I create worlds, Mark.



For those of you who get that reference, you can attack the darkness with me anytime.

Anyway, let’s start creating our universe.


So far all we have is a dense black hole in the center of our galaxy and a few tracks showing how cultured we our, how successful we are in our Might, Stability and with other alien cultures (Xeno Relations).  In order to start our Civilization, we need our deck of cards.


As you see, you don’t have to be fancy and draw pictures of everything.  You can also abbreviate the card suits as well, though you have to be careful as I have played before and mixed up Heart and Hand.  The suits are as follows:

S – Sun

M – Moon

R – Heart

K – Skull

H – Hand

F – Foot

So simply make 36 cards, by making cards 1 through 6 in each suit (ie. 1 Sun, 2 Sun, 3 Sun…, 1 Moon, 2 Moon…)

Now we can create worlds.  Shuffle up your cards and grab one.  I grabbed 1 Hand.  This will be the first world we have created in our galaxy.  Since it is an Original world, you’ll first mark it with a ‘O’ to show that.  Any worlds you create in the first game you’ll mark with a ‘1.’  The second game you’ll mark cards with a 2 and so on.  It doesn’t really do anything in game, but it shows you how your galaxy is evolving over play.

So I mark my 1 Hand with the worlds: O. World – because it’s a World.  Ahem.

Then you flip two cards and put their numbers down as the “sector number” where this world exists.  I get a 2 and a 5.  And finally flip two more cards and look at Table 5 near the back of the rulebook to see what technology is available on that planet.  I pull 5 and then a heart.  So my first planet now looks like this:


You see for my tech I wrote the suit I pulled, the name of the tech, the action it affects and then what it actually does.  That way I don’t have to look anything up.

Yes, I named it Syrnix.  It’s close enough to Syrinx, but they like guitar music.

And I typed it wrong.

Okay, turn on some music and create 11 more worlds.

Done? No? Okay.


Stop reading!

Okay, put all those cards in the deck and give them a good shuffle and get ready to start the game.

First flip over the first 5 cards of the deck.  If there are any Worlds in those cards, choose 1 to be your Homeworld.  I only had 1 choice, so I grabbed Casteem, one of my poorly named planets.  If there wasn’t a world in those 5 cards, I would have drawn another 5 to do it again.  I find the hex that matches the location of my new World and put three of my pieces there.  I am now the owner of a fresh new planet.

Then we pull cards for the neutral worlds.  Simply pull cards from the top of the deck, discarding them until you pull World cards.  When you get to one, put it in the Neutral World spot on your table (wherever you want that) and place 3 neutral pieces (whatever is different than your own pieces).  Do this until either: you pull your sixth world or you pull a world that has the same number (ie. card number, like 1 hand and 1 skull are the same number).  That second world wouldn’t get played and you’d be done.  In the relatively rare case you pull a neutral world that matches the location of another neutral world, increase the number of cubes on that spot to 5.  If there’s already 5 there, just discard the card and wonder at your ability to skew math probabilities.  If you pull a card whose location matches yours, also just discard the world.

In the end, I ended up pulling two worlds before I pulled a number that matched, so my final board looks like this:


I’m ready to play.





No, I didn’t write dnd upside down.

No, I’m not talking about Pickle ‘n’ Parsnip sandwiches.

No, I’m not talking about Purine Nucleoside Phosphorylase.

No, of course I needed to look that last one up on wikipedia.

Anyway, I’m talking about Print and Play today.  These are games that can be found on the internet, often for free, where you simply print out the bits you need on your own printer (or from various online printers or your local Kinko’s or whatever) and then scavenge pieces and dice from other games or from things just laying around your house.

There are LOTS of them.  And what’s great, there are LOTS of GOOD ones.  And what’s even better, there are LOTS of GOOD FREE ones.

No joke!  There are games like


Which, if you know the rules well enough, is simply one sheet of paper, two six-sided dice and a pencil.  You roll the dice, draw your “tracks” and try to connect your “stations” for points (the bit on the right helps you calculate your score, it doesn’t look like that much without reading the rules first).  It’s a whole lot of fun, and can be played solo or with multiple people.  With low barrier to entry, there is no reason to not at least give this one a try.  DO IT. (Rules and sheet are found in the “Files section” on the page)

I’ll wait.

My next playthrough will be a print and play.  It, too, only involves printing one sheet, though even that is hardly needed.  What IS needed, though, is a stack of index cards.  I will be playing:



The only printout is the “Board” which consists of a collection of hexes which is the galaxy I’ll be playing in.  The index cards will be my deck of playing cards as I explore the galaxy, find worlds, populate them, develop new technologies and all that fun stuff one does when you’re a hyper-advanced space-faring civilization.

And since I’m using Index cards, I’m going to be writing all over them as I play, altering the cards, adding cards, removing cards, changing the galaxy as generation after generation of civilization rises and falls  meaning if you want to play along with me (and why wouldn’t you?), your galaxy will end up looking far different from mine based on simple Darwinian evolution.

Neat, huh?

Go here if you want to snag the rules and the board and such.  Don’t worry, I’ll teach you as I play along.  You’ll also need some small tokens that you can easily differentiate into two different types.  Like a pile of pennies and a pile of dimes, or different colored cubes, or paperclips and rubberbands if you’re reading this at work (good for you!).  And, of course, you’ll need your stack of index cards.  If you can get the smaller 3″x2.5″ ones, they’re better for shuffling.  If not, I would cut the larger ones in half, but that’s just me.  Do whatever feels good for you.  You start with 36 cards in play and add from there.  I’m assuming 50 cards should get you through a lot of play.

So gather your belongings and get ready to live a few millennia in the Deep Future.


Saying Goodbye

Humankind has always been just a small bit of biomass on a spinning rock around an uncaring sun.  But now the fate of human kind is an even smaller bit of biomass on a smaller, faster spinning rock.  Human kind cares for them now as all hopes are riding on the shoulders of two women, clinging to the sides of The Orb like flecks of ice on a airplane’s engines that is doomed for a splashdown.

“Thanks for the medicine, Shirley, it’s helping a lot.  Maybe too much.” Her voice was coming out in short, sharp breaths as she began fastening the engines to the side of The Orb.  She tried not to think about all the debris beside her belonging to The Armstrong, her ship, her only way home, and probably home, too, to the body of another of her companions.

“You wouldn’t want all those good drugs going to waste, would you?” Shirley was breathing hard, too.  They both had taken pretty much every precautionary medicine they could before they began their tasks, many of them acting as uppers to keep themselves sharped and focused.  No one wanted to pass out from exhaustion and doom humanity from want of a cup of coffee or because of a bit of lethargy.

Of course, all the medicine in the world can’t fight physics, and when your NERVA engines want to float off of The Orb when the centripetal forces were this strong, they were going to go.  Would the two astronauts be able to bring them back down to ear…rock?

Alison is up to the plate.  1 die versus 5.  Now 1 die versus 8 due to Alison’s 3 harm.  Shirley spends her Story Point to use her doctor power and lower that to 1 die versus 7.  WOO!  She also helps for 2 dice versus 7.  My options are thus: Use the things that were “Brought” by the characters for an extra die: A wooden Christian cross – A Philadelphia Flyers Jersey – A signed copy of “Contact” – Fake doctor credentials.  A bit of a stretch to use that to help floating engines.  I could use one of the three remaining story points to get an extra die due to Alison’s Engineering ability.  Or I could steal dice away from The Plan to survive this threat, but make it harder to succeed in the end.  I could also have a character die and end the threat immediately.  I have to risk things: One story point makes it 3 vs. 7.  I take one die to make it 4 vs. 7 and roll.  May the odds be ever in my favor (even though they’re not).



Don’t believe me?


It may happen yet!


I had to count that a few times, but that’s 22 to 21, isn’t it?  A hit!  A palpable hit!

Of course, we have to start the next round, which puts us back at 1 vs 4.  Which is 1 vs. 7.  2 vs 7 with Shirley’s help.  Another plot point gone.  Hell, all of them gone to make it 3 vs 6.  And another white die gone makes it 4 vs. 6.  I want to last at least 1 scene in Act II!


And there goes all my luck.  Black succeeds by more than 5, which places 2 Harm on all characters who participated.  Which puts both characters at Harm 5…which kills them.  Alison’s death needs to happen now, so we might as well.  Shirley is supposed to die when she helps a friend. I could cheat death and remove all the harm on Shirley, which is the only way to keep going.  Of course, there’s no “friends” left….

The engines sputter to life, pushing on The Orb, though probably for naught.  Our astronauts didn’t care, though.  They are floating in the black, unable to see the fruits of their own labor.  There are worse ways to go, they suspect.  The firey death of a impact, or the endless winter thereafter is probably agony.  This way, CO2 asphyxiation is more like a heavy sleep, the stars and their own radio chatter to be their final comforts.

I called it at this point because I saw no use in continuing.  Even though Alison’s death gained us 2 more white dice, I was out of Story Points and 1 die versus 8 THREE MORE TIMES seemed like an extreme impossibility.

So even though this is against the rules, I decided to do the final roll anyway, adding 2 black dice for Shirley not dying the way her death card states she should.  So that’s 9 white dice and 12 black dice.  Will there be a tomorrow?



Black wins by 3.  So close.

“Your mission fails, and the team is lost.  Yet, there is a small beacon of hope.  You managed to forestall the crisis long enough for another team to mount a challenge.  Hopefully they won’t make the same mistakes…”

So now I leave it to you, dear Reader.  Own a copy of OLBH?  Get out there and push The Orb the last few miles it needs to forestall obliteration!  Don’t own a copy?  Either Drop $10 on your own copy, or use what little I’ve told you here and make up the rest!  Your imagination is the only limit! (I suggest supporting Magpie Games, however)

This was a lot of writing and I lost a bit of steam at the end, and for that I apologize.  I’m not sure I’ll do another RPG.  But I hope you enjoyed reading it because it made a great story in my head, and I would be thrilled if you were able to tap into at least a small percentage of that.

Next time: A boringly easy boardgame….phew!

Time always wins

(Sorry for the long delay)

“Here we are.”

Dexter wasn’t sure if one of the women said that or that was merely his own thoughts screaming loudly into his own consciousness.  It was too big.  Too round.  Too alien.  This – this had to be the thing to destroy mankind.  And here they were, mere feet from it, flying alongside it like some harbinger, a lone horseman – Death in a shiny metal tube.

He looked again at the charts.  They were too close.  There was no mathematically possible way for them to provide enough thrust to move this thing before it gets too close to Earth, too close to home.  It took too long to get here.  All of their problems, all of their maneuvers, at these distances the smallest of variable can alter trajectories by thousands of miles, and now they were seeing the results of those variables.  The results were death.

For the 100th time, Dexter flashed again to his own plans, the plans he had written up months (or was it years?) ago.  It would have saved time.  Would it have been enough?  Probably.  Why hadn’t they chosen to follow his plan?  Instead of staring slack-jawed at their own demise, they would have already saved every living thing ever discovered by man.


When you roll 21 or higher towards the Black, like I did, the result is: “Absolute, utter, terrible failure.”  In game terms, I lose access to all Assets (you can lose them in the story, or just not be able to tag them mechanically) AND all characters suffer 3 harm.  Also, another Complication is added to the story…like that’s really necessary at this point.

For those really keeping track at this point: Dexter already has 1 point of Harm, so taking 3 means this will kill him!  So I have to decide whether to cheat death or use this to claim a fitting death.  I see “Fixing a mistake” as his death card.  What a perfect time to claim a fitting death!

“There’s one way we can do this.  It’s insane, but I think most of us crossed that threshold the moment we realized mankind was doomed.”  He looked at the other two. “Which may have happened sooner for some of us than other.”  He tried to smile.  It appeared fake.

“If you have a plan, spit it out.  Clearly we don’t have time for joking, or whatever you call that,” Alison growled, irritated.

“We can use the Armstrong’s engines to push The Orb.  That plus the Nerva engines might be enough to get it out of the gravity well of Earth.”

“Um, how can we get those giant engines off of this ship and onto The Orb?  We don’t have the tools for that!  We would need an army of engineers!” wails Shirley, the panic on her face distorting her now gaunt features.

“We don’t have time to attach the engines securely, but there’s another way to get the engine’s energy into propelling The Orb.” The women stare at doctor’s aged face, seeing the grim determination on it.


Two astronauts, an Engineer and Medical Doctor find themselves anchoring themselves and the NERVA engines to The Orb itself.  Using hammers and picks to embed themselves into the rock.  Rope is being pulled tight across everything that can be tied down, finishing with the astronauts themselves.

“Ready?” Dexter’s voice comes over the radio.

“This is crazy and probably going to kill us all, right?” Alison says, though there is no real anger in it.

“Well, it’s either this or slamming into Earth.  I’d rather die in space.  It’s more exotic.” Dexter’s smile could be heard over the radio, a unique calmness in his voice that is betrayed only by the nervousness seen on the women’s faces through their faceplates.  “Engines on full.”

The camera zooms out to show the Armstrong on the opposite side of The Orb, pointed directly at the object.  The Engines flare up, a flash of astounding blue light.  The ship then begins to move slowly, methodically towards the orb.  An object that large doesn’t accelerate quickly, but the inertia equation involves mass and that is something this ship certainly has.  Within moments, the ship hits The Orb with astounding force, crushing the front end of the ship like a soda can.  The astronauts tied to The Orb feel it like an earthquake through their backs , and they begin to see cracks appear throughout the asteroid.  The quaking begins to intensify as the Armstrong valiantly pushes against The Orb as more and more of the structure, clearly not designed for this kind of strain, crushes down on itself transferring the energy to The Orb itself.

“Dexter, did you make it out in time?  Dexter?” Alison and Shirley’s radios only give static in response, though it is hard to concentrate as their bodies vibrate intensely from the “earth”quake that is threatening to turn them both into spacesuits filled with nothing but human liquid.

They never did get a response from Dexter, and judging from the debris from the Armstrong, they never will.  The Orb is now rotating at a fairly high rate, forcing the astronauts to have to only look at their feet, lest they become dizzy from the whirling stars above.  The Orb itself took a lot of damage from the impacts, causing mini meteors to break off , creating a bit of a cloud of sharp rocks to now orbit their parent asteroid.  The NERVA rockets seemed to survive the crackpot plan, so our astronauts still have a mission to fulfill, but can two astronauts do quickly what 4 astronauts were to do slowly?

And just like that I get another 3 white dice for The Plan.  But now I need these two to survive Act II.  Oh wait, Alison already cheated death earlier, so she MUST die in Act II (unless I want to be penalized), so I really really really need Shirley to survive until the end.

The Crisis is a 10 die monster, but I have 9 white dice and 3 story points (and Shirley has 1 as well) to use.  I’d love to keep all 9 white dice to possibly win the game, but I have to have 4 scenes and 4 threats…and these threats start with 5 dice!  And let’s make that 8 dice because all our characters have 3 harm from Dexter’s plan (which I affectionatly call Dexter’s Midnight Ride).  One threat is not going to be a problem since Alison will die, but the other 3?  With no assets?  It’s not looking good.

Stay tuned!

Stay on target



You would think an explosive decompression would be the most exciting part of the day, but for Doctor Shirley Van Housen, the approaching dot of light on the horizon was the most exciting bit for her.  Soon they would start making the maneuvers to sidle up next to the Orb and start, well, saving the world.

It was Jessica’s job to do all this, and somehow the piloting has now become her job.  She had been studying the “orbital docking,” as she had been calling it (since the abundance of acronyms were getting too confusing for her) night and day in preparation for the coming maneuvers she would be required to do.  Her nose buried in the flight plan 3-ring binder during meals was a common site in the previous weeks.

Maybe it was that stress that caused her previous “incident” that made her think there was an “alien” on board, she thought to herself.

Only now was the real test.  Here she was, strapped into the pilot’s seat, and she had no 3-ring binder filled with backup plans and redundancy systems planned and replanned by the smartest minds in the world back home.  All of those instructions were shot out of the viewport in the mess hall.  Sure, the computer systems did a lot of the work, but all the programs required astronaut approval to ensure that new programs could be added in flight and corrections could be made by steely eyed pilots rather than chrome domes back at base.

But now all those program names and numbers were just memories in her head or meaningless collections of characters in the computer, where the time to look up the proper program may mean successful insertion or bypassing it altogether.  Or hitting it head on, she supposed.

Execute P-64J?

Shirley thought for a second and then hit the archaic “Y” on the keyboard in front of her.

white_onewhite_threeblack_twoblack_twoblack_six That’s a tie! (Remember the 6 gets moved to the Event pool)  When you roll a tie (or a zero, as it translates in this system), you have to roll the event pool, and add a new Threat with a strength equal to the amount of “Hits” it scored!  This could get deadly fast, especially the way our Event Pool looks now.  Of course, playing a Death Card ends any and all Threats, but we only have two people who will survive ACT II as it is!  *sigh*  Let’s roll and see:


Which ends up with a Black 15.  Which is a hit of 4 , so a strength 4 Threat.  Let’s get this started.  Luckily we have two other characters who can deal with this threat.  Kinda.

The moment Shirley hit ‘Y’, a bit of code that was hidden in the computer sprang to life.  During any crisis, you can find people that are okay with the idea of all life being destroyed, and when they have access to the only ship capable of saving it, they’ll do what they can to sabotage it.  In this case, they programmed a virus to activate when the Armstrong was about to achieve orbit around The Orb.  It was a simple bit of code.  It would simply change two words around, switching “on” with “off” in the oxygen base codes.  Now no matter what alarm was set off, the alert would merely set the O2 to “On” to get the atmosphere back to human breathable levels.  But now “On” didn’t mean “On” anymore.  Poor astronauts.  Shirley recognized the problem the moment she hit ‘Y’ and all the air vents stopped making the familiar whirring sounds and she shouted for Alison to get on that right away.

Now the characters will alternate back and forth, rolling until both threats are dealt with.

Alison (burning a much needed Story Point):


Uhoh. Back to Shirley.


Gah!  If I put in the white six, I’ll lose the current threat and take a hit!  If I keep the six, I’ll win!  I think I have to.

Even without air, Shirley types away, the ship turning and slowing towards The Orb.


A palpable hit!

There’s the code.  Right there.  Can she fix it before she loses consciousness (and I run out of plot points?)?


The event pool is now extremely deadly, but the orbital insertion is going well.

Lightheaded now, but the Orb is looming ahead and acts as a point of focus for everyone.

Okay, spending yet another Story Point.  Did I call them Plot Points earlier?  That was a mistake.


Phew! Glad I did!

Now to reboot the system, and as long as there’s nothing in the boot record, that should be good!

white_fourwhite_oneblack_two Insertion successful!

white_threewhite_twoblack_two Reboot is good and air begins to flow through the ship again.



And now the Event Pool is full.



Final stats:

Event Pool: 10 Black Dice 3 White Dice

The Plan: 3 Story Points 3 White Dice

Alison Haslip: Doomed to die in Act II

Jessica Barnez: Dead

Dexter Pendragon: 1 Harm 2 Story Points

Shirley VanHousen: 1 Story Point

Now we roll on the Consequences table to see if choosing not to use Dexter’s alternate course around Venus was a good idea or not:

Roll = 31 Black.

It was a horrible, horrible choice.  It would seem the window we have to work with is very, very, very small.  Consequences to be shown in next post.

A clean escape?



Early in the flight a common image was of Dexter floating above the lunch table, various bits of food and liquid, a Oort cloud of edible goods, creating a sphere around him.  Lazily he would spin about, occassionally stretching his neck out to snag a piece of flatbread, water or a grape into his mouth.  Sometimes he would miss, but he didn’t seem to mind, the ecstasy of weightlessness overcoming any desire for cleanliness.  Bits of food would slide towards the walls, bouncing against the walls and windows, leaving small traces of the collision in the form of damp imprints or stains.

This flashback shows us Dexter floating and Jessica berating him for his lack of discipline.  His eyes roll much as his body does as he tries to explain the centripetal forces at play upon his body as well as the foodstuffs that were sailing through their heavily-oxidated air.  Jessica barely listens as she uses a fingernail to scrape dried curry paste from a control panel’s wall, sighing heavily.

Here’s where both Dexter and Jessica show the “Crazy” card with each other’s name on it.  It seems more like Jessica’s going crazy than Dexter in this scene, so we play her card.  A touching scene as we look at it through the eyes of the future.  If only we knew then what we know now…

Cut to: Present time as Dexter cleans a spot off of a viewing port with his finger nail.  He stares out at a small speck of light that is obviously brighter than the stars around it.  It’s The Orb.  They are finally within visual of it.  Alison floats beside him.  “That it?”


“I didn’t think we’d ever actually make it this far.”

“It’s strange to think that little spot of light is set to wipe out all of humanity.”

A pause.

“Not all of it.  We’d survive.”


A sound like a tree snapping in half, but right beside your ear causes both the astronauts to jump (which is amusing when you’re not attached to anything).  They look all around for the source of the noise, when a high-pitched whistle leads them to it.  A 1″ diameter hole coming through a different viewing port.  Looking further, another 1″ diameter hole through the floor, the edges perfectly round as if the nearly 3′ wide plastics provided no resistance to the object.

Dexter is about to say something scientific about the velocity of such an object, when another crack is heard, and all eyes are drawn to the viewing port.  Cracks are starting to form around that perfect hole.  The port is not holding up to the pressure.




Alison moves like a thing possessed.  She has her hands over Dexter’s eyes and mouth, her own shut tight.  Her other arm and legs are wrapped around the straps and bars attached to the walls with a strength only someone in a desperate situation could possess.  Luckily the ship is equipped with quite a supply of oxygen and air, so there was still enough air pumping through the room that the duo could now breathe, albeit roughly, as the air was fleeing into the vacuum of space.  Now that the explosive part of the explosive decompression was done, all that was left to do was get to any of the three entryways and seal off the area.  That shouldn’t be so hard, right?


You mad?



It was a blur going past the sleep chamber.  The blue of a shirt and shorts reminding Dexter of the Great Blue Herons that would occasionally fly far enough from the lakes to visit his home in Virginia.  He poked sat “up” to peer out of the sleeping chamber to see the feet of Shirley VanHousen flinging down the length of the ship at a faster speed than was safe for herself or the delicate equipment surrounding her.

“Um, Shirley?” Dexter pushed himself out of his personal cubicle, not really caring he was only wearing shorts, his small, partially atrophied body of little concern.  He floated after the Doctor, continuing to shout her name, hearing only the hums of the ship in reply.


Dexter rounded the corner to see Shirley  floating in the middle of the corridor, a wild look on her face, her hands holding on to a wrench like a bludgeoning weapon of destruction.

“Is, is something wrong Shirley?”

Shirley looked at Dexter, not seeming to recognize him right away.  “You, you didn’t see anything?” She said softly.

“See what?”


Shirley’s eyes close and she let’s out a long sigh.  She begins to shutter as if about to weep, and then stops suddenly.

Jessica’s player just played the Fear card for Shirley, and that fear is Vulnerability.  She’s looking awfully Vulnerable in front of the Scientist right now.  That adds 2 Story Points to the pool, but it also adds a black die to the Threat (back up to 2).

It’s at this point that Alison floats up behind Dexter, looking back and forth between the two.  “What is going on here?  Shirley, are you okay?  What were you going to do with that wrench?”

Dexter merely turns to face Shirley, hoping to hear an answer as well since it appears their doctor is losing it.

“Well,” Shirley says, her voice now perfectly steady, “you can never be too careful out here.  You’ve got this guy floating around practically naked and he hasn’t touched a woman in months.  What am I to expect?”

Dexter is taken aback.  “W- what?”


“Where are your clothes, Dr. Pendragon?” Alison says, cooley.

“This isn’t about me!  I came out because I saw Shirley racing towards, um, something.”

Alison does not look convinced. “Is this true, Shirley?”


“Okay, yeah, I guess I was sleep walking, or sleep floating, okay?  I don’t know what the hell was going on.  But I woke up next to a naked man and…can we just let this go, please?”

Dexter nods and pushes off of the wall to go back to his sleeping quarters to find his clothing.  Alison looks like she might stop him, but decides to let him go.  She simply follows him, leaving Shirley alone.

Shirley spins back, looking in all directions and clearly listening for something.  She floats slowly in each direction, hoping to see or hear something out of the ordinary, but finds nothing.  Was it really nerves?

The dice were good to us during that last Threat, but did not generate any 6’s for the Event Pool.  We did, however, get 2 more Story Points from the play of the Fear Card and added another Black die, making 7 total against our 2 White dice.  I might need to hit the next threat hard to get some 6’s onto the Event Pool as it will only take 3 more dice before Act II starts.  But let’s get to Alison’s scene:

Alison’s scene is a solo scene in Alison’s sleeping chamber where she finds a patch of hair falling out of her head.  It would appear that the radiation medication isn’t working as well as we, the audience would hope.  She begins to sob quietly, her own mortality finally hitting, as well as memories of Jessica.  Outside we hear Dexter’s mumbled voice, “Alison, are you okay?”  She quickly starts rubbing at her eyes and quiets her breathing, but makes no sound.  “Alison?” he prods again.  She again merely remains silent, though now her brows knit together, her expression changing to anger. “Alison, we really should open up with each other and-”

She couldn’t take it anymore.

“DAMMIT DEXTER, THESE ARE CALLED PERSONAL SPACES FOR A REASON!”  The sadness has changed to rage, but the rage is quickly changed to numbness.  No sounds come from outside the door anymore.  She takes the tuft of hair and tucks it behind the small mirror attached to the wall that also has the picture of the four crew members from the training facility tucked cleanly behind it, smiles on all faces, oblivious to what is in the future.

The emulator gave me “Overthrow Victory” so I had to make something that was good earlier into a failure, so we have more radiation damage again.  But we also were able to play Alison’s Crazy card against Dexter to get 2 more Story Points.  We actually have quite a few built up, which may get us through this mission. (Famous last words)

The Armstrong making adjustments during flight was nothing new for the crew.  While floating freely, you would notice a wall, floor or ceiling moving towards you slightly, you would push yourself or anything floating nearby to correct for it and then continue what you were doing.  It was like small earthquakes for people in LA.  But it became strange when Alison noticed the floor float up, she adjusted for it, and then the ceiling floated down.  And then it floated down again.  And then the floor floated up AND the wall floated to the left.  It was like the ship’s BAC was over .08 and should pull over.

Floating to the MIM was difficult as the jerking of the ship became more and more erratic.  The rest of the crew was already there, worried looks on their faces.

“The autopilot has no idea what to do, and I can’t even figure out how to turn it off!” Shirley shouts.

“Why not!”

“Because if we do, it knows we’re going to hit an asteroid that’s a few million miles ahead of us and turn us into dust!  But it’s so big we can’t get around it without-” Shirley’s words are cut off as the ship again pulls a different direction quickly. “-without pulling 8gs, which is way out of its safety levels, because that will likely kill us.”

“So it keeps trying different ways around the thing,” Dexter explains, calm dread in his voice, “and then aborting when it hits the safety limit.  We’re either going to shake ourselves apart, or hit the asteroid in a few minutes.”

And then silence.  The unspoken words of “Jessica would know what to do,” floating between them.

“Fine,” Shirley herself is surprised by the strength and confidence coming from her voice.  “We all took this training too, either help me with this computer, or strap yourself in, we’re going to be taking a hell of a turn.”


I just can’t bring myself to bring the 6 into the event pool!  Why did my other dice have to stink so bad?

Alison and Shirley get through the autopilot’s safety systems.  Dexter finds a crash couch and begins to strap himself in.


THAT’S what I’m talking about.  3 Story points gone, but a white die into the Event Pool, but we still win.

The turn begins.  The pressure felt on the three is amazing.  For someone who hasn’t felt the tug of gravity for months, even when the meter was registering .4g, discomfort was palpable.


Shirley was smart enough to program the autopilot to turn on once the ship was past the asteroid because it wasn’t long before the entire crew was unconscious.  Shirley was the first to wake, and everything seemed normal.  It was a serene sight, the stars in front of her and her crewmates sleeping peacefully behind her.  A quick check of their vitals shown that they were okay, though the soreness in all their bodies will probably persist for hours.

Only two more dice into the Event pool and we’re onto Act II!  My dice never seem to roll 6’s, so this is a much longer game than normal, I would think.  I wonder if anyone from Magpie is reading this and can confirm that.



And time passes

For the sake of your aching eyes and my aching fingers, I won’t write out the full account of Alison’s harrowing trip out to fix the broken hydraulics on the Engines.  I will only show that Jessica’s secret was revealed (She forgot to check the systems on one of the spacesuits) which caused the threat to become even MORE dangerous.  She gained even more Harm on the trip, and rather than deal with a 6 die Threat she played her Death card “When we lease expect it” to cheat death and fix the engines.  In doing this she clears all of her Harm.  Smart thing to do, though it makes it necessary for Alison to die in Act II, which is sad.

Our next scene was a touching one between Dr. Pendragon and Dr. Van Hausen about how worried Dexter was about losing Alison out in the black when her suit started to malfunction.   Shirley was rather cold about it, but Dexter talked her down stating how much he needed everyone to get along as they got closer to the Orb for all their own sanity.  A very “Down to Earth” moment.  Dexter plays his Sane card.

So to sum up, we have an Event Pool with 6 black dice and 2 white dice.  Once there are 12 dice in that Pool, we reach Act II (remember, that fills up whenever 6’s are rolled during Threats).  The Plan has 4 Story Points and 3 White Dice ready to fight the Threat, which is a pretty good start.  The only personal Story Points are held by Dexter and Shirley who hold 2 each.  We still have more Secret, Crazy, Sane and Fear cards to come out, so let’s hope I can get to them before Act II starts.

But I decide to throw a curveball at this point.  There’s been a Threat sitting in the Threat Pool that I haven’t touched until now.  I don’t know how the other “Players” will take it, but it’s my turn to pick, so I’m going with it.  I’m going to “ask” Shirley to take the lead on this one (and roll to see if she accepts, which I think she will since she hasn’t led any Threats yet this game), which should just be fun.  So here’s the Threat I just threw down on the Table and which we’ll deal with on the next post:

“Is this a psychotic episode, or is something on this ship?”


Not again!



The thought of more radiation causing the crew harm sends the women and man into action.  Alison takes the lead as the Engineer in the group, though the others keep a close eye on her to make sure she can keep it together, since she took Jessica’s radiation death the hardest.  But that was from the Sun, this is from a cargo hold filled with fissionable materials.

We are 1 die versus 4 right now.  Alison’s Harm is adding a die to the Threat, but it really justifies itself in story: images of Jessica’s hairless, blistered body flashing into her mind as she tries to contain the radiation and fix the engines.

Alison immediately hits the emergency vents in the storage that were designed for this very instance, taking any irradiated air or particulate matter and venting it into space.

Alison immediately taps the Oxygenator asset to give her another die.  2 versus 4.

“On the bright side,” Shirley interjects as they start to put Alison’s airtight suit on, “the tablets we had to take from our earlier, um, ‘radiation event’ will stop us from absorbing a lot of this radiation.  So in a sense, Jessica is helping us right now.”  She forces a smile.  The other two don’t return it, but the knowledge does ring true.

Shirley spends a Story Point to offset the Harm Alison has, getting us to 2 versus 3.

The suiting up process is not a short one, but the three are not doing it in silence.  Dexter is able to keep a running lecture going about the materials found inside the engines, as well as possible causes for their leaking.  Alison may know the technical aspects of the engines like the back of her hand, but Dexter is doing his best to make sure she knows the wherefores before she goes into the storage area.  Once she is suited up, Shirley begins suiting up the Scientist, in case the Engineer needs a backup, but in the interim, Shirley goes in alone…

One more Story Point spent to use Dexter’s power of Science to lower the Threat to 2.  A fair roll.  Let’s try:


Normally this would be a loss, but this is a weird thing about this game: Sixes.  A black six is taken away from a Threat: so this is actually me: 6 Threat: 5 YAY!

However, that Six goes into the Event Pool and the Pool now has another black die which makes the final Threat (The Orb that’ll destroy the planet and kill us all, remember?) that much harder.  Boo!  But for now, let’s look on the bright side.

A palpable hit!  But the threat continues.

Alison is able to find the engine by following the Geiger counter attached to her suit.  When it begins to sound alarms, she knew she had it.  Silencing the alarm, she began poking and prodding at the engine, removing panel after panel, finding it hard to move these small bolts and screws in the bulky gloves of her suit in this airless cargo bay.  Soon Dr. Pendragon is beside her, helping her deal with the small entryways.

Now that we’re 1 vs. 2, I send in Dexter to help.  We’re immediately at 2 vs. 2, but I now remember Alison’s harm, so it’s actually 2 vs. 3.  Shirley spends another Story Point to have the drugs continue to work from the last challenge and keep it at 2 vs. 2.


This time I got the six.  I have a choice: Spend 3 Story Points and put a WHITE die into the Event Pool, making me WINNING the game that much easier, or just keeping it there so that I can win this threat and actually survive to the end of the game.  Just to offset the black die that just entered the Pool, I decide to give it a shot.  So now it’s 5 to 7, with us losing.

Radiation poisoning never comes straight on.  You never think: “Wow, I’m dying from radiation,” right away.  Usually that thought comes well after it’s already too late.  But our two crewmembers working away at our distressed engine were thinking that.  Every time they closed their tired eyes to rest for a moment, they saw the flash of light that was some particle or another passing through their eye, possibly damaging a cell.  Every time they thought they new something but just couldn’t think of it, they knew that maybe, just maybe, that neural connection was severed due to a DNA error that replicated itself and may eventually become a tumor.  They knew they had to work faster, but it was so tiring to work in those suits.  Was it really worth it?

So 1 Harm to both Alison and Dexter.  Now we have a 1 vs. 4 situation.  Alison spends a Story Point to use her Engineer ability (this is a tech challenge after all) and taps the Oxygenator asset again (it’s still working, afterall) to make it a 3 vs. 4 situation.  Dexter is helping in the story anyway, so it’s now 4 vs. 4, but Story Points are a short commodity, so that’s where we leave it.


Phew.  The Threat is now only Strength 1.

The problem’s been found, now it’s just the finishing touches.  All the two think about now is a long shower and sleep.  Usually showers are spared and rationed among the crew, but discussions over the radio has already allowed this discrepancy.

It’s 1 vs. 3 (1 strength and Alison’s 2 Harm).  Dexter helps.  And really, we’re so short on Story Points, that’s all I can add at this point.  I begin looking at Death cards and sighing.



The light flicks to Green and the air returns to the cargo bay.  The water of the shower is not the hottest, nor the cleanest, but it feels like heaven as the sweat and the aches are washed away.

Scene cuts to days (weeks? months?) later.  The crew looks tired and miserable.  The rings under Alison’s eyes match those around Saturn, and the normal upbeat demeanor of Dr. Van Housen seems a little strained.    The two are at the dining table, eating another bag of re-hydrated somethingorother in silence.

“So, what did you think about that last broadcast from Earth?  Wacky, huh?”  Shirley says, hoping to crack the mood.

Alison just shrugs.

“I mean, it’s not often that an entire government agrees to-”

Alison noisily sips on her bag.

“Okay fine!  I’ll go see if the other nerd in this place wants to talk!  I don’t know how I’m supposed to keep you people together when you’re trying to drive me crazy!”

And with a strong push, Shirley floats away from the table.  Alison grins slightly, and then sips from her bag.

Clearly I’m strapped for Story Points, so this little scene was for Shirley to play her Crazy card to show that Alison drives her nuts.  Of course, after this long in space, I could see anyone driving anyone nuts, but that’s for another time.  So 2 Story Points for Shirley.

The camera cuts to the screen in the MIM.  BEGIN JUPITER SLINGSHOT INSERTION flashes onto the screen.  A range of coordinates flicker by as the RCS thrusters fire to position the engines in the right position to get the ship to speed.  TESTING ENGINE 1 – ERROR, TESTING ENGINE 2 – ERROR, TESTING ENGINE 3 – ERROR, TESTING ENGINE 4 – ERROR






The camera’s eye goes outside, towards the engine mounts.  It  zooms in on the exhaust ports of the massive systems, showing the hydraulic systems that can move the great nozzles and steer the machine.  It also shows the great amount of frozen hydraulic fluid encased around the mechanics.

That can’t be good.

Rising Action




From NASA.gov

Our scene opens on Alison and Jessica back at NASA, both in cheap plastic seats drinking from water bottles after what was clearly a rough workout.  The woman exchange dialogue about how bizarre the exercises and tests astronauts have to go through actually are.

Scenes at this point lose a lot of detail and pick up speed because they are mostly between “Non-player characters” and if I wrote down every line of dialogue, I wouldn’t ever get to actually play the game.  You’ll just have to fill in the blanks, I’m afraid.

It is clear that the two have developed a close kinship through this whole ordeal, though it is also clear that neither mentions why they are training so hard and so quickly, impending doom hidden behind physicals, endurance runs, and more tests than any human body has ever been put through.  The scene ends on Jessica’s line: “All I know is if I’m flying this mission, I’m going to get everyone there and back alive, simply because that’s my mission.”

At this point, Alison plays the “Sane” card, showing that Alison used to go to Jessica to release stress and keep her grounded, further driving home the impact her death is probably having on her psyche.  She scores 2 Story Points by doing so.

The closed eyes of Alison are opened quickly as shouting is heard over the intercom.  It is Shirley’s voice: “Everyone to the kitchen, NOW!”  When the three were gathered together in the familiar place, the shouting began.  Apparently the food stocks had been raided, and all of the “Extra” food that had been “gained” by Jessica’s death was missing, assumed horded away by another member.  This kind of thing could not stand with months still left in their flight.

This is actually a pretty terrible Threat for OLBH, actually.  Threats are supposed to be immediate and deadly.  This is neither because all three can still survive on the food they have and there could be MONTHS before they successfully found out who (or what?) took the food.  However, using the Mythic GM Simulator, I had rolled something up that involved food and this is what I came up with and decided to give it a spin.  Shirley was taking the helm on this threat, so it was one die versus three again.  She dropped a Story point to tag the asset of Gigantic Food Supply for two dice versus three.

“You can look through my things!  I have nothing to hide!” Dexter says, hands raised in an innocent, submissive gesture.

I decide to help, and realize any Harm gained in this Threat will be fistfights between the characters.  Huh.  This might be more interesting than I thought originally.  We’re now at Three versus Three.

“Not without me you can’t.” Alison says haughtily.

Alison throws in one of the Story points she gained in the last scene to help as well, giving us a one die advantage.   This could get really bad.


We’re not very lucky, but we still manage to beat the threat and knock it down a level.

“I told you we’d find nothing.” Dexter says in a condescending tone.

“Fine,” Shirley says, “So we’ll get them from Alison.”

“Hey!  How do we know it’s not you?” Alison calls as the three leave the room.

Good point.  Luckily everyone is still willing to help (or punch each other in the nose), so it’s 3 versus 2.


We beat it by 5 or more, which knocks it down by 2, ending the threat.

On the way to Alison’s room, a loose panel in the wall is floating open, revealing foodstuffs inside.  The crew argues over who put them there, but realize there is no way for anyone to know who did it, so all agree never to try anything like that again, whatever good that would do.

Scene 3

This was to be a scene by Jessica’s player, so would be a flashback.  However, we just had a flashback scene and my roll on the Mythic chart had the word “Void” in it, so instead we simply have a view of Jessica’s body floating through space with the camera pointed towards the Armstrong, a point of light that is drifting with it.

The camera then cuts to the cargo bay of the Armstrong, flowing down the rows of NERVA engines, the large number of “DANGER: RADIOACTIVE MATERIALS” warnings painted all over them.  Someone also painted “Point away from face,” near one of the engine exhaust ports.  Scientists do seem to have a sense of humor.  The camera then pans up to the number of lights that grace the wall of the cargo area.  One is labeled Radiation Alarm and shows green.  The scene cuts away as the light turns to red.