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Running a Business as an Artificer
In a previous article I looked into the practicality of building a Mage Tower for yourself. That was received fairly well, so I think I'll move onto my favorite class, the Artificer. Now, an Artificer doesn't necessarily need a tower as a base of operations, and given the somewhat more limited spell selection and 1/2 Caster nature, thought I'd focus more on the innate ability of an Artificer to be a small business owner by merits of Tool Proficiencies! Mundane and Magical Item are simple to make with all the Tool Proficiencies you are able to acquire at a relatively low level. This guide could also be quite beneficial to Forge Clerics or any Wizard, Bard or Caster that knows Fabricate. I recommend several resources to look up or familiarize yourself with before you take on this enterprising business opportunity. 1) Chapter 6 of the DMG features the Downtime Activity of Running a Business. It breaks down to 1d100+X, X being a number of downtime days that you spend running your business. If you can get above a 60 on the roll, congrats, your business makes a profit for that month. 2) Eberron: Rising from the Last War. You'll need this book if you want to play an Artificer. 3) Exploring Eberron presents two new Artificer Subclasses as well as a few new infusions I reference here, namely Healing Salve and Quiver of Energy. 4) Acquisition Incorporated is a great source for new rules to allow a business to be run while you continue to adventure, allowing a constant background stream of income to help fund future adventuring opportunities. You can use as many or as few options as you'd like, but the Hireling options to run the business in your absence are a nice touch. 5) If you don't want to use traditional Hirelings, but a more customizable NPC, you could use the Sidekick Options from the Essentials Kit and the upcoming Tasha's Cauldron of Everything. I will be recommending Sidekicks for each of the business models in the examples below. 6) Waterdeep: Dragon Heist gives basic operating costs for running a tavern and One-time and Recurring fees for Guild Memberships. Given the prominence of Guilds in Eberron and other settings, it is a good standard to use for other settings. 7) Xanathar's Guide to Everything has a fantastic breakdown of Artisan Tool uses and Skill Checks that will be immensely useful to Artificers or businessmen looking to practice a trade. The following examples will be based on the following assumptions: 1) You will be running this business on your own. 2) You have options to get hirelings or other PC help should you want/need it. 3) You are level 6. This is the first level where a lot of this becomes feasible because you gain your Tool Expertise class feature and are now the best on the block at using Artisan Tools. You also gain a nice expansion to your Infusions that you can learn and I would think that knowing the Enhanced Weapon Infusion would count as having a schematic allowing you to enchant a basic +1 weapon. 4) We can use the upcoming Tasha's Rules for Character Creation on the Sidekicks so that you can swap out one Skill Proficiency for a Tool Proficiency. Wouldn't make sense to hire someone to run a weapon smithing shop who couldn't use Blacksmith Tools. Feel free to submit your own business models using the following format:
Artificer Subclass or Subclasses best suited.
Tool Proficiencies needed.
Helpful Infusions. I include these here because I believe that having a relevant infusion should count as the required schematics necessary to create a magic item. I also think that they should definitely look different than the standard fare that traditional enchanters sell.
Primary focus of business. What you will be selling or offering to customers.
Common or Uncommon Magic Items to supplement mundane sales when you hit level 10 and can make them in 1/4 the normal time and 1/2 the price of anyone else.
Sidekicks you could use in the business.
Other Party members who could help you besides the Forge Cleric, Bards, Rogues or any Spellcaster that knows *Fabricate*. You can Assume that the above classes are inferred good business partners for any of the jobs listed below. This guide will be focusing on those with Tool Proficiencies from Class, as anyone could grab a Guild Member background and be helpful as well.
Wandsmith/Arcane Focus Maker
Artillerist. This subclass lends itself well to a Wandslinger and the level 5 class features give a lot of attention to the Wand.
Armor of Tools, Woodcarver's Tools, Jeweler's Kit, Glassblower's Kit. Woodcarving for Wands, Rods and Staves. Jeweler's for Wands, and Crystals. Glassblower's for Orbs.
Enhanced Arcane Focus, Replicate Magic Items (any common wands or staves, Wand of Magic Detection, Wand of Secrets), Homunculus Servant, Replicate Magic Item (Wand Sheath). The Enhanced Arcane Focus should lend you to easily make decent wands and even Infused Wands. Replicating Magic Items for schematics for easy to make Common Magic items to upsell to customers. Homunculus Servant for extra help around the shop.
Cart, Wagon, Boat, Shop. You could have 2-3 wands on hand in a cart, a covered wagon with carving tools set up or even a section of a ship dedicated to making and selling your wares. If applicable, you could even buy a permanent location to sell your wares, this will be your best bet for glassblowing, as your toolkit still requires you to find a suitable heat source to form liquid glass. Work your way up to being your own Gilmore's Glorious Goods, Invulnerable Vagrant, or Fantasy Costco.
At this location, Wands, Rods, Staves, Crystals and Orbs will be your meat and potatoes. Basic Spellcasting Foci for any aspiring Wizard, Sorcerer or Warlock. You could even branch out into Holy Symbols, and Druidic Foci if the demand is there. While a basic Spellcasting Focus only needs to be between 5gp and 20gp. These are easily made in a single day of downtime crafting. You could even customize more expensive version of them for Nobles or highly opinionated casters to distinguish yourself from other magic shops.
Common and Uncommon Wands and Staves. Mostly Imbued Wands or Orbs of Resistance. Wands of Magic Missile, Burning Hands, Ice Knife, Catapult would all fall under these categories. Could even make a Common Wand that requires attunement, and grants the attuned the ability to cast a single Cantrip (always at Level 1) as a Novice Wandslinging item. Scrolls could be re-flavored as single use wands.
For Sidekicks, an Expert would be great to help you churn out mundane items, while a Spellcaster would help you keep a steady stream of lower end Magic Items available.
Eldritch Knights and Tome Warlocks would make great business partners. Eldritch Knights would probably push you to sell Rubies of War Mages also, bringing in a new area of clientele and the ability to advertise through Weaponsmiths for when they have some adventurers come through.
Armor of Tools, Painter's Kits, Calligrapher's Kit, Glassblowers Kit, Woodcarver's Kit, Mason's Tools. These cover the gambit of common medium to work with.
Homunculus Servant. Most other Infusions are combat based, but a Homunculus is a nice extra set of hands(tentacles or claws?) to help pass you the right tool and to clean off your brushes.
Can work from Cart, Wagon, Boat or Shop. You might want a combo of Wagon and Shop, with a mobile studio to get different landscapes and to collect different material and a shop for a gallery from which to sell things.
Paintings, Sculptures, Wood Carvings, Reliefs and finer doo-dads will be your main stock. From carvings of monsters that you've fought, self-portraits of people you've met, landscapes of other planes, or just finely made custom Dragonchess sets with pieces that look like real people. You could even specialize in ship figureheads or shop signs for taverns or other businesses. If you can find a way to make a permanent Magical Tinkering effect of the static visual image, that's a nice storefront display right there.
Illusion enchanted paintings for a Harry Potter style feel would be good magical items, or even Dragonchess sets that can move themselves.
Experts will probably get more mileage for the tool proficiencies than the Spellcaster unless your Enchanted portraits become a real hot commodity.
Kensei Monks and Battlemaster Fighters each get proficiency in a set of Artisan's Tools as a Class Feature. Monks get Calligrapher's kit, but Battlemasters get to pick their choice, so could easily be Painter's or Woodcarver's.
Armor of Tools, Woodcarver's Tools, Tinker's Tools, Smithing Tools, Carpenter's Tools. You will be mostly working with Wood and steel. Woodcarver's Tools lets you make 20 arrows as part of a Long Rest per Xanathar's.
Repeating Shot, Quiver of Energy, Enhanced Weapon, Homunculus Servant. Enhanced Weapon for a reason to be able to make +1 crossbows. Quiver of Energy might be useful for some arrows that add a bit of elemental damage to a shot, even if only +1 fire or lightning.
You can run a smaller shop out of a cart or wagon and be mostly custom orders, or you can have a fixed shot with dozens of different styles ready for sale and enchantment services on request.
Hand, Light and Heavy crossbows as well as arrows and bolts will be your primary trade. You can also Silver arrows and bolts and filigree the crap out of some crossbows if people are interested in flaunting their status that way. Pretty straight forward with these mundane items.
Walloping Ammunition, Unbreakable Arrows, Elemental Burst Arrows and Quivers of Ehlonna will be easy sources of magical flare in your shop.
Experts will be your main shopkeepers and re-stockers. Warriors if you want someone to do demonstrations.
Rangers, Arcane Archer Fighters, Kensei Monks will make excellent business partners. The Ranger especially brings a host of appropriate spells for later game enchanting. The Kensei will probably focus on more "traditional" Bows, which can help expand your clientele.
Brewer's Kit, Alchemist Supplies, Herbalism Kit, Poisoner's Kit. It is called out in Xanathar's Guide that an Herbalism Kit is required to make Healing Potions. So that's something you're definitely invest in. Also, in Xanathar's for .5lbs and 25gp of material, you can make one Alchemist Fire as part of a Long Rest with an Alchemist Supply Kit. That's not even counting what you can make during the day as Downtime. Stock up before you leave the city and you can make yourself one firebomb a night!
Healing Salve and Homunculus Servant. Healing Salve is basically a 4 use touch range Healing Word you can make. This would be a great basis for Keoghtom's Ointment. I also feel like at this point I don't need to explain why Homunculus Servant keeps appearing on these lists.
You could run this out of a cart or wagon, but i'd be worried about all those Alchemist Fire supplies rattling around. Same with a boat, unless you're just a Riverboat. A physical Shop would be best for what you need, although a cart/wagon for traveling with already made merchandise is a nice way to spread the brand name and to gather exotic or non-local supplies.
Healing Potions! You are the local healer. You will also probably have on hand a good number of natural remedies for people who can't afford a constant stream of Healing Potions and instead use the Medicine Skill Proficiency to treat wounds. You can also make a single item of either Alchemist Fire, Acid, Antitoxin, perfume or soap as part of a Long Rest with an Alchemist's kit, so you can have a varied catalogue. makes sense to me that Sunrods (fantasy glow sticks) would be something you'd make with Alchemist's Supplies. You could even dip into Poison's, that wouldn't be advertised of course, but would include a bit of a premium on their sale for those in the need of such a thing.
As you level up you can more easily make Potions of: Greater Healing, Fire Breath, Hill Giant Strength, Resistance and Water Breathing. You can also easily make an Alchemy Jug, which can make you day to day operations even cheaper as you can simply have the jug produce some of the more mundane liquids you may sell. The Decanter of Endless Water is also a must have item and too easy of a sale to anyone adventuring near or into a desert. Keoghtom's Ointment is also a nice Emergency Medicine that you could sell to a local Hospital or Militia.
Expert's are your best bet at brewing basic potions for you and keeping the mundane supplies stocked. A Spellcaster would be able to expand your inventory with Climbing Potions, Beads of Nourishment, Beads of Refreshment, Candle's of the Deep, Perfume of Bewitching and Tankard's of Sobriety.
Druids, Eldritch Knights, Monks and Rangers would be good partners as they can easily get Nature and Medicine proficiencies for a good number of the items that you make.
Any Artificer, but strong lean to Alchemist due to class flavor.
Brewer's Kit, Carpenter's Kit, Cook's Utensils, Alchemist Supplies, Herbalism Kit, Glassblowing Kit. The Brewer's Supplies should be obvious, but outside of the business, you can Purify1 gallon of Water over a Short Rest and 6 Gallons over a Long rest, a handy skill to have if you aren't near someplace with Fresh Water, like the open ocean. The Cook's Utensils are also a given with a Tavern, but outside of combat they allow a creature to regain 1 extra HP per Hit Dice they spend on a Short Rest. That may not sound like much, but it effectively makes each Hit Dice one higher on average (1d6+1 has the same average as 1d8). The Carpenter's Tools are so that you can fix all the furniture that will break during the inevitable bar fights. The Alchemist Supplies are actually for embalming creatures you encounter so you can have that Mindflayer Taxidermized as a display item in your bar! That's a feature I don't think any other local bar will have. Herbalism Kit is for working with hops, or branching into a bit of Potion Making if you want. Glassblowing is for you to make your own signature glassware that you can serve with the expensive drinks and offer as souvenirs.
Homunculous Servant, Replicate Magic Item (Tankard of Sobriety). Tankard's of Sobriety seem like the perfect item for a bartender or bar owner. You can drink as much as you want but still stay sober. Might not be as much fun as regular drinking, but good for keeping your head about you and one hell of an advantage in a drinking contest.
You could run this out of a Cart or Wagon as a kind of portable bar for just drinks. If you got a decent sized ship you could even expand it to a casino boat. However, a physical shop is the best choice here, specially if you plan to expand it to housing several rooms. Location is also key here, so make sure you spend some downtime doing some Investigation, Insight and History checks to learn all you can about potential locations you might set up.
Beers, Wines, and Spirits of all kinds, with tasty food to boot! This is the stereotypical D&D Player business. There's an entire chapter of Waterdeep: Dragon Heist dedicated to setting up and running a tavern if you want inspiration. Feel free to include specials following your adventures of meat from creatures you've slain! Hydra-Burgers should be tasty.
Mostly Wands of Prestidigitation and Decanter's of Endless Water for cleaning the bar and Alchemy Jugs for an easier way to produce cheap beer and wine with basically no overhead costs. Dust of Dryness might be nice to have on hand for cleaning up spills as well. Oh, and don't forget to keep a Wand of Magic Missiles behind the bar for those rowdy patrons.
Spellcasters might make the best brewmasters of the sidekicks due to their increased Mental Stats. They can also help out with cleaning, and if they get to a point where they can Detect Poison and Disease, that would be a huge help come Health Inspection time. Experts will make good Brewers and can step up behind the bar to help out with their wide range of proficiencies. Warriors are good Bouncers and a way to take care of those pesky Dire Rats in the cellar.
Way of the Drunken Fist Monks will either be a godsend or a curse for you as a business partner. Other Monks and Rangers would make a good partner as their naturally high Wisdom scores would help with Insight and Perception to keep an eye on patrons and employees. And no one is better in a bare knuckle brawl than a Monk, you could even put a fighting pit in your tavern if you want that kind of atmosphere, but I'd be sure to have a place to check weapons at the door so fights don't escalate too much outside of the fighting pit. Barbarians and Fighters have the CON to put down the drinks for Taste Testing and still being able to be a Bouncer. Beastmaster's can use their companion as a novelty server or even tavern mascot. And while I said I wouldn't include them on the list, I just have to say that any Bard would go here wonderfully.
Battlesmith (It's in the name)
Smithing Kit, Alchemist Supplies, Leather Working, Jeweler's Kit, Woodcarving Kit. The Smithing Kit and Woodcarving kit should be obvious as 95% of the weapons are made from metal or wood. The Leather Working Kit is for grips and wraps on the handles of weapons. Jeweler's Kit is for making fancy versions of weapons. Alchemist Supplies is for Silvering Weapons or using chemicals to stain the metal other colors.
Homunculus Servant, Armor of Tools, Enhanced Weapon, Returning Weapon, Radiant Weapon, Replicate Magic Item (Moon-Touched Sword), Replicate Magic Item (Armblade). I think both the Radiant Weapon and Moon-Touched Sword Infusions would be good enough to count for the schematics to make Moon-Touched Swords for you. Enhanced Weapon for a basic +1 weapon.
You need a forge for these, and that means that Carts and Wagons are only good for transporting completed merchandise to sell. The sheer weight needed for your forge makes a boat out of the question. Like the tavern, a physical location is the best bet for you.
Anything that isn't a strictly ranged weapon is your stock and trade here. The most expensive mundane melee weapon is the Greatsword at 50gp. That means it will take you a full day (25gp) to make a single one. All other weapons can be made in a few hours. You'll also want to have some farming supplies and tools on hand in order to maximize your customer base. Hoes, pick axes, crowbars, buckets, barrels, Caltrops, Ball Bearings, metal religious symbols etc. Silvering Weapons and adding gold/silveelectrum/gemstone decorations to mundane items are a great way to offer wares to richer customers. Yes, Lord Grantham ir'Lupiloo has a fine rapier, but he doesn't have a rapier made of Bulette-scale Damascus steel, with a hydra skin wrapped pommel and his name engraved in gold embossed Draconic along the crossguard. That's how you make a name for yourself, because Lord Brendit ir'Flaglap is going to HAVE to have a nicer Longsword than that cur for next week's gala.
Moon-Touched Blades, Weapons of Warning, +1 Weapons and a weapon with a single minor property from the table on page 143 in the DMG will be the easiest and fastest for you to replicate.
The Expert and Warrior will be best for if you want mundane items being churned out of your forge. The Spellcaster would be a better hire if you want to focus on enchanted items. The difference in what you will be able to do will be based on your location. Rural areas will focus on mundane most likely, while cities will have more demand and client base for fancy mundane and enchanted.
Fighters, Barbarians, Monks, Paladins and Blade Pact Warlocks would do great here as partners.
Smithing Kit, Leatherworking, Weaver's Tools, Cobbler's Tools, Alchemist Supplies. SMithing and Leatherworking are straightforward. Weavers is for non-armor clothing if you want to instead open up a clothing boutique. Cobbler's tools for if you want to make shoes. Fun fact, with Cobbler's Tools you can spend a Long Rest to add in a 3" by 1" hidden compartment into a pair of shoes or boots.
Homunculus Servant, Enhanced Armor, Reflecting Shield, Boots of the Winding Path, Armor of Absorption, Armor of Tools.
You could do a clothing store, shoe repair and custom designing, make and sell leather armor, custom tailoring or a dry-cleaning business (Prestidigitation + Mending) out of a cart, wagon or boat, but for the same reasons as with a weaponsmith you need a physical location if you want to make metal armor. Make it work, people!
Congratulations, you are now you party Rogue's favorite person and source of disguises. You'll have to decide the breadth and scope of just what kind of business you want to run first. Focus on just mundane clothing for commoners to nobles, or do a combination of common clothing and simple armors. Metal armors and shields will require a forge. If you are able to build yourself up, you could eventually do everything out of a large building with a little bit of everything like your own fantasy Macy's. One storefront for expensive dresses, gowns and suits. Next door is more common or work wear, and out back is the forge with protective armors, leathers and shields. This would be a nice way to ensure that all your armor pieces match, because nothing is worse than finding a great piece of new armor that just completely clashes with your personal aesthetic. This also to me just seems like a great way to play a Garrak like character. (If you don't know who that is, please see yourself over to Netflix or CBS All Access and watch all of Deep Space 9 as soon as possible.)
Cloaks of Defense, Cloaks of Many Fashions, Cloaks of Billowing, Cloaks of Elvenkind, Cloaks of the Manta Ray, Sentinel Shields, Robes of Useful Items, Brooches of Shielding, Cast off Armor, Boots of Elvenkind, Gleaming Armor, Boots of the Winterlands, Winged Boots....there are so many thematic Common and Uncommon Magic Items for you to make here.
Experts will be your go to for mundane sewing, forging and cobbling. Spellcasters if your enchanting business takes off and can run the Dry-cleaning aspect while you're gone.
Rangers, Monks and Arcane Archers will do well here are they tend to favor DEX and WIS. Also, if you do end up going into a clothing business with a rogue and you don't name it "Cloak and Dagger" then I think you actually lose a Character Level.
Any, but Battlesmiths and Armorers might do best as they would tend to have higher STR.
Armor of Tools, Carpenter's Tools, Woodworking Tools, Smithing Tools, Navigation Tools. You're mostly going to be working with wood here, and a bit of metal also. Navigation Tools just seems like a good choice, unless you want the RP of being a master of building ships, and then being completely unable to use or navigate in them.
Homunculus Servant, Replicate Magic Items (Cap of Water Breathing, Ring of Water Walking, Cloak of the Manta Ray). The Magic Items that you can replicate allow you to fully inspect or repair any ship while it is in the water.
You're going to want a shop. Located next to a large body of water. And depending on the size of the ships you intend to build, it should also be connected to an ocean eventually. You could theoretically have this business from a boat, if you make a large enough ship that you could pull alongside other ships to repair them, but I think you're best off with a permanent location.
As a Shipwright, you make ships! Boats, galleys, rowboats and everything in between. You'll want to start off with smaller boats first to build up your money until you can invest in making a large ship. According to the DMG, a Rowboat costs 50gp to make, a Keelboat costs 3,000gp a Sailing Ship or Longship costs 10,000gp and a Galley costs 30,000gp. Other than Rowboats, which you can make in a single day, these are going to be very long projects. From 120 days for a Keelboat to about 3.3 years for a Galley if you are working by yourself without any magical aid. Even if you do hire multiple sidekicks or just general hirelings, you aren't going to get paid until the entire job is done, but they will all need to be paid while they work on the ship. Instead of making brand new ships, you could also repair existing ones, and as an Artificer, you almost certainly have the Mending cantrip which can help you.
Candle's of the Deep, Heward's Handy Spice Pouch, Orbs of Direction, Ropes of Mending, Alchemy Jugs, Caps of Water Breathing, Decanters of Endless (fresh)water, Eyes of the Eagle, Gloves of Swimming and Climbing and Wind Fans are all magic items that you could sell to shipowners and crews to help them in their travels. Ghosts of Saltmarsh also has a number of Ship Upgrades that you could offer.
Experts are going to help you the most here as they can get the most amount of kit proficiencies to help across a variety of problems. Spellcasters can help if you decide for focus more on maritime magical goods.
If you plan on building ships from scratch, then you are going to need every Forge Cleric and Fabricate Spell you can get your hands on. But be careful, if you are able to start churning out ships in a week for half the cost of the competition, then that is a LOT of people that you are putting out of business and there is sure to be repercussions. For a non-magical approach, just about every party has something that they can contribute to this project. Martial classes will DO WORK on cutting down lumber and getting that ship together. Partial Casters can help speed up certain aspects of building and augment others through buffs.
Updated for multiple spelling, grammar and formatting errors
Please Feel Free to Submit your own Business Ideas! I'll add them if they fit the stated format. Punny Shop names encouraged!
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And Heather is anxious to see how she’s edited in upcoming episodes. “I know this sounds so cliche, but the truth is, you really do forget that the cameras are there,” Heather said. “I’d watch other ‘Housewives,’ and I’d be, like, ‘Sonja, put your clothes on!’ But when it’s you … “I would think, ‘Oh, my gosh! Was I on camera and miked when I screamed at her or said that to my kids? “I never had that out-of-body experience, like, ‘I am a Housewife.’ I always felt like, ‘I am Heather Gay, and I’m pretty messed up.’” We’ve seen Heather in conflict with Lisa Barlow in the first three episodes, and that will continue. “It’s been hard to be dismissed. It’s been hard to have people that loved being my friends distance themselves,” Heather said. “It’s been hard to feel the strain on our friendships. “Doesn’t everybody just want to be friends? I’m the kind of girl that wants to get along with everyone all the time. I have really strong opinions, but I would rather be your friend than be right any day of the week. I’d rather be your friend than win.”
"Fans of The Real Housewives Of Atlanta are used to seeing star Porsha Williams, 39, having fun and shady moments on camera. But she shows a different side of her in the season 13 premiere as she gets arrested for her participation in the Black Lives Matter movement — a topic she’s deeply passionate about. “First of all, I’m just blessed to be able to have a platform,” Porsha exclusively told HollywoodLife during an interview from Atlanta on Nov. 24. “To be able to use my voice for the voiceless and being able to use where I am in life right now to gain attention for these families who aren’t seeing any justice. For me, being arrested and being on the front lines, it was just second hand nature.” Porsha is no stranger to fighting for social injustice. The granddaughter of civil rights activist Reverend Hosea Williams, Porsha attended her first protest at the age of 5. After the police involved murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, Porsha has been one of thousands to take to the streets and participate loudly in the BLM Movement. The Dish Nation host has been so vocal that she’s been arrested not once, but twice, fighting for these families. The first arrest happened back in July 2020 in Louisville, Kentucky during a protest for Breonna and subsequently released on her own recognizance. The second arrest also occurred in Louisville at a Breonna Taylor protest, but this time, Porsha was charged with obstructing a highway and disorderly conduct in the second degree. She was also tear gassed at a rally for George in June 2020. Although she has a young daughter, Pilar Jhena, 2, to think about, she’s actually the reason for continuing to fight on. “For me, being arrested and being on the front lines, it was just second hand nature,” Porsha said. “It was an act of love for the people and we all should be treated equally and I have a little black daughter and I want her future to be better, so it’s just something in me that I have to get active and the main thing that I can call on is my grandfather, the Reverend Hosea Williams, was a Civil Rights Activist, and I learned a lot from him and seeing him in his role and sacrifice and it’s just in me to get into good trouble and it’s just something that my heart led me to do.” We can expect to hear Porsha open up about this and more alongside her sister Lauren and mom Diane on their new podcast Porsha 4 Real. “The podcast is family based,” Porsha revealed. “Of course it’s scary! But on the same hand, it’s not off limits because that’s what we’re there for. We’re there to be transparent. I’m there to use my life as a testimony. I’m pretty much an open book! Like, I really enjoy the fact that my listeners and my viewers over the years have been on this journey with me and they’ve gotten to know me, so it’s actually therapeutic for me to open up and uncover even more for them to be able to relate to me more and hopefully learn from my mistakes, that way they don’t have to go through it.” ORANGE COUNTY
“[Matt] was mentally abusive,” Gina began to Access Hollywood on November 26. “After the affair, everything was crisis mode. [We were] and trying to get over it and not getting over it, [having] explosive fights. But I was not in a physically abusive marriage. I wasn’t,” she continued. “The incident that happened that night was the first time anything like that had ever happened.” As RHOC fans will recall, Gina was allegedly attacked by Matt in June 2019 after a night out with friends, choking her and hitting her and telling her he was going to kill her. Looking back, Gina said that she was not only afraid of her ex, but also afraid of how their fight would be received once the public found out. “I was so terrified of him being angry because he was out of his mind and I was terrified it was going to get out. I was begging these police officers to let him go,” she admitted. Luckily, police didn’t do as she requested and now, over a year later, she knows it was for the best. “I think this pattern of behavior would have continued on and I think it would have gotten worse because typically that’s what happens,” she explained. Looking back at the start of her marriage to Matt, with whom she shares three children, Gina said that the two of them started off “fine.” However, just one year before Gina landed her role on the RHOC, she learned that Matt was having an affair. “We were trying to rebuild and work on it. So I never shared that because in my head the first season, I got myself to a place where that happened and I felt like we weren’t right for each other from the beginning. And even now, I do still believe that. That whole year, I didn’t tell my parents. I told nobody. That [wasn’t] something I was [going to] share. I always tried to protect my kids.” Eventually, after hiding her marriage struggles from RHOC viewers, Gina decided to come clean about what she was going through so that her drama with Matt didn’t “eat [her] alive.” Although Gina’s split from Matt was quite messy, the two of them are now on much better terms and earlier this season, Matt and his girlfriend, Brit, who is not the same woman he cheated on her with, made an appearance on the show. “His girlfriend now, Brit is great. She’s great for him [and] she’s really great to my children,” Gina admitted. “We had a conversation about it. I felt like it is a good message to show people,” she explained. “[Matt] has changed himself for the better. [And] I think it is important to show people that you can co-parent, as long as you have two mature adults. I know Matt is probably one of the most hated guys in America but he’s not a monster. He’s a good dad.”
"Braunwyn Windham-Burke’s 43rd birthday was an unforgettable one. After waking up to the sweetest surprise balloons and decorations from her kids, The Real Housewives of Orange County cast member closed out her special day by getting a meaningful new tattoo. Braunwyn commemorated the occasion with some new ink, as she captured on Instagram on November 25. In the photo, the mom of seven can be seen wearing a face mask and holding out her right arm as the tattoo artist worked on the design. “Perfect way to end the day and start the next year!!” Braunwyn wrote in part of the caption, also tagging the tattoo parlor, Gold Rush Tattoo. Braunwyn later took to her Instagram Stories to share a close-up of her completed new tattoo, which includes the word “Selah” spelled out in Hebrew flanked by two doves. “It’s Selah, I first heard of it when I read Untamed by [Glennon Doyle], with the 2 little doves for the babies we lost,” she explained in the caption. According to Doyle, “Selah” is often found at the end of the verses in the Hebrew bible and has been interpreted to mean “holy pause,” encouraging people to stop, be still, and reflect on the importance of the idea they just read."
What A Day: Crash in Toomey by Sarah Lazarus & Crooked Media (12/18/20)
"Lindsey’s been a personal disappointment." - Joe Biden, in the words of so many before him What a year! We'll be on hiatus until Monday, January 4. Safe and happy holidays, and see you around the inbox in 2021.
Night Of The Living Fed
Say what you will about Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, but it takes a special kind of work ethic to spend the weekend before Christmas holding up coronavirus relief for nefarious political reasons, while taking just one quick break to get a vaccine in short supply. Sorry, not work ethic—what’s the phrase?—moral bankruptcy.
A final relief agreement remains elusive after Senate Republicans, led by Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), decided to hold billions of dollars hostage to a late-announced demand that would cut off Federal Reserve lending programs created by the CARES Act. That’s for no purpose other than to hamstring the Biden administration, and it’s a big ol’ non-starter. As incoming NEC Director Brian Deese said in a statement: “Congress’s good faith effort to deliver immediate relief should not be delayed by provisions that could put our future financial stability at risk.”
And yet, here we are! Lawmakers have until midnight on Friday to approve an extension of federal funding (and the attached stimulus package), which does not appear likely. Thanks to Toomey’s last-minute, godawful proposal, the House has passed another stopgap spending bill and the Senate is expected to do so shortly, in order to avoid a government shutdown while negotiations continue into the weekend. Republicans: Burning the Midnight Oil to Deny You Aid Unless It Screws Over Joe Biden Somehow™.
It bears repeating that the deal Republicans are obstructing is one they’ve already hacked into an insulting sliver of what it could and should be. Where Democrats have demanded $1,200 direct payments, the restoration of $600 weekly unemployment insurance, retroactive benefits, and funding for state and local governments, Republicans have winnowed that down to $600 checks (“it’s nine months of rent, Michael, what could it cost? $10?”), $300 unemployment benefits that will end earlier as a “compromise” for those checks, and a wet raspberry to be blown in the direction of the millions of people who could lose their jobs when state and local governments have to find additional budget cuts.
In their mad scramble back to Austerity Mode, Republicans have held off calls for larger direct payments from (checks notes) Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) and (squints at notes, dons bifocals) President Donald Trump.
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) shot down Hawley’s bill to provide $1,200 direct payments, citing the national deficit, which he remembered this morning upon waking from a peaceful four-year slumber in a distant forest. Sending hungry families $1,200 checks would be “mortgaging our children's future,” said Johnson, who voted for a $741 billion defense budget last week. The Washington Post reported that White House aides stepped in on Thursday to stop Trump from calling for $2,000 checks, out of fear it would blow up negotiations. We’re sick of saying this all the time, but out of respect for the presidency, it seems like we should listen to what Mr. Trump has to say.
While Republicans waste time on attempted sabotage, millions of people are in for the bleakest Christmas since Melania was at the top of her decorating game. The Labor Department reported on Thursday that new unemployment claims rose to 885,000, up 23,000 from the previous week and the highest weekly total since September. Nearly 13 million Americans are behind on their rent or mortgage, according to the latest Census survey, and just under 27.4 million adults reported suffering from food scarcity. If Ron Johnson’s so concerned about our children’s future, wait ‘til he hears about their present.
The embarrassing stimulus package that Senate Republicans will eventually, begrudgingly agree to is only on the table because they worry they’ll lose both Georgia Senate runoffs next month if they don’t pass something. Imagine what relief efforts will look like if Mitch McConnell is still in power in the new year without his majority at stake, then grab a shift to help Georgia voters send him packing.
Look No Further Than The Crooked Media
Unholier Than Thou just released a very special episode with Crooked Media alum Brittany Packnett Cunningham. Phill and Brittany discuss the idea of Jesus Christ in the modern context as a social justice warrior. With Christmas fast approaching, the discussion around the identity (as a brown man, inmate, undocumented immigrant, etc.) of the holiday’s namesake is more relevant than ever. Take a listen, and make sure to subscribe to Unholier Than Thouwherever you get your podcasts →
Under The Radar
Here, we got you a little Christmas grift: Jared Kusher helped create a shell company that funneled millions of dollars in campaign funding to Trump family members. American Made Media Consultants Corporation, whose creation Kushner approved, has spent approximately half of the Trump campaign’s $1.26 billion in total funds since 2019. The company allowed the Trump campaign to shield details of its spending, and while earlier reporting pinned the whole scheme on former Trump Campaign Manager Brad Parscale, we now know that the family was directly involved: Lara Trump was AMMC’s president, Vice President Mike Pence’s nephew was (fittingly) veep, and Trump campaign CFO Sean Dollman was treasurer and secretary. Nothing a last-minute blanket pardon won’t clear up!
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Is That Hope I Feel?
The FDA has authorized Moderna's coronavirus vaccine. Nearly 76,000 new voters, a majority of them under the age of 35, have registered in Georgia since the November election. A federal judge has rejected a lawsuit from Sens. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) and David Purdue (R-GA) aiming to get those new voters’ ballots thrown out. More than 1.1 million people in four countries have received their first coronavirus vaccine shots, according to a Bloomberg vaccine tracker that’s deeply soothing to stare at. Look at you. Thank you. Keep it going.
I started writing the backstory of my Star Wars Saga Edition character, but gave up when the game fell apart
Sozafi Zae had the wind knocked out of them as they slammed into the ceiling, and then they braced for a fall that never came. Being violently thrown into the air had been jarring enough, but there’s no way they could be so rattled they’d miss the return trip, could they? They tentatively opened one eye. The floor loomed over--under?--them. At least the carpet in this penthouse was really soft. Maybe they’d only break one or two ribs, tops. Probably an arm. “You picked the wrong apartment to rob, kid,” the old togruta woman said with a yawn. In all the excitement of somehow finding themself pressed to the ceiling, Sozafi had almost forgotten about the person who put her there… Onoam was beautiful, especially at night, when Naboo could be seen hanging in the sky. Or, Sozafi supposed, Onoam was hanging in Naboo’s sky. There was too much light pollution out there to really see many of the stars tonight, with all of the night culture still going strong, but some nights, when things were calm, Sozafi could still tell they were there. They could draw in the deep air of the sea and feel the galaxy swirling, the hundreds of beings in the city all milling about in gambling dens and restaurants and theaters. This wasn’t really one of those nights. Naboo was nothing but a large teal marble peeking out from behind the heavy grey-black clouds. Rain had begun to fall, a light drizzle that made it all the more dangerous to be clinging to the side of a building. Moments earlier, the twenty something scrumrat had miraculously made it to the third floor, scaling the side of the building in a few bounds. It was a talent she had. If they concentrated, and got a running start, they could feel the world at just a slightly different angle. It was liberating to move through a space like that, feeling the ground retreat. That was how Sozafi made a living as a second-story-neutrois. They were charismatic, and could be charming enough to steal from the tourists, but getting right into the apartments of the wealthy was always a lot more lucrative. Most people wouldn’t bother locking their balcony windows. After all, how would anyone get up there? That wasn’t the case this time. The mark had actually taken precautions. That was just fine. They pulled out a set of security tools and knelt down at the lock, getting to work. With a little bit of concentration, Sozafi could feel the pins working into the right place, and with a gentle turn, the door opened with an unnoticeable click. With that out of the way, they slunk into the room, carefully on the lookout for any signs of security. The mark was some kind of criminal, which meant that she wasn’t likely to have anything that would call official security, and the woman didn’t seem to have any backing. When it came to the distinction between legitimacy and criminality, the distinction was often arbitrary, but it was a safe bet that someone with this much money could stand to part with it. Once the coast was clear enough, Sozafi started looking around for anything important. Credits, obviously, but anything that could fit in their pack and fetch a good price would be worthwhile. They had good instincts for hiding places, and this mark was definitely the kind to use plenty. Several, like the toilet tank or underside of the table, held holdout weapons like a thin barreled concealable blaster or a vibro-knife. They could stay where they were. There were also plenty of credits already tucked into a bug-out bag hidden in a false bottom of a clothes hamper. Sozafi had no need for the handful of fake scandocs for the togruta, so they left those where they were, but the credits would be very useful. It was an hour into Sozafi’s gentle ransacking that their instincts seemed to lead them astray. Inside another false panel, they found nothing but a strange metal tube. The air of the penthouse seemed to grow cold as the neutrois touched the tube, and pulled it out to better look at it in the light reflecting off of Naboo. “No way…” they murmured, suddenly afraid of the thing in their hands, like one wrong move would release a swarm of ravenous blister fleas down their arm. Sozafi knew it had only been twenty years or something, but this was practically a relic. And contraband. Suddenly all the scandocs, the bugout bag, it all made sense. But still, something inside of the felt… excitement. They could sense the aura of the device. It practically thrummed in their hand. Sozafi held it out, knowing the danger, and reached their other hand out to fiddle with the controls… That was when Sozafi found themself Forcibly lifted into the air and pressed against the ceiling. They hadn’t even heard the woman come in, they were so enraptured by the artifact from a more civilized age. The togruta didn’t even look at it, leaving it where it was on the floor. “Who are you?” She asked, looking up at Sozafi. “How…” The togruta rolled her eyes, and dismissively waved her hand with a sigh. Sozafi fell to the floor, shaky but on their feet. They were thankful for the thick carpeting, but they could tell that some Force had lessened the fall. “Who are you,” the woman said again, this time more pointedly. “I’m no one,” Zae coughed out. They cut a glance to the window. The orange-skinned woman was near the door, but if Sozafi could get to the balcony… Her eyes darted back to the erstwhile mark. “You’re a J--” Before they’d even started to say the word, the togruta spit out “No, I’m not.” There was a tension in the air. Seemed as good a moment as any to make a break for it. Unfortunately the scrumrat didn’t get very far. There were no magic tricks this time, but the togruta was fast, and before taking a step further, she was blocking Sozafi, who actually surprised her by throwing a punch. They didn’t connect of course. The togruta on the other hand did, but Sozafi was no stranger to a punch, and rolled with it. It was followed up by a kick that the older woman didn’t seem like she should have been able to make, and Sofazi had to throw up both her arms to catch it with a block. They weren’t going to stay on the defensive, and lashed out with a blow. It didn’t matter what they did, though, her fists always came up short. A sense of fear started to fill her. This was a legendary warrior. She wasn’t even breaking a sweat. She was toying with them. Sozafi tried to run again, but was jerked back, choked by the collar of their shirt, which ripped as the togruta pulled it. They were spun around, swinging their arm as they did, but once again they hit nothing but air, the woman ducking below the swing, only to throw a series of short, quick jabs to Sozafi’s ribs and breast, knocking the wind out of them. Breathless, Zae saw the old woman stand up tall and lift her thigh up to her heavy chest and kick out like she was going to stomp flat a can of caff. Sozafi threw up their arms to block, but was still sent tumbling back and sprawling over a chair meant more for decoration than comfort. The chair came with them, and by the time they got right side up, the togruta was back in front of them. In a flash of anger, Sozafi remembered the vibro-blade stuck to the bottom of the table, and without even thinking it was in their hand, shooting across the apartment, eliciting a startled gasp from the togruta. They bounded forward, lunging in anger, wanting revenge for all the bruises and pain she’d caused in just the last ninety seconds. And then a sound like metal shearing erupted, and a thin shaft of brilliant green light aimed itself at Sozafi’s throat, her rage disbursed by the soft hum of the lightsaber blade. “Force…” the scrumrat murmured with the tone of a swear, the vibro-blade slipping from their hand, forgotten. “You really are a Jedi…” As if their words were an ion charge, the blade disappeared, and the reverent moment went with it. “No.” The togruta said through clenched teeth. She took a centering breath, closing her eyes, her brow furrowed. Quieter, she finally added “Not for years now. There are no more Jedi.” “Tell me everything.” “There isn’t much to tell,” Azasham said, knowing this kid wouldn’t hear how weighed down with weariness her words were as she sipped the caf. The two had stopped fighting. There wasn’t much point after that. Azasham had tossed her lightsaber aside, and with the same flick of her wrist, both it and the vibro-knife, now deactivated as well, had landed into the chair, which had also righted itself. If she was being honest with herself, Azasham was showing off a little. She hadn’t obviously used the Force like this in… over a decade, at least. And here was this Force Sensitive who had somehow avoided the notice of the empire. Was it because they were here on Onoam? It wasn’t like Palpatine’s home system was free of the bastard’s grip. Beneath the tranquil streets and bustling tourist attractions, miners still toiled for the Empire, and while fully armored stormtroopers were unwelcomed by the galaxy’s elite with their vacation condos and chalets, crisply uniformed Imperial officers helped comfort the wealthy after the terrorist assassination of Moff Panaka three years earlier and had never left. Funny how the rich and powerful could be comforted if you just put the agents of imperial violence in a nicer uniform. Had this guttersnipe managed to stay under the radar for two decades simply because the terrifying black armour and blood-bladed sabers of the Inquisitorius would be too frightening a sight for the members of the ruling class who came to Naboo’s peaceful moon with the luxury of forgetting about partisans and terrorists and unruly systems not yet brought to heel? Or, maybe, a little ember Ashazam wished would burn out already whispered, maybe it was the will of the Force. “What about me?” “What about you?” “Am I Jedi?” Azasham let out a noise that the human neutrois considered rather rude, judging by their facial expression. “No, kid, there’s more to being a jedi than moving things with your mind.” “Teach me, then.” “No.” “You want to,” Sozafi said, more as a statement than a question. Azasham sipped her caf, not a single muscle moving that didn’t have to. “I knew it,” the scrumrat said, eyes lighting up. “I could just kill you,” she offered, only barely hiding her smile. For a second she thought she might have been a little too stoic as the colour drained from the neutrois’ face. But it was only temporary. They weren’t convinced. “You could have killed me from the start, but you knew I was a Jedi,” they said, wheels visibly spinning. Another snort, another glare from the kid. “You’re not a Jedi.” “Yes I am! You saw it. I pulled that knife to me, and I can sense things.” Sozafi’s wheels spun faster as things fell into place. “And I can run up walls! I just thought I was good at parkour… I can do all that because I’m a Jedi.” The knife flew from across the room, causing Sozafi to jump as it whizzed by their head. Azasham put it down on the other side of the table from Sozafi. “Do it again, then, Jedi.” The knife stayed where it was, no matter how much Sozafi glared at it. They even stretched out a hand, fingers forming a claw, wrist slowly turning. There was grunting. Then, their shoulders slumped in defeat. "That's what I thought," Azasham murmured. Something about how she said it must have set Sozafi off. They gave out another growl of frustration and screwed up their face. It happened quickly, a little wiggle at first. Acting before the vibro-blade even moved, Azasham's hand shot out to catch it. The sharp durasteel blade, luckily unactivated, dug into her palm, and her blood dripped into her mug of caf. For the first time tonight her heart rate had spiked. Sozafi had once again lost all their anger, looking at the tip of the blade with wide eyes. It had completely ignored their outstretched hand, assuming right for their face. Without Azasham's lightning reflexes, they'd have been dead. The blade was only inches away from splitting their head like a melon. "Oh fuck, oh fuck", they said jumping up so quick that another chair fell over. Sozafi panicked, looking around the room for something to fix this. "Stop." Sozafi did, though the panic didn't go away. "Towel, by the sink." They blinked for a moment, then rushed to grab it, holding it out as Azasham slowly opened her hand and let the knife fall. It was a mess, but the cut was clean. All that mattered now was staunching the bleeding, but she winced a little more than necessary, playing up how much it hurt. It would do the kid good to be scared. "Now go get my medkit," she said, lekku shifting as she jerked her head to the bedroom. "It's in the bag from my hamper." Once again, the neutrois did as they were told, quicker this time. Maybe this wasn't going to be so bad an idea after all. A few minutes later, as she was gingerly coating her hand in a bacta strip, Sozafi finally spoke up. "So I guess I am a Jedi, then?" They asked, voice cracking a little. Azasham couldn't help but laugh. "No." "Oh come on, seriously?" "You're untrained, and dangerous. You're sensitive to the Force, but that doesn't make you a Jedi." After a pregnant pause, the corner of her lip curled upward and she added "yet." Sozafi vibrated like the activated knife, their face splitting in an excited grin. "You'll need to focus. I could just be training you how to get yourself killed spectacularly. Or I could be creating a monster.” Sozafi laughed nervously, “A monster? Isn’t that a bit dramatic?” Azasham’s durasteel glare made the scrumrat swallow, but their throat caught. “You’re untrained, and that makes you dangerous. Which is why I need to train you. But in doing so, I’ll be making you more powerful.” Sozafi’s eyes brightened in a troubling way, though Azasham couldn’t fault them for the feeling. They did have the sense to feel conflicted about that excitement when Azasham gave a sigh. “The Dark Side is strong in you. I can feel it, particularly when you want something. You’ve killed before, haven’t you? Have you ever called upon the Dark Side to do so?” Azasham wasn’t sure she even wanted to know the answer. Would she have to murder this youngling after all? Would it be easier to spare them being found and turned by the Inquisitorius, or worse, tempted by the Dark Side into abusive relationships, unfocused and untrained as little more than an animal with no restraint? Sozafi was fidgeting, thinking before they spoke, which was at least a good sign. “I… I don’t really know. I’ve called upon the Dark Side, I just don’t think I knew it, and always in fights. And I…” They bit their lower lip, chewing it in thought, “I have killed someone. In self-defense. But only twice. Well, once, I’m pretty sure the other guy survived, just never messed with me again. I don’t use it to cheat or steal or anything” Azasham thought about it for a long moment. What kind of damage had living on the street done? Would the hardships have created a monster? She didn’t want to think that they had, but then again this kid was already growing on her. The eagerness, the excitement. This wasn’t something she had seen from someone in a long time, and certainly not in a Jedi adept. “You were stealing from me,” She pointed out after considering it. Sozafi blushed. “Well, I was going to. But you’re not from Onoam. No one who isn’t from around here other than the miners has good intentions. I thought you were just some rich person, and it doesn’t count if you steal from the rich. They all stole it from the poor.” They narrowed their eyes, and looked around, “wait, how did you get the money for a place like this anyway?” Azasham’s lip curled to show the tips of her pointed teeth. “I stole it from rich people.” Two days later, Sozafi sat cross legged in a field of blue-green grass across from Azasham, who still seemed to be lost in contemplation. They’d come to these empty fields for Sozafi’s first lessons. Azasham had asked them to wait two long days, and now was still waiting. At least it was a nice day. They’d still tried to experiment on their own, just a bit, trying not to get angry as they made a rock rise up from the floor of their poorly kept little one room hovel apartment in the poorer end of the local district. It was frustrating, but knowing that you really can do it tends to make things easier. They hadn’t even bothered to go out running any scams or stealing from anyone, since Azasham had given them enough credits to live off of. An act that mad Sozafi’s eyes go wide, but they never said no to credits. By the end of those two days, Sozafi was slowly pulling their few bits of furniture round the room telekinetically. Azasham hadn’t seemed impress when they told her, demonstrating by levitating a credit stick. Azasham pulled the stick out of the air and wagged a finger at them, looking around the crowded street outside her much nicer apartment as they walked to the alley where her landspeeder was parked. “You have to be more careful about where you use your… talents,” she admonished, one orange finger pointing at Sozafi. The ride had gone by in silence, at least when Sozafi got the hint. And now they were sitting here in the grass, where the city was just a line of colour on the horizon. Waiting for Azasham to finally make up her mind about what to do, Sozafi once again stretched out with their senses. This, too, they had come to realize, was a part of the Force. They’d never been so far away from the hustle and bustle of Onoam’s crowds. Even at night, the city was thrumming with beings experiencing the city’s nightlife. Here, it was… different. The sun warmed everything, and there was still so much life. Sozafi had never really thought about it, but the grass was alive. There was life in the grass--insects and small lizards and rodents, even nesting birds--but the grass itself was also alive, a hundred pinpricks of light all woven together. Suddenly another presence eased itself into being. Not necessarily bigger, but deeper somehow. A being that was both aware and aware of her. Tentatively, Sozafi reached out her senses, just barely brushing the edges with her consciousness “That tickles,” Azasham said, in a rather deadpan voice. Sozafi opened their eyes and nearly fell over. “That was you?!” The togruta smiled a toothy smirk, but didn’t open her eyes. “That was you,” Sozafi said again, righting themself on the blanket. “You’re immense.” Azasham snorted, and opened one eye, “I haven’t had time to watch my figure,” she said with another grin Sozafi blushed, “Not like that, I mean…” They motioned incoherently with their hands. “I felt you. In there. In the Force, I guess.” “In there is everywhere,” she said, finally opening her eyes and relaxing a bit. “You’ve got an awareness of your surroundings. That’s good. That's our first lesson. Are you familiar with midi-chlorians?" “Aren’t those the folks famous for being bounty hunters?” Sozafi asked. Azasham paused for the briefest moment in confusion and then continued. “Midi-Chlorians are symbiotic beings found in all life. They are a part of us, and in turn we are a part of them. They connect us all, and connect to each other. This is the Force. You have the ability to communicate with the midi-chlorians.” Sozafi had begun to stare at their hand, as if they’d see microscopic bugs crawling on it, giving them super powers. They knew that wasn’t quite how it worked, though. Probably. “When you move things, you are working through them. When your actions are in balance, you ask them to move the object.” Azasham demonstrated this by levitating the stones around her. It was nothing compared to the outbursts she made the other night, but the control was astounding compared to the wobbling rise that Sozafi had managed. “But you are powerful, and you are not always in balance. Your emotions get the better of you, and that makes you dangerous.” Sozafi sat quietly, their thoughts swirling. This was a lot to take in. They’d have to take this more seriously than simply throwing rocks around, but that was a lot of responsibility. “When I’ve found balance, what am I supposed to do with this power?” they wondered, tracking one of the rocks as it made a circuit around Azasham, locking eyes with her for a moment as it passed her face, and then nervously snapping back to the rock’s path. “I mean, the Jedi kept peace, right? But I’m just a burglar.” Azasham closed her eyes and thought about the question. It wasn’t one she even knew the answer to. What had she been doing with her power? Was she keeping the peace here on Onaom? No. She wasn’t. She was just being a burglar herself, albeit far more skilled than Sozafi would ever be without training. For over a decade now, she had barely been doing more than surviving. The night came back to her. The night when Hex, Copper, Ransom, and the others had died. The night when the orders they had been born to follow finally came. The blaster fire. The sounds they made as her blades whirred through their plasteel armour. The limbs hitting the ground. She wasn’t sure if it actually was raining on Raxus that night, but she always remembered it that way. But no, she hadn’t even been a peace keeper back then, had she? A lightsaber might arguably keep the peace, but an army of clones? Just how much of the war had Palpatine engineered so that the Jedi and their armies would conquer the galaxy for him? There was no peace to be had there, and certainly no peacekeeping involved in ripping off casinos. So what was the point, then? What reason did Azasham have for teaching this youngling, well past their prime? She looked at Sozafi, so full of determination, and of anger. It was all too familiar. Azasham killed another Stormtrooper, sliding past him and slicing him in half. These weren’t the men she had fought with during the Clone Wars. They were sloppy. Even just seeing them wearing those uniforms, making a mockery of the men she served with, irritated her at this point. “Just die already!’ she shouted in challenge. She came up from her slide with a flourish and knocked a blaster bolt back where it came, causing a trooper’s head to snap backwards as his bucket helmet was caved in. There was only one left, his knees shaking. Azasham stalked forward through the flames of the building, lazily batting blaster fire away, her shoulders slumped. She was barring her sharp teeth, and could practically see herself from his eyes. With her montrals and lekku, and bloody, mess stained clothes she looked like some kind of a monster from his planet’s legends, a fanged demon He had been an idealist at firsts, believing that Palpatine and the Empire wanted to bring peace. But by now he knew better, now he had done horrible things in the name of peace, and with the stalking togruta Jedi survivor coming closer, he couldn’t deny it anymore. She looked like something from Hell come to take penance for his sins. He dropped his blaster and ran. His panicked fleeing was cut short as the armour around his chest crushed inwards, and he was dragged backwards, boots grinding along the dirty floor. “No, please, no!” he shouted, reaching up to take off his helmet, his modulated voice giving way to the cracking begging of a real person. “I’m sorry!” The stormtrooper tried to squirm around, still begging for his life. Azasham glared at him, the icy fury coming off of her choking his screams. She looked into his eyes as the hope, and then life, faded from them. The lightsaber burned his flesh as it cut him smoothly from shoulder to hip, the plasma blade giving just enough resistance that she knew he was there. He held together and whimpered incoherently as he died, stumbling forward. His hands grabbed at Ashasam’s clothes and she watched him, fire still burning. She brought her saber up and stabbed him in the chest, and unneeded move that pushed him away and ended the last few moments of his life. She looked at him, wound up like a Kodashi viper and nothing else to strike at and fill with the deadly venom other species always expected she had. She looked down at her lightsaber, gripping the hilt so tight her orange fingers became pale. Her anger and hatred for the Empire that took everything from her stretched out and collapsed inward, coalescing into her blade. Streaks of unmistakeable crimson cracked through the viridian like Sith lightning, and the humming lightsaber wavering in pain as it was made to bleed. The kyber within lashed out, and pain flashed up Azasham’s arm. She dropped the lightsaber to the ground, blade still emitting. She fell to her knees next to it, reaching out trembling fingers. “I’m so sorry…” she whimpered, wincing as the words left her lips. They sounded so much like that trooper’s words. She touched the hilt, worried that it would turn red again, but the blade stayed green and true. She held the blade up and knelt her head, controlling her breathing and began to meditate. “The Force is with me. I am with the Force…” “Whatever you do is up to you,” Azasham said in the present, her voice giving away very little, but still Sozafi sensed there was something more. “I’m only here to teach you balance. Control.” “Over my powers?” “No, over yourself. But, yeah, kid. You’ll learn all the cool powers. One day you might even need them. You’ve been incredibly lucky, Force preserve you, but there’s no way that will keep up.” Over the next several weeks, Azasham put Sozafi through their paces. That first lesson was easy. If there was one thing that Sozafi could do, it was let their mind wander. Sending out their senses to the vastness of the galaxy was a lot easier than dodging heavy durasteel crates that Azasham moved around first back and forth and then in spiral patterns and finally seemingly at random. Sozafi was still living on their own, but Azasham was loaded, and gave them enough money to afford a decent apartment. Not in the same penthouses that Azasham lived, but now they wouldn’t have to worry about getting stabbed when they were leaving. That had only ever happened once, and it wasn’t deep, but the new place was much better without having to worry about that. After a few weeks of meditating and concentrating, trying to learn how to lift things of their own, and dodging crates as big as they were, Azasham finally started to give Sozafi “lightsaber” training. Except she didn’t want to give her the actual thing just yet. First to learn the forms, they had to use a collapsible baton. “It’s the same thing,” Azasham teased, a baton in one hand and her lightsaber in the other. Sozafi felt the Force as Azasham extended the baton with it while igniting the lightsaber. “See?” Then she turned the one off and let the other collapse. She tossed the less impressive of the two to her apprentice. At one point Sozafi might have been caught off guard, but now their reflexes had been sharpened and they flicked it out in the same motion as the catch. “Yeah, I feel just like a jedi now,” they replied, waggling the security weapon in a way that didn’t at all seem threatening. “Don’t worry, you’ll get the hang of it. We’re starting with forms, you won’t need to swing a laser sword around. “We’ll start with Shii-Cho, the Way of the Sarlaac. This is the first form that a Jedi learns, from the days when lightsaber combat was new…” After that, each day added an additional lesson. Meditation. Stretching. Avoiding obstacles. Lightsaber forms. Meditation. Blaster training. Concentration. Combat training, with and without a weapon. It was grueling, and each night Sozafi would go to bed sore and smiling. There was a meaning to it all. It was different from simply stealing from the rich and pawning their junk and hoping to make it through the week. Every day was another push forward to something. Every so often, at intervals Sozafi could only guess at, they were given a reprieve from lessons, and left to their own devices, often with the instruction to practice some form maneuver or sophisticated telekinetic trick. Running a rock through some maze without touching the side or juggling objects with their mind. These reprieves would happen once every week or two, and could sometimes last days. Sozafi had figured out by now that Azasham was actually some kind of a criminal, and that she often went off world, but it was still a shock when they were commed after a week long hiatus by a grunting and pained sounding Azasham. “Kid…” her voice came from the speaker, distorted and crackling. “Get to my apartment. Hurry.”
Call it a story. Call it a creepypasta. The truth doesn’t need our validation. My siblings and I grew up in Maine. My maternal grandparents lived in Arizona, and so we would only see them a couple of times a year, usually once around the 4th of July, and once around Christmas. Even after Nana passed Pop would still make the cross-country trip. When Pop would stay with us, he would sleep in the downstairs bedroom, which was directly below mine. While one might expect an elderly grandparent to snore, the sounds Pop would make were entirely more unsettling. He would whimper. Pop was a WWII veteran, and he saw combat in Italy at Anzio and Monte Casino. I remember once, as a young child, I somehow produced the naive curiosity to ask him if it was hard for him, an Italian American, to fight against Italians. He responded with only “I’m not Italian. I’m American.” He said it with a grimness that taught me not to ask any more questions about the War. Mom used to say he left something of himself in Italy. Sometimes I think he might have brought something back. Pop loved seafood. Every time he came to Maine, my mother would prepare for him a feast worthy of King Poseidon himself. Every kind of clam and cockle, shrimp, or crab that a Mainer could procure from the state’s coast; it was on our dining table. I myself hate seafood. I often think it might be directly related to me being forced to sit beside Pop for his ocean buffet. The cracking, the stink, the drip of a ruddy bisque off my grandfather’s quivering lip. The way his bony knuckles cracked the lobsters in twain so loudly I often wondered if it was his finger, or the creature’s shell that had given way first. These are my memories of my grandfather, and yes, I still cherish them. The strangeness would begin after dinner. Pop would force my mother, under duress, to save every scrap and shell of seafood left in the sink or on his plate. He had some kind of secret-recipe family stew that he swore by, and the scraps provided the stock which made its base. The soup was a family affair; my brother and I were on onion duty. What seemed like a 50 pound bag of onions would be dragged home from the grocery store. Pop would splay it out across the garage floor, and make my brother and I promise to be extra careful with our chopping knives. It felt like hours. Our eyes would sting and water. We tried every home remedy, nothing worked. Pop always made a solo trip down to the fisherman’s pier for his “secret ingredient”. And yeah, we tried the “We ARE family, we should know the family recipe secret ingredient!” line. “In time…” is all he would say. He would get back from the pier around Sundown, holding only a damp brown paper bag which he never let us see the contents of. He kept the rest of the process to himself. The stew had to simmer overnight. Pop would let us watch him set the burner on the stove, just as low as it could go, and then tuck us in for the night. I still remember that, the smell of brine and onion permeating the house, being tucked into bed by Pop. “You’re safe now” he would whisper. I always thought it was odd, if not just old fashioned. On Pop’s ‘Stew Nights’ something would change. The whimpers I had come to expect, and to listen for, had faded. The thought of what remained still makes my jaw clench when I think about it. Laughter. Not light chuckling. Not benign guffaws. Deep, guttural laughter. I woke my older brother up to confirm my sanity, and he heard it too. We had no idea what to make of it. The first time we wrote it off as some dream. The second time, the following year, was also on “Grandpa Soup’s Eve”. This time, we concocted some convoluted theory about the scent of the stew triggering some jocular childhood family memory which he was reliving in a dream. The third year, having grown older and more confident, we had to see it for ourselves. Grandpa always slept with the window open. He liked to wake up with the sun, and would do his exercises as soon as he got up. We figured peeking in the door had a chance to wake him, so my brother and I figured we could peer through the window from outside and see exactly what was going on. We slipped quietly out the front door, and almost ruined the whole operation immediately. “Shit!” my brother whisper-yelled as he tripped himself onto the damp grass. I heard a spoon go loudly clinking across the front step. “What the hell?”. In what we at the time took as a clear sign of early onset dementia, a bowl of Pop’s Italian Stew had been portioned, and carefully placed upon the front step, spoon and all. We stopped and stared at the bowl, the bobbing chunks of onion and secret seafood. We grinned with confusion, and disbelief, and continued on with our mission. We could hear his laughter creep around the side of the house. We cautiously approached, our faces nosing up over the ledge of the first story window in unison. There was Pop, back arched, rigid, fingers curled in a twisted grip. His chest heaved with every laugh. His eyes were the worst; rolled back, with only the whites showing. Straight up horror movie shit. We watched, both of us still with fear. In reality we were probably only there for a moment, and then broke away, racing one another back to the front front door in terror. It got worse when we got there. The bowl was empty. Not empty because it had spilled, not empty because one of us dumped it out, it was empty; the spoon placed delicately back beside it on the front step. We looked around into the darkness, still shaking from seeing Pop like that, trying to see if some kind of possum or raccoon might have had their way with the stew. We didn’t see any animals. But we did see a strange shadow that neither of us recognized. The center of our Cul De Sac had a tall pine tree and a squarish, stubby statue of a revolutionary war cannon. Between the two was a third figure that didn’t belong. It was somewhere about our height at the time, maybe 5’7’’. It looked something like a person, but had some kind of hard, twisted shell about it’s upper half. The top half appeared to be patterned with horizontal stripes, the thin blacks legs desencing into shiny leather boots. It seemed to be always moving, weaving itself in and out of the shadows as if surrounded by long tendrils. My brother and I grabbed each other’s forearms. I wasn’t sure if his arm was shaking, or if it was the trembling of my own arm moving his. We stood frozen, it was dreamlike; we were petrified. That’s when we heard the call; like the yawp of a coyote, like the call of a merchant announcing their wares to the bazaar. “Scungilli! Scungilli!” It faded into the suburban blackness, and the call echoed more quietly. We left the bowl and went inside. Pop passed a few years back. Once a year, usually around the 4th of July when he would have visited, our family makes a trip to he and Nana’s gravestone. Him being a veteran, and it being so close to independence day, it’s not uncommon for us to find his gravestone adorned with various patriotic decorations; a flag, a wreath, we usually bring flowers. But there’s one thing there my family can never quite figure out. Almost every year, like clockwork, an empty paper bowl and a plastic spoon. My dad will usually curse out whatever mourner decided to visit on their lunch break and littered. My mom speculates that one of the Boy Scouts groups who laid the wreaths must have brought lunch along, and this one just blew away before they could put it in the trash. But my brother and I, we both know. It’s not the laziness of some graveyard litterbug, or some Scoutmaster with poor reaction time to blame. We both know. We know it’s the Scungilli Man. -W.Gianetta
7 Days to Die Alpha 19 Newbie Guide (PC Version) I've seen a number of posts looking for a "how to play," or "introduction," to the game. This is my attempt to write one. At the beginning of the game, you wake up video-game naked (i.e., in your underwear) and completely ignorant. Your goal is to survive, which is made harder by a) your nude ignorance, and b) the fact that you're living in the aftermath of a combined zombie/nuclear apocalypse. Your character has four on-screen meters showing your status: food, water, health, and stamina (or call it whatever you like -- fatigue, energy, etc.). Food and water levels go down unless you eat or drink something. They go down faster if you're doing something that burns stamina (like running). They go down faster if you're too hot or too cold (which is usually only an issue in biomes like desert or snow when you're not properly dressed). They can also go down faster with certain health effects (like getting dysentery -- I'll talk about these effects in a second). Run out of food or water and you will die. (Pay attention to the status bars; in real-life survival situations, regularly getting water is more important than food, but in-game, they both matter.) (Pro tip: Food and drinks you can make yourself are better in many ways than canned goods or basic crops.) Health is just like in any other video game. It goes down when you get hit, or fall, or step on pointy things like spikes or cacti. Run out of health and you die. Eating food, using certain medical supplies, or just waiting will cause health to go back up. Again, certain health effects may nerf your health bar. Stamina shows when you're tired. If you run out of stamina, then you can't swing weapons or tools, run, jump, or do other elements of an active post-apocalyptic lifestyle. The good news is that your stamina comes back faster than health while waiting. Drinking improves stamina recovery, and eating gives a temporary boost to maximum stamina. The bad news is that you will be using stamina constantly as you go about your day. (Pro tip: Check out the various beverages in the game to find stamina benefits -- particularly red tea and coffee, also known as the mining combo.) Alpha 19 has a variety of different health effects that can hamper your food and water consumption, your health/stamina recovery, your maximum health/stamina, your speed, or your ability to use tools. Dysentry comes from eating rotting flesh or drinking unboiled water. Don't do that if at all possible. (Pro tip: You can eat animal fat and snowberries -- or yucca fruit in the desert biome -- if you run out of food in the first couple of days.) Other de-buffs come from injuries. The good news is that if you click on the icon showing the effect, it will bring up your character with info on exactly what you need to mitigate the effect, e.g., put on a splint or a cast to speed healing from a broken leg. Two particular health effects worth calling out are bleeding and infection. If you're bleeding, your screen will flash and your health will keep dropping. Use a bandage, medicated bandage, or medkit to stop it. ANYBODY can make bandages from cloth, so keep some with you. Infection refers not to gangrene, but to the dreaded zombie infection...a disease so horrifying that it helped usher in the fall of civilization. The ONLY way to cure this dangerous disease is...to eat some honey or take an over-the-counter antibiotic. Really, infection should only ever be a serious issue in the first week. (Pro tip: using an ax on tree stumps has a random chance to drop honey.) Encumbrance: You have a fixed number of inventory slots. You will note that three rows are clear at the start of the game, while the final two rows are not. Those extra rows represent encumbrance, and filling them up will significantly slow you down and increase your stamina usage. Try to avoid that outside of cleared or safe areas. You can increase the number of non-encumbered slots with clothing and armor mods, or through the Pack Mule perk. I recommend finding or making pocket mods ASAP and skipping the perk, though a single level in the early game can make things easier for newbies. (Pro tip: Some items, like most raw materials, food, drinks, medicines, etc., stack in inventory; some items like clothing, mods, and weapons do not. Smart inventory management when looting and salvaging will keep that in mind: do I really want to pick up that pair of shoes, or hold onto that dirty water that will stack if I find more?) All right, now that the basics are out of the way, how do I get better at surviving? The answer to that is two-fold. 1) Learn how to do more things. 2) Get better stuff. How do you learn more things? You get experience points (xp) from almost everything in this game. Eventually, when your xp bar fills, you will gain a level and get a perk point. You can use that to select perks, which all have various benefits. At the start, you will get a series of basic quests that serve as a mini-tutorial, and you will gain 4 perk points from finishing them (make sure you complete them!). (Pro tip: Upgrading blocks, e.g., turning flagstone walls into brick walls, is an exceedingly generous way of earning xp in Alpha 19; using a hammer on a block will tell you what material is needed to upgrade it.) Which perks should I pick first? Well...as a newbie, I recommend Lucky Looter (which improves your chance of finding good stuff), either Pummel Pete or Skull Crusher (depending on whether you want to use clubs or sledges), Sexual Tyrannosaurus (which improves your stamina usage), and something from the Fortitude recovery perks. Healing faster, using less food, or running away are all useful. Ask a different player and you will get wildly different suggestions. Eventually, you will figure out your preferred style of play and pick things accordingly. Note that perks tend to be useful to different degrees based on whether you are in early, mid, or late game. The other way to learn stuff is to find skill books and schematics. Schematics let you craft new things. Skill books give you a free perk, basically. Collect all seven of a type to get a bonus perk. Some of those are quite useful. Some of them are very circumstance-specific. Regardless, reading an unread book or schematic at least nets you bonus xp. You can tell that you've read a book by the tiny book icon (it will be open if read already). Even if you've read it, you can keep it and sell it for some cash. (Pro tip: Technically, schematics and books stack in inventory; in practice, finding multiple copies of the same one in a single POI is relatively rare.) How do I get better stuff? There are three ways to do that: 1) Loot it; 2) Make it; 3) Buy it. Looting: There are many objects that serve as containers in the game. Some objects, like cars, may or may not be a container. Just get close. If you get the option to search it, then it is a container. Not every container will have stuff. Searching containers takes time and makes noise. Locked containers need to be disassembled or have the lock picked in order to open them. Alpha 19 changed looting to be highly level- and time-dependent. You will not get top-tier loot in the early game. Even if you somehow fight your way to the roof of the Shotgun Messiah weapons plant on Day 1, you are likely to find stone spears and maybe a blunderbuss. (Pro tip: a pair of lucky goggles will increase your chance of finding better loot when opening a container for the first time.) Crafting: If you know how to build something, and you have the necessary ingredients, and you have access to the correct work area, then you can create something from scratch. Perks and schematics will tell you how to build stuff, though there are a handful of things you can build right at the start (like you saw in your tutorial quests). Ingredients can be looted, or you can salvage them by destroying items. See the next paragraph for more on this. Lastly, some items require you to be at a workbench, chemistry station, campfire, or forge to create (there will be an icon next to the item in the build list telling you which). You can build all of these work areas if you know how, buy them from traders, or use ones you find scattered around the world. Traders have one of each, though they probably won't all be functional (but the broken ones can be looted, at least). Caveat: In Alpha 19, you can build up to level 5 gear (higher level gear is usually better and has more slots for mods), but level 6 gear can be found or purchased. Level 6 gear is typically better than anything you can build of the same type. Salvage: Getting raw materials can be done in a number of ways. Use tools (axes, picks, wrenches, shovels) to extract things from blocks in the world. This is mostly fairly intuitive -- shovels work best on dirt, cement, etc., while axes are good on wooden items like tables and trees. Tools have different levels and can be modded to improve their abilities. Pay attention to the "block damage" stat of the tool to compare them. Some blocks are better sources than others. You can find mineral nodes scattered around that provide you with coal, iron, nitrate, oil shale, or lead, and those are excellent sources (Pro tip: the nodes are just the tip of the mineral iceberg; you can dig down to extract more ore.) Another way to get raw materials is to use the scrap command in inventory (personally, I found the hotkey for this a little too easy to hit accidentally, so I remapped it). This includes most useful items of gear, as well as certain decorative items like faucets and chairs that you can pick up. Note that many metal items can be put in the forge to smelt them down for more resources than you get using the scrap command, including iron tools. (Pro-tip: Smelting radiators that you get from disassembling cars, heating radiators, and AC units is a great source of brass for crafting ammo; you can also smelt Dukes...but you're usually better off using them to buy ammo from a merchant.) Buying: Merchants are scattered over the map. Setting up a base near one is a good idea. The post-apocalyptic currency in this game is the Duke, a brass coin that looks like a casino chip. (There are no bottle caps in this game!) If you don't have any money, then you can instead trade your labor for payment. Complete a quest and you'll get cash, xp, and a free prize of some kind (you get a choice -- ammo, meds, gear, etc.). Quests boil down to: retrieve a package, kill some zombies, kill some zombies AND retrieve a package, or dig up and retrieve a package. In the early game, in particular, quests can be very lucrative. (Pro tip: The Daring Adventurer perk can improve the rewards you get from quests if you decide you want to focus on that aspect of the game.) Merchants sell all sorts of things: food, raw materials, weapons, armor, vehicles, skill books, schematics. Their inventory resets daily-ish, so pop back on a regular basis. Cheesy pro-tip: When you trigger a quest location, the POI will refresh to an "unexplored" state. This automatically refills all of the loot, etc., as well as repopulating the zombies. You can clear the location, then trigger the quest and clear it again for double the rewards. Just don't leave any loot inside a container that will refresh. What about combat? Why haven't you really mentioned the z-word yet? Well, honestly, you'll probably spend a lot more time salvaging and looting than fighting (with the exception of Blood Moon horde nights, which I'll talk about below). Most zombies in the early game are slow and fairly easy to avoid. If you can avoid getting mobbed, then you will probably be all right. Animals, however, will mess you up. You will quickly start yawning when you see a single stumbling housewife zombie, but a wolf will continue to be a threat well into the mid-game. Zombie animals are also a threat. Zombie dogs are fairly easy to kill but come in packs of 3-7. Zombie bears will soak up more damage than you can easily dish out in the early game. Zombie vultures are hard to hit and are really good and causing lacerations and bleeding. I've gotten infected by zombie animals far more commonly than I have from human zombies. Zombie dogs, coyotes, wild cats, and wolves: running works until you run out of stamina, and then you're dead. The best bet in the early game is to find someplace high they can't reach and snipe them if you have enough arrows or ammo. These animals can and will sneak up on you. The good news is that they will make random noises that will let you know they're in the area. Snakes: I've seen these in the desert and wasteland biomes. Good eatin', but they are quiet and can attack without warning. Luckily, they die easily. Wild pigs: Don't bother them. Seriously, just leave them alone until you have good guns. Bears and zombie bears: The good news is that they won't chase you as easily as some other animals. They are also not as fast and you can outrun them. The bad news is that if you get cornered, they can take and dish out huge amounts of damage. Zombie vultures: These will attack you if you're injured, or are riding a vehicle. Shotguns are the easiest way to deal with them. Hitting them with melee weapons is an irritating chore that often ends with negative health effects. Possibly the most annoying creature in the game. Deer, rabbits, and chickens: They don't attack, but run if attacked. They can be a good source of meat. (Pro tip: you can get quests from slips of paper you find in loot; the ones asking you to do things like, "kill a bunch of rabbits by throwing cans of Sham at them," are never worth it unless you're desperate to try something new.) As the game advances, and as you explore some of the larger points of interest (POI), you will run across more dangerous zombies. Feral zombies have glowing eyes and always move at a full run. Crawlers will jump around like demented jackrabbits. Glowing versions of zombies regenerate health. A good rule of thumb is that if something is different about a zombie, it probably is more dangerous. (Pro tip: Quite a few POI's have alert triggers that will cause a bunch of nearby zombies to wake up at once, and stealth doesn't avoid tripping them; best to always have a clear avenue of retreat when entering a new location.) Weapon selection: As said earlier, clubs and sledgehammers are your basic melee option. Either works well for the early game or to save ammo or hit quietly in the later game. Spears, axes, and knives/machetes can also be used, but they require more practice and really NEED perks to be fully optimized. Note that knives and axes are mostly meant to be tools. Stun batons require another source of damage, either turrets or other players, to be effective, and are also perk/mod-dependent. Bows can easily kill basic zombies quietly with a headshot. Use the best bow or crossbow and the best ammunition that you can. Do away with stone arrows/bolts as soon as you can find or build the iron versions. You'll need to decide for yourself if you want to keep using bows once guns are available. I like them, but your mileage may vary. (Pro tip: There is a skill book that allows you to craft flaming and explosive arrows; sadly, there is no way to ride around in a Dodge Charger, shooting exploding arrows out the window while Dixie plays from the car horn.) Guns are easily the best option in the game...and while perks can make them more effective, they aren't necessary. Don't hesitate to pull out a shotgun just because you put all your perk points into pistols if you run out of 9mm ammo. There is a fair amount of ammo in this game, and you can make more...but I always keep a club or sledge with me just in case. Having a gun makes exploring the harsher biomes a lot easier. The trade-offs for gun selection are pretty in line with any other game that has guns. Some burn ammo quickly. Some have low ammunition capacity. Some are better at long range. (Pro tip: having several loaded blunderbusses or double-barreled shotguns in your tool belt can provide an early-game rapid-fire option for dealing with tougher opponents.) Weapon perks and skill books: Each type of weapon has an associated perk, and an associated skill book set. Maxing out both can make a fairly sizeable difference, and can have some unexpected other benefits. For example, one of the skill books gives you a 10% barter bonus if you happen to be holding a .357 while trading. Blood Moon Horde Nights: Every 7 days (by default), the sky will turn red. When night falls (hour 22 by default), a horde will spawn near the player. Every zombie in that horde will magically know exactly where you are and will rush at you to eat your delicious flesh. The devs of the game have made it clear that they want you to FIGHT the zombies, and have gone well out of their way to make turtling behind defenses less viable. Zombies will break down walls -- even ones made of brick and concrete. They will dig to reach you. They jump on top of each other to climb to get you (like in the Brad Pitt zombie flick). As the game progresses, zombies will appear that are capable of spitting acid, or that act as suicide bombers (can you call it suicide bombing if they're already dead?). (Pro tip: Bomb zombies, also known as Demolishers, can be taken down by head or leg shots; shooting them in the chest is a bad idea, despite the fact that shooting the glowing spot is normally the best move in a video game.) Having said that, building defenses and traps can be very effective at delaying or channeling zombies, and can effectively thin the horde. There are pretty much two approaches people use to deal with a horde night.
Find a POI that prevents the zombies from reaching you and then wait out the attack. Anyplace high with enough metal or stone to last for a while will work. Large stores, fire departments, skyscrapers, water towers, etc., can all work, though the smaller the location, the more quickly it will fall to the zombies eventually.
Build a fortress. This is usually a setup that includes auto-turrets, traps, spikes, and walls made of brick or concrete. Often, they're set up to lead zombies into a killing zone where you can shoot or bomb them into bits. There are many YouTube videos on different approaches, and they range from lore-friendly to extremely cheesy exploitations of the AI or physics engine.
Note that these two are not mutually exclusive. It's pretty common to use POI's at first and then try building your own, or to move back to POI's if your attempt at a custom fortress is less effective than you had hoped. (Pro-tip: Don't use your home base for horde nights...at least until you've got a LOT of experience fortifying against horde nights.) Creating a home base: Every survivor needs a place to keep their stuff. Just like with a horde base, you can either re-purpose a POI or build your own from scratch. If you use a POI, then make sure you put down your bedroll. That will keep sleeping zombies from respawning in the area. If you want to use a bedroll as a way of regularly resetting your spawn point, then you're probably better off building your own base. That said, a good POI to use as a base has height. Using a forge on the first floor is a good way to attract random zombies. It's also good to find someplace with brick or concrete walls, as they'll last longer against wandering foes. Also, keep in mind that you'll be going in and out a lot, so you don't want it to be too hard to get in and out. (Pro tip: lone zombies can't jump to ladders that are two blocks off the ground, but you can; this doesn't work so well with hordes, as they climb over each other.) By default, zombies are faster at night, so early game nights are a good time to huddle up in a base and craft things. When you run out of things to craft, READ the descriptions of your perks, skill books, and the built-in journal entries. You'll be surprised how much information is buried in there. You can also take the time to look at the map and plan out the next day's activity. (Pro tip: Find a cluster of close-together POI's on the map, and put a chest or storage box in the middle to serve as a temporary loot repository; inventory item stacking means that having a collection point can mean many fewer trips back to your base with the fruits of your effort.) Vehicles: Maps in this game are fairly large. The solution to moving about to different biomes (which have different resources and different POI's) is to make or buy a vehicle. Anybody can assemble vehicles if they have the right parts, but some of the parts are locked behind perks/schematics. Taking the first-level vehicle perk can be useful, as the bicycle isn't a bad starting vehicle and the perk unlocks wheels, which every other vehicle needs. (Pro-tip: the easiest way to get gas when out-and-about is to salvage the many derelict cars.) Zombies and wildlife are pretty harmless if you can speed past them...with the exception of vultures, which can be annoying enough to make you stop your motorcycle just to shotgun them out of the sky. Mods: There are tons of clothing, weapon, and armor mods in the game. Read the descriptions, as they can have a huge impact on effectiveness. (Alpha 19 has no vehicle mods, despite the fact that vehicles have mod slots.) If you open an item for modding, then any mods in your inventory that can be used for that item will start flashing, making it easy to see which mods go with that item. (Pro tip: There is a boot mod that reduces falling damage that is worth its weight in gold. Not only is it really easy to fall in some POI's, but the de-buff from spraining or breaking a leg when zombies are about can be utterly lethal.) Power tools: Power tools are very powerful. Augers and chainsaws harvest materials very rapidly. They also use gas and make a ton of noise. They tend to quickly attract screamers, which are zombies that scream until other zombies show up to find out what all the fuss is about. Kill them quickly to avoid hordes interrupting your mining. (Pro tip: The physics engine of the game means that mine collapses are a thing, and they can be deadly; shoring up the ceiling with wood blocks can help prevent this, but augers can mine so quickly that you can lose track of how deeply you've gone beyond your supports.) The annoying pinging noise made by augers is an Alpha 19 addition that was generally disliked by everyone. Repairing items: Many items like tools, weapons, and armor will degrade over time. Weapons and tools will let you know they need repair...typically when you need them the most. Armor never notifies you. It just stops working. Check your item status bars to figure out when to repair them. Simple tools and weapons can be fixed with wood and stone. More sophisticated items require repair kits. In Alpha 19, repair kits are a generic fix-all for any advanced item, which greatly simplifies things. They can be crafted with forged iron and duct tape. (Pro tip: forged iron can be made in any forge, but you can also salvage them from disassembling weight sets, desk and gun safes, and NON-FUNCTIONAL vending machines; salvaging them can be tedious in the early game but can be worth it to keep your precious firearms and armor functioning.) Farming: You will find seeds, or you can take a perk or find a schematic to craft seeds. It takes five cobs of corn to create one corn seed, which is odd given that the whole grain is basically made of seeds...but chalk it up to game-play balancing. To plant a seed, you need a farm plot (except for mushrooms, which can grow on any surface), which you can craft with wood, rotting flesh, clay, and nitrate. Once planted, it will grow in three stages. Harvest it at stage 3 by punching the plant, and it will revert to stage 1 and deposit the appropriate food item into your inventory. If you accidentally harvest the seed, just replant it. If you want to get physically fit, do a push up in the real world every time you accidentally punch the ground or the air instead of your crop. (Pro tip: Don't harvest with a mostly full inventory, as if your tool belt slot is the last open spot, the crop will go there, and your next attempted punch will instead eat the last one you harvested.) Electricity: Fire attracts zombies like moths. Using electric lights is a convenient way to avoid that, as zombies are Luddites and don't care for the products of industry. The most convenient way to light up your home base is with lanterns, but you need to find a certain skill book to make them. The good news is that their batteries never need recharging. You can also get flashlights, or mods that attach lights to your helmet or your weapon (press F to pay your respects...er, sorry, to turn on your light). You can also craft a variety of stand-alone electric lights, but that requires a separate energy source. Energy sources come in three varieties. Battery packs hold up to six car batteries and drain the batteries over time. You can recharge the pack by connecting it to a different energy source. Generator banks hold up to six engines (recoverable from many derelict vehicles, among other sources) that burn gasoline to provide power. Solar banks contain solar cells and generate power as long as they are in sunlight. They also cannot be crafted and are as expensive as hell. (Pro-tip: Higher-level batteries last longer; use level 1 and 2 batteries to craft vehicles, sell, or smelt for lead, and keep the better ones for the battery banks.) Use wiring tools to connect energy sources to energy consumers. There are some slightly wonky rules to how you can connect, but it isn't hard to learn with a little trial and error. Wiring doesn't cost you anything, so experiment freely. You can put various switches between the consumer and the source: toggle switches, pressure plates, and motion sensors being the most common, though there are other options. Switches require power, but less power than an active consumer. This allows you to, for example, conserve power in the daytime by turning off active defenses and lights so you don't waste battery charge or gasoline. (Pro tip: a solar bank charging a full battery bank will provide quiet, continuous power, at which point you can feel free to light up your place like a Vegas casino 24/7.) Stealth: Some players will tell you stealth is impossible in this game. That is not true. What is true is that some situations negate stealth, most particularly Blood Moon hordes. Just tell yourself that the red moon makes their senses so acute that they can smell a living human from a mile away -- if you can't rationalize it away as a game balance issue. Some POI's also have event triggers that are based on your location rather than how stealthy you are being. Chalk that up to dramatic license. This is a game where zombies are real and I can carry a motorcycle in my boot. Get over it. There are some things you need to know about stealth, though, to do it effectively. Your stealth rating is a combination of noise and visibility. Clomping around in heavy armor, waving a torch or flaming club around, or using a flashlight will make you easy to notice. Firing a gun, whacking a wrench against a metal appliance, or jumping up and down on a pile of trash will also make you easy to notice. That means using light armor, using a bow or melee weapon, and crouching are all ways to avoid being seen. There are a number of skill books, perks, armor and weapon mods, and craftable gear that can all make you more stealthy. With diligence, you can walk up behind a sleeping zombie, smack him in the head with a sledgehammer, and not disturb the other one right next to him. Will this make the game much easier? I would argue no. It certainly makes some specific situations much easier. Clearing out a mini-horde in a POI with a bow before they wake up can be much less stressful, certainly. The lack of universal effectiveness definitely makes it a playstyle choice, however, rather than an over-powered build to avoid if you want a challenge. (Pro-tip: Stealth is never a 100% guarantee, which is why you always carry stacks of wood; wood is incredibly flexible, as it lets you drop cheap spike traps in narrow passages, climb up easily to places zombies cannot reach, make bridges across open gaps, craft doors to seal off openings that foes have to make noise to get through but that you can open easily, etc.) That's about it. The most important pro tip is this: this is an open-world game where the only thing that matters is that you have fun playing it. It doesn't matter if you want to do single-player, or multi-player, or if you like crafting more than combat, or prefer spears over guns. You bought the game. Do what you like, as that is really the only goal.
Written by Fortanono Edited by dwright5252, AdamantAce << Previous | Next >> ≈≈≈≈≈ 🔱 ≈≈≈≈≈ Meet-and-greets were always Marc Silvera’s favorite part of the day. Back in his youth, he loved the thrill of heroism, the adrenaline that came with fighting against dangerous people and bringing them to justice. Now, it was much less about adrenaline as it was before; he got his enjoyment from knowing that he made others’ lives just a little bit safer, helping them sleep more easily. Luckily, Josiah Power’s booths in the Polynesia Resort’s cafeteria boiled that right down to a science. Dan and Courtney would always get the most fans, considering that they ran their own media platforms at one point; Helga and Curtis would occasionally hang around his booth for the fans. Ray and Thunder each had their own devoted lines, with their fans from Tulsa and Metropolis often making pilgrimages to New Coast to visit them. The ceremonially empty booth to the left of Marc was there for Vibe, who had attracted a lot of people placing down flowers and mementos, paying their respects. It was still hard for Marc to believe that he was really gone. Marc’s was always the shortest line. He knew why; for a long time, the second Commander Steel was a small-town urban legend whose existence was unconfirmed. The name was also associated with a military group that many disapproved of or outright loathed, Marc himself chief among them after all these years, who was a willing participant in it. Finally, there was the third reason: Commander Steel was not a welcoming figure to most. His helmet kept out any sign that he was even a human, which was no longer a valid assumption for superheroes. In a lot of ways, he understood why children would even be scared of him. He liked to pretend that this didn’t bother him, but he knew deep down that it did, just a little. Even still, he did have several people who came over to meet him. A tall woman with red hair and excessive amounts of makeup walked up to him, her young son in tow. He couldn’t have been more than seven years old, Marc thought. He sat down on a wooden chair nearby and smiled behind his mask. “Hello there,” Marc chuckled. “What’s your name, young man?” “Collin,” he smiled, hiding his face in his hands, his dirty mop of red hair covering his eyes. Marc laughed heartily, almost as if he were a mall Santa. He felt like the kids needed to know that he wasn’t as scary as he seemed behind the mask, and laughing was the best way of doing that. Collin couldn’t see how wide he was smiling behind the visage, the tear of joy running down one of his eyes. “Now Collin, why don’t you sit on my lap and we can take a picture together?” “Yeah!” Collin said. “I love you, Commander Steel. I want to be a superhero like you when I grow up.” “Oh, is that so?” Marc said joyfully, smiling as Collin climbed up into his lap. He hid a grimace; as much as he enjoyed the job, seeing someone so young determined to be someone who put their life on the line was very off-putting to him. The camera flashed, taking a picture of Collin with his hero, and Marc just let the moment rush over him. “Remember to enjoy your stay at New Coast Polynesia Resort!” he called out behind them as they left the line. He always felt weird saying that, but Josiah told them to, and it wasn’t like he didn’t want them to have a fun vacation. The next person moved forward in the line, a teenage boy wearing a camo button-down shirt. “Hey, Commander Steel,” he said gleefully. “You’re so awesome. It’s so cool that I get to meet you.” Marc went through the rounds, but he wasn’t focused on the boy anymore. Instead, Marc stared transfixed as the next woman in line, a middle-aged Black woman with a short bob of shoulder-length grey hair, wearing a black dress with grey and blue accents. His stomach dropped as he finished up with the kid in camo, turning to the woman in front of him. “Jenna,” he said, coming out as little more than a breath. He stood up from his chair. “Why are you here?” “Trust me,” she said with her lips pursed. “I didn’t want to come just as much as you probably don’t want to see me. Something came up.” Marc stared at her, not saying anything. “Richards’ sentence is up,” Jenna muttered coldly. “I was hoping he’d changed, but he’s on a bus straight to New Coast. I just wanted to warn you and your team, knowing what he’s capable of.” “Yes, of course,” Marc said as his former wife left the line. He turned to her and called out as she walked away. “Hey, hey, you have a fantastic rest of your life, whatever you’re doing.” She didn’t respond. Marc turned to the next guest, his mind not fully there. As his experience with Jenna faded from his mind, he realized that something much worse was about to happen, and he had to warn the team about it. ≈≈≈≈≈ 🔱 ≈≈≈≈≈ “Okay,” Curtis said, his back against the wall of Room 103. The members of Coastguard were gathered in their costumes, having come back from the meet-and-greet minutes earlier. “A quick recap on the Phosphorus situation for Courtney: We’ve been able to take out some street-level guys who were peddling narcotics, but none of them claimed they had ever seen the man’s face. He apparently keeps very little company; only those he trusts ever see who he truly is.” “By the way,” Anissa said, “Congrats to Courtney for the awesome work she’s done in Opal City! We’re starting to see headlines roll in, and it’s very impressive.” Immediately, everyone in the room around them began to clap and cheer, turning to Courtney who was sitting in her new red-and-green costume. Courtney looked between her teammates and smiled. “Thanks guys,” she said. “It means a lot.” She turned to Curtis, her expression turning more serious. “Anything on ThirteenthFloor? That seemed like a really big deal when I left, but no mention of it so far.” Curtis nodded. “Yeah, yeah, that’s a thing. Helga and I are working on reverse-engineering the tech in the buildings, but no results yet. Anyone else have pressing concerns?” Helga raised her hand. “As you may recall,” she began, “Acrata managed to escape from New Coast after arrest. I recently received word that she may be returning to the city, planning something big. If you spot her, do not be light when apprehending her, and bring her to me as soon as you can.” “Dammit,” Dan said. “I was hoping I’d never have to see her again. That fight kept me sore for days. We’ll be on the lookout if she returns.” “Anything else?” Curtis asked. Marc removed his mask and raised his hand slowly. “Yes,” he said meekly. “Unfortunately, there’s… someone else has shown up here. An old enemy. Curtis, bring up records for Mark Richards, also known as the Tattooed Man.” Curtis turned to a nearby monitor and began searching the web. He pulled out a mugshot of a tall, bald man with a tattoo of a dragon coiled around the top of his head. On the side of one of his cheeks was another tattoo, a small piece that resembled a rose with a thorny stem. “This your guy?” “Yes,” Marc said. He stood up and took a deep breath, addressing his teammates. “A long time ago, I lived in a small town in Maryland called Liberty Hill. Standard small-town fare; most of the criminals were just normal people who had a bad run. This man was different. He showed up, and within months he had killed any gang members who didn’t work for him. With every man he murdered, he got a new tattoo, and these weren’t ordinary tattoos. They gave him powers, and every time I fought him he had a new trick up his sleeve.” He sighed and paused before continuing. “I became obsessed with him. It was unhealthy, and it cost me my marriage. Finally, 15 years ago, I caught him. He served his time, and now it seems like he’s come back for revenge. I'd like to humbly request your help in finding him and making sure he doesn't cause further harm. Mark Richards is incredibly dangerous, and we need to treat any encounter we have with him with utmost caution. He will kill us if we don’t.” The room fell silent for a few seconds before Curtis broke the silence. “Okay,” he said. “The Tattooed Man, Public Enemy Number One. Don’t worry, Marc; we will make sure that we stop him before he can hurt us.” ≈≈≈≈≈ 🔱 ≈≈≈≈≈ Mark Richards knocked on the door of a townhouse in what looked like any other upscale neighborhood. This development was designed by one of Josiah Power’s friends, he had remembered, but it had never seen use as the designer’s company went down for fraud several months ago. Even though it looked like an ordinary housing development, a far cry from the tourist trap in New Coast’s city center, it was also the home of many of New Coast’s more sinister elements. With the development never having been in use, it was the perfect place for shadowy figures to hide in such a bright city. The skull on Mark’s forearm sensed some sort of danger. Mark willed it to be quiet as a young woman, tall and lanky with blonde hair and blue accents, opened the door. She seemed to have a lot of tattoos herself. “Wow,” she said, staring at him up and down. “I’m going to need the name of your inker. That is some good art.” “I’ve had a lot of inkers,” Mark chuckled. “My first tattoo was from a slave-driver in Moldora. The second one was from a serial killer. I tend to get them from the worst of the worst, and it pays off.” “Ooh, nice,” she said. “I take it you’re here to see the big man? I’m sure he’ll be glad to see you. You should hope so, at least.” Mark nodded. “I believe we already had an appointment scheduled.” “You are correct,” she laughed. “He's been talking about you all day.” Mark walked into the house and down the corridor to a room at the end. If an ordinary homeowner lived here, the room he entered would probably be furnished as a dining room, possibly as a playroom for their children. However, the New Coast crime lord that lived here had turned the room into a sort of makeshift casino; slot machines padded the sides of the walls while a poker table served as the room’s centerpiece. In the far corner were two couches, on one of which sat the man Mark presumed to be Phosphorus. He looked young and arrogant at first glance, reminding Mark of a cocky kid who thought he could run a business back in Liberty Hill, but who would always fall to Mark in the end. The heart tattoo on the left side of Mark’s chest came from him; his sins were driven by his heart rather than his brain, and that’s why Mark had defeated him. It was a fitting tattoo to remember him by. The major difference between Phosphorus and that kid was abundantly clear, though. Phosphorus wore an unbuttoned white jacket with no shirt; across his chest and extending down his left arm, his skin glowed a brilliant red-orange. Underneath the glow, Mark could see his ribcage, lit up by the man’s special ability. “Heh, on time I see,” Phosphorus chuckled. “I knew I could count on you.” Mark took a seat on the couch across from the crime lord. “Of course,” he said. “This business is always about impressions, and I’ve come to know that that means dependability as well as fear. Meet your opponents first, before you destroy them. And I believe that in a couple of months, I may have to destroy you.” “So it’s true then,” Phosphorus said. “You’re gonna hang around a while? That’s unfortunate. Oh well.” “Nice to meet you. I’d shake your hand, but I’ve been told that’s not really a good idea.” Mark stretched out on the couch, throwing his arms behind his back. “So you’re the Phosphorus, huh? I expected someone a little older to have been behind the work you’ve done. It’s impressive.” “Call me Alec,” Phosphorus said. He paused for a second. “I’m old enough. Besides, I’ve got a damn good reason why I’m doing this. Pardon the wordplay, but it’s a fire in my heart, so to speak, y’know? A drive.” Before Mark could respond, Alec’s breathing started tensing up. He turned his head to the doorway of the room. “Melanie! Food!” he shouted. The blonde woman from before quickly came over with a man in a suit, tied up and restrained. She dropped him at Alec’s feet before leaving, not saying a single word. The man’s expression turned frantic. “No, wait, please. Do anything. Ta--take my kids, instead. My wife. I can help you!” He was quickly shut up by Alec’s searing-hot left hand on his mouth, as the man quickly vaporized into thin air. Only a skeleton remained of where he was once standing. “Wow,” Mark said, shaking his head. “That is impressive, I have to say. Not exactly a good dude there, either. Guess you know how to pick ‘em.” “Yeah,” Alec laughed. “I only eat the rich types, people who have no spine or soul. That, and people who disappoint me, of course.” Alec paused for a second. “You know, I never wanted to be a criminal. I started this because I had to; if I don’t feed, I’ll die, and feeding ain’t exactly something you want to do in the open. But now? I’d say it feels pretty good. Not perfect, y’know? But it’s getting there.” Mark nodded. “I get it, I really do. You know, you and I have the same power, so to speak.” Alec gave him a confused look. Mark cleared his throat. “I was on deployment in Moldora several years ago. I was a young soldier, about your age, and I had just killed a few men for the first time. Every day, their voices screamed in my head. So we were taking down this horrible waste of a human being; he had enslaved thousands of men, women and children to work for the worst kind of people. And the night before the raid, I asked him how he did it. That man showed me the art of sin-grafting; for every sin he committed, he added just a bit more ink to his body. He kept the memories of those he killed in the tattoos. Well, I thought it was bullshit, but then he tattooed this dragon onto me.” He pointed at his first and favorite tattoo, the dragon that coiled around his bald head. “From that day on, whenever I kill someone, I tattoo myself with something to remind me of them. And I always use this special ink, which gives the tattoo life. Power. Doesn’t make it right, but it makes it damn near worth it. Now you, you have to kill people to live. I dunno how you got into that predicament, but you realized the same thing I did. If you get power from your sins, then it’s more than worth committing them, don’tcha think?” Alec’s expression soured. “I think you’re fucking wrong about me,” he said. He stood up, towering over Mark. The skull on his shoulder sensed that he was in an incredible amount of danger. Mark said nothing; he wanted to see where this would go. “I’m not a monster,” Alec huffed. “I was a good kid who wanted to do the right thing, and this bitch made me into who I am now. And my father just lets her stay by his side. He doesn’t notice shit. He doesn’t realize who that woman is. And so I’m here to fucking destroy the city he’s created, to burn it down to the bedrock on which it stands.” Mark raised an eyebrow. “Your father is Josiah Power? I see it. I think you’ll realize you’re a lot more like him than you imagine.” Alec lunged at Mark, nearly putting a hand on him. Acting quickly, Mark summoned the dragon from the tattoo on his head. Immediately, the ink turned into a violet energy construct of a serpent, lunging forward at Alec and releasing a sonic blast. Alec flew across the room, landing among the slot machines on the other wall. “See, you’ve got this terrifying power,” Mark chided. “But I got so many years on you it’s hard to imagine. That, Alec, is why I will take this city.” Alec writhed in pain as Mark stood over him and left. This was not the pain he felt when he hadn’t fed in a while, nor was it the pain he felt from Mark knocking him into the wall. No, this was omnipresent, coating every nerve of his body like it did when he was hungry, but ten times stronger. He cried out, bringing himself to his feet and stumbling out the door of the room. He had someone he needed to see. ≈≈≈≈≈ 🔱 ≈≈≈≈≈ “Help,” Alec gulped, grabbing Helga’s wrist in the hallway of the New Coast Polynesia Resort. He was wearing gloves, of course; he couldn’t let anyone else know about his abilities. Nearly collapsing, Alec straightened himself using Helga’s body as a support. “Alec,” Helga said, faking a smile. “You know, you are the last person I expected to see today. I have to say, I am very impressed with what you’ve managed to accomplish with your abilities. Seems like they’re treating you better than I had expected.” She paused for a second, looking around for bystanders. There were none. “Come into Room 104 with me, and we can talk. I don’t want to have to do to any others what I did to you.” The two of them walked further down the hall, entering Helga’s personal lab as Helga closed the door behind him. It was just as pristine, Alec thought, as the one Helga had imprisoned him in, although it was considerably smaller. Alec had only seen the inside of this lab from the small glimpse he had gotten when he had asked Helga to help save the day. The worst mistake of his life, Alec thought. He cared about his father for one moment, wanted to help save his life, and it cost him gravely. “I take it you have questions about your newfound powers?” Helga turned to the door and latched it shut. “Don’t worry; I’ve soundproofed the room much better since our last encounter. I could yell at the top of my lungs that you were Phosphorus, and Curtis in the next room wouldn’t do so much as to look up from his computer.” Alec nodded. “You said that this power would kill me. Everything’s starting to hurt like a bitch; I fed on my way here and it didn’t help. I need answers.” “Well,” Helga said, “I wish I could give you all the answers you need. Primer is a very imprecise science, and it reacts differently for every person that it works on. That being said, none of the powers triggered by your specific primer have killed anyone in less than 6 months. Trust me when I say I’ve done extensive research on this one.” Alec winced. He imagined Helga Jace, the kind hearted TV personality dedicated to treating people with metahuman conditions, giving hundreds of people the same treatment he had. It made so little sense, but with what he had seen of Helga in the past few months, it still fit perfectly. Helga continued as Alec sat himself down on a nearby hospital bed draped in thin paper. “That being said, any sort of pain you might experience is par for the course, and none of it is a sign of your impending death. Most of it will make you want to die, but you’ll be fine for several more months at least. Now, unfortunately, I still have work to do that my team can’t know about, so curing you would not benefit me. But so far, you’ve been exemplary in your discretion about these matters. Not to mention the immense distraction you’re providing for them; they barely have time to think about anything I’m doing.” Alec nodded. He resisted attacking Helga outright, as he knew she was his only chance at salvation. That did not mean that he wasn’t ready to do so. Instead, he looked her in the eyes and weakly spoke. “Will this new pain go away?” “Hard to tell. I could help run some tests, but as hard as it may seem to imagine, I don’t know everything about every power that comes my way. Most likely, though, there will be high points and low points, as there are with every disease. I can tell from your demeanor, for example, that you’re feeling significantly less pain than when you literally grabbed me, even if it doesn’t feel that way. By the way, don’t scare an old lady like that, especially with your specific ability.” Helga chuckled wildly. Alec felt sick to his stomach, even though these past few months had hardened him. This, he thought, was what true monsters looked like. “Fine,” Alec said, standing up. “You know what? I don’t need any more help. I got money, I got power, I got ladies, and it’s all because of your experiment. When the power does start to kill me, I’ll be here. But until then, I’m not coming through this door again.” Alec left Room 104 and began to leave the hotel. Helga was right; as he got up, the pain had begun to fade. After a few seconds, it had all but disappeared for the time being. He got to the lobby, where he immediately noticed a new complication. Josiah Power, his father, was standing over the desk, talking to the receptionist. Before he could turn the other way, he saw Alec standing there. He fell silent, his gaze softening. “Alec,” he muttered, coming closer. “I thought… I thought you left the city.” The rage that Alec felt that first night in the hotel began to bubble up again, but he kept it down. “Hey, Dad. Yeah, I was gone for a while, but I’m… I couldn’t leave.” He paused, considering his next words carefully. “I think I’m ready to talk to you again.” “That’s fantastic,” Josiah smiled. “Take your time; you don’t owe me anything. But if you want, maybe we could get dinner sometime?” Alec nodded. “I think I’d like that.” It was a lie, he told himself; he had to come up with something on the spot. But it worked in his favor; if he had a relationship with his father again, the betrayal would be much sweeter when he got to that point. He couldn’t wait to see Josiah’s face as he realized who he truly was. But that had to wait. As he left the lobby, he smiled. The pain may come back, but those who deserved it would also feel his pain in due time. ≈≈≈≈≈ 🔱 ≈≈≈≈≈ ”Alright,” Curtis said through his microphone. ”We’ve spotted the Tattooed Man in Kim’s area. Anyone currently in the field, converge on 44th Street and H. We need to take him down sooner than later.” “Got it,” Ray said, hovering high above Josiah’s central shopping district in New Coast before taking off due west. Below him, Thunder, Blue Devil and Commander Steel patrolled the streets; each of them began to make their way to the location in question through a series of Dan’s portals. As he arrived on location, Ray began to take in the sites around him. The area of the city that one of Josiah’s associates, Terrence Kim, developed felt much more like a normal city than a theme park. That said, it still felt like a theme park, if only because of how sleek and untouched the buildings were. Towering white-and-blue skyscrapers surrounded the wide streets of this area, with tropical foliage in planter boxes along the sidewalks. Palm trees dotted the curbsides, which featured parking spaces where the cars would face the curb. What took Ray by surprise the most, however, was how empty this part was. Not all of Kim’s territory was available to the public yet; only the bare minimum was completed. Ray landed on the street as Dan, Anissa and Marc portalled in behind him. Several blocks ahead of them, the Tattooed Man was smoking a cigar. He quickly noticed them and put it out before turning to them. The Tattooed Man let out a hearty chuckle as he took a few steps forward. “Well, well, well. You finally found me. Hey Marc, how’s the missus doing? You know, I could tell that she was stalking me when I got out. I served my time, why do I need to get harassed for what I’ve already done?” “Seems like it was well worth it,” Commander Steel said. “Considering where you ended up, Mark, you can’t take the high ground here..” “This small talk was never my favorite part. Let’s get this over with.” Two violet wings of energy sprouted from the Tattooed Man’s back, allowing him to tower over the other heroes. Ray immediately met him in the sky. From a sword tattoo on his left arm, he summoned a blade of energy that he immediately gripped with both hands before charging at Ray. Ray dodged the Tattooed Man’s first attack, responding with a barrage of light blasts. From the ground, Commander Steel fired his own bolts of energy from the wrist-cannons Helga had designed for him. The sword dissolved and was replaced by a shield that grew from a small tattoo on the back of the criminal’s left hand. For several seconds, the Tattooed Man sustained the heroes’ continuous fire, but it was interrupted when the Blue Devil portalled onto the shield and began punching at it over and over again. The Tattooed Man dissolved the shield and dived out of the way, flying higher to avoid further attacks. Ray chased after him and Dan portalled himself back onto the ground. “Now this, this is fun,” the villain chuckled to himself. “Marc, why couldn’t you learn to fly, or build some glider or something? Sky battles are awesome!” The dragon on the top of the Tattooed Man’s head came loose, chasing after Ray. He fired out a concentrated beam of light while flying away, but the dragon kept going. Before he could stop it, the dragon screamed, letting loose a powerful high-pitched sound, and Ray fell to the floor. The Tattooed Man landed on the ground, his wings dissolving as he stood over the fallen hero. “Now this will be a fun one to ink. I wonder, how should I remember you by? I’d do a lightbulb, but I don’t think you’re that bright to begin with.” A bolt of energy from Marc’s cannon stopped the villain from finishing Ray off, hitting his right shoulder and making him turn to the other heroes. Thunder leapt up onto the side of a nearby high-rise, tackling the criminal from behind as he was distracted. She began to force a pair of handcuffs onto him, but the Tattooed Man quickly summoned his wings again, knocking Thunder down as he turned to the skies. The lightning tattoo on the villain’s right arm began to let out a violet glow. From the skies, he fired powerful beams of lightning. The first hit Anissa, knocking her down; the second and third were fired at Commander Steel. A metal shield expanded from the hero’s own right arm, protecting him. As the Tattooed Man flew down, a portal from the Blue Devil intercepted him and brought him face-to-face with the two heroes left standing. The Tattooed Man readied another bolt, knocking Dan clean out. “Now,” he chided, “it’s just the two of us. Like old times, isn’t it?” He resummoned the sword and began exchanging blows with the soldier. Commander Steel quickly discharged another energy blast, which knocked the Tattooed Man a few steps backwards as he began to charge up another lightning bolt. He stopped. The skull tattoo on his shoulder began to sense another presence nearby. From above, another hero flew down, clad in a pristine silver costume with glowing accents. In the center was the letter “T” in a circle, clearly the symbol of the hero Mister Terrific. He glided on what looked like two green glowing disks that appeared to be made of pure energy. He looked down at some sort of holographic console emanating from his wrist. The Tattooed Man quickly recognized that this must be the Blue Devil’s associate, the one who once worked for Mister Terrific. The villain was used to recognizing Commander Steel’s body language, even behind that mask of his, and he knew that his enemy was just as surprised as he was. The new hero’s drones quickly surrounded the Tattooed Man, opening fire with green laser-blasts all around him. The Tattooed Man couldn’t take it, and quickly fell unconscious himself. ”Hey,” Curtis said as he flew down. ”I noticed you needed help.” ≈≈≈≈≈ 🔱 ≈≈≈≈≈ “So, wait,” Ray began to say as the heroes converged in Room 103. Helga had just finished performing medical care on the three members of Coastguard who were knocked out during the battle, and they were now calling a meeting to discuss what had happened. “You’re--you’re a hero now? When?” Curtis nodded. “Not always; I’ll be on comms for a lot of the time. But when you guys need it, Helga and I developed this suit. I’ll be calling myself the Technocrat.” “Cool,” Ray said. He poked at the Technocrat suit, which was standing up in the corner of the room, connected to a charger. “I’d have to disagree,” Anissa said. “Curtis, you’re incredibly important to us. We can’t risk something happening to you.” Curtis nodded. “Well, unfortunately, it’s not really your choice. I’ll make extra sure to choose my battles; don’t worry. But it’s important to me that you are all safe. The Tattooed Man would’ve killed all of you if I hadn’t come out there. And with Courtney in Opal half the time and Cisco… you know… we need more hands on deck.” “He would’ve killed you, too, if he had known you were coming,” Anissa remarked. “And now, everyone who comes to New Coast will know about you. Nothing’s changed; you just had the element of surprise this time.” Dan, who was sitting in the corner, finally spoke up. “Look,” he said. “I get why you’re worried, Anissa, I really do. I’m worried, too; like, really terrified outta my mind that my friend’s gonna get hurt doing this. But if there’s someone who can pull off this stuff, it’s Curtis. I wouldn’t try and stop him, either; he’s a very stubborn man.” “Alright,” Anissa huffed. “But I’m not gonna like it.” “The only question,” Marc laughed, “is what flavor of ice cream he’s gonna be. I can’t think of any grey ice-creams.” “That’s for Josiah to figure out,” Curtis smiled. “If I had to pick? Probably mint chocolate-chip. All of your weird fruit flavors are upsetting to the palate.” Everyone laughed around them, except for Anissa. It still didn’t feel right for Curtis to be going out there, and she knew that feeling wouldn’t change. But they were right; she had to deal with it. ≈≈≈≈≈ 🔱 ≈≈≈≈≈ Mark Richards woke up. His surroundings didn’t feel familiar, but they clearly weren’t any sort of prison. The building he found himself in was some sort of makeshift cabin made of wood. He was tied to a wooden chair on a grass floor. He looked at the ceiling; above him, the panels of wood were ornately painted in patterns of green and silver. “Where am I?” he asked, dazed. A man walked over to him in a red-and-brown robe. Draped over him was a green cape decorated with one glowing red gemstone on it. The first thing Mark noticed about his face was his two piercing green eyes, which seemed to see into his soul. “Greetings, Mark,” the man said. “I know you have many questions, but trust me when I say I am not an enemy.” Mark chuckled dryly. “When I’m tied to a chair like this, that’s usually hard to imagine.” “We both know that those bindings would not hold you if you did not want them to,” the man said in a monotone voice. “We simply had to restrain you, as you tended to flail around when unconscious.” He walked over to Mark and untied the knots that kept him tied to the chair. “My name is Samuel, and we have the same goals: to destroy Coastguard and to rule New Coast City. I am gathering people close to the Coastguard, people with vendettas against their members. You fit these criteria easily; another one of these people has already been clamoring to meet you.” A tall, thin man with pale skin and dark hair walked over to him. He wore a suit and tie that had clearly been hastily put on. Mark stood up and shook his hand. “Hi,” he smiled, speaking in a nasal voice. “Michael Clarion, occultist extraordinaire. Pleased to meet you. I also just got out of prison. Now, I have a lot of questions about your tattoos. They are mystical in origin, correct? I’m very interested to discuss the finer points of this with you.”
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