Rough thoughts on Stalker: Mists of Mosney

Stalker: Mists of Mosney is an action/horror roleplaying game set in Ireland. It focuses on narrative over ‘rules for everything’, but has a fleshed out d100 combat system mostly cribbed from Dark Heresy. My aim is to give you the tools to generate your own world with your friends or by yourself. The game is focused more on ‘doing’ than ‘having’ gear.

Making your game:

At a very high level, get your setting – start small and spiral out. Keep it vague to begin, run a short session where you raid a player’s abandoned family home. See what you like, add more. Get rumours. Get opposing factions. Have a destination – it’s a gold rush!

More in depth setting creation

Pick somewhere you or your players know, or think is really cool. This is your first layer. This gave the players a motivation to save something they thought was important about Ireland. Good examples to add to your Zone(s) are your home town, your college town, your business park, a holiday resort, a summer camp or an industrial estate. Another thing that helps is to limit the size of your area to a county – whole nations consumed by the Zone would be apocalyptic! What also helps is defining the physical barriers like rivers, mountain and seas that may block entry to the Zone. Even better if these are historical barriers like ancient county lines or walls. For us in Dublin, Ireland, it was the Pale:

You need a catastrophe that creates your initial Zone and renders it mostly uninhabited by humans. This could be a natural disaster, something man-made like a reactor meltdown, or something more supernatural like an alien visitation. This is the second layer that should provide you with a setting, some factions and maps. The idea is to take the familiar and make it unfamiliar. Now give it a decade or two of time to marinate and decay – your party should not be the very first in the Zone, after all, they need to learn from someone else’s death where not to step.

The next development is the impact that has on the locals – how does the average family react? Local businesses and politicians? The wider government, army and multinationals? A big part of the game is that the world is not immediately ending, and the players are mostly here by choice. What drew them to the Zone, and what took them from being ordinary people to being stalkers?

The last twist is the supernatural element to the Zone – this creates your anomalies and artefacts and layers the horror over the setting. I recommend ripping them straight from Roadside Picnic and the Stalker games to begin with. This fourth layer also creates a theme: for Mists of Mosney it was constantly changing weather, especially mist and fog. W

What worked well – mechanics

  • All players liked the rules light element. At a high level, it’s a d100 system, rolling under your characteristic which ranges from 0 to 100. The standard human is 35. There are no skills or talents, but anything your character can reasonably do like use a common gun, swim, treat a wound or navigate an anomaly field, they can do.
  • Players can take 1 full action or 2 half actions per turn, but only one can be an attack action. Most common actions are divided into a rough time frame: move for a half action, move twice for two half actions, go on overwatch for a half action, shoot a single shot for a half action, aim for a half action, reload for a full action, apply first aid for a full action, prepare a weapon for a half action, close distance with a charge and attack in close combat for a full action, run all out for a full action. This will make sense in play.
  • This also avoids players saying things like “I use the special move “Bandage” and instead gets them into the action as they describe themselves doing the action in first person. ‘Advanced’ skills like reading a schematic for a circuit, scientific research or laying traps for animals comes from your character background. In that respect, it’s similar to the FATE system. You invoke your background for a +10 or +20 depending how relevant it is at the GM’s discretion. I was generous on this as I felt the players should be a bit special, and I wanted to avoid the skill bloat that plagues Dark Heresy.
  • I really enjoyed not having to look up rulebooks to see what a certain skill did – my next version of the rules will have everything on the player sheet or a single reference sheet.
  • Props like the rusted bolts for Zone points, and the small player tokens made of a screw added to the atmosphere.
  • The screw served a dual purpose of ID and measurement – you can move about 4 times the width of your piece as a half-action.
  • Giving every player 10 wounds when a pistol/melee attack does 1d6 damage, and a basic rifle or shotgun does 1d10, min 2 or 5 damage respectively, made human enemies feel very threatening. The players did not rely on their armour to tank hits, but found ways to minimize their exposure to fire and cleverly win. This went well with the theme of average joes against the odds. It also worked well with the themes of horror and loss. As the game continued, I did change the rules somewhat at session 3, as death at 0 was too harsh.
  • Negative wounds mitigated the harshness of this – you died at -10, but going below 0 wounds meant you would die in 1d6 turns unless someone healed you back to 0. When you went below 0 you were knocked out and dropped to the ground. Players could “wake up” by succeeding a Fitness or Willpower roll and act normally, allowing them to stabilize themselves at their current wounds, even negative wounds, if no one was around, or make desperate fighting actions if needed. But the consequences of enemy attacks could easily be fatal.  If you took further hits while in negative wounds, you would suffer permanent injuries like lost limbs, eyes and 1d10 reductions in your characteristics. The infamous Dark Heresy Critical Damage tables are a good resource for this.
  • I added a large melee option that did 2d10 damage, figuring that any player that risked enemy fire to get in melee should be rewarded. Hand to hand combat is usually very thrilling and produced some standout moments in the game for me and the players.
  • Rule of 3 everything – and ask ‘why’ to at least 3 levels.
  • Enemy factions that were dynamic and shifted from neutral to enemy to ally and back depending on how the players interacted with them. Keep your factions hostile to each other, but keep them talking, negotiating or threatening in ‘safe zones’ that factions meet in.
  • Making reputation and rumours persistent and critical to survival stopped murderhoboing and stupid RP. Having the NPC factions able to have leverage on the players stopped a ‘violence solves everything’ attitude. Players and their allies had hits put out on them by the Bandits. Also built the theme of the stalker clans and a return to a tribal Irish society where honour and alliances are everything.
  • A small random monster table I could roll on that would spawn monsters when I wanted to change the dynamic of a fight, or add/remove pressure.

Setting and campaign planning:

  • Starting small and spiralling outwards built the setting without too much work for me. ‘Here be dragons’ evokes much more than detailed map. Especially when setting a game in a place you know it well – you should not be afraid to change things up.
  • Setting the game “20 minutes into the future” in 2028 gave the players a link to the setting while and weapons they were familiar with, while also letting me get a mad science vibe.
  • Getting player input and 4 rumours each really builds your pool of ideas and makes it easy to hang adventures on.
  • Having a sandbox game with a very defined goal: get from Clontarf to Mosney, made things easy to plan. Players were never lost.
  • Following a ‘Western Marches’ approach where you had a pool of players, and all you needed was a minimum of 3 players for a session. This overcame my previous issue when some people were not available due to work, which eventually killed the campaign. If people don’t show up, they don’t get the fun, but as the game is focused on ‘doing’ and not ‘having’ is not a huge gap between experienced players and newbies in stats, so they can still contribute.
  • Designing each adventure as a self contained 5 room dungeon worked well to build structure and escalate the story.
  • New players joining, even for one session, needed an “in” for why they were in the Zone, and how they knew the players. They also needed a nickname, which often changed at during the session as they did something notable. These 10 minute intros were very fun.
  • Strong names for characters helps RP, and distinguishes them from simple goons. NPCs with real motivations helps.
  • GM is merely the facilitator.

What didn’t work:

Radiation poisoning rules because of book keeping and lack of a meaningful effect. I gave the players ‘Pins’ or radiation-reducing artefacts early on and skimmed over much of the radiation effect, instead treating it like a direct damage area when I felt they exceeded the protection of their suits and artefacts. To put it simply, I had 3 levels of contamination. I said in x hours/ x minutes / xseconds at this distance you will move up a rank in radiation poisoning and take damage and a -5/-10/-20 to your stats. I did not get into sieverts/grays as nobody has time for that shit.

Who went in what order was a challenge to decided, I usually went clockwise between players, but later on, alternated players, NPCs and enemies

Bleeding rules again because of book keeping and meaningful effect. As the players had so little health, I wanted to avoid a death spiral where one unlucky hit could outright kill a player. Bleeding was a ‘nice idea’ to make mutants more threatening, as they commonly did d6 or a flat d10 damage. Most mutant encounters were fairly straightforward. But I found it harder to implement with the small health pool.

Reward was challenging to do – it was hard to find a monetary value to artefacts. It was equally hard to assign monetary values to equipment. The party also set up an organisation to use artefacts to manufacture things like healing bandages and sell them. I used that to give them a free resupply per game, and I figured that would cover their food also. Later on, I simply allowed them 1 rare item, or 3 common ones, if they had made a good haul last game. If it was a bad haul, 1 common item. I think in the next season I will abstract this further.

Advancement was quite challenging to do. I had some characters pay for training their fighting (€500 for a +5 increase) but money became quite meaningless because of the above challenge in valuing items.

Strong solo monsters were weaker than expected because of action economy. For each turn the monster took, the players had a go each. I balanced this somewhat by making the boss mutants ambush predators. I had some luck making the Burer a challenge as I set him up in a dark tunnel flanking the players and throwing them into an acid bath, while he was sometime able to cast a psychic screen that stopped bullets.

Anomalies! A key element of the book/ film and game are these lethal traps. I kept them confined to definite areas and had potentially beneficial effects as well as lots of damage. But it was hard to give the lethality I felt the setting required without having a “save or die” moment. In the games, you can simply reload the save, but you don’t have that luxury in pen and paper RPG. I try to avoid killing players meaninglessly.

Zone points – players were reluctant to use them for re-rolls, and used them most often to save themselves from death. I only gave them 1 as a rule. I liked how they could force me to re-roll a dice . I would love to increase tension by having a mechanic where I could force them to re-roll. Would add them to the theme of when the Zone gives it also takes.

Changes to the V2 Rules:

More uses for Zone, and more Zone points in general that have stakes attached. Egs

  • Your next hit makes it, but with consequences.
  • Your crazy plan works but…
  • You start with x amount of Zone and this never replenishes.
  • You can re-roll your dice, but the GM also gets a re-roll.

I might read Apocalypse World to get some more ideas. I don’t think my players liked a full “theatre of the mind” game, and liked at least a rough map of the area they were in for immersion.


Stalker: Mists of Mosney 10 – Finale

The party get the Metro North railcar working and set off for the outskirts of Mosney. A huge storm appears to be brewing over the former holiday camp, and the static and interference on their PDAs is getting worse and worse. A strange wind is rising, blowing banks of mist over Fingal. Snake Diaz returns to camp using the same route they took North, with enough treasure to fund his another few months of smoking dank.

When the party arrive in the Balbriggan rail depot just south of Mosney, they hear 3 helicopters scrambling to intercept them from the SAFE base outside the Zone: 1 gunship and 2 transports. To complicate matters, they sneak into the rail depot buildings and see a formation of Monolith fighters arrayed in ranks, praying for guidance from the Monolith, while a loudspeaker preaches about defending the Monolith from outsiders and expanding their reach to the limits of the Zone after the next Emission. This voice sounds like Avalanche, the stalker who showed them the ropes, but who vanished when trying to make it to Mosney. The assembled Monolith fighters reply in their native tongues, a babel of revenge and fanaticism. MC Geist sneaks closer to try ambush them with his remaining napalm, while Trapper and Webber scout a way out. The lightning storm builds, and the sky takes on an unearthly glow.

As the SAFE task force approaches, they get a broadcast on their PDAs from the SAFE military stalker Poker, warning them to turn back as another Emission is approaching and SAFE will attempt to stop it. The party decides not to comply and try for the Wish Granter, which is speaking directly to their minds, promising them their wishes will be granted. They are spotted by the gunship, and the gunship opens fire on the railyard, destroying the Metro North tram. The Monolith preacher says he will demonstrate the power of the Monolith and a bolt of light streaks from Mosney, shredding a wing and rotor on the gunship, which crashes and skids through the compound. Some survivors bail out and start fighting the Monolith troops, who are armed with modern equipment and advanced protective armour. MC Geist spends a Zone point to set as many of the closely packed Monolith fighter ablaze with his flamethrower as he can but comes under fire from all sides as he retreats, barely escaping with his life. Webber and Trapper, who have secured a vantage point ahead, cover his retreat. The two military troop transports land 40-50 men and then provide close air support with door machine guns for the developing battle with the Monolith fighters.

The party come approach Mosney, but it’s heavily guarded as the Monolith forces have entrenched the approach. They decide to hide for 30 minutes to wait for darkness, heal up and reload for the final push. All the while, the Wish Granter speaks to them, promising to grant their heart’s desire, eroding their wills and degrading their fighting ability. The party push in along the perimeter, deciding to infiltrate through a drainage ditch that MC Geist remembers. The SAFE military forces have regrouped at this stage, and the SAFE stalker Poker leads his special forces squad to attack the holiday camp, popping smoke and suppressing with the squad machine guns and helicopter door guns to cover their advance.

The Monolith forces hunker down and call reinforcements, returning fire. The Monolith Preacher brings down a transport helicopter with another mighty shot from his strange energy rifle. The party encounter a mass grave of unlucky stalkers and mutated inhabitants of the prison camp, and guess by the radiation and barcodes that these were failed experiments. Unfortunately, they encounter a pair of Monolith fighters flanking the SAFE military and empty their magazines to try defeat their Monolith armour suits. The party takes heavy wounds but stuns the Monolith fighters long enough to stab them to death after dragging them into the trench. Before the Monolith forces notice, the party slips past the front line and towards the Wish Granter in the dry swimming pool. On arriving, they see a giant crystal structure pulsing with energy between the two toadstools. This must be the fabled Wish Granter. It seems to know their heart’s desire as they approach. They come under fire from Monolith fighters outside, but the crystal pulses and forces the Monolith fighters to their knees.

“I want to understand the Zone completely,” the Webber thinks. Feeling the anointed butter cross on his forehead and remembering the sacrifices the O’Neil clan made, Trapper thinks “I wish the Zone never existed”. MC Geist, thinking of a certain 20th century German chancellor, thinks “I wish to stand where HE once stood.” The Wish Granter replies only the worthiest wish will be granted. The party begin a race for the prize, with MC Geist streaking ahead up the waterslide and then blocking the path with his final shot from the flamethrower. Trapper and Webber help each other vault over the dry pool edges, but are a fraction of a second too late to touch the crystal, and MC Geist makes contact first, triggering a blast of white light. The others slam into it a fraction of a second later. The ground begins to rumble and the party begin drifting in and out of consciousness as the Wish Granter remakes the world. They see a vision on MC Geist in front of a huge crowd, and there’s music playing and MC Geist is offering a raised salute to the crowd and they are retaking the Zone and then Europe and then the world.

But the visions begin to lift as the party feel themselves being dragged down a service tunnel as a warning siren sounds, their underwear wet and pissed in as they recover from the immense psychic force of the Wish Granter. Three scientists are hooking them up to terminals meant to brainwash them into being fanatical defenders of the Wish Granter, or assassins to be sent south. The content is mostly about the horrors of a divided Europe in the 20th century and how only by trusting the EU technocrats can they be redeemed. The scientists run as the Third Emission begins, an immense psychic storm that further tears reality open. The party sinks once more into a stupor. But at the darkest hour, with a triumph of the will, MC Geist tears off the rig and frees the others from their EU-sponsored brainwashing. The party tries to get itself armed with rope and chair legs. In the room, they find others who made the journey to Mosney but ended up here, like Nimble. Nimble is too far gone to be saved and Trapper whisks his brain with a screwdriver through the eyesocket rather than risk taking him with them.

Out in the corridors, they duck into a small room to dodge a patrol of scientists and find a mobile phone on a desk that buzzes when they approach. A firm yet fair, mysterious French voice tells them the experiment has exceeded its limits and, for the sake of Europe, to crash it. It tells them where to arm themselves and trusts they will do what is necessary. At this point, MC Geist has seen too much EU corruption and would prefer to make an exit. He is just ‘going out and may be some time’ into the psychic maelstrom. He would prefer to die standing than kneel as a slave to some other mysterious faction. Trapper and Webber try to reason with him, but can’t risk following him out as the Emission begins to rip MC Geist’s mind apart. Most Conscientious Geist makes it a few steps out, taking 1d20 damage per turn, and seeing the sky one last time before succumbing.

Bereft of their oldest and Most Crazed companion, the party grabs the last SMG from the armory and raids the inner sanctum of the lab. Awaiting them were rows and rows of pods filled with people linked to a central uplink to a large antenna outside. They grabbed some of the scientists as hostages, and pushed in. They were greeted by holograms of the wealthy, powerful and influential in the European Union project, who explained their Wish Granter mind-control experiment began with good aims – preventing the breakup of the EU and moving Europe to a more open, tolerant society in the face of rising populism. They built these labs before Brexit, but the nuclear accident in the UK that forced the evacuation of the greater Dublin area gave them a chance to work uninterrupted. They had plenty of material and experimental subjects in the wake of the Irish Reunification War. However, the first major experiment went terribly wrong – they unleashed a psychic storm named the Second Emission which warped reality and created the Zone. Since then, they had attempted to cover their mistakes by trying to contain the Zone and recruiting the desperate with the lie of the Wish Granter. The situation is now so volatile that they are forced to conquer the entire Zone to secure the experiment and stop the Zone from expanding further. This Third Emissions they are using now is the keystone of this plan, as it will let them march across the Zone unimpeded. The party has certainly proved it’s worth… a shadowy figure resembling George Soros asks if they will join the great and good in attempting to contain the Zone by adding their minds to the collective holding back the psychic maelstrom.

Trapper’s butter bond begins to burn as he considers betraying O’Neill and Ireland, and the Webber makes the simple calculation that the so-called great and the good of globalism had engineered crises in the past to enrich themselves and the Zone was no exception. MC Geist, against all expectations, returns with his axe and wordlessly offered it to the party before dying. They reject Soros’ offer and instead begin to smash the pods and kill the inhabitants. This destabilizes the Emission and the underground labs begin to collapse. They find Soros’ pod and drive a broken axe shaft through his heart, after which he withers and dies when his artificially extended life ends. The party make a run for it, but Trapper is brutally crushed just before the fire escape stairs by falling rubble. MC Geist is entombed amongst a pyre of his enemies, a worthy end. Webber is able to free Trapper, but Trapper suffers the loss of his leg and near-fatal crush injuries.

On the surface, it is eerily calm in the wake of the Third Emission. With no route home and Trapper critically injured, their future is very uncertain. What happened to the SAFE soldiers caught in the Emission? Does DoZER still exist? Did the Monolith fighters made it to the edge of the Zone? Will the Zone keep expanding without the scientists? Have they doomed Ireland or saved it? Webber makes up a small fire and uncorks a bottle of vodka to drink with Trapper to the memory of MC Geist. From somewhere they discover a guitar and play a tune. They look out over the land and the infamous Mists of Mosney have lifted. They see new anomalies flickering pale fire or juggling trucks. They also get dozens of pings on their PDAs as new artefacts appear in the Zone, spawned by the Third Emission. One thing was clear: the story was not over yet.

Stalker: Mists of Mosney 09

With the Brain Scorcher at its weakest anyone has ever seen, Trapper, the Webber and MC Geist decide to try for Mosney to reach the Wish Granter. They call in a few favours with O’Neill to get a powered prosthetic arm for Trapper, a flamethrower for MC Geist and additional supplies for Webber. They are joined by their old comrade Snake Diaz, whose thick skull and propensity for smoking weed all day let him rise through the ranks in Freedom. Snake Diaz is equipped with a Guardian of Freedom suit (4AP, 2ZP) and an M4 (1d10+2 damage, pen 2, 100m range, 20 shots in magazine, automatic burst for 10 shots. 1 full round to reload). Has 2 magazines.

The party consider their options:

  • Port Tunnel via Duty base – Likely to be loud and public. The lethal gas may still be there.
  • Follow O’Donnel’s route through the service hatch in Port Tunnel – less public, but whatever problems O’Donnell faced are still there.
  • Go via the sewer outflow in Sutton – keeps it secret, the entrance has already been cleared by the novichok agent.

The party chose to go by the sewer outflow to the Airport and get to the Port Tunnel exit that way. The party make their way to Sutton, but encounter a few zombified stalkers coming from the North. They are dispatched quickly enough, but it seems many stalkers are trying the route to Mosney and failing. Trapper attempts to bait the zombies into wasting their bullets and then disarming them before they can clumsily reload but cops a pistol round in a weak spot in his armour for his troubles. After gaining some confidence, the party descends into the tunnels once more, avoiding the most contaminated spots by building a small raft and having the most protected members push it through the sewer water.

They get a weak ping on the artifact detectors and follow it to a caved-in room. There they excavate a crushed man, long dead, and uncover a bag of what looks like crushed pills, the source of the artifact reading. The man also has a mobile phone on his person, with group messages from foreign nationals about ‘escaping…before they change.’ Guarding the room is a loop of cable which is revealed to be a tentacle once MC Geist slashes it. He lingers to see the beast’s face, and a strangely human one peers back from the gloom. MC Geist recognises it as one of the detainees from Mosney, from before he escaped.

In the next chamber, the party dig through a maintenance log, and find adverts for Mosney’s computer centre, and some meaningless scientific documents about CRISPR being used in humans. They find links to the X-17, X-18 and X-20 labs in the paper, under the heading CRAB17. Meanwhile, Trapper and MC Geist battle the tentacles stalking the corridors with gouts of flame and grenades. Later in the tunnels, the party discover a corpse that’s boneless from the waist down, along with a strangled stalker. The first was a Freedom stalker by the name of Loser trying for Mosney. He lost his bones in the hellslime ahead and the second was a SAFE fighter trying to reach safety after the Monolith ambush.The next section was a deep pond filled with the hellslime anomaly that dissolves bones: the Concrete Bath. The party spotted a path through the small islands made by concrete foundations about 1.5m apart in the pond. Trapper and Webber went to search around, and encountered an African man partially buried by a rockslide, beckoning them closer and asking for help. The 2 retreated when he did not respond to commands – identifying him as Femi, who on the phone chat said he would ‘hide’. MC Geist was incensed, and ran to the man, putting a knife to his throat. This triggered the mutant’s true form, and a rubbery venus flytrap made of flesh slammed down on him, nearly killing him and trapping him. The faceless bait human grabbed him tight and began digesting him with acid. At the bottom, a rubbery pair of lips sucked up the juices and spoke semi-consciously about escaping Mosney and recognising MC Geist. The party reacted quickly and riddled the mutant with bullets, killing it. While the mutant died, MC Geist rubbed napalm on those rubbery lips for unknown reasons. The rest of the lads dragged MC Geist out and fixed him up. Beyond the trap, they discovered 10 planks, and used these to bridge the gaps in the Concrete Bath anomaly. With clever movement and overwatch, the party used the planks to bridge the gaps and then ferry the planks to the next gap. They were untroubled by the tentacles, but the flamethrower was running low and could not investigate any more in this section.

In the next level, they entered a deep bunker filled with decontamination vehicles and military equipment. There was an outroad to the M50 North to the Airport and a forgotten tram of the Metro North which would take them to Balbriggan. Scattered over the floor were heaps of spent rifle cartridges. Blocking their path ahead was a pseudogiant. The party tried to sneak around to the train, but were quickly spotted by the beast, which was highly radioactive and could slam itself into the ground to let out a shockwave which stunned anything nearby. It shrugged off most bullets. On closer inspection, it had a weak point at the rear: a seeping trail of intestine had prolapsed from between its enormous, fleshy buttocks. The party formulated a plan to smash a canister of ether in the prolapse, then a grenade while it was groggy. Though the players took heavy damage, they moved quickly and distracted the beast to avoid any killing blows. Snake Diaz and Trapper synchronised their attacks and disabled the beast, with Trapper vigorously fisting his grenade in with his new powered bionic. MC Geist landed the final blow, jamming the nozzle of the flamethrower up the beast’s backside and pulling the trigger, letting the whole thing burn from the inside out.

The party survived the horrors beneath the earth and started the generators to power up the Metro North tram, setting off for the Dark City of Balbriggan, one of the gateways to Mosney.

Food and shooting

Ate lunch in Waffle House then went to the range today with people from work for a truly American experience. Shot about 100 rounds through various 9mm Glocks and the CZ 75. CZ 75 was really nice to shoot, with a very crisp trigger pull and nice sights. I found the CZ 75 easier to use initially. I preferred that to the full size Glock, not sure if it was a Glock 17. Weird trigger pull on the Glock. It also threw brass into my face a few times, I’m not sure if that’s a bug or a feature.

The subcompact glocks are also fun, but I really liked the subcompact Sig. 9mm is pretty hot coming out of those tiny pistols. Here I preferred the Glock after a few magazines, but the Sig was a very nice little gun.

Next we shot 50 rounds of .38 special out of a double action S&W revolver with a 4″ barrel. I think this was old police model very like the Model 10 as the sights looked familiar from every old cop movie ever, and did not look modern/tactical. The trigger pull was much heavier on this, and initially I was a little off target until I adjusted to it. Got a 1 inch group at 10 yards on this which surprised me. I really enjoyed shooting the S&W Model 10. .38 special is very easy to shoot out of a heavy revolver. If I settle in the US, I would definitely buy that or similar for range shooting.

Last up we fired 5 slugs through a pump action shotgun. Operation was very different to a pistol or rifle, and the slugs had quite a kick. Kept it tight and punched big holes in the paper at 25 yards. Ejecting a smoking shell is very gratifying.

All told it was a good day and I’ve decided that I will try get shooting in Ireland, as it’s something I love and I’m skilled at.

Desert Years

Continues the earlier story in and

“Her cities have become an object of horror, A parched land and a desert, A land in which no man lives. And through which no son of man passes.” 

-Liber Mechanicus

“Follow my tracks Priest, step as I step, and you shall see a rare wonder barely of this world,” the technosatyr purred. Archimandrite Quine watched the technosatyr sniff the air, then step silkily through the dunes. The suns were rising over rusting crags of the desert and it was already beginning to heat up. He wondered what the beast had found this time – another trove of archaeotech? Curiosity made him hitch up his cassock and point his steel toes to follow until an electric whirr behind him made him pause.

“Master, shall we accompany you?” Brother Phystor said. The desert pilgrimage had burned the monk’s flesh red and begun to rust his implants turquoise. The other monks gathered in a loose circle below, chanting prayers of desperation. But Quine raised his hand, standing to his full height:

“No. Stay with the men. Keep their spirits up.” With his other hand, he boosted the power of his faith circuit, imprinting another command in his monk: “And this time, do not follow me!” The blue lenses in one side of Phystor’s face dimmed momentarily as the surge of control rushed into him from the priest. He stood stock still even as the priest began to lope away. When Quine looked back, he swore the monk was drooling coolant from his mouth grill. Perhaps he was leaning too heavily on the device in recent days. No matter, he thought. He was planning something much more interesting. The technosatyr waited atop a dune, posing to stretch its horned silhouette across the desert. With the caches they found in the desert, he had been able to upgrade the technosatyr. No longer did it squeak when walking, and powerful bionics let it deliver crushing blows when it sprang from ambush on the enemies of his pilgrims. Since Quine first helped the technosatyr, a strange bond had grown between them. He felt its power from a distance, sometimes replaying the combat footage at night to savour it, as if it were himself in the melee. Quine reached the satyr, panting slightly.

“You came,” the beast said, “but you ordered the others back.” Beneath its grotesque mask, Quine again saw whirring cogs and optics focussing on him. Judging his reaction.

“The monks… lack subtlety. The journey has coarsened them, made them too fond of warcries and throwing lightning,” Quine dissembled. This much was true, but he wished not to be observed by his men while with the technosatyr. It would raise questions. “And two can go easier, lighter than twelve,” he finished. The technosatyr laughed raucously, eagerly bouncing from one goat-like bionic leg to another:

“Oh yes priest, we technosatyrs are known for our restraint and propriety! And soon I shall bend the knee in quiet reverence to your preaching on the Machine Cult! Come, let us continue the hunt before these jokes make me cough up my speech unit!”

Quine had a vision of all the assembled technosatyrs kneeling in Mount Asus before him, and amongst them, the many representatives of the Conclaves of the Machine Church. Even the ones that cast him out, like that insuffrable fool Coille from the Creationists.

“You laugh, beast. But if we secure the crash site from which the green glow emanates, many great men will come from the capital. The Shepard will truly smile upon us if we complete this pilgrimage and secure this great power in the dead city. Now lead me on.”


Later, they were almost on the S.T.A.G. servitor when the technosatyr stopped the priest.

“Hush. And watch closely…”

Out past the rusting crags of the outcrop, in a dip in the valley, there was a sticky black pool of hydrocarbons coming to the surface. On the other side, amidst a puff of smoke issuing from antler-like projections on its head, the S.T.A.G servitor lowered itself on four legs to drink. From its back, a barbed tail flicked from side-to-side in the sun. Quine could see an off-white synthskin stretched across its metallic bones. The satyr put a claw to its head and sighed.

“Rare and wonderful creatures. The logic of the common man holds that nothing of the machine can survive in this desert. But these S.T.A.G units survive by grace alone. Hunted by man and by beast. Legend holds there were great herds of them roaming these plains, before the disaster. They migrate from watering hole to watering hole. Fewer and fewer every season. But they endure. You often see them near these ancient crash sites, or before the threshold of something deeper in the dead city. A white one must mean something special,” the technosatyr said. Quine had never seen mechanical constructs like these before. I must get closer to it, see what drives it. The untarnishing steel would make a fine armour. Who knows what wonders I could find inside it? he thought.

“What do they do?” Quine said, zooming in on the skull-like head and flickering lights within it. The metal was almost unblemished after all these years, only flecks of red dust and black tar clinging to steel.

“Do?” The technosatyr looked puzzled. “They gambol, mainly. It’s quite inspiring.”

“What is their function now?” Quine asked, with growing frustration. “What was their function in the past?”

“Must everything under the stars have a function priest? As far as I care, they move for themselves, going where they please,” the beast answered, before pausing to look again at the white S.T.A.G as it raised its head to look in their direction, spooked at their raised voices. It bolted, springing through the rocks and dunes of the desert. The technosatyr groaned like a sagging tyre.

“Look at what your questions have gotten you, priest!” the technosatyr said, shaking at its head. “Still, a white S.T.A.G is surely a portent of something. Let’s get closer to the lake and taste the feast laid on by the Shepard in the midst of our enemies,” the beast said, shimmying down the rocks towards the tarry lake. Quine clambered awkwardly after the beast, stopping in disgust as the technosatyr reached beneath its robes to unsheathe a thick, ribbed hose and dip it into the lake. The satyr then bent down on all fours on the crusty shores and began to lap the waters in imitation of the S.T.A.G.

“Was this all we came for, beast? So you could rhapsodize about your mysteries of faith and slake your thirst?” Quine asked, angered that he had let himself be lead once again into heretical talk. “Shepard save me, but we are so close to failure on this pilgrimage.” Quine paused for a moment to collect himself. “We have lost much power already in battle. I have greased you with sacred oils and installed your devices, but you still insist on playing these games with me.”

“Are these oases of delights not pleasing to you amidst the desert, priest? Do you not wish to slake your thirst also after such a long time cloistered in the monastery? Hm-m?” The technosatyr flexed his bionics suggestively while he lapped the black waters. Outraged, Quine turned and kicked a rock into the pool. He stamped across the sands towards the beast until he was knee deep in the sticky hydrocarbons.

“I am this close to dragging you deeper by the horns then standing on your neck until you drown, beast!” Quine struggled for a moment in the mud, before jabbing an accusing finger at the beast: “Prove fruitful – surely this lake hides a well, or some tanker long since rusted open to spawn such a lake!”

“Ah, my priest, you are learning the ways of the desert. Your Shepard is making signs for you even in your darkest hour,” the beast tittered before pointing: “Try over there, to the right.” Quine turned his back on the beast and followed the pointed finger to a small outcrop sticking out of the lake. When he approached it, he saw some fossilised rivets and screws – surely signs that this was a place of some ancient significance. Mechandrites shot out from beneath his robes and began a methodical search beneath the water for hatches, handles or canisters, anything of interest. When this failed, he stooped and thrust his hands into the tarry waters and felt around in the mud. He closed his remaining fleshy fingers around something small and hard. Maybe a combat module or advanced sensor? In the palm of his hand was a muddy ball that he quickly worried apart. Inside was nothing but an old bolt. Quine roared his frustration to the surrounding stones.

“Such a lust is unbecoming, priest,” the technosatyr said from behind him. “Has your long desert fast not taught you patience? Were you not afraid before of polluting yourself and your men with unsanctioned technology?” Quine span around in response, scowling.

“Yes! I am afraid!” Quine said, letting out a deep, infrasonic wail as he charged his potentia coil with his remaining energy. He began to stride towards the beast. “You know I seek an inheritance that fades not on this pilgrimage! Yet we fade while you flourish here! You who were meant to guide us! We need every drop of bounty we can find!” He activated the rites of levitation to make himself as imposing as possible. “I can’t believe the Archimandrite of Mount Asus is relying on a technoheretic like you!” His robes billowed out and his mechandrites snaked crazily beneath his as he appeared to walk on the tar. Quine felt fuses pop and circuits melt as he pushed himself to his limits, flying at the beast. Quine raised an iron fist to hammer the beast’s cracked mask. But the beast’s claw shot out to catch him at the wrist, dripping black tar as the priest hung suspended in the air on a magnetic current. The beast dragged him closer until they were nose to nose. A purple tongue snaked beneath the technosatyr’s mask. Quine knew he had already lost.

“Careful what you wish for priest.” The technosatyr hooked a hand around Quine’s cybermantle beneath his robes and dragged him down, wrestling Quine and the whining levitation unit. “Not all desert caches are giving. Many will take from you far in excess of what they gift.” The unit finally gave in, exhausted, and Quine dropped into the black tar. The technosatyr stood back, then squatted before the Quine, who had managed to raise his head above the liquid before he drowned. The technosatyr leered into his eyes, pipes and tubes dangling over Quine. “The Destroyer lurks, and will damn you should you delve too deep.” The beast tapped himself on his new implants. “Our rule is to take only what is needed, only according to our whims and only for sport, never for raw power.”

Quine felt truly lost – torn between his conviction to secure the crash site of the green meteor and his pride. He needed to get the technosatyr on his side. How else would he find the caches to upgrade his men for the coming battles? Quine decided to bargain.

“But together, we could be so much more than mere pilgrims once we reach the end of this road,” Quine said desperately. “A glorious reward awaits us in the Dead City – you can see the green light at night, don’t pretend you are not curious! And we are not travelling alone – even now the other bands we have skirmished with race towards the green light. What if they despoil the site before we can preserve it?” He was almost begging now.

Quine saw the technosatyr flinch at the mention of the Green. Quine knew this would needle the beast. The technosatyrs had sworn to hold fast against it, and they had failed to contain it. Quine knew in him there was a greater fervour than any technosatyr, that much he was sure. And here, as back in the city, they would need all the power available to contain the Green. This was not yet a lost cause. The technosatyr sighed.

“Very well. I think I felt something deeper out in the lake. It’s a big signature, heavy. Together we can lift it and try salvage what is within. But promise me something, priest.”

“What is it? You wish for the first pick of parts? This I grant you.” Quine said.

“Nothing so base as that, priest. I have a proverb for you. Should you answer correctly, I will help you,” the technosatyr said.

“I accept beast, if it will bring us closer to our goal. You will struggle to defeat my logic circuits,” Quine said as he readied himself, diverting power to his mental facilities. The technosatyr cleared its voicebox from the soupy lakewater it was drinking.

’Like the dataleech that sucks and sucks, some things are never satisfied no matter how much they take. Can you name three such things?”

“A land like this desert could never be satisfied with water. That’s one. Fire. Fire never says, ‘Enough.’ The last of these is our holy quest for knowledge that all servants of the Machine Cult follow,” Quine said, remembering his training in the Conclaves.

“Well answered priest, they learned you well. The last one that thirsts eternally, that they did not teach you, is the grave. Again and again men like you dig too deep and take too much. And your logic circuits will not prepare you for what comes after,” the beast said.

Quine was silent for a time. The sun was almost overhead now, leaving no space to hide, and the heat was killing. There was a moment of understanding. Quine’s temper faded, and his mind turned to what he would construct and install with the find in the lake. He would upgrade Brother Phystor for sure, for Physor was becoming suspicious. He would aid the technosatyr, and see if he could understand how they grafted technology to themselves. Finally, he began to plan an armour made from the white S.T.A.G unit, upgrading himself with an invulnerable armour against the world. Surely then he could weather all slings and arrows of fortune without tarnishing, like the S.T.A.G itself.

“Very well beast, let us continue and recover this cache.”

The beast sniffed this way and that before splashing over to a shallow patch in the middle of the lake. It stamped, and there was a sonorous clang beneath the mire. “Come, priest. Your prize awaits beneath the hatch.”

Fitness goals 2019

Is this achievable natty?

First 2 weeks has been OK on the rings and bars. Eventually hoping to do some ring dips and a back/front lever. Will take me months to get that I reckon. The DIY gallows/sex swing has held fast, but I should really anchor it to the ground to stop someone robbing it. May also try secure the allen key bolts to stop it being dissembled and stolen to defeat the lock.

Pullups went from 3×3 to 6×3. Starting to do these on rings now that my strength is coming back. At one point in 2014 I could do 20 pullups at a higher bodyweight.

Inverted rows I gradually worked my angle on a 3×8-10 set lower and lower until I am now about parallel to the ground with my feet supported on a small step.

Ring pushups I started at a static hold while working my normal pushups to 20 reps. Now up to 3×10 at about a 45 degree angle. Quite a lot of pec activation on these. I am weaker than I think I am.

Also doing some active/passive hanging to decompress my spine and stretch my pecs. Less lumbar pain and less neck pain since starting. Calves and hamstrings are as tight as ever though, especially with the sitting/cycling.

I went from a 32″ waist to a 33″ waist over the Christmas period – time will tell if this is purely a result of stuffing myself with rich food and driving rather than walking/cycling or simply the first slowdown you hit in your late 20s. Looking forward to getting dat dere TRT in my 50s to get insanely jacked and entirely infertile instead of a vasectomy once the 3 necessary children have been sired

Going back to the USA

willing to jerk today

I am going to be heading to Atlanta for work mid-February and should get in the night before president’s day. Will be there 2 weeks. Willing to mope/jerk on arrival.

I am looking forward to drinking actual Dr. Pepper and eating more fast food. Hope to do some shooting and see some Civil War stuff if possible.

No doubt I will walk 30 minutes to the nearest store to the bafflement of everyone. Thankfully most Southern people I’ve met have no trouble deciphering an Irish accent, or maybe they were too polite to say otherwise.