Jul 272015

I’m back! It’s been a while. Mostly because the first half of 2015 has been overwhelming. I may talk about that at some later point, but right now, I’m more interested in talking about the present and the future.

One of the most transformative things that the Fate Core KS made possible for Evil Hat was the addition of Sean Nittner as our project manager. With Sean’s oversight and schedule-wrangling, Evil Hat has managed to run dozens of projects simultaneously at its peak. Combined with bringing in Chris Hanrahan to focus on business development and Carrie Harris for marketing, our output over the past two years has been well in excess of the 7 years or so prior. And it shows.

Sean’s role, bringing process formality and much stronger schedule management for Evil Hat, is a big deal, giving us a big step up over business as it used to be. Frankly, I was pretty crappy as a project manager, and when I was the primary guy doing the company-running stuff, it meant that any number of things had a tendency to stagnate. Two years later, stagnation is pretty rare, and the Fate Core product line is a testimony to how well the new way of things has been going.

As the company has grown, my ability to really pay attention to or drive all of the things has diminished — we may be doing more, but my personal supply of time hasn’t suddenly turned up with an extra day of the week. This also means I’ve been delegating more. And that’s where some problems have started to creep back in — I’ve had a tendency to talk to the executive staff (Chris, Carrie, Sean, and Rob), identifying issues I’m seeing or directions the company should consider, while also saying “but I’m not the guy to do that.”

Often as not that’s lead to an idea or direction seeing some discussion, but with nobody actually making sure that folks take up their possible respective parts and run with them. (Remember: Fred is a bad project manager.) It’s taken a while for us to realize that that’s a pattern, but now we have, and that means we can start addressing the problem. (The savvy reader might recognize that this is how our improvements tend to go — some variable amount of time to recognize a problematic pattern, and then once it’s seen, we go after it aggressively.)

Towards that end, we’re making a move this month to shift the executive organization (“The Head” as I’ve come to call it) away from its current “committee style” arrangement and into something a bit more explicitly hierarchical—something I’ve honestly resisted in the past because at heart I’m a collaborator rather than a leader. But with that reluctance in mind, we’re continuing to discuss matters as we always have. End of the day, the new hierarchy is here to make sure the authority (and responsibility) to assign tasks is as clear as possible — which in part is as much for me, to make sure I remember that it’s my job to tell people what they need to go do. But it’s also for everyone else, so when something needs to run up the chain, it’s clear that there’s actually a chain and where it goes.

With that in mind, we’re putting Chris Hanrahan squarely in the role of Vice President, with a mission to make sure all that stuff happens at the top of the company, as a mirror of what Sean has been doing for our project teams. He’ll be making sure that we’re communicating well and clearly with each other, that emerging issues are not only caught but acted on, and that all executive tasks are getting assigned and done.

This goes hand in hand with Chris’s already-current role as the Head of Business Development for the company — he’ll be pursuing new business opportunities, attending trade shows, and riding shotgun on a variety of our business activities.

It also means he’ll be holding me accountable for the stuff I need to be doing — delegating where I should, making clear requests of the Head and the company instead of my past fire-and-forget pattern, and so on.

Going forward we’re also working on getting project and marketing assistants in place for Sean and Carrie; they’ve received the brunt of my prior delegating, and it’s got them both loaded up pretty full. Ah, growth! It always comes with greater burdens.

So what’s it look like, now? This:

Org Chart

In day to day practice Evil Hat is still operating as it has been over the past two years… but much like Sean transformed the company over that timeframe, we expect to see some positive results of this new change, at the top, over the next two.

Exciting times!

Dec 012014

The difference between good game and good product is something we’ve been focusing on at Evil Hat over the past couple years. This is a tricky space, and some folks make the (faulty) assumption that they’re one and the same. A game can be excellent in its design but still fall down as a product, a thing to be sold, bought, and consumed.

Putting a finger on what fills the gap between game and product is tricky stuff, so I asked the folks of the Head (those who help me run the Hat) to quantify it as much as they could. That’s what follows, below. The lion’s share of this comes from Chris Hanrahan, no shock.

The product should solve a problem for the market without creating new ones.

The product should be at a good (competitive vs. its peers) price while still paying people decent wages to produce them.

The product should have good shelf appeal (clear identity, attention-grabbing, aesthetically pleasing) from all sides and all angles (top-down, edge-on, full-front, backside, etc) as much as possible.

The product should explain itself, and it should help you explain it to others. (Imagine the product as a person, meeting the reader for the first time, and it’s love at first sight. How would our product-person explain itself to that reader?)

Good UI throughout the experience (presentation/layout/reading-experience of rules set, board, cards, etc)

Attractive hand-feel (size, weight, finish) where appropriate.

There may well be more to it, but that’s the list we’re “starting” with. What’s on your list?

cross-posted with Google Plus! https://plus.google.com/+FredHicks/posts/RyW5kU5kzzU

Nov 052014

The gaps are where we’ll talk! Or I’ll catch as catch can. Or eat empanadas. Or, I dunno, get some much-needed rest. Forget about it, Jake — it’s Metatopia!

(If you’re attending and want a chunk of my time, let me know!)

Every Day

Rob is a strong believer in breakfast each morning as a time for hanging out with folks and having all the needed conversations. I am a strong believer in following his lead. You should be too!


Rob and I probably arrive midday/mid-afternoon, and hang out and talk extensively with whoever’s available for it. The whole con is, on purpose, open/schedule free this day, but that doesn’t make it any less important. Great time to network, meet folks, talk about the weekend ahead, maybe play some pick-up stuff.


  • 9AM-11AM: R093 – [BETA TEST] “Terra Incognita” presented by Vivian Abraham. (Going into this knowing nothing, which is a great way to start Metatopia.)
  • 11AM-1PM: Open! I eat!
  • 1PM-2PM: *D015 – “Self-Publishing 101” presented by Joseph Bloch & Fred Hicks.
  • 3PM-4PM: *D019 – “Planning Your Crowdfunding Campaign” presented by Joseph Bloch, Fred Hicks, Kevin W. Kulp & Joshua A. C. Newman.
  • 4PM-6PM: Open! I eat!
  • 6PM-8PM: R190 – [BETA TEST] “HYPERREALITY” by Brooklyn Indie Games; presented by Tim Rodriguez. (Last time I played this completely mental/gonzo near-future reality TV game, I had a blast. Rock the Boat! *guitar riff*)
  • 8PM-10PM: R225 – [BETA TEST] “Noir World” by The Writer Next Door; presented by John Adamus. (Salivating. Mainly for John’s delicious brainmeats, but sure, the game too.)
  • 10PM-midnight: R247 – R247: [BETA TEST] “Fate Divergent” by Magpie Games; presented by Mark Diaz Truman. (Super interested to see this Fate hack in action!)


  • 9AM-10AM: [FOCUS GROUP] “Medias Res” presented by Vivian Abraham. (Storytelling card game. Yes please!)
  • 10AM-11AM: “Worldbuilding Mechanics” presented by Cam Banks, Fred Hicks & Jason Pitre.
  • 11AM-1PM: [BETA TEST] “Dreamfall” by Sweet Potato Press; presented by Laura Simpson. (Apocalypse Engine dreamworld stuff. Sounds great! And thrilled to see another female designer on my beta testing docket for Metatopia.)
  • 1PM-3PM: Open! I eat!
  • 3PM-4PM: “Executing a Smart Crowdfunding Campaign” presented by Fred Hicks, Joshua A. C. Newman & Hannah Shaffer.
  • 4PM-6PM: Open! I probably don’t eat until after…
  • 6PM-7PM: “Coming Up in the Indies: From Newcomer to Company Owner” presented by Fred Hicks, Shoshana Kessock & Tim Rodriguez.
  • 7PM-9PM: Open! Probably when I eat!
  • 9PM-10PM: [FOCUS GROUP] “Fate of the Galaxy” by Genesis of Legend Publishing; presented by Jason Pitre & Mark Richardson. (Hell yes.)
  • 10PM onward: Maybe I discover I’m old and need sleep! Or I stay up for whole minutes! Open-ish.


  • 10AM-noon: [BETA TEST] “Forthright” by Room 209 Gaming; presented by Ray Watters & Bryan Shipp. (I know very little about this!)
  • noon-2PM: [ALPHA TEST] “Interstellar Interventions” by Wrecking Ball Game Labs; presented by Henry Ulrich. (An ALPHA TEST. Awesome. Maybe it will be gloriously broken. Maybe not! A great way to end Metatopia.)
  • 2PM onward: Rob and I have small kids and I may be at Metatopia long enough by this point that I’ll want to see them again. 😉 So we’ll probably depart not too long after 2PM, if I don’t miss my guess. Gotta get home in time for bedtime. If we’re slow out the door, I’ll try to give y’all a wave!
Oct 292014

Idea Explorer

I am interested in publishing an rpg setting, but I am having trouble finding information on how much it will cost, and how it is done. I would be extremely grateful if you could give me some information on publishing, and point me in the right direction for when our setting is finally ready.

Whoof! Okay, the “how it is done” part is kind of involved, as that’s sort of the everything of publishing. But, let’s talk costs, and I’ll try to touch on the hows along the way.

I’m also going to split each of these into “Deep End” and “Shallow End” thoughts.

  • The Deep End is going to talk about publishing at the scale I currently operate at, with Evil Hat.
  • The Shallow End is going to talk about how to do things as a newcomer without a lot of cash to risk.


Know your wordcount budget! Something like Fate Core runs around 80k-90k words. Something like Fate Accelerated runs around 10k-15k words.

Deep End: Professional rates for writing (including system design, tho some gearheads may want to price this differently) right now starts at 5 cents/word. Certain folks will cost you more, especially if they’re a “name” of some sort or another.

Shallow End: Some folks will work for less. Sometimes you’re doing the work yourself, and you’re willing to do work for yourself for no money. Beware the quality reduction traps that can lay in wait for you when you cut corners on paying your writers. That’s not to say you can’t find some folks of quality who are willing to work for less than the pro rate (above), but in general you should figure out how high you can make the rate, and make that the rate you pay, until you can start paying more.

Prior to the influx of cash that the Dresden Files RPG got us, when we weren’t writing words for ourselves for free, we paid around 3 cents/word. After we got that big increase in our company’s revenue, we went to the Deep End.


Deep End: Right now Evil Hat pays about 2 cents/word for editing.

Shallow End: Before Dresden (BD from here on forward) we paid 1 cent/word. Some folks can get away with paying even less. I don’t recommend underpaying for editing, because it’s completely crucial for a good product and you’ll get what you pay for.


Deep End: We pay what has emerged as roughly the industry standard on art.

  • Color: $200 per full page; $100 per half; $50 per quarter; $25 for a spot illustration.
  • Black & White: $100 per full page; $50 per half; $25 per quarter; $20 for a spot.
  • Cover Art: Depends on the complexity, the artist, and the size of the piece (front cover only? wrap-around?), among other factors. Could run you anywhere from $500 to a few thousand bucks depending on who you get.

It’s worth noting that some of the smaller-size rates may be a little low; some artists want to see the rate on smaller pieces go higher because a reduction in size is not necessarily a reduction in complexity, and it’s complexity that’s the real driver of the amount of effort. So keep that in mind, and use the above numbers only to figure out what you should offer an artist for the set of pieces you want them to do, and be ready to boost that by as much as 25% if you’re primarily sticking with smaller pieces. Also, be very clear in your communications about what the actual physical dimensions are that constitute a half page or quarter page piece, and in general, size those proportionate to the size of page you intend to print on.

Shallow End: You may be able to find some stock art and public domain/royalty free sources that can fill your needs. You may find artists willing to work for less (but beware quality). You can also reduce your ambitions as to the amount of art used in your game. You can get away with fewer pieces than you think!


Pricing this out can be a bit of a dark art.

Deep End: I tend to see flat rate payouts in the $1500-2500 range depending on the size of the book, the complexity of the layout required, and the use of color or black and white, etc. Particularly small projects may be able to go as low as $500. You may also encounter hourly rates, maybe $25/hour, maybe higher; I’m not as able to comment on hourly rates as I almost never operate with them.

Shallow End: You can try to learn this yourself. There’s a lot of ways to go wrong with this! But learning the ropes on a product that’s not particularly important to you can end up building skills that end up serving you well in your efforts to become a publisher. If you do consider doing layout yourself, please take the time to read and absorb the lessons in Robin Williams’ The Non-Designer’s Design Book as it’s probably the single best resource out there for a layperson to learn layout principles that can be applied to nearly any situation where you’re formatting text (emails, Word, etc).


Deep End: I can’t quote you specific prices, but at the Deep End, you’re requesting quotes from book printers to price out offset printing jobs for you. Ask for a range of quantities so you can see where the economies of scale kick in. In my experience the economies of scale don’t really start kicking in until the 2000-3000 quantity range, but really it’s something of a curve that plays out throughout.

I prefer to print domestically in the USA and I tend to give repeat business to folks who respond quickly via email and who give consistently strong customer service throughout the process. So my list of who I work with here is pretty short, because I find a good outfit and I tend to stick with them. You might be more inclined to shop around, and that’s fine.

  • Recommended for softcover, black and white interior printing: Bang.
  • Recommended for hardcover and/or color interior printing: Taylor Specialty Books.

If you end up using either of those guys, tell them Fred Hicks from Evil Hat sent you. They like to know when I’ve sent someone their way.

Shallow End: Consider pubishing digital-only on DriveThruRPG.com to start. DriveThru also has a solid print on demand program, too, which would let you print small quantities and on-demand-when-a-customer-orders-a-copy pretty affordably. In the RPG space I absolutely recommend you focus on them; DriveThru easily owns 70% or more of the eyeballs in the RPG PDF market, and their print on demand program gives you access to that same market with your print goods. It’s a lot more targeted than other POD options like Lulu or CreateSpace, tho those might work for you too.

With all POD, in general, I tend to recommend avoiding color interiors; if you do go for color, please consider paying for the “premium” version instead of the “standard” version, as the standard version, to me, usually looks a little muddy and kind of inkjet quality. And color printing is just plain lots more expensive in POD than black and white books are.


Deep End: It’s gonna suck. If you are not already schooled in and capable of running a top quality shipping and fulfillment operation, shipping out daily and promptly, find someone else to do this for you, and find out how much they charge you per package and per item, and tack that on to what you charge your customers for shipping. That’s the “handling” part of shipping & handling right there. See Distribution, below, for more; Indie Press Revolution may be a good fit for you as a fulfiller interested in working with small press RPG publishers.

Shallow End: If you followed my Shallow End advice for printing, above, this isn’t really going to be a concern for you. If you’re all digital to start, there’s no cost to ship. If you’re using print on demand that’s consumer-accessible, then they’re paying the shipping cost themselves at the time they place the order.


Distribution! It’s how you get your games out onto game retailer shelves everywhere, or at least somewhere, without a lot of very hard work hand-selling and trying to find the small percentage of retailers who are willing to buy product direct from a publisher.

Deep End: Diversify. Exclusives only really serve the distributor you get into an exclusive with; sure, you might get a few extra percentage points, but the loss of market access gotten from using other distributors too is probably not equaled by that. So diversify.

Distributors Evil Hat currently works with include but aren’t limited to:

  • USA: ACD; Indie press Revolution (IPR); Alliance; Peachstate Hobby Distribution (PHD); GTS Distribution; Golden Distribution.
  • International: Esdevium; Lion Rampant; Ulisses Spiele; Pegasus Spiele; Bergsala Enigma.

If you’re getting into bed with distribution, you need to manage your costs pretty tightly. Distribution is going to buy stuff from you at 60% off of your cover price, typically: meaning that your $20 book will get you only $8, gross, for the distribution sale.

(The reason the discounts here are so steep is because a very big discount, close to or at 50%, is given to retailers; because when a retailer buys your book, they aren’t buying a sold book, they’re buying a book they’re hoping will sell. You give a big fat discount to retailers because they’re taking a gamble and assuming a ton of risk on a book that may tie up capital and never turn into that cash coming back to them. But you want retailers in your world, man. They’re the best kind of advertising & marketing for your stuff, at the end of the day, when things go right.)

Shallow End: If you’ve got physical goods, and you want a partner who can do direct sale orders and fulfillment for you as well as sell to a retail market that’s friendly to small press publishers, you really should look at Indie Press Revolution as your first step. They were created specifically for your kind of situation; warehousing with them is super cheap (possibly free last I checked), and on consignment, and Jason Walters (who runs it day to day) is a pleasure to work with.

Once you’ve found your feet, you can start diversifying your way towards a full Big End implementation of product distribution. But IPR? They’re where I’d recommend starting.

Keep in mind, my biases lean heavily against directly doing sales and fulfillment yourself. If you, in an honest and sober self-assessment, think you can do a great job and do right by your customers consistently, then, sure, think about doing your sales & fulfillment for customers & retailers yourself. For me, at every step of the way, that’s always felt like too much work, and has very clearly been the thing I should not be doing vs. all the other jobs that a publisher has to do.

If you don’t have physical goods or are in a strictly print on demand footing for physical goods, distribution isn’t really in the picture. Print on demand often won’t produce a low enough unit cost to make selling your product into retail make any sense.

Pricing Your Book

Deep End: Remember that distribution scenario: bank on getting 40% of your cover price on a sale. What should a sale do for you, exactly? In my opinion, it should pay for at least the unit sold plus one unit more. So if you have a $20 book, that sells into distribution at $8, that $8 should be enough to cover the unit cost of 2 of your books. So flip that around: if your printing cost is $4 per unit, you can price your book with a cover price of $20. 5x unit cost is your multiplier — and if you can make it higher than 5x, you’re in good shape. If you can’t produce a competitive cover price with your printing (see Printing above) method’s unit cost times five, you’re probably not using a printing method that’s friendly for getting into distribution in the first place. Over to the shallow end with you, for now.

Shallow End: Make sure you at least make a few bucks of profit. Ideally, make sure you make at least as much profit as an individual unit costs you to produce. But really, think about the distribution math from the Deep End, above.

Advertising & Marketing

Don’t look at me, man. It’s also a dark art. I have people for that sort of thing!

… Okay, that’s only mostly true. Advertising is kind of dying/changing/dying again/changing again right now. The Internet has exploded everything that everyone used to know about how it’s done. Yields are low and problematic. No matter which End of the pool you’re at, I just don’t recommend putting much money into advertising unless the yield is very likely to be pretty high. (And it almost never is.)

So instead you should focus on building audience. That only happens healthily, in my opinion, through an investment of a lot of years of work, being as transparent as you can be so folks never have to guess at what’s going on, interacting with fans, getting out to conventions and running games, providing good customer service, and so forth. There is no overnight solution; it’s all by increments, each fan hard-won.

This ties over into some of my thoughts about crowdfunding, at the end of the day. Folks ask me how we’ve found the scale of success we have when we use things like Kickstarter. They ask me what the secret is. My answer is: first, take ten years building an audience.

It’s all about the audience.

A Final Note On Paying People

Pay them. Pay them promptly. Establish a contract with them at the start of work that makes it clear what they’re supposed to make for you and how much you’ll pay them and when. Stick to it. And in general please avoid “pay on publication” contracts. Pay folks when they complete the work for you, not when you finally get off your ass and get around to publishing what they made for you. Their work is done, already.

Photo credit: Stephen Poff via photopin cc

Jul 222014

I ran this nearly two weeks ago, so it’s gonna be a bit fuzzy and rushed here, folks. Apologies. Kids health and workload just haven’t permitted the time for it.

It’s the fourth session of my ongoing Monster of the Week game! You can find the last session’s notes here.

We started our second mystery this session (our sessions run 2-3 hours and my mysteries can be complex in the unraveling), which meant the group took a short bit of downtime, healed their wounds, and researched Devonsville, Ohio, a modest sized city with a big artists’ community. MI-13 had indicated that Stuart should go to coordinates found somewhere in the city and try to hail a cab.

Beatrice researched this and found that … well, there’s no evidence of there being any cab companies in Devonsville whatsoever. (She also sent some mail: one to Bruce, pretending to be Leon, to try to clear up for him what had gone on in the last session; the other to the Order, arranging a contact.) Her research also indicated that the city was recently dealing with overtaxed public transportation systems, starting about two weeks ago… maybe when all the taxicabs disappeared?

Primed by the events of the first mystery, the team immediately started theorizing about how the cabs might have been “subtracted”, and that maybe this was another audition for the Editors. Maps of the area around the coordinates showed there was a building there which didn’t appear to be occupied or owned by anybody.

Arriving in Devonsville they headed straight to the coordinates, tried to hail a cab. Nothing showed up. The building in question had multiple garage doors, but no vehicles inside it. The door to the office area was closed. The office area also appeared to have papers and signs visible through the windows, but the text was missing from all of them.

Scanning the area, Galvan noticed there was a noise, a skittering, coming from the roof. Galvan and Stuart headed up while Beatrice continued to look around; she’d catch up shortly. Galvan and Stuart got up to the roof by way of exterior fire escapes, and found … well, a trio of “handspiders” — creatures made out of a pair of human hands, the fingertips carved free of flesh to expose sharpened bone, stitched or melded together at the middle. Galvan tried to “speak” with them, as they weren’t immediately aggressive, but that didn’t last long; two of the handspiders fled across the other buildings, too fast to follow, while a third leapt at Galvan, but was quickly destroyed.

Beatrice headed around to the alleyway to get onto the fire-escape, but she found a man there, with a sword and ancient armor under his coat. Looks like her contact from the Order showed up. He asked to meet and talk elsewhere, indicating that Stuart and Galvan were going to be fine, and Beatrice texted Stuart a “going to get coffee” excuse.

The swordsman was in fact from Beatrice’s order and went by the name of Gianni. They talked, he retrieved the phial of Galvan’s blood, and said that he’d need some of Beatrice’s as well, giving her another empty one to collect the sample. She said she’d get it while working the case. They exchanged a few other pieces of information (two weeks later, I’m hazy on what exactly) mildly deepening Beatrice’s understanding of the Order (they’re very secretive) and establishing that Gianni would be keeping an eye on things, from afar.

(Following sequence of events may have the timing wrong, but here’s the gist.)

Galvan and Stuart meanwhile make their way down into the building from a roof entrance. Inside Stuart finds more evidence of the erased text effect. In fact, trying to write the word “taxi” or “cab” tends to result in pen failure, words vanishing, all that stuff. Galvan checks out the garage.

Where there’s a smooth-featured grey man walking on the ceiling, coming out of an opened doorway to… somewhere… on said ceiling. The grey man notices him… and pounces. Galvan swings his sword and slices the man in half; the halves evaporate. Stuart notices the ruckus, and comes looking — when another grey man opens a nonexistent door on the ceiling and walks out. Lather, rinse, repeat, but this time Galvan punches the guy, knocking him HARD into one of the garage doors, denting it. Beatrice on the opposite side sees that damage happen and comes running.

This grey man is dispatched quickly too. Anyone touched by the grey men starts to go a little grey themselves, in the part touched. Similarly Galvan’s sword ends up looking a bit more “simplified” and lighter weight after it’s used to attack the grey men.

Beatrice works up a spell to lock down the gateways, at least for a short moment. It nearly goes very badly (she botches the roll, then spends a luck point to make it a 12) and multiple big garage-door sized gates open up on the ceiling, showing rotated rooms with several grey men in them, but she manages to push herself and get them sealed shut.

Then Beatrice does another spell, to figure out what the name of the erased cab company is — Central Cab. A grey-ified dispatcher appears in a nearby chair, wordlessly going through the motions of her former job, as a part of this. Stuart works through his side of a “phone call” to Central Cab (one-sidedly, though the dispatcher seems to nod and otherwise respond to what he says) and, wouldn’t you know it, arranges for a cab to come pick them up. He ends the call and the figure vanishes.

They go outside to wait for the cab. Since they have no key they can’t lock the door from the outside, so Galvan stays inside, locks it (mashes the lock permanently shut, really) and then heads back up the stairs towards the roof. Problem is, when he gets to the top of the stairs, there’s a different door there. Looks sort of old and… fleshy. He punches the door open, and the door makes a sound like a man getting punched in the gut. Beyond the door is the interior of, presumably, an old slaughterhouse. “Galvan, is that you?” calls out a slightly cultured-sounding female voice.

Meanwhile, Galvan is late for the cab. Beatrice and Stuart aren’t, tho, and when a Central Cab taxi “ghosts” into view in front of them, the driver wide-eyed and staring at them, they don’t want to lose the opportunity, so they get in. Stuart asks for a ride to the best coffee place in town, and they get going. The driver is really tense, even white-knuckled, but he’s trying to go through the standard motions; it’s clear though that he’s been living in his cab for the past two weeks — he has mostly-empty trays of energy bars and water bottles on the passenger side.

Outside, the city around them goes grey and simplified. They’re somewhere else! The driver focuses hard, trying to figure out the way, but the streets keep changing around on him.

Eventually they get the driver, Yusuf, to talk. He has been in his cab for the past two weeks; he won’t get out because he’s seen other drivers get out of their cabs and their features slough off and they become grey men. Apparently there are a lot of them back at the location that was the Central Cab office building. He asks them to check in on his wife, Ianna, if they make it back, themselves.

At the slaughterhouse, Galvan works his way in, towards the voice. He finds a woman in a lab coat working on a big hanging carcass of some kind (there are several around, some looking like remnants of human bodies, others clearly bestial, a few … indeterminate), making cuts with a scalpel like a sculptor. A couple dozen hand-spiders skitter around her lab area. She turns to him, her eyes deep and dark and the irises overlarge.

She implies that she is Galvan’s maker; that she’s going to cure him of his condition. Galvan has questions. What’s his condition, exactly? Free will. Yikes. Others have called him a harbinger, is that what he is? That’s a pedestrian, oversimplified name. Will he bring about an apocalypse? Also an oversimplification.

Galvan says he’s going to go, and as her arms lengthen inside her labcoat, she says his true name (a sign of the apocalypse), which goes off like an explosion in Galvan’s mind. He staggers back as she shouts, “Is that any way to treat your mother?!” and swings her fists at him. He dodges and runs; her fists crater the concrete floor. Galvan rushes towards the flesh-door, and hears it grunt as it tenses for the impact; he shoulders through (“UNFFGH!”), then slams the door back closed behind him (“UNNHH?”) and threatens it to stay closed or he’ll beat on it again (“HUH-MUHH”, it agrees).

Back in the cab, eventually they get to the location of the coffee shop, The Lightness of Bean, and there’s a sort of shimmering that looks like a way back to our world. Stuart gets out — outside the cab, he’s a sort of blurry version of himself, but that resolves as he walks towards the coffee shop. Beatrice debates whether to stay with the cab or get out, herself, and after a few moments of indecision she decides to get out, just as Stuart reaches the coffee shop…

… and that’s where we left it. Tomorrow night we’ll find out if her path to the shop is as easy as Stuart’s.

For the same reasons it took me so long to write this up, I also didn’t get time to write up a “continuity list” from this session. Argh! The thing is, this session was fantastic — lots of interesting character discoveries and a chance to see how the team functions after the resolution of their first big mystery. Plus a number of character-driven secrets are starting to crash into the main storyline, which is making it particularly juicy. I’m not sure my writeup here does any of that justice! But I want to try to keep the play report discipline going on this one. So there you are. :)

I certainly invite my players to correct my mistakes and expand upon the stuff I didn’t cover in enough detail!