Sunday, 20 November 2011

Rippers Playtest

Scenario Background

The village of Guntersdorf in Austria is threatened by the Cabal. The villagers know this, and have hidden themselves. A group of Wolf Men, supported by a pack of Wolves and some allied Inmates freed by the Cabal, enter the hamlet from the west. At the same time, the Rippers have arrived to rescue the villagers. They are led by three Wild Cards - the Monster Hunter Count Ernst von Hemming, the Priest Father Horatio Veneticus, and the Scholar, Professor Dragomir Pruzt of the University of Zagreb (Department of Folklore). With them are some Wolfen Jaegers and a small detachment of marines from the Austrian cruiser SS Mozartkugel.

Scenario special rules: each team deploys in a zone measuring 12" x 6", equidistant from each corner of their table edge. Houses in the deployment zone are empty. Each house in the village must be searched for villagers, who have the profiles of Innocents from the Rippers rules. There is a 1/3 chance a house will contain 1d3 villagers. Searching a house is a free action - if a unit/character can move into a house, it is considered searched. If it is occupied, Innocents will barricade it against the Cabal - a -4 Str roll to get access. There is a 1/6 chance villagers will have Wolvesbane with them. Rippers must escort villagers they rescure to the eastern table edge, the Cabal simply has to kill as many villagers as possible. The winner is the team which has killed/rescued the most villagers.

Special rule: Professor Pruzt has a Local Knowledge ability which lets him make two Search rolls in each building he enters.

Both teams moved into the village. The Wolf Men and Inmates had problems getting over a high wall (successful Agility rolls needed), while the Rippers made their way through the churchyard. Father Veneticus searched the church, but found no one hiding there.

The Cabal deployed entirely in the grounds of a house with high walls, delaying their attack somewhat.

The Inmates search a building in the southwest corner of the village, but nobody is home. The Wolf Men and Wolf Pack push deeper into the settlement (green activation counter signifies house is searched).

The Wolf Men find three villagers hiding in the cottage on the right. While two try to break in, another hides in the alleyway to maintain unit integrity, giving a fourth Wolf Man the opportunity to pounce on the Wolfen Jaegers, who are moving up the street towards them. The Wolf Men have Improved Frenzy, and the monster attacks the lead hunter, Aces, and kills him. The Wolfen Jaeger pass their morale check, as they are Brave (+2 to Spirit rolls). They respond with a volley from their rifles, including two Aces. The Wolf Man is gunned down.

In the background you can just see Count von Hemming leaving the churchyard.

The Wolfen Jaeger now move to attack the next Wolf Man, who is hiding in the alley between the cottages. Another well-placed volley from these deadly marksmen, and it is down and out. Another Wolf Man fails his Spirit roll and is distracted from trying to break into the cottage.

Here we have a better view of the three cowering villagers and the monsters of the Cabal try to break down their front door. "Heinrich! What are we going to do? Hilfe!"

In the centre of the village, the Wolves check out four cottages and find three villagers in one of them. While two try to break in, they spot Professor Pruzt sneaking past the end of the alley to check out the town hall. Two of them make a go of it. The Soldiers and von Hemming are holding their actions to cover Pruzt, but they fail their opposed Agility rolls, and the Wolves get their attacks in. Luckily they fluff their Fighting rolls, and two of the Soldiers then Ace with their volley (a risk as a '1' in this situation would hit the professor). Both Wolves are downed. Two more fail their Spirit rolls as a result, and are Shaken.

However, by this stage the Wolves break down the door to a cottage and attack the three villagers inside. The village doctor is killed. 1-0 to the Cabal.

Von Hemming now tries to get a bead on the Wolves still in the alley. He burns two team bennies trying to hit one, but fails. The target Wolf counter-attacks the count. Two Soldiers rush to help the Count, and the Wolf is Shaken in the fight.

Professor Pruzt searches the town hall. At first he finds nobody in its echoing corridors, but then he stumbles across two villagers on the roof - a Nun and an Innkeeper no less.

A shot showing the Soldiers coming to the aid of Count Hemming. Two more cover the alley.

Next time: Will the Rippers save the village? What has happened to the Inmates? And what exactly were the Nun and the Innkeeper doing on the roof of the town hall in the first place? Stay tuned - same time, same Ripper channel.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Twilight Imperium 3

The main event of the board gaming weekend organised to celebrate my birthday was a game of Twilight Imperium. Did I mention that I love this game? It has everything in there - political intrigue, interplanetary warfare, commerce, skulduggery, exploration, diplomacy, etc. All on one plate. It is like Frank Herbert's Dune in a box. The downside is that it takes an entire weekend to play it. Indeed, we didn't finish the game, despite playing from 11-6 on Saturday, and following that up with 2.5 hours on Sunday.

We assembled four die-hards prepared to commit the time, namely myself, Tom, Ben and Sebastian. We used some of the new rules from the Shattered Empires expansion, including the Distant Suns optional rule for exploring neutral planets, which I thought worked very well, and the variant Imperium strategy card, which ironed out some of the wrinkles the original game had. I'd agree with the other online commentators who have said the game is 'broken' without it. Makes Shattered Empires a must-buy for TI fans, really.

We played the following races: Embers of Muaat (me - a new race from Shattered Empires), Emirates of Hacan (Ben), Xxcha Kingdom (Tom) and the Naalu Collective (Sebastian). I was pretty chuffed to be playing Muaat, as I got War Sun technology and a War Sun from the off, plus my ships could fly through the supernovas. Yay! Sebastian got confused about his command chits in the early stages, but also ignored all his race's special abilities (e.g. Naalu always go first and can retreat from battle before the first round). Ben complained about the way the board was set up. We'll need to find a variant to this to satisfy him.

My secret objective was to occupy two systems next to two opposing players' home systems - this was going to be hard. I almost managed it, using my war suns to squash a Hacan fleet, and also kicking the Xxcha out of a system next to their home planets. I would have succeeded too, but the Xxcha had just developed Deep Space Cannon technology, and managed to destroy the only surviving cruiser I had in-system before the Status phase. Aaaaaarrrrggghhh! Too much. With the Xxcha's diplomatic abilities, I knew there was no way I was going to get a second crack at that, and the Naalu were off over the other side of the galaxy.

Nice cold glass of cider in the foreground!
Here is a pic of the early stages of the game. Muaat in red with their war sun still in their home system, Hacan in yellow. You can see the Hacan fleet my war suns destroyed. The Hacan were somewhat constrained from approaching Mecatol Rex due to the presence of asteroid fields and supernovas, not something the Embers needed to worry about, as we quickly acquired the Anti-Matter Displacement technology we needed to navigate asteroid fields. The Hacan also had a technology-related secret objective, I believe, but my nefarious efforts kept them from using the Technology strategy card for three turns.

Another view of the board shows just how much space you need to play TI: this is a six foot square play area we're using for a four player game. It's not the board itself that takes up all of the space - it is all the additional bits and bobs.

I spent the second half of the game a bit on the back foot. The Embers had few votes in the Galactic Council, so little real say in the political future of the galaxy. The Council ended up being a tug of war between the politically influential Naalu, who controlled Mecatol Rex for most of the middle part of the game, and an axis between Hacan and Xxcha, who seemed to be acting as parliamentary opposition.

In addition, attacking both Hacan and Xxcha had left the Embers with no trade agreements to speak of. I was considering taking the Trade card later in the game to cancel all existing trade agreements and force a re-negotiation, but always needed other strategies like Logistics, Imperium, or Diplomacy (to keep a vengeful Hacan off my back). I was also constantly short of strategy and command pool counters in the latter stages of the game, meaning I had to think carefully about which systems to activate, a situation which eventually allowed the Xxcha to colonise some peripheral planets (like the aptly-named Perimeter) which I'd simply not been able to move against.

I managed to take and hold Mecatol Rex for about two turns (scoring 2VPs) before losing a war sun there to an attack from the dastardly Naalu, tragically for me in the same turn as the Hacan swarmed all over and destroyed my other war sun. Note to self - war suns are vulnerable to attack by fleets with large numbers of fighters, especially if they have no fighters themselves.

Towards the end I was losing ground all over the board. Here's another shot of the mid-point in the game (right). You can see my war sun near the Hacan home system (which Ben had fortified with expensive Planetary Defence Systems - but hey, he had the cash in this game), while the other is poised to strike against the unsuspecting Naalu fleet at Mecatol Rex (Sebastian made the mistake of moving some of this fleet away from Mecatol, making it even easier for me to sneak a war sun through the supernova).

You can also see the Xxcha are already on a counter-offensive, and a small Ember garrison has been isolated with no fleet protection: these guys were later nuked by an Xxcha dreadnought. Nasty.

We had to finish the game because we had a roast lunch awaiting us, plus Tom had to get back to London and Ben had some marking to do. I'm not sure I would have had the stamina to play another game in the afternoon, although it would have been nice to play TI through to its conclusion. Sebastian won with 8VPs, I came second with 4VP, and Tom and Ben had one apiece. With Sebastian back in control of Mecatol Rex, it looked unlikely that I'd have been able to catch up with him, especially as the Embers were now on the defensive, had lost both their war suns, and had to think about defending their home system against the Xcha.

This was a truly great game. Shattered Empires and the Distant Sun option have really enhanced it, and it doesn't feel broken anymore. I may need to revisit tile laying at the start of the game, especially if playing with Ben again, but otherwise feel it is really looking great. Oh, for the time to play it!

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Ernest Hemingway - Cthulhu Investigator!

With a new Call of Cthulhu campaign imminent (Kelvin will be running Tatters of the King), I've turned my attention to generating a character. The game begins in London in 1929, I believe, and we're meant to be rolling up characters who live within the artistic community - actors, artists, drug dealers, etc. After mulling this over, I thought it might be fun playing a character who was - or would become - famous. I might risk changing the course of history, however, if he dies or goes mad in the course of his adventures, but with the Keeper amenable, I have alighted on American author Ernest Hemingway.

A young Hemingway
As with any CoC character, you need to generate stats first. For this, I needed to look back over Hemingway's early life, to try to get a feel to who he was as a person and thus a measure of some of his key physical attributes.

Hemingway graduated from high school, but did not attend college, so taking his high school graduation age (17) and subtracting his starting school age in Illinois in 1904, I get an EDU of 12, which seems appropriate ("an Education of 12 suggests a high school graduate," confirms the Call of Cthulhu core rules). I'll add an extra point due to some work experience at the Kansas City Star to take it to 13.

While not university educated. Hemingway was obviously intelligent and a keen observer of human behaviour, so I feel this warrants an above average INT - I'll go with 16. "Intelligence represents how well investigators learn, remember and analyse, and of how aware they are of what is around them," say the core rules. This was Hemingway down to a tee. Perhaps even 16 is too conservative?

Hemingway was also something of a ladies' man, and had a number of wives in the course of his life. By the time he was 30 he was already on his second wife, American fashion journalist Pauline Pfeiffer. I allocated him an APP score of 16, although APP rarely seems to have much of a mechanical role in CoC.

While it is difficult to assess whether Hemingway had any access to magical spells, Power is an indication of "force of will" say the core rules. I'd argue that Hemingway at 29-30 was still a man possessed of a high degree of force of will and personality, and certainly above average in that respect. It ought not to be in the average range of 9-12, but neither as high as 16. I go with 15.

Hemingway in his WW1 uniform
Hemingway was a man interested in sports, although not necessarily an amazing athlete. He was, by the age of 30, already a keen fisherman and sailor (he visited Key West for the first time in 1928). This requires a decent STR and CON score. He was still a healthy man, although he occasionally succumbed to illnesses in hostile climes. He contracted anthrax while on honeymoon in France in 1927, and later contracted amoebic dysentery while on safari in Kenya (1933). He also succumbed to pneumonia in the Hurtgen Forest while covering the fighting there in WW2 (although he was admittedly older by this time in his life). This points to a susceptibility to disease, although it would hard to describe him in his twenties as sickly, and he bounced back from serious injuries sustained during the First World War. Hence, I give him a STR of 13 and a CON of 10. In terms of size, he was not a large man, so again, a more average stat is needed here - 12. It is very difficult to assess his physical speed and reaction time, but as he does not seem to have been a natural athlete, I give him a DEX of 10, average, but not ponderous.

Hemingway served as a medical corpsman with the Allied armies in Italy in 1918, where he was wounded and almost lost his leg. He was also witness to the shelling of a field hospital by Axis forces. Hence, I trim some points of SAN from his initial score, which would have been 75. I dock him four points for his war service, leaving him at 71.

Hemingway (left) in Paris in the 1920s
Onto the skills. I am using the Foreign Correspondent template from the excellent Investigator's Companion (Chaosium, 1994). Hemingway had already published some short stories and his first successful novel by 1928 - The Sun Also Rises - and was just finishing off his second book, A Farewell To Arms. However, he was still sustaining himself via his career as a columnist and journalist, writing articles for newspapers and magazines in the US. Hemingway gets Bargain, Conceal, Fast Talk, Hide, Other Language, Persuade, Psychology and Sneak. On top of that, he is well-connected, although his connections at this stage in his career were more in the literary and artistic fraternity. While living in Paris in the Twenties, he regularly went out drinking with the likes of Pablo Picasso and James Joyce, and was also friends with Gertrud Stein and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Hemingway has 15 x EDU to spend on his career skills, giving him 195 points. I first spend some points on his languages: Italian 15%, Spanish 25%, and French 40%. Psychology ought to be fairly high for a man with such an eye for the human character, so I give him 50 points, for a total of 55%. Fast Talk and Bargain are next in priority, so I split 30 points between them. This leaves me with 30 points for Conceal, Hide and Sneak - I put 10 points in each.

On to his general skills, and here we get 5 x INT. Again, Hemingway scores well, with 80 points to spend. Looking over the CoC career list we find a few skills that ought to be purchased to account for his background. I put 15 points into Art (this man used to hang with Picasso in Paris), 20 into First Aid (he was a trained medical orderly), 25 into Credit Rating, five into Pharmacy, and 10 into Rifle (to reflect his military training and his early interest in hunting).

Ernest Hemingway, American writer and journalist, 29

STR 13, CON 10, DEX 10, INT 16, APP 16,  SIZ 12, EDU 13, POW 15, SAN 71, Hit Points 11

Dodge 20%; Luck 75%, Magic Points 15, Damage Bonus: +1d4

Skills: Art 20%, Bargain 20%, Conceal 25%, Credit Rating 40% (50% in the US), Fast Talk 20%, First Aid 50%, Hide 20%, Pharmacy 5%, Rifle 35%, Sneak 20%.

Other Languages: Italian 15%, Spanish 25%, French 40%.

Background: Ernest Hemingway is in Europe to research a new book. He is visiting London partly to promote his recently-published work, A Farewell To Arms, and raise his profile with the British public. He is planning to continue his journey to Spain in the near future to research a new work on bull fighting, but is lingering on in London for a few more weeks. His wife and two sons will be joining him in Spain.

Monday, 14 November 2011

StuCon 1 - Imperial play test

It being my 41st birthday, rather than go sailing, as I did for my 40th, I decided instead on organising a board gaming weekend. The blueprint for this event was to rally as many folks as possible interested in board gaming to play a few of the longer, strategic board games we usually don't have time to play these days, due to work and family commitments. I've got a fair few of these, and am tired of seeing them gathering dust while shorter games get all the play time.

My original schedule was to play four games over two days, namely Twilight Imperium, Conquest of the Empire, Imperial and Shogun. Real life and the logistical practicalities of the event interfered, however, and in the end we only got two games away. I probably hoped for too much from the weekend - could we have got all of these played, I wonder? It would have required a concerted and dedicated effort from all involved, and possibly less Portuguese white port consumed on Friday night by my self and my brother Tom before the proceedings had even got underway. Still, much fun was had by those who did make it.

This post is mainly about the game of Imperial we played on the Saturday evening. Luckily, we were able to muster six players for this, which I didn't expect, but did ensure we had all the slots filled. The photos in this post, I should hasten to add, are not of our game. I was too focused on making sure it happened to snap any shots.

A game of Imperial in progress, showing the factories (brown) and ship yards (blue)

We had something of a false start with Imperial, as the rules translation from the German was not particularly clear, and led to plenty of confusion before the penny finally dropped, we voted to clear the board, and started over. The second time around the game played faster, and we were able to finish it in under three hours, which makes it playable of an evening if required. Now we've cracked the somewhat obscure wording of the rules, it ought to be easier to play in the future.

Imperial is a game about European power politics in the early 1900s. Part of the reason I decided to buy it was because it seemed to combine some of the characteristics of Diplomacy with Supremacy, two games I have played an awful lot in younger days, but which I think now show their age. Players use money to buy the bonds of the various European governments, with the player controlling the biggest share of any one country's national debt acting as its government. National treasuries are maintained by injections of cash from players acquiring bonds, and by taxing. Revenues come from functioning factories and from overseas bases. As the European board closely resembles the Diplomacy board, bases tend to be concentrated in the Balkans, Scandinavia, and the Low Countries (as well as North Africa and the Iberian peninsular). Powers cannot derive revenue from occupying other Powers' home territories, but they can close down or destroy factories/ship yards to weaken other Powers.

Note: we missed the fact that you can also tax sea zones, not just land zones, which means there is plenty of scope for an enlarged naval game.

A selection of Russian bonds
Winning is based on owning the bonds of the most highly-rated country. Countries are rated on a scale of 0-5 on the victory point track, based on how much tax they raise in the course of the game, and how often they tax. Thus, the winning country was Russia, despite the fact that it was probably less active in overseas ventures than, say, Italy or France. The key to winning as a player is to make sure you keep as much of your liquid cash invested in the bonds of the countries you think will be higher up the victory point track (3+) by the end of the game. This rewards maintaining a diversified portfolio of bonds, a strategy that also allows you to collect revenue from interest payments by Powers in the course of the game.

Thus, you could buy the bonds of the country you control to ensure nobody could take it off you, but then you would not have the money to buy more bonds from other Powers, or collect interest from them. I came second place in the end, with 63VPs, for a number of reasons:

  1. I tried to keep Russia's armed forces at a conservative size, because a large army/navy can eat into the revenue base and leave less money for interest pay-outs to you and your fellow bond holders;
  2. I tried not to get too bogged down in the ongoing conflict in the Balkans between Austria (Ric) and Italy (Ben), although I did intervene in Turkey when the Italians landed there and threatened the Black Sea area;
  3. I made sure I invested as much liquid cash as possible in bonds of at least four other Powers: apart from Russia (where I did not add to my starting holding and thus lost control over the government to Ben in the final round), I bought French, German, Italian and Austrian bonds.

Towards the end of the game I was generating a solid cash stream which I was then able to use to upgrade holdings, for example buying more Italian debt when it looked like Ben was taking control of the Mediterranean, and spreading my risk by purchasing German bonds as Germany's credit rating improved considerably mid-game (despite the Reich taking a pounding from France and Britain and getting involved in a hare-brained invasion of Italy which went badly wrong).

Manoj won because Manoj always wins, with 73VPs. I came second with 63VPs and Ben came third with 61VPs. The final round of the game became quite interesting, as the penny finally dropped around the table and a buying spree began in Russian bonds. Ben took control of Russia from me, and then lost control of it to Manoj in the final turn of the game, giving Manoj the chance to win. It was the only incidence of someone losing control of a country in the game: otherwise, it seemed investors tended to respect the authority of the incumbent governments in all cases, although I think the British government came quite close to falling (as well as nearly falling asleep!)

This is not an easy game to get your head around in the first sitting. You really need to play it with experienced players. Going at it from scratch, with six novices around the table, we were at sea for an hour before we began to understand some of its subtleties. It is hard to wean yourself of a couple of ideas:

  1. That losing control of a government is a bad thing - I think there is much to be said for studying the game and spending your investment pool wisely. Even if you have money for only the smaller bond denominations, you can still build up a diverse portfolio, allowing you to then increase holdings in some debt positions to take over a country later in the game. Manoj's ability to win in the final round with his Russian coup demonstrated how this could be done.
  2. That embarking on a program of world conquest is the only way to win the game - it isn't. I ran a very conservative foreign policy in Russia, focusing on keeping costs down and the army within conservative levels. A prudent fiscal policy eventually led other players to realise that Russia was a good game-winning bet, leading to a big injection of cash into the Russian treasury, and in turn allowing Russia to pay investors - including myself - some interest. Prior to that, Russia spent the first half of the game looking rather cash-strapped.

As another example, take France, which was played by Manoj throughout the game. France did not tax very much, relying on the fact that players were buying French bonds consistently - indeed, the French government at one point cancelled a dividend when the premier realised just how much debt had already been farmed out, and that his bonds would not be paying out in totality as a consequence.

Armies - they take money away from investors!
The real game is the bonds and the money. Running Powers is really a secondary game, but it is so easy to get distracted from the financial game by what is going on in the political game. We really only all woke up to  this in the last 40 minutes of play. Consequently, I think it would be great to play this again, with at least two or three experienced players round the table, in order to try out some of the other theories and tactics that are now going through my head. It would also be interesting to see how the taxation of sea zones changes the revenue base of some of the Powers.

Thanks to all for a good game and for your patience in giving this a second go when all seemed lost! I'd like to give this another shot before the rules evaporate from my mind, although I'm hoping this blog entry will help to serve as a reference point.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Carrion Crown: the End of the Splatterman

Knock, knock!
The first story arc of the Carrion Crown campaign finished on Friday, leaving the party at 4th level. It was a most enjoyable session, with four players round the table. We knew we were in for a tough battle, as we were facing the Splatterman, the last of the five ghosts that haunted the ruins of Harrowstone prison. Of the five, the Splatterman was the only one that had demonstrated an ability to possess people in the village of Ravengro, and cause them to vandalise a local monument. Hence, we were already pretty sure he would provide us with the sternest test of our party to date.

Third level left us feeling a bit more powerful, however, although having played a Barbarian in the last campaign (Kingmaker), I'm finding my Cleric, Veneticus, a little underpowered by comparison. With only 22 hit points at 3rd level, he was still a little weak for my liking, particularly against foes that could cast Magic Missile at an automatic -20hps damage rating!

This game session felt more like a 4e session than any previous chapter of this campaign to date. It boiled down to a confrontation against the last of the 'bosses'. Critical to our success was going to be choice of spells, but also choice of feat at 3rd level was going to be important. I went with Extra Channelling to take Veneticus' daily channels to seven, which I felt was a good move given the predominantly undead opposition we have faced to date in Carrion Crown.

We had a pretty good idea where we were going to find the Splatterman, and so it proved. He was in a semi-flooded cellblock in the dungeon under Harrowstone. He tried to lure Sir Erudil into knocking down some walls on which he was scrawling the Paladin's name, and he almost succeeded in bringing the cieling down on top of the holy knight as a consequence. The ghost then manifested, targeting Veneticus with a variety of particularly lethal spells (having been Ben's 'go to' target in the previous campaign as well, this felt like familiar territory).

Veneticus ended up having to use his actions to either cast healing spells on himself, to keep himself alive, or to cast Hide Fron Undead to conceal himself from the Splatterman. He couldn't really contribute more meaningfully to the battle. Meanwhile, Sir Erudil and the Ranger Brevan tried to engage the ghost, which kept melting into the walls of the cellblock, or using them to avoid attacks of opportunity while he fired off more spells at me!

Luckily we also had the Necromancer Nicodemus on hand....

"Have at ye, spawn of darkness!"

Not only did he set fire to the Splatterman's spellbook, which seemed to reduce the range of spells he had access to, but he also revived Veneticus at a critical juncture when he dropped to -5hps. Veneticus was eventually able to crawl over the floor of the cellblock to hide, from where he could cast channelling in safety, healing the other characters and eventually destroying the Splatterman (he can do 2d6 damage to undead now). Such was the nature of this duel, some of the other spells in Veneticus' arsenal simply had to be switched out for healing spells or were too risky to cast - a successful save by the Splatterman was too much of a risk when he could retaliate against PCs with less than 10 hit points.

With the Splatterman destroyed, Brevan found a well, at the bottom of which were the Splatterman's human remains. While the half elf was diving for gold, a grey ooze invaded the complex through a hole we'd discovered in one of the cells, and smothered Nicodemus! Luckily, Sir Erudil was on hand to kill it while Veneticus kept Nicodemus alive with channelling (remember that feat he took?)

Nicodemus was in for a bit of a shock!
Here endeth the lesson really. Another haunt was encountered in the torture chamber which has possessed an iron maiden, and was able to lure Brevan into its maw before it was destroyed. Brevan survived, but will probably have nightmares for a month! We also recovered the warden's badge of office, which was returned to the ghost of his wife, giving her power over the other lesser haunts. In the end, Sir Erudil gave orders that the prison be demolished, brick by brick, just in case. Hopefully that will suffice, and also thwart the nefarious schemes of the Whispering Way.

Thus ended the campaign arc. The party is obliged to remain in Ravengro until the end of the month, before taking Professor Lorrimor's trunk of nasty literature to the university at Leppedstadt. His daughter, Kendra, has given Nicodemus the professor's old spellbook as a going away present. Sweet.

Oh yes, two weeks from now we kick off some Call of Cthulhu with Kelvin in the hot seat.  I still need to get my character suitably mapped out. I'm not sure my original request to play a young Ernest Hemingway will be accepted!