2. Background


The game is set in the offices of Megiddo Homes, a real estate agency specializing in custom-built, sustainable, self-sufficient, underground shelter dwellings for Survivalists and modern-day Homesteaders.

"Why hide out in the woods waiting for the approaching collapse of the New World Order, when you can be just as safe at half the price and twice the convenience, within twenty minutes of major byways?"

"Some people can afford to stockpile years of canned foods, build hydroponic tanks and indoor rabbit farms, so they'll never have to go to the grocery store again. But some of us still like fresh mushrooms, or a steak now and then, maybe some ginger root or seafood. Some of us have spouses who refuse to move farther than one hour from their parents or sisters. Some people wish to live the self-sufficient lifestyle, no longer dependent on The Grid, nor crossing their fingers for protection from invasion or catastrophe or civil unrest. But not everyone has the aptitude or the desire to build their own self-sufficient underground dwelling."

"That's where we come in! At Megiddo Homes, we'll work with you to design and build a structure to your specifications. We can even show you homes in a community of like-minded families. Why not give John Wilkinson or Al DiBerga a call today?"

The area of the Megiddo Homes office that you'll use for this game fits on a Chess board, although you won't need to roam around the whole thing. You could draw the outlines of the rooms directly onto your Chess board with a marker, or keep this picture handy and visualize the rooms as you move Bob through the open board.


Sagging, paunchy, always a little sweaty. Although he has long accepted the gradual loss of his hair, Bob would argue that he's not combing-over to hide anything, just that it looks better that way. Now 34, Bob has had his ups and downs with women, mostly downs. Even had a long engagement to a woman once, but it didn't work out. Any long relationships he had are far behind him. He hasn't asked anyone out in years, and certainly hasn't been asked.

For a few years now, Bob has settled into a routine, spending his time away from work watching tv or reading newspapers or the occasional Tom Clancy or Stephen Koontz. Apart from Imelda, the only females he comes in contact with most weeks are cashiers at the gas station and grocery store. Most female clients at Megiddo Homes are already attached. The shear weight of hours that Bob has spent with Imelda has helped him see that they get along fairly well, she doesn't have a bad personality, and in spite of being 23 years older than him, Imelda is still pleasing to the eye.

Bob is technically a clerk at Megiddo Homes, because he never got a realtor's license in this state. For thirteen years, he has done everything that a realtor would, only they give him less money due his lack of a license, and all contracts have to be signed off by Wilkinson or DiBerga. Mostly Bob shows photos to prospective home buyers, or takes them through the standard shelter/home designs. A lot of faxing and emailing the last few years. People try to handle everything over the web or over the phone. Ever since Y2K passed without so much as a riot, sales have been slow. And with the economy like this, people can't afford a second home underground.

This Thursday was like many others. No prospects stopping by in person. A few calls. A few emails. Prepping ad copy for the next week's classified ads in the Green Sheet and all the Sheffield-Mendoza Hometown Newspapers in the area. Then break time came around and Bob wandered off, hoping to catch Imelda's attention...

A receptionist with excellent accounting skills. The office would fall apart within a month if she decided to throw in the towel. But she's happy here. Her nephew Stu, the never-present owner of Megiddo Homes, brought Imelda on the team twenty years ago. She's been a widow for fifteen years, and won a good sum of money in the settlement with the maker of that fatally flawed rowing machine that killed her husband.

Imelda could afford to quit working if she wanted to, but stays because it's a necessary habit, like her power-walks at lunchtime. If she stopped walking three miles daily or stopped working, she'd just watch tv all day, probably get wrapped up in soap operas again and turn back into a zombie. Imelda is proud that she stopped being a motionless housewife. She's still vaguely haunted by guilt, wondering how things might have turned out if she had been home that day instead of working at Megiddo. She might have seen Harry trapped in the rowing machine and made the call sooner. Rescue workers could have cut the machine off him while he still struggled in it, instead of cutting his lifeless body out of the contraption that night after she found him.

You might guess that she's a Christian by all the ceramic and wooden angel statuettes around the corners of her desk. Fifteen of them. Imelda would like to think that the fairy stories of the Christian heaven were true. She collects angels and cherubs, hoping that enough people looking at them and thinking about paradise every day will create an afterlife as wonderful as the one they imagine. Once in a while she picks up a chubby little ceramic baby with wings and notices the big hollow opening in the back or bottom of the statuette, and the emptiness seems to laugh at her: "I got your afterlife right here."

Imelda never dated after Harry passed away. She's content with her life, her job, her biweekly visits to the dog track, and the company of her three rescued greyhounds. It would take a very special man to fill Harry's shoes, but she's not actively looking. Maybe it's because of those long years ignoring men that Imelda can't recognize Bob's constant pleas for attention. He's obviously a lonely man who should find someone to talk to, maybe buy a dog. Sometimes he tells funny news stories he's heard, or has a funny way of putting things. Other times he can get on your nerves. It wouldn't enter her mind for someone 23 years younger to take an interest in her, and it's impossible to tell how she'd react to Bob if he told her outright.

The ghost of a sea sponge. A circular fragment of Gorm's corpse lies in a glass dish on Bob's desk, used for moistening stamps. The only object of the game for the player who chooses Gorm is to narrate the story from Gorm's perspective. The playing piece representing the sponge ghost can not move, or speak to Imelda or Bob, or perform any action except narrating the events of the game. [Note that this player does not have any "game master" or directorial power to shape the outcome of the game. She can only describe the results she sees, not dictate the results she wants to see.]

Gorm has only been on Bob's desk for three years. She has a unique understanding of the relationships in the offices of Megiddo Homes, though she may be slightly off. Perhaps she sees Bob more clearly because she sets on his desk in front of him all day, touched and used by him more than anyone else. Gorm feels Bob's longing for Imelda, and senses that it will end in tragedy. Gorm sees the accountant/receptionist as a cold, distant woman who doesn't treat Bob with the respect he deserves.

She'll describe every action, no matter how small, as evidence that Bob is a great guy who gets treated shabbily by Imelda. If a pencil rolled off Imelda's desk and Bob retrieved it for her, Gorm would say the mean lady knocked it off on purpose just to make extra work for poor Bob.

It's not quite an objective view of events, but what do you expect from the ghost of a sea sponge who hasn't spoken to anyone but a bullmastiff in years? And the dog hasn't been very responsive since she started hearing voices.

Bullmastiff guard dog. Sleeps most of the day, occasionally whimpering and digging at the terrors that plague her dreams. When the voices become too intense, Nancy will bring about the end of the game by leaping on Bob and biting through his thigh, severing the artery.

Next: 3. Rules