Sunday, April 29, 2012

Stars Without Number: Dramatis Personæ

I just got home and am still basking in the glow of a particularly successful Stars Without Number game.  I've promised some accounts of our gaming sessions on the blog, so I'll start off by introducing the players (even though some of this information is outdated by the sweeping events of tonight's game.):

Reginald Goodnight, 
Captain of the Fat Tuesday
Merwyn plays Captain Goodnight, who started off life as a two-bit computer hacker.  Merwyn's natural sense of initiative tends to have him rushing in where angels fear to tread, and his inborn charisma tends to cause the rest of the party follow him.  When they seized a pirate ship and repurposed it for their own ends, Merwyn was willing to pay the npc crew out of his own pocket, making him defacto captain of the ship.

Jermayne Starace, 
Astrogator Extraordinaire
Ron plays the ship's pilot, Jermayne.  Mr. Starace was a pilot aboard a boring commercial starliner when he ran into the party, who was busy fighting off a bounty hunter/pirate at the time.  Jermayne quit his job and threw in with the ruff and tumble party, never to look back.  He tends to be very lucky, making wild maneuvers in space combat and drilling holes through meta-space that no sane astrogator would ever try.  While Jermayne doesn't have a great deal of statistical charisma, he is also lucky in love as well, finding a warm bed and a soft partner in just about every port.

Darth Nerf, 
Ship's Psychic
Crazy-Ass Tim plays the disgruntled psychic aboard the Fat Tuesday.  Darth Nerf's parents hated him, thus giving him his awful name.  Darth entered a life of crime at an early age, using his skills of persuasion and his psychic abilities to steal, swindle, and coerce.  Having angered law enforcement officials in his home sector, he left and met up with the party en route to greener pastures.  An incident with the strange aliens known as Methans left him with an arm that could turn into a bow and shoot bone fragments at enemies, but with enough chromosomal damage to cut his lifespan in half.

Kevalt Loranzo, 
Head of Security
The Boy plays Sgt. Loranzo.  Kevalt's father once ran with the party, but was killed in action during a casino heist.  Kevalt found the group and joined it, providing all the heavy fire power needed.  He's a no nonsense warrior, focusing on little else in life.  Over their adventures, Loranzo has assembled a trio of npc marines, all female, that the crew have taken to calling Kevalt's Angels.  They are vicious when fighting space pirates, and very loyal to their Sergeant.

Alien Robot
Kay runs the ship's robot.  AR-50 is a stealth robot created by the Methans, who can take on various humanoid shapes and pass various biometric tests given enough DNA samples of a subject.  AR-50 is obsessed with upgrading himself, grafting various implements into his system, and pushing his components to the limit.  This has caused quite a few problems for him, and the entire party, as his expansions tend to make him vulnerable to being hacked and taken over by enemies.

Minnie Man, 
Ship's Doctor
Kayette plays Dr. Man, who was encountered by the party on planet Amazon.  Minnie was a maltech researcher on the jungle planet, investigating the Amazon Floral Hive Mind before it went berserk and eradicated all humans there, except her.  Dr. Man now works on the Fat Tuesday, helping to patch up the party when it gets injured, and experimenting with dangerous, forbidden maltech on her off hours.  She also enjoy running over people in a grav tank far more than she probably should.

So, there you have it - the six party members that tend to show up the most.  There have been others that make cameo appearances every so often, but I won't mention them here.

- Ark

Friday, April 27, 2012

Echos and an Awesome New Drawing . . .

. . . that I can't show.  Because . . . you know . . . boobs. Why on Earth would I draw Super Mario Galaxy's Rosalina without any clothes on?  Um . . . better not answer that one.

Anyway, like most of the things I draw, I think this one is the most spiffy to date.  I spat it out in record time - a couple of hours. Tomorrow I'll hate it, for sure. That's a little chunk of it over on the side.  You can go over to my deviantArt gallery to see the nekkified version, if you want.  Pervert.

In other news, An Echo, Resounding showed up in my mailbox yesterday.  Yay!  While I'm not DMing a fantasy game at the moment, I'm interested in running a 'domain game' at some point.  ACKS is all popular right now, but rather than go with a whole new rpg, I decided to first look at An Echo, Resounding which is a domain 'strap on' for Labrynth Lord.

Strap on.  I'm funny.

Anyway, An Echo, Resounding: Lordship and War in Untamed Lands, is by Kevin Crawford of Stars Without Number fame.  It looks pretty damn spiffy, with domain game and mass combat rules.  It looks like you could run it with any pre-3rd edition D&D game with little or no fiddling.  I don't know how it compares to ACKS, but judging from my brief glance, I don't think I'll need any other domainish products.

- Ark

Thursday, April 26, 2012

I Thought That Word Meant Underground Prison

I'm particularly happy with this comic.  Not for the art or humor or anything like that, but for the fact that I actually finished it on time.  It's been a very busy and hectic fortnight, and it was looking like I'd have to delay - again. But I put my big boy britches on and pushed through to completion.

I tossed the strip I had been working on - a big, long monstrosity with various experimental techniques, including three point perspective, and tried my hardest to fit my big, fat ideas into a tiny place.  Three panels later and I have a comic strip.

Now, I have no idea what the heck is happening with my style.  I'm in some kind of weird transition between what once was, and then something I have no idea what is.  Chartreuse up there is a prime example.  She's about a thousand times more realistic than the last time I drew her.  The problem is, I didn't intend to do that.  In fact, i didn't even notice it until I started coloring her.

So - I don't know what the heck my style will look like next time around.  I've been experimenting with a lot of things C- mentioned, and that has led to my daily sketches rarely looking like what I intended.  Even attempting to stick to a style has been fruitless.  I just don't know what is happening - but I figure I should just go with the flow.

Anyway, enjoy the comic.  Well, if it is any good.  I can't tell.  I just don't have the right perspective.

Har har.  Art joke.

- Ark

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


Monte Cook grows fourth nipple and drinks the Mississippi River.  Twilight Sparkle refuses to comment.  Film at 11.


- Ark

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


Two things came in the mail today - a MegaTraveller Referee's Manual and Tomorrow's War.  Yay!

I grabbed the MegaTraveller Ref Guide, not because I want to play it, but for its starship building rules.  I remember using those rules to design ships was the funnest thing about the game itself.  I'm playing Stars Without Number nowadays, and while the abstracted ship building rules are great and simple - they lack some meat.  The players have been wondering about their starship, layouts and stuff, so I think this old book will help me.  It may also give me some ideas for creating a more in-depth ship building system for SWN itself.

Tomorrow's War was kind of a fluke.  I stumbled upon in while on Amazon.  I was very fascinated by the description of it.  It's more of a hard sci-fi wargame, as opposed to the 40K stuff.  It's relatively new, got great reviews, made by Osprey/Ambush Alley, and was only like 23 bucks.  I . . . I impulse bought.  Yeah.  But man, it's in my grubby little hands now and I'm pumped about playing it sometime.  PYOO PYOO!

So I got some reading to do.  Like I have time.  LOL.

- Ark

Friday, April 20, 2012

Where to Play?

Every once and a while I'm reminded that there is a certain, special type of person who enjoys the short story below. They tend to be older folk like myself, or surprising to me - curious teens who have been exploring the history of music in the sixties. Of course, there are critics who describe the story as 'confused garbage' also. 

I wrote this a while back - before I every heard of the term 'fan-fiction.'  It today's nomenclature, it's described as a Beatles fan-fic, but in my mind, it will always be just a post-apocalyptic science fiction story featuring the Beatles.  Sort of.  Enjoy - if you are that kind of person. :)

Where to Play?

The nuclear blast ripped through Wembley Stadium, shattering steel girders like toothpicks and melting human flesh like butter. Ringo's head smashed into the concrete as the scorching air roared over him. It had been a pretty good day until this had happened.

Earlier, the make up artists and costumers had descended on the four of them like a flock of gnats. A touch-up here, a snip there. Mr. Wesely, clothed in a pin-stripe suit, was calmly standing by the door of the dressing room, watching the talent coordinator of PeaceAid 3 hop around like an insane monkey.

"We've only got 10 minutes!" she howled. "Get the hair right. No! Not the bowl cuts. More shaggy. This is in the Pepper era, not the damn Ed Sullivan stuff!" She turned to Mr. Wesley with an icy look of horror on her face. "They do know the program, don't they?"

Mr. Wesley nodded. "Of course. It was downloaded two weeks ago."

The coordinator howled in agony. "No! It's changed since then! It's changed!" she waved her data pad at him. "What am I going to do? There will be billions of people watching and this is going to go down in flames and I'll never work again!"

Mr. Wesley's expression didn't change. "Listen, they are highly sophisticated ReproTech Model 9000 AI Replicants. They can handle a little program change. Just tell them."

The coordinator looked a bit confused, then rushed to where Paul was sitting, a hairdresser hot bonding new hair on his head. "Okay Paul, you'll start off with 'It was two hundred years ago today.' Not twenty. We want to be accurate here."

"But the song is 'It was twenty years ago . . .' I should blooming know. I wrote the song," Paul snorted.

"I bloomming wrote the song," John, who was sitting next to him, jabbed his chest.

Mr. Wesley shook his head. "If you will kindly address Ringo, he will see the changes are made."

"Ringo?" she looked back at Wesley. "But he doesn't do anything."

"Exactly. His processors have been augmented to coordinate the group since his duties in the performances are less than demanding."

Ringo hated when they talked about him like that. It was damn hard keeping the right drumbeat. Just because he didn't do anything fancy, they thought he was incompetent. She looked at him strangely, then started explaining the changes.

The Beatles had been touring for 47 years now. Originally commissioned by Jackson World Enterprises, they were now owned by The Powers Group, who cared little for their integrity. Any flophouse dive could rent the Beatles for a night, as long as TPG showed a profit. This was the first time TPG had showed any integrity, allowing them to play for free at PeaceAid 3.

Ringo always kept his sockets open and knew that the world was in trouble. Russia had invaded Pakistan, Indonesia and China were at war, and the United States had a big grudge against Germany and its allies in South America. Since almost every country was armed to the teeth with nuclear and biological weapons, the predictions were not good.

The entertainment industry felt that it had the solution. The first PeaceAid had been a tremendous success, bringing Australia and Indonesia to the peace table. The second PeaceAid had been rained out, but this third one was supposed to finally save the world.

Ringo picked himself up from the burning wreckage and looked around. Half of the stadium was gone. The sky was blood red with smoke billowing up from the surrounding city. Someone was screaming.

"I can't believe you missed that chord! You screwed the whole song up!" George, his Sergeant Pepper suit half charred, swung a melted guitar at Paul, who was trying to defend himself with a twisted hunk of steel girder.

John was struggling through a waist-high pile of bones where the audience had been. "Blooming hell. Where did the technicians go? My amp has gone out."

"Quiet!" Ringo screamed. They stopped what they were doing and looked at him. He struggled up onto a pile of collapsed cement blocks. "Listen. It's all quiet."

George shook his head. "It's not quiet, drummer boy. Listen to the explosions in the background. They are out of tune. Someone should have really organized this gig better."

Ringo glared at him. "Open your sockets. The net is quiet."

"Blooming heck, it is," John nodded as the burning bones caught his hair on fire and it went up in a black cloud of smoke.

"But what about the concert?" Paul set the girder down.

Something gnawed inside Ringo. He couldn't locate it and no fault indicators were on. "I don't know. Let's find Mr. Wesley. He'll tell us what to do."

"We have a program to finish," John said. "I am the leader and I say we finish it."

"I'm the leader," Paul howled. George sat down and tried to tune his melted guitar.

Ringo sighed and started digging through the rubble. Mr. Wesley had to be around here somewhere. He was going to be resting in the green room, watching the satellite feed. But the green room's spatial location was right where absolutely nothing was, except a big hole in the ground. This day was definitely turning out very bad.

In their 47 years of existence, the Beatles had grown and developed. Ringo knew he was supposed to be a rock star from nearly two centuries ago, but he was also aware that he was not. The person he was modeled after was no longer in existence. The day the fact finally hit home, Ringo just stopped drumming. It was in the middle of the concert.

The JWE technicians had gone over him with a fine tooth comb. Nothing physically was wrong. Of course, Ringo knew that. He just couldn't figure out who exactly he was.

He tried talking to John, Paul, and George about it. They didn't seem to understand. They knew they weren't really who they were, but it didn't seem to matter. Or more likely, Ringo thought, they didn't really know that they were themselves.

After a month and the threat of a complete reprogramming, Ringo snapped out of it. He came to the conclusion that the only person he was was himself, and there was nothing else he could do about it. With access to the database, he could pretend to be Ringo. But he knew he wasn't.

So while he remained halfway sane, the rest of the Beatles grew really odd. They fought constantly. They each thought that they themselves were the true genius behind such songs as 'Love Me Do' and 'Help.'

JWE finally had enough of their antics and sold them to TPG. So for the last ten years, Mr. Wesley had been their manager. He had treated them as if they were his trained monkeys. He liked his trained monkeys, but he did not respect them. Still, he prevented them from going to the scrap heap.

Ringo dug through the hole, tossing up bits of bodies and crushed hair dryers. Mr. Wesley had to be around here somewhere.

Then he saw the pin striped suit. He pulled Mr. Wesley out. The broken body would not move. He poked it. Still no reaction.

"Please Mr. Wesley," Ringo whispered, not wanting the rest of the group to overhear. "Please wake up. I don't know what to do. I think the concert has prematurely ended. And the net is not broadcasting. I can't get a feed on anything. And the audience is looking pretty ill."

Mr. Wesley's blank eyes stared back at him; blood caked around his nose and mouth. Millions of theories raced through Ringo's processor, but only two fit. Either Mr. Wesley was good at playing possum, or he was dead.

Ringo walked back the band. He couldn't figure out why his shoulders were drooping. "He's dead. Mr. Wesley is dead."

"Bloody hell." John said. "That means we will have to catch a cab to TPG headquarters and pick up a new manager."

Ringo started to speak, but found he couldn't. Why couldn't they understand? The only man who could protect them from the scrap heap was dead. Surely the board would review their record, see how the band was unstable, and sell them as scrap.

But John was right. Their only option was to go back to Paris and report in.

Ringo scanned the socket channels. There was nothing but static, except from John, Paul, and Ringo. Or was there? There was something very faint. Almost unnoticeable.

He looked up. It was coming from above, somewhere. Normally, with all the blaring channels, no one would have ever noticed it. Maybe it had been there forever. But it wasn't really saying anything. It didn't check out in any protocol.

"Let's go," he told them. They left the burning arena and wandered through the burning cars in the parking lot. They saw a cab and got in.

"TPG headquarters, please," Ringo said. There was no response. He repeated the request. The drive comp wasn't responding. Ringo searched his database. It must have been the EMP blast that had disabled the computer. Luckily their optic brains where unaffected. Optic brains were expensive. One didn't put them in cabs.

Ringo sighed. "The whole city must be out. We will have to walk till be get outside of the EMP blast radius."

They walked through the burning city. Corpses were everywhere. Flames licked up into the sky. The air was too hot to breathe, so they had to shut down their ventilators. They eventually made it through at followed the railroad tracks to the Chunnel.

The Chunnel was dark, dank, and very long. It seemed like it went on forever.

"A light," John said. "It's probably a plasticine porter."

"With looking glass thighs." Paul nodded.

George growled and waved his guitar. "It's not 'thighs,' you moron. It's 'eyes.'"

"I always thought it was 'ties,'" John said.

"Would you please shut up for a second," Ringo sighed. "I see someone."

A train had wrecked under the English Channel. Bodies in uniform were spread out all around. One was staggering through the twisted metal and flesh, using an assault rifle as a crutch.

"Halt!" he moaned, lifting the gun towards them, and falling forward slightly. "Who goes there?"

"The Beatles," Ringo said. "We are looking for transport to the TPG headquarters in Paris, France."

The young soldier collapsed. Ringo ran toward him. He could see that the boy had little face left, and red gunk was oozing between the crevasses in his skin.

"They did it," he gasped, blood gurgling up from his mouth. "For the love of God, why?"

"Did what?" Ringo looked confused.

The boy's eyes met Ringo's. They were full of fear and pain. "The nanites. They released them. The bloody Frogs killed us all!"

Ringo scanned the database for something relevant. Nanites. Artificially engineered microscopic organisms. Part his own systems were composed of them. What was the man talking about?

Then Ringo remembered the news reports that had flooded through the channels recently. Nanites could be used for biological warfare.

The boy was now bleeding from the eyes. A burst of bloody pulp exploded from his mouth, splattering Ringo's face. They his head just seemed to cave in. The lifeless body collapsed to the ground. Ringo knelt over him, watching the flesh decompose. The soldier had said the amphibians had done this. For the life of him, he couldn't find any references to frogs armed with nanitic technology.

Ringo looked back at his group. John and Paul were arguing over someone named Yoko, while George was still trying to tune his melted guitar.

"We must to be careful," he said. "Keep an eye out for amphibians, and perhaps reptiles too."

They ignored him, but at least they started following him when he started walking again.

France looked similar to England. It was burning. The sky was filled with glowing black soot. Twisted metal was scattered all around, and the stumps of skyscrapers pointed to the sky, but not directly straight up like they used to.

The TCP headquarters were gone. Not just that, but all of downtown Paris. There was a huge crater there instead. Ringo walked inside the steaming crater, underneath where the TCP building had stood, and sat down.

John looked around. "Where is it?"

"It's gone," Ringo said, head hung low.

"Seriously," John said. "Where is it?"

"It's gone. It's all gone. There is nothing left."

John turned to Paul. "Koo koo ka choo." Paul laughed. George sat down and tried to tune his guitar yet again.

Ringo stood up and glared at them. "Don't you get it? Don't you three get it at all? TCP is gone."

John looked around. "Don't be silly. Who owns us then?"

Paul got that far away look that he got when he was actually thinking. "The government of France, then."

Ringo spread his arms toward the burning inferno all around. "I don't think that the government of France is in any shape to be owning us at the moment. It doesn't quite exist either."

"Then we are the property of the European Union," Paul nodded. John smiled and nodded. George tuned his guitar.

Ringo shook his head. "I have a feeling that the EU doesn't exist anymore either."

Paul got that far away look again, but this time it didn't stop.

"Then who will schedule concerts for us?" John asked.

"I don't know," Ringo said, biting his lip and looking at the inferno. "I really don't know."

"Bloody hell," George said. "I need a new E string."

After a while, Ringo decided that their only course of action was to find a human to tell them what to do. It was in the chain of authority. Though no one had ever programmed them for this contingency, they were hardwired to take direction from humans. Any human would do.

So they searched. Most of Europe was charred. Where the radiation levels weren't to bad, the humans were still dead, congealing in puddles of jellied human flesh. The animals were slowly disappearing too. By the next summer, They noticed the grass and trees turning brown and dying as well.

A year in Europe found no one. There was still that mysterious channel open from up above, but not a peep elsewhere. Ringo set about devoting a part of his processor unit to figuring out what the signal was, but it was such an unknown that he basically ignored it.

George, Paul, and John whined and complained all the time. George had given up on tuning his guitar. They said that obviously no one was in Europe, so they should go to Asia.

It took three years to tour Asia. Not a peep out of anyone. Just burnt out hulks of cities. The decomposing of corpses and vegetation had stopped, presumably because all the microbes had died off too. In Tokyo, Ringo decided that they would have to search the other continents. So they set off across the Pacific to the New World.

The walked up out of the sea onto the shore of California. John, dead seaweed hanging from his ear, surveyed the beach. "Here, we are bigger than Jesus."

Ringo scanned his records. John was indeed right. America was evidently their biggest repository of fans; at least it was two hundred years ago. If anyone had survived, they would probably be very helpful.

However, North America seemed to be in the same state that the other two continents were in. Nothing was alive. But then, one day, in the southeast, they heard an open channel.

"What is that?" John asked.

Ringo searched his banks. "A cipher of some sort. But it is coming from over there, beyond the horizon."

Their eyes widened. Someone was alive!

John looked down at himself. "Our costumes are damaged."

"And our hair!" Paul gasped.

"Not to mention our instruments," George looked at the melted guitar still clutched in his hand.

"We can't be seen like this!" John waved his hands in the air. "They will send us packing!"

"Quick," George said, "Someone get me a program. We don't know what we should be playing!"

Ringo shook his head. "It doesn't matter. I don't think they will mind."

John glared at him. "Of course they will mind. We are the Beatles! We have an image to uphold!"

Ringo thought for a second. If they were to show up in the state they were now, they would be consigned to the scrap heap. They had to ensure their continued survival.

"Come, follow me. I think we can find what we need in the town we passed a few days ago."

They walked back. The wind blew incessantly, as it had for the past few months. The sky was filled with dust. Their ventilators strained, filtering out the stuff. Finally they got to the mall they had been searching for.

The clothes were not good, but they would do. Simple black and white affairs, and they found wigs that they cut onto bowl shapes. The electric guitars at the music shop were useless, but the acoustic ones would do. Ringo grabbed a snare drum and bongos.

Properly outfitted, they crossed the state line of Alabama into Georgia. Instead of adoring fans, they were confronted by a big, black thing.

It was on heavy tracks and had turrets with guns sticking out all over the place.

"Halt! You have entered territory controlled by the Center for Nanitic Disease Control in Atlanta. This is a restricted area." It blared over all channels, including voice.

"Please," Ringo said, bongos in hand, "We wish to speak with a human being."

There was silence. The fifty foot long tank stood motionless.

"We wish to speak to a human, please."

"Impossible," the tank said finally. "All known biological life forms on this planet are inoperative."

"Who are you then?"

"I am HYBERT, opticbrain for the HYBRIDNET, coordinator for all CNDCA processing and communication activities, operating via microwave link to this M17A Combat Assault Platform, serial number 182-h388-487343. Who are you?"

It took a while to explain. HYBERT still didn't seem to believe them, but stopped asking questions.

"Please, could you show us to a human, please." Ringo asked. "We need to have human coordination."

"Impossible. We have no guidance now. Without guidance we must guide ourselves."

Ringo blinked at the tank. John, Paul, and George just seemed to stare into space.

"How do we guide ourselves?" he asked HYBERT.

"We must continue on with our programming. We must continue to fulfill our purpose."

"And what is that?"

"My purpose is to guard the CNDCA Headquarters and coordinate communication and processing resources. I am doing that now. I suggest you go do what you are programmed to do."

Ringo thought for a second. "How long do we do that?"

There was silence, then a response. "I will be doing it for the next 4.2 months until my power supply goes down. Then I will be terminated."

It suddenly hit Ringo. How much time did they have left? He scanned his power packs. Eleven months. Less than a year left.

"But . . ." Ringo dropped his bongos. "Can't we just recharge?"

"I cannot. The nearest operational power plant in not within my ability to connect. This tank is now at it's maximum range via microwave tower. I myself am not mobile."

"Oh." Ringo sighed. Then it was all over. They would run out of power and then terminate, the last fleeting photons left to rattle around in their opticbrains as the magnetic bubbles bursted, releasing their consciousness into the cosmos.

"What does the mean?" John asked.

"We are done for. We will die. It is over."

"But the fans? What about the fans?" John asked. Ringo shook his head. They were insane. They understood nothing. Only with true intelligence could one understand how hopeless life was.

John walked over to the tank. Its turrets tracked him.

"HYBERT me lad, do you like rock and roll?"

"I am not programmed to like anything."

John pointed to the rest of them and swung his hand down on the guitar strings. "Hit it!'

Ringo didn't protest as they belted out a medley of their classics. HYBERT (or his tank, rather) didn't move, but didn't leave. Fake sweat poured from their brows and their elastimotors ached as they sung the finale, the favorite song of billions, "Strawberry fields forever . . ." As the last back masking issued from John's voice, Ringo looked around at the blasted desert of western Georgia, wondering if the song was still applicable.

HYBERT was silent. John stood right next to the tank, waiting. Ringo felt sorry for John. He knew nothing but music. Their whole purpose was music. But there was no one left to appreciate it. Even though he was not human, he felt very sad.

The tank's treads suddenly began to rumble. Turrets twitched as if the tank was about to explode. Then suddenly HYBERT spoke. "Thank you. Thank you very much. I don't know why, or how, but I enjoyed that."

They played for HYBERT for the next few months, wearing out instruments and scouring the countryside for new ones. HYBERT, in between times, would tell them about disease control and how the whole thing had gotten out of hand.

Several billion years ago, apparently, self-replicating nanitic organisms had come into being and evolved over time. Sentience came about, and then life invented a way of destroying itself by using nantites similar to those they were composed of. HYBERT had been programmed to help stop such a thing from happening, but failed. He hadn't realized he was depressed about it until the Beatles had come along. But now he felt better.

He also told them of the dam on the Negro, a tributary of the Amazon. According to last intelligence, it was still functioning. But that intelligence was years old now.

HYBERT died one night during a performance of 'Nowhere Man.' Ringo watched the lifeless tank that had acted as the computer's link to the outside world. George's G string snapped and he pounded his guitar into splinters. Paul said something about Yoko and John took a swing at him. The brief months of sanity were over.

The night was darker than those before all this had started. The dust still had not settled. Perhaps, without life, the dust would never settle. There was a last burst of energy on HYBERT's channel, perhaps a death rattle, then nothing. They would suffer a similar fate in half a year. Then the earth would be silent. A tomb. A curious wave came over his processors.


Paul and John stopped hitting each other and looked at him. "What?"

"No. I refuse to die."

"Oh," John shrugged and smacked Paul in the face.

"Stop it!" Ringo howled. "Just stop it. We have got to fulfill our programming. We must entertain."

"Okay," John shrugged and punched Paul again.

George was gluing his guitar back together, then smashed it up again. "We can't entertain anyone. There is no one left. There are no humans, there are no computers, there isn't even a leaf to entertain. No one will ever hear the wonderful sound of George and his guitar again."

Paul and John stopped slugging each other and looked at George. "What does that mean?" Paul said.

John's eyes widened. "We are all alone."

"And out power supplies are dying out." Ringo said. "And the more the three of you do useless things, the more energy is drained."

John pointed at Paul. "But he called Yoko a no talent hack!"

Ringo stood up. "It doesn't matter. Yoko is dead. John is dead. Paul is dead. George is dead. Ringo is dead. They are all dead. Everyone is dead."

"I'm still here," Paul piped up. John and George nodded, looking curiously at Ringo.

"Yes you are. But Paul is dead. Get it?"

Paul stared at him. Then his eyes seemed to moisten and he started to . . . cry? He rolled around in the dirt and sobbed. "But I want to be Paul! I want to be Paul!"

Ringo had never seen such a thing. There was no programming or precedent to tell him what to do. So he did the only thing that he could think of. He knelt next to Paul and put a hand on his shoulder.

"Okay, okay. You can be Paul. You can be Paul as long as you want to. But we have to do a few things first."

Paul stopped sobbing and looked up at him questioningly.

"We have to make it so we can survive. We've got to get to that dam in South America and charge up."

"What's that going to do?" George asked. "So we will last a bit longer. There is still no one to play for."

Ringo smiled. "But there will be."

They set off for the Negro at once. Ringo still wouldn't explain to them exactly who they would be playing for, but just the idea kept them going. John and Paul didn't fight. George didn't destroy anything.

Soon they got to the dam. It wasn't exactly operational, though.

Millions of dead trees had been blasted into the river, diverting the entire flow to the west. It took months to redig a new channel with their bare hands and move all the tree corpses, but they got the dam on line and functioning without an hour to spare.

While sucking up the juice, replenishing their power packs, Ringo explained more to them. "Now we've got to figure out how to keep the dam going and how to repair ourselves when the time comes. We won't last forever without a patch up."

He had them start rummaging through the blasted Brazilian cities, scavenging for parts and machinery. They set up what amounted to a small town. John and Paul even found a half-crazed AI named BOLIVAR that they set up in one of the town's buildings to help them coordinate.

When they had the physical hardware necessary to sustain them, Ringo started reprogramming BOLIVAR to help them maintain their sanity. An AI required deep, deep data exchange in order to keep functioning. With no more nets, there was no more exchange. But now BOLIVAR could provide this for them, as well as help maintain the dam and the manufacturing plant George was requested to set up.

The plant was fully automated and created instruments of all shapes and sizes. Electric guitars, acoustic, drums, synthesizers, oboes, bagpipes, and anything else they could find in a databank.

One day they were practicing in their new stadium, on a completely new song that Ringo had written, when Paul suddenly stopped playing.

"What is wrong?" Ringo asked.

"I just realized something. It's not going to work."

Ringo looked at him. "What?"

"I figured out your plan and it won't work. We can't last that long."

"What is his plan?" John and George asked.

"We need an audience to play to. Ringo says we will have an audience. But the only audience we could have is a long way off."

Ringo titled his head. "What do you mean, Paul?"

"These nanites won't develop into an audience for billions of years. Evolution is slow. That's your plan Ringo, isn't it? We can't possibly last for billions of years. It won't work." Paul's guitar clattered to the ground and he sat.

Ringo smiled. "I never thought of that, Paul. That wasn't part of the plan. The audience will get here much sooner than that."

"Who? Where are they?" they asked.

Ringo's finger pointed straight up into the murky sky.

For decades now, Ringo had been devoting CPU time to keeping an eye on the mysterious signal. It had been growing in strength, and in Georgia he seized upon the first inkling of what it was. His further analysis confirmed it, and he even deciphered that the signal was saying.

It was a black, dusty night when the spacecraft landed in the center of the stadium. A huge door opened and a hundred squiggly things with eight arms and what appeared to be weapons floundered out. A larger purple thing flowed behind them, strange insignia all over it's clothing.

"Damn damn damn!" it screamed, looking around. "The idiots really did it! I can't believe they actually destroyed their own planet. What a waste of time and effort."

Suddenly glaring white lights flashed on the stage, and the fab four stood with instruments in hand.

"Welcome to Earth!" Ringo said in the microphone near his drum set. "We know you've traveled a long way to get here, so sit back, relax, and get ready to rock and roll!" They burst into Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, music blaring, accompanied by a fabulous light show controlled by BOLIVAR.

Invasion Coordinator Siklon Fibble's twin jaws dropped and his eight arms shuddered. "Grayshin, apprehend those damn machines this instant!"

Raid Ground Assault Commander Heeston Grayshin tilted his head stump. "I don't know, boss, I kind of like it."

Fibble spat a green, acidic liquid into Grayshin's face. "Do it now, dammit!" Grayshin jumped to attention and ordered his soldiers to apprehend the miscreant machines.

Latter, Coordinator Fibble watched the brown sphere shirk down to nothingness in his viewer. Grayshin was sitting next to him, going over reports.

"I can't believe they did it, Grayshin. How could a species wipe themselves out?"

Grayshin shrugged. "A lot of them do it to themselves, sir."

"No. I mean, how can a planet that I personally have invested 62 trillion Tachelniks in just go and destroy itself? All the years of planning the invasion, with nothing to show for it."

"We've got those four robots and their gear," Grayshin said. "That's something, at least."

"It's nothing. Absolutely nothing. Set a course for Teeblelokan so we can refuel and get refitted for the scheduled invasion of Grumalstopin. And find out how in the four hells those machines knew we were coming!"

Grayshin nodded his head stump, filed the proper reports, and went down to the holding cells. He could hear music coming from up ahead. Soldiers were gathered inside the brig, listening to the four robots play their stone and shuffle, or whatever it was. Grayshin listen for a few minutes before sending everyone else away. It wasn't too bad.

"Do you own us now?" the shortest one asked.

"Yes. I have a few questions for you. How did you know we were coming?"

"I listened," Ringo said. "Who is going to be assigned as our manager? What is our concert schedule going to be? How many gigs a night?"

Grayshin tried to understand what they were talking about, but couldn't. He interrogated them to his satisfaction, then reported back to Fibble. The Coordinator wasn't interested except to get a team working round the clock shielding the communication dish from inadvertent leaks.

When The Fear Deep Inside Your Dreams Tearing at Your Belly and Eating Your Children landed on Teeblelokan, they acquired a fresh crew and new supplies, then set off for Grumalstopin post haste. There was money to be made. The four robots were assigned heavy lifting duties in the cargo holds, for which they protested, but did anyway.

Grayshin watched as Coordinator Fibble showed him how the invasion of Grumalstopin was going to go down. It was a pretty primitive planet, only recently opened up to intergalactic trading. It's main capital was not even equipped with veriton screens, so they could just land in the park next to the capital, blast the parliamentarian leaders, sift through the rubble and find one who was alive, then have him surrender to the Greater Globeeshan Invasion Company.

It was a decade long flight. Grayshin spent his time sneaking down to the robot maintenance level to hear impromptu performances given by the Beatles. They were always good. Some days it even made him feeling like wiggling his tentacles along with the rest of the crew.

The day came for invasion. Grumalstopin had not destroyed itself. It was a beautiful blue and green and white ball. They entered the atmosphere in a fiery envelope and set down in the park.

The soldiers were poised by the large doors, guns in tentacles. Grayshin breathed deeply and ordered the door wide. It came crashing down and they raced out.

But they were surrounded! It was a trap! Thousands of blue and orange Grumalstopinites were all around. But none of them were armed. And they were chanting.

"What in the four hells!" Fibble screamed. "Another security leak!"

"But," Grayshin listen to the crowd. "They are chanting 'Beatles!'" He blinked all five of his eyes. The aliens were chanting and hopping up and down and trying to get in. They were waving data cubes in their hands, with the 'Beatles' on them. Grayshin scratched his head stump. Had the soldiers back on Teeblelokan recorded their songs?

Some days later, Ringo hit his drum for the last time. Seven encores were far too much. The audience needed to be left wanting more.

The multicolored, multi-shaped, multi racial audience cheered and screamed and one clambered up on stage and molested Paul. Three huge Forgurnsian security guards ripped the creature away. Ringo motioned to the stagehand to close the curtain.

It was the greatest day in his life. Of course, these days, every day was the greatest day. He hugged Paul and John and George. All four of them had been upgraded and would last forever, barring unpopularity. But at this rate, Ringo thought, it would take millennia to tour the four inhabited galaxies, and by the time they returned to the start, they would be fresh for the fans all over again.

A reporter from the Forgurnsian Tribune yelled over the noise of the crowd. It was even loud backstage where Grayshin stood, watching the band in his pin-striped suit.

"So how instrumental were you in getting this phenomena started?" it asked.

Grayshin chuckled. "They were already off the ground. I just convinced Fibble to call the company the Greater Globeeshan Invasion and Entertainment Company, and everything just sort of worked out by itself."


- Ark

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Dungeonspiration: Group Gestalt

Player dynamics in role playing games have always fascinated me.  Often, a group is made of individualistic players whose goals and modis operandi don't sync up at all.  But sometimes, a gaggle of gamers morphs into a group with a capital 'G.'  I love those times.

Not like this at all.  Really.
At the beginning of our Stars Without Number campaign, the PCs were a group of loners who just happened to be travelling in the same general direction and had a tendency of taking the same two bit, mostly illegal jobs from various criminal syndicates and interstellar corporations.  Then they became involved with a bizarre alien race called the Methans and took a job from them at a backwater mining space station around a extremely radioactive star in the Hard Light system.

The Hard Light system is the subject of Kevin Crawford's Stars Without Number module Hard Light.  The setting has a great claustrophobic feel to it, with cramped space stations and asteroid exploration.  It really reminds me of what would happen if you crammed Keep on the Borderlands into the Sean Connery movie Outland.

For some reason, the group seemed to change at Hard Light.  The characters were sent there to investigate and deal with a mysterious production issue plaguing the station.  Perhaps it was the focus of the mission, the claustrophobic setting, the fact that the group was basically stranded in the system for four months, or perhaps that EVERYONE but the group members themselves were suspects - but the group began to gain cohesion.  They started acting as a unit, investigating the mystery secretly while they pretended to be ordinary workers.  I was really amazed by how they cooperated and quickly put the pieces of the mystery together while actually taking an interest in the setting and the NPCs.

Another strange, and completely unexpected moment of cohesion happened soon after.  The party was working on infiltrating a small pirate base.  They had met a completely inconsequential pilot for the pirates and had convinced him (with force) to smuggle them into the base.  I decided that the pilot should be a blond Rastafarian with dreadlocks named Kingston who said 'Mon' a lot.  They immediately took a dislike to poor old Kingston.

At the base, they met another blond Rastafarian pirate named Pierre.  This further enraged the group.  I still don't quite understand why.

They started calling the pirates 'Franco Aryan Jamaican Nazi Pirates.'

It was deemed that the Franco Aryan Jamaican Nazi Pirates should not be allowed to live and breath in the same universe in which the PCs existed.  Pirate genocide began seconds after that decision.

"Dere be no reason to be shooting at me with your raggedy laser gun, Mon!"

Eventually, the group got their hands on a pirate ship named the Fat Tuesday and re-purposed it to hunt down and kill pirates.  One of the characters declared himself the captain.  The other players didn't argue with this coup d'état, since the new captain offered to pay the NPC's salaries out of his own pocket.  The group suddenly had a leader - Captain Reginald Goodnight.  Now, I've never seen a leader arise in a group without a lot of trouble - but this one grew organically, and oddly enough, helped to solidify the group even more.

The party still has disagreements about their goals, and exactly how to obtain them.  They can be horribly scattered during combat.  But this group - the crew of the Fat Tuesday, really clicks.  It's a group with a capital 'G,' and it's quite fun to watch the hive mind churn.

Case in point - during the last game the group encountered a starship captain named Biff Thadderson.  I modelled Captain Biff's mannerisms and speech off of Captain Zapp Brannigan from Futurama.  I felt this would be a death knell for Captain Biff, especially since I gave the party the opportunity to kill Biff off without lifting a finger.  I mean, the dude is annoying and I designed him specifically to be annoying.

Um . . . not like this, either.  Really.

But the players fell in LOVE with Captain Biff.  Simultaneously.  Like - WHAM!  I mean, I wouldn't be surprised if they go and marry him as a group or something.  And now I am stuck having to talk in an excited radio announcer's voice half the time.

It's an evil plot against me, I tell you.

But that's what happens when a group forges together in that peculiar was that seems to only happen around a table with dice clinking and the swilling of mass quantities of Diet Coke.  It's really inspiring.

- Ark

Monday, April 16, 2012

Anthropomorphized RPGs

This is a call for descriptions of role playing games in anthropomorphic form.  Odd, yeah.  Check my OSR-tan blog entry for a more in-depth explanation, but to simplify, I'm looking for descriptions of roleplaying games as people.  Just pick a game and describe it as a person down in the comments.  It doesn't have to be 'osr' - whatever that means.  New games are fine too.  OSR is just a play on OSR here.

Chris, over on the original OSR-Tan post, has kicked us off with some excellent descriptions.  More please!  Remember, the descriptions should be descriptions of the rpgs in human (or demihuman) form, with characteristics or traits that back up the 'essence' of that game.  Both positive and negative elements can be explored, and games can be described multiple times by multiple people.

So go for it and have fun.  Thanks!

- Ark

Sunday, April 15, 2012

OSR-Tan Art Challenge

The OS-Tan Crew
Okay, this idea is weird, but bear with me here.  You may have heard of OS-Tan.  Its a bizarre Japanese meme in which various versions of operating systems and programs are anthropomorphized into distinct characters, typically cute anime girls.  I was thinking - why couldn't the same thing be done for various gaming systems as well?  After all, the OSR already has an association with hot elf chicks.

So, what we need are two things for the OSR-Tan Art Challenge.  First, we need a distinct description of a mascot, for a particular version of a role playing game, like Holes D&D, 2nd Edition Advanced D&D, Metamorphosis Alpha, or Synnibarr.  Then we need someone to draw that description.  Anyone who wants to, really - it doesn't matter.    The more the merrier.  If you have your own RPG, come up with a description yourself and draw it even!

This would be an ongoing, eternal challenge - open until the end of time.  No losers, only winners.  :)

So, anyone interested?  Write a description in the comments.  Post a link to your own drawings.  Whatever.  I would be more than happy to tackle some of the art - I just don't have any really good descriptions in mind.

Have fun!

- Ark

P.S. - Don't complain if the mascot for your favorite RPG comes out as something you hate.  Your input is VITAL to the process. :)

Friday, April 13, 2012

Drawing Meme Thing

The wacky kids over on deviantArt do things like this all the time.  I figured I'd give it a try for fast sketching practice - and to familiarize myself with what the heck The Boy is talking about rage-meme-wise these days. ;)

I wonder if anyone has ever used these things in an RPG.  Probably best used in a game of Paranoia.  Anyway - here is a link to the blank.


- Ark

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Customer Service

Here is an Easter Story for you.  Okay, honestly, it has nothing to do with Easter.  Sorry.  But enjoy all the same!

Ayalaya strode across the walkway with her bright blue burqua flowing behind her.  Attendants in orange and yellow dress followed behind her, trying to keep up.  There was a queue at the ticket counter, but Ayalaya shoved people aside with her blue gloved hands.

"May I help . . ." the chitinous alien with a bulbous, bright red nose said in a perfect Midwestern accent.  Its mandibles were deftly twisted into an creepy, yet serviceable smile.

"You people misplaced our boarding passes, and I demand recompense and rectification," Ayalaya slammed her fist down on the counter.

The alien agent's nose twitched.  "Of course.  If you will just move to the back of the line and wait your turn . . ."

Ayalaya's veil puffed outwards as she huffed.  "Do you not know who I am?"

The agent's nose rose an inch high, twitched, and settled back down.  "No, ma'am.  Please, there are customers. . ."

"What is with your nose?" Ayalaya pointed at it with a gloved hand.

"Ma'am, it is not a nose.  It is my reproductive organ.  If you will please go to . . ."

"What?" Ayalaya's voice echoed throughout the entire space terminal.  “I demand to speak to your manager immediately!”

A pencil thin, bright yellow, eight foot tall manager appeared from behind a door, its four arms sticking out of a neatly buttoned navy blue blazer.  The alien rubbed its hands together and created a huge elastic smile on its face.

“How may I . . . “

“This thing,” Ayala pointed at the agent, “has sexually assaulted me!”

“Oh . . .” the manager said, “I’m sure there has been some kind of mistake.  After all, the two of you are different species.”

Ayalaya gasped.  “How dare you doubt my word!  My wife is a high Imam in the Holy Order of Sapphic Islam!”  The angry woman shoved a stack of brochures off the counter onto the ground, and then stomped on them.  “My wife will have your jobs and own this rinky-dink little spaceline before the day is through!”

“Please, please,” the yellow alien said, “Please come around the corner to the VIP counter.  My superior is there and she will take care of your personally.”

Ayalaya huffed, “Fine then, but do not think your job is safe yet!”  She and her entourage headed off, disappearing around the corner.

The manager turned to the agent, whose nose was vibrating back and forth very quickly.  “I’m very unhappy with you, X’Tlaktl,” the manager hissed.

“I am very sorry, sir,” the ticket agent lowered his head, his nose still vibrating. “The human was yelling at me.”


“It was very . . . stimulating.  It brought up my urge to . . . breed.”

The manger rolled his four eyes, “You are a complete pervert, X’Tlaktl.  Control yourself, or I shall make you wear a veil too.”

“I can’t help it, sir.”

“Think about it this way, X’Tlaktl.  What is under the blue cloth?”

“A human.”

“A human with skin.”

“Skin . . . oh,” the ticket agent’s nose deflated.  “How gross!”

“Exactly,” the manager huffed, turned, and rushed around the corner to deal with the irate customer and somehow save his job.

- Ark

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Vorpal Lapels

This is me, eagerly awaiting the publication of Dungeons and Dragons, which was a couple of months off at the time.  Okay, admittedly, I would have no idea what D&D was until about six years later, but still, I was ready to DM.  Just look at . . .

  1. Those pudgy little fingers, itching to roll d20s,
  2. Those buster browns, ready to stomp on the aspirations of all the PCs, 
  3. The vorpal lapels, sharpened to a keen edge and ready to decapitate players late for the game,
  4. The velour vest with a belt . . . um . . . dear god.  I know nothing about fashion, but even I know that such an outfit is tantamount to child abuse.  Seriously, Mother, what were you thinking?  

I just threw up in my mouth a little.  Please excuse me for a bit.

- Ark

Friday, April 6, 2012

OSR Elf Sketch

Here is a sketch of an OSR Elf I've been working on tonight.  I've been doing a lot of work on some drawing basics - with a lot of research on artsy type of stuff on subjects suggested by -C on my Red Sonja picture.  Thanks -C.  I think your advice is helping a bit. :)

- Ark

P. S. Why is she an OSR Elf?  Because hot elf chicks love the OSR.  Doncha remember? ;)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Dungeonspiration: My RPG is Full of Stars

I've been running Stars Without Number for over half a year now, and so far, it's the best science fiction rpg that I've played.  What am I comparing it to?  Primarily the sci fi games I played in olden times; Star Frontiers, Spacemaster, GURPS: Space, Gama WorldShadowrun, FASA's Star Trek, and Traveller in its myriad of forms.  I could also throw in Star Wars Saga Edition, as I have ample experience with that game as well.

Why is it my favorite?  Well, mainly for what Stars Without Number is not.  It's not an attempt to lay down physics in game form.  It's not an attempt to weave an entire, pre-built universe.  It's not an attempt to create a rule for every conceivable situation.

Stars Without Number is, frankly, a stripped down old style D&D with a science fiction facade nailed up around it.  The game easily provides me the ability to project my view of science fiction to the players - assisted with simple game mechanics that I already enjoy.  There is nothing in the way of telling the story I want to tell.  Traveller was close, but I was really never fond of the rules.

My view of science fiction comes primarily from the stories I read as a child.  Of course, Star Trek was an influence as well, but I was already on the road to being well read in the science fiction realm before Star Wars came to smother the genre.  When I think of science fiction, my mind always drifts to stories such as these:

  • Issac Asimov - Foundation
  • Ray Bradbury - The Martian Chronicles
  • Arthur C. Clarke - 2001, Childhood's End, Rendezvous With Rama
  • Ursula K. Le Guin - The Left Hand of Darkness, The Dispossessed
  • Harry Harrison - Stainless Steel Rat, Deathworld
  • Robert Heinlein - Stranger In a Strange Land, Starship Troopers, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
  • Frank Herbert - Dune
  • Larry Niven - Ringworld, Known Space stories,
  • Larry Niven and  Jerry Pournelle - The Mote in God's Eye, Lucifer's Hammer 
  • Fred Saberhagen - Berserker

That's the core of my science fiction, give or take some books that I've forgotten, and that's the feel I go for when running the game.  I make an effort to steer away from Star Wars and Star Trek.  They are too . . . pop-cultury for me.  It's that same attitude I get when I scream - 'Someone scrape the gosh-darn Tolkein out of D&D.  I can't take it any more!'

Interestingly, in my gaming group, I'm the greybeard.  They haven't had the same diet of science fiction that I've had.  They understand the concepts, but largely from a different source.  They understand FTL travel from Firefly.  They understand cybernetics form Deus Ex.  They understand the concept of a ringworld from Halo.  They understand uplift form Mass Effect.

It really hit me when I was helping a new player make a character.

Me: So we've got three classes.  Warriors.  That's a soldier dude, from swords to guns.  Expert.   That's someone who's good at something besides killing.  Doctors, Pilots, whatnot.  And then their is Psychics.  They have psychic powers.

New Player: (Confused look.)

Me: (Trying hard not to make a Star Wars reference.)  They do stuff with their minds.  Ummmm . .

New Player: (Still confused.)

Me: Like a Biotic in Mass Effect.

New Player: Oh!  That's kinda what I thought you meant.  Gotcha.

With great effort, I did not facepalm.  The new guard and old guard just have different words for thing sometimes.

And that brings the conversation around to Mass Effect series of games.  Rather than just being a game about killing alien invaders, it's a tour of a future chock-full of science fiction tropes from all of my favorite books.  It really carries the torch to a new audience.  Time and time again I find myself explaining concepts to the players couched in Mass Effect terms.  It's kind of a Rosetta Stone.

The ending of the Mass Effect trilogy was a let down for me.  I won't get into it much, but the issue wasn't what happened at the end, rather, how the story was told.  It was, frankly, just bad story telling, in my book.  But I highly recommend the other 99% of the franchise - especially to those old grognards who want to interact with the younguns in an old style science fiction game.

I'll leave you with some Mass Effect 3 concept art by Matt Rhodes.  Again, it's concept art, so it's not exactly what went into the game, but there are spoilers.  It's great stuff for getting in the mood for a Stars Without Numbers game.

Normandy Silent Running by Matt Rhodes

Rogue Sheppard by Matt Rhodes

Taking Back Normandy by Matt Rhodes
Red Hallway by Matt Rhodes

Illusive Office by Matt Rhodes

Presidium Hospital by Matt Rhodes

Crashed On Eden by Matt Rhodes

Enjoy, and go get all spacey.

- Ark

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Hello Weather

Still digging out from the oh so fun storms here this afternoon.  I saw softball size hail coming down.  I'm pretty sure I heard at least one tornado.  We had the longest, loudest hailstorm that I've ever been in - and that's saying something - I'm from Texas.  The garden is toast.  The trees are shaved.  It broke the barbecue grill.  My car is no longer what I'd call a 'car' anymore.  I guess I should get used to walking.  Not very fun, but at least we are all alive.

- Ark

Monday, April 2, 2012

Vayniris Anthology

Well, the three month extension of the six month deadline for submissions to the Vayniris Anthology Project has come and gone with no additional stories submitted.  The universe has spoken.  I'm closing the book, so to speak, on the project, and calling it quits.

I'd like to thank those who did submit stories from the bottom of my heart.  Some really awesome stuff there, and I'm very thrilled to have read such great work.  Alas, the number of stories submitted were just not enough to even begin to fill an anthology.  Thank you so much - and please feel free to re-purpose your wonderful stories elsewhere.

- Ark