Volume 4, Issue 4

Stormreach is a city of rumors and whispers, from the political intrigues of the Coin Lords to the power structure of the criminal underworld. There is talk of prophecies still to come to fruition, and of battles already fought. In the marketplace, folks talk of an invasion by devils from the plane of Shavarath, and how the former glory of the marketplace tent was devastated during the attack. But amidst the dark talk, a vibrant culture of performers continue to entertain crowds and help to liven spirits.

For one of Stormreach’s citizens, at least, the invasion hit too close to home. Nolan Gann, a nobleman of Stormreach, haunts the pawn exchange plaza each day hoping for news of his missing son Nat Gann.

Nobleman Nolan Gann continues the search for his missing son Nat.

Nobleman Nolan Gann continues the search for his missing son Nat.

Lost in the Invasion

The elder Gann explained that, even as a boy, his son was a natural acrobat, juggling and cartwheeling around Gann Manor. When Nat was older, he began performing in front of crowds in the marketplace – and Nolan was intolerable. Banishing his son from the family estate, Nolan has not seen his son since and fears he was killed in the attack from Shavarath several years ago.

“Oh, I was such a fool,” Gann confessed. “What I wouldn’t give to see Nat one more time. To tell him how proud I am of him.”

While the elder Gann continues to wait for news of his son’s fate, his other child – a daughter named Nelle Gann – took a more active role in discovering the truth behind her sibling’s disappearance. Nolan explained that an archaeologist claimed to have a means of finding Nat, and convinced Nelle to accompany him to an excavation where he’d discovered an artifact called the Chronoscope. For his part, Nolan promises to reward any capable bodyguards willing to accompany his daughter. He does not fully trust the archaeologist and believes him to be a charlatan. The archaeologist himself could not be reached for comment.

While Nat may be missing, another performer has taken his place in the pawn exchange. Tag Hardcastle is a skilled acrobat and, inspired by Nat’s example, carries on his legacy of entertaining the people of Stormreach. In addition to wowing crowds with his amazing feats of agility, Hardcastle offers something in return for the gold coins given by passersby for his efforts. For 50gp, Hardcastle will give anyone a quick lesson in tumbling, with an advanced course costing 100gp. Hardcastle’s respect for Nat Gann is evident in both his words and his tireless dedication to craft and showmanship.

“I don’t know what happened to Nat Gann,” admits Hardcastle. “One day he was just gone.”

Tag Hardcastle performs acrobatic stunts in the pawn exchange. For a few gold pieces he'll share a few tips with passersby.

Tag Hardcastle performs acrobatic stunts in the pawn exchange. For a few gold pieces he’ll share a few tips with passersby.

One of the usual crowd of onlookers, Olpha Tallow can regularly be found watching Hardcastle’s show. Like the elder Gann, she hopes to find clues as to Nat’s disappearance. Her furrowed brow and the quaver in her voice has led to the belief that she and Nat were involved somehow, but she would not speak on the matter herself.

“I don’t know if he’s [Hardcastle] any better than Nat,” was Tallow’s only reply.

Olpha Tallow and others gather to watch Tag Hardcastle's show in the marketplace.

Olpha Tallow and others gather to watch Tag Hardcastle’s show in the marketplace.

Whether or not Nat Gann’s fate will ever be discovered is unknown at this time. Adventurers who wish to join the investigation can speak with Nolan Gann at the pawn exchange. In the meantime, Stormreach adventurer Kasti believes hope is not lost.

“They’re pretty sure he hasn’t been killed,” said Kasti. “Or else he would have respawned at the taverns by now.”

Singers and Songwriters

Street performance in Stormreach isn’t limited to just Hardcastle though, even if his show involves more drama than most considering the circumstances surrounding Nat Gann.

Just around the corner, Martin Songsmith sings original material set to the beat of drums played by Helga Rocksmasher. The slow, sonorous rhythm of the drum is the perfect accompaniment to Songsmith’s bartione as he sings songs about the often lonely life of adventurers and their dark and dangerous quests. For her part, Rocksmasher is all to happy to celebrate the existence of adventurers who help to keep her city safe. Questing types may wish to heed the rumors she shares.

Martin Songsmith sings his original compositions in one of the marketplace's side alleys.

Martin Songsmith sings his original compositions in one of the marketplace’s side alleys.

“Arzag-Khor hobgoblins are turning up around Stormreach,” warned Rocksmasher. “That can’t be good. First the giants, and now this!”

Away from the bustling streets, inside Phoenix Taven – the marketplace’s other rest stop – a nameless band keeps the atmosphere upbeat. The five piece ensemble features vocals by Toheas Songweaver, with Johann Lonnen on the lute, Rongi Starwatcher on drums, Lagira Marblefist on windpipes and the Warforged Strummer handling the zither.

One of the band’s fans, a collector named Mantakhan from House Jorasco, offers several suggestions for the band’s name.

Mantakhan, fan of Phoenix Tavern band and great admirer of beetles.

Mantakhan, fan of Phoenix Tavern band and great admirer of beetles.

“Duskbrood Trumpeters,” Mantakhan offered as a moniker, admitting his obsession with insects. “Or, how about Headsman Beetle! Executioner Beetle?”

Phoenix Tavern's five piece band remains nameless. Life goes on.

Phoenix Tavern’s five piece band remains nameless. Life goes on.

Getting in on the Action

For more interactive entertainment, visitors to the Phoenix Tavern can speak with Jackson Laws, a fight promoter. Laws and his assistant, the hobgoblin Jhank, arrange fights inside the tavern for the entertainment of the crowd.

Warriors, rogues and spellcasters alike are welcome to test their mettle against each other.

Warriors, rogues and spellcasters alike are welcome to test their mettle against each other.

Laws offers two different types of arenas for the battles. One is a game of capture the flag, where a team must obtain their opponent’s flag and return it to their own base. If the flag carrier is killed, the flag returns to its home base.

“Lucky for you there are resurrection areas nearby,” Laws explained. This is good news for those who engage in the other type of bloodsport Laws manages – death matches. In these engagements, opponents literally fight each other to the death. However, thanks to the aforementioned services combatants are quickly brought back from Dolurrh. In addition to the arenas at Phoenix Tavern, Laws maintains venues at the Wayward Lobster in the harbor, the Open Palm Inn at the House Jorasco Enclave and Hammersmith’s Inn located within House Deneith’s ward.

Fans of arena entertainment can watch the battles from the best seat in the house at Phoenix Tavern.

Fans of arena entertainment can watch the battles from the best seat in the house at Phoenix Tavern.

Word on the Street

With citizens and street performers going about their business while adventurers run hither and yon, leads to more than a few quests lay scattered about the marketplace. For some, these adventures don’t even require any travel. Others will carry glory seekers far and wide.

Back at the Rusty Nail, Maude Coulter continues to make her rounds while parties of adventurers and solo questers come and go, seeking fame and fortune. Tales of devil assaults and the prophecies of giants await discovery, while rumors of stirrings at from the Necropolis – the city of the dead – and excursions to the ancient ruins of Threnal tease of treasure and power.

Will you heed their call?

Citizens of Stormreach speak of adventuring opportunities.

Citizens of Stormreach speak of adventuring opportunities.

 

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Volume 4, Issue 3

Stairs leading down from the Stormreach Marketplace to the neighborhood of Jester's Haunt.

Stairs leading down from the Stormreach Marketplace to the neighborhood of Jester’s Haunt.

Situated off the main thoroughfare of the Stormreach marketplace, Jester’s Haunt is a small neighborhood boasting only a single establishment, the Rusty Nail inn. Adventurers gather inside to toast fallen comrades and muster for their next quest. Some parties, like the one led by Palis Littleton, plan excursions to the nearby steam tunnels based on dark rumors. Others, like the nameless band who last month headed into what the locals call the Foul Chambers, have yet to return and most assume they perished on their quest.

“Almost a month ago, a party descended into the sewers to chase a rumor of treasure,” said Ulcana Braddock, a contract mercenary keeping vigil outside the entrance to the Foul Chambers. “They never returned, and I have been retained to discover their fate.”

Ulcana Braddock will hire any adventurers brave enough to enter the Foul Chambers and discover the fate of the missing adventurers.

Ulcana Braddock will hire any adventurers brave enough to enter the Foul Chambers and discover the fate of the missing adventurers.

As if on cue, two such adventurers dash over to the sewer entrance and slip inside. Both drow elves, they wore the robes and accoutrements of spellcasters and one of them was followed by an impish creature similar to a kobold shaman. A moment later, along came another adventurer, this time a Warforged sorcerer named Sneakythumbs Picard. Into the sewers it went. Whether or not any of them were successful in finding the missing party – or if they shared in what is thought to be their grisly fate – is unknown. None of the adventurers emerged.

Two drow elves prepare to enter the sewers.

Two drow elves prepare to enter the sewers.

Around the corner from the Foul Chambers, a woman identifying herself as Wayfinder Dael greets passersby with praise and compliments before leading in to her pitch to get adventurers into the steam tunnels. The Wayfinder Foundation is a large organization spread across Eberron to promote exploration. The group hopes that diligent exploration will one day result in the discovery of a means to cure its founder – renowned halfling explorer Boroman ir’Dayne – of a rare wasting curse.

Sneakythumbs Picard delves into the Foul Chambers alone.

Sneakythumbs Picard delves into the Foul Chambers alone.

Close at hand to where Wayfinder Dael enjoys an ale at a sort of outdoor bar festooned with one-handed weapons on display, the entrance to the steam tunnels stands waiting for adventurers to explore. What lies down there seems to be all the buzz in Jester’s Haunt, with parties anxiously planning excursions inside. For her part, Wayfinder Dael is offering substantial rewards for anyone willing to find out what’s going on down there.

One of those brave souls is Kurik Forgewarden, a dwarf fighter hiring out his services as a hireling through a manager located in the plaza leading into Jester’s Haunt. Several managers for hirelings of various skill levels gather there regularly, selling contracts for the hireling under their employ. [editor’s note: see photos at the bottom for a brief overview of hireling contracts.]

Wayfinder Dael sips an ale outside the steam tunnels, enticing adventurers with the promise of great rewards for exploring within.

Wayfinder Dael sips an ale outside the steam tunnels, enticing adventurers with the promise of great rewards for exploring within.

Forgewarden, greataxe in hand, entered the steam tunnels with confidence. An odorous mist hung about the place, obscuring much of the view from the landing at the top of the wide staircase leading further down. Through the mists down one of the corridors, several shapes scurry about. Forgewarden, undaunted, dashed over towards them to investigate. From a closer vantage point, the shapes are revealed to be a couple of kobolds milling to and fro down the hallway. Attempts to parley were met with yips of anger, and the kobolds began tossing flaming vials of oil at Forgewarden. The fire had no effect on the dwarf thanks to his armor and the ablative armor infusion placed upon it. [reporter’s note: you’re welcome!] The kobolds quickly fell to the mighty swings of his axe as well as the gnashing metal teeth of the iron defender at his side. On a related note, the iron defender this reporter cobbled together during the airship ride from Khorvaire to Xen’drik still remains nameless. A couple of readers have sent in suggestions for possible names, but editors would like to leave the contest open for more possibilities. So readers – please offer your suggestions in the comments.

Shapes move about in the steamy mists. Turns out they were kobolds, and none too happy about Forgewarden's presence.

Shapes move about in the steamy mists. Turns out they were kobolds, and none too happy about Forgewarden’s presence.

The kobold throwers were led in their assault by a shaman of their kind, who furiously cast spells at Forgewarden before falling to his axe. Before he could recover, a pair of filthy slime creatures oozed from the walls and whipped pseudopod-like appendages at him that sizzled on impact, corroding both his armor and weapon when struck.

After that threat was vanquished, Forgewarden took what he explained was an ‘adventurer’s shower.’ Frequent excursions to sewers and other less-than-opulent locales have led adventuring types to develop their own unique habits, one of which is this means of removing the gunk and gore that comes along with a life of combat.

The 'adventurer's shower' - the cascading water of an open sewer pipe washes off the blood and gore from many combats while adding a unique fragrance of its own.

The ‘adventurer’s shower’ – the cascading water of an open sewer pipe washes off the blood and gore from many combats while adding a unique fragrance of its own.

One of the kobolds, cowering in an alcove, did not instantly attack and instead offered the opportunity for further adventure. Greezix stood outside the entrance to a secret passageway leading to the stronghold of someone named Shaagh, and he implored Forgewarden to enter the complex in order to rob and murder him.

“Shaagh is big, Shaagh is strong, but everyone knows Shaagh’s brain not so strong,” said Greezix. “That why Shaagh has strong helmet, keeps brains in skull.”

Greezix explained that Shaagh’s hold over his crew came through the power of his magical helm, which he suggested Forgewarden steal and use for himself. For his part, Forgewarden seemed confused when this reporter declined the offer, instead opting for further exploration of the steam tunnels proper.

“Do you mean you really just hired me to watch your back in the steam tunnels?” Forgewarden seemed taken aback, at the same time content to take the paper’s gold in exchange for what he considered easy work.

Thankfully, Forgewarden remains ever vigilant. During further exploration of the steam tunnels, the small team took a short break while this reporter took some notes. A quiet skittering made the iron defender sit up just in time to witness the horror of a huge brown spider advancing quickly toward us. The arachnid was dispatched quickly enough though, falling to a single strike from Forgewarden’s axe. Several more of the spider’s kind sprang forth rapidly, all defeated handily by the dwarf and iron defender.

Kurik Forgewarden stands amidst the carcasses of several brown spiders. The spiders attacked while the crew took a break to review their notes.

Kurik Forgewarden stands amidst the carcasses of several brown spiders. The spiders attacked while the crew took a break to review their notes.

Deeper down one of the corridors, a strange creature called a glass spider descended from its web and attacked as well. Oddly, after defeating it, the body of the beast faded away but its internal organs remained behind, floating eerily in the air and still pulsating with some kind of reflexive life.

At one point, the group became violently nauseated by a terrific stench, only to be attacked from the shadows thereafter by the source of the malodorous miasma – a pair of troglodytes! These disgusting reptilian creatures are no friends of Stormreach and had set up a crude shrine to The Devourer in the tunnels beneath the marketplace.

The most dangerous part of the steam tunnels was an area that had been overtaken by kobolds who had set up a makeshift camp and shrine to their dark gods. Banners displaying their clan symbol festooned the hallway and gave Forgewarden advance knowledge to expect danger ahead. Nevertheless, the bold dwarf rushed headlong into combat, pushing through a cadre of warriors to dispatch a pair of shamans before laying waste to the rest.

“Gotta take out them spellcasters first,” Forgewarden advised. “When I spot fellers at the back of the bunch waving their arms around, those are my priority targets.”

Beyond the kobold encampment, a fortified tunnel entrance led deeper into the steam tunnels. It appeared that the kobolds had built some sort of blockade there, preventing further exploration. Forgewarden explained this was all the talk in the hireling community. Rumors of the mystical ‘seal of Shan-To-Kor’ had led a group of Wayfinders here to discover its secret, and that’s the real reason Dael is hiring adventurers.

Kurik Forgewarden at the entrance to the steam tunnels, before bidding me farewell. "You've got 39 minutes left on my contact," he explained before vanishing when i exited to the marketplace.

Kurik Forgewarden at the entrance to the steam tunnels, before bidding me farewell. “You’ve got 39 minutes left on my contact,” he explained before vanishing when i exited to the marketplace.

Emerging from the steam tunnels, Forgewarden takes his leave but graciously reminds the crew that there is some time left on his contract. Should his assistance be needed again, it is only a simple matter of summoning him via the magic of said contract.

It is night now in Stormreach, and the sky is covered by a blanket of stars. Overhead, an airship passes by leaving whimsical rings of blue energy in its wake, the product of the bound elementals that provide its power.

An airship cuts a swath overhead the marketplace. Wispy rings of elemental energy spiral in its wake.

An airship cuts a swath overhead the marketplace. Wispy rings of elemental energy spiral in its wake.

Inside the Rusty Nail, Cobblestone still ponders the possibility of Warforged-exclusive beverages. Callico and Lucien still pine for lost love and the good old days, both still too shy to approach one another. Rollins and Monty still argue the merits of splitting treasure and the elves continue to sink their sorrows in song and ale.

I tell the trio of adventurers about the blockage, and how Kurik Forgewarden is a stalwart hireling worth his price in gold. Their planning continues.

*     *     *     *     *

Hirelings: a brief overview in photos

The marketplace plaza up the stairs from the Rusty Nail has hireling vendors for various level ranges.

The marketplace plaza up the stairs from the Rusty Nail has hireling vendors for various level ranges.

One of the hireling vendors makes a pitch for his contracts.

One of the hireling vendors makes a pitch for his contracts.

 

A lower level hireling vendor offers his wares.

A lower level hireling vendor offers his wares.

The vendor explaining how the contract works.

The vendor explaining how the contract works.

A little DDO Store advert - you can round out an entire party with Gold Seal hirelings.

A little DDO Store advert – you can round out an entire party with Gold Seal hirelings.

The vendor's window shows a variety of hirelings at reasonable prices. Try haggling to lower the rates!

The vendor’s window shows a variety of hirelings at reasonable prices. Try haggling to lower the rates!

Volume 4, Issue 2

The melodic tones of the Rusty Nail’s usual soundtrack were broken by the sounds of grunting and straining late Saturday night. Those resting at one of the two taverns in the Stormreach marketplace were awoken by the exertion of Iris Vaht, a human woman deep into the zone – and deep in debt – to Rusty Nail regular Rue the Dashing, a drow elf.

Iris Vaht and Rue the Dashing bet on who can get the most points hitting a target dummy with throwing daggers, at the Rusty Nail.

Iris Vaht and Rue the Dashing bet on who can get the most points hitting a target dummy with throwing daggers, at the Rusty Nail.

“Five points for a bullseye, three for the inner ring, two for the outer,” Rue repeatedly reminded Vaht. “Anywhere else on the body is one point.”

Vaht readied another dagger from her seemingly inexhaustible supply. In graceful motion, she drew her arm back, holding the blade loosely by the hilt. Her body taut, she followed through on her latest throw with steely resolve. Her expression never wavered, never changed. Another hit on the target dummy, this time a body shot that netted her one point.

Vaht pulls back for another throw.

Vaht pulls back for another throw.

“How many points do I get for the head?” Vaht, accustomed to throwing daggers at moving – and often deadly – targets asked Rue, the man she had been betting against all night.

A short distance away, in the shadow of the arch that lead to the tavern’s throwing gallery, a hard-faced man in white robes looked on. Vinny Vintner, human, appeared intensely interested in the nearby test of skill. Armed only with a simple staff, Vintner didn’t look the part of one skilled with a blade, and his lamentation confirmed the suspicion.

Vinny Vintner, sorcerer of Stormreach, laments his lack of skill with weapons.

Vinny Vintner, sorcerer of Stormreach, laments his lack of skill with weapons.

“If they were tossing spells, I’d be sure to win,” said Vintner. Devoid of evidence of a spellbook or pouches stuffed with scrolls, Vintner was most likely a sorcerer. A natural spellcaster, he could no doubt hit the target unerringly with the commonly-known magic missile spell. But when it came to handling more mundane weapons he was out of his element. Maybe someday he’ll unlock the secrets of Tenser’s transformation and start cleaning up in the contest. There’s also the possibility of the low level true strike incantation that would ensure a bullseye, but that particular incantation hasn’t reached the shores of Xen’drik.

Vaht tries for another bullseye to get out of the hole.

Vaht tries for another bullseye to get out of the hole.

No bullseye this time.

No bullseye this time.

At another table, two men continue the same debate they hold each day. One, a halfling named Monty Wilder, looks the part of a rogue. His companion, a human named Rollins, perhaps a wizard. Their neverending debate centers around the distribution of treasure, and Wilder continues to argue that it is one’s kill count on a quest that should reward them with a larger share.

“I got more kills,” Wilder said. “So I think I should get more of the treasure.”

Rollins, however, remains adamant.

“We split the treasure fifty-fifty,” he said. Further inquiry confirms that Rollins is indeed a wizard. He revealed that his specialty is enchantments, and that Wilder’s impressive number of monster kills is due to the crowd control effects his spells provide.

 

Bar Service at the Rusty Nail

Patrons waiting at the rear bar for over five minutes, with no sign of either barkeep Jordan Coulter or his wife and barmaid Maude. Frustration soon set in, and thirsty taverners stormed to the front to quench their thirst. Anger quickly gave way to fear, though, when patrons saw what was holding up service. A zombie had entered the establishment and was holding ground near the entrance. Swaying back and forth, surrounded by a cloud of buzzing flies, the vile thing said not a word.

Before anyone – including Silver Flame representative Brother Kew – could do anything about it, the undead creature starting waving his arms around, his hands enveloped in sickly purple energy. Suddenly, another unliving abomination appeared, a fully armed and armored skeletal knight that bowed to the zombie at greeted it as Master Oxiam Malrage. As it turns out, the “zombie” was actually a necromantic wizard called a “pale master” who could magically take on the traits of various undead creature. Further information about this newcomer was unable to be gleaned however, as after standing there a moment, Malrage and his skeletal pet simply vanished.

Once Malrage had departed, Kew took a moment to explain the Silver Flame’s presence at the tavern. He implied that House Jorasco is either too weak or not brave enough to face dangerous locales in order to rescue fallen adventurers, and offers to bind the spirits of those folks for easier retrieval later on. [reporter’s note: Kew looks like a dead-eyed altar boy. He’s not binding my soul!]

The Coulter’s, who had been transfixed by Malrage’s presence, were relieved. Not sure if they were being robbed or witnessing the start of a zombie apocalypse, they simply shrugged at the arrival and departure or just another adventurer. Another typical day at the Rusty Nail, the finest establishment in Stormreach according to its owner.

A zombie attacking the Rusty Nail? Nope, it's just Oxiam Malrage, pale master.

A zombie attacking the Rusty Nail? Nope, it’s just Oxiam Malrage, pale master.

Coulter offers a wide variety of food and beverages on his menu, including what he calls Stormreach Lemonade. Costing 1 gp 1sp 1cp, the drink is quite expensive for standard tavern fair but Coulter assures that it is well worth the price. One gulp of the stuff leaves the mind racing for the next two minutes. Khyber of a way to start the day. [reporter’s note: yes, my day started when i rolled out of bed around 11 p.m.] Nervously tapping its foot and stroking its chin, the Warforged Cobblestone stands impatiently at the bar.

“They should make drinks just for Warforged,” it said. “I would buy it.”

Maude, for her part, makes the rounds to each table of the tavern, calling everyone sweetie and offering the same menu as her husband behind the bar. In addition to sustenance, the tavern offers repair services for worn equipment as well as brokering deals for unwanted gear acquired during adventuring. The leek and potato soup, in particular, is a refreshing cold soup that bolsters the body.

Across a Crowded Room

Near the front of the tavern, Guard Lucien sits solemnly. His table cluttered with several empty flagons, the veteran Stormreach guard is another regular here. His standard chainmail uniform appears tight on his frame, and he admits the guards have seen little action in the last few years. Despite regular training, his body just isn’t in the shape that it used to be.

“This place is full of adventurers,” Lucien said. “Stories of battle, and good cheer. It’s my favorite place after making my guard rounds.”

Guard Lucien likes to hear the stories of adventure from other patrons of the Rusty Nail.

Guard Lucien likes to hear the stories of adventure from other patrons of the Rusty Nail.

Although he claims to visit the Rusty Nail for the spirit of bold adventure, when his eyes do drift up from the table, his gaze can be followed to another patron. Sitting alone each night, the human woman Callico faces the doorway, anxiously tapping her carved wooden staff. She is brusque, stating only that she is awaiting a companion – specifically not this reporter. She has been here a long time.

A Place for Adventurers to Muster

Two tables at the Rusty Nail are occupied by dyed-in-the-wool adventurers. The real deal, these two parties face danger and death for the chance to find fame and fortune.

At one table, a party of elves reflect their fallen comrades, each in their own way.

Sonnet, a bard by profession, plays a song on his lute dedicated to old friends and companions. Sureshot Whitefern, a ranger, shows her respects by toasting Stormreach’s defenders.

The leader of the group, Johan Fey, has a demeanor that speaks to his name. A fickle sort with a fatalistic look in his eyes, Fey is “drinking to buddies who perished at his side the day the Devils attacked.” Could he be referring to the disaster hinted at by panhandler Barrigan Turaen? Many of Stormreach’s citizens make allusions to some past terrible conflict in the marketplace. Perhaps the libraries of The Twelve will have more information.

At another table, a more serious discussion took place, of adventures yet to be had. Palis Littleton, a halfling wizard, discussed plans for an upcoming quest with her the rest of her party. Pawn, a Warforged ranger and Glory Stonemason, a dwarf cleric, weighed the party’s strength against a contract to investigate a place called The Steam Tunnels.

It was unclear who the official party leader was, but as a team, they talked about the pros and cons of utilizing a hireling contract to provide extra help for the planned excursion. The world of adventurers can get pretty complicated, it seems, with descending tiers of patrons contracting out work to various people. On any given job, there is some entity that needs a task performed, who then hires someone to get the job done. Often, these people will put the word out to the adventuring community seeking a suitable party to complete the task. Once accepted, the party members who will actually engage the quest can themselves hire help, in the form of hirelings.

Palis Littleton (left), Pawn and Glory Stonemason discuss the possibility of hirelings for their excursion into The Steam Tunnels.

Palis Littleton (left), Pawn and Glory Stonemason discuss the possibility of hirelings for their excursion into The Steam Tunnels.

A Nice, Quiet Room

Back up in the Rusty Nail’s short-term apartments, the din of the tavern is gone. Vaht’s straining cries as she continues to throw daggers to pay back Rue are inaudible, and the comings and goings of adventurers both living and undead are shut away. Covering the beat in Stormreach tonight didn’t even involve leaving the instance of The Rusty Nail to find stories of love and danger, wistful ruminations and brave expeditions. My editor back in Khorvaire sent a missive stating that my initial report was well received. The column was featured in the community Chronicle and with any luck, might even garner a brief discussion on the weekly portalcast.

The publisher’s hub itself even saw a rise in average daily visits, so you’re welcome! The guy who runs the thing suggested I submit a sort of bio of myself, so I went ahead and added that to my Stormreach profile. Here’s a copy of it, for anyone interested. Also, my mechanical mutt is still without a name. There were a few great suggestions in the comments on my first column. If you have any suggestions, please feel free to comment below and I’ll choose the best one to dub this artificer’s Iron Companion.

Reporter for The Long Shot @ www.thelongshotist.com

  • Covering local Stormreach news and occassional assignments that require travel to strange and far off places. Working the beat and finding out what the people on the street have to say.
  • Objective reporter, a semi-strict piker to buff party members, hirelings, pets and summons to best ability. Also skill with traps and locks. And has pet of his own for protection.
  • Not built for adventuring. If invited to join a group, will do so to get a story. Then write an article about it for the website.
  • Playing in first person POV exclusively for authenticity. More likely to be taking screenshots than repeating crossbow shots.
  • @longshotist on Twitter for news and other seemingly random diversions

 

Stop back soon to read about this Stormreach reporter’s investigative piece on the mechanics of hirelings, and a peek into The Steam Tunnels!

 

 

Volume 4, Issue 1

I had a nice, cushy gig going in Aundair covering the culinary scene for the rest of Khorvaire, and what happens? My editor pulls me from this plush assignment to travel all the way to backwater Xen’drik! Seems the green reporter he’d sent there, Longshotist, hasn’t sent a story in over a year. His last report covered a string of kidnappings in Korthos Village, a tropical island where he’d crash landed on his way to Stormreach. Earlier reports said something about a white dragon attacking the airship he was on, The Heart of the Wind. But seeing as how that’s the same ship the Chronicle booked my passage on, it’s more likely he skipped out on his assignment and is currently living it up on the resort island. So now, it’s up to this veteran reporter – @Longshotist Twitterhandle – to cover his beat. And wouldn’t you know it? The travel agency from the mysterious continent has some rule about nonstandard characters in their registry, so they have me booked as ALongshotist.

So here i am on the same airship he took that was “attacked by a dragon” and left him as “the only survivor of the Heart of Wind.” The trip was smooth as could be. One of the other passengers, Thealeh Auryath, yakked my ear off the entire time, prodding me with questions about my past. She seemed overly enthusiastic to hear all about my training as an artificer, and all the skills and tricks I’ve picked up that help in my job as a reporter and yadda yadda yadda. What is she, my biographer?

Finally, i couldn’t take it anymore and checked with Captain Korvyn d’Lyrandar, who thankfully announced we were almost arrived. He suggested I make contact with his friend Bellweather Bill once I disembarked. Bill, it seems, could point me in the right direction. Except all he did was offer me a choice of confiscated weapons they had on board and bid me good luck. At least there were enough spare parts around the ship to cobble together an iron defender. It’s my understanding that Stormreach can be a dangerous place, and a mechanical mutt with sharp metal teeth that never needs to sleep will come in handy to watch my back.

Atop Falconer's Spire in Stormreach. Stuck here indefinitely, I might as well make the best of it and see what this backwater pirate town has to offer.

Atop Falconer’s Spire in Stormreach. Stuck here indefinitely, I might as well make the best of it and see what this backwater pirate town has to offer.

So this is my new beat, huh? Stormreach, a frontier city once home to pirates and smugglers, now an important trade hub ran by a Harbor Lord and four Coin Lords. First impression? A dump.

What they call a “marketplace” looks like the raggedy remains of a refugee camp, with tattered tarpaulins streaming over a few random vendor booths surrounded by cracked masonry and a pit leading down into some abyssal dungeon. At the base of Falconer’s Spire, the airship dock, two dusty drow argue over religious politics while a nearby warforged offers transport to the remote desert refuge the pair arrived from. A couple of mercenaries around the corner try to entice me with the opportunity to act as cannon fodder for some scheme of theirs. And in a shadowy alcove another creepy drow offers to trade some magical doodads for bits of blood and bone.

However, a warforged named Vertigo provides a little taste of home, standing on the street handing out Cannith crafting bags courtesy of the Fabricator’s Guild. Usually, these folks are pretty exclusionary but it seems their numbers here in Stormreach are quite low and they’ve opened their doors to independent types – like me. I know I may look the part, but I never quite fit in with those dragonmarked houses. Nope, I picked up my artificer skills by trial-and-error (and a few blackmarket correspondence courses smuggled out of the enclave in Fairhaven). Vertigo directs me to the crafting hall located in the House Kundarak Enclave for further instruction.

Vertigo, handing out free ingredient bags in the Marketplace

Vertigo, handing out free ingredient bags in the Marketplace

On the way over to the hall, a scuzzy dwarf panhandler named Barrigan Turaen stops me to let me know “we deserved this.” Pressed to elaborate, he mutters something about the glory of the marketplace tent and a great conflagration. He believes those responsible must be brought to justice, but refuses to provide further details. Instead, he only continues with his cryptic babbling.

“We should have seen it coming,” Turaen said. Seen what coming? This bears further investigation at a later time.

The Crafting Hall is easy enough to locate, and just inside, another warforged named Maker offers new recruits guidance through the magical crafting process. The first step, it said, is acquiring the magical essences that are combined to add various effects to items. It instructs me to visit a vendor and purchase Lorinda’s Ultimate Remover and Dust of Disjunction, and then return for further guidance. The remover, as Maker explained, removes a magical effect from an item and turns it into essences while the dust prepares an item to receive a new effect.

Fortunately, the hall has a bank kiosk inside, where my editor has set up an account for me to receive my stipend. Checking the account, I am surprised to find there’s a balance of 1 million platinum as well as a cache of artifacts giving off a serious magical aura. Looks like my employers finally recognized I’m a world class reporter! [editor’s note: find out who’s responsible for this banking error and fire them!] It probably wouldn’t be too wise to walk around this den of thieves with that kind of loot, so I withdraw a paltry 5,000 plat and head to the hall’s vendor for the required tools. With the extra pocket money I ought to be able to live pretty comfortably in this town for a while at least.

Maker next directs me to the Item Deconstruction Device to use the remover on an item. It generously provides an item to deconstruct, in my case a weak quarterstaff of lesser halfling bane. Hey, wait a minute – is this some kind of cruel joke? Who would even make such a thing? I am more than happy to break this vile staff down to its components and the device spits out two lesser fire essences.

Next, the essences are combined into a shard. Maker again provides the supplies for this task, three more fire essences and a Siberys dragonshard fragment to use at the Bound Shard Crafting Device. Finally, Maker teacher how to apply a shard using the Dust of Disjunction, this time on a heavy mace he hands me for the task. The shard and the item are combined at the Bound Items Device and viola!

Hopefully I won't find much use for this fiery mace.

Hopefully I won’t find much use for this fiery mace.

The Fabricator’s Guild must be really hard up for members, doling out all these free essences and items, and even offering a reward for taking the course. Maker offers several items to choose from including a trinket that speeds up travel around the city and a couple of things to help with future crafting endeavors. The experience is overall positive, although nothing new to me. I’ve been around the block a few times when it comes to whipping up minor magical items, and heck I even built my own robot dog on the way over here. But if these rubes want to hand out free stuff, who am I to argue? If this is indicative of what Stormreach has to offer, I think I’m going to like it here.

Maker's selection of rewards for taking the course on Cannith crafting. Sucker!

Maker’s selection of rewards for taking the course on Cannith crafting. Sucker!

Heading back to the marketplace proper, I head down to The Rusty Nail, which I hear is a great watering hole. Great by Stormreach standards, maybe, as this place looks like they serve the swill that Aundair’s restaurants toss out as leftover at the end of the business week. That’s the last time I take accommodation advice from a half-orc. If any readers know of better places to stay, please let me know via lightning post. In the meantime, I’ll be lodging at this one-star establishment for the foreseeable future, as my assignment in Stormreach is indefinite. At least they allow pets, mechanical, undead or otherwise.

Your erstwhile correspondent in Stormreach signing off from The Rusty Nail

Your erstwhile correspondent in Stormreach signing off from The Rusty Nail

*     *     *     *     *

Boy, ALongshotist Twitterhandle sure seems like a crass fella. i’m not sure if he’ll make too many friends in Stormreach with his attitude but we’ll see. Like his predecessor Longshotist, this reporter plans to avoid questing unless it in required to access new areas. Instead, he’ll be covering his beat by exploring what all those NPCs milling around town have to say. It is actually pretty interesting to read their dialogue and gives a much different experience that simply running from quest to quest.

If you do find yourself in a group with ALongshotist, please be advised that he will continue the Free Agent reporter’s rule of no killing. As an objective reporter, he has no interest in fighting monsters and saving the day but will be happy to support you and cover your victories. Keep an eye out for this little guy around town if you’re on the Sarlona server, and throw him an invite if you’d like your adventures covered here at The Long Shot. As an artificer, he’ll be happy to handle your traps and locks as well as buff you up and let his iron companion fight at your side.

Speaking of the mechanical mutt, ALongshotist isn’t the sentimental type and as such his companion has no name. So how about a contest? Share your ideas for this pooch’s name in the comments, and I’ll use the best one to name his Iron Companion! Bonus points for elaboration, stories and explanations for your suggestion.

 

CSU-X Lab studies human and computer interactions

From the December 5th edition of the Cleveland Stater

By Doug Vehovec

At the crossroads where computer and behavior sciences meet, an emergent field of study seeks to understand the interaction between human users and computers. The user perspective draws on communication theory as well as design and psychology, while the computer component offers qualitative data like processing speed and memory capacity. The integration of the two fields allows one to utilize the strengths of the other. Doing so provides researchers with a clearer picture of the relationship between humans and our ever-increasing interaction with machines.

These interactions are studied in user experience (UX) labs. Often developed internally by companies looking to understand what appeals to their consumer base, these labs use specialized software and scientific analysis to discover the meaningful aspects of the interaction.

On Nov. 18, Cleveland State University hosted the first day of experiments in the CSU-X Lab, a research project funded through a grant award. The lab is headed by Dr. Cheryl Bracken, a communications professor at Cleveland State.

“We wanted to figure out how to take our existing theoretical research and embrace this idea of applied research,” said Bracken. “We thought, if we brought all that together and packaged it, we could build a lab that would be beneficial to both faculty and students. But it would also allow us to serve the greater Cleveland area.”

The “we” that Bracken speaks about are former colleagues Drs. Yung-I Liu and Paul Skalski. Since developing the lab, Liu took a new position and is no longer at Cleveland State. And the university community still feels the poignant loss of Skalski to medical complications earlier this year.

Aided now by three Cleveland State grad students, Bracken uses the lab’s cutting-edge equipment and techniques to conduct research comparable to that being done nationally. Jen Ford, Jen Poland and Hocheol Yang work in the lab as an independent study.

Yang’s involvement with the lab arose through previous work with Skalski. He was introduced to Bracken and her research, and was eager for the opportunity to work with her in the lab.

“Dr. Bracken is famous in this field,” Yang said of the lab’s director. With his earlier work in the field of physiological analysis, the native South Korean brings his own considerable experience to the table.

After a few weeks running tests in the lab, Yang works the controls on the software and sensor devices like it’s old hat. To demonstrate the lab’s capabilities, he pulls up a research sample which shows an aggregate heatmap of subjects experience with various still images.

The work involves several components. First, researchers create content that users are shown on a monitor. At these early stages of study, content is limited to still images – typically advertisements. The study uses fictitious products to increase the control element of the experiment, by removing preconceived notions from the equation. Bracken’s prior work in advertising and marketing research proves helpful in generating content used to gauge responses.
Graduate assistant Hocheol Yang works with
some of CSU-X Lab’s customized content.

Bracken explains that one of the groundfloor premises of the lab is to test the old adage that “sex sells.” Different versions of ads for the same product are presented to users. Variations in things like the sex of the human model and whether or not they’re scantily clad allow researchers to gather quantitative data to determine the ads’ effectiveness.

“The primary concentration is on ‘high sexy’ and ‘low sexy,’” Bracken said of the initial experiments in their most simple terms.

Yang’s heatmap example shows that people look chiefly at a person’s face, regardless of other variables, and ad copy to a lesser extent. Bracken explained that faces are what people tend to look at first, and then hands.

The research is still only in the preliminary stages, and it will take time to properly analyze the data. But Yang is enthusiastic about the lab’s work, which he believes is strengthened by the use of both quantitative and qualitative research methods.

“It’s very interesting to see exactly where people are looking,” Yang said. “I love to do experiments and see how people react to Internet stimulus and text. These things really change lives, and understanding them is really important.”

Armed with the customized content, researchers use sophisticated software to analyze users’ physiological responses. The software calculates things like fixations, where users look on the screen and for how long. Overlaying that data over the image gives researchers a map that shows them exactly what the users experience was like.

In terms of both size and hardware availability, CSU-X lab is comparable to others like it across the country. And in some ways its capabilities even surpass others.
For one thing, CSU-X runs tests with a minimum of 20 subjects per condition. Other UX labs typically test two or three people at a time, making adjustments based on just a few responses. The difference lies in the kinds of results researchers hope to find. In Bracken’s case, the academia-focused aspect of her research translates to a need for more thorough data with broader application opportunities.

The expanded nature of work in CSU-X requires a larger investment in tools and materials. This means the lab needs not just better, but simply more equipment in order to maximize the potential.

To illustrate the point, Bracken revealed that the next step in the project is to begin studying moving images, as well as user interactions with more common devices like cellphones and tablets.

“The study I’m running in the spring is going to look at usability of mobile devices and compare older adults and college-age students,” she said.

To conduct the research, she purchased special attachments for those sorts of devices that can perform the same functions currently used with the lab’s desktop computers, like the heat-mapping feature.

“I said ‘I want two,’ and the guy was like ‘no one’s ever bought two before.’”

The guy in question has clients like Google and Cisco, giants in the communications technology field. The work in CSU-X builds on that work, and adds a layer of theoretical research that she hopes will prove marketable to companies seeking to optimize the value of their communications.

With the first few weeks of research conducted, Bracken is encouraged by the results so far. She and her lab assistants, like Yang, have a full slate of studies planned for the spring semester. With the additional equipment and expanded tests that include video and other moving images, the CSU-X Lab is poised to enrich the field of user interaction research.

“We’re very confident that we’ll publish a lot of research and have an opportunity to start working with clients in the area,” said Bracken.

Witnesses to CSU’s evolution through 50 years

From December 5th edition of the Cleveland Stater

By Doug Vehovec

In 2014, Cleveland State University will celebrate its 50th anniversary. For the last half century, the university has stood a fixture of downtown life and expanded – at times slower than others – up and down Cleveland’s historic Euclid Avenue. Today what was at one time known as Millionaire’s Row is home to a thriving campus enmeshed into the landscape of the city.

Nestled among the halls of academia, a man plies his trade in a shop on the ground floor of the Union Building. The university leased the building with a $3.3 million award in 2012 and repurposed it to house the student health clinic along with offices and classroom space with an eye toward preserving its historical character.

The window of the shop faces north, a portal out to the street where the shop’s owner, Jim Marino, witnessed Cleveland State’s evolution since it began germinating after the state assumed control of Fenn College in 1964. The former engineering school is known as a pioneer in cooperative education in Ohio, giving students the opportunity to balance classroom work with on-the-job experience with local businesses. Fenn College remained Cleveland State’s center of engineering, and just weeks ago was rechristened as Washkewicz College of Engineering after a $10 million gift expected to greatly enhance its capabilities.

On a familiar sort of Cleveland day, passersby huddle against the sharp cold beneath an ashen sky. The street is largely deserted save for the sparse few walking purposefully down the sidewalk. Two workers in hardhats pass by the flat-fronted Union Building and the red-and-white-striped pole that denotes the establishment within. They take a moment to survey the sign showing their services.

“Now that’s an old school barbershop!” one exclaimed.

Inside, Marino and Sonny, who operate Magic’s Shoe Shine from inside the barbershop, swap stories of the holiday with another patron who is there for a haircut and shoe shine. They’re joined by another barber, Marino’s son Jimmy.

Marino takes careful consideration while trimming the man’s beard. He is resolute in the task, and the man closes his eyes while the deed is done, comfortably safe in the skilled barber’s hands.

The art of the shave is what first attracted Marino to life as a barber. As a boy, he loved going to the barber shop ran by one of the immigrants in the heavily Jewish neighborhood around Kinsman Road where he grew up.

“I was fascinated watching them work,” Marino recalled. “Men would get a shave and walk out of there looking 21 instead of 71, at least to a kid’s eyes.”

Determined to open his own shop, Marino dabbled in other work-like factory jobs to earn the money to open his barber shop. He wanted “to see the finished product” he said, and although he was the first in his family to take up the barber’s trade, he’s all too happy to work alongside his son today.

Like Sonny and his father, Jimmy gives credit to Cleveland State for influencing the revitalization of the area. He’s been working with his dad for 24 years, and also remembers the plentiful parking lots that mark the university’s past.

“What [Cleveland State presidents] Berkman and Schwartz have done has been great,” Jimmy said. “They’re the two best in the school’s history.”

He notes that the campus’ growth and huge increase in residents has been great for business. Not only are there more students who come to get their haircuts, but more businesses like restaurants have sprang up in the area, and they bring more people downtown.

“With all the different stuff CSU is doing, it’s only going to get better,” adds Sonny.
A proud barber by trade, Marino opened shop in 1963 just a few doors down from where he is today. Marino’s Haircutting has been a part of university history since the very beginning, catering to the burgeoning university’s presidents, faculty and staff from its humbly accounted storefront. In addition to haircuts, Marino’s offers facials, manicures and classic-style shaves with a straight razor.

Marino Trio“When I first opened, there was just Fenn College here,” said Marino. “It was just the big tower on 24th. But downtown overall was much busier. Since then, lots of businesses have come and gone. If it wasn’t for the university, we’d be a ghost town.”

Marino jokes that it’s his own stupidity that’s kept him downtown all this time instead of relocating to the suburban shopping centers that siphoned off a healthy chunk of Cleveland’s business a few decades past. The warm laugh shared between Marino and Sonny belies the truth. The two men have worked together for the past 46 years and are as much a part of Cleveland as the early 20th century building in which they conduct their business. The camaraderie they share with their customers and each other is what keeps them downtown and people coming through the door year after year.

“Happy customers keep business,” explained Sonny. As if on cue, regular patron Brian Breittholz approaches, fresh from the barber’s chair. Sonny had just finished giving the man’s shoes his masterful touch. Breittholz, the assistant vice president of alumni relations at Cleveland State, is no stranger to Sonny’s work, yet still beamed with satisfaction at the job well done. The shoe’s luster will act as armor against the wintry weapons of snow and salt. Clearly impressed, Breittholz proclaimed Sonny the “best shoe shine guy in the country” while putting the proffered shoehorn to use.

Both Marino and Sonny agree that Cleveland State has had a lot to do with the vitality of the neighborhood. Their testimony bears out the university’s longtime reputation as a commuter school. Most of their memories of the school’s early days describe the prevalence of parking lots visible from their front window – something archival photos of the area make all too clear. There were plenty of businesses that brought people in for the shop’s services too, until a decline in the 80s when Cleveland’s consumer culture migrated to outlying communities.

But the same thing that’s kept Marino downtown all these years is the same reason people like Cleveland State communications professor Leo Jeffres have popped in for their regular grooming since the 70s. Marino might tell your it’s the services they offer and the good work they do. But Jeffres knows it’s more than that.

“If you’ve been going long enough, these guys that start off as acquaintances, you get to know like friends,” Jeffres said.

He notes that it’s the personal things they do for customers – and the personalities – that make Marino’s a center of activity reminiscent of an earlier time. He recalls the day he decided to do away with his comb-over, and how the guys at the shop made it into a big event. Marino chuckled at the memory. “That was Jimmy’s idea, he made it a fun time,” Marino said, pointing to his son working just a few feet away, while Sonny puts the finishing touches on a pair of black leather boots dropped off earlier in the day.
From outside the window, a group of students pass by, glancing into the shop. Inside, they see the men, father and son, working together. They could be students from any time in the past 50 years, or the sons and daughters of alumni themselves. Perhaps their parents passed by on their way to Swingo’s, or before heading away from downtown, after class, back to their home in the suburbs.

Outside the window, Marino has seen Cleveland State transform both itself and the neighborhood.

Inside, the patterns of life speak of an earlier era.

Cleveland Stater fall 2013

You may recall from the beginning of summer that one of my classes involved working for the Cleveland Stater.  Now that fall semester has begun, i’ve progressed along to the second phase of that endeavor.  See, the capstone for CSU’s journalism program puts students in the newsroom of the Stater and essentially our job is to produce the bi-weekly publication.  My first go-around, i was pretty green.  Our staff was very small, and it was summer so there wasn’t a whole lot going on around campus.  On the other hand, i wound up with a lot of bylines and various credits so that was extremely cool.

Enough about the past though.  i’m a journalist and i should be talking about the present!

dream of josh

The current issue.  Stater reporter Josh Hoover’s dream came true – it reads “CSU is tobacco” above the fold

Presently, i have the distinction of being editor-in-chief of the Cleveland Stater.  Our staff this fall is large, and with several people interested in the position i am proud and humbled to have been chosen for the role.  It’s pretty freakin’ awesome, i don’t mind saying.  So far, i think my favorite aspect of the position is doing whatever i can to motivate, inspire or just plain help my staff in whatever way i can.  If there’s any sort of arcane reasoning behind how our faculty adviser chooses who will lead the team, i certainly couldn’t tell you.  But i like to imagine he can see that i am passionate about what i do and that i will work hard – and get my team to work hard – to produce a superior newspaper.

press day 1

The Cleveland Stater staff – hard at work in the newsroom

To that end, i’ve been focusing a lot of time and energy into helping my staff develop their beats and leads into stories they can feel accomplished about.  If i have any real regrets at this point, it’s only that i don’t have more time to devote to everything.  But for the time being, i’m doing my best to get by on the 3-5 hours of sleep i manage each night.

The way this pair of courses is organized is truly superb if you ask me.  Maybe all college majors are designed this way; i couldn’t tell you how a biology major’s senior year goes.  When i returned to college as a non-traditional transfer student a couple of years ago, my only remaining courses to complete were all journalism classes.  And now that i’m near to the end, it’s plain to see that everything i’ve been taught is set to task while working for the Stater.

Each reporter on the staff is assigned a beat, and it’s our responsibility to stay up to date with it and report on what we discover.  EIC is no exception – i’ve got campus administration; engineering, science and health; and campus services like international academics and IST.  If i’m honest, the science/engineering stuff holds the most personal interest for me.

We hold editorial meetings to pitch our stories and discuss important matters as a team.  In preparation for these meetings, i make a list of all the stories that ought to be covered.  Then we go around the table and everyone pitches their ideas, with me going last.  So far we’ve only had one editorial meeting, but i was pleased as punch to note that everything on my list had been pitched by one of the reporters.  Everything except one, which is a story i wanted to cover myself.  It was all kinds of win that day.

hot off the press

Ready for distribution – a task for the newbs.  Time for them to have the sore arms!  i delivered a stack or two though, for nostalgia

As reporters, we do our news gathering, identifying the stakeholders of our stories and speaking with them to get perspectives (and quotes – gotta have those quotes!).  My professor said something the first week of class that really hit home for me and made what we do very clear.  A reporter’s job is to share with the audience what he or she feels is the most important parts of whatever it is we’re covering.  That sounds pretty simple, but therein lies the beauty of it.  A good news story does more than just throw facts at you in an inverted pyramid format.  It is the reporter’s opportunity to craft a story about what they discovered along the way.  In that regard, the researcher in me relished the process.  Before speaking to stakeholders and sitting down to do the actual writing, it’s a chance to find out more about the topic.  By doing so, interviews are much improved and insights gained that help the final draft carry some meaning for the audience.

jordan hard at work

Reporter, photographer and social media coordinator Jordan Gonzalez in the Stater office.  Bonus points for the Batman sticker

A few weeks ago I would have said the writing is the best part, hands down.  i mean, that’s where my passion resides.  Selecting the right words and arranging them just so…i love that!  And this is going to sound uber-nerdy, but polishing a draft up in AP style, correcting the grammar and punctuation, tweaking a graf here and a graf there – it’s a lot of fun!  When you read your final draft and feel like it fires on all cylinders, after all your hard work, it’s quite exhilarating.  Words, words, words.

issue 1 planner

The whiteboard where big decisions are displayed in the newsroom

Then comes press day.  Two associate editors and i meet in the newsroom very early in the morning.  Before us is a blank whiteboard.  Cups of strong-brewed coffee in hand, we are tasked with determining what will see print, and what will not [strong coffee is an editorial mandate. – ed.].  And what pages each story will go on.  And whose responsibility it is to layout each page.  And what will be the front page lead.  And a hundred other little decisions before the rest of the staff gathers in the newsroom to begin the day’s work.

Our first press day was predictably chaotic.  Those of us seasoned Stater staffers were ready with gusto to face blank InDesign pages.  It is our duty to pass on our knowledge to the newcomers, who will one day be in our shoes.  This is a role i took very seriously, and made sure that i leapt to help anyone who needed assistance.  i hope that everyone feels integral to the staff and no one felt neglected.  It was very important to me that everyone understood that their work was appreciated, and i wanted them to know they could count on me to help however i could.

At the end of our first press day – a marathon 11-hour scramblefest – the newsroom was occupied once again by only me and the two associate editors.  We were exhausted, but in a good way.  The exhaustion of a single day’s effort to create something.  i like to think we accomplished more than just laying out pages and copy editing.  We all got to know each other better, bonding through our combined efforts and the incredibly cramped nature of the newsroom.  There was much camaraderie and i definitely have a romantic notion that this group of individuals will be forged into an excellent team of reporters and editors capable of producing an outstanding publication.  These are the moments you look back on in later years.  Once we’ve all moved ahead in our lives, i’d like to think we’ll remember our Stater days fondly.  All that we learned from each other, the challenges we faced both together and from each other that helped us grow.

And just maybe one or two people will remember their editor from college.  The nit-picky, detail-oriented fellow who sincerely hopes to see his staff move on to big things.  i’d like to think i walk a balanced line between encouraging coach and disciplined taskmaster.

Anyway, it should come as no surprise that part of me feels like i’m just getting started with this post.  Clocking in at 1250 words right now, it’s a mere trifle.  But if i’m honest, this time could be better spent devoted to the Stater and staff.  News is happening all around us, all the time, and i’ve got over a dozen people full of energy and talent whose motivation is to find those stories and craft them into something you want to read.

Speaking of something to read, here’s a handy list of links to the current Stater’s articles written by yours truly.  One of the exciting projects we hope to tackle this semester is revamping the Stater’s website, something i touched on over the summer.  Our social media coordinator this semester is top-notch as well, so be sure to check out our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter.  Feel free to contact the Stater with story ideas or whatever – we want to ramp up the Stater this semester and create something people will look forward to picking up every other week.

Letter From The Editor

Emporium focuses on developmental math

Engineers Without Borders wins award

Thanks for visiting!