My Three Clones

…a wacky sci-fi family sitcom



Amnesia & Magic

Part Three

I’m about to start heading up the steps when a voice behind me says, “Excuse me, miss, but I think you’ve dropped something”.

I don’t jump out of my skin, despite every urge to. Instead, I turn around and there’s this sweet looking older lady holding out a small coin purse. I’m about to tell her that I didn’t drop it when I see her wink at me. I decide to go with it and take the purse.

As I’m thanking her, I’m giving her a good look to see if I might know her. She’s maybe in her mid-sixties, about 5’2” and chubby. Grey hair, blue eyes and a face that looks like the model for every picture of a grandmother that was ever painted. She’s wearing a simple blue dress that is lightly dusted with flour. She smells like cinnamon buns and cookies. My brain is screaming out that we know her, but I’m not getting a name.

I smile back at her and thank her. She pats my hand.

Glad to help, sweetie. I’m sure you’ll need that purse.” Her voice is calming, like all good grandmother voices are.

Yes,“ I reply, still not coming up with a name, “I’m sure I will, Miss…?” I’m fishing here, but what the hell, right?

Her smile gets bigger. “Oh my, look at the time! I need to get back and get started on my cupcakes. You have a good day and stay safe, Snoopy.” With that she starts walking away, but I hardly notice because my head is reeling and I’m remembering that Snoopy was my nickname as a kid. I’m also remembering that my older sister, who is nameless at this point, gave me the nickname one summer at a cabin my family stayed at up on the Mendocino coast. I can see that cabin as clear as day and remember every twist in the road to get there, but I still can’t tell you my own name.

Ok, I tell myself, a little at a time will do. Better than nothing.

A breeze is kicking up and for no good reason I start walking west away from the Big X. It’s a nice sunny day in San Francisco and in the moments when I’m not wondering what in the hell is going on, I enjoy the breeze and the sun on my face.

Opening up the coin purse reveals a hundred bucks in twenties, a set of car keys, a tiny pouch of what looks like leaves & roots and another note from myself. It reads…

Her name is Mrs. Olaffson. Figured I should tell you that or it would bother you all day. If it’s past noon, you have less than three hours to get out of town before your memory starts returning and you become very detectable. If you’ve already regained some memories, you can cut that time in half.

The keys fit a ’33 Hudson Hornet parked at the ferry dock in Tiburon. Once, you’re in it, head towards the cabin, but stop in San Rafael at Hoagy’s so you can change your clothes and get a big cup of hot water to make the tea in the little pouch. After that, go to the cabin, then find old fort you used to play in. You’ll get more answers there. Watch your back, kid, because things are going to get damned dangerous soon.

Again, sorry to be so vague.

Love, You From 18 Hours Ago

PS: Unless they call you “Snoopy” or “Mick”, don’t trust anybody human. And avoid the peppersteak hoagy. Delicious, but you don’t need the heartburn.”

OK, this is more like it. I like specific goals. Time to hail a cab and get my ass to the ferry. I look up and down the street and see a cab parked in front of a hotel. I pick up my pace and I’m almost there when I start to sneeze. Not just one sneeze, but a whole chain of them. My eyes are starting to water, too. That’s when I see the roses in front of the hotel. The roses that are downwind from me.

So, I’m allergic to roses. Well, that’s one mystery solved. I was wondering if it had something to do with magic.

Wiping my nose, I jump into the cab and tell the driver there’s a big tip in it if he can get me to the Ferry Building in record time. He hits the gas, does a U turn that gets him cussed out by a dozen other drivers and we’re off to the races.

After a few minutes, I stop sneezing and my eyes feel ok. Allergies are not fun and I’m not looking forward to any feline encounters. Of course, it’s also a distinct possibility that cats are magical trouble. I guess we’ll just have to see which side the coin lands on.

As we fly down the street dodging pedestrians and other cars, I start thinking about what the Elf kid told me. I’ve got Power, which means I’m connected to some source of it. Since I’m not a Wizard or Mage, It’s got to be the book, the ring or both. But if that’s the case, whoever is after me should have grabbed me up while I was still knocked out on the garbage pile. Both the Feds and the Wizards have some really effective ways of finding things that had Power, and yet, here I was, free as a bird.

Well, ok, a bird being hunted, but I hadn’t been tracked down yet.

I’m searching my brain for what I know about magic and it turns out I know a fair amount. I know that magic returned to the certain parts of the world, mostly the northerly areas of North America & Europe, in 1851. I know that Elves can’t cast spells, but they use magic to do things like hide really well in forests and travel quickly in any wilderness area. I know that humans can cast spells, but they need to channel the raw Power through elves, which is not good for the Elves. I know that’s why Elves are dying out and I know that’s why I hate Wizards.

Lost in thought, the cabbie has to tell me twice that we’re at the Ferry Building. I toss him a twenty and he thanks me profusely and hands me a card. It has the cab company phone number and his name, “Luis”, on it. If I ever need a cab, he tells me, ask for him.

The schedule posting says it’ll be 15 minutes until the next ferry to Tiburon, so I buy my ticket and grab a cup of Joe from the snack bar. I’m just pouring in some cream when I see the Elf kid coming towards me and he’s not alone.

The California Kid Makes A Quick Escape

…by sliding down a hill on a car hood

Amnesia & Magic

 Part Two

He reaches out to take the nickel and our hands touch for just a second. A jolt runs through me and for just a second my vision blurs and the sounds of the street sound like they’re being filtered through cotton balls. It passes fast and when it’s over, I know that my Uncle Ted and Aunt Beth live in Astoria, Oregon and my childhood dog was a mutt named Koko. I’m also pretty sure my landlord is an alcoholic.

Mind you, I can’t tell you my aunt & uncle’s last name, where we lived when we had Koko or where the hell I live, but I distinctly remember those other things, which I didn’t ten seconds ago.

I go to ask the Elf kid what’s up and I see him looking at me with wide eyes and a gaping mouth. He’s also looking substantially greener and less sick than he was before we touched. What the hell is going on here?

Lady,” he says in a hushed voice, “you’ve got Power. A bunch of Power!”

Oh yeah, this is just getting better and better. Somehow, I’m suddenly packing magical juice and I’ve got no idea where I got it. Even worse, this kid knows I’ve got it and if I had my own memory wiped to keep from getting detected, this is only going to make finding me that much easier. I need to get out of here and fast.

Sorry, kid, but I’ve got to get going.” I toss him a couple of quarters and start walking down the street. A glance over my shoulder tells me the kid is staying put, which slows my heart down to just a near heart attack pace. Up ahead, I turn down an alley and then turn down another as soon as I can. After about five minutes of fast walking, I come out on a residential street and slow down to a normal walking speed, just another citizen going about her business.

A couple more turns and a few more minutes walking and I’m back on Columbus and heading towards Fisherman’s Wharf. Up ahead I see an old codger who looks like he might know his way around, so I ask him if he knows a place called the Big X.

Sure do, missy,” he says with breath that reeks of early morning boilermakers. “Ain’t never been in it, but I’ve seen it plenty of times. It’s right up there.”

I look where he’s pointing and sure enough, up on a hill to the west of us is a big white building built to look like a big letter X. In the back of my head, something tries to awaken, some memory or other, but it’s no go. This amnesia crap is getting old fast.

I thank the old guy and walk down the street to catch the cable car that’s heading right up the hill to the Big X. As they often are, the car is full of a mix of tourists and working stiffs. I stand near the back and keep my eyes open for…well, I’m not really sure what. I mean, trouble, yeah, but I don’t know what kind of trouble. A carload of thugs? Some palooka with a gun? A spell attack? Beats the hell out of me, so I’ll just look out for anything seems hinky.

We get to the top of the hill and I see I’ve got maybe two blocks to go. I start walking and I’m wondering what I should do when I get to the Big X. Go inside and look around? Wait for somebody to approach me? God damn it, I should have left myself a better note!

I reach the building and see the sign over the door that says “Oliver Sutton Magical Research Institute”. There’s a guard at the door, but he looks and acts more like a glorified doorman that real security. The people going in and out seem to be doctors or something, not mages or wizards. The building itself is about ten stories high and I can see that the white marble it’s made of is covered with runes and symbols that have been carved into it. I’m not an expert on magic, but this looks like some powerful stuff.

I’m about to start heading up the steps when a voice behind me says…

To vote on what the voice says, go over to my Facebook page!

Hagfish In A Sports Car

…Yeah, it makes no sense to me, either

Amnesia & Magic

Poll for Part Two

So, as their hands touch for a moment, a jolt runs through Our Heroine and the Elf boy.  The question is, what’s up with that?

A:  They experience a quick sort of mind meld, learning a little about each other.

B:  Our Heroine learns something about the Elves in general and this boy in particular. The boy gets a boost to his overall health.

C:  She gets a bit of her memory back, he gets the health boost.

D:  All of the above.

Vote in the comments, folks!

Harry Potter And The Pub Of Wonder

…as in “I wonder how we’ll pay our tab?”

Dear Readers,

Today, we start a twice weekly fiction piece that is guided by voting over on my Facebook page. Yes, the title sucks. I hope you enjoy it and please do go vote on the next part of the story.

Amnesia & Magic

Part One

I woke up fast. I mean, really fast. One moment, I’m deep in a dreamless sleep, a moment later, I’m fully awake and aware that I’m in an alley and stretched out on several bags of garbage. Some instinct tells me not to move around just yet, so I take in as much as I can see, hear and smell.

Smell is what clues me in on the garbage, which I’m thinking is mostly vegetable scraps and other soft things. It stinks, but not in a way that would make you gag. It’s more like a warm wet starting on the road to compost smell.

Sight tells me this is a big pile of garbage, because burlap trash bags are piled up two or three feet on either side of me. The brick buildings on each side of the alley are seven or eight stories high and maybe twenty feet apart. By the look of them and the clotheslines stretched over the alley, I’m not in an upper class neighborhood.

I can hear traffic not far away and lots of voices speaking some Asian language. Chinese, I decide after a few seconds. Off in the distance, I hear ships sounding their horns. Near a waterfront, I’m thinking, but which waterfront?

At that moment, I realize that I have no idea where I am. Not the city, not the state, not the country. I do know I’m on the planet Earth and I’m pretty sure I’m in North America, but after that, I’m blanking out.

Then it dawns on me that I don’t know who I am, either.

If you’ve never had amnesia, I’m here to tell you that it’s strange and terrifying to have no identity or past. I try for several minutes to conjure up any sort of memory, but all I can remember is how to do things and what things were called and all sorts of things you might learn in school and a bunch of things one would learn from life experience (I know how to throw a punch that would knock out most people, but I was damned if I can tell you who taught me), but I have not one memory of a personal nature.

By now I’m having a mild panic attack, so I sit up and started breathing deeply, trying to relax. Calm down, honey, it could be a whole lot worse. You’re not hurt and it’s not raining and as far as you know you’re the goddamn Queen of England.

Well, you know, if the Queen was taller and had darker skin.

After a couple of minutes of deeply breathing in rotting vegetable air, I’m about as calm as can be expected, which is when I notice the great big book. It’s right there on my left, measuring at least 18 inches by 3 feet and bound in deep reddish brown leather. The title is stamped in silver and I’ve got no idea what those symbols mean. My memory tells me that I’m fluent in English, Spanish, French and Latin, with a pretty good conversational grasp of maybe five other languages. Whatever the hell this language is, it’s new to me. Instinct tells me this is probably somehow connected to magic, which doesn’t make me feel any better. Magic always complicates things.

I start going through the pockets of the hip length jacket I’m wearing and the first thing I find is a 9mm automatic and a spare clip. For reasons I’m not sure of, I find this very reassuring. In the same pocket is a ring that is twice as large as any of my fingers, which are long and slender and just then I remember that I can play the piano, but not who taught me. Yeah, this memory thing is strange.

The ring is solid silver, a complex arrangement of twining vines that hold a hefty sized emerald. Just touching it screams MAGIC!, so I put it in a breast pocket away from the gun. Two magical items in my possession? Not good at all.

I search a bit more and all I find is a five dollar bill, fifty five cents in coins, a sweet roll & a slice of cheddar cheese wrapped in waxed paper and a note that reads…

You’ve had your memory wiped. Some very bad people are after you and they’ll kill you if they can, so you need to get your ass up and go NOW! Eat the roll and cheese as you walk, then go find the Big X. You’ll learn something there. Sorry I can’t tell you more. Love, You From 12 Hours Ago.

PS: Take the ring and book with you! Stay away from cats and roses!”

I know it’s my handwriting, so I’m up and off the garbage pile fast. A couple of Chinese guys are sitting in the alley smoking. They give me a look, then act like I’m not there. I’m alright with that. Carrying the book, which isn’t very thick but is still a bulky pain in the ass, I say to myself, “How the hell am I going to conceal this big thing?” and about two seconds later, the book is the size of your average paperback.

Sometimes magic is ok. Sometimes.

The alley is about 100 feet long from where I’m standing to a busy street. I eat the cheese first and realize I’m crazy hungry. The sweet roll is delicious and is gone by the time I hit the street. Now I’m not only not hungry anymore, I’m feeling very energetic, like I could run five miles without breaking a sweat. More magic, I’m thinking.

Who the hell am I that I can afford this much magic and think it’s a good idea? Am I some rich wizard? A black market spell dealer? A Fed on the FBI Magic Control Task Force? Or maybe I’m just some poor dummy who got mixed up in deep shit.

That last one tends to stick in my mind, so I’ll go with it until I know otherwise.

So I’m obviously in some deep shit concerning magic and it’s real good odds that I had my memory wiped to keep from getting found by a detection spell. And if somebody has the money and the pull to get a detection spell cast, then I’m up against either a big organization or an individual that is just as powerful. Either way, I’m screwed if they catch me.

Well, at least it’s a nice sunny day.

The street is deep into Chinatown and I walk about 4 blocks until I’m at the intersection of Columbus and Broadway, where it hits me that I’m in San Francisco. I spend a minute just standing there being kind of giddy at this sudden knowledge. Really, getting a memory back is great when you’ve lost so many.

I see a news stand across Broadway, so I cross over and check out a newspaper to get the date. June 25th, 1935. Headline says the Golden Gate Bridge will open on schedule in September. Most of the other front page news is about local stuff, with the exception of a story about a coup in some African country I’ve never heard of.

I go to hand the newsboy a nickel and I see he’s an Elf, maybe twelve years old. Like most Elves, he looks kind of sick and his mottled green skin is tinged with yellow. His green hair is thin and dirty and I can’t help but feel guilty because we humans are slowly killing this kid and his whole species. Shit!

He reaches out to take the nickel and our hands touch for just a second. A jolt runs through me and…

Ok, folks, time to go over to Facebook and vote on what comes next!

Lawyers, Buns & Honey

…a much sweeter song than the one Warren Zevon wrote


Ok, here are the final two posts for After The Change Came: Series 3.  On or about Tuesday, I’ll start the Audience Participation Story.


After The Change Came

Series 3

A Morning For Girding One’s Loins

I have just finished eating a tasty breakfast and now I’m writing this as I drink my tea. In less that half an hour, I’ll commence my busiest day of the con. How busy, you ask? Well…

I’ll be doing the following seminars, in order: “What’s New At ManDog Game Design”, “…And That’s When It All Went South On Us”, “Mining Pre-Change Adventures For QuestWorld”, and “QuestWorld Year In Review”.

Smack in the middle of those 4 seminars, I’ll be taking 3 hours to participate in the “Great Quest Design Challenge”, during which a total of 15 teams of two designers will attempt to pound out a quick and dirty Quest in an 2 hours. The third hour is when we’ll be judged by actual players running through our Quests. The theme for the contest is “Roswell, New Mexico”.

After the seminars and the challenge, I’m going to go on a run through a new Quest called “Goblins On Broadway!”. I have no clue what it will be like.

When that’s done, it will be time for the obligatory drinking and chatting. After that, I’ll sleep, oh yes I will.

I’ll point out that both Roscoe & Spike have similarly busy days planned. In many places, our schedules overlap.

And now, I must be off to face the day! More bloggage later.

A Day For Heading Home

So yesterday was fun and very tiring. Seminars all went well and the “…And That’s When It All Went South On Us” one was at times hilariously funny. Sometimes when Questers screw the pooch, it just goes all slapsticky.

The “What’s New At ManDog Game Design” seminar was very well attended and Roscoe & I got asked a whole bunch of questions while also getting some great feedback.

We came in fifth in the “Great Quest Design Challenge”, which was a whole lot harder than you’d think. Not sure if I want to try that again.

The “Goblins On Broadway!” Quest was funny, deadly and chock full of singing and dancing, sometimes by the goblins. Grace & Mary joined Spike & I for it, along with Avis, Gigi and our friends Dan & Dave. A fun time was had by all, even those of us who got shot multiple times.

The drinking and chatting were fun and possibly quite lucrative. More on that another day.

So we are all heading out in about half an hour. Roscoe and I will take the train home and Spike will Wizard Portal back to Baltimore. It will be good to get home.

And speaking of home, it’s where I’ll be staying put for at least the next 60 days. I’ve got a very full plate of Quest Designing, Daddying, Gentleman Farmering, Husbanding, Grandfathering and Convention Planning. Because of all that, I won’t be blogging for awhile.

I will get back to this, possibly before heading off to Origins in mid-July. Of course, that’s assuming that I don’t get hijacked by Wizards or the United Nations for some crazy crap like helping stop a war or trying to make the Little Folk stay in Ireland.

Anyway, thanks for reading and I’ll see y’all here again soon. Doc Cross over and out.

Pork Tower

…NOT a new comic strip from John Kovalic

After The Change Came

Series 3

A Day & Night For Getting One’s Game On

If this post stops abruptly, it’s because I’ve fallen asleep after a day on the go. Here’s the fast recap of what went down for me at QuestCon today.

Breakfast with friends at Magic Waffles.

Listened to Roscoe’s keynote speech. He did great.

Moderated the “Pulp Era Quest Design” seminar. It went very well.

Had an hour in the Dealer’s Room, meeting friends and buying stuff. Fave purchase: A full on replica of the Fire Warrior armor from the original QuestWorld series. It cost more than the first 4 cars I ever owned.

Went to the big “QuestWorld Upgrade 3 Update” event. Biggest news of the very little they had is that there will now be single world Quest clusters and the first ones will all be direct ports of the oldest D&D modules! I think many of us oldsters came near to fainting. Still no taking weapons from one world to another, which I think is a good move.

Took part in the “QuestWorld 3: Let The Rumor Mill Commence” session, with Roscoe and several other folks. Packed house for it and after we covered all of the possible rumors, we started making up really strange ones. The speculation about “Naked Questing” was pretty funny.

Ate lunch with Spike, then checked in with Grace and the sprouts. They were just back from a picnic with Gigi & the pups and my mom & dad.

Playtested one of the surreal Quests from Hot Moon Studios out of Nigeria. All I can say is that Salvatore Dali would have wept with joy. Well, that and if you play this Quest, you never need use hallucinogens.

More time in the Dealer’s Room yakking. Interestingly, found out that my friend Jodi has decided to emigrate to Mars as soon as they allow it. We’ll all miss seeing her at cons.

Dinner with Roscoe & Spike at a little Italian place a couple miles from the con. We swapped stories from our day and discussed what might lay ahead at the Speed Challenge tonight.

Speed Challenge Time! First off, I’ve gotta say that Atlas Games outdid themselves on this Quest. The setting was, of course, The Edge on Al Amarja and it was full blown old school OTE, folks. We were looking to find the Bowl of Truth, but so was every conspiracy on the island. Our characters were a Mover Cell, but we had ties to the Cut-Ups. Yes, at one point we did meet the Cut-Up version of me. That was strange, since he looked like the pre-Change me. Anyway, we completed the Quest in 7 hours, 34 minutes, 26 seconds. This got us (Team Bandana Split) fourth place. Third Place went to the former champs, Team Deadly Sweetness and Second Place went to the folks from Cork, Ireland, Team Salty Dogs. The winning team? Why, that was the team Lily and Marty were on, Team Hella Kitty. Their time of 6 hours 49 minutes, 12 seconds beat the Salty Dogs by 3 minutes, 4 seconds. Well done, kids!

After that, there came a couple hours of drinking and recapping and now will come the sleeping. Doc out.

Not Good News

…not good at all


My friends,


Posts here on the blog may be few and far between for awhile. Our sweet dog, Lucy, has been diagnosed with terminal lymphoma and my heart is just not in writing now. I will be back to blogging, but it might be a few weeks or so.

Thank you for understanding.