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[Setting] Unchained Las Vegas: places, NPCs and plot hooks from my game

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  • [Setting] Unchained Las Vegas: places, NPCs and plot hooks from my game

    Hello people, I am about to start a Demon Game set in Las Vegas, and as the title suggests, I thought that sharing the material I'm writing for it here, whether it gets praise, criticism or helps someone else with their game, won't hurt. It's stuff I have to write anyways, so it's not a lot of extra work.

    First of all, I was totally out of creative juice for this game and asked for help in this thread, where a lot of smart people wrote a lot of smart ideas and helped me unlock my brain. Check it out, it's a really interesting thread (and not thanks to me)

    Here I'm gonna share pretty much all the aspects of the game I think could be worth sharing. Since my hope is for you to like and use some of these, it's essentially going to be a collection of ideas, not much different (in shape, at least) from those one can find in the Demon Seed Collection. I'm gonna add stuff as the game hopefully goes on, writing it as the chronicle requires. There will be fluff, there will be crunch, there will be NPCs. There's not gonna be a schedule, since this is not meant to be an ongoing "project" but rather an addition which came to be because of my Storyteller duties

    This is in all honesty the first time I run Demon, which is a game I like a lot (would not run it otherwise) but not the one I think I'd be able to write at the best of my skills. One has to know his strengths Still, I do have plenty of ideas for it and I hope you'll like those as much as I hope my players will.

    As always, criticism and comments are welcome. Alright, let's begin.

    EDIT: I'm also gonna add some commentary under the various entries so that people can see how I'm gonna use it in game or my reasonings behind certain choices. For that purpose, I will use my Storyteller's voice



    Unchained Las Vegas: Introduction


    According to popular perception, the general idea is that Las Vegas is a sort of empty spot when it comes to the God-Machine’s presence, a place where Demons can exploit the peculiarities of the city to their own benefit. The constant circulation of people makes it easy to hide, odds behaviors and assorted weirdness are less evident than they would be elsewhere and the gambling culture, with its high and lows, makes it almost too easy to make Pacts and build Covers. The Unchained seem to be free to do as they please in Vegas almost as the God-Machine and its Angels have no interest in them.

    Experienced Demons are quick to point out how that’s just a carefully constructed lie. The God-Machine is very much at work in Las Vegas, it’s just that nobody can truly point out what It is aiming at. Whatever Its plans are, the God-Machine is keeping Its cards close. After enduring a series of heavy blows to its Command and Control Infrastructures back in the 60s, the God-Machine invested a huge amount of resources to essentially reorganize the vast majority of Its operations in Vegas, something that required decades of careful planning and concealment. During the first years, it seemed as if the God-Machine abandoned the table, leading the Demon to believe they had scored a definitive victory against their maker and gained control of the city. In truth, it was just a bluff that is still playing out today. Nowadays, the truly important operations are well hidden. The God-Machine sends Its Angels to create new Infrastructure constantly but a considerable part of those, while still valuable, are considered sacrificable. Little affordable losses that help make the Demon feel safe while the God-Machine is playing the long game. It’s not unusual for Demons in Vegas to discover a chain of operations that seems important at first sight but eventually leads to nothing. With time, some Unchained came to the conclusions that the risks were not worth the results and decided to leave the God-Machine play Its harmless games. More wise and cynical Demons says that’s exactly what their former master wants.

    That’s further attested by the general attitude of Angels around the city. It is true that Angels are relatively less aggressive in Vegas but, while they generally don’t seem to act first against Demons, they don’t tolerate interferences. The God-Machines exploits the very same aspects of Las Vegas the Unchained use to hide Its own activities. The idea Demons have free reign is just part of the game. Many Unchained hear those stories and come into town expecting to find easy fortunes. Those that don’t learn quickly how subtle and dangerous the Angels of Vegas are, pay with their lives for their bravado. The Unchained that remain in Las Vegas for long are either clever, patient, ruthless or just plain lucky. Probably a combination of all those.

    Ultimately, those who have lived in Las Vegas for a while will tell that the God-Machine is working on something big, playing a game that has been going on for decades and does not look as if it’s gonna end soon. The cosmic intelligence moves Its pieces slowly, effectively grating more breathing room than usual to Demons, but it never truly left. The Unchained might obtain small victories and allow themselves to feel proud about it, but secretly they all dread the moment the God-Machine decides to play seriously and start wiping people off the table.



    The choice of Las Vegas comes both from practical and narrative reasons. My group this time is new to CoD as a whole and I needed a good example of city I could use to showcase the whole "dark reflection of our world" aspect of the game. It's also a city a group of non-American players can picture in their mind. It might be a flawed picture, but everyone as at least an idea of what Las Vegas is.

    There are several good points that make Vegas a great city for Demon, many explained better by others in the first thread I made, but, that aside, for me it all dates back to the first mentions of Demon we got back in the day. I don't remember who wrote this example, probably Rose or Matt, but I remember reading of a Demon clinging to a radio tower in the desert, talking in eldritch techgnostic languages. In my mind, I always imagined it happening in the Mojave (hey, I was playing Fallout) and told myself "If you ever happen to run Demon, you'll set it in Vegas". Here we are.


    Unchained Culture of Las Vegas



    The Unchained community in Vegas, due to a combination of circumstances, has embraced the gambling culture as a part of the effort to better hide from the God-Machine. Whereas in other places the Unchained culture owes a lot of terms and conventions to the espionage world, in Vegas, while still acting as undercover agents in hostile territory, Demons also adopted several aspects of the entertainment and gambling worlds. It might seem a paradox, but in Las Vegas one that acts as a casino performer is less out of place than a secret agent.

    Sure, that’s not an absolute truth: absolute truths get you caught. Many Demons act according to their Cover and attitude, conventions be damned, but almost all Unchained are familiar with the language and rituals of the city. At the end of the day, the core results are not different. It’s just a matter of facade, misdirection and appearance, just as many things are in Las Vegas



    - The Vegas’ Unchained Lingo.

    The specifics of the codes and words change from to Ring to Ring, but some words have a common hidden meaning to the Demon of Las Vegas. Here’s a few:

    Diamonds: Guardians
    Clubs: Messengers
    Hearts: Psychopomps
    Spades: Destroyers

    All In: Going Loud
    Dead Man’s Hand, getting a: Blown Cover. “Mr. Wild won’t come today. He got a Dead Man’s Hand last night”
    Joining The Table: The Fall
    Juice: Aether
    Pack: Ring

    Hand: Cover
    Card: Piece of a Cover
    Dealing Cards: Pact
    Deck: Soul Pact
    Card Counting: Angel-Jacking

    The House, Eye in the Sky:The God-Machine
    Dealers, Croupiers, Guards, names for casino personnel in general: Angels, often varies according to their role
    Crossroader: God-Machine’s double agents, traitors
    Pit: Infrastructure

    Nothing much to say here, but Las Vegas' culture, its mythos and its icons are fascinating and weird at the same time. Figured that setting a game in Vegas and not using it would be a huge waste. Since I do enjoy stuff as heist and ganster movies, plus all those entertaining tales about con men and liars, my setting shifts a bit from espionage towards that genre. Not much, Demon remains Demon, but it gives a different flavor to the "usual" techgnostic espionage





    Locations


    The Grand Majestic

    The Grand Majestic is the result of years of carefully concealed operations, the reward for hundreds of smaller God-Machine plans coming into fruition. While not the only casino in Las Vegas part of the occult patterns of the God-Machine, the Grand Majestic holds the dubious honor of having being influenced by Angels at all stages of its creation, from the initial project to the very last brick of the construction. It is, under all aspects that matter, a God-Machine’s creation. The towering structure, a luxurious casino built according to the most modern tastes while still retaining a degree of classical style, is one of the latest additions to the casinos of the Strip and can be spotted from basically everywhere around the citiy.

    Such a big and complex Infrastructure, hidden it in plain sight, requires all sorts of connected minor Infrastructures in order to function, as one can easily imagine. Without the proper Concealment, Defense, Logistical and Elimination Infrastructure, plus the constant oversight coming from Command and Control ones, the Grand Majestic would not have existed in the first place, let alone manage to endure day after day. The casino is a huge risk, part of a daring bet the God-Machine usually avoids making in Las Vegas. Truth be told, the Unchained have examined the Grand Majestic as much as possible (the place is lousy with Angels and God-Machine’s agents) but, while it is not that hard to spot the gears moving behind the walls, the casino is not the Command and Control Infrastructure everyone expects it to be. Part of it is: there’s a command center with a lynchpin located in the more conventionally safe parts of the casino. It will require effort to discover it and even more to tear it down, but the Infrastructure is effectively there. The casino is, after all, an important resource the God-Machine won’t waste. The fact is, as Command and Control Infrastructures go, that one is not the reason the Grand Majestic was built. It is more a distraction than anything, if a useful and important one. The casino was not built to be a Command and Control: it was built to be a Logistical Infrastructure.

    The Grand Majestic is a masterpiece built to harvest probabilities. By overseeing every aspect of its construction and assigning dozens of smaller Infrastructures to it, the God-Machine has built a place able to capitalize on the quantum mechanics of gambling. The Grand Majestic absorbs the uncertainty of every single game that happens between its walls, from the smallest slot machine to the richest table. While players unknowingly feed the process every time they spend a coin, going home as rich as their luck allows, the Grand Majestic takes the unexpressed potential of all games of chance, all the billions of outcomes that could have been but were not, and weaponizes it, redirecting it elsewhere through hidden channels.

    A tiny part of the quantum potential stolen by the Grand Majestic is used to alter probabilities in favor of the God-Machine in Las Vegas and surrounding, but most of it is stored in secret (and well-guarded) facilities. Here, agents of the God-Machine conceal it as something ordinary, waiting for orders on how to employ it. Enough of this power can alter the laws of chance to impossible degrees, like allowing a single voltaic battery to give energy to North America for a day or making a toddler survive a nuclear explosion at point blank range. Whatever reason the God-Machine is not using this incredible treasure, it can’t be a good one.

    Lynchpin: Several floors below the Grand Majestic, hidden underground behind a seemingly ordinary door that’s actually more safe than that of a casino vault, there’s a small dusty closed. Inside of it, the withered, still living heads of a dozen of professional gamblers are hooked to a machine that processes the almost infinite amount of chances and probabilities that the casino plays with. A brain can remain functional for years before it has to be replaced, but there’s a reason some of the best gamblers of the city disappear. If one were to unhook all the brains from the machine, the sheer strength of the unchanneled output would destroy it, perhaps bringing the whole place down.

    The Grand Majestic is the first real entry but, in game, it's not gonna be something the players will learn about soon. Uncovering its secrets and possibly tearing it apart will be one of the high points of the chronicle, something the Unchained will do only when getting enough experience and powerbase. Still, this bastion of God-Machine's power will loom over the game since the beginning under several aspects, a reoccuring source of threats which is instrumental into more advanced part of the story. More on this later

    Having a casino as a central place for a game set in Las Vegas a bit of a low hanging fruit, but since all my players are new, I figured I could go for this, build up some obvious expectations and then subvert them, all while congratulating with myself for it. New does not mean dumb though, so I gotta be careful with it, not to mention the risk of railroading them away too hard. I'm of the general idea that players should do what they want to do, but part of the job is also making them consider certain choices without them noticing your influence, as Futurama teaches. It's also quite fun when it works




    Stigmatics




    Elvis Impersonators
    .
    Plenty of people in Las Vegas are familiar with Elvis impersonators. Whether they’re overseeing a marriage in a little, kitsch chapel, doing an impression of the King to entertain the tourists or posing for some photos, the Elvises are part of Vegas’ mythos as much as the Strip and the casinos.

    Most impersonators are ordinary people, as much as the definition can work for them. Several of them, though, are agents of the God-Machine. These Elvis Impersonators are technically all Stigmatics. They are not created out of scratch: each of them was a person with a distinct identity and personality before being altered to look the way she does. The Impersonators are essentially a peculiar brand of Stigmatics, manufactured and altered to appear like the image popular culture has not of Elvis but of the imitators themselves. The process is not a kind one: it involves being kidnapped and taken secret facilities, where God-Machine agents, overseen by Angels, subject the Impersonators in development to years of painful alterations and conditioning. It’s through a combination of surgery, brainwashing and occult powers that the God-Machine manages to force them into gaining a specific Stigmata while also altering their bodies and minds to fit Its plans.

    The Elvis Impersonators have only a simple directive: walk around Las Vegas. Their Stigmatic nature allows them to notice more than a mere mortal agent would, which comes handy due to the fact that everything an Impersonators sees is recorded and transmitted to a control center. The God-Machine essentially uses them as walking cameras, surveillance tools concealed by their very appearance. The Impersonators are conditioned to dutifully wander around and return to various facilities around the city when they need to rest, trapped in a cycle of servitude from which they are unable to free themselves. Even in those rare cases where their conditioning falters, the Elvises just cannot go looking for help easily: their Stigmata makes them unable to drop out character, meaning the best they can do is to suppress the King’s stereotypical gestures and mannerisms only for short periods of time, with great effort.

    Life as an Elvis Impersonator is a nightmare. The brainwashing prevents them from complaining or revealing the God-Machine’s secrets, but the person they were before being altered is still in there, trapped inside their head. Their families are looking for them. Those few Impersonators that manage to snap out of it have little time to do anything before the agents assigned to control them notice and bring them in for reconditioning. People in Vegas often don’t notice it, but the signs of the mental and physical torture these Stigmatic Elvises endure are there, attempts made by enslaved minds to react. Scratch marks, uncanny smiles and blood red eyes are not uncommon. When their bodies start to falter, their organ fails or they break down crying in the middle of a performance, it’s a sign they need to be decommissioned.

    System: All Elvis Impersonators are altered to fit a predetermined pattern, making them look and behave according to their role, like some sort of cruel lower common denominator. Their Virtues and Vices are changed accordingly, just as their Attributes and Skills. It is not a perfect process though: many carry traces of their former identity with them, most often when it comes to Skills and Aspirations.

    All the images the eyes of an Impersonators sees are transmitted as data to facilities set up for the purpose, as part of the the Defense Infrastructure the Elvises belong to. The images are effectively recorded, just as a surveillance camera would do, and need to be stored and analyzed to be of any use (which in turn calls for Concealment and Logistical Infrastructures for the whole operation to function), but the Impersonators are still a small army of mind washed camera with supernatural awareness. The amount of information they provide cannot be underestimated.

    Elvis Impersonators are not Cryptid, but they have a peculiar relationships with media and memory as well. The Impersonators don’t appear as blurred figures on camera, quite the opposite: pictures and recordings of them make them look even more of an ideal appearance of the the stereotypical Elvis Impersonator. People have a difficult time looking at them as anything else than an Elvises and, with time, memories of the encounter lose definition and details. As with Cryptids, all the entities immune to the God-Machine’s veil are not affected by this.


    Example of Elvis Impersonator

    "Thank ya. Thankyaverymuch".

    This man came to Vegas with some friends to have the crazy weekend of their lives. When the others awakened in the morning, with hazy memories and a terrible headache, he was nowhere to be found.

    Name: Unknown
    Virtue: Friendly
    Vice: Gluttonous
    Mental Attributes: Intelligence 2, Wits 2, Resolve 3

    Physical Attributes: Strength 2, Dexterity 2, Stamina 3
    Social Attributes: Presence 4, Manipulation 3, Composure 2
    Mental Skills: Academics 2 (Law), Computer 1,
    Physical Skills: Athletics 1 (Baseball), Brawl 1, Drive 1, Stealth 3 (Plain Sight), Survival 1 (Hiking),
    Social Skills: Empathy 2, Expression 3 (Dance), Persuasion 2, Socialize 3, Streetwise 1,Subterfuge 4 (Acting)
    Merits: Barfly, Language (Spanish), Professional Training 2 (Accounting), Unseen-Sense (God-Machine)
    Integrity: 1
    Stigmata: Can’t break out of character, having to speak, move and behave as the popular idea of Elvis Impersonators does
    Aspirations: Serve the God-Machine, Wander around Vegas, Imitate the King, Hug my daughter again


    Sidebar: Elvis has left the building


    The Demons who learn the truth about the God-Machine’s Elvis Impersonators might want to learn more about the operation and perhaps bring it down. Investigating enough would lead them to a small recording studio in the suburbs of the city, the Concealment Infrastructure for the underground facility under it, hidden through the gears. This is the place where Impersonators are created and, at the center of it, none other than the King himself.

    In theory. While the old man trapped in there, forced into coma and wired to panels and screens is eerily resemblant to how Elvis would look like today, he’s not the real deal. His true name is Sebastian Haft, an unfortunate man that was the God-Machine’s first prototype of an Elvis Impersonator. Demons that try to free or kill him, perhaps thinking he’s the blueprint used to create the others, are in for a nasty surprise. Haft is an emergency security measure: messing with him inflicts the Flagged Condition on all the Demons in the rooms and warns several Angels of their presence.

    The real Lynchpin of the Infrastructure is a collection of of albums, picture and Elvis memorabilia, arranged to a perfect mathematical scheme and hidden in a musical instrument case close to Haft’s bed. Also, the Lynchpin, Haft and the whole operation is under the oversight of a ruthless Angel called The Colonel, which hides behind the scenes and works to ensure things go smoothly.


    Elvis, if still alive, is not a prisoner of the God-Machine. The legend according to which he’s not dead but merely changed Cover persists, no matter how much Demons make fun of it.


    Like many of the initial entries I will make, the Elvis Impersonators are all part of lowkey setting building. Elements that are not of major importance to the central plot, but help giving a sense of wholeness to picture. Parts of a landscape, essentially. Since I need my players to experience Demon's setting firsthand and the good ol' "show, not tell" is almost always a good idea, I have this list of ideas to use after the introduction where I inted to let the players fool around for a little, so they can get used to stuff like Covers and gears while also giving them a chance to familiarize with their characters. Not exactly a tutorial, but indeed a prologue to the actual story.

    I don't expect them to look into the Elvises right from the bat, I have more direct stuff to throw at them (cults, weirdness and cryptids), but it's something I think can prove useful to have there. If things work out well, at a point I'm gonna provide reasons to investigate the plot hook and, eventually, remove a nasty source of surveillance the God-Machine has from Las Vegas


    Last edited by Cinder; 09-10-2017, 04:51 PM.


    Cinder's Comprehensive Collection of Creations - Homebrew Hub

    I write about Beast: The Primordial a lot

    This is what I'm working on

  • #2
    wow- that's a really great setting, Cinder! really awesome


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    • #3
      Bravo. Looking forward to what else you come up with.

      Could you edit the main post and add the different types of content inside spoiler tags for concise grouping?


      Malkydel: "And the Machine dictated; let there be adequate illumination."
      Yossarian: "And lo, it was optimal."

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Vent0 View Post
        Bravo. Looking forward to what else you come up with.

        Could you edit the main post and add the different types of content inside spoiler tags for concise grouping?
        Sure. You mean as I did now? If so, I'll add stuff and sections with time, probably with a reply to bump the thread and make people notice


        Cinder's Comprehensive Collection of Creations - Homebrew Hub

        I write about Beast: The Primordial a lot

        This is what I'm working on

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Cinder View Post
          Sure. You mean as I did now? If so, I'll add stuff and sections with time, probably with a reply to bump the thread and make people notice
          Yeah, exactly. When people are looking for specific material, it is easier to find. And I anticipate this would turn into wall of text otherwise.


          Malkydel: "And the Machine dictated; let there be adequate illumination."
          Yossarian: "And lo, it was optimal."

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Vent0 View Post

            Yeah, exactly. When people are looking for specific material, it is easier to find. And I anticipate this would turn into wall of text otherwise.
            It's a good point, thanks for the suggestion.

            Also, I decided to add some insight about how and why I'm gonna use this material in game. Commentary, if you want. I hope it is helpful and interesting, but if it looks obnoxious instead don't hesitate to tell me
            Last edited by Cinder; 09-09-2017, 06:29 PM.


            Cinder's Comprehensive Collection of Creations - Homebrew Hub

            I write about Beast: The Primordial a lot

            This is what I'm working on

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            • #7
              Added my own take on the Elvis Impersonators. Not the only idea I'm gonna exploit the King for (including stealing a couple from the original thread), but it's a start.

              Let me know what you think of it!


              Cinder's Comprehensive Collection of Creations - Homebrew Hub

              I write about Beast: The Primordial a lot

              This is what I'm working on

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Cinder View Post
                Added my own take on the Elvis Impersonators. Not the only idea I'm gonna exploit the King for (including stealing a couple from the original thread), but it's a start.

                Let me know what you think of it!
                I think those are awesome! I might need to steal them for a game at some point, if you don't mind.


                Jason Ross Inczauskis, Freelance Writer
                Currently writing: Dark Eras 2, Mummy: The Curse 2e, Pirates of Pugmire, TC In Media Res. Previous projects: DtD Night Horrors: Enemy Action; C20 Anthology of Dreams
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                • #9
                  Originally posted by White Oak Dragon View Post

                  I think those are awesome! I might need to steal them for a game at some point, if you don't mind.
                  Of course I don't. They're there for that exact reason! That and getting criticism, but if anyone likes my stuff to the point they consider stealing it, I'm as happy as I can be

                  Thanks!


                  Cinder's Comprehensive Collection of Creations - Homebrew Hub

                  I write about Beast: The Primordial a lot

                  This is what I'm working on

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Cinder View Post
                    Added my own take on the Elvis Impersonators. Not the only idea I'm gonna exploit the King for (including stealing a couple from the original thread), but it's a start.

                    Let me know what you think of it!
                    Pretty brutal, but fitting. I have a few ideas to add, but I'll do that in the other thread to avoid clogging this one.


                    Malkydel: "And the Machine dictated; let there be adequate illumination."
                    Yossarian: "And lo, it was optimal."

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                    • #11
                      Ok, turns out the players loved the idea of a game but were not exactly into playing it and thus my game died without having a chance to be in the first place like only RPG games can. Meh, it's something each DM, Storyteller or Game Master has seen from time to time.

                      While I won't hide the fact I'm pretty bummed about it, I decided that I worked too hard to let it all go to waste, so I'm gonna share all my ideas for the game here anyways in the next future. Screw everything else: I made it, I liked it and I'm gonna give it a chance to be seen, appreciated or criticized by someone. Too many unborn games in my curriculum to let another one disappear into oblivion.


                      Cinder's Comprehensive Collection of Creations - Homebrew Hub

                      I write about Beast: The Primordial a lot

                      This is what I'm working on

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Cinder View Post
                        Ok, turns out the players loved the idea of a game but were not exactly into playing it and thus my game died without having a chance to be in the first place like only RPG games can. Meh, it's something each DM, Storyteller or Game Master has seen from time to time.

                        While I won't hide the fact I'm pretty bummed about it, I decided that I worked too hard to let it all go to waste, so I'm gonna share all my ideas for the game here anyways in the next future. Screw everything else: I made it, I liked it and I'm gonna give it a chance to be seen, appreciated or criticized by someone. Too many unborn games in my curriculum to let another one disappear into oblivion.
                        Sorry to hear it never started. But that's for sharing your notes, so that someone might one day take up the torch.


                        Malkydel: "And the Machine dictated; let there be adequate illumination."
                        Yossarian: "And lo, it was optimal."

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Vent0 View Post

                          Sorry to hear it never started. But that's for sharing your notes, so that someone might one day take up the torch.
                          It happens, but yeah, was not nice to invest so much enthusiasm and work only for it to last barely enough to make characters. That said, I think I have some decent material to share, hoping it will find a place into someone's game someday. Thanks for your kind words.


                          Cinder's Comprehensive Collection of Creations - Homebrew Hub

                          I write about Beast: The Primordial a lot

                          This is what I'm working on

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                          • #14
                            Edit: Nevermind, I was wrong.
                            Last edited by FallenEco; 12-10-2017, 11:32 PM.


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