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Wednesday
Nov162011

Meet Zeta Cervantez - Science Hero

It only takes an angry pebble to start an avalanche. My uncle used to say that all the time. Even at five years of age I’d always correct him, pointing out that pebbles didn’t have feelings and therefore couldn’t get angry. He’d laugh and tell me I was just like my father.

My father taught math in Barcelona before I was born, but here in America he’s always called himself a tinkerer. He could fix anything, which is how he paid the bills. He could build anything too, which was how our apartment filled with gadgets and devices that all our school-friends would marvel at. We were the first on the block to have a radio, albeit one four times the size of what they sell in stores and housed in twelve old cigar boxes that I helped papa glue together. I helped him make it and I’ve been a maker ever since.


I never feel more rushed than when I stop time. For me, those are the busiest seconds of my life, even as the world around me freezes. It actually makes sense - in truth I’m the one who has speeded up. They’re all experiencing time just like always. In my little chronal bubble, I’m the one moving at a million seconds per minute.

Like a speeding train, my time-trip will eventually run out of track. There’s only so much bending that time and space can bear before they snap back to true, and I don’t want to be caught in those particular closing jaws. So I’ve only got a short window of time - what I call hyper-time - to make a difference.



If I could be there when that pebble got angry, before things came to a crisis point, it would all be so much easier. But my Temporal Anomaly Generator doesn’t let me see forward or look back - I can’t find those small moments that become deadly avalanches. Like everyone else, I only know something’s wrong when I hear the rumbling. Unlike everyone else, I start running towards the ominous sound instead of away from it.

 

Why play police? Aren’t there better people for this kind of thing, soldiers and firemen and what have you? These are questions my brothers and sisters ask me all the time. I assure them that I’m in no danger, that my invention keeps me perfectly safe ,so it would be the height of selfishness not to help out in ways only I can. In truth only that last part is true - if I don’t time things just right, when that chronal bubble bursts I can end up just as dead as anyone. There have been a few close calls. More than a few if you count the times I pushed the generator past the safety margin.

But this city needs all the help it can get right now. This depression, it seems to have drawn out the madness in some. The 1930s are looking like they’ll be a lost decade. If things keep going as they are, they may mean the death of civilization. The bootlegging gangsters of the 20s might not need to hide their liquor sales anymore, but they haven’t given up their tommy-guns. The slum lords and robber barons might have lost it all in the market crash, but they’re not cutting anyone a break even as they cut every corner when it comes to safety and fairness.

And where to even begin with maniacs like Jack of Bedlam and his cult of chaos-worshipping followers? He seems like he wants to tear the whole world down with his bare hands. If only he’d stick to bare hands and give up the bombs, the acid, and the poison gas. Someday I’ll catch him in time and make him give them up.

For now though, I do my best - carving out a few extra seconds whenever I can so I can pull innocents out of the avalanche’s path. And if a few madmen end up pushed into the path, well, so much the better. 


Friday
Nov112011

The View from the Dark Side

"This place - this so-called house - it is for us. It is not for the living, for the warm-blooded. It is not for the loving, for the kind. It is a place of truth where comfortable human lies about hope and salvation are flayed to ribbons and cast aside." - Spectre of Scheherazade

When you take on the role of the evil entities in Haunts, your single goal is to destroy the explorers who have invaded your domain. Kill them, drive them mad, or drag then down into hell with you - the choice is yours, but there is one certainty: they must go.

What isn’t so certain is the other big question: what do they want? Humans find all sorts of reasons to risk their souls in the Tyree Manse, from recovering relics and tomes of forbidden knowledge to hunting heads of entities like you. Every time a group passes through those gates, you must be on guard against any possibility. Observe their behavior and note how they react to your tricks, traps, and attacks by your minions - they will inevitably reveal their true intentions.


"This house....this house is the mirror’s tain, the source that flashes back the darkness within human aspirations. It is as mercurial and deceptive as a dream, as cutting and confounding as a nightmare."  - Verger of the Morphic Mass


The shape of the Tyree Manse changes with every game, and the Explorers have no idea what the floor-plan will be when they enter. But as the haunter, you have access to the entire map when the game begins. That does not mean you know everything that happens within its many rooms. You only know what your minions and spies can tell you, and they can’t be everywhere. Even as you guard possible goals from the explorers, you must track their movements at all times. Should they slip from your sight, some terrible good will come of it.


IA! IA! Cly’ghi fhtagn nib Sul-Otholec! IA! IA! - Hymn of the Elder Gods

The Tyree Manse is a crossroads between different sources of horror. As the haunter, you get to pick which of the different groups of evil entities you want to play. There are the classic ghosts and spirits, which specialize in hidden movement and ambushes. Cultists are mostly humans and madmen but can summon the most powerful and terrifying enemies in the game. The undead are walking corpses that serve a vampire, mummy, or necromancer leader and are the most well-rounded threat. The phantasmagorians are dream creatures who specialize in illusion and madness. Other groups will reveal their existence in the fullness of time.

Each group has a powerful leader, a creature that poses a serious threat to the explorers. But be careful - one of the possible goals for the humans is exorcising your leader, so you must find a balance between using its powers against the interlopers and protecting it from destruction. There are some minions that are shared across different groups, such as spying rat-things, haunted paintings, and shambling zombies. Using these monsters wisely can throw the explorers off, making them think they’re fighting one kind of foe while your true threat rises up behind them.

Over the course of many games you will be able to upgrade and personalize you haunt group, unlocking new powers, abilities, and minions. The explorers are learning as well, and they always seem to have some new trick up their sleeves. In the end though, their baubles and desperate devices can only forestall the inevitable doom that stalks them.

Wednesday
Nov092011

Dr. Laughton on Exploring in Haunts

In Haunts you play either as a group of explorers who have ventured into the most infamous haunted mansion in the world or you play as the evil supernatural entities that have taken up residence there. The famed occultist, Dr. Laughton, is one of the few people to enter the house and return largely unscathed, and he has made it his life’s mission to unlock the foreboding mansion’s secrets.

On The Ever-Changing House

“There’s never been a map of Tyree Manse that was worth the paper it was scratched on. In my experience, there’s no way to know what’s behind that next door except to brandish your protective wards and open it.”

Every time you play Haunts, the Tyree Manse takes on a different shape, with rooms and even the entire floor plan shifting from one exploration to the next. Infused with hellish energy, the building doesn’t conform to the laws of time and space (or local zoning regulations). This makes every game of Haunts a unique experience. It also means you’ll never know what terrible thing is lurking around the next corner or hiding in the shadows.

On Evil Entities

“Most people believe in ghosts, but very few of them know what a ghost really is, or just how dangerous they can be. I know just how dangerous they can be, and even I have no true measure of the horrors within the Tyree Manse. That place is home to more than just restless spirits and weeping widows.”

Although most people think of Tyree Manse as a haunted house, that does not mean that there are just ghosts lurking within its macabre vaults. Indeed, every time a group of explorers enters the Manse, they can never be sure just what kind of haunts they’ll be encountering. The player controlling the evil entities chooses from one of many different supernatural coteries. Sometimes it is ghosts - apparitions, poltergeists, and banshees who hate the living. Or it might be a coven of cultists devoted to summoning their dark god back to Earth. The barrier between dreams and the waking world grows thin, allowing living nightmares known as Phantasmagorians to slip into the house. And of course there’s no place the undead and love to practice their necromantic arts more than a cursed dwelling like Tyree Manse.

On Assembling the Right Team

“Local officials and law enforcement stopped going into the house decades ago. They know better. So-called ghost hunters aren’t so wise. There are a lot of foolhardy souls who think ghosts can’t really hurt them. Those kind never make it on my team. Those kind will get you killed or worse.”

Each game, the explorers assemble a team to venture into to the house. There are more volunteers than you would think who are willing to brave the cursed structures horrors, and you can choose any four of them for your team. Some, like Dr. Laughton, are experts in the occult. Others possess psychic powers or are blessed by benevolent allies. Ghost-hunting science has come a long ways in recent years, and some of those gadgets are actually effective against supernatural foes. Others rely on more traditional means - many monsters react very badly to a point-blank shotgun blast.

The explorer player chooses a team and outfits them with an arsenal of weapons, spells, and abilities that will hopefully complement each other. Over the course of multiple explorations, those team members will improve their abilities and earn access to new upgrades to bring along on future explorations. Beware though - the house can learn from its own experiences as well, and the foes you face will be even more dangerous.

The player controlling the Haunts has no idea which explorers you bring into the house, nor which equipment and powers you’ve chosen for them. For the most part the element of surprise tends to favor the creatures, but in this area at least, the explorers have some tricks of their own.

On Objectives

“There’s the stories of buried treasure of course, and they may be true. But the real prizes are the answers to Tyree’s mysteries. Relics of other worlds. Tomes of forbidden lore. Answers to the riddle of death and life. These are prizes worth any risk.”

The Tyree Manse is full of mysteries, and brave explorers find many different reasons to venture through those lowering, iron gates. Each game, you choose your objective for that exploration. Again, as with the team composition, the player controlling the haunts has no idea what your objective is. You might be seeking one of the mystic artifacts hidden away in the house. You might be gathering information about the true nature of the afterlife and other dimensions. Perhaps you’ve set your sights on exorcising some specific evil entity and banishing it from our world forever. You’ll have to find your way through the twisting labyrinth of the Tyree Manse’s rooms in order to reach your objective. Hopefully you’ll find it before the haunts discern your true intentions.

In the end, no matter how much you risk and how great the reward, two things are certain. Tyree Manse will always have new terrors and treasures to lure in victims and there will always be explorers brave and foolish enough to try and find them. Beyond those two constants, everything else is chaos and darkness.

Monday
Nov072011

The Legend of Tyree Manse

From Kincaid’s Gazetteer of Legendary Haunts

That there was an Elias Tyree, there seems little doubt. His name is on property records, legal papers, and contracts dating as early as 1840. The lack of a birth certificate suggests that he probably immigrated from some other country, but there’s no way to prove this. He must have been a man of considerable wealth, since he paid top dollar for his workers and materials, shipping in artisans from Europe to build his dream home. A few letters and one journal survive from those workers. All describe a taciturn, tall employer of few words and exacting standards. No one may have known much about Elias Tyree, but he definitely knew what he wanted.

There are no reports of him making direct contact with any of his employees after 1869, which is when the manse reached its current size and general shape. Although work continued on the interior for decades to come, the orders were always carried out according to plans and letters delivered by Tyree’s business managers and lawyers, none of whom ever left any records of their contact with him aside from the requisite legal and accounting forms. One lawyer, Malcolm Haught, wrote in his will that “Tyree’s folly built this firm and our lives, but has damned us all forever. I’m so sorry for that. So sorry.” The four sons to which this last testament was addressed never read it, all having died in a murder-suicide pact on the night Haught retired from his law firm. The old man lived on for another decade, never again leaving his Boston home.

In 1910, the house - which no one had ever been known to actually live in - was put on the market. By that time it had already claimed the lives of dozens of workers and developed a cursed reputation. Coming off an incredibly popular and profitable tour of America in 1912, British stage magician Howell the Great bought the Tyree Manse and declared he would “plumb its halls for secrets only someone of my profound magical ability could understand.” His 1913 nationwide tour, while even more profitable, was infamous for the dark themes of its illusions and the wake of suicides and accidental deaths it left in its wake as it steamed back and forth across the country. In 1914 an emaciated and wild-eyed Howell invited reporters and fellow magicians to join him at the manse for a preview of his new show. The soul survivor of that night, Althea Parker, never spoke or wrote a word again, but her chilling paintings portrayed scenes of endless violence, blood, and depravity. Neither Howell nor any of his servants or guests was ever seen again.

The building passed to Percy Howell, the missing magician’s nephew in England, who never visited America and allowed the cursed structure to languish unattended throughout World War One. In the 1920s bootleggers took up residence there, distilling rotgut alcohol and using the manse as a base for smuggling. Its secluded location and access to the sea may have accounted for the seven occasions on which bloody gunfights between warring mobsters took place. With the coming of the great depression, the Tyree Manse slid into further decline even as its reputation as a last stop for local children on dares and wandering hobos looking for shelter.

In ensuing decades both local and state governments attempted to seize the property through eminent domain, but legal maneuvers from far away London law firms and unexpected strokes, wasting diseases, and bouts of madness amongst government officials foiled all such efforts. The house settled firmly into its role as one of the most legend-haunted buildings in the country, accruing an ever-increasing list of supposed victims.

In 1953, a well-known Catholic priest proposed to exorcise the evil spirits from the place, but after spending three days there he declared the legends false and the entire manse “untouched by any sign of evil.” He was later elected to the College of Cardinals and suspected of complicity in the poisoning of Pope John Paul. In 1968 the psychedelic rock band The White Jacks recorded their album Revels Rue in the manse, which became a posthumous multi-platinum hit when all seven members of the band disappeared after turning the tapes over to their producer. Teenagers across the country played the album backward, searching for hidden messages. At least seventy-nine of them are known to have found them, with tragic consequences.

In 1975, the well known occultist and editor of the magazine New Aeon, Cynthia McTavish, was the first person to bring film cameras into the Tyree Manse, with plans to make a documentary film about the haunting there. A self-proclaimed medium, McTavish channeled Elias Tyree and led her film crew on a tour of the house, supposedly guided by the manse’s builder. Tyree-through-McTavish seemed extraordinarily garrulous and forthcoming during the ninety-minute interview. That and the fact that in many shots McTavish’s head seemed to transform into that of a red-eyed goat for several frames led many to conclude that her whole film was a fake, but she swore to her death in 1998 that the possession had been real and that the demonic goat-thing still caused her blackouts and lost time.

Real or not, the film’s success encouraged dozens of imitators in the decades since, although very few of them manage to escape from the manse with any usable footage. The building has a deleterious effect on recording devices of all kinds, including the human brain. In 2005, on the thirtieth anniversary of McTavish’s expedition, TV psychic Alan Theroux tried to repeat her feat and channel Elias Tyree during a live satellite broadcast from the grand ballroom. He’s rumored to have paid the Howell estate one million dollars for the rights. At first Elias seemed the same affable sort that McTavish had channelled, and spoke of hidden gold and other treasures buried in the basement. Right before the satellite feed suffered an unexplained interruption, Theroux’s tone changed, and in a booming voice he proclaimed “I AM GOG-MAGOG.” When the signal returned forty-seven seconds later, Theroux was gone along with all of his crew and staff. In his place stood a child of about seven years of age, who looked blankly at the camera for a full minute before walking off to the right.

Since that famous event, viewed live by millions, the reputation of the Tyree Manse has continued to grow. The mysterious Howell Family Trust refuses to comment, but its lawyers have vigorously resisted all attempts to seize the building. Several local religious groups have tried unsuccessfully to fire bomb the house, but the flames never seem to spread. Theroux’s mention of the treasure brings in a whole new class of explorers, people willing to risk everything for the hidden gold. Although surrounded by fences and alarms and even a local sheriff's deputy, those who want to always seem able to find a path in. Those that manage to find their way back out are seldom willing or able to return a second time.

Friday
Nov042011

The Man's Speech to All Animal-kind

I’ve been called a lot of things. Outsider. Meddler. Hairless. Tyrant. And I’ll admit, one of those is true, although compared to a hippo, I think I’ve got a fine head of hair - no offense big fellows! But I am not an outsider. Yes, my parents may have come from a far off land, but they and their people are as strange to me as they are to you. I have no memory that is not of the jungle. There is no joy in my life, no pleasure that I’ve taken that is not of and from this land. I may look different, but down to my bones, I am one of you.

But it would be folly to pretend I’m not different. To say otherwise would be like saying that King Imara is not the greatest bull elephant to ever rule his folk - it is denying a simple truth of life. Yes I don’t have the strength or hair of the fine gorillas that raised me. But I have the great gift, the one of my true parents, the apes who loved and raised me always took pride in. My mother, Fila, called me her little Maker, because while I wasn’t as strong as my brother Kondo, I was so very clever with my hands.

The ways of the gorilla troops are noble and traditional and they are to be honored. But they are not always right. Who is to say that just because we have always done things one way yesterday we should always do thus tomorrow? Do you drink from a watering hole once it has gone nearly dry? Not when there’s an overflowing river just over the other hill! The things I make, they are like clear, fresh running water. They slake your thirst and protect you from the heat. What is a spear but a different kind of rain?

Do you know what I can do for you? Have you seen what I’ve done? The chimps who I am proud to guide are now fearsome soldiers - no longer forced to cower before gorilla brutes who look down on them. The elephants of King Imara’s great herd now honor their ancestors by wearing their bones as armor, and are protected from their enemies by the ivory of their grandmothers. These are my gifts to you. I have made you wondrous things. I have taught my chimps to fashion their own, simple versions of those things. I want only to give back and make better our world.

But that’s not good enough for “Commander” Kondo and his rebel band. They don’t want you to have these gifts. They don’t want your lives to be better. They say that they want things to go back to the way they were before I was born. Well, that’s what they say. But who really believes them? We all know what they really want, right? We’ve seen how Kondo loves those smoking leaves he steals from Men. They want the tools I’ve made for you. They want to put the chimps “in their place.” And we all know what they really think of elephants and lions. It disgusts and saddens me to think that I once called him brother.

So we must defend ourselves and our new way of life from these bitter, angry, mindless foes. We did not start this war, but it is up to us to end it. I’m told by the few other humans of my kind that if I were to journey back to the world of men I would be greeted as a marvel, welcomed with adoration and gifts. But that does not interest me. That does not sound like home.

This land is my home! You are my family! And if you follow me, if you let me guide you, we will secure a better, more prosperous future for us all!