm and help me instead of going off to college. The plan was for him to take over the farm eventually. Gracelynn still had several years of school left before she graduated. 

“Like most folks around here, we first learned of the attacks through news stories on the holo-vis. Military bases and big cities like New York, Atlanta, and Nashville seemed to be the main focus, so while the news was disturbing, personally we felt rather safe. Besides, we still had a farm to take care of if we had any hopes of a successful harvest this fall. You don’t happen to know anything about Machreek, do you?”

I shook my head, indicating that I didn’t.

“Machreek is a plant that is a natural repellant for many types of crop-eating insects. The supply store in Mausdale had just received a large shipment of Machreek seed and, while it’s still too early to plant the stuff, I wanted to be sure to purchase what I would need. See, the farmers around here love the stuff and if you don’t grab it when you can there might not be any when it comes time to plant. Lucas volunteered to go to town and pick some up. It was four days into the war and still, we had not heard of any threats to rural areas so I didn’t see any harm. Besides, he had a girl he liked in town and was itching to see her. We had no idea that would be the day Tech West would decide to bomb Mausdale.”

Day four. The same day my house was bombed. I could relate.

“The bombs that fell around town were gas. Lucas told me that within minutes a thick, green fog blanketed the streets. It was gone within a half-hour and everyone seemed fine. In fact, they all assumed the bomb was a dud.”

“Did you get hit?” I asked.

“Nope. In fact, all I heard was a few explosions. Never saw any of the stuff myself. Lucas came home and seemed fine. However, a couple of days later he began to feel ill and came down with a fever. He stayed in bed and rested. His blond hair turned white and began to grow thicker on his arms, legs, chest . . . even his face. Soon he was covered in a layer of fur. Not only that, but his legs grew thicker, his feet grew wider, and the tops of his ears grew longer. Whiskers sprouted from his cheeks. He was turning into one of those bunnymen.”

“Bunnymen?” Nate asked, taking a break from the computer to listen to the tale.

“Bunnymen,” Sean confirmed.

“Is there an echo in here?” I snarked.

“I think they call them Hoops,” Sean continued, ignoring my comment. “Seen ‘em on the holo-vis science shows. Some lab in California was messing around with injecting humans with rabbit DNA or something. The result was a giant rabbit that walked and talked like a man. I thought they looked like one of those aliens from those sci-fi stories and now my son was turning into one of ‘em.”

“So you kicked him out?” I asked.

“Lord, no. I loved him no matter what he was. No. He left on his own. Had to. He tried to help around the farm, but the transformation did some weird things . . . other than change his appearance. It seems anything metal he touched turned to rubber. After he inadvertently destroyed three or four tools we felt it was best that he not try to help out. I had no idea when or if I’d be able to replace any of them. It wasn’t long before he began to feel like a burden, not being able to contribute. Our plans for the future were gone. At least, that’s what Lucas believed. He began to wonder how the rest of the people were getting along in Mausdale. He wanted to find out. Perhaps, he might have a home there, with others like him. Rose and I didn’t want him to leave, but every day he grew more depressed. Eventually, we agreed that at least in town there were others who knew what he was going through. And there was also his girl. We wanted him to be happy.

“After that, it was just the three of us, Rose, Gracelynn, and me. Until about a week ago, that is. One afternoon a caravan of vehicles drove up our driveway. In the lead was Bruce Schmidt. Behind him were several other families from the neighboring homes and farms. They were all heading west. They didn’t see much of life left here with the collapse of society and they were uncomfortable living so close to a community of mutants. They were going to take Tech West up on their offer of refuge to anyone willing to flee from the east. Personally, I didn’t trust the West and I told him so. Was sure they would either be imprisoned or forced to vow allegiance under the penalty of arrest. I told him Rose and I were staying put, but Bruce didn’t let up and he begged Rose to get her to change my mind. 

“I suspect Bruce didn’t give a hoot about me. Who he really wanted to go with them was Rose. You see, Bruce’s wife passed a little over a year ago. Rose would often drop Gracelynn off at her friends but not come back for a couple of hours. Could never prove it but I suspect she and Bruce were seeing each other on the side. Regardless, I didn’t trust the man and had no intention of following his advice.

“Unfortunately, Rose didn’t feel the same way. She said she thought Gracelynn might have a chance for a normal life out West. She questioned whether or not the farm would even be habitable in a few months, or would it be overrun with lattterbugs, giant spiders, and seps? I told her she was being foolish, when several of the others, many of them Gracelynn’s friends, joined Bruce in encouraging us to go with them. In the end, Rose decided that leaving was the best course of action and if I didn’t agree that was fine with her. I could stay. Regardless, she was taking Gracelynn with her.

“I was only one man. They were a mob. I had no choice but to watch my wife and daughter pack up our car and drive off with a smug Bruce Schmidt. Now it’s just me, the farm . . .” he glances toward the front door and the barn beyond it, “And a broken tractor.”

“And unfortunately it’ll probably remain broken,” Nate announced. He had gone back to working on the computer but now had turned back to face us. “I tried, but I can get through. I even searched through sites I could reach but found nothing about tractors. I’m sorry.”

“It was a long shot,” Sean admitted. “I didn’t expect you to do much. I hear rumors of a secure Net being built here in the east. I might be able to find something on it, but right now I don’t have access, nor do I know who to talk to about it.”

[What happens next? d6 1-2: Sean asks for help  3-4: Alyssa offers to help  5-6: Nate offers to help.  Roll: 2 (I intentionally didn’t throw in a “no one offers to help” option because I have an idea of where I want to direct this story.)

Mood, per UNE: Sociable]

“Where are my manners?” Sean Murphy said, suddenly realizing something. “I haven’t offered you anything to eat. It’s nearly dinner time. I can whip up some fresh eggs and a little leftover pork from a hog I slaughtered a couple of weeks ago.”

“Breakfast for dinner?” I remarked. “You can’t beat that.”

“It’s been a long time since I had a home-cooked meal,” Nate added eagerly.

We all moved to the kitchen. It had a small nook with a round table where Nate and I sat while Sean retrieved a bowl with eggs from the fridge and the bundle of meat from the freezer. He confirmed my initial suspicion that the farm was equipped with a high-capacity solar generator. Two actually.

“Most everyone out this way has one,” the farmer explained. “Even before the war power service to the farms wasn’t always reliable, especially in the winter.”

The stove he cooked on was gas, fed by a large outdoor propane tank. That worried him a bit, since the spare was empty and the current tank was less than half full. 

“Don’t exactly know what I’m gonna do when that runs out. Cook over an open fire, I guess. They might have some propane available in town, but I’ve pretty much kept my distance from the bunnymen. Besides, Rose took my car. Couldn’t get there and back easily even if I wanted to. Which brings me to somethin’ I’ve been thinking of asking you. I know you two are just passing through and have your own plans. But I’ll admit, I’m an old man and I can’t do these things all on my own. I was hopin’ y’all might consider helping me out.”

I saw Nate begin to open his mouth to protest when Sean cut him off. “I’m not askin’ you to stay and help on the farm. Wouldn’t think of it. But, if you could just delay moving on for a couple of days, perhaps you could head into Mausdale for me. It’d be great if you could find Jesse, he’s my mechanic, and see if he’s willing to come out and look at the tractor. Also, and I realize this might be wishful thinking, if you happen to run into Logan, please let him know what happened with Rose and his sister. Maybe he’ll consider coming home.”

I looked across the table at Nate. His face was hesitant, but he wasn’t exactly giving me a “not on your life” glare either.

“He needs the help,” I implored.

“I know. But my family?”

“It’s been weeks since the attacks. Do you think anything is going to change if you arrive a few days later? Either they’re there or they’re not.”

He threw me a warning glance at my implication that they might not be fine and well.

“I’m just being realistic. We can do something meaningful right here. Right now.”

I let that sink in for a few moments.

“You’re right,” he finally admitted. “I’m just eager to learn something . . . anything. I don’t want to keep hoping if there’s nothing to hope for.”

“There’s always something to hope for, but right now I think we need to give Sean some hope.”

Without waiting for a response I turned to our host who was crossing the kitchen with two plates of hot food. “Mr. Murphy, we’ll do it. Tomorrow we’ll head into town and see what we can find.”

“This looks good,” Nate exclaimed as his plate was set down before him. In addition to the scrambled eggs and a slice of pork, Sean had added a couple of biscuits. “Really good.”

[Do they both agree to help Sean? (even) Yes  +random event  (Tension level resets to 1)

To refresh everyone’s memory, when a random event occurs I will draw a GMA card and use its Norse Glyph to inform the event.  I drew Jera. [Image: 0c77H2INiFQ1b4VNYxd_lybNVygjRGD4Mbb0scRD...K6iQ=w2400] According to the GMA instructions, Jera indicates that some kind of recent effort pays off, next step is made clear or a roadblock is removed.] 

After we were finished, Sean led us to one of the upstairs bedrooms.

“I have something to show you. Perhaps you might find it helpful.”

Opening a closet, he pulled out a suit of dark grey, rubberized flex armor. I was clearly used. There were gaps in some of the seams, scuff marks all over, the knees and elbow pads were worn thin, and it was missing half of the right sleeve. Still, it was better protection than what either Nate or I were wearing.

[Does Sean have a relic item? [Tension level 1] (even) Yes
I felt armor would meet two of the random events indicators. A reward for agreeing to help (recent effort) and it removed the obstacle of Nate not having any protection.

What type?  1-4 flex  5-7 sheath 8-10: force field  Roll: 4=flex armor  
What is its condition: 1-3: Full protection;  4-5: Some damage (-1 to protection); 6: significant damage (-2 to protection). Roll: 6   Instead of +6 bonus to AC, this suit only has +4]

“I found this at the army surplus store last year,” Sean explained. “I didn’t need it, but I thought it might be neat to own a suit of armor. Rose gave me an earful when I brought it home. Said it was a waste of money. But it really was a really good price, most likely ‘cause it was all beat up. Anyway, I don’t have a use for it. Couldn’t fit in it now even if I wanted to.” He held up his extra arm in case we had forgotten. “I thought one of you might be able to use it.”

We gladly accepted the gift and decided Nate should have it. It was more his size and I at least had some protection from my leather jacket and jeans.

“So, we have a plan,” Nate said. “We have protection and weapons. Now we just need to hope that we can persuade a couple of giant man-rabbits to help us.”

I was already thinking about that and believed I had an idea that might work. It all depended on Sean’s farm.

[Image: s-6e6mzMvWoEi8F6uQ4puLjcvrx1OLQ7wWlTpSzS...EtxA=w2400]

Imagesource1: Google Maps; Imagesource2: Artbreeder.com; Imagesource3
===================
Romans 8:24-25 What’s this?
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#9
CHAPTER 4: ALEX

System: OmegaLite20 
Tools: Gamemaster’s Apprentice Deck ; Beyond the Black Gate’s: Things You Find In An Abandoned Post-Apocalyptic Outpost table 

Housekeeping: This is a good point in the game to spend some of the character’s XP. To advance a level in OmegaLite20, characters need to spend 20x their current level in XP. (i.e. A level 1 character needs 20XP to move to Level 2, a level 2 character needs 40XP, etc.) Each character received 20XP for the previous leg (the amount OmegaLite recommends for a session of standard adventuring). Even with the extra XP I gave each character to start off the game, they only have enough to raise one level each, to level 2.  This means each character will gain the following:

+1d6x2 hit points
+1 to all attack rolls
+1 to primary skills
+1 to secondary skill (this happens at every even-numbered level)
 
Alyssa gains 2 HP, for a max of 36
Nate gains 6 HP, for a max of 38

Additionally, the PCs are spending the night at Sean’s farmhouse. By the letter, OmegaLite allows characters to heal  2xLevel worth of HP for a day’s rest. I’m going to apply this for a night’s sleep. I’ll also assume they raised the level before sleeping, healing them 4HP (Level 2x2).


Scene 1 [Tension Lvl: 1 (technically this should be 2, but I forgot to advance it and realized it too late to go back and correct it)]:

The next morning we woke up with a destination and a plan, however, the weather wasn’t on board. The skies were cloudy as Sean, Nate, and I got an early start in the fields gathering what we would need for our journey into Mausdale. Soon, rain began to fall and we retreated inside to wait for it to pass. Unfortunately, instead of clearing up, the clouds grew darker, the rain fell harder, and lightning flashed across the sky.

[Weather roll for the day: Cloudy and stormy, starting at 7am and lasting 21 hours with lighting.

Per oracle roll, they are unable to pull up any weather information on the Nets, but both Alyssa and Sean make a successful DC10 survival check to suspect that the weather will remain bad all day.]

Nate stood staring out the window at the puddles forming in the drive. “Maybe this is a morning storm and it will let up in a few hours.”

“I wouldn’t count on that,” Sean countered. “A storm like this will often hold on for the entire day.”

“He’s right,” I seconded. “It’s probably best if we just hang tight for another day.” 

“Let me check the Nets,” Nate said, still holding out hope. “Maybe I can find a forecast or something.”

As he goes off to check on Sean’s computer, I pull out one of the books from my pack and settle in for a day of reading. Having a full day of reading ahead of me, I choose Silent Bells Are Ringing, a horror novel. My favorite genre. It was thick, so I doubted I would finish it today, but I could definitely take a big chunk out of it.

[Image: nNwbnHU6V6NZxlU32TOqP0h_RkddCSWY00YM9GEW...G0fw=w2400]
 I settle in for a day of reading

[Character note: Since Alyssa is an avid reader and plans on using books as currency/trade items, I randomly determined how interested she is in certain genres.  I listed 10 genres and rolled a d10 for each, with higher numbers indicating greater interest. Surprisingly, Alyssa’s likes and dislikes are rather extreme, as everything was either a 1-3 (rather disinterested) or 8-10 (great interest). Nothing was a mediocre 4-7.  She is very interested in horror, romance, sci-fi, action, historical fiction, and non-genre specific (stories or dramas that don’t fall into the other categories). She isn’t as thrilled to read Thrillers (more spy/espionage type, as opposed to the horror variety she does like), fantasy, mystery, and non-fiction. I counted non-fiction as a whole, however, if she is going to read non-fiction, she prefers books that fall along the lines of her fiction interests. For instance, she would rather read a book about space travel than the memoir of someone working for the CIA.]

A few hours later, I heard the sound of some kind of techo-beat music that grew louder every second. I looked up to see Nate enter the room, his attention directed at the rectangular PCC he held in his palm, the same device from which the music emanated.

“Excuse me?” He looked up. “Do you mind? I’m trying to read.”

“Oh, sorry. I’ll turn it down.”

“Or you could use a VO PEECE,” I suggested.

“Only have manual models,” he replied apologetically.

Personal Compact Computers, or PCC’s -- which consumers pronounce PEECE--come in two varieties: the voice-operated, or VO, and the manual. The VO version is little more than an earpiece that allows you to communicate with another PEECE user, listen to music, or access information on the Nets, all by using voice commands. The manual variety is a hand-held device that is on average four inches long and two inches wide and about as thick as a cheap hamburger patty. It is more versatile than the VO as it has a touch screen that adds video capabilities. In addition to all the functions of the VO, it can also display pictures and videos, play games, and run programs that require a screen for tactile data input and visual display. 

“I thought your PEECE was white?” I asked.

Momentarily confused, Nate glanced at the black device in his hand. “Oh, yeah. That was a different one. It’s out of power. Thanks for reminding me. I should charge them all while I’m here and save my batteries.”

“All? How many do you have?”

“Around six. I try to keep a few extras on hand. They’re good items to barter.”

Fair enough. I value books. He values electronics . . . or music . . . I can’t tell. Regardless, it makes sense we would each hoard items important to us, believing others might want them in trade.

Nate continues to tap at his PEECE’s screen before letting out a frustrated growl.

“What’s up?” 

“I still can’t access the Nets to get an update on the weather.”

“What’s your hurry? Rest awhile. Who knows when we’ll have another chance.”

“You’re probably right, but I’m just eager to get going. [Reason: Find/Work] I know we’re going to Mausdale to help Sean, but I was also hoping we might find a working vehicle that we could use to help speed up our journey.”

“If the bunnymen have any cars or trucks, I doubt they’ll just give one to you. Such things are hot commodities these days.”

Nate agreed but asked me to let him hope before leaving me alone to continue my reading. 

[Nate made another attempt, with disadvantage, at a DC20 Tech Check to hack the computers and get on the Nets. He failed.

The rest of the day passes without incident. Each PC gains another 4 HP for the day of rest.]


Scene 2 [Tension Lvl: 2]

[Weather Roll: Sunny, but a moderate storm with lightning expected around 4 pm, lasting 21 hours. ]

By the next morning, the sun was shining brightly and we were able to get an early start. Besides our packs and weapons, we took turns pushing a tarp-covered wheelbarrow filled with trade items. Sean was very willing to donate the items, hoping they could be used to buy the services of Jesse, his mechanic. The wheelbarrow, on the other hand, took some convincing. The farmer was reluctant to part with it, as the tool was invaluable on the farm and he only had two at the moment. He didn’t want it getting lost, damaged, or having us run off with it. It hurt a bit to think he didn’t trust us, but I understood. He just met us and we’ve only spent a little more than a day together. As far as he knew, we were only interested in his food, shelter, and anything else we could coax, or steal, from him. We assured Sean we’d be back and, in the end, he agreed to let us have it as long as we promised to return it. I’m sure the three Personal Compact Computers and packs of batteries Nate left behind as collateral helped. 

The distance to the heart of Mausdale was approximately three miles. Luckily, the road was in decent shape, making the trek with the wheelbarrow much easier. [Mile 6: Moderate conditions, Object (to be revealed momentarily), no encounters] Our plan was to turn south on Jerseytown road and approach the town from the northeast. However, we were sidetracked when Nate noticed something laying on the ground just off the shoulder.

“It’s a walkie-talkie,” he said, examining the small radio.

“Does it have power?”

“It’s solar. It should.” He turned a knob on the side of the small box-like device.  Crackles and hisses emitted out of its speaker. His eyes raised hopefully as he lifted the box to his lips and pressed the transmit button.  “Hello?  Can anyone hear me?” He released the button and waited.

Nothing but static.

He was about to try again when suddenly a woman’s venom-filled voice blasted over the airwaves.

“Ken! Is that you, you bastard!  Get your ass back here right now! I’m going to kill you!”

Nate’s eyes went wide as he held the walkie talkie away from him, almost as if it was possessed by the woman’s spirit and would bite him if it was too close. 

[Per "Beyond the Black Gate’s: Things You Find In An Abandoned Post-Apocalyptic Outpost table" they found “A battered, solar-charged walkie-talkie. If activated, someone answers!”
Male or Female? Female  
UNE for conversation: Neutral Mood-hostile-capture-experience
Random words: Recess Small]

Tentatively, Nate moves the radio to his lips and speaks once again, “Uh, hello? I . . . I’m not Ken. My name’s Nathan.”

“Who! Where’s Ken?!”

“I don’t know. I found this walkie-talkie by the side of the interstate. I’m Nathan. I’m here with my friend Alyssa.”

It took several long moments before the woman spoke again. 

“Did you say you found Ken’s walkie talkie on the interstate? And Ken’s not with it?”

“Yes,” Nate confirmed. “There is no one around except us . . . at least that I can see.”

“Shit! Then he really did leave me.” I couldn’t tell if she was sad, frustrated, or defeated.

“Uh, is there anything we can do to help?” Nate asked, looking at me with an uncertain shrug.

“Sorry about that,” the voice apologized. “Thanks. I’m Alexandria Andrews, but everyone calls me Alex.”

[Is Alex from Mausdale? (Good) Yes + random event.   
Norse Symbol: Perthro   [Image: EOiKp02OvhNn7qD3GS2QavgI-gHM6mnojTfPKNNq...BH1w=w2400] Discovery of a mystery or secret, Characters have a destiny that is yet to be realized.  Tension resets to 1.]

I motion for Nate to hand me the walkie-talkie.

“Hello Alex. This is Alyssa. Are you in Mausdale?”

“No. I’m from Mausdale, but I’m in a small cabin. More of a shack. Ken, my boyfriend, brought me here a couple of days ago. Wanted me to experience living in the wild. Funny if you think about it. Every day these days is like living in the wild. Anyway, he thought some recreational time alone in the woods would be good for our relationship and I agreed. It feels like we’ve been drifting apart these past couple of months. And besides, it wouldn’t hurt me to learn some survival skills.”

When she paused I cut in. “If Ken wanted to spend time with you, why do you think he left?”

“This morning I woke up alone. I found a note from him saying he was going hunting since the storms kept us inside all day yesterday. I was pissed. He knew I was scared out of my mind last night, hearing all kinds of creatures outside the cabin. And he leaves me alone? What the heck! He doesn't return all morning. Now I hear he was on the interstate. That just doesn’t make sense unless he was abandoning me. The interstate is nowhere near here.”

“Where is ‘here’?”

“I’m not actually sure. We came up Jerseytown Road, crossed over the interstate, and walked for about another half hour. Then Ken took us off the right side of the road and into the woods. About another half hour later we were here.”

I looked at Nate with uncertainty. 

“We have our own mission,” he says. “This is not our problem.”

“But she’s alone in the woods. And you know what might be out there. We can’t just leave her.”

Nate’s expression was firm. Just when I thought he wasn’t going to budge, he let out a sigh and grabbed the walkie-talkie back.

“Alex. We are going to try and help you, but there is no way we’ll be able to find you in the woods. Is there any way you can get back to the road?” 

“I think I remember the door to the shack was on the right side when we got here, so I think I know which direction leads to the road.”

“Good. If you can make it to the road, we can head up and try to meet you. Do you have a weapon?”

There was a long pause before she answered. “I found a machete. Ken must have left it here.”

“Okay. We’re heading that way now. Do your best to travel in a straight line. I know that might be difficult, but keep your eyes open for things you may have left when you first came through. Footprints. Broken branches. Anything. We will keep in touch on the radio and start calling out when we think we are close.”

[At this point I tracked Alex’s progress to the road separately. At the end of this post I will explain how I did that and what happened beyond what is recorded here.]

We hid the wheelbarrow amongst some bushes and started north along Jerseytown Road. We hadn’t gone very far before Alex was checking in.

“I only left the cabin about five minutes ago but nothing around me seems familiar. I’m afraid I might be going in the wrong direction.”

“Can you see the sun at all through the trees?” Nate asks.

“Barely. I see light, but not the sun itself . . . wait!  I hear something.”

I held my breath waiting for more information.

“Something is definitely coming. I need to hide . . . oh my! I see it. I think . . . I think it might be a bear, but . . . something's not right. It has wide eyes and a beak . . . almost like an . . . owl?”

To me, Nate asked, “Do I respond? What if my voice draws it to her?”

Turned out we didn’t have to make the decision after all. 

“I think it can smell me,” Alex continued. “It’s looking toward the tree I’m hiding behind. Oh no! It sees me! It’s coming!’

The last thing we hear is a loud growl (interestingly mixed with call of a hoot owl) before the radio goes silent.

“Alex!  Alex!” Nate called into the walkie-talkie but got no response.

“Come on,” he said.  “Let’s go.”

Immediately, we took off running past fields that were broken by small copses of trees. After a while, the fields completely disappeared and Jerseytown Road was bordered on both sides by dense woods. Every couple of minutes Nate would call to Alex over the radio, but get no response.  We traveled for what felt like a mile’s distance before we stopped and began calling out Alex’s name into the woods.  After a few minutes with no sign of the girl we stopped, not wanting to attract whatever it was that attacked her . . . or anything else for that matter.

“What do we do?” I asked uncertainly. Up to this point, I felt like the level-headed one. Like the one who knew what to do. Right then, however, I felt powerless.

“Nothing,” Nate said. “I don’t think there’s anything we can do. It would be foolish to search the woods for her. We don’t know where they left the road or where the cabin is. We could get turned around and lost. We already know there are wild mutant animals in there. I think the best course of action is to wait a while longer, then head back to the interstate.”

While I hated to do nothing, I couldn’t argue with his sound reasoning. In one last attempt to mount a rescue, I asked if Nate could pick up a GPS signal on his PEECE. I got to give him credit. He at least checked, but it turned out to be a wasted effort. [Do they have GPS? (even) No.]

After thirty minutes we gave up waiting and began the return walk south. 


Scene 3 [Tension Lvl: 2]

“Alex made a good point.”

“What’s that?” Nate responded to my seemingly out-of-the-blue statement.

“If Ken was just going hunting and was planning on returning to the cabin, why did we find his walkie-talkie as far south as the interstate?”

“Maybe he got lost?”

“Perhaps, but look around us,” I said, indicating the fields on either side of the road. “He would have exited the woods long before I-80. He knew how to get back to the cabin from Jerseytown Road. He could have gone back up to the cabin instead of continuing south.”

Nate had no reply.

“Also, why would he leave his walkie-talkie by the side of the road?”

“Maybe he ran into trouble,” Nate suggested. “A Sep? Wolf? Raiders? Anything?”

“I guess you’re right,” I admitted. “But that still doesn’t explain Ken’s being near the interstate. Something’s not right, and when we get to Mausdale I’ll be asking some questions.”

[This is the result of the random event above (Pethro - discover a mystery or secret). The PCs will try to figure out what the real story is behind Ken taking Alex to the cabin in the woods.]

We arrived back at the place where we stashed our wheelbarrow, retrieved it,  and continued south along Jerseytown Road toward the town of Mausdale.  By our best estimates, we were halfway there when we were met by a group of four hoops. Each held a crossbow in their gloved hands and had a sword, or sword-like weapon, hanging from their belts. While it was hard to tell at first, we eventually figured out that two of them were female and two were male. What became obvious right away was that the leader was a pure white bunny-woman who introduced herself as Kelli.

[Image: PCKj3dOQRe2rMhts1rLVCG69kmtNwwucF6MzpoXt...TxCA=w2400]

[Are they met on the road by Hoops from Mauseville before they reach the town proper? (Good) Yes.
How many? (d4) 4 two male, two female  Immediate Reaction? (2d6) 8 Uncertain, confused. In this case, cautious but not aggressive.  Are they armed like a patrol? (Good) Yes

All have swords, (d4=4) and all have crossbows.
 
I created a table to randomly determine each hoop's color unless there was a narrative reason for any specific color.

M1: White   M2: Blk/Grey  F1 Kelli: whilte   F2: Black]

Kelli asked about our business and I told her. I explained that we were from the Murphy farm and that we were hoping to find Jesse, the mechanic, as well as Sean’s son Lucas.

“What’s in the wheelbarrow?” Kelli asked, motioning with the tip of her crossbow.

“Trade items.” I pulled back the tarp to reveal a heap of freshly harvested carrots. [Yes, I realize I am stereotyping bunnymen and years from now libraries will ban this story for inappropriate portrayals of mutant humans.] Kelli stared at the boon and I could almost see the wheels spinning in her head.

“Murphy has more of this?” She inquired.

“Perhaps,” I answered cautiously. “Why do you ask?”

“We might want to make a deal. He provides us with carrots and other crops and we can provide services like mechanical work, carpentry, man-power at harvest time. Things like that.”

“I can’t speak now for Mr. Murphy, but he might be interested. Especially if he gets to talk with Lucas.  I’ll ask him when we go back.”

Thinking that was that, I covered the wheelbarrow back up, grabbed the handles, and started to push it toward town.  Kelli stepped in front of me, blocking my progress.

“I’m sorry. You must’ve misunderstood. You make arrangements with Murphy first. Then we’ll let you in the town. We need to know we can trust you. In the meantime, we’ll take this batch as a good faith offering for even considering helping you.”

[Does Kelli agree to take them into town and help them find the people? DC10 (due to bargaining) Alyssa’s Comm check. 5+1MND+2 Comm = 8 Fail!]

Not liking the turn the situation was taking, I reached for my [1:gun 2:crowbar 3:knife  d3 Roll: 3] knife. Two of the other hoops raised their crossbows and aimed them at me. I didn’t back down. I knew they were just carrots and could easily be replaced. But the wheelbarrow, that was one of Sean’s prized possessions and I wasn’t letting them have it without a fight.

“Do any of you know Alexandria Andrews or her boyfriend Ken?” What the heck was Nate doing? I was preparing to die defending a piece of farm equipment and he’s making small talk? But I do have to admit, it shifted the attention from me to him. “We have some information about them you might want to hear. Bring us into town and help us find the mechanic and we’ll tell you what we know.”

[Do they know either of the two? (Good, being it’s a small town) Yes.
Nate will need to make a Communication check to persuade the group. I randomly determined the difficulty at DC10 and gave Nate advantage, thinking the group would at least be interested in what he had to say.  Roll: 1 or 7 +2 Comm +0 MND. Best total: 9 Fail!
Why does he fail? Halt/Relative]

“Don’t listen to them!” said one of the hoops who was pointing his crossbow at me. He was grey with black markings. “I don’t know who put them up to this, but they’re probably here to spread some more lies about my brother.” He shifts his aim to cover Nate. “Ken loves Alex, and nothing you, or whoever put you up to this, says will change that.”

Kelli’s gaze bounced between her fellow guard and Nate as she contemplated what to do. Finally, she sided with familiarity.

“You two better go. Make your deal with Murphy and come back.”

“Not without our carrots,” I demanded.

“Sure, take ‘em,” the white hoop sighed.

I turned the wheelbarrow around and Nate and I headed back north toward Interstate-80. I glanced back from time to time to see the group of bunnymen guards keeping watch to make sure we left.

Once they were out of sight, I said to Nate, “Something’s up and I’m going to find out what.”

“WE are going to find out,” he corrected. 

Surprised at his eagerness at spending more time on this mystery, I shot him a questioning glance.

“Don’t look so surprised,” he said. “Kelli was a little too willing to let us go once Alex was mentioned. I’m suddenly very interested in the answer to one particular question?"

"And that is?" I ask.

"What’s up, Doc?”


[Image: s1SOh5fz2oP1UQx11u64ZBGd8JpjOFY4kZQ4WeVq...8m_Q=w2400]

END OF CHAPTER
================================

Before I share Alex’s side encounter I need to address a farming issue. After I played through this session I began to wonder if carrots would have even been in season in that part of the county at that time of year. The short answer is no, they probably would not have. However, besides the fact that this is a fictional game and trading carrots with bunnymen is just an amusing setup, there are a couple of possible explanations. One is that some fifty years from now farming techniques have evolved to a point that some crops could be planted and grown out of season. Another is that the carrots themselves have been altered, either by naturally using selective breeding and planting methods or through scientific genetic modification (courtesy of Tech West, if course.). Whatever the reason, this world has carrots that can be harvested in Pennsylvania in the early spring.

ALEX’S ENCOUNTER

I decided that it would take Nate and Alyssa ten turns to travel to the approximate location along Jerseytown road where Alex and Ken headed into the woods. (These aren’t official game turns in regards to length of time. They are just arbitrary steps that correspond to Alex’s movements through the woods.) Alex would need to move from the cabin to the road in order to meet them. To simulate this I relied on the Game Master’s Apprentice’s Deck’s scatter mechanic. Each card has an arrow that points in one of the eight cardinal and intermediate compass directions. For each turn, I would flip a card in the deck and use the arrow to determine what direction she is moving in. Also, each turn she would make a D15 “Survival” check (survival skill + MND). If she is successful she can rotate the scatter arrow one click in the correct direction to simulate her ability to navigate from her surroundings.

Using a standard square grid, I placed Alex in a space three steps east of the left edge, that edge representing the road. If at any time Alex reached that edge of the grid she would find the road. Every two turns she had a 1-in-6 chance of encountering a wild beast. Despite her confidence as I wrote it in the narrative, Alex was apparently not very good at navigation because her first two turns actually took her in the opposite direction from the road and she failed both survival rolls. However, she didn’t have to wander lost for too long, as the first encounter check resulted in her running into an owlbear (58hp, AC15, Claw +9 to attack, 1d6+5 damage).
Alex (40 hp, AC10, ATK +4 for the machete)
Alex wins initiative.

Rd1: A: 21  hits for 2 pt O: 57hp     O: 22 hits for 9  A: 31hp
Rd 2: A: 23 hits for 5  O: 52hp     O: 21 hits for 10  A: 21hp
Rd 3: A: 8 misses    O: 1  Crit fail, loses turn
Rd 4: A: Nat 20 max damage  hits for 8 O:46hp     O: lost turn
Rd 5: A: 17 hits for 3  O: 44hp     O: 19  hits for 6   A: 15hp
Rd 6: A: 21 hits for 5  O: 39hp   O: 21  hits for 6  A: 9hp
Rd 7: A: 15  hits for 8  O: 31hp   O: 1 Crit fail, loses turn
Rd 8: A: 14  miss   O: lost turn
Rd 9: A: 8 miss    O: 21  hits for 7  A: 2hp
Rd 10: A: 23  Hits for 5  O: 16hp   O:14  hits for 6  Alex is dead


Image1 source;   Image2 source
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Psalm 104:19-21
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CHAPTER 5: VERNA

System: OmegaLite20 
Tools: Gamemaster’s Apprentice Deck; Nine Steps and a Bloody Heart; Artbreeder for character profiles

Chapter Information: As mentioned in the previous chapter, Alyssa and Nate will be investigating the circumstances surrounding Alex, Ken, and their reasons for going to the cabin. For this investigation, I will be using an altered version of the tool Nine Steps and a Bloody Heart developed by Riccardo Fregi. This tool is intended for solo players who want to run an investigation with some surprises. The system is very similar to the game of Clue and Cleudo, in that you assign facts about the case to several playing cards, pick a random three as the solution, then systematically uncover the remaining cards to eliminate the facts that aren’t pertinent. Since the player is listing all the possible facts beforehand, this is more of a device used to direct the story instead of a way to generate completely unknown clues on the fly and lead the player through an investigation of which he has no knowledge. Still, the clues can be vague enough that what they specifically point to can be a surprise. For example, a motive card can simply be “jealousy”. The player would still need to discover the specific reason for the jealousy.

While I would recommend checking out the full instructions, I'll explain how I will be using the tool in this adventure. For starters, I modified the number of clues in each category from five to four. This makes it a shorter investigation needing only six turns instead of nine (thus making this Six Steps and a Bloody Heart.) Based on what the PC’s know, the premise they are working on is that Ken didn’t actually bring Alex to the cabin for a relaxing time away from Mausdale, but that it was a plan to take Alex to a remote area for the purpose of causing her harm. Using the ace through 4 cards of the suits of a normal deck of playing cards, my categories are as follows:

Spades - Suspects - Town leader, Boss/Guardian, Friend, Ken (boyfriend)
Diamonds - Motive - Jealousy, Keep a Secret Hidden, Revenge, Alex was in the way
Clubs - Why was Ken at the Interstate - Change of heart, Legitimately lost, Plan was to leave abandon her and the let animals get her, left her alone to scare her

For each scene that involves an investigation a card is drawn, revealing one fact that can be eliminated from the solution. The scene then plays out in a way to explain why. Once every two scenes the PC’s have an opportunity to reveal a second card. To do so they must successfully pass an investigation check. Unless otherwise noted, I will base this check on a DC10  Communiation roll using the stats of the character most prominent in the scene.  If the PCs are successful on every investigation check, by the end they will know for certain the solution of the mystery. If not, there will still be one or more unrevealed cards for one or more of the categories and the PCs will have to make an educated guess as to the solution and follow any consequences if they guess incorrectly. 

In addition to the suits listed above, the ace of hearts is also shuffled into the mix (the bloody heart). If this card is drawn a surprise event occurs (also determined beforehand by the player). Another card is drawn to eliminate a fact and the ace of hearts is reshuffled into the deck. Once all the surprise events have occurred (I have two for my game), the ace is discarded from the deck.


Scene 1 [Tension Lvl: 3]:

[Mile 7: Condition- Mild;  Landmark - Nothing]

After our encounter with Kelli and the bunnymen we returned to Interstate 80.  By the time we reached the intersection, we had decided to find an alternate route into town that hopefully avoided any other rabbit patrols. The task didn’t seem that difficult. Even a small town can't guard all its borders, and while we preferred using a road, trudging through the woods wasn’t out of the question.

Having lived here all my life I knew there was another exit about a mile down the road that would lead to Mausdale, but Nate kept going on about how he wanted to find another way into town, so I let him fiddle for a while with the GPS on his PEECE while I sat on a boulder and munched on a couple of carrots from our stash. 

“Man! I can’t get through to a single GPS satellite,” Nate complained. “What is Tech West so concerned about that they feel it necessary to jam all the satellite feeds?”

“That any survivors might use the info to plan a counterattack?” I suggested.

“Does anyone who survived look organized enough . . . or strong enough, for that matter . . . to attack the west?”

“No, but why chance it? You know that I grew up here? I can get us into Mausdale.”

Nate cast me an exasperated look. “Why didn’t you say something?”

“You were so sure you could find a route. You’re a man. I was letting you have your moment.” Nate gave me a look that screamed Don’t patronize me. “Besides, I was hungry and welcomed the rest.”

“So, how do we get to Mausdale?” Nate gave in.

“Continue down the Interstate for another mile or so and take the Danville exit.”

[Can Nate get a map on his PCC? (Even) No.  Is Alyssa familiar with I-80 to know there is another crossroad further to the west that leads to Mausdale? Should be an Easy D10 MND roll with Knowledge skill. 19+1+4know=24 Succes

About twenty minutes later we were passing the large green exit sign for route 54. 

[Image: uXmg1kN3DMN81pSxE-9kB4kPSwBC0Hy3guUBvKcH...Z5mg=w2400]

“Where’s Danville?” Nate asks as we pass the marker.

“It’s further south. It’s a regular city. Mausdale is just a town off the interstate.

As we approached the exit ramp, I glanced across the southbound lanes at a large multi-story structure. A high road sign advertised the building as belonging to the Interstate Inn chain. The hotel chain became well known for providing comfortable well-kept hotels that could only be found at exits along the nation’s interstates. While most of their buildings were purchased and renovated from other hotel chains, occasionally, they would need to build a new hotel if they wanted to service an area that didn’t already have an available existing structure. Whether renovated or new-build, the one thing each hotel had in common was they were all located within a mile of an interstate.

Through the trees, I could see one of the hotel’s many windows.  Behind it, a shadow watched us.

“There are people in the Interstate Inn,” I told Nate.

“So? We’re looking for the service garage.”

“Do you think they might know anything about the town?”

“Doubt it. My guess is they’re wanderers who found a safe place to stay.”

We exited and turned south onto state route 54. Having mutually agreed that stopping at the Inn was probably a waste of time, we decided to continue into town, hoping we would avoid any more hoop patrols. To our left, between the road we were following and the hotel, was a smaller brown building with a green roof that resembled a barn or country store. We didn’t give it a second thought until someone called out to us from its porch.

[Image: S2Ya_IhWOU2xRGLMkyCYnRd8klP7abMn2ivb2Arv...IxNQ=w2400]
A brown building that resembled a country store.
“Hey! Travelers!”

We both turned to the voice but not before I took a quick glance at the sign erected beside the road. Gram’s Dutch Kitchen it read.

“You two hungry?” the woman on the porch continued. “I can fix ya up some lunch real quick.”

Nate and I looked at each other, then at the wheelbarrow of carrots. No further discussion was necessary as we changed direction toward the inviting country restaurant.

[Is it still open for business? (Bad)  Yes]


Scene 2 [Tension Lvl: 4]:

[Are there any customers? (Even)  No]

“Well good day to you two. My name’s Verna, and this here’s my husband, Gene,” the human woman said, giving a nod to a black-haired hoop sitting at a table. “We’ve got customers, Gene. Go warm up some stew for ‘em. You two do like stew don’t you? It's really all we’ve got right now.”

“You got sumthin’ to trade?” Gene asked, apparently sizing up our ability to pay.

“Gene, mind your manners!” Verna snapped back. “They look like they’ve been on the road a while and are tired.”

“You know we’re not running a charity here.”

Verna rolled her eyes. “I’m sorry,” she apologized, “But he still wants to believe things’ll get back to normal.” Then, a bit sheepishly, she adds,  “Do ya got anything to trade?”

“We’ve got a wheelbarrow full of carrots,” Nate offers. “We’re hoping to use it to barter with some of the other residents, but I’m sure we could spare a bunch or two. Could you use some fresh produce?”

“Ohhh! That would be most helpful,” Verna admitted. “After the war, we cleared a patch of land outside to grow our own vegetables -- you know we couldn’t count much on the local farmers anymore -- but it’s too soon for a harvest. Gene, we’ve got payin’ customers. Happy?”

Gene snorts as he heads back to the kitchen.

“Look, if it’s too much trouble,” I said.

“Don’t you think nothin’ of it. He’s just protective of the restaurant, really of the whole town. It takes him a while to warm up ta’ strangers. Thinks you just gonna try to take advantage of us, even though I’m the one who invited ya in. The locals he’ll let slide, but the truth is, we need them to donate as well, preferably food items, if we’re going to be able to keep cookin’.”

“So you’re still an operating restaurant?” I asked.

“That’s the plan. Trying to at least keep up the illusion of normality.”

“Your husband’s a Hoop,” Nate noted, stating the obvious. Way to go, pal.

“Noticed that, did ya,” Verna says with a knowing wink.

“Were you not here when the bombs dropped?”

“Oh, I was here. Scared me half to death.”

“But you’re fully human.”

“Yep. Apparently, the gas didn’t affect all of us, though I couldn’t tell you why..” [Does she have a theory why not everyone was affected by the gas? (bad) No.]

[Image: k32BQnRK-36B6n__u_wRvBjTqLTA6pYDrafeKFDn...w=s250-p-k]
Verna Stokes

[UNE for conversation: Inquisitive-curiosity-recent scene]

“Looks like you two came in off the interstate. You heading east or west?”

“West,” Nate confirmed. “To Nebraska.”

“So why stop in Mausdale. Just need a rest?”

“Actually, we’re helping out a farmer we met. Sean Murphy. He thought Jesse might be able to help fix his tractor. That’s why we have all those carrots. For payment.”
 
“You know Sean Murphy! We used to get a lot of our vegetables from Sean. Are those carrots from his farm? If so, I’ll take three bundles if you can spare ‘em. And his son Lucas, he was always in here.  Bringin’ his girlfriend, Jaci, on dates.”

[Does Verna know Sean or his son, Lucas? (Even) Yes, and . . . is very familiar with Sean and his son, Lucas]

“Actually, we were hoping to talk to Lucas,” I cut in. “His father told us he’s living permanently in Mausdale now, but Mr. Murphy really needs his help.” 

“Well, I don’t know anything about him living in town. Haven’t seen him for several weeks.  You can try askin’ Jaci, but I heard they had a falling out, after he turned into a hoop and all.. Come to think of it, that’s probably when he stopped comin’ ‘round.”

“We’ll do that,” Nate said. "Any possibility you could direct us to both Jesse and Jaci.”

“Jesse’s no problem. He’s usually hanging out at the service center. Head south on Old Valley School Road -- that’s the crossroad just at the end of our parking lot. You’ll pass right by the service center about three-quarters of a mile down.  Jaci now, I’m not so sure. You all seem like nice folk, but I’m not comfy with giving out someone’s home address. “

“I understand your hesitancy, Verna,” I explained. “But I can assure you, we mean Jaci no harm. We are just trying to find Lucas to help Mr. Murphy. It’s really important.”

[This will be a D20 MND check using Com skill, per Alyssa’s stats. It is hard because Gene will protect the residents.  12+1MND+2COM = 15 fail.]

“Verna! Mind what you tell these strangers,” Gene warned, returning from the kitchen with two bowls of steaming stew in his hands. 

“I know. No need to fuss,” Verna assured her husband. “Protect the town. You’ve made that perfectly clear.” Despite her compliance, she cast an apologetic look in our direction.

Gene placed the bowls of stew down. Nate’s and my hunger got the best of us and we dug into the meal as the cook went back into the kitchen to fetch a couple of glasses of water.

“You said you were comin’ from the east,” Verna resumed. “I would’ve thought you might’ve come down Jerseytown road. I know there’s not an exit off the interstate, but it wouldn’t take too much trouble to leave the highway and get on that road.” [Finally, we are getting around to the “recent scene” UNE roll from before.]

“Actually, we tried,” Nate explained. “However, we ran into some trouble.”

“A patrol of Hoops,” I added. “The one in charge was a white Hoop named Kelli. Wouldn’t let us pass until we had an agreement with Murphy to trade with the town.”

“Ugh. They’re the MSF,” our hostess explained.

“MSF?” Nate asked.

“The Mausdale Security Force. Clint Morrow started it up shortly after the War. He felt it was important that if we were to maintain a semblance of community that we have some kind of security to keep order and protect us from outside aggression. So, he put together a dozen or so townsfolk, most of them about college age, and created the MSF.”

Gene came back with the water. “If it wasn’t for this diner I’da signed up. Don’t worry, they’re filtered.” He explained about the water, putting the glasses down in front of us. 

“I’m sure I’ve had worse,” I assured him, taking a drink.

“Now Gene, don’t you be getting any idea of runnin’ off and joining the army. You’re getting too old for that type of thing,” Verna warned. 

“What good’s a man if he can’t defend his own home?” Gene retorted.

“What good’s a man if he’s put in the hospital or killed?” Verna shot back. “Anyway, Clint’s an honest man and has good intentions. Some of those kids he recruited, however, I’m not so sure about. A few of them have overinflated egos. Think they run the place. And that Kelli you run into, she’s one of the worst. But you never mind them. If you ever have trouble go see Clint. He’ll straighten them out.”

“Good to know,” said Nate. “One of the others, grey with black markings, he seemed a bit concerned about people spreading rumors about his brother Ken.”

“That’d be Ernie Watkins. How did Ken come up?”

[Now it’s time to finally start the investigation. I will reveal the first card to eliminate a fact. 
First Card: 3 of Clubs  Ken’s plan was not to leave her to be eaten by the animals.
Since Verna is talkative, this is a good chance to get as much info as possible, so I’ll make a DC10 Communication check using Nate’s stats. If successful, we’ll pull another card.
13+0MND+2Com=15 Success
Next Card: 2 of Diamonds  Ken wasn’t trying to keep a secret hidden]

We told her about finding the walkie-talkie, our conversation with Alex, her encounter with some type of creature, and our suspicions about why Ken may have been near the Interstate.

“Can you think of any reason why Ken would have intentionally left Alex at the cabin?” I asked.

“Nothing specific,” Verna admits, “But those two were hot and cold. They could be lovebirds one day, then at each other's throats the next. [Did Verna know of any disagreements between the couple? (even) Yes.] Don’t get me wrong, Ken loved that girl, but he had a temper. It didn’t help either that they were a mixed couple.”

“Interracial?” I asked, having known many such couples. “Surely that wouldn’t be a problem.”

“Inter-species,” Gene cut in. “Ken’s a hoop. Alex is human.” [Is Ken a hoop? d4 1: human 2-4: hoop  Roll 4]

“Those who didn’t mutate are still trying to adjust, especially if their significant other changed,” Verna explained. “When your hunk of man suddenly grows whiskers, long ears, and is covered in fur, the attraction doesn’t always stick. Gene and I made it work, but not everyone has. Especially the younger folks. It’s often more about looks than love with them.”

“So it’s possible that one, or both of them, could have been looking around,” I suggested. “Could Ken have been jealous enough to want to cause her harm? Or wanted her out of the way to pursue another relationship?”

“Is that a reason to kill someone?” Nate wondered. “Most people just break up or mess around behind the other’s back.”

“C'mon, Nate. You’re smart enough to know it’s happened before.” He nods in agreement. “And remember he didn’t actually kill her. He left her. Some animal got her. Maybe that’s what he was hoping.”

“Nah!” Gene spoke up. “Ken was someone who prided himself on follow-through. If he knew something needed to be done and it was his job to do it, he did it. He never passed it along to someone . . . or something else. If he wanted Alex dead, he wouldn’t have left her to some animal. He would have killed her himself.”

“Gene!” Verna scolded, shocked.  “That’s a horrible thought. How could you even think that young man would do such a thing to that lovely girl?”

“I’m not saying he did. I’m only saying that if that was his intention he would have done it himself.” [scratch off Intentionally Left Alex for the Animals]

His wife looked at him sternly. “Is that any better?”

“Okay, let’s say he wasn’t trying to kill her,” I broke in. “Maybe he just wanted to scare her, make her think he wasn’t trustworthy. Then she would break it off and he didn’t have to be the bad guy.”

“Perhaps there’s something more to it,” Nate offered. “Maybe it has nothing to do with their relationship but with something else?”

“What are you getting at, son?” Gene asked.

“What if Ken was involved in something that he shouldn’t have been? What if Alex found out and in order to protect himself, or others, he took her to the cabin to get rid of her? It’s possible it wasn’t even his idea, but someone else pressured him into it?”

“Nate, you’ve been watching too many spy thriller holos,” I accused.

“Not to mention,” Verna chimed in, “This is a small town and secrets aren’t something that easy to keep, especially here in the restaurant. I hear all sorts of things while serving folks. They’re so used to me that I think they forget I’m around or don’t suspect that I’m listening. But I am. And I ain’t never heard anyone say anything tawdry about Ken. Nor Alex, for that matter.” [Scratch off Keep a Secret Hidden]

“And if that was his intention, why leave her alive?” I pointed out. “Seems to me that would give her an opportunity to find her way back and spill the beans.”

Gene nodded emphatically as my question gave more credence to his belief that Ken would've completed the deadly deed himself.

“I don’t know,” Nate relented. “Perhaps he had a change of heart and couldn’t do it. But he couldn’t bring her back either. So he left her, hoping the problem might take of itself somehow.” He cast Gene a quick glance to ward off any objections.

“Enough of this talk,” interrupted a flustered Verna. “This doesn’t sound like Ken at all. And if you two want to find Jesse and Jacqueline you should probably be moving along. It’s getting late. You’ll probably need a place to stay for the night.”

“You know a place,” Nate asked.

“I would suggest the old Best Western just south of here, off Old Valley School Road.  Ross Thompson and his son Dale run it. They’ll take good care of you. Here I’ll give you a note to give to them.” She took a napkin and started scribbling something on it. “I would stay away from the Interstate Inn behind us. A group calling themselves the Brotherhood of Thought [an Alliance described in the OmegaLite Rules] has moved in. A bunch of youngsters lookin’ fer diversity, freedom, and respect for all. Harmless for the most part and they have no qualms with Mausdale, nor Mausdale with them. However, they prefer to keep to themselves. Clint’s made an arrangement with them to use the hotel and we let them be.”

She handed the napkin to me and I read the note. I was a simple statement vouching for Nate and myself.. At the end, she wrote, “Ps 51:10”.

“P-S fifty-one ten? Is that some sort of code?”

“It’s scripture, hon. The fifty-first Psalm. ‘Create in me a clean heart, Oh God.’ That lets Ross know the message is from me while reminding him that while Tech-West may have taken our bodies, God cares for our hearts.”


Scene 3 [Tension Lvl:5]:

We paid up with several bunches of carrots and made our way down the road. The skies were rather overcast and rain didn’t look far off.  [As rolled in scene 2 of chapter 5, moderate rain with lighting is to begin at 4pm and continue through the night and into the next day.] The best course of action was for us to head to the Best Western Verna told us about and get settled in before the heavens opened up.

[Encounter Roll for the trip to the hotel: 2 no significant encounters]

The streets were pretty much empty of human or hoop. I guessed that was due to the fact that we were still outside of town and the weather was looking ominous. 

The hotel was a three story building that was well kept up. The landscaping was trimmed, the drive-up area swept and the paint job pristine. I guess the end of life as you know it leaves a lot of free time for routine maintenance. In fact, the only thing that seemed off were the handles on the front door. Instead of the shiny polished brass or steel I had expected, considering how well the rest of the building had been maintained, they were covered in what appeared to be a thick coat of black paint, except it had a rubbery feel to it.

 [Image: qft1xAG-QLux0NUrHRX0UpVhnMSgsSKEEAfyXOsn...S5rA=w2400]

Inside, two hoops, one black and one gray, sat at a table in the lobby, a chessboard set up between them.   The black hoop was instructing his opponent as to why the move he was about to make was inadvisable when he heard us walk in. [What is Ross doing? Assist/Foe] I presumed they were Ross and Dale.

The black hoop stood and looked us over before putting on a friendly face. Perhaps years of serving customers had instilled in him a good sense of character. The gray hoop remained sitting, but I caught his ears straighten and whiskers twitch as he gave me a long look. I met his gaze and he quickly looked away. Though I couldn’t see him redden beneath his fur, I was certain his body language showed more embarrassment than some covert action. I suspected this was Dale, the son, a guess that was confirmed when the black hoop greeted us.

“Hello, strangers. Don’t mind us. I was just teaching my son some chess strategy. I’m Ross. What can I do for you two?”

I handed him the napkin note. “Verna Stokes sent us down. Said you might have a room for us?”

[Are there any complications? (Bad, or unlikely due to them having the note.) No]

Ross looked over the note. “It appears everything is in order. Will it be trade or task?”

“Huh?”

“It might be the end of the world, but we’re still running a business here. Rooms ain't’ free. You can pay with trade items, providing you have anything we find worthwhile, or you can do a little work. But don’t worry, the chores are pretty simple. Only an hour or two. We’re not taskmasters.”

I looked over at Nate for assistance. We did have the carrots, but were hoping to preserve them for the mechanic. I knew I had some books, but wasn’t sure if Nate had anything he was willing to give up.

Nate took the lead. “We do have some items for trade,” he offered hesitantly, “But I think we’d like to see that task list first. 'Worthwhile' items, as you call them, are getting harder to come by.”

“I know what you mean,” the innkeeper agreed. “Well, I’m sure you’re good for it and we can discuss that later. Right now let’s get you in a room.”

He gives them the keys to room 204 on the second floor and has Dale show lead us upstairs. 

[Image: fkHzWrfHbp9XEwBfUFTpZAo3nYzAUQRvUgpVfW1k...-MEg=w2400]

Imagesource1: Google streetview;  Imagesource2

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Psalm 51
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