Croatoan Point . . . the messed up love child of Outland, the disappearance of the Roanoke Colony, and my childhood fear of spiders who can move between the walls. (Yes, that was a fear I had as a child. I was a weird child.)
All in all it took me about 25 hours to write, 40 hours to edit, 20 hours worth of research (spiders and some physics), and 40 hours of revision. I spent a further 20ish hours looking over the preliminary PDF for any issues and revising. (Note: This doesn’t include J’s efforts – I’m not sure he keeps track of them like I do.)
From My Co-Author
This one has been a weird and irregular trip from start to finish, which also makes for a funny story with a happy ending.
Christopher and I met in person for the first time at Gencon 2017, which was the first time I’d been there for 12 years or so. We wound up talking to a number of other GURPS/Steve Jackson Games/Pyramid alumni while we were there, and at some point we came upon the idea of making a rather nasty drinking establishment for the (then) far-off Locations issue. Christopher had apparently worked at such a place, once, and wanted to have it be the sort of article where it could be set in space, or the wild west, or modern times, or whenever, and give GMs ideas on how to modify the basic story accordingly.
“Kit-Shickers,” we thought we might call it. Sort of. We knew Steven was NOT going to go for that. But we could be sly. Maybe (?) Yeah. Maybe. (Christopher Note: I worked at a no defunct local place called “Shitkicker’s Paradise” and boy it was colorful.)
Well, rush forward some time later, and we’re working on what would become Al-Phasmaq. Steven writes us up to ask if the bar was still a go. “What bar? Oh, that bar! Right. Um….” (we look at each other across cyberspace) “Sure!” And thus begins the collaboration, which has us both in terrifying synch for a few days while brainstorming. Mining disaster on an asteroid + freewheeling Heinlein location + invasion from another dimension = Fun (pop) Fun (pop) Fun (pop)
Speaking obscure references and in-jokes, this article has quite a few. The Gonk was just the tip of the iceberg. Look up Cyclops and Anijikuni in regards to mysterious disappearances, and I’m sure Dr. Till may resonate with a few Lovecraftians. Also, Marjoe’s is not just the name of a large chain of near-interchangeable space hotels (kind of like Ho-Jo’s), but refers to the actor who played Akton in a certain movie that got MST3Ked in recent times. I AM kind of kicking myself for not mentioning that Blake’s Bed and Breakfast has seven rooms, but there’s a few other homages (read “bad jokes”) in the seeds section that may be easier spotted. And if you don’t know what Hoek’s Syndrome is… turn in your space cadet badge.
Hyper-Karaoke is based on neural-remapping technology, like what Anijikuni used to mindwipe the few survivors of the Cyclops-45 disaster. It creates a temporary remap that, when combined with hologram treatment, not only makes you look like the person who’s song you’re singing, but allows you to think you ARE that person. So if you ever wondered what Madonna may have been thinking, remembering, or concerned about when she sang “You’re an Angel” on stage in 1980-whatever, that’s what you’ll be doing for 3:55 — until the song ends, the hologram turns off, and your brain goes back to normal. Maybe.
Problem is, messing with brains is NOT a great thing to do. Sometimes pieces of the map stick around, leading to weird quirks, fake memories, and the eruption of hidden talents. It’s also possible for people to get a little hooked on hyper-karaoke, which is bad because you’re not supposed to do it more than once every 24 hours (for safety).
However, this is Croatoan Point, so if you sign the waiver, then so be it. There’s probably a few folks stumbling around the station who think they’re Michael Jackson, Joni Monoral, or Elvis.
Outtake: Mother May I?
I intended for there to be a third hand on the till, alongside the Bulls and the Crooks — something of a go-between who had the goods on both of them, and was able to play them against one another for her own purposes. What they may be are up to the GM. On yet another hand is mercy, handed out in a stern and strange manner by Mother Star. She’s a plump and matronly lady, never seen outside of the black, all-covering habit favored by the long-defunct Nuns of New Jerusalem. She’s also never without a large group of transient children who act as her guards, spies, and doers of things best not spoken of.
The good Mother arrived around ten years ago, just as the homeless problem became quite serious, and appointed herself their guardian. No one really likes her, in spite of how friendly she appears, but she feeds the needy, shelters the desperate, and deals with those who take undue advantage of their situation. She also keeps Bulwark from harming her charges, thanks to the seemingly-endless amount of information she has on Captain Tujena. She occasionally offers pieces to Lord Skin in exchange for money or favors, playing them against one another as suits her needs.