Archive for category G

Review #27 IronClaw (G)

Iron_claw cover

Those who are familiar with the game will notice I am using the second edition omnibus cover. To be honest the current copy I have in my collection is digital and I cannot remember which version it is. I know there have been a few changes since first edition and that can make some interesting comparisons but I am going to try and stick to what I have on hand for my review. The other reason I used this image is because the original cover was a little too cheesecake for my tastes.

Ok so you can see from the image (if you dont know the game) that Iron Claw is an anthropomorphic game. That does not make it a Furry game. The Furry Fandom may enjoy the game and feel it meets with what they enjoy, but there is a big difference between Anthropomorphic and Furry. I want that out of the way because I know too many folks who confuse the two.

IronClaw is Sanguine Productions… original… game I think. I believe that they picked up other anthropomorphic games and then converted them to their unique game engine later. IronClaw has a very solid not quite mid-evil Europe/Renaissance setting with an edge of fantasy to it. They supplemented the game with JadeClaw using the same rules to add an Asian part of the world in which they could expand their combat system to include more martial arts and also expanded their magic system to add more types of magic.

Now all of that seems rather brief I know. However there is an element of this game that really drew my attention, and still does. They also put it into a sci-fi setting called Myriad Song that takes things outside of being in an Anthropomorphic setting. That element is their skills and stats system.

To introduce the idea they used, I think that every gamer I know of has at one time or another pulled up a handful of dice and gone, “I am gonna role a 1deverything.” Well in some ways that is what this system feels like. During character creation you start with a set number of dice of different types. These dice are then assigned to stats, your characters race, and also to their profession. This can stack up so you will be rolling several dice of different kinds against a difficulty score. More successes equals more impact on what you do. You also add skill ‘marks’. More marks in a single skill give you more dice. Let me give you an example.

You have a Rhino. (just roll with it) Racial skills for a Rhino are Endurance, Presence and Tactics. A career as a Knight Errant adds the skills Dodge, Melee Combat and Tactics. There are four stats in the game Mind, Body, Speed and Will. So if a player were to put a d6 in Race, and a d8 in Career, and a d4 in Mind, and then 3 skill marks in Tactics, when the time comes to roll for Tactics they would roll 2d8 + 1d6 + 1d4. If the task is easy then you have a difficulty of 3, so you need a four or better. As it gets harder the number goes up, the number of successes needed might go up too. Rolls against another player or an active NPC come up as who gets the highest and most… most of the time.

There are of course modifiers and gifts you can get that will alter the value of the die, add bonus’ of one kind or another or simply add dice. It can be a little challenging to track at first but they make a really nice character sheet that actually tracks all of this quite well so you dont have to think about it too much.

I will admit when I first played this game back in 2000 I had a hard time with the mechanic. It just kinda felt, off. I was so used to single dice unless I was doing damage, or multiple of the same die no mater what I was doing, that having all of these dice to try and do an action just felt wrong. But once I got used to it I found it actually enhanced my tendency to tell stories. I mean when you can see just how your race or career training has helped develop your skills and your natural traits all blend together, it gets very descriptive. And you can make in character comments like “I made it through mostly due to my training, but I think my natural tendency to ….. also helped a bit.” And that to me seems cool.

There are a lot of little things in the game engine to like or dislike as well. But that is true for any game system. What I really enjoy is that they were able to use their game engine to do both fantasy and sci-fi without modification. If you look at games like D&D and the 3.0 experiment with d20 Modern you can see how they had to modify things to compensate for guns and heavy weapons. But that is not an issue with the Cardinal game engine.

So that gives you some of my basic thoughts, what do the numbers say?

Overall Fluff 3/5 – I have to go a little lower on Fluff than I would like to. The art by and large is just ok. If you have any issue with Anthropomorphic stuff then, well sucks to be you, but this is not the best example of the art that I have seen. Also the background material is, well its a little stunted. It is designed to give you just enough to run with but still make you need to buy the supplements to really know what is going on in the world overall. I would not have an issue with it if the supplements were only need to have a good grip on specifics like houses and guilds but this goes beyond that.

Overall Crunch 4/5 – These rules are well written but poorly ordered. So you end up needed to go back and forth a lot before you can really get them down. Sure that is more an editing error than a problem with the rules themselves, but it leads to misunderstandings and with newer groups more than a few arguments.

Overall Mod 4/5 – Given that they have already published rules that show what can be done with sci-fi you know you can mod the engine. I do not think you could pull off supers with it, but if anyone can figure out how to without breaking the engine let me know and I will take this up to a five.

Overall Fun 4/5 – I really enjoy the story telling elements of this game engine. However finding a group to play this is harder than with most engines due to the nature of the game setting. Just from that I would usually bump it down to a three, however I really do like the game despite the difficulty finding folks who would play.

Total Score 15/20 – Not a bad score overall. No hideous either. I like the potential here and would really enjoy playing with it more. In this instance to me the engine gets more props than the setting but not a bad combination.

So as usual, think for yourself, check it out and see if you agree or disagree and have some bloody fun with your gaming 🙂

Now gimme the dice, I have to see if my cats are break in artists of any skill level or not.

 

 

Advertisements

1 Comment

Review #26 Monster Manual (S)

Yeah I wanted to go deep flashback with this one.

monstermanual

Originally published by TSR in 1977 the Monster Manual has become sort of an icon figure in gaming. There has been a version of it in every edition of D&D save for the Basic/Rules Cyclopedia version. Even the original white box edition had a booklet for Monsters and Treasures. It has also appeared in movies, and in TV series like Stranger Things.

Personally this was one of the coolest books ever to me. Even when young I was a fan of mythology and fairy tales and here in one big hardcover book were tons of the creatures that legendary heroes fought against. Here were all the dragons I would ever need. All the types of giants that had challenged Thor, and Titans who were not monsters but heroes of the monster world. It was amazing. It was also amazing because while my mom would not let me see Clash of the Titans in the theater because there was a scene with a topless woman, I already had a copy of the Monster Manual which had several topless creatures drawn in. It was better than trying to steal a Playboy magazine.

Now then that might not be ok to talk about in modern politically correct terms, but considering that there is the internet these days… well a few hand drawn images of topless women should be the least infuriating thing that could happen.

What I find very cool these days about the book is that the monsters published in this book became the core monsters for so many fantasy role-playing games. And for so many generations of players. The history that got started by this one book is really impressive. And considering how many editions of D&D have come and gone since its publication you might think that this list of creatures would have become out dated, or that something else would have taken its place. But that never happened. Instead it became the model for most everything that came after it.

As a game player and collector I am going to step up here and say something I rarely do. If you plan on playing first edition AD&D then you need this book. Of you can make all the monsters you want to using the rules for encounters in the Dungeon Masters Guide, or encounters with villains by making characters in the Players Handbook. But this book gives you monsters, horrors, and even peasants to run up against with very little effort. It gives you simple images (by today’s standards) to show your players, and just enough info to give you a basic understanding of the creature in question, but not so much info that you feel compelled to put them (save for a few) in any type of tight knit ecology or society. One of the things that a savvy reader will come across is that in the 4th printing, or 1979 edition of the Monster Manual (the version that was reprinted in PDF version and the most common one to find in used book stores as it had the biggest print run, also the version that was reprinted on new stock back in 2010 I think for the retro edition books that Wizards of the Coast released) the section on Elves is updated to include information on Drow, or Dark Elves. They actually made their first appearance in the module series Against the Giants (G1-3) in 1978 when the three adventures were being published separately. However the version most people know of those modules is from 1981 when the three were combined into one module for play. So if you don’t pay close attention to these things you might think that Dark Elves were something that they had always intended for the game.

If you want to play history buff then maybe you can tell me why the Monster Manual was published in 1977, but the Players Handbook was not published until 1978 and the Dungeon Masters Guide hit in 1979.  I have a theory but I don’t want to spoil your questions and thoughts by positing it first.

So how do I rack this classic supplement up in terms of the numbers?

Overall Fluff 4/5 – Some might think I am overdoing the fluff here since the art is weak by modern standards and there is no backstory or city or anything to drive them along. But remember that this is a supplement full of monsters. And while the art may seem weak today when it first came out, it was a dream come true. They could have added more of just about anything to it, but all in all for the time it was published and the content, I have to go 4/5.

Overall Crunch 5/5 – Monster with stats. That’s what you want in a book like this and they give it to ya. Even going so far as to offer you the option of making things a little different by not giving everything just straight hit points but having die values to mix it up from goblin to goblin. Again might seem a little weak by today’s standards but this was the original that set the later standards.

Overall Mod 3/5 – Ok so I go a little low here and that is more about the game engine than the book itself. Within the rules it is not easy to mod much of anything past hit points. However with tossing the rules out the window you can mod just about anything. Just ask me about goblins with belts of giant strength and see where that goes 🙂

Overall Fun 5/5 – Even though by today’s standards the book is light on material, I still think this is a heck of a lot of fun. Nostalgia and such aside there are monsters in here that have yet to appear in other games and they can still be converted over. Plus this was the first book that named names when it came to evil demons and that kinda fed into the whole screaming parents who were overly religious saying that their kids were being sucked into demon worship and under the influence of the devil. Ahhh those were the days.

Total Score 17/20 – So this might seem ridiculous to some but to that I say 😛 its my review and I can point it like I want to. Seriously this thing is a classic and if you cant see that then maybe you should delve a little deeper into your games and hobbies to see where they come from.

Ok so that’s the entry for this week. Hope everyone out there is having a great time and gaming their butts off.

Now gimme the dice, I need to see how many folks I can bother with a single game review.

2 Comments

Cyberpunk to Steampunk a mod story

So I need to start this posting with a little bit of a flashback. The very first review that I posted was for the original Cyberpunk RPG by R Talsorian. A game which I said could be modded to hell and you could come up with a lot of cool things. Well this is where I talk about one of those cool things. Modding it into Steampunk. And by the way Mike, if you see this please note that you should really consider putting this out officially to expand the line while all of us long time fans wait for Cyberpunk 2077 to come out.

I am going to make a big assumption here in writing this, actually three of them.

  1. You know what Cyberpunk is as a genre
  2. You know what Steampunk is as a genre
  3. You have a passing familiarity with the Interlock system created for the Cyberpunk roleplaying game.

So the reason I am tossing this together is that I have a few friends, and my awesome wife who love the Steampunk settings. Hells the wife and I have a Steampunk themed library in our house that we took about four months to build so yeah its a kinda big deal. I have looked into a lot of different RPG’s and several board games but I had not been able to find something that had a clear and easy steampunk setting that I felt was just completely top of the line. So I decided to kitbash one using a game engine that I felt really kicked ass on doing the cyberpunk theme.

What I came up with was basically a double mod. Using the Cyberpunk game as a base I realized that I could use every role in the game with just a few changes to description except one. For example the Rockerboy could become a Presence, the charismatic leader type that runs guilds and unions or even goes into politics. Solo’s become Dragoons while keeping everything that makes them feel like warriors. Nomads can be migrant working families or gypsies or both. Corporate’s stay as they are really, and  Techies, well they were always going to be techies, just now driven by steam, clockworks, and primordial electricity instead of hydraulics and nano-machine interfaces. The hard one is the Netrunner. That is also where the split happens that gives you so many options.

I thought to turn the Netrunner into an Arcanist. Now then depending on if you want to have a Steampunk setting with actual magic or not you would need to either make the Arcanist a fortune teller who knows legends and can be sort of a mystical con man, or if you want magic to be functional then you should pull in the stat Psi from Mekton Zeta Plus and change the psi powers to magic spells. In either case the role skill of Arcana can be used. In one version it is used to try and add mysticism to the world and in the other it allows the Arcanist not only knowledge but it is essential in the casting of spells or channeling the mana that powers magic. If you go with the real magic version you can also do up a Techie who is an Arcane Engineer who’s tech skills revolve around using mana as a power source.

A quick check of monies made it seem like all the gear and tools could be used if we just divided all the starting money by ten and do the same to the costs. Most of the blatant cybernetics could stay, but would have to fall into things that are steam powered and therefore bulkier and have the right look. For things like the neuro enhancements and skill chips we need to have the setting include magic to make it make sense without having everything go sideways.

Next step is to add to the idea of corporate powers. In addition to them you will also have guilds. Groups of men and women who control certain skills and knowledge. Corporations will have to deal with them to get the resources they need to get the advancements they want. This will give players even more factions to work with and fight.

With all these possibilities on the doorstep you can see where the options can roll to. One of the big limits that I tossed in when I made my version of this was to have the Magic stat be opposed by the Empathy stat. By that I mean that between the two of them you can only ever have a score of ten. So an all powerful Arcanist who has a Magic stat of 10, also has no empathy and therefore no humanity. And they then become the magic equivalent of a cyber psycho.

All in all this is a really easy conversion to make.

You will also please note that I did not go into all the details that I could have. I did not put down any lists of Unions or Guilds that I put together for my world. There is a reason for that. This article is about giving others the idea and letting them run with it. If folks want me to flesh it out I could do that, but I honestly think that with what I put here you have enough to drive your own version.

Now gimme the dice, I need to see if a mana powered steamcat can be used to sneak past some lack luster Dragoons to pick up a few things for me…

Have fun and keep playing folks. 🙂

2 Comments

Review #24 – Dream Park RPG (G)

Ok so while I work on the editing for the last part of the Delta City postings, fiction, I thought I would post a review of a game I have never had the chance to use in its ultimate form.

So while I have reviewed material from R. Talsorian Games before, this is a licensed product of theirs that falls outside of their primary game engine. The Dream Park RPG takes place in the fictional world that was created by Larry Niven and Steven Barnes for their novel Dream Park. The role playing game was published in 1992, which is the same year the third book of the series was published. All three of the books published at that time get little call outs in the RPG.

For those who have not read any of the books the concept is that at some point in the future LARP games will become so popular that there will be an international organization that runs them, and technology is sophisticated enough that places can be set up with holograms and mock weapons so that LARP players can be filmed and their adventures in role-playing get turned into films, and even home versions so that folks can LARP along with the stars.

What makes this environment so entertaining is that it is at the heart of the concept of meta-gaming. Short and sweet, meta-gaming is when you take knowledge outside of the game into the game. Also it ends up living by the slang term ‘meta’ which means self referencing. We get to that because in the game you are playing a player who is playing a character in a game. Confused yet? Simple way to look at it … You are playing Bob. Bob is an accountant who goes to Dream Park to play the character Dubois the Slick in an adventure.

Now then if you try to do things that are in the novels you will have people who are playing under assumed identities in the game to track down criminals who are inside the game, but their crimes have happened in the world outside of the game. Getting messed up yet?

Now then imagine that you can actually put Dream Park the RPG inside of another RPG game that you are playing. Because you can. You can actually make it work rather smoothly with Cyberpunk 2020. Yeahhhh… just let that sink in. You can play a character, who is under an assumed identity, to play a character in a game to catch someone doing something in the world out side. You have to use the main RPG engine to resolve real world issues while using the Dream Park RPG rules to resolve in game in game issues so that you are not seen as being anything other than your character. To be perfectly honest I love that level of inverted strangeness but I have a feeling that is why the game never really caught on big.

There were three modules that I know of that were published for the game, and each one has a different flavor. Supers, pulp spy and Arabian knights. Just to give you a feeling for the flexibility of the system.

The actual game mechanics are rather simple and only needs a pair of d6 to play. You can play it on its own and just run a Dream Park game, but as I said before if you want you can drop Dream Park into any other RPG environment as an aspect of that world. So that you can layer things up. I ran a few games of Dream Park at a game shop back in the  early 90’s but  I could never get anyone interested in doing anything more than one off adventures with only the Dream Park setting. To this day I still look forward to being able to insert this game into another to really drive some kind of meta meta-game story line.

It doesn’t help that I love the books too. I go back and reread them every few years, and only recently found out that even though the third book was published in 1992 there was a fourth that came out in 2011. Long time to wait to do a sequel, but now I need to reread the whole thing and add that book four to the list.

One person asked me if it was necessary to be a LARP player to really get into this game and my answer is a resounding no. Even if you have spent time mocking people who play LARP games (even though I have played many a LARP myself there are some folks that I rib about it) you can enjoy this setting, and the books.

So what do the numbers look like on this one?

Overall Fluff 4/5 – Even though the book is not that big there are a lot of elements that give it a good score here. The art is clean. There are sections of the game book that appear to be written by characters in the novels and the author of the game even gives himself a position on the staff in the park. If you can find a whole copy of the game book there are cardboard cutout cards that allow you to track characters by genre type and special abilities very easily. And the art is consistent on the cards to match the art in the game book.

Overall Crunch 3/5 – The rules are a little light, while that is done to try and reflect that this is supposed to be a simulation of a simulator it does lead to the need for a little tweaking. Played on its own it can make some things seem a little to challenging or easy. But that happens in every game system. With the rules being as light as they are here that makes it easier to tweak.

Overall Mod 5/5 – Ok so due to the meta meta factor for this game I have to put the mod at 5. You can change so much just by dropping this in to Cyberpunk and making it the Disneyland there. You can drop it into Rifts and making it a lost remnant of the old world of the greatest entertainment for the masses in the new. You can drop it into a D&D game and make it run on magic instead of tech. You can toss it into SLA Industries and make it lethal. There are so many ways to work with this and to tinker it, it just blows the mind.

Overall Fun 4/5 – Ok so with all the positives why am I only giving it a four of five for fun? That comes from personal experience with the game. It is a challenge to take a setting like this and play it on its own. You really need to add an outside framework for the world the park is in otherwise you will end up with a one off game. And for someone who enjoys running stories, that just does not work for me.

Total Score 16/20 – Ok so we got a fairly high score here. However this is not a game that I am going to say just run out and read it and see if you like it. Because of the nature of the game, and the setting, you really need to know if you want to run one off games, or if you want to insert it into another game world. If you are a fan of the books and a player of RPG’s then just for the novelty of it I would say hunt it down for a read.

Anyway, now you know my thoughts, as always though think for your own bloody self and decide if something is right for you or not.

So then gimme the dice, I need to find out how many d4 I can fit into a sphere without poking holes.

Keep gaming and have fun all!

 

2 Comments

Delta City Part 4

Welcome once again to Delta City. This post is going to take a look at specific regions in the city and some of the places of interest, businesses, and individuals that are there. As you could see from part 3 there are a lot of people in the city, and so this is not like a phone book, it is more like a game supplement so that there are some set personalities but a lot of room for other people to grow their own material. If you look at the map attached to Part3 you can see how it lines up with this one. Giving you a mix of roads and regions so you can see how you can get from one area to another.

districts_map

REGIONS

 STL – SHIPPING/TRANSIT/LIGHT INDUSTRIAL

            Covering the northern half of Industrial Island in Grays Harbor. This region is the shipping Mecca of the city. There are seven docks in the harbor capable of servicing the largest of the ocean-going freighters on the planet. With no major airports any closer than SeaTac or Portland, this is the major transit area of the city too. There is an industrial and transit rail center in this district that serves everything in the area. The light rail runs out to Olympia and connects there to the light rail of Tacoma and Seattle. This allows commute to Seattle in a reasonable time of about an hour and a half, making it possible for some people to live in Delta City and work in Seattle.

            Transit is not the only thing going on in this district. This is also the center for light industrial production and small research firms. This part of the city has its own reclamation and cleaning facilities that are contributed to by all the businesses in the area. The philosophy is that if they can keep themselves clean they do not have to worry about government intervention and lawsuits.

For a little better description of the docks themselves there are seven ramps at the docks that jet out into the waters of Grey’s Harbor. The spaces between them are great enough that they can actually fit four of the largest cargo vessels that tread the ocean today. In the older days of schooners and similar craft the docks could fit a few more and the largest space was reserved for a multitude of small ships. These days however the largest birthing space is reserved for the biggest of ships, things like aircraft carriers, and the largest of submarines. Both of those styles of ships can fit comfortably in that space.

             There is a larger dock pad that juts out in to the waters that ends in a large circle. This dock is more like a column that connects to the shore. The column itself is buried deep into the earth so that any kind of air or spacecraft that lands here will be well supported. The top of the column is studded with many kinds of hookups and connectors that run into the depths of the column. All these connectors are different ways of securing a refueling for the craft as it sits there. No one really knows all the different kinds of power available there, but so far, no craft has ever left without a recharge.

            This entire area is tightly linked to the rail yard and the storage facilities on the northern side of the island. It is nearly impossible once you are off the docks themselves to go ten yards and not cross a railroad line of some kind, be it the trolley service from the bridge near the park, or the main lines that cross off the island to the shore for cargo transit.

 So far, the area has a history of only 5 minor industrial spills but nothing that they have not been able to fix within a day or two with little or no damage to the environment. Although the public is aware of only two of these, the others were handled rather quietly.

            While these businesses may be the mainstay of the district, and dominate a good portion of the shoreline they are not the only things here. There are a lot of small bars, restaurants, and all but one of the strip clubs in the city are located here. The local papers refer to this area as not only the working man’s grail for earnings, but also the working man’s grail for entertainment. Most of the blue-collar people would take offence to this but they see it as the best way for the press not to be talking about just how many businessmen and women frequent this area in the evenings, and that makes for good cannon fodder in the comedy clubs.

            The only other region out on the island is Angel Park (P1), and the businesses and people who work here on the island are grateful for it. Even on the worst of days for the light pollution this area can and does generate, the two things that the people who work in the region can count on is that the park will be just to the south of them and that the two lighthouses on the north of the island will sound off every three hours on clear days, and every fifteen minutes when the fog rolls in. Both of the lighthouses are a little bit of a tourist attraction, and even something that a few of the people native to the city enjoy visiting from time to time due to the fact that they are manned. Unlike the lighthouse in the main business district (B1), or the one along the old beach housing (OH), or the one the college claims to run (Col 1), which are all automated. People, who have some of the most interesting stories to tell about the region and the ships that come in to the docks, run the two out here in this district.

            There are a couple of standout places in the district. They seem to have influence above and beyond the call of duty.

             Grace’s

            Grace’s is a small but homey bar on the corner of 15th and Cross, just across the street from Angel Park. The bar has pictures on the wall of a great many people standing with the owner, and a number of pictures of all the bars in the past in Delta City that have had the name Grace’s. The smell of the open wood stove that is used for cooking in the back, and heating in the winter if it gets cold enough, is the first thing that hits someone coming in the bar, the second would be the appearance of Grace.

            Grace is a statuesque woman standing somewhere over six and a half feet tall. Her features are very well defined and pleasing to everyone who sees her. Most people cannot agree if she is just good looking or if there is something more. Everyone however, claims that they can see a little bit of their own racial background in her features. Her age is not something anyone can guess, and those who try, get a flash of her smile and a cute little warning not to try it again. She can go from mothering to frightening in the space of seconds. Most of the time she is the most polite and caring person you could ever hope to meet, but you try and get rough in her place, and she will have you out the door in a heartbeat with the warning that if you ever come back you will be less than welcome.

            Because of Grace’s attitude toward violence and even threatening behavior in her place, her bar is known as neutral ground all over Delta City. Many times, in-city businesses leaders and people like gang members have asked for permission to hold meetings in her back rooms, knowing that they are safe there.

            One of the most frequently asked questions revolves around the statue in Angel Park. Even though the statue was dedicated to the city in 1904 the image there has a striking resemblance to Grace, enough so that many who frequent both the park and Grace’s ask if her grandmother posed for the statue. This question gets a polite smile and usually a reply along the lines of “Something like that you dear person, something like that.”       

            Tides Research

            Tides Research is a very small but very advanced company dedicated to water purity and safety. Privately owned and operated the company staff can be seen all over the beaches and coves in Delta City, and the staff seems to have very little trouble navigating even in the worst of weather. Their distinctive crimson and navy-blue uniforms are seen as a good sign by most of the people in town, as the company has a reputation for taking no guff from companies and making sure they stick to any needed clean up in their operations to insure local water safety.

            The Tides company even though small seems to have resources enough to keep some of the best trial lawyers in the country on call, and they have been known to sue a company even at the slightest hint that they will delay changing their ways, let alone try to argue about fixing something. What is strange is that no one knows where they get their financial base from, or why in all the lawsuits they have ever filed that all of the dollar value of the suit goes to people affected by unsafe procedures, and the lawyers. Tides itself makes no money off of these suits, but that can help explain why the lawyers are so eager to be on call.

            Tides Research Company is one of the major reasons behind the districts very ‘together’ policy about environmental pursuits. It’s no wonder that these people in their blue and crimson are never without a reaction any matter what district they go to.

            The COO of Tides, Alexander Coleman, was elected Mayor of Delta City in 2005 to replace the murdered Mayor Anna Cross. His big pitch was that if his company could do things for the waters around Delta City then he could bring the same drive to the Mayor’s office and try to do even more for the city than just clean up the waters.

IND 1 – INDUSTRIAL/HEAVY PRODUCTION

This region is home to several heavy manufacturing businesses, and quite a few small trucking companies. The uphill roads heading out of this area into the foothills split off just outside the city limits and make a wide arc to the I-105 highway both on the east and west sides of town. This allows shipping to continue late into the night without disturbing the more residential neighborhoods.

            It was not easy and it was not cheap to get those roads installed, and the city council is seriously considering making them truck only or toll roads to finish paying for them.

            To look at this region of the city, well most would say that this is the dark heart of the city. Actually though, that is in another part of the city. This small part of town is dedicated to industrial manufacturing. Even more so than out on the island this is a place where work gets done. Even with the International District (ID), one of the business districts (B2), and Sandstone Park (P2) being right on the boarders, this area has a hard time staying clean.  That is not just the physical clean, but criminally, and quite a few suspect spiritually as well. Most people who go in and out of the area get the feeling that the pollution and waste in the region knows it’s not welcome in the rest of the city and does what it can to stay put. Strangely, unless there is a very strong offshore wind flowing from the hills, it really does stay in the region. On the days that the pollution does get out of the region it usually heads to the north through Sandstone Park (P2) and China Town (C). The homeless in the park and the people of Chinatown are both used to it, and in Chinatown it is sometimes said that the pollution that wafts in on them is the breath of the dragon.

            Just like any other region of the city there is more here than just the headliners. There are several small bars and quite a few truck-stop style facilities. There is little in the way of entertainment in this area, unless of course you count the number of times the security teams from any number of the manufacturing plants have, ‘escorted’ members of Tides Research out of the area. While in this area Tides has yet to win or even really start a full-on case, this area has the feel of us versus them when it comes to the men and women in Tides colors.

            There are a few players in the area, and a lot of fakers. Here is a little information on a few of them.

             Stone, Briar, & Co.

            This company holds the largest quarry in the entire western Washington area. Located south of 39th Ave South, they supply all kinds of stonework, gravel and concrete for the city and surrounding area. They stumbled onto a vein of red rock and some quarry able marble back in the 60’s and have been slowly buying land up into the hills to expand their quarry ever since.

            Strangely this company is the only one in the area that not only accepts the existence of the Tides company, they regularly welcome their staff on premises to make sure that they are not getting wash runoff into either of the nearby rivers. This stance does nothing to endear them to the other businesses in the district, but with their control over local building materials there is not much anyone is willing to try and do about it.

            The current owners are very reclusive and leave most of the day-to-day workings of the company in the hands of the men and women on site. This policy of trust to the employees along with the company’s high pay and distinctive benefits package makes it someplace that a lot of people with the proper skills want to work. The only part of the company operations that the owners regularly take a direct hand in is the choosing of new spots for mining rock. They were the ones that found the red rock and the marble back in the 60’s, and it is rumored that there are spots that are being set aside for later work that have even more valuable assets to them.

             Weavers

            Weavers is a small company that specializes in cloth textiles. Built up on the southwest corner of 35th Ave South and South Anton St, this little company is a custom workshop. Doing all their own handwork they make the base materials and then do custom designs. Even though the facility is small they are capable of making everything from silk to Kevlar with a denim chaser for fun. Leatherwork is not a problem here and it is part of the regular schedule.

            The owner, Michael Weaver, is about as hands on as you can get in a business. Driven and hardworking, he expects the same from all of his employees. His personal motto seems to be if you can’t take the heat get out of my damn shop.  Even with all that push to get things done though his company is staying small for a reason. Their work is about as poor as you can get. The working conditions are bad, the pay is worse, and the schedule is something out of a management nightmare. The only people who seem to actually enjoy working here are the security people. The people Mr. Weaver hires for security have to be able to do two things, sign their names and throw anyone from the Tides at least ten feet to the curb. Actually, there are frequent tests on both of these skills.

            It seems that the only benefit you have to working here is that when you quit or get fired, you are guaranteed the same treatment as the members of the Tides staff that try to get in the door.

             Forge, INC.

            Forge is one of the biggest things in the area. In a series of structures that run from South Ashe St. to South David St., and then between South 31st Ave and South 35th Ave, this place is grandiose. To help keep the smells of heated metals and plastics from gathering into the other nearby districts, Forge has planted several different types of trees and shrubs along the edge of their massive property. Not only does this make the place look better, and truly does cut down on the scents and sounds that reach the other areas, it also gives them the only onsite training ground for a company paintball team.  One of the strange perks working for this company gets people.

            Forge is a publicly held company that offers stock and bonuses to all the employees. That and a health plan that is totally free and truly does cover everything, makes this a very desirable company to work for, as long as you’re on the outside of those trees looking in.

            On the inside Forge is about as nasty as you can get. A lack of concern for worker safety and overall push to get things done ahead of schedule and under cost, make this place a hazard to anyone that signs up to work here. Even with conditions that bad though they are inundated by people wanting jobs to get the medical bennies and some steady work. This leads to the company hiring under qualified or completely unskilled workers to do jobs that it should take at least some training to have any hope of surviving. The only reason the company can afford to offer the medical program it does is that many of the people who could use it never actually make it to the hospital to get treatment.

            People getting product from Forge are always impressed with the quality of the product they get and the fact that it comes in on time and under budget just makes them all the happier. The practices of the Forge management team are very carefully kept far from the public eye, and only a few of the management team are fully aware of what the policy is regarding the conditions. As long as they can keep what they are doing quiet and not affect the company bottom-line, it will keep right on going.

            Some of the local rumors about Forge include ones started back during World War II. Stories about underground bunkers, futuristic weapons, and all kinds of mad scientist metal works in hidden caverns abounded. All of these started up at about the same time the company put in the trees and shrubs, and went from three shifts a day to two. All of these things happening at the same time gave people a lot to talk about.

            Now this type of industry is not the only thing that happens in this area. There is also a company that specializes in custom cars and another that makes specialty chips for computers. Also, there are things that fall outside of the realm of making things like…

             Elegance

            This little pool hall and bar is very popular with the people who work in the area. While not a specialty club or anything like that it has some of the best cheap food and free pool tables in the city as far as most in the district are concerned.

 B1 – BUISNESS DISTRICT 1

            This business district is the big money high-rise linchpin of the economy in Delta City. This region is the only one with a steady supply of buildings over twenty stories tall. But even then, it does not have many. The largest buildings belong to banking and investment companies, with the lower floors leased out to whichever corporate interests can afford to be in the company of the larger interests. These buildings are where you will find the local offices of such companies as Boeing (even thought there are no manufacturing facilities here, which can lead one to wonder), Microsoft (some very talented code users have come out of this area and the big M has this office here mainly for recruiting), AT&T, IBM, and a few other large names all have a light presence here.

The agendas of these big names are not always clear, like why are they here in the first place, but when dealing with companies of that magnitude, asking questions about what they are up to is not always going to get you an answer you would understand anyway.

            The draw of this part of town for the larger companies is easy to see though. Right next to Kymen College (Col 1), some of the newer housing (H2), just north of the Historic Old Town (HO), and the City Center (CC), it has easy access to all the other parts of town with just a little effort. The view of Angel Park (P1), and Grey’s Harbor as your working down the hillside toward the water just make the view alone worth the cost of building.

            That view and the easy access leads to all types of high priced bars and restaurants aiming for the top floors of the tallest buildings, and terraces and skywalks between buildings that can give someone on the street the feeling of truly wandering in a glass jungle. This feeling is only enhanced by the architecture of the area. As you go higher up on the hillside the buildings get taller and taller. As if they are growing better further away from the saltwater of the harbor.

            While this region is one of the largest in the city, it also has the least notable businesses and structures. At least as far as most would be concerned. Any time you get this many large business names in the same area, with banks and investment firms in the same buildings, its like having a little piece of Wall Street right on hand.

            The major notables of the region are as follows.

             Echoes

            Billed as the best view in Delta City, there are many who would be hard pressed to disagree. This is the most expensive place to eat and drink in town. Only the truly wealthy can do so on a regular basis, and being known as a regular here means that you are on the top of the social scale. The waiting list to get in is over six months long and you have to put down a minimum of three hundred dollars on a valid credit card (non-refundable of course) to hold your table and make certain you will be able to pay for your first round of drinks and the mandatory appetizer. Each table has its own wait staff and there is a minimum of four bartenders on hand at the bar each night. Not only is it the top of the food chain socially, but if you are a part of the waiter/waitress or professional cooks circles, if you’re working here your seen as nearly as high on the chain as the people who eat and play there.

            The only exception to the rules about paying in advance and needing a reservation is the mayor and his staff. There is always a table held in reserve for city functions, and visiting dignitaries. No one know when this little service was set up, but no mayor since the nineteen-seventies has been disappointed that it has been there for them to use.

            The part of Echoes that makes the place really intriguing is that no one knows who the owner is. Or who may have owned it in the past. The restaurant was put in on the top floor of the Bank of America Building (then the SeaFirst Building) in nineteen-seventy-six, and no one has yet to make out the signature of the owner or meet them, although the Maître d’ and the manager claim to have meetings with the owner every week, this may just be talk.

            Hillside Couriers

            This started out a couple years back as an alliance by a few of the less hardheaded independent cycle couriers who worked in the area delivering files and notices for all the companies that operate in this section of town. As the business caught on there have been more and more people joining the ranks of the company, and now there are very few independents left on the streets. There are no corporate colors, just a baseball cap with a bike stitched on it, this is all the identification the company wants, and for most of their customers that is enough.

            The cyclists who started up this company are diehards and love what they do more than any other job could offer. There is a real sense of brotherhood about the people who work here, and it has been said more than once that some of the clues and information about drunk drivers and street criminals come in anonymously from the teams on the street. They have also expanded to working most of the city and not just the hillside they started on. As of right now the only place they will not take a delivery to is Chinatown (C). In the early days of the company they lost two people to those shifting streets, and they are not eager to lose anyone else.

B2 – BUISNESS DISTRICT 2

            Strangely enough the city itself has nothing to say to people about this area so I guess it’s all up to me to keep people informed.

            If the other business district (B1) is the big money lynchpin of Delta City, this is the haven for fast talk. This region of the city has more small law firms, small investment companies, specialty doctors, and the like. There are a lot of sensitive people who leave this part of the city, even just driving through to another part of town that feel like they need a shower to wash off the grease.

            Where the other business district has the money to toss at just about anything that might come their way to either back it off or buy it out, the specialty around here is promises that never get kept, and promises that only seem to be made.

            When someone is in need of getting the job done in a courtroom or in financial matters, it pays to come here first. As the lawyers in this area have some of the best win rates in the nation. Even going up against the big fish they seem to win more than they lose. The law firm that the Tides works through is here, as well as several of the small private eyes that Net 7 frequently calls on when they need to outsource. There are also strong connections here to the industrial park to the east (Ind1) and the commercial interests to the west (Com2).

            Many times, in attempts to show the rest of the city just how good and useful they are, some of the small law firms and other groups that make a good amount of money here sponsor festivals and art shows in Sandstone Park (P2) to the north.

            In all reality there are too many notables in this area to go over them all, so only the top of the list will be mentioned below.

             Maddics, Crandon, & Tigue

            MCT is a law firm that boasts as to never having lost a case. In the polite sense this is the complete truth. The way they have avoided losing is that any case they feel they cannot win in court they will walk away from (even if they have been paid in full and it is the last day of the trial, they will still walk out, it’s in the contract you sign with them). The offices are located on the northeast corner of Crandon and 27th Ave East.

            What most will never know is that even though the firm sports the names of three partners, and even goes so far as to have offices for them, there is only one lawyer here. His name is Addison Maddics. On first seeing this man most would think that he is security. Large, black, and always wearing a double-breasted suit, and the apparent age of thirty-five or so, gives him a very intimidating appearance. But to look in his eyes, that is where the real intimidation comes from. He has been compared to the great hunting cats, and birds of prey. His stare seems to unnerve all but the strongest of wills. The soft, soothing, and very educated tone of his voice only gets people thinking that he must also be part snake, because to hear him in court that voice is almost hypnotic.

            Most of the time Mr. Maddics fees are outrageous, but there have been occasions where he will take a case for free, or a favor. It is said that he did some massive legal maneuvering for the owner of Echoes (and no he will not reveal who that is, or if he ever actually met with that mysterious person), and so has earned himself a reserved table in that most exclusive of restaurants right next to the mayors. 

            Black Dragon Couriers

            When it has to be there right now, and no one needs to know where it went.

            Even though that is not the company motto, it very well could be. Unlike the cycle couriers that operate in the other parts of the city, this little company is more along the lines of a very quiet UPS. The three owners also are the three operators. Their three vehicles are all tuned to racing quality, and the driving skills of the owners should not be questioned. Need sensitive information in some very particular hands in LA in the morning? Need to get a little heirloom into Canada or Mexico without questions at the boarder? Critical computer parts need to get to NY in two days? These three have a reputation for being able to do all that, and more.

            Depending on the job and the cargo the price is rather cheap, up to the point that even some companies would have to balk. But that is what you pay if you want the best on the road. Their services are on call, and to get that number from someone who knows it is not all that hard. They have no corporate headquarters, and according to the business listings in the city phone system, there is no such company. The only reason they are listed here is because in one of the older buildings, just on the boarder of the industrial park (Ind1) is where they have their garage and vehicle storage.

            People claim to have seen this group driving everything from motorcycles to cargo vans, and it is said that an interview with them is more like dealing with three Men in Black, than three people out to move something for you.

Hero’s Ltd.

            Something wrong in your little corner of the world? Under siege by the forces of darkness? Your boss is an ogre, no really an ogre? Then Hero’s Ltd. Might be able to help.

            This is the strangest temp service that you could hope to find, although finding it in Delta City seems to make it a little less strange, but not much. The people in the employ of this company are all heroes of some caliber, and they are willing to help with problems that are beyond the means of most people to handle. Need to rescue a loved one from a prison in a foreign country, it can be done. Problems with one of the local vampire clans? Just another quest for the staff. Need to get information out of the hands of people that would use it for the ill of all? Easy.

            Don’t let the list above fool you though, the heroes here are not all playing on the side of the angels. They do staff some people who handle the darker side of the streets too. If there is going to be violence and a need to keep the police out of it, then there is someone on call here that should be able to help you out. The one thing that they will not do is take on Net7, again. Someone came to them with a story that Net7 had taken personal information from them that they did not want shared with anyone else, and that Net7 was unwilling to return it. So, they came to Hero’s Ltd. to try and get the information back. Unfortunately, not only were the staffers of Hero’s conned into taking the job by someone who wanted to mess up Net7, they also had several good people put into long term medical care over the incident. So, don’t ask.

            One of the things that they are used to is that a job must start now and so they have a lot of people on call, and several that are not local. The fees are reasonable, and the service is guaranteed. The fact that the company offers insurance and cheep ammo to all employees is not something that can be easily overlooked. The turnover rate for employees is not all that high, so the number of people on call slowly grows as more and more people, beings, and entities join up to help in the fight against whatever is troubling you.

            When it comes to the staff here most of the people are not known to the city. By that there are no records of who they are and where they come from, as the city has made it very clear that there is no room for vigilante justice in the pursuit of true justice. So officially all they do is rescue lost people, hunt down escaped pets that are out of control, and do odd jobs for people in need. But that is only on the official staff. All of the other temps are on call and not really a part of the company, and if you look them up in the company records you might find them listed as ‘on call consulting staff’ but nothing more. Anyone who is part of that on call group is provided a global link cell phone and is required to check in if they are going to be out of touch for more than a day or two. This lets the staffing consultant’s call for the people who are currently active and not worry about not being able to reach a specialist they think is available.

            Even though the city’s official stand is that there is not any room for vigilante justice in Delta City, it is not uncommon for some of the street cops to call out a little help if things are beyond their control, or just too damn strange for them to handle. Word of this has reached the chief of police, and while he is not going to say so publicly he is glad to have someone available to back up his boys and girls with only a phone call.

            If someone wants to get a job with this company, then you need to go to the main office (B2), not the call center (Com2), and introduce yourself and show just what you can do to the chief of staff. After a full interview and taking a detailed list of what the applicant can do she will tell them where to pick up the phone they will have to carry and how they will get paid.

 COM1 – COMMERCIAL DISTRICT 1

            Situated in the northeast area of the city, this commercial district has the distinction of being home to one of the largest malls in North America. The Delta City Pavilion takes up almost a third of the area in this region. The main building is three stories tall and has over two hundred shops and services. If you are interested in it you can find something in this area. If not in the mall itself, then surely in the stores, restaurants, hotels, movie theaters, and gas stations that flow to the north of the mall.

            The easy access to I-105, being right across the bridges from the City Center (CC), Chinatown (C), and Angel Park (P1), give this area a great view of a number of things that just add to the flavor. And just a few streets away lies one of the major housing regions. Overall it seems like this area was made to make money. And there is no shortage of people willing to go for the gold.

            The easy access to the area and the number of shops gives this whole area a feel not unlike the bazaars that you might see pictures of in the stories about the middle ages, or the Middle East. It seems like every month there is some little festival or event happening in the mall, or on one of the side streets. And almost every week there is a convention of some kind in one of the area hotels. This whole festive air leads to a very good feeling all over the district that is hard to ignore and harder to let go of when you leave.

            The only hardships in this region come from the occasional closing of a business, or when one of the major chain stores is advertising a sale and the people in the home office seem to lose the shipment. Even though this happens with a striking regularity it does nothing to dampen the spirits of the people in the area. A business closing its doors is just as much a reason to have a little neighborhood gathering or street festival, as one just opening up. This attitude leads a lot of the businessmen and women in the region to unite rather strongly, and there is no faster reacting neighborhood watch than on these streets. Even with all the glass doors and windows this is the least vandalized and crime hit part of the city.

            Other than the mall and some of the annual events surrounding it there are very few major notables in the area.

            Delta City Pavilion

            The biggest mall in the Pac Norwest. This place is big, and full of fun. The mall itself almost has an organic look to it that takes a few trips to get used to. This has come from the way it was built up over the years. All three of the above ground floors were designed and built by three different companies at three different times. And as each level was added to the mall new reinforcements were needed at lower levels to make sure the building was totally compliant in the structural and earthquake prevention areas. The property owners were always amused by the way people would react to the look of the structure as it changed. Today it is very easy to see from the interstate and one passerby was quoted in the paper as saying ‘Damn thing stands out like a turd in a punch bowl.’ For a week after the article ran in the paper the quote was used by the mall as a banner call. Some of the people working for the mall today still remember that event a few years ago and still get a big laugh out of it.

            The malls shopping structure is about what you would expect, the big national stores dominate the ground floor, the second floor is taken up mostly by smaller chain stores and service groups like flower sellers and tux and hardware rentals. The third floor is the home of a number of specialty shops. These days the specialty stores, most of which are owned by the locals, have a bigger draw than the national chains on the first floor.

            A massive fountain dominates the center of the mall. At one time the fountain was a centerpiece all by itself, but as the years have gone by the fountain has changed into something more. It was expanded and the ground level food court was added at a distance, and after the third floor went in the owners took a cue from the West Edmonton Mall designers and added a pair of water slides that go from a single storefront on the third floor and eventually deposit the riders in the remodeled fountain.

            With a place like this and its history of expanding of course there are all the stories of secret doors behind the walls, children who have been locked in at night and never seen again, boogie men hired as the night shift guards, ghosts of the builders haunting the finished construction, and the strangest one of all, that the mall was built on ancient grounds dedicated to a dark power that feeds off the people shopping and loving life just like a vampire drinks blood.

            Tanagers Fine Meats

            Run by a woman who only responds to what most would assume is her last name. Tanager is a true mistress of the art of carving and presenting meat. While it is generally known that the woman running the show now is not the original owner/operator of the store, it was not until she took over in 1991 that the effect she has on the business first came to light.

            Her little store offers just about any kind of meat that you can think of to serve, and several that you would probably not want to serve. Then there are the few types of meat that she offers that not only do most people have a hard time pronouncing, but an even harder time figuring out how to cook.

            What makes this place worth noting is that not only is it not in the mall, but the woman who runs it is a striking beauty. Not just in her physical appearance, but also in the way she moves, speaks, and even looks at people. The thing that makes it almost disturbing is that everyone who comments on her beauty also comments that she seems to be even better looking when she is using one of her blades on the meat she sells.

            This little shop sits on the northern end of Emperion Street N. Not the largest store by any means, but the selection is second to none and you will find customers from all over the city coming by for the product and to watch the owner in action.

COM2 – COMMERCIAL DISTRICT 2

            Most of the buildings here are of the same age as the structures in Historic Old Town, but have had the interiors remade to fit the nature of the store, service, or historical interest that they serve. Security systems are top of the line, and very well hidden so as not to make the customers uncomfortable. Restaurants and cafes dot the streets, and are just as posh as the stores around them. Overall this is a very pleasant part of town, things can be a little pricey though, so if you plan on going shopping, shop frugally.

            In an area only slightly larger that the City Center (CC), this little commercial district is the Rodeo Drive of Delta City. Nestled in on the south end of the city next to a business district (B2), Delta City College (Col2), and just south of the Historic Old Town (HO), this little area has access to money, tourists, and students who want the latest of fashion. The best warning to give about the area though is not to let the streets lined with trees and older looking buildings lure you into thinking that anything here is inexpensive. The rule of thumb in this region is that if you have to ask about the price, you cannot afford it. If you do ask, you will probably be asked very politely to leave. This is the only part of town other than Echoes where you need to check your credit rating before ordering a cup of coffee.

            Even though the map does not show them, there are a large number of small one-way streets in this area. All well lined with trees and small shrubs, and well lit in the evening by recessed lamps that are mounted on every building. Most of this area has the feel of walking through a very well maintained park. With that relaxed feel it is hard to see all the security watching every move.

 Pets Plus

            While there are chain stores all over the united states that are catering to the pet market, this store, which is nearly impossible to locate as it has no listing in the city, does something that none of the chain stores would be willing to do, sell just about anything as a pet.

            They employ some of the kindest people you will ever meet and some of the nastiest behind the scenes. The staff in the store is more than willing to take orders for any kind of pet that you might be looking for, even things that might seem impossible or fantastical. The only line they draw is that they are not willing to put people up for sale. The owner claims that they are too hard to keep a line on, and to tend properly in this kind of environment. But if you are looking for a dog or a cat, no problem, birds, name your breed and the age, exotic animals, give them a week or two, mythic creatures or gators from the sewers, well that can take some time to hunt one down that is young enough to still be pliable.

            Most of the creatures that they sell are young enough not to mind being pets, but sometimes someone asks for something more than they can handle, and that is when things get out of hand. They do recommend that if you are asking for something with a long lifespan or a strange diet that you check your resources before you commit to buying the pet so you don’t have to worry about either having something that will outlive you or eat you out of house and home, or just eat you and the home.

H1 – HOUSING REGION 1

            Strangely this is another part of the city that the main city guides don’t talk about. I find that very odd due to the fact that the city would still love to have people move in, and this is an area, overall, to be proud of.

            Some of the less polite in town call this area a tribute to the fifties and sixties. With the structured layout of all the little housing communities, and the almost mirrored image of the houses, it is very easy to see where that type of identity came from. If it were not for repainting and remodeling it would still look like that in total. Fortunately the area is also on the edge of the Artists Colony (AC) and this has lead to some very interesting additions to the area.

            Overall this area follows patterns in all of the little sub sets of housing. Each little sub district has its own name and style of housing. The closer one gets to the Artists Colony district though the more unusual and free form the housing gets. Right at the edge of the Artists Colony one person has even gone so far as to tear down the old house that was on the lot and rebuild their home in the shape of a wizards tower. This is the source of a lot of jokes and strange looks from people who are very serious in the area about keeping to the old styles, and not wanting to change. It is also a source of pride for the Artists Colony, due to the fact that they feel that it is their influence on the neighborhood that has caused the structure to be built in the first place.

            Random’s Place

            This has to be one of the strangest restaurants in the city. The owner spends a lot of time trying to live up to his name with the way this place is run. There is no standing menu. He apparently decides on a few things every day that he will be cooking and lets the staff know so they can tell the people dropping in. What is strangest about it is that Random is one hell of a cook. He seems to make just about everything well and rarely gets a bad word from the guests. The only time he seems to have any planning what so ever is when he is dealing with the Kosher boards. While a great many of his cooking ideas are not Kosher, he does make them from time to time and when he does he actually has the accreditation that they will be Kosher. Following all the rules he actually has two separate kitchens in the place. And when he goes Kosher he uses number two and number two only.

H2 – HOUSING REGION 2

            One of the most popular areas in the city for raising a family, this housing region is a good collection of various housing developments, apartments and condos able to fit nearly every lifestyle. The small stores and occasional shopping centers give this part of the city a freedom that can be almost overwhelming.

            This region of the city is considered housing only in the loosest of senses. Its close nature to both of the colleges (Col1, Col2) and both Historic Old Town (HO) and the major Business District (B1) make it a region that is littered with apartment complexes, condos and a smattering of newer homes. The elevation of the region means that the taller apartment and condo structures have great views of the ocean and that all the smaller buildings have a hard time seeing much of anything due to all the trees and mini-parks that people have put up to beautify the area.

            Woven in the midst of all these various types of houses are a small number of mini-marts, gas stations and a few schools.

OH – OLD BEACH HOUSE DISTRICT

            There can be no doubt that in the entire city this is where some of the most spectacular housing is. Most of the homes here are custom built to take the best advantage of the views of the ocean. The cut through the middle of the district by Old Coast Road West divides the true beach houses from the homes that just have a good view. Even though some of the houses in the Historic Old Town (HO) region are older, these are the homes that are truly spectacular.

            If you are interested in touring the area to see some of these spectacular buildings it is recommended that you do so during the day, as local police and private security firms can get a little touchy about people being in areas without owners consent at night.

The views and the money of the owners have combined to make the houses here second to none, and the owners association strives to keep it that way. Most of the lobbying for housing reform in the city council comes from this area of town.

            Even thought this area has the best homes and the best views for each family this area is also littered with a few problems. This is the only housing region in the city without its own schools, or fire, or police groups. The housing association thought that they might impede the view or detract from the value of the local land. So if there is a problem in the region they have the longest time wait to get a response from emergency services. To compensate many of the uber-rich have paid for private security, if you think cops after an I.V. feed of forty lattes is a little twitchy go ahead and swing by at night, you might actually come back with your ass intact.

            The other major problem is a lack of innovation. Much like the cities tribute to the 50’s and 60’s (H1), the buildings here are mostly older. But if you want to make a change, you will have to go through all the hoops that the housing association can throw at you to slow you down. Tearing down a building and putting up something new is almost impossible, the people who live here like their community just the way it is and they have enough money to toss around to make sure it stays that way.

            Notables in this are quite common, this much money makes you very notable, but there are two that need a lot of attention.

            Davis and Smythe

            This is not a business, or an office; these two names are part of the longest running feud in the city.

            Doctor Alan Davis, and Professor Alistair Smythe. Both men in their late fifties that have no children, so they know this is the last chance for one or the other to finally win the feud that has been going on for several generations.

            Dr. Davis teaches at Delta City College (Col2) and Professor Smythe teaches at Kymen. Both of them have very distinct specialties and this is the core of the feud. As these specialties have been handed down from generation to generation all the way back to the ‘old country’ (neither will mention which country that is, but their accents are both something European, if a little strange even then). Dr. Davis teaches Historical Metaphysics. The applied historical look into magick and all it has done in mans world. Professor Smythe teaches Science. By Science I do not mean simply a single field, but science as a whole, how all the different schools come together as one big field of study, and how they all work together.

            This is the nature of the feud, magick versus science. These two men cause a lot of trouble no only for their students but for their neighbors, as they both are looking for the way to finally prove once and for all to the other that they have the truth. That the others opinion is nothing more than mist. Both men have had to rebuild their homes more than a couple times, and both have had long talks with more than one group of people that would be very glad to help them, or destroy what ever they are working on at the time. Fortunately most of their antics seem to be confined to their homes and their offices on their respective campuses.

C – CHINA TOWN

            A beautiful tribute to classic Chinese culture and sensibilities, Delta City’s Chinatown is a wonder to behold. Incredible buildings and art are everywhere. The seasonal festivals and New Years parties are second to none. Any serious exploration of the shops and back streets though will really require a guide, as most all of the signs and even the street signs are posted in various Chinese dialects that may seem a little obscure to someone not from the specific region that the dialects are from. Guides can be found at reasonable prices at the main entrances to the area.

            Can you imagine and M.C. Escher painting? Good, now what would it look like if you were on acid? Got it? Ok, now imagine that all the little images of people and animals were looking at you funny and most of them speak only Chinese. If you’re still with me then try to walk from one side of the painting to the other. Wondering what this is all about? I am just trying to describe what it is like for an outsider to move through this region in the city.

            Delta Cities Chinatown is just as old as the Historic Old Town on the other side of the inlet, and has even more history and intrigue. A part of this intrigue stems from the fact that Chinatown has its own in city Mayor. It is literally a city inside Delta City. The Chinatown council has cut their own deals with Puget Sound energy, with the suppliers of water, and with the garbage companies. This is allowed in the city charter because at the time of the founding of Delta City, Chinatown was working very hard at becoming a city all its own. When the State of Washington refused to acknowledge Chinatown as a city all its own, the founding fathers got together with the Delta City founders and struck a deal that would allow Chinatown to run itself no mater how big Delta City got. The deal still stands to this day, and all in all it works rather well. Chinatown makes sure it has police, power and water, and Delta City does not have to take responsibility if something goes wrong. This deal sits rather well with the mayor’s office.

            It is said by the wise in Delta City, that if you are willing to risk your self on the streets of Chinatown that any secret you can imagine is available to you for a price. The most challenging thing about Chinatown is getting around the streets. This is actually only true for people that do not live in Chinatown. The streets of Chinatown seem to have a similar quality to that of the sewer and water systems under they city. If you do not live in the region they seem to move. Just because you were on one street when you entered the little shop that caught your eye, does not mean that it will be the same street outside when you leave. It is not hard to see given this that the cycle couriers lost a couple people down here. In fact some of the stories about Chinatown include tales about people who have been lost here since the region was founded and are still trying to find their way home.

            On the lighter side there are things about Chinatown that give everyone a reason to cheer. Every Chinese New Year there is a four-day festival that seems to take in all of Chinatown and every part of the city that wants to join in the fun. Then there is the annual Dragon-boat festival. This event is said to be second only to the traditional events held on the coast of China, although some in Chinatown would argue that there festival is more traditional, more colorful, happier, better in all ways really. But that could just be local pride.

             Tea Mansion

            This is just an example of one of the large number of shops in Chinatown that you might never hear of if you do not live in the district. Tea Mansion is a small shop that looks about the size of a one bedroom apartment in the cheap areas. Floor to ceiling it is stacked with specialty teas, raw herbs, tea leaves and tea making equipment. The two people that run the store seem to know just about everything you could think to ask about tea, from mythical to medicinal.

 ID – INTERNATIONAL DISTRICT

            Many cities in the United States claim to have an international district, but in truth most of these turn out to be several small clusters of businesses and a few homes that have a population from one culture or another, in a block by block format. While this does usually give the people who come to these districts a feeling that they are in a little piece of that culture, Delta City has something truly different in their international district.

            This part of the city is not made up of little block-by-block sections ( a Little Italy here, Little Tokyo there, Little Mexico over in that block), the International District in Delta City is a real blending. Cultures from all over the world (and some would suspect other worlds as well) blending together into a myriad of influences and sights and sounds. Even though you can find and taste most everything the world has to offer here, there is usually one culture that seems to dominate the decorations and style of the district.

Some would think that having all these cultures in one area, with no separation and no lines of distinction might lead to conflict, and in the past it did. But back in the 1950’s a man from Chinatown (C) got together with some of the community leaders and they came up with a plan. Many of the Asian cultures had put up dojos in the area to help promote the skills and culture of their homelands, and the idea was to use them for something more. The community leaders accepted the idea, and they took it to the people. The idea was that every six months a contest would be held by the residents of the International District, a martial arts contest. The winner of the contest, no matter what fighting school they had attended, would have their historical heritage dominate the district, in art and public displays. The only real condition on this would be that if anyone were caught fighting outside the competition or outside of dojo sparing, then that whole culture would be out of the contest for the next six months. It took the better part of five years for the idea to get around to everyone and for the people to see the advantage of something like this in their part of town. By 1958 though the contest was at the point where it should be receiving national exposure for the system the people were using to get past the problems that heritage can bring to a city.  Today the contest is a semi annual event that draws large groups from all over the city to see the changing of the guard. The idea has not only been something that brings stability to the district, but also brought tourists from within the city to help the businesses on the blocks that the district runs through.

Even though there are a lot more notables in this area than there might seem only a couple need to have attention drawn to them.

             Shoji’s Dojo

At the very southern end of the district lies Shoji’s Dojo. Rather large and very well outfitted, this dojo is one of the few in the region that has no ties to any one culture or style of art. Shoji himself is a man who looks like a classic image of the ancient Chinese master. His short stature and obvious age should not fool you though. Shoji is a man who wants to learn everything the world of martial arts has to offer, and as far as his students can tell, he seems to have it all down already.

Shoji holds classes and teaches two days a week, the rest of the time his best students are the ones running the classes. Most of the time the classes run the gamut of all the known martial arts, so the three main practice rooms are usually being used. The classes that Shoji teaches are the ones most sought after though. He only teaches the rarest of the arts he has learned, and only to the students he thinks are worth teaching them to. If someone is attending his dojo and is made the offer to attend the classes Shoji teaches it is a good sign that the old master sees something great in that person.

There are rumors that it was Shoji that convinced the district to adopt the semi annual contest for cultural dominance, but any time he has been asked he just smiles and laughs, telling whoever asked that he may be old, but does her really look that old? The only other times that Shoji really smiles is if someone walks into his dojo with something he has never seen before. Be it a new fighting style or just a martial weapon he has never encountered. At times like this there is a spark in him that shows that age is not something that will ever slow him down.

In the last several years, due to the lack of specific culture to Shoji’s Dojo, his school has been the sight of the contest more and more often. Shutting the classes down for a week so that the contests to determine which culture has high status in the community seems to appeal to him, even if he does not smile.

            All Things Anime

            A small store to look at it from the outside, but once you are inside you would have to wonder if the name is understating just how much stuff this place has.

            The owners are a young couple from, ‘out of town’, as it were, who fell in love with the animated movies and stories that people in Japan tell. Everything from the OVA’s, to the TV series, and all the movies in between. This shop has only been open for about three years, but in Delta City it is the otaku’s choice for finding all the things for your favorite anime. They stock not only the videos and DVD’s, but soundtracks, stuffed animals, costumes, toys, models, art books, game books, computer games, and the manga that so many of them are based on. With a selection like that you can see why it is so hard to beat. When you first walk into the store you would be hard pressed to know where to find what you are looking for with the piles and piles of items all over the place, but after a short tour by one of the owners, it becomes rather easy to see what kind of a stocking system they have in place and just run with it, of course not everyone agrees with them that the hentai and bushujo are both rather romantic.

            Back to the owners though, they are a young couple it is true, but many of the people who come to the shop joke later about ‘a young couple of what?’ To look at the two of them not only is it hard to tell them apart, but also it is hard to tell if they are male or female. And the habit they have of dressing up in many of the costumes that they sell to the public only adds to the confusion. The only times that something seems to fit is when they dress up as elves or some other fantasy creatures, then their gender seems more apparent, but that could just be quality costumes. The one thing that people visiting the store can say for sure is that there is no doubting the love these two have for the product they sell, they seem to watch and listen to everything they are selling and are more than willing to talk to the customers for hours about the finer points of all the stories they have on hand.

            It would just make life easier on all their customers if they would use names that everyone could pronounce, because how do you say Krouijthanphonichx and Rhognluefurzax? Fortunately for those of us who have yet to master English, they are more than willing to let you call them Kro and Rho, but getting them to tell you which is which is a game in and of itself.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE INTERNATIONAL DISTRICTS MARTIAL CHALLENGE

            (Photocopied from a promotional registration flyer.)

            There is a record kept in the history of the International District in Delta City. This record is about the martial arts challenge that happens every six months to determine the dominant culture in the area. The history of the challenge is rather simple. Previous to World War Two there was an area of Delta City that had originally been set aside for the use of the Native Americans in the city limits. At the time that the city had grown large enough the city leaders asked for permission and gained it from the Native Americans to let other cultures into the area, and open it to all of them as equals. With the agreement struck a great number of minority groups started setting up apartments, houses and businesses in the area. There was no plan, no organization, just a rush for space. So it came about that all the cultures that drove themselves into the area looking for a place to express themselves found that they had not gained an individual space but something shared. This caused tensions to build over and over again, fights would break out between people of various backgrounds and things overall just got rather ugly.

            On September 22, 1951 there was a town meeting to discuss the future and the problems of the International District. A man from Chinatown, who introduced himself as Long, had an idea. The main problem in the International District was culture clash. There were no distinct regions that would allow each culture to express itself as a whole. Forcing people to move from their homes and businesses would not be a good thing, but if there was a way to let the District have one major culture at a time, it would let the cultures feel like they had a stake in the area, instead of just being pressed together.

            The idea was well received, but the matter of implementing it was something that no one could agree upon, what order the cultures would be dominant, how long it would last, no one means could be struck upon. So Long made his second suggestion. There were a lot of people who wanted to fight for their culture. They were willing to say that they were better than anyone else, and fight to make sure the proof was there. Why not put the problem and the solution together. Let there be a martial arts contest. School and rank would be irrelevant, the only thing of import would be the culture that the fighters came from. A weeklong tournament. Let the people who want to fight for their culture fight for it, but in a way that would actually benefit the whole of the culture not just vent their anger.

            The second idea was also well received and a plan was beginning to form. But the question came up what about the rest of the fighting, how would they keep it in check. Long then gave the condition that made it all look like a challenge. Any one caught fighting outside of training, or the contest, would loose the chance for their entire culture to have the chance of being on top. So if one person of Japanese descent was caught fighting outside the parameters, then all of Japanese culture was out of the running for the next six months.

            Overall the city council looked at this idea like a good thing but how in the world to implement it and get everyone to play along was a little beyond them. That was when the representatives from the International District stood up and told the city council that they would take the idea to the people and inform them that the contest was in just a few months, just let the contest happen, let them see how it worked and they were sure that people would jump at the chance to show what they could do. The city council agreed to the idea and put it in the books.

            Since then the contest has happened the second week of January and the second week of July every year. It took a few years to get everyone in the district to see the light, but it is accepted that the first time that the Native American culture was highlighted throughout the entire district put a shock into the district as a whole, and most people took a second look at the idea. By 1958 most of the young gangs and the like in the area had hopped onto the bandwagon giving the contest a good dose of street credibility, and the district as a whole a second, and much more streetwise, police force. The gangs wanted to abide by the rules as much as they could, because they found out that the city did not just want to respect classic cultures, but the modern ones as well. The first time a gang culture took the title was in 1961, and the fact that the city was willing to accept that the gang and not the color of the skin or where the family came from was the culture just spurred the contest on to greater heights.

            In 1993 the challenge moved permanently to the three-story building that is Shoji’s Dojo on the south end of the district. Overall the contest has never been better received. Every six months the press and the interested crowed around the dojo trying to get seats inside to see the contests, and rain or shine the final round is held in the parking lot out back from the dojo so that all the world can see who is coming out on top.

            The rules for the challenge are rather basic, but they are all there for a reason.

  • No fighting outside the dojo’s or the challenge. Doing so will result in the loss of your culture from the chance to be the reigning expression of the region for the next six months.
  • Weapons are allowed in the challenge only if both fighters agree to the use of them. If one fighter refuses to face an armed opponent then the one wishing to fight armed must either disarm or forfeit.
  • Fights end one of the following ways. One fighter is knocked out. One fighter is disabled, examples would include breaking a leg or arm. One fighter surrenders. If the fighters agree to special conditions previous to he match, such as first blood, first strike, or even a stare down, this can become the condition for victory.
  • The fights are full contact, with appropriate pads. If weapons are agreed upon then they must be non-lethal practice versions.
  • Any fight that results in the death of a fighter will be taken from the record and the survivor will be disqualified. If this happens in the final round then the fighter that died will be awarded the title and honors posthumously.

Next comes a list of the fights in the history of the challenge. This record shows the winners style of fighting that they used, also if known, and the culture that was placed as the dominant one of the district for the next six months. Sometimes there has been a little confusion as to styles and translations of their names, so the best possible efforts have been made to make sure that all names have been translated into English properly. Please forgive and mistranslations and if you are sure of one, please contact the printers, listed on the back of this pamphlet, and changes will be made in the next edition.

1951 – The Proposal.

1952 – The first contest.

            January – Native American Wrestling – Quinault Indian

            July – Boxing – Polish

1953 –

            January – Boxing – French

            July  – Te – Japanese

1954 –

            January – Kendo – Hispanic

            July – Aikido – Hispanic

1955 –

            January – Leopard Kung Fu – Korean

            July – Shattered Forest – Elvin

1956 –

            January – Capoeira – Brazilian

            July – Street Fighting – Nigerian

1957 –

            January – Pancracean – Greek

            July – Native American Wrestling – Cherokee

1958 – The contest gets into full swing as the majority of the ID gets behind the idea.

            January – Karate – French Canadian

            July – White Crane Kung Fu – Chinese

1959 –

            January – Savate – French

            July – Boxing – American

1960 –

            January – Karate – Okinawan

            July – Native American Wrestling – Columbian

1961 –

            January – Street Fighting – Gang

            July – Sambo – Siberian

1962 –

            January – Savage Suns – Elven

            July – Drunken Fist – Dwarven

1963 –

            January – Sumo – Hawaiian

            July – Sumo – Japanese

1964 –

            January – Sumo – Swedish

            July – Choy-Li-Fut – Korean

1965 –

            January – Dragon Kung Fu – Gang

            July – Gatka – German

1966 –

            January – Jujutsu – Chilian

            July – Karate – Saudi

1967 –

            January – Boxing – Pakistani

            July – Street Fighting – Swiss

1968 – Shoji’s Dojo opens to the public.

            January – Native American Wrestling – Mohawk

            July – Savate – Sudaneese

1969 –

            January – Buddha’s Palm – Indian

            July – Taoist Demon Hunter – Mongolian

1970 –

            January – Gatka – India

            July – Muay Thai – Thai

1971 –

            January – Than Vo Dao – Vietnam

            July – Yu-Sool – Korea

1972 –

            January – Kalaripayit – India

            July – Savate – Spanish

1973 –

            January – Kung Fu – Spanish

            July – Kung Fu – Lebanise

1974 –

            January – Kung Fu – Israel

            July – Boxing – American

1975 –

            January – Sambo – Russian

            July – Jeet Kun Do – Chinese

1976 –

            January – Heart of Night – Elven

            July – Aikido – Vietnamese

1977 –

            January – Aikijutsu – Japanese

            July – Krav Maga – Israeli

1978 –

            January – Drunken Eagle Kung Fu – British

            July – Burning Tiger Kung Fu – Unknown suggested painting everything purple and calling it good

1979 –

            January – Kuntao – Indonesian

            July – Pakua – Taiwan

1980 –

            January – Pakua – India

            July – Ninjutsu – Egyptian

1981 –

            January – Aikido – Iranian

            July – Storm Bear – Dwarven

1982 –

            January – Sumo – Filipino

            July – Sambo – Australian

1983 –

            January – American Pro Wrestling – American

            July – Native American Wrestling – Ananasi

1984 –

            January – Native American Wrestling – Cherokee

            July – Ninjutsu – Chinese

1985 –

            January – Yo-yo Combat – Italian

            July – Street Fighting – Italian

1986 –

            January – Karate – Gang

            July – Boxing – British

1987 –

            January – Capoeira – Brazilian

            July – Capoeira – Columbian

1988 –

            January – Pancracean – Canadian

            July – Qwan Ki Do – Japanese

1989 –

            January – The Heart of 1000 Nights – given to 2nd place (India) for a good fight

            July – Boxing – Japanese

1990 –

            January – Tae Kwon Do – Korean

            July – Shootfighting – Polish

1991 –

            January – Tai Chi – Czech

            July – Dragon Kung Fu – Laotian

1992 –

            January – Jeet Kun Do – Afgan

            July – Muay Thai – Thai

1993 – Shoji’s Dojo becomes the sight of the contest.

            January – Shotokan Karate – Japanese

            July – Goju-Ryu Karate – Japanese

1994 –

            January – Capoeira  – Chilian

            July – Bear Style Kung Fu – American

1995 –

            January – Desert Winds – none chosen given to 2nd place China

            July – Desert Winds – none chosen given to 2nd place Lithuania

1996 –

            January – Jeet Kun Do – China

            July – Leopard Kung Fu – Vietnamese

1997 –

            January – Mantis Kung Fu – French

            July – Dragon Kung Fu – French

1998 –

            January – Drunken Dragon Kung Fu – German

            July – Boxing – American

1999 –

            January – Muay Thai – Laotian

            July – Resplendent Demons – India

2000 –

            January – Ninjutsu – Japanese

            July – Aikido – Gang

2001 –

            January – Native American Wrestling – Gang

            July – Krav Maga – Israel

2002 –

            January – Street Fighting – Cherokee

            July – Jeet Kun Do – Thai

2003 –

            January – Dragons of Winter – Elven

            July – Yo-yo Combat – Dwarven

2004 –

            January –

            July –

2005 –

            January –

            July –

2006 –

            January –

            July –

2007 –

            January –

            July –

2008 –

            January –

            July –

2009 –

            January –

            Now that the history and the rules have been presented to you, the only question you have to ask is, ‘Do I have what it takes to put my culture on top?’ If you are thinking yes then come by any of the open kiosks in the International District, or any of the associated training halls, and register for the challenge.

AC – ARTISTS COLONY

            Ok, now this one the city not bragging about I can totally understand. Sadly if they were to brag about it I think the city might become an even more interesting and lively place.

            This part of the city is not a business district, not a housing region, not something that generates industrial solutions, nor is it a center of collegiate learning. It is a strange mix of all those things and more. Calling it an Artists Colony is just about the only way to describe it without insulting someone, and with all the different opinions and ideas here it is easier to insult someone without knowing than anyone might ever know.

            The Artists Colony area of Delta City was originally founded in the sixties by people who had no desire to leave Delta City but still wanted to have a place to be free and live with the growing counter culture. As time went on people managed to confound city hall with the plans for buildings and businesses that they wanted to add to the area, and they came in so fast and furious that the Delta City government was not able to do much more than make sure there would be roads into and out of the area, and that water and power would be distributed to everything that got built in the area. Not as easy a task as it might seem, so the cities unofficial policy became one of, ‘If it is going up in the Artists Colony at least it will not bother anyone else.’

            As Delta City’s home for counter culture, the experience of being in the Artists Colony is unique to say the least. There are shops that cater to just about every taste, experimental dining, homes that look like a part of the trees, a house with a large Tesla Coil in the front yard, bars, clubs, and even an experimental private school (Eldryin Academy). The fire department in the area has vehicles that get repainted on the whim of the area (last year they spent a great deal of time in a flame camouflage color combination). There is even a very well hidden brothel. The place does not look anything like it is, and in fact it has a few other little shops inside, so you may have shopped there already and not even known.

            As a whole, this part of town comes together more for each other than any other district, even Chinatown does not have the solidarity that the people who live in this part of town do.

The Last Element

            This is a little shop that is almost hidden under the other buildings in the area. It is not really a shop for the curious, but a shop for the people in Delta City who are truly into magick, the occult, and all things spiritual. The hours that it is open seem to be almost as random as the owner. But if the doors are open and you have an idea of what you are looking for, there is no better place in all of Delta City to go to find things on the topics of the unusual or supernatural.

            The owner of the shop is named Mikee, and part of what makes this person more unusual than most is that Mikee is never the same being twice. Regulars in the shop are aware of this and just go with it, people new to the shop will be taken aback until they realize that this is just the way Mikee is, or get too freaked out to cope and start going to another shop. No one but Mikee knows what Mikee is and Mikee is not talking about it. At most someone will get a sly wink, or a laugh, unless you ask too often then you will find that no matter when you come to the shop the doors are locked. The one thing that the regulars do know is that in the stores down time Mikee can be often found at Graces, and that the two of them seem to go way back.

            As of December 2005 Mikee has not been seen. Someone has been running the shops for him but they make sure to tell folks that they are simply following instructions left for them by Mikee. No word on where he is, or what he is up to.

            The Flip Side

            The Flip Side is a rather unique little place in a very unique part of town. One side of the building can be entered twenty-four hours a day. That is a little bookstore and coffee house that occasionally puts up and open mike night for poetry and small performance pieces. Given the nature and hours of this side of the building there are any number of patrons in and out at any given hour. The selection of reading material is quite good and the magazine racks are second to none in the city. The only real rule about this side of the business is that if anything is damaged you must buy it. This rule goes for everything from the fifty-cent newspaper to the several thousand dollar rare books in the glass cases behind the coffee bar.

            The other side of the building is something else entirely. It is a performance club of a darker sort, and you have to be known to the owner to get in. The darker side of the club is open to just about anything that can be done in front of others, from fighting to sex. The security is very tight, and the rules about this side of the business include that you do not talk to others about the club. If someone comes to the door asking to be let in, they had better not have heard about it from a member. More than likely if someone is going to gain membership to the darker side of the club a current member will ask the owner to look into a friend, see if they can join, and the owner will look into the person and see if they have what it takes to be another quiet, well paying member of this very exclusive little club.

            The owner is a man named Candalmas, and he gives the feeling of being a very friendly older brother to anyone around him, unless he is making an advance on a woman, and then he seems to be the most charming person anyone has ever met. Just do not ask him why he never shaves his legs if you see him on one of the rare days that it is hot enough for him to ware shorts.

COL1 – KYMEN COLLEGE

            (Taken in part from a brochure sent out to high schools across the nation.)

            Alternative education styles. That simple little phrase seems to do more to describe Kymen College than any other that you might ever hear.

            The general ideas that founded this college were that not everyone wanted to know the same thing about the same topics, that not everyone learned at the same rate through the same styles of teaching, and that in the end, not everyone wanted the same final degree on the topics that they learned. What will shock many is that the founder of the school, Richard Kymen, knew all of this back in 1903. Taking the lands his family had and all the land he could get his hands on nearby, he opened the school while most of the buildings were still in the planning stages, and many of the professors were still getting letters of invitation to teach at the school.

            Over the years the college has developed the resources and the staff to help students take any idea, and any dream and turn it into a field of study. It is possible on this campus to put together a degree program in any concept that a student can come up with. To help facilitate this there are no real departments to the college, and no separate mini-schools of specialization. This will lead many who get to the campus for the first time to look at all the people going from place to place and wonder just what kind of chaos has been unleashed here. In point of fact thought it is not chaos, just a very, very large pattern of order that is very hard to see until you become a part of it. There is a thirty person board of scheduling that puts together a list of possible connections between classes so that a person can find out if the Film Making 265 class they are looking at really will connect to the Masters of Underwater Cinematography program they have developed for themselves (even jobs with the National Geographic Society can get rather specialized).

            All in all this is something that a lot of people get behind and support. The ability to learn what you want in the pace you want is something that appeals to many students. The teacher’s ability to cover a variety of topics is key to this program working and the professorial staff is very well treated, and paid even better. The classes have such a profound mix of students that it would seem even more like chaos if you were from off campus. Seeing as there are rarely single topic majors in any given class, the teachers have to work with people from all over the spectrum of possible students in the classes they are teaching.

            Of note on the campus is one of the strangest running pranks that any campus has ever had the misfortune of seeing.

            The Old Light House

            On the northern most point of the campus, right out on the edge of the water, sits the lighthouse.

            Most of the time the college runs the lighthouse as part of the oceanic safety courses. Making sure that every student involved knows just how important, even in this day and age, a light in the dark can be.

            The rest of the time the lighthouse is falling victim to the students of the school, and sometimes it is a race to see if the next fix or the next prank will reach the lighthouse first.

            Pranks of the past have included turning the lighthouse into a Bat signal, a barbershop pole, a disco ball, and the largest speaker in the state. It is rare that anything new actually is done to the lighthouse in any of these pranks, but from time to time the students come up with something worth talking about for a year or two.

COL2 – DELTA CITY COLLEGE

            For those with a taste for a more traditional education then this is the college for you.

            Smaller than most colleges that it would like to compete with, like the University of Washington, and the other schools like it. Delta City College is a specialty school, but more that the schools that are known for being science, art, or sports minded, Delta City College is known for only one of their departments, History.

            When it comes to the basics of education DCC is not a slouch. Their math, science and liberal arts departments are good. Not at the level of national acclaim, but good enough that their graduates can get good jobs and have a list of skills gained from the school that will serve them well for the rest of their lives. But the History department in DCC is what stands out in the minds of all that remember Delta City.

            One of the breaks from tradition on the campus is the absence of the Greek System. There are no fraternities or sororities. This should seem doubly odd considering the schools strong grip on history, but that is part of the reason the school has nothing to do with that system. The safety and the education of the students on the campus are the main concern of the staff in this school and it was determined quite some time ago that the Greek System, while historical in nature, was a threat to the student body. The staff and councilors do their best to make sure that the cliques that would have formed in the Greek dorms still get their space and place in the college life, but keeping them from the hazing and the housed parties, the status symbol of Greek association, and the unofficial rank that many schools seem to give to those in the Greek houses. This has been a working system for the last fifty years, and the board of directors for the school, see no reason to change now.

HO – HISTORIC OLD DELTA CITY

            When people look for a reason to come and visit Delta City this district is usually high on the list of reasons. The Historic part of the description to this part of town is not to be taken lightly. There are more, well preserved buildings dating from before the 1920’s than in any other part of town.

            It is in part from this look that this part of the city seems to be the hub of more activity than any other part of town. Even though it is not a small district, it can have a very small feel. There are a large number of small shops, sidewalk café’s and even a daily farmers market along the waterfront. Combine that with some of the older brownstone style homes in the area, and the occasional sidewalk park, a pub-crawl that is compared very favorably to the best London has to offer, and you have a very busy, very beautiful part of town. This section of town also has the city’s largest hospital (Saunders Memorial on the corner of 13th and Alder), and some of the fastest response times from all emergency services. All in all even though it takes up a good amount of space this district maintains a small neighborhood feel for most.

            The only real force around this part of the city is the Historic Preservation Society. They act like a very mellow version of the Old Beach homeowners association. Instead of putting social pressure on people who might like to change the buildings though, they have the law to back them up. This entire area is protected by the city. If something happens to one of the buildings in this region then the owner is required to rebuild in the same style as the previous building. It does not have to be exactly the same building, even though the city planners office does have full blueprints of most of the buildings here, it is required that the style be the same.

            Some of the notables in this part of town include the following.

             Marcus a.k.a. John Doe 17

            Homeless, jobless, and wandering the streets.

            Marcus can be found at various times in just about every part of the city. Ragged and worn this man will tell his tale to anyone who will listen about how Delta City is really a fiction that he created so as not to be alone with his godlike imagination.

            Most of the time he is seen it is in this part of town though, carrying a sign that reads, “The world ended yesterday”. Walking the streets and sleeping where he can, he is known to be welcome at the Flip Side, and Graces, and that even Mikee at the Last Element will put a cot down for him if he wanders by needing a place to crash.

            No one knows but Marcus why all these different people come together for him, and he is not telling.

            The Last Element

            This is a little shop that is almost hidden under the other buildings in the area. It is not really a shop for the curious, but a shop for the people in Delta City who are truly into magick, the occult, and all things spiritual. The hours that it is open seem to be almost as random as the owner. But if the doors are open and you have an idea of what you are looking for, there is no better place in all of Delta City to go to find things on the topics of the unusual or supernatural.

            The owner of the shop is named Mikee, and part of what makes this person more unusual than most is that Mikee is never the same being twice. Regulars in the shop are aware of this and just go with it, people new to the shop will be taken aback until they realize that this is just the way Mikee is, or get too freaked out to cope and start going to another shop. No one but Mikee knows what Mikee is and Mikee is not talking about it. At most someone will get a sly wink, or a laugh, unless you ask too often then you will find that no matter when you come to the shop the doors are locked. The one thing that the regulars do know is that in the stores down time Mikee can be often found at Graces, and that the two of them seem to go way back.

            As of December 2005 this shop has been closed. Mikee has not been seen and the person that is running the shop in the Artists Colony district of town apparently has no instructions or keys to open this shop. Fortunately Mikee’s lease on the property goes on until 2010 so no one will close him out as long as all the bills keep getting paid, and the shop in the AC does good enough business to cover all that and more.

CC – CITY CENTER

            In this little district lies the main buildings for the city, City Hall, Police and Fire Central Offices, Delta City Library (main office, there are six other branches scattered about the city), The Tanner Cross Cultural Arts Museum, the offices for the city water authority, the parks department head quarters, the Puget Sound Energy offices, the city port authority, the central offices for the transportation commission, and the main offices for some of the best power and information brokers in the country if not the world. Sitting on top of the pile of information brokers, sets Net 7.

Proof that in small things there can be great power and influence.

            This is the smallest district in the entire city, but also the most powerful and influential. In this region power is the main commodity. The people who use it well, they are the ones to be watched.

            While the city offices hold most of the visible power in the city, controlling law and making decisions that will affect the day to day life of just about everyone who lives above ground, it is the power wielded by the information brokers that can shift the value of just about everything in a heartbeat. Most of the information and power brokers in this city are in competition with Net7, and that is a good thing. There are rumors about where the real power in the city lies in this district.

            With all this power in one place one might think that there was a greater chance of the usual strangeness that settles all over the city in this little area. Strangely though just the opposite is true. When it comes to the odd events that seem to characterize this city, they are absent here. Everything seems strangely mundane when in this part of town. And depending on the point of view you have that can either be a very good thing, or an even bigger reason to worry about what goes on in this part of town.

            Notables in this part of town are quite powerful and only in one case does a company merit being talked about here.

            Mayor Anna Cross

            Mom, that’s what this woman comes across like in public. Concerned about everyone and everything. If she could make it legal in the campaign she would send fresh cookies to everyone just to seal the deal. This middle aged woman of mixed ancestry does everything she can to make sure that everyone in the city knows she has their best interests at heart. Her public face is so caring and so concerned that some of her competitors in the last two elections publicly questioned if she had what it takes to stand up to anything in the city or if she would be the caring mother to everyone, even the criminals.

            People have seen no need to worry though, Mayor Cross has been elected to office three times and will soon be running for her fourth. What people do not see is that even though she comes across as a mother figure to the whole city she is one very tough, very shrewd woman who seems to not only have a mothers talent for knowing what is going on even when she is not looking at her children, but also has the mothers talent for getting even the most unruly child to do exactly what she wants.

            When she was murdered in 2004 it nearly broke the city with grief. The fact that she was murdered in her home and that the case is still unsolved is something that sits poorly with the citizens, and the fact that they elected a little cult of personality to replace her does not help.

            Chief of Police Andrew Sands

            A man of just over forty, with more than half his life in police service. The only thing he hates more than the jokes that compare his Arabic heritage and his last name is crime.

            Chief Sands is a man driven to fight crime. His history of being tough on everyone from littering to multiple murderers is known throughout the city. His stand is that if it is against the law then the offenders need to be punished to the maximum extent of the law. His views are not quite eye for an eye, but it comes as close as is publicly acceptable. He does not talk about his past, but the part of his past that is public record speaks volumes. A perfect arrest record as a police officer for over fifteen years, and over the last six years as Chief of Police he tries to spend just as much time in the field with his men and women as he does behind the desk. Not as a know it all, but as a man who wants to learn everything new that his people come up with to help the fight against crime. This attitude has endeared him to more of his people on the force than it pushes away.

            The only depressing part about his last six years in office is that there has been a slow increase in crime in Delta City since he has taken office, almost as if the city itself is against him. This gives him no end of frustration.

            Simon Tinsdale

            This quiet man in his late thirties is the city’s head librarian. Quoting from almost any book in his care and seeming to know just where every copy of a book in the system is supposed to be, his staff have tried to get him to come out of his shell for a couple of years now, but to no avail.

            Most of the time it will be the people working with him that anyone talks to, but on the rare occasions that he does talk to non-staff, his voice is clear and musical, and his knowledge of just about any topic someone would care to discuss is seemingly without flaw. No one in or out of the system of libraries is really sure why he does not have a job banking, or on Wall Street, or as an information broker, but they are glad to have someone like him in charge of the books.

            Net7

            If knowledge is power then this company, if it knows all that it seems to, must be nearly godlike.

            Founded just over ten years ago, Net7 came onto the corporate scene in a flash. Offering to help any company that could meet their rather high price find out anything they needed about competitors, and have no fingers to point back to them in the end. It took the better part of six months before anyone really heard about them again in the news, but apparently the demand was high enough for their services that they were opening up their new offices, and headquarters in the City Center.

            If you want to risk your sanity, and your safety you can still go to Chinatown to look into secrets, but is you have a big enough bankroll you can just call Net7.

            The owners of the company do nothing to hide who they are, where they go and what they do. But they still seem to have enough staff and enough resources to get into just about anything. Their offer to all the hackers in the community to break into their computer system is just another expression of how good they are at what they do.

            Publicly the company is privately held by the seven key officers in the company, even though four of them are regularly seen at major events and functions, the lower ranking staff tells that they are mainly data sifters, and it is the company officers, and a few very good private eyes that do all the legwork for the companies investigations.

            Privately it is whispered that they have deals with just about every power player in Delta City, that they have high paid moles in just about every business and corporation in the country if not the world, and that most of the key officers are masters of telepathy and other such arts so that they really never have to leave their offices to get everything they need.

P1 – ANGEL PARK

            The southern half of the island that sets in Grays Harbor. This part of the island is named for the large statue of a female angel that rests at its center. It is also the greatest labor of love for the parks department.

            Connected to the mainland by a bridge on the east side and a tunnel on the west side, there is a surprisingly light amount of traffic that is heard once someone is inside the park. There are a series of groves and open fields, all connected by surprisingly twisting paths. The parks department tells people that every tree, shrub and flower are well tended, and the park looks it. No mater what time of year someone visits the park the plants look awe inspiring. The trees are massive, the shrubs are full and lush, and the grassy fields are either well trimmed or seem to just grow up to a uniform height. A small number of the paths in the park are lit for night visitors, and there is a small camping area near the southern tip of the park, just out of sight of the public boat launch.

            Truly this park is one of those things to have on the must see list of any trip to Delta City.

            Those who know of Graces (STL) will tell you that someone in Grace’s family must have posed for that statue, because the statue was dedicated in 1904, and everyone will tell you that there has always been a Graces in Delta City. The statue does bare a striking resemblance to the owner of the bar.

            One of the things that very few people will find in the park are the little altars. In Angel Park there are a number of very well hidden paths that lead to small shrines and alters. Most are dedicated to one or more of the environmental religious philosophies. Like Wicca, Shamanism, or any of the Druidic paths. There are also shines for those who follow Shinto and Buddhism in the park. Strangely enough if you follow one of those philosophies it is very easy to find those places in the park, and the Parks Department is not only alright with the use of the park, a great many of the people in the Parks Department visit one or more of the shrines regularly.

P2 – SANDSTONE PARK

            Just as people like to brag about Angel Park, most keep rather quiet about this one, and after a trip or two into it, you can see why.

            This park sets on a jutting point just north of the southern business district (B2) and the industrial region (I1). Just to the south from Chinatown (C) across the inlet, and also just across the water from the International District (ID). This gives it a very central location to the southern part of the city, and unfortunately makes it the home of a great cultural schism.

            The Parks Department does everything it can to try and accommodate all the people who want to have some kind of expressive festival, or donate some kind of art to ‘beautify’ the park. But with all the different influences that come together in the area trying to exert a little control over the area the park has a tendency to feel more like an area that has a multiple personality disorder than something that is truly beautiful for everyone.

            The trails and service paths through the area seem to be littered with all sorts of small art projects, forgotten statues, dedications to corporations, lively expressions of cultural heritage, and any number of little abstractions that someone has found beautiful at one time or another. The thing that makes some people wonder is the fact that they are not always the same piece, so the park always seems to be in motion in some way. The truth behind this is that there have been so many pieces given to the park, added, or just dropped off in the dead of night, that the Parks Department has a large warehouse in the Industrial Region that is dedicated to storing the “art” that wanders through the park. There is also a staff that is dedicated to just moving the stuff in and out of the park as often as they can, so that no one who has added something will feel left out for very long. Changes like that continue on even if the park is covered in snow or there are storms that are stopping everything else in the city.

There is more to talk about and better quotes I am sure for the city itself, but there are a few other things that I need to mention just to make sure that my guide is really complete about Delta City and the things around it.

OUTSIDE THE CITY

             With all that going on inside the city you would have to wonder just what is left to go outside of the city proper. Just remember that all these places are still inside the city limits, and therefore still part of the city itself, this means that they are affected by the world walls and all the other services the city has to offer.

            McGregor Sanitarium

            Just south of the city proper, very near Delta City College (Col1). McGregor Sanitarium is the some of some of the best minds in the industry of psychology. The older gothic style buildings that make up the main structure remind one of the classic castles and some of the movies about vampires and monsters that have come out in the last several years. The grounds are well maintained, and it is not hard to forget the twelve-foot high electric razor wire fence that surrounds it all. Needless to say the people who run the sanitarium do not really want all those great minds getting out into the streets again.

            This of course raises the question, in a city that anything can, and frequently does, happen in, who defines sanity? This would be the sanitariums board of directors. And the less said about them the better, because they are all trying to lay blame on each other for a recent rash of disappearing patients. Not something that has made the press yet, but will given time, and a few appearances by the missing.

             Delta City Daily

            The local paper is just to the east of the International District (ID). This paper seems to suffer from a split personality. Or maybe it is just the editor in chief that does. Day to day the opinions expressed in the paper and the take on major news stories seems to shift from one side of radical to the other. No one can be sure why the paper swings the way it does, but the readership is very high. Most people seem to enjoy the way the paper shifts from one side to the other with a regular frequency, never staying on one side of a topic, but giving both sides equal time.

            Local Radio and TV

            There are a couple local stations in both radio and TV. Not the best offerings but the market is wide open for anyone to join in and add something new to the bandwidth. City laws restrict just what kind of transmission structures can be built in the city so most of the transmission towers and broadcast points come from just outside the city. Sometimes though the transmissions that can be picked up in Delta City are no only not local, but not from this world, so some of the things that can be seen from time to time as you channel surf could get very interesting.

            The earth based local channels include the two local network affiliates KLTE Channel 12 and KMBL Channel 6, the local PBS affiliate KNDL Channel 8. After that everything is considered rouge and broadcasting illegally. If there was more of a presence in the city by the FCC then these rouge stations would likely be taken down, but as most of them operate in the range that would require special equipment to pick up, the city has yet to take too big of an issue with it.

            Delta City Zoo and Wildlife Refuge

            Three miles south of Delta City proper but still in Delta City Limits is the Delta City Zoo and Wildlife Refuge. This facility actually covers over fourteen square miles of area. The smallest portion of it is given over to the public display of captive animals. Most of which are the standard kinds of life that you would see in any zoo in the United States. There are a few though that you cannot find anywhere else on earth and it is these few that keep even the most jaded locals coming back to visit year after year. The majority of the facility though is a complex that is walled in with thirty foot high stone and concrete walls that are covered with spikes and razor wire. While that may seem a little extreme once you get inside that portion of the facility there is little but open space, trees, and wild animals let to run as they will. That means that if someone gets in, they are on their own against all the predators and such that are inside. It is sort of a self contained ecosystem. While there are tram tours of the area once a month ( that are quite expensive by the way) most of the time even the park keepers do not enter the refuge save to let loose something that they feel would be able to take care of itself out there.

OUTSIDE CITY LIMITS

             What is left to see once you get outside the city limits?

            Not a lot but it is still rather important. All of these things are outside the city limits and therefore not hit from time to time by the thin world walls, but there are times when that might not be a bad thing.

            Delta City Penitentiary

            Built outside the city limits, this medium security prison is the last stop for most lawbreakers in the city.

            Not designed to hold the truly evil of this or any other world, the prison has a record of only one escape in the last fifty years. A great record given that they get to hold every criminal that warrants prison time from the city. Even if the prisoner in question is headed for maximum security, they usually stay a few days here while they are getting transferred to the next stop in prison life.

            This is not a bad place overall, but the warden has a very hard view of lawbreakers, and his views make the police commissioner look like a moderate. Luckily most of the guards do not share his bleak view otherwise most of the prisoners would be in solitary, fed once a week at most, and only allowed visitors after death. There is currently an investigation into the warden to see if he really should be in the position he is in. 

            Delta City Recycling

            About fifteen miles south of the city there is a small plant that works very hard to recycle all of the items that get sent its way from Delta City. There is no shortage of recycled paper and aluminum, but due to the nature of Delta City this place also has the ability to do the shredding and shipping of most metals, fiberglass and a few types of wood products.

            The only hitch in the system is that Delta City’s recycling program is a little bit behind. This means that there is no real support for the service and people who want to recycle are on their own for the most part to get things out to the site. The refund prices are good though and on average a few trash bags of crushed cans will get you enough to pay for the gas that it took to get you out there and a cup of blended coffee from one of the espresso stands on your way back into town. 

            Delta City Trash Stations 1 & 2

            Both of the companies that run trash for Delta City named their stations outside of town the same thing, so it makes it a little interesting to get out into the back woods and find the one you are looking for. Both companies see this as the first screening for new employees. If you can find the right one, cheers, now all you have to do is interview.

            As far as city records are concerned, station 1 is the burning facility, and station 2 buries trash in a very, very deep landfill. Neither one is very friendly to the environment, which is why both are over forty miles south of the city and then back into the side roads so that not only can no one see them, but also no one can smell them either.

And that walks you through a bit of the city.

I hope that folks are enjoying this place as much as I am enjoying sharing it.

Now gimme the dice. I gotta see how far a cat will chase the sparkly ones…

Leave a comment

Review #23- Central Casting (Heroes books) (A)

So while I am reediting more of the Delta City materials (you guys who had seen this stuff before could have said something about how crappy my editing and grammar was ya know, it would not have killed me) I wanted to keep posting weekly. So this review has come up.

I have a feeling I may have mentioned these three books before but to do an actual review on them is something else.

I am willing to bet that most gamers out there know people who really piss them off. When it comes to gaming. Those slick folks who can just nanoseconds after rolling the dice right in front of you have a fully detailed background for their character. Tying it into all the previous games you have ever played and putting in so much color and flavor you have to wonder just how all that crap came to life in under an eye-blink of time. I mean given time I can think up a fairly good backstory. I will likely tinker the crud out of it and revise it a few times before I give it to a GM but so it goes. And I know there are other players out there who feel like their character sheets should be enough work and that a background is not needed at all, “I am just here to roll up stuff and make fleshy things scream and bleed on the tips of pointy things.”

Well it is because of that frustration and the sad shaking of heads that they have to have a background that Task Force Games started up their Central Casting series of books. Published between 1988 and 1991 the three Heroes books (Heroes of Legend, Heroes Now, and Heroes of the Future) are all designed so that you can roll up (yeah completely at random) a time period correct character background. The level of detail in these books is so in depth that it makes every other background generator look like the creators half assed it.

Some of the things that this series of books does is to give you some bonus and penalty scores that would need to be converted into the game engine you are playing in. The write ups are mostly for a percent based system. So if you happen to be playing something like Rolemaster you should be fine right off the bat. In a mixed format like Palladium you are going to need to do more converting. And in something like Hero System or the original DC Heroes, it becomes a real challenge to convert the points in anything that represents a linear crossover. The thing is with a quick talk with a GM most of the time background details can get added, points can get swapped, things can get bent so that you can fit things in and make it work.

Now then you will notice that I mentioned that you can roll this all up randomly. And you can. But you can also use the books in a decision tree format to get the background that you want. Because two or three steps in you may find something clicks and suddenly you know where you need to go with this character, or piece by piece you may feel your way through until you come up with something part rolled, part chosen, and part just fate, yeahhhh it had to be fate.

What seems really strange to me about these books is that they seem to have fallen almost completely into the collectors market. You cannot find mention of them in Wikipedia, even in the Task Force Games page who originally published the books for Flying Buffalo who’s page does not mention them either. You cannot find PDF copies of them in any legal sales format. And when you can find them in Amazon or Ebay you are looking at paying anything from 90 – 800 dollars for a copy depending on condition and seller. What I have been able to find out about them tells me that they had a very short print run, like many things that TFG created. Also their publication happened at the same time that TFG was going out of business and selling their properties to other parties. So there may be some long standing issues with rights. It may be that they all went back to the original author Paul Jaquays (now known as Jannell) but even in her Wiki page the books only get a very brief mention. With the number of items being republished in PDF form in recent years and the fact that the prices for the originals are soaring I find it hard to believe that whomever has the rights has not brought them back to the digital world to try and make some money off it.

Next thing to bring up is why am I doing three books in a single review. Well that part of this is easy. All three books follow the same pattern. Birth on through the moment right before you start adventuring. Regardless of setting. They all use the same mechanics and styles. And THAT is a true miracle. When they were being published there were so many specialized game worlds with so many unique game engines that making materials to support them also became very diversified. But the author stuck to her form and format to try and make universal support. I think that was an awesome choice and it really did unify the books into a single whole support setup.

So lastly lets get into the numbers shall we…

Overall Fluff 5/5 – These books are pure fluff. It is all for story and all for fun and to add some depth to your own work and your own worlds. They work great for PC or NPC characters.

Overall Crunch 2/5 – These things are really rules light and can be used in a lot of ways. They are not directly tied to any specific RPG but are easier to use with some games than others.

Overall Mod 3/5 – There is need to mod versus fun to mod. Basically unless you are playing one of a few specific games you will need to mod your results if you want to bring anything more than a story into your game. The fun to mod side is using these books as a decision tree instead of as a random roll set of tables.

Overall Fun 5/5 – I have a lot of fun with things like this, and have in the past used these books to create back stories that are just so impossible to understand they can be used to create legends or insane NPCs. Sure I could do that on my own, but going this way I have an excuse so I dont get blamed directly 🙂

Total Score 15/20 – Overall a good score here. I have to say that I really wish these were more available and that some of the mechanics might be revisited so that a table of standard conversions could be created allowing the bonus’ to be read into most major game engines. But I enjoy using them and even still have my original copies. 😛

Well thats it for this week. Hopefully next week my re-editing will be done and I can continue to drop more Delta City goodness.

Hope everyone is having fun out there gaming.

Now Gimme the dice, I have to roll up random laundry and I am hoping to get something other than socks….

2 Comments

Game Review -21: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Other Strangeness (G)

Just because I thought it would be a funny combination of having something listed as being 21 and teenage at the same time.

So how many of you out there are familiar with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? And no I do not mean the animated ones from the late 80’s early 90’s. And no I dont mean the Michael Bay abominations that made it to the big screen. I am talking about the original Turtles. Before there was any desire to have politically correct non-lethal child friendly cuddly turtles. I am talking the original TMNT. Done in black and white. Where you could only tell the turtles apart by the weapons they carried and by actually reading the dialog to understand how different each one was. These turtles used their weapons to injure and when needed, kill enemies, who were trying to kill them.

These are the Turtles that I know and love. These are the Turtles that were created back in 1984 (or at least first published) and in 1985 there was an RPG put out about those Turtles by Palladium Books.

Now then dispite what the wiki page says these Turtles were not part of RIFTS. RIFTS did not come along until five years later. So if anything RIFTS is an expansion of the Turtles :). A more honest timeline would be that Heroes Unlimited came out, then TMNT, and in true Palladium fashion another game setting called Ninja’s and Superspies, released in 1987 could be used to expand the martial arts past ninjitsu. After publishing about seven books for the TMNT over several years Palladium and the original creators of the Turtles called it quits. Dont know why, I do care, but I cant let that drag me down. Now then one thing I cannot speak to is if the mechanic for mutation was originally part of the TMNT game or if it was first in Heroes Unlimited. I have not seen a first printing of the HU game. But I can say that it is one of the things that makes the game really cool. And it has been in every edition of the HU game that I have played and still exists in the Palladium books and it still lives in the After the Bomb RPG that Palladium still releases.

Like other licensed products by Palladium the TMNT game does its best to keep to the source material and give players a good way to get into the world of the characters they have come to love without actually forcing them to just play the characters from the source material.

The game also has one of the coolest game rules that I have ever encountered. I have modded it a little bit from time to time over the years to add it to other games that I have played. The team character rule. As originally printed if players are going to share an origin and all be the same type of mutant animal then you get extra character levels. So if you have four characters of the same animal type sharing the same origin, with the same mutations then you are all starting at level four. If you have a different animal type, or different mutations still sharing the same origin then you drop a level off of that. It was something that encouraged players from the start to build a story together. I usually found it too limiting for a game group to all want to be the same animal so I would mod that so that if they all just shared the same origin then it was all they needed to get the bonus levels.

The mutation mechanic also allows you to build just about any kind of mutant you would like. And the supplemental books added ways to give your animal super powers, and to even use animals that came from other times. Personally one of my favorite builds is a T-rex that stands about four feet tall that has super strength and practices Muay Thai. Yeah, you can do that kinda stuff with this game. I also really enjoyed making a mutant porcupine that looked totally human but still had quills and was trained as a bookkeeper/bodyguard. You can do some totally off the wall stuff with this mutation engine and it all balances out. But to do all that I brought up means you have to use multiple books and so we need to pull it back to the main book itself.

I have lost track of the number of times I have played this game over the years. And considering that the first copy I had was back in 1986… I think… It is a lot of years. Sure I have had good game sessions and bad ones, but mostly it has been fun. And considering the number of ways that Palladium books crossover, it can get really weird the things you can do. Ahem… yeah… A band of mutant animals and ninja with a couple of supers and a disgruntled mystic taking over the SDF1 and driving it to RIFTS earth to try and stop the Coalition. Shhhhh, shhhh, dont fight it… it will all be over soon.

Ahhh still trying to pull back to the main book…

Ok here we go… So this game engine still suffers from the usual issues you see in a level based engine for character growth, and it does not allow for later enhancement or alteration of mutation. Mutation is a point based system derived from potential bio energy, and that potential is usually limited only by the size of the creature. So the bigger you are the less energy you have. To get more you need to get small. Now then sadly the original engine did not completely balance that energy level and so there were one or two animals that you could mutate the heck out of  while others you would struggle to get a pair of opposable thumbs. Back when I started playing this just meant that there were a few animals that never got played. Later in life it just takes a few minutes to re-balance any animal to a set of numbers that works completely.

Ok so how do the numbers look?

Overall Fluff 5/5 – The story bits and art are mostly from the original comics and the creators. The character backgrounds and samples are also from the original character info from the comics. Some of the supplemental art is from artists who really understood the TMNT mindset.

Overall Crunch 3/5 – There was a need right off the bat with the original printing to do some game balancing, but overall the Palladium rules are a solid level based system. The rules are a bit soft on some of the gear and tools you can use and their overall game effects, but if you have other books by the publisher it works easy enough.

Overall Mod 4/5 – This particular Palladium book seems to have brought the mod to the table. It is easy to balance things out, and of course you need to mod all characters according to taste, while also having the first and best team creation rule in an RPG.

Overall Fun 5/5 – Speaks for itself. Mic drop.

Total Score 17/20 – Ok so there are a lot of points here. Is it worth it? To me this is one of those games that if you love any version of the Turtles, you need to hunt this down. You wont find any legal PDF copies online, because, licensing. You can usually find them in used book stores starting at about 10 bucks.

Ok so once again, my thoughts my opinions, get out there and game for yourself and make up your own mind 🙂

Keep it fun folks

Gimme the dice, I need to see if I can make all my skill rolls to get through all the running around today.

1 Comment

Game Review #20 – Spycraft 1st edition(G)

Ok so even though I have a request in to do a review of another product I decided to go with Spycraft instead. Why, well it is a d20 game and this is the 20th game review I have set up, and my wife and I have been watching a lot of Archer lately and when I busted up during a season 4 episode I told my wife I could actually turn this whole thing into a RPG setting she actually said she would play it. Since she has never expressed even a joking interest in playing a table top RPG before it got me thinking very seriously about how to put a game together. And that train of thought lead me into Top Secret (the game not the movie), and Spycraft. Still have not settled on a game to use yet, but that is a story for another post.

So a little history on Spycraft. Spycraft is a d20 rpg that came out after the publication of the original 3rd edition D&D but before d20 Modern. Originally published by Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG) currently under license to Crafty Games, unless they have finally bought it completely and I have not heard. Now then the time line is a little funky on publication as I can only find notes online that say it was published in 2002, just a few months before d20 Modern came out, but I have a PDF and a copy of the book that says copyright in 2001 and lists that for the original print date. I know that distribution may not have happened until 2002, I mean if you look into the history of AEG’s early print and to shelf history it reads a lot like Palladium Books history. Sorry guys but neither company has a rep for getting things to the stores in a timely manner or anything close to when you stated it would be published.

Not here to rant about that though.

Spycraft took the original d20 Players handbook and stood it on its ear to create a modern setting. This was not the only game to do that, but in my personal opinion it is the one that did it best. They took a few hints from the licensed Star Wars RPG that Wizards of the Coast was publishing and improved on them. Examples would include having a defensive bonus instead of just an AC and having your Hit Points/Life Points being tied more directly into your Con than being based on a roll every level. Instead of a race you would have a Department, and the classes, while they stuck to a lot of the basic tenants of D&D at the time (there is a function that each class does really well and most others can only half @$$ at best), they also established a firm role for the characters in the setting unlike d20 Modern. The fact that you can still multi-class gives you the chance to make very detailed agents and enemies. They also added class level features called Budget Points and Gadget Points. Not as quick to use as simple cash, but better than the d20 Modern finance system by far. The initial setting reminded me a lot of the old Top Secret game but with a lot better depth and detail. Making a comparison on that is not really fair as Top Secret had to come in at under a hundred pages, and Spycraft came in at almost 300.

Second edition made some very interesting changes to pull it a little further from the basic d20 system, but that is also not something for this review.

Having had a lot of fond memories of being a teenager and really messing with Top Secret game sessions… (“Ahead of you in the darkness you see a stair case.” “Ok we stare back.” and “You have successfully snuck to the door without being seen. All of your intel says your target is inside that next room.” “Ok so we open the door just a little and toss a grenade in.” “You what?!”) I was really looking forward to having some fun with Spycraft. Unfortunately the first two groups I played with were all about recreating James Bond situations, and that meant that you could not really go off the rails and one of the players was always going to be the main spy. The games rarely lead to the types of teamwork the game engine makes possible or the levels of fun I was trying to recapture. So I let it go for quite a while. The potential was there, but my game groups did not really want to go in that direction. But now with Archer on my brain, I am looking again.

Ok so that gives you some background. How does it rack up in the scores?

Overall Fluff 3/5 – The art in the game is hit or miss, and the background material is sparse in some areas. Admittedly later supplements fleshed things out a lot, but the core rule book was more about making sure you could play, than making sure you had everything you might want in a setting. Like I said earlier though it is a big improvement on the old Top Secret game. It is enough to spur the imagination and not force you down any one path.

Overall Crunch 4/5 – Being a d20 game engine much of the rules are cut and paste. Easy enough to get by with. The added rules are good and do not bog down action, they just mean you need a little more time to set everything up before you begin an adventure. Overall I think it is one of the better d20 adaptations.

Overall Mod 4/5 – Again it is a d20 engine so you can mod the hell out of it. Because of its independent concepts it is a little challenging to bring in outside source materials, but a little effort there and you can come up with some really X-files like stuff.

Overall Fun 2/5 – Yeah this score is a little low. And that is more from my personal experience with the game than from its potential. A game setting like this is going to be something where everyone wants to be James Bond or Maxwell Smart. The one person who can get it all done. But RPGs are mostly about teamwork and story telling, not being a stage hog. Same sort of challenge you usually get in a pulp setting.

Total Score 13/20 – Could have been higher if I had a better time with it originally, but I still see a lot of potential to dust it off and run with it anyway. Anyone who is into d20 games could get this running really fast. I am still looking forward to putting together a Wheel-man / Black Ops character so that I can add a Transporter like character to a Spy game.

As always my final recommendation is to look it over and decide for yourself if this is the game that will do what you want and let you play what you want. If not then toss it. If it is, then AWESOME you got a winner. 🙂

Well thats it for now. Hope everyone is having a great 2018 so far and is remembering to date documents and checks correctly. Yeah checks, some of us still use them.

Now gimme the dice. I need to check to see what sort of random encounter is showing up here next.

 

 

2 Comments

Mixed game media

So while I am not the only one out there doing game blogs and creating stuff and giving advice, I wanted to dedicate a short article to others who are having fun, and promoting games and game discourse.

There is a lot of fun to be had out there in the big bad electronic world. And there are some people who take it further than others. Door Monster is one of the posters on YouTube that I like to go to when I need to see people acting out the games I have played at the most ludicrous levels. Take this piece on using the Diplomacy skill in a d20 fantasy game setting for example. Another one I enjoy on YouTube is Puffin Forrest. Now you will notice that I did not put a specific piece on that one. That’s because Puffin is all over the place. Some of the posts are rants about games, or players, or characters, or any number of other things. Some are stories and some are reviews. I did not want to push a specific one there. And who can forget when Wizards of the Coast was putting 4th ed out and they put this up on YouTube to help promote it.

Now then if I am feeling more like reading or setting up some bait to get an argument started I look for some good forums. If I feel like discussing a specific game product I will go to Drive Thru RPG or RPG Now (same site really, owned by the same company and offers the same stuff on both). If I really want to get in depth though I will go to either RPG Net or Pen & Paper.

Now then did you notice that I have not listed, nor posted a link to any specific game community? Or to any group that specifically supports one game, or even one style of game? Yeah, there is a reason. Those folks get hard core quick. I have been ejected from a few because I was not online posting all day, or I did not pick Kirk over Picard for higher stats in the classic Star Trek RPG. There are tons of them out there. Over the years I have found some to be very accepting and some to just be full of asshats. I will instead say just google it and good luck.

Speaking of google. Need some character ideas or game art? I hit up google images all the time. Also kinda fun to wander around in Deviant Art.

Oh gods and the number of online comics about games is just… damn… I mean WereGeek is a long time favorite but they have gone rather off the rails in their latest story arc… And if you don’t know Full Frontal Nerdity then, well you really should. 🙂

Of course you could always go and hang out at your local game shop too…

Basically what I am saying here if you have not figured it out, no mater your social niche or how anxious being out in the physical world makes you, if you enjoy gaming there is no reason not to enjoy it and to enlist others. Heck there are even online services so that you can set up a table top game in an entirely virtual environment. I have played one session with folks from multiple countries. It was… more challenging that going to a game con and playing straight and serious on day three.

Ok all, thats it for now. Hope everyone is having a great weekend and is looking forward to a great holiday season, or having one, or recently finished one, or whatever 🙂

Gimme the dice, I need to roll to see if the laundry is still fresh.

Leave a comment

World Building 207

Hello Readers

So a bit out of pace for me to be posting early, but with taking a couple days off to do holiday shopping and that sort of thing I thought I might squeeze the time in to do another post.

So where did we last leave off…

  1. The sci-fi style will be pulp sci-fi. So things can get weird.
  2. Humans are trash. So at the very least they will be low class citizens, maybe worse.
  3. Players will not know how big the universe is, and I will sketch out a couple of places in advance but otherwise let the players drive things so the universe will become as big as it needs to be.
  4. Timeline is about 30 years in the future and there are older humans who remember ‘today’ as the good old days.
  5. There are many alien races but humans currently only know five.
  6. There are two “magics”, technology and psychic powers. Psychic powers are used to stratify the over reaching galactic society and technology is used as a tool and extra lever over ‘lesser’ races. And humanity is one of the very lesser races.

So step seven in this mix is to try and find a game engine that really works well for the ideas I am using here. Now I totally understand that some folks may be limited in the game engines that they use. Sometimes you find that one game engine that really works well for you and you just have to run with it. Sometimes you can only really afford to buy into one game engine and have to pray you never run into anything it cant handle. If you are in a situation like that I really suggest you just apply the first six questions and build a background and go for it. There is no stopping you and you will still have a great game if you work to make it work. 🙂

For myself I love to look at all the game engines that are out there. I am sure that I could make my design work in just about any system going. What I want to use for this setting though is the d6 game engine.

Let me tell you why.

Just so you know a bit about it, the game engine is currently published by Nocturnal Media. And if you want to get into the game engine you can go over to Drive Thru RPG and buy a copy of the rules or get the d6 game engine bundle (at the time of this writing the game engine bundle is listed as being free and all you need to do is have an account at Drive Thru and down load it at no cost.) It is a venerable system that has been around since 1987 to the best of my knowledge. Not too complex, easy to mod, but a little rough on vehicles. (Previous post talking about it is here)

So why would I want something that does not work easily with the space ships that can be so important in a sci fi game? That really refers back to another question. Two of them actually. And the answers to those two questions are that Humans are trash (so they have not had the opportunity to get into the wondrous worlds of tech that are in the universe), and that tech is basically one of the magics. So if the game engine itself does not lend itself to making star ships easy to create, and some weapons tech seems a little inconsistent, that will actually reinforce the feeling I want to create for the game. Sure you can make an engineering role to fix something, do you know how you are fixing it, no not really you just read the book or were told to fix it that way. Do you know where you are piloting? No but the computer says to go this way to get where we want to go.

I am not saying that this is a bad game engine. I am not saying that this is a way to frustrate players on purpose. You can still do all the tech balancing and shipbuilding you want to do. It is just a little cookie cutter. All the real customizing and balancing will come mostly in role play. Which to me makes it a stronger choice.

The strength in the mechanics really shines in system for special abilities and powers. It breaks everything into three skills and makes it really well defined for what can be done and what cant be done by any given character.

For me this is a quick, easy, and inexpensive way to run. Especially since I can just get a copy downloaded to my computer and play with six sided dice that I stole out of other board games. 🙂 heh

Since I kind of went over the strengths and weaknesses of other systems in the earlier post I linked to earlier in this post, I will just say that in the end you will need to come up with a system that is going to work well for you.

Ok so World Building 208 will have a bit of a write up on this game setting and then we move on with other things.

Hope everyone is staying safe out there.

Now gimme the dice, I need to roll to see if I have anything left to buy more gifts with…

2 Comments