Leet Haxorz

This is an early draft of the Words (introduction) chapter  from the upcoming Singularity System sourcebook “Infowar”:

Hacking is cool! It’s one of the cornerstones of science fiction, especially cyberpunk. Console cowboys jacking their brains into the matrix to ride the electron high, otaku in basements lit only by the green glow of screens, fingers flying over the keys as they crack through encryption, cyber-commandoes spoofing the camera sensors of enemy robots and the cyber-eyes of enemy soldiers to become invisible, and so on, and so on.

Why is hacking in roleplaying games so rarely cool? Why are hacking rules in games so often, in fact, a complete nightmare to interact with?

Let’s look at one case study that I’m intimately familiar with: Shadowrun. The game has a setting that is universally beloved, yet through three decades and five editions, its hacking rules have been almost universally described as impenetrable, incomprehensible, over-complicated, nonsensical, and just not very fun. For the first three editions of the game, hacking was a very complicated minigame that dedicated hacker-archetype characters (“Deckers”) could play for hours with the GM while the rest of the gaming group went out for pizza or played Super Smash Brothers or something. Or sat around the table bored and increasingly disengaged.

For these reasons—the unapproachable complexity of the rules and the “let’s all go get pizza while the Decker does whatever it is he does factor—most players at most tables simply did not play Deckers. The hacking rules were hand-waved entirely, or Decking was something that the PCs hired NPCs to do, and could therefore be handled smoothly off-camera without engaging with the rules. Decker became synonymous with NPC at most tables. And this attitude—people don’t actually play Deckers—would later become an insurmountable handicap to actually making hacking in the game fun.

The fourth edition of the game took a few steps in the right direction by making everything wireless, meaning that hackers could roll with the team and hack everything within line of sight. This encouraged Deckers to be with the team rather than waiting in a van somewhere. There were a few basic problems with this.

Let’s say that you had a Decker who wanted to hack an enemy’s gun or an enemy’s cyberware to deactivate them, in the middle of a firefight.

This was possible, but it took at least four times as long and was at least four times as complicated as a street samurai shooting someone in the face or a mage blasting someone with a manabolt. The net result of this was that the enemy whose gun you were thirty percent of the way done hacking usually had already had his head blown off by the street samurai or was incinerated by the mage’s fireball.

To make matters worse, it was always possible to set “wireless” on your gear to “off”, making you immune to hackers. Early supplements introduced the “skinlink”, which let you do the above, but explicitly without any of the drawbacks of not having an active wireless connection. In other words, every character had the cheap option to just “set hacking to no” and be immune to hacking. So of course every player character took that option.

The fifth edition of this game tried to address these issues in a way that more or less universally failed to fix anything, and in some cases actively made things worse. One interesting thing was, at the time, I was lobbying for hackers to be able to hack enemies’ guns or cyberware as quickly and as simply as the street samurai could shoot someone or the shaman sling a spell. In other words, I wanted to make hacking simpler and more streamlined, and I wanted to remove the concept of “set hackable to off”. The fan base did not want any of this, because they all seemed to view hacking as something that would happen to their character, not something their character could do to others. The idea of deckers being able to hack someone’s cyberware or weapons in a single combat turn was offensive to them, because, subconsciously, PCs weren’t Deckers—no one actually plays deckers. This, of course, went back to the fundamental problem of the first three editions of the game: that hacking was so painfully complicated that no one wanted to engage with it. Therefore, it became an NPC activity.

That’s more than enough about Shadowrun. I don’t have nearly as much experience with other games where hacking is possible, but I’ve never heard of an RPG in which the hacking rules are especially fun and approachable.

Right now, my favorite hacking rules are the ones which amount to “make one (contested) roll, and if you succeed, you get the target system to do what you want it to”.

This is how I handle hacking in HERO System: if you want to hack a system, you make a Computer Programming roll. If the system’s security countermeasures were set up beforehand, then a retroactive Computer Programming roll is made for the character that set them up. If the system has some kind of active security monitoring—a dedicated wage slave white hat hacker or even an AI—then it makes a Computer Programming roll right now instead. If the hacker’s Computer Programming roll beats the system’s, they have access and get to do whatever they want. Dirt simple, right?

The other hacking “system” I liked was the way that I had a GM run Eclipse Phase for me once. Basically, if you wanted to hack something, you rolled Infosec and if you succeeded, you had hacked the target system and gotten it to do what you want. Pretty simple, right? Those Eclipse Phase guys must be some smart game designers. Except, actually cracking open the Eclipse Phase rulebook, and found an entire chapter full of hacking rules, The Mesh, which was no less than a whopping, very dense 35 pages long. It included literally over a hundred multi-level headings and sub-headings. Now I’ve never actually played with the Eclipse Phase hacking rules: for all I know they might be very good. But what I do know is that the way that the Eclipse Phase GM chose to handle hacking was not representative of them, and that this doesn’t necessarily speak to their accessibility and ease of use.

So again, we come to our question. Why is hacking in roleplaying games so rarely cool? Why are hacking rules in games so often, in fact, a complete nightmare to interact with? Why are hacking systems in most games so complicated than a hand-wavy stopgap of “to hack a thing, roll hacking, and if you succeed, you hacked the thing” can actually be more fun to play with than the rules that were written?

I think that the problems with hacking in games can be traced back to the problems with hacking in movies. Think back to any movie you have ever seen with “Hollywood Hacking” in it. Real hacking is cool, but it is boring to watch. Boring is anathema to Hollywood, so instead we get “Hollywood Hacking”, scenes and portrayals of hacking created by people that obviously know fuck-all about computers. And this can quickly become very, very silly:

 

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Hacking in real life mostly involves hours and hours of cautious, exacting, and tedious “sitting at a computer, entering commands into a text prompt”. At a minimum, Hollywood hacking requires a hacker who is typing as fast as humanly possible, as though the speed at which he types is directly related to his chance to penetrate computer security. But Hollywood also likes really excessively flashy graphical interfaces—the exact thing that real hackers don’t use because they are an unnecessary distraction and a waste of bandwidth. But usually a flashy GUI isn’t enough and the hacker is manipulating three dimensional holographic polygons or navigating through a three dimensional digital maze or some shit. It has fuck-all to do with real hacking, but it looks cool.

Anyone who knows anything about how computers and hacking in real life, tends to have a negative reaction to this portrayal. Uproarious laughter at the dumbness on display is probably the most common reaction, but actual annoyance is a close second.

brain's like 'peace'

“Oh My God. This is…this is brain poison.”
– Penny Arcade, “Brains With Urgent Appointments”

Sometimes the stupidity of Hollywood Hacking with its “rule of cool” departures from reality is even played up to the point of parity. Meet Kung Fury’s Hackerman:

hackerman
“It means that with the right computer algorithms, I can hack you back in time.”

On average, people who make (roleplaying) games know and care a lot more about how computers work in real life than people who make movies. When I look at the hacking rules designed for the roleplaying games I talk about, what I see is a desire to make the rules for penetrating computer security realistic, and not silly, stupid, and dumb like the Hollywood Hacking described above. In and of itself, this is a noble goal, but realism (as opposed to genre­-realism, which is essential), except when used in very carefully restricted doses, is poison to game design. Because reality is not inherently fun, and games must be. Realism is like any spice used in cooking—use too much and you ruin the dish.

Compared to the smart people that made the Matrix rules for Shadowrun and the Mesh rules for Eclipse Phase, I know very little about computer science. In fact, almost nothing. Oh, I know enough to give a flavor of verisimilitude, and I know enough to ask someone smarter if I think knowing a bit about “how things really work” would help inform fun gameplay. But I have no investment in real computer science, and no loyalty to portraying it overly accurately when it comes to creating fun and playable rules for information warfare.

Hacking is cool, and for hacking to be cool in games, it cannot be strictly speaking “realistic”. Because games must be fun, and real life hacking is not fun to do—at least not in a way that is compatible with playing a game. Hacking also must be streamlined enough that the dedicated hacker character can resolve their hacking quickly in real time, without everyone else getting bored and going out for pizza.

It is with these design goals in mind that I set out to design hacking and information warfare rules for the Singularity System—compatible with any science fiction setting—that are both easy to use and fun.

Journey To The Forbidden Jungle: The Thrilling Conclusion

“After regrouping and rearming, the party moved down to the second floor of the Temple of the Frog. There, they faced and overcame a seven Proto-Batrachians, a Steel Mother, and a swarming Apocritean Host. Then a Hell Sphinx swooped down from the rafters to attack, sewing chaos amongst the party. During this chaos the party–after defeating the Hell Sphinx–also engaged and destroyed six Psyclops.

The party settled down to rest for an hour, Hegik crafting and Yntrew using a Recharge. Using a Fantasy (Area) spell, the Haon-Dor Fallen Lachrymoses appeared as a gigantic face on the ceiling, warning the party of their doom if they pursued the Lizard King any further (and showing them the Hollower Hydra and Vyscerid Charnalossus that awaited them in the nave of the Cathedral of the Frog below.  While most of the party treated with this illusion, Lachrymoses entered the counsel chamber where Yntrew and Hegik were. Holding one and then another, he reduced Hegik to a pile of ashes, and wounded Yntrew with a Bladewand before being driven off by Yntrew’s bladewand. Yntrew then was ported out.

The remaining members of the party were led by a mysterious hooded figure to a slop room on the ground floor of the Temple. She told them that she intended to use them as catspaws to disrupt the Prophecy surrounding Khasothel, and armed them with an array of fantastic weapons. So-armed, the party were able to easily overcome the Hollower Hydra and the Vyscerid Charnalossus, although the latter did impregnate Viperis with its horrid spoor (poor Viperis, why always her!).

Meanwhile, Hryll the Cephaloplexi Wizard ported into the same level, behind the Cathedral’s alter. Blinding a Yaktaur guard, he made his way to a store room where six of the Lizard King’s Salamdrean Survivors had been armed with Kalash assault rifles and posted as guards. After a pitched battle, the surviving S surrendered, and took him to the Lizard King via a secret passage. He convinced the Lizard King–surrounded by his allies, the Hypnogorgon Euryale and the Punisher Lord Kron Thalos–that he was there to chronicle the Lizard King’s ascension on behalf of the Sages. And he noted that the Lizard King already held the cursed blade Khasothel.

An impenetrable forcefield divided the Cathedral of the Frog’s aisle in half, separating the Lizard King and his group from the party. After defeating a Grimstalker and taking his quarters, and scouting the nearby doors in the cathedral aisle for traps, identifying the (trapped) Control Room and locating one of two manual overrides for the forcefield, the party attempted to rest for eight hours. Six hours into the rest, Viperis vomited out a Vyscerid Liberator, and then promptly cut it to pieces with her Warp Sword. The party then collapsed back to sleep, being rejoined by Renzozuke and Yntrew Tilt porting back in when they awakened. Meanwhile, Hryll insinuated himself further into the Lizard King’s trust.

The party–including Maurice Beauxhomme and Herk Vadis–began to search for a means to shut down the forcefield. They fought a tough battle against a Harvester Lord and four Harvester Knights, during which Philarion (Reid Omara) was killed. In a virtually never-before-seen turn of events, Philarion was resurrected while Reid Omara was not able to be resuscitated. With the aid of his Neural Symbiont (“brain friend”) Yntrew tilt listened in on Philarion and Maurice discussing their concerns about Outsiders in their midst.

Maurice used a Flight Disk to levitate above the trap door outside the Control Room, unwittingly instigated the climactic final battle. He picked the lock, safe from the trap on his hovering Flight Disk. A trio of Ugly Things oozed out of the Control Room to fight the party, and were quickly cut down. During the confusion. snuck up on Viperis, Lachrymoses cast a Hold on her, and smashed her with a Teke. The rest of the party ran to help her, and Lachrymoses darted away from them and hurled a Blizzard into their midst. He had just Held Renzozuke and was about to kill him when the Lizard King’s patience ran out. He took down the forcefield himself and ran to engage the party in battle.

Due to Hryll’s sudden but inevitable betrayal, the Lizard King’s blinded forces were on the losing side of the epic melee that followed. The Lizard King sliced Herk Vadis in half with Khasothel, Viperis herself cut down the Lizard King with her Warp Sword and a Maelstrom Elemental summoned by Philarion saw to the speedy defeat of Kron Thalos and Euryale.  During all of this, Yntrew inhaled a bag of Hell Sphinx Ash and applied a Potion of Invisibility, before contributing to Kron Thalos’ defeat. Lachrymoses seized Khasothel from the Lizard King’s corpse and used Smog Soul to escape out the Temple’s southern doors.

As the dust from the battle settled, Hryll cast a Hold on Maurice, only to find himself at the blades of the rest of the party. Philarion set his Maelstrom Elemental to batter down the southern doors. With the Hold released, Hryll ominously declared that Maurice was marked for death. Yntrew attempted to negotiate Maurice’s surrender into Metropol custody, and Maurice seemed ready to agree. The sounds of a VTOL aircraft from the south, out the doors the Maelstrom Elemental had destroyed, sent the party running, as Ziq spotted Lachrymoses fleeing towards a guard tower in the outer courtyard through the X-Ray scope of his Zeus-PSR. Hryll took advantage of the distraction to escape to the north, having looted Dawnbow from Euryale’s corpse.

Maurice, Philarion, and Yntrew flew to the top of the guard tower, carrying Ziq and Viperis with them. The VTOL craft–carrying Haon-Dor Fallen–flew away, apparently retreating. Descending the guard tower’s stairs from the roof, Yntrew and Viperis saw Lachrymoses’ corpse, his neck broken and Khasothel taken. Ziq caught a glimpse of none other than Kade Merek (Ronald Singh) with Khaosthel, leaping from the guard tower’s roof to the moat below.

Then the Adventure game abruptly to a close!”

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SPLINTER Core Reprint plus Journey To The Forbidden City nears its conclusion…

The much improved second printing of the SPLINTER Core Rulebook is now available! It’s free (in PDF) to anyone who already owns the original printing, just re-download it from DriveThru. Thanks to hard work from Mikaela Barree, it sports a massively improved layout and a sexier cover. But there are substantive changes as well. Along with some tweaks to the Realm rules, the game has been overhauled to use the DicePunk System rules for Earthside, as discussed here previously, which is very exciting to me because it makes our pantheon of games that much more coherent and organized.

Check it out here!

In other SPLINTER news, Journey To The Forbidden Jungle (MA15+, V/S/L) approaches its conclusion…

Below the Brigand’s Lair, the party found themselves on Level 1,011,999,603 – the shores of the River of Nothingness. Attempting to cross the gray river left Hegik and Viperis floundering amnesiacs (Yntrew and Philarion flew over, while Caduceus walked along the river floor in powered armor), after a Hoary Trenchmaw reared out of the river and was dispatched by the party. Hegik and Viperis fished themselves out of the drink as Caduceus, Yntrew, and Philarion were engaged by a trio of Harvester Assassins. The party was victorious, but Yntrew lost his head to an assassin’s monofilament garrote: before Analina could resurrect Yntrew, Caduceus took his badge and later crushed it before his eyes. After a battle with Demon Voormis leading their more mundane kin, the party rested, the tensions between them mounting. Philarion used an auto-mapper drone to map the rest of the level.

After resting, the party entered a large triangular structure in the center of the cavern level.  In the Hall of Traps, they sprung just about every trap, with predictably harmful results. Beyond the hall of traps, Herk Vadis rejoined the party: a Headless Hydra and a Painwracked Juggernaut fell before the party in quick succession. Entering the central chamber of the structure, the party initiated a battle with a series of Salamandrean Survivors emerging from a painted mosaic. As pitched battle was waged, they soon discovered that five Salamandreans emerged from the mosaic every turn, from a seemingly infinite supply!

The party was routed as Salima and then Philarion fell before the glaives of the endless lizard men. During the rout, while trying to rescue Salima, Viperis used Salima’s body as a human-shield to absorb the glaives of eight mosaic-born Salamandreans. This cowardly act allowed her to survive, as the party fell back from the rout to rest and regroup.

After a lengthy consideration of their options for proceeding, the party finally returned to confront the lizard men, finding them receptive to diplomacy. In fact, when the party acted in a friendly manner, the Salamandreans served them a large feast and even helped them discover the trap door leading down to the next level: Level 1,011,999,604: the Tomb of the Lizard King.

Moving down to the next level, the group was attacked by Bullet Men and managed to defeat them (a Scorpion_Tail symbiote detached itself from one of the felled Bullet Men and attached itself to Viperis). Next the party confronted Mordrin, the Asilos Punisher who had tried to assassinate the Duke of Reo on the Lizard King’s orders. A Hold cast by Yntrew paralyzed the Asilos, and the party destroyed the two Dark Walkers guarding him.

The Held Punisher was interrogated by the party, revealing that he’d acted as the agent of the Haon-Dor Fallen in awakening and guiding the Lizard King. When finally released from the hold, Mordrin narrowly avoided execution and fled using Smog Soul. The party followed him south through a secret door, and after trampling an Origin Wick and its family of Tallowkin, found themselves face to face at last with the Lizard King in his throne room.

The Lizard King–who was not alone, but rather attended by a Hypnogorgon, a Haon-Dor Fallen, and a powered armored figure with a rather large enchanted greatsword, as well as four GIU-44 Assault Droids–acted quickly, creating a Forcewall between himself and the party. The Lizard King spoke with the party for a short time: in the end, he offered Caduceus a bounty of 1,000 Eagles per head for his comrades, and Caduceus accepted. One of the droids brought an Entoptic Generator and activated it, initiating the ensuing battle.

In the ensuing battle, Caduceus and the droids now on his side killed Analina, felled Philarion repeatedly, and nearly felled Viperis. Yntrew, meanwhile, was held and then spared by the Lizard King and his entourage on their way off the level via a high-tech elevator. Caduceus too fell in the battle against his former friends, destroyed by Philarion with a dramatic use of a Rust Grenade. The GIU-44 Assault Droids marched past Caduceu’s corpse, trying to finish Viperis and Philarion, but were ultimately destroyed. Maurice Beauxxhome escaped from a coffin-like closet in the Lizard King’s throne room. At first, he attempted to resuscitate Caduceus, only learning that Caduceus was a traitor upon seeing Viperis personally perform Caduceus’ coup de grace.

The party–now reduced to Viperis, Philarion, Yntrew, and the not-currently present Hegik, Varatha, and Herk, with the deaths of Analina, Salima, and the betrayal and then death of Caduceus–now tries to decide their next move, alongside Maurice Beauxxhome in the Lizard King’s abandoned throne room.

Renzozuke, a Mnemonic adventurer sent by the Marquess Rella Biron to determine the fate of Maurice’s expedition, joined the party.

Searching first for Maurice’s equipment the group encountered a pair of Halflifes, destroying the radioactive undead. The team then defeated a Dire Dragoon and rescued three dozen captives that the Lizard King had used as human cattle and feeding stock. Here, the group split in two, with Maurice, Philarion, Herk, and Renzozuke leading the mistreated and malnourished captives upstairs to safety, while Yntrew, Hegik, and Viperis went downstairs to pursue the Lizard King.

Taking a high tech elevator 340 floors down to Level 1,011,999,945 — in the vicinity of the ancient but high-tech city of Archaeobatrachian — Yntrew’s group was set upon by a pack of Rust Cotillion Raches. The appearance of a mysterious sniper–the Vryx known as Ziq–was instrumental in the group’s triumph over the Cotillion forces. Meanwhile, Maurice’s group encountered the duke of Reo outside of the lizard king’s Fortress, turning over the Lizard King’s prisoners to their care.

The two teams reunited and regrouped down the elevator shaft, at a Penitent colony situated on the upper levels of the Temple of the Frog – Level 1,011,999,946. From there, the group pursued the Lizard King downwards. They found no sign of the Lizard King’s forces, but did confront an Automated Sentry Platform, a deadly pair of Raving Reprobates, and a series of devious traps. Ziq and Renzozuke were transported to the top of the elevator shaft by a Teleport Trap, but managed to rejoin the party eventually, in the Penitent colony.

After refreshing themselves in a nicely appointed bathroom, the group triggered another trap, teleporting Renzozuke temporarily into the vacuum of space. A battle with a Viscerid Hysteric followed. With the Hysteric vanquished the party slaughtered a Voormis Broodmother and brood, and then were attacked with swarm gas pods by a Rookery Paymaster. After slaying the Paymaster, the group entered the compute room he’d hold up in, and Hegik and Philarion gained access to one of the computer terminals. The group systematically searched the camera feeds of each functioning camera to reconnoiter their surroundings. The most interest seemed to be in the room across the hall, which contained a leaking Nuclear Reactor and a brown Ugly Thing guarding a large horde of treasure, most saliently, custom Powered Armor.  After much planning and preparation, the group finally lured the Ugly Thing out onto a series of mines buried by Hegik–destroying it–and seized the treasure.

The party next moved down into an incomplete utility space below (Level 1,011,999,948). There they destroyed a Softshell Moltless before being ambushed by a pair of Viscerid Liberators.

After a brief interruption due to technical difficulties… (Part IV)

“We are happy to bring you the latest from Prestige Studios’ Journey To The Forbidden Jungle (MA15+, V/S/L), already in progress…

We’ve got some internal tensions developing within our party of stalwart adventurers as they proceed further and further into the lost and forsaken Syncopean Jungle!

Yntrew Tilt (Alistair Chu)’s group–as he reaches AL6 and continues to take the lead of the party–fight their way south into the bandit base, encountering Harvester Drones and Harvester Assassins, a Hook Hunter, Burning Men, and a Necrosprite Construct inside a pair of Gauntlets of Potency. Along the way they join forces with Philarion Octavian (Reid Omara), an Aventine Technologist that was another member of Bauxxhome’s team.

The group also found a port to the Annuleez and defeated a Painwracked Juggernaut before being locked in a pitched battle with a Star Pharaoh (one of the Lizard King’s acolyte) and four Void Elementals. Philarion was instrumental in chasing down and defeating the Star Pharaoh while the others wore down the Void Elementals. As the battle reached its climax, a Death Smog spell cast by the Star Pharaoh began to fill the chamber with deadly poisonous gas.

After a brief interlude Earthside due to technical difficulties, the group (sans Philarion) resumed their hunt for the Lizard King. After reuniting with Philarion (who had driven off a Demon Voormis with a summoned Maelsterom Elemental), they defeated a Scourge Lord and his Byrozoan Mongrel hound, and Yntrew Tilt brutally executed a Ophidian Lorescale acolyte of the Lizard King (in spite of Philarion’s promise of safe conduct to same).

The group was then nearly devoured by a Slaughterhouse Ramp trap (leading eventually to the next level down), then narrowly won a pitched battle with a Carcerian and its Sacrophigaunt spawn, clearing the rest of the level where the brigands had made their lair and finding no trace of the Lizard King…”

 

Hot Action From Prestige Studios (Part III)

-Action Report So Far-

“Bringing you the latest on Prestige Studios’ Journey To The Forbidden Jungle (MA15+, V/S/L), already in progress…

After the Swamp Baphomet attacked with its deadly poison gas breath, the party returned accurate fire with small arms and an RPG-7, and the dragon fled to the south. The party then journeyed south to join Stefan Demanis, boarding his raft and wending their way southward through the great Southern Swamp over the course of several days (nearly being killed and devoured by an Ophidian Coatl along the way).

Arriving at an ancient temple, the group was attacked by a troop of the Electric Dead armed with light crossbows. At the eruption of violence, Stefan Demanis fled screaming into the swamp. The party pressed their way into the temple, overcame six Drowning Pools lurking in fountains, and breached the lair of the Swamp Baphomet Aulicus, slaying the beast in a final, decisive confrontation. Among its treasure hoard they found a functional suit of Powered Armor amongst other artifacts. A trapdoor under the temple’s alter lead downwards, and the party descended stairs bringing them from Level  1,011,999,601, the Duchy of Reo, to the bandit lair immediately below, where they would find the brigands they sought.

Just inside the bandit’s lair, the party saw a troop of twenty armed and organized Morkrim apparently lead by a Rookery Guttershrike lieutenant. They had a single hostage: a Tzaetzi in Ouroborous who had clearly been ill-treated. The party burst through the doors and battle ensued: Viperis, Yntrew, and Salima were all trapped in a Temporal Stasis Grenade thrown by the Guttershrike. This left Fenx alone versus the Rook and the fifteen surviving Morks.

Fenx fought valiantly against impossible odds, but two flashbangs later she was finally brought down by the Morkrim horde. As the temporal stasis bubble burst, Fenx’s head was hurled at the feet of the other party members, who rejoined the fray, hurling themselves at the Rook and the remaining Morks. While Salima and Viperis both fell under a storm of Morkish swords and spears, Yntrew once more carried the day, mopping up the brigands and resuscitating VIperis and Salima. Nothing could be done with the decapitated Fenx.

Freeing the captive Tzaetzi, the group learned that she was Analina, a member of Maurice Bauxxhome’s expedition. Their group had been separated, and the three other members taken further below. Armed with this information, Yntrew, Salima, Viperis and the others have begun their hunt for the “Lizard King”…”

Latest From Prestige Studios (Part II)

-Action Report So Far-

“Bringing you the latest on Prestige Studios’ Journey To The Forbidden Jungle (MA15+, V/S/L), already in progress…

Having rested and refreshed themselves, the party made their way down a flooded passageway, followed unnoticed by Coleoid Gatherers. They arrived at the aquatic lair of a Keening Sidhe, which unleashed its harrowing wails upon them. In the ensuing carnage, the Coleoids were hunted down and exterminated, and the party prevailed over the Sidhe without anyone drowning. Metropol agent Yntrew Tilt was instrumental in tracking down the Coleoids and exterminating the survivors (in spite of their protests).

After briefly considering an assault on the Coleoid stronghold in the western portion of the level, the party instead journeyed south where they encountered a clutch of Softshell Nursemaids. After a pitched battle, four softshells were dead and one pacified with a Wand of Friendship: one of the dead softshells was then necromantically raised by Varatha Luka. Confronted with three doors (west, east, and south) the party found only a dead-end to the east and had no wish to contend with the Headless Hydra to the west, so they went south, into the Hall of Thrashing Canes.

Fenx was nearly killed by unluckily springing the eponymous trap, but quick action from Sarima and Yntrew ensured the others were able to save her life. The party then found a good sized cache of treasure–including a Zgzz 5409 Sharder PDW, a Wand of Sheepishness (hilarity ensued in its identification), and a mysterious ivory cube–and a rubble chute leading downwards over a hundred levels, which they slid/crawled/flew down to discover what awaited below.

The party explored most of the first two floors of the tower of Arth, defeating Infinity Spiders, Dark Tenants, and strange dimensional anomalies. Departing the tower to the south, they found themselves on the grand highway in the Duchy of Reo, apparently located around four hundred levels above where it was supposed to be. Yntrew spotted a pick-up truck with a mounted gun driving southeast on the highway. Inside he saw Maurice Beauxxhome, the party’s rival.

The party made their way uneventfully north on the highway to the capital of Vendare. There Viperius broached an audience with Duke Jon Brunis, Duke of Reo. At the audience, the party learned of the bandit attacks along the southern caravan route that were plaguing the Duchy, and pledged their assistance in dealing with the problem: which Maurice Beauxxhome was already on his way to confront. During the audience with the caravan merchants, a mysterious assailant attacked the Duke and those gathered with a powerful Firebolt spell, and managed to escape somehow using a magical Cloak. The Duke and the party survived the Firebolt attack.

After gathering provisions, the party were dispatched south towards the village of Waycombe, in the vicinity of which the merchant caravans had been attacked. It took the parties nine days travel on the roads (-18 Subscriber Points for resting each of the nine nights) to arrive at Waycombe. On the way the group triumphed in battle over a Morkrim raiding party and a pack of feral Whistle Wolves. They also heard rumors at an inn of a great power rising in the Southern Swamps, the “Lizard King”. At the Great Bridge over the River Ardo, the party was ambushed by a strong force of over a dozen Salamandrea Survivors, but were victorious.

Just outside of Waycome, the party found Barto Trume, the last survivor of the force of fighting men that the Duke of Reo had sent to deal with the fighting men. Trume told them that he had escaped from the bandits, whose base was located in a copse just north of the inn in Waycombe Village.

Arriving in the village of Waycome, the party found it nearly deserted. They learned from the last remaining inhabitant–an innkeeper on his way out of town–that the town had been depleted by bandit attacks until no one and nothing was left. The party struck out outside of town to the southeast, and encountered Stefan Demanis, a quite insane Tzaetzi hermit that they convinced to lead them to the Lizard King somewhere in the southern swamp. The party then camped for the night a few miles north, where they were very nearly eaten by a wandering Ophidian Coatl.

The following evening the party headed north to try and deal with the bandit base located north of the now-abandoned Waycombe Inn. Using stealth, Yntrew Tilt quickly eliminated the two Ophidian bandits that he found in the field.  About to provide first aid one in order to interrogate him, Yntrew looked up to find himself face to face with a full-grown Swamp Baphomet. The Baphomet snared Yntrew with a Captivate charm. Now viewing the Baphomet as his best friend, Yntrew returned to the inn to lead the rest of his party into the Baphomet waiting ambush…”

See the latest you’re missing from Prestige Studios…

-Action Report So Far-

“Bringing you the latest on Prestige Studios’ Journey To The Forbidden Jungle (MA15+, V/S/L), already in progress…

The expedition team sponsored by Comte Lania Anjou arrived at Level 1,011,999,451: Leason’s Folly surprised to find the temple of the bat dark and abandoned and the return Port nowhere to be found. Overturning the altar to find the treasure hidden beneath, the group then descended through the third tier of Upper Tamoachan, narrowly winning a grueling battle against a Darkwood Sentinel and a clutch of Corpus Vines.

The team then passed quickly through the Second Tier of Upper Tamoachan, pausing only to slaughter a dazed Gorgolint and harvest its valuable tusks. The journey through the First Tier of Upper Tamoachan was more eventful, as Occam’s Razor was reduced to dust by a powerful Banished in the Apartment of the Ages. The survivors won through past a Death Blimp and other hazards to encounter a pack of Rookery holdouts, with whom they rather expensively negotiated for directions. They then found the stairs downwards to Lower Tamoachan guarded by a new horror, a Helminth Majority. After a narrow victory over the majority, hours of gruesome exploratory surgery were performed on Viperius to remove the numerous flatworms that had burrowed inside her.

The team has now reached Level 1,011,999,465: Lower Tamoachan. There they have overcome a choir of Chorus Leeches, a hallway brimming with the Electric Dead, a squadron of Dark Walkers, and a devious trap to make it as far as the Great Hall. There, the entire party was nearly brought low by a pair of Grimstalkers, but as Viperius, Hegik, and Fenx lay sundered and bleeding, through a heroic effort Yntew Tilt broke free of his Hold and defeated both wounded Grimstalkers, delivering the performance that would graduate him to the Minor Leagues and Ascension Level 4.

Having rested and refreshed themselves, the party is now in the Great Hall of Level 1,011,999,465, ready to seek a way downwards to the Duchy of Reo, still several hundred levels away…”