Thursday, February 28, 2013

Enter the Growling Door!

We're changing the name of our company.

Turns out "Play Attention" is trademarked by a company in North Carolina; they make software and educational products for students with Attention Deficit Disorder. That's kind of ironic, if you think about it (I'm a speech-language pathologist, meaning I work with kids with various attention disorders and I'd never heard of this company, though they seem to have a decent-sized footprint). The owner of the company was very polite and understanding about it, but in the end, his company makes games and he was here first.

That's fine. The nice thing about the RPG industry being such a small pond (and our company being so new) is that we're not losing years of brand identity by having this happen. We've changed the name to:

Here's what you need to know:

  • That awesome logo was drawn by Lauren Chaikin
  • This change will not affect the release of A Tragedy in Five Acts, except that it'll be through Growling Door Games rather than Play Attention Games (which, in turn, means nothing more than a different logo on the book and that I'm less likely to catch heat for copyright infringement). 
  • Our main website will be down for a little while while we get up and running (we wanted to redo it a bit anyway). I'll be communicating here, at, Facebook, G+, and Twitter (@GrowlingDoor). 
  • I'll be uploading a revised pdf of curse the darkness whenever I can get to it; we'll be changing the logo on the inside and making some minor corrections. 
Please spread the word on this, and if you hear people on the street asking "Hey, what's with this 'growling door' thing?", let 'em know! (It could happen.)

Movie #175: 10 Things I Hate About You

(To recap: I'm watching all my movies in alphabetical order. When we buy new movies that come before our current place in the alphabet, we bump them to the front of the queue. Now that Oscar season is over, we're back into this project.)

10 Things I Hate About You is a 1990s comedy starring Julia Stiles, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Heath Ledge, Larisa Oleynik, David Krumholtz, Larry Miller and Allison Janney. It's basically a retelling of The Taming of the Shrew, but written by women. You can tell, and that's not a bad thing.

The basic, basic premise is similar. The Stratford sisters, Bianca (Oleynik) and Kat (Stiles) can't date. But then their overprotective, controlling OB/GYN father (Miller) changes the rules - Bianca can date if Kat does. But Kat is antisocial and hostile to everyone, and has no interest in anything high-school related, dating included. The new boy in school, Cameron (Gordon-Levitt), falls for Bianca, and so he and his buddy Michael (Krumholtz) manipulate the beautiful, brash asshole Joey Donner (Michael Keegan) to pay the equally antisocial bad boy Patrick Verona (Ledger) to take Kat out, thus ensuring Joey can get with Bianca, but Cameron plans to sneak in and get her attention before Joey can. Whew.

It's convoluted, but shit, it's based on Shakespeare. And really, if you watch the interplay between Bianca, Joey and Cameron, it's not like things are really easily resolved. Bianca's kind of selfish and shallow, and when Cameron realizes that he's just about ready to say "fuck it," but then Bianca kind of wises up to the fact that he's being nice to her when Joey's a complete ass. Kat initially has no time for Patrick (and he does come off like a complete tool), but he actually puts forth the effort to get to know her, and they find some common ground, and then they fall in love. There are some issues with boundaries, but no one (except Joey) is really interested in taking advantage (Patrick deliberately chooses not to kiss drunk Kat, though I think he'd have saved himself some grief if he'd explained that rather than just not kissing her).

The movie is well-acted and funny. The dialog is pretty damned 90s, but it reads as pretty genuine, if a little shallow in places. The characters stop just this side of over the top and simplistic in their motivations, and I like that Miller's character has a reason for being so freakishly paranoid about his daughters getting knocked up (and I like that they both call him on the fact that he's really disrespecting them by removing any agency they have in the matter, Bianca especially).

I definitely like that the ending bears no resemblance to the play - Kat isn't broken, she and Patrick get together on equal footing and Kat goes to him not because he's tortured her into acquiescing (as the titular shrew does in the play), but because she really loves him and chooses to forgive him. There's mutual vulnerability there, and like I said, you can tell that women wrote the screenplay, because I seriously doubt a man, writing for the same demographic, would have handled it that well.

As with many movies, this one just drives home how much of a loss it is that Ledger died so young. It is amusing to note, however, that the Joker and the heir-apparent to the mantle of the Batman went to high school together. Maybe Julia Stiles could play Poison Ivy someday.

My grade: A-
Rewatch value: Medium-high

Next up: Flubber

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The God-Machine Chronicle - The Key (Conclusion, part 2)

Last night we finished up The Key. First, some overall thoughts.

I really like the rules revisions we've made. Honestly, I think that the NWoD system works pretty well as written, but the revisions that we've made (to Morality, combat, extended actions) do a pretty good job of moving the system away from the traditional "roll to pick locks" style of RPG and more toward the "roll to resolve this conflict in this genre" that focuses things.

I worry, though, that it's going to get the same reception as Promethean. That is, the the game is focused, but that in putting that focus and asking the players to participate more in the narrative, we lose the people for whom "gaming" is "I play my character and the GM is responsible for everything else." Thing is, Conditions and Aspirations and even breaking points (all things that were added, rather than just revised) are all systems that only work when the player and the ST are engaged with them. You can toss a player the Shaken Condition, but if the player isn't going to play it they aren't ever going to resolve, they aren't ever going to get the Beat. And I'm spoiled because my players do engage like that.

As for the God-Machine Chronicle sections that aren't rules, I think that the Tales are going to be good story starters, and I think my decision to go through and explicitly tie each of them to a statted character (even if it's just an angel whose stats may never matter) was the right one. Tying Wesley Cote to the Key made the whole thing more accessible for me, and I can't imagine I'm alone. I'm hoping that the chronicle tracks will be useful for people, but we'll see.

Anyway, last night. First, dinner.

Skirt steak, canary melon, yum-yum sauce, portabello mushrooms, weird rice mixture.
One of the stranger baskets I've had lately. I wish I'd had more mushrooms, but you work with what you have.

The rice stuff I just cooked normally. In retrospect I wish I'd have made a sauce with the yum-yum to go with it, but I was trying to get dinner ready (we watched The Impossible yesterday and it ran all the way up to when folks got there). The mushrooms I chopped up, cooked with some wine and beef broth, and then mixed in the yum-yum (it's basically the sauce they give you with shrimp at hibachi restaurants). I put that in the center of the steaks, and then rolled them up, salted and peppered them, topped with a little of the sauce and baked 'em.

The melons...oy. I don't like melon. It's not a textural thing, I just don't like the flavor. I've gotten around that with cantaloupe by making it into a cobbler kind of thing with white cake mix, but I didn't have any (and we had cake for dessert anyway). So with this melon, I cut it up into bite-sized chunks, made a tempura batter with flour and tandoori, and fried those sucks. That actually came out really well - enough sweet to be pleasant, but the tandoori cut the melon flavor nicely.

So then game. Last time, Mallory was in the hospital with a wound in his neck, while the others worked the crime scene. Berry checked outside, and found a pair of footprints by the side of the building and a key drawn on the wall...and the marker was still fresh. After making sure no one was going to stab her, she got Cochrane, who confirmed that the tread was the same as the other shoes they'd seen, but these prints were slightly smaller. Also the prints were just...there. Like someone had just appeared there.

Lundy and King looked over the camera footage, and tried to figure out what the weird little time-glitch meant. King, more readily accepting a supernatural explanation than Lundy was, put forth the notion that this guy was time-traveling. Lundy said that even if that weren't crazy, what kind of chance did that give them? How could they stop him?

King thought about the evidence some more, and realized that the only thing that the killer had ever taken from a victim was the briefcase of Dr. Halliday in Utica. Why? There was a file in that briefcase, of one Anne Cote. Lundy called the hospital, and learned that Anne Cote had been Dr. Halliday's patient, and had died of an internal hemorrhage during a miscarriage. Lundy figured this was as close to a lead as they had, so he had everyone pack up (including Mallory, who was injured but not on death's door) and head to Utica.

Cochrane looked through the evidence of the Hackensack murder on the plane. Yes, it did look like two different people had traced that key, but beyond that the evidence wasn't telling them anything.

King slept, and dreamed. He dreamed of a house, of using an old iron key to open a door, stepping inside, and watching himself and his compatriots walk in. He stepped up behind Cochrane (at the back of the group), grabbed her, and stabbed her in the throat. King woke up with a start, down another dot of effective Integrity and picking up the Shaken Condition.

They landed in Utica and headed to the hospital. Lundy found a nurse who had been here long enough to remember Halliday and interviewed her, while Cochrane and King headed to the records room. Mallory got on the phone to the local PD to try and get the records sent over, and Berry found a cute nurse and flirted with him (wasting time with her Vice to get a Willpower back).

Lundy learned that Anne Cote's husband, Wesley Cote, had gone berserk when Anne had been taken into surgery, even before her condition became so much worse. The nurse told Lundy that Wesley had to be restrained, and then three months later Halliday was killed out by his car. Cochrane and King found Anne's file, her death certificate (death by internal bleeding arising from complications during a miscarriage) and there were notes that she'd been seeing a therapist, Dr. Erika Epworth.

They went and talked with Epworth, who told them that Wesley and Anne had been overjoyed about their pregnancy, but that Anne was dealing with some anxiety (hence the therapy). She said that Anne had reported that Wesley was getting strange phone calls, telling him "Don't let them take Anne into the blue room." And indeed, the room in which she died during surgery was blue. Epworth was prepared to write this off as coincidence (many rooms in hospitals are blue), but it was clear that it troubled her.

She mentioned that Wesley had been investigated for the murder of Dr. Halliday, but that he'd been out of town when it happened. She said he had no history of violence...but then a chill went down Cochrane's spine. King asked again, and Epworth mentioned that Wesley had some violence in his record, but she wasn't privy to the details. She knew he'd experienced lost time as a teenager, though.

The characters reconvened and decided to go to the police station. Berry called Cohen, and he told her that they were off the map as far as he was concerned. He wasn't sure of the outcome anymore, but did tell them that Cote didn't so much lose time as take it. He told them that, if you change yesterday, it changes today. There might be a thousand yesterdays, but there's only one today, so whatever yesterday you had leads to the today you're in (this led to the some temple-rubbing as players worked to get their brains around it, which is what I wanted). He said to watch for things that changed, inconsistencies and details that just didn't make sense.

They got to the police station, pulled the files on the murder of Dr. Halliday, and looked over them. They found a photocopy of Wesley Cote's driver's license, and Mallory ID'd him as the man he'd shot - but this picture was 15 years old, so why had the man Mallory shot looked identical? The investigation concluded that Cote had been out of town (in Columbus, as it happened) when Halliday was killed, and he had no criminal history to indicate that he'd know how to hire someone...but then the chills happened again. Lundy picked up the investigation again, and it had changed. Now it said that given his history as a juvenile offender, it was possible that Cote might know to hire someone, but there was no evidence to support that theory. Berry noticed that the camera in the room was now in a different corner than when they walked in.

They planned to go to Cote's house and see if he was there. Cochrane and Mallory decided, instead, to go back to the hospital and interview Epworth again, get some more information about the Cotes. Berry asked to get an ax; this suggestion was (obviously) met with horror from the other cops, Cochrane in particular. She let that go (eventually) and they split up.

Cochrane and Mallory got the hospital, but Epworth's office now had a nameplate reading "Michael Surrick." They talked to Dr. Surrick, who told them he'd been hired a year ago to replace Dr. Epworth, who had been murdered outside her house, stabbed in the throat. The characters went to the morgue to check the records of Epworth's death.

At the house, a housekeeper answered the door. Lundy flashed his badge and asked for Cote; she rather confusedly said he was out. She let them in so she could find the note he'd left, but then something changed and she said that he had left instructions that no one came in, and made them wait. They entered anyway ("Did you hear a scream, Lundy" "Yes, I think maybe I did.") and found the door that King had seen in his dream. They opened and saw that it led back into the same hallway they were in. They entered, and found themselves in the same house, no housekeeper to be found.

Berry looked around and saw that it was later in the day, and looked like it had just rained, neither of which had been true a moment ago. Lundy texted Cochrane and King to ask them to check the first three victims against Cote, but he got two phone calls back - wrong numbers. He stepped back through the door and did it again, and got a response from Cochrane. Berry went back through the door and called Cohen, who suggested if there was a kitchen that expiration dates were a good way of telling when you were. They checked, and found they were in May 2007, about a year "ago" (remember my games are offset by a few years).

Lundy found a package of markers upstairs, as well as a notepad with an addressed and "7:12PM" on it. Going back through again, Berry Googled that address, and found that it was Erika Epworth's address - she'd been murdered in the evening as she took the trash out.

Running back to 2007, Lundy hot-wired the car in the driveway and they race to the address. They got there just as Cote appeared behind Erika, and King and Lundy shot him, leaning out the windows of the speeding car.

Meanwhile, Cochrane and Mallory went to the morgue, and Cote appeared from nowhere and stabbed Mallory in the throat, dropping him (he was alive, but stunned - full of bashing damage). Cochrane drew her gun and shot him. He stabbed her, but she shot again, dropping him.

In 2007, they found Cote up against the fence, bleeding. Berry started to question him, but King (resolving his Shaken Condition), shot him - from his perspective, they were too far off the map for the standard methods to work. Figuring that they should get out of here before police arrived, they got in the car and went back to Cote's house. As they walked in, Cote appeared behind them, stabbed Lundy in the neck and dropped him. He went down, bleeding out. Berry popped her asp, and King grabbed Lundy to stabilize him. Cote ran, trying to circle around to the door, but Berry stopped him. He stabbed Berry in the stomach, but she cracked him with the asp, and he backed off, leaving Berry behind.

King dragged Lundy through the door. Cote followed, and locked the door behind him. He looked down at King and Lundy and raised his ice pick...

...Berry shot the lock, and the door opened to somewhere else. She couldn't see features in the room, she just heard what sounded like an immense clock. She called out, and Wesley Cote appeared, but this one was scraggly and thin. Cote told her that he'd tried to save his wife, he'd called himself to warn them about the blue room, but it hadn't mattered. He tossed her the key, telling her to destroy it. She told him she was sorry for what had happened to him, shut the door, opened it, and stepped out into the "present" (2008).

Cote was there, standing over Lundy and King. Berry locked the door, and Cote crumbled and vanished. At the hospital, the Cote on the floor of the morgue did as well. The loop had been closed.

Now four of the five characters were seriously wounded, so their next rendezvous was at the hospital. After some treatment, they were playing cards in a lounge when Bobby Cohen came to visit. The four murders that they'd been called up to investigate had still happened, but the one in Hackensack, and Erika Epworth's, had not.

Cohen told them that Cote had been trying to save his wife by making his younger self a killer, so hopefully she wouldn't marry him, and thus not die. But he'd retained love for her - he still made the calls, after all. And he'd been the pawn of something greater, something more complex and terrible than any of them (including Cohen) understood. He asked Berry if she knew anyone who did metalwork; she said she did (her friend Tori). King asked, jokingly, if maybe they couldn't got back and win the lottery first.

Cohen responded that he wasn't sure what that would do. They'd closed the loop, but he wasn't sure there would never be another Key murder again - maybe Cote had gone into the future (from their perspective) to kill people? If they interfered, would that open the loop?

"What rises may fall," said Cohen. "What has fallen may rise again."

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Conclusion of The Key, Part One

We were supposed to end this game on Monday, but we got a late start (it was Michelle's birthday, and we were finishing dinner and so on), so it's gonna wind up going one more session. I think, though, that it's going to wind up being a nice segue into my Demon playtest, which is only right.

So last time, Lundy decided the characters would split up, some going to Hackensack, NJ and some going on to Utica, NY. Berry got a call from Cohen, their mysterious time-shifting informant, who told her to make sure they didn't split up. Berry took this to heart and spent the plane ride convincing Lundy. Lundy finally agreed (mostly to shut her up) that they would stop in New Jersey, take or copy the files (since this was very much a cold case, there would be nothing of a crime scene to process) and then get back on the plane and head to Utica.

The characters arrived at the facility that held all these old case file boxes. The cop working the desk was a young guy with his arm in a sling (obviously on injured leave). He checked the characters' credentials, and then asked one of them to come behind the locked cage door to help him lift the box. Lundy, of course, volunteered Mallory.

Mallory and Officer Kondrilik walked down the aisle toward the box, and Mallory saw something move out of the corner of his eye. He had time to react (and use his Defense, which probably saved his life) - a man struck out of the shadows and cut his neck open with an ice pick.

Mallory drew his gun (Quick Draw) and shot the dude, and then wisely backed up so he wouldn't get stabbed again. Berry jumped over the fence around the files area, and King followed (also a parkour practitioner, as it happens). Cochrane tried to shoot the lock on the door and failed; Lundy shoved her out of the way and did it.

The man moved around Kondrilik and stabbed him in the throat. Mallory shot the man again, twice, but the man ran to the end of the aisle. Lundy moved around to the other aisle, but the aisles were closed at the ends. Cochrane used the desk phone to call backup, and then started tending to Kondrilik. The assailant was nowhere to be seen.

Quick work on the characters' parts saved Kondrilik's life, and though Mallory was injured pretty badly (four lethal damage; in story terms, the ice pick pierced his neck and ripped the skin open, but missed his jugular by that much). Mallory had a breaking point when he saw Kondrilik lying, apparently dead, but just picked up the Shaken Condition (again) and didn't lose Integrity.

But then there was the issue of the vanishing man. Cochrane looked over the crime scene, and found that all three of Mallory's bullets had connected (and were retrieved). Blood spatter indicated that the last shot had pierced the killer's heart, so he would have died in 60 seconds or so...but then where did he go? Cochrane had a breaking point, succeeded (no Integrity loss) and picked up the Obsessed Condition, trying to find the piece of evidence that makes this all make sense.

King and Lundy watched the camera footage and saw Mallory shoot the guy...and he just vanished. Lundy had a little breaking point there, too, and picked up the Spooked Condition. King, for his part, accepts that something supernatural is happening, but unlike Berry, he doesn't have the direct experience necessary to put it in any kind of context.

System notes: As I suspected, the revision of Defense combined with the new damage rules means that combat-build characters are scarier. Both Mallory and the bad guy are such characters, and if Mallory hadn't succeeded on the Reaction to Surprise roll he'd probably have died. But the real test this time was the Social maneuvering system, which is what Berry used to convince Lundy not to split up (which, in turn, probably saved someone's life).

I like the system, and I think what's going to have to be important is setting things up so that your impression level gets as good as possible. Otherwise, you're talking days or weeks of game time, and for simple requests that's just not feasible. I think the system works for what it is meant to do, though, and I think it complements, rather than replaces, the idea of using simple Social actions (which means that as I'm writing Demon powers I'm approaching things the right way).

Monday, February 4, 2013

Dresden: Race to the end of the Race

Not quite yet. First, dinner!

Collard greens, hoagie buns, pork chops, caerphilly cheese.

Well, actually, dinner was after game, but y'know.

So, I put a few of the buns in the food processor and turned them into crumbs. I breaded the pork chops with those and pan-fried 'em. Nice and crispy.

I took the rest of the buns, put some strawberry jam and a little of the cheese on 'em and baked them for a little sweetness.

I heated some milk, melted the rest of the cheese, cut up the greens and stirred them in. I think in retrospect I should've used more milk and maybe some butter, but I wanted to keep it from getting to heavy and it turned out quite tasty, I thought.

Now, game!

Last time was quite a while ago (illness and weather and all kinds of crazy crap delayed us). So this time, the characters had gone to bed after the blood-soaked events of last time. The consensus, though, was that they needed two more entrants for the 99-year-race. Was that their responsibility? More to the point, Opal wondered if it was hers.

Next day, she met with her father and asked. He said that while it wasn't really their job to make sure the race went off, there was a time limit and it was within their interest to make sure it happened. Opal asked if he had any thoughts about who else might join up. He suggested talking to Cyrus Walker (the regular fixture at the Horse & Barrel), mentioned that there were probably a few changelings in the area that would be interested (but he didn't know of any other than Leroy that owned horses). She called up Lou and talked to him.

Lou revealed that Cyrus Walker (whom Lou and Rusty had dealt with a bit in Lou's novel, Double Down) was in fact a bourbon spirit. That didn't disqualify him from entering, of course. Opal decided to head out to the Horse & Barrel to talk with him. Lou, meanwhile, called up Clive and asked him to come to Spring Valley Country Club and try to bully some rich folks into entering.

Rusty and Alice, meanwhile, wanted to go to see Fitch, the gargoyle at Pike Library, but he doesn't animate until sunset. They went anyway, Rusty wondering what to do about Jeannine Kemper and her entrance into the race. Was she just doing it to get back at Rusty? (Context: Her older son Derek killed Rusty's mother in a gang drive-by, and his sister was sent into foster care and never seen again. He later killed Derek and his crew as a werewolf, and Jeannine apparently knows it.) Unable to let that go, he found her on Facebook, created a profile, and messaged her, asking her to meet up at the Horse & Barrel.

Alice wanted to get into the rare books room upstairs ("Special Collections," which also contains books of magic). Rusty asked at the desk and was told that the fellow who worked that room (Albert) would be in soon. And indeed, he arrived, and took them upstairs.

Opal got to the Horse & Barrel and talked with Cyrus (she noted that his bourbon glass tended to refill itself when she wasn't looking). After learning about the race, he said he'd consider it.

Lou and Clive got the country club and muscled their way past the "security", and into a poker game with a high roller named Bingham. Lou used magic and cheated and quickly won all their money - only him and Bingham remained. He gave Bingham's money back, and said really he was here to talk about the race. Bingham, being Lexington old money, had heard of it, but didn't know the particulars. He took Lou's card and said he'd give him a call.

Alice went with Albert into the stacks to find books on magic and pregnancy. A ghost appeared and whispered something, and Alice reacted, leading Albert to note that she could see the ghost. He also made Rusty as a werewolf, and after that charade was dropped, he helped Alice find what she needed - which he did by splaying his fingers to the room of books and then walking over to the one that "called" to him ("Libramancer?" "Bibliomancer."). The book was an account of a Warden of the area, a member of an old family who was still around, but for whom magic had kind of abandoned the line. This lady, though, had five kids and all of them inherited some kind of magic. She talked about fertility and birthing and such things (she'd been a midwife as well as a Warden), and Alice made a list of crystals and herbs and whatnot that were supposed to help with fertility.

They left and went to the Horse & Barrel, and Clive and Lou showed up shortly thereafter. They sat together and talked about the day; Rusty sat at the bar in case Jeannine showed up. She did, and with a sigh she talked to Rusty. He asked if she was just in this because of Derek, and she said that it was more that something had to change. Rusty told her what Derek had done, and she was hurt, if not shocked. She hoped, she said, that by winning this race she could change some things for the better, and Rusty, touched, said he really hoped her horse - the blue horse - won. She left, and Rusty joined the others.

Bingham called Lou, and told him that he was in. He arranged with Opal and Lou to come to his stable the next day and see his horse, but asked Lou not to bring Rusty Cromwell. Lou asked why, and Bingham said it was personal; Lou agreed.

Cyrus, at this point, joined the group (and suddenly they all had bourbon), and told Opal that he wouldn't be joining the race, not after hearing Jeannine's speech (he was on her side, apparently). It was now after dark, so everyone but Lou headed to the library (Lou's player had to head out early). They met Fitch there, and Albert, and talked about the race and the Bingham family - when he heard "Bingham" was in the race, Fitch asked if it was Arthur. Opal wasn't sure; it was the older Bingham. "That'd be Arthur, then," said Fitch. Apparently the family used to be very involved in the magical scene, way back when. He had a son, now, but couldn't remember his named (started with an A). Fitch perked up at one point and went up on the roof, to fulfill his "protect the library from evil spirits" duties.

Albert asked if anyone could enter the race. Opal said you had to have a horse; Albert said he did. He asked to join, and after Opal made it clear that he needed informed consent, she got the info for his stable, too.

The characters split up, then. Alice and Opal went to Opal's house to look in her closet and find something for her to wear tomorrow for her "date" with Albert (which Opal insisted was not a date, just part of her duties as Keeper of the Race). Rusty and Clive went to the Horse & Barrel to watch sportsball on the TV.

And then at midnight, Opal felt someone in the race die...and then be not-dead. Clive's fear-spirit passenger showed him a vision that made him gleeful: A car, veered off and smashed against a tree, the men inside dead from throat wounds. And another man on the ground near it, also bleeding, contorting and changing into a fanged monster.

Billy Ray.

Apparently the Black Court isn't willing to let this go yet.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Gaming, and then more gaming.

Yesterday was Night's Black Agents. I really need to put some prep time in before the next session, as we are well and truly off the map provided in (S)Entries. Which is fine, I'm really looking forward to the game, but prep. Fortunately I have like five weeks to do it.

In irritating news, one of the players brought a CD which contained a song for my Changeling soundtrack...and it confused my computer to the point that it can't find the D drive anymore. Meaning I'll need to take it to Best Buy and hope they don't want to keep it for a week. Sigh.

Anyway, running Dresden in about half an hour (the game days tend to bunch up) so I'd better get on this.

Well, last time, the characters were going to the drop point to hand their stolen laptop over to Anton Dedopovic and get their money. They checked out the drop point - it was in a cemetery, one way in and out (and a back road, but it wasn't accessible from their side of the line and they didn't feel like trying to cross in Serbian territory), so Smith and David went to the point the night before, trekked up into the hills in ghille suits, and camped there over night to snipe as necessary.

The next day, Anton and his crew drove in (Anton in a sedan, the crew in a Jeep). The characters realized that they were sweeping for radio signals, so they texted the others (Lockwood, Rousseau and Hanover) to stay quiet. The three of them arrived, and on the way in, Hanover noted a scope up in the mountains, but figured that Anton must have had the same idea as they had - put a sniper in the hills to cover the meeting (this would prove not entirely the case). They met Anton, Hanover handed over the laptop and Anton gave him a briefcase. Lockwood (using Bullshit Detector) saw the thugs tense up...and then someone shot Hanover from the mountain.

They fell back, trying to get away from the five men armed with automatic weapons. Smith noted that three of them were standing in a line, and shot them, killing two. Rousseau shot another one from the car, and Lockwood shot Anton, but only wounded him. David, quickly dead-reckoning where the first shot had come from, took off through the woods, but saw a scope pointed at him. He fired his weapon (AK-47; Smith had defined an arms dealer as a Contact before this) and heard a cry.

Down at the meet, Anton ran to his car. Hanover, using Preparedness, stated he'd put an explosive charge in the laptop - not enough to kill anyone, just enough to destroy it if anything went wrong. He tripped it, and Smith shot the engine block of Anton's car to keep him from driving away.

David heard someone running and shot again, and the running stopped. Rousseau, Hanover and Lockwood got in the van just as a thug shot at them, but only succeeded in taking out their headlights. Smith shot him in the back and killed him. Rousseau, seeing Anton run around the shack to get to the Jeep, used her MOS (Driving) and pinned him against the shack with the van.

David, meanwhile, found the enemy sniper, dying in the woods. He asked why Anton had tried to screw them, and the sniper said that Anton was screwing the buyer, because he wanted to live forever. Confused, David joined the others at the bottom of the mountain.

They didn't sweat cleanup too much, figuring that the local authorities would see this as a deal gone bad - judging from the bullet holes in the tombstones, it wouldn't be the first time. They did, however, interrogate Anton. He raved about traded the laptop for eternal life, and then died. David, when he got down there, noted puffiness around Anton's eyes and decided he might be ill, so took a blood sample.

The characters took the thugs' Jeep, and found a bushel of wild roses in the back of the car. Rousseau noted that in Balkan and Swiss legend, a rose would keep a vampire out...maybe Anton really was crazy? In any case, the characters knew something was up, so they left and went to a safe house.

They tried to contact Rudek - no luck. Rousseau went back to her contact, Ivana, and she told them that Rudek had left for Beirut. David ran the blood test, and determined that Anton was dying of some kind of kidney failure. Figuring that things were getting hot and strange, they decided to get out of Sarajevo and headed for Switzerland for a while (Smith has a hunting cabin in the Zurich). First, Hanover tried tracing the money that they'd been paid with, but he got as far as a shell company on the Isle of Man before the security got too intense (it's three Tests, and he failed the last one). The characters headed for the train, figuring they'd do more digging from Zurich.