Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2016: The Year of D6 and Diceless Gaming?

2015 was largely eaten up by other priorities. But this coming year I plan to post a lot more regularly.

Oddly enough, my game reading has begun to follow a pattern that may help in promoting RPG play in the Philippines (in some small way). And that is: studying games whose mechanics use regular d6s, cards, and/or tokens.

The games currently taking up digital space in my tablet for reading are:
  • Night's Black Agents
  • Lords of Olympus
  • Lords of Gossamer and Shadow
  • Champions Complete
  • Fiasco
  • FATE (Core and Accelerated)
Projects involving these for next year include:
  • A FATE treatment for the Calidar setting
  • Night's Black Agents + Dracula Dossier + Doctor Who setting (Torchwood / U.N.I.T. special ops crew vs. vampires)
  • A continuation of the Lords of Olympus in Mystara idea
  • Lords of Gossamer and Shadow + Doctor Who + TimeLords + Sapphire & Steel mashup

One can dream, yes?

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

You All Meet In An Artisinal Taco Bar

From ChicagoMag's article on Chicago Taco joints.
The much-maligned trope of a party meeting in a bar often gets addressed by suggesting other ways that the party (regardless of genre) is pulled into the action. However, there are benefits to meeting up to get briefings in public places:
  1. Unless the person briefing you has their own facilities, there is often a need to find a place to talk business. 
  2. Even if the person briefing you has their own place, if the proposed activity is shady (or needs to be deniable), then it makes sense to meet elsewhere -- someplace where nobody knows your name.
  3. If, however, the person briefing you has little reason to stick their neck out, he/she/it may opt to have a meeting on neutral ground (probably with some backup) in order to stay safe.
What other options are there to the classic bar meet-up? One only has to think of the many places that freelancer briefings (or Multi-Level Marketing meet-ups) are held, why they are held there, and how these might be able to add to your adventure or campaign.

Favorite Cuisine

It could be a traditional Japanese restaurant, a run-down but consistently delicious hotdog bar, or a trendy Filipino-Asian diner. The benefits for this kind of venue are:

  • little world details: you can talk about how this kind of cuisine is prepared in your setting -- how popular it is, how difficult it is to get ingredients, how the ethnic mix is handled in the city you're in, and how well-known it is in the local community;
  • varied clientele: it could have a more working-class slant to its patrons, or perhaps a strong tourist segment that shows up on the weekends, or even a crowd of regulars who can advise the PCs about the person they're meeting with, and give warnings
  • interesting interruptions: perhaps the next course arrives just at a point of much needed suspense, or maybe you can establish a mini-subplot of a wrong order that pays off later in your adventure (misheard order, reversed numbers), or even introduce those sometimes annoying birthday songs for another nearby table just as the client you're meeting with is getting to the good part.
Generic Coffee Shop

A counterpoint to the sometimes seedy, sometimes oh-so-cool bar meetup is the relaxed and painfully crafted atmosphere of a leading coffeehouse chain. The benefits for this venue are:
  • contrast: relaxed, friendly atmosphere of the baristas and patrons vs. the subtle menace and mystery of your client and her mission;
  • fauxnanimity: don't they always ask your name after you order your drink? It may catch some players off-guard and force them to either reveal their true names or give obviously false ones;
  • strange mix of patrons: in the modern world, there are people who are just hanging out, others who are getting ready for their full day of work, others who are dealing with angst and breakups, others on dates, others who are working at the coffee shop, and others -- who are there to keep an eye on the PCs and are painfully bad at it.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Let's Read: The Dracula Dossier (Operation Edom: Eyes Only Briefing)

After the Foreword and the biblical quote referring to Lillith and Edom, we run into a short, succinct inciting incident for the whole campaign:

"In 1893, a visionary British Naval Intelligence Department spymaster codenamed 'Peter Hawkins' launched a plan to recruit the perfect spy: a vampire."

I can already see the scene with the crew, hunted by vampires and their thralls, knee-deep in sorting out warring conspiracies, then having this little nugget of info dropped in their laps. Cue the swearing, shaking of heads, and sarcastic revisitings of the ironic phrase: "What could possibly go wrong?"

And then, we're treated to a two page summary of what has happened as a result of the green lighting of that audacious, perilous decision from 1893 to the present. It is at this point that I run into one of my weaknesses -- dates and timelines.

A naked year or date often makes my mind go blank, unless I get lucky (or someone helpfully tosses out a name, incident, or location), as I scramble to establish the context. Fortunately, as I went through the general broad eras of the campaign, there were helpful labels that I kept in mind as I read the overviews of multiple generations of operatives somehow continuously thinking that the inciting incident above idea was a good one, and might just need some tweaking to make it work this time.

So, to my mind, the eras were:

  • Classic Dracula (actual book subtitle: Bold Experiments)
  • World War II (actual book subtitle: Desperate Measures)
  • The Cold War (actual book subtitle: Hidden Hunts)
  • Modern Day (actual book subtitle: Black Assets)

One thing that also made it difficult to follow, my date / timeline weakness notwithstanding, was the necessary vagueness regarding key events during these eras. Since the actual events and conspiracies will be filled up in the conspyramid as the sandbox investigative campaign moves on, most of the unfolding events in the summaries were done on broad strokes, to leave space for the players and the Director to play in.

Reactions to Classic Dracula

"A meet was set and made, a safe house and a headquarters in England prepared. Then it all started to go wrong."

This is the one I'm most comfortable with, as it's the type of stuff I expected from the main premise -- the novel Dracula being a sanitised version of the original after-action report of the failed op. Some historically resonant names and links to Bram Stoker. I do like the references to earthquakes coinciding with vampiric power, even if I'm not so sold on telluric vampires yet.

It seems to me that part of the joy of playing in, or uncovering the events in this era would stem primarily on how the true events diverged from the fictional account.

Reactions to World War II

"Rather than bring Dracula to England, however, this time the plan was simply to let him out and turn him against the Hitler-allied Antonescu government — if necessary, to back him as Romania’s new leader."

Quite on board with using Dracula in time of desperate need for Britain, when it was alone in Europe against the rising tide of expansionist warfare. However, my lack of knowledge in the lesser known theatres of war during WWII make it hard for me to envision what happened here, beyond the generic SNAFU labels and Murphy's Law invocations. (Note: read up on Antonescu and Romania in World War II).

At this point, tempting as a Dirty Dozen meets Castle Dracula exploit might be, this seems to be more of an interesting era to uncover clues, history, and trace how certain artifacts found their way into the hands of modern operators. It's the closest era, of course, to the original Edom operation -- and many innovations in modern espionage have their birth during this time.

Or perhaps one of the capstones at the end can serve as a climactic ending for this era?

(Aside: funny, I'm getting a hint of a Blackadder vibe to each era as a season. The same souls drawn back into each era as Dracula re-emerges to further his plans?)

Reactions to The Cold War

"Edom needed to find Dracula’s leavebehind network in London — after all, the analysts realized in retrospect, he had had months to build it back in 1894, and the power to keep it alive long after his seeming demise."

The closest era to modern day, and the classic espionage era (James Bond, I-Spy, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., George Smiley, and a certain novel known as Declare). And while Edom was certainly questionable from the beginning, the background of this era -- with mole hunts and double agents and defections and betrayals -- makes it very inviting to run. Of course, my relative ignorance beyond cinematic tradecraft would hamstring me a bit, but for me this is the quintessential Government Spies vs. Vampires period. It should be noted that I have memories of a vampire in a Starsky & Hutch episode, so even a U.S. interlude or two wouldn't be out of place.

At this point, however, the campaign seems very daunting. Starting from the modern era and working backwards seems like more of a challenge than the chronological play-through -- but then, how would the actual Dracula Dossier artefact be used?

Then again, since I'm barely into the book, I'm sure that these questions and more are addressed later.

Reactions to Modern Day

"She began to keep her own record, annotating the Dossier as her predecessors had. She gave herself the workname “Hopkins” as she annotated the bloody fingerprints of Edom — and the trail of corpses left by Dracula."

Oh, there it is -- the narrative hook explained. Since Night's Black Agents is more of Jason Bourne meets Dracula, there is more of that independent operator vibe here.

Right now, it occurs to me that the introduction of Dracula has to be handled very well -- the campaign bears his foul name, after all -- and he cannot be introduced as campy or as a joke. Somehow the tone has to be sustained as the players are brought into the campaign and peel away the layers of secrets and deaths to be presented with choices and threats.

It also seems to be that, given this two-page set of broad stroke events and 'secrets' of the default campaign background, both the initial era and the modern era are most clear in my mind. The middle eras are a mess of questions and actual historical events and classic tropes for now in my mind.

I may be detouring from the linear reading of the back. Definitely need to see the proposed defaults and spines, but then I may jump ahead a bit to see some juicy characters, locations, and macguffins before returning to the earlier sections.

We'll see!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Let's Read: The Dracula Dossier (TOC and Skim)

The Dracula Dossier is a massive reading endeavour. In addition to the Director's Handbook, there's the Dracula Unredacted document, and Hawkin's Papers. So where to start?

Director's Handbook

Started with this, because it promises to provide the overall framework of the campaign and should explain how Dracula Unredacted (the original after-action report that was redacted and rewritten into the novel we know as Dracula) and Hawkin's Papers (various in-game artifacts and in-game documents that help reveal the mystery) fit into the running of the game.

I suppose that when trying to understand how to run what is essentially a sandbox investigative game (!), it's best to understand what the default / likely scenario(s) will be, before attempting your own spin.

As usual, I did a quick review of the Table of Contents (TOC) and skim through the pages, to get my bearings -- an overview, identify areas of interest to skip ahead to, become familiar with terms.

Table of Contents

Foreword, Operation Edom, How To Use This Book

Comfortingly, the first few chapters and sections do take the time to quickly explain what all the books are used for, what the default campaign might be like (with suggestions for variety and customisation), and some key questions that a sharp-minded Director might want answered right away, before going any further (such as: "In Life, Which Historical Figure, If Any, Was Dracula?").

The 1894 Network, Opposition Forces, People

Then, it moves on to detail the various characters from the 1894 Network and to the modern era. The book gives options for each character being exactly what they seem to be, or as an agent of Edom, a minion of Dracula, or some other twist that will not only keep your Players on their toes, but will offer satisfying twists and turns to your campaign.

Nodes, Locations, Objects

There is a LOT of material here for allies, enemies, third parties that may or may not oppose you. There are also fleshed out Nodes (organisations, corporations, conspiracies) to complicate matters for your players, various key Locations across Europe and in the United States and Israel that your players may want to visit (or be spirited away to), and some Objects of interest that may provide clues (like Renfield's Journal) or valuable anti-vampire utility (like Vanderpool Garlic) or unwanted violent attention due to its value (like the Cameos of Dracula).

Scenario Spines & Capstones

There are three scenario spines provided (London Heat, Covering Our Tracks, For the Dead Talk Fast), all of which give Directors a good idea of the types of scenarios that can be used to introduce players to the overall campaign, and give a feel of how some improvisation might go while running it.

There are four capstones provided (Zalmoxis Rising, Dracula's Mill, Russian Roulette, The Tomb of Dracula) which give you options, or perhaps seed ideas, on how you can end your overall campaign on a climactic note.

All these are structured in such a way that it makes comparing and comprehending the materials relatively straightforward, even as a Director might already be planning modifications to the materials provided.

Campaign Frames, Looking Glass: Bucharest, and Indices

The Campaign Frames are interesting -- apparently some non-traditional / high-challenge level campaigns for the advanced Director -- but will require more detailed analysis when I get to it.

Looking Glass: Bucharest gives some much-needed detail to this exotic campaign location.

Indices helps you find things in the book, that you might need at a critical campaign prep (or game running) juncture.


Seems like a very meaty book to dive into. So, we'll get to that in the next instalment!

Friday, November 13, 2015

On The Radar: Equinox

The Equinox RPG ( by Vagrant Workshop is out. But wait -- it was already out in 2012, right? And then out again at the end of 2014 (right when I started my new job, which is probably why I missed it)?

A bit confused, but will figure it out later, because there are several books for it:

Based on naming conventions, some of the write-ups, and the bundles in RPGNow (see below), there are at least two different rulesets (Match System or Storygame) for the setting:
Also, according to the Setting Guide, you're free to approach the setting (if you didn't already know that you're allowed to used whatever ruleset you want) with you whatever ruleset you want:

"You should be able to play in the equinox setting with any generic game system available. Cortex, D20 Future, Fate, HERO, GURPS, Savage Worlds, Open D6, TriStat, Unisystem, etc—all of these feature all the mechanics needed for this and come with guidelines for adapting futuristic settings. Just add a shot of magic!
In case you seek to make your adaption 'official:' we’re open for submissions. Contact us and we’ll find a way to get your rules adaption out in the open."

Sounds like a plan. Time to add these to the read pile! Setting first, of course.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Philippine Gumshoe: Smaller & Smaller Circles

Stepping away from the more fantastic elements of Gumshoe to a straightforward procedural hunt for a serial killer, my immediate instinct is trying to set it in a local setting. Sadly, there aren't many local novels that stray into genre fiction. F. H. Batacan's Smaller and Smaller Circles is one of those rare books.

When F.H. Batacan first published Smaller and Smaller Circles—now acknowledged as the Philippines’ first crime novel—she was calling for a revolution. Or maybe two. 
Early in Batacan’s prizewinning novel, the hero-sleuth, Jesuit priest and forensic anthropologist Father Gus Saenz, reveals his personal dream of overturning the popular national myth that there are no serial killers in the Philippines... F.H. Batacan also started a literary revolution by producing what is now widely acknowledged as the first Filipino crime novel. In the decade that has passed since its publication, others have begun to follow suit, and now the genre is burgeoning. (from the Soho Press blog

The idea of having the a priest as the protagonist / detective in the Philippines is an interesting one, as it affords some latitude for the 'amateur sleuth' archetype in the predominantly Catholic country. They  have a measure of respect that allows some access to otherwise prohibited locales of people, and their position in the political landscape of the Philippines affords them some protection from some of the ensconced powers-that-be.

Also, the nature of local crime scene investigation is exposed as being somewhat behind the more modern U.S. and U.K. approaches, rationalising why observation, deduction, psychology, and ground-pounding work are more than valid in a modern world where TV shows like C.S.I. became a phenomenon.

Perhaps more similar amateur detective archetypes can be thought up for a Philippine Gumshoe campaign.

Let's Read: The Dracula Dossier (Preamble)

Not the cover for The Dracula Dossier,
but a cover by John Cassaday for a
comic book series in 2009.
I backed the Kickstarter for The Dracula Dossier, and I'm finally getting down to a serious reading of it. Many Gumshoe games have piqued my interest, but I've yet to play or run any game.

The Dracula Dossier intrigues me because (a) it involves the seminal vampire in the seminal vampire story; (b) it layers in not only a secret history of the original story, but it also; (c) layers in more secret histories that bring it up to the current day. Here's the summary, in the book's own words:

The Dracula Dossier (without italics) is an in-game artifact, the first draft of Bram
Stoker’s Dracula. Written as an after-action report for Operation Edom in 1894, it was classified by Her Majesty’s Government, to be issued on a need-to-know basis to Edom operatives on later missions. Two of those operatives, tasked for Edom missions in 1940 and 1977, added their own annotations to one copy of the Dossier, providing a few answers and many leads. 
In 2011, that copy fell into the hands of a third denizen of Britain’s shadow realm, who added her own annotations — and when she disappeared, it showed up in your player characters’ computers, or in their hands. The Dracula Dossier is the annotated version of Dracula Unredacted
The Dracula Dossier (with italics) is a collaborative, improvisational Night’s Black Agents campaign, in which heroic Agents hunt and (one hopes) finally destroy Dracula, while they evade (and likely expose) the secret vampire program within MI6 known as Edom.

Bottom line: it's a lot of reading. But it does intrigue me in terms of how this improvisational campaign works. It seems a lot like (gasp) a sandboxy investigative modern game. It sounds really cool as an overall concept, and it also uses one of the things I loved about the classic Call of Cthulhu RPG: lots of in-game artefacts that are potentially critical clues or hints for the game.

I have a mad idea that I'll be able to shoehorn The Dracula Dossier into a Doctor Who RPG-powered game, with the team members all a part of U.N.I.T. -- but for now, I'll just read.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Armchair Reviews: DWAITAS -- The Ninth Doctor Sourcebook

I approached the review of this sourcebook with some trepidation. After all, the Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space (DWAITAS) series of sourcebooks had been solid entries every time – with the Doctor series churning out astoundingly consistent source material in the tone and spirit of each of the eras, despite the volume (or paucity thereof) of actual episodes during that Doctor’s era.

However, this one was the incarnation of the Doctor that revived the franchise on TV -- and one that had eight sourcebooks preceding it. Was it going to live up to expectations? Or might it lapse into a boring re-tread of what had gone before?

A Solid Framework

Dedicated collectors and followers of this particular series of sourcebooks would, I’m sure, agree that some aspects of repetition are actually the strength of this series.

I’m very fond of the presence of the initial chapter of each of these books that give an overview of the peculiarities and strengths of this particular Doctor’s personality, and the character of the adventures during this era.

The roll call of protagonists and antagonists (statted out, with descriptions and explorations of their role during this era, of course) is also a given. But it’s unarguably essential to a sourcebook like this. It’s also very well done: character sheets for each with a great selection of iconic imagery for each. As always, I love that the TARDIS has its own writeup.

Perhaps that’ll be my next campaign idea: a Doctorless campaign with “companions” recruited by the TARDISes of various incarntations. Hm, a Storm of TARDISes has a nice ring to it.

Unique Challenges

This era only saw one Season / Series, meaning a quite a bit less source material in terms of episodes (we’ll come back to the Eight Doctor’s sourcebook as soon as I pick it up), but these episodes – in conjunction with the section tackling handling adventures in this era in greater detail – really give players a lot of options in running Doctor-y or Doctorless campaigns with the mix of personal drama, neo-pulpish adventure, and witty banter.

I really have to say that these synopses are well-written – and have been over this series of because. Concise, but filled with easy-to-follow details (useful for the GM who hasn’t quite reviewed every single episode in the given era, and may not have the time to do so). They also always raise concerns regarding continuity (that some sharp-minded GMs and Players will likely tackle in or out of play.

There’s also great notes on running your players through the episode as an adventure – fantastic I’m sure for the fans who’ve always wanted a chance to be a real companion of The Doctor.

Furthermore, the smaller pool of adventures does give the writing team an opportunity to really go in-depth and all-out in mining and milking these episodes for (a) adventures; (b) spin-off adventures; (c) motifs and leitmotifs of the Doctor’s adventures to reinforce the feel; (d) ideas on using location and enemies in different or expanded ways.

For the Fans

There is some added benefit here for me as a fan – some of my favorite episodes can be found here (“The End of the World, Dalek, Father’s Day, and The Parting of Ways), along with the first appearances of some enigmatic continuing characters. Much of the analysis and extrapolation here helps feed that fan prediliction for speculation, and is a rich source for both theories, and possible adventuring in the continuum of Time & Space that the Doctor inhabits.

Highly recommended.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Game To Play: Worlds In Peril -- Redline

Here's my current character (perhaps incorrectly created) for Worlds In Peril.

This is my take on a speedster. A riff on the Barry Allen version of the Flash.

Shifting Priorities: Read, Review, Play, Run

Time is such a valuable commodity. Commitments to work, family, and the realities of time, distance, and traffic in the Philippines make it hard to get game time. So I must decide how to handle all my gaming interests by classifying them.


Games, systems, and settings that I'm only going to read. Doesn't mean it's not good -- it just means that in terms of priority (for a variety of reasons), they're not going to be going acted on further. For now.


Games, systems, and settings that I'm going to review. It's a little bit more work here (writing takes time and effort, naturally), but it's worth it to review & promote it.


Games, systems, and settings that I'm going to try to find a way to play (either offline one-shots or online campaigns). Have to be moderately familiar with system and setting. And time is spent scheduling and playing and building characters and so on.


Games, systems, and settings that I'm only going to run. Have to be familiar with the system, setting, and have some kind of adventure ready. Then find players and a venue (online & offline).

Echoes: Piacenza - Season 2 Episode 42

Justicar Rinaldo in his younger years.

Legato Reunited! Well, A Quorum, Anyway. 

Game Summary for Echoes Book 02: S02E042

Echoes Book 02 is a continuation of a more narrative-oriented campaign (almost no rules, all aspects-based interpretation) that now uses D&D 5E rules.

Piacenza: La citta Spezzata

I'm not the only one seeing this, am I?
No. What is it?
As Rinaldo, Osha, and Fierra cross over on the way back from the Palazzo di Sovrino, the sky has taken on a strange rippled appearance, as if some thing or things beyond the range of vision are casting shadows on it from above. The daylight has thus become bizarre as well, with erratic patches of sun and shade. The effect is oppressive and - to Rinaldo, at least - somewhat dreadful, but the citizenry seem to be, if not quite untroubled, at least unsurprised by it.
Fierra? Are you seeing it, too?
Oh, yes, it's noontime. Actually, I expected your - talk - to last longer.
So this is normal, at noontime?
(as Fierra looks at him quizzically)
I've been away so long.
It's become normal, in recent times. I suppose it's one of the drawbacks of our lack of involvement in Scienza - no one knows why it happens, but it's harmless.
Oh, so we don't really have Scienzans. You were never - interested, yourself?
We both had our childhood curiosity, but I'm much better suited in my capacity.
And me?
(inexplicably amused)
Well, you're Scienzan now, aren't you?
(while Rinaldo is pretending to get the joke)
We are heading now to the Ordine della Ore Perse, Osha, and I'm afraid entry is restricted to persons of a certain clearance level. You understand.
So Rinaldo is a person of a certain clearance level?
He must not have felt he was allowed to tell you: he is Chief Justicar of Giustizia.
He's what?
(pretending not to be equally astonished)
Amazing, isn't it?
But - How - ?
Amazing, isn't it?

Ordine della Ore Perse, Distretto di Giustizia - shortly

Osha having agreed to wait outside, Fierra and Rinaldo are waiting in an office.
I sent word. We're early, but the Paladino della Primo Ora should be here soon.
Do I normally take longer, when - I visit the Doge? Do I normally visit the Doge?
(giving her cousin a wry look)
I’d say you're playing a dangerous game with all these women, but do I have to?
Justicar Rinaldo, what a privilege and relief to see you again.
Pallladddino? Vito?
Signorina Cardano, I apologize for making you wait. As you know, we were not certain when Rinaldo would arrive, but all has been arranged now that he has.
I'll leave him in your capable hands, then, Paladino Vittorio.
(to Rinaldo)
I'll be waiting outside when you're done.
Fierra steps out.
Are you well, old friend? I hope the assignment was not too troublesome for you.
Oh, well, I've had a day or so to - Rest and Recover.
(evidently oblivious to Rinaldo's attempted prompt)
Oh, yes, I hear you've even had time to - pay a visit, hmm?
Rinaldo feigns laughter. Vittorio seems surprised that his teasing was understood.
Ah, the memory blocks have begun to degrade, have they? Well, that is all to the good; it should make the restoration procedure go even more smoothly.
The restoration - ?
A servitor appears and murmurs something to Vito, who looks annoyed.
Please forgive me, Justicar Rinaldo; a pressing matter requires my attention. I should return shortly. Why not take the opportunity to stretch your legs a bit?
Mystified but obedient for now, Rinaldo loiters outside Vito's office, where he runs into Lia Tanzi, dressed in the same sort of semi-armored uniform as Vito. She introduces herself - so he pretends not to know her - and invites him into her own office for a spot of tea, while waiting.
Some crackers? I'd love to offer you something more substantial, but we wouldn't want to compromise the restoration procedure, would we?
No, of course we wouldn't.
May I ask? I know the overlay will be examined - meticulously, I assure you - but as a matter of departmental pride: no one doubted you were a scientist?
Not - to my knowledge - Is that what your department does? Forgive me - my memory, as you know - I was given to understand we don't have much Scienza.
Please, there is nothing to forgive; it is hardly surprising you don't remember! I am Paladino della Secondo Ora; my office is concerned with acquired knowledge - such as Scienza, but by no means exclusively so - while Paladino Vito's department focuses on the more primal foundations of identity.
The first hour. I see.
Exactly. So while the core, construction, and application of the overlay - along with, of course, the preservation and restoration of your original identity - are under his auspices, I and mine were happy to help with the knowledge aspect.
And you did a wonderful job; thank you. May I ask what happens to the overlay?
It will be lifted and examined - all information recorded - and thereafter stored with great care. It's normal for you to perhaps be experiencing some attachment now, but once you are returned to your proper self, it will be a great relief.

(after a pause)

Do you really not remember me?
Just as Andrew is hollering that it's time for Rinaldo to get the hell out before he's lobotomized, Lia is summoned by another servitor. She tells Rinaldo to make himself comfortable - she'll have Vito informed where he is. She leaves the room, and Rinaldo immediately proceeds to stuff his face with all the protein and fat he can get his hands on.

An operating room - soon

Wait, wait, wait, are you telling me this procedure has never been tested?
Not at all, Justicar! We have performed extensive testing, and I assure you, this new technology of exsanguination with the leeches - which is only a portion of the overall procedure - has been approved by all relevant authorities of the Ordine.
Nevertheless, this is the first use of the technique in an actual procedure?
Well, one must start somewhere, Paladino!
You really think it is advisable for that "somewhere" to be on a Chief Justicar?
Ulea, the Paladino della Momento Perduta, clears his throat meaningfully.
(who dislikes Ulea)
Regardless of being a personal friend, Justicar Rinaldo is not only a high-ranking official of Giustizia, but currently in possession of potentially-critical information. Things can go wrong - is that not why your presence is required, Paladino Ulea? It hardly seems the occasion for experimentation.
As I said, this is not experimentation, because we have already experimented, thoroughly! Paladino Vittorio, you signed off on the memo yourself.
Vito, who does not read his paperwork, guiltily shifts the focus of the argument. The hirudotherapist stands his ground. The Paladin of the Lost Moment harrumphs. Until -
Sirs, forgive me for interrupting, but we have another issue. I'm afraid the Justicar's stomach is not empty. There is protein; we cannot proceed.
Ulea clears his throat.
Well, of course he was informed not to eat for twenty-four hours, but it is hardly surprising if he did not remember! Memory blocks tend to do that. Rinaldo -
It was only a little bit.
But, Justicar, surely Director Cardano would not have permitted -
Yes, surely, but what is one to do when the Doge presses refreshments on them?
Before long, the procedure is canceled for the day, and Rinaldo is thankfully let up from the operating table. He and Vito begin heading out of the Ordine, Vito admonishing Rinaldo to have nothing but bread and water for the next 24 hours, so they can proceed the next day.
I demand to see him! Paladino! Paladino!
Ah, Custode delle Cinque Venti, what a pleasant surprise.
"Surprise"? "Surprise"! You know perfectly well I have been trying to see you for over a week now! Just because your department and mine do not see eye-to-eye -
You mean, because Diplomazia wishes to make nice with the very villains who have taken over one of our sovereign districts, and Guistizia disagrees?
No one is trying to "make nice"! The reality is, Savon has annexed Gran Lunga, and how are we to resolve that situation, if not through diplomacy?
Yes, if we shake their hands the right way, they will give us back our territory.
How dare you - Rinaldo? Is that you?
Cesare! It's so good to see you. In fine form, I see.
As are you, of course; the years have treated us well. But where have you been?
Sneaking a peek at a mirror in passing, Rinaldo sees they are all some ten years older.
Oh, you know, here and there. Speaking of which, how goes the mapmaking?
(suddenly even more furious)
How. Dare. You! You know I left that life behind, that - that - inconsequence! That foolishness! Are you calling me inconsequential and foolish?!
I'm really not -
I thought you, at least, would be different! But no, you are all the same, you of Giustizia, accusing Diplomazia of harboring - what is that odious term you use? "Uglies"! I ask you, what could be uglier than bringing up a man's past, dredging up the matter of - I can barely bring myself to say the word - cartography!
Custode Cesare, your indoor voice, please -
I am using my indoor voice!
If you could bring yourself, a moment, to listen to my indoor voice, you might hear me telling you that Justicar Rinaldo is currently suffering an impairment to his memory, and thus cannot be held responsible for any lack of delicacy -
(in a stunningly abrupt Piacenzan mood shift)
Oh, I apologize! Is that what you and Paladino Vittorio were tending to, today? I am sorry; I heard that your endeavor was canceled for some reason. You must make sure that it is rescheduled promptly, lest you be subject to endless delays.
Cesare frowns meaningfully at Vito, as they step outside the building, where Fierra and Osha are waiting. Vito heroically refrains from rolling his eyes, and excuses himself.
I will go see that all scheduling matters are put in order, shall I?
Well, now that I understand, Rinaldo, of course you cannot be blamed for not recalling - that incident -
As he, Rinaldo, Osha, and Fierra begin to walk away, Cesare rocks on his heels. (What happens, really, is that Cesare’s consciousness plunges down from the Oneiral Zone into this Cesare!)
Rinaldo! We're in Giustizia! Giustizia's not drowned!
(continues babbling cartographic observations)
Yes. No. Cesare? Wait. How do you know I'm the Rinaldo you trust?
What other Rinaldo is there? Who are those people following us?
Those are your assistants, who accompanied you to see Paladino Vito -
Vito? Vito is here? What is Vito doing here!? He is the anchor! How am I to return with you to the anchor from here, when Vito is the anchor and he is here!?
(lowering his voice)
Shut up, Cesare. He is not the Vito we know. This is not what we know.
"Assistants"? You mean those are my thralls? I have thralls? I do not have -
Suddenly convinced that he is, himself, once more being enthralled by a Longlegs, Cesare crosses his arms and refuses to speak or budge. Rinaldo tries to explain what he knows.
Rinaldo? We should retire to the Hall, so you can rest for tomorrow.
Yes, but I ran into an old friend.
He has become unusually silent. Let us go somewhere and celebrate.
If you show me your true face, Longlegs, I will tell you everything.
(after a brief pause)
Rinaldo, will you excuse the two of us for a moment?
Oh, you know each other? Well, certainly.
Rinaldo takes the opportunity to whisper to Osha that this seems to be ‘their’ Cesare.
(hissing privately to Cesare)
We agreed that if we meet outside, after everything, we treat each other with dignity and respect! I told you, and I'm telling you again, and I need to believe it's for the last time: you chose - her. You cannot go commenting about my legs!
Cesare, who has never met Fierra, realizes he would never have mentioned her to a Longlegs.
Iiii - apologize! For any heartbreak I may have inadvertently caused.
Now, if you will excuse me, Custode, I must see to Justicar Rinaldo.
Amazing, isn't it?
Rinaldo walks ahead with Fierra. Osha and Cesare hurriedly exchange information, although Cesare, characteristically, dithers for some time, until Osha cuts to the chase:
What do you need me to do?
Oh! Get Rinaldo, while I recreate the map to Salici, which will bring us to Vito.
But Vito -
The Vito of eight years ago, which is two and a half years from where we started, when the lightning happened. But first we must bring everyone together.
(possibly sarcastically)
It's that simple?
(oblivious to the possibility of sarcasm)
I am hoping it is that simple? At least this part should be.
Osha goes to fetch Rinaldo. Cesare starts to redraw his map, only to find that his ink seems to seep away into the air; they are, as Rinaldo hypothesized earlier, underwater.
I need a way to keep my ink from dissipating!
CESARE's ring
(in a quite male voice)
I stand ready, Dapifer.
Who's that? Who is talking to me? Are you talking to me?
I am Mistral, Dapifer.
I have a female thrall in my ring? How convenient!
With the help of "Miss Thrall", it's done! The trio travels through the Oneiral Zone - Osha felling some of the now-multiple Longlegs wandering about, calling Cesare's name - to Archiviare, where they are reunited with ‘their’ Vito. Everyone reverts to their 'normal' age.
All seems well, and much theorizing occurs, until Rinaldo realizes that they have left Eugen behind! Osha points out that not only he, but Mateo and the Savonians recovered their Violazione memories, and may also (being Savonian) be in danger from the authorities.
A re-rescue attempt is agreed upon, except that they need another anchor, since Vito is still serving as such for Master Juven, who has yet to return. Rinaldo recalls that his druid friend, Bernardo Matarellia, was heading for Archiviare when Rinaldo last saw him.
Sweet Jorge confirms that such a person is, in fact, known to be present in the area, albeit likewise known as a madman. Rinaldo contacts Bernardo druidically, and, despite indeed appearing not to be in possession of a complete set of marbles, Bernardo agrees to help, in exchange for Rinaldo's promise to help him plead for the Green Antlered God's benison.
Rinaldo ends up staying behind to keep an eye on Bernardo, but aside from that - for once - the travel through the Oneiral Zone goes off without a hitch. Then Osha and Cesare emerge into a miniature war zone! The Portinari residence is under siege by forces in Piacenzan livery, and curious liquids and lights fill the air, as the Savonians fight back.
We will protect you, Signor Zorsi!
Cesare, are you sure we can only take Eugen? That is Via's father!
He's alive?
For now! And what about the Savonians? We can’t just leave them.
All right, all right! I just need to adjust the specifications of the map - I need to make the requisite calculations - If I make a mistake, it could be - I need -
(shouting, after inspiration strikes)
Dietrich! Dietrich, tell me you're here!
Soon, with Osha and Hans coordinating, Cesare and Dietrich are huddled over the map.
I do not understand the problem.
See, the map - and thus the spell - was constructed for three or four, but now we are seventeen, and so all the parameters need to be adjusted to compensate for -
No, I mean I do not understand why there is a problem.
(staring at the map, which the mathematician has recalibrated in a minute or so)
Oh. Oh!
Before long, everyone is clustered together. However, there's one little problem.
Thank you, my friends, but I cannot go with you.
Signor Zorsi, you cannot expect to reason with these mad people -
If you are not here, they have no proof that I have been "harboring Savonians".
That may not stop them from throwing you in jail, on suspicion.
They might, or they might not be able to; this is Cultura, and I am Mateo Zorsi. But more importantly, what if Via comes? I have not seen my daughter in ten years; I will not have her come to find me, only to discover I have left her.
I promise you, Signor, I will find your daughter.
You are a friend of Rinaldo's and Osha's, so please do not think I do not trust you. Rather, I do. So after you have gotten my daughter to safety, you can get me.