Eastern Wastes of America [Post-Apocalyptic: OmegaLite20]
A Note from Terrence "Teviko604": 

It's no secret that I'm no speed demon when it comes to posting these episodes of Eastern Wastes. I only have limited gaming time and each chapter typically takes several hours to play through.  Then there's the time it takes to write the narrative, proofread and edit, possibly manipulate a few images, and finally post (which has its own additional formatting that needs to be done.) Needless to say, one chapter often represents several weeks of playing and preparation. But it's something I enjoy doing.

Which brings me to the point of this note. Now that I've pretty much wrapped up the warehouse portion of the story I will be putting this campaign on hold, probably for a couple of months. It's not because I'm tired of this story. I am having fun with it. Also, I still have several things I need to resolve (such as the Alex mystery) before I end this campaign. No, the reason I will be stepping away for a bit is to pursue some other interests I have, specifically a couple of video productions I want to put together.

The first has nothing to do with solo roleplaying. It is a song-parody project my wife originally did for her job that we want to revise to be more interesting and accessible to the general public. While it has nothing to do with our genre, I might post a link here when it's done for anyone who is interested. The other project is completely solo roleplay-related. It is a playthrough of a solo map-making game and I will certainly be posting those on SoloRPG as each episode is completed.

I expect each of these to be rather time-intensive in and of themselves, and then I always have other hobbies and interests that I enjoy spending time doing. Oh yeah . . . there's also serious responsibilities that take up most of my day. So yeah, I just wanted to let you know in advance so you're not waiting and waiting for Chapter 11, wondering if it will ever come.
You're a very creative person. I'm looking forward to the video :-)

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

[Scene 1, Tension Lvl:3]

Well, this is just great!

We just spent several hours rummaging through an abandoned WAmanzon warehouse searching for car parts and battling security robots bent on our destruction. We were nearly killed during several of the encounters and barely escaped with our lives. We should be heading back to Mausdale, but instead, we are driving around the warehouse looking for some sign of a baby on the insistence of a pregnant, hormonally-charged humanoid rabbit woman.

Sebastian did his best to convince her that it was a foolish task. Charlotte, we need to get you back home for your protection. Charlotte, that woman’s probably been here for several days or weeks. No one is waiting for her. Then he said probably the worst thing possible. If there was a baby out here, it’s probably dead by now. That got a look! If there was any hope of convincing Charlotte to head home, it disappeared with that last comment.  So we all piled into the Armor-Plated Turbo-Boosted Omega-Dillo and agreed to one lap around the warehouse.

<Before driving away, Charlotte and Sebastion used some healing and med kits.  Charlotte is now up to 8hp and Sebastian 7hp.

The trip around the warehouse will take (d6+5) 11 turns.  Each turn I rolled on a d20 Search Table I created specifically for this event.  The table is heavily weighted towards finding nothing, however, there are opportunities for items, encounters, special locations, and, yes, something related to the dead woman in the warehouse.>

“Arks!” Sebastian pointed out the window from his seat behind the steering wheel.

Just off the asphalt, walking through the grass field, was a group of 6 tall figures. They walked upright but had definite canine features. Two of them carried a large gas can between them.

[Image: Zy2WA_dUSH0qsypECeUbz8rFwJ5R1AIFsHG8OTx-...iWoA=w2400]

“Are they friendly?” I asked.

“Nope,” Charlotte answered. “At least none that we’ve met.”

The group of dog-men spotted us and changed directions, running toward our van. Since they didn’t appear to have any guns we felt rather safe and Sebastian continued driving around the building. Safe, that was, until he stopped several yards later.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“There’s a cardboard box over there in the grass. The markings read Green Giant and I see a couple of cans scattered around.  That could be an entire case of canned vegetables.  We should pick it up.”

“If we are, we need to get it fast,” I said, checking on the arks’ progress.

“I’ll pull up next to it with the Omega-Dillo between the box and the arks.  Alyssa, you and Nate jump out and grab the box. Quick and easy.”

“Yeah. Quick and easy,” Nate agreed, though I detected the sarcasm in his voice.

I estimated we has less than a minute to grab the box and get back in the van before the approaching arks would be upon us. The van stopped and Nate and I jumped out. That was about the only part of the plan that went right. <DC10 Physical + DEX check.  Rolled Nat 1.> The box had been there a while, had been rained on, and was still soggy.  As we tried to lift the box the whole thing tore and cans fell out over the ground.

“Hurry!” Charlotte called.  “They’re coming!”

Grabbing an armload of cans I jumped back in the side door of the van. “Toss me the rest,” I said.

Nate lobbed can after can as I caught them and chucked them further into the vehicle.

“Get in! Now!” Sebastian cried as we heard the sound of something hard hitting the side of the van.  Nate scrambled inside and we secured the door just as an ark rounded the front of the van and reached for it. Sebastian hit the gas pedal and took off as arks scrambled to avoid being run over.

<Using one of the Micolite20 variations for modern settings I determined stats for the Omega-Dillo and rules for vehicle combat. I won’t go into all the details except to say that in the end the arks did 3hp of damage with their hand weapons, leaving the vehicle with 33hp.

Do the arks follow? (even) Yes + event.  The event symbol is Perthro.[Image: NutM1U5Hd5Pain8YeVeYUmWT8bVxf-nS45Mbg7wz...Vaxw=w2400] One of the interpretations is that the characters have a destiny yet to be realized.  This will be explored in the next scene. Tension resets.>

Sebastian quickly put some distance between us and our pursuers and the rest of the drive around the large warehouse was uneventful.  Other than some old furniture (which we didn’t want) we saw nothing of interest and no signs of any other people. Sebastian was a bit disappointed when we passed a bank of closed garage doors which he assumed was where the delivery vehicles were stored.  While WAmazon prided itself on its fleet of electric vehicles, Sebastian hoped they might have had a backup fuel pump on site.  If they did, it was located inside the building and we all agreed it was too much trouble to get back inside.

We reached our starting point and Sebastian headed for the road. It was clear that Charlotte was still unsettled at not having any answers about the mystery woman inside the warehouse, but she honored the agreement to leave and said nothing.

<I rolled for encounters on for the return trip and nothing came up.

Having completed the warehouse, this was a good time to evaluate XP.  It’s been about the equivalent of 2 Standard Adventuring sessions since the last allocation, so each character received 40XP. Nate doesn’t have enough XP to advance but Alyssa can spend 40XP to move from Level 2 to Level 3.  Several skills increase and she can raise a STAT by 1 point.  I chose Strength.

ALYSSA (Level 3) Max HP:44
STR: 13 (+1)  DEX: 13 (+1)  MND: 12 (+1)  Mental Defence: 11
Melee ATK: (+4)  Ranged ATK: (+4)  Mental ATK: (+4)
Primary skills (+5 bonus): Subterfuge, Knowledge
Secondary skills (+2 bonus): Physical, Communication, Survival, Tech>

Alyssa and Nate gain 6hp for a night’s rest and each replenishes their health kits.>

[Scene 2, Tension Lvl:1]

We arrived back at the Thompson’s hotel well after dark. Ross saved us some leftovers which we ate quietly before heading up to our rooms and collapsing on our beds. By the time I woke up the next morning, Nate was already out helping Ross check the building's windows and making any repairs. This gave me an opportunity to peruse the hotel’s lending library and swap out some books.

When I left Woodville I brought several paperback books with me. They were titles I wanted to read, but I also thought they might have some trade value. By now I had finished three. Those, along with another book I kept solely for trade, gave me four books to swap.  The Thompsons kept a stocked bookcase in the lobby topped with a sign that read “Leave One/Take One or Read and Return.” I quickly found three titles I was interested in and was down to my last exchange when I noticed Dale walk up behind me.

“It’s been a while since that got any attention, and I mean even before the war. No one reads physical books anymore. They just download them to their PEECE’s” <Author’s Note: Personal Compact Computer, or cell phone.  See Chapter 4>

“Lot of good that does now, huh?”

“I guess you’re right.  You like to read.” More a statement than a question.

“Yep. I was lucky. My parents kept a ton of books in the basement where I was trapped after the bombing.  It gave me something to do until I was able to dig my way out.”

“A romance, huh?” he asked, referencing Angel In The River, the book I held in my left hand.

“Cheesy, I know, but I’m a sucker for a good romance novel. And the back cover mentions something supernatural, so that’s a plus. But I only have one trade left and I can’t decide.”

In the other hand, I held Aliens Of The Sands, the third in a four-book series by Ernest Harding. I’d read the first two books, Aliens Of The Sky and Sea, but had given up any hope of finding the rest. Locating this was like discovering a leprechaun’s pot-o-gold. <Are the first two books on the bookshelf? (even) Yes.>

“That’s a good series,” Dale agreed.

“You’ve read ‘em?”

“I’m on the last one right now. The first two are on the shelf there.”

“Yeah, I saw, but I’ve already read those.”

Did I say pot-o-gold?  Finding an entire series is basically a pirate’s entire treasure. But surely Dale wouldn’t give up Aliens Of The Stars until he finishes it. Besides, I can only make one trade.

“Oh well,” I sigh, putting the sci-fi book back on the shelf. “At least the romance novel won’t leave me hanging.”

I picked up my selections and began to head back to my room.

“Uh, Alyssa?  Wait a second. I’ve been wanting to tell you something.”

I tensed, hoping Dale wasn’t about to embarrass himself.  He seemed like a nice hoop and all, but . . .

“Alex’s mom stopped by while you and Nate were away.”

Whew. Bullet dodged.

“Oh?” I asked, turning back to Dale.

“She heard about what happened to her daughter. That you and Nate were talking to her when it happened.”

“Wha . . . what does she want?”

“She wants to talk to you two. She wants to know what happened, at least what you heard. But more importantly, she wants you to find out who wanted Alex dead.”

“We’re curious too, but the chances of us figuring this out are slim.”

“I think she just wants some closure. Can you at least talk to her? Maybe that’ll make her feel better.”

“Let me tell Nate and I’ll get back to you.”

With that, I went upstairs to drop off my books before going to find Nate.

<This is the event from the previous scene, the “destiny yet to be revealed”. While the PCs were already investigating, having the mother specifically ask them to help ramps up the stakes.>

[Scene 3: Tension Lvl: 3]

Nate was eager to talk to Alex’s mother, hoping she might be able to provide some new insight. Dale offered to drive us to her home a few streets away.  On the way, he told us a little about Alex’s family.  Her mother’s name was Joann and her father left home about a year ago.  A family friend told them that their father had enough of the family life and wanted to get away. They had no idea where he went. Alex was actually relieved when he left. Apparently, her father was abusive and a drunk. Alex’s mom took the brunt of it, but some of his rage spilled over to Alex.

Eric, the family friend, tried to help Joann out over the next few months and the two eventually struck up a romantic relationship, one that Alex didn’t approve of. Dale didn’t know exactly why but thought it was a combination of wanting more mother/daughter time and simply not trusting Eric.

“Why didn’t she trust him?” Nate asked.

“I got the sense it was a ‘we don’t need a man’s help’ thing as opposed to anything specific to Eric.”

We pulled into the drive and knocked on the front door. After a few moments, a tall, white hoop wearing an apron answered. I should be used to it by now, but I was still surprised. I don’t know why but I just assumed Joann was human. Dale made the introductions and she seemed genuinely pleased to see us.

<Picking up with the investigation I drew another card. (See Chapter 5 for an explanation of Nine Steps and a Bloody Heart) The result removes “A Friend” from the suspects column.  Alyssa tries to get an extra clue but fails the Comm Check>

She spent a few minutes telling us about Alex and some of her accomplishments but nothing that really dealt with her death and the circumstances surrounding it.

“Mrs. Andrews,” Nate interrupted. “The fact is we really don’t know what was going on at the cabin other than your daughter woke up and Ken was gone. We have been told that if Ken truly wanted to harm Alex he would not have left her alone but would have done it herself.”

“Are you saying Ken wanted to kill her?” Joann asked shocked.

“No. Maybe. We don’t know. Can you think of a reason Ken, or anyone for that matter, would have wanted to harm your daughter?”

“No. All her friends are shocked and have done their best to console me, coming by to check up and offer to help in any way they can. And Alex adored Ken. I don’t believe she would have been with someone capable of this.”

“What about Eric?” I asked.

Joann first looked confused, then glared briefly at Dale once she realized he must have told us about her boyfriend.

“What about him?” she asked.

“Dale told us that he and Alex didn’t get along well.”  <Why? From GMA: Shatter Path>

“Alex was very protective of me after her father left. She felt we would be better on our own, not just mother and daughter, but best friends as well. In her mind, Eric threatened that. She was afraid I wouldn’t need her as much and that everything would include him. She didn’t want to share me. So, she made life as difficult as possible for Eric. She was grouchy. She complained. She tried to sabotage Eric’s and my relationship whenever she could. She was hoping he would just leave.”

“How’s Eric taking the news?” Nate asked. <Seal Conflict>

A sour look crossed Joann’s face . . . I think. (Once again, rabbit expressions. Not so easy to decipher.) “Pretty much like an ass. He tried to put up a good front, but I could tell. He was relieved that he wouldn’t have to put up with her anymore. He even suggested that focusing more on him and our relationship would make the pain go away faster. Can you believe that? Anyway, he’s gone.  I told him to leave and not come back.”

Nate and I exchanged looks and I knew he was thinking the same thing I was: could Eric have been involved in Alex’s death?

The rest of the conversation revealed no more helpful information. We assured her we would continue looking into things while we were in town and said our good-byes.  Walking out the door, Dale asked if we wanted to talk to Jaci Fox, Sean Murphy’s son’s girlfriend. We did.

[Scene 4: Tension Lvl: 4]

Jaci’s home was further south along Old Valley School Road, near Jesse’s service center. After our last stop, I was prepared to meet another hoop but was caught off-guard when a young, black woman answered the door. Just when you think you’ve got things figured out . . .

[Image: xNTSctqDUP0C_sjEdW_0HmhGMFvCQeAu5C55ppW-...w=s250-p-k]
Jaci Fox

“Lucas ain’t here,” she said. “Dale, of all people! Y’know we broke up.” She sounded a bit irritated.

“I know. I know.” He admitted sheepishly. “It’s just that these two are trying to find him . . . for his father.”

“Why’d you break up?” I asked. “We heard you were one of the reasons he left the farm to live in Mausdale?”

“That’s probably true,” she admitted. “But he a’come back a rabbit.”

“And that was a problem?”

“You’ve heard the sayin’ ‘breedin’ like rabbits’? Well, that’s all he wanted. Sex. Sex. Sex.”

“Boys,” I said, sympathizing with Jaci.  Dale lowered his head, embarrassed for both his gender and his race.

“Aw no!” Jaci said. “It’s not that. We were into each other before. But now . . . he’s a rabbit! I just ain’t inta that. It’s kinda . . . ewww!” 

<Was Jaci turned off by his hoop appearance? (even) Yes.  Was there more to it than just that? (Good) No. Hmm. The oracle told a completely different story than the one I had in my head. Way back when I thought up the Jaci/Lucas storyline, the version I thought up was that Jaci was just uninterested in an overly sexual relationship, but, for fun, I decided to check that with the oracle. Turns out, she’s simply repulsed by “rabbit sex”. >

“We both agreed that to keep seeing each other while he bounced from girl to girl to get his fix just wasn’t going to work out.” Jaci said this with a straight face. It’ll hit her about fifteen minutes after we leave. I’m sure of it.

“Any idea where he is now?”

<Is he still hanging out with multiple girls? (even) No +event (see below)>

“I heard he’s settled down with Billie Hancock. You should try her house.”

<Does Jaci have any info about Alex? (even) No.

The event is Jera [Image: SN6u1LxTN30usttDccQzzcJrrhqBdDJY_RiPSolF...N5aw=w2400] which GMA describes as “a recent effort pays of or a roadblock is removed”.  For this event, I’ll change the failed bonus clue roll made earlier for Joann to a success. When the party returns to the hotel they will find a note left from Joann which will be based on the next investigation card draw. Tension reset to 1 for the remainder of the scene.>

[Scene 5: Tension Lvl: 2]

Bille Hancock lived . . . you guessed it . . . several blocks further south on Pulling Track Lane..  In fact, her property was the only house in the area and it backed up to woods that stretched all the way down to Danville.

<Is Lucas there? (Good)  No.
Not going to roll for Billie’s “race”. I’ll just say she’s a hoop as that makes the most sense.
Does she know where Lucas is? (even) Yes  Irksome Wealth>

Based on our conversation with Jaci, I guessed Billie was a hoop and I was right. Unfortunately, Lucas wasn’t there and we could tell that Billie wasn’t in much of a conversational mood. She answered our questions but was brief and I could sense she just wanted us to leave.

Sean’s son was out hunting, trying to catch something to barter with the Stokes, the couple that runs Gram’s Dutch Kitchen, the first place Nate and I stopped when we got into town. Lucas missed their cooking and was hoping that he could earn a few meals by bringing them some meat, perhaps a deer or a few hares. (I wasn’t sure if I should have been disturbed by that or not.) However, luck hasn’t been with him and he was growing frustrated.

We told Billie that we wanted to talk with him about his father and he could contact us either at the hotel or Jesse’s service station. I didn’t even want to bother her about Alex, so we just left.

<Does Billie have any info about Alex? (even) No.>

End of Chapter
Matt. 7:7

ImageSource1; ImageSource2

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

[Scene 1, Tension Lvl:3]

<For the drive back to the Thompson’s hotel I rolled two encounter checks.  One resulted in an encounter.  GMA description: Actively Disruptive. Well, I can think of one event that can actively disrupt the current investigation . . .>

As we drove up to the hotel, we saw a large, blue pickup truck parked just inside the parking lot.  Several hoops either stood next to it or were up in its bed.  We turned off Old Valley School Road and the hoops stepped away from the truck and spread out across the pavement, blocking our way.  Dale stopped about twenty feet in front of them and now we could see who they were: Kelli, Ernie, and the other two members of the MSF that Nate and I met when we first arrived in Mausdale.

<Randomly determined the number of hoops with Kelli. Also, I used the GMA difficulty generator to determine how aggressive the group is right out of the block, ranging from 1 for curious, 5 for threatening, and 10 for physically hostile.  Draw: 5

As the conversation continues, I will make opposing MND Communication skill checks to see if the conversation calms or elevates.

Finally, I will draw another investigation card to be revealed during this exchange.>

“What’s this all about?” Dale asked, more to himself than us.

“If I had to guess, I would say they found out Nate and I were in town.” Dale glanced over at me with a questioning look. “We ran into Kelli and her goons on the way into town. Let’s just say they weren’t very inviting.”

“Maybe they just want to talk,” Nate suggested.

I scanned the group.  Three of the four held weapons; Kelli a police baton, Ken’s brother a knife, and the other white male a length of pipe. The only one that wasn’t armed was the black-furred female. Thankfully, I didn’t see any firearms or crossbows.

“Yeah, it doesn’t look like they just want to talk,” I said. “I would suggest keeping our weapons within reach.”  Turning to Nate in the back seat, I clarified, “Hand weapons. Firing upon the townsfolk with your sonic rifle might be heavily frowned upon, regardless of who started things.”

Dale, Nate, and I stepped out of the car.

“You’re blocking our way, Kelli,” Dale said.

“That’s kind of the point,” the white-furred leader replied. “We want to have a talk with your friends.”

“They’re guests of our hotel. Treat them with respect.”

Dismissing Dale, Kelli addressed Nate and me. “I thought we told you not to come back until we had a contract with that farmer. You got that deal?”

“Yeah,” Nate called back. “Right next to the paper declaring you town mayor.”

Unfazed, Kelli continued. “We hear you’ve been asking a lot of questions. What kind of trouble are you trying to stir up?”

“First of all,” I responded, “Clint, your boss, knows we’re in town and doesn’t have a problem with us being here.  Second, we’re just curious about what happened to one of your residents.  I would think that would be a concern of yours, as well. Being security and all.”

“You outsiders don’t need to concern yourself with Mausdale’s affairs. It was just a stupid accident. Ken and Alex should have known better than to go off into the woods with all these new mutant creatures around.”

“Intentionally leaving your girlfriend behind to fend for herself doesn’t sound like an accident to me.”

“Again, that’s none of your concern. We’ll determine what’s an accident and what isn’t.”

Ken’s brother Ernie broke in, “Let them think what they want. They have no proof that any of us is involved.” I think the comment was meant for Kelli, but he spoke loud enough for all of us to hear. Kelli jabbed the butt of her baton into his belly to shut him up.

“So you do know what happened,” Nate accused. “Did you want Alex dead?” He glared at Kelli as he said this.

Kelli tensed and gripped her weapon tighter. She nodded to the others and they all took a step closer.

<Alyssa lost the COM challenge against Kelli, 7 to 21, which means tensions rise. The investigation card was the 4 of Clubs, which eliminated the idea that Ken’s intention was only to scare Alex, not kill her. To that end, I used Ernie's comment to imply that Alex’s death was intentional.>

Before things went too far, I made one last effort to defuse the situation.

“Don’t be crazy, Kelli. We’ve done nothing but talk to people. Do you think Clint will stand for you attacking us for no reason?”

“You don’t know anything about Clint, but why don’t we just arrest you and find out what he thinks when we drag you into headquarters.”

<Alyssa fails the second COM challenge, 5 to 19. All negotiation is off.>

The hoops continued to approach and I retrieved my crowbar from where I laid it on the passenger seat. Dale grabbed a wooden baseball bat he kept tucked under the driver seat, Nate drew out his knife, and all three of us moved forward to engage the advancing hoops.

[Image: WNTPSeJBCyMiKJ_CsCH41Ak2nf4DldAy1jLXnNsc...Mtqg=w2400]
Dale grabbed a wooden baseball bat

<When the PCs pulled out their weapons, I made a roll on my reaction table to see how the MSF respond. In other words, what is the modifier to their morale roll?  Apparently, the hoops are motivated by the thought of a fight because they get a +1 modifier to their MR value. Their base MR is 8 (based on similar MicroLite20 were-creatures). The +1 makes it 9. At appropriate times, each hoop will roll 2d6. If the number is equal to or less than their MR they stay and fight.  If it is over, they flee or back-off.

All four make their first Morale rolls and continue to battle. >

We didn’t wait for them to attack but struck first. Dale hit the male hoop squarely in the side <6hp damage> Despite having no weapons, the female hoop reached for me first. I was more focused on Kelli, who was coming up behind her with her baton. This gave the black hoop an opportunity to throw a punch <Hit Alyssa for 2hp>.  I responded by raking the spikes of my crowbar across her midsection <doing 10 hp of damage>.

The battle that was potentially the most deadly was Nate and Ernie. They each had blades and could easily slice or stab some vital vein or organ. The two squared off and cautiously swiped at each other, each getting nicked here and there. <Over the first two rounds Ernie takes 3 damage, Nate 6>

No longer obstructed by the other female, Kelli charged at me swinging. I ducked under her baton and hit her hard in the back as she passed. <11 h.p. damage>. She cursed, calling me a name that is more appropriate for an Ark. I moved to hit her again, but she surprised me with a quick flick to my shin. <hit A for 6 damage> Now it was my turn to call her some names.

Meanwhile, Dale was easily handling the pipe-carrying hoop who could barely even attempt to fight back. <Dale wears him down to 1 h.p. in the first 3 rounds while the hoop only gets in one hit for 3 h.p.>

<Between rounds 2 and 3 I made another morale check and all the enemies were successful. I checked to see if anyone from the hotel responded to the ruckus. (even) No.  During round 3, the female hoop critically failed her attack. I played it as she decided to stay out of the fight due to not having a weapon.>

Unfortunately, Nate and I weren’t fairing quite as well against our opponents. Kelli actually has some fighting skills, for every strike I made on Kelli she countered and hit back. <A hits for 3, K hits for 4> Nate was having an equally rough time, fumbling and dropping his knife as he pulled it away to avoid a swipe by Ernie. <Nate rolled a natural 1>

Dale put his opponent down with a blow to the head. (Later, Dale told me he was aiming for the shoulder, but the guy ducked, leaving his head right in the bat’s path.) Dale turned to help the now defenseless Nate while the female ran to the downed hoop’s side, calling out “Peter”. Appropriate name, I thought.

<I felt that our PCs would prefer not to kill their opponents, despite being attacked for practically no reason. To account for this, I devised a “pull-your-punch” system. If an opponent is dropped below 0 hp but the intent is not to kill, then the attacker must make a straight DEX roll against DC10.  If they succeed, they are able to intentionally strike in a manner meant only to incapacitate their enemy.  If they fail, then the downed enemy is treated normally. In this battle, that would mean having to roll on my “death table”.  Dale’s DEX check was 6, a failure. Peter will need to roll on the death table until the combat is over and someone can administer some aid. He is currently at -4.

Surprisingly, all three of the remaining hoops pass a morale check at -1 due to a member of their group being down and things are “gettin’ real”. The female hoop rolled especially low (2), which could be interpreted to mean she is really motivated to fight. Let’s find out why.>

Kelli was distracted by all the attention surrounding Peter and I saw my chance. Using the rounded end of my crowbar, I shoved it hard into her midsection. She double over as her breath audibly left her lungs. As she was gasping, I kicked her legs out from under her (probably not necessary, but it felt good) and she fell on her side struggling to breathe. <Alyssa hit and did enough damage to drop Kelli to exactly 0 h.p.>

Nate eyed his knife lying on the ground at Ernie’s feet.  Ernie’s whiskers perked as he gave Nate an evil smile and tightened his grip on his blade, preparing for the kill. It was at that point that Dale brought his bat down across Ernie’s back. The knife flew from his hands and he collapsed to the ground unconscious. <0 h.p>

“You bastard!  You hurt my boyfriend!”

We all turned to see the female hoop, Peter’s girlfriend apparently, charging Dale wielding Peter’s discarded pipe. She must have picked it up and now was intent on revenge. <With an 18 roll against a DC10 Dex check, she was able to pick up the pipe and attack in the same round.> Dale, caught off guard, tried to raise his paws and ward off the blow, but still took a sharp blow to his forearm <5 hp damage>

“Whoa, whoa!  Think about this for a minute!”  This was Nate. He had recovered his knife and was holding up his arm, palm out, in a stop gesture. “You’re pissed. Clearly. But there’s one of you and three of us. And your boyfriend over there looks like he really needs some medical attention.”

<Opposing Comm+MND skill checks.  Nate: 19+2COM=21  Female: 11+3COM=14 Nate is able to convince her to stop. Meanwhile, Peter loses another hp, but the battle is over.>

The bunny paused midswing to listen to Nate. At the mention of Peter, she took a quick glance back at the unmoving hoop. She started to go to him, but then stopped and turned back to us, raising the pipe again.

“Yeah, that’s right!” I said, raising my weapon to counter her threat. “Keep coming! I’m ready!”

Nate grabbed the shoulder of my weapon arm and pressed down. To the bunny he said, “Go. Help Kelli with the other two and leave. You,” he said to me. “Get back in the car.”

By now, Kelli had gotten back on her feet, but her eyes were watery and she was still having trouble breathing. The female went to check on Peter as Ernie began to stir. Nate, followed after me to the car, but Dale was walking over to where Peter was laying on the ground.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“Wendy’s going to need help getting Peter in the vehicle,” he said.

“No! They tried to kill us.  Don’t you give them any help.”

“Get in the car,” Nate hissed, pushing me toward the back seat of the car.

Dale had bent down and was trying to rouse Peter.

“Traitor!” I yelled as Nate slammed the door shut.

[Scene 2: Tension Lvl: 4]

After a few minutes, Dale’s father Ross, and their guest Tyler ran up. They must’ve seen the commotion from the hotel and come over to investigate. They spoke with Dale, Nate, and the other hoops . . . I couldn’t hear a thing with the windows up . . . and then the men helped Kelli and her gang into their truck and made sure they drove off.

Dale never looked at me after he and Nate got back in the car. Instead, kept his head down except to watch the road as we drive the couple of hundred feet to the hotel’s front door. We all rode in silence.

“Dinner will be ready in about thirty minutes,” Shannon, Tyler’s wife, announced as we entered the lobby.

“I’m not eating,” I stated, walking past her, heading for the stairwell.

Ten minutes later, I was up in my bed, covers pulled up to my neck. I’d had it with Mausdale and its hoops. I’d had it with lending a hand and trying to help. What was it all for? I was being threatened by a militant female hoop with delusions of self-importance. I was nearly killed by dog-men because another hormonally active hoop was more sentimental over a dead woman and her maybe baby than she was concerned about our safety. And so what if I find out why Alex, a woman I’ve never met before, was killed? Do I get any reward? Doubtful. Will anyone be punished for it? Who knows? Will her mother be comforted by that knowledge? She thinks so but I wouldn’t count on it.

Everything boiled down to this simple fact: All of this crap and hardship will lead to nothing but another day of simply surviving.

Well, screw ‘em! Mausdale can just take their problems and fuh . . .

Suddenly, something caught the corner of my eye and I looked up. On the ceiling, near one of the room’s corners, was what appeared to be a brown, oblong spot. However, in the orange light of dusk, this spot cast a small shadow. Looking closer, I realized it wasn’t a spot, but a cockroach. It clung there, watching me.  I watched it back.

[Image: bEcD6s1gSPzLZeSFzNJHtOHWb8WsaljyZlTvv4YV...eiIg=w2400]
I watched it back

I’d heard it said, after all the wars and disasters, the only creatures that will survive are the cockroaches. Our world ended. Here is this cockroach. Somehow, that thought gave me comfort. There were no surprises with a roach. It wasn’t a rabbit-roach or a dog-roach. It couldn’t betray you or run you out of town. A roach asks nothing of the humans it lives with. Its only purpose is to crawl, eat trash, and be disgusting. In the end, one knew what to expect from a roach.

Our world ended. This roach is still here.

And so am I.

There was a gentle knock on my door. When I didn’t answer, whoever it was just came in.

“I brought you some dinner.” It was Nate. “How you doing?”

“I think I’m a bug.”

“Yeah, that meeting with Kelli and her gang really bugged me, too.”

I didn’t correct him. “What are we doing here?”

“In Mausdale? We’re getting tractor parts for Sean, helping Joann find out what happened to Alex.”

“But why?”

“Because . . . it’s the right thing to do?”

“So what?” I sat up so I could look Nate in the eye. “Joann and Sean will probably still be alone after this. Mausdale will still be dealing with the fallout of the attack. And all we have to show for it is a delay of several days.”

Nate put the plate of food down on the nightstand and sat at the foot of the bed. “Listen. Doing the right thing is part of your nature. I know, because it’s had an effect on me. Do you remember when we first met? How I wanted nothing to do with you?”

“Yeah. You shot a car.” I felt a grin cross my face at the memory.

“That was because I forgot how to trust. I told you that I parted ways with the group from the airport. What I didn’t tell you was that a couple of them raided my supplies and left in the night. After that, whenever I did try to meet up with survivors along the way I was met with a lot of resistance. They either shooed me off or were more interested in what I had for them instead of how we could work together. In the end, I said Screw ‘Em. I was doing this on my own.

“Then I ran into you and you were determined to follow me. You saved me from the land shark and didn’t ask for anything in return. You were interested in me and not what I had. After Sean told us his story, you genuinely wanted to help. After Alex was killed you could have walked away but you didn’t.  Something didn’t seem right and you wanted to find out what. You made me believe that there are still good people in this world and we still need to be . . . be . . . human! Even if you’re a hoop.”

He added that last bit after seeing me struggle to hold back a chuckle.

“But what about your family?” I asked. “All my ‘compassion’ has really delayed you.”

“Let’s be honest, Alyssa. Does it really matter if I get there next week or next month? Either their town wasn’t attacked and they’re okay, it was and they have found a way to survive, or they're dead.”

“If they were attacked and are living like this . . . “ I waved my hand around to indicate the world outside our walls. “Then they will need you to gather food or protect them.”

“If they survived they’ve already found a way to eat and protect themselves. I’ll get there when I get there. But you’re right. That’s unlikely for an older couple. While I hold out hope, I believe I’ve made peace with the possibility that they are gone.”

I gave Nate a moment before continuing. “So why go home if you think there’s nothing there?”

“Are you familiar with Jeremiah? The prophet from the Bible?  No? Well, he lived in Jerusalem and God told him to tell the people about impending doom. Because of their disobedience to God’s laws, God was going to allow Babylon to capture the city and take the Israelites captive. However, while Jerusalem was under siege, God instructed Jeremiah to buy a field, put the deed in clay jar, and bury it in a safe place. Admittedly, that seemed like a foolish thing to do, especially knowing that everything was about to be taken from them. But God assured Jeremiah that one day the Israelites would be freed and allowed to return. When that happened, Jeremiah or his descendants could recover the deed and reclaim what was legally theirs.

“I think I feel a little like that. My homeland has been attacked and practically destroyed. Now, I’m returning home to claim what is rightfully mine. Salvage whatever I can of my past.”

Nate finished and I let the silence hang a moment before leaning over and picking up the plate of food. It had a pile of dark shredded meat covered by a brownish sauce and a baked potato.

“I’m famished,” I admitted as I put a fork-full of meat in my mouth. The sauce was clearly a tangy bar-b-que, but the meat was unfamiliar.  It had a definite poultry quality, but mixed with something else. “This is good.  What is it?”

“You probably don’t want to know.”

My first thought was rat. When you think apocalypse and food shortage, you naturally think rat. Next was horse . . . or possibly dog. Whatever it was, it was food and it was good so I didn’t mind. “Tell me.  What is it?”

Nate hesitated, then relented. “It’s choad.”  I gave him a questioning look, so he tried to explain. “Part chicken. Part toad. Some kind of mutation from the fallout. Apparently, they’re all over the place in the woods.”

“Whatever,” I shrugged. “Food is food,” and I took another bite.

“Joann left a message for us with Ross while we were gone. She doesn’t believe Ken wanted Alex dead.”

“Why does she think that?”

“It all has to do with the fact that he left her in the cabin. Joann has heard that Ken is rather stubborn and set in his decision. So much so, that if it was his intention to kill Alex he would have done it and not changed his mind. She’s convinced something happened to him as well, or he took a walk and just got lost.”

“What do you think?”

“I think Joann wants to give him the benefit of the doubt.  Perhaps she liked the guy or thought he and his daughter were good together. Regardless of what she thinks, I’m thinking our best bet is to speak with some of Alex’s and Ken’s friends. If there were any problems or concerns, they are the ones that would most likely have heard about it. Dale has agreed to introduce us in the morning.

“Speaking of Dale, you were rather hard on him back there.”

“Of course I was. He was helping the people who were trying to hurt us, more likely, trying to kill us.”

“And they’re people he has grown up with and known for a long time, not to mention has to live with after we’re gone. He said that Peter and Billie-Jo, his girlfriend, aren’t really that bad. They tend to be followers and just do as their told. Get them away from Kellie and Ernie and they’re fun couple to hang out with. At least that’s his opinion.”


“You know he likes you.”

I gnaw a bit on a piece of potato skin before responding.  “Yeah. I know.”

“He’s taking it pretty hard. He didn’t mean to upset you.”


Nate waited for me to say more.

“You should talk to him. Let him know you’re not mad at him.”

“But I am!”

“No, you’re not. You’re just frustrated.”

I looked up at the ceiling. To Nate, it probably looked like I was deep in thought. What I was doing was checking on my roach. Still there. Predictable.

I wasn’t predictable

“I guess you’re right,” I sighed, picking up the last bits of choad with my fork. “Maybe I was a bit harsh. I’ll talk to him in the morning.”

“It’ll be better if you do it tonight. Don’t let him suffer overnight.”

“Okay. Okay. I’ll come down in a bit. Maybe we can even play some cards,” First, I wanted to squash that bug. “Slapjack, perhaps.”

Jer. 31:1-15

Imagesource1Imagesource2; Imagesource3

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

[Scene 1, Tension Lvl:5]

By the next morning we had heard nothing from Lucas Murphy. <Does Lucas send word to the hotel? (Bad) No.> Dale -- the two of us having talked the previous night and patched up any wounds -- drove us down to the service station to check in with Jesse and he let us know that Lucas stopped by.

<Any word from Lucas? (even) Yes.  What is it (per GMA): Punishingly Treacherous>

Lucas made it perfectly clear that he had no interest in talking to us and even less desire to return to his father’s farm. In fact, his version of events was somewhat different than what Sean told us. According to Lucas, it was his father who ultimately kicked him off the farm. Sean was never satisfied with the work he did. Furthermore, Lucas got the impression his father was disgusted at the transformation his son had gone through.

“‘Maybe he should have thought about how difficult it would be to run the farm alone before he criticized everything I did,’” Jessie said, quoting the younger Murphy.

Everyone paints themselves in the best light. Sean seemed nice enough to me and even helped by giving us Nate’s armor and trade supplies. Based on that, I tend to believe him, however, who really knows which version is more accurate? Regardless, we wouldn’t be convincing Lucas to come home with us. We made plans with Jesse to leave for the farm the next day, which gave Nate and me one last day to investigate the mystery surrounding Alex’s death.

Our next stop was to meet up with a couple of Dale’s friends who hung out with Alex and Ken. Both were hoops. Dorothy’s long fur was reddish-brown with white patches and she wore a blue windbreaker over a blue shirt and khakis. Steve was white and, like Dale, wore only a pair of jeans. They weren’t a couple, just friends.

“If it was Ken’s intention to harm Alex, I doubt it was originally his idea,” Steve said with confidence.

“Why do you say that?” Nate asked.

<Investigation card draw: 4 of spades, eliminates Ken as the initiator of Alex’s murder.  Why? (Per GMA): Follow Slovenly, or in other words, he’s more of a follower than a leader/initiator.> 

“He has to be one of the worst planners I know. Even when he’s interested in something, he rarely ever follows through. I remember all he talked about throughout our freshman year in high school was trying out for the basketball team the next year. He bought a ball and erected a hoop over his garage to practice, but I rarely ever saw him out there.  The day of the try-outs he was sitting at home watching holo-vids. I asked him ‘what’s up’. He said it was too much trouble to go to the gym and try out.”

“Oh, and do you remember that boat he wanted to build?” Dorothy asked.

“It was a canoe or something,” Dale remembered. “He wanted to use it to fish on the creeks and rivers in the area. Right?”

“Yes,” Dorothy agreed. “First of all, he had no plans. He didn’t know what he was doing. He did finish half the frame, but then just let it sit unfinished in his backyard.”

“That’s right,” Steve laughed. “His parents wouldn’t let him bring it into the garage because they knew it would take up space indefinitely. No. Leading Alex out to the woods and abandoning her so a wild animal can kill her so he can claim it was an accident? That’s just too advanced for Ken’s I.Q..”

“The most Ken would think of was to hit her with a baseball bat and shove her behind a bush,” Dorothy said, laughing along with Steve.  A dark group, these friends of Alex. “More likely, someone worked really hard to motivate Ken to do it and then gave him very specific instructions for him to follow. That is, of course, if it wasn’t an accident.”

<Alyssa fails the last roll for an additional investigation clue. So our PCs only have one more card they can draw.>

Nate summarized what we knew so far. “So, while not absolved of all wrongdoing, the one thing everyone seems to agree upon is that Ken wasn’t solely responsible for Alex’s death.  We’ve heard everything from he loved Alex and would never harm her to he was a pawn in someone else plan. Unfortunately, we can’t question him, so how do we proceed?”

“Maybe there’s some clue at the cabin?” Dale suggested.

“Would you even remember how to get there?” Dorothy asked. “We were only there that one time.”

“I still have the map.”

“Ok, but is going to the cabin a smart idea?” Steve asked. “I mean, Alex was killed by some wild creature. What happens if you run into that?”

“Nate and I survived a warehouse full of security robots programmed to kill,” I said.  “I think we can handle some dumb animals.”

“But if you don’t feel comfortable going, we understand,” Nate assured the three hoops.

<Do the friends join the mission? (even) Yes + Special event>

“I’m in,” Dale announced without hesitation.

Dorothy and Steve took a bit longer to respond but eventually agreed. However, they wanted to stop by their homes and get some things to protect themselves with.
<Special Event: Norse Rune - Ingwaz  [Image: c-hsfBfdRpBq8Tjqz-hInWTMjhFqoJT8-MpKnmEf...0UKw=w2400] Description: An absolute ruler gets involved, possibly causing problems. Tension resets.>

As we were getting into Dale’s car, Clint Morrow pulled up in his small electric MSF patrol car.

“I’ve been looking for you,” he said as he stepped out. “I heard there was a bit of a tussle at the hotel last night. You left some of my team pretty beat up.”

“They started it,” I said.

“Maybe they did. Maybe they didn’t. However, it’s been rather peaceful around here until you two showed up. You’ve been snoopin’ around and askin’ questions. My people don’t like it.”

“Mr. Morrow,” Nate began. “You told us the other day that you weren’t an investigative force. We’re just trying to fill in.  Help Joann get some answers.”

“Well, I never asked for your help. Besides, investigation is one thing, but fisticuffs, that’s another.”

“C’mon, Clint,” Dale jumped in. “I was there. Alyssa and Nate did nothing. In fact, they tried to avoid the fight.”

“Doesn’t matter,” Clint cut him off. “If they weren’t here, it wouldn’t have happened. The best thing you two can do now is gather your things and get out of town.”

“They're our guests, Clint,” Dale argued. “We’re not kicking them out.”

I was about to give this rent-a-cop a piece of my mind when Nate spoke.

“It’s okay, Dale. We were leaving anyway. In fact, Dale was just about to drive us out of town. We’ll be on our way and he can tell Jesse to head out to Sean Murphy’s farm whenever he’s ready.”

I opened my mouth to protest but Nate held up a hand to stop me.

Clint’s eyes shifted from me to Nate and back again. He spit before responding. “No funny business, you two.  You leave, you don’t come back, and we’ll be fine.” He stepped back to his car. Before getting in he addressed Dale, Dorothy, and Steve. “And the rest of you have a good day.  Keep your noses clean.”

And with that, he drove off.

Before I could complain Nate quickly explained that he was just pacifying the chief. We weren’t leaving until we made sure Sean was taken care of. In the meantime, we still had to try and figure out this mystery. To that end, we stopped by Steve and Dorothy’s houses to pick up some weapons. Steve grabbed a long knife and Dorothy got back in the car with a standard rifle. Dale had his bat and Nate and I were fully packing.

[Scene 2: Tension Lvl: 1 <I’m not advancing the tension because the special event reveal was literally the last thing I did in the previous scene.>]

<Two encounter rolls were made for the drive up to the cabin, both uneventful.>

On the drive up I wanted to find out more about what Steve and Dorothy knew about Ken and Alex.

“So, let’s assume someone put Ken up to this.  Do you know anyone that would want Alex dead?”

“What about her mother’s boyfriend?” Nate suggested. “I hear they didn’t get along.”

“It’s not so much that they didn’t get along but that Alex was very protective about her mother and their relationship,” Dorothy explained. “In the end, it was her mother that broke off the relationship.  If Eric was upset with anyone, I think it would be Joann.”

“Kelli and Alex were not on the best of terms lately,” Steve informed us.

“Heck, yeah,” Dale agreed.  “You did not want to be in the same room with those two.”

“What was that all about?” I asked.

“Not completely sure,” Steve admitted, “But I think it had something to do with a guy they both liked.”

“Charlie Gilbert,” Dorothy said. “He and Kelli dated a little over a year ago, right before he started seeing Alex.”

“Charlie left Kelli for Alex?” Nate asked.

“Possibly,” Steve said. “I don’t know the details. I was never in Kelli’s circle of friends and Alex and I didn’t hang out back then.”

“Whether or not he did, Alex was on Kelli’s Spit-List ever since then,” Dorothy explained.

“If Kelli is involved,” I said, “That would explain why she’s so against us asking questions and trying to find out what happened.”

Dale drove several yards beyond the point that Nate and I stopped earlier in the week before pulling off the side of the road.  With the map in Dale’s hands, we left the road and headed into the woods.

<It will take three turns to reach the cabin.  Once per turn, I made an encounter roll and a MND Survival skill check (DC10 target, using the best total modifier for the group which was Alyssa with a +3) to determine how well they read the map and stay on track. Each failed survival roll adds another turn to the trip.>

We did our best to watch our steps, not make a lot of noise, and keep conversation to a minimum.  After about five minutes we heard some rustling ahead of us and some guttural beast noises. I pointed in a direction away from the sounds and we detoured to avoid an encounter. I didn’t want to run into whatever attacked Alex if we could help it. Dorothy didn’t think it sounded that large, perhaps a boar or a large dog.  Steve suggested everything from Arks to werewolves.

“What are you talking about?” Dorothy whispered.  “It’s the middle of the day.”

“Get your mind out of the movies,” he snapped back. “Who knows what those Tech-West mad scientists can come up with.”

<Travel turn 1 was a failed navigation check.  To determine what threw them off, I used GMA’s random sensory perception generator.  Sound: growing rumble of hooves (which I interpreted as random animal sounds) Sight: full moon (which I used to shape Steve’s comments).
The next three turns passed both the encounter and survival checks>

Thankfully, we reached the cabin without meeting up with any other creatures, normal or mutated. The cabin was a small structure with wide steps leading up to a porch.  It was a bit run-down, yet still seemed sturdy.

[Image: nDcW6RRuzjKKFTndBKWfv585L30Wpejrhot-oCeq...Cu9A=w2400]

<A few more sensory draws for the inside of the cabin. Sight: Gaudy ornaments  Hear: Something slithering  Smell: trace of spice>

Inside the cabin, it was obvious that no one lived there. The furniture was sparse, only a couple of rickety wooden chairs, a table that had lost most of its finish, and a ragged and torn couch.  Empty soda and beer cans littered the floor, as well as a few empty potato chip bags. I even spotted a roach on the table. Not a bug like in my hotel room. Drugs.

As we entered, I heard a faint jingling sound coming from across the room.  I glanced over in the direction of the sound and was not prepared for what I saw: a five-foot-tall green artificial Christmas tree all decked out in ornaments and unlit lights.  A few of the branches were wavering, from some small woodland creature that was living in the tree, I supposed. It must have been started by us and ran.

“Last time we were here, the only time really, was around Christmas,” Steve explained.

“Yeah,” Dorothy continued. “Ken found this place.  Gave us all maps and told us to meet him out here for a holiday party.  When we arrived he had the tree up and decorated and Christmas music playing from his PEECE.”

“Is that cinnamon and vanilla I smell?” Nate asked.

Dorothy took a sniff they laughed. “I forgot. Ken had that can of Christmas air freshener that he sprayed all over the tree to give the room more of a down-home Christmas feel.  I can’t believe you can still smell it.”

I can,” Dale said.  “It was so much.”

“Who cares what it smelled like?” Steve said. “We just opened the windows, passed around the beers and joints, and had a blast.”

“Let’s look around and see if we can find anything that will give us a clue to what happened to Alex and Ken.”

<At this point, I drew the final clue card for the investigation.  My first draw was the Ace of Hearts, or the Bloody Heart.  That meant my second surprise will occur and I drew another card for the clue.>

The room we were in had a small kitchenette in the corner. While the appliances remained, it appeared as though they hadn’t been used in ages.  The stove most likely was fed from an exterior propane tank and the fridge probably was powered by a generator, both of which had probably either been scavenged long ago or fallen into disrepair. Nate helped Dorothy search through the cabinets that flanked the dilapidated appliances and Steve rummaged through the trash on the table and floors.

I spotted an open door on the far wall next to where the Christmas tree stood. Stepping through, I found myself in a small bedroom. Like the main living area, it was sparse on furniture, only sporting a full-sized bed and an end table. Like the items in the rest of the cabin, they were old, damaged, and dusty. The only exception was a rather clean set of sheets that had been draped across the bed. Clearly, Ken wanted a clean place for him and Alex to spend the night. An empty bottle of shiraz stood on the nightstand along with two wine glasses, one on its side, the nightstand stained purple near the rim. A little wine and romance perhaps, before leaving Alex for the proverbial wolves? Ken, you are such  a piece of work. Unfortunately, a search of the room revealed nothing that brought us any closer to finding out why Alex had to die.

Back in the main room, the others were wrapping up their searches. “Anything?” I asked.

“Nope,” Nathan said, walking away from the kitchenette. “I guess this was a wasted . . . “

Suddenly, there was a crack from outside, the sound of breaking glass, and Nathan fell to the ground with a cry of pain. I stood still, uncomprehending, when another crack rang out. A second pane of glass shattered and I felt something whiz by my head.

“Down!” I cried. “Someone’s shooting at us.”

<The second investigation surprise was that the PCs would be attacked by an accomplice.  Using the oracle, I determined that the attacker would be armed with a standard rifle.  Nate was a random target (out of only Alyssa and he) and since the shot was a surprise, I reduced his AC by his DEX bonus.  The attacker rolled a 19 and Nate was hit for 9 hp. Alyssa failed a Physical challenge to react before another shot was fired, however, the attacker missed. All the characters roll initiative.

Each character on their turn will make a MND Subterfuge challenge against the attacker for a chance to spot who it is.>

While the rest of us took cover, Nate rolled onto all fours and crawled to the window. He peeked over the sill, hoping to see the shooter.

“Who’s there? What do you want?” Nate asked with no response.  <Does the attacker respond? (bad) No . . . but. They will definitely speak next round if no one else calls out to them first.>

I stayed away from the windows <Nat 1 Spot Check> but Dale and Dorothy both peeked out, hoping to locate our attacker.

“Do you see anyone?” Dale asked. <failed spot check>

“I think so,” she responded, raising her rifle.  “Oh my goodness!  I think it’s Ernie!” She narrowed her eyes, sighting down the barrel. <Does Dorothy shoot? (even) Yes . . .but.  She aims high only to scare him.>

“What are you doing?” Dale asked, shocked.

“Just firing a warning shot.” She pulled the trigger and fired.  A split second later a yelp is heard from outside. “Oops.” <Made an attack roll only to check for a critical fail, which would mean she does accidentally shoot Ernie. Yep. She rolled a 1.>

Another shot was heard from outside and the window frame splintered near Dorothy’s head. <Everyone, including Ernie, has +4 to AC due to being under cover, either in the cabin or behind a tree in Ernie’s case. Ernie rolled an 11 against an AC of 17.>

Ernie? Ken’s brother and Kelli’s flunkie was firing at us?!  Hell no. That’s not gonna stand.  I pulled out my pistol and stormed to the window, pushing Nate out of the way. I could see Ernie’s grey backside sticking out from behind a tree and I shot, hitting the tree instead of him.

“Keep him busy,” Dale called out.  “I’ll get behind him.”

“What?” I ask as I turned to him.  “Where are you . . .” But he had already disappeared through the door to the bedroom.

<I won’t bother you with all the mechanics, except to say it will take Dale three turns to leave out a back door and reach Ernie.  He will need to make a sneak check each turn, with the chance of being seen increasing as he gets closer to his target.>

“Ernie,” Dorothy calls out the window. “Why are you doing this?” <Conversations are a series of Comm Challenges to determine whether Ernie gives up any information.>

“They’re outsiders! Don’t trust ‘em, Dorothy,” he responded, deflecting the question. <Ernie rolls a 1 on his attack roll. PCs don’t know this, but his gun jams and it takes him a turn to fix it.>

“This is silly,” Steve chimes in, keeping the conversation going to give Dale time. “You are outnumbered. Come out and we won't hurt you.”

“I thought you were Ken’s friend, Steve?” Ernie calls back. “Are you going to let them put these lies in your head, that he was some cold-blooded murderer?  That Alexandria was innocent?  You wanna know what the truth is? She wasn’t as sweet as everyone thought.  She did some horrible things. Ken told me so. He was hired to see that justice was done.” <Ernie lost the Comm Challenge with Steve 22 vs. 19>

“There are laws,” Nate said. “If she really did something wrong, why didn’t Ken just tell Clint and let him handle it?

“There’s no real laws anymore. Clint’s only concern is keeping things in order. He wouldn’t want to get involved. Besides, it was personal and had to be taken care of outside the law.” <Ernie lost the Comm Challenge with Nate 17 vs. 15>

<This conversation with Ernie is playing out the last investigation draw. 4 of diamonds, which eliminates “Alex was in the way of something being accomplished”. The only remaining motive is “Revenge”.  The only thing we don’t know for sure is who is ultimately responsible for Alex’s death, so while Ernie knows a little bit about “why”, he won’t be able to reveal “who”. By the way, the PC involved in each conversation was randomly determined each turn.>

Engaged in the conversation, Nate was unaware he was gradually, subconsciously moving out of cover and into view through the window. Ernie took his lapse in judgment as an opportunity to fire another shot, one that hit Nate right in the chest, knocking him back. The flex armor protected him from what should have been a fatal shot but didn’t stop him from the pain of the blow.

“Son of a hare!” he cursed, sitting up and feeling where the bullet hit him.

“Really?” I asked. “Son of a hare?”

“Yeah. He’s a hoop. Not an Ark.”

Well, it’s good to see Nate still had his sense of humor. <Nate took 6 h.p. damage. He is currently at 6hp>

“Can anyone see Dale?” I asked.

“He’s getting close, but he needs another minute or so,” Dorothy responded.

Okay. It was my turn to talk to the mad bunnyman. <Comm Challenge: A=23 E=14>

“Ernie!” I called out, my body pressed against the wall just inside the window. “You know I’m going to kill you! Tell us who hired your brother or else, when your dead, we’ll tell everyone it was your idea.”

“That’s a lie! I told him no such thing!”

“Then tell us who.”

There was no response for several seconds.

“I don’t know who. He wouldn’t tell me. <Was Ken struggling with the decision? (even) Yes> In fact, I think the only reason he told me any of this was because he was having a hard time deciding whether or not to go through with it.  He needed to talk to someone about it, but wouldn’t betray the person who wanted him to . . . Hey!”

Ernie stopped in mid-sentence and we all heard a shot.

“Crap!” Dorothy cried out.  “He saw Dale.” She lifted her rifle and shot. <misses>

<Ernie rolled a Nat 20 for the final stealth check, which meant that not only did Dale lose the chance to surprise him, but Ernie gets a chance to attack Dale.  He hit for 4hp and Dale rolled a Nat 1 on his attack.  He falls back from Ernie’s attack and drops his bat.>

Steve led the charge out of the cabin with the rest of us following behind. <Each character needs 1 turn to reach Ernie. Steve will arrive first with the rest following on the next turn.> I could see Ernie aim at the ground and take another shot, however, I couldn't tell if Dale was hit a he was hidden from view by the undergrowth. <Does Ernie shoot again at Dale? (good) Yes. Rolls a 5 and misses.>

Hearing Steve approach, Ernie turned to face him. Steve reached out to grab him. Ernie sidestepped. As Steve passed, Ernie swung at him with the butt of his gun but missed. However, that put Ernie’s back to Nate and me, making it easy for us to double-team him and take him down. <Opposing Physical Challenge based on DEX to tackle Ernie. Use Nate skill with Advantage (due to Alyssa’s assistance): N: 23 or Nat 1 E: 14  Another roll with Advantage is necessary to completely restrain Ernie.  Nate rolls a Nat 20.  No need to roll for Ernie, because even if matched, the bonuses give Nate the win.> Ernie struggled but to no avail as Nate and I held him down. Still, for good measure, I gave him a hard knee to the gut. He pretty much went limp after that.

“Does anyone have any rope?” Nate asked.

“I’ll go check in the cabin,” Dorothy said and ran back.

“Dale!” I called out.  “Steve, check on Dale.”

Steve ran over to where Dale lay on the ground. The young hoop, however, was already sitting up.

“I’m okay,” he assured us.  “He shot me in the thigh, but that’s all.”

Minutes passed.  Every now and then Ernie would try to push back, but Nate just leaned on him harder until he relented.

“Where’s that rope!” I called out impatiently.

“Coming,” Dorothy called back from the cabin. “Just give me another minute.”

What is taking her so long? Eventually, she returned.

“I couldn’t find any rope, but I do have this.”

In her hand, Dorothy held up the coil of Christmas lights taken from the tree.

[Image: HynPXF8RgaCDiRPBU4ttjx-8lxWR5LTVCm3RpIo-...xDEQ=w2400]
I couldn’t find any rope, but I do have this.

ImageSource1; ImageSource2; ImageSource3

Psalm 55 (Relevance hint: Read in The Message)
CHAPTER 14: I Accuse

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

[Scene 1, Tension Lvl:2]

We stood outside the old Pennsylvania Army National Guard Building which now acts as the  Mausdale Security Force’s Headquarters: Nate, Dorothy, Steve, Ernie (bound with Christmas lights), and myself.  Dale had gone into the building to speak with Clint Morrow, the head of the MSF. Since he insisted Nate and I leave town, we felt it was best if Dale go in alone.

[Image: V4TP5K9svFFpHyPSDtmg2b5nNxgtEjNiBGXof8R4...knnw=w2400]
The Old Pennsylvania Army National Guard Building

We drove to the MSF HQ immediately after leaving the cabin. The walk back to the car was uneventful. <To be fair, I failed to make any encounter checks.> The ride back was a bit cramped. Dale’s car was already full. Now adding another hoop meant Steve had to ride in the trunk with the top up.

We saw Dale exit the building first. He walked over to rejoin our group while behind him walked Clint and three additional members of the force: Kelli and two I hadn’t seen before: a hoop and a human female. The only weapon I saw was the large energy mace that Clint held with both his hands. but I wasn’t dismissing the possibility that the others had concealed weapons.

<For the sake of the remainder of the narrative I had to reveal the solution to the investigation. First, I made an assumption that the characters would follow. Next, I revealed any unknown cards. Finally, I used this information to direct the conversations, accusations, and any admissions or denials. For you the reader, however, I will hold the results until later.>

“I thought I told the two of you to leave town,” Clint said, addressing Nate and myself.

“You’re right,” I agreed. “And we were trying to do that. Steve and Dorothy here were showing us an abandoned cabin where we could spend a night or two. Yes, the same cabin where Ken Watkins took Alexandria Andrews.” I saw Clint’s face give a questioning look when I mentioned a cabin. “But while we were looking it over, someone started shooting at us. We discovered it was Ernie and were able to stop him.  We’re here now to turn him in.”

“Now why would he be trying to shoot you?” Clint asked in a fashion reminiscent of every small-town sheriff trope.

“To protect his brother’s reputation,” I explained. “Ernie knew that someone convinced Ken to set up Alex’s death to look like an accident. Unfortunately, he doesn’t know who. But Ken is generally well-liked in Mausdale and Ernie didn’t want us tarnishing that reputation. He prefers the story remain as a romantic get-away gone bad.”

“Is this true, Ernie?”

<A MND Comm skill check between Ernie and Alyssa determines Ernie’s response.  If he wins by 2, he denies. If they are tied or 1 point different, he says nothing. If Alyssa wins by 2, he admits his guilt.  Roll: A=18 E=Nat 20>

“They’re lying, Clint,” Ernie protested. “I know nothing about my brother wanting to harm Alex. I didn’t shoot at them.  They just jumped me. They’re just trying to get you to let them stay.”

“If you didn’t shoot us, then what caused these?” Nate asks our captive as he pulled his flex armor down to show Clint the rifle shot wounds.

“Alyssa’s right,” Dorothy added. “Ernie shot at all of us. He hit Dale as well.” She nodded at Dale for him to display his would as well.

As Dale did this, Steve continued. “And whether it’s true or not, that is the story Ernie told us about his brother.”

<Another MND Comm check between Alyssa and Clint to see if Clint believes the story. He only considers this because she is backed up by everyone else, plus A gets a +1 to her roll. A=22 C=6.>

“It appears their case against you is pretty strong,” Clint tells Ernie. “I have to admit I’m a bit disappointed. We’re supposed to be upholding the law. If you're telling the truth, that someone put your brother up to this, it would be in your best interest to tell us who that person is.”

“If I could, I would,” Ernie pleaded, accepting that continued denials were futile. “He didn’t tell me. You got to believe me. I asked, but Ken wouldn’t reveal the name of the person he was speaking with.”

“You sure you don’t know, Ernie,” I asked, tired of his ruse. “Back when you attacked us in the hotel parking lot you seemed pretty concerned that people might think it was you and your friends.”

“What are you getting at, Red?” Kelli asked, challenge in her voice.

Accepting the challenge, I said, “I think you know. You have been very vocal about us leaving things well alone. We know you hated Alex for stealing your boyfriend. We also know Ken was interested in someone, a hoop in fact, but didn’t have the guts to break it off with Alex. Was it you he was interested in? Would getting Alex out of the way make things easier?”

Everyone, including Clint Morrow, looked at Kelli waiting for her to respond.

“It’s no secret Alex and I wasn’t the best of friends. Yeah, that little witch swooped in with her charms and stole Charlie from me. And she didn’t stay with him that long before hooking up with Ken. She destroyed our relationship so she could have a month of fun before moving on. I don’t even know if she cared for Ken or was just using him to get in with his group of friends. After the bombs dropped and he changed, she didn’t seem as interested in him physically anymore, but didn’t want to break things off either. Ken came to me looking for a friend, someone who was going through the same things as he and could understand. He was cool and I did like hanging out with him. And I’d be lying if I didn’t say the thought of stealing Alex’s boyfriend from her felt satisfying. Karma, you know. But that’s all it was. A thought. I never planned to kill her or tell Ken to do it for me. In fact, if I thought there was something dangerous out there in the woods, why would I risk Ken’s life?”

<MND Comm challenge between Alyssa and Kelli to convince Clint who is telling the truth. Before the challenge, I rolled on my reaction table to see how he responds to Alyssa’s accusation and it came up with a -1 modifier to Alyssa’s roll.  I will say this is because she is a stranger to Clint and he is more inclined to believe the people he knows. A: 2+1MND+2Comm-1=4  K: 9+3 Skill=12>

“Don’t worry, Kelli,” Clint assures her. “I’m not arresting you on wild speculations.”

Turning to me, he continued, “We will take Ernie off your hands and see to it that he is dealt with appropriately for attacking all of you, but I think we’ve had enough of all this silliness about murder and conspiracies. You’ve stirred up enough already, I think it’s time you and your friend pack it up and head out of town as you promised.”

“Silliness? Conspiracies?” I shot back. “Ernie as much as told us Alex’s death was intentional. You’re not a great keeper of the law if you just ignore that.” <Does she accuse Clint of being involved? (even) No.>

<Reaction table to see how Clint responds: 7=Uncertain or confused. Sounds like middle of the road.>

“You are about to push me to my limit, young lady. Again, the best thing you can do at this moment is go back to the Thompson’s hotel, pack your things, and leave Mausdale.”

And with that, Clint, directed his people to take Ernie into custody.  Kelli gave me one last contemptuous look as she walked past.

“You might have everyone else fooled, but I’m not so blind,” I told her. “If you want to settle this, you know where to find me.”

“That’s enough, Alyssa,” Nate said, taking me by the shoulder and directing me to Dale’s car. “Let’s just go.”

Before climbing in the car, I gave one last glance back toward the HQ where Kelli stood watching, waiting for us to leave.

[Scene 2: Tension Lvl: 3]

<The set up for this scene involved several oracle questions and rolls.  I will reveal the results at the appropriate times during the narrative.>

Would she? Wouldn’t she? That was the big question for the night, but I wasn’t taking any chances. While everyone else got ready for bed, I prepared my room for the night. I moved a chair next to the bed, facing it toward the door. My spiked crowbar lay on the mattress within easy reach.  Instead of sleeping, I decided to get some reading in, specifically the supernatural romance I just picked up from the hotel’s lending library, Angel In The River. About the only thing I did as usual was to remove my jacket and clothes and put on a t-shirt and boxers. It might not offer as much protection should Kelli be stupid enough to attack me in the middle of the night, but it is a bit more comfortable. <Does Alyssa go to sleep? (even) No.  Is she wearing her protective clothes? (bad) No. AC:11>

After about an hour, I heard a click from my from the door to my room, as though the lock disengaged. As I reached for my weapon the door slowly opened and I saw Kelli peeking in, a lockpick gun in her hand. Seeing me awake, she threw the door open and lunged at me with her knife. <Alyssas Survival vs. Kelli’s Subterfuge.  Both equaled 21 so neither has any surprise or advantage>

Not having time to make a full swing, I thrust out and caught Kelli in the gut, doubling her over <11 damage>.  In retaliation, she swung wildly out and sliced my arm. <3 damage> Neither of us spoke. We had no need for words. They’d all been spoken already. Now it was time to end this feud with only one of us standing.

In the tight confines between the wall and the bed, it was hard to dodge and maneuver. This made it easier for Kelli to slip her knife under my defenses. Luckily, she mostly landed knicks and cuts. <6 damage>. I couldn’t get a full swing in myself, however, and had to rely on pummeling her with the rounded end of the crowbar. <5 damage, successful morale roll so she doesn’t flee>

My break came when Kelli staggered back from a hit to the face. With a loud grunt, I swung and struck her hard on the shoulder.  The white hoop crumpled to the floor and blood gushed out over the room's carpet. The Thompsons might not be renting this room out for a while.  <Alyssa’s final hit was for 8 damage, dropping Kelli to -6.  Alyssa does not attempt to pull her blow, which would only render her unconscious instead of wounding her with the added danger of bleeding out).>

At the same time, Dale ran through the door. “Are you okay?” He asked.

I showed him my wounds but assured him I was fine otherwise. Once he was certain I would be fine, he checked the body on the ground. “She’s still alive. Quick,” he said to Nate who just came through the door as well. “Go find my dad.  He’ll show you where the medical kits are.”

Nate left as I fell back on the bed, exhausted.

<Per an oracle check Dale planned to stay up and keep watch while Alyssa slept.  However, Kelli made a successful Subterfuge check to sneak past him undetected. Every two combat rounds I made a roll to determine if anyone heard the battle.  Each character had a different DC check depending on where they were and what they were doing. For example, Dale was awake but possibly out of earshot, so he needed a DC14.  Others who were asleep and not close to Alyssa's room needed a DC20.  Dale heard the commotion after two rounds but needed (d4) 3 turns to reach the room, meaning he didn’t arrive till the fight was over. Finally, because of Dale’s arrival, I didn’t roll on the death table for bleeding out since he tended to Kelli immediately.>

[Scene 3: Tension Lvl: 4]

Despite my best attempts, Kelli survived the night.  Harsh, I know, but I had no love for that woman . . . rabbit . . . whatever she is.  Besides, she probably had Alex murdered and would have killed me, given the chance. She was bound and detained in another room. In the morning Ross went to alert Clint to the break-in and attack.  Since there was no question that Kelli was the aggressor, the MSF Chief did not complain about the beating or defend her actions in any way.  He just cuffed her and agreed that some form of justice would be forthcoming.  He did, however, once again suggest that Nate and I leave town and not return.

Jesse agreed to drive us back to Sean Murphy’s farm when he went to fix the tractor. While we were waiting for him to swing by the hotel in his truck, Dale and Ross came over to say good-bye. Dale had a small bundle in his hands wrapped in used copier paper.

“I wanted to give you this,” he said, handing me the package.

The paper was taped together like a poor man’s birthday gift. Finding a seam I tore at the tape and pulled back a flap to reveal four paperback books. They were the four volumes of the Ernest Harding Aliens series that I saw on the book swap shelf, including the fourth volume, Aliens of the Stars, the one Dale said he was currently reading.

I gasped, knowing how rare it was to find a full physical set of any series.

“I can’t take these. They’re your set and . . . and you haven’t even finished Stars.”

“Yes, I did. Last night while I sat up keeping watch. Sorry about that, by the way. Kelli should never have gotten past me. But about the books, I know you really wanted to read the last two.”

“But this is the entire set.”

“If you have the last two, I thought there was no reason for you not to have the full set. Besides, I’m sure if you needed to trade them the full set will be much more valuable than just one or two random books.”

“You bet they will be!”

In a spontaneous show of gratitude, I threw my arms around Dale and gave him a big kiss on the cheek. Once I let go he sheepishly looked away.  In fact, if it weren’t for all the grey fur I may have been able to see him blush.

Jesse pulled up about that time.  Nate and I said our goodbyes and climbed into the bed of the truck. Once we were on the road, Nate pulled out a small package of his own. Instead of fancy copier paper wrapping, his was just a plastic bag holding a box.

“What’s this?” I asked.

“Something I found at the WAmazon Marketplace down the road.  I had Ross drop me off there this morning before he went to the MSF.”

I opened the blue plastic bag.  Inside was an unopened Newton’s Cradle. 

“Oh my!  I can’t believe you found one.”

“Neither can I.  It was way back on a shelf in the store’s toy section. Probably has been there forgotten for months. I know it’s not as fancy as the one in the warehouse, but still, it’s a Newton’s Cradle. I guess they’re not that hot a commodity in the Apocalypse.”

“Eternity Restored!” I said, and flashed Nate a wide smile.

He put his arm around me and we settled back against the truck’s cab. I expected we’d be back on the road in a few days. But for now, it was nice to just relax and enjoy the ride with my new best friend.

[Image: Y83_-Ks8pycDtq421AixX3bZN2hr7ue3kx2ceo0l...Z31g=w2400]


Eric Noel sat on a bar stool in the Suds & Such, his paw wrapped around a glass of the latest batch of the local moonshine. The Flat-Visions mounted on the walls were dark and silent, local broadcasting having ceased with the attack.  However, a PEECE sat on a shelf behind the bar playing old country tunes that had been loaded onto it. There were a handful of other patrons, including a couple of hoops at a table and one at the bar. Eric overheard snippets of conversation here and there and was comforted by what he heard.

News about the two strangers and their investigation had quickly spread throughout Mausdale, specifically their suspicions surrounding Kelli. Opinions were varied, but anyone who knew the accused admitted that they wouldn’t have been surprised if the accusations turned out to be true. 

Let them believe that, Eric thought. It was better for him since he was the only person in town who actually knew the truth.

Eric had grown up with Zach and Joann Andrews, Alex’s parents. They had been friends since grade school. He was one of Zach’s groomsmen and for years the three still enjoyed a close friendship. 

Once Alexandria was born, however, Zach began to change. He did not adjust well to the role of parent.  Alex’s father hated that Joann and he no longer had the freedom to do as they pleased without having to also consider their daughter’s welfare. Finances grew tighter year after year and Zach began sending more time at the bar instead of at home. He would get drunk, go home, and take out his frustrations out on his wife. Joann turned to Eric for comfort and the relationship soon grew into a full-fledged affair.  Still, Joann refused to leave on Alex’s account, believing an intact family was better for the young girl. 

Throughout most of her childhood and early teens, Alex was only a spectator in her parent’s fights, not a participant. However, As she grew older and started confronting her dad, his rage would often turn on her. Like her mom, Alex also found a sounding board in Eric. She would freely tell him how she hated the way her dad treated her mom and how it would just be better if he disappeared. Eric agreed, not only because it would stop the abuse, but it would also clear the way for him and Joann to explore their own relationship more openly.

That was when he decided to take of things himself.  After a long night of drinking, Eric led Zach out to the woods, shot him, and buried the body in a place where he was sure no one would find it.  After Zach had been missing for a few days, Eric “recalled” that Zach had made mention over the past several weeks about wanting to leave Mausdale. When Alex’s father didn’t return, both she and her mother assumed that he went through with that plan.  They weren’t upset that he was gone so they never looked into it too closely.

With Zach out of the way, Eric moved to take his place in their lives. Unfortunately, Alex wasn’t as eager to have a man in the house.  She saw her father’s absence as an opportunity for her and her mother to spend time together and bond. Additionally, she didn’t think it was healthy for her mother to get involved in another relationship right away.  She discouraged her from spending time with Eric and would insert herself as much as possible in anything they did. 

Eventually, Joann caved to the pressure and broke it off with Eric. You’d think the brat would have been a bit more grateful, as he had been a friend for years and stood by them all this time, even taking the role of father figure for Alex when Zach fell short.  Hell, he did her a favor, getting rid of her father, even though she didn’t know it. Well, he knew how to take care of the troublesome teen, and with Alex out of the way, he would be the one to comfort and care for Joann in her time of grief.

He had to be careful, though. It was no secret about Alex’s dislike of his and her mother’s relationship. If she went missing, people might start suspecting him.  No, Eric had to distance himself from the deed.  That was when he became drinking buddies with Ken Watkins, Alex’s boyfriend.

Ken was very susceptible to his suggestions that Alex may not be the sweet girl Ken thought she was. Eric started by questioning her loyalty, mentioning that he had seen her hanging out with other boys. Next, he shared rumors and stories he heard about her sleeping around. Then, when he had Ken convinced Alex couldn’t be trusted, Eric began to speculate that she may even have been involved in some minor burglaries that had occurred around town, his proof being items he noticed around the Andrews’ home that looked like the items that were reported stolen. Of course, most of what Eric told Ken was nothing but a bunch of hooey, but Ken believed it nonetheless.

Once the young man was sufficiently worked up, Eric convinced him that something had to be done to stop her. However, being a tramp wasn’t against the law and, since the bombing, there really wasn’t a legal system to hold her accountable for any crimes she may have committed. If she was to be stopped, or at least held accountable, they would have to do it themselves. And by them, Eric meant Ken.

He knew outright murder would be a hard sell. Too many consequences for Ken if he was caught. Understandable, that’s exactly why Eric was inciting Ken, to protect himself. But, if Ken could stage an accident? That might be an option. Eric knew the woods weren’t safe for someone alone who had little or no wilderness experience. What if Ken were to take Alex out to the wood and “happen” to get separated from her?  If she ran into a wild animal or something else, that would be a tragedy but hardly something that Ken had any control over. Who would know anything different without any witnesses?

Surprisingly, it took very little to convince Ken to carry out the plan. He was already angry at her because of Eric’s stories. Pair that with the fact that he wanted to get more serious with Kelli but couldn’t because Alex kept hanging around, and he was itching to get it over with.  Everything would be better once Alex was gone.

About a week later, Eric began hearing the buzz around town that Alex had gone missing. In fact, the news was better than expected in that Ken never returned as well, presumed attacked by some wild animal. Now Eric didn’t need to be concerned that Ken might start blabbing and point fingers at him.  The only wrench in the seemingly perfect plan was the guy and gal who came to town and started asking questions. However, since they directed suspicion toward Kelli and have since left Mausdale, it was looking more and more like he was in the clear.  Give it a couple of weeks and perhaps he might try rekindling the relationship with Joann.

“Sam!” Eric called out to the bartender.  “Gimme another.  I feel like celebrating!”

“Hmph, what’s there to celebrate?”

“Life, Sam. Life.”

“Have you looked around lately?” Sam asked, filling Eric’s glass from a mason jar full of clear moonshine.

“Yeah, I have. Think about it.  No government watching over us. Tech-West couldn’t care less about some backwoods town. We have a security chief with a bunch of wannabe deputies and no authority backing him up to enforce any laws.  For the first time, we are truly free. Opportunities are endless and our future is bright.”

Sam didn’t respond. Instead, he wiped up a few drops from the bar and gave Eric an if that’s what makes you happy nod.

“You’ll see, Sam.” Eric took a long drink from his glass.  “You’ll see.”


<The only fact about the investigation that I wasn’t able to fully determine was who was ultimately responsible for Alex’s death.  The last two possibilities were “A Town Leader” or “Alex’s Boss/Guardian”.  When I created the original suspect list I didn’t know exactly who the characters would be so I used generic descriptions except for Ken.  As the game progressed, I decided that “Town Leader” would be representative of Kelli.  While not an official leader, she was on the security force and had some authority around town to uphold the laws and standards.  For boss/guardian I leaned into the “guardian” aspect. While not legally married to Alex’s mother, Eric was beginning to fill the role of stepdad.  That was probably as close to a guardian as I was going to get in this game. 

Before the first scene of this chapter I determined who I was going to accuse of the crime (Kelli), then I revealed the answer to know who actually wanted Alex dead.  Turns out Kelli was innocent and it was Eric. So there you have it.  Kelli turns out to just be a mean-bunny with a chip on her shoulder and Joann’s ex is a cold-blooded killer.>

Imagesource1: Google Streetview; Imagesource2; Imagesource3
Psalm 35:23-27

So that wraps it up for my Post-Apocalyptic experiment (Experiment? Yeah, right!), at least for now. When I began this campaign it was for the purpose of tying out the MicroLite20 system, specifically using one of the post-apocalyptic iterations. Originally, I was only expecting to make three or four posts. The reality?  The first post went up on March 17, 2021 and the campaign officially ended in December of 2022.  That’s a total of 21 months and 14 chapters, my longest campaign yet!

To be fair, I wasn’t focused solely on this one story for those nearly two years. I also posted two full Wretched and Alone games, one audio and one written; a Quill campaign (Halloween ‘21); a Delve playthrough that was posted as a video series; a Whispers in the Walls campaign (Halloween ‘22); and a separate video project unrelated to solo RPGs. Oh, and I also created and published a Hex Flower tool.  Whew!  I’ve been busy.

As I often do after a long campaign, I wanted to make a quick afterpost to offer some insights I had during the playthrough.


As I said above, one of my motivations for this campaign was to try out the OmegaLite20 system, a post-apocalyptic version of MicroLite20.  If you are familiar with DnD 5e you have a good idea of what the MicroLite20 system is like. It is basically a simplified d20 system. At the beginning of this year, in real life, I was asked to join a Dungeons & Dragons group playing 5e. Having played Eastern Wastes for most of the previous year I found it gave me the background I needed to transition into the “more complex” system much easier without excessive explanation by the GM.


This was the oracle tool used for Eastern Wastes. However, to call it just an oracle tool is really selling the system short. There is so much random information on this card, including character traits, sensory input, direction, word combinations, random loot, symbols (that you can define), and more.  You could potentially run an entire solo campaign using just this tool. You don’t even need dice.

The only thing that was lacking a bit in my particular game was the amount of “and/but” modifiers to my oracle responses. However, this may very well be because of how I defined the system. GMA does not have “and/but” responses. It only has an “Exceptional Yes” or an “Exceptional No”. I used these as an “and/but” trigger, randomly determining which modifier to use. Unfortunately, the number of “exceptionals” in the deck is rather low, so I had very few modified results. This could have been remedied by redefining the system. For instance, draw a second card and compare the d8 result. 1-2 is an “and” and 3-4 is a “but.”


For my investigation, I used a modified version of Ricardo Freggi’s Nine Steps and a Bloody Heart. This is a really nice system for running a solo investigation, but it also resulted in one of my biggest regrets of the campaign: what questions would I choose for the investigation?

In NSAABH’s setup, you need to ask three questions that require answering and several possible answers that will be eliminated one-by-one until you are left with the solution. The first two questions were easy: Who killed Alex and what was their motivation?  The last question was a bit trickier.  What was unknown about this scenario that would need to be explained? The best question I came up with was “Why was Ken at the intersection where they found the radio?” My potential answers were he changed his mind about killing her and left her alive; he got lost but eventually found the road; the plan was always to leave her for the animals; or he intentionally left her in an attempt to scare her.  There were several problems with these options.

First of all, unless he was the killer, the reason he was at the intersection was probably irrelevant and didn’t need to be answered at all as the real killer's purpose was still accomplished. The larger problem, however, was that the reasons were not mutually exclusive. This was especially the case with the “got lost” option. Ken had three possible reasons for leaving Alex in the cabin: let the animals kill her, just scare her, or give her a chance to live due to a change of heart (but not save her outright for some reason). Getting lost leaving the cabin could have happened in addition to any of the three. In fact, one of the other three had to be true as well. (Which is what turned out to be the case in Eastern Wastes. The cards revealed he got lost, but for story purposes, I wrote that the plan was to leave her for the animals).

The last thing that made Ken’s question problematic was that, without any witnesses, it would be almost impossible to know which of the four was true. Who would know if he intended to leave her to die or only scare her? Did he change his mind or was it part of the plan? Did he get lost or did he come down the road and just hop back into the woods to take a dump?  I did eventually come up with a partial explanation for this, but during the investigation, I had to dismiss incorrect answers primarily through the speculation of the people who knew Ken instead of with hard facts or information. I still don’t know what a better question would have been, but I do know this one wasn’t that great.


While I have posted several stories written in first person (It’s pretty much the default POV for journaling games), I found this perspective a bit more cumbersome for writing an open-world, multi-character narration of a tabletop RPG. I’m not unhappy with the result. I rather like the story and a few of the themes Alyssa explored. However, it certainly slowed down the process. Instead of just writing what happened, I had to think about how I can present the story from my main character’s point of view and understanding of the situation. To make it feel more like her voice, I had to layer in personal insights into what she was thinking, something that is not always necessary in third person unless it’s something I am intentionally trying to get across. Also, I can do a little more “hand-waving” in third person and quickly skim over unimportant events or conversations where in first there is more of an onus to pay more attention to these things, especially if it was important to Alyssa. All in all, unless I visit this world again, it is probably not a POV I will use for my major campaigns in the future.

And that brings to an end another successful campaign. If you enjoyed this story and haven’t had a chance to explore RPGSolo.com much, I would encourage you to do so. I have posted several more stories here and there are many other good players/writers who I am sure you will enjoy. And please, feel free to leave feedback in the form of comments and messages.  We player/writers live off of that.

If you think you want to give solo roleplaying a try, feel welcome to post your own playthroughs.  The people on this site are welcoming and willing to provide encouragement and offer any help or advice you might ask for. And if you like the site in general and want to see it stick around, consider helping Mark out and use the “Donate” button on the home page. (Disclaimer: I say this as someone who receives no benefit from any money the site receives other than having a place to post my material.)

What’s next for Tev? Well, I believe I will be revisiting my Tunnels and Trolls campaign next and continuing the story of Kage Gordain. However, don’t expect anything in the near future. Just as I had directed much of my leisure time to solo roleplaying over the past couple of years, I am now feeling drawn to my other projects and plan on focusing more on them this next year. I don’t know how much time I’ll have left for this, but I do know I have a lot of games and tools I want to try and more stories to tell, so I’m sure I’ll still be posting, just not as often. If you are interested in my other projects you can find information about those on my RPGSolo profile.

Thanks for reading, and good night.
Awesome! Thank you, Tev.

The NSAABH system looks pretty cool.

Thanks for sharing!

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