Interview with Damon Anseti: Part 5

Preparing for the Unexpected (or) The Wrong Way to Fight a Harpy

Anybody who has spent time in the Kingdoms sector of Ada-Kar has probably wandered into the Pirate’s Gold pub for a drink or five.  A pleasant and entertaining place, the Pirate’s Gold is always lively.  The pub’s owner, Damon Anseti, can often be found pouring drinks, carousing with the patrons, and spinning yarns about his adventuring days.  I asked him to sit with me and discuss a few of his favorite subjects.

For this most recent interview I asked him to tell me how to prepare for an adventure.

 

Valhalla Crier:  You must have learned a lot about how to organize an adventure party during what you call your “Grand Adventure.”  What important things did you learn by the time you came back that you wished you had known when you started?

Damon:  Well, I could cite examples all day.  Any one of the stories makes for good entertainment, but none of ‘em will save your life.  Lives don’t get saved by stories.  They get saved by doing the right thing at the right time.

Valhalla Crier:  Okay, so what are these “right things?”

Damon:  Number one is to work with a crew you know and trust.  The most successful bands are the ones that have been together the longest.  Not only do they know what they are doing by themselves, but they know how to work as a team.  I don’t give a damn who you are, if you don’t have somebody to watch your back you don’t have a chance.  Hell, Dreadnaught Drake refused to work with a partner and see where that got him.

Valhalla Crier:  So get a partner then.

Damon:  Yeah, but not just any partner.  You’ve got to work as a team.  Make sure that you’ve covered all your areas of weakness.  Your weaknesses are more important than your strengths.  You could have some muscle-bound ape that can pound a Minotaur to goo, but if you don’t have the brains to back up the brawn then it’s only a matter of time.  You can’t fight your way out of every situation.

Valhalla Crier:  So what kind of things are we talking about?  I mean, I could make a dream team to cover every potential circumstance, but when is that really going to be feasible?  I mean, where is the line and what is a “must have” versus a “nice to have?”

Damon:  Hold on now.  It doesn’t need to be that tough.  You don’t need to come up with every eventuality, and in fact, you can’t.  There is always going to be something that you can’t plan for.  Crazy shit happens out there all the time, so you better buy in on that before you pack your undies!

What’s really important is that your crew covers a couple of different roles.  Some people can manage many roles, while others might specialize in one and be totally useless in all the others.

Valhalla Crier:  Okay, so what are these roles?

Damon:  First up you got your Capo.  You can run your crew any way you want to, but when it’s go time you need somebody calling the shots.  There’s no time to debate and vote when a couple dozen screaming hobgoblins come charging over the rise.  What this person says goes, at least during combat.  You need somebody who can think fast, get everyone on the same page, and above all, not panic!

Valhalla Crier:  How do you find a good Capo?

Damon:  It’s not easy going, particularly with a new crew.  Unless you’ve got someone hiring through the Adventurer’s Guild and issuing the paycheck, who’s in charge can get pretty murky.  Every adventurer I’ve ever met wants to be alpha-dog.  None of them want to give, particularly if they don’t know each other.  Eventually somebody will step up that everyone can get behind, but until a leader emerges things won’t go smooth.

If you don’t have somebody calling the shots, somebody will get shot.

Valhalla Crier:  Fair enough, what’s another role?

Damon:  You also need a Basher; somebody who you count on to really ramp up the body count.  You need someone tough, fast, vicious, and above all, someone who loves to fight.  It doesn’t matter if they carry a sidearm or a club.  As long as you can trust him to wade through your enemies, you want him on your team.

Valhalla Crier:  Okay, who’s next?

Damon:  Next is your Thinker.  He’s the one who’s got all the angles.  He can read ancient texts and talk foreign and what-not.  It’s even more than that, though.  Your Thinker is the one that’s going to put together connections nobody else can make.  They’ll make sure you know which way to turn in a maze, or even figure out a riddle for you.  That sort of thing.

Valhalla Crier:  All right.  Who’s next?

Damon:  You need a Scout too.  Now I’m using “scout” in a broad sense, you dig?  I’m not only talking about someone who can search ahead, find the trails, but also somebody who always spots stuff that others miss.  They’re good for finding hidden doors, traps, maybe even catching somebody in a lie.  You need this person to keep you safe from what you can’t see and can’t expect.

Valhalla Crier:  All right, any others?

Damon:  Well, the last one you need is your Jack.

Valhalla Crier:  Your Jack?

Damon:  Yeah, as in “Jack of all Trades.”  You need somebody who will be there as back-up for each of the others.  He might not be the best at any one thing, but he can do them all to some extent.  That way, when one of your buddies dies you have the Jack to take his place.

Valhalla Crier: Well, that’s a grim thought.

Damon:  It’s the truth, though.  Any time you head out into the wilds you can bet not everyone’s coming back.

Valhalla Crier:  Well how do you avoid that?  How do you come back from a successful adventure without anyone dying?

Damon:  Well there’s no guarantees, but like I said getting a good crew that works well together is your best bet.  Even then so much can go wrong.  It helps to have a clear idea of your goals, your enemies, potential troubles you might have.  You need to take a good look at the possibilities and probabilities and then make plans.

Valhalla Crier:  So you make a plan.  How detailed do you get?

Damon:  As detailed as you can, but you always have to leave room for improvisation.  Your Jack should be really good at that.  In fact that should be one of his specialties.

It’s tough to know what is going on until you are in the middle of it, though.  Even then you might not know what is really going on.  So you make a plan.  Then you need a back-up plan.  Then a back-up plan to your back-up.  And then, of course, you’ve got your “Go South” plan.

Valhalla Crier:  What’s the “Go South” plan?

Damon:  That’s the retreat plan for when everything goes south.  There is nothing worse than everyone running in panic.

Valhalla Crier:  Can you give me an example of a time when things fell apart?  When you had to switch plans or improvise?

Damon:  I could tell you about the wrong way to fight a Harpy.

Valhalla Crier:  Oh?  Please do.

Damon:  Well we were on our way to do this thing in Babylon.

Valhalla Crier:  The fortress of the dead?  With the White?

Damon:  Yeah.  I told you about that?

Valhalla Crier:  You tell everyone about that.  I wrote an article on it once.

Damon:  So anyway, we were on our way to Babylon and we were passing through the Phoenician islands when we were attacked by a bunch of Harpies.  Have you ever seen a harpy in person?

Valhalla Crier:  No.

Damon:  Well, you don’t want to.  They’re nasty things!  And I’m not just talking about the teeth and claws and their bat wings and nasty disposition and all that.  The damn things stink!  Ugh, it’s like huffing Boca’s pits after a game of racket-ball.  (Boca Raton is Damon’s half-ogre partner and bar keeper at the Pirate’s Gold.)

Valhalla Crier:  Sounds bad.

Damon:  You don’t know the half of it.  It’s like somebody took a batch of Sulphur and mixed in some bleach, then tossed it into a bucket of raw sewage.  It’s so bad that people gag and pass out when they come too close.  That’s their main attack.  They come in and everyone starts hacking and gagging, then they carry off the one that will give them the least trouble.  Meanwhile everyone else is sitting there hoping they will be able to get the stench out of their noses.  Which they won’t!

Valhalla Crier:  Okay, so the harpies attacked you.  What happened then?

Damon:  Well at the time I was below deck when I hear this commotion topside.  I grabbed my gear and headed up there just like everyone else.  By the time I got up there one of the crew members was already being carried off.  Two more of those things were trying to haul away the helmsman.  He was holding tight to the helm though and not letting go.  I pulled out my gun and was getting ready to shoot one of them when Phil Two-Toes decides to scare them off using one of the alchemic concoctions he picked up in Ada-Kar.

He had a whole pharmacy of crap that he bought before we left.  He spent a whole bunch of scratch on that load!   It came in useful too, though not to him.

Anyway, Phil Two-Toes pulls out this dust called “Noxious Cloud.”  You throw it and it makes everything in that area start to gag and reel.  Seems like a good idea right?  Scare off the harpies, they drop the helmsman and everyone’s happy, right?

Valhalla Crier:  Right.

Damon:  Well bad news, square!  Turns out Noxious Cloud is made from a harpy’s stink glands!  Oh they dropped the helmsman alright!  They dropped him and turned right on Phil.  They must have thought he was making a pass at them or something.  They just shot right over to him and started trying to pull him off ship, all ready for love.

The stink was overwhelming!  Phil dropped like a brick.  Me and Boca are both retching.

Fortunately the ship’s captain showed up around then and drove a cutlass into one of them.  The other was already in the air though, climbing higher.  I took a couple of shots at it once I stopped gagging.  I even managed to hit it.  It dropped Phil about fifty yards off the side then took off flying back to the coast.

We scrambled to try and rescue him, but it was too late.  He wasn’t much of a swimmer and he was passed out from the harpy stink anyway.  He ended up drowning before we could get him.

Valhalla Crier:  I’m sorry.  It’s a shame.  He sounds like a good man.

Damon:  Yeah he was.  Well, a good Satyr anyway.

Valhalla Crier:  I see.

Damon:  I think you also better see how fast things can go sour.

Valhalla Crier:  I see.  One minute you are resting below deck and the next one of your crew is dead.

Damon:  Yeah, it happens just that fast.  And that’s why I’m telling you why you need back-up plans and contingencies.  Phil was supposed to be our scout.  Without him we were suddenly weaker.  Fortunately we had Bianca there to take his place.

Valhalla Crier:  So each of these positions, these roles, is not mutually exclusive?

Damon:  What do you mean?

Valhalla Crier:  You don’t need to fill all the roles with one person each?

Damon:  No.  No.  Not at all.  You can have a Thinker who is also a Scout, or a Basher that’s also a Capo.  Most people tend toward one or the other though, so they fit into those roles better, especially when you have a full crew.  When your crew starts to dwindle though, you really miss the blank spots.

I was a pretty good Jack though, and Boca was a damn fine Basher, so that helped a lot.

Valhalla Crier:  Well, you guys made it back so that’s the important thing.  You did that with a good crew and lots of planning.  What other suggestions do you have?

Damon:  Well you need the right equipment, but I think I told you about that before.

Valhalla Crier:  Yes, you did.  I believe that was our third interview.  Is there anything else you would like to mention?

Damon:  Well, I guess you need something else.  The ability to adapt, and to do it fast!  You’ve got to know that when you go into these situations, hell when you go pretty much anywhere in Valhalla, you’re going to run into some strange things.  You might not know the rules that you’re playing by, what these things can do, or what their weaknesses are.  Had Phil Two-Toes known that his Noxious Cloud would do what it did, you can bet that he would have thrown something else.

The rest of us managed to work through it.  The harpies and a hundred other situations like it.  Danger comes out of nowhere and you can never be ready enough.  When it comes you need to move fast, think on your feet, and hope you don’t make it worse.

Valhalla Crier:  How do you know you are doing the right thing?

Damon:  You don’t.  Sometimes it’s just luck.  I guess if you make it back, you know you did the right things along the way.

Interview with Damon Anseti: Part 4

The Strange Nature of Borders

Anybody who has spent time in the Kingdoms sector of Ada-Kar has probably wandered into the Pirate’s Gold pub for a drink or five.  A pleasant and entertaining place, the Pirate’s Gold is always lively.  The pub’s owner, Damon Anseti, can often be found pouring drinks, carousing with the patrons, and spinning yarns about his adventuring days.  I asked him to sit with me and discuss a few of his favorite subjects.

For this most recent interview I asked him to continue a discussion we had about the nature of borders and how strange events seem to occur where two locations meet.

 

Valhalla Crier:  Last week while we were talking you mentioned that strange things always happen around borders.  What did you mean by that?

Damon:  Well whenever two places meet there is a fusion.  This fusion isn’t always easy.  It’s like a bad weld that doesn’t always hold.  Sometimes it starts to crumble and strange things sneak between the cracks.

Valhalla Crier:  I’m not sure I follow you.

Damon:  I’m not sure I can explain any better than that.  It’s really one of those things that you just have to experience before you understand.

Valhalla Crier:  Give me an example.

Damon:  Let’s see . . .  Well, one of the most obvious is the border between Megalopolis and Xa’cor dy Yelpheet.  It’s an unlikely border and things there seem to blend in strange ways.

For example, the sewers of Megalopolis form the headwaters of the Kinzasha River.  The water, as you can imagine, is pretty nasty when it comes out.  A sewer for over a billion people?  Gordo!

Anyway, the elves downriver wanted no part of it so they set up a permanent magic arch that purifies every drop of water that passes beneath it.  One side is disgusting and the other is some of the purest water on earth.

The thing that’s really amazing is that if you are standing there watching you can see things coming out of the foul side and darting into the clean.  Suddenly you can see these things show up, and man they are gross!  Occasionally dead things will wash downriver and nobody knows what to make of them.  Are they alien fish?  Mythical monstrosities?  Or just some creature mutated by all the chemicals and filth they’ve been living in?

Valhalla Crier:  I heard that some things slip into the city through the sewer systems too.

Damon:  You mean the dragons.

Valhalla Crier:  You’ve heard of them then?

Damon:  You know it!  Chameleon dragons don’t seem to care about the smell or the disease.  They lurk in those tunnels and pick off anything that comes their way.

Worse than them, though, are the goblins.  They not only tolerate the environment, they thrive on it!  They say that there are almost as many goblins in Megalopolis sewers as there are in Gyr Kuzott.

Valhalla Crier:  Isn’t that just a fact of the environment?  I mean both goblins and chameleon dragons are opportunistic creatures.  They just found what area served them best and moved into it.  The fact that this was where they entered has little to do with the fact that they were just following their nature.

Damon:  Yeah, but the border was what made it possible.  Just like the members of that group, the Next Step.  They use those same tunnels to escape the cops and move around unseen.  The hills south of the Kinzasha River are filled with tunnels and safe-houses where they can hide out without worrying about infrared optics and plasma rifles.

Valhalla Crier:  Really?  It doesn’t seem like the Gnomes would be too hot to have a declared terrorist group coming into their territory.

Damon:  The Gnomes don’t care.  They get paid in electronics.  Some of the most advanced stuff on the planet!  The Gnomes love that stuff!

Valhalla Crier:  So then it is really just the fact that the borders are there that allows things to cross between them, right?  It isn’t the borders themselves that cause oddities, instead they just enable these oddities to occur, right?

Damon:  No!  Without the borders, the oddities couldn’t occur.  The borders not only allow the opportunity, but force the outcome.  In fact, the more distinct the border, the more acute the abnormalities become.

Valhalla Crier:  I don’t see how that’s possible.

Damon:  Have you ever heard of Lampades?

Valhalla Crier:  No.  What are Lampades?

Damon:  Nymphs.  Spirit nymphs, to be precise.  They’re supposed to guide people in and out of life.  Some say they have a magical blade that cuts every baby’s umbilical cord.  Sort of mystic midwives.  On the other end of life, they greet departing souls and usher them on to the afterlife.

Anyway Lampades are supposed to dwell at every crossroad.  You get me?

Valhalla Crier:  So wherever two roads meet one of these nymphs is lurking around?

Damon:  Yeah, but you’re missing the point.  They are at the crossroads.  Where two points meet!  They are on the border between life and death just like they are on the border between being born and not-born.  You extend that logic and every crossroad, every meeting place, every border where one thing meets another is a gateway to another world.  The points are everywhere around you.  On the threshold of a door.  Between one bathroom stall and the next.  Anywhere!  Everywhere!

Valhalla Crier:  So you’re saying that this border area allows things to leak between the world of the living and the world of the dead?

Damon:  Damn straight!

It’s not just the world of the dead and the living though.  It’s every border you can think of.  Different planes of existence.  Space and time and all that shit!

There was this mage I knew back in the day.  He said that you could summon creatures from the elemental planes wherever you were.  A fire elemental at the bottom of the ocean, see?  An air elemental at the edge of space.  He said that sometimes it was easier to call a water elemental on the shore than it was in the middle of the ocean.

Want to know why?

Valhalla Crier:  Sure.

Damon:  There are borders there, you see.  Where the earth and the ocean touch is a border. In the middle of the ocean there is nothing around but more water.  The border isn’t so clear.

Valhalla Crier:  So it’s like the opportunity to blend these things together makes the blending all that more prominent?

Damon:  Yeah, but it’s not the whole story.  I mean national borders are really only lines on a map.  Something that people agree.  A “that is yours and this is mine” sort of mentality.

Valhalla Crier:  And these types of borders are what?  Less prone to weirdness than natural borders?

Damon:  No!  That’s the beauty!  All borders seem to draw equal weirdness.  It doesn’t matter if it’s man-made, natural, or supernatural.  Wherever you have a border, a boundary, a place that separates one from another, you are going to have mysterious forces at work.

I mean, think about where we are, for God’s sake!  This world is the prime example of borders.  It’s like we border every other world and time that has ever been.  Strange things creeping in from all over the place!

Valhalla Crier:  It makes me wonder though.  All these places, all these borders, it seems like you can look at anything and find a way that it is a border.  Touching this table, for example, is a border between me and the wood.  That keg by the bar is a border between the air and the beer inside.  Seems like maybe the weirdness is everywhere, but you are only seeing the weirdness and categorizing it as a “border phenomenon.”

Damon:  It’s the journey man!  You can’t get anywhere by going nowhere!  You have to press through things to get anywhere.  To move forward through life you have to cross borders.  Whether you’re being birthed into the world, walking through a doorway, crossing over between one day and the next, or even dying, you have to break boundaries every day of your life.  With every boundary comes hope, fear, pain, love, life, death . . . whatever.

Maybe the important thing is keeping your eyes open for them.  Seeing the way the world changes around you.  How you change along with it.  Noticing the magic and mystery in the world and how it permeates everything.

Valhalla Crier:  I don’t know if I’m sold.

Damon:  Well keep your eyes open for it, square.  You pay enough attention and you’ll see it.  Once you do, you won’t be able to close your eyes to it again.

Interview with Damon Anseti: Part 3

Must-Haves for High Adventure

          Anybody who has spent time in the Kingdoms sector of Ada-Kar has probably wandered into the Pirate’s Gold pub for a drink or five. A pleasant and entertaining place, the Pirate’s Gold is always lively. The pub’s owner, Damon Anseti, can often be found pouring drinks, carousing with the patrons, and spinning yarns about his adventuring days. I asked him to sit with me and discuss a few of his favorite subjects.

                For this most recent interview I asked him to detail what equipment to bring adventuring.

 

Valhalla Crier: Damon, you’ve told me before that a poorly equipped adventurer is bound to fail. What are the survival essentials?

Damon:   Knowledge and common sense.

Valhalla Crier: Well, it seems like that goes without saying.

Damon:   Oh, no! Not at all! The world is filled with corpses of yahoos who didn’t know what they were doing. You hear it all the time, people running off in the desert with too much ammo and not enough water. A lot of people think that the worst that can happen to them is getting a sword in the guts.   Let’s see how they feel after a week with no water!

Valhalla Crier: So you’re saying that what you know is more important than what you carry?

Damon:   Yeah, definitely!   It does tie into your equipment, but that comes later. I mean, there are things that you will need, and some things are better than others, but the first step is thinking it through and making sure you are getting the right stuff.

               And this includes hiring a guide, or a few porters, or what-not. Finding somebody who knows the land is going to do a lot more for you than spending thousands of v-bills to buy fancy gadgets and magic spells. Hell, even hiring a consultant to help equip you could mean the difference between life and death.

Valhalla Crier: I understand that the Adventurer’s Guild has classes on that type of thing.

Damon:   Yeah, sure, take a class, whatever makes your dew-box shine. Just don’t go into it thinking you know everything. You think you’ve seen it all? There’s no way you’ve seen everything that lurks out there.

Valhalla Crier: Well, that makes sense. If you are going somewhere in particular you might need to pack certain things that you might not need elsewhere. But, what about in general? What key things are you going to need on any adventure?

Damon:   I see your angle, Euclid. You just want the basics.

Valhalla Crier: Yes, please.

Damon: All right, but just know that you’ve got to use your knowledge to sup this list. Every part of this is going to vary depending on where you are going, who you are, what you are, what you expect to meet out there, and any other possible factor. Clear?

Valhalla Crier: Clear.

Damon:   All right then. They say that the three things you need to survive are food, water and shelter. While that’s basically true, you will also need weapons and armor. Now, everything that you take with you needs to address one of these needs, preferably two or more. If it doesn’t, its dead weight.

               Do you like to read a book before going to bed at night? Not out in the wild! Unless it’s a book about wilderness survival or some such, you don’t need it!

Valhalla Crier: Okay, then, so we have food, water, shelter, armor and weapons. Which is the most important?

Damon:   Food and water. Water is more important than food, but for the sake of this interview I think we can lump them together.

                You’ve got to figure out a way to keep well-nourished when you’re out there. Unfortunately all that crap is heavy, so if you are going to be out for any length of time, you need to figure out alternatives. If you are lucky you can forage for stuff along the way. This is one way that a guide can help you. They know what you can eat and what you can’t. They can tell you where to find water, so you don’t have to carry that heavy-assed shit.

                If you’re lucky enough to have transportation then you can stow extra food and water. I highly recommend pack animals. Not only will they carry your crap, but if you get in a jam, you can always eat them. Donkey burger tastes mighty fine!

                Always have a back-up plan, though. For that, magic is really the thing! Of course if you’re in a higher-tech area it may fizzle, but it’s worth bringing along just in case. Yandalli’s table-cloth is a wonderful thing! Perhaps the best out there! But you can also use Nyisha’s Mystic Embroidery. It’s real ripe to lug around a fifty gallon cask of water that weighs almost nothing! If that isn’t in your price range then a scroll for locating water or something similar works okay too.  

Valhalla Crier: Sounds good. So what’s next?

Damon:   Well, that might depend on where you are. Here again, nuance inside of nuance. If you are going to the Greco-Roman Alliance, then weapons and armor are going to be more important than shelter. If you’re going to Czarist Russia, then you better damn well take your thermal undies and your seal-skin boots.

Valhalla Crier: Thermal undies and seal-skin boots? Those sound more like clothes than shelter.

Damon:   When I’m talking shelter, I mean anything that can help keep you warm and dry. That includes anything from clothing, to tents, to fires. Anything that will keep the elements away.

Valhalla Crier: So what are some of the better items to put on your list?

Damon:   A nice wool cloak is always handy. Often you can find one that is at least water resistant. Even if it does get wet, it keeps insulating. It’s not pleasant being wrapped up in a soggy rag, but at least it won’t be sucking away your body heat!

                A good sized plastic tarp is probably even better. Eight by eight should do it. You can use that to wrap up your stuff when you’re hiking or hang up over you when you’re in camp. It is a lot lighter than a tent, but serves pretty much the same function. It might not keep the bugs out, but that’s not the end of the world. Just make sure to get your malaria shots before you go!

                So far as fire goes, a regular old disposable lighter is probably the best thing to keep. It’s cheap, easy to use, lightweight, and it’s pretty low-tech. You might have troubles starting it in some TL One, hell-hole, but even there it should eventually work. Some other even lower tech item could be useful. Flint and steel will work anywhere so long as you know how to do it. And if you can’t you probably shouldn’t be out there anyway!

Valhalla Crier: What about magic items? I understand that a lot of people have magic items for this kind of stuff.

Damon:   Oh yeah, there’s lots of good magic out there. Most should be used sparingly because they run out just when you’re getting comfortable. The best bargains are probably Ariell’s Fire, or Arnak’s Campfire. Arnak’s campfire has saved my ass multiple times. Ariell’s fire is nice when you are low on fuel. You can find them at Big Bob’s Adventure Emporium.

                Then, you know, I have also heard of some other really cool ideas. I met this guy who built a log cabin that was totally stocked with a wood burning stove, canned goods, and everything else you could want. He had Nyisha’s Permanent Embroidery cast on it and took it with him wherever he went. Cost an arm and a leg, I’m sure, but he took care of food, water, and shelter in one swoop. Hell, he probably had some extra weapons and ammo in there too.

Valhalla Crier: Wow, yeah, that does sound like some serious planning.

Damon:   Yeah, just hope the tech-zones don’t mess with it. That’s a lot of money to be leaving in the middle of nowhere. It could happen pretty easily too.

Valhalla Crier: Okay. So, we have weapons and armor left. What armor would you suggest to people?

Damon:   Yeah, that’s a tough one. The armor is probably the most complicated. You want something that will protect you but doesn’t weigh a ton. Full plate mail is awesome and will stop pretty much anything, but who wants to wear that crap? Slows you way down, makes it next to impossible to see or move. It costs a fortune to boot. No thanks!

                And then you can go to the other extreme, you know? Wear light clothing that doesn’t protect you at all. Keeps you nimble, but couldn’t even stop a butter knife.

Valhalla Crier: Ultimately it is going to be up to the person wearing it, right? What they are comfortable in, how they’ve been trained, and so on.

Damon:   Yeah, all of that plays into it. Even so, there are a few items to keep an eye out for. My favorite bit of armor is Kevlar. I love the stuff! I would have Kevlar undies made if they didn’t cramp my style. It is lightweight compared to a breastplate and can stop a bullet dead. Not even plate mail will do that! It also does a damn fine job of stopping other weapons. Hell, it will even absorb plasma energy. It melts the Kevlar, though. God, it stinks!

               My second recommendation is a wool cloak. As I mentioned, it is great to keep you warm. It also can be thick enough to deflect a glancing blow. It’s not going to stop a bullet, but it might stop that knife. Even a little protection is better than none, and since it is really helping you on the shelter front, it is a good item to have.

Valhalla Crier: So what about other armor?

Damon:   Well, a good helmet is absolutely necessary! Anybody that goes into battle without a helmet is a fool! Plain and simple! I always push for the Kevlar, of course, but pretty much anything will do. Hell, a bicycle helmet is better than nothing!

Valhalla Crier: What about shields?

Damon:   Yeah, they can be really great, but they are heavy. I never got into them myself, but some people I know swear by them. They do a great job of deflecting damage, but I think that the coolest thing about them is their usefulness as a weapon. That is a great example of multi-functional equipment. Defensive armor and a weapon tied together. A gauntlet works the same way. It’s a pretty good way to work the angles if you’ve got the skills.

Valhalla Crier: I guess that just leaves us with weapons.

Damon:   Yeah, that’s everyone’s favorite!

Valhalla Crier: So what weapons are key to surviving in Valhalla?

Damon:   First of all, stick with what you know. A katana is a fabulous weapon in the right hands, but it’s going to take you years to learn how to use it right. In the meantime you’re more likely to cut yourself than kill your enemy. Stick with what you know and keep practicing.

                Secondly, diversify!

Valhalla Crier: Tell me more.

Damon:   It has more to do with the tech level of your weapons than what type of weapon you are using. Firearms are without a doubt the best weapons out there, but you have so many different ones to choose from.

               You could use an Arquebus really well in a low-tech area, but the fact that you can only squeeze off a round every minute or so really limits its effectiveness. On the other hand, if you have a heavy plasma pistol you can blow a huge hole in anything you want. Good luck hitting anything with it if you go to Xa’cor dy Yelpheet. The Tech-Zones will mess with you like mad! You will be lucky if the damn thing doesn’t blow up in your hand!

                Similarly, you always want to make sure that you have a back-up weapon. Something distance and something up-close is the best. A rifle and a knife is a good combination. Or, if you prefer working close up, a sword and a bow. If you throw a mad shot-put then maybe you want to use that, I don’t know. Use a sling for all I care. You could even combine both your ranged and melee weapons by using a spear, or even better, slap a bayonet on the end of your rifle. There are numerous combinations. Just be sure to use ones that you excel in, and then look to fill the gaps.

Valhalla Crier: Anything else?

Damon:   Yeah, bring lots of healing magic or some of those Healing Nano-bots. Everyone should have something to stop bleeding. Other healing methods are good in a pinch, but magic or tech is the fastest and most versatile. I can’t speak highly enough of Photosynthetic Skin. Whatever fits your budget, but do yourself a favor and make sure you have something on hand.

Valhalla Crier: Thanks a lot for your time! It has been most enlightening. Any other final words of wisdom for those who want to survive an adventure in Valhalla?

Damon: Well, if your primary concern is survival, then don’t go adventuring. Don’t get into this business thinking you will grow old. Only a lucky few ever actually retire. You might be able to survive a few outings into the world, but eventually the reaper’s going to come for you. Make your fortune and get out.

Interview with Damon Anseti: Part 2

Fighting the Undead: Bona Fides

               Anybody who has spent time in the Kingdoms sector of Ada-Kar has probably wandered into the Pirate’s Gold pub for a drink or five. A pleasant and entertaining place, the Pirate’s Gold is always lively. The pub’s owner, Damon Anseti, can often be found pouring drinks, carousing with the patrons, and spinning yarns about his adventuring days. I asked him to sit with me and discuss a few of his favorite subjects.

                He has told a number of tales about fighting the undead. I wanted to find out more about these creatures from a real world perspective.

 

Valhalla Crier: What can you tell me about your experiences fighting the undead?

Damon: I can give you a fair tell about the undead. I ran into a lot of different kinds over the years. I got pretty good at putting them down. Boca over here (gesturing to his half-ogre tending bar) was probably better than me in some ways. He don’t like to talk about it much though.

Valhalla Crier: I see.

Damon: So where do you want me to begin?

Valhalla Crier: Why don’t you tell me a little about your encounters with them? What was the first undead you ever came across?

Damon: My first undead? Hmm, I guess that was probably when I was eight or nine years old. I grew up on Ada-Kar so I’d seen a whole lot of things even before I went out adventuring. They had a parade going through town celebrating some damn thing. Maybe it was Victory Day. I can’t remember.

               Anyway there was this float done up like a castle.   In front of it there were all of these people pulling it. When it got closer though, I noticed they wasn’t people. It was walking corpses and skeletons pulling this thing down the street. They were all dressed up in Technophile gear. There was this chick up on the castle dressed up like a sorceress. She was waving to the crowd and sticking swords through this zombie that looked like Randolph Newman.

               Probably meant to represent triumph of Magic over Technology, or some shit. Most people didn’t like it, though. I remember my dad getting real quiet. Some people started yelling things. It was weird. Real creepy. I never saw no more undead in parades after that.

Valhalla Crier: I see.

Damon: That wasn’t what you wanted to hear, was it?

Valhalla Crier: No, not really.

Damon: You wanted to hear about me kicking some undead ass, didn’t you?

Valhalla Crier: Yes.

Damon: All right, I’ll tell you a little bit about my last adventure. There were plenty of walking corpses that day. Falling like dominoes.

Valhalla Crier: Sounds perfect!

Damon: I’ll get to the meat of the matter. We were on the trail of this buried treasure. We got a line on an ancient text that was supposedly housed in this ruined fortress. We needed the text because . . . oh never mind. It doesn’t matter. It’s the fortress that matters.

               The fortress was destroyed during the Great War. Everyone was killed and nobody bothered to rebuild there. Everyone said that it was abandoned, so we didn’t expect too much trouble. We just wanted to get the text and get out.

Valhalla Crier: Uh, I’m sorry. Who’s we?

Damon: We?

Valhalla Crier: Who was with you?

Damon: Oh. Well let’s see. There was me, Boca, Bianca, Uffo, Marcus, Angus, Luella, and Hawthorne. Otso and Phil Two-Toes were already dead by then. Phil had been taken by the harpies about a month before this. Otso had been dead quite some time.

Valhalla Crier: Okay. Sorry to interrupt.

Damon: No worries. Where was I?

Valhalla Crier: The fortress. You were expecting it to be abandoned.

Damon: Right!

               We were in the Coalition of City-States, near the Babylonian border with the Assyrians. That right there should have told us we were in for a world of hurt. We were young and dumb though.

                It took about a week to get to the ruins. We rode camels for the most part. Not the most comfortable way to travel, but it’s better than walking. When we finally caught site of the old fortress we all felt so relieved! There was nothing out there! It was no wonder that nobody ever rebuilt the place. There wasn’t anything there worth defending!

               The fortress was all beat to shit! Half buried in sand and huge holes blown into the side of it. Looked like some big tank just sat there blowing holes in it.

               It was late when we got there though, and we’d been around enough to know to wait until dawn to go in. We set up camp that night. Didn’t have a fire though. No wood. It makes it hard to keep watch without a fire. We took it in shifts though. It was a starry night and there wasn’t much of a moon. It wasn’t too long into the night that the first trouble arrived. When it came, it came hard!

Valhalla Crier: What happened?

Damon: Well, as it turned out the place wasn’t abandoned. Big surprise, huh? Turns out that something had been living there . . . well, no, not living . . . existing there for quite some time. Maybe even since the Great War. Who knows? We didn’t exactly get around to asking him. We found out later that it was a White. Do you know what a White is?

Valhalla Crier: Not exactly, no.

Damon: A White was once an evil priest. Normally they worshiped gods of Death, though I have heard rumors that they could worship chaos gods too. I don’t know. All I know is that they were such evil bastards in life that they didn’t stay dead. They came back to torment the living.

Valhalla Crier: Sounds nasty!

Damon: Nasty? Yeah! They’re dead, dig? They can’t feel any pain. .44 to the chest and it’s like you flicked it with a cig.

               And it can think! I mean really think! These things weren’t dumb in life. You don’t get to be able to cheat death by being dumb. They were smart and they got nothing but time to get smarter.

Nasty? You think that sounds nasty?

Valhalla Crier: Yeah.

Damon: Well, check this nastiness, square. They can cast spells! Pray to their skulls, shake their fetishes, and bring their god’s will to bear upon you! You think a Priest of Set, or Hades, or Nergal loses power when he dies? And if there is one thing that a Death priest can do, it’s raise and command the undead.

                The worst thing about these bastards is that they can create hordes of skeletons and zombies to watch over them during the day. They can’t come out in the sun, see? That’s their weakness. Well, that and a bad complexion.

                So, you see, these things, if they can find a place to hole up, can start to acquire dead things over the years. Not just people they trap and kill, though there are plenty of those. They can also reanimate beasts. Anything that once lived can be reanimated. They might still slowly rot, but what the hell, they don’t rot overnight.

                In fact, in the desert, these things get mummified.

Valhalla Crier: You mean you fought mummies too?

Damon: Good God, no, man! I said they were mummified, not mummies. There’s a difference, you know!

Valhalla Crier: I’m going to need another drink. Boca!

Damon: Make it two!

Valhalla Crier: Okay, so, you didn’t fight mummies, but you did fight mummified zombies?

Damon: Yeah. And skeletons. Lots of skeletons. Probably more of them than the zombies, if you want to know the truth. You see, the difference . . .

Valhalla Crier: Wait, wait, wait. We can get into that later. Let’s just pick up the story.

Damon: Dig! Where did we leave off?

Valhalla Crier: Skeletons. Lots of skeletons.

Damon: Yeah, there were lots of skeletons! And those were the first things to attack. You see, it was the middle of the night, before my shift sometime, so it must have been a little after midnight. All I knew was that I woke up to Uffo shouting for everyone to wake up.

                Before I even had a chance to arm myself, they were pouring out of the main gate. I don’t know how many there were. At least a two dozen. Some of them had swords, but most carried cruder weapons. Axes, knifes, clubs. None of them could use a gun though, thank god! That’s the best thing about the mindless undead. They can’t use advanced weapons. Good news for the good guys!

                Anyway, everyone’s arming themselves, wishing they had slept in their armor and what-not. So the first one comes charging up on me, a big, nasty looking cleaver in its hand. I duck out of its way and deliver an awesome killing blow. A sword right through its chest! I’m thinkin’ “yeah, one down.” Bummer is it didn’t even hurt the damn thing! I’m pretty fast, right, so I pull it out and stab it again! Same thing! Nothing happens. Damn thing is just standing there grinning at me!

Valhalla Crier: What did you do?

(Boca Raton enters, bringing two large tankards of ale.)

Boca: Waited for me to save the day. As usual.

Damon: Ha! Yeah, that about sums it up. You see, Boca here had a horseman’s flail.

Boca: What do you mean had? I’ve still got that bad boy!

(Boca gestures to the bar where a small flail hangs over the bar. Above it is a sign that reads “For Roughnecks and Bad Tippers.”)

Valhalla Crier: So how were you so effective when Damon wasn’t?

Boca: Superior combat skills.

(Boca smiles, showing his numerous pointed teeth, and walks away.)

Damon: I don’t know about all that, but he did show me up that day. A lot of it had to do with his weapon choice. A cutlass is meant to slice flesh. Pierce vital organs and make your enemy bleed out. Not very effective against walking skeletons! A flail, on the other hand, is meant to shatter bone. Even if you don’t hit it in a critical area, you are doing a lot more damage than with a blade.

                Anyway, Boca shows me and the others how to do it and we start giving back a little. They were still draining our bucket, though. We lost Angus during that fight. Damn shame, too. I liked that guy.

                Fortunately, Luella was with us too. Now, I probably can’t stress this enough. If you ever fight the undead, you better make damn sure you have a Life priest or priestess on your side! That is probably the most important thing to remember about fighting the undead. Bring a priest!!!

               Luella was a priestess of Sif. She called upon her god and Sif paid off! Some sort of divine light flashed around her and a whole bunch of those things just turned tail and ran! It was beautiful!

Valhalla Crier: How many of them ran?

Damon: I don’t know for sure. I had too many problems of my own to keep count. It was a good bit though. Enough to save our asses. There was still a score of them around, though, and they were turning up the heat. I took out a couple of them. The others were holding their own. Boca was wading through them left and right! He was a damned master at putting down those bad boys!

               It was Luella and her second prayer to Sif that finally turned the battle. She scared enough of them away that we could mop up the rest.

                The only problem was that most of them ran right back down the corridor they came from. We would have to deal with them again later.

Valhalla Crier: What did you do?

Damon: Doubled the guard and waited until morning.

               We tried to rest, though nobody really did. Once the sun came up it was time to explore.

                We barely got past the main gate before we encountered the first trap. I don’t know how many we encountered by the time we were done. It seemed like there was a new one at every step. Concealed cross-bows, pit-traps, secret doors that would open up and release zombies and skeletons. We took our lumps. Nobody died, but there were lots of injuries. Worst thing though was that it slowed us down. We couldn’t move without stopping every few feet to test the ground.

Valhalla Crier: And all the while daylight was wasting.

Damon: Absolutely! And that was all part of his plan.  

                Our plan was to get to find the library as fast as we could, get what we needed, and get out. We didn’t want to find whatever was hanging around that place. We wanted what we came for.

Valhalla Crier: Did you find it?

Damon: Well, we found the library around noon. We were all prime then! Thought we would be out by nightfall.  

Valhalla Crier: Not the case, huh?

Damon: Hell no! We found the library, but where was the damned book? We spend hours in there dickin’ around while Luella searched for it.

Valhalla Crier: You all didn’t split up and look for it?

Damon: Hell, Luella was the only one that read cuneiform. You ever try and read that gibberish? How did a society get so powerful writing “line, line, triangle, line, semi-circle, triangle, triangle, line, line line?”

                Anyway, all the rest of us could do is watch the doors and see if we could find anything worth taking. Didn’t find much. I think we might have gotten a nice candlestick or two out of it, but not much else.

               Mostly we just waited, getting more and more nervous as the sun neared the horizon. It wasn’t until after the sun set that Luella finally found the damned text. Ended up being a scroll, not even a book. Wretched!

Valhalla Crier: What did you do?

Damon: We eventually decided to hang out and wait until the next morning. None of us were too prime on it, but we had an inkling that whatever had set those traps was afraid of the sun. If we could just keep it at bay overnight we thought we could slip out in the daylight. We knew we were in for a long night, though.

(Damon falls silent and looks off into space, a pained look lingering in his eye.)

Valhalla Crier: Please, continue.

Damon: They attacked again, this time well before midnight. It wasn’t probably an hour after the sun went down. We had barred the doors and thought we were pretty safe. For a while, we were. We could hear zombies on the other side of the door, scratching and clawing at the heavy oak doors. After a while they stopped and the skeletons came up and started hacking at it with axes. That got us worried!

                We all got our plan in order and waited for them to chop through.   We figured that we had the advantage. Even if there were a hundred of those things, only a couple could come through the door at one time. We would stand there and let them bottle-neck and bash them down when they came through. Luella would call upon Sif again and make then run in fear, causing more confusion in their lines.

                Seems like a good plan, right?

Valhalla Crier: Yeah, sounds really good. Did it work?

Damon: Nope!

                We should have realized that this thing we were fighting wasn’t about to hit us the same way twice. The chumps at the door were just a distraction. The real threat came from right beneath our feet!

Valhalla Crier: Another trap?

Damon: Worse! A wraith.

Valhalla Crier: What are wraiths?

Damon: Ever heard of elementals? Creatures linked directly to the elements?

Valhalla Crier: Yeah. They are summoned by powerful magic users. Some elves used fire elementals during the Great War to destroy a number of ammo depots. It was quite a stunning victory!

Damon: Yeah, that’s them. Well, wraiths are spirit elementals. They are naturally powerful spirits in the ethereal realm. When they are brought over here, they take on a wicked form! Dark like a shadow, but with these terrible claws! And if that weren’t bad enough, their touch kills flesh.

                The worst thing, though, is that they are able to move through solid objects. They are only partially in the real world, dig? So it’s also in the ethereal world. Because of that, it can move through solid objects.

                Like the floor.

Valhalla Crier: You mean it just came right up through the floor at you?

Damon: Yep. It waited until the skeletons broke down the door and started pouring in. Once they did, it came up through the floor right behind us where nobody was looking. That thing was on Luella before she could cast her first spell. It just grabbed her and she started screaming. I could smell her flesh rotting from twenty feet away!

                Boca and the others were holding back the skeleton hoard so I turned to try and get this thing off of Luella. Unfortunately another problem with it only being half in the real world, is that weapons barely hurt it. I thought I would chop the thing’s head off, but my blade just passed right through it!

                Then I got a brain wave! I figured, I would sprinkle on the holy water, you know. Blast that thing with a little god juice! Luella blessed some earlier that day and let us know that it could hurt any undead. I was prime to see what it would do, so I popped the cap and splashed it right in the face!

               Do you know what it did?

Valhalla Crier: Burned its head off?

Damon: Nothing! That’s what it did! Do you know why?

Valhalla Crier: No.

Damon: Because that thing was an elemental, not the undead! See, that’s a very important distinction. It looks like the undead. The way it kills flesh, you would think it was the undead. Only it’s not undead because it was never really alive! It’s an escapee from another plane of existence, man! Holy water and blessed weapons and crap like that’s not going to do a damn thing!

Valhalla Crier: Well how did you get out of it?

Damon: It was Bianca that got us out of that one. We had a fire burning in the fireplace. She raced over, grabbed a log and stuck it right in the thing’s body. I swear, it shrieked worse than Luella did. I never heard anything like it! It felt like it was in my bones. Chilling my blood.

                I grabbed a torch and went after the thing too. Between the two of us we finally managed to scare it away. We didn’t kill it. It just turned and ran through the walls. I kept expecting it to come back, but it never did. Thank god for that.

                By this time the skeletons were piling into the room. Boca and Uffo were holding on, but Marcus was down. Fortunately Luella managed to rally. She healed herself from what the wraith did and then started making them run away. A few at a time, but it was helping us to hold the line. We pushed them back and then the bottom fell out again.

Valhalla Crier: Let me guess. The white showed up?

Damon: Yeah. Bigtime!

                Turns out that the human skeletons were just the tip of the iceberg. Two reanimated lions jumped in the room first. After that he made his appearance, standing in the doorway all pale and ghostly.   Like a man that had been frozen in snow for a thousand years. He lifted a wand he had in his hand, said something, and a bolt of lightning shot out. It just missed Luella, hitting the shelf of books behind her.

               The lightning bolt had started a fire in the books. Those things were so dry from being in the desert air for so long. It was catching fast. The place was slowly turning into an inferno. Unfortunately, our passage was blocked in one way by the fire, and the other way by the white.

                Thankfully, whites hate fire almost as much as wraiths. It was hesitant to enter the room. It stood back, raising the symbol of his evil god and chanting. We all knew he was about to cast some spell. No idea what, and thank god we didn’t find out.

                I had my second vial of holy water and let it fly. Thing hit him smack in the chest and shattered all over him. He shrieked and started sizzling like he’d been hit with battery acid.

               That felt good!

                Luella tried to turn him too, just end it there, but it didn’t work. It just shrugged it off. Then it ordered all of the skeletons, every last one of them, to attack Luella. They all stopped what they were doing and turned right on her.

                Boca used the opportunity to bash a couple of them while their backs were turned. Problem was, he turned his own back to the white. That was all the opportunity it needed. It took a touch, just one touch, and Boca dropped to the ground, completely paralyzed from the waist down.

                Let me tell you, it shocked the hell out of me seeing the big guy go down! Total gordo!

                Uffo attacked the white, hoping to get him off of Boca while the rest of us tried to defend Luella. We made a semi-circle around her and bashed at any of those bastards that tried to go through. One of the lions leaped over us, but Marcus was there with his trident. Stabbing the thing might not have killed it, but it got all caught up in the tines. He was able to hold it in place while Bianca shattered its skull.

                Meanwhile Uffo and this white are going at it toe to toe. What Uffo didn’t know was that the white’s mace was magic. It had a Concussive Blow spell cast into it, so when he finally did connect, Uffo went down hard. Broke his arm and KO’ed him.

Valhalla Crier: So how many of these skeletons were left? It sounds like they were endless!

Damon: Oh, we were hurting them! I never will know how many there were total, but by that time I would say that there was a dozen or so still engaged. Fewer every minute!

               Having them all attack Luella was a big mistake. They were ignoring the rest of us so we could hit them with impunity. They didn’t even try to block us. All we had to do was hold the line and let them break upon us. So long as we kept Luella safe we figured we would be all right.

                The real danger now was for Boca.

                With Uffo out of the way, that thing turned his attention back to Boca. He grasped Boca by the head and then chanted a few words. Next thing I know, he’s sucking the life out of Boca. I could see burns appearing on Boca’s chest as the white’s wounds began to heal. Boca screamed with pain and rage, swinging at the white with his bare fists. It did no good.

Valhalla Crier: How did he get out of it?

Damon: Hawthorne. At least he was there for that.

Valhalla Crier: What did he do?

Damon: He pulled out his heavy plasma pistol and started shooting. It hadn’t been too effective before. Damned Tech Zones made it about the least effective weapon around.

                I guess it was his day though. He got in a lucky hit and blasted that thing in the chest. Opened up a big old hole! The shot broke his concentration and stopped leaching Boca.

                That was when the battle finally turned once and for all. We had knocked down the skeletons to maybe a half dozen. The white looked around and saw what was going down. Five of us still going strong. A big bonfire behind us, getting bigger every second. He knew the score. He turned tail and ran back to whatever hole he came from.

Valhalla Crier: Did you chase after it?

Damon: Hawthorne ran to the door and fired a few more shots. Didn’t hit though. He wanted to chase after him, but we called him back. Uffo and Boca were down. Most of us were beat up. I think only adrenaline was keeping Marcus on his feet. And that fire was burning hotter and hotter!

                Luella called on Sif again and managed to bring Uffo back from the land of Nod. Boca started getting feeling back in his legs, thank God! I wasn’t looking forward to carrying that lug all the way back to civilization! So, we grabbed our stuff and split!

Valhalla Crier: You didn’t go after the white? It sounds like it was prime time for laying it low!

Damon: We talked about it. Hawthorne was all for it. He wanted to find its chamber and throw in a few white phosphorous grenades. I think he wanted to see what kind of treasure it had.

               In the end we decided it wasn’t worth it. We were mangled! Plus we had the fire to escape, and who knows what kind of traps were out there. The white had summoned one wraith already, and we figured it could probably call on more. I don’t even want to think about the other nasty tricks it could have had protecting its tomb.

               No, we survived the night and we had what we came for. It was time to go, so that’s exactly what we did!

Valhalla Crier: Do you think the thing is still out there?

Damon: Possibly. I know we didn’t kill it, though maybe the fire finished the job for us. I don’t really want to find out though. One go-around with that thing was enough for me. Anybody wants to go check it out though, I will draw you a map! I’ll even buy you a drink if you tell me the tale!

                Just don’t go without a priest.

An interview with Damon Anseti: Part I

                Anybody who has spent time in the Kingdoms sector of Ada-Kar has probably wandered into the Pirate’s Gold pub for a drink or five.  A pleasant and entertaining place, the Pirate’s Gold is always lively.  The pub’s owner, Damon Anseti, can often be found pouring drinks, carousing with the patrons, and spinning yarns about his adventuring days.  I asked him to sit with me and discuss a few of his favorite subjects.

                Having managed to make his fortune by finding a pirate’s hidden treasure, he has a curious take on the value of treasure maps. 

 

Valhalla Crier: Can you tell me your theory about treasure maps?

Damon: Yeah.  Don’t trust them! They aren’t worth the paper they are printed on.

Valhalla Crier:  Really?  Considering that’s how you came to your fortune, that doesn’t sound chum.  

Damon:  Well, I got lucky.  What I say holds.  Treasure maps, on the whole, aren’t worth it.

Valhalla Crier:  Please elaborate.

Damon:  Well, there are a number of different kinds of maps.  You’ve got your fakes, your obscures, your extracted, and your golds.  The problem is you will never know what kind it is until you’ve followed it to the end. 

Valhalla Crier:  Fakes, obscure, extracted and gold, huh?  Tell me about the fakes.

Damon:  The fakes are the most common.  People make up fake maps and sell them to some dumb-ass rube.  Hell, sometimes people even make them up for practical jokes. 

               There was this guy once, Ingmar the Mad.  He made a whole bunch of treasure maps that really looked the part.  He started spreading them all over the place.  Some of them he sold to Newbies.  Some he “lost” in a card game.  He would roll them up in bottles and throw them into the sea.  He even presented one map to some Saxon nobleman.  Poor bastard spent the better part of five years trying to hunt down a treasure that never existed.  Spent his whole fortune on the adventure.  In the end he came back empty-handed to a home that didn’t even exist anymore.

Valhalla Crier:  Got it.  Any map could be a fake.  What about the obscure maps?  What are they?

Damon:  Obscure Maps may or may not be real, but it doesn’t matter because they are so difficult to understand.  You pretty much need to know where the treasure is in order to even start looking for it.  Say your map has a picture of an island.  You know how many damned islands are in Valhalla?  There are more uncharted islands in Bifrost than there are bullets in Berlin! 

               You’ve got to remember, the person who buried the treasure doesn’t want you to find it.  He put it somewhere so concealed that even he can’t be sure where it is.  The more complex the map, the more likely it is to be real. 

Valhalla Crier:  Okay, so what exactly are extracted maps?

Damon:  Extracted maps are probably the most heartbreaking.  Just because you have a map doesn’t mean that the treasure’s still there.  Somewhere along the way somebody beat you to it.  Maybe the person who buried it came back and found it without the map.  Maybe somebody else found it and then pitched the map for some poor, dumb chump to find.  Who knows!  The long and the short of it is that the hoard you have come all this way to find is in someone else’s pocket.

Valhalla Crier:  I guess that just leaves the gold.  I want to hear about the gold.

Damon:  Yeah, everybody wants the gold!  The gold is the real deal.  The big dream. 

Valhalla Crier:  You look a little gloomy.  Why is that?  You got the gold, didn’t you?

Damon:  Yeah, I got the gold alright.  The problem is that you end up getting more than just gold with the treasure.  You also get all the other things along the way.  Some of them are good things, no doubt about that.  Some of my fondest memories are of the time seeking the treasure. 

               I also lost a lot along the way though.  Some really good friends died trying to get that treasure. Marcus tumbled off the side of a cliff with the rockslide.  Phil Two-Toes was taken by those damned harpies.  And Bianca . . . I don’t want to talk about Bianca.

Valhalla Crier:  You obviously have some regrets, then.  If given the chance would you go back and do something different?

Damon:  Yeah, there is a lot I would do different.  Not bringing along that traitorous toad Hawthorne for one!  But you mean not going after the gold, don’t you?

Valhalla Crier:  Yes.

Damon:  No, I wouldn’t change that.  I don’t think I could change that.  The nornir wove that fate for me and I don’t think I could have escaped it even if I’d wanted to.  That being said, I will never follow another map.  Even if I lost everything, I wouldn’t follow another map.

Valhalla Crier:  So is there any way to tell the difference between the maps?  To tell which ones are gold and which are not?

Damon:  Well if you go into it thinking that it is all bunk then you won’t be disappointed.  That being said, there are clues you can look for.

                The biggest clue is if somebody it trying to sell it to you, or offer it up to you in any way.  If its chum there is no way anybody is getting rid of it.  You are better off buying toilet paper than that map.  At least the toilet paper is good for something.

                Finding a map in amongst another treasure is a little better.  Say you slay some monster, or you turn the tables on some highwaymen, or something.  A little after-action recon and you find their hoard.  In with all the other stuff you find a treasure map.  Now, at least, there is a chance that it’s good.  Of course it could still be fake, or obscure, or its already extracted.  No way to know.

                Another good tell is if the map is too explicit.  If the map has coordinates and a little dotted line leading to a big, red X, then you can be pretty sure it’s worthless.  Nobody trying to hide their goods is going to be dumb enough to lead you right to it.  It needs to be obscure enough to throw the regular observer, but not so obscure that you won’t know where to begin.  The harder it is to decipher, the better the chance that it is real.

Valhalla Crier:  So is there any way to know it’s real?

Damon:  Not really.  Maybe find an Iclavian that can do some psychometry on it.  That, of course is assuming you can find one that will help you.  They aren’t exactly known for doing people favors.  Even if you do find one that will help, you still might not learn anything. 

Valhalla Crier:  So how did you know your map was gold?

Damon:  I didn’t.  Like I said, I just got lucky.

Valhalla Crier:  Fair enough.  Is there anything else you want to add?

Damon:  Yeah, don’t trust treasure maps!