Night's Black Agents: Hipster Pirates of the Celtic Sea

31 July 2013 | Hisham | | GOKL Actual Play, Nights Black Agents, RPG Actual Play, Role Playing Games

GOKL returned to playing the modern age vampire conspiracy game Night's Black Agents after a brief hiatus. Darren - Eclipse Phase's infomorph DANAI -  joined us as a burnt Russian agent Nikolai Kaidanovsky, a medical doctor. (No, Darren had not seen Pacific Rim.)

The Story So Far

The agents had been investigating Emartech Pharmaceuticals, the corporation which was experimenting and mass producing a certain type of blood. This blood had been tainted with a mutated mycoplasma haemocanis virus and had been used as a possible biological agent. In Sweden, the group had recently encountered a white supremacist terrorist group whose members were infused with this blood to wreak havoc during Eurovision 2013. The blood gave their operatives superhuman powers.

The previous session was not blogged about here. Why? Because I failed a roll during an impromptu seduction scene on the head of human resources of Emartech in Cardiff, Wales. And Misha had to bail Zlatan out of the hotel causing both IDs to be burnt. It was an embarassment. Sami and Misha was calling for Zlatan to have a "Walk with Zlatan" all the way driving back to London.

And Suddenly...

Elsewhere, the Russian, Kaidanovsky, had been investigating old Soviet experiments on extrasensory perception from the 1980s when he received a burn notice from his superior. The General informed him that a Norwegian container ship Heimdall was en route from Sweden to Wales. This mysterious cargo had been hastily taken out of Sweden and sent to Emartech in Cardiff. He was told to meet up with freelance agents in London who had discovered documents pertaining to his investigation while they were in Sweden.

The team, upon arriving in London, received an online dead drop communique from Hagar Thurson, their Swedish ally, telling them to expect Nikolai at the airport.

They pick up Nikolai in their Lada Niva and interrogated him as Zlatan drove around London. Abraham van Helsing, the surviving borzoi hound, sniffed Nikolai and gave him his thumbs up, though he did not have any proper thumbs. Although Nikolai kept calling Russia the Soviet Union for some reason, they cleared him to join the team.

Planning Begins

When informed of the Heimdall, the agents realised that this was the ship that was en route to Cardiff port that the NGO there - an Emartech dupe - was supposed to protest against when it docked. Zlatan thought they should intercept and try to find out what's on the ship before they entered UK waters. If it was meant for Emartech, then there might be a clue to the haemocanis virus-infected blood that had been going around Europe.

The team thought to call their hacker Jacob (whose player Macx was absent - and left his PC visiting his Point of Stability in Italy) to hack the AIS database to track the course of the Heimdall, but Sami did it immediately via the Marine Traffic website. (Actually Sami's player Ivan did it on his tablet during the game and provided live AIS tracking of ships in the Celtic Sea, which was pretty freaking cool. Night's Black Agent is definitely a game where players need to use mobile devices as live props on the fly.)

Misha discovered where her British Intelligence handler Emilia Sanderson kept a rigid inflatable boat away from prying eyes and clandestinely "borrowed" it as well as other nautical gear from its dock for the group's seagoing caper.

In the meantime, Zlatan shopped around for weapons and tactical gear. He found some Balkan gunrunners running MP-7s outside London. They might have been Balkans but Zlatan wasn't sure. They might have been from Peoria for all he knew. On the way back to base, a police car attempted to intercept him. But Zlatan employed his Afghanistan War driving skills to weave through the night traffic and lose the cops.

Operation Begins

Everyone wore Arabic keffiyeh, night vision goggles and a kerchief over their mouth - even Abe the dog. Zlatan thought the keffiyeh made everyone look like hipsters.

So some time after midnight, when the Heimdall was 10 miles from the UK shores, the hipster pirates of the Celtic Sea fouled up the container ship's propellers by dumping a steel cable mesh netting onto the path of the ship. They infiltrated over the side and onto the Heimdall, leaving Nikolai and Abe to guard the boat which was tethered to the larger ship by cables.

Sami with an MP7 and Misha with a sword stormed the bridge while Zlatan covered them with his starlight scoped-sniper rifle. Sami's fluency in Arabic convinced them that they were some sort of unlikely modern day Barbary Pirates - even if Misha looked very obviously an Asian woman. The captain told them that the cargo they obviously wanted was below deck and was guard by two Welshmen. Zlatan smashed their radio before proceeding.

They raided the cargo bay and discovered a structure made for medical experiments, constructed from two cargo containers. Powerful UV floodlights shone upon it. The first Welshman, Jones, immediately saw that they had been boarded and yelled to his partner the second Welshman also named Jones. The second Jones quickly slammed the med bay's door shut from within. Zlatan shot the first Jones in the chest before melting off the med bay's door lock with liberal application of thermite.

The team swept into the container, weapons aimed and in full intimidation mode. The compartment had biological lab equipment and a computer terminal. Another locked, heavier class of security door led into a much more secure clean room. The second Jones surrendered and told them that they had absolutely no idea what they're dealing with.

Sami pulled up the CCTV feed from inside the clean room on the terminal.

Within were a series of cages. Within each cage was a dog. Wild dogs.Their eyes were red and bloodshot. As soon as the team activated the monitor, every dog - all of them unmoving and maintaning the same waiting stance - turned to look at the camera as if they knew they were being watched. It was unsettling. Why were these being delivered to Emartech Pharmaceuticals in Cardiff?

Stay tuned for the next exciting session of Night's Black Agents.


Rafe's 19 Month Birthday

29 July 2013 | sila | | Family Pics

During the whirlwind that was Ramadan, where Yaya and Papa both had (real) birthdays, Adik sneaked in to being 19 months old!

Deer in headlights?

* Mouse over the pictures for captions


Long Story - Don't Ask

27 July 2013 | Hisham | | Recent News

I sort of made this back in November 2009.

He made this on Friday.


Pacific Rim: Tacit Ronin

24 July 2013 | Hisham | | Artwork, Misc Sci-Fi

So I quickly painted the PPDC Jaeger Tacit Ronin, which was seen for about 0.4 seconds on screen in the movie Pacific Rim, Guillermo Del Toro's mecha vs kaiju movie which I immensely enjoyed by the way.

Assembled in Lima, then assigned to Tokyo

Check out the larger image of Tacit Ronin on my Tumblr.


Eclipse Phase: Moose Kipper

23 July 2013 | Hisham | | Artwork, Eclipse Phase, GOKL Actual Play, RPG Actual Play, Role Playing Games

Posthumanity is just hands out awesomeLast Sunday, the Eclipse Phase group, playing the members of the Gamera Security hypercorp finished off our investigation of Cloud Nine aerostat on Venus.

After their "patron" Kage Musha ordered all GamSec operatives off Cloud Nine so his personal force can take over what seemes to be the hypercorp Yamaha-Pacifica's illegal weapon manufacturing facility there, Billy Cable Jr. and Hokusai Tarnungshaut pilot their airship back there to pick up DANAI and Wandering Ina, both in the Venusian glider body.

DANAI-δ, DANAI's delta fork in Cloud Nine's mesh network, masked an airlock from the security systems so DANAI/Ina could jump off the aerostat and onto their airship. (Cable had rolled critical success for airship piloting and was expertly flying the ship, cloaked in Venusian clouds.) Suddenly, DANAI/Ina was/were interrupted by the inner airlock door opening. It hid by jumping off the airlock's external platform and hanging on to its edge.

It was Dario Silvestri from the factory who was enjoying a bit of recreational drug Alpha. DANAI/Ina used its electronic rope to grapple Silvestri, then used a Zap round from a coilgun to blow a whole quarter of his head off. (It was a mistake. Honest. A Zap round usually stuns. But not just at so close a range.) DANAI/Ina pried off Silvestri's cortical stack from his exposed spine and glided off the aerostat.

However, it wasn't used to the morph and air thermals blew it off course. Thankfully, Cable's awesome piloting skills allowed him to match DANAI/Ina's erratic fall and for the second time caught a morph falling off an aerostat.

Then they returned to Octavia, the largest aerostat in the skies of Venus where they considered their next move.

First they decided to open a physical office on Venus, and thought the Parvarti aerostat would be a good place to be. They sent word to Wandering Kid and Dexter Morgan (the PCs with absent players) to begin moving their stuff from the current office on the Gerlach habitat in space to Parvarti, but leave a barebones office presence back on Gerlach.

Secondly, DANAI wanted a new morph. After much deliberation, the team spent credits to custom design a brand new morph for it. The new morph is basically, two human-looking hands (synthmorph) connected with a cord of 10 meter-long electronic rope, fitted with a cyberbrain with mesh insert, cortical stack, voicebox, sensory equipment on its knuckles, lidar, grip pads, skinlink, eelware and chameleon skin. It would be able to function as an extra set of hands if wound around another person, or be a thrown weapon that would be able to stun an enemy with its eelware, or creep up to an enemy to inject a drug into him or her. We also purchased two skillsofts in Unarmed Combat and Infiltration. Its initial WOUND THRESHOLD is 5 and DURABILITY 25.

We called it the "Janet" morph. 

And now there exists a character in our Eclipse Phase game that looks like this:

He'll never get a leg up on things

Which i think is pretty freaking awesome.

Wait a second. Whatever happened to Danai-δ?

To be continued next time on "Eclipse Phase: Clouds of the Morning Star".


60 Months (a.k.a. the Fifth Birthday)

22 July 2013 | sila | | Family Pics

The girl is five years old now! A whole half decade! 60 months! 1826 days! Wheee! Happy birthday, beautiful!

Peek-a-boo! Like the humongous bow in my hair?

* Mouse over the pictures for captions


Moment of Faith

16 July 2013 | Hisham | | Fiction, Misc Sci-Fi

Note: This short story is slightly edited from a 1500 word assignment for Professional Writing 1: Core Competency submitted on July 14. I thought it would be prudent not to throw around too many (or too funky) posthuman science fiction concepts in this story, just in case the tutor would be unable grok it.

Faith Jinnouchi drew her Ruger-Miroku Egocapture pistol from her overcoat pocket. She casted her Ego Enforcement Department ID across the local network to all the other patrons of the café. Her words rang like a bell across the café. “Somerville Olafsson. Your Ego ID has been confirmed to be false. You are under arrest for being an Altered Ego under New Amsterdam's EED Regulations Ten-Seventy.”

The Egocapture pistol's smartlink had confirmed this criminal act. So Faith fired at the distressed Olafsson. Transferring an Ego from one shell to another takes hours of scanning a neural scanning, slowly transferring exabytes of data from the old brain to the new. Criminals, however, were not given the luxury of time.


Blixus - With Stats!

11 July 2013 | Hisham | | Artwork, Role Playing Games, Star Wars

Among the many entertaining obstacles you could use as challenges for players of the Star Wars RPG are creatures. Defeating a critter is a natural Star Wars storytelling element, as can be seen in the movies. A host of new and original creatures had been created in the Star Wars The Clone Wars animated series, such as mastiff phalones, skalders, rupings and gutkurrs. Most have not had official roleplaying stats to them for gamemasters to use.

However, here are my home-made stats of the blixus, a cephalopod with huge, flailing tentacles, a crab-like shell and and a ravenous maw as it appeared in the fourth season episode "Kidnapped".

A fun fact: the blixus first appeared in the Dark Horse Comics' Star Wars The Clone Wars #2 "Slave Traders of Zygerria" written by Henry Gilroy. This story arc was adapted into the three-episode Zygerrian slavers arc of which "Kidnapped" was the first.

Here are D6 and Edge of the Empire stats for the blixus. Also, let's assume these stats are for the "blue-speckled, yellow-bellied blixus" that originate from the Tingel Arm and are now widespread on a thousand other systems in the Outer Rim Territories. When the official blixus stats are eventually published, they would not supercede this subspecies of the creature


Eclipse Phase: A Hidden Industry

08 July 2013 | Hisham | | Artwork, Eclipse Phase, GOKL Actual Play, RPG Actual Play, Role Playing Games

We're friend of the children. We even have a FREE CANDY white van.GOKL's Eclipse Phase "Clouds of the Morning Star" story arc (gamemastered by Ivan) continues from the previous session. Wandering Ina (played by Andrew) and DANAI (played by Darren) - both in a single Venusian glider morph - continued their investigation of a massive ego theft ring that may have passed through the Cloud Nine aerostat - a floating city in the skies of Venus. Meanwhile, Cable and Hokusai (played by me) manned their newly purchased airship, hidden in the clouds out of sight from Cloud Nine.

Since Kai was unable to make it, this session had three player characters, but with two of them inhabiting one body, which was a great concept in roleplaying.

The Setup

It was time Hokusai delivered more weapons and gear by sneaking onto Cloud Nine. DANAI/Ina had managed to hack into Cloud Nine's aerostat administration network and gave themselves Security-level permissions in the system. Employing The Bus That Couldn't Slow Down gambit, Ina saved 30 minutes of video footage in all security cameras and wrote a script that would override the camera feed with the looped captured footage where and when required.

DANAI/Ina upgraded their user permission to Admin-level in the system and discovered that the hypercorp that leased the unmarked commercial and manufacturing spaces was Yamaha-Pacifica, producer of habitat machinery. Digging deeper, they discovered that the faces behind the hypercorp had tie to the Night Cartel crime syndicate.

DANAI also peeled off a Delta Fork of its ego - named DANAI-δ - to be implanted in the security system and would take over sousveillance operation when required. They created a faux Mesh ID that would be tagged on Hokusai when he arrived aboard. Then they suppressed the external security camera as Cable drove the airship from below toward a low-security airlock. (Cable might have seen spiral shapes in the Venusian clouds as he piloted the ship, but there has been no confirmation.)


Westward Art: Sneak Attack

05 July 2013 | Hisham | | Artwork, Role Playing Games

Recently, I was assigned to draw a vertical "sneak attack" scene for Wicked North Games' upcoming Westward RPG. The scene involved a dark-clad assassin about to attack a nervous looking gentleman in the city streets at night. The final artwork is displayed above.

Below are some process artwork for the piece. The first image shows three black and white sketches / studies. #1 is the original sketch where the assassin was changed into the verson in #2 because she did not convey enough physical steampunk tropes. It's quite difficult to design a skin-tight assassin's garb, because most steampunk costumes are loose and puffed up in parts. After #2 was approved, I created a grayscale study in the form of #3 to see how light will play off the characters, objects and building.


A Bunch of Boys Bled on Boulders By the Beach

02 July 2013 | Hisham | | ACS Memories, Fiction

by Khairul Hisham

Note: This essay is slightly edited from a 1000 word assignment for Professional Writing 1: Core Competency submitted last Sunday June 30. The story is a composite of several experiences I had as a teenager. Not sure if the right people as mentioned were present for the bulk of this story. If you're reading this and you were there but I didn't mention you, let me know. Not you, Ming Fang. You pipe down.

The cerulean sky had not the slightest taint of cloud above us as we dismounted our bicycles upon our arrival at Teluk Batik beach. I don't recall whose idea it was but it was the consensus among the four of us that we would walk the trail over the hills to Teluk Rubiah beach and then headed back to Teluk Batik by way of the shore. Ming Fang adjusted his glasses and excitedly said, “It would just be us walking over rocks between stretches of isolated beaches between here are there. It shouldn't take more than an hour.”

“Sounds like a good idea,” I said, and as usual I was always up for good ideas.

And so Tsing, Woon Seong, Yu Hoe, Khoots, Ming Fang and I began our journey, leaving the bustling weekend holiday activity of Teluk Batik and its visitors behind us.

We had hiked to Teluk Rubiah before. Shoulder to shoulder, we travelled to the southern inland corner of the beach where the gravel road turned into a red dirt path that led into and over the hills.