Custom moves for a moldy and decaying AW

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Munin

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Custom moves for a moldy and decaying AW
« on: January 23, 2014, 01:58:30 PM »
In accordance with a bit of excellent advice given on this forum (sorry, forget who, but the idea was fantastic) I asked each of my players to come up with an adjective to describe their Apocalypse.  To my great joy they came up with moldy, fiery, cloudy, and animal-infested.  Superb!  So I have already established the setting as a dreary, overcast, occasionally foggy, eternally damp place, where humanity lives in constant combat with the elements.  Dessicants and antifungals are hot barter items, and if a structure is still standing it's probably because it's either stone or has received a liberal coat of marine paint.  Additionally, the hardhold in which they are currently living/working is in the equivalent of hilly Appalachian coal country.  There's a small manufactory that does coal gasification, the subsequent products of which are the town's main trade good.  The plant runs 24/7, belching out smoke and fumes.  Additionally, the coal slag is used to fire furnaces that dry out the dessicants most people use to keep the creeping damp at bay.

I have also established that the mold is unnaturally aggressive.  In addition to consuming soft goods in short order, there are strains that can live inside the human body.  Typically the spores take root in the lungs or nasal passages, and the mold will push tendrils through blood vessels until it reaches delicious delicious muscle tissue, which it then begins to consume.  If caught early it's perfectly treatable, but if left too long the mold will form fruiting bodies in the airways, expelling spores with every exhalation, making the victim a contagion hazard.  Oh, and did I mention that the mycotoxin secreted by this mold as a byproduct of its life cycle is hallucinogenic?  Heh.

In order to represent these concepts functionally within the world, I wanted to add the following Threats to the Home Front:

Threat 1
Is called: The Miasma
Kind: Landscape: furnace
Impulse: To consume anything and everything, to turn the world into a damp, green, rusty carpet
Description & Cast: The drizzle, the fog, and the constant damp - these are perfect conditions for both rust/oxidation and several species of aggressive mold.  The very air itself is the enemy, and as such is difficult to escape.
Custom move: At the beginning of each session, or after a stretch of downtime in play, roll+Sharp.  On a 10+, you manage to spot the decay early and keep on top of all of the maintenance your gear requires.  On a 7-9, something has gotten gummed up - roughened, softened, seized, or stuck.  Pick one item of your gear (can include 1-barter) and take -1forward next time you try to use that item - a little use will shake things loose again, or maybe you can pass it off to some other sucker.  On a miss, something has gotten damaged - eroded, rusty, moldy, brittle, or cracked.  Pick an item of your gear (can include 1-barter) and take -1ongoing whenever you use that item - it's just not as effective anymore.  Any use of gummed-up or damaged gear that wouldn't normally require a roll (such as spending barter for goods or services as established) counts as acting under fire, to which the gear's penalties will apply.  An item can sustain up to -2ongoing before becoming useless junk.

Custom move: When you drop jingle to fight the elements, you may drop 1-barter to remove the effects of gummed-up or damaged gear.  Presumably you acquire the necessary tools, parts, solvents, lubricants, dessicants, rust-inhibitors, or antifungals needed to restore your gear to acceptable working condition.


Threat 2
Is called: Psychotropic Mold, a.k.a "The Creep"
Kind: Affliction: disease
Impulse: To spread, using humanity as a vector
Description & Cast: An aggressive variety of mold, spores of which typically take root in the lungs or nasal passages.  The mold spreads along blood vessels (discoloring them dark gray-green as it goes), ultimately reaching and consuming muscle tissue.  Its mycotoxic byproducts are hallucinogenic.  In more advanced stages, the mold forms spore-bearing bodies in the airways, becoming contagious.
Custom move: When you are exposed to an infected and contagious person or spend time in a Creep-infested structure, roll+Weird.  On a 10+, you got lucky - this time - and have escaped infection.  On a 7-9 you are infected, start your infection countdown clock at 0:00.  On a miss the mold finds you delicious and grows at an alarming rate, start your infection countdown at 9:00.

Custom move: If you are infected at the beginning of the session, or after a stretch of downtime in play, roll+Weird.  On a 10+ your immune system is fighting the good fight, dial your infection clock back by one tick.  If you were already at 0:00, you are no longer infected.  On a 7-9 your immune system is holding the mold at bay and your infection countdown clock stays where it is.  On a miss the mold is winning, advance your clock by one tick.

Custom move: Count the number of filled segments in your infection countdown clock past 9:00 - this is your Infection score.  At the beginning of every session in which you're infected past 9:00, roll+Infection.  On a 10+ hold 3, on a 7-9 hold 1.  At any time during the session, the MC can spend one hold to make you act under fire.  Whatever it is you're doing, it's probably harder now that you're hallucinating.

Infection Countdown Clock:
0:00 - 3:00 -> No visible symptoms
3:00 - 6:00 -> No visible symptoms
6:00 - 9:00 -> Subtle visible symptoms manifest and can be spotted by asking "what should I be on the lookout for?"
9:00 - 10:00 -> Visible symptoms are obvious, hallucinatory symptoms manifest
10:00 - 11:00 -> Hallucinatory symptoms manifest, victim is contagious
11:00 - 12:00 -> Hallicinatory symptoms manifest, victim is contagious
past 12:00 -> victim is contagious, loses consciousness, death will follow unless treated immediately

Right now there's no Angel in the game, but if that changes I'll probably lift the custom move for treating the mud-fish parasite from the AW fronts example pretty much as-is.  Otherwise, the PCs will be buying the cure from the local infirmary (or from traveling snake-oil salesmen).  I haven't decided yet how much barter the treatment runs.

And as for "animal-infested," rats and other vermin figure prominently in the first Front.  Heh.

The effects I'm going for here are to represent both the long, slow decay of the world (and the people in it) and the idea that most people are carriers of disease at some level.  The Creep is easy to get and hard to fully get rid of, with which if you've ever had a mold infestation in your house you'll be only too familiar.  At its early stages it's not contagious and doesn't adversely affect you, but at any point your immune system could lapse and the situation can get out of hand.

Thoughts, comments, or suggestions?
« Last Edit: January 23, 2014, 02:05:28 PM by Munin »

Re: Custom moves for a moldy and decaying AW
« Reply #1 on: January 23, 2014, 03:03:11 PM »
Quote
An item can sustain up to -2ongoing before becoming useless junk.
Does this mean "At -3ongoing, an item becomes useless junk"? Verbiage is a little unclear.

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Munin

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Re: Custom moves for a moldy and decaying AW
« Reply #2 on: January 23, 2014, 05:39:44 PM »
Yes, that is the intent.  Basically, you can choose to have the same piece of gear damaged twice (i.e. take a -2ongoing).  If it becomes damaged again, it is useless.  I didn't want to write "at -3ongoing" because you'd never actually roll at -3.  I'll see if I can't tighten up the language a little.

Re: Custom moves for a moldy and decaying AW
« Reply #3 on: January 23, 2014, 05:42:13 PM »
I see a lot of custom moves that look like saving throws -- on a 10+, nothing happens, on a 7-9 something bad happens, on a miss that same thing happens but more. It's obvious in each case why that might make sense, but in aggregate it seems like a concern. Do these moves create real situations -- are they going to snowball into hard choices and desperate action -- or are they just a series of HP counters that go up and down and up and down without really doing anything most of the time?

The third custom move under Threat 2 is the exception, and I would encourage you to push the rest of the moves even further in that direction. I mean, compare 'my knife got rusty, later I will have to spend some barter to fix it' with 'I AM HALLUCINATING CRAZY SHIT' -- which one is more likely to interest the players (including yourself), and provide opportunities for interesting contributions?

The key here is to move away from purely mechanical effects towards narrative, fictional effects. Yes, a rusty knife is a fictional effect as well, but it's not a super-grabby one. There's nothing wrong with having a move have both a kind of bookkeeping effect (like most of the moves currently do) and also a significant narrative result, either.

The other problem with moves that do nothing on a 10+ is that when you roll a 10+, it's cool to actually get somewhere. None of these custom moves seem to really provide any opportunities to the players, with or without a cost. I mean, your mold causes hallucinations -- and you roll +weird to deal with it! -- so why can't a 10+ result allow me some crazy psychic insight, or give me a bonus to Open My Brian, or something like that? With the mold in particular, I think you're missing an opportunity to throw in a few upsides -- just enough so that it almost starts to look like a good thing, even though it clearly isn't. But maybe if you're +weird enough, it totally is?

In any case I think you want these threats to have character -- a custom move is an opportunity to define the threat, to give it a specific personality. One thing to consider is how the game would look without your custom move -- if you just used the regular MC moves to demonstrate the Threat. I mean, nothing is stopping you from incorporating ideas of decay and equipment failure and infection into your regular moves. Adding a custom move does make those things more prevalent, because the move triggers regardless of whether the PCs are doing something else -- but I think just using a custom move for that is a bit of a missed opportunity.
« Last Edit: January 23, 2014, 05:49:06 PM by Daniel Wood »

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Munin

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Re: Custom moves for a moldy and decaying AW
« Reply #4 on: January 23, 2014, 09:56:06 PM »
Yes, opportunities, of course!  That is exactly the kind of feedback for which I was looking!  So maybe the 10+ option for the custom move for the damp becomes:

"On a 10+, you manage to spot the decay early and keep on top of all of the maintenance your gear requires.  In addition, you acquire some cast-off.  Choose a non-vehicle bit of gear (could be 1-barter, could be pretty much anything).  It's pretty beat-up (-2ongoing) but still functional.  Tell the MC what it is and how it came into your possession."

This represents the fact that people throw away (or lose) stuff due to the conditions, or maybe throw in some extra junk to sweeten a transaction, or whatever.

What I am trying to do with this move is establish things (or conditions) in the fiction to set up future moves.  Most characters have very little actual gear (their wear, a few weapons, maybe a vehicle), so their options are limited for which one they're choosing to get degraded.  For some characters it becomes a hard choice in a hurry.  For instance, the Hoarder has his wear and his hoard (though I might break it into its individual aspects, but even then it's only three or four things instead of two).  So it's not so much, "oh no, my knife is rusty, whatever will I do?" but rather "take -1 forward next time I try to go into my hoard?  Crap."

Similarly, The Chopper has his wear, 2 guns, his armor, and his bike.  Taking -1 ongoing with your sawed-off shotgun poses a problem, and once I have established that your shotgun is a rusty piece of shit, I have lots of interesting options for how I handle misses or hard MC moves when you try to use it.  So the next time the Chopper draws down, goes aggro on someone and misses, I can offer him a more interesting opportunity with a cost: "So you've got the gun in his face and he doesn't look like he's gonna back down.  But as you're looking along the length of the barrel at his forehead, it occurs to you that that's more than just surface rust on there.  You can go ahead and pull the trigger and inflict the Harm as established provided that you're willing to take 2 (ap) yourself.  Or you can bluff and roll+Hot, but just keep in mind that you're bluffing with a rusty shotgun.  What do you do?"

Even something as simple as wear can make a difference.  So if you're traipsing about the wilderness (something that is acting under fire in the best of circumstances) in shitty wear, my fictional options open up.  "As you walk you notice your feet are getting wetter and wetter.  When you finally stop to take a look, you realize that the mold has eaten entirely through the thick thread that holds the soles onto your boots.  You can keep hiking, but at a much slower pace.  You can already tell you're not going to make it back by nightfall.  What do you do?"  And what does getting stuck out in the wilderness after nightfall mean?  I dunno, so let's play to find out.

For the "saving throw" moves I think you're right.  I'm not sure how I want to handle the fictional trigger for mold exposure, though.  I could just as easily say, "mold exposure is putting someone in a tough spot, so if you flub a roll, giving you a mold countdown is one of my options."  But that means the fiction follows the move rather than vice versa (i.e. you got the mold because you failed some other roll, rather than the mold was already there and you weren't able to avoid it).  I think mechanically speaking the outcomes are similar, but it feels somehow more honest to me to establish that the mold exists first rather than spring it on someone for failing some other roll.  Like, "you botch your attempts to talk The Don into giving you the map and...um... two guys bust in with pistols and shoot you" as a way to inflict harm.  I guess it could be made to make sense ("you botch your read a sitch roll in the wilderness and blunder into the mold - congratulations, have a countdown clock"), so maybe I'm overthinking it.

One aspect of this that I should have mentioned - one of the PCs is a Savvyhead, so I suspect that fixing gear or rehabilitating found items is going to be one of the things she engages in, which will build different relationships with the other PCs.

Keep the ideas coming, making me think through this stuff has been tremendously helpful!

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Munin

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Re: Custom moves for a moldy and decaying AW
« Reply #5 on: January 23, 2014, 10:35:59 PM »
So the restructured, more opportunity-laden hallucination move is:

Custom move: Count the number of filled segments in your infection countdown clock past 9:00 - this is your Infection score.  At the beginning of every session in which you're infected past 9:00, roll+Infection.  On a 10+ hold 3, on a 7-9 hold 1.  At any time during the session, the MC can spend one hold to make you act under fire.  Whatever it is you're doing, it's probably harder now that you're hallucinating.  On a miss you're still hallucinating, but it all makes so much sense! - for the rest of the session, take +1forward any time you open your brain.

You're right, this is way better.

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Ebok

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Re: Custom moves for a moldy and decaying AW
« Reply #6 on: January 23, 2014, 11:27:55 PM »
Custom move: If you are infected at the beginning of the session, or after a stretch of downtime in play, roll+Weird. 

On a 10+ your immune system is fighting the good fight, choose one of the following:
• If you are at 0:00, you are no longer infected. 
• You're on the mend. Turn-back your clock one tick and gain a +1 forward on your next Infection roll.
• You don't get better, you don't get worse, but you hear the growing inside your head. You get the idea to learn about something deep in the miasma, the MC will tell you what it is. If you go out there and (learn about/do) it, mark an experience point.
• The growth gets into your lungs, turn the clock 1 tick and open your brain. If you do count as hitting the roll with a 10+
• The infection is dangerous, but you've grown to understand other people who suffer from this as well. If you use the disease as common ground in seduction rolls this session, you can roll +weird rather then +hot to seduce someone.

On a 7-9 your immune system is holding the mold at bay and your infection countdown clock stays where it is, but you display one of the symptoms, choose one from the list below.
• hacking cough and congestion
• numbness in the limbs
• disorientation
• visible black veins growing through your skin.
• wants to be exposed to the miasma ( Miasma-philia ) puts you in a bad spot.
On a miss the mold is winning, advance your clock by one tick and choose to display choose of the above symptoms.

It's not a thing to be used as is, I was just considering how vehicles and other weakness like-tags could be applied on people suffering from these conditions. They dont /give/ any downside, other then teach the player what warning signs the infection has, lets them pick from a list to make their own symptoms and play them do uniquely. Additionally these give you focus points to target if they miss a roll.

The 10+ aren't designed to go together as is, its all just food for thought. Depending on how you'd like to spin it.

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Ebok

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Re: Custom moves for a moldy and decaying AW
« Reply #7 on: January 25, 2014, 12:02:26 AM »
Thinking on this some more, one of the words used by your players was left out: animal-infested. If this mold is active seeking out the juicy parts of humans (organic mammals), then wouldn't it also kill off the animals within the mold-mires as well? Perhaps the mold is after something more specific... human consciousness come to mind, as well, maybe the animal-life is of the same origin as the mold therefore alien and strange and adapted to the miasma.

No matter how you want to spin it, if you intend to use earthly mammals, you might wanna peg down ahead of time any inconsistencies between the molds nearly universal targeting of metal+humans+everything, yet not animals.

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Munin

  • 417
Re: Custom moves for a moldy and decaying AW
« Reply #8 on: January 25, 2014, 10:37:53 AM »
Actually, small animals are one of the mold's primary vectors into human settlements.  And the PCs have already heard stories of hallucinogen-crazed mountain lions, which terrifies them appropriately.  Also, insects can carry spores on their legs/bodies, which makes the all-too-common driver ants doubly disgusting.

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Munin

  • 417
Re: Custom moves for a moldy and decaying AW
« Reply #9 on: January 27, 2014, 05:08:05 PM »
So we had our first session that used these custom moves last night, and I have to say that they added some interesting developments.

We started off with the custom move for the Miasma, with the players rolling+Weird.  As an aside, I streamlined this one a little bit to explicitly apply tags to gear, and clarified the effects of those tags and the relationships between them.

The Savvyhead got a full hit, and decided that an old two-way transistor radio had come into her possession as partial payment for a repair job.  She descibed the interior as caked with mud and slime mold, and is in the process of rehabilitating it in her workspace.  I suspect it will figure strongly in her Augury once she takes reality's fraying edge with a future advance.

The Hoarder missed badly, even with his +2 Weird.  He decided that his wear had become damaged, a decision which led to interesting complications (more on this in a bit).

The Battlebabe also missed, and applied the tag to the silencer on her pistol.  Nice!  So now anytime she wants to be quiet when shooting, she's acting under fire with a -1 to her roll.  This didn't directly come into play this session only because of the restraint of the Hoarder (more on this in a bit), but I suspect part of that restraint was because he didn't want to take the risk of making noise.  As such, the presence of the tag altered the fiction and affected his resulting decisions, which is exactly what I was shooting for in the design of this custom move.

The Chopper and the Gunlugger were out of town for this session.

I'll give you a bit of actual play to illustrate how all this went down...

Philotic The Hoarder (being a Hoarder) is always on the lookout for stuff to add to his hoard.  In particular, his hoard contains "pretty things" and "relics and junk of the golden age past."  To obtain these things, he explores the moldy, tumbledown remnants of old buildings out in the wilderness.  Often old farm buildings or mine/factory facilities, this practice is colloquially known as "spelunking" because the structures are so often completely overgrown and cavelike.  You will note that "armor and armaments" are not among his possessions, so he usually hires help to protect him while he searches.  In this particular instance it was Amber the Battlebabe.

The pair had come across an old farmstead.  The interior of the delapidated, lichen-covered barn was overgrown with bracken and ferns.  There were a couple of old tractors there, and in particular the distinctive IH logo/ornament on the hood of one of the tractors caught Phil's attention.  He was in the process of prying it loose when the two heard rustling from the hayloft, rustling that was more than just small animals or vermin.  Taking the opportunity to read the sitch he asked a couple of questions, the pertinent ones being "what should I be on the lookout for?" and "what is the best way in?" meaning into the hayloft.  I told him that regardless of what might or might not be in the hayloft, the biggest thing to be concerned about in this place was The Creep, because the conditions were perfect for it.  And as for the best way into the loft, I explained that while there was a ladder, there was also a rusty chain extending through a block-and-tackle, forming a makeshift hoist that was holding a rusty 500 lb tractor engine block 6 feet off the floor.  Provided that the block-and-tackle wasn't completely seized-up, someone could let that chain loose from the stay holding it fast, at which point that engine block would drop.  If the person hanging onto that chain wasn't braced and weighed less than maybe 150 pounds, they'd take off like a rocket more or less straight up and could swing over to the hayloft with relative ease.  They both decided that the Battlebabe fit the bill perfectly.

Because Phil didn't have any weapons, Amber lent him her pistol, complete with dysfunctional silencer.  Grabbing her staff with the ornate amber head (hence the name) in one hand and the chain in the other, she gave Phil a nod.  He kicked loose the chain and up she went, at which point he headed immediately to the ladder and began climbing as fast as he could.  Sounds like act under fire to me, so I called for a roll+Cool from Amber and she knocked it out of the park, easily netting a full success.  So accompanied by the shriek of rusty tackle breaking loose she rose smoothly as the engine block dropped with a crash, letting the momentum carry her up and letting go at just the right time to catapult herself such that she landed at the edge of the hayloft in a perfect three-point stance, staff at the ready.  Observing the immediately obvious, she sees a man up there, and boy is he surprised!  She also sees the discolored veins in his face and neck, indicating that he is a Creeper (i.e. someone infected with The Creep).

The Creeper is armed (rusty snub-nosed revolver in hand), but caught completely flat-footed.   She elects to press her advantage and leaps forward to smack him in the head with her staff.  Deciding that this is pretty classic go aggro, I call for a roll+Hard, which she proceeds to completely flub.  Alas, as she steps forward to strike with with snake-like speed, her boot falls on a moldy board which can't hold her weight.  Her foot passes all the way through the floor, wedging her in up to the hip.  This is me capturing someone.  He nervously trains his gun on her, saying, "Don't move!"

At this point Phil is reaching the top of the ladder, but now the Creeper's attention is on Amber.  Phil trains the borrowed pistol on the Creeper and yells, "Drop it!"  I call for a roll+Hard and Phil lands an 8.  The Creeper decides that discretion is the better part of valor, raises his hands and his gun in the air where everyone can see, and backs away.  I tell Phil that if he wants he can start shooting anyway, but that if he does the Creeper will almost certainly return fire if able (I am giving an opportunity with a cost).  But Amber has already told Phil that her silencer is full of crud and not working well, and he doesn't know if the Creeper has any friends nearby.  He elects to let the Creeper go, so the dude continues to back out, eventually breaking line of site behind a pile of overgrown detritus, at which point he hightails it out of the loft via an external ladder.

Once the immediate danger has passed, the two take stock, and realize that this entire hayloft is covered with Creep.  It's on the ladder, it's on the floorboards that Amber has stepped through, and it's on all the detritus.  A brief look-see at the area reveals that the Creeper was probably living up here, and either got the mold from here or brought it with him and spread it to his environment.  And all the activity has almost certainly stirred up spores.  I call for both to roll+Weird, and both fail abyssmally (Phil actually rolled snake-eyes).  Awesome, both now have the Creep and both set their infection countdown clocks to 9:00.  Apparently it was a pretty heavy exposure.

The two decide to beat feet, and after a brief examination of a nearby farm-house (cut short when the bear-sign in the house finally puts answer to the question that had occurred to both of them: "why was the Creeper living in the hayloft when there's a half-way decent house here?"), they snag some junk and head back to Binghamton.

Hiking through the wilderness is difficult under the best of circumstances, but it was made more difficult by Phil applying the damaged tag to his wear.  The -1 actually made the difference between a full hit and partial.  I used the moldy, worn out boots option described in my previous post on him, narrating that his lack of good footwear slowed them down to the point that they lost valuable time, and wouldn't make it back to Binghamton before dark, when the gates are closed.

It also ultimately led to him going into his hoard for new boots.  As an aside, the player came up with a super-bizarre and fantastic idea - his hoard is only accessible through a rift in his chest, some kind of weird tear in the space (and time?) continuum.  He has no clear memory of how it happened or how it works.  The whole time people have been thinking that he's just rummaging around in internal pockets in his coat/shirt, as to date all he has produced are small items.  But when he reaches underneath his coat, fishes around for a bit, and pulls out a pristine, vintage pair of polished Doc Martens (one of his hoard attributes is "meticulous") his secret is out, at least to Amber.  Awesome!

When they finally make it back to Binghamton, it's after dark and the gates are closed.  Amber knows the guy working the gate (a dude named Creak), but flubs her Manipulate roll so I put her in a spot - "Sorry, babe.  You know I love you, but rules are rules.  You two are gonna have to wait until morning.  I'm sure you can find a place to hole-up."  At this point Phil elects to make a barter move and drops jingle (that he had gotten out of his hoard earlier that session).  After a brief, heatedly whispered conversation heard from inside the walls, the gate opens.  "Rules are rules, my ass," observes Amber dryly.  Still, her previous failure has an effect - the two get in but Creak insists on checking them over.  He jams an old otoscope up each of their noses, examining their nasal passages.  Both are at 9:00 on their countdown, which means that they have subtle symptoms that can be detected upon careful examination.  Sighing to himself he gives the other gate guards a brief up-nod and says, "Take them to Creep-Town" (the colloquial term for the quarantine area where people infected with the disease live - given the town's dire need of labor, even the infected and the contagious are put to work, though in carefully separated areas of the coal mines or gasification complex).

That's where we ended the session.  It's going to be interesting because Bingham (the NPC hardholder and the man for whom Amber works as a bodyguard) is paranoid about The Creep.  He trusts Amber implictly (even though - or maybe because - she once tried to kill him), so how is he going to react to one of his closest associates being infected?  How is Parsons (the leader of Bingham's gang and a jealous rival of Amber's) going to take advantage of the situation?  What's going to happen in Creep Town when Philotic struts in sporting a pristine pair of luxe boots?  And what the hell is up with the rift in his chest?  What is Phyllis (a member of Jonjo the Chopper's gang) going to do when she discovers that her beau Phil is stuck in Creep Town?  Will it cause trouble between Bingham and Jonjo?  Will Fluffy (the Gunlugger) use that as a way to take Jonjo down a peg?  And what will Ghislaine (the Savvyhead) do with her new radio once it's fixed?

I have no freaking clue, but I can't wait to play to find out!