Elemental: Fallen Enchantress

Poor Stardock had a hell of a time after releasing Elemental. The game was rushed out the door before it was ready, and the premature infant died wailing merely hours after plopping onto customers’ hard drives. Rather than kicking the rotting carcass under a rug and pretending nothing had happened, they did the far braver thing: They rebuilt it. Made it stronger, better, faster.

Fallen Enchantress is iteration 2.0, and is a mixture of turn-based strategy and RPG. While you are struggling to build a civilisation from grass and twigs, your heroes are rampaging around the landscape looting wagons and completing quests.

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The trick which I have yet to master (or even apprentice) is balancing building with research. You see, certain types of cities are good at particular things, and attempting to have a war-focussed city pop out some research buildings is arduous at best, impossible at worst. You set the nature of your fledgeling cities very early on in their lives, so an early mis-step can leave you with your Fortress city in the butt-end of nowhere, and your University towns on the border with very militant neighbours.

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After my third attempt (two failed civilisations, dead so fast it was breathtaking) I managed to build a small empire. And I mean small.

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Look at that. I haven’t even explored the entire world, and I occupy that blue bit on the right. I don’t even know where the guy who’s winning is located!

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My only saving grace is that while they all hate me, they all hate each other too, and I’m too small to squash. Still, this is hardly what I’d call winning.

A tutorial teaches the basics of building, training units, and casting spells. It shows you how the turn-based combat works if you want to control battles blow-by-blow instead of allowing them to auto-resolve. It doesn’t spend a great deal of time on the research trees, how to generate resources and income, or how to grow your cities. In short, Fallen Enchantress waves training wheels at you, then tosses them into a deep, dark chasm while cackling.

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Once you start losing, the puppy-kicking begins as your more powerful neighbours’ protection rackets kick in. But here’s the thing: I know what I did wrong. And I can avoid it in future.

Fallen Enchantress doesn’t forgive mistakes, but at least your mistakes are clear once you make them. Here, for example, I got excited at the idea of expending my Influence to take over a neighbouring city. The mistake? It cost so much Influence that I struggled to regain it. Whereas I’d been a political powerhouse with a small nation beforehand, I suddenly became overextended and with negligible political power. And to cap it all off I lost the city a few turns later anyway. The rest of the game was a scrabble to bribe nations into war with one-another and leave me in peace.

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There are plenty of pages of information in-game to show you what’s going on in your Kingdom. Mine largely says “Well, we’re buggered, sire” in a variety of ways.

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There are three research trees: Civilization, Warfare and Magic. I get the feeling that the NPC players have insider knowledge here while I’m researching anything and everything. Even on “easy” those other Kingdoms are throwing up one-of-a-kind buildings and monuments while I’m struggling to grow enough grain to feed my cities.

And yet with the repeated beatings, it’s a phenomenally addictive game. The determination to figure it out and improve is strong, and I don’t often bother with games which have a steep learning curve. I think the turn-based nature means that you have time to learn. You are never rushed into a decision or a mis-step; every one you make is entirely your own.

Overall: 8/10. I absolutely recommend this, if strategy is your thing.

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Tick Tock Men: A plot device for New World of Darkness

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Another Freebie today. Initially conceived as an Abyssal plague, feel free to adapt this to your game as you see fit.

Tick Tock Men

The Tick Tock Men are, in themselves, the remnants of human beings transformed into clockwork automata via an injury sustained from contact with another Tick Tock Man. Trapped within their bodies as they slowly change, mind and soul slowly go insane. The soul weakens, losing its grasp until it has but the slenderest hold on its final, unfeeling form. Trapped and unable to move on, drawn on to sustain the Tick Tock Man’s existence, the soul withers and atrophies over the next decade or so until, finally, it becomes hollow – nothing more than a means for filtering and drawing down Essence, Mana, or whatever other kind of esoteric power it can.

The mind tends to be unable to weather this kind of treatment. Fixed first in the horror of a body slowly becoming inhuman, then in an impossible, clockwork form with no biological imperatives, no sensation or vocal chords, sooner or later every single one goes insane. Sleeper minds simply can’t take it, and even the minds of the Awakened can eventually fold under such conditions.

The Tick Tock Men cannot speak. Once the transformation is complete they are voiceless, and the only senses left to them are sight and sound. They cannot eat. They cannot feel. They have, initially, a burning need to find help, to make others understand their situation, but over time this becomes simply a need to be understood (or, at least, feel understood) on some level. They are thus prone to the command of anyone who displays some kind of sympathy for their condition. And, of course, as so few have a clue that the Tick Tock Men even exist, let alone the nature of their suffering, it’s rare they find such sympathy.

All Tick Tock Men in the final stage are to all purposes identical. They have the appearance of the body they infect, and retain a modicum of the mind’s knowledge, but in physical and supernatural abilities they don’t deviate one iota from each other.

Tick Tock Man: Final Stage

Virtue: Hope, Vice: Wrath

Willpower: 3, Humanity: 1, Essence: 10

Intelligence 2, Wits 2, Resolve 2

Strength 4, Dexterity 2, Stamina 5

Presence 1, Manipulation 1, Composure 1

Athletics 5, Brawl 3, Stealth 4, Weaponry 3

*If a Tick-Tock Man retains any Mental or Social Skill from its human existence, it may not be higher than 1.

Size: 5, Speed: 9

Initiative Mod: 3, Defence: 2, Armour: 2

Health: 10

Merits

Ambidextrous: A Tick Tock Man’s brain no longer prioritises one side of the body.

Numina

Clasp: A Tick Tock Man’s mechanical grasp is so tight that it inflicts Lethal rather than Bashing damage. Str + Brawl.

Drain: Tick Tock Men can only refuel by taking power from other beings or locations which have it. They can steal Essence, Willpower and Mana. All gets converted to Essence on a 1-for-1 basis. Intelligence + Resolve vs. target’s Stamina + Resolve + Supernatural Tolerance (e.g. Gnosis).  Requires physical contact.

Infect: Should a Tick Tock Man break an opponent’s skin with its nails or teeth, it will infect the wound. This is a reflexive action, not one under the Tick Tock Man’s control. Roll Essence + 3 (for Savant) vs. Stamina + Resolve + Supernatural Tolerance.

Savant: +3 dice to Infect.

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DZC Battle Report: Four-Player battle

The battle report for my first ever game of Dropzone Commander is now available online. We played a four-player game at 1,000 points each, and there were two Shaltari armies, one Posthuman Republic, and one United Colonies of Mankind. The mission type was Recon, which placed Intelligence points within each building and on each hill, and the goal was to grab as many as we possibly could.

Without further ado, here’s the report:

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Assembling a Shaltari army

I had a very gaming birthday this year, as not only did my awesome fiancé get me a tonne of Magic cards, he also presented me with a Premium Shaltari Mega Army complete with aluminium case. As I had a 1,000 point game planned to occur over the weekend it was time to get a wiggle on and start putting these babies together!

Not having the time to assemble everything, I decided on my army list first, then only worked on the items I needed for yesterday’s game.

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The Braves were ridiculously easy to put together. Snipping them off their sprues was a bit heavy on the clippers, because the sprues were thick and these are the only metal minis in the whole army, but the figures themselves required zero clean-up. The bases had some minor flash and sprue that needed quick pruning.

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Spirit gates were more fiddly, but still assembled in a matter of minutes. Some light cleanup with a knife was required, but it was absolutely minimal effort compared to your average Citadel model.

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The Eden gates took the most time, largely because some of the resin was slightly warped and needed resetting with hot water. There was a lot of flash that needed scraping away, but this was easy peasy. The main problem was that the tips of the struts were merged in to the sprue joints so much that it was impossible to see where the struts ended and sprue began. As a consequence I cut too much off, and had to go digging among my offcuts to find the matching part, glue it back together, recut it in the right place, prune it down to the right shape, then assemble the gate.

Once I’d done this with one gate, though, I knew what to look out for in the remaining two.

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The Coyote and Ocelot were joys to assemble. I really love these little walkers and definitely think they’re the most appealing models in the army.

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All in all I assembled:

  • Six Braves stands
  • One Haven gate
  • Three Tomahawks
  • Two Yari with Microwave guns
  • Two Spirit gates
  • Three Eden gates
  • Two Warspears
  • One Coyote
  • One Ocelot

in the space of two and a half hours, and that’s including time to rectify my snipping error, and be excruciatingly anal about flash-pruning. An entire playable army, ready to roll the same afternoon. The resin’s even a fairly bright white-grey colour, so I didn’t feel quite so bad about playing unpainted minis.

The only thing to be wary of is how soft resin is compared to plastic. If you’re used to carving away at a mini to get it to where you want, you’re going to slice up your resin like a serial killer. Be gentle; that’s all it takes.

 

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The Firemane Avenger is mine!

Here’s a quick update after my earlier post regarding emergency deckbuilding.

Mr. Troo and I attended the Gatecrash Game Day at our FLGS today with decks we’d hurriedly slapped together at the last minute due to extreme time constraints on our end. I’m happy to say that we both Top-8’d, so both got our full art Firemane Avengers. Even more happily they turned out to be foils, so very pretty, and there were three Zameck Guildmages each for attendance (because while top-8 sounds impressive, actually only 10 people showed up; we had a sudden bout of snow in the morning).

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I ran R/B Vampires as follows:

Maindeck:

4 x Stromkirk Noble
4 x Mugging
3 x Nightbird’s Clutches
4 x Vampiric Fury
1 x Dreadbore
4 x Stromkirk Captain
3 x Rakish Heir
1 x Olivia Voldaren
2 x Falkenrath Aristocrat
3 x Bloodline Keeper
3 x Havengul Vampire
1 x Rakdos, Lord of Riots
3 x Falkenrath Marauders
1 x Bonfire of the Damned
2 x Rakdos Guildgate
3 x Dragonskull Summit
9 x Mountain
9 x Swamp

Sideboard:

2 x Madcap Skills
1 x Dark Imposter
3 x Blasphemous Act
3 x Balustrade Spy
3 x Deviant Glee
3 x Mark for Death

It went pretty well, all told. There was a really nice mixture of decks present, and most match-ups ran pretty close. I think in the past I’ve been underestimating Deviant Glee, and wish I’d maindecked it. I usually swapped out the Rakish Heirs and Havengul Vampires for Deviant Glee and Madcap Skill, but a particularly troublesome opponent made me side in the Dark Imposter too so that I had more creature-thieving ability. In the end, though, it just wasn’t enough. Ah well. I got what I came for!

Firemane Avenger, let’s be friends!

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Hobbies are bad for you

In the wake of Wednesday’s deck-building binge, I thought it might be a terribly good idea to get around to sorting all of my remaining Magic cards.

Now, I’m awful at this. I have a friend who sorts straight from each and every booster, which seems extraordinarily sensible, but me? I enjoy booster-ripping too much, and end up with a pile of 90 cards which I’ll “get around to”. Then another pile. Then a few more piles, until the house is littered with piles of cards, usually numbering 90, which the cats enjoy knocking over.

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Of course, spending an entire morning hunched over thousands of cards while I sort them into some semblance of order is totally my idea of fun… Well, maybe not. But It gave me cause to consider how just about everything we gamers consider a hobby is detrimental to our backs. We spend a lot of time leaning forward at keyboards, clutching controllers, squinting at cards, reaching over boardgames, or the ultimate body-punishment: gripping paintbrushes while peering at miniatures and curling over to paint them. And we do all these things for hours on end. At least with roleplaying you either get to lounge comfortably on a sofa or lean against the kitchen table.

Considering I didn’t even start playing Magic until Innistrad, I’ve picked up a ridiculous amount of pre-Innistrad cards; most are from Scars of Mirrodin, but there are some Zendikar and older. It’s possible that Magic cards build up a certain density of gravity beyond which other Magic cards cannot escape, until they begin getting sucked through time and space to join the collective.

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I’ve got absolutely no use for either of these, for instance. But I imagine someone out there might. I’ll have to consider eBaying the older stuff, I think.

I should have spent my morning assembling some Dropzone Commander minis instead, but someone decided to block access to the cutting mat.

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See? The universe conspired against me. When even the cat thinks I should be sorting the cards, there’s no choice.

Maybe I should take up some sort of sport thing. I understand that sort of hobby is actually good for you?

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It’s clobberin’ time!

Very sensibly, I decided to leave it until the 11th hour to make a decklist for a Gatecrash Gameday on Saturday. This likely means what I have in my grubby mutts now is a very sloppy deck which might get me to 4th but is unlikely to get me that lovely Deathpact Angel playmat. Which is a shame, because it’s extremely pretty.

Deathpact Angel Playmat

So pretty. I wants it, but I may just end up getting it off eBay for a ridiculous price. Failing that I might buy one of Noah Bradley’s amazing playmats instead. We’ll see!

But the Firemane Avenger? Well, there are a full eight of those on offer. I should be able to top-8, surely! I usually do in Constructed, so I don’t think it’s too far a stretch to hope for one of these babies:

Firemane Avenger full art

And no. I’m not going to post my decklist. There are people watching, you know! People who might be willing to stay up later than me to get this done! Paranoia Mode Engaged!

Come back on Saturday and I’ll share the full decklist, as well as the results!

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It’s a Happy Gatecrash Birthday!

GTC Box

Yes, yes, settle down. I know I didn’t post a great deal last week. Oh. This? Well… It’s kind of you to notice. That’ll be the Gatecrash booster box my darling fiancée presented me with for my birthday last Thursday. Mm-hmm, I’m a Valentine’s Baby.

Where have I been? Sir and / or Madam, might I suggest that you try to open, look at, and sort through 36 boosters in one day? Blimey, so demanding!

But for all my hard labour, what did I receive? Well now!

Eight Shocklands.

Seven Primordials.

One Obzedat, Ghost Council.

One Gideon, Champion of Justice.

One Prime Speaker Zegana.

One Lazav, Dimir Mastermind (bringing it up to a full playset now).

One Aurelia’s Fury.

One Lord of the Void.

One Hellkite Tyrant.

There were also some excellent utility cards – Duskmantle Guildmages, Assemble the Legion, and Clan Defiance. Even a Crypt Ghast!

Happy birthday to meeeee…

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Choosing your game

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Sometimes, what you want to be playing is a game filled with explosions and danger, action and adventure. And what you get? Well. Try being stuck in the world of Mills and Boon with your action hero. And then when you want to play a herbalist who wants nothing more than to tend to the flowers and snuggle with a beau or two, what happens? Weird War Three.

What’s going on?

It could be any number of things, but here are the most common causes:

  1. The GM and players have not been open and honest in discussing what they want from the game they are about to play.
  2. What you want, and what your group wants, are at odds.
  3. You are playing the wrong game.

Let’s look at these more closely.

A Lack of Honesty.

There is a tendency among roleplayers to kinda just assume that everyone wants the same thing from a game as themselves. We like to think of ourselves as a pretty amenable lot, and so when things start to go awry, we are likely to go along with it rather than speak up. But time and again games start with a group of players getting together and deciding what to play, and very rarely does anyone pipe up and say:

“I would like to play an action-oriented game with hints of intrigue and romance. I don’t want investigative stuff, because I don’t enjoy that.”

or

“I’d like to play an investigation-heavy game with occasional peril, but not a huge amount of combat.”

You get the idea.

On the occasions I’ve seen this conversation actually take place, what I’ve then seen is a chorus of agreement from all the other players involved… only for it to become all too apparent once the game is established that the rest of the group doesn’t want the game that they got, even though they agreed to it.

They asked for explosions. You gave them explosions. What did they want?

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Apparently they wanted fluff and kindness and I’m not even certain that I can think of too many RPGs which cater to that.

Honesty. Every group will be happier with it, so you must strive to encourage it.

Your desires are at odds with the group’s.

This one is actually staggeringly easy to fix. After being honest, your group has confessed that they would quite like a romantic comedy RPG with amusing mishaps and star-crossed singing teenagers, and you’re still yearning to play Die Hard With A Kick-Ass in the Ghostbusters of Doom. If they are honest, and you are honest, then you have two choices:

  1. Suck it up and play Glee: the RPG, or
  2. Politely decline the invitation and try to find another game.

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Be reasonable. Be fair. But be honest. It really is better to not play at all than it is to play a game which will frustrate you every single session, and upset the rest of the group because they will know that you are unhappy, and they won’t know why, and that will lead to…

You are playing the wrong game.

I have seen this so many times that it confounds me. Players who would like to play happy-go-lucky actresses to whom nothing bad ever happens, so they find themselves a World of Darkness game to join. Players who really enjoy hanging out in-character in coffee shops making small-talk about the weather day-in, day-out, so they make themselves a housewife in Delta Green and proceed to avoid any storylines with as much dedication as a cat shirking rain. Players who want to play the heroic loner who doesn’t need a group in… well, frankly, just about any game there is.

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McClane makes a great action movie character, but a lousy roleplaying one, unless you’re in a single-player game with your GM.

Why people force their concepts into games which do not fit them, I do not know. But I’ve seen it time and again over the past twenty years, and each time it disrupts games and makes not only the player unhappy, but those around him as they struggle to accommodate the sore-thumb PC. They bend over backwards to involve him in the game, introduce him to storylines, help him integrate with the group, but no! He wants nothing to do with the plot, or he’s such a really awesome loner he’s gonna do it all by himself!

Summary:

So if you are finding yourself struggling, sit down and identify the things you want from a game. Action? Political intrigue? Romance? Superheroes? There are hundreds of games, and somewhere out there is the right one for you.

Find a group, and use honesty when doing so. Either through your FLGS or online, set out a Wanted ad, and outline what you’re looking for. You may end up forming a new group, or joining an existing one, but if you are open about what you want your chances improve dramatically. Just remember that it might still get sunk if they aren’t equally honest with you. All you can do there, my friend, is chalk it up to experience and go hunting again.

And for goodness’ sake, pick the right game. Don’t try to play My Little Shadowrun: Friendship is Magic. It won’t work, unless you are doing it with a very intentional sense of irony and are prepared for your character’s naivety to be shattered IC.

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Six Player Characters for any modern horror setting

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Today, a freebie for you: Six player characters for the one-shot of your choosing. The characters are all interwoven, and have a variety of secrets which are open-ended enough for a wily GM to slot into any modern supernatural or horror system. I have used them as pre-generated characters for World of Darkness one-shots, where they have served well, but they would fit equally neatly into a modern Call of Cthulhu game, Supernatural, d20 Modern, Unknown Armies, Sorcerer, or The Whispering Vault.

They are designed to be on the cusp of discovering the supernatural world, and in the scenario I have involved them in they have been trapped on the Eurostar between London and Paris, heading to Disneyland for a Stag Weekend. Feel free to move them to another country to fit your own intentions.

N.B. In the UK, 16 is the Age of Consent. If you wish to change the country this is set in, be aware of this and alter Diana’s age accordingly.

Without further ado, then, here they are:

Darren Monahan, Sub-Editor for XYZ Magazine.

Twin brother: Gary, Fireman.

Younger sister: Diana Monahan, student who wants to be a model. 16 years old.

Fiancée: Fiona Samson, Trevor’s sister.

BA in Journalism from the University of Leicester.

Left university with a 2:1 and got a job as a researcher at XYZ Magazine. Has been there since, first promoted to staff writer, then to sub-editor.

Started hanging out with a few of the guys after work, down the pub, then a regular airsofting posse got together, consisting of Trevor (the IT guy), Gary, Phil (met at airsoft), Tom (XYZ Magazine’s resident photographer) and Ian (also met at airsoft).

Personality: Darren can vary from riotous bloke’s bloke to charmer to ladies’ man to aloof all in a day. At his core he’s very passionate, but his passions change on a whim. He can go from loving a film to hating it in a week, or from one girl to another in the same amount of time. That he’s stuck with Fiona for two years must be a sign!

Part of the rush to get married, though – and Darren would never admit this – is to have his brother as his best man before Gary’s testicular cancer kills him.

He knows a lot of really minor crap. Stuff he’s picked up from reading, watching TV, browsing the net, researching for assignments. He’s a consumer of knowledge, and sometimes that sets him apart from his mates. Sometimes he just knows the oddest shit that nobody else has heard of. But that’s OK. He just has to keep a lid on it when down the pub, unless they’re bashing away at one of the quiz machines.

Dirty little secret: Nobody but Darren and Gary’s boss knows Darren’s brother is dying. He’s kept it even from the rest of the family, and asked Darren do the same. Darren’s been able to see the signs, because he knows what he’s looking for, and he knows it’s metastasised to Gary’s liver now. But today… Today Gary looks healthy. Here’s hoping he stays that way until the wedding’s done.

Gary Monahan, Fireman.

Twin brother: Darren, sub-editor for XYZ Magazine.

Younger sister: Diana Monahan, student who wants to be a model. 16 years old.

Left school at 18 with a couple of A-levels and went straight into the Fire Brigade. Met most of the other guys either because they work with Darren or were at airsoft.

Personality: Gary’s a Man, with a capital M. He’s masculine, he’s proud of his physique, he’s proud of his ability to drink everyone else under the table, he’s proud that he’s self-sufficient, he’s proud that people depend on him. Deep down he genuinely believes in the goodness of people’s hearts, but that’s not exactly something you tell your mates unless you’re really, really bladdered.

Confidence took a real smash when he discovered the lump on his balls last year. It took months for him to bother seeing a doctor about it, by which time it was too late. It had metastasised to his liver. Three months ago he was given one year to live.

He didn’t tell anyone other than his brother and his boss. Putting on a brave face, laughing loud, dying on the inside.

Dirty little secret : Last week, in the oncology department, Gary was talking to another patient. Didn’t catch the guy’s name. Didn’t really catch much, actually. They got chatting about cancer and death, about being so young and helpless, about all their wasted opportunities. And the guy offered him a deal. A cure.

Gary laughed it off, as you do. Sure, he said. Cure me. Go on.

So the stranger did. And sooner or later there will be a price to pay.

Phil Stevens, Semi-Pro Superbike Rider.

GNVQ in motorcycle maintenance from Bournemouth College.

Met Darren and the others at an airsoft game a year or so ago, and have become good mates since.

Phil’s fairly well-known on the semi-pro superbike circuit. He yearns to go fully pro, but that means convincing one of the big teams to take him on, and after last week’s wipeout that may never happen.

Personality: Deep down, Phil wants to go too fast. He’ll push everything aside to go faster, faster, faster. He’s tried cocaine, speed, amphetamines, but nothing does it for him like riding a bike. If only it would go faster.

He can take a little pause now and then, slow down to the rest of the world, but sooner or later he’s got to get going again, get the blood pumping, get the wind pushing at his chest.

He’s a staunch, solid bloke though. A guy you can depend on. Just so long as you’re not asking him to stay off the bike for a few days. In fact, this stag do might be the longest Phil will go without a bike for years…

Dirty little secret: Last week, Phil came off his bike. Badly. Really, really badly. He pushed it too hard, too fast, on a bend. The bike was wrecked, and Phil should’ve been too, but he walked away from a 210Mph slam into the race track’s tirewall without a scratch. There’s only one possible explanation: incredible good luck. Right?

Trevor Samson, IT Manager.

Sister: Fiona, Darren’s Fiancée.

BSc in Computer Science from the University of Hertfordshire

Trevor left uni and returned home to Bournemouth, landing a tech support role at XYZ Magazine. When Barry Johnson, the previous IT guy, left, Trevor was promoted. The downside, though, is they haven’t the money to get a replacement tech support guy, so Trevor now does everything, from managing the servers to fixing Luser problems.

After meeting Darren, one thing led to another, and the guy is now getting hitched to your sister. Obviously there was the initial need to protect her from this journo hack, but he’s a decent bloke, and you’re almost comfortable that he’s had your sister. But only ‘cause he’s marrying her.

Personality: Trevor is a gadget freak. If it’s new, he’s gotta have it. If it’s expensive, he’s gotta have it. He earns a phenomenal disposable income (and lives with his mum still) for a man his age, and he pisses it away on iPhones and SatNavs and PDAs and iPods and Blackberrys. He has a £10,000 stereo system that he can’t turn up loud because he lives in a terraced house. He’s £25,000 in debt after his student loan, but he just keeps buying more and more cool things because he has to have them.

He’s got a strong sense of right and wrong, and a feeling of power when it comes to his servers, Facebook, MySpace, Beebo, Twitter, and the vast number of internet forums he plugs away at, most of which he’s the number one poster on. He will come down hard on those who wrong him or his friends. He will punish hackers and noobs alike.

In the real world, of course… Bah, who’re we kidding? He’s just as opinionated and passionate. He’d just never put his mouth up against a fist. He’ll heckle and denounce from a safe distance. He’d ensure he was safe before condemning someone to their face.

Tom Harris, Photographer for XYZ Magazine.

BA in Photography from Southampton Solent University.

After finishing his degree, Tom went freelancing while working in a supermarket to pull in a little cash. After hiring models for portfolio glamour shoots he landed a full-time job at XYZ Magazine, and is more than happy there. He gets access to girls, he gets to put lenses and other gear on expenses, and he’s fallen in with a good bunch of mates.

Personality: Tom is quite frankly a lad’s lad. He spends his days taking photos of the hottest girls around while they’re in the nude, and getting paid for it. Wherever there’s a party he’ll be there. Whereever a girl is a little down and vulnerable, he’ll be there. He’s not a great drinker, preferring a little sobriety to keep control of himself and the and the situation, to make the best out of any opportunities that might come up. All to better to make sure he gets his pick of the ladies. Beyond the ladies he’s quite a loyal friend. He’d never think of hitting on a mate’s girl, that’s against the lads’ code. Family’s out. He tends to get the first round in. Tends to be the one that makes sure everyone gets home safely in the end. All in all probably the most popular of the guys.

Dirty little secret: Like all good glamour photographers he likes to introduce the new models to the real world. Offering to lay a few words in the right ear to help their career along, if of course they’re going to lay in his bed. Yesterday sadly this caused a little bit of a hiccup. He knew that Darren had mentioned the fact that his sister would be around the office. But he hadn’t quite realised who she was until… well one thing led to another and it’s a little awkward. 16’s legal and all, but Diana’s his best mate’s sister; of course Darren doesn’t want to hear about it on his stag do does he? Or… on the honeymoon. Or ever. It’s probably just something to keep to yourself.

Ian Webber, Butcher.

Left school at 16 and immediately apprenticed himself with an independent Butcher’s shop in town. It’s a true art, a man in perfect synchronicity with his job. These days, of course, he’s no apprentice.

He met Darren at the others at an airsoft game a year or so back.

Personality: Ian is probably best described as troubled. It started when he was young, like all kids he had imaginary friends, but his were a little more verbose. A little more pushy, making him do things that perhaps weren’t quite right.  Play with matches… look in widows where people were doing things a little too adult… skinning the neighbour’s cat. Through it all he kept a measure of sense about him a feeling that it wasn’t quite… right. As he grew up he started to forget such things but there was always a kernel of that influence left, his desire to become a butcher, and not a supermarket kind. The proper kind, the ones that have to feel the life draining from the animals they kill. The need to learn how to defend himself, the Russian martial arts, the love of the feel of a cool blade in his hand. It wasn’t about wanting to hurt others. It was about the knowledge that there were things… Things that would want to hurt him, and that sensation’s been growing stronger again. Try and he might to hide it it’s getting harder and harder to pretend he doesn’t feel those little tingles. The shudder that accompanies some people’s proximity.

Still he’s found some friends at least, true he’s not as close as he might like, everyone keeps him at just a little distance, but that’s okay. It’s better than being alone all the time, his Airsoft games with the guys. Giving them a little extra meat when they come shopping. It’s the little gestures that remind him of his humanity.

Dirty little secret: Ian’s feelings that something’s not right have been getting worse again. It’s like when he was a kid. Little urges to do things he’s not comfortable with. But this time he’s older. Wiser a Territorial Army soldier he can handle anything. Especially with that knife he’s started carrying. He won’t need it, but well it’s just a reassurance, a solidity of purpose that comes with the training.

Worse, though, in spite of having known them for a year or so, something’s suddenly not right with Gary and Phil. They look the same, they act the same, but they just… give off that vibe, the feeling that they’re not right…

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