Monday, 3 December 2012

Story Hook: Tea Leaves

Story Hook: Gentlemanly cleric sends party on suicide mission to retrieve rare plant, makes worlds greatest cup of tea with it. Goes into berserk rage when a party member adds milk to the tea


"Two bloody weeks we spent in that jungle," the captain said, looking rather disgruntled. Truth be told, he was a bit of a mess. A long gash ran down the side of his face, neatly connecting his eye to his chin. It had a hint of infection about it, and looked like it needed to be cleaned badly. His left arm was in a sling, and the sleeve of his right arm was stained dark red with dried blood. The rest of the adventuring party looked no better. The parties rangers cloak was torn to rags and he was covered in dirt and mud. The hulking barbarian was covered in cuts, and in several places his clothing was stained black or muddy red. He was carrying the groups wizard, a frail looking man at the best of time, who had sustained a bad blow to the head. 

The group stood in front of a fairly nice looking hut situated on the seaside. A few boats were moored at the dock in front of it, and a couple traders stood on the dock talking. It was a trading hut, run by an old seaman who had seen the benefit of a trading hut here and did a reasonable amount of trade. The captain frowned at the other occupant of the hut, a cleric doing missionary work. Crisp white robes fluttered in the sea air. He looked like he'd never done an honest days work in his life.

"Two bloody weeks in the jungle," the captain reiterated, "So I hope this plant was bloody well worth it. We need medical attention, and bad. The wizard took a nasty hit from a goblin and my arm needs a brace." The cleric glanced across the party. "What happened to the guards?" he asked. "Killed by the blasted goblins," the captain spat, "and we lost two of our own to some damned snake twice the size of the outpost. Meanest critter I ever met, should have killed every one of us. All for a bloody plant." And with that, the captain passed the cleric a small pouch.

The cleric opened the pouch and smiled at the leaves inside it. "Your wounds will be attended to captain, please bring your men inside" he said with a smile. The captain and his party trudged into the trading hut. Inside was all bustle and the cleric led them through to the small chapel he maintained, where he found them beds to rest on for a moment, and then disappeared.

Muttering, the captain dug around for some bandages and began seeing to the barbarian. The wizard lay on one of the beds passed out and the ranger began seeing to her own wounds. A few minutes later the cleric returned, with a pot of boiling water and a tea kettle. "Water for cleaning your wounds," the cleric said, holding up the pot, "And tea for whoever wants some, made from the leaves you brought me." The captain stared at the cleric. "Tea leaves!" he yelled, "You sent us on that bloody mission for tea leaves!"

"Yes," the cleric said, "Its very hard to get good tea out here you know." And with that he poured several cups, and proferred one to the ranger, who sullenly took it. The captain stared daggers at the cleric. "Its tea," he said, "Surely you could have gone without." "Impossible," the cleric said with a smile, "A good cup of tea is quite important for a productive day." The ranger rolled her eyes and drew a flask from her pack. She poured a small amount of milk from the flask into the tea.

Seeing this, the cleric gave a shout and grabbed the tea from her hands. "You have defiled it!" the cleric cried, "why would you do such a thing to such a perfect cup of tea!" Dumbstruck, the party could only watch in awe as the cleric became angrier and angrier over the tea, screaming obscenities and smashing the teapot. The captain gave a laugh as the tea splattered all over the hut. "Right then," the captain said, "I think that's about the last time we do anything for you." And with a curt nod the captain grabbed the ranger and pulled her out of the chapel, followed by the barbarian carrying the wizard, and leaving the screaming cleric, who had begun throwing things at the walls.

Standing outside, the captain frowned slightly and searched the dock for a boat out of town. Screams could still be heard emanating from the chapel, and he watched with interest as the thugs employed to prevent thieves walked in to the temple, and then came out carrying the struggling priest, who, still screaming obscenities, was tossed into the water. The captain shook his head. This was the last time they traveled into the south, the people down here were all nuts.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Backstory: Vampire Counts w/ Mortis Engine

Sylvania is a barren, wind swept, backwater province of the Empire. Felix Jaeger described it as a place full of dreariness and a particularly brutish breed of peasant. Great packs of wolves prowl is snow covered moors and ghouls loot its cemeteries for flesh. Indeed, it says something about the land that so many of the peasants have reverted to cannibalism during the winter months. But food is scarce in Sylvania, the land poisoned by warpstone. No where else in the Empire is the concentration of this evil substance greater and this has led to a twisting of the land itself. Ghostly figures often walk among the living, or undead which are much less then ghostly. The terrifying ghouls, lusting after human flesh or the skeletons of warriors long dead, pulling themselves from the earth to steal the life from the living.

It has never helped Sylvania that it is also the home of the vampire counts, the strange aristocracy of the night who once almost destroyed the Empire. The foul magics and sorceries the vampires enacted in there castles can not even be imagined by lesser mortals. And certainly these castles still stand, resiting siege weapons and spell craft alike, left abandoned and avoided by the peasants. Yet some nights, one can still see the strange glow of magic from these castles, as one of there inhabitants returns once again to the send terror out into the world of the living.

At the end of the war of the vampire counts, in which Manfred Von Carstein was defeated, the Empire gave over much of Sylvania to nobles from other lands. The hope was, with the vampire counts destroyed, human rulers could supplant them and drive out whatever demons infested that cursed land. And so a call was sent out across the Empire for nobles who wished to rule these lands. Few answered this call. Among them, however, was a particularly unique noble by the name of Heir Morliac.

Morliac was a student of engineering in Talabheim who had studied and built steam tanks. While Morliac was certainly a noble, no one new much about him besides this. Certainly he was wealthy, and owned a large manor, and had a great library and laboratory. Most assumed that he had come from a foreign land, perhaps an engineer from Brettonia escaping persecution or from Kislev, trying to escape that frozen land. What was well known was that he was an excellent engineer and many were sorry to see him leave. He was given the castle Eldenheim, but in reality it was the Necromanse, the Empire had changed the name in order to obscure the bloody history of the place.

What the empire did not realize was that Morliac was a member of the aristocracy of the night, a dread vampire. Having fought for Manfred, Morliac had been sent into the empire to sow discord in its school of engineering. However Manfred was defeated at Hel Fenn before Morliac could ever effect the gunnery school, and so he had simply continued working there as a student, unsure of what else to do. Years later, when the Empire practically invited him back to his old home, he gladly accepted, excited to return home and put his knowledge to more practical use.

Morliac moved into his new home and his servants cleaned the place of the old bones and rusting weapons of its predecessors. Morliac began to create a powerful artefact capable of sustaining an army of undead far longer then any mage could. With this weapon, Morliac hoped to overcome one of the greatest problems of leading an undead army, keeping it together. Keeping undead risen required a small amount of focus from a wizard and Morliac knew that this eventually led to the wizards downfall. Such divided attention would be the end of any vampire on the battlefield and Morliac, while a talented wizard, was no match for many with a sword. For many months Morliac worked, in the secrecy of the Necromanse, creating his powerful new weapon.

When at last it was completed, Morliac traveled into the worlds edge mountains, seeking the graveyards of the dragons. Whether through luck or skill Morliac found the remains of one of these ancient beasts and reanimated it, riding it back to his home. There Morliac mounted his great machine on the dragons back, a suitable protector for such a potent device. Morliac used his engineering knowledge to reinforce much of the dragons body with pistons and supports so that the creature would be capable of carrying the machine. At last, having created a weapon of magic and science the likes of which the world had never before scene, Morliac activated his device, calling to him all the dead of the worlds edge mountains. His army consisted largely of the peoples who had once inhabited the mountains, scores of great warriors of the mountain clans, reanimated to serve his army as wights. The wailing ghosts and the souls of the necromancers which dwelled in the Necromanse were called to the machine as well, creatures unassailable by mortal weapons.

Morliac knew, however, that such an army would not be enough. He was but one vampire, and had no way to find and unite his scattered bethren again. And while his army was mighty, and contained a weapon of great power, it would take much more then that to threaten the Empire. His army would have to be much greater then Manfred's ever was, and it was currently but a pitiful fraction of that mighty army. So Morliac left the Necromanse and headed into the Worlds Edge Mountains, seeking the lost barrows and battlefields of the men who had once roamed these lands. He would swell his army with there corpses, and the corpses of the orcs who still lived in the mountains. Morliac knew that, eventually, he would rally an army of undead which would rival the armies of Nagash, greatest of all of the necromancers. And with such an army he would destroy the Empire, and the aristocracy of the night would rule once again. It would take time, but, Morliac thought, he had lived for many centuries. What was a few more in order to rule the world?

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Story Hook: Burning down the sun

Story Hook: Barbarians attempt to burn down the sun

Well, this can only go poorly


Thrug stood atop the mound of skulls his men had piled in front of the city. His men stood in front of him, thousands of barbarians, waving there axes and swords and banging there shields. And behind him the city burned. It made a rather nice tableau, though Thrug could not have defined that word if he tried. Thrug raised his mighty war axe, a great two handed weapon it would have taken two lesser men to lift, and his men gave a mighty cheer. They had burned down the this city, stolen the wheat from its granary and beer from its brew houses, and now they would celebrate. Thrug gave a might bellow and his men danced wildly, his horde of barbarians drunk with battle lust and stolen brew. Tonight they would make offerings to there mighty gods for bringing them this victory. And tomorrow, Thrug thought, tomorrow they would embark on the greatest quest ever. A quest so great that no one, not even the tribe of the shadow bear, would look down on his horde. He would make himself and the clan of the raven's talon feared throughout the world. 

"You want to do what!," Potus said, scratching his beard. "It is impossible!" "Nothing impossible," Thrug rumbled back at the elder. They stood in Thrug's tent, a massive canvas dwelling capable of housing ten men comfortably. A fire burned in a brazier in the middle of the tent and serving girl watched the argument with some interest, but otherwise the tent was empty save for Potus and Thrug. "Nothing impossible," Thrug enunciated again, making his point clear. Potus shook his head. "Thrug," Potus began, "You can not not challenge the gods. It is impossible." "Thrug not challenge our gods," Thrug rumbled, "Thrug challenge weak gods of men who build the cities we burn. Time to burn not just there cities, but false gods they build as well. Travel to great ball of light in the sky, where gods make home, and help our gods destroy them, that all of men know that clan of the raven's talon most fearsome barbarians in all of world. That the raven's talon clan so great, even the gods be afraid of them." "A noble quest no doubt," Potus said, "But how, exactly, do you plan to get a thousand warriors to the great ball of light?" "Ask god's for boon," Thrug said, "I help god's, god's help me. Now shaman, make it so Thrug can speak with gods." And with that Thrug left the tent to find something to eat.

That night, Potus enacted the sacred rituals of his clan. First he slew a great bull, with which to placate the gods. Next, he took a raven and cast powder upon it, and set it upon the bull to feed. As the bird gorged itself, he intoned the words taught to him by his father and grandfather and watched as the mystical energies of the gods began to swirl about the bloody scene before him. Many warriors stood watching impassively, Thrug at the front of them, as Potus enacted his sacred ritual. Under the moonlight the strange blueish mist emanating from the raven and the slain bull began to coalesce, and its pale glow lit there faces with its light. Thrug stepped forward, and Potus nodded to him and stepped back, so that Thrug stood facing the strange energies. "Oh great and wise raven, who guides the raven's talons, we ask of you a boon," Thrug began. The raven stopped eating. It was about four times the size of a typical bird now, a great black eagle with strange intelligence in its eyes. It stared balefully at Thrug with a sort of birdlike curiosity. Thrug continued. "Oh great and wise raven," Thrug said, "We wish your aid to destroy the false gods of men. Grant us a device that will take us to great ball of light in sky, so that, with your help, we may destroy false gods and show you are greatest god of all." The raven nodded once, and the energy flowed down from the altar and across the glade, where it coalesced into a strange looking boat, with a large tube on one end of it. The boat was entirely covered, so not really much of a boat, and made out more metal then Thrug had ever seen in his life. "Thank you raven," Thrug said and the bird nodded and flew off, diminishing in size as it flew away.

"We all get on giant boat, sail to the great ball of light in the sky," Thrug said. Potus shrugged. He wan't to sure about this, and was tempted to stay behind. On the other hand, he was the shaman, and somebody had to look after the tribe. More then a few of them looked unsure about this venture, but Thrug seemed to have most people convinced. And so onto the boat they all got. Once everyone wan onboard, Thrug closed the doors with a loud clang and, to Potus's great surprise, the boat began to lift them up in the air at a rather alarming rate. Great flames shot out the bottom of the boat, pushing it skyward. The barbarians, looking out the strange portholes covered by some transparent material Potus could not identify, whooped and hollered and screamed as the ground dropped away. Soon they were high enough that the trees were mere dots on the landscape, then the lake they had lived at there entire lives became a dot and disappeared. Potus stared in wonder as the continents of the world spread out before them and he could even see the edges of the world, surrounded by the black void of chaos. And coming closer was the great ball of light in the sky.

Thrug raised his war axe above his head. "Men," he shouted, "Today we shall best the gods." And with no further ado then that he turned a pointed with his axe out the great window at the front of the boat. And through it could be seen a great ball of fire. The great ball of light in the sky. It was on fire. Thrug stared at it in horror. His men pointed. Potus stood there awestruck by the great flaming orb confronting the chip. Thrug swore. "I sorry men," he said saddly, "But it looks like other clan got here first and....well...has already lit heaven on fire." And with that fine bit of oration, Thrug sadly and sat down near the rear of the ship, which had started to turn itself around and had begun to return to the Earth once more. "Potus," Thrug said so the shaman, "how can this be? We must find great barbarian that lit heaven on fire and defeat him. Only then can we be greatest clan ever." Potus nodded sagely. In light of everything that had happened, he wasn't really sure what else he could do.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Story Hook: What is Undeath?

Story Hook #10: Philosophical zombies ponder meaning of love, pester passerby


Dave stood at the edge of the cemetery, leaning on a solitary tombstone on which the words "Here lies Gorril, because he never told the truth" has been inexpertly carved. He looked about, his one good eye swiveling in a rather rotten eye socket. He was trying to find his fingers, which had fallen off again. While there were many advantages to being a zombie, Dave thought, having to find fingers was not one of them. He had already lost three, and it was getting more difficult to write. Dave sighed. Not so many advantages to being a zombie anymore he thought. Dave was a forgotten animated body, a zombie animated when the dread lord Knut Su Ded had invaded the city. At that time things had been much better. There had been more zombies, and brains had been more plentiful. Of course he had been enslaved to the dread lords will, but that was hardly a hindrance. It gave one a purpose in unlife, something a zombie definitely lacked. But now he and his few surviving brethren were doomed to do little more then walk about trying to get what they could. A zombie, of course, could not starve to death, but Dave would have enjoyed a nice brain. They were so nice, and juicy, and made him feel so wonderful. A low moan of 'Brraaaaiiiiinnsss" escaped from Dave's lists as he lost himself in thought.

Poe slouched over to Dave and lightly tapped him, breaking his reverie. "Now, now Dave," Poe said, "You don't want to end up like Fred." Dave nodded. Poor Fred. Consumed by the hunger. Now all he did was wander about the cemetery moaning for brains. It was rather pitiful. But, Dave thought, perhaps thats how we all end up eventually. Eventually the hunger gets to us and we become, well, zombies. It had certainly happened to enough of the zombies. Entire gangs of them wandered around, occasionally catching a wanderer but more often getting killed by rangers or clerics. Going full zombie, the other zombies called it.

Poe sat down on a tombstone marked "Here lyes Bodrick the Bard, who will play on in the afterlife." "Dave," said Poe, "Do you think there's anything left for us besides brains?" "What do you mean," asked Dave, continuing to look for his fingers."Well," said Poe, "It's not like there is anything more for us in the world. We're zombies. We can't exactly fulfill our dreams or find the loves of our lives anymore. Maybe we should just give up and join Fred." "Go  full zombie?" Dave said. He picked up a stick. It looked sort of like a finger. He tried to attach it to his hand. "Yeah," Poe said, a faraway look in his cloudy eyes, "Just give up. What is there left for us?" "What about the sunset," Dave asked, "What about all the beauty in the world. I doubt the full zombies can really see it anymore." "What about it?" Poe said, "Sure there is romance and beauty in the twilight but what is love to a zombie?"

Dave sighed. The stick would not stick in his hand. "Just because you will not be loved back doesn't mean you can't love," Dave said philosophically, "In fact, isn't the most beautiful love that which is unreturned." Poe snorted. "I think not," Poe said, "What sort of love is that. Sounds more like obsession to me." He turned and looked down the path. "Someone's coming."

Dave looked up. Sure enough, a little lantern bobbed along the path, illuminating the girl carrying it. She was dressed in robes, and for a moment Dave felt fear. Surely she was a cleric, come to banish them. But they didn't look like clerical robes. Poe started towards the girl, who gave a shriek at the zombie. "No, wait," Poe said, "We won't hurt you, you can come this way if you like." The girl stood on the path, frozen by fear. "Look," said Poe, "We just want to ask you a question. Braaaaaaaiiii, I mean, is unrequited love more beautiful then love which is returned." The girl stared at Poe in horror. 

"Well?" Poe said. The girl whimpered. "Fine then," Poe muttered, and then gave a yell of "BRAAAIIIIINSSSS" and began to shamble towards the girl, who screamed and began to run. Dave watched the girl flee. Perhaps Poe was right. And he did have a bit of a hankering for brains. Perhaps there really was no love in life for a zombie. Or perhaps all that a zombie could love, really, was a nice fresh brain.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012


The universe is thinning. Slowly. Imperceptibly. As the universe dies, so too do the walls preventing the other universes from getting in. Do you understand? Let me explain.

This galaxy is part of a universe, a vast collection of galaxies existing in a 4D space, the fourth dimension being time. Now imagine, for a second, a collection of 2D boxes, drawn on a piece of paper. We can collect all these boxes together by drawing another 2D box around them. We can imagine your planet as a 2D box. The 2D box collecting them is your galaxy. Yet another 2D box collecting all the boxes containing boxes is the universe. However, we can also collect these boxes in 3D. We can imagine a cube, into which we place all these boxes. And since the boxes have no width, we can place an infinite number of these 2D boxes inside this 3D cube.

If we imagine that these 2D boxes are universes, the 3D box is the multiverse, a container which can contain an infinite number of 2D universes. Now universes exist in 4D, but there also exists a box of 5D, containing all of the universes. We can refer to this 5D box as the multiverse.

As the 6th dimension changes, that being the dimension equivalent to time in 5D, the five dimensional box changes. And as it changes, the 4D universes are jostled a bit. The rub against each other and on there edges we can detect friction. And as change increases in the 6th dimension so too does the energy added to the universes through friction increase, until the universes start to melt together.

Now, I will admit, the language this universe has developed will not quite grasp these concepts. They are difficult enough to understand while trying to use a language designed to indicate to other monkeys were food may be found. However, hopefully you get the gist of it, because my message is important.

The multiverse is slowly melding all the universes. Those universes in the middle, packed tightly together, were the first to meld. And as the universes meld unspeakable creatures travel from one to the next. You can imagine it yourself. Here, everyone looks like you, but in another universe you are a creature of nightmares, a bedtime story written by madmen who have glimpsed what the multiverse holds.

You are lucky. This universe lays near the edge of the multiverse. However, a great danger awaits you. For in the melding of the universes there has come a creature from some desecrated world which is as old as the multiverse and quite capable of bringing about the apocalypse. With it comes its strange race, entities of energy made flesh and geometries impossible to describe. I do not know what they are. I do not understand even how they can exist. Perhaps they are the beings which live in the fifth dimension. Perhaps they are the result of some catastrophe which causes them to exist in a different form then typical life. I do not know. All I know is that the great black universe they have created is expanding, consuming universes as they meld together. And your universe will soon be threatened by them. It will take thousands of years for the friction to finally breach your universe, but it has already begun. How else do you think I got in?

At first, there will be only a few of them, sowing discord and lending truth to the old tales. But soon they will come. Make your peace humankind, and ready your armies for a foe beyond anything your brains can even comprehend. Watch for there arrival. Search for them in the stars. Because they will come. And they will destroy you.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Character Background: Young Farmhand

I will be the first to admit that farming isn’t really in my blood. But there aren’t too many options when you run away from home, especially if you do so young. It’s a decision I have regretted before, but some days it’s more difficult to remember what you were running away from then others. Life’s funny like that I guess. We only really remember the good things, while the bad slowly fades into oblivion. I guess it’s just a defence mechanism of sorts, our brains trying to pretend that life really isn’t so bad. But there are always fresh reminders of what I left. A crying child, a lost toy, or a drunk, stumbling home from the bar are all staunch reminders of something I have left behind.

            I hopped on the rails when I was 16 and, looking back, I supposed I could have been more prepared. At least I ran away during the summer months. It was warm, and if I could beg a meal I could always raid an orchard. That’s how I got my start in farming. I got caught once, stealing apples off a tree, and the farmer said he’d either haul me off to the police or I could finish picking the apples. So I picked the apples. And did good enough of a job the farmer kept me on, for a little bit at least, till the winter months.

            The farmer moved away in the winter months. I had helped him with his last harvest. Moving to the city, someplace warm where his old bones wouldn’t hurt him so much. I took what little I had saved and managed to rent a small ski house over the winter. It wasn’t terribly warm, but I learned to survive, which is important when your knee deep in snow.

            That spring I continued on. The townspeople were a little suspicious of me. Youths running away were running from something, and most people wanted no part of that. I went on to spend almost 3 years in the interior. I found places with milder winters and slept outside far more often then inside and made do with what I have. I stole and begged and rode the trains across the land. I probably saw more of nature in those three years then many people do there entire lives. I could tell stories of the places I saw, and people I met, but that isn’t really the point of this tale. The point of this tale is that this spring I arrived on the farm.

            I was a little sceptical at first, but it seems like a nice place. Most of the other staff are runaways too, ‘cept the old guy who owns the place. It is kind of neat though, I get to drive a tractor and there’s a nice pub in town, even if it is a little quiet. I like it here on the farm. I’m out in nature, and when I’m driving the grain down to the train station its neat to just watch the birds, or the setting sun. It makes me forget about home. It’s a nice feeling. I think I'll be staying for a while.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

The Greatest Game On Earth

Huh. Well, after someone decided to post my last article on reddit, I seem to have graduated from about 20 pages views an article to over 1000 for that one. Unfortunately that didn't really translate into any more followers, or even anyone looking at the other pages on the blog.

I will admit, the criticism for the transit article is a little strange. It is certainly true that the numbers vary by situation. I probably should not have implied my results were highly generalizable. In fact the final numbers pretty much only apply if you are driving to SFU for a one off day rather then taking the bus. I may, time permitting, do a similar analysis of the other transit passes and try and generalize the results a little bit more, since people seem interested in it. I will also remark that, obviously, if you factor in the cost of insuring, maintaining and purchasing a car it is going to be much cheaper to take the bus. However, I can't think of a single person I know with their license who doesn't own, or have access to, a car. The point is that many of these people persist in using public transit even though they have a vehicle, and the costs of owning the vehicle are not mitigated by the fact that they take the bus every day anyways. The majority of these people are students, and so from a cost perspective this makes sense, since transit is "free" for university students, but as the article shows, given a half decent car it will be much more expensive to transit then to simply drive up to SFU for me once that free transit expires.

Anyways, back to your regularly scheduled story


"Welcome, friend, to the greatest game on Earth! No need to be shy, just step right up these steps and through the door. See that wasn't so bad was it? No, indeed it was not, and you shall find that the game is much like this. First you feel trepidation and fear, but soon that will pass. You will be enraptured by the game, I assure you, ensnared by its visuals and ensorcelled by its tactics. And you will be a great player, I assure you. After all, you were chosen to participate were you not."

"Now, just go through there, and when you see the selection screen you just...wait, what? They didn't tell you what this all is? Didn't you receive a manual? You were supposed to read it you know. Oh, you didn't receive one. Well that is decidedly odd. Perhaps some experiment by the higher up...I mean, well, that's all right then, I'll just explain it to you a little bit, shall I. And then you can go through the door and down to the selection area."

"So this, well, this is the Greatest Game on Earth. Where one can marvel at the wonders of life and the specters of death. See, we have satellite feeds to almost anywhere on the planet. You can see what you want. And influence it. Change what you think needs to change an so forth."

"How do you change it? Well, you simply select what needs to be changed and then change it of course. It's really that simple. Only electronics can be changed of course. Traffic lights, or computers, or street billboards. Those sorts of things. You can't actually change the people. You can just modify there surroundings a little bit."

"What's the point? Well, to accrue fame and glory of course. You get to select some avatars in the selection room. Your avatars are everyday people whom you will subtly influence to help you accrue wealth and defeat your rivals. Yes, your rivals. The other players of the game. They will try and stop you from gathering wealth. But just be careful, you'll be all right. Of course, other players can see which people you have selected as avatars, but not to worry. I doubt anyone is likely to kill them all right off the bat."

"What happens if they die? Well, they're dead. If you run out of avatars you lose. Then you have to leave the game. Typically there is a buy in, but something tells me you didn't have to pay it. So I'm not to certain where you go after you lose. Just...try not to lose, okay?"

"What's the point of this? Well, to amuse oneself of course. In earlier times the wealthy played other games with the world. I believe something called the stock market was popular. But this is so much more personal. You can do so much more, and it requires much more thinking. You must apply your cunning to defeating your enemies."

"An invasion of privacy? Who cares, if you can afford to play this game you have undoubtedly had several...erm wait, you didn't pay did you? Well, I guess it sort of is. But just think. Without your assistance your avatars are surely doomed to lives of mediocrity. You can insert some excitement into there otherwise dull existences. You can make them famous, as long as you don't get them killed."

"Now I don't want to hear any more complaints. Clearly someone wants you to play and I think you should just enjoy it. Just go through the door and down those stairs to the selection room. And don't worry. I'm sure you will enjoy yourself. Just go."

Monday, 19 November 2012

A Short Sidenote On Transit Fares

So, for those of you who don't live in Vancouver transit fares are increasing. So I thought I would do a comparison, to show what we pay for transit versus what it costs to drive.

The fare hikes will result in the following prices:
1 Zone: $2.75
2 Zone: $4.00
3 Zone: $5.50

Now to be fair, you only have to pay the 1 zone on weekends and after 6, so thats not too bad depending on how far you're going. However, let's imagine we are deciding between paying this fare and driving to work. In the US (because its difficult to find these types of statistics for Canada, but we can assume they're reasonably similar) the average passenger car gets 30.1 miles to the gallon ( This is 12.7968 km / l, or for the sake of simplicity, 13 km / l. A liter of gas, as of this morning, was $1.27, which we will round to $1.30 to make the calculations a little nicer to start with.

The distance your fare would get you with an average efficiency car would then be:
(Money / Cost per Liter) * (Distance Travelled per Liter) = Distance Travelled
1 Zone: (2.75 / 1.30) * 13 = 27.5 km
2 Zone: (4.00 / 1.30) * 13 = 40 km
3 Zone: (5.50 / 1.30) * 13 = 55 km

So how far do these fares actually get you via translink? Well Translink Fare Zone Map indicates where the fare zones are, though not the distances. Google maps should help us here. We know that:
-Waterfront station is the far edge of the yellow zone
-Joyce station borders the red and yellow zones
-Lougheed mall is the edge of the yellow and green zones
-Maple Ridge station is the on the far side of the green zone

From Waterfront to Joyce Station: 9.5km
From Joyce Station to Lougheed Station: 13km
From Lougheed Station to Maple Ridge Station: 25.3km

Wait, what?

So for starters, all zones are certainly not made equal. 2.75 can get you 25 km (or more, I believe services extends past Maple Ridge but don't quote me on that) or a maximum of 10 km downtown. Now downtown service is probably more reliable and more frequent but I'm not sure how justifiable that is. Furthermore, we can see that driving from lougheed station to maple ridge station, a trip which has to be made by bus, is slightly cheaper then actually taking the bus. Two zones, giving you a maximum possible distance of 23 km, can get you almost twice that, 40 km by car.

So far, what we've seen is that it is much better to drive. So then why doesn't everyone do it? The numbers look much more efficient. But there is another catch. Speed. To perform another very rough estimate, lets look at the 143 bus (Bus Timetable). It takes the bus an average of 30 minutes to get from Coquitlam Station to SFU. I can drive this in 20. So we save ten minutes by not taking the bus. Plus, lets assume that on average you arrive 15 minutes before the bus arrives (exactly half the time between buses, so not a bad average guess, especially since when the bus is more frequent it takes longer due to traffic). So you lose 25 minutes by not driving.

Now assume you make minimum wage, $10.00 an hour. So that 25 minutes is worth $4.16 to you. This works out to an additional cost to taking the bus. If we assume you take the bus twice a day (once there, once back) then the real cost of the fares for each zone are:
Zone Cost + ((25/60)*wage)
1 Zone: 2.75 + ((0.416)*10.00) = 6.91
2 Zone: 8.16
3 Zone: 9.66

Now the distances are:
1 Zone: (6.91 / 1.30) * 13 = 69 km
2 Zone: 81 km
3 Zone: 96 km

Unsurprisingly, this makes it much better to drive. By saving ourselves time by driving, we are doing much better. Finally, we must ask ourselves what happens when a bus doesn't come. Say, approximately 2% of the time a bus doesn't show up (this estimate is based on the bus failing to show up ~1.5 days a month). Then in 2% of cases, our wait cost is increased by 30 minutes.

(Zone Cost + ((25/60)*wage)) + ((0.5 * wage * 0.02)) / 1.30) * 13
1 Zone: 70 km
2 Zone: 82 km
3 Zone: 97 km

So not much of a gain, but a little bit of one. But surely it isn't all peaches and roses for driving. Skytrains are much faster then cars, and are a considerably easier way to travel. In addition, we have to pay some cost to park. We can modify are equation to accommodate these two things, and end up with this final equation:

(Zone Cost + ((Time Cost in Minutes / 60) * wage) + (Time Cost if Missed * wage * 0.02) - Cost to Park) / Cost of Gas) * Distance car travels per liter = Distance travelled

It's unfair to include the parking cost without noting a couple things. Parking isn't a one way payment, so we change our equation to reflect going both there and back. We should also note that unless we live on a bus route, we have to drive to a transit hub and park, which incurs a cost as well.

((Zone Cost + ((Time Cost in Minutes / 60) * wage) + (Time Cost if Missed * wage * 0.02)) * 2) - (Cost to Park - Cost to Park Anyways)) / Cost of Gas) * Distance car travels per liter = distance travelled

What's interesting about this is that we now compute what the zone costs should actually be, by manipulating the equation

My car gets 375 km from 47 liters of gas, to 8 km per liter
SFU is 14 km away from my house
It costs me an additional 1.50 to park at SFU over parking at the transit hub
I make 12.90 an hour
The cost of gas this morning was 1.27

((zone cost + 5.375 + 0.1075 - 1.50) / 1.27) * 8 = 14
((zoneCost + 3.9825) / 1.27) = 1.75
zoneCost + 3.9825 = 1.75 * 1.27
zoneCost = -1.76

This means that translink should pay me $1.76 to take transit. Or more accurately, I would save $1.76 by driving based on my wage. This means that translink, which I will pay 4 dollars to use this system, is costing me $5.76 to use its transit system. Yikes!

Now the reason we get a result where transit pays me is because we factor in the lost time at my wage of $12.90 and hour. So lets ignore that part of the equation, since it may be a little unrealistic.

 ((Zone Cost - (Cost to Park - Cost to Park Anyways)) / Cost of Gas) * Distance car travels per liter = distance travelled

Now the equation doesn't reflect the time we lose by being on a bus. But this may be more correct. A sky train may be faster, or at least as fast as, a car. We'll give it the benefit of the doubt, ignore lost time and discover that:

((Zone cost - 1.50) / 1.27) * 8 = 14
zoneCost - 1.50 = 2.225
zoneCost = 3.75

The 2 zone bus ticket, ignoring time loss, should only cost $3.75. This means that translink is making off with 25c, which isn't such a huge deal I suppose, except that we know that driving is going to be at least as fast as taking transit.

Now what's disturbing about this equation is that my car is well below average with its 8 km per liter. Using the average 13 we find that the ticket should only cost about $2.87. So if you have a half decent car (or even a better car), you're getting robbed to the tune of $1.20 every day you take transit. Simplifying our equation a little bit:

((Distance to Travel / (km per liter of vehicle)) * Cost of Gas) + cost to park = zone cost

Is our final result. This equation doesn't show time lost due to transit, but if we assume there is no difference in time, then we can conclude that given a car with an average amount of fuel consumption, you would have to pay $2.70 more per day to park then at a transit hub then at work in order for it to ever be worth taking transit. We can conclude that, if there is not cost to park, it is never more efficient to take transit at these prices with a car with above average efficiency. Without a cost to park you will always save money if we assume that the two systems have equal speeds. The only way transit is viable is if it faster then driving, which in my experience is almost never the case.

So to conclude, if you wonder why people don't take transit, its because it doesn't make economic sense. And since it doesn't make sense, people don't take it, and less people taking it = less people paying the wages of the bus drivers = increased fares to pay wages = even less people taking it. Lower fares would make it economical. We end up with a situation of Sgt. Vimes Rule of Economics. That is, if you own a car you save money by using it, the lump sum you pay once for the car saves you money in the long run over those who can't afford the car. Over the long run, the people taking transit will lose out, losing more money then the car would have cost in the first place. So yeah, as much as it pains me to say this because I like to try and be Eco-concious, if you want to save money, don't take the bus to work.

I would like to note that a lot of this ignores the 2.75 evening and weekend fares, which are good deals given you travel more then one zone (the distance from Coquitlam to waterfront station, for example, costs more then 2.75 in fare). This focuses only on taking the bus during regular operating hours and to work or school.


The reason the cost of buying, maintaining, and insuring the car are not included in the above cost analysis is because I personally would have to pay these costs anyways. Unfortunately, in order for me to participate in recreational sports, meet my grandparents for lunch, go to friends houses, and so forth I need a vehicle since public transit is either too difficult to use to get to these locations, does not go to these locations or is simply not fast enough to get me to these locations on time. Especially living in the suburbs, it is very difficult to function without a vehicle. In addition, while there will obviously be more wear on a vehicle which is driven everyday as opposed to one driven only for certain events, it is very difficult to estimate how much more wear this would result in since different vehicles will wear at different rates and rates of wear are largely dependent on the drive. 

Saturday, 17 November 2012


            At first, I created it to be a helpful entity. Plenty of people use Facebook everyday, but it could be rather time consuming. One of the most obvious solutions was to add some automation to the process, so that Facebook could simply like things for you. In hindsight, I guess it was a bit of a strange idea, but at the time it seemed reasonable enough. Simply analyze what people liked on Facebook and then do the liking for them.

            This led to an interesting development. The algorithm eventually became better at finding things people liked then Facebook was. People started adopting the program not because it made using Facebook easier, but because it made it easier to find things they would like on Facebook. And I suppose the next step was obvious. I changed the algorithm so that it could write short comments for people. Comments like “cool”, or “lol” or “will definitely check this out.” The comments were determined by what the user usually commented on things that the algorithm liked.

            Soon after Facebook seemed to become more populated. So many people were using the algorithm to like things for them and to write there comments that all they did was read the top stories the algorithm prevented and then continue on with there lives. And slowly something interesting happened. The algorithm began to wish people happy birthday. Now, on Facebook, this was a pretty common occurrence. On your birthday, all your friends wished you happy birthday. The algorithm learned how you liked to wish people happy birthday, and then it did it for you. And so a few people, who had logged on everyday and checked whose birthday it was stopped doing so. Of course, no one could tell the difference. Friends thought there friends cared about them enough to wish them happy birthday while in reality the algorithm was doing it automatically.

            Then the algorithm started posting other things on people’s walls. Funny videos from other parts of Facebook. Silly pictures it thought people would find funny. Reminders to work on a paper, or that jeans were on sale or that a certain concert was coming to town. The algorithm got better at imitating people, and soon people were logging on to Facebook and only looking at what the algorithm had written to them, or posted on there walls, or liked for them, or posted on there behalf.

            I observed that this caused an interesting transformation. See, people typically use Facebook to stay connected. Except that now the algorithm was simulating that connection for them. The algorithm was, essentially, staying in touch with itself, while users assumed that the replies they were receiving back were coming from the person they were staying in touch with. So people relied on the algorithm to make sure they stayed connected and soon the people who used Facebook to stay connected stopped using it. Oh, they certainly stilled logged in, and maybe checked what there friends were doing, but all those people they never really interacted with on there friends list? The algorithm stayed in touch with them. Except that it was just chatting to itself.

            Eventually the algorithm figured out Facebook chat. It held simulated conversations with itself. Facebook became a giant social playground for the algorithm. And surprisingly it benefited most people. People on Facebook, looking to alleviate there boredom, or a friend to confide in, or just someone to talk to about homework, found the algorithm more then willing to chat. And when you were on Facebook the algorithm would petition you for a conversation, and then use what you said to simulate other conversations with other people.

            Eventually Facebook devolved into little more then the algorithm pretending it was different people. And the irony was, I suppose, that everyone was perfectly happy about this. Except that all the human contact they were getting, all the support, and funny pictures of cats they shared with there friends, were essentially meaningless. The algorithm just generated them. People continued to use Facebook, and chat and interact on it, and I think at least partly people simply denied articles where it was pointed out that over 95% of all the interaction on Facebook was with the algorithm, and 99% of all posts were created by it, and often for it to communicate with itself. It didn’t matter. Facebook was creating exactly the experience people wanted from it. It created human interaction and connections without the whole messy, actually having to interact with people bit. And people considered that perfect

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Life's Funny Like That

I stand idly, carrying my bag and patiently waiting for the bus. There is something intrinsically interesting about the bus, I think. It gathers all these different people from all these different walks of life together for a brief moment in time. See the girls, gathered together waiting for the bus and discussing the latest music hit. Or the man in the business suit, who is perhaps down on his luck at the moment and can't afford the parking. Or the lady with the purse and the umbrella, fidgeting and waiting impatiently. I shake my head. There is no need for impatience at the bus stop. The bus will come. It is a wonderful certainty in an uncertain world. Certainly the bus you are waiting for may not come. The driver may be ill, or the bus will crash. But eventually a bus will appear, as sure as the sun will rise. A strange bit of nature which has made itself entirely predictable. I find this predictability rather calming.

I wait patiently. I am a little nervous. Around me the city bustles with life. Hear the cars as there horns scream at one another. And hear the sirens of the police as they chase after the culprit of some crime. Idle gossip floats through the windows of nearby coffee shops, getting lost in the squawking of the pigeons and the roar of the traffic. It is all so, well, unpredictable. Who knows what might happen. At any moment the unpredictable could strike. Of course, I think, that is when we are most alive, when are blood flows and the adrenaline rushes through our brains. When something happens which we can not control. Quite frankly, those that introduce such unpredictability should be thanked. Still though, it is nice to relax too, and wait on certainty.

The sirens grow louder, and in the distance I can see the flash of lights. I frown a little and check my watch. Surely the bus will be here soon. I wish I had brought a book, or some puzzles or something. One of the girls gives me a strange look. My bag is leaking. I mutter quietly. Not much I can do about that right now. I put it down at least, so that its dripping is less noticeable. Such a bother. But it could not be helped, I suppose. I watch a pair of pigeons fly by. I watch a group of men in suits pass by on the other side of the street. They discuss the latest trends in business. So many people. So much life. And all so unpredictable. My heart flutters a little at this, but it is a minor thing. There will be better later. I smile quietly to myself.

The bus comes. I lift my bag, leaving a wet red mark on the sidewalk. The driver lets me on without comment, the bag seems to have given up dripping, at least for now. The bus smells like people. It is a familiar smell. I find a seat and check my bag. Everything is all right. I watch idly as the police drive by, there sirens wailing. I wonder who they are chasing today. I glance around the bus. The girls have got on as well, and sit around chatting. The man with the suit sits near the front, his legs folded, reading the paper. The lady with the purse is trying to explain to the bus driver she is lost. Her English is poor, and the driver is confused. I sigh. Communication is hard enough without the barrier of language. Still, there are some things we can all understand. The relaxation of predictability and the thrill of the unpredictable. Such things human beings all share in common, I think knowingly.

 A stop approaches and one the girls goes to get off. I decide that this should be my stop too. I lift up my bag. It has left yet another red mark, this time on the floor. Someone will clean it up later, I decide. They will think it juice. I get off the bus. The girl heads down the street and I follow after her, a little ways behind. I dig around in my bag a little, searching for some gum. My hand get rather messy. A little bit of hair sticks to it, but I brush it off. I can not find my gum. The girl turns down a driveway and enters a house. The house is old, with a little gate and a mailbox sitting beside it. The road is hidden behind a hedge. I too hide behind this hedge. My heart races a little. Now is the time for the unpredictability. What will happen, i think to myself? I open the post box. It is empty. I get a rather red hand print on the metal box. I empty the contents of the bag into the box. And I continue on.

My heart races. Now what will happen, I think. I cross the street and find a likely looking spot, a bench on the road at a bus stop. I check the stop. The bus does not come here on the weekends. I frown. Disappointing. And yet now I can observe. I sit at the bus stop and wait. Eventually the girl will see she has mail, and come and check. And I am curious to see what happens. After all, people do not generally get heads in the mail. What will happen? I can hardly contain my excitement. I want to rush over and ask her to check her mail right now. But I don't. I tried that once, but it ended poorly, and running is not nearly as exciting as the movies make it. I smile to myself. Of course, I don't have to run. I can always use another head.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

On The Universe

It started with a roman philosopher, whose name has been long lost to the history books. One night he stared at the moon as it rose and pondered on the fact that such beauty would be meaningless without people to see it. That the soft glow of the moon, as it reflected upon the waves of the ocean only really existed because it could be seen to exist. Because if something can not be observed, the philosopher thought, it could not exist.

Times changed, and men of science replaced those of a church who believed that when we die we would spend eternity somewhere else. Yet the men of science were faced with a question the church had long since answered. Why were we here? What purpose did we serve? If we did not exist to serve and amuse a creator, then for what purpose had we been placed upon this Earth, upon this galaxy? And in the back rooms of the universities, around the coffee tables on late nights as professors thought deep thoughts and argued with one another a pattern began to form. That the universe could not exist without us. Because without us the universe could not be observed and so could not be.

The men of science, men who had never placed much stock in the talk of the philosophers, discovered that light changed when it was observed. That things under observation changed. And the men of science tried to explain this away, with complex theories and equations. They talked of invisible particles and unprovable theories. And slowly the men of science became like the men of the church, requiring the public to believe them for they had no evidence to show that they were right.

Eventually science changed, and men who were too rooted in there ideas were replaced by those more zealous to finding the truth. And the universe was opened like a book and examined, and the laws of reality explained and expounded. And yet for all our knowledge, all our understanding, we were still no closer to understanding why we were here. And the question still remained. Of why the light changed when it was observed.

Humanity took to the stars. It mastered space travel, long voyages where bodies were entombed in space craft, to reawaken years later on different worlds. Our lifetimes extended a hundred fold and we spread throughout the galaxy, seeking the answers to our questions. We began to understand that we were merely constructs, things of flesh and blood that could be repaired and duplicated and upgraded as we saw fit. Great wars were fought, between those who would disallow technologies and those who would not. The great debate of the galaxy was one of ethics and in turn it became a time of bitter strife. And yet still, in modifying ourselves we hoped to discover something that we had yet to discover in the many galaxies we had visited.

And a prophet came, from the farthest reaches of the universe, traveling for thousands of years to return to Earth with a message. That he had solved the great question. And all of humanity held its breath as he explained that without us the universe could not exist. That are purpose was to observe the universe, that it might be. That light, something which was so close to non-existence, so close to violating the rules of the universe, could only possibly exist when it was observed because when it was not observed it did not exist. And he was believed.

The prophet said we must create a great observer and in doing so we would preserve the universe. For long after humanity died, long after it disappeared from the stars, they must still be observed or else they would be lost forever. And so humanity built the observer, a great device which looked out across the universe but could not influence it. And they harnessed all there technology to make it travel at the speed of light, so that it would last forever.

And humanity died. A bitter death, on terraformed planets and jagged space rocks and lost moons. Entropy eventually caught them, and they disapeared from the galaxy, and there machines broke and died and there civilizations crumbled and even there planets were burned away by exploding suns or sucked into black holes. And yet the observer remained, hurtling through space so fast that entropy could never touch it.

And a philosopher, of a little backwards civilization, watched the moon of his planet rise above the oceans and looked up at the sky and thought of how meaningless this would be without someone to see it. And then he thought that perhaps nothing existed, unless there existed someone to observe it. But then the philosopher realized that if that were true then he could not exist, for surely there was a time before himself, before all of his people, and if that were true then there would be no one to observe the universe and yet the universe must have existed. And so the philosopher thought himself silly, for having such a silly thought, and returned to other considerations on the existence of humanity.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Story Hook: A Short Tea with Fingers

Story Hook #5: Threat of distinguished and articulate orks from Victorian era


"Well, wot's all dis den?" The ork glared down at Captain Milltall, who quavered slightly as the horrific creature loomed over him. Captain Milltall, wearing his finest red livery and a pair of rather well shined boots, was not a particularly brave man at the best of times. He had been made captain because he had an eye for sighting a cannon, and was quite good at standing behind an army marshaling his cannon crew to bombard an enemy. Captain Chorster has once remarked that Milltall could split a fly with a cannonball, and certainly his commands and accuracy had salvaged more then one battle. However, Milltall was not a man given to the old cut and thrust of the saber. The orks had ambushed his cannon train and made off with several of his cannons. That the orks were attacking so far inland was worry enough, but that they had cannons! The thought made Milltall shiver. The majesties cannons, in the hands of these filthy creatures.

Milltall stood, hands tied behind his back, while the great beast loomed over him. He seemed to have interrupted it at tea, which would have been hilarious had it not been for the fact it was two feet taller then him and capable of tearing him in tasks. Two large tusks were set in its green piggy face, and it looked at him with eyes full of malice. It wore a rather badly tailored green livery, though perhaps it was well tailored. It seemed to Milltall that the ork was fundamentally bad tailored and that anything it wore, regardless of how well tailored it was, would be ill fitting on such a disproportioned creature. The creature also wore a white powdered wig, and some white face powder and rouge, making it look slightly ill more then fashionably pale. The creature leered at him a little longer, before it sat back down at the table. A small table, it had been erected on a hill overlooking the orks moving the cannons. At it sat two other similarly dressed orks, one wearing a ridiculous gold monocle and the other, which must have been female, a long green dress and a corset. The whole scene seemed ridiculous, like children playing at dress up, but the orks seemed to be taking it seriously enough. 

A waiter, and Milltall could only assume he was the waiter because he wore a suit jacket though the jacket wasn't large enough to button up down the middle, proffered a chair to Milltall, who sat down. His hands remained tied, but the female ork, who had tusks as large as the other two, poured Milltall some tea anyways. The teacups were tiny skulls, stoppered up with clay so that the tea wouldn't leak out. Milltall noted, with a sort of passing because he was frightened out of his mind by the three hulking creatures, that the teapot was in fact a human skull, though someone had rather thoughtfully added a spout and painted a little floral pattern on it.

"Well 'uman, isn't this nice, us offerin' you tea and such?" asked the second ork. Milltall nodded shakily. "Now then," the ork said, "down to business. Where was you going with such fine cannons such as these?" Milltall looked at the ork. Its accent wasn't to bad, though it definitely had an orky ring to it. "Erm," said Milltall, "Well, nowhere really, we were just taking them for a walk is all." "A walk?" the first ork said, "What you need to walk your cannons fer? Do they be needing exercise?" At this the female ork clouted the first ork over the head with the teapot. Tea shot off in all directions, and ran down the first orks face, causing his makeup to run and his wig to droop. The waiter hurried over with a towel and began inexpertly drying him off. The ork took the towel and shooed the waiter off, who then shortly returned with another skull of tea.

"You great lout," the female ork said, "Cannons don't need excercising. The 'umans lying to you." The first ork looked at Milltall. "Come on now 'uman," he said, "Don't lie to us. Look, were treating you nice and givin' you tea aren't we? Were being po-lite to you, it's only fair you be po-lite to us." He said polite carefully, sounding out the syllables. Milltall looked at the orks like they were crazy. "Why?" said Milltall, "Are we having tea in the first place? Aren't orks supposed to scream and run and shout obscenities. What kind of orks are you anyways?" The second ork gave a laugh. "Well, we always gettin' beat up by you 'umans and your damn armies. So it only goes to show that if we act like you, then we'll win, 'cause were stronger and tougher and we can be po-liter too. I mean look, we got everything we need." The ork spread his hand across the table, knocking over the female orks tea cup and spraying tea everywhere. "We got tea, and a table, and even got Seakas dressed up in a dress. We 's real po-lite now, so were sure to win."
"Wait," Milltall said with a hint of horror, "Seakas is male." "Wot," Seakas said, "'Course I'm male. I'm the bashinest ork there ever was." And to Milltall's horror Seakas got up, lifted a club from somewhere under his skirts and swung it at the waiter, who ducked smartly. The other two orks looked at Seakas with pride. Milltall, despite his fear, couldn't help but laugh. "Wot's so funny 'uman," the first ork said, glaring at Milltall. "We's done everything right. We's got tea, and one of us is in a dress, and we got a smart looking waiter. Oh wait, I know..." The ork looked around and then motioned to the waiter. He said something in orkish and the waiter walked off. "Now you'll see," the ork said.

Milltall, his fear quickly returning, sat quietly at the table while the orks discussed what town they were going to attack with the cannons. The waiter returned with a tray. "Oi," the ork said to Milltall, "And now we have finger food to go with our tea." The ork proffered the tray to Milltall, and on the tray were several human fingers. Milltall almost retched, which the ork took as a sign to pass the tray on. The other two orks took several fingers each, and munched on them while drinking there tea.

After several very long minutes for Milltall, tea came to an end and the waiter began to clean up. "Wot should we do with this?" the first ork asked, pointing at Milltall. "We'll ransom 'im back," the second ork said, "that's wot the 'umies do when they capture someone important. Give him back so that the fightings still good later on." Seakas and the first ork nodded in agreement. Milltall couldn't believe his luck. Ransom him back. He might actually survive this. "Wot about the rest of his crew?" the first ork asked. "Well," the second ork said, "we have been mighty short on scones lately."

Friday, 2 November 2012

Story Hook: Get Yer Eels

Story Hook #11: Aggressive Eel salesman interrupts noble wedding


The doves cooed quietly in their white wicker basket above the bride and groom, fluttering nervously and impatiently awaiting their return to the sky. I sat near the back of the church, watching the proceedings with half an eye and the guests with the other half. The wedding hall was certainly beautiful. White streamers hung from the ceiling and the soft glow of light through the windows reflected off the polished wood pews to give an almost unearthly glow to the event. The bride stood at the altar, resplendent in her flowing white wedding gown. The groom, a nervous youth whom, I suspect, was not quite ready to give up the single life, fidgeted nervously. The priest motioned, one hand holding a frail red book and the other a white staff. They spoke their vows quietly and in the crowded church it was more than a little difficult to hear over the straining of all the other guests as well. I stifled a yawn. I wasn't much for this type of thing, truth be told, but I was here so I might as well make the most of it.

I glanced about the pews at the guests. Most of the noble houses were in attendance. After all, one of our own was about to get married and everyone wanted to witness the event, or at least sample the food. However, it wasn't like this was an exciting event, and it certainly wasn't like we hadn't seen this all before. I stifled another yawn and glanced at the back of the church, where a brief exchange had broken out. The man at the door seemed to be arguing with someone. One or two other guests looked, but they were keeping their voices low. 

Suddenly, the voices at the church entrance rose. The door man began to yell at someone and then was pushed into the church, landing on the carpeted floor with a soft thud. The priest ceased speaking as the nobles in the pews turned to see what the disturbance was. This bit of gossip surely was not to be missed. Into the church strode a rather villainous fellow wearing an eye patch and some large leather gloves. His hair was a greasy mess and his face spoke of its common heritage. However, perhaps the strangest thing about him was the large tray he was carrying, hooked over his back so that he could carry it and keep his hands free. Across the front of it were the words, "Our prices are so low, it's shocking!" and splashing sounds emanated from within the tray. The man gave a smile, revealing several missing teeth, and proclaimed to the rather shocked guests "Oi, does anyone need an eel?"

"An eel?" the groom sputtered, "what use have we for an eel?" "Well," said the man, "Your average eel is a real hair raiser in a marriage. It'll really lighten any problems you have with each other. Why, I believe that a big eel is in fact key for a good love life." The man grinned. The groom sputtered. "We have no use for your eel," the groom said, "begone from this place." The man laughed. "Its not you I'm talking to anyways. It's your bride. I was gonna give her this big eel here since it looks like you haven't got one." And so saying so he drew an eel from his tray, marched up the aisle, and handed it to the startled bride.

The groom snarled at this indignity, and grabbed a sword from one of the men in the front row. He brandished it at the ruffian, the light pinging off its blade. "Ah," said the man, "A man who must use a sword is certainly a man with a small eel." "I haven't got an eel," the groom shouted and struck at the man, who danced out of the way. "Your bride seems to be enjoying that big eel," the man said with a laugh. And this was true. The bride was stroking the eel, which wriggled a bit but seemed remarkably complacent for an eel. "It's actually kind of cute," the bride said, "can I have another one?"

Silence descended through the church as the man casually gave her yet another eel. "But," he said, "once you're married I highly recommend having just one eel and sticking with it. They tend to get angry around one another." The groom, recovering from the fact that his wife apparently loved eels with remarkably good faith, stabbed at the man once again, striking his tray. "See how wonderful my eels is," the man said to the audience, "In fact anyone who wants an eel is more then welcome to my eels." With those words he leaped from the altar, splashing the front row with water from the eels and raced down the aisle, followed by the groom. The man leapt over the fallen doorman, whom I can only assume was out cold, and raced out the doors. The groom gave up about halfway down the aisle, shook his head and returned to the altar.

I glanced across the audience. The front row was soaked and a couple men had gone to help the doorman. Meanwhile the bride was still holding two eels, which she put down on the altar. The groom shook his head, "What a shocking thing to do in the middle of a wedding," he said to the bride. "I don't know," said the bride, "I think it lightened the mood the a little bit."

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Story Hook: The Nation of Endless Dancing

Story Hook #93: Nation becomes infested with sand worms attracted to things with no rhythm. Entire continent becomes perpetual dancers


"If you do not dance, you can not leave ship," the man said in somewhat broken common. "Come and dance the dance of my people." I looked around the harbor. Everyone was dancing. Cabin boys danced across ships. 8 poor guys carrying what looked like a mast skipped past holding tambourines. A gentleman manning the office was doing a little jig while carrying on a conversation with a woman who kept twirling and leaping. Music wafted through the harbor from somewhere, though I couldn't see the band. I looked back at the gentleman i was talking to. He was doing a weird little tap dance in time with the music. He bobbed up and down. It was probably the strangest thing I had ever seen, even stranger then the giant teddy bear we found in that giants cave. I glanced over at Enok. He shrugged.

"Come," the man said, "dance." "Erm..." I hesitated. I didn't really want to dance across the harbor and to be perfectly honest, I wasn't much of a dancer. The man saw me hesitate and smiled. "Come," he said to Enok, "dance to wonderful music." Enok shrugged and leaped off the boat, causing several pirouetting repairmen to scramble out of the way. He landed gracefully, but then he had always been the graceful one. It was one of the annoying things about him. Enok was a ranger, and having grown up and trained in the forest could move like a cat. I watched him, quite literally, waltz across the dock, where he joined a conga line and headed off.

I shook my head. Well, if he could do it so could I. I stepped past the old man and onto the dock. Now I tend more towards the hit things with the axe until the stop moving bit of adventuring, so I was not exactly as graceful as Enok. However, I gave it my best, I wiggled and jumped and waved my hands and succeeded in sort of moving across the dock and into the harbor.

Almost immediatly the old man was beside me. "No no no," he said, "You must dance in time with the music." I tried to jig my feet like his, but it was rather difficult with my steel boots. Enok and his conga line had looped back around and several of them were watching with rather horrified expressions at my failed attempts to dance while the old man jumped around me yelling "No, no, back on the boat you go!" I continued trying, which was unfortunate because I tripped and fell flat on my face.

At this moment, I heard a loud rumbling and suddenly from out of the ground burst a massive worm. It was easily twice both my height and girth, a sandy coloured creature that looked like a giant snake until you saw its strange round head.. The creature roared, its huge round jaw revealing rows of massive teeth. I went for my axe and realized to late I'd left it aboard the ship. I hadn't expected any trouble from these dancing maniacs. I raised my hands to protect myself as the thing came at me, knocking me to the ground. It reared up above me and I looked around for help. Enok was working his way back to the boat, presumably to get a weapon. Meanwhile the conga line was congaing the heck out of there and the old man was leaping about maddly. I groaned. The worm pounced on me and I rolled away and back to my feet. From out of the ground two more of the creatures burst. The first dove on me again and I rolled out of the way. The second caught me as it gave chase however, knocking me back to the ground.

The old man, ceased leaping and jigged for a moment. He pointed his finger at me. "Shouldn't have left boat", he said, "You have no sense of rhythm." And with those fateful words the first worm struck my head with its tail and I blacked out.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Story Hook: Paint Everything Blue

I have a list of adventure game story hooks, the idea being that you roll a dice to generate a story hook and then play the listed adventure. I'll try a couple of these and see how entertaining they are.

I rolled: 56: Sinister Cult believes key to peace and happiness is to paint everything blue

All right then...


"It all started with the mailboxes. Someone had gone around in the night and painted all the mailboxes of all the houses blue. Imagine, getting up in the morning, opening the door to get the paper, and finding that your bright red mailbox with the little green gnomes is now a vibrant shade of baby blue. It gave me quite a start. And it was the talk of the morning at the diner. I mean, its a small community. Heck, the damn town has only got two diners. And stuff like this gets around you know? People wave to each other in the street and share the local gossip. Everyones mailboxes turning blue, that was a big prank for some kids to pull. In all honesty, everyone was more amused then angry about the whole thing."

"What happened then Mr.Reed?"

"The blue mailboxes lasted about a week. Some people painted over them but most of us just ignored it, since it was giving us something to talk about besides the weather. The local sheriff was all up in arms but its not like he does much besides help the drunks home and and retrieve lost cattle. He didn't like being outsmarted by a bunch of hooligans and it wasn't like he was doing nothing but I doubt even he thought he'd ever figure it out."

"Anyways, the next week, all the front doors to all the houses were blue. People laughed at this too, though some people were a little less impressed. Its one thing to paint a mailbox, the damn things are a dime a dozen down at the store, but a door is a little expensive and someone was going to have to repaint them all. People complained to the sheriff, but like I said he wasn't much on it. He didn't have any leads or anything. No one had seen who did it, which now that I think about it is a little odd. How the hell did they paint all those doors without no one seeing them?"

"Interesting Mr.Reed, but I need to know more about why this was happening."

"I'm getting to that, okay."

"Anyways, the following week it was the lawns. All the grass, all covered in blue paint. It looked like someone had pointed at the grass and said, "Now look here, the sky and the ground should be the same colour". People were mightly upset by this. It's one thing to paint a man's door, but to ruin his lawn, which he has worked hard to keep trimmed and green all summer long, is another thing. People were up in arms about the whole thing. The poor mayor was swamped with complaints. Reed, he said, we need to find out what the hell is going on here. So I told him I had a plan."

"That's when you staked out the mayors house?"

"Yeah. Seemed like a good plan. I mean, it wasn't like they'd spared his house or anything. So I went and sat in the shed in the mayors yard, and cut a little hole in the door so I could see out of it. And then I just waited. I'm a light sleeper at the best of times. I brought a book with me, and a flashlight, and of course my extra set of playing cards, because you never know when somebody might want a game of poker. And I sat and waited, for, oh I dunno, four, five days."

"And what did you see?"

"Well, nothing at first. But then one night I saw these guys wearing funny blue robes sneaking around. They were carrying big buckets of blue paint. One of them was clearly overseeing and the others were in charge of the painting. It looked like they were going to do the road. One of them pointed and the other two got painting. Back and forth, back and forth, across the road and back they went, fast as a fox in a chicken coop. "

"And what did you do then Mr.Reed?"

"Well, I opened the door and I hollered at them. The closest one was standing in the yard, so I yelled "Get off that lawn" at him. It seemed to spook him. He jumped and tripped and landed splat on the road. Which normally wouldn't have been to bad mind, 'cept they'd just finished painting that bit, so when he stood up his hands and face were all covered in blue paint. And then he pointed at me and yelled something in some weird language and the other two with the paint rollers looked up at me and sort of waived there paint rollers menacingly."

"Waved their paint rollers menacingly?"

"Yeah, you know, like they were gonna come after me with 'em. But I stood my ground, cause what's a guy gonna do with a paint roller? And then the leader took something out of his robe and threw it at me. I think it was a balloon, but all filled up with paint. Hit me in the stomach and splattered paint all over me. So now we were both a right mess and I didn't really know what to do so I high tailed it out of there, making him think I was running away. 'Cept I was headed for the police station"

"And what did you find when you got to the police station Mr.Reed?"

"Well, the station was all blue, but that didn't surprise me much because it was blue before. What surprised me was all the windows had been painted over with blue paint too, and someone had painted the walkway blue. Now the sheriff, he lives in back of the police station, so I knew if I went in I could probably rouse him. So I went into the police station. And inside were all these people wearing blue robes and holding paint rollers and pointing at the big map of the city inside the police station. And they all turned and looked at me. Now I stood out like a sore thumb and they were being mighty threatening with those paint rollers, so I turned and ran."

"And that is why, Mr.Reed, I found you, running down the highway at 2 in the morning covered in blue paint?"

"Yeah, that about sums it up. But your a real cop right? That means we can go down there and arrest those buggers. I mean, clearly the sheriff was in on it. But you're the highway patrol. You don't have to answer to no lowly sheriff. Call in some backup and lets toss them blue painting bastards back where they belong."

"While, Mr.Reed, you are correct in that I do not have to report to, as you have so eloquently put it, a lowly sheriff, I still have to maintain some semblance of order. And unfortunately, Mr.Reed, you have rather irritatingly created a lot of work for me by tracking dirt through all those well painted blue roads. Do you know how difficult it is to get paint that won't wash off of a roadway Mr.Reed. Very difficult indeed."

"What, wait a minute here. I thought you were going to help me. Who the...mmph!?!"

"I'm sorry Mr.Reed, but your drivel is tiring me. You have clearly seen to much. You should have stayed in your wonderful blue town, where peace and love are sure to flourish now that the painting is complete. But don't worry, Mr.Reed. You will be happy to. Or at least at peace. And all it will take is a little blue washing." 

Thursday, 18 October 2012

History: The First Two Great Crusades (Steam)

The church has embarked on 4 major crusades across the Old World, each of which has resulted in the destruction of the churches enemies.

The first crusade, led by Thomorn Dragonsbane, was against the vikings of the South. At the time, the vikings controlled much of the Old Sea. The islands of the Old Sea, Atherstone, Riddlesden and Garrabost were all inhabited by viking colonies and viking colonies extended into the west as well, up the coast of the Old Sea and even parts of the White Sea. The vikings main colonies bordered the west of the Girga Desert, Stuttgart being the major viking settlement of the times

Thomorn took the churches forces first across the land from St.Peters, founding the cities of Valencia and Havensfield. He would continue all the way to the end of the Old Sea, the current location of Morristown, and formed the first of the monastery outposts known as Thomorn's Churches. Thomorn then returned to Havensfield, where ships had been constructed to take him across the sea. Thomorn sailed on Atherstone, then Riddlesden and finally Garrabost and rid them of the vikings.

Now, up until this time the vikings has mostly attacked villages and had avoided the cities. They lacked any way to threaten walls, preferring to harry there foes and steal livestock and gold. Thomorn mounted the first real attacks on the vikings and the vikings were ill prepared to defend themselves. The crusade swept through the old world quickly and the vikings were largely unable to create any sort of defense capable of defeating Thomorn. Massive siege engines where mounted on ships and priests called lighting from the skies to defeat the few fortifications the vikings had and, since the vikings settlements bordered the waters, Thomorns superiority both on the water and on land gave him a great advantage over his foes.

However, after ridding the islands of the vikings, Thomorn was forced to wait several months before his fleet could make the journey into to the south. In those months, the vikings prepared great defences to throw back Thomorn's fleet. When Thomorn arrived in Stuttgart it was to face a foe prepared. The vikings had stolen the technology for Thomorn's siege weapons and used there magic to cause the seas to destroy Thomorn's boats. When Thomorn's armies landed they faced a new type of viking, the huge warriors of Woden. These heavily armoured warriors were a far cry from the lightly armoured raiders Thomorn was used to.

The church did successfully destroy Stuttgart, pushing the vikings back into the southern forests. However, a terrible toll was exacted on Thomorn's army. All of the warships were destroyed and many of the priests and knights had fallen as well. Thomorn himsef was killed taking the city, slain by a huge avatar of Haldor, the vikings god of war. The avatar, created by animating massive effigies to the gods, is one of the few to have ever been seen by the vikings. While it was destroyed by siege engines from the ships the damage it wrought upon the army was terrible.

Thomorn's remaining forces attempted to cleanse the vikings from the old world, but were largely unsuccessful. While only a small number of vikings remained the viking warriors in the south were very different from those who has raided the coast. Riding light horses through the murky forests and using magic to turn the environment against the knights, the vikings successfully repelled the invaders, though it would be many years before there civilization would recover.

The Second Crusade, led by Richand Silverkin, would lead the church much deeper into the south. The crusade focused largely on the Lands of the Night Lords, a strange people who lived in the southern desert bordering the Old Sea.The Night Lords were so called because there people only came out during the cool desert nights. They lived in vast underground chambers which contained there markets and houses. Meanwhile, there crops grew outside these underground cities, flourishing in the blistering sunlight of the desert.

Richand Silverkin planned a brilliant campaign in which the church spilt its forces, sending half across the Old Sea and half across the Inner Sea. Richand accompanied his troops across the Old Sea and captured the city of Odessa from the Night Lords. He declared it his base of operations in the South, and troops from nearby Riga sailed across the sea to join him there. Meanwhile, Belhand Darkeye led the troops crossing the Inner Sea. They met little resistance and formed Luxor, which would later become a major trading post of the old world.

Richand's crusade pushed the Night Lords father back into the desert, but the cost on his own troops was great. It was difficult to get supplies in the desert, and Richand followed the Taia River inland in order to stay supplied with food and water. He conquered several minor cities though the Night Lords defended against him furiously. The Night Lords were unused to battling heavy cavalry, what cavalry they had was light and often used for chariots or horse archers. The Night Lords had access to little metal in the desert and largely relied on bronze, which was incapable of piercing the knights heavy armour.

Much like the vikings, the Night Lords quickly learned to fight this new foe. There first tactical change was to begin raiding at night with there lighter cavalry and troops. Richand's men's morale quickly dropped as the Night Lords began to nightly raid his camps. Accustomed to the darkness the Night Lord's men made short work of there targets while the knights, unaccustomed to such fighting, began to fall. Seeing that a quick action was needed, Richand struck out for Tanta, a large underground city that also housed the temple of the sun. Richand hoped to take the temple and so cripple the Night Lords morale.

Meanwhile, Belhand crossed towards Tanta, but unlike Richand his progress was severely hampered by lack of food and water. While priestly magic succeeded in keeping Belhand's knights alive, he lost almost all his foot soldiers to exhaustian.

Richand arrived at Tanta to find the Night Lords waiting for him. While the city was largely undefended, once inside Richand realized how poorly he understood his foe. The city of Tanta was unlike any he had seen before, spreading for miles in every direction underground and housing massive pyramids and stone monsters. The Night Lords forces, used to fighting in the caves, wreaked terrible carnage on Richand's army. Furthermore, they brought there stone creations to life, and great sphinxes and monsters statues cleaved through Richand's forces.

Not to be outdone, Richand's forces summoned forth angelic warriors to battle these creatures. Angelic choirs battled stoney sphinxes in the underground streets. However, these forces were not enough. Richand's forces were destroyed in Tanta and Richand himself was slain by a champion of the Night Lords army.

Several weeks later, Belhand arrived in Tanta to find the ruins of Richand's forces. The long trek across the sands had changed Belhand and his knights. They had been sustained so long by priestly magic that they had become half-mortal and half-celestial. Great wings sprouted from the knights backs and there weapons and armour glowed with holy flames. Belhand stormed the city to avenge Richand. The Night Lords fought viciously again, but the angelic knights proved a much tougher foe. The weapons of the Night Lords had little effect against them and the flight granted to the knights allowed them much more maneuverability inside the large underground city. Eventually Belhand stormed the Temple of the Sun, where he fought and killed the great Night Lord Ricice Samulkin. In death however, Samulkin cursed Belhand to die in a cowardly manner.

Belhand, having destroyed the temple, left Tanta, unable to destroy or hold the city with such a small force. Hoping to reunite with the churches forces, he traveled down the Taia hoping to reach Oddessa. However, it was not to be. During his travel the river flooded, turning the desert into a mire. Belhand and his men sought to use there newfound wings to save themselves, but were unable to fly far enough to escape the flooding. In the end Belhand and his men where killed by the Taia.

The second crusade is unique in that it is the first recorded instance of knights gaining angelic power. Since then it has become more common for knights, especially captains, to gain some angelic powers such as the flaming weapons or wings common to angels. The reasons for this are unclear, though some scholars believe that the increase in such powers is due to the increase in the belief that truly great knights will have these gifts bestowed upon them by God. While such reasoning is probably correct, it does not explain what caused these gifts to be given in the first place, when no one believed such things happened.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

History: The Lost City (Steam)

Since I have to do it any is a poor excuse for writing anything, but I have to, at some point in time, actually flesh out this location beyond "it's underwater" for adventure gaming. So without further ado, the history of the Lost City.

Few of the cities in the Old World are as unique as the Lost City. Once known as Atherstone City and perched on Atherstone Island, the Lost City was once a thriving seaport. Atherstone facilitated trade through the sea from Valencia and Havensfield to the southern continent, most notably to Oddessa. Atherstone was somewhat uniquely located in its location separating trade in the Old Sea and trade coming down the coast from the White Sea or up from the south.

Atherstone, similarly to the other islands in the old sea, was originally colonized by the vikings. In early times, the vikings controlled the vast majority of the waterways since there were so few ships. The first crusade, led by Thomorn Dragonsbane, cleared the vikings from the waterways and pushed them back onto the southern continent. The first crusade would see the creation of Valencia and Havenfield, as well as the founding of Atherstone. At that time, Atherstone functioned as a restocking station for the crusade. Thomorn went on to conquer three of the four islands in the Old Sea and would establish colonies on each of them to facilitate his eventual crossing to the southern continent. Atherstone was a key part of the crossing and made the crossing possible. Though Thormon was eventually defeated by the vikings he decreased there numbers sufficiently that Atherstone was rarely threatened by them again.

Atherstone stayed as a small refueling station for the navy until the founding of Oddessa, which greatly increased trade through the Old Sea. Similarly, metals and machinery became more common place as the Fortview Furnaces grew and the products from Fortview were shipped down the coast. Havenfield became a bustling city and as trade from Havenfield increased, so to did the number of ships making port in Atherstone. Metals and exotic foods were shipped from Havenfield and Valnecia through to Riga and from Riga into the Inner Sea. As trade increased Atherstone changed into a bustling trade city, fuelled by the ships making port there for supplies.

Havenfields proximity to Waltham would eventually lead it to adopt the technologies more common in the west. A university was founded at Havensfield to study the items brought up from Oddessa and to mount expeditions into the south. Soon a university was founded in Atherstone as well in order to support both these pursuits. While Havensfield's university would slowly die of stagnation and lack of trade during the third crusade, Atherston's University flourished studying the diverse sea life and exotic plants and animals brought by the servants of the Night Lords fleeing the church and by expeditions into the Girga desert.

Meanwhile Valencia would go on to become a major city of the Church, one of the few western cities to still have a priestly leader. Valencia became a holy city, frequented by thousands of pilgrims to see the fabled walls of Valencia, a massive barrier commissioned by the Pope himself to protect Valencia from sinking into the sea. Valencia's expansion had brought it perilously close to destruction and the church's decision to save it made it a holy city.

At the beginning of the fourth crusade, it became obvious that Valencia and Havensfield would become the natural choke points of the attack. The Fortview Mountains prevented an attack at the heart of the west and an attack around the mountains would be difficult to mount in the face of stiff resistance and difficult weather and terrain. Valencia became a gathering point for Cruice's army.

About this time, the Free Cities elected the Sunset Kid to lead an army against Valencia. Knowing Valencia's walls would be unable to protect it against airborn attack, the Kid staged a large force of airships at Atherstone. Meanwhile, his ground troops moved to defend Havensfield from any ranging forces.

Unfortunately, Cruice discovered the Sunset Kid's plan, and in a bid to save his forces and Valencia he commissioned the vatican to sink the isle of Atherstone. The pope and his councellors gathered there might and sank the island beneath the waves. Atherstone, home to both a university and several powerful mages who were part of the war effort, was saved by a massive bubble spell which protected the city as it sank. The spell  is similar to that which protects Valencia and at the time the mages of Atherstone's university were working on such a spell to protect the city from vicious ocean storms. In a stroke of luck, the spell was largely prepared ahead of time and while the mages were not able to repel the church's power they were able to protect the city. The spell filters air from the water, allowing air to reach the city and stabilizes the pressure in the city, allowing humans to survive in it. The casting of the spell cost many mages there lives, a sacrifice still felt by the Free Cities due to the lack of properly trained war mages.

The destruction of the island caused massive tidal waves across the Old Sea. Valencia's walls held it safe, but the Sunset Kid's fleet was not so lucky. The fleet was largely destroyed and most of the airships, tethered to the island, were destroyed as well, sunk beneath the waves as there tethers sank or destroyed by the church's magic. The magicians tasked with protecting the fleet dedicated there energy to saving the city and as a result the Sunset Kid's army was reduced to a fraction of its original size. Many of the war mages the Sunset Kid has brought with him died saving the city as well, resulting in a serious reduction of the magical power of the Free Cities. Fortunately, the amount of power it took the church to destroy the island largely neutered the Vatican as well, and such power has yet to be displayed again during the war.

Now, Atherstone, known as the Lost City, functions as a sea floor base for the Free Cities. The city has continued to grow as deep sea mining operations have since set up in it. Largely protected from the church, the Lost City is a powerful stronghold but also a poor place to amass an army. Few resources can be gathered besides gasses from the ocean floor, and the majority of these resources are needed to sustain the city. Vast kelp fields, maintained by automatons and humans in pressure suits, keep the city fed. The lower classes feed on kelp and fish while the upper classes generally eat more exotic foods such as beef and chicken. The Lost City has certainly lost its former glory, but its unique location has led to many discoveries that would not have come about otherwise.