‘Twas a dark and stormy night….

Hidden in an ancient forest above the Miskatonic river deep in the Massachusetts wilderness is Arkhamville Manor. Constructed in the late 16th and early 17th century by Count von Ripanuvich on land shunned by the Mohegan it was a retreat and fortress for those investigating occult matters the like of which were considered blasphemous in Europe.

So begins the dark, perhaps treacherous tale of Arkhamville and its inhabitants. It is a tale of the occult, of people forced to flee their European roots lest the Church denounce them for their dark studies, and who settled in the relative seclusion of Massachusetts, establishing a fortress mansion and community of workers from which they continued their search for immortality, to be bestowed by one of the elder gods.

Arkhamville

With the mansion and the village came rituals and construction, carried out under the noses of the more Puritanical and God-fearing surrounding villages and coastal towns. On down the years the work continued – not always harmoniously –  with descendents of those original occultist immigrants ever seeking that elusive key to the secret of immortality.

Now, in much more recent times, one Jedediah Dexter, who previously left (or perhaps was forced to leave) the community 30 years previously, has returned – only to meet a violent end, and leaving you facing a question.

Who killed him?

Arkhamville

Arkhamville, which opened on October 1st and will continue through until November 1st, is a Halloween-hunt-murder-mystery, which encourages visitors to play a part in the forsaken community and discover the truth behind the murder.

It is a collaborative effort on the part of an impressive list of participants, lead by Kitto Flora and Rafe Holder, who came up with the story for the event, and  Shauna Bonetto, who has donated a full region for the project. Many of those who have contributed to the project are also active participants in the story, and help to bring both it and Arkhamville to life.

The region itself is all you’d expect of a murder mystery set around the time of Halloween. Beneath dark, brooding skies, beset with fast-moving clouds perhaps heralding a coming storm are all the required ingredients: mysterious manor house, lights all ablaze, on a hill, a mysterious and not altogether welcoming fun fair, a hunched church with dank graveyard beside it, and up on the hill, above even the wheels and bins of an old conveyor system, a place of dark magic, with cairns made of skulls and a blood-red ramp leading to a mysterious gazebo watched over – literally – by two gnarled white, and leafless, trees.

Arkhamville

When you arrive, make sure you collect your game items from Trooper Eddie. These comprise a notecard with the back story, a police pass, which will track your progress in your investigations, and a choice of optional Arkhamville costumes (one male, one female). Personal scripts are capped, so you may also receive a warning that you need to remove items or (I assume) face ejection if you don’t – those receiving the message have 6 minutes to comply, with reminders about every 2 minutes.

Warnings like this can dampen enthusiasm for a place, but at least this one is sedate, rather than a brief warning followed by the royal order of the boot. I was slightly over the limit, and removing a couple of HUDs I knew I’d not need while in the region solved the issue for me.

Arkhamville

There are no actual rules as to how you should proceed – although a good place to start is with the body (which I’ll leave you to find – it shouldn’t be that hard :)). From here it is a case of following the clues, meeting “residents” of the mansion and the village and finding out what you can.

I’m not going to give too much away, partly because that’ll obviously spoil things if you’ve not yet spent time in Arkhamville, but mostly because I haven’t yet solved the mystery myself. Suffice it to say that there is a fair amount of interaction with “people” and things in Arkhamville, and as an investigator, you don’t always get your own way – those who know anything about matters are prone to make demands of you first.

Arkhamville

Arkhamville is already proving very popular; during my visits, there were rarely less than 22 people in the region. This can make things a tad laggy, so if you tend to run in deferred with shadows, etc., active, you may want to consider setting your lighting options to NONE other than when taking snapshots.

Certainly, if you’re interested in sleuthing away an evening, Arkhamville can easily draw you in.

Related Links

Arkhamville was a featured build on the Beaverville region for Halloween 2012 and is now closed.

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From Bathhurst Inlet to Rocknest

It’s been a busy week on Mars.

Following the identification of a further rock target for study, Curiosity spent Sol 54 (September 30th) conducting contact science with the rock, dubbed Bathhurst Inlet by mission personnel, using APXS and MAHLI.

These studies were concluded on Sol 55 when Curiosity used the ChemCam laser, telescope and spectrometer to analyse the chemical / mineral composition of the rock. Following this, the rover manoeuvred some 23.5 metres (77 feet) to an area of sand called Rocknest, which Mastcam images had revealed as a possible location in which to test part of Curiosity’s sample acquisition system.

Studying Bathurst Inlet, a raw image returned by Curiosity’s right Navacam system on Sol 54 (Sept 30th)

Rocknest, an area of wind-blown sand, had initially been imaged on Sol 52, and earmarked as a potential location for sample acquisition tests. The area is around 5 metres by 1.5 metres (16ft by 7ft), and the fact that it appeared to comprise wind-blown deposits suggested it would be an ideal target as the sand is liable to be relatively loosely packed and offer samples which can be acquired relatively easily and which could be used to perform an important task.

Rocknest as imaged by Curiosity’s 100mm Mastcam on Sol 52 (Sept 28). The images in this mosaic have been white-balanced so that colours appear as they would if seen in typical Earth sunlight conditions

Samples can be acquired by Curiosity in one of two ways: using a drill system or via a scoop, both of which are located on the turret at the end of the rover’s robot arm. The activities at Rocknest are focused on the use of the scoop, which can acquire around 20 grams of material at a time for delivery to SAM, the Sample Analysis at Mars system, and CheMin, the Chemistry and Mineralogy system, Curiosity’s two on-board sample analysis systems.

The scoop is part of a complex system called CHIMRA (Collection and Handling for In-Situ Martian Rock Analysis) contained within the turret. This processes samples gathered from both the scoop and the drill system, ready for them to be passed to the rover’s on-board systems. However, before the system can be used, it must be properly prepared and undergo a special “cleaning” process. It is this “cleaning” which is the focus of operations at Rocknest.

The turret science instruments (l) and an internal view of CHIMRA. Note the turret image is inverted in relation to the CHIMRA image (click to enlarge)

On Sol 56, Curiosity further manoeuvred itself a further six metres (20 ft) to get close to a ripple of sand within Rocknest which had been selected for the sample testing. The Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN) instrument was also used during Sol 56 to measure subsurface hydrogen levels, as was the Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD), designed to characterise the broad spectrum of radiation environment around the rover, and the Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) – Curiosity’s weather station.

In order to ensure the sand is suitable for the “cleaning” process, mission scientists and engineers needed to understand more about it. To this end, and on Sol 57, Curiosity was commanded to drive onto the ripple, rotate its wheels through 30-degrees and then reverse off. The Purpose of this was two-fold: firstly, it helped to confirm the sand’s consistency and that it is in fact packed loosely enough for the scoop to obtain samples. Secondly, it exposed material beneath the surface layer, allowing it to be further characterised.

Making a mark: a raw image captured by Curiosity’s right Navcam as the rover  roll onto the Rocknest sand ripple, prior to leaving a scuff mark designed to help mission scientists examine the particle-size distribution of the material forming the ripple. To give an idea of scale, Curiosity’s wheels are 40cm (16 inches) wide

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More ghostly goings-on and Holmesian mystery this week

The second week of October see more tales of mystery, suspense and dark happenings unfold through the vocal skills of the Seanchai Library SL, including the second part of A Night in the Lonesome October.

The full list of activities are as follows. All times SLT, and the in-world location, unless otherwise stated, will be at Seanchai Library’s SL home region of Imagination Island.

Sunday October 7th:

  • 10:00 – Spooky Tales at Fruit Islands: Derry McMahon and Bear Silvershade read Washington Irving’s The Spectre Bridegroom and Poe’s The Cask of Amontillado, along with other spooky tales and more spooky tales, all at Haunted Fruit Islands
  • 14:00 – Tea Time at Baker Street: join Caledonia Skytower as she tells The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet, in which the Great Detective is enlisted to unravel what has happened to three beryls missing form an valuable coronet, and why the son of a banker who has received the coronet as collateral against a loan, was apparently trying to bend or break the coronet…
A Night In The Lonesome October continues on Monday 8th October at Seanchai Library SL

Monday October 8th:

Tuesday October 9th:

  • 19:00 – Things That Go Bump in the Night: ghostly goings-on as told by Bear Silvershade

Wednesday October 10th:

  • 19:00 – Which Witch? with Faerie Maven

Thursday October 11:

  • 19:00 – Nocturnes from Ireland: Dark, daring, utterly haunting tales of lost lovers, predatory demons, and vengeful ghosts from the pen of John Connolly, as told by Shandon Loring, featuring Mr. Pettinger’s Demon and The Inn at Shillingford.

Friday October 12th:

  • 18:45 – The Legend of Sleepy Hollow: Derry McMahon and Bear Silvershade read Washington Irving’s classic tale at the Breedables Fright Night (see the Seanchai Library SL’s website for details of the location, once confirmed)

Sunday October 14th:

  • 18:00 – Ghosthunters & The Incredibly Revolting Ghost: Caledonia Skytower brings this tale of ghostly happenings to Magicland.

All presentations are in Voice.

Related Links