Monday, November 19, 2018

Cryptid Underground Breaking Story: ¡El chupacabra vive!

After the events of the previous week, the crew began having strange dreams of money, ants, fear, and loss...

[Crazy hair] "Aliens!"
Tuesday, the 4th of September, about two weeks after the events of the previous adventure, several members of the gang were sitting down for breakfast together when another student approached them. She introduced herself as Leslie Merspin, and asked if they were willing to make a little money. She explained she worked for a tiny magazine and blog company, called Cryptid Underground. They had heard rumors of a creatures in the nearby woods, and hoped to get a picture of it.

After some thought, the gang agreed to meet with her boss. That afternoon after classes, they drove to the Cryptid Underground offices behind the News Journal. They met Eric Granger, the editor and owner, who explained what was going on. There had been sightings of a creature in the woods near the Walmart, south of 20; a couple fishermen had spotted a creature the size of a very large dog in the underbrush, with a ridge of quills on its back. Whatever it was, it sounded like a cryptid of some sort; Eric promised a reward of $50 for a single still image, $20 for each additional image, and $100 of clear video of the creature.

Croiky, look at that beut, mates!
The group stopped outside for a few minutes to check prices on cameras and equipment, then split up to go to various stores and pick up some cameras and memory cards. Equipment in hand, they headed to the woods. After hiking about a quarter of a mile into the marshy brush, they stepped out into a clear area, and came face to face with... a creature! Toby fumbled with his camera, but Will, who had been poking at his camera earlier, managed to get a perfect video of the creature before it dashed off into the brush. Toby was quick to follow it, tracking its footprints and taking a few pictures of them along the way. They moved diagonally to a nearby trail, then looped north, finally stopping at the edge of a cleared area under some power lines.

As Zac stepped into the clearing, he suddenly stopped, staring into space... a vision overwhelmed his senses. He saw through someone else's eyes as they moved into the clearing, carrying a bag. He caught sight of two linemen, and stopped until they left, then moved forward and dropped the bag on the ground, pulling out a shovel and digging. He dug a hole a few feet deep, and stopped to wipe his brow; suddenly, there was a flash of movement at his side - and the vision popped and stuttered like a bad transmission. When it cleared, he was laying on the ground. He was rolled into the hole, then the bag dropped on top of him... then covered with dirt.

Zac relayed this to the others, who quickly began searching the area, the cryptid all but forgotten. Will found a $100 bill, stained with red ink; Toby and Alistair found a patch of disturbed earth, and began scooping it out, using Toby's machete to clear were roots had gown. Only a few scoots in, they realized the hole was adjacent to a fire-ant mound, and had to move carefully to avoid the swarming ants! Eventually, they uncovered a bag... and a human skeleton. Only a few scraps of cloth remained, and it seemed to be missing a femur. Carefully opening the bag, they found about $700 in badly stained bills inside, and wrapped in a plastic bag, a leather necklace with an arrowhead on it.

Actual Caddoan Indian
As they uncovered the arrowhead, the city sounds and skyglow faded as the sounds of the forest grew. In the distance, a police siren dropped into silence... and the shriek of a wildcat echoed through the suddenly silent woods.

Alistair racked his brain, but couldn't recall any specific folklore concerning being transported to another world, or similar; there were plenty of tales, but none stood out from the others. Toby, however, remembered a story he had read at a museum; the arrowhead was knapped, using a Caddo Indian technique, and he had seen other similar arrowheads and knives. The strange atmosphere reminded him of the story: not terribly long ago, some burial mounds were discovered; inside one was buried a Caddo Indian chieftain. As far as the researchers could discover, he had ruled for a long time, protected from evil spirits by a magical arrowhead necklace. Another member of the tribe grew jealous, and stole the necklace, but knowing he would eventually find it again, had it cursed.

Toby pulled out his phone and made a call to the police, alerting them to the body and stolen funds. However, halfway through the call, it dropped; even though his phone had recently been charged, the screen flickered and went dark. Alistair pulled out his flashlight, which blinked twice and refused to turn on again. Whatever the strange effect was, it didn't seem to like electronics...

(this is the place where Zac and Alora decide if they would grab the necklace or leave it)

Alistair and Will heard a rustling, scraping sound. No... not scraping... it was the sound of ants, a huge swarm of them! The group bolted for the path. Will easily dashed ahead, but Toby tripped on a root. Alistair smacked into a low-hanging branch, and Toby, coming up behind him, plowed headlong into a tree.Stumbling to his feet, he managed to shake off the ants already at his heels and bolt for safety - just past a sign reading "Keep out, private property."

Just up ahead, Will caught sight of a flashlight, flickering dimly. He and the others stepped off the path into cover. When Toby saw that it was a police officer, he stepped out, with Alistair behind him. The officer, shaken by the strange night, treated them perhaps a little more harshly than he should have; after a bit of back-and-forth, he took them to his squad car, and from there to the police station, where they gave their testimonies, and were charged a $50 fine for trespassing.

Will, Zac, and Alora stayed hidden until the officer left, then returned to their vehicle. As they neared the edge of the forest, the strange aura lifted, and the city sounds and lights returned. They picked up Toby and Alistair when they were released, and eventually, they all made it back to the Cryptid Underground offices. Eric originally offered them $100 for the video, but Toby convinced him to pay the $100 of fines, plus another $20 for the photos of the footprints. After paying the fines, everyone gets $24 from the ordeal.

Time passed; Alistair, Toby, and Will each had their birthdays. Alistair and Will each got the fancy cake-and-gifts package, while Toby got a lovely card, and some home-baked cookies. Since Will is 21 now, he can put in for his concealed carry license, if he wants.

Of course, school is still a thing; midterms rolled around (and Zac and Alora will need to roll for those). Will and Toby passed their tests; Will caught the eye of one of the financial aid supervisors and gained a Connections edge with them. Toby got to know one of the secretaries, and also gained a Connections edge.

She wouldn't actually say this. You'd find the tracker!
Alistair, however, attracted... a different sort of attention. Sitting down to work on some homework in the Library, he got an instant message from a fellow classmate. "Hey, I was wondering if you'd like to go on a date with me! We could meet after your 11:45 class, because that's your last class of the day, and I switched my schedule so I'd be across the hall from you. I'll even wear your favorite color!"

Alistair, somehow not realizing how much of a stalker this person was, agreed. Which, by the way, means you've replaced your Extracurricular Activity with Romance: -1 to your Finals' Academics roll, and over the course of the semester, you'll spend $100 on her. But, any time you spend a benny on a roll that "reflects your will to press on for your loved one," you get an extra d6, so at least there's that?

Alistair's new girlfriend is Michele Kuhns, 17 (birthday January 29), a Biology major from Vernal, Utah, and God says that you are going to get married and move to Vermont when you graduate.

Aren't you glad you spent that green chip on that? Oh, and speaking of that...

Shortly after midterms, the group was invited by GlenMac to go out to eat; Cornerstones is done, but after seeing your names in Cryptid Underground, he wanted the whole story over a meal at GZ's - his treat. He introduced his girlfriend, Monica Dragic, a businesslike woman in her late 40s. As you filled him in, he raptly hung on every word. Monica listened as well, though only asked if you had any more pictures of the creature.

Zac & Alora must decide if they kept the arrowhead necklace, or left it behind
Zac & Alora also must roll Academics (at -2 because Honors Society) - remember you can use chips on the roll
Everyone gains $24, thanks to Toby's fine Persuasion
Alistair must change Extracurricular Activity to Romance
Alistair is now 18; Toby is now 20; Will is now 21

Friday, November 16, 2018

Local Teen Rescues Fellow Student, News At 10

A note I mentioned - this is based on a collection of memories of my time at LETU, merged with the modern campus, so there may be a few things that seem a little odd. For one, no one calls it MSC anymore, it seems; it's the Nursing building. If anything seems off, well, it's because this universe is a little different from reality, ok? Also, any reference to people real or imaginary is purely fictional, as are the events described here.

After the excitement of orientation, the first few days of school seemed fairly tame. Will and Alistair met Dr. Wells, an excitable physics professor; during lunch, GlenMac introduced them to his protege, Jackson Green, the very definition of cowboy.

That night, Zac had an odd dream...

Monday, November 5, 2018

ETU: Freshman Orientation

This campaign is based on a strange amalgam of my memories of college, the university as it is now, and the various additions and subtractions required for ETU. As such, I'm sure some of the school will be very recognizable, while other parts... won't be. Or will be if you're an alum. In short: some of the characters are totally real people, or at least caricatures of them!

High school was done, testing was complete, and the incoming students were beginning their first steps into college life. Everything started with an invitation to Heritage Weekend, where students would compete against each other for a pretty decent scholarship.

Alora, Will, and Zac did well enough that they were invited to join the Honors Society! All three accepted. Alistair, jet-lagged from his journey, flubbed his chance. Oh well.

The week before classes began, the students gathered on campus to go through the horrific ordeal that is orientation...

Thursday, August 16th, 2018

Check-in was a whirl of students, parents, and staff. After the four students filled out the mountain of required forms, they were given a dorm assignment and pointed in the right direction. Zac and Will ended up together in Honors Apartments (11A), along with another freshman Leonard Johnston, and an upperclassman named Jun Han (not present, at least for the first week). Alora was next door in 12B, with her roommate Niki Maslanka, and suite-mates Sarah Murray and Anissa Stevenson. Anissa was the only upperclassman, but being a part of student ministries, she was there early, with the other freshman. Alistair was placed with the other international students in South Hall room 132, and met his roommate Soo-Jin Choi, a Korean student. The students unloaded their belongings and set up their rooms before supper.

After the usual underwhelming parties and overwhelming welcome ceremony, the students managed to get back to their rooms for some much-needed shut-eye.

Friday, August 17th, 2018

Friday started with course registration, which is as painful as it sounds. More meetings, lunch, a campus tour that seemed oddly fixated on sports for an engineering school, yet more meetings, supper, and then... game night! Which is where the fun really starts, if the overwhelmingly bubbly student volunteers were to be believed.

The students found themselves organized into the same group - green - and were forced to undergo the usual torture of telling everyone their name, major, where they were from, and one interesting thing about themselves. The horror!

Eventually, they got to the game portion, and were handed a clue for a scavenger hunt. Putting their heads together, Green Group managed to figure out the clues and stay on the right track. Of course, clues aren't everything; they managed to make a wrong turn, and instead of heading the the baseball diamond, went past the Pond towards the maintenance buildings. Realizing their mistake, they cut across on a dirt path. A few of the students happened to catch sight of a figure, standing in a small copse of trees; as they slowed, he freaked out, and dashed out of the trees, shoving them out of the way before jumping over the fence. In the dim light, they could only make out that he was dark-skinned, tall, and very thin.

Excitement aside, their team managed to place first, for which they were rewarded with tickets for free drinks.

Returning to their various floors, they attended their floor meetings - mostly just another "welcome" meeting - and headed to bed.

Saturday, August 18th, 2018

After sleeping in, the group dragged themselves to yet more meetings, lunch, and the Church Fair. Eventually, the parents and assorted relatives were shooed away, and the students were left to enjoy the "block party", along with the first of the returning students.

Zac and Will heard a pair of young women discussing a strange figure they had seen earlier in the day - a tall, thin, homeless man, talking with another fellow. The two decided they would grab Alora and Alistair and check it out - that, and the location where they saw the man they believed was the same thin man.

After a careful search of the Pond - including hurling in a big rock - the four trekked over to the trees. Alistair found a set of footprints, while Zac and Alora found some disturbed earth. The two began digging, and were soon joined by Will and Alistair. Together, the four managed to uncover a large bone and a paper bag. Alora held the bone up - using the edge of her jacket - and let out a yelp, dropping it. It was a human femur!

Zac tore the bag open with his knife, and uncovered $2000 in hundred dollar bills! The bills were stained with red, though he quickly realized it wasn't blood, but dye, the sort banks use in exploding dye packs. It would seem these bills were stolen...

Will volunteered to hang on to the bone, and the four divided the money between them. Alistair pointed out that there were two sets of footprints: one set from a very worn pair of shoes that came from the direction of the Pond, then continued to the fence (obviously the man that had shoved past them), and a second set that came from the pond as well, then veered off, back towards campus.

After a quick trip to Walmart, they set up a smart camera at the site, hoping to pick up more movement. While they waited, they did a bit of research, and uncovered a recent bank robbery! Called the Valentine's Day Robbery, a trio had robbed a local bank, and made off with $50,000, as well as the contents of several security boxes. One man was ID'd, and there was a photo of him and another man: Jake Busar, a scruffy, chunky, white man, and a tall, thin, black man he called "Maliek." The third man, a getaway driver, got away. Three vehicles were suspected to be the getaway vehicle: a white-panel van, a yellow truck, and a green sports car. A fourth vehicle, a blue truck, was cleared.

Sunday, August 19th, 2018

After church (or just hanging out in town), the four returned for lunch, then an "all-campus competition". The four managed to stay out of most of the competition, eventually retreating to the BBQ being set up near the Pond. After loading up on food, they met a fellow in overalls (and little else), who introduced himself as Nicky. After a bit of conversation, Alora attempted to push Nicky into the pond; Zac, seeing her attempt, gave a shove of his own. Nicky managed to effortlessly avoid both, saying "Woo! Woo!" and doing a little dance. Zac only just managed to stop Alora from tripping into the brackish pond herself. Of course, Nicky wasn't entirely off the hook; several other guys, laughing, chased him around the pond, and eventually managed to fling him in (though he took someone else with him!). Nicky slopped out of the pond, and started chasing them, attempting to give them a big, muddy hug...

Soon, it was time for a meeting with faculty; each student was given a location for dessert and their first "intro to college" meeting, which would turn into a class. The four happened to be in the same meeting, and soon found themselves standing in the home of a professor, Dr. Glen MacLanahan - "Or GlenMac to my friends! Er, please help yourself to the snacks - I may have, er, overindulged."

He explained that he was a professor of history and humanities, with a special interest in some of the more... unique aspects of East Texas.

A phone call from campus police alerted him to the presence of a strange man on campus - likely a homeless man.

A student, coming back from using the bathroom, asked GlenMac what the equipment in the other room was; the professor replied simply that it was private... which of course sparked the interest of Alora and Alistair. With Alistair running interference, asking GlenMac about his hobbies (which seemed to include various ghost stories, cryptids, and other strange myths and creatures), Alora crept into the other room. Pulling out her phone, she snapped pictures of the various equipment, as well as some cryptic documents on the desk, which she later realized were covered in occult symbols.

Sneaking into the next room, she nearly let a small, white, long-haired terrier loose! It yipped and jumped, and she only just managed to get the door closed and dash into the bathroom before GlenMac walked by. She quickly flushed the toilet and washed her hands; as she exited the toilet, GlenMac walked back past, shaking his head. "I swear that dog knows how to open doors sometimes!"

The group, done for the day, headed home. On the way back to their dorms, Zac and Alora caught sight of someone hanging around in front of the women's dorm; they approached, and when he saw them coming, he took off. Zac was hot on his heels, and Alora took a shortcut to catch up. The man was fast, and lead them on a merry chase, but they eventually cornered him. Realizing he wasn't going to be able to get away, he stopped, and after some questioning, admitted that he was trying to spy on the "girls". Zac let him go with a warning, and he took off.

As Zac and Alora headed back towards their dorms, Zac felt a pinch, and then another - fire ants! He quickly ripped his shirt off, swatting at the bugs, and Alora splashed some water on him to wash them off. Grumbling, he wondered aloud how they could have climbed up his leg and onto his back without biting him anywhere else. Oddly, the stings seemed to be grouped in a strange pattern - a circle with a line through it.

Will, meanwhile, had his own things to do, which he may or may not disclose to the others...

Normally, this is where I would write down XP gained, but ETU is a little different - XP is gained through time, not through actions. Instead, you'll get bennies, items, money, contacts, etc. Speaking of which:
Zac, Alora, and Will each get an extra benny for their scholastic prowess; Zac gets... well, an ant bite; Will (due to undisclosed shenanigans) gains a contact (check your email if you haven't), and Alistair... Alistair needs to stop trying to purchase lethal weapons. C'mon, man, you're 17, nobody is going to risk jail to sell you a gun!