Thursday, February 11, 2016

What the difference 24 hours makes ... in graphic design...

So when I have ideas for new layout, I try them out BEFORE the actually see the light of day on paper of on a computer. I am guess that is very typical for graphic designers and art directors like Rick Hershey, @Marc Radle at Kobold Press or Sarah Robinson at Paizo. So instead of keeping that progress in the dark, I thought I might show you and cover idea are am working on with a new adventure series tentatively called Strange World.

As you see it is kind of a split cover where you could use one piece of art and split it OR take two pieces of art and use it. But like I said I am just working out some ideas here. Who knows what the final version will look like. Enjoy!



See what the difference 24 hours can make...



Talk to you later...

[LPJ Design] For a Limited time, Crisis of the World Eater Prequel - A Warning Too Late is PAY WHAT YOU WANT!!!

For a limited time, Louis Porter Jr. Design’s Crisis of the World Eater Prequel - A Warning Too Late for The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game at RPGNow.com and DriveThruRPG.com is PAY WHAT YOU WANT!!! Here is information on this product:

All across the world, an unexpected psychic broadcast seeps into the mind of every living thing, filling their minds with portents of death and destruction. Tens of thousands of people, especially those attuned to magical forces, are driven to suicide. The Confederated Nations, the world’s most bountiful empire, immediately launch an investigation, tracing the broadcast back to the Kray Wasteland. The wasteland is the result of the Kray Comet striking the world just over a century ago, a thousand miles south of the Capitol of the Confederated Nations. Officially, it is too irradiated to enter safely, but facing the possibility of another deadly broadcast, they have little choice.

Instead of a crater, however, the supposed impact site is home to a squat, grey complex. Decades ago, this now-abandoned laboratory was used to endow a dedicated group of warriors with extraordinary abilities. Only three of these super-warriors remain: the powerful Vault, the clever Synapse, and the raging Ozone. Drawn by the same broadcast that killed so many others, they have returned to the Complex. They know what lies at the center - not a meteor, but a powerful entity from another world, who arrived here nearly a century ago with a grave warning.

But the PAY WHAT YOU WANT pricing is limited until February 28. So if you are interesting and want to pick this up for an amazing price, NOW IS THE TIME!!! Don’t wait and miss out. 

Friday, February 5, 2016

Are Entrepreneurs Born Or Made?

Monday, February 1, 2016

The process of creating amazing artwork

Here is some amazing artwork we got in and we wanted to see what happens with the process with LPJ Design. Enjoy!















Sunday, January 31, 2016

Transparency Agenda January 2016 Special with Gary Ray

I would like to thank Gary Ray​ of Black Diamond Games​ who was kind enough to answer some interesting and informative questions during this interview. If you want to learn more about what retailers have to do with in the process of selling game and how to do it, this episode of Transparency Agenda is for you!


Monday, January 25, 2016

Less than a week until Transparency Agenda January 2016 Special with Gary Ray of Black Diamond

I have noticed only a few of you have signed up for the upcoming Transparency Agenda January 2016 Special with Gary Ray of Black Diamond and there are some who have not signed up to watch it. Let me tell you, if you are a table top game designer and/or publisher and you are NOT going to watch this, then YOU ARE AS A DUMB AS A BRICK and your company is going to fail. Period.

Are you kidding me?!?!?!?? I am getting one of the TOP gaming stores in the USA let alone the world and I am going to go complete BEAST MODE on him asking tough questions and getting to the heart of the retail / publisher issues like:

Why do retailers hate Kickstarter so much?

Or Why do retailers never want to support small publishers in the start, then complain when they can’t get their stuff in the store?

Or even, How much does it suck that Cards Against Humanity doesn’t care about dealing with retailers and shouts them out of making money?

I am sure there are some real tough questions you would like to ask a retailer and get an honest answer, and NOW is the time to ask them. Even though you will be able to see this later on YouTube, not one might ask the question you want to hear. So sign up and make sure you are going to be there. Hope to see you on Saturday!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Crisis of the World Eater cover ideas

This post was originally up at the Louis Porter Jr. Design Facebook page, but I thought it would be good to have this over here:

When I was thinking of the Crisis of the World Eater campaign serial as a whole from a graphic design point of view, I knew i would have to dig deep to find the right cover concept to give the series the look I wanted. I went through my Pinterest account looking for something and after a while to find it. Now while this center image in all these images is for placement only, it does give you the idea of what you can expect on the final release.

So after looking at these images, who should we hire to recreate this piece for our Crisis of the World Eater Kickstarter? Please let us know. Thanks!





Thursday, January 14, 2016

[LPJ Design] Mythical Classes: Machinesmith for 5E is Now available

Louis Porter Jr. Design, has released  Mythical Classes: Machinesmith for 5E at RPGNow.com and DriveThruRPG.com. Here is information on this product:

Machinesmiths are masters of two worlds, notable and distinguished as a class for their use of both magic and science to invent new and powerful devices. Their understanding of chemistry, engineering, mathematics, and physics allow them to craft the finest inventions, from simple blades to mechanical men, which aid in their research or protect them from harm. When they find their greatworks wanting, however, their mobius-charged prototypes come to the fore—conjuring the elements, crushing their writhing foes, or even disintegrating an enemy entirely.

Whether engineers of destruction, discovery, or wonder, machinesmiths are all masters of science, drawn to the mysteries of existence like moths to a flame. Though manipulating a greatwork or activating a prototype might seem to require only a simple gesture, the hands of these inimitable creators are attuned to their devices on a subatomic level, their talents honed over numerous days and nights of study.

Available at RPGNow.com here!!!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

NeoExodus Legendary Tales - Grit for Hire Part 4 Written by Erik Scott de Bie

Waking, Freja coughed out filthy water. She lay on cold stone, soaked to the bone, her lower half submerged in a pool of icy water. Outside of a thin gleam trickling down through the waterfall, the darkness seemed absolute. Targa and Gryn had carried the light, and she didn’t have her pack.

Distantly, over the sound of rushing water, Freja could make out some sort of faint snuffling noise, perhaps like breathing. “Targa?” she asked. “Gryn?”

The noises paused, and she heard a rumbling growl that echoed off the stone walls. Definitely not one of the others. Bloody Covenant, the others. She had to help them.

Her right arm ached badly when she tried to move it, and she flexed her fingers experimentally. Sprained but not broken. Lucky. Freja crawled forward, but her leg screamed in pain when she tried to move. It was caught under a heavy rock, the leather soaked in water and blood. Possibly broken.

Something in the pocket of her coat ground into her leg, and with some effort she pulled it out: the tiny illusion projector Milka had made her. Her lurid, leaping pose cast surprisingly bright orange light, illumining glistening stone walls covered in clawmarks. Not promising. The Last Word lay on the grimy floor just past her hand. She set the projector down and reached for the gun, but her trapped leg exploded in pain and she fell just short.

Freja pulled back, panting. “Bloody and damned,” she said.

She pushed tentatively on the rock, grunting at the effort, but she didn’t have the leverage or the raw power to move it. She heard the growls again, growing closer.

The light trickled down a tunnel, and she saw movement at the very limit some twenty paces. The creature didn’t seem to react when the light appeared. It was, however, coming gradually closer, scraping itself along the walls.

“Bloody!” Freja pulled harder on her leg, biting her tongue against the pain. Fresh blood welled as the stone scraped through her leathers, but she was almost free.

A blood-chilling shriek echoed up the tunnel, and she saw the thing running toward her. It looked like a hound at first, based on its size and shape, but as it closed she saw that it had quills and spines instead of fur. It had no eyes, either, but it must have sensed her. Freja had heard of razorfiends but never actually seen one. If she didn’t move fast, she would get to inspect it much more closely.

With a cry of pain, Freja finally wrenched her leg free and scrambled out of the water. She snatched up the Last Word and took aim at the charging razorfiend. The weapon clicked.

Misfire.

The razorfiend tackled her into the shallow pool. Freja managed to catch her breath before she went under, but hitting the bottom blew it right back out in a swarm of bubbles. She broke the surface with a gasp, and the razorfiend scrabbled madly atop her. It thrashed, shredding her coat and skin with its spines, and its mouth snapped at her face. Half submerged, Freja fed those jaws her leather-wrapped arm instead of her throat, and she could feel the teeth digging into her flesh.

The Caliban dagger dug into her hip. Without thinking, she drew the blade and plunged it into the side of the razorfiend’s head. It wasn’t the strongest blow, but the creature yelped in pain and leaped off her out of the pool, taking the dagger with it.

Fighting to breathe, Freja half-crawled, half-stumbled toward her gun, lying on the stone where she had dropped it. She palmed a fresh cartridge, sealed in wax, from her belt pouch. Her right arm pulsed with waves of pain.

Half a dozen paces away, the razorfiend yowled and mewled and smashed itself against the wall in a vain attempt to dislodge the dagger stuck there.

Freja reclaimed the Last Word, and the trembling left her hand. Slowly and perfectly, she lifted it and cleared the misfired cartridge.

The razorfiend whirled toward her and charged, fangs slavering.

Calmly, Freja broke the wax and inserted the fresh cartridge. She ignored the razorfiend.

The creature was upon her, leaping for her throat. She could feel its hot breath—

Freja clicked the cartridge into place and fired, the bullet exploding into the razorfiend’s mouth from less a than a thumb’s breadth distant. Blood and spit spattered her hands and face. The creature sailed back and slapped into the wall, a broken hunk of smoking flesh.

Hands still, Freja breathed out, letting the panic burn down to a low, smooth surface of tension.

That was when laughter rippled down through the hole in the ceiling, resonating through the running water. Of a sudden, Freja’s calm shattered and she felt like a frightened little girl. The Exodite was up there, and it was waiting for her. Her hands began to shake, and her legs felt like dead wood.

“Shut it out,” Freja said. “Let it bleed away. You’re a corpse anyway.”

Slowly—agonizingly slowly—she grew calm once more.

She had work to do, and she didn’t have time for fear.

#

Freja pulled up short when she heard the moan echoing down the tunnel. Closing the projector in order to bring back the dark, she crouched behind a natural bench of stone and peeked over at a muddy source of firelight somewhere ahead. The moans were louder now, as well as a series of scrabbling, snuffling sounds that reminded her of the razorfiend.

“Bloody perfect,” she said under her breath.

Without her pack, she had the equipment she’d carried down through the waterfall. Milka’s projector cast some light, but she used it sparingly: it both let her see and made her a target. Several of her spare cartridges were ruined, and she could only salvage the Last Word of all her guns. The others were either missing or too broken to repair in the field. She had six cartridges she thought would fire, but she wouldn’t know for sure until she tried them. She had the Caliban dagger, her armor, and her hat, which made her feel a little better.

Time to move again. The tunnel sloped upward, which was progress. She let a little of the projector’s light out around her sleeve as she went, so that she could at least see where she was going. It wouldn’t do to brain herself on a stalactite or stumble into a pit.

Abruptly, Freja caught herself on the edge of a gap, sending bits of stone down into the yawning darkness. The scuffling noises came from below, she realized. She shone her light that way, and it illumined at least a dozen razorfiends scurrying and rolling like a swarm of ants. They clearly detected her and were literally crawling over themselves to get to her. Wonderful.

Freja looked up at the opposite ledge. “I can make that,” she said, trying to believe herself.

She drew out the projector and tossed it up onto the ledge, bathing the narrow tunnel in light. Making sure her gun was tightly bound in its holster, she backed up, braced, and ran for the edge, ready to leap across the gap.

And she would have made it, had not the ancient stone edge crumbled under her foot.

She half-jumped, half-stumbled into a moment of weightlessness, and her stomach slammed with bruising force into the opposite ledge. Gasping, she scrabbled at the stone, trying to find some sort of handhold, then slid backward. She caught just the edge with her left hand, dangling by one arm for a heart-stopping moment. She tried to reach up with her right, but the arm screamed in pain when she tried to put weight on it. She hung there, trembling, as the razorfiends scrabbled far below her.

Her hat shrugged off her head, and the creatures tore it to pieces before it hit the ground.

“Bloody come on,” Freja said to her body, demanding it pull her up.

Her wet fingers slipped on the stone.

Then thick, red-skinned hands closed around her wrists, and she looked up into the yellow-gold eyes of Chenoa Gryn. The Prymidian was bruised and covered in blood and mud, his eyes glazed and his face pale, but he was whole and alive. His arms strained as he pulled, and she kicked her legs to try to push herself up. Finally, Gryn hauled Freja up from the abyss and they lay gasping on the stone. The Prymidian groaned, and Freja realized it was the sound she had been following.

“You’re injured,” she said.

Gryn shrugged. “I came when I saw your light.”

After a moment, Freja sat up, bruised and not wanting to move. “The others?” she asked.

He shook his head.

“How—how long?” she asked. “How long have we been down here?”

“Hours,” he said. “It is still day outside. The Exodite is waiting until nightfall to sally forth.”

Freja frowned. “How do you know that?”

The Prymidian’s eyes glittered. “Exodites fear the sun,” he said at length.

It hadn’t looked to Freja like that woman needed to fear anything. “If she’s still up there, what do we do?” she asked. “We can’t fight her.”

“We steal past her,” Gryn said. “Voshtet’s necklace. That’s our best chance.”

Freja nodded. “Well, at least it’ll be impressive.”

The Prymidian’s eyes glowed in the darkness with something he had not and could not say.

“What?” Freja asked. “Don’t tell me. No healing yet?”

He shook his head. “Night draws close. We must go.”

Freja nodded, though every bit of her hurt. “Just keep moving.”

#

Gryn led them efficiently to the main chamber of the crypt, which was blasted and littered with the remains of the exploded sarcophagus. Purple fires crackled at half a dozen isolated points in the room, consuming bits of leather, wood, and flesh. Freja could make out Targa’s arm and leg poking out from behind a pillar. It took her a moment to find Garrull: the P’tan’s body was partly imbedded, spread-eagled, into the far wall. Blood and other juices had drained down his furry corpse and hardened like a glaze left too long in the cold. It made her sick to her stomach, but she suppressed the urge to retch. The chamber otherwise seemed empty: no Exodite.

“Where is she?” Freja asked.

Gryn shook his head. He indicated the sparkling rubies on their chain by Targa’s limp hand.

“Right,” Freja said.

She crept slowly across the room, staying as low to the ground as she could. In her unhurt hand, she held the Last Word ready, for all the good it would do. The strange fires cast flickering shadows that made her look up constantly, heart in her throat. The Exodite could be anywhere.

She crept up to Targa’s corpse, and realized that his upper right torso and head were missing, his body a hollowed out shell with only a grayish stew of guts. She set her teeth to keep from vomiting. Her pack lay where she had left it, with her spare gun and cartridge pouch. Ten, maybe. She donned the pack and reached for the necklace.

The shadows parted and the Exodite appeared, standing over her. Her purple eyes matched the pockets of flame scattered throughout the room. The dark woman smiled, her lips curling back too far from too many dagger-sharp teeth. Freja tried to bring the Last Word in line, but the Exodite caught her arm. The black fingers closed tight, making her bones grate in her arm. Her struggles ripped open her coat and the contents of her pockets clinked to the ground.

“Gryn!” Freja hissed. “Gryn!”

He just stood there, trembling but not moving, his face slack.

“You have done well, my pet,” the woman said, making the Prymidian stiffen.

Freja furrowed her brow for a heartbeat, then cursed. The Exodite had charmed Gryn—that’s why he’d been acting strange—and she’d walked right into the trap. Bloody perfect.

The Prymidian walked toward them, his gait awkward. The Exodite smiled, but her expression slipped slightly when he had come within a few paces. Freja saw it too: Gryn was playing up the charm, but his eyes seemed very bright. He’d worked through the spell.

The Exodite hissed in sudden rage, dropping Freja to the floor. Gryn had been murmuring words to a spell of his own, and he vanished even as the Exodite lunged toward him. Half-sitting, Freja leveled the Last Word at her back and squeezed the trigger. The cartridge fizzed and smoked. Misfire. Blood and damnation! Freja reloaded.

The creature whirled, crouched low, and pounced. Freja reached for the necklace, but the Exodite knocked her flying toward the narrow exit tunnel. She hit and the world turned gray-red for a heartbeat. Freja’s teeth vibrated from the force of that blow. She shook her head to clear it.

The Exodite declaimed arcane syllables, and the air tingled as power discharged. Chenoa Gryn reappeared, right at Freja’s shoulder, and she put the Last Word to his throat by reflex.

The Prymidian seemed calm. “Use the necklace,” he said.

Freja looked at her empty hand, then at the Exodite, which had picked up Targa’s necklace and was regarding them with a curious expression.

“We’re dead,” Gryn said.

“No.” Freja took aim, hoping for no misfire. “She is.”

The bullet struck the necklace in the Exodite’s hand. Magic flared and exploded.

They leaped into the passage even as a wave of force shattered the chamber. Fire and smoke washed over them, and they scrambled down the corridor. All around, the stone trembled, and Freja knew it was all coming down. She pulled Gryn along, through the tight squeeze, just before a massive boulder sealed off the passage behind them. They kept running, not looking back, until they climbed out the cave entrance into the dying sunlight. Dust drifted out behind them.

They stood, covered in blood and dust, bodies aching on the verge of collapse.

The Prymidian looked up at the setting sun and breathed out. “A tale for the legends,” he said.

Freja shrugged, looking at the remains of her attire. “You owe me a new coat.”

“Gladly,” Gryn said. “Assuming we survive them.”

The rustling of feet on stone caught Freja’s attention. A score of Caliban stood on the path, weapons in hand, faces furious.

Freja reloaded her pistols. “Time to go to work,” she said.

#

In the tight, sealed chamber, a faint orange light swelled from a small device that leaned against the broken altar. It projected a heroic, risqué image: a woman wielding two pistols, leather coat partly unbuttoned and flowing around her, rotating slowly to show her in all its glory.

It would take time to find another escape—time to memorize every line and curve, the determination in those eyes and the arrogance in that grin.

A jet-black hand reached out of the shadows and righted the projector.

Plenty of time.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

[LPJ Design] Monsters of NeoExodus: Dragons for The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Now available

Louis Porter Jr. Design, has released Monsters of NeoExodus: Dragons for The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game at RPGNow.com and DriveThruRPG.com. Here is information on this product:

The world of Exodus is inhabited by marvelous creatures, both dangerous and benign. Among the mightiest of these are dragons. Described herein are two new categories of dragon that can be found upon Exodus: the noble and mysterious stellar dragons, and the fell creatures known as conflict dragons. Both types provide for dangerous new foes. While the stellar dragons may be noble and high-minded, they tend to be dismissive of lesser creatures, finding them expendable in the face of achieving the greater good. The conflict dragons delight in misery and destruction and will run unchecked through the world, bringing its eventual demise, unless stopped by those with the power to do so.


Inside this sourcebook you will find you’ll need to enhance on adventures when using the these unique NeoExodus Dragons in you game:Including the Introduction, Age Categories, Combat Additional Dragon Rules

Four All new Dragons: Conflict Dragons - Armageddon Dragon (CR 7, CR 11 and CR 16); Fury Dragon (CR 8, CR 12 and CR 17); Holocaust Dragon (CR 9, CR 13 and CR 18) and Wrath Dragon (CR 10, CR 14 and CR 19)

Four All new Dragons: Stellar Dragons - Gravity Dragon (CR 8, CR 12 and CR 17); Nebula Dragon (CR 9, CR 13 and CR 18); Pulsar Dragon (CR 10, CR 14 and CR 19) and Supernova Dragon (CR 10, CR 14 and CR 19)

Two All New Dragon Lords: Apocalypse Dragon (CR 25 and CR 30/MR 10) and Infinity Dragon (CR 25 and CR 30/MR 10)

Available at RPGNow.com here!!!

Friday, January 1, 2016

Happy 3rd Birthday Transparency Agenda!





Three year ago it started, and it continues we me still trying to give you the honest realist answers to you gaming and comic publishing questions and answers. Let's hope in 2016 we kick it up a few more notches and make this some thing so amazing! Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

NeoExodus Legendary Tales - Grit for Hire Part 3 Written by Erik Scott de Bie

“Ai!”

Targa slipped on a loose stone, but Freja caught him before he could slide off the little path.

“My gratitude.” He dusted himself off. “We’ll rest a moment, then press on.”

“Fine by me.”

Freja scratched at the blood itching on her neck. With dirt and water, she’d managed to get the worst of it off her face and hands, but the remainder demanded a vigorous scrub in a soapy bath. Until then, it would stick around to remind her—the blood, and also the dagger she’d taken off the Caliban who attacked her. It was good steel—stolen from some long dead adventurer, probably—and if the ambush had taught her nothing, it was that her guns weren’t always the solution.

Against Freja’s judgment and Gryn’s objections, the four of them had set out down a rocky path into the hollow among the mountains. The sun had not yet risen fully beyond the peaks, offering a jagged maze of light and shadow that made the trail ahead treacherous. She’d seen several more trail markings denoting Caliban territory, and she kept her guns handy for an attack.

“It’s not too late to turn back,” Chenoa Gryn said. “Come back after we’ve rested and my power has returned. Until then, my words are just words.”

Targa laughed off the suggestion. “You worry too much, my scholarly friend.” The veteran explorer fairly vibrated with excitement. “The P’Tan will warn of waiting foes.”

“Garrull?” Freja looked up to where the wiry scout lurked on the edge of a cliff, about a dozen paces ahead, keeping just within sight. She remembered the hesitant look he’d given the other P’tan when they left, but he’d gone along with Targa’s instructions.

“Right,” Targa said. “No fear. Our gunslinger protects us.”

In response to the Prymidian’s uncertain look, Freja patted the butt of The Last Word holstered at her hip. She’d worn her half-dozen loaded guns and had plenty of cartridges. That didn’t make his doubts wrong, though. Her bruised neck ached terribly, and she wore plenty of blood already.

“Until your power returns,” she said to Gryn when they started moving again. “You mean no spells until then.”

“Call them spells if you must.” The Prymidian seemed too distracted to offer a derisive scoff. Seeing him nervous made her nervous. “Power flows through the words, but I can only stand so much at a time,” he said. “Try not to get yourself hurt—no more healing until tomorrow.”

“Right.” Freja shrugged. In her experience, every spellslinger in Exodus had a different explanation for how it all worked. One metaphor was as good as another.

It was slow going. About two hours in, as the sun crested the ridge, they had traveled about half a league. Garrull had insisted they move slowly, giving him time to scout ahead. Ancient stone steps cut into the rock made for easy enough going. Targa suggested this was part of an ancient Sorcerer-King’s kingdom, and the crypt—discovered by a previous expedition—might be that of the ruler itself.

“This could be the most significant find in the region in centuries.” Targa opened and closed his hands anxiously. “The name of Targa Voshtet will be known throughout Exodus!”

Freja gave him a nod, but she was barely listening. Instead, she noted all the sprung or disabled traps in their path: a tripwire here, a deadfall there, and the like. Once, they skirted around a pit set at the bottom with rusty knives thrust hilt-first into the thick dirt. She assumed Garrull had disarmed these hazards before they arrived, but it made her wonder.

“All this to protect a tomb?” she asked.

Targa shrugged. “The party that discovered the crypt thought it might have some religious significance to these savages. A place of worship, perhaps.”

“If it’s so important to them”—Freja glanced around—“why haven’t we seen any sentries?”

“Perhaps our P’tan is simply that effective,” Targa said. “No corpses, though.”

“Exactly.” Freja kept one hand on the butt of her favorite gun. The Last Word reassured her.

They came to a cavern opening, which was covered over with a network of tree branches, stones, and rusted metal. It was crude, but looked solid. Someone didn’t want them to go inside. Garrull perched on a stone next to it, looking puzzled. Targa’s face brightened.

“This is it,” he said. “The entrance!”

“Why seal it, if they go in there to pray?” Gryn asked.

Freja bit her lip. She’d been thinking the same thing.

Targa waved away the objection. He drew a necklace hung with rubies out of his shirt—a piece of jewelry Freja had noticed several times before—and plucked one of the stones from its gold strand, which promptly corroded away and disintegrated as though it had never been. He held the stone between his thumb and forefinger. It glowed with inner power.

“I’d stand back, were I you,” he said.

Targa flicked the stone at the gate. It struck with a soft plink, then erupted in a concussive blast of flame that blew the barrier off the cave entrance. Freja had instinctively covered her ears, and she looked up as the smoke cleared to see Targa smiling wildly, Garrull hissing like a spooked cat, and Gryn wiping dust from his face and glaring at their employer.

“I am certain no one heard that,” the Prymidian said.

Targa beamed. “I’ll go first, if you’re worried.” He pulled a torch from his pack along with a flint. “Lady Gunslinger, you follow next. You can shoot whatever pounces on me.”

“Fair enough.” Freja double-checked The Last Word’s cartridge before she followed him.

Beyond the destroyed barrier, the yawning cave led down along a tunnel reinforced with relatively fresh wood buttresses. The sunlight dropped away after three steps, so Targa lit the torch and swept it through the dusty gloom. Garrull followed them, his feline P’Tan eyes glittering. Gryn came last, a hooded lantern held up high. It shone with much better light than Targa’s smoldering torch.

About a dozen steps into the darkness, they encountered a series of spider-webs heavy with dust. No one had come this way in quite some time. The tunnel had still partly collapsed, it seemed, and Freja had to squeeze through a tight spot to follow Targa at one point. Gryn, with his big Prymidian frame, barely made it. As they went, Freja noted the mark of picks and axes on the walls, and she saw burn shadows around piles of rubble. If she had to guess, she would have pegged this as a former excavation site. Targa had apparently guessed her thoughts, because he chose that moment to speak.

“The explorers who discovered this cave brought a healthy supply of explosives to aid in the excavation,” he said. “They got a certain distance in, before Caliban attacks made them call it off.”

“You knew about the Calibans?” Freja asked. “And you didn’t warn us?”

He gave her a sour look over his shoulder. “I warned our sentries, and they warned us about the attack before it befell. I expected you to perform, and you did so--admirably. What’s the problem?”

“No complaints, sir.” Freja bit her tongue. Targa seemed supremely indifferent to the death of one of his own--she doubted he would respond well to the reminder. Perhaps it was for the best nothing had passed between them.

Somewhere ahead, Freja heard rushing water. She’d glimpsed a waterfall up the mountain, which she had assumed fed a small lake at the base of the rocks. Maybe there was some sort of underground river in the mountain.

“Almost there—ah.” Targa held the torch aloft, and the muddy light showed a smooth straight line cut along the floor. A smile brightened his face. “We’ve found it.”

The tunnel emerged through a hole into a smooth chamber about ten paces on a side cut out of the stone. Two massive pillars in the middle of the room vanished up into the darkness. Freja made out movement in the far corner of the room: a waterfall sparkling in Targa’s torchlight. The stone had broken away in some sort of collapse, and now a waterfall raged through the chamber down a wide gap into the depths. It was the river she’d heard before, though it seemed particularly fast and precipitous. Dust choked the room, trailing from thick cobwebs in the corners of the chamber. It lay so thick on the pillars and some sort of object in the middle of the room, it resembled sheets of white silk.

Targa held the torch aloft, making something sparkle to life in the shadows behind him. Freja drew her gun in surprise before she realized the source of the light: engraved and inlaid designs and runes that traced the walls, revealing a haunting forest of faces and claws looming around them. Fortunately, they did not spring to life and attack.

“Beautiful, isn’t it?” Targa asked. “Look at the artifice!”

“Right.” Freja holstered the gun but kept her hand on the butt.

The P’Tan, who padded into the room after her, looked even more nervous than she felt, offering a faint whine that drew out like a nervous breath. The way he held himself, Freja almost thought the place caused him physical pain just by his presence.

Chenoa Gryn was the last through the hole in the wall, and he looked up at the walls and pillars with genuine interest. “These markings are old,” he said. “Definitely dating from the time of the Sorcerer-Kings, if not before. Yes.” He ran his hand along the wall. “Ancient. Primordial.”

“What came before the Sorcerer-Kings?” Freja asked, shedding her pack.

“The First Ones, of course.” Gryn looked at her as at a child asking a very stupid question.

“Fascinating, yes.” Targa moved deeper into the room, casting around the torch. “Can you read them? Gather any hint about this place? ”

The Prymidian frowned. “It would take some time and study,” he said. “These runes here--they resemble old protection wards. I’d learn more if I had any of my power to call.”

“They haven’t immolated us yet,” Targa said. “Whatever warded this place, it’s long dead--probably when the chamber broke open.”

Freja wasn’t too sure. She didn’t feel alone in this place.

Targa had moved into the center of the room, where his oily light exposed a massive stone block, like an altar to some ancient deity. It looked like a piece of the mountain itself, shorn off by some unfathomable power from deep in the earth. It resonated with power: Freja felt warm and tingly just being near it. By contrast, Targa approached as though invited, reaching out to touch the dark stone.

Every instinct in Freja screamed at her to stop him. “Wait—”

Targa brushed cobwebs away from the black stone and laid his hand on it. “It’s warm,” he said. “Something . . .” His words trailed off as his whole body convulsed, jerked taught as though stabbed.

“Voshtet?” Gryn asked.

The explorer made no reply. His brown face had gone pale. A web of red light spread across the stone outward from his hand, growing wider and more complex as he lost more and more of his color.

Garrull reached for his master, but Gryn held him back. “Touch him and you’ll be caught too!”

With a groan, Targa fell back, shivering and pale, into Gryn’s arms. Whatever it had taken from him remained, continuing to spread across the stone slab. The lines of light crossed over and around one another, forming a spider’s web of crimson veins. The light spread until it encompassed the entirety of the black stone, which became a brilliantly shining star in the center of the chamber.

Then the light suddenly vanished, leaving them alone and dazzled in the dark chamber.

Garrull growled low. Eyes gradually adjusting, Freja leveled her guns on the stone she could only partially see. The world slowed around her as she focused.

Nothing happened, and nothing continued to happen for several long breaths. The stone slab stood in the center of the chamber, as unremarkable as before.

Targa coughed. “You see?” He stood up shakily and reclaimed his fallen torch where it guttered on the floor. “Nothing to be concerned about.” He took a step toward the slab. “We—”

The slab abruptly shattered like glass, sending shards of black stone flying in all directions. Freja managed to duck behind a pillar and pull her coat over her face, stopping the worst of it. Stone shrapnel bounced off the pillar and cut through the thick leather. Garrull cried out in pain, and she saw him go staggering past, clutching at blood trickling from his cut open torso. Chenoa Gryn loosed a grunt of pain, and she heard Targa make a strangled noise that made her blood run cold. She whirled around the pillar.

What she saw made her hands tremble.

A creature stood amongst the ruin of the stone slab: a woman taller than most men, all jet black flesh stretched over wiry muscle and sinew. A silver circlet sat atop her bald head but otherwise she was naked, and she looked not at all inconvenienced by that fact. Targa Voshtet stood—or, rather, hung in the air next to her, dangling from her left hand that was thrust through his chest like a pin through an insect. Blood flowed from his mouth and his eyes had rolled up to the whites.

“Ex—”Gryn was slumped against the wall, obviously hurt. “Exodite—”

Why hadn’t Freja fired? Why was she hesitating?

With a maniac howl, Garrull leaped at the woman, blades extended, but she casually reached up with her free hand and caught him by the throat. As Freja watched in horror, she squeezed with seemingly no effort, and his head popped off his body like a grape from a stem, blood showering.

The woman dropped both corpses and stared wordlessly at Freja as though at a curious butterfly she had not noticed before. She smiled like a predator, revealing a set of jagged white teeth.

Freja squeezed the triggers, and her pistols resounded loudly in the mountain crypt. But the woman was gone—vanished into the darkness before the bullets could find their mark.

Freja slammed a fresh cartridge into the Last Word.

Hot breath fell upon Freja’s neck, making it tingle. She started to turn, but the Exodite caught her neck and gun wrist in a grip like iron. Freja’s bones felt like they would shatter.

“Thank you, child,” the woman said, in a voice like grinding boulders.

Freja palmed the pistol in her left sleeve and fired right into the Exodite’s face.

With an inhuman shriek, the creature lifted Freja and hurled her bodily across the chamber into the waterfall. She crunched against the stone and started to fall, her arm smashing into the lip of the chamber.

Then she was sliding down through dark water.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

NeoExodus Legendary Tales - Grit for Hire Part 2 Written by Erik Scott de Bie

Freja knew guns, leather, and violence—not horses. She would be the first to admit as much.

She and her stallion had got to know each other fairly well over the last fortnight’s worth of travel, and they didn’t like each other one bit. As the sun dipped into the horizon behind them, casting long shadows from the mountain peaks at their back, the stallion tried again to shake off its cold, hungry, and grumpy rider. Freja clutched hard to the reins and cursed the day she was born, the day this beast was born, and every day in between. Fortunately, the dashing leader of their little venturing party was on hand to grab the bridle and keep the cursed animal from hurling her into the gulley to a crushing death on the rocks below.

“Whoa,” he said, hands raised to calm the horse. “He is this way all day?”

“Just about.” The gunslinger glared down at the stallion’s eye. He was skittish about something—the strange striations of brownish orange on the rock wall she had noticed a few paces back, maybe? Or else he just disliked her as much as she disliked him. “Spiteful bastard.”

Her employer smiled wryly up at her. “I doubt he means harm.”

Freja scowled at the horse. “Oh certainly, take his side.”

They’d traveled several days, by boat on the Abaddon River and on foot, to the far corner of the Protectorate, where the Broken Cliffs of the eastern coastline met with the mountains of the Highlands to the south. Few could say what lay much farther, and Freja had to admit being in the unexplored frontier gave her a little tingle of excitement in her belly. That sense of danger just unrevealed, lurking in every shadow—it made her feel alive in a way she rarely felt outside of a gun battle.

The difficult horse had almost ruined the whole experience, though she could look at her employer. The fading sunlight caught the man’s amber eyes, making them sparkle. The dark-skinned Targa Voshtet was an explorer of Dominion heritage—hence the reason he wouldn’t come into town to recruit Freja himself. A vital and energetic man, Targa was nonetheless inclined to reserve, letting others take the lead most of the time. For instance, he’d spent every night by the fire taking notes while Chenoa Gryn regaled the little group with tales. The Prymidian had spoken of the Protectorate’s past, its various wars, and the Sorcerer-Kings of old. Freja had hardly listened, spending most of her time imagining Targa warming her bedroll. It hadn’t happened yet, but Freja was ever optimistic, despite the hurdles. Even now, as their hands touched briefly on the reins, and Freja could feel the little shock where he went from confident to a little uneasy.

Their shared gaze lingered a little too long, prompting Gryn’s bemused snort. Always watching, the damn Prymidian proved as much a barrier to getting what she wanted as Targa’s inherent shyness. “Work up any more magic there, you two,” he said, “and you’re apt to summon the shade of Sineath Abadas or perhaps Ruon Dondun.”

Targa’s cheeks flushed red and he hastened back toward the fire, leaving Freja fuming.

“Now you’re just making up names,” she said as she climbed down from her horse, refusing his proffered hand. Dismounting was an awkward thing, but Freja had the trick of it now, and she was a graceful woman anyway. “Besides. I’ve never seen a Sorcerer-King. Have you?”

“ ’Twas seven centuries and forty years before Unification that the last of the Sorcerer-Kings reigned over this place, but yet does their power linger,” Gryn said. “Be wary.”

“Right you are, red man.” Freja gave him a mock salute. Her other hand gripped the handle of The Last Word quite hard. “Right you are.”

They’d ventured the treacherous passes of the mountains for the last day, and finally laid camp near an old cave on a rocky plateau overlooking a canyon between steep mountain slopes. Trail sign—three rocks mounted atop each other—pointed the place out, and Targa explained to Freja this meant explorers had come this way before and scouted out the location. No doubt she could have convinced him to follow her into the cave for a bit, but the call came for the evening meal, ruining their moment.

The camp was small and thus crowded. Ten had set out from Mavra initially, though only eight remained after one of the porters took sick and a slip down a rocky slope had broken the neck of another. Freja couldn’t remember all their names: faceless sword-swingers or beasts of burden, the lot of them. At least the two cat-like P’Tan hunters Targa had recruited displayed some use, shooting rabbit or deer with their keen arrows and feeding the party quite well along the journey. They looked so alike that at first she had thought them brother and sister—litter mates? That lasted until she had chanced to see them in the woods, engaged in rather amorous activities. She supposed it was better not to know.

For her part, Freja had proven herself many times, with flawless marksmanship and keen eyes, and they hadn’t lost a single porter to beasts or bandits. She rather wished Chenoa Gryn had met an accident on the road, if only to spare her the sight of his smirk or his ridiculously long beard.

“Tomorrow,” Targa said over the sizzling meat on the spit, “I will lead a small party, setting forth on foot. Our ranks consist of me, wise Chenoa, bold Freja, and—” He pointed at the male P’Tan.

“The name you . . . gave me . . . is Garrull,” he said in halting Common. He sounded very serious.

“Yes. Garrull.” Targa smiled. “Rest well, for tomorrow we unlock the secrets of the ancients!”

In an hour, when their small party bedded down for the night, Freja found herself lying awake, gazing at Targa and Gryn conversing softly by the fire. She’d almost convinced herself to make another attempt on the expedition leader, but then her bedroll finally became comfortable. She drew out Milka’s projector and looked at her tiny, ridiculous image. She smiled.

As she drifted off, she thought of those markings she’d seen on the stone. Like clawmarks leaving trails of old blood . . .

#

She came awake smoothly—the beneficiary of many such experiences—with a hand over her mouth. A pair of yellow green eyes burned at her, like fire caught within green amber, the pupils slits like those of a cat. The P’tan blended so well into the darkness, Freja would have doubted her own eyes were it not for the catwoman’s body pressed over hers to keep her still.

“You’re the female scout,” Freja said. “The one whose name I don’t know.”

The eyes narrowed. “It’s—”

“I didn’t ask.” The gunslinger tapped her pistol against the P’tan’s ribs. “Explain what you’re doing, or I rip you in two.”

The P’tan looked briefly irritated, then grimaced in something like respect. When she spoke, her common was far smoother than Garrull’s had been. “Many foes approach,” she said. “We rouse the camp slowly—do not alert our foes too early.”

“Right. Sensible.” She looked toward the campfire, where Garrull was perched over Targa’s sleeping form. Gryn’s crimson bulk still snored contentedly near the coals. “You said many. How many?”

The P’tan’s eyes glittered in the firelight. “Many.”

Then she was gone, bounding through the darkness to rouse one of the porters, or else secure a defensible spot. Freja attuned her ears to the whistle of the night wind. No birdsong—only the faint rustling of the spindly trees and brush that grew in the wilds deep in the Highlands. She stared at one moonshadow in particular, not entirely sure why it attracted her attention, until it moved, slightly and against the wind. A hunter.

Freja suppressed the urge to draw a bead immediately. If she fired, that would be going loud, and that would steal precious time the others might need to prepare. Instead, she crept slowly out from under her long leather coat, leaving it where she had draped it over herself for warmth, and slipped around the withered log she’d used as a pillow. A rocky slope led around to the rise where she’d seen the shadow, and she moved as quietly as she could. The night wind chilled her exposed skin. Thank the Sanguine Lord the moonlight didn’t catch her: in the desert, she’d have blended in, but in the mountains her flesh might as well be glowing. Perhaps it was the rest of the camp that distracted their stalker, for she got close enough to see without him alerting. The creature had a bow in its thick gray hands, drawn back and pointed directly at the camp—at Freja’s empty coat, in fact.

It was a man of some sort—she could see that—all gray-white skin stretched over rippling muscles and more than a few old, scarred over wounds. His individual parts seemed of decent form, but the total was hideous: a bulbous, bestial thing in the vague shape of a man. A Caliban, she thought. She’d met Kalisans before, and this creature reminded her of them, albeit wilder. Vicious.

From behind, Freja aimed at the spot where heavily muscled neck met distended skull.

A commotion in the camp took them both by surprise. Of a sudden, Chenoa Gryn leaped to his feet, entirely naked, sword in hand, and intoned what Freja thought at first was a warcry.

“Arms!” he said, voice echoing. “Arms, the women and men of whom I speak, who set forth from cursed Ablis—”

That was enough. Freja squeezed the trigger, and a bloody crater appeared in the back of the Caliban’s head. Its arrow flew harmlessly into the sky and its huge body tumbled off the rocky perch.

As the thunder of her shot faded, angry roars filled the hollow where they had set up camp. Three Calibans rushed out of the night, hefting jagged axes and spears, but the explorers were ready for them. A P’tan arrow took one of the brutes in the throat, turning his charge into a stumbling fall.

A second Caliban pounced on one of the porters, driving its spear deep into the man’s gut. The hapless man shrieked and fell to the ground, blood spouting from his mouth. Freja shot that Caliban in the back of the head, and it collapsed over its victim, quivering down into death.

The third Caliban locked steel with Chenoa Gryn, staggering him with its ferocious strength. Targa put his warpick in its leg, but the creature backhanded him away.

She reached for a third pistol when someone hurtled out of the darkness at her back. She spun, her reflexes putting the pistol in line with the charging Caliban’s torso. She squeezed off a shot that blasted blood out of the creature’s side, a hand’s width outside its heart. Not enough. The creature tackled her to the ground with enough force to knock the world out of alignment. More out of luck than skill, Freja twisted her head just in time to avoid the creature’s slavering jaws snapping. That settled any illusions she might have held about the Calibans’ intentions. These things meant to eat them.

The creature wrestled her onto the ground and scrabbled for her neck, choking off air. Freja’s head felt hot and her limbs started to tremble. She discarded her empty, palmed the pistol in her left wrist holster, and fired. At that range, she shouldn’t have missed, but the Caliban smashed her in the face and her whole body jerked to the side, so the shot just grazed the creature’s muscular side. She tried for another gun, but couldn’t reach any of them. The Caliban was choking her, and the world started to turn gray around the edges.

Panic set in.

Freja smashed The Last Word into the Caliban’s ear: it felt weak, but she did it again and the creature shook its head, startled. Then she managed to grab something from its belt—a dagger—and sink it into the gray-white flesh. The Caliban gurgled in surprise, but Freja just kept stabbing. With every blow, the Caliban’s fingers lost a little of their strength, until she could finally breathe again. Eventually, the corpse sagged atop her, and she wriggled free, panting and smeared in gore.

There was one Caliban still up, at the center of the camp. It was on one knee, howling in pain, and Targa finished it with a brutal rising chop to the chin that made Freja cringe despite herself.

That was all, then: five Calibans dead, one porter screaming in agony. The other two porters knelt beside him, one trying to soothe him and the other scrambling to bandage the wound. Gryn joined them, speaking in soothing words about the bravery of Arman barbarians who faced far worse wounds at the hands of decadent sorcerer kings. As he spoke, power flowed through him into the man, slowing the bleeding and rejoining the torn skin.

“That’s some good speechifying,” Freja said to the Prymidian.

“Bard.” Gryn had no smile for her just then. “You look afright. You need healing?”

She shook her head. “Mostly bled all over me,” she said.

“These will bruise.” Grin touched her cheek and neck, making her wince. “See to Voshtet.”

Freja might have objected, but he was already reciting another soothing speech to channel more healing. She noticed three reddish hash marks painted across the nearest Caliban corpse’s face, and realized she’d seen the same thing the day before. This was their territory.

She joined the leader of their party where he stood at the edge of the little cliff, gazing down into the gap between the mountains. The sun was just creeping over the horizon, making his deep brown skin glow a kind of russet gold. He was distractingly beautiful just then.

“Targa,” she said. “Are you hurt? What’s wrong?”

“Am I hurt? You’re the one covered in blood.”

Freja shrugged. “Didn’t get any on my coat.”

“Well, get cleaned up.” He nodded. “It’s time.”

Freja frowned. “Time for what?”

He turned a dazzling smile on her. “To press on,” he said. “Right when our blood is up.”

Freja cleared her throat. “One of the men is badly injured, we’re in Caliban territory, and we don’t know what would be waiting down there.”

“I know. Terribly exciting, isn’t it?” Targa looked at the others clustered around the wounded man. “I won’t have our expedition ended because of this. We’ll get him home, yes, but not before we give the crypt at least one attempt. That’s what I’m paying for, isn’t it?”

Freja wanted to argue, but the fire in his eyes burned too hot. Finally she nodded. “As you will,” she said, despite the unsettled feeling in her gut. “You’re the boss.”

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Your Christmas Present a little bit early - Alchemy Tracking Sheet

For you fans of Pathfinder Roleplaying Game who like to play Alchemist and update to Sean K Reynolds, game designer original Alchemy Tracking Sheet. Pick up your copy at Louis Porter Jr. Design  website: www.neoexodus.com. Enjoy!

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Saturday, December 19, 2015

Image Portfolio gets a make over and new friends...

Just a little something I am working on. Updating our original Image Portfolio logo and getting it more in line with more product lines that are similar. Those looking to publish gaming materials have more options to make great looking products. Enjoy!



Wednesday, December 16, 2015

NeoExodus Legendary Tales - Grit for Hire Part 1 Written by Erik Scott de Bie

The gunslinger made a face as she unbuttoned her leather jerkin. “No self-respecting gunslinger would ever dress like this on the job.”

“Not like that. Here.” Milka Bronislaw shook back her unbound crimson hair and leaned in to button the top of Freja’s jerkin whilst leaving the middle one undone, revealing a generous stretch of sandy bosom. “Don’t move—hold that pose. Remember you’re selling a fantasy, not reality.”

“Hrm.” Freja Ilyanovka tried not to stare while the machinesmith fiddled with her buttons. She adjusted her fingers around the grip of the pistols she held out wide. She raised her right leg high enough that her skirt slipped, revealing a hint of lace. “You’re the pretty one. I just carry the guns.”

Ignoring that, Milka stepped back to look her over critically. She reached down and pulled Freja’s hat lower over her face, then returned to the crackling apparatus at the edge of her smithy.

“So this does, what?” Freja asked, decidedly uncomfortable. “Makes an instant portrait?”

“Something like that.” Milka turned a dial on the device, making it whir to life. “Hold still.”

“Hrm.” Freja eyed the crackling energies dubiously. “But if this lightnings me, I’m blaming you.”

Milka placed her hand on the device, and the machine uttered a rising hum that built painfully to make Freja wince. She bit her lip, trying not to break her pose. If she didn’t need the coin, she never would have agreed to this, old friendships notwithstanding. Dazzling light made Freja leap aside out of pure instinct. Heart hammering, she danced behind the cover of a massive vat of some viscous liquid.

“Ooh, an action pose!” Milka wound the machine down, and the whining hum died away. She looked at Freja with a nonplussed expression. “Jumpy, are you?”

“Oh, very nice.” The gunslinger slid her weapons back into their holsters. “Did it work?”

“Let’s see.” Steam erupted form the device, and Milka removed her hand daintily. In her palm was a square of metal about the size of a Protectorate crown. “Exceptional.”

“That’s it?” Freja asked. “I hope?”

“Not hardly!”

Milka turned the raised edge of the object, creating an eight-pointed star. Orange light shimmered above her hand, forming into an image of Freja, leaping, her two guns held out wide, her half-buttoned shirt straining. She looked fantastic.

Milka beamed. “Who wouldn’t want to hire that?”

Freja’s eyes widened. “That’s . . . I don’t even know what to say.”

“Say you’ll buy it.” With her too-perfect teeth, the machinesmith’s smile was almost as dazzling as the machine. “Leave one of these at every inn, and you’ll have dozens of commissions in no time.” She cranked the dial once more, and another chit slid out of the machine, identical to the first. “Once the device has captured an image, it can duplicate it as much as I want. Provided the proper materials, of course.” Her eyes lit up. “A few hundred crowns each should suffice.”

“Hrm.” Freja felt at her hollow coin pouch. “I thought you were paying me to test this.”

“Oh.” Milka’s face fell. “Well, coin’s a bit tight at the moment . . .”

“Of course it is.” Freja sighed.

#

A few drinks later at the Raider’s Bounty, the tension had evaporated, and they were laughing like the old friends they were. “Will you forgive me?” Milka sounded tipsy. “I’ll get the next round?”

“I will,” Freja said. “If you keep ‘em coming.”

The machinesmith levered herself to her feet and staggered toward the bar, leaving Freja shaking her head with a bemused smile on her face. Milka had paid Freja with one of the chits produced, keeping the other for demonstration purposes. She’d laughed off the setback, saying she would rethink some things. The woman moved from project to project, never seeming to worry about the failures. She was a legitimately good person, if given to naiveté and not always thinking things through. Freja envied her that sense of security—she’d known from an early age that her own life would never be so simple.

The two red-haired women looked a bit odd in an Arman Protectorate tavern. With her fair skin, Milka at least looked similar to an Arman at a distance, but the bright green eyes and burning desire for order and structure gave her away as a Nasian émigré. Freja remembered Milka with straw-colored hair, but she’d dyed it crimson to—ironically—make her less distinctive. For Freja’s part, her mother had been quite the traveler, bequeathing a mixed heritage to her firstborn daughter. A Khymerion father had gifted Freja with reddish eyes and sandy skin, and of course her own fiery red hair. Her half-brother Oleg was a full blooded Arman, and their little sister . . . well. Freja was thinking about herself now.

Freja was toying with the chit, turning it over and over on the table, when her neck prickled in warning, the way it did when things were about to go bad. She might have had a few drinks, but she still had her wits, and she knew not to put her back to the door. Thus, she watched as the big, red-skinned Prymidian came in. Naked to the waist, he had a wiry muscular build and a long silver beard, and he boasted a contemptuous smirk to match the reputation of his race. He wore a sword at his waist and a bow strung across his back and he fixed his eyes directly on her. Wonderful.

After surveying it all with a dismissive sniff, the Prymidian made his way to Freja’s table and plopped down in the chair across from her. He spoke in the Common tongue without a hint of an accent. Damn Prymidians and their mastery of language. “You are the gunslinger Freja Ilyanovka, yes?”

“Depends.” Over his shoulder, Milka was looking at her with wide eyes and two tankards in her hands. Freja shook her head slightly. She had this. “Who’s asking?”

“I am Chenoa Gryn,” he said. “I wish to hire you for a job.”

“That was bloody quick.” Freja tapped the machinesmith chit on the table and glanced around.

Gryn’s arrival had not gone unnoticed, as Freja expected he had intended. Prymidians were as likely to hail from the Dominion to the west as the southern parts of the Protectorate, and the two countries were always at war to some extent. Not to mention that more Prymidians had been appearing in recent decades in the south, creating tension. Several of the other patrons in the tavern were tossing him the dirty eye: cultural prejudices never really slept, especially in an out-of-the-way town like Mavra. Freja should have been just as suspicious—and she was—but honestly, she needed coin more.

“What kind of job?” she asked at length.

Gryn narrowed his eyes. “The kind for which my employer thinks you will be suited.”

“Your employer,” Freja said. “Not you.”

“I reserve judgment.” Gryn crossed his arms over his broad chest. “Should you wish to prove yourself, do so now.”

Smoothly, Freja drew her guns and laid them on the table. The first was a simple starter pistol—useful, nothing special—but the second she particularly loved. She’d got it from a machinesmith in Mureath for four hundred crowns and a roll in the hay (though that was for her own satisfaction). The Last Word, she’d had engraved along the barrel, which was always what this pistol gave her.

Gryn nodded in mute approval. “I knew you had those.”

She touched Last Word’s barrel. “Did you know I had this one pointed at your groin from the moment you walked through those doors?”

“I might have advised aiming for my head.” Gryn’s mouth quirked up at the end. “Weapons alone are not enough. Tell me about yourself.”

“Maybe I’d rather talk about you,” Freja said. “For instance, why you came to me unarmored, wearing a sword you obviously rarely draw, and slung with a bow you don’t have the calluses for. You have the hands of a laborer but the skin of a dandy.”

“How perceptive,” he said. “Can you hazard a guess what it all means?”

“You’re certainly not a warrior,” she said. “Perhaps you’re a . . . scholar of some kind?”

That made Gryn smile wide. “Worse,” he said. “I know a little about everything, and I talk about it in great detail. I tell sweeping epics of the vast, forgotten history of Exodus, the conclusion of which leaves my audience weeping tears of joy and sorrow.”

“So you’re a bard. Wonderful.” Freja shook her head. “You’re here alone, so you’re either extremely brave or foolhardy. Both, perhaps.” She nodded at the purse attached to his belt. “You don’t have nearly enough coin to afford me, unless you’re paying in something more valuable than crowns.”

He opened the pouch and poured the contents on the tabletop between them: a collection of small, sparkling gemstones. Rubies, fire agates, pale sapphires—even an amethyst. Freja would hardly call herself an expert, but she estimated their worth as much more than their weight in silver.

“So the coin is there, the job is solid,” Freja said. “Is there something else?”

Gryn adopted a contemplative expression. “But even the greatest, most noble of women and men have been undone by greed and their own desire for showmanship,” he said. “Witness.”

Not philosophical at all, but practical. Other eyes had fallen upon their interaction, and when the gemstones appeared, that scrutiny became action. There were four of them: two rough-and-tumble Arman fellows who looked one empty belly away from becoming vagabonds, an itchy looking, knife-wielding tiefling—or Gevet, as they called themselves—who licked his lips as he slinked toward them, and a wide-eyed killer holding a crossbow in one unsettlingly steady hand.

“Consider this another test!” Gryn said in a loud, boisterous voice, right before he plucked up a tankard and hurled it. Ale and ceramic shards exploded in the face of the woman with the crossbow. It spoiled her aim, but she didn’t loose in surprise. A professional, then. Wonderful.

Freja leaped out of her chair up onto the table, even as one of the lumbering hulks lurched for her from behind. She rolled over the table, scooping up her pistols as she went—too bad she didn’t have a third hand to grab those stones, too—and came up with a full-force whip to the tiefling’s face. The wiry creature managed to twist with the attack, so she only caught him a glancing blow on the cheek, but it was still enough to send him staggering back.

She heard the smack of flesh on flesh and saw Gryn elbowing one of the men in the throat. He was reciting some epic poem in a language she didn’t know, but First Ones be Burned if she didn’t feel oddly inspired. It was all too chaotic to be credible.

The big brute she’d dodged before came lumbering around the table, but Freja danced nimbly out of his grasp, the skirt of her duster fluttering through his fingers as she landed up on the table. She trained her favorite gun on his face, and his dark eyes went wide. She saw glinting metal past his shoulder, however—the crossbow-wielder lining up a shot—and fired even as Freja threw herself to the side. A quarrel slashed past her face, and she heard it rip through the trailing edge of her leather coat. The aim was off, because the woman had flinched behind cover as she loosed.

Unfortunately, in the distraction the big man got hold of Freja’s feet and held her flat on the table. The tiefling loomed over her with some sort of scythe-bladed axe.

It wasn’t just a brawl any more—it was kill or die. Her kind of fight.

Freja trained her starter pistol down along her trapped leg and fired blind, making blood spatter her legs and hand. The man roared in pain and the pressure vanished, letting her roll aside just in time to avoid the axe head that buried itself in the table. If either of her pistols had been loaded, she might have shot the tiefling in his face as he sneered down at her. Instead, she whipped him again, this time splattering his nose across his cheek. He sagged backward, blood trailing, and hit the floor with a groan.

This bought Freja a moment, and she looked past her feet to see Chenoa Gryn pounding the blood from the face of the other big man who had accosted them. The Prymidian wore a dazzling, red smile as he told of a mighty fray, punctuating each punch with the name of a great hero of Exodus legend. Freja caught only bits and pieces of the tale, but it was a stirring one.

Her two opponents dealt with, Freja rolled right and dropped her pistols in favor of another pair in her sleeves, which she fired in quick succession in the direction of the crossbow wielder, who had just peeked out from behind cover. Splinters exploded from the common room pillar, along with a string of curses from the woman behind it. Things had not gone as she planned.

“What’s a matter, lovely?” Crouching, Freja set down those pistols on the table and drew the third pair slung across the small of her back. “Outgunned?”

“Burn you, you—uuuutttt!” The woman’s words cut off in a teeth-chattering shock, and her body went taut as a wire. She fell sideways out from behind the pillar, her crossbow clattering to the floorboards. Freja covered her for a breath, then drew a bead on the pillar she’d used for cover.

Milka Bronislaw stepped out from behind the pillar, energies crackling around the analyzer on her left arm. “By the Blood,” she said. “I didn’t know it’d do that, exactly.”

“Hrm.” Freja glanced around the tavern, but no one else seemed inclined to test them just now. She slid the guns back into their holsters and set to reloading her discarded weapons.

Meanwhile, Gryn had finally finished pummeling the single attacker. He looked around, and saw that she had dispatched two on her own, and a third with help. He smiled—an expression made grotesque considering the gore on his face. “Not bad,” the Prymidian said. “For a human.”

Freja slid a fresh cartridge into The Last Word. “When and where do I meet you?” she asked.

“Dawn tomorrow. Pack for a long journey.” He nodded to her guns. “Bring all of those.”

“Always,” Freja said.

The Prymidian left, and Freja sat down, The Last Word set on the table before her, and waved for another drink. She waved for Milka to join her. The groans of the wounded serenaded them.

“I have a bad feeling about this,” Milka said. “You’ll be careful, right?”

Her hand around the reassuring weight of her gun, Freja drew her hat down low over her eyes.

“Always.”

Monday, December 14, 2015

Are you really supporting 3rd Party Publisher of Pathfinder?

Pathfinder fans you would think after getting nearly 20 3PP for Pathfinder together to work on a Kickstarter I would be getting more love from the gaming press. But it looks like Known Direction, EN World, The Escapist, Geekdad, Nearly Enough Dice and Geek Native have missed the initial boat on this. We sent out press releases for nearly two months straight to them with our upcoming kickstarter Crisis of the World Eater and release. I told them it was inspired from Dc Comics Crisis on Infinite Earths meets Marvel Comics Ultimate Galactus Story! You know what I heard from them? Nothing. Silence. Cricket sounds.

Why? I’m not sure. We have received great coverage from sites like Roleplayers Chronicle and GMS Magazine who understood how amazing and difficult this would be. They treated us like were we family. But those other news site? Just absolute silence. The reason I think this is weird because we have been able to give away over 1,000 copies of our prequel adventure, Crisis of the World Eater Prequel: A Warning Too Late. Even more interesting is that we received a 5 stars + seal of approval from Endzeigst (the most prolific review of Pathfinder RPG material) and all I hear from these “news sites” is a whole bunch of nothing. That sad part is that I am used to to it now.

That is why we are doing the Crisis of the World Eater kickstarter for the fans of Pathfinder. Because, we want you to be as excited as we are when we pick up the dice to see if we make that save to see if your character lives or dies. We are doing Crisis of the World Eater to make sure you can have the most fun possible with the gaming systems that keeps on thriving. We want you to tell stories about Crisis of the World Eater like you talk about playing the Jade Regent or Reign of WInter adventure path. I want the support of those who want more amazing adventures to play for Pathfinder. Doesn’t it sound reasonable to support someone who supports you?

Transparency Agenda 96: #Two Hidden Projects And Something I am Reading