[Play by Post] Yuletide Anomaly

First of all, I want to say how much I appreciate the creativity of your turns, @creditinthestr8world, constantly amazing stuff. Regarding the pacing: I feel that we are nearing the end but this game has a tendency to constantly open up new avenues so it’s difficult to wrap everything up. I see two options: we decide to play one/two more regular turns and wrap everything as well as we can. Or maybe we could do one turn wrap up with a time skip and show the fallout of what we set up without necessarily having the anomaly resolved on screen? All of this, of course, after @SuperBiasedMan turn.

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Yeah I’m really loving this game and how much stuff we’ve come up with over the course of it. :heart: I was the vote for ending in the last one, but I was almost doing it as a soft flag/temperature check because i thought it would be worth starting to build towards an ending. Not necessarily that we need to tie up all the threads, but move towards some sort of conclusion. I’m happy to do 2 more turns each if that sounds good to both of ye.

I do also like the time skip fall out idea. We could even just do a bit of an epilogue after the last turn if anyone wants to just post mini wrap ups for any character or thread we don’t wanna leave loose.

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OK, great! I’ve really enjoyed everyone’s contributions to this campaign, and it sounds like we’re all on the same page about moving toward a conclusion. (As a side note, as a person without prior experience with forum-based roleplaying, it’s been kind of fascinating seeing all the variations in tone that arise when a game that’s intended to take two to four hours stretches out over more than a month.) Two more turns apiece after SuperBiasedMan’s post, possibly with room for coda notes if they feel necessary, sounds ideal to me!

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Sorry about the delay! House moving stuff all month.

Eight of Pentacles


A conflict erupts between the team and the locals. What is it? What sacrifices does the team have to make to settle the conflict?
Or
Another outsider arrives their goals mysterious. Why does the team think they might have their eyes on the anomaly too? What makes this individual a possible threat to the team?

_______________________________________________________

Ragna Blakesdottir sits atop a tree overlooking an agitated crowd. She can’t entirely make out what’s happening on the stage they’re watching but can tell it’s some sort of mess she’ll have to clean up as she lights a cigarette.

“You know those things stunt your growth little miss,” says a figure standing on the ground below her. She stares towards the crowd too, but seems to be looking past them and the stage to something else. She’s fully dressed in a Santa suit, which in this context was not remarkable.

Ragna’s face scrunches in confusion, unused to this kind of bluntness, “Nothing has stunted me before, I don’t see how this puny thing can,” she puts out the cigarette against her boot. She’s not quite sure why, as she hadn’t finished smoking yet. “Are you also here for the show?”

The woman shakes her head as her hat’s bob shakes around, “No I’m here to get my husband, after he’s gotten himself wrapped up in something.”

Ragna chuckles and jumps down to the ground, “Caught up in all this, what do you think he’s wishing for?”

The woman looks back to Ragna, with an intense blue in her eyes, “No, he was taken here back at the very beginning. It’s on me now to get him out. Sorry, what’s your name miss?” she extends a soft hand and Ragna grasps it firmly.

“Ragna Blakesdottir. My gut tells me, ‘help this woman’.”

She chuckles, “Ho ho ho, well you have a good gut Miss Blakesdottir. I’d be grateful for the muscle.”

_______________________________________________________

The new project: “Santa is OUT” will take 3 turns.

_______________________________________________________

During my turn
My project: “Rescue Helper Echo R▉▉▉▉ aka Jack Frost” goes down to 3 turns.
Creditinthestr8world’s Project: “Risk explores the belly of a whale” goes down to 1 turn

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And now it’s @CulturalSnowCrash’s turn


Nine of Wands
The team discovers a valuable practical use of the anomaly. What is it and what does the organization want to use it for?
Or
The team finds something that will help contain the anomaly. Who discovers it? Acquire it as an asset

During your turn
My project: “Rescue Helper Echo R▉▉▉▉ aka Jack Frost” goes down to 2 turns.
My project: “Santa is OUT” goes down to 2 turns.

(…I did not plan for that to line up :sweat_smile:)

@Creditinthestr8world’s Project: “Risk explores the belly of a whale” will complete. So leave space here for her to write that ending.

After that you can hold a team meeting, start a project or add a fact about something.

1/2 The team finds something that will help contain the anomaly. Who discovers it? Acquire it as an asset.

«You see, Miss Blakesdottir, my husband and I operate a delivery company at global scale. He generally likes to surprise people, these type of… gatherings are not really his style».

The woman looks down for a second at a tablet Ragna has never seen before in her life. It’s letter-sized and the woman weirdly holds it horizontally, and the screen (?) glows with the colors of the northern lights.

The woman looks up and smiles at Ragna. «You are a good one, miss». And then, after looking down for one more moment, «you deserved better than what you got. I’m sorry».

A single tear rolls down Ragna’s cheek as she starts to understand the person in front of her is.

«Mrs… Claus?», says Ragna.

The woman just smiles and stares at her for a second.

«I think Christmas is coming early for you this year, Miss Blakesdottir» says the woman reaching into one of the pockets of her suit. She searches for a bit too long and produces an impossibly unwrinkled envelope and hands it to Ragna.

Inside, there is a fountain pen and a piece of paper. The pen is made of a perfectly sleek material, blacker than the blackest black Ragna has ever seen. The piece of paper is almost entirely blank. At the top, in a very ornate cursive it says:

She's making a list,And checking it twice,Gonna find outWho's naughty

And then nothing else.

As soon as Ragna looks up again grinning, the lady has something else in her hand. It’s a new pair of red socks. «And Merry Christmas, my dear».

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Add a fact about something

[Upbeat jingle] The ASSISTANT algorithm is here to HELP [Upbeat jingle]

Based on the analysis of all the 589 messages, 17 reports, 32 videos, 569 paper letters and all the metadata seized from Director Henchman’s tactical team, the anomaly AD2412 seems capable of [Upbeat jingle] WISH GRANTING!

The limits of these capabilities and the externalities are *UNDEFINED*, but reports from the field clearly indicate speed, flexibility and fidelity.

Capture of the anomaly is...

97% RECOMMENDED
10% DESIRABLE
33% NEED
45% MANDATORY

- Scenarios that include the use of the anomaly in tactical situations are calculated in the thousands.
- Scenarios that include the use of the anomaly in daily operations are calculated in the millions.
- Scenarios indicate reduced contamination risk if anomaly is contained in Helpers facility at North Pole.
- Scenarios furthermore indicate that chains may not be necessary in such remote location, making containment OSLO-accords complaint.
- Scenarios indicate a reduction of operating costs of the Helpers organization between 33.3% and 52.4%.

Capture costs: still calculating.

QUESTION: Deploy sleeper agents in proximity of C▉▉▉ City?

Director ▉▉▉▉▉▉▉: deploy.

[Upbeat jingle] Deploying [Upbeat jingle]

Recap of my two actions: 1. Ragna acquires a “Naughty list" with intentionally vague powers. 2. Not only we lost control of the operation, but sleepers agents are activated to capture the anomaly

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Project complete: Risk explores the belly of a whale

The corridor sprawls out monotonously, but it offers a few surprises. Behind one door is another of older material: a passage clawed out through a thick mass of birch leaves and ash. A nest, perhaps. No bones visible, at least, and the cloth sack they think they can make out in the gloom is to all evidence still empty. Some other day, Risk might leave a discouraging line of salt outside the door or set a candle in the leaves to burn down, but there is no time for that, let alone supplies. The dripping sound stays with Risk as they continue to follow the hallway, listening for footsteps, coming at last to a ladder. Faint voices float above. Risk can keep up a glamour or a ▉▉▉▉▉▉ for at least a few minutes, but with blood in their hair they know they can’t trust it. One more effort, Helper, if you want to see land again. Look relatable, reliable, forgettable. They put on their best temp face, that person who filled in for Hank last month, aren’t they Luz’s cousin or something? Long night, wasn’t it? Nothing to see here. They put on their face and climb into the security room–the guard glances over, nods at the new janitor, slumps back in his chair. Risk glances at the monitors–none display anything below. Risk jots a note, discreetly switches off the muzak on the PA, and slips out into the hallway. On the monitor they guessed they saw Hyun-mi’s room, and committed the number to memory along with the thick binders piled on the table, the battered stuffed lion on the bed. They stop outside what they hope is her threshold and slide the note under the door. If they’re lucky, they can walk past the housekeepers, past the tourists hovering over the breakfast trays, walk through the lobby, out over the dock to land, and away. At the back of their neck they feel something trickle.

dear friends,

if i can avoid hypothermia i’m going to take to the road and find some postcards to send. you should consider other accommodations–you wouldn’t believe the kinds of things that can nest in the hollow places below the planks in an old boat like this. my stomach kramps up just thinking about it. it wouldn’t help to spell it out. you can’t be too careful. i hear tennessee is lovely this time of year.

xx [ambiguous glyph, or crude drawing of dice]

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And now @creditinthestr8world’s turn.

Ace of Wands


What does the team think about the organization?
Or
What special training does the team have as agents of the organization?

During your turn:
My project: “Rescue Helper Echo R▉▉▉▉ aka Jack Frost” goes down to 1 turn.
My project: “Santa is OUT” goes down to 1 turn.

You can also hold a team meeting, start a project or add a fact about something.

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Ace of Wands: What does the team think of the organization?
and
Add a fact: A house in Tennessee

At the Village, a carol is rising and falling in the crowd before the stage, but the intervals are strange–the song makes unintelligible promises. Are the words in Old Norse? Snatches of phrases about something beneath a mountain, and burning the shards of the past, and old forces waiting for their due, and a mass gasp and a melisma where sense leads back to breath. Comet and Hyun-mi sway, wearing strange red robes and elf ears, singing along.

If Hyun-mi could talk about it at the time, she might say she felt like a drop of water in a swift flowing river–only vaguely perceiving the stream redirected by outside forces, the bank strangely shifting. If she tried to talk about it later, she’d fumble for words. In the crowd, a middle-aged woman in a puffy white coat and sunglasses snaps a photograph of Hyun-mi and makes an almost unnoticeable gesture; further back in the crowd, a strangely muscular elderly couple in matching Christmas sweaters note her gesture, glance at the stage, nod, and begin to advance toward the barn.

Hyun-mi finds a dissonant note, and somehow feels that she needs to hold onto it. She holds it until her lungs ache, and Comet starts to follow. It gets guttural, and then the facts of her sore throat and the cold air start to bring her back to land. Hyun-mi slumps to the ground, and only then notices the woman watching her. She’s seen that forensic stare before–a member of the organization, perhaps, but not there to help. She pulls Comet away, and they take shelter behind a plot of salable Christmas pines.

“… I’m not sure how long we were singing or what else we did. We lost at least another hour to the carols, maybe more–I can’t find my phone. Do you think we’ll be able to report back after all this? Are we going to be seen as credible?”

“If the algorithm is ramping up? We’re probably going to be seen as contaminated. They had Echo consulting on an earlier version of the code; too prone to false positives, they said they told the committee. Well, how many field mice get caught up in the threshers, and how sorry do you think the farm owners ever are?”

“But why would they need the algorithm? I thought they trusted Henchman. And we’re right here on site!”

“Yes, and we’re part of the site now. You said it yourself, the organization hasn’t been the same since Oslo.”

“…”

“Listen, if we can find a car, there’s a safehouse in Tennessee, not far from IDA–some overlap with those folks, actually. Queers trying for a landlocked Walden, some researchers, some drifters, some… cryptic types. Some people I don’t know how to describe, but they hang together.”

“You said that about Seaweed House, before all the drama.”

“It won’t be like Portland, I promise.”

“You kept talking about chosen family, Comet, but what were we? You and Robin were at each other’s throats over minor political differences, Julie was writing her callout, and that was even before we saw the shadows in the old theater, even before the wandering fire. At least the old theater gave me a contact with the Helpers… for all the good that does now. Anyway, that house sounds… welcoming. But I don’t know. Right now, I have to be here. For the people, if not for the organization.”

In the distance, a figure takes to the stage. “Children, adults with magic in their hearts still and those who will soon follow. Today we have a grievous task–”

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Eight of Wands


A member of the team finds a connection to a previous anomaly the organization has contained. Why does this discovery lead them to quit the team?
or
A new member of the organization joins the team saying they believe there is a connection to another anomaly they have worked on. What else aren’t they telling the team yet?

My project “Rescue Helper Echo R▉▉▉▉ aka Jack Frost” concludes.
My project: “Santa is OUT” concludes.

And a fact about something will be added.

______________________________________________________

The following is the best coherent throughline that the Timeline Team could thread together from scattered reports after the fact. Inconsistencies and factual errors have been kept to a minimum but cannot be considered absent. As previously stated in these reports, this is an inevitability until A) the Timeline Team expands in size B) looser report deadlines are established C) our coffee machine is replaced with a functional one, we've been using the one requisitioned from the Class Z Bean Anomaly for *long enough*.

Sorry about the delay, moving house and I have a lot of stuff to add for my post :sweat_smile: Just want to post this bit so there’s a minor update, but more coming!

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“–a terrible actor must be punished for how icily we’ve all been treated. A fitting retribution for millenia of cold winds and frosty ground, what say you?”

Ragna Blakesdottir barges her way through the thick crowd trying to pass through to the abandoned back half of the pop up village. Emerging on the other side of the thick crowd she takes a moment to glance down and admire her socks, wiping a single tear before pressing onwards.

Simultaneously, multiple members of the crowd stand to attention. As these sleeper agents activate, they slip away from the crowd to open a weapons cache buried under a snow drift, equipping themselves with magicproof vests, festivity shields and billy clubs wrapped in fairy lights. Uncovering secret files after the fact has discovered this group was the Sandman Squad, established by the previous Director ▉▉▉▉▉▉▉ ▉▉ ▉▉▉▉▉▉▉▉▉▉▉▉

“LET’S DUNK JACK FROST IN A HOT HOT BATH!”
A cheer rises up in the crowd.

Ragna's reports are laconic at best, so we have little detail of her activities inside the Anomaly's barn which seemed to function as their back end base. However we do have eye witness accounts of a woman emerging from it, carrying a large body sized package effortlessly despite the multiple "elf" figures clinging to her limbs.

“Ready your aim! Jack Frost, prepare to face the music.”
“I’m Echo now! I don’t do any of that any more! You all made the climate screwy enough as it is.”

As the crowd boos and flings things towards the stage, the Sandman squad slips through, hunched low as they approach the stage from all angles.

“Krampus, is this any way to treat an old friend?” Echo protests.
The Krampus in Santa clothing sneers away from the mic, “Old friend? Do you really plan to play that card after turning traitor and joining with those people?”
Echo sighs “Someone has to be in place to stop when people like us go too far.”

Krampus shakes his head, turning to face Echo. As they continue talking, balls and other objects fly at the stage. The huge target get hit and wobbles, but no-one has yet nailed the bullseye.

“No J- Echo. They truly got to you, huh? Tell me, did they every tell you about Operation Thaw?”
Echo raises an eyebrow in answer as Krampus pulls out a report from his sleeve and reads from it, “A covert widespread operation to depress belief in a threatening anonymous entity known as Jack Frost. We must pre-emptively undermine this entity, reduce public belief and awareness to diminish the anomoly’s power so it cannot manifest against us.”
Krampus closes the file as a stunned Echo just stares back silent. “Operation Cramp Relief, Operation De-Ice, they had countless of these. It’s not about safety, it’s about control.”
Echo swears, “I can’t believe th-”

At this moment a sandbag* nailed the exact middle of the bullseye, and the chair falls out from under Echo. But before Echo can fall very far, one of the Sandmen is already sailing through the air, to catch him and land on the other side of the stage. Krampus was flustered by all of this as Sandmen rushed the stage to try and suppress the multiple anomalous agents present.
*Later reports confirm this was a Helper issue sandbag.

“No movement please.”

At this point many witnesses corroborate that Ragna walked up onto the stage, everyone else freezing in place as she shook off the "Yule Lads" still clinging to her, and then she heftily dropped a bag onto the ground, before commanding one of the lads.

“Open it up, let him out. I check the list.”

The crowd was, by all accounts, bizarrely silent as she opened an envelope to remove a Pen and single piece of Paper. This Pen and Paper were not recovered after the fact, but analysis and common sense dictate they are the contraband material Ragna refused to produce or explain to the organisation afterwards. No-one in the crowd could hazard a guess at what these Objects were either, and yet it held their attention so much that they barely noticed as the bag was unzipped to reveal the Real Santa Claus inside.

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So sorry about that whole delay, but I’m really excited for this final real turn! And now I don’t have multiple major projects to resolve on my next turn. :sweat_smile:

And now for @CulturalSnowCrash’s final turn.
(besides any epilogue posts)

The Emperor


Another organization is acting on behalf of the Anomaly. Who are they? Why are they doing this?

After that you can hold a team meeting, start a new project or enact an Anomalous action.

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Posting this just to say that my turn is coming! Coronavirus has arrived in my country and took over a lot of energy. Things are somewhat normalizing, however! Stay safe and let’s finish this <3

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Stay safe, and take all the time you need!

No rush and definitely prioritise safety! I took two weeks with mine and I didn’t have a pandemic as a reason. :eyes:

I just want to say sorry for taking this long. I know conditions are extraordinary right now but still: «kept you waiting, uh?». I’m healthy and my loved ones are healthy as well, but this situation and working from home completely drained me of creative energy and I could not pull myself out for a while. Let’s see if the Anomaly can grant one more wish today! I hope you and your loved ones are safe as well <3

Another organization is acting on behalf of the Anomaly. Who are they? Why are they doing this?

Director ▉▉▉▉▉▉▉’s secure phone rings in the middle of the night. It rings with an absurd tone, a crispy clean piano version of “Jingle Bells”.

The phone is a state-of-the-art black slab with no ports, no SIM slot, no jack. Only the algorithm can update it. It is issued only to Director level (or above) Helpers. It can only dial Director level (or above) Helpers. And yet, on the screen is displayed a name that should not be there. An impossible call. It reads: Heather, Holly.

Director ▉▉▉▉▉▉▉ hesitantly picks up.

«I want you to know that I wasted my wish for this»

«When you will ask your stupid algorithm to analyse this security breach it will tell you that it’s impossible. It will tell you to encrypt the log and throw away the key. It will destroy your black phone and print you a new one».

«Imagine your surprise when even your new phone will ring in the middle of the night».

«Then even your stupid algorithm will be able to add 1 to 1 and tell you that if I’m willing to waste my wishes just to prank call you, it means that I have many many other wishes up my sleeve»

A silence fills the line and before Director ▉▉▉▉▉▉▉ can ask «what do you want, Holly?», Holly continues.

«I thought a lot about what to call ourselves. I think we’ll be the Henchmen. Maybe it’s not stricly correct, but it just sounds right».

«You’ll hear from us».

Next one coming tomorrow or later

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Glad to know things are well on your side! No worries about taking the time you need, we can wait for these final turns to play out. Til next turn :heart:

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An excerpt from an unfiled and unadressed letter, found on Hwang Hyun-mi’s desk

To this day, the true nature of the Anomaly of C▉▉▉ City is unclear. It is unclear even to me, and I was on the ground with the tactical team, for god’s sake. I read all four reports that have been produced by four different teams (tactical — of course —, memetic, folklore and consumerism, distributed psychology) on it and only overlapping them and reading through the lines returns an idea of what it felt like to be there.

▉▉▉▉, what I stubbornly bumped into might have been the biggest conglomerate of anomalies this organization has ever seen. And hopefully will ever see again.

One thing I know for certain, if the goal of AD2412, the entity internally referred to as “the jule lads” or “those jokers”, was indeed to be remembered, they achieved their goal, at least with me.

A lot of the witnesses were memetically contained after debrief interviews by the Helpers and, dear ▉▉▉▉, I have reasons to believe that the same procedure has been applied to me as well, as a containment measure. But… a detail escaped the containment because of Ragna.

In one of her typical half-brags, one day she commented that «sometimes the best cure for a fever is to let it run its course».

I’m still not entirely sure what she meant by that but just repeating the sentence in my head makes images from that night resurface. I see a massive caprine (?) creature look over Ragna shoulders at a piece of paper she is holding and scribbling. I see half a dozen “jule lads” run away in a sudden and desperate panic. I see the caprine creature snatch one mid air in their clawed hands.

All four reports conclude that “the jule lads” retreated once their operation proved unsuccessful and indicate the possibility of them resurfacing to “medium to high”. I’d rate it to “none”.

This may be a bit of a stretch in terms of Anomalous action so I’ll double spoiler this with my interpretation of the events. If you want to read my interpretation read the second spoiler, otherwise just play your turn when you are ready!

In my head Krampus is fulfilling their anomalous role here: punishing the naughty kids. The way I’m seeing it, this was Krampus goal all along and, in absence of the list, was using Santa’s innate instinct to find naughty kids to punish. Ragna’s play is, of course, to write the lads name in the list and let the fever run its course.

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We’re so near the end now and it feels weird. Just two more turns for creditinthestr8world and then me. Thanks to both of you and everyone else who touched this game we’ve all played together. :grin: It’s been an incredible slow burn experience and I’ve looked forward to every new turn. But it will also be satisfying to put a bow on this whole thing.

For @creditinthestr8world’s last turn:

Nine of Swords

A member of the team in a position of power is acting paranoid. What are they worried about and what poor decisions have they made as a result?
or
A member of the team is acting paranoid. What are they worried about and how does this isolate them from the rest of the team?

Then you can either Start a New Project, Hold a Team Meeting or Secure/Endanger Something.

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