In all fairness, bird shrapnel isn't as deadly as wood shrapnel
Your maned lioness mutual, cozy and cruel as flame is wont to be.

Avatar by Setzeri --
A Child Called Ash
Prequel of a prequel for a MtF daughter of lions


Rachel Rates All Lion Emojis

"Frogge Rates All Frog Emojis was a mistake"

-Frogge, some time in the very near future

Is a cutie with a handsome mane, his expression and light colored fluff means he's probably a youngster. Go get 'em, tig-- er, liom. 8/10

Older leo, kinda looks like a teddy bear with a scruffy hairdo. 7/10

This is not a lion. This is a transhuman abomination with a mullet. Anyone remember that Stalking Cat dude from the 00's, who got all the surgeries to be more tiger-like? This is the next generation of that. Until I can become a CRISPR catgirl, fuck no. -69/10

This liom kinda resembles a fox, but he's a good boy. He might be the basis of a magically-conceived son for Raziya and Maia someday. 9/10

Whiskers! :3 11/10

Standard-issue leo, though the styling of his mane gives him some extra points. 8.5/10

A lion just beginning to grow his name, the l'il baby-faced thing. You'll be a regal king of the jungle savanna in due time, lad. 7/10

This might be my favorite one. Styled mane, cute look, and that chin scruff is too cute. Raziya would swoon, Jengo would wanna grab a honey wine with him. 13/10

This... this is a donkey that has dyed his fur to look like a lion. Boo. Doesn't help I remember Father of the Pride after SaberSpark previewed his video about it. 4/10

Lotta details, a good blend of style and "realism", for a lack of a word to use thereof. 8.5/10

Seems very similar to Apple's, but a more confident cat. 9/10

Well, at least my Double Cheeseburger Hamburger Helper should be cooled now.

Apocalypse Fox: Solo Campaign Write-Ups

So, uh. I've got some bad news about the Fallout 4 journaling idea. Unfortunately my computer is a piece of junk, with an integrated graphics chip and no good CPU upgrades with its cheap motherboard. This means that, even with a cheap 8GB RAM upgrade, I cannot play Fallout 4 right now.

Buuuuuut, to compensate for this, I've got something I want to share for that post-apocalyptic story itch. Late last year I had been doing a solitaire tabletop RPG campaign. Basically acting as both the Game Master and a player, distancing myself from metagaming as the player role and randomizing stuff with tables and a d6 "oracle". I've been using them as a sort of writing experiment for a sci-fantasy character of mine, Dana the Apocalypse Fox.

There's no much left of my prior sessions on r/Solo_Roleplaying, but I've decided to pick things back up. From what notes and memories I have of the first adventure, I've been trying to write them into a first-person novelette. But for now, I've picked up a new game to use and have the first session complete. Rather than merely posting the links from my Reddit posts, I'm deciding to host the session write-ups here.

The game used is Other Dust, an Old School Renaissance game that emulates TSR's Gamma World with the nuances of AD&D. I previously used Savage Worlds Adventure Edition, but some elements of play didn't rub me the right way in the prior adventure. I'll be hosting the house rules and Dana's current stat blocks in spoilers below. Feel free to comment with any questions, comments or concerns!

- House Rules -

Using card-based initiative a la Savage Worlds for combat. Cards are drawn for Dana, any allies, groups of enemies, and notable enemies separately and for every round of combat. 2 is the lowest initiative, while Ace is the highest. A Joker lets the user act when they desire, and adds +2 to all d20 rolls for that round. The deck is not shuffled unless a) the combat ends or b) the round after a Joker is drawn ends.

Dana will start at 2nd Level. She doesn't gain XP per session as suggested, but instead will accumulate it through defeating (killing or subduing) foes, or donating salvaged items. Enemies award XP akin to Basic Fantasy RPG's rules on page 42, based on their Hit Dice. Foes with notable powers add the “Special Ability Bonus” to XP earned, but not all powers add this bonus. Donated salvage can only be turned in at settlements, and the amount of XP granted can vary; otherwise it is gained on a 1-for-1 ratio with its barter value.

Supported house rule suggestions are taken from Other Dust. Dana had started with two mutations chosen by me, with their effects and flaws picked instead of randomized. Any allied NPCs I concoct can do the same; those who don't have mutations instead gain 4 points to distribute to their ability scores. The other house rule used was the exchange of two random loot rolls for one piece of loot chosen. As a shovel and utility tarp seem useless from my random rolls, I decided to cheese it and remove them for a special starting weapon (see below). Her two random items gained are d4+1 clean rations (rolled 3), and a medkit (which is something I'd hoped for).

Speaking of items, I decided to give Dana a Thermal Pistol and two Type A Power Cells to power and shoot it. To compensate for the potent plasma pistol I swapped her starting Sword with a Knife. Decided it would make more sense to let her have access to her signature blaster, as she'd started past 1st Level.

Her smartphone is on the fritz for now, and I'm planning on creating them as unique items. Having access to the remnants of the internet could be a bit powerful anyway, which was something her phone could do back in Savage Worlds Adventure Edition. Not totally sure if something like a smartphone already exists in Other Dust, I'm not totally familiar with the equipment.

I'll be using a simple oracle based on the d6, along with random charts from Other Dust. On the d6 – 1 is a “No, and”; 2 is “No”; 3 is “No, but”; 4 is “Yes, but”, 5 is “Yes”, and 6 is “Yes, and”.

- Dana's Stats (Session One) -

Dana Cooper, Survivor / 2

Background: Hunter; Training: Last of the Breed; Home: Pine Vale

Ability Scores: STR 15 (+1), INT 14* (+1), WIS 13 (0), DEX 15 (+1), CON 12 (0), CHA 8 (0)

(* = "prime requisite" choice for the Survivor, which bumped it up to 14 automatically; was a 13 prior with no modifier)

Hit Points: 13; System Strain: Max of 12; Max Ready Encumbrance: 7-1/2; Max Carry Encumbrance: 15

Attack Bonus: +1; Saving Throws: Physical Effect 12, Mental Effect 12, Evasion 12 (base 14), Tech 14, Luck 13

Equipment: Clean Rations x6, Backpack (TL 4), Medkit, Type A Power Cell

Weapons and Armor:
* Knife: +2, d4+1 dmg, 6/9 meters
* Thermal Pistol: +3, 2d6+1 dmg, 25/50 meters, ammo 5
* Hide Armor: AC 6, Enc 1

Skills: Artist/Singer 0, Combat/Energy 0, Combat/Primitive 0, Culture/Literacy 0, Culture/Enclave 0, History 0, Perception 0, Stealth 0, Survival 1, Tech/Medical 0

Mutations and Stigmata
* Stigmata = fox woman
* Danger Sense: Can't be surprised, +2 to Evasion saving throw
* Vengeful: Attack last foe to injure her unless she saves with Mental Effect or takes 1 System Strain
* Night Vision: Can see up to 50 meters with at least a candle-flame of light
* Animalistic Appearance: -2 to social skill checks with strangers

- Game Sessions -
Session Zero: Adventurer
Session One: Wild Card
Session Two: Interference

Rachel Journals Fallout 4

Or, "Boston Quest: Making A Fox Cry".

The Fallout franchise is what sold me on the post-apocalyptic genre. I'd been on the fence about replaying Fallout 4 of my own accord, but I'd recently been tilted off that fence. I'm not the hugest roleplayer for open-world games but I do like to do some aspects of RP in those kinds of games.

So I want to conduct this experiment in my upcoming save file: journal important or notable chunks of gameplay from the perspective of my character. With my version of Nora the Sole Survivor based around Dana -- a post-apoc character of mine -- I'm hoping I can provide an interesting point of view for the base game.

If I get far enough, am hoping I can play Nuka-World as the DLC adventure interests me the most out of the other bits of DLC. That said, not going out of my way to get the other DLC. I'm playing the game straight: no console commands, no mods to tweak the vanilla game outside of bug fixes (never mind ;3). I'm also not challenging myself more than I need to: no "iron man" play, nor even Survival Mode.

Feel free to comment and ask questions if it suits your fancy. I'm tempted to give some insight to Dana's build if desired, as I like to plan characters in advance for games like these. After a certain point I'll be playing blind; the last bits I recall were *just* getting to Diamond City. Will do what I can to skip quests that feel irrelevant (looking at you, Preston Garvey).

Notes From The Editor
Mods I'm Using
Where To Go Next?

Journal Entries
- Season One -
Chapter Zero: An Apocalyptic Prologue
Chapter One: Good Morning America, And Goodbye
Chapter Two: Don't They Know, It's The End Of The World
Chapter Three: A Fateful Afternoon
Chapter Four: A Brush With Death By Dinnertime
Chapter Five: Sympathy For A Devil
Chapter Six: One Reason To Fight To-Go, Please
Chapter Seven: Super-Duper March
Chapter Eight: Mischief Day Spooks
Chapter Nine: Farmsteads and Farewells

- Season Two -
Chapter Ten: Robots and Rangers
Chapter Eleven: That Was Then, This Is Now
Chapter Twelve: Thereby, Become A Monster
Chapter Thirteen: In progress...

A Veritable Retirement Speech

So earlier today in my time, I left the Discord server. And removed everyone I knew from my Discord. And deleted my Discord account. I've had the biggest flipout I've ever had here. And after an empty feeling all day, tears, an early dinner and acceptance of what happened, I have to talk about what happened. I cannot leave without saying goodbye, or explaining why I'm heading out. I'm sorry for this being long-winded, but I want to be transparent about why.

I've always had the worst self-advocacy out of anyone I ever knew. While many kids were ignorant to the point of being creeps, I took it out on myself whenever I was scolded for making a literally childish mistake. I'm depressed, and have been officially diagnosed as such ever since middle school. Something had happened during a school camping trip that I think ruined my self-image for nearly twenty years now. Assuming I got the math right for how old I was.

I bring this up because my self-image is horrible. And for a long time, as other tiny deaths happened during my life, that self-image only worsened and worsened. On top of that, I've been known to hold dearly to beliefs that I've fabricated in a means to be better than myself. Through my early teens I was a self-appointed evangelical Christian, despite my family being anything but.

For the last few years, I tricked myself into thinking that I was transgender. I clung to any and all reasons to believe it about myself. Anything to escape who I was, because I wanted the person I truly was to die and be forgotten. I wish I could say I had a clue that I was lying to myself out of self-hatred, but I didn't. I adhered to far-left beliefs on social media and they circulated this delusion about myself over and over again.

One last incident on Twitter, a couple months ago, finally told me to leave and never look back. Around that time, I started to gather this wild notion: I didn't deserve to hate myself. I was loved by people, truly cared about. I had talents that mattered, talents with potential. All this while, I had pushed the whole transgender belief as my only means to salvation. But just like being a zealot, it was just a binding contract and something that wouldn't give me peace.

I want to point out that I do believe in and respect trans people. By no means is this a smear against them. In my case, in this context, I used the possibility of being someone vastly different as a means to escape my true nature.

And it's this true nature that brings me to the point of all this. Why I'm leaving RMN, despite my love for so many of you lovely folks.

Over time, I started to realize that I just wasn't cut out for making games like this. This year I did manage to create two event games, but I was never quite satisfied with them. It only took the motivation of others to even start them, and the encouragement after the fact to not think them failures. But game development is not a fun experience for me. There's a reason why I obsess over characters and equipment and abilities, but never the actual process of creating a game itself. The actual process never turns out to create what I want, and the grind of attaining or making assets never felt good.

For many years I've also tried to buy happiness. Some folks fall to the bottom of a bottle, but I fell to the bottom of an art commission list. I can't tell you how much buyer's regret I've experienced when I came up with a vague idea, commissioned someone for assets without ever considering their use or even prototyping a game, only to immediately regret the decision.

I just don't want to create games. And one of the biggest reasons I can tell is because I have no issues with drawing or writing. I can be enraptured with a picture throughout the stages of pencil lines, inking, erasing and coloring. Hours seem to slip away when I'm properly in the zone and typing. But making a game has always been a tedious chore by comparison.

I've wanted to quit RPG Maker for a long time. The community here has been warm and welcome and awesome... and that's why I was crushed when I finally decided that today was the day I stopped pretending to be a game developer. That's why I finally decided to come back one more time, and let my explanations and emotions flow in this pedantic goodbye. The vast majority of you have been amazing people, and the worst of you are still pretty damn good folks.

But I have to be me. And I cannot deal with the pressure of this hobby. This isn't DeviantArt, despite my sharing art. This isn't Roll20, despite my tabletop gaming over the voice chat. This is RPG Maker Network, and I'm seriously burned out of even so much as playing other people's RPG Maker games. I wish I didn't have to say goodbye, but I have to take care of myself.

This year has been one of the most formative ones I've had throughout my whole life. I've come into myself and accepted who I am more and more, making more progress at self-improvement and self-acceptance than I had in years. In the end, I'm a more devoted artist or writer than a game dev. No matter how much praise for my games I get, I still cannot see them being adequate. I've felt content drawing new pictures, even ones that rarely go noticed. When my English teacher aunt gave me her excited praises for the first draft of a novella I'm working on, after we hung up I was floored and gracious and inspired to keep writing.

RPG Maker hasn't given me that satisfaction and peace and drive. It's why every couple months of little to no output or effort made, I have breakdowns. I'm just not built for this. It's just not my passion, and I'd rather refine and challenge skills I know I have than torment myself for ones I don't.

I'm sorry for any trouble I've caused. You're all awesome, and with a heavy but thankful heart I'm officially retiring from RPG Maker. From the bottom of my heart, bless you all for all this time we've shared. Work hard, accumulate that sweet Makerscore, and stay passionate. As I chase my own dreams, I hope you all find what you're looking for too.

Goodness, I can't stop crying. Love you all.

Super RMN RPG: Another Forum Game

Remember the Bo-Bun Forum RPG? I've been having a hankering for running a more light-hearted RPG as of late, but was unsure if I could uphold the cartoon wackiness of Toon. I then remembered that a fan-made tabletop RPG exists based on Super Mario RPG and Paper Mario and decided, why not? Here's my crack at a light-hearted forum game with a dash of crunch, but the kind that's mostly player-oriented.

The game uses a d6 die pool mechanic. A number of six-sided dice are rolled based on a character's stat, with each 4~6 counting as a success or "hit". The number of hits is compared to a needed number from 1 to 3, or compared to an opposing roll by other beings. For sake of brevity I'll be doing the rolling each time it's needed; this will usually be in combat but might be asked from a player or forced by me for scene context.

For the basic rules of play and how to create your character, consult this Google Docs document. The game will take place in my usual fantasy setting of Arakhavia. Players are encouraged to add any custom races desired during character creation if the provided ones aren't to one's liking. Players define gameplay crunch for their character such as starting weapon, a piece of apparel to treat as armor, and even one's special moves. Just try to keep the theming of goodies akin to a late-medieval-early-Renaissance fantasy world, especially one based on real-world places like Greece, Egypt, Italy, Africa and the Middle East.

There's like twelves pages to read through, so I can and will provide any help needed via PM or on this thread. Luckily the document has bookmarks for each section and there are examples to pick from. I will also provide an example character a bit later, and an "encyclopedia" document to detail known items, enemies and example special moves. At most, am looking for a max of five players to begin play, and probably a minimum of two. I feel this is the most I can handle right now. For the opening adventure, the cast will arrive at a large island on something of a treasure hunt, invited by an adventuring sage of notable repute on the mainland.

EDIT: The encyclopedia of game information so far can be found in this document.

Character Application

* Identity *
Level: 1st -- 0 XP
Kindred: ??? -- appearance; stat adjustments; two stereotypical traits

* Ambitions *
Biggest Passion:
Reason to Adventure:
Worst Nightmare:
Favorite Color:
I Carry My Items In A...:

* Stats and Vitals *
Health Points: (current / max value, Heart + Tough)
Aura Points: (current / max value, Heart + Cool)
Style Points: (current / max value, Cool + 1)

* Perks *
(Perk 1 -- name and effect)
(Perk 2 -- name and effect)

* Inventory *
Falcon Coins: 15

Weapon: (name and category)
Shield: (can forgo one Tool of the Trade to add a Buckler at the start)
Armor: (clothing piece name, upgrades will also feature effects)

Tools of the Trade: (three pieces of mundane equipment based on one's concept)
Consumables: (names and quantities, maybe with brief effect in parentheses)
Unused Accessories: (name, SP cost to use and maybe brief descriptions here pls)
Other Junk: (simple or specialized items bought later, maybe even key items)

* Accessories *
(name, SP cost to equip, and effects go here when you have one)

* Specials *
Special 1 (name, AP cost to use, effects)
Special 2 (second verse, same at the first)

Character Sheets
None yet lol

Completed Quests

[RMVX ACE] Hiring for DS-Style Face Portrait

Hey, folks. So recently I picked up the DS resource pack for RMVXA. Wanting to make a game using those assets, I'm going to need a face picture for the main character I intend to use. Already getting a sprite of her worked on, but what I'm asking for might be more difficult to achieve -- someone who can imitate the digital art style done for RPG Maker DS's picture-based assets.

Considering the character I'm using is an anthro lion, I feel the difficulty will only compound itself. That said, I'll willing for any artists willing to take this endeavor on to name their price. Send me a message here, or via PM on RMN, if you're willing to take on the commission. Below is the current reference for said character, though I'd prefer her main fur color to be more tawny and less orange...

Gam Mak Never Changes (Fallout 1 Opening Parody)

The audio, hosted on Vocaroo

Gam mak... gam mak never changes...

The AAA companies made games to gather fans and wealth. Indies built their empires from a lust for royalties and a recognition. Sakaguchi shaped a failing Square into a JRPG superpower.

But game development never changes...

In the 21st century, games were still being made over the accolades that could be acquired. Only this time, the spoils of gam mak were also its weapon: Japanese game creation software dubbed “RPG Maker”. For this resource, Enterbrain would acquire it from ASCII, Kadokawa would then take it from Enterbrain, and the program's communities would dissolve into bickering about which version of the editor was the most effective.

In 2019, the storm of gam mak would come again. With the mere update of RPG Maker MV, most of the RM communities were reduced to broken links. And from the memories of those fallen forums, a new community would struggle to arise.

A fair number were able to escape to the relative safety of RPG Maker Network's Discord server. You were a part of that group that entered its channels. Imprisoned safely to your own devices, chatting with others online instead of working on your game projects, a generation has lived without even bothering to read the forums.

Life on the Discord channel is about to change.

Discord RPG Recruitment: Dungeon World

Hey hey, RMN faithful! So as you may know, been having fun doing "Idiots in Ivalice" here on the forums with Piano, Avee and NeverSilent as of late. I feel my confidence in being able to run a game has been renewed, so I dare say I'm looking to up the ante and set my sights a bit higher. I'm still gonna be running the aforementioned thread, but wanted to take a crack at GMing in real time, with a more complex system.

Before I go any further, just wanted to say that Piano did suggest I advertise here for said game-to-be, so if this isn't the right place, I'm just throwing him under the bus before anything else. Y'know, as you do. Point in case...

...I still love ya, Piano. :3

ANYWAY! Onto the actual point of this thread. I was thinking of running a game of Dungeon World on the RMN Discord, over voice chat. Currently am aiming for a one-shot to test the waters, but if enough interest is obtained and people have enough fun with it, I'd also be willing to continue it as a campaign.

For those unaware, Dungeon World is one of those "Powered by the Apocalypse" system games. Players roll 2d6, trying to get at least 7+ with modifiers to succeed. However, rolling a 7~9 is a success with consequences -- you can still achieve what you set out to do, but at what cost? The game is very narrative based while still upholding a D&D feel sans a lot of statistical "crunch". It also allows for bits and pieces of collaborative work in forming the details of the world, from both players and GM as well.

So, what's the premise of the adventure? The players' characters will be young adults living on a mostly-uncharted island in the midst of a Mediterranean land's seas. For the one-shot adventure, a humble life of living on the mysterious isle in relative safety has gotten boring. As chance would allow, one of the elders of the village asks a dying wish of these youths -- seek out an ancient portal that opens once every decade. With its next opening to occur in just a day or so, what lies beyond just might be enough to prove the aspiring adventurers' mettle and get them started on their journeys...

For the game's time and date, I'm thinking sometime during the afternoon in Eastern Time (UTC -05:00) on Wednesdays. Rules are as presented on the SRD, which I'll link below. There are notable differences between Dungeon World and your typical d20-based game, and I'll be available via PM or over the RMN Discord to offer any help needed for those interested. For those who already have Dungeon World experience, 3rd party playbooks are potentially allowed with my looking them over. Further, as I'm all for allowing non-Tolkien races into fantasy settings, feel free to reskin the races presented in the playbooks to suit your needs.

With peoples' interests, I will provide any information needed for the game, as well as setting tidbits I find important. Below are two links for info about how to play, and how to create a character.

Dungeon World's SRD, containing the gist of info needed for play; also includes a 3rd party playbook, the "Arcane Duelist".

DW Play Kit, containing the basic moves one can make as well as every core playbook.

Numbers Appearing, an official supplement PDF that includes playable monstrous races

Idiots in Ivalice: A "Roll to Dodge" RP

Well... the last time I ran a forum RPG, it didn't go so well. But this time, it will be different! Chatting with the RMN Discord, LockeZ had the suggestion that I run "Roll to Dodge", a heavily streamlined game system. Though trying not to rip off Locke's original RtD RP too hard, I'll be frank -- I've had the Ivalice Final Fantasy games on my mind as of late, so uh

Anyway, as mentioned, Roll to Dodge is easy-peasy. I'll describe what's going on (usually a battle scene, but sometimes not), and you guys describe your immediate action in bold (and throw in some roleplaying too, if y'don't mind?). Kinda like that. When everyone's made their move, I'll roll a six-sider and determine what wacky hijinks occur based on the roll...

  • 1: Failure and a backfire
  • 2: Failure
  • 3: Partial success
  • 4: Success
  • 5: Success and an extra boon
  • 6: Success that's so good, there's even a backfire

As you might guess, there's a pretty big margin for error in your actions! Luckily, all sorts of fun things can happen when you inevitably mess up, and no one gets dead. Besides, there's worse consequences a character can suffer than death for failure. *evil grin*

As the thread title implies, this game is loosely based on Ivalice-centric Final Fantasy titles. Aside from the occasional bits and pieces I might throw in that aren't canon to the source material, try to remember this theme when doing stuff.

For character creation stuff, consult the next post. For now, this opening post will house character sheets for any players who sign up. I am looking for no more than six players to begin the game; after all, that's the max number of units one can dispatch in a FFT game, right? If able, I'd like at least two or three players to start things off, and I might throw an NPC in there if we're short-staffed. The NPC won't count against the first-come, first-serve basis of choosing jobs.

Character Sheets
Taken Jobs -- Green Mage, Geomancer, White Mage

Anno (NeverSilent)

Name: Anno "The Annoyance"
Race: Moogle
Job: Green Mage

- 50 Gil
- Heavy Armour
- 5 Torches
- Dried Food
- Canteen
- 50' of Rope
- Broken Flute
- Potion
- Smoke Bomb

Vivian (Avee)

Name: Vivian "Clover Girl"
Race: Viera
Job: Geomancer

- 50 Gil
- Ranged Weapon (Crossbow if I get to choose)
- Light Armor
- 2 Canteens
- 50' of Rope
- Potion
- Dried Food

Niviea (Pianotm)

Name: Niviea
Race: Miqo'te
Job: White Mage

- 59 Gil
- Longbow
- 1 Dried Food
- Hempen Camise - Heavy (Lvl 1, basic magic armor for white mages)
- Potion x3

NPC Listings
  • Janna, Brigali Monk
  • Lenzo, Hume Ninja
  • Ser Arte, Bangaa Knight
  • Hisaki, Hume Samurai
  • Horatio Icilia, Hume Paladin

1) The Gourmand
2) The Arcanist
3) (Title pending)

Rachel's Short Stories of Other Strangeness

Hey again, gam mak hopeful. As I cannot seem to edit my prior short story thread's title to something else, will be posting short story pieces here for any interested. My current writing project is inspired heavily by Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles of all things; as such, the tale I'm working on right now is based off an adventure from Palladium's one TMNT RPG from back when.

A bit of a content warning for readers of this starting story, however -- as the name will suggest, the adventure this story-to-be is based off involves school children being held hostage by gun-totting terrorists. Reading the Game Master Background and villain bios for the adventure was something of a gut-punch when I first read them; the writer pulled no punches with the themes, not unlike the grit of the Mirage Comics rendition of the Turtles that TMNT and Other Strangeness is based off.

In addition to the content warning, I'm also going to give a shout-out to a guy named Minifig on /tg/, who created his own PDF for running the TMNT RPG using Savage Worlds. References to his original setting info in the game's playtest can be found strewn across this tale, and his PDF can be found here --

Without further ado, let's dive into a world of beast-rogues and other weirdness...

Terror on Rural Route 10: Part 1

New Rugby. One of the lesser-known cities in New York State, even in the Western New York region. Not as burned-out as Buffalo’s bad streets but sharing the prestige of the city’s good neighborhoods, New Rugby has its perks for citizen and tourist alike. The allure of its Little Italy, its metropolitan selection of restaurants serving cuisine from the world over, and the Talbot-Lawson Museum and Art Gallery has its draws for the city’s rich art scene.

In one apartment complex in that uncanny metropolis, a young man by the name of Tony was gearing up for an awesome weekend. His latest pals would be arriving soon, eager to enjoy the fantasy meat-grinder that was the college kid’s Advanced Dungeons and Dragons campaign. With a couple of larges pizzas sitting in their boxes, paid for by Tony’s mail-room salary from Rugby Community College, the lad was jamming to Red Hot Chili Peppers playing on the hottest local radio station, KNRU.

Pulling a two-liter of cola from his dingy fridge, a knock at his fire escape window alerted Tony to the arrival of his guests. They always had a habit of evading attention, and Tony agreed it was best that the trio arrive under the cover of the dark alley behind the building. Thus the Pepsi was plopped unceremoniously onto the tabletop next to his Dungeon Master’s screen, and Tony’s stocking feet brought him to the back window.

Once opened on that early spring afternoon, a rather bestial head peeked inside. “Ooh”, grinned the feline guest. “You did pick up some meat lover’s, didn’t you? I can smell it from here! I could kiss ya, Tony”.

A chuckle left Tony’s lips as his mutant companion climbed into his living room. “I’d rather you not”, the college kid grinned, “Last time, I thought you’d take skin off with that tongue of yours”.

Poking his head into the room as the lion-woman entered, the second guest presented his raccoon-like countenance. “You better save some for me and Ginger, lion-tits”, the critter-man crudely commanded. “Aren’t your kind supposed to save the hunt for the boys anyway?”

The third guest, a vulpine woman, slipped herself through the window’s opening after the raccoon scampered on through. “Technically speaking”, the vixen eloquently explained, “Tony was the one attaining this ‘hunt’. Even if you’re correct on a pride’s pecking order, I still feel Nicole deserves the first of our venison”.

With a shrug, Tony plopped himself casually at his folding chair, black shirted chest obscured by the DM’s screen. “It’s whatever to me”, he replied. “This isn’t deer, and I’ve had a big lunch on campus. Just save some good slices for me though?”

“Yeah, yeah”, chuckled Nicole the lioness as she lifted the cardboard lid of the top pizza box. “Eating the same thing time and again gets old after a while. I’m thankful you’ve shelled out for Buonarotti’s. I can taste the difference between that and dank 7-Eleven ‘za”.

“No kidding?” inquired the raccoon-man, hands going akimbo on his denim-covered hips. “Pizza’s pizza to me, Nikki, I’ve never cared”. Turning his head to the vixen, the mutant raised a hand in question. “What do you say, Ginger?”

Ginger the vixen shrugged back, dusting off her summer dress and swishing her fluffy tail behind her. “I’d no gourmand, Prowler. I’d save the assessment to our humble leader”.

By now, Nicole was stuffing her tawny-furred face with the New York Style pizza, double-fisting slices as some red sauce spattered off her dark lips and onto her sports bra beneath her red leather bolero. One hearty gulp later and the lioness shot back, “Oh, believe me”, she grinned with pearly fangs, “This is the good stuff. Much obliged again, Tony”.

Tony chuckled as he dispensed a set of gaming dice from a plastic sandwich bag. “Hey, don’t mention it”, he smiled, “I owe you furries after saving my ass weeks back”.

“And I insist”, Ginger replied, “It’s nothing. At least you’re had the gall to try and find us after our little rescue. But I presume you’re not going to snoop into the bad parts of town from now on?”

“Yeah”, Prowler smirked as he yanked a cheese-and-pep slice from the bottom box, “Next time you need some weed, you come to me, got it?”

Tony groaned. “Dude, it wasn’t like that. I told you before, I was at the wrong place at the wrong time”.

“As you’d put it”, Ginger replied as she opened a folding chair and settled in close to Tony’s spot, “It’s whatever. Inopportune for you to happen upon those delinquents, but luckily for you we’d only just finished our sweep of the slums that night”.

Nicole let out a muffled noise of agreement, swallowing another mouthful of Italian-American comfort food. “As long as we can actually save you hairless apes, I’m happy. Not everyone’s as fortunate to have us or the police to save them in time”.

A sigh left Tony’s lips. “Yeah, I guess so. You three are amazing, no matter what was you slice it. Shelling out for the good stuff is the least I can do. Now c’mon, lemme get out the character sheets and I’ll let you three look ‘em over. I don’t think I explained how to level up your guys yet. Congrats on no one losing a character before hitting second level, though!” His mood lifting a bit, the young man added, “You sure none of you three have played a tabletop game before?”

Ginger smiled softly, plucking her set of loaner dice from her small purse. “When there’s not much to do but gloss over your cheat sheets in the wilderness outside the city”, she responded, “Digesting the rules for a game helps pass the time”.

“Besides”, Prowler shrugged, “Ginger’s good at figuring out that nerd stuff. Gimme my Thief sheet, my dude, and crank that radio. If my watch is right, ol’ Trashman’s routine should be starting soon”.

Obliging the crass critter, Tony turned the dial of his paint-speckled stereo. He always admired obsolete bits of technology from yesteryear, and the local shock-jock of KNRU had a similar taste in music as the nostalgic lad. Hell, Tony couldn’t think of anyone he knew in New Rugby who didn’t dig Trash’s shtick; ratings had been known to quadruple when the audacious host was on the air. And while some of the Trashman’s unsigned acts remained garage band material for a reason, good old Trashy had a habit of spreading the truth of word about town… no matter how bad it hurt.

In mere moments, the boisterous bellow of the Trashman belted from the speakers of the worn boombox. “What is up, Trashionados?! This is the Trashman, the one and only, coming to you from the dumpy little studio in downtown New Rugby. So that was ‘Californication’ – not that my best Chili Peppers jam needs any introduction! More beats coming in from ten years prior to it, hits from the best damned decade of music on this rock, in just a few! But hey, lemme check the headlines and...”

Radio silence. This wasn’t like the Trashman. Not one bit.

“...well damn”, the disc-jockey remarked. “I don’t beat around the bush, ladies and germs. This blows. This really blows. Word from Channel 4 News says some bad stuff’s going down. Some unidentified assholes have taken over a school on Rural Route 10. Guns and everything, as far as we know. The local and state cops are on-scene, and they might even be calling in the feds soon. At least a hundred kids and six teachers are holed up in there with them as we speak”.

Another brief pause. “Damn. I don’t know if any of you out there have kids at that school, but… jeez, and gun-bunnies really think they’re in the right? You never hear something like this happening in our slice of the county, but here we are. Christ sakes, man. I’m sorry. Gimme, gimme a few to get myself together, and I’ll cover the lesser news…”

Tony’s finger wouldn’t give him, the seemingly dauntless Trashman, the opportunity to compose himself on-air. “Guys”, the college kid spoke slowly as he shut the radio off. “Rural Route 10. I used to go to that school”. Hesitantly, the youth of twenty-four finished, “My cousin’s kid goes to that school”.

A soft gasp left Ginger’s lips. Lowering her pizza slices, Nicole grimaced as Prowler lowered his muzzle. “Son of a bitch”, the raccoon spoke at last, his voice lower than his gaze. “So you’re asking us a favor, aren’t you?”

Nicole grit her fangs, setting down the remnants of her servings. “This is no favor. This is a work night for us”.

“Damn”, Prowler scoffed as he crossed his arms. “Did it have to be tonight? I was looking forward to curb-stomping s’more kobolds, or whatever those l’il bastards are called”. A groan, and he looked up. “But you’re right, Nikki. Duty calls”.

“You’re taking this rather well”, Ginger warned. “They might be calling in federal law enforcement. The state police are there, as are local officers. And that’s to say nothing of terrified parents and family members of the hostages”.

“So you’re saying we abandon them?” Nicole growled. “Especially Tony’s kin?”

“I haven’t even spoken for the guns yet”, Ginger relented, “All I’m saying is, we need a plan. Even if we can get there unseen and in a timely fashion, we’ve never faced anything bigger than the rare handgun. New York’s guns laws have kept the streets clean of anyone packing a serious weapon”.

Standing up, Tony went for his hoodie hanging by the door. “I know the way to that school like the back of my hand”, he spoke evenly, dispensing the keys to his used car. “I’ve had to pick up Trixi every now and again. If no one but me knows you guys exist in town, you three would be the only ones who could save those kids and their teachers, witnesses be damned”.

“We’ll devise a plan en route”, Ginger conceded. “Nicole, Prowler, get your weapons from the alley. This night, we make those terrorists’ heads roll”.
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