In April 2009, Staff of the Magi Productions (SotM) opened their second project, “Something Is Coming”, set in Harper’s Ford, a fictional town in the Pacific Northwest trapped under some kind of barrier with all manner of ravenous plants and beasties. With Harper’s Ford under martial law, Dave Dolan runs a pirate radio show, sending over 30 transmissions in about six months. We find that the entire United States has been put under quarantine. A possibly alien, possibly government paramilitary group, the Contingency Foundation, has enlisted us to some mysterious end.
Since Fall 2009, “Something Is Coming” has moved into a more location-based form of gameplay, localized exclusively but broadly to the continental United States. In September, representatives were chosen for each time zone, and these four teams competed, secretly racing through clue solves that eventually led to a dead drop. These first runners each received a live psychic reading (check out the wiki for player videos) and a “Compass,” a hardware-encrypted IronKey USB flash drive engraved with the Contingency Foundation logo. IronKey drives can be remotely managed and feature a permanent self-destruct sequence, triggered after so-many failed password attempts.
To ensure that these Compasses are well cared-for, every 12 hours runners use the IronKey to log in to special e-mail accounts and upload photographs of the key with the daily newspaper. Each runner also submits a daily journal entry, all of which are being collected to become part of the story.
Runners are now trying to ferry their Compasses to check-in locations, but there are rules about how Compasses are handled. The ban on air travel means that the Compass cannot be mailed and must travel from hand to hand. I am the third runner to have the Compass in Zone 5 (EST), and I traveled to Atlantic City to complete the check-in on January 30. My 400-mile round-trip trek was made possible by the casino bus, and my mission was to submit a picture of myself, the Compass, and that day’s local newspaper in front of a sign that said “Atlantic City.” It was harder than you’d think, and the convenient snowstorm probably would have made me miserable if I didn’t love Atlantic City and snow.
Even this check-in was a compromise; apparently all the zones had difficulties reaching their first locations, so due dates and targets were changed. The rather small and spread-out player base, plus the difficulties of traveling in a rather snowy winter, have made this nationwide race quite difficult. The next check-in date is in mid-March.
In all, “Something Is Coming” has spanned almost a year with a few breaks, and SotM has hinted that this ambitious project will continue for several more months. The story may get more complicated if the X-Factor, who may be hunting runners down, becomes more active. There’s also an interesting social dimension as Compasses get handed off between runners, while far-flung Zone members offer encouragement, give advice, and help solve puzzles in a broadly competitive environment.
With the game still underway, it’s not too late to join “Something Is Coming.” Bring pride to your Zone, check out this amazing IronKey flash drive, meet your Zone compatriots, and be a part of this crazy, nationwide race. Contact your Zone Representative today!