“Jerry, do we really need a new game system? We’ve been playing Wizards and Wendigos for years. We all know the rules. Why don’t we just make up some new character sheets for that?”
“Trust me,” he grins back at you, “every review I’ve read said this is a system like no other. Come on, according to the rules it only takes three roles to make up a character. What do you want to be?”
Brandi jumps in ‘Ninja Thief! I want to be a super sneak.”
You roll your eyes just a little. Brandi ALWAYS wants to be a super sneak.
“Okay, you first need to roll the green die to see what your special benefits are, then the yellow die will tell you what makes you dangerous, and finally the red die tells you what great peril you’re facing.”
“How many sides are on those dice? I’ve never seen ones like that.” This is kind of a big deal since you thought you owned EVERY kind of die.
‘They came with the game,” says Jerry with a shrug. Brandi ignores you and rolls the dice. You look to see what her results are, and the lights seem to flicker as the dice hit the table.
“Stupid florescents. Okay, the green die means you can make any hand held object into an effective weapon. The yellow die means you have an incredibly honest face and no one ever suspects you of lying. As for the red die . . .” Jerry’s eyes widen as he consults the chart in the rule book. “That says you stole some treasure from a dragon and it’s hunting for you.”
Brandi passes you the dice, but you hesitate for just a moment. Her face seems a little different in this light, a little less jaded than usual. More than that, though, you swear she smells like smoke .
“I thought you gave up cigarettes.”
She looks at you innocently. “I did. Dad was barbecuing today, and I was out on the porch talking to him.”
You always thought you could tell charcoal from cigarette smoke. You must have been mistaken.
“All right, Sam,” says Jerry. “What kind of character do you want to play?”
Chosen: Who says we have to stick with sword and sorcery? I want to be a cyborg!
“I think I want to be something different this time. Can I play a cyborg or something?”
Brandi makes a face at you. “How are you a cyborg when I’m being chased by a dragon?”
“Hey, for all you know it’s a cyborg dragon.”
Jerry makes and exasperated sound, but pulls out the book. “It’s fine, there are rules for sci-fi heroes” he says after a moment. “Roll the dice. Green is your benefit, Yellow is what makes you dangerous, and red is . . .”
“The peril I’m facing. Yes. I remember.”
You let the green die fall from your hand, and there’s a flash behind your eye. You shake your head and inhale sharply. The smell of smoke seems sharper. You seem to have a migraine.
“All right, that means your ocular implant is highly advanced, and it heightens all your senses. Roll yellow.”
As you release the die, you pull back your arm and crack your funny bone on the arm of the table. A shock of numbness runs through your whole arm.
“Aw, that sucks!” This is Brandi’s idea of sympathy.
Jerry takes no notice at all. “You’ve got a bionic arm which comes complete with an assortment of weapons. Now the red die please.”
“Do you have some ibuprophen in your bag?” you say to Brandi as you release the red die.
“Sure,” she replies, and reaches over to pull it off the chair beside her. In doing so, she pulls the chair down and it lands on your foot, sending another flash of pain your way.
Jerry shakes his head. “Try not to die before you finish making your characters. Your red die means you’ve got an implant in your foot which is actually a bomb controlled by a very rich man who wants a favor.”
You’re not paying quite so much attention, to Jerry. You accept Brandi’s offered pill and chug it down with the yellow green soda in your glass.
“So, where do we want to set this adventure, you guys?”
“You know,” you say, still rubbing your sore foot. “I’m not in the mood for a super space opera. How about this all take place on a backwards planet where there’s very little hi tech?”
“Oh, heck yeah,” Brandi says with a light in her eyes. “I can swindle the yokels into thinking I’m a magician.”
Jerry laughs. “Sounds good.” He picks up the book and leafs through it. “Cool, there’s even a template for an adventure like that.”
“Yeah. I don’t remember seeing it when I read the book before, but yeah. It’s right here.” He begins reading. “A dangerous criminal has escaped from a prison planet. The craft he was travelling on crashed on this planet, and you’ve managed to track him here. If you can catch him, it’s a substantial bounty from the intergalactic alliance. So, you’ve managed to get into orbit around this planet. How do you want to start your search?’
“I don’t think we can try to get inside his head and anticipate this guy’s next move,” you say. “We know nothing about him. I think we’re going to have to start from where he landed and track him from there. Hopefully it won’t be too hard to catch up with him.”
“Yeah, you’re probably right,” agrees Brandi. “You can pilot us down, since you can probably plug into the ship as a cyborg.”
You nod to Jerry to signal that’s what you’re doing. He consults the book momentarily, then looks up. “Okay, you’ve just entered the upper atmosphere of the planet when the ship begins to buck and shake. It’s like turbulence, but turbulence should not be affecting your ship with the advanced engines you have. You struggle with the controls for a moment, but then suddenly there’s a severe power surge. You’re basically in free-fall at the moment.”
It takes you a moment to respond, as your stomach suddenly does a flip. You feel like you just went over the first hill on a roller coaster.
“Man, sorry. Just got a stomach ache on top of everything.”
“You all right?”
“I think so.” You take a steadying breath. “I’m going to try to get us down safely. Which die do I roll?”
“That depends on what exactly you want to do.”
Jerry gestures to the pile of dice in front of you. As he explains your options, one of the dice seems to sparkle momentarily.
Chosen: Grab whichever die is sparkling and take your chances on what it will do.
You grab the die which caught your eye. “What happens if I roll this one?”
Jerry blinks before responding. “Um, that one would mean you’re powering up the weapons array and firing. And since you have no sensors, you’re firing blind.”
Brandi throws up her hands in excitement. “Wanton destruction! Do it!”
You grin and roll the orange die. It rolls directly in front of Jerry, who stares at it in surprise. “Well, okay then.”
“That was a major hit. You feel the kick of the weapons array shifting the ship slightly, and then you hear an ungodly scream from outside.”
Just then, an all-too-real wail breaks into the room. You all stare at each other, but Brandi breaks out in giggles. “Sorry, that’s my text alert from my sister.” She checks her phone and rolls her eyes at the family drama.
“Anyway,” continues Jerry, “the rest of the ship’s systems begin to come back online and you realize what happened. A big chunk of the outer hull just isn’t there anymore, and the power had to reroute itself around the missing section. One of the last things to come back on is the sensors, and Brandi, your character sees the display pop up.”
“What do I see?” she responds.
“A wounded and very ticked-off dragon, who looks very familiar right before it disappears behind some cloud cover.” Jerry grins. “Your ship is seriously jacked up, you can probably land it safely, but you can’t get off-planet. What’s your next move?”
Chosen: Go to where the fugitive’s ship went down, but you’ll be salvaging pieces from his ship and getting off this planet as soon as possible.
“Do we still have a sensor lock on the fugitive’s ship?”
“Then I’m putting the ship down there. If there’s a dragon looking to come get us, we need to vamoose. We can salvage parts from the convict and then get the heck out of here.”
Brandi nods. “It bit through our ship, I don’t want to face off against this thing.”
Jerry shrugs. “That’s fine. You can pilot it down without any problems and land pretty much right next to it. His ship is in measurably worse shape than yours. Your ship had a bite taken out of it, but his ship crashed right into the side of a hill. Salvage isn’t going to be an easy job.”
“Then we better get started. I assume we have all the repair materials in the ship.”
“Oh, sure, but neither of you are experts in this kind of work. Also, the second you step outside to look, you notice a plume of smoke coming from the next hill over. What’s your plan?”
“I say we track down that smoke and figure out if it’s something we should worry about.”
Brandi furrows her brow. “What if they’re leading us into a trap?”
“Then we’ll try very hard not to walk all the way in. I just want to know what we’re dealing with. If it’s a bunch of lumberjacks, we can just ignore them.”
Jerry nods and consults the book. “Okay. It’s really only about a twenty minute walk. You find yourself on a hill overlooking a small clearing. The fire is down in that clearing, and you can see eight grey-skinned bipeds surrounding the fire. They don’t appear to notice you.”
“What do they look like?” Brandi asks.
“Grey skin, gangly, huge eyes which are bright white, no hair on their heads, but about half of them appear to have ornamental feathers on their back. This appears to be how you can tell the males and females apart with this species.”
You indulge yourself on a hunch. “What does the fugitive we’re here for look like?”
Jerry grins. “Grey skin, gangly, big white eyes, ornamental feathers down his back.”
Brandi cocks her head. “Is this his home planet? Is that what the native population looks like here?”
“You have no idea,” Jerry responds, “that information is probably in your ship’s computer, but you’re not familiar with this planet.”
She frowns. “So, either he’s come back to his home planet, or there are a bunch of other members of his race hanging out in this backwater planet for probably no good reason.”
“The question becomes, what do we do about it?”
Chosen: Reach for the grey stealth die and try to sneak closer and eavesdrop.
“We should get closer and see if we can figure out what’s going on.” Brandi glances at you for permission before grabbing the grey stealth die. I want to sneak up on them and listen in.
“Hang on,” says Jerry. He points at you. “He’s got a universal translation matrix in his head. How are you going to understand them.”
“Maybe I won’t, but if this guy’s a criminal, he’s likely to speak something I know. If I do understand them, it’s more likely we’ve found our quarry.”
Jerry shrugs, “That’s a theory. Roll it.”
She rolls the stealth die. Jerry looks at the figure printed on the top, then consults the charts in the book.
“Well?” Brandi asks.
“You’ll find out.” He smiles. “So you sneak down the hill as best you can and you approach the camp. They’re speaking an odd dialect of a common language spoken in a nearby nebula. You do understand it, Brandi, but only about every other word.” He looks at you. “You, on the other hand get it in full detail. The gist of what you’re hearing is that one of them has recently returned to the group, and the others aren’t happy to see him. They seem to be upset that his ship was followed here.”
“Sounds like our boy.” Brandi smirks.
“You can’t see him clearly from this vantage point, but it seems likely. The prodigal son is insisting that being pursued was a good thing. They can overpower his pursuers and take over the ship. It’s not all that convincing to the others, and they seem very unsure of themselves in a fight. He just keeps on saying things like “They can’t shoot us all!”
Brandi snorts. “I think the only limiting factor there is ammo, right?”
“Interesting that you should say that, because five of them come at you from behind at that moment. Their weapons look old, but functional.”
“So I guess I failed that stealth roll?”
“I guess you did. What’s your next move?”
Chosen: Roll the purple die and try to convince them you’ve got twenty more crewmen coming your way.
You reach out and pluck up the purple die. “You boys really don’t want to do that. We’re just the scouting party. Anything happens to us, and you’ll have twenty more just like us, except better armed.”
Jerry raises an eyebrow. “That’s the story you’re going with?”
“Yep,” you reply.
“But . . .” says Brandi.
It’s too late. The die drops from your hand. You stand there in suspense, not sure what the symbol means.
“You should have let me tell it, ” says Brandi. “No one ever suspects my character of lying, remember?”
Jerry nods, “And because you know how a good lie is told, you can tell your partner didn’t do it right. What do you want to do?”
“Bolt!” You look shocked at Brandi’s betrayal and she sticks her tongue out at you. She grabs the green die and rolls it.
“That’s good enough. A couple shots go wide, but you manage to escape.” Jerry looks at you. “You do not.”
“I’m going to go get a soda. Good luck.” Brandi pats your back and heads out of the basement.
“I’m going to fight my way out,” you say immediately. Jerry grabs the black die, and tosses it. Upon hitting the table it bounces, hits you in the breastbone, then lands back on the table. “Ow!”
“Sorry,” Jerry winces. “But that says you just got stunned with a blast right to the chest.” He shrugs. “You come to about twenty minutes later. You’re unarmed, and your arms and legs are bound together. Your captors don’t appear to have noticed you’re conscious yet. How would you like to proceed?”
Chosen: Try to get your sub-dermal communicator to work and get a hold of Brandi.
“I’m going to see if I can contact Brandi.”
“Contact me for what?” she says, on her way down the stairs, soda in hand.
“I’ve been captured and tied up.” You look at Jerry. “I have a sub-dermal communicator, right?”
He nods, and Brandi grins. She puts a finger on her ear like a secret agent checking her earpiece. “Go for Brandi.”
Why does her voice sound so distorted? You shake your head.
“Everything okay?”asks Jerry.
“My ear just started ringing like crazy.” You frown. “Can we just say I tell her where I am?”
“Sure. Do we need to take a break? You had a headache earlier, and now this.”
You really don’t want to go home just now. You stand up, noticing how tender your foot still feels from when Brandi’s chair went on top of your foot. “I think I’m just going to go splash some water on my face. Brandi, come up with a brilliant plan to rescue me, would you?”
You limp up the stairs and head to the bathroom. Your mind reviews the night. You’ve been injured, felt numb, and had unexplained hearing loss. Maybe you should go to a doctor. And you’ve also been seeing strange lights whenever. . .
Whenever the dice hit the table.
Your face is still wet when you rush back down the stairs. Brandi grins up at you, indicating a die she just rolled.
“You asked for a brilliant idea, and I had one. I gave the dragon back his treasure, and now we’re best buds. I come flying in to save you — on dragonback!
The noise behind you is immense. Something huge pushes you down the stairs onto the carpet in the basement. You right yourself and turn to see what it was, and you just about have a heart attack.
The dragon’s head peers down at you. Where the rest of it could possibly fit in Jerry’s house, you have no idea. You stare in terror and disbelief at its gigantic fangs, until realization dawns. It’s smiling at you.
“Now, let’s see about getting that bomb out of your leg.” It says in a deep voice. “I want to be sure we take care of that before we game again next week.”