Friday, September 28, 2018

Okay, a shorter draft of the Dark vs Spark adventure


To try and restrict myself this draft was done in Google Slides. There is nothing elegant about it, but I got to throw out many many words. It's down to 42 pages, but they are mostly 42 airy pages with 11 point body text.

With luck, most things are confined to a double-page spread: title usually on the left, picture on the right. Usually there isn't a picture. Character writeups got short shrift.

And I really hate the title. The longer I look at it, the less it has to do with anything but the end reveal.

You can look at it here. 

If I ever return to it, it will be to put artwork in and sweat through how you convert something like this to Scribus. 

I'd also reconsider how I did the character writeups: rather than making them the top or bottom half of the page with room for a portrait, I'd do them as one of two columns. Then a portrait (if any) could go on the right or, if you were cramming for space, you could have at least two a page. However, the current setup is fine. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

This Group Is A Team?

Long preamble: For Christmas one year, we gave my son The New Teen Titans volume 1, and he left it in Ottawa. Eventually my brother-in-law returned it and my son wasn't around (I think he was at work). I decided to read it. At which point I discovered that there was introduction or foreword by Marv Wolfman. (I can't check any of this, for the book has disappeared back into the black hole that is my son's room.)

He mentioned something he had done when creating the new Teen Titans: He made sure that each triplet of the six main characters had something in common. Robin, Cyborg, and Changeling all had self-image problems in a way: one was concerned about being his own man, one concerned about being a man, and one concerned about being liked though he figured he was a Jonah. He goes through the items that the women had, but it extended on, too: Raven, Robin, and Cyborg probably had something. No matter how you sliced it, that three of them had something in common.
It was Wolfman's way of making sure that this was a group of people who would be friends and associates, rather than a junior Justice League.

Just recently, I ran down the list of players for this play-by-email game I'm doing. Right now, it's a shakedown phase and I'm doing solo adventures with each one, and each adventure has its own tone:
  • The famous architect who has just discovered he is half-fey (sort of a changeling) and who controls shadows: his adventure has a sort of DC Sandman vibe
  • The intrepid agent and vigilante who is skilled at espionage: he is slowly uncovering what will be a conspiracy to control something, probably the government
  • The big lovable earth-controlling lug who adores sharks but is afraid of water: he is the new guy on the (NPC) team, so he is the fly in the ointment for a plot to gain revenge on the team
  • The kids' science show host with transmutation powers who tries to make every moment a teachable moment: his is a very Silver Age story, with a villain who has Alteration Ray (growth) and whose eventual purpose is as yet unknown
Not exactly a set of cogs that mesh together to form a watch.

But what if I (or any GM) took a hint from Marv Wolfman and from Spirit of the Century? What if I asked each player to say what his character has in common with somebody else (or two somebody elses)?

We've done this informally in session 0 at the table, where people riff off each other ("Oh, so your earth police liaison can be my sister, so we run into each other that way"). But why not make it formal?

(It occurs to me that some of the background questions in Masks do this, but it's a lot more structured in Masks.)

Sometimes that reason is baked into the campaign:
  • You're all students at the Cugat School for the Different
  • You're all in the same squad in the military/spy service/police
  • You're all family members
  • You're all outcasts because of your powers
  • You're all on the run from the Spinelli mob
Good players do this anyway: find a reason for the characters to be together. Yeah, eventually someone might leave because the pressures make it inevitable, but that's a player choice. You have to find a reason why your supposed loner character is hanging around with these guys in Spandex, right?

What I'm proposing is a little more Justice League, because the reason can be as small as "I know and respect person X".

Anyway, the point is to give the characters a reason to hang around together besides "We're the characters that the players came up with."

Monday, September 24, 2018

Open Source Adventures

SYSTEM: ANY Here’s an idea I had a while ago: open source adventures. Get a repo on GitHub and produce some adventures. Each adventure is in Markdown format (or tighter if necessary). The folder contains the text of the adventure and game stats for various games. We’d use some tool for creating the final HTML or PDF for the output. Eventually it would need a database to keep track of the adventures probably my keywords. You’d maybe want to have three levels of access: people who do system-specific conversions or provide keywords; people who write the adventures, and some kind of gatekeeper who makes sure that the new change doesn’ Contradict the other parts of an adventure. I think those sorts of changes would still be accepted but in a “retcon” folder: these changes alter the intent of the adventure.

Hope City NPC: Agent Anything


For the play-by-email campaign, here’s the government liaison for the “official” super-team (mostly NPCs and only just promoted to official status).

The team liaison: Agent Anything:

Perpetually three weeks from retirement, Agent Anything is the team’s Government Liaison. As a superpower, he can imitate and duplicate the function of any object between the size of a rotary desk phone and a tractor trailer. He was pulled from the field when he imitated a rotary phone but everyone in the embassy has gone to push-button phones that were too small. If startled he will often imitate something obsolete (he can do newer stuff, he just doesn’t think of it in an emergency).

Agent Anything (Ian Hampton)
PRW Fair (4) Specialties
CRD Good (5)
  • Sleight of Hand (+1)
  • Investigation (+1)
  • Military (+1)
STR Fair (4)
INT Fair (4)
AWR Good (5)
WIL Fair (4)
Det 3
  • Government liaison
  • Not like it used to be
  • “I’m old, I’m not dead!”
  • He has Incredible (7) Transformation 7 into objects and a Magical ability to duplicate their function. It’s Instant but these days it’s also Tiring.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

A fraction of an idea


I started off by wanting to think of an adventure where the heroes had to be villains...not in the "We're killing everything in order to save it" way, but say as hired thugs to some bad guy.

Then I realized that I wanted to do it as troupe play, where everyone has two-and-a-half characters:

  • Their hero, who is the primary character
  • The bad guy based off the hero, who is the half character, and who the hero has to impersonate
  • The other hero, assigned to bring in the bad guy because apparently the bad guy killed the main hero...

Would it work? I dunno. It's still a portion of an idea.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Solo superhero gaming

SYSTEM: NONE I throw these questions out to you:
  • Favourite superhero rpg?
  • Favourite for solo play?
  • Favourite for online play?
  • Different RPGs or the same ones? (Or do you house-rule for the situation?

I ask because I had a sudden fleeting urge to write a solo supers RPG, and I immediately got bogged in what I want from it

Monday, September 10, 2018

Time for/and Encounter Theory


As I've probably said at boring length, I've been reading the draft of Ben Riggs' book on Encounter Theory. I'll recap the theory very quickly and then I'll talk about a thought I had today.

Skip this recap if you want

Encounter theory states that the important part of a roleplaying adventure is the encounter. That's where the character events actually happen. The players can do anything in the encounter. If it doesn't lead to interacting with an NPC (like a monster) or some facet of the setting, the GM can make it up.

And forget all that story stuff: RPG adventures are different and a lot of story stuff just doesn't apply, because the story doesn't exist until you add players.

Uh, Great Adventures?

Nominate one. I have never played any of the ones I hear about ("Ravenloft"; "Masks of Nyarlathotep"; maybe "Dracula Dossier") and my group was alway into brew-your-own-environment so I have no standards regarding published adventures.

Back to the point

So the idea is to present a reason to adventure, right at the beginning, some kind of modivation.

Then there are a series of encounters. Each encounter leads to one or more other encounters.

At the end, there's a climactic encounter that provides some sense of resolution.

There's a reason that it looks like a dungeon map: because it is. Sometimes the doors aren't literal, but that's what it is. (Somebody—Jonathan Tweet, maybe? John Tynes? Kenneth Hite?—pointed this out, possibly in D20 Call of Cthulhu.)

End of the Recap

Now, I'll buy that story, such as it is, is constructed after the fact in the minds of the participants. The arc of the antagonist is constructed by the GM as a result of player actions, but it can be heavily influenced by the adventure writer.

But Here's the Thing

One aspect of story is implicit in the design of Dungeons & Drangons: Change.

Change is important in most types of stories, even stories involving iconic characters who themselves don't seem to change. The world is tilted at a Dutch angle every time a client walks into 221B Baker Street, and it is Sherlock's mission to set the floor horizontal again.

That's not character change, but it is change. (I don't think that character change is essential in all kinds of stories.) Character change is simulated in D&D by having the character go up in levels.

It can be further simulated by a recurrence of the villain: if the big bad guy wipes the floor with Our Heroes early or even midway through the adventure and then is defeated by them at the end, the players feel like they grew. If someone dies and has to be replaced during the adventure, the players feel like there has been change.

When the Antaeus Gang defeats Batman at the beginning of the story but loses at the end because he has discovered that all of their powers are negated if they are in the air, that's a kind of change.

And on my incomplete reading, Encounter Theory doesn't address this at all. (It may: incomplete reading, remember?)

How to Make Change

At this point, I'm just talking about creating the markers of change, so that players can impose their own meaning on it. Going up in levels doesn't mean that your character has suddenly Learned To Be A Better Elf, it means your character is better at hitting things or casting spells. But it's enough for players to hang change on.

In a game where there is character change (whether it's just leveling up or there's some kind of Aspect mechanism where the Aspects change over time), then the answer is to have the adventure take long enough for that quality of the characters to change...and have the new abilities important to the climax.

In a dungeon, there's usually some kind of change with levels: level 6 is tougher than level 1 was; level 15 has the Lich King. There's a kind of progression.

From a roleplaying point of view, I think it's important to tie these changes to the player actions. Yeah, it's great that the villain finds Jesus and decides to give up crime while the heroes are busy with that little problem in MegaDecaLopolis, but it just feels imposed from without. We're trying to create the illusion of change caused by or with the players.

One of the easiest ways to create change is to change the world. That is, the player characters don't have to change, but the world around them does. The PC actions cause the downfall of the kingdom.

You can change the way the PCs see the world. Batman isn't any different than he was at the beginning, but he can change the world by setting up some trap that separates the Anteus Gang from the ground.

In a similar way, you can change the people in the world. This normally happens organically as a result of the players doing things. The girl becomes an orphan, dresses as a man, and joins the army; the hard-headed reporter is inspired to don cape and cowl herself; the four-armed alien who fought the PCs at the beginning decides to dedicate its life to peace.

The last thing you can do is change the quality of the opposition. It could be as simple as the level of the opposition: you're going to go from your skeletons to your Greater Shadow to your Mummy Lord in terms of the quality of the opposition.

Sandbox games with timelines have external change of all of these. Act too soon, and you're not prepared; act too late, and they're over-prepared.

This part is still hazy for me, but it seems to me that a lot of a story or what feels like a story hinges on how the main character reacts to the opposition. Because we've posited that you can't dictate PC change, you have to change the opposition.

One of the ways is the level of opposition, as we mentioned. But another way might be to emulate the dynamic of a story by changing what the bad guys want as well as switching up the level.

This is time-based. It forces you to have a beginning, middle, and an's strongly implied by your encounter structure that there are floors to this metaphorical dungeon. Sure, if they find the stairwell, they can descend very far, very fast but the outcome is likely to be disastrous.

Now To Do Exactly What You Should Not Do

...which is think about roleplaying adventures in terms of story structure.

I'm trying to limit myself. I'm trying to be restrictive. I'm trying to keep this with the floors-of-the-dungeon metaphor.

Well, okay, I'm not. I'm going to stick with Batman and the Antaeus Gang. But I am going to restrain myself from inventing something with all four elements as lieutenants and then Gaea as the big bad. No; we'll strive hard to stick with the Antaeus Gang and their minimal superpowers for now.

Let's divide the adventure into four parts, in homage to Larry Brooks and Steve Kenson both: either Set up/Response/Attack/Resolution or Threat/Investigation/Challenge/Comeback.

  1. For the first part of the adventure, maybe only the first fight, the Antaeus Gang wants the money at the bank or the item at the museum.
  2. For the second part of the adventure, the Antaeus gang is responding to Batman, maybe thinking they can get rid of him and the rest of the Bat-family will soon fall! In this stage, they specifically target Batman and Robin.
  3. The challenge phase is where the PCs attack but the odds are probably still overwhelming. During this stage, the heroes learn the new way to look at the world, or the secret that will make hash of the bad guys.
  4. Now, against the toughest odds (the entire gang! While Batman and Robin, drawn by Dick Sprang, are held in go-go birdcages in a vast warehouse, the gang tries to, I dunno, summon Gaea but Batman and Robin get free and fight them, winning this time because they have done something clever.

Harder to implement? You bet. But if you, say, have a list of these four different approaches and keep them in mind, things can still happen in any just have to be ready to improvise NPC actions and motivations that are appropriate to what has gone before.

But weren't you anyways?

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Here, have some free-writing to ignore


I know that fiction is the least popular thing here, but have some text that fell off my hands today. It has been a long weekend of dealing with estate and executor business, and I have no brain for anything else.

If I figure out what this story is actually about, this is probably the start of a Mynah story.

* * *

I am liberating some diamonds from their current imprisonment in a Kraft paper envelope in the second drawer of a locked safe when this translucent glowing head thrusts through the drawer and begs me.

“Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re our only hope.”

The words were different but the intent was the same.

Unfortunately, the room with the safe is miked for sound and while I can negate sounds like footsteps or careful drilling to open the safe, I can do it only if I expect them. This request is not one I expect and the alarms start going off.

I have no time right now. Police response time is between one and seven minutes, depending on where the patrol car is. There is only time to sweep some envelopes into my disposable-if-necessary bag and run like hell, tripping every sensor I avoided on my way in.

Plan A was stealing the gems. Plan B was escaping. It turns out that the translucent head hurts like hell when you put your hand through it to get the envelope, so Plan C is getting arrested.

Oh, I try hard: I lose about six seconds to pain management, and twelve to getting out of the room. I briefly consider diving out through the window at the end of the corridor until I remember that it’s barred. Instead of down, I head up six flights in the stairwell (another twenty seconds), and get the roof exit open (thirty very long seconds). There are three buildings I can jump to, so I pick the one with multiple exits, and run like a gazelle to get across.

All while this translucent blue figure is floating beside me and repeating the “Help me, Obi-Wan,” message.

The damaged hand costs me my jump because I try to use it to catch the edge of the next building and then scream in pain. I switch hands which means dropping the purse and the gems, which at least means that when the police pull me up I am not carrying contraband.

However, I’m of interest in at least two other larcenies. So they cuff me and hustle me into the squad car.

At least when the squad car starts, it leaves the blue translucent guy behind.

* * *

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Today's power-gamey idea


Well, last week, really.

Take a character with Duplication 8. Add some low level of Mind Control...maybe Mind Control 4.

The working together rules say that the group working together can add the levels to either of the levels: hitting or the level of effect. So assuming all 8 duplicates help successfully, the original suddenly has Mind Control 8...which is much better.

Heck, you can add Burst to that and affect lots of people in the crowd.

Now, I am thinking of this for a villain, so I don't need to totally adhere to the rules, but I do anyway. (If I make exceptions, it starts to become a habit, so I'm really careful about making exceptions...because I know myself.)

Steve Kenson suggested the name Crowd Control but as a villain, I'm inclined to name him Cult, and one of the PBEM threads is perfect for him.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018



So I'm trying ICONS as a PBEM. I would rather some other mechanism: I wish I could be around for a face-to-face group; I wish I could reliable schedule a Roll20 group; I wish that a play-by-post forum group didn't eat more resources than squirting email. But because the time I have is during my commute and the train doesn't have Internet access so I have to rely on my data usage for my phone, the choice is between email and nothing.

The big stuff with email in the past for me has been response time, so right now it's three players, three individual stories, though I do intend for them to cross over. To make life easier, I do all the dice rolling. I'm as fair as a martphone app allows., and at regular intervals I intend to post summaries of the game so far to a Facebook game I've set up for the purpose.

If people are amenable, those summaries might also show up here, but I haven't asked yet.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Something like this...


I was thinking of something like this for the adventure design...something I quickly mocked up using Slides on Google. Nothing bigger than a two-page spread, more graphics than I've used here, each spread is a complete chunk or encounter.

I know that's not the way that D&D stuff is produced, but I'm actually thinking of cutting words rather than producing more. (Hey, go with your weakness, that's what I always say...)

I'll finish the quick mockup, and if I like it, then I'll do some proper design of styles and layout in Scribus, and produce the PDF there.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Wet Bones: the adventure


Mike Lafferty has put on YouTube the three sessions we did. I have not yet checked to see if he cut out my verbal faux pas, but with the warning that it might still be there (or you might find others), here are the links:

  1. session 1
  2. session 2
  3. session 3

This is an adventure set in the world of James Alan Gardner's All Those Explosions Were Someone Else's Fault, and my thanks to Jim for letting me use the world and my thanks to Mike for letting me run it. Faults are mine; credit is theirs.

(Yes, I should listen. But I really hate hearing and seeing myself. I'll try listening tomorrow morning on the commute.)

I want to try the PDF structure of the adventure to have each section as a two-page spread with a title, an encounter, an isometric map, and character boxes.

Craigslist story: For whom the bell tolls

For Whom the Bell Tolls

I have everything planned and then something screws it up. As usual.

About a thousand people are in the public square waiting for me and this idiot to duel to the death. The stolen bell is on the platform along with a shrewish sharp-featured guy and another guy in a white-and-red outfit who I assume is Klaxon. And me: I’m functionally invisible, skulking along because I have a plan, right?

I hear Klaxon say loudly behind me, “She’s here. It’s her.”

I do not get to equalize the odds before his sonic blast hits the bell and makes it vibrate in sympathy—

“Kill her!” he shouts.

The crowd turns into a thousand bloodthirsty mind-controlled hooligans with an appetite for moi.

The life of a supervillain wannabe is not without its problems.


After defeating Merlin Furioso and getting the amulet, you would think my rep would be assured and I would be swimming Scrooge McDuck-like in a vault of money and felonious contracts.

You would be wrong.

Oh, I got some nice press out of it, but that was offset by the facts that (a) I still had no way other than Craigslist (blech) to find jobs and (b) my performance in that job got criticized and minimized at every turn.

So far as (a) went, I actually considered getting jailed at one point just so that I could hob-nob with supervillains. Then my St. Bernard puppy Slobberkin would ask to go out and I realized that I couldn’t go to prison.

And (b)? I mean, hello? There was no one else in the museum but me and him, and it was all on security cams. (Okay, I had to leak the security footage but the footage was unaltered.)

But no: I had to contend with people claiming that some man did the real work, whether it was a partner or that I just waltzed in and took the amulet from Merlin. Some nights, fuelled by too many Long Island Iced Teas, I got on the Internet under an alias and argued with my detractors. (I ignored the ones who claimed I was a vigilante out to stop Merlin Furioso; that level of self-deception you cannot argue with.)

It was on one of those occasions that I encountered him. He had posted a list of “proof” that the security cam footage was a fake, and I was just drunk enough to respond. I demolished most of his points. He was online and patronizing, and I challenged him to do better.

His smug response? “Watch the news over the next couple of days. See how a man handles it.”

In the morning, I was hungover and in the process of deleting my browser history (I do it every morning, just before Slobberkin’s first walk) when I found the postings.

So I kept an eye out.

Damned if the Confederate Bell didn’t disappear from the same museum that night.

The Confederate Bell, according to the news sites, was a rarity: an actual Southern bell donated to be melted down to make cannons in 1862. Most of the bells were made by northern manufacturers, but this one had been from the south, and was spared only by the fact that it was sent to New Orleans to be melted; the city was captured in April of that year and only the clapper had been removed.

It wasn’t a subtle job: the bell was a good 700 pounds and on a stand. He disabled the security cameras and every guard was found unconscious. I presumed he had a buyer for it, because it wasn’t worth that much. Spanish bells of the same vintage go for more.

The annoying thing was that the reward offered for his capture was higher than the one offered for mine.

I posted a brief congratulations (because, hey, always networking) and figured that would be the end of it.

Okay, maybe I said something about how Mynah had done better because she had to deal with a supervillain and still got the job done.

Man, I suck at networking.


The shrew-like guy on the platform grabs for me. I dive through the bell stand but my heels graze the bell with a gonk. That ruins my dive and instead of rolling off the platform and under it to a safe place to turn visible, I am still on it.

I swear and I go visible anyway.

My “invisibility” is sonic: I make a sound that people don’t want to look at. It lasts as long as my breath does. I have good lungs but a minute, maybe two is tops.

The crowd is somewhere beyond hooligans. They are chanting “Kill Mynah!” in a disorganized way and the platform is shaking as they charge it.

The platform is not safe. Not for me, what with the guy trying to blast me, and not for the people around the platform. The second-last thing I want is for a seven hundred pound bell to fall and crush a bunch of people. (The last thing I want is to be killed by a mob…well, anything.) I get to a crouch and then sprint down the length of the platform off it. I make a beautiful leap over the railing and it’s kind of like crowd-surfing except where the crowd has their arms raised in fists to crush you. By ignoring who I poke and prod and pummel, I manage to get to the edge of the local knot of the crowd and hit the ground.

I don’t have any plan at this point: I’m just running with them following behind me like a pack of imprinted ducklings.

Murderous spittle-flecked rage-filled killer ducklings.


The online abuse was torrential, especially considering how I had never mentioned the exceedingly small and flaccid dicks these guys must have had. I shut down the account and went on with my life, which was mostly about the next score. I wasn’t terribly worried: when you decide to pursue the whole supervillain thing, you start bouncing messages through a couple of anonymizing servers and maintaining as clean a separation between identities as possible.

But I am not a hacker.

Then I got this email, sent to Mynah but addressed to the ID that I had closed. I’m not going to quote it because it called me obscene names. But it called for a showdown the next day to “prove” that I wasn’t as good as Klaxon.

Yeah. That’s what he called himself. Given the other obscenities in the note, I was surprised it wasn’t KKKlaxon. (That at least you could trademark.)

I made a T chart of the pros and cons of actually showing up. On the pro side, he knew how to contact Mynah. At least that part was working.

Lots of cons if I lost: I’d be unconscious and possibly arrested. The work trying to build my brand would be wasted. Win or lose, I’d probably get doxxed because the guy had connected one identity with Mynah.

My fingers trembled as I wrote the reply.

No win in a public contest. Mynah doesn’t see any reason to show up.

I saved it as a draft because experience has taught me that I will not see the embarrassing typo right away, and ten minutes wouldn’t hurt.

I switched computers and started researching the place where he wanted to duel. It was mentioned a lot today.

Because Klaxon had shared his challenge with media and they picked it up. The place was going to be a circus: the sketchy one-ring-no-sideshow kind.

Why did he want a lot of people around? There was a PR benefit, sure, and maybe that’s all it was. But maybe not. What would he gain from the audience?

Too many possibilities: he could have any power.

I took Slobberkin for a walk and tied him up outside the police station while I went in and stole the police report. (I can turn sort-of invisible and I take advantage: sue me.)

Then I checked to see if Shelley, the drag queen across the hall, was free at the right time.

Someone had to claim the reward for me (or bail me out of jail), because I was going to be busy as Mynah.


I’m busy, all right: There’s a knot of people ahead of me, so I dodge to the right. That gets me another dozen yards so I dodge right again.

Dodging right turns out to be a bad idea so I have to go left….which is away from the bell.

The bell is important. I have to get back to the bell.

Klaxon screams at me again. Unlike me, he can focus his screams and he doesn’t care if people get hurt. A guy is pulling at my carrier bag (please don’t call it a purse) and Klaxon’s scream hits him and my bag. Through the earplugs I hear something in the bag rupture and I know I have to get rid of it.

My bag has six aerosol cans of foam insulation. I was going to fill the bell with insulation so it couldn’t ring but I have no time to find and discard the leaky can—which means that the other five cans are going to be embedded in foam. I duck my head and let the bag slide off my shoulder. There’s a sssss-Whump and insulation starts leaking out the bag.

I dodge left because there’s no point in getting back to the bell if I can’t silence it.


My working hypothesis was that Klaxon had my powers but turned up to eleven. I hadn’t seen any evidence that he was bullet proof or could teleport or fly. In fact, the way that he stole the bell indicated that he couldn’t do any of those things.

Control minds? Sure. Evidence suggested that the guards knocked each other out. Blast things? There were a couple of broken things that suggested it. (Okay, I couldn’t blast things, but the principle is the same.)

But I figured that he just had more raw power than I had. He was different in quantity rather than quality.

Plus he used the name “Klaxon.” Kinda hinted at sound powers.

By this thinking, the bell wasn’t a symbol for his abilities, but rather a necessity. Like Merlin Furioso’s habit of talking, the bell was a necessity disguised as a quirk.

So I figured that the bell and sound were involved. I went to the hardware store and got myself some spray cans of foam insulation.

All I had to do was show up early, go sort-of invisible, and fill the bell with spray insulation so it couldn’t make sounds.

I also brought a set of filtering earphones that rendered me immune to his mind control.

Such a good plan.


First things first. The bell is still ringing. People are still crazy-mad.

There’s a clear patch so I’m moving in a big circle, but that gives Klaxon the opportunity: his next shot hits me and I feel like my guts are water. My knees buckle and I fall but manage to roll twice before getting up. Dammit. I need a minute. Five seconds, even.

And the filters in the earplugs are not quite good enough. That damned bell is giving me a headache.

Someone has lost a shoe. I grab it (it’s not mine) and pitch it at the bell.

And hit. The sound is muffled and fuzzy, but it’s not that damned mind control sound. One or two of the crowd that I can see come up for self-awareness before Klaxon zonks the bell again.

Conceive replacement plan: achievement unlocked.

Some of the killer duckings have sticks; I’m looking for something metal with a hole in it so I can fasten a rope to it. I don’t have a rope, but baby steps.

Ah: heavy-set guy with muttonchops and a T-shirt with a Confederate flag. His gut is too big for me to be sure that a punch to the solar plexus will do it so I deliver a foot to his crotch and catch the pipe as he drops it. Then the ducklings are nearly on me, so I start sprinting again.

My lungs are burning. If I survive, I’m adding running to my workout.

Rope, rope, rope… Nothing but an obvious answer comes to me. Sometimes you need to clip things on, so my costume has a belt with no other function. I can sacrifice the smart belt.

So I’m running, dodging, and threading my belt through this T-junction at the end of the pipe.

This is not easy.

The buckle keeps the pipe on the belt, so I swing the belt like a mace so I can get back to the platform.

Of course, even if I can silence the bell, I still have to deal with Klaxon.


I planned for the bell—did you think I wouldn’t plan for Klaxon?

No, the plan was not to have Shelley hit him with a tranquilizer dart. If I were just trying to get past him, that would be fine. No, I had to defeat him and do it publicly without a man’s help. Despite Shelley’s many virtues, he still identifies as male.

No, my plan had been inspired by Slobberkin: I had two dog anti-bark collars that gave a little shock every time they felt the vibration of the vocal cords. Each was taped to a big adhesive pad so I just had to get them onto his neck and then presumably I could fasten them. (I’d replaced the actual nylon collars with the pads and some zip-ties so I could close them and tighten them without a lot of extra fuss.)

Those collars were not in my bag but in the pockets I have under the epaulet-thingies on my shoulders.

You don’t think I’d design a costume without pockets, do you? The belt didn’t have pouches because that was too obvious, but I had to have a place for lockpicks, zip ties, emergency cash, and electric shock dog collars.

Do not underestimate me. I’m a working thief, not one of your runway femme fatales.

That was the message I was trying to get across to Klaxon, but he didn’t seem to be picking up what I was laying down.


Even killer duckings avoid being bashed in the head by a whirling pipe so momentum gets me onto the platform. The weaselly guy is gone but Klaxon is right there. This is a problem.

I need a second to look up inside the bell and figure out if I can attach my makeshift clapper. Then I need five or ten seconds to actually do it.

The clapper is usually held on by a bolt through a hole. I can thread the belt through the hole and run a zip tie through piercings in the belt. If Klaxon isn’t shooting at me.

I can’t fix the bell until I deal with Klaxon and I can’t deal with Klaxon until I fix the bell.

Well, crap. He inhales to zap me a good one—

So I grab him and run him head-first into the bell.

The sound is deafening, even with my filter ear-plugs. It’s gotta be worse for him.

Except he’s still moving. I only used one arm because I’m still holding my makeshift clapper.

He twists and grabs at me but only gets some Spandex where my belt would be. I try to clock him with the pipe but I just end up gently baffing him with the belt and the pipe hits me on the shoulder.

He opens his mouth and screams at me.

I drop the belt, I drop him. One more of those is going to take me out. Because I'm going to fall down I put my hand on the bell to steady myself and it rocks.

So I give it a hard shove.

He’s starting to get up again when seven hundred pounds of swinging bell comes up and whacks him in the head. He drops back to the platform.

I slap my first dog collar on his neck and tighten the zip tie. I don’t want to choke him but I make it snug. I'm in a hurry because there are people trying to get to us.

I scream invisibility so they won't look at us. I hope.

The bell reverberates with it so that even I don’t want to look.

The bell keeps ringing as I talk to him as urgently and memorably as I can.

“I don't want you to even think about who I really am or you will be in a world of shame and anguish. I know you worked for Faceless Corporation, Klaxon.”

Except I said their real name. And his.

Because I was just at the edge of the “accident” the company caused.

He was the one in the accident—at least the one who lived.

Who knew he had such loathsome attitudes?

(Besides every woman who worked in his department, I mean.)


Me beating his ass was on camera. Shelley turned him in but we haven't seen dime one of the reward money.

I felt sort of bad returning the bell—it could be useful, but it was too unwieldy.

Still, I got two jobs out of it.

I think I’m starting to get the hang of this supervillain thing.


Mynah (Kendra Wahl)
Prowess Average (3) Intellect Fair (4)
Coordination Great (6) Awareness Good (5)
Strength Fair (4) Willpower Great (6)
Stamina 10 Determination 2
  • Athletics (+1)
  • Power (Sonic Control) Expert (+2) Her sound imitations and Affliction are usually tested as if she were level 4.
Powers She has Poor (2) Sonic Control with a basic power of Images. She can also discomfit someone (an Affliction) or distract them so that she can give them suggestions, like Mind Control or hypnosis, but she thinks of it as Invisibility; maybe she’ll eventually learn otherwise.
  • Bad luck in picking partners and nemeses
  • Precision over power
  • Doesn't understand the whole dating thing
Klaxon (Jackson Beauregard)
Prowess Average (3) Intellect Average (3)
Coordination Fair (4) Awareness Fair (4)
Strength Average (3) Willpower Good (5)
Stamina 8    
  • Power (Energy Control) (+1)
Powers He has Great (6) Sonic Control with a default power of Blast. He can create a standing wave (Force Field) around his body. Like Kendra, he can distract people with Mind Control. Like Kendra, it has the limitation that he must create the sound (Levels) but the bell overcomes that limitation. The Bell also provides the Burst and Broadcast benefits to his powers.
  • Racist misogynist
  • Connected with Sons of Thunder
  • Connected with Faceless Corporation