Friday, February 24, 2017

New print: The Age of Steel has arrived!

Say hello to the latest print of the Core Rule Book! At roughly 400 pages it is a solid piece with mostly text but a number of maps, short stories and item sketches to lighten things up. Hopefully more art can be added later on, but as that is not my area of expertise it will have to do for now.

It has been a lot of work and there are still two more books to go, but it feels very solid to finally have this in hand. The result was better than expected - particularly the hardback cover with many thanks to Sissela Lewitzki Andersson for the artwork!

As the author of these I can't say anything else than that I'm quite proud. For the achievement of actually getting this delivered to my doorstep, but also for all that last minute work put in to correct spelling mistakes (oh, there were lots of those), bad mathematics (don't ask) and the overall layout of the book. Now, don't get me wrong: I'm sure there are plenty of errors in there still - but at least they had to fight for survival.

So, I'll enjoy this milestone for a few days and then its back to work on the Age of Information rulebook!


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Friday, February 17, 2017

Kragor the Merc: In Service of the Enemy

I know you listen to my stories because you find them amusing. Well, this time there's nothing to be amused about I can guarantee.

The big plan had been set in motion. The Falcons had given us instructions and a high-tech biomod - supposedly to protect against some mind-controlling stuff GERO was employing. We had accepted GERO's offer for work and after getting Charles to baby-sit us we were to be picked up. The whole thing was just like some boot-camp scene from a B-grade virex. Big truck rolled up and we climbed into an almost full transport compartment. Seemed GERO had managed to lay their hands on almost every merc in town...

It was a short journey to the assembly area where we watched the suits make up some plans. Also we spotted a familiar face from GERO's grand opening on the news channel - one of the high execs who apparently came down to relay some orders to the suits. Abriel's bodyguard was also there but it now became clear who she was really working for. The plot thickens.

There was a long drive to take us from the city out to the research facility. There wasn't much else to do, so I observed as much as I could. This continued until we reached  GERO's little paradise installation out in the middle of nowhere. We were taken on an outside walk to reach our quarters, which were at the rear of the facility. Every step sickened me more and more as I saw more of this facade. Inside the less flattering merc quarters we were called up and sorted into cells. I say cells for that's what it were. The facility was a blend between a prison complex and a damn storage tank for lab rats. It would soon be clear that was exactly what we were considered to be as we were put through some psychological evaluation, suspicious medical exam and fitness tests. I played the stupid orc - people generally didn't question you being a stupid orc - and continued to observe. Unsurprisingly, we were observed in return - but Ed managed to find what he believed to be a blind spot for the facility cameras. Certainly something to keep in mind.

We were also introduced to the less pleasant elements of the place; the team leaders were with all certainty the very same escaped criminals we'd spent some time looking for a few months ago. Seemed some had survived the Falcon's sabotage of their facility. Whether because of this or if it was just a personal trait I didn't know, but they didn't hesitate to kill people. Saw it happen right in front of our eyes and the mercs accepted it like a bunch of school kids.

It was nothing compared to our first job though. It was late and most others seemed to be sick from a biomod administered during the medical exams. For us it was more like a serious itch and we did everything we could to keep us from scratching out skin off. Apparently something important had happened and our elated team leaders noticed we were still up and going, so we were chosen. At that time I was glad to get something to think about and also an opportunity to learn more about what was going on. I were quickly to regret those thoughts.

We were lead by a total psychopath called Boyan and the mission was to eradicate some overdue settlers on what was claimed to be GERO's land. I knew there was little to do but to look professional and get things done - if I didn't do it someone else would. I just hoped the rest of the team had learned enough of ethics in the Fringe to get through this with their wits intact. Or at least not sustain more damage than they already had...

Juron and Charles were designated to sweep the ground while Lucas were to put down any stragglers. Me and Ed were simply to provide backup if necessary. For my part I would be keeping an eye on Boyan.

I won't go into details. People were murdered that night, but I learned some lessons. Juron is like a child when it comes to boundaries - whenever someone pushes he'll get interested and pulled along. Must learn to do that; it seems the only way to affect his actions in a profound way. Then there was Boyan. He was, what I can only assume, genetically improved to a level only comparable to his level of mental degradation. I had always kept myself professional in such matters - with a few exceptions - but this guy quickly made it to my list of people who need to die a horrible death. The toughest decision in the coming weeks would be if that should happen sooner or later. The Falcons might have hired us but this job was for a good cause after all...

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Kragor the Merc: Grand Opening

If someone would have asked me if I believed in fate a week ago I'd say 'no'.

Well, I ought to keep to the timeline, right? We were leaving the undercity with three truckloads of gold, driving like crazy past - and sometimes through - gatherings of subdwellers, trying to navigate our way out. The fire and explosions from the robbery - for that was all it really was - felt very close. Then we left the tunnels behind...

And it was still daylight. A few blocks later we hit normal traffic and instead of the mad driving we just flowed with it. The heart was pumping and screaming while the world seemed to go in slow-motion. I guess this is what Juron craves - at least at times. It was oddly comforting.

We left the vehicles at the designated drop-point and then headed out. Joline was nice enough to select a meeting place nearby, so we collected our payment, paid off on some debts, and then headed back home. Someone was watching and I wondered who. It seemed a bit low-profile for the arbitrators and from Joline's reaction I figured it wasn't she. Was it one of GERO's assassins keeping us under surveillance? Little did I know...

Juron was left at the medbay in what seemed a routine part of any mission. He'd taken a gunshot wound to one eye but fortunately it didn't look critical. The rest of us just headed back to base where we went through the pickings Hawk had collected. Coupled with 24k in cash it was a good pay. But the question kept coming back: what was our purpose, why were we doing this? I guess I wanted a reason for the killing. Old man problem.

I didn't get any answers of course - not even after a night out with too much drink, which for once felt like the right thing to do. The following day was back to the question of what would we do next? And there it was on the news: GERO opening some new research facility out in the wilds. Promised to make everything good and bring us all to happy-land. In my experience if you heard shit like that on the prime channel you ran for it. But I'd grown tired of running. But it was about time we learned what the fuck was going on. Time to contact my good friend mr Blackbourne and hope he kept up with things. Indeed he said we should meet and discuss - which probably indicated major shit was going on. This state of affairs was confirmed by job offers being at an all-time low.

I learned a lot from mr Blackbourne a few hours later. GERO was taking over town, more or less. Slowly, over time, they've bought themselves a majority in most major corps in the region. Then there was the rumors of the encampment for escaped criminals, the assassinations by Abriel's "body guard" and of course the defector K... yeah, it looked serious. I tried to leave a hook with Blackbourne - his family was rich and influential and they probably wanted GERO cut down to size.

Back at base I... well its hard to describe really. There was a grill. And then... there was fire. From a top-floor window in the Freelance building. With his heavy flamer Juron turned a dead cow (or whatever it was) into a meal faster than the damn breakfast machine could deliver a bowl of snot. It was hard not to have a party after something like that, but sometime during the evening I shared what I've learned. I don't know exactly how things played out after that, but at some point I noticed Hawk taking Erza outside. There was definitely something fishy about her so I followed. It turned out she was working for Sam - our mystery savior from the fucked-up weapons high-jacking. And Sam had a job for us which involved taking on GERO somehow. For the job itself we would have a meeting with someone up the ranks, which seemed reasonable. But also we would have to make sure that the Demon's Head were too occupied to take any job offers from GERO. It was definitely a selling point for me.

The following morning was spent on an evil plan. The only sort of job offers worth doing which was still coming in was for Dukkha. So for that reason - and some more - it seemed natural to send the Demon's Head there to earn some creds. For a couple of weeks. He. Listening to Erza giving the news to Krelik would keep me warm inside for many a cold night.

Later that evening it was time for our meeting with Sam's mystery organization. We were lead to an odd, hidden away roof-top installation in the blocks. Clearly someone had both cash and the connections to get hold of some advanced tech. Keria would have drooled at the sight. So we got an introduction, a slight show-off as the bastards had hacked my tracking dots to keep us all under surveillance - and also news that they had already found and taken care of that rumored prisoner encampment we've heard about. So what did they want from us? I almost laughed myself to death when I heard it: we were to infiltrate GERO and wait for further orders. The irony being we had ourselves discussed exactly such a course of action not too long ago, and here we were. It was going to be difficult. It was going to make a difference if indeed these guys were bent on taking down GERO as they claimed to be. And it would by all hells be damned well paid - of that I would make sure.

So suddenly we were doing something. Something that mattered. And there was someone to pay us for it. I had looked forward to this for some time. And it seemed I've been led to this place even when I seemed to choose otherwise. If someone would've asked me if I believed in fate now I'd still say bloody 'no'. But it had me thinking alright...