Scenes of terror and trouble: Dreaming of Fire

A free RPG scenario

Suitable for Yellow Dawn & Call of Cthulhu

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Yellow Dawn – The Age of Hastur, first published in 2007,  is an RPG written by sci-fi & dark fantasy author David J Rodger – it blends the Cthulhu Mythos and cyberpunk genres in a post-apocalyptic setting. Learn more…

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The character awakes to find the immediate location on fire.  Their room is now an inferno.  Although this is a dream (sort of) the character should not suspect this at first.  Indeed, the choking, acrid smoke that claws at their lungs and the intense heat and furious crackling of burning walls and furniture, should seriously convince them this is real.

They will feel pain and fear.  If they die in the flames or as a result of leaping from a window (if they were high up) then they wake-up in a cold sweat, clutching their furiously beating chest. They must also make an Anxiety check or lose 1/1d3 COOL.  The following night – the dream will happen again.

Meanwhile, within the dream – they become aware of horrible screaming coming from a nearby room.   It sounds like a woman.

If they go to the room where the sound is coming from, the inferno seems to be more intense here.

Opening the door the character sees a room that does not correspond to what should be there.  Instead the room is a chamber of dark, smoke-stained stone with strange, unsettling symbols daubed onto the walls in a substance that looks like molten lava… the symbols burn and slither across the walls. However, the character’s attention will be rooted on the heavily robed figure of a woman kneeling on the floor within a set of asymmetrically interlocking circles; set on the floor before her is a blackened book, lying wide open with a jet of super-heated purple and dazzling bright pink flames blasting up from its pages and into her face.  The woman is shielding her face with her hands as if trying to stare through the Sun to read what is on those pages; however, it is obvious that whatever protection she has employed is failing and the fire is now beginning to consume her flesh.

As the character enters – the woman will snap her face away from the book and drop her hands to stare at them.  There is a look on her burned, melted features that is part-pleading and part-furious.  “Help me!” she shrieks, or maybe she said, “How dare you!”

The confusion should delay the character a moment. Meanwhile the hot blast of flame does not diminish and rolling clouds of yellow and orange fire come sweeping along the ceiling towards the character.

The book exudes an incredible aura of potent power; what secrets does it contain for the woman to risk such an agony to discover?

The character will certainly be taking substantial damage from the heat of the flames at this point.  They should make a decision: leave, save the woman or grab the book… a huge, churning plume of super-heated flame is now swirling downwards towards the floor where the woman and the book are situated; the character can only attempt to save one.

If the character rushes in they must roll 25 or more on 1d20+DEX or be consumed in an agonising flare of plasma.  They literally vaporise on the spot.  And then wake-up, screaming, shivering, layered in sweat. Make an Anxiety check or lose 1/1d6 COOL for this horrific end.  The next night the dream will happen again.

Cthulhu Mythos worship of fire - Cthugha - please advise if you know so I can credit artist

Penetrating the flames to seek the truth - image source unknown

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Saving the woman

She clings onto the character for dear life, gasping for breath through heat-seared airways, lungs gurgling as they fill up with fluid.  She is human but odd looking, like no race the character will have ever seen before – whorls and other tribal patterns have been tattooed onto her badly burned face.  Stepping out of the room the character should drag her outside, away from the fire that continues to rage through the building – although from this moment the flames no longer do any damage.  It’s as if some of her residual protection is having an effect.

Outside on the street there is nobody else around; nobody -in the dream – is taking any notice of the fire.

The woman looks around at what is obviously a very alien and unfamiliar world to her; she is certainly from a different time and place (in fact, a different dimension).  She is however, rapidly dying – strange colours pulse and glow through her veins, rising up to the surface of her charred skin to sparkle and evaporate.  During this she does not take her eyes from the character – she grips him tightly, lips quivering and muttering unknown words… but there seems to be a look of deep gratitude on what’s left of her face. Then she takes a final, agonising breath, her chest heaves up sharply, her body stiffens and then she disintegrates into dust.

GM NOTES:
The woman is (or was) a powerful sorcerer whose attempt to read the charred book led to her destruction. In her dying panic she created a blister of dream-reality that has randomly attached itself to the character.  By saving her from the fire, the GM is free to decide what rewards comes through but here are some suggestions:

  • The ash from her disintegrating body drifts onto the character and dissolves into them. They either gain a bonus to their LUCK (guardian spirit) or increased POW, or perhaps a permanent bonus to certain skill checks.
  • The ash from her body glitters in the dream-light – the character can grab handfuls of it as they begin to feel the dream ending.  When they awake the ash is still in their hands – heavy, hard and crunchy like grit.  It can be used for some magickal purpose.
  • Some aspect of the woman’s dissipating energy seeps into the character – leaving them waking with a sense of her lingering on the peripheral of their conscious mind. She remains there – providing some kind of “superhero” ability, or maybe just guidance and advice (can be called upon once a day).
  • DARK TWIST: the woman is furious that she was dragged away just before succeeding in the reading of the book. Her ash clings to the character like something hot, smothering and irritating. They awake to find themselves carrying a curse that affects LUCK and skill checks.

The dream does not recur now.

Saving the Book

The character staggers outside to find the world still asleep and nobody taking notice of the fire.  However, shadowy forms can be perceived on the fringes of the area – standing in street corners or in the middle of the road, watching from a vague distance…. they shimmer and shift, as if made of smoke, and seem somehow menacing.

The book – although badly burned, is still intact with layers of overlapping leather forming the binding, creating complex patterns; charred, the whole thing creaks like splintering wood when opened or closed.  There are words written on the pages but they’re in no language or script the character has ever seen and they appear to have lost their lustre – the ink now a leaden grey that gleams dully in the nocturnal lights.

Before the character can think of doing anything else they awaken – and find the charred book clutched in their hands.

What the book does and is capable of is down to the GM but here are some ideas:

  • It’s a demonic text and contains secrets that reveal the route to heaven (or at least the inner most sanctum of Angelic beings who exist on the outermost rim of the Quantisphere.
  • It contains some incredible +to Occult skill, or Mythos skill (or both), and likely contains potent operations to do with fire and plasma energy.  But the process of reading it requires a special operation in itself – and a ritual of fire.
  • It is a book dedicated to the worship of Sol’indara (a new Great Old One from Yellow Dawn; however, Call of Cthulhu players can use Cthugha). The book contains a way of gaining control of Sol’indara (or Cthugha) and is protected by a powerful fire / heat energy being (or Fire Vampires).

Regardless of what function the book can perform, it carries a (sort of) curse with it – which is the souls of all the people that have ever died trying to read it.  These are the shadowy smoke-like figures who linger on the borders of awareness. How they affect the character going forward is up to the GM; they could be a subtle presence that only appears at certain times – or they can be a perpetual distraction, bringing a smell of burning flesh and fabric, and a dry, rasping chorus of whispering, stopping the character from getting proper sleep without alcohol or drugs and ultimately leading to madness – until the character attempts to read the book (going through ordeal of fire) and dies or succeeds… in which case all  those souls will be released.

The dream does not recur now.

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Sample Rules for fire and infernos

FIRE STARTS

This can be through arson, or an incendiary device or explosion, etc. At this point the fire has small flames licking other surfaces and a small amount of smoke.

  •     Putting out the fire at this point: Needs 1d6 ‘blasts’
  •     Risk of spreading: Every round the GM should roll a 1d20. On a ‘20’ the fire abruptly erupts into a lethal inferno.

FIRE BECOMES AN INFERNO
The room / corridor has burst into flames. It is now filled with choking smoke and intense heat. This inferno is pushing in all directions and will begin to spread through the building unless defeated whilst still within this confined space.

  •     Putting the fire out at this point: needs 2d6 ‘blasts’
  •     Risk of spreading: Every round the GM should roll a 1d20. On a ‘20’ the surrounding area becomes engulfed within the inferno (equivalent to 1 BS space).

The GM should keep rolling 1d20 every round. The next time he rolls ‘20 the surrounding 1 BS (in each direction) become engulfed by the inferno; the next time it is the surrounding 6 BS (in each direction), then 36 BS, then 216 BS, eventually the whole building will be an inferno.

MOVING THROUGH AN INFERO
Once an inferno takes hold the layout of a building, corridor, even a room can change dramatically. Gouts of fire, burning furniture, collapsing structures, all make movement very dangerous, and slower.
To move through a part of a building caught by the inferno (equivalent to 1 BS point), each character or group must roll 1d6 per round. They can only escape that section of building when they roll ‘5’or ‘6’. Each round they fail to roll ‘5’or ‘6’ they are dealing with the consequences of fire changing the terrain, and, they’re suffering damage.
Burn Damage: each combat round spent within an inferno delivers 1 hit-point ‘burn damage’ to one body location. If any clothed-location suffers 4 or more burn damage then those clothes burst into flames, delivering an automatic 1 hit-point burn damage per round.
 Smoke Inhalation: each combat round spent within an inferno the character must roll 25+ on 1d20+CON or face a 20% chance of collapsing unconscious, overwhelmed by the smoke. This includes the act of staying near the floor.
Some things a character can do to avoid smoke inhalation is a) hold their breath, or b) hold a wet rag over face, provides +5 to the 1d20+CON roll for the next 10 rounds.

– Excerpt from primary rulebook of Yellow Dawn – The Age of Hastur (version 2.5)

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Dog Eat Dog by British sci-fi author David J Rodger cyberpunk crime thriller set in post-apocalyptic world of Yellow Dawn

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Scenes of terror and trouble: A Bad Father

A free RPG scenario

Suitable for Yellow Dawn & Call of Cthulhu

Dr Thomas Merkerson is an independently wealthy and publicly celebrated figure; highly educated and gifted in the science of palaeontology, he has dedicated much of his life and disposable income to the pursuit of knowledge regarding the distant epochs of Earth’s history – and the remarkable creatures that once crawled, slithered and raced across and above its surface.

13 years ago his wife gave birth to their only child, a son: Willian – spelled with an ‘N’.  Sadly, the new mother died following complications.  Devastated by the loss, Merkerson threw himself into prolonged and complex projects – burying himself in work to deflect the grief, and to a greater extent rejecting the son that caused his wife’s death.

Willian grew up  in the care of expensive nannies, chaperons and a prestigious boarding school.

His father changed rapidly during those years.

Coming back from an extended project in Peru, Merkerson became reclusive within the home town and educational faculties he once attended so regularly. The community bazaars, once often held at the large estate, took place elsewhere.  The famous dinner parties and social invitations dried up.  Instead, the large estate where Merkerson’s family had lived for several generations became a quiet place of solitude and scientific investigation… because Merkerson began to publish information about prehistoric life that was sensational in its vision, research and accuracy.

Many in the field suspected Merkerson was working on something truly significant and only releasing these tantalising morsels to keep the pressure off. The reason for this suspicion was the amount of time Merkerson was spending away on large, complex and secretive projects; projects that always relied on the same group of skilled and successful people.

Meanwhile, young Willian came home ever less frequently. A combination of his father never being there or never showing any affection when around; and the increasingly “strange” atmosphere of the place that was technically his home but never was… and the hostile and aloof behaviour of the small army of staff that Merkerson kept on to attend to the estate.

And then…

Age 13, Willian’s plans of spending the school’s winter break away heli-boarding at an exclusive snow resort were put on hold when a freak winter storm shut down every airports across the whole area – and, then a car crash placed Willian’s regular chaperon in hospital.  The principle director of the boarding school decided to send Willian home for the interlude whilst other plans were made.

Willian turned up at the boarding school three days later, in a taxi that had travelled several hundred miles, nearly catatonic, visibly terrified by some-event, covered in dirt, stinking of a zoo, and clutching what appeared to be the non-fossilised bone of a vast carnivorous dinosaur.

The principle director, Rhonda Patete, is a master of discretion particularly where the reputation of wealthy and powerful clients are concerned.  Yet she is unable to sweep the incident under the carpet; only a couple of the boarding school staff are aware that Willian is back – and being cared for by Rhonda at her home.  She has not called in the police or any authorities – and a casual telephone enquiry at the Merkerson estate revealed nothing “seemed” to be out of the ordinary: Thomas Merkerson was away, as usual, on some kind of project.

What really bothered Rhonda Patete was the way in which the person at the other end of the phone had subtly enquired if SHE knew about the location of Willian; something about the tone of voice, the deceptive, cunning structure of the enquiry had made her skin crawl, her hackles rise and set off alarm bells.

Rhonda Patete requires investigators; either she is able to contact them directly, or they are recommended via an intermediary.

What’s Happening?

After his wife died, Merkerson stumbled across a potential paleontological “gold mine” – rumours of the entrance to an ancient structure found after a massive rock collapse in a remote mountain plateau in Peru. It was found by a semi-amateur group of rock-hunters, self-funded, travelling the area looking for fossils. When they went inside – they found the remains of a temple (Serpent People) that had been buried and locked away for millions of years.

serpent temple

A lost temple to the Serpent People

The dormant serpent people inside woke-up, killed the rock-hunters and their local guides and took on their identities – but not until they’d tortured and interrogated the humans to understand as much as they could about the world they had returned to.

Merkerson was the primary financial and academic sponsor of their Peru journey, and they’d sent him an email detailing their preliminary discovery before really going inside. At the loss of contact, Merkerson went there!

And never came back.

What did come back was a Serpent People in disguise and a whole entourage of fake rock-hunters.

They took over the Merkerson estate, killed the staff and imitated them – and launched long-range and difficult projects to discover other temples that hadn’t been crushed, buried or lava-boiled out of existence as the Earth changed through the epochs.  With each discovery – they ship back any Serpent People, either in suspended animation or hidden from view.  [Leading to some strange tales by shipping handlers and agents].

Now, in the basement of the Merkerson property – caverns are being dug out and an army of Serpent People (most of them in hibernation) is waxing. How far these plans are, and to what level the Serpent People have infiltrated the local community – or further – is down to the GM.

When Willian arrived more-or-less unannounced, after the snow storm cancelled his plans; the staff at the estate did their best to keep him contained.  They couldn’t kill him because he is too small to imitate or replace – and his murder and subsequent disappearance would create too much risk.

Willian however suspected something was far from right and so snuck out and explored the property; he found his father’s treasure trove of dinosaur bones – not fossilised because they’d been preserved intact within the magickal temples of the Serpent People.

And then he discovered a way down into the caverns… and saw a scene of utter horror.

Somehow, with his sanity barely intact, Willian had the presence of mind to make an escape and find a cab that would take him to the one place his considered safe – the one place he thought of as home: the boarding school.

Investigations

Willian – is suffering deep psychological trauma. If the characters are able to get him to talk about his experiences they should be disjointed, manic and partly nonsensical. GM’s should consider the short story by H.P.Lovecraft – The Nameless City – for inspiration of what Willian may have encountered down there in the caverns at the Merkerson estate.

Optional clue: When William turned up at the boarding school, he may have had a scrap of old, leathery parchment in his pocket.  A “mythical” map – alluding to a land called Valusia (see attached image below)

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This scenario could be about tracking down Merkerson wherever he is and stopping him, or exploring the temples he (or the Thing pretending to be him) is in the process of rediscovering; allowing characters to find arcane technology with terrible power and enjoy fantastic yet alien riches.  Or it could be about destroying a nest of Serpent People at the Merkerson estate.

Things could become difficult for any group of investigators if and when the staff at the Merkerson  estate begin to suspect where the boy may have vanished to; and especially when Dr Merkerson  himself appears at the boarding school, along with attorneys and other officials demanding the immediate return and custody of his boy.  There are not many powers in the land who would be willing to stand up to Dr Merkerson’s political, academic and financial influence; needless to say that if Willian is taken away his life isn’t long for living: something bad will happen, and made to look like an accident.

Is Merkerson resurrecting the ancient Snake Cult of Valusia?

Has he made contact with or found a location deeply sacred to Yig?  And what is the ultimate plan for this?

Cthulhu Mythos RPG roleplaying game Yig - snake serpent God

Yig – The Father of Serpents

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A “mythical” map – alluding to a land called Valusia

Cthulhu Mythos - Serpent People - a mythical map - alluding to a land called Valusia

A mythical map alluding to a land called Valusia

Valusia was a kingdom to the west of the Thurian continent in the Thurian Age of Earth’s pre-history. At first ruled by Serpent People they were overthrown by their human slaves. After much time, when humankinds’ memories of the wars had faded to whispers and legend, the Serpent People tried to control this human kingdom through cunning magick, using illusions and subtle coercion to rule from behind the scenes – but were defeated once again, this time in a secret war.  Finally then, they created a religion, the Snake Cult, to ensnare the passions and loyalties of cruel men but this plan was destroyed when Kull,  an Atlantean barbarian, gained of Valusia by force.

– History and Legend of Valusia

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Audio Story of The Nameless City – H.P.Lovecraft, narrated by Nick Gisburne

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Useful Links:

Update – December 2014

My Yellow Dawn – The Age of Hastur, player group have just tackled this scenario. It was really good fun and created a massive amount of tension.  They actually failed to complete the scenario due to casualties and fear – backing away after the Chief of Police of the Living City they’re in warned them not to mess with these people or suffer legal consequences. The team are planning to lick their wounds then go back – visiting the remote dig site that has Merkenson’s interest. Session notes here: https://davidjrodger.wordpress.com/2014/10/08/yellow-dawn-session-notes-7th-october-a-terrified-boy/ [] If you’d like some more details on this then ping me a note.

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Scenes of terror and trouble: A Vintage Villain

A free RPG scenario

Suitable for Yellow Dawn & Call of Cthulhu

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Part of a collection of thumbnail plot sketches for locations and situations where the characters are faced by human, occult or Mythos terror.  Written to be used within the world of Yellow Dawn – The Age of Hastur (RPG) but could easily be adapted to Call of Cthulhu, D&D, Delta Green or Shadowrun.   They span both the Occult (Quantispheric) and Mythos (the Outer Chaos, from Beyond the Void).

CRIME SCENE DO NOT CROSS / @CSI?cafe

Hal Krzesinski – a production manager for a small media company – is found dead at his apartment.  His body has been torn to pieces, quite literally; it is as if he has exploded. Although forensic evidence suggests that something was plunged into him in several locations and then ripped away in different directions.

His body was found by neighbours who heard the screams, close to midnight. Then the sound of a brief struggle followed by ominous silence.  Neighbours went to his apartment straight away. Nobody was seen leaving. The door was broken down and the gruesome scene found inside.

Krzesinski often worked late at his apartment, after coming home from the day job.  He’d recently split up from a girlfriend due to the amount of time he was spending working on a book about vintage clothing.

Witness statements include:
() There was a smell of burning plastic in the air (Krzesinski’s desk-based workstation and his hand-sized PA have been destroyed; seemingly subjected to intense energy that melted the vital components without actually charring anything).

() The area around the workstation used to be covered in dozens of glossy black and white photos, downloaded and printed, or purchased by Krzesinski: the photos covered the late 1800’s through to the mid-1960’s and featured a variety of people in denim clothing, flannel shirts or baggy suits – all of an evolving trend of fashion – all part of the research for his book.  Most of the photographs have been ripped from the wall – many of them shredded (not by a machine) whilst others have been destroyed through some kind of heat exposure, leaving them shrivelled and glistening with oily discolouration.

() Krzesinski had been recently talking about a problem he’d encountered with his research; something to do with clothing that was “ahead of its time”. The neighbours who had heard this story – in detail – had all told Krzesinski that this wasn’t a problem but a potential “discovery” giving his book a unique selling point.  Krzesinski had apparently been very taken by this idea.

Krzesinski was a very well liked man if not a little eccentric. Most people called him a walking brain although he had a terrible habit of talking too much and in infinite detail.  He was passionate about period clothing from the US 1800s – denim working shirts and jeans used by miners and prospectors – through to the 1940s and beyond, with a passion for blues, jazz and the beat generation.

There are no clues at the media company where he worked.

Krzesinski’s apartment is full of vintage posters and memorabilia.

Although the book he was working on was destroyed, if characters ask about the ex-girlfriend, Nada Vandenberge; she moved in with friends in another part of the city.

Nada Vandenberge will attend the funeral if characters fail to make contact before hand.  If need be, the GM can have her approach characters and say, “I hear you are investigating the death of Hal”, allowing her to hand over vital information.

She has a copy of Krzesinski’s book – and more importantly, the photographs that caused him such consternation. And his working notes.

To the casual observer the photos show nothing out of the ordinary.  Various people in various scenes, some from the late 1800s, others from the 1920s, others from 40s and 50s.  One photo is highlighted and shows a young-looking man in a crowd of people; the man has a tall, narrow head with a mop of thick dark hair; unusual dark-goggles; a jaw shadowed with stubble and the kind of clothing worn by young men of the period.  Except, apparently, according to Krzesinski, the clothing is all wrong for the period.

The photo is from 1941 and shows the reopening of the South Fork Bridge after flood in November 1940. It’s from rural Canada.

Krzesinski spent a lot of time online asking about the photograph – and its apparent anachronistic features.

Most people considered him to be a conspiracy theorist, and either fed him further conspiracy to satisfy their own passions for it, or rebuffed him as a fool.

But Krzesinski knew his clothing and knew that this picture was wrong.  The clothing worn by the young man was not made until the mid 1990s.

Then he got an email from Gabriel Gouzalez – who had seen his forum postings and questions online.  The email stated that Krzesinski should examine the camera the young man in the photo is holding. It’s a Japanese consumer electronic brand that wasn’t made until 1994.  Gabriel Gouzalez claimed to have a dossier of photos showing similar inconsistencies and suggested that due to the relatively small number of historical photos available to view, study of them would – without fail – show other inconsistencies.

Gabriel Gouzalez never responded after this – despite Krzesinski trying to get a hold of him; even going as far as finding his realspace address and writing to him.

If characters investigate Gabriel Gouzalez they’ll find he died in much the same way as Krzesinski. An interesting coincidence?

OPTIONS
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The characters can become involved either as:
() Friends of Krzesinski.
() Brought in by the investigating police officer to help due to a hunch that there’s something very strange about the case.
() They read about the story in the media and take an interest – due to the fact no killer or cause was ever found.

The GM needs to decide who and what the young man in the photo is.
(1) Part of a military or private corporation experiment, meddling with history in some way?
(2) A Mythos entity wearing the guise of a human.
(3) A.N.Other

Have the characters now been targeted by the fact they’re asking questions? How are they being monitored – astrally? Through electronic eavesdropping or by physical surveillance?  Is it a military or private corporate security team, or a Mythos sorcerer (the young man in the photo) or some other Mythos entity / agency?

Nada Vandenberge is likely to become the next victim – in order to silence her. Do the characters suspect this and can they protect her; and does foiling, or being involved in the attack, provide clues that lead to the assailant(s).

Perhaps the young man in the photo – human or otherwise – makes an appearance somewhere the characters are, or see on TV, or in a media article. And this allows them to track down where and what / who he is.

The conclusion comes down to a being or an agency, involved in time-travel, covering its tracks – and the characters getting a hook beneath the lid of this cover-up and either tearing it wide open or gaining payment / benefits from remaining quiet about it.

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Scenes of terror and trouble A Vintage Villain - free RPG scenario for Yellow Dawn The Age of Hastur and Call of Cthulhu  or Delta Green

Image source: virtual Bralorne Pioneer Museum; British Columbia, Canada.

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Cthulhu Mythos and Cyberpunk fiction novels and short stories by David J Rodger

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Scenario Ideas for Yellow Dawn based on robot technology gone rogue

DoctorToc

DoctorToc

This is a link about a link. I posted some seed ideas about Robots & Cyborgs in Yellow Dawn a few days ago; a chap called DocToc posted some thought-provoking comments, including ideas that could easily expand into small scenarios. So I thought I’d highlight a direct link to his comments here.

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