Thursday, October 31, 2013

Samhain & Monsters

Its Halloween, or Samhain or Dias de los Muertos.  Take your pick.

Tradition holds that the barrier between realms is weakest tonight.  Which makes sense after a fashion.  Persephone is traveling betwixt the lands of the dead and the living tonight.  The souls are starting to return- for only a handful of nights, but they are coming.  The time of living, warmth and sun is gone.

The dark season is upon us.  Everything feels death walk by, and shivers at its approach.

The wheel has turned, and 'tis best to be ready for it, no?

I have a preference for the aspects of this holiday that show respect for the harvest and for the dead.  Its a time to remember what we've lost and count our blessings for what we still get to have.  Its the turn of the wheel of the world, and sometimes we humans forget that.

The wheel of the world is going to turn, and we can't stop that.  Death is still a force we have to reckon with.  The Pain and the Cold is coming, and we can only keep it at bay, we can't silence its howls.  So, deep inside our minds we fear it.

The horrific part of it all, is that even if the monsters aren't real, Death still is.  Every second on Earth is fleeting, and Halloween is the call of Death's season.

It used to be that there was only one season humans kept track of: Winter.  We had no word for Spring or Autumn.  Only for winter and sometimes the not-winter.  Winter was the harshest times for our ancestors, and words like Autumn and Spring are waaay younger.

But, you can look at our stories and see the lessons told before.  Most often, a heroic conquers death and returns from the underworld with its secrets.  You can survive it, we're told, and the monsters of human starvation, disease and cold kept away for another year.

Then heroes die.  And we are reminded, the wheel of the world turns.

As the Starks say, "Winter is Coming."

And I would dare you to look into that dark cold chill, into the burning cold eyes of Death.  Then embrace it.  Life tastes so much sweeter with it instead of without it.  Death isn't a ending.

And the wheel of the world turns...

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

In Black 4

Previous Part (3/10)|Next Part (5/10)

Kyle Shenlong's skin glittered as it hardened.  Fists clinched.  His teeth clattered and shifted in his mouth.  Muscles under his skin rippled, rearranging themselves.

Noir blinked.  He could sense... power?  Magic?  The necromancer didn't recognize the flavor of the magic, but it was magic.  Too vibrant to compare to his own.  It felt like tasting a new food for the first time, unfamiliar yet discovery.

"Who are-"

Kyle sighed.  His teeth now were fanged, his canines visibly sharp.  "Don't fucking talk, I can smell death on you.  What do you want with my sister?"

"She agreed to help me, and I provided a service-"

"What service?"  Kyle's eyes glowed white for a brief moment.

Noir blinked again.  He still felt faint, but the idea of using any magick to alter one's own self was a curiousity.  Noir's own magic was purely external, turning corpses into living flesh, most of the time.

"She's dead, amigo.  I fixed that, in return, she helps me find her killer."

Kyle cocked his head at that.  "A necromancer that hunts murderers?"

"Serial killers.  I collect serial killers, actually."  Noir straightened.  "This will be the fifteenth one I've apprehended."


"None of your business, isn't it?"

"Kyle- please- I still don't know what to think-"  Xia sat down on a armchair.  She tried to look shaken, but Noir could feel her emotions failing to carry through.  The newborn dead had trouble expressing their emotions properly at first.  They were dead, after all, and had to learn how to control flesh that was slowly rotting away.

"I don't feel the need to explain that to you.  Obviously, we are both in the know-"

"Are we?"  Kyle asked.  The fanged newcomer started to examine Noir, making the necromancer feel nervous.  "Perhaps you've managed to bite off more than you can choose this time, eh?"

"Riiight.  You got some mojo, that's nice.  I'm here to help, not hinder.  Your sister doesn't remember who killed her, exactly, and I'm the only one who can help her to remember, ok?"  Noir stood up.  "But first, I really think I need to eat something.  I can't really tell, but I think my fainting is all tied to low blood sugar.  So, food?"

Kyle tossed an apple at Noir.  The necromancer grabbed at it, fumbling it and dropping it.  Noir cursed and bent down and picked it up.

Then Kyle shouted something, and Xia threw Noir to the ground.


Glass rained down as the window shattered into pieces above them.  Something hit the ground, hissed and the room started to smoke.  Noir looked at the object that hit the ground.  It was a brick-shape, but black shadows smoked from it in bellowing black shadows.  The shadow smoke filled the home.

Then he heard the inhuman shrieks.  And a pair of glowing iridescent, predatory eyes in the dark smoke.

"A foreign land is a land full of wolves,"  Noir cursed.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Can You Hear The Song? 3: Demonic Rhapsody

Going to continue to fill in pieces for Noah: the Kaiju-Song.  Today its time to talk Demons.

“Ahem.”  The mediator from Tethys, Ras Elric, beat his gavel until the assemblage of Methuselah and Noah representatives quieted down.   
“Now, Professor Sirius, I am curious about what makes these Kaiju rocks-”
“Kaiju Gems!” Interjects a Noah representative.
“Yes, yes, whatever you call them.  What makes these Kaiju Gems so valuable to your two cities?  What are they?”
A skinny man in a brown pinstripe suit, his glasses thick and glowing with a bright techy-looking like, takes the podium. He wipes his sweaty palms and begins his presentation.  “The New Babylon Ubertechnologies and the Nephillum Institute conducted a research study, at first, for the power possibilities for Kaiju Gems.  Geothermal and Tidal power plants have their limitations, and the idea of a new power source that could allow new population growth motivated both organizations to work together on them.
“Kaiju Gems are somewhat quantum manipulative, that is, they alter the interaction of quantum level interactions.  At first, we concluded that they might be some sort of natural quantum computer, the result of something we are not aware of.  We think they must be artificial in origin, but the more we learn of them, the more mysterious they become. A single mass of Kaiju Gems can be used to store some forms of nuclear energy, but not much else.  Their use in practical power usage seems very limited and not ideal.
“Their side effects, however, have more uses.”  Images flicker to images of monsters and glowing human hands.  Eyes that emitted light and objects that floated in midair.  “The subject of Parapsychology has to be reopened.  Subjects exposed, most often by touch, to a Kaiju Gem have a chance to mutate.  They gain psychic powers, while becoming deformed.  The exact nature of these powers seems to be limited to the most altered and deformed. We call them ‘Demons’.  Demons are capable of-”
The lights flickered off, putting the room in darkness.  Something bestial let out a roaring scream.  Politicians panicked.


First of Noah's psychics to emerge after Kaiju-Gem exposure- well, first to survive exposure at any rate.  Demons have been a mainstay in Noah, their population ever growing since the discovery of Kaiju-Gems centuries ago.  All Demons possess physical deformities that make them appear inhuman, monstrous or simply bizarre.  All Demons are also innate biokinetics, capable of altering their biomass enough to create psychic effects.

Of course, Demons cannot create new mass.  They must maintain their baseline amount of mass.  Most Demons can't eliminate their own deformities to boot, which some think might be the result of some subconscious symbolism each Demon can't overcome.

Early on, the megacorp and major powerhouse in Noah, New Babylon Ubertechnologies studied Demons.  They developed a Psi Division.  This division conducted various operations that helped Babylon to blackmail and bribe its way to power over Noah's government for most of the century prior to the Rise of Angels.  Demon-based subterfuge helped Babylon succeed.  With a monolithic monopoly based on Demons, it was no surprise that those same Demons would come to dominate and control its board of directors.

Demon are recognized to be in one of two factions in Noah:  The Dragons, criminals that control the Moria Weave, and The Daughters of Maru, who control New Babylon Ubertechnologies.

The Dragons Crime Syndicate controls most of the large Moria Weave, using its trade in the deadly drug Kaiju Lotus (or simply The Lotus) to line their pockets.  They also participate in a variety of other criminal enterprises, including prostitution and smuggling illegal goods.  Some of these illegal goods include food or medical supplies blockaded by tariffs or laws Babylon benefits from.

Controlling family of Babylon, the Marus, mainly through their daughters, act and use Babylon to advance their own interests.  Their interests include the long term survival of Noah, as Babylon tech is part of what keeps Noah functioning.  Over the long-term, the Marus strive to bring more and more Demons under control, fearing that they might be the target of a pogrom should Angels attain control of Noah ever again.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Can You Hear the Song? 2: Angelic Hymns

Zariel’s image flickered on the monitor.  Metatron seethed with rage.
Each non-psionic acolyte clutch their eyes, the pain too much for them to handle.  They scream and try to claw out their eyes.  Metatron watched as Noah Psi-Detainment dragged the unconscious Zariel into the van and drove off.
[So its true then?]  A red-haired angel asks Metatron telepathically.  Her name is Azrael.  
Metatron looks at her, as if recognizing her for the first time.  [What is true, Azrael?]
[Zariel.  You let Daniel and Haniel die.  Demons taunt you all the time.  But Zariel?  Its true isn’t it?]  Disappointment fills Azrael’s eyes.  [I always thought I had- well, a chance but-]
[Yes.] Metatron’s telepathic answer comes with tears as he weeps.  [They think they can use him to control me- that bastard PM thinks he can- fuck, Azrael.  I have to get him back.  Show them what happens when they take someone who belongs to me.]
Azrael looked down to the ground. [What do you have planned, then?]

Noah: the Kaiju-Song is a heist setting involving psionics, angels and demons at the bottom of the ocean.  Today I'm going to go into more depth on the Angels part of that equation.


Second of the psychics to be emerge from mutation and exposure to the mysterious Kaiju-Gems.  Unlike Demons, all Angels are beautiful and have no physical deformities.  They are all innate pyrokinetics, and can learn to channel and manipulate that energy fine enough to use telepathy and telekinesis as well.

Angels first appeared in Noah under the leadership of Metatron, who assembled what would later be called the Golden Crown.  Metatron and all the early Angels believed they were chosen to save Noah from the darkness that surrounds it.

Lets take a step back here; Angels find a connection to the founders of Noah itself.  The founders were fundamentalists who used their religious followers to build and create the undersea refuge centuries earlier.  Noah as a city has moved away from this religiously mad origins, but enough of it echoed to give Angels a guiding set of principles to found their movement on.

Metatron assassinated the Prime Minister of Noah.  He triggered a brutal power struggle with the New Babylon Corporation.  Angels and Metatron took control of Noah's government, putting a growing Cult in the center of it.

Things fell apart.  Metatron was killed, tricked into entering a building that a Daughter of Maru demolished in a wave of destruction.  The Cult of the Angels split into factions.

Nowadays, there are two factions that Angels belong to: The Golden Crown, which still believes that all Angels are the chosen of God, and the Oracle Jezebel, whose rebels angels try to steer Noah toward repairing what damage they perceive has been done to nature around them (particularly the Kaiju who make the Blue Dome so dangerous).


Led by the Uriel, the Golden Crown believes all demons to be servants of the devil and all angels to be the chosen of God.  Therefore, their Cult is the only place to be saved from the last seal and be saved at the End of Noah and the End of the World.

Frequently they work to overthrow the re-established Clayborn government and work against the auspices of Babylon.  The Golden Crown also espouses a rigid ascetic lifestyle, often practicing vows of chastity, poverty and vows of bloodletting in their devotion to their cause.  They also work to try and bring Jezebel and her angelic followers back in line, to preserve the image that so many find redeeming amongst the populace.


Jezebel is a disillusioned Angel who has made the previously-thought-too-dangerous-to-be-inhabitable Blue Dome and other wild spots of Noah her own.  Her faction doesn't care for racial bounds, and frequently has demons and angels working together.

Vegetarians and vegans, Jezebel and her own try to help contain and cure the wild Kaiju that infest parts of Noah.  This can trend toward ecoterrorism, as they often feel as though violence is the only solution against the industrial Babylon and unsympathetic Golden Crown.  Jezebel professes strict agnosticism, a fact Uriel has ignored so far.  More worrying, most of this faction also favor the use of drugs like the Lotus, which allow them to sometimes communicate with Kaiju or grant temporary powers to the Clayborn.

Angelic Respite...

That's it for Angels right now.  I'll do some more pieces, probably including a section for Demons, Clayborn (normal people) and the Song too.  No aspects mentions yet, I think I'll pin that all down later.


In Black 3

Previous Part (2/10)| Next Part (4/10)
Xia Shenlong blinked.

The stranger had fainted again.  Xia still didn't know who he was.  Or why she had brought him home with her.  Xia felt as though she should trust him completely.

But she never remembered meeting him, only having seen him in the park.  She shook her head and paused.

Xia had already helped the strange dark-skinned man back onto the couch.  "Why do I want to help him so much?"

She cursed herself.  This urge to help him only made her more irritated.  Then came the knocking.

Xia sighed and answered her front door.

A young man with arms full of groceries greeted her.  Xia blinked.  "Hey Xia mind giving me a hand, eh?"

She moved quickly, grabbing a bag from his arms.  She tried to hide her joy at the sound of her brothers' voice, the sight of his face.

"Kyle, what brings you back here?"  Xia resisted the urge to ask him in Mandarin.  Kyle had never kept up with their mother's native language, despite the direction his life had taken him.

"Can't a brother visit his older sister?"

"Please.  We both know why you left.  You were the one who chose not to call me-"

"You can't get involved in it, Z.  I know it upsets you, but its my Task, not yours to worry about."

"You can't take it all on your own-"

"No Z, I'm not going to talk about this.  Look, I was in the neighborhood and thought I'd come and visit my only living relative on this continent, ok?  Let me cook you a meal and we can catch up on-"  Kyle paused when he saw the stranger on the couch.  "Z, who is that?"


Kyle tilted his head.  "I didn't mean to interrupt anything, Z, I can come back later-"

"No!  Its just a..." Xia couldn't find herself able to lie to her brother.  She'd always been honest with him, even after their mother had died nine years before.  Kyle's father had been her stepfather, but Xia never remembered anyone before him.  But both of them had been taken from Xia and Kyle.  Lies about what had happened didn't help either of them.

"I don't remember why he is here.  I woke up in the park this morning, and he had been standing over me, so I punched him-"

"And took him home with you?  Why?"  Kyle's brow furrowed.  "Was anything else involved?"

"No, I don't think so.  I remember blacking out, but I didn't see anything that-"

"Z, we both know what sort of things can lurk out there.  Did you take any precautions at all?"

Xia felt annoyed with him.  "Of course I did!  I used the same talismans as I always do Kyle!  I remember what to look out for.  I'm not going to just let any tainted spirit take me down-"

"What are you two arguing about?"

Xia and Kyle turned to the man on the couch.

"Honest,"  Noir grumbled, "I'm a fucking necromancer, but tainted spirit is a little beyond me.  Also, one of the two of you is a undead corpse I made.  Could you get me a bite to eat?  I think my blood sugar might be  a bit low.  I keep blacking out here."

Fiasco: Lessons Learned

This isn't quite a review or a actual play, just some thoughts after playing Fiasco for the first time the other night.

Fiasco is a roleplaying game from Bully Pulpit Games.  Its a game of powerful ambition and poor impulse control: you and your fellow players act (together or against one another) in a scheme that ends in stupid tons of violentness.  One of my friends made a comparison with Reservoir Dogs, which wasn't entirely inaccurate.

Its a story game, a kind of genre within the greater tabletop RPG sphere.  These games often have no GMs, and each player is given enough power to affect the story and drive things forward.  Fiasco is one of those kind of games.  We had fun with it, using the Dresden Files playset that came out a year or two ago.

Perhaps the first thought I have with it is a relishing of things going wrong: players choosing to have their characters fail and being okay with that.  I love that idea, and its theme in the story game genre, something that traditionally doesn't get thought of.  And Fiasco all about that idea.

Fiasco makes accepting failure and enacting it easier because the failure in this case, I think, isn't being forced onto the player against their choice.  The player is allowed to define their own failure.  That makes it work.  Adapting this into your own games requires some metagaming I think.

I've used this technique to get players to accept a dramatic failure, often by just talking to them before doing it beforehand.  And Fiasco makes it clear that the more agency this failure grants the player, the more willing they are to enact it.

Fiasco also has a elegant system of creating relationships between characters.  Fate Core has such a system too, forcing stories that connect the characters together.  So lets think about this, can one create a Fate group relationship map using Fiasco inspired mechanics?

Clearly the GM will create the necessary charts beforehand.  It would be managed in the same way as Fiasco setup, with emphasis on creating the connecting elements between characters.  If Locations, Needs and Objects are included, each clearly adds agency to the game for the players.

Optionally, the GM could also play in the Setup, using it to purposeful throw in a important NPC rival in the mix as well.  Player could also be tapped to describe what sort of elements they like to have listed, filling blanks for the charts.  I would also consider shrinking the dice pool rolled at the beginning of the setup, depending on many things other than relationships you'd like to see.

Hack and mod for setting and rules taste too.  If its a game like 3.5 that doesn't readily support mentor/protege relationships, or if the GM doesn't want to let one player have many more levels at the start of the campaign, then adjust the charts to reflect things everyone wants to potentially see in play.

Just some thoughts, I could potentially use this as part of a character creation mini-game.  Its good for group creation, but still leaves a lot in the player's hands to figure out.

Fiasco twas awesome to play.  Pick up a PDF copy of it and try it out.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Reading Materials: Ender's Game

Reading Materials is my series of reviews of books and other things I find while trying to learn to become a better writer... and further my descent into madness too.  Its going to be double post today, to make up for not having posted on Thursday night.  Enjoy!

I had been listening to Ender's Game on Audible for the last two or three days- it was a snap pick for my monthly Audible audiobook.  I've never read Ender's Game before.  I've read Orson Scott Card and have digested my own fair share of dark and gritty.  So I figured I should add Ender to my list.

Yeah, I know a movie version is up and coming.  Ender's Game is a short novel, compared to my usual listening- between Song of Ice and Fire and the Dresden Files, I'm used to looong novels.  There is a twist at the end, but overall, I found a dark pit in my stomach most of the time in Ender's Game.

Oh, I like the dark stuff in novels, but there is a grim question in this novel I can't get my head around, and I keep trying to find a right answer for it.  It reminds me of the bombing of Dresden or the bombing of Hiroshima... "Necessary Acts of War"...

Yeah.  Thats the justification for using a boy as a weapon of mass destruction.

There is a metaphor there for all wars, I guess.  You use the young.  I feel a contrasting theme here with Old Man's War.  Whereas Ender's Game strongly suggests that power is justified to use others, Old Man's War has the same thing happen... but the protagonist doesn't do what those in power tell him what to do.  In Old Man's War, the main character still fights and commits to conflict, but he wins fights on his own terms.

Ender is, in Ender's Game, a tool.

I think I'm comparing apples to oranges here, but the universe of Ender's Game is in dire straits, and the Humans in it are convinced the only way to be safe is to "make sure they never attack us again."  A strike strong enough to discourage any further antagonism, to pacify the enemy.  This motif occurs again and again in the novel.

More frightening, and the part that made me fixated with the novel, was how Ender handled it.  Ender feels.  Ender doesn't just kill, nor does he justify himself.  Having killed the enemy, Ender mourns the enemy.  He feels sorry for it and wishes he'd never been used to kill them.

That is the truly sad part of the novel, that it reflects that horrific cost of war.  Or at least, what a few convince themselves is a cost of war.

I'm reminded of the decision to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the US.  Its a more extreme choice, to decide to use a boy to kill off a species.  And I still can't see the why of it.  That's where I end this.  I don't understand why Ender had to be used that way.

Now to see how the movie does with this.  Should be dark.  Should remind us of our own past decisions.  shouldn't it?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Can You Hear the Song?

Jeremiah sipped the shot of whiskey.  Ice cubes jingled.  Black and the bartender were the only ones there.  Black waited passed waiting time, passing a food credit to the bartender to keep open.  The owner and bartender of the Dying Earth tavern.  Dirty and worn, it was one of the ones the Dragons favored in Moria.
She walked in.  Jeremiah's horns twitched as the nervous scientist entered the Dying Earth.  She moved quickly, looking over her shoulder as she approached.  "You said we'd be alone-"Black waved a hand.  The bartender left."What about listening devices-"
"Please, Kana.  Give me a break, eh?  I've done this before, know what I'm doing, you know?"
"Dr. Madison, Mr. Black." She corrected. "And I guarantee this will make you one of the richest men under the sea."

Noah: the Kaiju-Song is a recent setting I created while (a) bored, (b) curious, and (c) wanting something my own that was psychic in nature.  So I took out Microscope (an already excellent game) and played a one-player (yes, defeating the purpose of a multiplayer RPG) game of it.  I have a rough timeline for Noah, and its grown out from that.

Noah is one of the few remaining cities on the Earth, located at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, founded as a community after the surface of the planet became uninhabitable.  Its been on the bottom of the sea for centuries, having eventually grown out into the strata and seabed around it for more space.  They've also found something under the sea that triggers mutagenic and psionic effects.

Demons, psionics with deformities, and Angels, pyrokinetics with a fanatic bent, take over the population.  Their wars turn Noah into a complicated maze of intrigue, assassination and paranoia.  Add in the problems of a completely undersea environment, and things get stressful.  The Song, the last psionic kind to emerge, is a harmonic hivemind that is slowly absorbing all the Clayborn (normal) minds of Noah into it.

There is still some kinks to figure out with Kaiju-Song (there are Kaiju, they are a thing) but I hope to turn it into a complete FATE setting at some point.  Still under construction, although I put a page for it on the blog for the moment.


Musing here, but there are seven Icons in Noah:

Maru's Daughter: Demon and CEO of New Babylon, the most powerful Megacorp in Noah.

Dragon King: Crime boss who rules Moria and the dark underbelly of Noah.

Golden Crown: Leader of the Angels, the Golden Crown is convinced of the right of the Angels to rule Noah.

The Song: Hivemind, harmonic and growing every day, much to the alarm of Angel and Demon alike.

Prime Minister: Elected high office that is supposed to run the government of Noah, although many claim its corrupt tendrils keep that from happening.

The Oracle Jezebel:  Rebel Angel and anarchist prophet, living off of bizarre Kaiju (mutated animals) in the most devastated and damaged parts of Noah.

The Nephillim Heresy: Scientists trying to study and understand Noah from another underwater city.  Their research itself causes them to be drawn into the very unstable problems of the City.

Like in 13th Age, Noah has these seven key NPCs working at their own goals, changing and affecting the landscape around them.  Players in this environ work by performing Heists and Catching bounties wanted by one of these Icons and their faction.  I think later I might attach aspects and things to them, but this is the first big brush strokes of the nature of the landscape in Noah I've put down so far.

Whatcha think?  Want more of this?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

castAR: The Future of Tabletop RPGs?

If you haven't heard about CastAR, check out its kickstarter.  Its kinda like the Oculus Rift or Google Glass.. except that it actually projects multidimensional images, albeit only with the right kind of material.  This invention is brilliant, but not for its effects on console or casual gaming- no, no, this thing is going to redefine tabletop RPGs as we currently implement them.

Virtual Reality rigs have been a long time coming- often they fail because they cause sickness or the costs are too high.  Computers have increased fast enough that worrying about the costs of processing projecting images and capturing head movements is very low, enabling new VR and AR rigs to suddenly come into our space.  The Oculus Rift is doing that sort of thing, but its a closed system.  The CastAR, if it does even just a fraction of what it advertises, will definitely head a new kind of media I think.

Although the inventors have mentioned uses for it with miniatures and board games, that isn't the aspect I'm alluding to that CastAR scratches.  Not even the holodeck ideas, which seem to me to be a bit too far in one direction.  Lets focus on the now, the here and the now.

CastAR lets you project images.  There is a whole new form of digital sculpture waiting here: 3d models long just purely digital in a physical space.  Galleries can now display this new brilliant idea, and its the kind of idea we need to embrace in the RPG space.  This is the right kind of device to push for a toolkit.

The kind of toolkit I imagine is a mix of google image search and space manipulation.  While just focus on being able to generate Dungeons in it?  What about spacecraft?  Or consoles in said craft?  It should be like a version of minecraft for CastAR, allowing users to manip and alter images as they play.

Go a step further, think about if the space itself becomes our randomizer?  What if you can project virtual dice into your table?  With our current motion detection devices, you can come up with a motion that can let you roll them instantly.  Or maybe a whole new kind of randomization.  We can bring in mechanics from video games, without losing the core component of RPGs.

GMing could be two or three times easier.  You load in automatic statistics for your NPCs, and let the computer run the mechanical bits you usually forget.  Video Games already do most of this, but we haven't had the chance to create a medium that is both computer sim AND Roleplaying before.

By Jupiter and Cthulhu, can you imagine what LARPs will become with these?  Think about wearable reflectors, letting some people PROJECT virtual aspects onto themselves.  Its there, its possible, or closer anyway.  Say you are supposed to be playing a physically impossible race for humans, like Centaurs or Halflings- you can project a artificial doll version of your character, in front of yourself, for others in the AR to interact with.

I can't wait to see what happens, but please!  Someone develop open apps and tools for this.  There is entire communities of gamers out there waiting for the tools to create new things, new ways to enhance our role playing.  Give us the software to create wonders and we will buy them, I guarantee.

Monday, October 21, 2013

In Black 2

Back to the Start...
The first thing Noir's felt when he woke up was his nose.  It stung so hard he had trouble opening his eyes.  He put a hand to his face and felt blood come from his nose.

Noir had been left on a couch.  He blinked his eyes open, trying to adjust to the light of the room.  Rain pelted the window behind him.

"A foreign land is a land full of wolves."  Noir groaned at the sound of his mother's voice, echoing in his mind.
"Aye madre, aye madre."  That old man had tried to warn him, hadn't he?  Noir only had misunderstood it, missing the point.  He should've realized the warning wasn't about raising the girl from the dead.  No, no, the old man warned Noir about the what would happen when she rose back from being dead.

After he'd finished the ritual, Noir had nearly fallen over from exhaustion, his blood sugar feeling low from it.  The girl then sucker-punched Noir before he could ask her any more questions.  Yes, he had asked her the first, most important question: "Can you hear me?"

"I should've had Bert with me." Noir rubbed his head.  Why was he talking out loud-


Noir recognized the cocking of a gun.  "Oh come on."

The newest undead creation of Noir's pointed a handgun point blank at him.  Noir didn't recognize the gun, more or less having no clue about the difference of one or another.  The girl's black hair hung in a ponytail and her eyes were fierce and locked on him with anger.

"Concealed carry, eh?"  Noir asked, trying to gingerly rise from the couch.

She shouted something at Noir.  He guessed it for a some sort of expletive.  It sounded somewhat Asian or something akin to that.  Noir had no reference for it.  He toyed with responding with what little Basque he remembered from his youth, but drove the absurd thought from his head.

"Uh..." Noir raised one arm into the air.  His other hand he kept clamped on his bleeding nose.  He hoped to contain that much.  Blood loss seemed like a bad idea at the moment.  "English?  Espanol?"

"What did you do to me in the Park?  Why did you attack me?"

Great, Noir thought, she doesn't remember who attacked her.  Lets make this more difficult.

"Hey.  Hold on, hold on."  Noir sat up.  She shook her head.

Exacerbated, Noir waved his up-stretched hand.  "Please?"

No response.  "Great, OK.  Fine, here is a question to answer your questions, ok?  Why did you take me back to your house?"

She stared at him.  The gun in her hand started to shake.

"Yeah.  See what I mean?  That was my voice you heard.  And no, I didn't attack you."

She dropped the gun.  Her face tried and struggled to express confusion and emotion.  Noir tapped his hand onto his leg, mimicking the rhythm of his heart.

"You hear that?  That's the rhythm of my heart.  What is yours?"

She put a hand to her neck.  She muttered something else in that language Noir still couldn't place.  "My... heart..."

"Yeah, you got no heartbeat.  Your body thinks its still alive.  Its trick.  My heartbeat, my energy keeping you still going.  You were dead, and I brought you back.  I asked, and you said yes.  So I brought..."

Noir's head swam again, making him feel numb.  Noir tried to fight off the blackness, but he hadn't eaten in over a day.  Noir kicked himself for that.  His magic drained his appetite.

Noir blacked out again, cursing himself.
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In Black 1

Part One of a series about Noir Badarte. In Black chronicles who he is and what he does. Noir Badarte toked up the joint with a shaking hand. He felt the smoke and felt its buzz. It just had an effect on his biology, just barely. His small, brown eyes watered a bit as he let the breathed out the smoke. "That stinks up the car, N." Bert sniffed in irritation. "I drive the car, I should get to tell you not to smoke your weed in it." Noir opened a window. "Oh, now you do that. Great. That really fixes it all." Noir tried to ignore Bert's sarcasm. Noir knew Bert meant well. Bert owed him. Bert would gladly die again for him. And Noir would raise him back up once again. "My body needs the THC, Bert. This is the only way I ever get an appetite anymore." Bert looked at him through the rear view mirror. "Yeah, I know." Bert flexed a hand nervously. "Back when I was alive, that would've scared me. Its getting harder to remember what that was like, with sleeping and all that." Noir toked up again. "Each body needs a bunch of energy from me to wake up again." Noir pointed to the side of the road ahead. "Pull up at that crossroad. That's where he is." Bert drove the car as directed. "This that same dark man as always? What do you do for him anyway?" Noir ignored the question. "This is a Crossroads, Bert. This whole town sits on a bunch of them. Thats important. Muy arcana. Bad moon is rising. A foreign land is a land of wolves." Noir got out of the car, leaving a befuddled undead Bert in his wake. The rain dripped very lightly, but the sky looked dark and gray. It stank of rain. The Dark Man held out a umbrella. Tempting him with the offer, Noir rubbed the glyphs scarred into his chest. He kept out from under the umbrella. "Truly, Noir, what do you fear when you refuse me?" Noir didn't answer. He looked down at the bench on the sidewalk. There were a couple trees nearby. A park, one or two public buildings, but this small town lacked in anything really big. And no one dared the rain. On the bench sat an old man with sunglasses and a walking cane, the kind the blind use. Noir stuck out his tongue and tasted the rain. "How long do I have?" "You taste it already?" "Are you going to answer my question, Devil, or just play with me? We have a deal, tell me where this body is and I take care of this problem for you. The sooner this is done, the sooner we can end this relationship." The dark man smirked and motioned to the man on the bench. "Sit, at least let me enjoy telling you the details, Noir Bedarte." Noir sighed. “Its a serial killer. Made a deal with you, reneged on it, and you want me to find him and fix it. Normal operating procedure for all this monsters you have me find.” The Dark Man shakes his head. “You insist that I’m behind all this. Ever imagine I simply want to solve the problem?” “You are the Devil, in league with the thousand dark spirits of darker ends of Abaddon.” “Perhaps, perhaps not. You do want to find Elle don’t you?” Noir walked to the bench and sat down. He cursed the Dark Man, in his dark suit and black umbrella under his breath. Brightening, the Dark Man sat down beside Noir. This put Noir between the Dark Man and the blind old man already there. “Good! I knew you’d be interested in learning more of where she went. Homer, could you be so kind? I believe you haven’t met Noir.” The blind man nodded at Noir. “It is good to finally see you. A long time I’ve been curious to see how far you go before you fall.” “The crossroads, Homer. Please.” The dark man tossed an apple at Homer. The Blind man grabbed it out of the air, without even looking at it. He snapped it out of the air, pulled out a knife and started to cut it into pieces. All without looking at it. Noir blinked at him. “There.” Homer pointed to the other end of the Park. “There she is. She will be a hard one for you dead-raiser. Be warned, this monster in man skin will be something you haven’t ever seen.” Noir stood up. “A wolf is a wolf. All monsters think the same. Nice to meet you Homer.” Noir got up. Then he walked to go meet a corpse, hopefully before the police arrived.

Next Part (2/10)

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Game Pitches

I found myself inspired the other day.  I wanted to start up a new game, but didn't know for sure if my group would be interested in trying it or not.  I decided to create a pitch, which currently is what I point at to try and entice people to play.  Game proposals/pitches, aren't something people always think of when they plan to GM a new game/campaign/chronicle, but they are important and can be great tools to help build player excitement.

Pitches are smaller part of a structuring out a game.  Before you get around to creating characters or writing out stories or whatnot, you, the GM, can write up a small document to explain what it is you want to run.  This document should be a single page- quick, simple and broad.  You don't need to explain yourself in details, just make your players excited and curious to try what idea you've latched onto.


Here is a brief idea of template I thought of when trying to write it up:
Title: Big.  Something that is unique to the idea, and more importantly, helps capture what you like to run.

For my upcoming game, the title for the game I planned was "City of Bridges."  It refers to the main location of the game, the City of Portland Oregon.  City of Bridges is a sobriquet for Portland- referring to the plethora of bridges in Portland, but I'm certain it isn't the only city to earn that name.  And Bridges is an idea want players to think about, crossing rivers or other obstacles, a passage from one place to another.  A metaphor to prep their minds, of sorts.

What Is The Game About?  Yeah, you might have a great idea that should be keep hidden until the right moment- just go ahead and mention it.  You don't need to worry about spoiling your plans or anything like that.  The game would've been (and will hopefully be) changed by players interacting with it.  If this idea excites you and is the main reason you want to run it?

That's exactly what you need to try and communicate to your players (and potential players).  Get them to understand what you want to run, main big reason.  That's all you need; people react well to passion.

In City of Bridges, the central idea of the game is excalibur, and the quest to try and find it.  I wanted to have it be a quest that involved three separate time periods in three cities, all connected to the main group of characters in Portland.  I went ahead and concided that my plan is to have the characters find or try to find excalibur and the search that surrounds that quest.  I really like the idea of running a cast of characters in search of a uber-important macguffin.  Feels like a kewl core idea to me, even if I admit to not having a clue to the how or why of it.

What System Is This? This should be the mutable, "I'm open to anything" part of the proposal... but yeah, we all have our own favorite system.  Or a system we think will be ideal, and some players will be curious to know what exactly they are getting into.  They might even have suggestions of better or alternate systems.

Ask for their advice, for something they might like more.  Don't be afraid to drop your core ideal system to experiment.  I've heard of plenty of people clamor or try to wedge 3.5 d20 into everything.  Thats might work for somethings, but try to branch out.  There's alot of systems out there- some might be easier than others.

For City of Bridges, the system I wanted to run for it is Mage: the Awakening.  I like the idea of Excalibur being some occult metaphor to some, while potentially being a ancient artifact to others.  M:tA is all about mysteries and power, and the core idea seemed grow best there.  My players haven't offered a better alternative.  I'm curious to try and alter M:tA a bit toward Fate Core, but that's for a different kind of discussion I think.

Establish When and How: Go ahead and try to set a date for character creation.  Yeah, this should be obvious, but don't forget to do it, or at least leave contact information.  Ask players for suggestions at this point too.

Add Some Fiction.  If you have a creative bent, go ahead and stick in some sort of fiction about the game.  This can be a introduction to the game, or maybe some flavor about the setting, that helps draw players in.  It can be a fun way to express what kind of game you want to get your players into.  It might finish the sale, for them, who knows?

For City of Bridges, I weaved bits and pieces of flavor about the setting throughout it.  This included a mantra for Portland I've established in other chronicles set there, "City of Roses, City of Thorns; City of Bridges, a City Torn."  It appears creepily from time to time, playing up a underlying theme of something going wrong in Portland.

That's It

I hope that helps anybody looking for some place to start for a Pitch.  I've got some more work to do on City of Bridges, hoping I can get a Character Creation Guide for it too.  Its good to sketch out and write documents like this for the games I run.

I like it, and the GM style I employ require me to improve alot, so I feel the need to get ideas written down as much as possible before starting the game at the very first make it better and easier.  More information for me to fall back on, so I can help feed off the energy and ideas of my players.  Good like and good gaming, :D.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Freemason Musing

So, I watched this on TYT the other day:

More or less, I found this bizarre, and not to poke fun at the stenographer, I decided to go researching into it.  I understood a bit about Freemasons and the US constitution, including the big backlash against them in the early 19th century.  More and more searching, and I found myself musing about a setting for a urban horror/fantasy setting.

In the setting, the Freemasons operate as a force of hunters of the supernatural, trying to contain and stop rival conspiracies constructed by powers trying to "contain" humanity.  None of these forces are benevolent- but the Freemasons are our 'in' here- they help to found the United States, but fail to keep power over it.  Something about the Occult power of the US has gone rogue, and the Freemasons' agents are struggling in a losing war.

Magic and the supernatural is very subtle in this world, probably somewhat "consensus" reality like M:tA (take your pick of flavor there) but I'd think of it more akin to the Oblivion War Jim Butcher has in the Dresden Files.  Old Powers don't exist because people have forgotten them, and the Freemasons keep them contained.  Powers sometimes find ways in, like through the possession of individuals for their own ends.

Globalization has made things worse for the Freemasons- in the setting I envision, the Freemasons have two contradictory objectives:
-Protect humanity from the Others and never restrain their freedoms to do so.
-Keep secret the things humanity should never learn about again.

I imagine groups working for the Freemasons, who the freemasons use as catspaws, to get their missions done for them.  They can't involve themselves, they have the keys to the knowledge and can't share it without consequences.  But they can find those stuck who might need help or could be tricked into advancing their ends against the Old Powers.  Perhaps its piece best set about the question of The Truth.

Can you tell the truth?  What is the truth?  Can the truth ever really be just the truth?

Just a musing, might never do more with it.  Found the idea interesting.  Horror Conspiracies, wrapped in intrigues that operates like a procedural or perhaps like a heist at times.

And one person is always a Freemason, watching, hoping that they don't see what they think they are seeing.

(also by the way, Freemasonry isn't a conspiracy.  Just a club.  Fictional musing, for the sake of musing, you know?  Good, now go leave those masons alone.)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Fate Core OneShot Experimentation

A few weeks ago, I gm'd my group through a game of Fate Core, although I tweaked it on purpose.   I had supported the Kickstarter for it.  It seemed like it was time for me to try it out, and the rest of the group complied, interested to learn more about it themselves.

Fate Core is excellent to tweak and hack.  I've developed a habit of hacking tabletop RPGs, often out of a urge to up play or down play a particular goal I've had in mind.  In the case of running Fate Core this time, I wanted to run a one-shot, but I wanted some parts of it to go quicker than others- which had sort of mixed results.

I wanted character creation to go quick, so I reduced skills down into six "professions", using one of the subsystems in the Fate toolkit.  Professions are a sort of idea of a skill group- that is, for how I used it, six different approaches for handling situations defined by in-setting professions.  We ended up spending two sessions, one whole session for creating the setting and another to play out the game.

First we used the Sparks RPG/Fate crossover material (yes, Fate Core has a variant that uses world creation from yet another RPG.  The Spark RPG, perhaps just as clever as Fatecore is) to crave out a world for us to play with.  For Spark's purposes, this begins with inspirations, which kinda make everything else fall into place.  Our array of inspirations varied from Battlestar Galactica (the reimagined series) to Final Fantasy and Eldritch Horror.

We called our little nightmare thing "Secrets of the Heralds: A postamerican SciFi Horror."  Postamerican implied that the game was set in future after the fall of the United States, while Horror let us drift into creepy Lovecraftian fantasy.  A future where dark gods have re-emerged, using secret heralds who live among humanity to drive their misbegotten children into destruction, eventually rendering the Earth inhabitable.

Dark, gritty and very us.  "In Space."

The game itself revealed a bunch of things to me, but here is a brief synopsis:

Each player got six professions: Agent (for sneaking about), Diplomat (for talking), Soldier (for fighting), Engineer (for technology), Mage (for magic and Gods) and Scavenger (for scavenging).  This had the effect of making specializations by my players really, really effective.  Fate had its own hand in that, but does a Soldier-heavy fightng character really need to resort to using another other skill but Soldier?  Yeah, I took note of that.

The game turned into a classic horror game.  By game's end, the monsters I'd made for the session- the Caelung Tzakgan, a race of invisible worms that shared a hivemind and gestated in humans after their microscopic eggs, which had been planted in some relief effort food, had been eaten.

Last scene?  One character had used magic to fry off the skin of another character for a secret that had been revealed.  The last character knocked him out, and was forced to decide how to solve the problem of the worms, which had taken over the ship...

Another issue we discovered was the uncertainty of the magic.  Fate has a bunch of different magic systems, but I didn't define any sort of limitations.  There hadn't been any real clue of how magic in the setting should work, and to be honest, I find players when given unlimited power tend to lack the imagination to REALLY abuse it.

That's the weird trick.  Give a player the right amount of power, and they hang themselves with it (or so I believe).  Its like handing gasoline to a gorilla.  They don't know what to do with it, and if they did, good, trustworthy players don't abuse that power when its presented to them.  Its better to either trust your players, if you can, or assume the worst and prepare for that.  But I'm a improv GM, so sometimes that all evens out, and in this game, it did.

Fate Core succeeded where it's centered: Aspects and fate points excelled in our game.  Compels came naturally to me, and I tried to get my players to try and compel each other (because it makes perfect sense to me!)  I intended it as a oneshot, mainly because I'd like to run the Fate Core again, the same way, with the same people to see if prior experience made things easier or harder.

I'd like to think that something even deeper or kewler could result.  Best to plan for that test, then.  Maybe I can think up a review or something.  Fate Core is buy-what-you-like, but I'd suggest paying five bucks and picking up a copy.  Its got some great ideas under the hood.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Muttering to One Self Is Required

There is something to be said about muttering to one's self.  Its a good habit, and one should do it every moment one can.  If people say otherwise, they are, perhaps, lying.

I'm not going to say that madness isn't a problem per se.  It can be, I suppose, but things like talking to oneself are... well, perfectly sane, if you look at it from the irrational point of view.  Its how I sort out my thoughts every day, and I feel somewhat sane, if not quite mad.

The best reason I see to keep this up is the honesty that comes with it.  I'm not going to start lying to myself, especially since I have to put up with myself for a very long time.  Or very short time, I suppose, should a heavy blow to the skull render me somewhat comatose or prevent me from forming anymore longterm memories.

Neurology beside, one's madness is a key to inner happiness, unless its one of those madnesses that doesn't know how to shut up long enough for the more fun ones to work around.  Everyone knows what I am referring to.  Those dark evil devils that witch about.  They plague the best of us, and torture the worst of us.

That's it though, isn't it?  Yeah, some of those crazy imp-things I see crawling on the walls keep me from thinking straight and perhaps that nine-head calf on the road outside isn't real, but the cheerful muse by my side?  Would I trade the conversation with her to not feel or see the wild spider-cows that haunt me?

Quick aside- spider cows are horrific things.  Bodies of bovines, their heads and necks are comprised of the head and legs of a giant hairy spider.  And spider half is bent, conjoined to face the rear end of the bovine half.  They stink of sour milk and their flesh rots, to attract flies which they gobble up.

See?  Quite horrible, but I endear such insanities for a good reason.  I promise, the conversations between me and the others never quite gets out of hand, but then again, life is life.  Sometimes being a little strange is better, hmm?

J. S. Pearce