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The Bleachers Incident

Last night, we took a stab at Dresden Files RPG combat. To be honest, I still have no clue what is what when it comes to stats, character sheet, or fudge dice. I still got to do something pretty awesome.

My character is pretty much the one I thought up in my dreadful Mood, a cleaner with cryptid leanings (namely, book-learning magic). The three elements to which she claims affinity are metal, fire, and air. Metal is a foremost, because when one thinks city, one thinks metal. I can totally see myself reducing the size of a man’s ring to get him to talk.

Not enough to make him lose a finger, obviously. Because that lacks finesse. And I am a professional.

Anywho, our mock battle took place in a high school baseball diamond. The first thing I thought of was to make sure everyone knew there would be metal, non-folding bleachers, lights, and the DM supplied the chainlink fence. With that much metal around, really, it was a matter of choice and purpose.

This incubus-y thing bad-mouthed Nick, who is the mafia boss (though not a don). He tried to intimidate it, and it came to a scuffle. Goons that were actually ghouls came at us. First Jared got attacked, which started me considering my status as a “glass cannon.” So I argued that it would make sense for there to be very low level men in black to absorb a hit or two on my behalf.

That discussion got a little… Gordian. Moving on to the cool.

I ended up needing my LLMIB for his intended defensive measures. After doing so, I moved into a more open are (I’d been in the dugout) and used my metal magic to slam a set of bleachers into the incubus, who was also flustered because of something Nick had done. Tagging left and right, I was. I don’t remember if he had taken any damage, but my cleaner does not screw around. That one-hit wonder smashed him right into a discussion about whether or not he should be considered dead.

Now the ring reduction spell would be much more subtle…

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Jess and Aphrodite encounter details

I’m going to have to come up with a new naming system for encounter detail posts.

This one changed a lot in the writing, and I definitely blame the fact that I didn’t feel like writing it. It’s not a bad one, and it was made easier by the fact that instead of making notes on dice rolls, I just wrote my details post alongside the actual encounter. It also had very few rolls, and much more thought.

The first check could have been Jess’s Intimidate skill to browbeat Aphrodite into going to the Watch, but that isn’t the way she rolls. [/pun]

But Aphrodite is a cunning little minx, and not anywhere near the straight and narrow. She tried to charm Jess into forgetting about the incident and following Aphrodite’s pace. At first I thought I would have her roll against Jess’s stats, but after I took a look at the numbers, that didn’t seem plausible.

First of all, there would have to be an opposing stat, and the only thing that could have fit contextually would have had no chance against Aphrodite’s dice pool.

So I decided to just make certain rolls Difficult or Easy. This one to start with. Aphrodite rolled a Difficult Charm 3 + Presence 2. 4 successes on white, 0 black.

Interesting, since I had not initially intended to give her a chance to roll that option. I’d meant for things to go against her wishes.

I know where I want these two to end up, but that doesn’t mean the dice would fall that way. At this point, Aphrodite wanted to shake her off, but she is a little dazzled by the idea of having been rescued. Jess is noble and still wants to see this through, but she isn’t personally attached.

In fact, at this point, I decided to trade out her Paranoia Complication for Stubborn, because it fits her character better. No change in stats, just responding to how I’ve been writing her.

Anyway, for someone else, I would have gone with a Charm roll, but not only does Jess not have any points in that skill, but her approach here was different than a Charming character’s. She’s being kind, reasonable. Playing to emotions that are already there instead of trying to manipulate certain emotions into being.

Empathy 2 + Presence 2 = Pool 4. 4 successes, all of them on sixes. But Aphrodite is cynical. She has to make a Perception check to realise that Jess’s behaviour is sincere, if a little detached. An Easy 5 + Perception 2 + Wits 2. Easy because Jess is not all that hard to read. 2 successes.

I could feel the scene start to play out much more quickly than most of the encounters have done, but that was fine. This scene never really had to accomplish much, and I was trying something a little new–an NPC with a full character sheet.

One last roll for Aphrodite to convince Jess to come inside and have a cup of tea. Etiquette 2 + Wits 2. 1 success. So she’s polite, but apparently too flustered to show off her full repertoire of learned manners.

So, it concluded differently than I expected, and covered less ground, but it made me realise that the other things I wanted to write with these characters need to have a bit more setup.

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Edelweiss, Candle, and Anson encounter details

I really want to fuzz over this one and make it as brief as possible. This is unlikely to happen, as not only is the encounter quite long, the dice rolls and game decisions, and all the other behind the scenes stuff is kind of complicated.

Some background information on how and where I wrote this:

I’ve mentioned on my blog before that my regular keyboard experienced battery death. This forced me to find another bit of hardware to write with. My Alphasmart had several drawbacks, the final of which kept me from writing for days. Sometimes I just don’t want to use a particular device I own. I blogged about this before, and it’s kind of boring.

The real point is that using the Alphasmart meant that I could keep two files on the same machine and flip between them. One for the encounter, and the other for the dice rolls I had to keep track of.

Things didn’t start to get really complicated until I got up today, finally transferred all of my text to my PC, and got into writing the rest.

First dice roll was for Edelweiss, a Perception 2 + Wits 2 check to anticipate the arm, which I made Difficult because the room was smoky and she wasn’t paying attention. 1 success each on black and white, which comes out to 0.

After she won a Strength check to push him away, combat began. Neither had a ready weapon, so they each had -3 to Initiative, and -2 to their combat dice pools.

With their initiative crippled like that, it was kind of interesting. Edelweiss had 3 dice, and Jimmy only 2 (in fact, he didn’t get his name until rather later), and they kept on tying for initiative. I don’t really like the game’s tie solution, which is stat-based, so I just re-rolled until someone won. It was Edelweis, with 2 successes to the pirate’s 0. The way that PC and NPC stats work, there’s really no way that the solution in the book is fair.

Edelweiss’s combat roll was Swordplay 4 + Dex 2 + Initiative Bonus 2 – Unready 2, for a pool of 6. She gained 3 successes, while Jimmy only rolled 1.

And oh, our Edelweiss is just that kind of girl. With her degree of success 2 + Collapsible Sword 4 + Strength 3, she rolled 6 successes. Jimmy’s health points were wiped out.

But wait! The fight’s not over. Jimmy rolled a Fortitude + Resolve save (Physical 3 + Mental 2 for the NPC pirate) and succeeded. So he remained conscious and the fight would continue.

Candle stuck his nose in and combat widened. I actually finished rolling Edelweiss/Jimmy combat first, because I had all the numbers in front of me, and went back and wrote everything all in order.

No unready penalties for anyone this time around. Candle won initiative while Pirates 1 and 2 tied. They are statistically sameoids, so I just had them go in number order. We see the return of our old friend the Outnumbered penalty, with 3 black dice for Candle. But, he also decided to attack both of the pirates, so he had to halve his dice pool. Not too much to worry about, I thought. He has Firearms and Dexterity each at 4, plus 2 for winning initiative. That gave him a pool of 5 per pirate–but 3 black dice for each roll as well.

Against Pirate 1, he rolled a success each on the black and white dice. I hate those. 0 successes. But against Pirate 2, he rolled 3 successes on white and none on black. Pirate 1 rolled 2 successes, and Pirate 2 rolled 3 successes.

So, Pirate 1 got to hit. Pirate 2 tied with Candle, but because Candle won initiative, he won the round. However, he could roll weapon damage only. Weapon damage for Candle’s Heat Ray (steam) is 10 dice. Cue my grin.

With his Degree of Success 2 + Cutlass 7 + Physical 3, Pirate 1 ended up with a dice pool of 12, and he whomped Candle. 5 points of damage, and it could have been so much worse.

Left with one pip of health, Candle rolled damage for Pirate 2. Here, I kind of just want to cut and past my notes. (Keep in mind, all three pirates–Jimmy, 1, and 2–have 6 health points)

Candle
(Weapon damage only) Heat Ray (steam) 10
7 successes

Pirate 2, we hardly knew ye. Fortitude + Resolve roll, or shine on, you crazy diamond.

2 successes. You live.

Technically, I’m not sure at what part of the turn characters who are into their grey dice should be making saving rolls, but I liked the drama of doing it right then, and he was going to have to make one soon anyway.

Back up to Edelweiss and Jimmy. I knew he didn’t stand a chance, but he’s just so plucky. I wondered if she would really murder him or not. They both chose to slash at each other with swords–his a cutlass, hers the collapsible sword–and rolled initiative.

This time, they had no penalties–except for Jimmy’s -2, thanks to being in his grey dice. However, that does not affect his initiative. And if it does, too bad, because I didn’t roll it that way. Even if I had done, he could hardly have done worse. Edelweiss rolled 3 successes, and Jimmy rolled 0.

For combat, they both rolled their Swordplay skills and Dexterity. Edelweiss had the initiative bonus, and Jimmy had the “Oh I’m dyin’ here” penalty. Even so, it was a close thing. Edelweiss only rolled 1 success, but Jimmy didn’t roll any.

Edelweiss’s damage roll was Degree of Success 1 + Collapsible Sword 4 + Strength 3 = pool 8. I thought that would be it for Jimmy.

But she only rolled 3 successes. A pretty heavy toll to take, but he wasn’t dead yet. And he made his saving roll.

All of this not-dying earned him a graphic.

I was starting to wind down, and it was about time Anson came in, so after the saving rolls were taken care of, I had Anson roll a Difficult Empathy 4 + Presence 2 check. No successes on the black dice, but 2 on the white. No one was impressed, but he did make everyone stop goading the fight.

I did actually make a few healing rolls, but doing it made me realise just how pointless they were at this stage of the encounter. It was technically over, so I just wrapped it up and awarded Candle 2 experience points for being awesome. I think at the end of this round of encounters, I’ll give everyone 1 fate, which I’m sure at least one of them will exchange for experience. We’ve got at least two or three trying to improve their attributes.

Anson didn’t really get to do anything, but maybe I can accept this as a good place to set up whatever happens next.

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Surinder and Arete encounter details

Writing this encounter took a bizarrely long amount of time. Life interfered quite often and rather heavily, plus, I don’t think it’s as good as the others were.

This is probably because there isn’t a lot going on. It’s a talking head scene, and to make it even harder, I had to really pin down what this Lady Magna’s deal is.

But that’s enough about why it took so long. When I was first writing it, I somehow got into watching something, which my husband joined me in. When I watch stuff by myself while writing, I tend to pause and unpause it, writing in bursts, but that’s annoying for someone else who just wants to enjoy the video.

So, I decided all of my dice rolls and scene directions, and wrote them on the back of an old receipt that was just sitting on my desk. Later, I just wrote from what I had planned and  the noted skill checks and outcomes.

Funny note: The receipt is from changing money in Victoria.

If one is familiar with the skills in Airship Pirates, it should almost always be obvious when I called for a skill check and what skill was used, just by reading. To a lesser or possibly greater degree, the degree of success is also easy to guess by reading.

That said, when Arete implied that Surinder should make her a setting for a gem in return for information, he rolled Craft (wire art) 4 + Wits 3, for a pool of 7, which yielded an impressive 6 successes. So he not only worked very quickly, but he came out with an especially pleasing design.

As he was so successful, Arete provided two significant bits of information. I decided to give him a second chance to repair something and gain the opportunity to ask her to join him in his next Magna-related action.

To fix the clock, he rolled Ad Hoc Repair 4 + Wits 3. He rolled 2 successes. Less impressive, but he got the job done.

With that opportunity open, he had only to roll some kind of skill check to try to get her to join him. Surinder has very little Presence, and not many points expended for charm-type skills. So I let him appeal to her through his Streetwise skill, presuming that he is laying emphasis on the seedy understanding of the situation. Streetwise 3 + Presence 1 gained him 1 success. He barely managed it, and it will cost him in the long run.

Let’s hope it was worth it.

Personally, I think that he will definitely need Arete. She is better equipped for battle, and from what has been seen and said of Lady Magna and her retinue, there will be fighting, and it won’t be an easy encounter.

If I don’t move the characters around into different groups for whatever reason, the next we see from these two will be from Arete’s point of view, “storming the castle”.

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Arete encounter details

I fully expected this one to be difficult. It was expected by my audience of one to be the most awesome, so yes, bar was set a bit high. I wasn’t even going to start yesterday. Technically, I finished yesterday, but then I’d have to write something else for today. And we made plans to see a movie.

For some reason, I thought that gambling had its own system. But when I flipped through the book seeking knowledge of gambling, nothing came. So I was at a standstill for a while, until discussion gave us a gambling system of our own.

There are not a lot of rolls in Arete’s encounter, so I’ll spend most of this recap going over my gambling system.

It looks like it’s really just supposed to be a skill check. Which is not what I wanted at all. So we came up with some mechanics for it, which I dressed up with a name and terms. The mechanics are simple–3 black dice for the difficulty level, and Gambling + Wits. Number of successes define the quality of the win. Two successes is the minimum for a good roll.

If the the player has Addiction (Gambling) as a Complication, they must occasionally make a successful Resolve roll to be able to stop playing.

Arete does have that complication, however, she did not play long enough to have to make that check, and the end of her gambling session was due to an external force stronger than her addiction. She did have to roll an Act 3 + Presence 3 to retain her composure after the poor roll, with 3 successes. I find it funny that she rolled quite well in anything not to do with gambling.

Hopefully, Port of Call will come up again later, because I have a couple of different hands named. It’s not a real game, but it’s not hard to make it sound like one.

Both of her Gambling rolls were poor. Her pool was 6, 3 points each in Gambling and Wits, against the 3 black dice. The first roll, she got two successes, but one was cancelled by the black dice. I decided that because the game has a similarity to card games, she can continue gambling to build her chances back up to possibly win.

In this case, if she were to roll a single success again, that would be the pairing “spread” (like a hand in cards) to the first roll, which would be a rare/difficult way to win. She ended up getting two successes, but both of them were cancelled out by the black dice. I didn’t actually explain this when I first wrote it, but when it ended up too short, I went back and put it in. So that’s probably why I still feel compelled to explain it here.

I had decided from the outset that she would only roll two rounds of gambling, and then get into a fight. Only the reason for the fight was up to the dice. If she’d done well, she would have been accused of cheating. We got to see the awesome alternative because her gamble rolls sucked.

Combat is something I’m pretty used to now, but it always brings some surprises into the way I write each scene. In Arete’s case, she had made some pretty unlucky rolls, when I’d rather wanted her to win so that I could have her get jumped by angry gamblers. But with this one guy… She just smashed him.

I used the Pirate/Marine NPC stats from the book, which gave him 5 dice to roll against Arete’s 7. He rolled 3 successes, while she rolled 5, granting her the initiative bonus.

This gave her a combat dice pool of 8, from which she rolled an unbelievable 10 successes. It was even cooler than Anson’s 10 from a pool of 11. She rolled a one and 4 sixes, which she re-rolled to gain another six. That six re-rolled four more sixes, before ending on a three.

To make it even more spectacular, the antagonist gambler rolled a measly 2 out of his pool of 5.

Arete’s damage pool was Degree of Success 8 + Revolver 5 = 13. She rolled 8 successes, and murdered the guy. To death. His health points went from 6 to negative 2. I probably could have explored the world of saving rolls and grey dice, but this was too good not to just give her a straight, clean kill.

No idea what they’re all in for next. Probably meeting up or furthering their individual goals. Technically, Anson and Arete already know each other, and it’s not infeasible for Jess, Candle, or even Edelweiss to meet either of them or even one another. Surinder already knows Arete, so he may meet with her.

Who knows. We’ll see. I’m just glad I finally have all of these done, and kind of amazed that I finished Arete’s so quickly.

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Anson encounter details

This one is not one of my favourites. I’m not entirely sure of why. True, it’s too long, but they have gotten progressively longer, and Candle was proof that when an encounter focuses on social interaction and is actually missing combat, it tends to take more writing to get from one thing to another. But Anson’s encounter also took me quite a while to write. I just couldn’t get into it.

I actually rewrote the beginning a couple of times. Not from scratch, just very significant details changed. The initial plan did not change much–I wanted to use the game’s Perils system, which is actually just a guideline. I decided to explode something. At first, that was going to be his office, but then I realised what a deterrent that would be to the story. His office is the home of his Family, and anything affecting them all so greatly should not come before the party is all together.

Anyway, once he got to the place it was safe to blow up, I ran through the Peril guidelines. The first question one must ask oneself when directing a peril, is if it can be avoided. Airship pirates are firing on the port, which is near Anson’s location. So no. Cannot avoid. Next question is how much damage does it cause? An explosion is a moderate peril, which would give it a damage dice pool of 3-6.

I decided to give him a bit of a chance and give him a kind of pseudo-avoidance roll. He can’t avoid the peril, but he can avoid the damage. He rolled Wits 2 + Perception 3, for a pool of 5, and got 1 success. So he was able to hide under the table and avoid damage, but he was still in a dangerous building.

While I could have made more checks on the stability of the structure or other things, it would have made for an even longer post, and it was already pretty long by that point.

Dice rolls started sliding into place at this point, so it was a simple check of Leadership 3 + Presence 2 every time he tried to comfort or direct the NPCs. He tended to roll low for interactions with Morgan, while he rolled a 3 when interacting with Cass, which is why she trusted him enough to hand him her baby.

Healing was one of the systems I hadn’t gotten to use yet, and was pretty much saving for Anson, because duh, he’s the doctor. His first roll, healing Morgan, was actually a regular skill check, as I did not specify stats or health point loss for Morgan. Which was lucky, as with a pool of 11, Anson managed to fumble out a single success. He gets 5 dice for using a doctor’s bag/medical kit (this basically makes it an Easy roll), to go with his Medicine 4 and Wits 2. I found it funny that his Skill Speciality for Medicine is OB-Gyn.

I like accrediting his magnificently low success to that. But I did throw in another tremor just in case, and it gave Morgan a chance to explain the explosion. It’s not supposed to be a big deal. Everyone’s encounters give them something to follow up on in their personal lives, but they aren’t always big things. In this case, Anson may choose to check up on the Teech family in future, which for his character, is just as pressing as Edelweiss’s enemy-making repercussions, Surinder’s involvement with Lady Magna, Candle’s accidental “regulars”, and Jess’s rescued charge.

When it came to governing Cass’s healing, I did not make up stats, but I did give her an average amount of health points (6) and decided that her injury had knocked her down to 2 health points. Anson would have to roll 4 successes out of his healing pool of 11 to heal her completely.

He rolled 10 successes.

It was amazing. I only had 9 white dice, as usual, so I rolled all nine and came up with 5 ones right off the bat, as well as 2 sixes. I re-rolled the sixes and got nothing, but then rolled the remaining 2 dice to complete the pool. They both came up six, bringing him to 9 successes. I re-rolled those sixes one last time, and one of them came up one. 10 successes.

This was too cool not to make a hybrid of the success scale and healing process. On the success scale, 10 is an “amazing performance”, and 10 was more than enough to heal her lost 4 points. Most of that was spent in the quiet, underlook-able awesomeness of pulling a splintery piece of wood out of a person. Smoothly. It may be hard to notice, but he actually pulled it out in exactly the right way to avoid causing further damage.

Winding down was a bit difficult, but I managed it all right, I think. Now I need to go back and make a timestamped entry for why I did not post yesterday. This was part of it, but not the whole reason.

It’s kind of funny though. I miss one day, and my views go down to zero immediately.

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Jess encounter details

Wow. This is a pretty big one. Seriously, something awesome happened in this one, I swear.

I think that since most of the explaining about the game mechanics has been done in the earlier ones, I should fall into a more summarising narrative for these details posts. As before, the circumstances are more interesting–but this time, the dice had a lot more to do with it.

This was another encounter that I had trouble setting down to write. I didn’t get much chance before getting home, and once I did, I wanted to do other things. But once I got started, everything just slid into place.

Technical issues arose with this one as well. I tried to make the draft on my PC first, and access it on my tablet, only to find that it needed a constant connection to access and update it. I do not have that at work, so I made an Evernote file. Screw you, WordPress App. Die in a fire.

I was already using Evernote to keep track of encounter details anyway, so instead of making a separate file for those, I just made all detail notes in-line with the text. This made me very paranoid of leaving them in the final post, but I think I checked it enough times. I think. It was a lot easier to do it this way, so I might just write everything in Evernote and then just put it in Yarny or Dropbox for sake of saving.

I tried to use the dice to do some more menial things this time, like checking if she’s afraid of being up so high with a Wits 2 roll (1 success). I was told that the scenes should try to cover more time, so I did a bit of a time jump as practise. Good thing, or she wouldn’t have gotten to the combat.

Jess’s character is not the easiest to explain or write, but she is essentially a straightforward person. She has quite a few flaws in her makeup, but she’s a good person, and she is able to make good suggestions to cover up her weaknesses by playing to her strengths.

For example, when she heard the bang on the door, I wanted her to be able to figure out it needed attention, but I still wanted to at least gauge her success. However, she has no skill points in Perception, as well as a low score in the related attribute. This is something she has in common with other characters, so I came up with a way to patch it. Instead of an Easy 5 Perception 0 + Wits 1, she rolled an Easy 5 Survival 2 + Wits 1 for 3 successes. Two dice make a difference, and she played to her traits instead of rote checks. It still amounts to an awareness check, she simply used a different skill to the same end.

Three successes means that she accomplished the task with some flair, so her instincts told her to get out her weapons before breaking down the door. What I was going to mention in my first post today was that I found another thing in the mechanics I haven’t gotten to do yet, which is breaking objects. Wooden doors have 4 structure points (like health).  I assumed that when attempting to break an object, damage is rolled against the object’s structure points, and so she rolled 8 for the Arm Blades and 1 for Strength. Door got splintered.

Combat was… bizarre.

In my first post about Jess, I basically detailed exactly what would happen in this encounter. But I didn’t end with whether she saved the girl or not. So when I started writing combat, I decided that she didn’t need to kill the baddies, but if she didn’t do damage by the second round, they would kill the girl and she would have to make an Empathy 2 + Presence 1 check. A success in that check would allow her to chase them down and attack and/or acquire information. Failure would mean collapsing with guilt and sadness.

Two rather awesome things happened here. It’s all a little complicated, but I’ll try to unravel it.

The death condition existed because I had a contingency plan I was fairly fond of. No matter what happened, Jess would end up with a contact called “Aphrodite”. Either the woman here, or her twin sister. No concrete name left that much in the air. Should Jess fail, she would have to contact the girl’s family and then find herself in an obviously haunting situation, which the sister would have misinterpreted to comedic effect. I was eager to play it that way, but… when the combat started, and the odds looked so obviously against the woman surviving, I felt absolutely awful.

I hoped quite hard that the dice would roll in Jess’s favour. Only one man could attack anyway, as the other had to hold the hostage. The first round of combat, the pistol-wielder rolled 3 successes to Jess’s 1. With that, he brought his combat dice pool up to 9 (Physical 5 + Firearms 2 + Initiative Bonus 2) and rolled 3 successes. Jess’s combat roll was Beast Dancing (martial art) 4 + Dexterity 3, for a dice pool of 7. I knew I wasn’t eager for the death condition when I started calculating if I should let her reneg the declared action and Dodge. I even went back and made another personalised awareness check to give her a chance to notice the pistol. But 7 to 9 didn’t seem too bad, so I rolled the fight.

Jess got 1 success. My heart actually sank.

With the degree of success and the damage dice for his pistol, the pistol-wielder had a damage dice pool of 7. He didn’t roll a single success. This brought me to the weird experience of having to write a hit with a gunshot that did no damage. So he hit her in the hair.

The second round was even cooler. Jess won initiative by 1 success, and so the combat dice pools were switched–9 for Jess, 7 for Pistolman. Again, Jess won the combat  roll by a single success. At that point, I just felt relief whoosh through me. Jess has a contact, similar to Candle’s but hers will be around more often and under (probably) more varying circumstances.

I started rolling damage almost as an afterthought. Degree of success 1 + Arm Blades 8 + Strength 1 for a pool of 10. Those weapons are crazy awesome. She got 5 successes and gutted the guy for all but one of his health points.

Those dice rolling the way they did is kind of cool. Maybe creepy. I gave her 2 experience points for that, which she’s saving for an attribute fix.

The last roll was when Aphrodite hugged Jess. Our Jess is not a very touchy-feely person, and she has the Paranoia complication, so I made her make an Empathy 2 + Presence 1 check to prevent pushing the woman away. It yielded one success, which was enough to let her awkwardly sit and take it a moment.

Wow, that was a lot of writing. But that was the coolest thing that’s happened so far. This is totally why I wanted to write with dice in the decision-making. Governing the story by my feelings doesn’t always produce the best result. I was honestly excited to write the Haunted by the Death of an Innocent and Faced with Identical Twin thing.