Saturday, November 30, 2013

Reading Materials: Team of Rivals

I've found history is one of the top three things my reading pile falls into.  And often, it helps me to come up with context for what has happened before.  Like everything else I read, it helps me to figure out my own writing and thinking.  Here's a quick review about Team of Rivals.

Team of Rivals looks at Lincoln's rise to the presidency by also analyzing and looking at each member of his cabinet.  This interesting because Lincoln filled his cabinet with those men who'd been his rivals for the Republican nomination in 1860.

Detailing their histories and comparing how different each man compared to Lincoln, as well as how similar they were, you get the political picture of Lincoln's presidency.  Of how he cleverly would push for legislation only after having solid public support for it or how he treated each man in his cabinet with respect.  Or he managed to become the republican nominee during the republican convention despite being in last place.

Biographical content like this feeds my imagination.  You get an understanding of a person in Team of Rivals based on their history, who they were born to, where they were born and how they got to be who they became.  One gets to see the full butterfly effect of how close two men could've been the same, yet departed such different tracks in their lives.

And it all is framed in the national tragedy that was the american Civil War.

Excellent book.

Perhaps the best kinds of history bring you closer understanding with the subject, even if total and complete comprehension of subjects still elude us to some degree.  But history like Team of Rivals is excellent for fueling ideas for the origins of characters and getting a good grip on historical subject matter without having (although you should still look at some of the primary material if you get the chance) dig deep into the main historical material yourself.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Black Friday 4

Start of Story | Previous Part (3/?)
Sophia didn't quite think of a response to that right away.

"Excuse me,"  the Demon asked again, his tone sounding both dry and irritated, "but how can I help you today?"

"Uh..."  Sophia didn't like the feel of the coins around her.  They weren't people's souls, but whatever they were they didn't feel right.  She glanced down at the coins and looked back at the Demon, trying to keep a cool face.  She tried to look tough, although her gut told her that wouldn't really matter to a demon, regardless.

"Are you seeking a particular service or good?  Or..."  The demon licked its obese lips, its needle-like tongue vibrating.  "Perhaps you are here for something specific?"

"Someone.  I'm here for someone." Sophia mumbled the words, forcing the demon to rise and try to listen to her.

"Speak up, speak up!"  The demon waved its arms at the piles of coins around it.  "So much clinking and clanking, follow me?"

"I'm looking for a woman named Lucy."  Sophia let a bit of frustration flood into her face.  She got irritated and raised her voice.  "I sense her aura her.  Where is she?  What have you done to her?"

"Sense?  Ah.  Someone with the sight, eh?"  The Demon picked up a few coins in its fat fingers.  Flicking them around, it smiled a knowing smile.  "Ah, someone in the know.  Someone who can see my true form."

"I asked you a question."  Sophia put her hands in her coat.  She grabbed hold of both of her knives.  They wouldn't help her against this demon, but at least she could try and figure something to do with them.

The demon pulled out a ledger and put a accountants visor on.  It smiled.  "Please, the name again?"

This threw Sophia off a bit.  "Um... Lucy..."

The demon started to flip through the pages of the ledger, looking through columns.  More gold coins rolled in, each feeling that same cold energy Sophia had felt from them before.  "I did accept an exchange earlier today, one 'Lucille', as you called her, for a service."

The Demon held up a single coin.  Unlike the other coins, it wasn't gold, but instead looked to Sophia to be made of copper and it was the size of a half-dollar.   It didn't have the demon's hideous maw.  Instead Sophia saw Lucy's face on the coin.

"What-"  Sophia closed her mouth, chiding herself.  She didn't know everything about the occult or weird, but the witch knew enough about demons to remind herself to be careful about what she said.  They liked to perform services, often for chantel.  That and negative emotions empowered them.  Getting angry at the demon wouldn't help her.

It might even cause her to get herself stuck as a coin too.  Yay.

"Yes, it is."  The Demon opened its mouth, a hissing and howling sound coming out of it.  It took Sophia a moment to realize that the Demon was laughing, although it sounded like a snake drowning in a toilet.  "Ah, so many coins!  Most just give me a taste of their wants and dreams- but my true servants give me gifts like this.  A innocent, who doesn't really want to give up their dream for a cheap, meaningless gift.  Delicious, it is.  What do you have that equals something so sweet?"

Sophia opened her mouth, then closed it.  She couldn't really lie about Lucy being like that.  Yes, she would only have this job because she thought it was necessary, not for frivolous reasons.  Yes she was a good person.  She didn't deserve this, and despite Lucy being gullible and nescient, Sophia couldn't say something bad about her.

"How about I offer to let you live, creature?"

Sophia opened her mouth, pouring feeling and her magic into it.  Her tongue glowed as she spat out of the bead she'd been keeping under her tongue all evening.  The bead had been a gift between Lucy and Sophia from years ago.

It had been symbol of the strength of their relationship, how they knew they loved and needed one another.  The bead was worn and worthless, but not to the two of them.  It represented time and effort spent on making each other's lives better, not on some selfish gift.  A altruistic connection they both shared.

That gave the bead power, making it glow a bright and hot white.  Gold coins skittered away from it.  The Demon's eyes widened, and it fell back away from the bead, dropping Lucy's coin on the ground.

Sophia stood over the bead infused by the charity and love she shared with Lucy.  Her eyes glowed white.  She spoke down to the demon, not pretending anymore.  This night had irked her enough.

"Mammon, prince of greed, I present a sign of my connection to the one you've taken.  I will take her back or I will turn my love and charity for her into a sharp blade and drive it into that flabby skull of yours.  Now you have a choice, give me back Lucy or see how serious I can be!"

Mammon peeked from the shadows behind the Altar.  Flabs of fat smoked and steamed in the presence of the bead.  He spat out black blood, trying to use gold coins to fend it away from her.

"Bah!  This little one tis not worth the effort!  Take her coin!"

Lucy's copper coin flew up and at Sophia.  She caught it, holding it up.  Sophia glared at Mammon.  "Take her out of this coin!"

"Bah, witch, we had a deal, remember?  You gave me your mercy for the coin."  Mammon's hissing laugh greeted her from behind the black marble altar.  "Of course, I can return her to you.  You just need to return to me what I gave the original seller."

Sophia blinked down.  She looked at the gold coin.  "Who?"

"Ian S Gerald.  Glasses and some measure fake power."  Mammon tossed a coin at her.  "Leave me!  Take her back and leave me be!"

Next Part 5/5

Black Friday 3

Start of Story | Previous Part (2/5)
The demon-faced golden coins rolled across the floor, clittering and clattering around Sophia as she crawled to her feet.  The sensations of all the rampant greed and black friday rush started to feel like a ocean to her.  She felt sick.  But part of her started to persevere through it.

Ick.  Was this what it was like to be used to all of this?  Sophia shuddered.  She hoped that being able to see in her magical senses and not topple over from all of this negative emotion wasn't a bad sign for her sanity.

Her eyes followed the gold coins.  each customer in the store seemed to be dropping them as they shopped.  They couldn't seem, since in a fashion, each coin was really just ethereal.  Symbolic of something else, but that was the best symbol her mind could put to them.

"Lucy, Lucy, Lucy..."  Right.  She needed to stay on track.  Sophia could feel traces of Lucy on the floor, a sort of path of her resonance moving backward, in the same direction as the coins themselves were rolling.

Sophia decided to follow the coins, hoping that they and Lucy were heading the same direction.

After a few attempts, she also gave up on trying ask employees about Lucy- none of them seemed to remember or care long enough to talk to her.  They all looked mummified, to her, after a fashion, dried out.  The Black Friday customers were troublesome, however.

People cut her off, running with their cart in a eternal hurry.  Others would spontaneously appear behind her and start yelling at her to move.  Sophia felt at least one pair of hands almost try to knock her over, and she struggled to focus on following the path of coins.  She tried to stop to keep her bearings from time to time, as waves of greed or anger or hunger would overwhelm her.

Ugh.  Would anyone notice if I was knocked over?  Sophia worried.

A nearby display of televisions exploded, hands and customers washing over it in a torrent of frenzied grabbing and pushing.  Someone was crying.  A employee tried to yell something, but Sophia couldn't make it out.

She continued to follow the gold coins.  They rolled and rolled.  They made their ways to the back of the store.  Roll, roll, roll.

Sophia made her way to the back room of the store, in a break room.  No one in sight.  She ignored the 'Employees Only' sign.

She acquired a hanging employee vest.  In Sophia's magic sights, the vest looked more like a long black robe.  It almost felt like it, heavy and much too warm.

She went back to following the coins and their path through the back of the GenMart.

The golden coins rolled through a set of double doors.  Then bounce, bounce, bounce.  Down stairs they went.  Sophia followed them.

Her eyes adapted to the growing darkness as the stairs turned to concrete and descended downward.  After twenty steps, there was a corridor, lined in pipes and cinder blocks.  At the far end of it stood a steel door, bright red with a paper on it:


And each golden coin rolled under the bottom of the red steel door.  Sophia could feel it grow hotter and hotter as she neared the door.  She could hear laughing.  She shivered, her stomach filling with butterflies.

She pressed one of her pale hands onto the red steel door.  It felt cold.  It felt wrong.  It felt like screaming children drowning in neglect and starvation framed with contempt.

Lucy, I can feel her aura here too.  So many auras, but her path leds here.  Oh Lucy, I never thought to expect this here.  Damn it, I should've realized GenMart would be such a dark pit of despair, but why didn't I DO anything about it before this?

The red steel door creaked open.  Golden light greeted Sophia as she looked into a vast room, covered in golden coins.  They flowed up to her knees, and more coins added themselves to the pile with every minute Black Friday carried on.

A marble altar sat in the middle of the room.  Upon it, making it crack and sag, sat the most disgusting thing yet.  A massive lump of red and grey flesh, a demon at least five times her size.  It was massively obese, coins stuck on its sweat, greasy skin.  It had a long toothy mouth.  Rolls of fat framed its lump of a head.  Other mouths covered it, each licking coins with needle-thin tongues.

On top of all that, it wore a GenMart vest.  The GenMart garish green clashed so badly it made Sophia cringe.

Sophia recognized the large fat demonic figure from the golden coins around it.

The Demon smiled at her.  "Hello.  Can I help you?"

Next Part 4/5

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

City of Bridges 6: Rules and Things

Different thinking, after being sick for a five or so many days.  Ick.

I'm wondering if hacking Fate Accelerated would get me to a system I'd like to use Mage the Awakening with?  Currently, I have a hypothetical build:

FAE's approaches plus three traits: Health, Willpower, Refresh and Gnosis.  These are passive values, and mainly exist to add value or determine other things.

Three Attributes: Physical, Mental and Social.  Each of these would get added to FAE's approaches, hopefully giving the approaches more interesting uses and reducing the chances of a "uber" approach.  Not as clean as Rob Donoghue's FAE 2, though.  I'm still thinking it though.

Still would have ten arcana, however, and its the nature of Arcana that make me ok with wonking the system a bit.  Arcana are purviews, and each dot in M:tA carries a inherent measure of use- 1 dot means you know the three basic practices of that Arcana, and so forth.  This is a setting thing, but the magic system sets pretty much ok by itself, outside of Mage and nWoD without too much tweaking (Life or Fate need some tweaks, but that is pretty much fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants, which is my wheelhouse anyway).

I'll write up a more formal hack for later, but these are my random thoughts on the idea.  Not very clear or concise, but I felt a doublepost was warranted to make up for missing a day earlier this week, due to illness.  Anyway, as always, please comment and let me know what you think! :D

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Black Friday 2

Start Of Story(1/?)|
Sophia steeled herself.  Then she took up a quick pace.  She entered the encampment of Black Friday shoppers, most of whom, at first, paid her no mind.

People in tents crowded around propane-powered ovens.  Others just simply stood there, their eyes glazed over.  Some looked tired.  Others stared back at Sophia, with empty eyes.

She sped up her pace a bit.  This many people, in this place, well, it certainly wasn't her ideal environment.  The white witch found this many people noxious.

Ugh.  Thanksgiving is just five minutes over and you people have been waiting here for how long?  Sophia thought, disgusted at the sight of most of them.  And for what?  Cheap Chinese plastic?

As she moved toward the front of the GenMart, more and more eyes shifted to her.  Sophia closed her eyes.  She tried to keep focus, to keep her hidden senses closed.  She didn't want to see all of the things that a Black Friday crowd at GenMart had stuck to them.

"Hey!?"  One person called.

"What makes you think you can cut in line?"  A old woman screamed at her.

Sophia tried to ignore them.  Then the pair of voices turned into a chorus yelling at her.  Sophia blinked, now standing five feet from the front doors of GenMart.

The chorus then turned into a tirade.  People got out of their chairs.  Others stood up and pointed.  Screaming.  Sophia watched an older man get thrown down, knocked over by the mob.  Everyone was getting up and moving forward, screaming at her.

Her heartbeat started to thrum very hard in her chest.  She pulled one of her knives out of her coat, unsure of what was going on.

She looked at the GenMart front glass doors.  There stood a GenMart employee, wearing the ugly green and red GenMart vest.  They looked confused at her, and Sophia tried to call out to the employee.  He didn't hear her.

Sophia tried to ask about Lucy, yelling as loud as she could.  But she couldn't even hear her own voice anymore.

The mob got louder and louder, barreling down at her.  Sophia looked around, realizing she stood before a stampede.  White hungry eyes and the mad shuffle of feet rushed headlong at her.

Sophia moved to the fallen old man, pulling out her knife.  Mark with icons of her own power, consecrated by her magic beforehand, she covered the old man and held the knife high in the air.  She muttered a word that only she could hear, just as the mob started to flood over her.


The front glass doors of the GenMart shattered.  The mob dove into the GenMart.  As they started to trample over Sophia, there was a brilliant flash, leaving a pile of blinded bodies around her and the old man.

Sophia's eyes stung as she tried to stand up.  She couldn't quite see, all her magical senses suddenly opened.  The stench of opulent greed and rage overwhelmed her.

"I... can't... see."  Sophia couldn't get a single foot to stay straight, so she crawled forward, her gloved hands now covered in glass shards.  Her eyes could only see the clean, too-straight, too unnatural tiles of the GenMart floor, covered in people's shoes and boots and bare feet.

And coins.  In between each watery eye blink, Sophia saw golden coins clutter to the GenMart floor, each the size of her palm.  Each had a demonic grin, filled with sharp teeth and a pair of sunken eyes.  Etched on each coin read the words: "In Mammon We Trust."

Next Part (3/?)

Black Friday 1

Sophia Clas tugged her coat tighter against the cold November rain.  It felt like cold knives against her skin.  Puffs of her breath fogged out in a aria around her.

Sophia never was the tallest girl.  She still didn't flinch in the face of the cold rain- nor did she let it deter her. Her white coat outlined her in the darkness of the cold November night.  It matched her prematurely white hair.  That and her pale skin almost made her into a walking white shadow.  She clutched to a pair of knives under her coat, but Sophia felt certain that she wouldn't use them to attack or defend her self.

They were meant for other things.  Things most would-be muggers wouldn't expect from someone like her.  Each knife was covered in paint and glyphs.  Fetishes hung from their handles, each glass vials with enough venom that Sophia was certain either had magical power or would at least scare any would-be attackers.  Afterall, who wants to attack a girl with venom-covered knives?

"Assholes."  Sophia murmured aloud.

I shouldn't expect something so bad here, Sophia thought.  But mainstreet looked like a bad place to be.  At night the old brick buildings that squatted over the sidewalks leaned in too far.  Cracks grew into frightening lears.  Eyes came out of every corner.  Light seemed to hide, shadows growing long claws.

It been years since any of the businesses on mainstreet had recovered.  Almost all of them had closed.  GenMart had done that, really.  First it drove out all of the old business out, and then people started to move away.

Sophia sniffed. "Lucy, Lucy, Lucy, the things I do for Lucy..."

Only hours before, Sophia had looked down at her cellphone.  She had been preparing materials, reading over some books and more or less waiting for Lucy to get home.  Then her cellphone buzzed, causing the bells tied onto it to ring: A text from Lucy.


And that was all it said.  Nothing else.  Now Sophia found herself going to where Lucy was supposed to be, the last place Sophia thought to see her.  At Lucy's job at GenMart.  Lucy refused to accept Sophia's help, wanting her own money, not money that Sophia had made with her own work.

I can't blame her.  Who doesn't want to make their own way?  Who wants to be a leech?  

Sophia shivered at the thought of going into that place, on this night of all nights.  Late at night, right before Thanksgiving night was going to shift into friday morning.  Black Friday.

Even here, in this town, people went insane on Black Friday.  And Sophia disliked being around people already.  It plagued her ever since she had been a little girl.

Sophia knew the words.  She could repeat them, make herself see people.  Smell and hear their auras, their emotions, their true selves.  Sophia could unlock people, and she hated that.  It was like putting your eyeball into a candle, except that candle was a person, and they got to look right back.


Crossing the last street, Sophia walked past the small bank and Taco Bell that gave forewarning of the GenMart.  She paused for a moment, in the parking lot of the closed Taco Bell- well, the lobby was closed, which was good enough for her, since she couldn't care for that stuff.

She stared at the crowded parking lot of the GenMart, filled with cars, tents, RVs and people.  A crowd so vibrant with emotions that Sophia could feel it pressing onto her inner senses without opening them.  Greed.  Want.  Hunger.

It smelled like rotten fish and gold.  That obscene stench that both entices and makes one want to walk away.  A guilty sin that some people know they couldn't refuse.  But they still make the choice, to willingly wallow in that stench.

Sophia sighed.

"Lucy, Lucy, Lucy.  The things I do for Lucy."  And with that, the white witch walked into a maw of hell.
Next Part|

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Nyx: Wrong Find

I love being a Black Knight.

Tracking Aiden Schumaker to this module had been an easy task.  He had chartered the small habitat at the Ring and it took me about three days to pin it down. The module was floating dead in space, probably having lost whatever tether had it attached to the Ring. It was one of a million tiny modules that were tethered to the Ring. The Ring seemed rather idiotic, since the superstructure that orbited the Earth was frequented with tourists wanting to visit the largest object constructed by the human race. There were places on the Ring that looked right down on the Earth majestically. It wasn’t hiding in plain sight.

The data trail and this module fit the guy I was hunting. Aiden wasn’t experienced as a fugitive and owed my client some 5 million in credits. So far it seemed like a easy job. Of course, the Cabal always managed to give me a job that had some twist in it. Luckily they hadn’t given me any alternate orders to follow, so I didn’t have to worry too much about them making my job any harder to mysterious reasons that I wasn’t allowed to know.

I leaped into the hull rupture of the module. I passed through the nanobot mist and into the atmosphere it was keeping from leaking into the open vacuum of space. My asmodai-class powered armor helped to glide me into the tiny module. The damned fool I'd been chasing had led me here. Apparently he had managed to get himself stranded. Bad for him, good for me.

"Probably space mad already," I muttered. My armor muted my speech. I tried to tap one foot and took a look around the tiny module. "No gravity, no lights."

I sent a command through my Brain-jack to the AI in my armor. Signs of Life?

The AI replied with a half dozen readouts and scans, fed into my vision. I focused on the infrared heat map. I could see a warm shape floating freely in the middle of the module, due to the Zero-gravity. It wasn't moving of its own accord, but it looked like a human body. I had already unconsciously pulled my gun. I decided on a softer approach before trying to grab him.

Audio on, I commanded my armor. The voice synthesizer clicked on. It modulated my voice into another synthetic voice that, according to some study somewhere, scientifically more frightening for others to listen to. Part of the package, and a part of the job.

"Surrender, Aiden Schumaker. I am here to make sure you pay the debts you owe.  Debts are to be paid- Fek! Fek! Fek!”

I flicked on the light on my gun and flooded the module with more clear visibility. I paused and stopped talking once I noticed the two things going on inside the module.

First, the person floating in the middle of the module was bleeding out and pretty rapidly too.  It was a woman and she looked pale and she was almost dead. Second, and more importantly, she wasn't who I was looking for. At. All.

Sometimes I hate being a Black Knight.

Never can it be a easy job. Its always gotta be something.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Flash Fic: Grey

Soaking wet, the dead body tilted its head up.  Orange streetlamps cast the walking corpse in a silhouette, highlighting the still unrotten parts of its face.  It growled, and almost looked like the man it used to be.

Grey blinked at it.

She didn't expect to see something like that so soon.  Yes it was midnight.  Yes it was a full moon.  And yes, the head of the local Gates Group had threatened her.

Crazy conspiracy to use corpses to secretly control the government behind closed doors?  And so easily spotted anyone with a lick of magical talent stay cleared of them?  Yeah, that Gates Group.  Bullies, and Grey still didn't fear them.  She had the Lupus Dei, the Wolf God on her side.  Fuck all the opposition.

"Really?"  Grey asked the walking corpse.

"Grrr... yrrr..."

"Yeah, yeah.  I figured as much."  Grey shook her head and took up her axe another time.  "In Lupus Dei I serve.  And geez, one of these days I want to keep the outfit I liked."

Her skin shifted, growing grey fur.  Her eyes blazoned white.  Fangs and a snout grew from her mouth.  Muscles rearranged themselves, clicking and snapping.  Claws elongated from the her hands, turning them into long, sharp weapons. Her clothes ripped.  Her jeans shredded.  Her white and red hood was torn into shreds.

The rain made her new grey pelt stick to her body.  The Wolf-woman snarled, and charged the walking corpse with her axe in hand.
Previous Flash Fic

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Can You Hear The Song? 10: Issues

So, time to cover the big issues going on in Noah: the Kaiju-Song.  First up is the Legacy Issues, past issues that the setting has moved past, but still remembers.  Second is the Current Issue, the current problems plaguing the City.  Last is the Impending Issue, things coming around the corner.

There are five issues at play in Noah, influencing the past and current attitudes of the Icons and their followers:

Legacy Issues
Not long ago, the City survived "Metatron's Reign of Terror."  The Angel Metatron took control of Noah, his cult dominating and terrorizing the City whilst hunting down Demons.

Before that, "Babylon Owned This City."  The Babylon Megacorp ruled Noah, its tendrils had corrupted every level of the Noahite government.  Its tainted control had been broken by Metatron when he and his cult first emerged.

Current Issues
The City has become a war zone for the "Cold War Between Demons and Angels."  Their factions use proxies throughout Noah to fight one another for control or to change Noah to match their ideals.

The other issue has to do with the crumbling city's infrastructure- "This Old City is Falling Apart."  Noah is centuries old.  Most of the city's original buildings are still being used by most of the city's populace, and most of these are ancient, failing and cramped.

Impending Issue
The Song becomes a pandemic, spreading fast between Clayborn- but Angels and Demons are immune to it, and have to deal with the "Song IS Ascendant."  For the moment, the Song is small and located mostly in Heartwood.  But it is growing, everyday.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Flash Fic: Crusader

Her sword was wet and dripping with hot blood.

The crowd screams.  The assassin hold aloft the head of the decapitated man who'd been speaking a moment before.  Her white shirt was bloodstained, a red cross blazon across it.

People panicked.  Cameras moved wildly.

Bodyguards ran at her position at the podium.  And then men in suits.  And then police.  Gunfire.

Slice.  Thrust.

Bullets deflected off her skin.  Her skin glittered like diamonds.  One man loses an arm.  Another, a policewoman, is bisected.

Her dark eyes ignore all of them.  She takes the head and tosses it into the air- it found purchase upon a power pole, and dangled like a grotesque reminder of the scene unfolding.

They flee from her, in her red cross shirt and her bloodstained jeans.  Her glasses were broken.  Tears streamed down her face.

"I remember."

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

In Black 10

Bert stopped the car.

Noir got out without a word.  Kyle followed.

"You still aren't going to explain to me what's going on here?"  Kyle asked.  He held his Dragon Mask under one arm.

Noir ignored him.

"You can't just- damn it!"

Rain poured down buckets.  Noir pulled a bag from one of pockets.  He emptied it into his right hand as he walked.  The coins felt freezing cold in his palm.

The path in the park led downhill.  Noir didn't have to look.  He didn't need his ghost sight or spell.  He could feel the negative energies here.  He spat, and continued to follow the negative energies.

Kyle's protests stopped.  He could sense it too, but Kyle lacked the same trained focus as Noir.

"What is that?"

Noir continued to walk.  He navigated by the negative energies.  It had been a cold front, necromantic in its energies.  Spirits, weak spirits on the outside of a mini hurricane of necrokinetic energies.

"Blagh.  Disgusting."  Noir commented.

Kyle shuddered.  "Yeah.  I can feel that."

Noir pointed at a house ahead of them.  "There.  I'm going in there.  You aren't, understand?"

Kyle blinked.  "You can try to stop me-"

"No,"  Noir shook his head.  "You don't understand Kyle.  You are going to destroy that building.  I can't take control of the spirits It has decided to weave around itself.  That's a rule I can't break.  But you, you have no problem violating the will of the plants around you do you?

"Go ahead.  Destroyed that house.  Then I can finish this."

Kyle put the dragon mask on his head.  Then he raised a fist.

Nearby trees uprooted themselves.  A sea of grass, bushes and trees smashed into the fence surrounding the house.  Dead spirits screamed and hissed and cried around Noir.

Noir waited.

A single man ran out of the collapsing house.  Skeletal thin, the man tried to escape the mad storm of plant matter that systemically ripped the house down.  The man paused, locking eyes of Noir.

"We have a rule.  You ask."  Noir yelled.  He pulled out a pistol, lined up a shot.  He pulled the trigger.

The skeletal man's head imploded, brains spraying everywhere.

The storm of spirits and dead and ghosts fell apart.  It started to flow away.  Noir walked up to the body of the man.


"You would've preferred I used magic?"  Noir asked Kyle.  "No, its not done yet."

Noir threw down a coin at the man's body.  His Shade whispered to him.  Noir asked him the question.  The shade of the fallen necromancer hissed, trying to refuse.  He couldn't.  Noir couldn't blame him.

"What did you say?"  Kyle took off his mask.   The rain started to let up.  "And... I have rules too, Necromancer.  Killing humans isn't one of them."

"Bah."  Noir spat.  "You ever feel the will of the plant spirits you overpower with your magic, Draco?  Kyle?  Whatever you are called?"

"I- "  Kyle paused, considering it.  "Sometimes they are hard to motivate."

Noir shook his head.  "I was taught rules.  I was born with this curse.  I can see dead people.  I can smell ghosts.  And they respond to me.

"Necromancers ask.  We never force spirits to serve us.  We make agreements and fulfill our end, understand?"

Kyle didn't respond.

"I asked him the Question.  He said yes.  But you know what?  I'm not going to do what I asked.  I'm going to ignore him.  Let him fade away.  He broke our rules.

"That's why your sister died.  He violated her spirit, and tried to rip it out of her.  He was addicted to it, taking spirits and putting it in his flesh.  Letting others ride him, especially his victims.  I stole his ride.  He still destroyed part of Xia.  He..."

Noir shook his head.

"I'm done here.  I saw what he wanted me to see."  Noir walked away.


Homer stood up, and stretched.  The old blind man fingered his cane.

"Hmm."  The dark man broke the silence first.

"Hmm yourself."  Homer snapped.  "Do you even know anything that can help that necromancer of yours?  Or is this whole thing about an Elle a lie?"

The dark man shrugged.  "There are problems that need to be handled."

"Like Draco?"

"I prefer to think of that as a lesson for the both of them."

"Ugh."  Homer shook his head.  "I told you beforehand, this only will make it worse."

"I'm trying to help, Homer."

"No, you don't understand.  This is only going to make things worse for you in the end.  Your side fails and fades into the night in the end."

"And if I can take some of the other angels with me, well then, its a success."

Homer just shook his head.

Monday, November 18, 2013

In Black 8: Penultimate Chapter

Noir put a coin in Xia's mouth, waited a moment, then spoke quiet words to himself.  "Zer moduz?"

Xia's eyes closed.  "Now spit out the coin," Noir commanded.

Xia did as she bid.  Noir flicked the coin in the air.  As it moved in the air, he let energy flow from him.  He cast the spell, and a black fog bellowed out from the coin.  Light seemed to avoid the fog, like it were unnatural.  It flowed thick and oily.

Noir breathed deep.  He inhaled all of the black fog.  He hacked, then coughed.  Noir bent over from his coughing, hitting the ground.

The necromancer felt hands helping him up.  Black droplets dripped from his mouth.

"Ugh."  Noir coughed.  "A foreign land is a land full of wolves, ugh."

"What's wrong?"

"I saw what she doesn't remember.  Ugh."  Noir straightened.  "Damn it."

Noir stood up.  He pushed hands off of himself.  The necromancer gave Ghede a nod as he exited.  The loa returned the nod, the two of them sharing an understanding.  Noir would take care of the problem, and the Ghede would watch and see what happened.

Then he walked out Xia's front door, into the rain.

Kyle followed him, shouting at him.  "Hey!  Wait!"

A black sedan pulled up to Noir.  Bert nodded at him.  Noir looked back over his shoulder.

He looked passed Kyle, dressed in his ridiculous Dragon Mask.  Noir stretched out his feelings, his connection with Xia vibrated.  He felt her confusion, then the bond between them opened, and he let a thought pass through.

Yours will be a hard path.  I will be back.  Noir tried to keep his message fresh, trying to keep his anger from coloring it.

What did you see?  Xia's thoughts replied, a bit of confusion tainting them.  I still don't understand.  And you keep repeating a word in your thoughts.  I can hear it- who was she?

I need to face him alone.

Noir who was she?  You loved her so much, but what does she have to do with all this?  Xia's thoughts were colored with concern.  I don't know why, but I feel compelled to worry about you-

Noir poured irritation into his thoughts, hoping that the tone of his thoughts might stop the conversation sooner.  I don't talk about that.  This is my own problem.  Your brother is a curiosity, and this isn't something the Ghede can handle.  I will return after I take care of the man who wronged you.  If I can, I will bring him back her for you to at least face.

Xia didn't reply.

Noir opened the door to the car.  Bert glanced back at him over his shoulder.  "Make some friends, N?"


"That bad?"


"Gotcha.  Movin' on."

Thump.  Screech.  Grunt.

Kyle stood at the front of the Black Sedan.  He held up the front end of the car with one arm.  That one arm bulged with supernatural musclature.  Noir sensed another one of Kyle's strange body spells involved again.

"Who's this clown?"  Bert frowned.

"Kyle.  Thinks he's helping, I think."

"Tell him not to scratch the paint, then."

Noir grumbled and rolled down his window.  "What now?"

"I'm going with you, Necromancer."

"How many times do I have to tell you that isn't my name, Kyle?"  Noir shook his head.  "Put it down or I'll make you put it down."

"Necromancer, I'd like to see you try."

"Oh, geez, N.  Take the kid with you."  Bert said, trying to mollify Noir.  "Clearly, with that mask he needs some sort of reality kicked into him."

Noir sighed.  "Fine.  Get in, but stay out of my way."

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Can You Hear The Song? 9: First draft of Skills and Modes

I'm going to continue working out some ideas for Kaiju-Song, after rereading a bit in the Fate Core books.  This is going to be my first draft, complete with broad strokes, when it comes to skills and things.  Lets see how downhill this goes...

Modes and Skills

Each mode is an Approach, a way your character "approaches" an action: its how you handle that action.  Each mode also has a set of skills and extras tied to them too.  Essentially, they are packages of skills and things that represent stuff your character can do.

Skill resolution is going to be simple here: When you roll to perform an action, you add your total in that mode to your rank in that skill.  Therefore, when you roll to Shoot, you add your rating in Cop and Shoot together before adding them to the roll.  (Note: this is part of this I'm not sure is going to stay)

When you purchase points in a Mode, you distribute points among its skills.  The number of points you can spend on skills in a mode is equal to its number of skills.  Skills in a mode don't need to follow a pyramid, but modes have to follow the pyramid.  Each starting character starts with 1 Fair (+2) mode, 2 Average (+1) modes and the rest are Mediocre (+0) modes.

No skill can have a rating higher than Good (+3).

Modes in Noah

Skills: Investigate, Notice, Shoot.  Equipment Extras.
Equipment Extras: Cop lets you obtain pieces of equipment specific to using it.  This equipment has a rating equal to one step lower than your rank in Cop.  This rating grants you extra shifts (equal to its rating) when using Cop skills to accomplish actions.

Skills: Scuba, Pilot, Hold Breath.  Extras.

Skills: Networking, Software, Hardware.  Equipment Extras.
Equipment: Hacker lets you obtain pieces of equipment specific to using it.  This equipment has a rating equal to one step lower than your rank in Hacker.  This rating grants you extra shifts (equal to its rating) when using Hacker skills to accomplish actions.

Skills: Athletics, Physique, Fight. Equipment Extras.
Equipment: Heavy grants you access to your own equipment, weapons in most cases.  This equipment has a rating equal to one step lower than your rank in Heavy.  This rating grants you extra shifts (equal to its rating) when using Heavy skills to accomplish actions.

Skills: Deflect, Project, Resist. Demon extras & flaws.
Demon Stunts: For each rank you spend on Biokinesis, you can select an additional Demonic stunt for your character, expanding their abilities with Biokinesis.
Demonic Deformity: This is a flavorful Aspect of your character, based on their demonic nature.  You are only burden with one Demonic Deformity, but make sure it some sort of physical deformity that your character's biokinesis cannot shift away (not without a stunt, anyway!)

Skills: Contacts, Resources, Will. Rep Stress Extra.
Extra: Rep Stress.  For each 2 points you have in Leader Mode, you gain 1 box of Rep Stress.  Rep measures your positive, kewlness to others in Noah.  In order to best you in Social contests, your opponent has to "knock" your Rep Stress before they can best you.

Skills: Deceive, Empathy, Provoke, Rapport.

Skills: Deflect, Project, Resist. Song extras & flaws.
Song Connection: All Song members know the aspects of all other members of the Song.  Resisting the compels from another member of the Song (and it has to be because of that other member being there, more or less) costs members of the Song an additional fate point.
Song Stunts: For each rank you have in Psychokinesis, you gain a additional Psychokinesis Stunt.

Skills: Deflect, Project, Resist. Angel extras & flaws.
Angelic Stunts: For each rank you have in Pyrokinesis, you gain an additional Angelic Stunt.
Angelic Ban:  This is a flavorful Aspect that, while not being physical, is some sort of compulsion your character feels driven to obey.  You are burdened with only one Angelic Ban, which if known by your enemies can be troublesome to avoid...

Skills: Theory, Practice, Funding. Equipment Extras.

Skills: Larceny (Rename for Burglary), Deceive, Stealth.  Rep Extras.
Extra: Rep Stress.  For each 2 points you have in Thief Mode, you gain 1 box of Rep Stress.  Rep measures your positive, kewlness to others in Noah.  In order to best you in Social contests, your opponent has to "knock" your Rep Stress before they can best you.

For example, if Zach decides to make their Pyrokinesis a Fair (+2) skill, getting 6 points to divvy up between its three skills.  So he puts 1 point in Project, but 3 points in Deflect and 2 points in Resist.  He also has a single Angelic Stunt he has to pick as well.  He also has to select a number of Angelic Bans he has to follow too, but he can leave those open or up to the GM to decide as well.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Can you hear the Song? 8: Aspects and Things Like That

Now to look at character creation and Aspects in this Setting I've been working on.

Characters in Noah have same High Concept and Trouble aspects as other Fate Core characters.  If your character is going to have psychic powers or be a Angel, Demon or part of the Song, you need to reflect that in your High Concept.  Alot of the psychic skill, stunts and extras here are going to be based on representing what Angels, Demons and the Song can do.  You can break with the three big stereotypical forms of psychics in Noah, but your character might have other troubles too, being sought out as a target for research or other accusations.


Characters in Noah have an new Aspect slot in addition to their normal five (High Concept, Trouble, the Phase Trio aspects).  This is their Icon aspect, and it reflects a character's ties to a particular Noah Icon.  This aspect will come into play for some adventures in which its Icon is part of what is going on.  This can be negative, positive or somewhat neutral, but still reflects the nature of what ties the character to that icon.

Phase trio aspects still are done like they are in the Fate Core book.  In the context of Noah, each character's story reflect their own "episode" in Noah, treating it more like episodes of television or web series.  This is a suggestion, and you can always alter or use something kewler.


After creating your character's aspects, you next should fill out what Anchors represent them.  Anchors are a person, place or thing that you declare is associated with that aspect.  Each aspect will have an Anchor.  You can choose to leave some of these Anchors undefined- afterall, you might meet a enemy NPC that works better for it, or like a location that is found that you feel better represents.  Awesome.  Just make sure you have some Anchors defined.

Anchors can make it even easier to bring some aspects in play, and they can give you great spots for compels and invokes to be brought into play.  You are creating something that will affect the game, and this is great way to create a flag- something for the GM to see and try to work into the game because you want to see it.

For example, if you have the aspect "Big Damn Safecracker You'll See."  You might have anchors like:

  • Favorite set of safecracking tools (used to belong to your Mentor, before you stole them from him).
  • Zarah Hermes (Ex-girlfriend and the best safecracker you'll never see, especially since you left her at the altar).
  • The Brass Dragon Pawn Shop (Fencer for the Dragons, it'll always pay for a nice piece... and occasionally needs your help from time to time)

The anchor can be as huge as an Icon (The Oracle Jezebel, for instance) or as small as tiny piece of gear (My favorite duster).  Have fun with it, and use it to make your character more interesting! :D


And each Icon has its own pair of Aspects.  At the start of an adventure, or during important, big scenes or whenever the GM feels its the right time to do, Icons come into play.  Each character gets 3 points to distribute amongst what Icons they are tied to.  These points define how "deep" their connection is.  Use the ladder for this.

Just +1 means Average- you and everyone else tied to that Icon at least are known to that Icon, albeit on the periphery.  A +3 or Good connection means your character has more weight or focus from that Icon, be that a positive or negative thing.

Whenever deciding if a Icon would enter in a Scene or Adventure, each player rolls for their Icons and add their rating in that Icon.  This is just like rolling for a skill.  The result is how strongly interested the Icon is in the situation.  For each Icon, the GM rolls a single Fate die.  If a [+], that Icon is trying to improve things and make things better.  If a [ ], that Icon isn't involved directly, but is wanting for a opportunity to step in (as decided by the GM).  If its a [-], that Icon is making the situation worse.


I don't have time for it now, but at some point I'll put in examples of aspects for characters and things.  Next time, I tackle skills and stunts for Noah: The Kaiju-Song.

The Dark World and Motifs

One of the weird things about being a mythology nerd?  You note crazy motifs in things. After all, doesn't it make sense, you read up on it over and over, and you see them when they reappear.  Well, if such motifs repeat, I guess.  That could be a matter of opinion, couldn't it?

Having seen Thor: The Dark World, which, after absorbing it in, I think about its mythos and motifs.  I liked it.  It feels like every Marvel movie improves on the prior ones, using Marvel's greatest invention to improve film: contuity.  Thats a essay for another time, though.  Go see it, its great.

So Thor itself plays on a set of classic motifs- you know the kind, you've heard them before.  A wrong, a feud, and the broken trust that spawns from that.  Its the classic "why do we have evil?" and you hear that sort of story, over and over.  In the case of Thor, the main theme, sort of original sin-ish, is the classic Cain and Abel, the two brothers who are destined to war against one another.

The Loki-Thor duality- which the Dark World advances to its next logical step overall- is central to the Thor franchise, regardless of where you read it.  Its not as exactly accurate to the original Norse mythos, but that isn't important- this Thor is our Thor, our own American mythology.  Its a immigrant myth, which feels correct for us- aren't most european american myths immigrants?

Loki and Thor tie into the Cain and Abel myth, but it also touches on the same themes you see in Hamlet, but these are the overarching big plot lines.  In fact, Marvel mythos in the next Captain America movie touches on the brother versus brother motif, too.

I wonder if we Americans have a bipolar mythology here- an echo of our Civil War, really, in a way.  Or maybe it goes back further, to the duality of East v. West in Rome or maybe just some wild curiosity of our culture.

Just musing here, though.

Its not a conflict between us and the other, its a conflict between brothers.  Between trusted siblings.  Between people who've trusted each other all their lives.  Broken trust, with no chance of ever being mended again.  But part of Thor suggests a potential for reconnection, for solving the broken trust.

But this brief chance goes away if arrogance rears its head.  Lies.  Bitterness.  Thats the tragedy of Loki, isn't?  A broken union because of arrogance.  If you have the chance to forgive, to try and redeem yourself, your own arrogrance can take away what you hold dear.

Thor presents the chance to be a better person; Loki is what we know we are in our secret hearts.  We are bitter creatures, and forgiveness isn't easy, and giving up on taking what we think is ours is so very hard.  We want to be better and lie to ourselves about it.  The lies we tell ourselves, and those cause us to become separated from our brothers.

Well, thats enough for now, maybe tomorrow's blog will be more coherent...


Friday, November 15, 2013

In Black 7: Wrong At the Crossroads

In which Noir eats an apple, learns what is going wrong at the crossroads and decide to help a dead girl remember.

The four of them sat at Xia's dining table.  Noir took the opportunity to get some food into himself, as long as he remembered to do so.  Xia looked lost, and he felt responsible for that- he hadn't yet had the chance to explain fully what she'd agreed to.  Meanwhile, Kyle kept that Dragon mask on.  The Ghede and Kyle exchanged verbal challenges.

"Your kin forget justice, Nephillim."

"And yours forget whose world this belongs to, Ghede."

Noir chewed on a apple while Kyle in his Draco uniform argued with the death spirit.  The necromancer decided it was better to get something inside him before hearing what this Ghede was going on about.  And of course, he still had to determine what caused Xia, newly undead as she was, to miss the exact cause of her death.

"Bah.  We of the Ghede clan have lived on this continent longer than you humans have bothered to despoil it."

"We of the Neven take no part in that accusation of the unseelie court.  Ours is to reclaim our task and fix what was lost in the Dimension War, not fix what little claims made by a forgotten spirit-"

"Little?  We Ghede walk the paths of Death, and take upon the very words of Azrael-"

Noir lifted a hand and let lose a part of his inner energies, enough to let it ripple out and define itself.  It was a small part of a poltergeist he'd collected, bonded to his astral self.  His third eye, the projection of his own personal energies.  The tiny ghosting screamed and hissed, dimming lights and tossing objects around.
Kyle and Ghede stopped their arguing and glanced at Noir.  Xia's eyes widened, affected by the tiny geist's presence.

"What was that?"  Xia asked.  Her voice had lost the emotion it held earlier.

"You can see it can't you?"  Noir smirked.  "Many dead things are bonded to me.  They do me favors if I ask them nicely enough, and I do as they ask me.  I am their servant."

Xia took that in for a moment, then she said, "why did this spirit call you a, what was it?"


"Yes, that."

The Ghede put a slightly purple hand under its more human looking chin.  "Because he is Bokor, just he is a Mage, and you vampyr."

"Excuse me?"  Xia put a hand in her mouth, as if to check for fangs.

"Ugh.  Wrong meaning, " Noir interjected.  "Vampyr means walking dead in the original folk tales.  Sucking blood and all that other stuff is Brom Stoker's novel."

"What about Zombies?"  Kyle asked, his tone curious.

"You seem to be knowledgeable, yet you don't know these distinctions yourself?"  Noir answered.  "These were the basic things I learned when I first-"  Noir caught himself, and decided better than to explain his own past.

"We grew up understanding the basics about ancestor spirits and warnings about Jiangshi.  I... I never thought there was a proper distinction between Vampires and everything else."  Xia looked at the Ghede.  "Let alone a spirit of this sort...?"

"Vampyr.  Not vampire."  Noir emphasized the last syllable.  "Dead people come back as Vampyr, sometimes without any help from people like me.  Bokors, or whatever you want to call us, we know how to cheat that process.  We can channel the paths the psychopomps tread.  We can restart the heart and ask the question.  You remember the question don't you Xia?"

"Um... yes... I remember saying yes..."

"I believe you were going to explain yourself, Ghede."  Kyle asked, changing the subject.

The Ghede glared, then rested his two purplish hands on the table.  "There has been many wrongs committed against the dead and the Paths they walk here.  Guide the dead do me.  These paths are being twisted and taken wrong.  Too many are dead in the wrong ways.  Their spirits have been wronged.  Their problematic auras have been shifted onto me, I take their pains to let them continue on."

The Ghede tilted its head and looked at Xia.  "She has been touched by this wrong, too."

Kyle just kept silent, his many-soul eyes unnerving Noir.  Noir still didn't have a point of reference for Kyle, this Draco or the mask.  And he didn't have time to get answers.

"Yes.  She has."  Noir put a hand on Xia.  "I need you to remember what happened.  Ghede is a loa, and all Ghedes know the dead.  If dead spirits can't find rest here, then things are going to escalate.  This wrongness will manifest in all aspects of life.  It will replicate itself-"

"And be made legion."  Kyle added.  "This is a crossroads isn't it?"

Noir nodded.  "What happens here flows out.  Paths cross, if things are corrupted here, like a river, it flows to the next place.  More and more will be tainted by it.  This sort of pollution taints humanity, makes them act more like it.  So, I need Xia to remember- this killer wants to trigger more corruption.  More spiritual pollution."

Xia sighed.  "I don't remember.  I told you that already."

"Your body didn't witness it, but you did, Xia."  Noir sighed.  "Look, I can touch the spirit that is attached to your corpse- that's the reason why you are having trouble feeling your emotions, or why you feel connected to me.  My heartbeat is maintaining the connection between your dead body and your spirit.  The two are separated, but I can wake its memories of last night."

Xia looked at her brother.  Kyle took off his mask, the many souls underneath being quieted in Noir's senses.

"You've always wanted a chance to help serve the Task, sis.  Here it is."

Xia nodded.  Noir closed his eyes.  Time to make a dead girl remember.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

City of Bridges 5

"Psychogeography is a practice originally developed by the Situationist International as part of their efforts to forcibly dismantle the established social order. Psychogeography is the study of how physical spaces impact social, cultural, and personal lives. Its central technique is what is called the derivé, or drift, in which one wanders through an urban area according to some idiosyncratic logic that causes one to cut against the usual lines and paths traced."
-Tardis Eruditorium

Horrors in Portland
Portland has, perhaps, the highest amount of cases of depression and suicides amongst cities throughout the continental US.  And because things happen this way, a lot of ghosts and spirits tied to that.

There is a figure often seen near the bridges in the city, or near Forest Park.  A very tall, slim man- but his fingers are razor blades and his clothing is as stained with blood and tears.  He wears a fedora, and often has the echoes of crying in his footsteps.  He always is seen before the body of suicide is found.  People call him Suicide Slim, but no one has ever met the man.

Forest Park is its own sort of odd thing too.

This large park dominates Portland's landscape.  For years bodies have been found there, often looking like they've been torn to pieces by wolves or dogs- and just as many have disappeared into it, never to be found.  But sometimes when you are out there, you can hear howling things moving around.

In another Neighborhood, Goose Hollow, sometimes this howling is matched by other strange appearances.  Some claim to have seen large beasts near local watering holes like the Flip of the Coin pub or the Bitter End dive bar.  A few months ago five or six big cats were seen inside the Flip of the Coin, although the owner claims that that never happened.  There is a influx of mad people in Goose Hollow as well- people who'll make you swear a promise and you'll find yourself stuck, unable to break it.

Of course, there is also the story of a beautiful woman in a scarlet dress.  She finds you when you are at your lowest, most desperate and she makes you a deal.  She wears gold jewelry, and she makes you agree to the deal three times.  And then you wake up from the dream, but it comes true.  Dreams like that are common near the Bridges, which some say if you walk the wrong way, will take you places you never wanted to go.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Obligations of the Player*‡

*In a tabletop RPG.
‡And this counts for Game Masters too- we expect the same of you, if not more so.

In media, stories are told.  Be it a song or a novel or film, or even a roleplaying game, we tell stories and we enjoy them.  There is an audience and then there is the storyteller.  When stories are told, there is also a set of expected social obligations that both Audience and Storyteller have to follow in order to help make the story work.

These are social constructs- something we don't always think about consciously when we follow them, but sometimes we forget to keep them up.  Sometimes when we think a story failed or didn't like a story, one might see that these obligations were missed, either on the Storyteller or Audience side.  This more or less a rough Idea I've been toying with, but I think it holds true in regards to creative work:

An Audience (reader, listener, watcher, what-have-you) is obliged to pay attention to a story.  To think about it, and to imagine some sort of internal understanding of it.  When you think of a song and see specific imagery or can imagine the face of a character in a novel, this is the obligation you are maintaining.  

A audience also needs to be able to suspend their own disbelief in order for the story to work- so long as the story itself can give reasons to allow this disbelief.  An audience also needs to voice its opinion and ideas about the story, either back to the storyteller or at least to others who can reciprocate them, in a reasonable time frame.

 If the audience fails to meet these obligations, either the storyteller failed or the audience is to blame.  If the audience can't meet its obligations, the story is stale- the storyteller is telling the tale, but no one is listening.  Worse, it means that a potentially good story is being ignored instead of being acknowledged because its main audience has failed to help it grow and improve.

A Storyteller (director, novelist, artist, etc) is obliged to meet their audience's expectations, either meeting them, exceeding them or subverting them in some way.  A storyteller must be able to help the Audience to suspend their disbelief and imagine the imagery of the story.  This must be done, one prefers, without being condescending or dumbing down the the story.

A storyteller has to be open to their audience's opinions and criticism.  And they must be willing and able to alter or improve their story based on those opinions and criticism.  

If the storyteller fails to meet these obligations, the story will fall apart.  Audiences want these obligations to be met.  Just the same, storytellers want the Audience to meet their obligations as well.  

Stories where these obligations get dropped are either unapproachable or so insulting that no wants to engage them.  No good story should feel like the storyteller thinks you are a moron, or worse, actively works to ignore what you have to say about it.  You can't think of many examples, because no one remembers the bad stories.

And RPGs fit in where here?

Got all that?  Good.

Most of the time you don't think about it.  We humans are conscious story-creatures that, 90% don't think of all these obligations when experience or crafting the story.  We tend to met the obligations out of basic instinct.  This a second nature sort of thing for humans.

How does this tie into RPGs and such?  Let me rephrase the roles here a bit...

...Each player in a RPG is both Storyteller and Audience member.  In most media, one creates the story and the other crafts it.  Not in gaming, we are both artist, writer and audience all at the same time.  RPGs sit at a unique crux- we are our own audiences.  And we are storytellers too.

Game Masters are included in this as well.  They might have more responsibilities, as we categorize it.  But in the end, we all are watching and enjoying the story, even as we help to create it.  Here are the obligations both GMs and players need to maintain to make a game's story elevate beyond its basic form:

  • Pay Attention.  Pay attention to what everyone is saying, doing, acting.  Observe and play the part of the audience when you aren't engage in the story.  After all, a good audience pays enough attention to help the storyteller to improve their story don't they?
  • Listen to others.  As you help tell one story, listen to what others have to say about it.  Take in opinions from your fellow players, your audience.  They might have ideas that make the story better.  And form an opinion or idea of your own and share it too.
  • Talk about the game outside of the game.  And do so with other members of the game too.  Audiences do this all the time- you talk about your favorite book with others who like it too, don't you?  This is important for a ton of reasons, and it will help keep up energy and excitement for the game too!
  • Look over what both a Audience or Storyteller is obliged to do for a story.  Think about that when you play in a RPG next time and see if any of those obligations are being followed or not- how is that making you feel about the game?  Does the story feel worse for it?
That's it for a today.  I hope this is helpful, so far is more philosophy and hypothesis than real theory.  Please comment and let me know what you think! :D


Pain grooves the heart
Death binds the head
Screams never heard
Screams never heard

Walk the spiral blind, Hold your arms in the air, Feel the beat of the Earth

Feelings keep it far
Serenity doesn't exist
Can't let them see the pain
Can't let them see the pain

Walk the spiral, Rip Off The Face, Fuck Yourself Blind

Dreams will die
Slumber eternal and lie
There sits an Empty Throne
There sits an Empty Throne

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

City of Bridges 4

Names are names.  Quick post, just going to be a list of names, starting with first names then last names.  First names listed here were popular in the late 1980s and early 1990s.  Both lists also are random tables, more or less, so feel free to use them for quick names in any modern game you run if you think this is helpful.  Roll a ten-sided die on the relevant tables and boom, you've got a name.  Its American-centric at the moment, but its not intended to cover everything.

Try also the Story Games Names Project if you are looking for more names.  This is intended to help my group in thinking up names fairly quickly, I hope.

First Names

  1. Michael
  2. Christopher
  3. Matthew
  4. David
  5. Jacob
  6. Nicholas
  7. Andrew
  8. Daniel
  9. James
  10. Joseph

Girl Names

  1. Jessica
  2. Ashley
  3. Emily
  4. Sarah
  5. Samantha
  6. Amanda
  7. Jennifer
  8. Elizabeth
  9. Heather
  10. Megan
Last Names

  1. Garcia
  2. Smith
  3. Johnson
  4. Brown
  5. White
  6. Campbell
  7. Stewart
  8. Baker
  9. Morgan
  10. Marshall
As for shadow names, new names Mages take on for themselves after they Awaken, that isn't something I think I can compile a quick list for.  But this is a start, at least.

Monday, November 11, 2013

In Black 6: Hello 'Ghede

Noir blinked as the memory faded.

The dragon-headed figure- Draco or whatever he called himself- raised his arms.  Tree branches, vines and plant matter mimicked his arms.  His fingers made a wrapping gesture.  Plant matter surround the spirit creature.

The creature hissed.  It began to slice and attack the plants around it.

"No you don't, spirit."  Draco muttered.  He also added something under his breath in a language Noir didn't quite understand.

"Thou shalt not touch!" The creature replied back at Draco.  "Collect the wrong!  Collect the wrong!"

Draco shook his head.  Noir blinked, then stretched out his senses, the same that let him see ghosts and the shades of the long dead.  What he saw made him balk.  A web of green vibrant energy crisscrossed around the plants Draco had controlled.

The web used the plants, puppeting them.  The dark creature Noir could see as black nothingness.  And the web of energy was something it couldn't pass.  In fact, Noir was certain that the energy's... frequency, for lack of a better word, would hurt it.

Noir grabbed Draco's shoulder, unaware he had gotten close.  "Is this the tainted spirit you are talking of?  Why are you trying to kill it?"

Draco turned to Noir.  "It trespasses- this isn't its land, Necromancer."

Noir could see Kyle's eyes in the Dragon-mask.  Both of his eyes glowed with green energy.  Noir could feel ghosts behind those eyes, a thousand generations of shades gathered behind it.

"What are you?"  Noir asked.  "I see too many souls for one body."

"Leave me be, this spirit needs to learn its place, Necromancer."

"Bah, I hate that word.  Necromancer- I'm more of a necrokinetic.  I understand the energies of shades and ghosts- and I think I know what this spirit is, Kyle.  Let me speak to it."

"You may try, but I warn you: do not interfere if I decide it must die."

Noir turned to the dark spirit.  He reached out a hand and put it toward the creature.  It hissed.  Noir closed his eyes.

Noir had long been able to see the ephemeral, to talk to it.  He remembered something Marie had once told him.

"Yes, there is the dead, and the ghosts and the shades, but they aren't all there is to the darkness.  The Eldest call it the All-and-Nothing."

"All-or-Nothing?"  Noir had asked.  He was still a child, barely seventeen.

"No, All-and-Nothing.  Beings that are echoes of souls unborn or souls long dead or souls who can never be.  Loa that walk between humanity and the higher truths of the worlds.  The Loa always come to warn, and you need to hear them too.  You won't know what they are- but they often come to ask repayment because others have forgotten to appease them.

"Respect the loa, Noir.  They are the dead too."

Noir closed his eyes.  He whispered to the creature, reaching out with his ghost senses.  "Hello Ghede."

"You are Bokor?"  Noir felt its thoughts answer him.  Noir smiled.

"I am sorry, I have never met a Loa before.  But my teacher taught me to expect you, Ghede."

The creature sneezed then sat down.  Its head shifted and altered, turning into a shape more akin to a humanoid than the canine it had been before.  Its glowing purple eyes furrowed at Noir.

"I am a Ghede.  Too many at this crossroads forget us."

It glared at Draco, who didn't waver.

"Please, Ghede."  Noir didn't have the proper offerings to give, and without knowing this Ghede, he'd have no clue what to give.  "We apologize, your entrance-"

"Collect the wrong!" The Ghede hissed, outstretching its hand.  "Collect the wrong!"

"I don't know what wrong you speak of, Ghede."  Noir stood up.  "Tell us, and we might set things right here."

The Ghede looked at Draco.  "Yours would step down?  You have long forsaken your claim here, Draco of the Neven."

"If you are a Ghede, then you know the agreement between us Spirit.  You entered a house under my protection."  Draco replied.

Noir waved his hands.  "Put your damn plants away!  You scared it, good job there.  You can kill another spirit another day."

The Ghede hissed.  "Freedom and speak of Wrong shall me."

Can You Hear The Song? 7: Noah Locations

Like I promised, here are key locations and neighborhoods in Noah.  More to come, but each of these areas has its own aspect, something key to Fate Core.  This is still a rough draft, but this should be the same basic ideas at the end when I'm done with the Kaiju-Song.  

Behemoth Dome (Daughters of Maru):
One of the oldest sites in Noah, the massive Behemoth Dome defines a big part of the skyline in Noah.  It has a direct connection to both the Moria Weave and the Docks, often using both for its various projects.  The Behemoth Dome houses R&D, Corporate Housing and Headquarters for Babylon, including the now ruined Psi Division building.  The Behemoth Dome is a technological blur, irradiated with Kaiju-Gems and so entrenched in Demon control most working there forgot what it means to have a recognizable body or a single individual appearance.  Its become a technological hell, and its own employees the lab rats that run it.
Aspect: Crux of Babylon's Power

The "Blue" Dome (The Oracle Jezebel):
The Blue Dome is the entire undeveloped portions of Noah- seabed left exposed to open air after Seraphtech created the colossal air bubble that now surrounds the city's structures.  This air bubble has grown wild over the years, as escaped Kaiju of a dozen or so kinds have created their own feral ecology in the gaps between city neighborhoods and parts of the Weaveway.  Its a wild place, and often the Kaiju are strange and unpredictable.
Aspect: Kaiju Infested Parks in the Open Air

Ezekiel Square (Office of the Prime Minister):
The oldest place in all of Noah, Ezekiel Square is named after the City's founder- a fundamentalist zealot who led people to a refuge under the sea.  A blocky structure, it houses the city's police and other civic services.  Its the center of the power for the Prime Minister and it sits in the center of most of Noah.  Nowadays it feels more like a military outpost, fighting fronts in the Moria Weave, Blue Dome and Heartwood.  And most of the employees live here too, its become a sort of broken homeland for those who think of themselves as the last possible saviors of their city.
Aspect: Last Hope For This City

Heartwood (The Song):
Heartwood used to be one of the major residential areas for Noah's struggling middle-class, back in the day.  About a third of it is flooded now, due to a Seraphtech failure.  The Song first emerged out of Heartwood, and most of the neighborhood has become part of the Song.  Heartwood is connected to Ezekiel Square and the Moria Weave via the Weaveway.  The Song's rise has completely left the neighborhood, with the Blue Dome helping to contain it- for now.
Aspect: Ruined Residential District

The Moria Weave (The Dragons):
Its a nasty piece of work, but its been the longest lasting of all the gravity manipulated Weaves.  The biggest industry base of Noah is located in Moria's Escher-sque terrain.  Levels upon levels, wrapping in almost insane ways throughout caverns underneath the rest of Noah.  Cheap housing, crowded living quarters and jobs that are becoming more and more scarce, make Moria dank and desperate.  Its a rusting cave full of people that do whatever they can to survive, and sometimes that means working for the Dragons and doing dirty work.
Aspect: Underground Overcrowded Slums

Cherubim Heights (The Golden Crown):
Secure and locked away, the remaining wealthy families of Noah live in Cherubim Heights- often those who allied themselves with the Angels back when Metatron took control.  The Golden Crown has kept telepathic control over them, using their Cult to make Cherubim Heights their own personal heaven.  Clean, well kept and pretty to the eye, Cherubim Heights hides the fundamentalist, religious zeal of the Angels that control it.
Aspect: Silver-Lined Towers

University of Noah (The Nephillim Heresy):
Located between Cherubim Heights and Ezekiel Square, the University of Noah is mostly empty nowadays.  Lack of funding pushed the University to keep only a minimal staff, except for those paid by either Babylon or some other source.  Even then, student numbers keep dwindling, year after year.  The Nephillim Institute keeps a satellite campus here, often trying to recruit or improve the university's prospects, but never able to completely beat back the academic decay that plagues it.
Aspect: Ancient Place of Learning

The Docks:
Industrial airlocks and submarine docks, all accessible and allowing major traffic in and out of Noah.  The Weaveway connects it to the Behemoth Dome and the factories in the Moria Weave.
Aspect: Only Way Out of Here

The Weaveway:
The Weaveway used to be the primary means of travel or transportation for Noah prior to Seraphtech.  It is a series of complex tubes and tunnels that enable quick, fast travel- usually on maglev platforms, but some are corridors or tunnels intended for pedestrian or vehicle travel.  Some parts of the Weaveway now are collapsed or have gone forgotten.  Homeless and some of the worst off live in these forgotten corners, sometimes cut off from the rest of Noah, sometimes for years.
Aspect: Old Forgotten Tunnels

Whatcha think?  Leave me a comment on what you think or if you have a suggestion! Ideas welcome! :D

Sunday, November 10, 2013

City of Bridges 3

Maryhill Stonehenge is a replica of the original Stonehenge, but located in Maryhill Washington.  Completed in 1929, the replica is located on the Washington side of the Columbia River.  A fair distance away from Portland itself, but the site is often forgotten, even by residents in either state.

Occultic texts on the region describe at least two or three leylines meet and combine at Maryhill before merging into the Columbia River and flowing into Portland itself- one of the many sources of the many nexuses that meet in the City.

Perhaps more interesting are the seasonal midnight gatherings at Maryhill and at two sites in Portland itself.  These Witches believe all three sites are connected, and hold a pagan ritual every equinox or solstice to honor the old gods.  Sometimes they invite outsiders, but only those they are convinced might gain something from the experience.

After all, Portland's local wicca and other witches have become more and more open, as the city seems to embrace the outright strange...

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Splicer Rose 2

At noon Aggi closed up shop.  She had sold out of all her butchered meatsac product.  And she had a new task to perform for the Familia.

She did not think of herself as having a problem with Hypium.  The drug kept her from losing her mind in Nightland.  It wasn’t as if anyone really wanted to have a relationship with the blue daughter of ascendists anyway.

Now sex, yes, she’d had plenty.  Everyone single in Jefferson, boy or girl, liked to try and experiment with the blue girl.  After all, made a great story.  They never wanted to go past the first date, never ever.  Never.

She grew tired of that.

Aggi had stopped trying to go out two years before.  Besides, it felt like the Hypium was better when she was alone.  The Hypium gave her such magnificent dreams.  She’d hook up her dream rift and let chemicals and electrical impulses take her to beautiful places.  Sometimes she even connected her metaputer and recorded a dream or two.  She would try and revisit the very erotic ones from time to time, but they never felt the same without some Hypium to help her… visualize.

Aggi walked back home, her Stall-Bot following her obediently.  She carried two paper bags of vegetables, water and potatoes.  It was a long walk up the ramps and bridges.  She wandered along the edge of a canal, the water flowing from one artificial lake to another through it.

Light throughout Jefferson varied.  Maybe at one point all the fixtures and holograms had been idealized, identical light sources.  Years of wear and tear had left some with flickers.  One or two were too dim to be seen.  Some had gone feral in their light, taking on colors not intended when they had been first installed.  They also changed to match the false sense of time, the pretend afternoon Aggi knew to be a shared lie amongst all the Jeffersonians.

“Surprise, surprise.  Enjoy another day bugging Earth-men?”

Aggi lept up in surprise.  She managed to catch one of the bags.  She looked over one of her shoulders.
A large cat, its fur thick and long looked up at her.  His fur was a dark green, and his voice had a Martian drawl to it.  Both of his eyes were a electric, glowing blue- artificial enough to look nothing at all natural.

“Verde.  Don’t fekking scare me like that!”

“Watch yer mouth, young lass.  Cursing like that ain’t polite for a young person like yerself.”  Verde walked around her legs in front of her.  The artificial cat gave her a quizzical look.  “So, like I asked.  You get enough fun bugging the Earth-men, eh?”

“What does a little Shell like you care, Verde?  Just another market day.  Nothing new.”

“Nothing new, lass?  Ah and no, don’t you think?”

“Just another Market Day, Verde.  Why do you bug me so much anyway?”

The green cat shrugged.  “I’m mostly Bot, lass.  A shell in a genehacked cat.  Your father made me this body and I owe his girl with my second chance.”

Aggi had heard this story plenty of times.  She thought the green feline just liked to bug her.  “I’ve still got my mother, you don’t need to bug me to feel nice about yourself.”

Verde sniffed.  “The religious nut?  Riiight, lass. She be just the one you should take after.”

“Yeah, well, maybe you have a point with that.”  Aggi frowned.  “I sold out of my latest Meatsac crop.  Its been a good sell today.”

“You didn’t get more of the White did you?”  Verde asked.  His tone sounded apprehensive.

“That’s none of your-”

“Aggi, you need to quit.  You think no one can notice the girl with shaking hands wearing sunglasses?  Or that you sometimes walk hours and hours, bleeding because you can’t feel any pain?”

“I need it.”

“No, you don’t-”

“Oh you don’t understand it.  You don’t have to deal with all of this fek.” Aggi waved a hand around herself.  She clambered up a set of dark, black metallic steps.  Each step was covered in bluish kudzu.  “I have to take the Hypium.  I can’t dream without it.”

“You would have dreams again, you just need to take a long enough break from it, lass!”  Verde followed her up, leaping up atop Aggi’s Stall-Bot.  He looked at her, their eye levels about even.  “Everybody has problems.  Try an actual fix.  See a Doc, get a script for something that fits your brain.  Or get a hack or something.  Hypium can’t keep those feelings away forever, lass.”

“Funny, because some nights I stare at the tube of the White and try to decide what to do with it, Verde.

“Do I take more or do I just finally end it all?  I shouldn’t feel that, but the thoughts always come and come and come…”  Tears filled her eyes.  “Sometimes getting the next genehack done makes it go away.  But the Hypium and my dream rift give me something I can’t ever have.”

The green cat paused.  He seemed to think about his next words, mulled them over, then spoke them slowly.

“Lass, maybe I shouldn’t tell you this, but something else happened today, when you were gone.”

Aggi wiped her tears and tried to look less emotional. “What?”

“I… I will tell you, now, but you can’t go taking the White as soon as you get to your house, follow me?  Don’t do something stupid and make Old Verde feel dumb telling you, understand?”

“Verde, spill it.”

The green cat sighed.  “I can try, I suppose.  I’ll tell you anyway.  You ever hear of a Splicer Rose?”

Aggi’s heart thudded in her chest.  That was the name of her father’s mother.  Her grandmother.  Splicer Rose had been one of the greatest genehackers in the entire Wahlerian Regime.  During the Unification War, Splicer Rose had crafted many of the genehacked wonders that fought for the Ascendist side.  She’d been old when she’d had given birth to Aggi’s father.  But genehacks and other technology had rendered Splicer Rose practically ageless by that point.

Aggi had spent much of her life wishing to be like her grandmother.  To learn the most complex of the genehacks.  To transcend her tiny life on Jefferson to become the heir to Splicer Rose’s title.  To become the best genehacker in the System.  To help win back the war for humanity the ascendists had lost before Aggi had been born.

All Aggi could respond with was:  “Yea.”

“They came by earlier for you.  I recognized them.  They didn’t think much of a green cat.”
Aggi paused.  She wondered who ‘they’ were.  Her first worry pertained to theft.  Aggi had all of her metaputers and passkeys hidden there.  Her meatsacs seeds and all of her pet projects.  None of it was as complicated as Verde’s bio-cybernetic Shell, but they were hers.

“Who is ‘they’?”  Aggi asked, glancing around.  A fresh pint of paranoia suddenly kicked her blood into a new quantum state.

“They were EL black coats, lass.  They left you a holo on your metanet node.  Looked like it ‘twere a bit about your grandmother.”

“Why were you looking at my-”

“Bah, lass.”  Verde started to scratch himself behind one green-and-white ear.  “You shouldn’t do what they want.”

Aggi Rose finished climbing the stairs up to her tiny nook in Jefferson Pod.  Another acreage, sitting on the ground of Jefferson Pod but the acreage belonged to her alone.  She’d earned it and taken it for her burgeoning Meatsac grove.  That had been when she first moved out of her mother’s apartment, which sat close to the air docks.  Aggi disliked the traffic that called into the port, but her mother went out every day to try and convert another to her own particular Trinity Cult.

Aggi’s stall-bot moved into its resting juncture.  It settled down, cables extending and it hooked up its power, resting.  The small lean-to of corrugated yellow metal was located next to where the stall-bot had sat down.  A hammock hung under that small roof of yellow metal.  With the stall-bot resting, it turned the small pieces of bolted metal into a reasonable home-looking shape.

Putting up the roof had been for purely privacy concerns.  It hid her metanet node, Aggi’s main link to the greater Jefferson Pod Metanet.  She put the bags down beside her hammock.