Dreamation 2017

Dreamation 2017 was a great time! Thanks so much to Vinny, Avie, and the entire Double Exposure crew for putting on such a fantastic convention. Thanks also to each and every person who ran a game for the Indie Games eXplosion. You brought tons of fun to wintry Morristown. And thanks to everyone who played games, hung out, and just generally made for a great time.

Personally, my convention was defined by still recovering from a nasty illness earlier in the week. My energy level was very low, and I was grateful I was only running two games.

Thursday 8pm was the first of those games. I ran With Great Power for four great players. Matt played Sketch, whose enchanted paintbrush could animate things it drew. Sean played Figment, a long-limbed alien with light powers. John played Keystone, who could change his body into other elements. Max played Ironworks, who built himself power armor out of stuff from a junkyard. Together, they faced the Gun of Damocles, an alien cyborg cowboy who wanted to decrease chaos in the world by purging it of technology. He ended up getting pounded by a hero hitting him with his own robotic horse.

Friday 9am I got to play Kat’s game of temporal hijinks, Time Capers. I played Frank Hyperion, two-fisted scientist who traveled through time by falling from great heights and achieving not terminal velocity, but temporal velocity. Adrian’s time traveler wanted to kill his ancestors so he would never be born. Bruce’s traveler wanted to stop his grandfather’s business from failing. Kirk’s traveler wanted to save his father’s life. Amy’s traveler wanted to recover the second volume of Aristotle’s Poetics. Kat’s traveler wanted to save womankind from men, and thereby save all mankind. We ended up creating ripples like a scientific revolution in ancient Greece and aliens escaping Area 51 and living among Cold War-era America. A very fun time.

Friday 4pm I played Dev’s game Love Commander. It’s a fun game inspired by Mass Effect, where a human commander with an alien crew needs to spend their time wisely to learn more about their crew, which unlocks bonuses for the game. It is quick and clever and a lot of fun.

Friday 8pm I ran With Great Power again. Phredd played Godslayer, an ancient Sumerian hero unwilling brought back to life by a post-modern wizard. Neil played Amok, a sort of living cartoon character. Howard played the Hand of God, a teleporter torn between becoming a superhero and continuing to live in his parents’ basement. Kat played Corona, a young woman who had been chosen as a host for intergalactic space wasps. I played Singularity, who came from the cold darkness of space in a cybernetic containment suit to hunt the space wasps. His hunting technique was to make the Earth a less hospitable environment for the wasps, by killing as many humans upon it as possible.

Saturday 9am I got to have a far more gentle and heart-warming time, as Tony ran Chuubo’s Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine for us. I played Trinket, a toy come to life. Richard played a wacky inventor. Albert played a hard-working aspiring restauranteur with a sentient ginger spirit sidekick. John played an old woman whose house was slowly sliding off the side of the city. Kirk played a ninja librarian. It was a delightful session. We hung lanterns, found lost library books, chased runaway carts, wrote advertising jingles, and went to a festival. Lovely game.

Saturday 2pm, despite being at my lowest energy of the con, I played The Bloody-Handed Name of Bronze with Joshua, Aaron and Christo. It was a fast and bloody game, with two heroes facing each other, becoming fast friends, then dying. Joshua’s name-dealer was much at the center of it, and came out in a similar place to where she went it. I didn’t contribute as much as I might have liked, but enjoyed the game thoroughly.

I got a bit of rest Saturday afternoon. Then, at Saturday 8pm, I played Infinite Galaxies. Bill White ran the game, which is essentially Star Wars run through Dungeon World. I played a surly robot. Rich played a battle-hardened veteran. Greg played a literal pirate. Eric played a cryptic psychic. The game itself was okay, Dungeon World often leaves me cold. But the table was a hoot. I can’t remember the last time I laughed so hard.

I got to chat with a handful of people Saturday night and Sunday morning at the booth, which was great. I have stepped away from designing games before. It always leaves me a bit at-ends in these sorts of conversations. But last time I stepped away, I didn’t have something to fill that space in my life, the way that writing is doing currently.

It was great to see everyone! Thanks for a great Dreamation!

Tumult: Thirteen

A man’s scream echoed off the dripping stone of the waterway. Sabit had leaped over the Magistrate’s corpse and was charging toward the sound before last echo faded. She had not fought so hard and so long to see Allamu die here. He would not meet his end in a grimy tunnel beneath the house of the Magistrate of Vert. Sabit would not allow it.
Sabit’s legs were driven by her need to save Allamu, but her strides were slowed by the deepening stream. Where the water had been ankle-deep, it now rose to her knees—just like the fountain at the palace of Ghabar. Sabit had not been to the palace in years, but she remembered how the sky was always so intensely blue over the courtyard. Sabit could see the azure sky as pure as her memory of it. She waded in the water to cool herself from the bright sun overhead. Across her shoulders rested the mantel of the captain of the guard of Ghabar, a title Sabit had earned a dozen times over.
On this day in her memory,* the weight of the mantel was almost more than she could bear. Ishum, the son of the Prioress of Ghabar, walked beside her. The sixteen-year-old was tall and thin, his cheeks still bearing the fullness of youth. On his brow sat a princely circlet in ivory and jade. Ishum stood with his spine straight and his shoulders back, trying to look like the grown man he wished he were—the grown man that could earn Sabit’s love.
Sabit knew which day she was remembering—and dreaded it to her core. The Prioress had decided that her son’s affection for the captain of the guard was unacceptable. She had commanded Sabit to break all ties with Ishum—to break the prince’s heart to save his future.
As Sabit felt her throat speak the words that would send him away, she tried to claw them back. As she saw the shattered expression on Ishum’s face, she longed to offer a word or a hand of comfort.
As Ishum turned to run, he fell to the dusty ground. It was not part of Sabit’s memory to see Ishum lying motionless on the sun-baked ground of the badlands. She reached out to touch his shoulder, and his body crumbled. All that remained was a lifeless skull, a circlet of ivory and jade tilted upon its brow—tiny pink roots grew from its surface, leading up to the dark green stalk of the wicked plant that had devoured Ishum’s life.
Sabit screamed.

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*-Sabit’s past with Ishum is detailed in Wayfarings of Sabit: Blossom of Ruin.

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Wayfarings of Sabit: Tumult is copyright (c) 2017 by Michael S. Miller. All rights reserved. New chapters post every weekday. You can support this and other stories on Patreon: https://patreon.com/michaelsmiller or http://ipressgames.com/fiction/

Tumult: Twelve

Allamu heard rushing water all around, but it was not the cramped, dank tunnel to the river. Instead, the sound was the roar of the ocean as he stood on the dock in the bustling port city of Kelmaars. Nearby, Sabit and Melcior surveyed the crew loading supplies onto the ship, preparing for its voyage that would take them well past the bay of Vert on their way to Allamu’s home of Urom.
Allamu stood apart from his fellows, huddled with a hooded figure. They spoke in hushed voices.
“Why would Qaansoole send you to me?” Allamu asked. “I expected she would never want to see me again. How can I trust your message?”
The other produced a golden coin. In size and shape, it matched the rom pieces traded by the merchants of Urom. However, where the rom bore the face of the king on one side and the sacred elephant on the other, this specimen showed an identical pachyderm on each face. “You once gave her this gift on a riverbank, coated with mud. Qaansoole is in great peril and beseeches you to go to the city of Vert to aid her.”
Allamu studied the intricate workmanship. There could be no mistaking its provenance. “I hardly command the ship. I cannot force them to go where I will.”
“You have always been resourceful,” the cloaked figure replied.
Days later, Allamu stood on the deck of the ship, anchored in the bay of Vert.* The sun shone in this memory, yet now, Allamu felt cold. He strode the deck and spoke to Sabit and to the crew. He convinced them to go up the river to Vert. His words were stirring and golden, yet sounded hollow to his ears.
Allamu could not change a single syllable of what he had said, of the lies he had told to entice the crew to go to the fabled city of Vert. Watching the faces of the crew as he spoke. Allamu could see the exact moment when his tales of the glory of Vert sank into their heart and they sided with him.
Here, in this twisted memory, when the first crewman was swayed to the cause of Vert, Allamu saw the man’s throat slit from ear to ear. From the next one, a spear burst through her chest.
One by one, Allamu saw his words—his lies—lead these people to their deaths. And he could not alter what he had already done.
When the fateful coin spun in the air, Allamu knew how it would fall—both sides bore the image of Urom’s sacred elephant. He could not lose—he would not allow it. They were going to Vert.
As the coin spun in the air, Allamu looked at Sabit—tall and proud and beautiful. She would never choose to go to Vert. Allamu’s lies were the only thing dragging her there.
The coin landed.
Sabit burst into flames.
Allamu screamed.


*-Allamu convincing the crew to go to Vert is detailed in Wayfarings of Sabit: Broken Justice.

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Wayfarings of Sabit: Tumult is copyright (c) 2017 by Michael S. Miller. All rights reserved. New chapters post every weekday. You can support this and other stories on Patreon: https://patreon.com/michaelsmiller or http://ipressgames.com/fiction/

Tumult: Eleven

As they withdrew, the champions scattered the Magistrate’s treasures beside their path. Torn sacks of coins and golden cups and bejeweled rings tempted the pursuing mercenaries into shadowed alcoves on either side of their route. This slowed the chase as the greedy mercenaries stooped to claim these baubles. Before she climbed down the narrow stairs into the cellar, Sabit had witnessed three fights erupt between mercenaries over their share of the bounty.
In the tight space of the cellar, the remaining champions bound up their wounds. In the corner there lay a broken shackle where the Magistrate had been chained. Murmurs of a hunt for their former captor rippled throughout the champions.
“The mercenaries will not be delayed forever,” Sabit said. “The Magistrate’s escape must not curtail our own.”
The mighty champions gazed into the dark hole where the others had left. The damp, chill air seemed to instill greater fear in these fighters than had the horde of mercenaries above.
Her eyes flashing with anger, Sabit seized a torch and marched into the tunnel. Qaansoole followed. One by one, the others came after them, Illi barely able to squeeze his girth through the narrow opening.
Sabit came to the bottom of the rough-hewn passage, her feet splashing in the water. Not two steps later, her stride stopped at something in the water, neither cold nor stony. The Magistrate’s body lay cooling in the stream. A dagger protruded from the man’s throat, its ruby-studded hilt still gripped tightly in his right hand.
Sabit would never have called the Magistrate a brave man, but he was not one to underestimate the value of his own life. What could have driven him to discard it?

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Wayfarings of Sabit: Tumult is copyright (c) 2017 by Michael S. Miller. All rights reserved. New chapters post every weekday. You can support this and other stories on Patreon: https://patreon.com/michaelsmiller or http://ipressgames.com/fiction/

Tumult: Ten

In the darkness, Allamu led those who could not fight through the chilly, cramped confines of the tunnel. With his right arm, he held Qays perched on his hip. With his left, he held the hand of Illi’s mother–advanced in years and small of stature. She held the hand of another behind her, and so on—all the former hostages made a chain of strength to face the darkness and whatever lurked within it.
The tunnel was silent, save the burbling of the water and its echo. Had the terrifying rumble that ended their first incursion been merely some sort of trick? The bang of a falling rock redoubling back upon itself, perhaps? The river must be close, thought Allamu, We have come so far already. We will be safe under the open sky any moment.
«Like the open sky of Kelmaars that witnessed the first of your many lies?» came the reply.
Its voice was not a voice at all. Perhaps it was just the echoed splashes of dozens of feet trudging through the water. Perhaps Qays was humming himself a lullaby and Allamu had merely misheard the boy. Perhaps Allamu’s pain had been buried too deeply in his heart for too long and here, under the press of the rocks, he could bury it no deeper.
«What lies did you tell to bring Sabit to this place—to lead her to her doom?»

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Wayfarings of Sabit: Tumult is copyright (c) 2017 by Michael S. Miller. All rights reserved. New chapters post every weekday. You can support this and other stories on Patreon: https://patreon.com/michaelsmiller or http://ipressgames.com/fiction/

Tumult: Nine

“You will die before you chain me,” Sabit growled as the five slave-catchers approached her, spreading out in an effort to surround the spear woman.
“You are not the first to make such a boast,” replied the bald mercenary, brandishing his staff. “And you will not be the last to be silenced by the chain.”
Without retort, Sabit charged him before the other four could ready their ropes and nets. The bald mercenary raised his inevitable staff to block the strike of Sabit’s iron-tipped spear.
The strike never came. At the final moment, Sabit reversed her grip, planted the butt of her spear, and vaulted herself over her foe. One of the rope-men cast his lasso at her. The bald mercenary changed tactics, thrusting his staff upward, but a moment too late. Sabit landed hard behind him, and tumbled to the floor. He spun, stepped toward her, and growled.
The lasso snapped taut. The bald mercenary fell, his fellow’s rope wrapped tightly around his neck.
Another slave-catcher raised a net to hurl at Sabit when a fish-shaped mallet slammed into his skull. Illi stepped over the man’s crumpled form in time to see Qaansoole sink her blade into the side of another slave-catcher.
A battle cry echoed from the mercenaries at the broken door. Reinforcements were moments away. Sabit shouted, “Champions! Fall back!”

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Wayfarings of Sabit: Tumult is copyright (c) 2017 by Michael S. Miller. All rights reserved. New chapters post every weekday. You can support this and other stories on Patreon: https://patreon.com/michaelsmiller or http://ipressgames.com/fiction/

Tumult: Eight

Beds and couches leaned against the massive front doors of the Magistrate’s house, bracing it against the impact of the attackers’ battering ram. Each thud from outside splintered more of the fine-grained dark wood of the door. Qaansoole and Sabit—short sword and stout spear in hand—took their place with the other champions in the foyer of the great house.
“Watch for the weak point of the door,” Sabit shouted. “When they come through, fill the opening with the bodies of their dead.”
Smash followed crash followed thunk followed clunk, the battering ram doing its inexorable work. The door’s left side cracked along its grain, sunlight streaming through into the dim foyer. One more blow and the left half of the door shattered, wooden splinters whizzing through the air.
A left-handed mercenary charged through the crack and promptly died under the champions’ blows. Two swordsmen followed, then four men with spears. Illi, the massive champion, knocked the men aside with his hammer shaped like a great fish. More men clambered over the broken bodies.
Mercenaries attached metal hooks to the remaining door and pulled it down from the outside. A wave of fighters surged through the opening, driving the champions back. Qaansoole’s sword struck swift and true, but there was always another man to replace the fallen. Sabit’s spear dripped red with the blood of her foes. But the weight of numbers weighed heavy against the defenders.
A mercenary with a shaved head and long moustaches blocked Illi’s hammer with his long, thin staff, channeling the momentum to strike Illi’s knee. The massive champion crashed to the ground. Qaansoole charged the bald man, bronze blade high and red in her grasp. He elegantly deflected her attack, landed a knee in her gut, and sent her sprawling into a shadowed alcove.
Whistling, the bald mercenary summoned four of his men to his side, bearing the ropes and nets of the slave-catcher’s trade. In close formation, the five strode toward the heart of the chaotic battle. There, three swordsmen were striving against their foe. One by one the swordsmen fell before their enemy, until none stood between the bald mercenary and his quarry: Sabit.

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Wayfarings of Sabit: Tumult is copyright (c) 2017 by Michael S. Miller. All rights reserved. New chapters post every weekday. You can support this and other stories on Patreon: https://patreon.com/michaelsmiller or http://ipressgames.com/fiction/

Tumult: Seven

In the cavern in the cellar, the voice was everywhere. Its growling, guttural utterances shook the stone beneath Allamu’s feet, vibrated the chill air he breathed, and bored into the marrow of his bones. It was the sound of a predator about to feast, a fire devouring its fuel, a hook gutting a body. Although there were no true words within the storm of sound, Allamu had no doubt of its meaning.
«Trespassers!»
Qays pulled against Allamu’s grip, trying desperately to flee back the way they had come. Allamu clambered up the passageway on the boy’s heels, his wet sandals sliding on the rough stone. The terrible sound ceased the moment they left the cavern behind, but none of the throng slowed their flight until they crowded into the cellar once more.
As the children and servants caught their breath, the sounds of battle echoed from the house above. There was a loud thud, and the snap of cracking wood. Sabit’s voice echoed down, shouting desperate orders.
Allamu checked his charges. None had been hurt. None were missing. All were terrified. Looking into the eyes of the gathered people, Allamu said, “It was only a noise. With the likes of you by my side, how could I let a noise dictate my actions? I am going to the river.”
Lifting Qays in his arms, Allamu started down the passageway once more.

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Wayfarings of Sabit: Tumult is copyright (c) 2017 by Michael S. Miller. All rights reserved. New chapters post every weekday. You can support this and other stories on Patreon: https://patreon.com/michaelsmiller or http://ipressgames.com/fiction/

Tumult: Six

“We should have thrown the Magistrate to them days ago,” Qaansoole said as she loosed an arrow into the onrushing horde.
“If there was a chance they would have been satisfied, I would have done so personally,” Sabit answered as she lifted another javelin. It still bore the scrollwork of the ornate cabinet it had been scavenged from. “But this lot will not rest until all of us are in chains or in the grave.”
Both projectiles found their marks with deadly accuracy. Two mercenaries at the forefront of the charge fell, impaled. The momentum of a full third of the charge was broken as the men behind tripped and staggered around their fallen leaders.
The other two-thirds of the line closed on the front door of the Magistrate’s house. Sabit caught sight of a battering ram being hauled toward the front. Qaansoole fired an arrow toward the front man carrying the ram. He fell, but another took his place without hesitation. The mercenaries hauled the battering ram toward the front of the house, out of sight of the two women on the side balcony.
Within moments, a loud thud reverberated from inside the house. The doors were barred, but would not last long. Sabit and Qaansoole rushed inside.

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Wayfarings of Sabit: Tumult is copyright (c) 2017 by Michael S. Miller. All rights reserved. New chapters post every weekday. You can support this and other stories on Patreon: https://patreon.com/michaelsmiller or http://ipressgames.com/fiction/

Tumult: Five

“Everything will be fine,” Allamu said to the worried people before him. Some had been slaves in the Magistrate’s house. Most had been held as hostage to keep the champions loyal—old men, young women, children, brothers, and lovers. There was not a fighting-man among them. “I know it’s dark, but all of us will stay together. This will take us to the river. Follow me.”
Allamu flashed a broad, encouraging smile, took Qaansoole’s young son by the hand, and ducked his head to step through the hole torn open in the cellar wall. Beyond the opening, the floor was rough-hewn stone sloping down. Holding a flickering torch before him, Allamu walked with careful step. The air was damp and cool on his face. From behind Allamu came the scuffle of frightened sandals, the huff of worried breath. From ahead, he could only hear the sound of flowing water. Was there another sort of murmuring? He could not say for certain.
With the splash of a sandal, Allamu found the flowing water. He stopped and carefully felt the walls, where the rough-hewn passageway he had come down connected to the older opening containing the waterway. Probing the bottom with his foot, Allamu determined that the flow moved slowly, at only ankle depth. The liquid was chilly, but far from frigid. It would make a fine walkway to the river.
“Allamu,” asked Qays, the young son of the archer in the patched cloak. “What shall we find down here?”
Allamu opened his mouth to tell the boy of Melcior’s ship, awaiting them on the riverbank. He drew breath to soothe Qays’ fears and offer him hope.
The voice that reverberated through the cavern was not Allamu’s.

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Wayfarings of Sabit: Tumult is copyright (c) 2017 by Michael S. Miller. All rights reserved. New chapters post every weekday. You can support this and other stories on Patreon: https://patreon.com/michaelsmiller or http://ipressgames.com/fiction/