Thursday, January 30, 2014

Fate Galactic: Civ Advancement

Here's some quick bits from my current Notes on Fate Galactic.  I'm trying to organize these into a more coherent and logical sort of document, but if you are curious on some of ideas I've been chewing on, here yah go.

Civilization Advancement
Over time, things change.  Generations grow, get old and pass things onto the next generation.  Technology
changes how civilizations used to function.  What they believe changes.  What the Civilization Is changes.
In Fate Core, this change is measured through the passing of milestones.  Also in Fate Core, settings have
Issues, threats that need to be taken care of, problems that plague the setting over the long term.  These
serve as part of the long term measure of time for Fate Core, and in Fate Galactic we need something

You can take two approaches to this, you can choose to do this without a GM at all, and instead let things
play out in a cooperative fashion until you are certain each Era has been achieved.  The other approach, and
the approach I'm going to use, requires a GM- they play the environmental forces of the universe, and play
antagonistic forces, and they determine when Eras are past or completed.

At Major Milestones, each Civilization marks the end of the current era.  Time advances forward, and most of the current Icons and forces in the setting fade away, if they hadn't already.  In addition to all the juicy stuff you get at a Major Milestone, you also take on a Era Aspect, which is an additional Trouble aspect for
your Civilization.  Era Aspects should reflect a longstanding problem your civilization created during the last Era.  This could be the Civilization's own fault, the signs of a potential civil war, or the first pangs of your civilization's eventual decline.

If at a Major Milestone you have more than one Era Aspect, your Civilization has to deal with a Crisis.  This
means it could fall to pieces at the current moment, with all the troubles its accrued.  Crisis might mean
your Civilization enters a period of civil war.  Colonies go into open rebellion, becoming independent
states.  A catastrophe destroys the homeworld.  Whatever it is, there isn't really a roll here.

Your Civilization might survive this, but it won't be your Civilization anymore, but probably will be many
more civilizations.  It fades out of history to make room for new ones.  Make a new Civilization out of the ruins.  Everything dies, and sometimes they survive in others.

Minor Milestones, Significant Milestones and Major Milestones otherwise stay the same, with the bonuses and things they provide.

I had been thinking for awhile about how to best approach this.  In traditional civilization type game, there
is a tech tree you climb in order to advance your civilization, always moving up on the tech to certain
levels, and so on.

That makes certain assumptions, I think, but one of the biggest those games tend to make is equilvalency.
Techs tend to feel equivalent, or all eventually destined to happen.  And some of the myriad of tinier techs
never get any limelight at all.

Fate Core doesn't do that many specifics- its not a gear totting game.  I don't see a reason to make a
predominant tech tree.  Instead, tech is represented by two parts of Fate Core: Stunts and Aspects.  I'll
make some examples at one point, but these are intended to help provide the narrative flavor of your
civilization.  Some Stunts should unlock certain skills, like say, Neo-Corporate Capitalism should unlock the
Industry and Economy skills, for instance.  Some Aspects should do this as well.  Again, I'll try to create
some preset versions of various civilizations I know from various media.

Its going to be the part I'm going to spend the most time playing around with, to be honest.  But all Civilizations are going to start with 3 Stunts and acquire Aspects along the way that might do the job of a
Tech Tree without a Tech Tree.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Reading Materials: Webcomics

Haven't done one of these in awhile.  Might as well share something near and complex and somewhat close to what one might approximate as my heart: Webcomics.  Its a medium I love, and one of the main reasons I'm addicted to the internet.

Praise be the Internet.  So say we all.

Webcomics take what I like about comics and can use them to explore aspects of serial storytelling that you don't often get.  Comics in and of themselves are a meta-medium, where readers interact to a degree with the story.  The motion and movement of stories in comics often require the subtle and complicit help of the reader.

Webcomics excel the best when they explore things the internet does that you can't do in traditional media.  Themes, or ideas that no mainstream publisher would push.  Character directions or actions that don't conform to the norms of media.  Things like Respect for Women, or even better, changing your perspective in creative ways.

Also, they work when they are badass stories too.

Here are three of my regular Webcomic reads, to explain my point.  I'm not going to point art or anything,  check out the links if curious to what they look like.

Order of the Stick: Don't let the artstyle fool you, OOTS manages to go several layers deep, touching on not just traditional adventuring archetypes, but storytelling in general.  It also has one of the best statements I've seen in a story: a character is flatly told, to their face, that Redemption isn't something everyone gets.  Some people don't get to be forgiven, because, not everybody can be forgiven.  Awesome.

OOTS is fairly aged, enough that you can spend days reading pages of it.  Days.  Even though the art style seems simplistic, it does an excellent job of getting the story across.  Its a style that carries through brilliantly, especially in its consistency.

Olympus Overdrive: Okay, this is a young newcomer in my reading.  Olympus Overdrive brings back the characters of classic greek mythology, but embeds them into internet culture and modern culture.  A trojan horse (the viral email hack, get it?) leads to pairings of mortals and gods who fight one another in pokemon-esque fights.  Thats oversimplifying the story, really.

The kewl thing about Olympus Overdrive is how awesome its style is- the creators insert flash scenes instead of pages some weeks.  Flash scenes that play out like RPG scenes in a video game.  Its a brilliant way to handle dialogue intense scenes, and it uses an aspect of web to explore the story even more brilliantly.  Double Awesome.

Subnormality: This falls on the really creative side of things.  Like Olympus Overdrive, it uses an aspect of the web that webcomics can abuse to do things cleverly.  Subnormality, often, eschews the normal layout structure.  It uses the 'infinite' page approach, but not only that.

Also, it tends to make a good point about humanity in general.

Creative panel layouts and designs help deliver the point.  Its themes often are layered, and you often think you are reading non sequiturs or walls of text with no real point.  Then you get to the crescendo, the point of the page, and it clicks.  And its triple awesome.

There you go.  Three webcomics I frequent as part of my Internet addictions.  Tell me, any interesting webcomics you read?  I'm always eager for a new one to add to the list.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Dead Man Stew 6

Start of Story | Previous Part | Next Part

"Necromancer, know thyself," Jesha retorted.  She chuckled at her own remark.  "Why are you here?  Curious about all the local monsters then?"

"Well-" Noir stopped when Jesha pulled out a dark knife.  She also took a rag to it, cleaning it while watching him.  He tried to suppress a shudder.  He got the hint.

"I do not make monsters." Noir began.  She thought he had been responsible for the trouble and the knife was a warning.  What she'd do to him if she thought he was lying to her.

Jesha cocked an eyebrow.  "You just consort with the living dead then?"

"What do you mean by consort?"

Jesha leveled a look at him.

"You mean Vickie?"  Noir asked.

Jesha shrugged.  She didn't say a word, looking at him.  Like she expected something from him.

"Vickie- er-, I mean, I helped her and she helped me."  Noir tried to size up Jesha.  He was pretty sure he couldn't handle her in a fight.  Between the knife and her athletic superiority, the only thing he could hope for was surprise.  He wasn't sure surprise would help him either.  He decided it was better for him to figure out what she knew about Vickie, and what exactly Jesha's aims were.

"You like 'em dead then, Necromancer?"


"Undead girls.  You like 'em nice and dead then?"  Jesha fluttered her eyes at him, smirking.  She seemed to enjoy this line of questioning.

"Never- Vickie is a friend."

"Never?  And she's your friend because you turned her into a walking corpse, eh?  A little pretty Revenant Innkeep you just felt eager to make?"

Noir blinked.

"Well, Necromancer, you know about all the ghosts now, too.  Whaddya say, ok with seeing how much damage your meddling charity has caused?"

"I- er-"  Noir couldn't think straight.  He put it together.  "I helped her.  I found her killer, and I gave her more time to get her affairs in order."

Jesha thrust the knife into the table.  "Helped?  Is that how you'll explain it to all the people who've lost daughters and sisters to her?  How about the ghosts you see, you'll just tell them you were 'helping'?  Why don't you start with me, explain to me, how all of this isn't your fault?"

Noir noted scars around Jesha's eyes.  Scars he couldn't have seen before- her sunglasses had covered them up.  Jagged marks.  Like claws, but more humanoid in their shape.

"I help the dead.  You don't understand."  Noir tried to back away, not certain what to do.

"I understand perfectly.  You meddle.  You think you are helping, so you bring corpses back to life.  You think gee, this is a great idea.  Who keeps your charity from deciding to go drinking blood and turn into abominations, Necromancer?"  It was the way she said Necromancer.  The emphasis on it.  It carried bile with it.

"I don't like your suspicions, I don't know you, and I don't understand your point.  I help the dead.  They suffer, and I can help them.  I'm not their master.  I don't control anyone.  And those I help aren't abominations, Hunter."

Jesha didn't answer him.  Not that Noir have her the chance to.

"I ask them to help me find their killers.  I help bring those people to justice.  I give them a chance to mend things before the Angel of Death comes and takes them.

"I let ghosts point out the wrongs.  I work with spirits.  I do all I can to quiet their pains, to quell the scars of their sins.  I do what I had been taught to do, I help the dead.

"What would you do, hmm?  Let them live in pain screaming in torment?  Curse them for disturbing your fun?  You hunt them, you take some sort of sick joy from it.  I saw that when you drove off those ghosts.  This is some sort of high to you."

Jesha shook her head.  "You don't get it do you?  What do you do when your unsupervised walking dead go wander into trouble?"

"I'm not their master, Hunter."

"You're not responsible if they decide to go killing people?  Is that what you mean, Necromancer?"  Jesha's voice got louder, her face growing flush.  "You're helping to protect an abomination.  Your girlfriend Vickie here is a blood drinker.  You get that?"

"First off, she and I aren't... aren't anything."  Noir tried to resist the warm temptation that Vickie had in his thoughts.  He couldn't let himself betray Elle, not for Jesha and not for Vickie.

Not now.  Not ever.

"Second off, where does a transient raublerouser like you get off thinking I should believe a word you say?  Vickie's a saint.  A vegetarian.  She abhors violence."  Noir jabbed a finger at Jesha.  "You on the other hand, threaten me.  You accuse me of having created monsters.  You question everything I stand for, and you think I will just stand here and take from you?"

"Watch your words Necromancer!  Don't think you get to talk down to me.  I'm trying to help."  Jesha stood up from the table, muscles flexing.

Noir's face went bright red with anger.  He tried to resist the urge to start cursing at her in Basque.  He wanted to hit something, she had pushed him too far.  "What?  Trying to help murder a innocent woman?  Because all the dead can smell the taint on you.  You stink of murder and sin, Hunter."

Jesha slapped him.

Noir felt the harsh sting of the slap against his cheek.  He looked up into her face.  A tear went down one of Jesha's cheeks.  She shook her head at him.  "I save people.  I don't murder them.  You're lucky.  Good think I saved you from those ghosts huh?  I could've just let them devour you, but no, I have the stupidity to think you'd appreciate someone saving your life from being eaten by some ghosts."

Jesha moved past him, leaving the knife on the table.  Noir sat back down, unsure what to think of next.  The shot glass remained, still half full of whatever Jesha had poured out.

"Noir Bedarte, this isn't a foreign land, and there are wolves trying to save you, you can bother to listen."  Then Jesha left him alone in the lobby to his thoughts.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

D&D 40th

40 years ago, in 1974, Dungeons & Dragons came into being.  It created a hobby that would be an important part of my life, Tabletop Roleplaying Games.  I think I learned to handle and get past most of my social angst and introversion with it.  And Roleplaying has made me a better storyteller.

What is it about it that it I found so enlightening for me?  Before I found D&D I had spent a long time wanting a game that was immersive, where worlds could be build and people would create stories in them...  Then I found D&D and more or less, I found I could scratch that itch and have my mind blown, or however you want to expect a thirteen-year-old's mind to be blown.

Back then, the local gathering of gamers, NEOGI, played Living Campaigns.  These campaigns were designed for organized play- that is, you always sat down and played four hour games with a different group of guys, each of them with their own characters and styles of playing.  You always got a different Dungeon Master.

You had your own character too.  It was still toward the beginning of 3rd Edition D&D, way back then.  I learned how to play a character and man, that made me feel so awesome.  After playing for awhile, eventually you get a collection of stories you and others had done in various games.  They only worked for you, but you and your buddies could tell them over and over.

RPGs allow a awkward kid to learn problem solving.  It also teaches you how to socialize with others that share your interests.  I'd argue its a fun alternative to drinking or other things.

It not only kept me out of trouble, its one of the founding pillars of the relationships I keep with my friends.  I think its made me into a better person today, than I think things could've gone.  I was a loner, but D&D has helped me to find a community around myself, which I'm glad to be part of.

Later on the community itself fell apart.  Organized Games continued, but to this day there isn't the same sort of organization in my town that gets all us gamers together to play.  So I found myself without a game.

One of my roommates, however, started a group that I was a founding member of.  Nerdily we spend years gaming together, playing through the Forgotten Realms and Eberron and many other worlds together.  We had social conflicts with other players, we had characters that caused problems and we created so many stories together.

We stuck together as friends through that hobby though.  All my friends I've met through rpgs agree thats where the strength of our relationships are: the stories.  We love to get together, have fun and tell stories together.

Is it really geeky?  Extremely.

I'm happy that D&D is 40 this week.  Nerd it up, find some dice and remember to roll high for initiative.

And for our community of Nerd gamers, thanks for all the awesome.

Josh Pearce, 2014


Planets and Stars
Now to continue on my whirlwind tour here.  Planets and Stars need stats too.

Sorry if everything seems haphazard so far, I plan to make it all into a unified theory once I know what does what.  Fate Core does most of the heavy lifting, but I still need to get my thoughts all figured out.

Planets have skills, a condition track, and resource tracks.  This isn't the first time you can see planets getting stats and being made part of a exploration mechanic, Disaporia does a very similiar mechanic, much in the vein of Traveler and other classic SciFi.  In Disaporia the three skills Planets get are Resources, Environment and Technology.  Thats part of the core of that game, really.  But since its Fate-ish, stealing at least part of them seems like good idea to me.

At the beginning of play, Civilizations start on Planets.  You could figure out other sorts of arrangements, but I'm going to make a leap and assume here that the life required to start a civilization requires some sort of planet to start out with.

First off, homeworlds have two aspects: a Concept Aspect, and a Trouble Aspect.  Like characters, these things make the planet different from others.  One has the chance to be compelled, causing problems for you.  Both can be used by your Civilization when it does things at its homeworld- but it loses access to these aspects when away from it.

Planet Skills Are: Resources, Environment, and Stability.

Resources is obvious, the higher this is, the more available tracks of Red, Green and Black resources can be found on the planet.  A planet's maximum number of resource boxes is equal to its Resource rating plus 2.  All planets start with a number of Red Resources equal to their Resources skill.

Environment is necessary for life at all, or else Civilizations have to work to make it possible at all.  At least a Fair or Average Environment is needed to sustain a atmosphere and life at all.  All planets have a number of Green Resources equal to their Environment- any resources for Black have to be taken from Green, if Black doesn't have enough left over for it.  If there could be more Green than other Resources after Red has been determined, Green replaces one of the Red Resources.

Stability determines how stable the planet is, and how its stability keep it from falling apart when exposed to various disasters.  Mediocre or Average Stability means the planet's surface is inherently unstable, meaning it could be a gas giant, a water world or a collection of asteroids ready to fall apart.

All planets have a potential for 2 Black Resources.  After Green and Red resources have been determined, if there are no more available resource boxes for the Black, subtract one Green resource from the planet and replace it with Green.  If there is more space available, after Red, Green and Black have been determined, the remaining boxes all are Black.  If the Black outnumbers the Green, if the planet was created randomly, figure out aspects for it that reflect this.  The planet has a inherent toxic substance as part of it, how nasty is it?  How has that affected any life on the planet?

Starting civilizations first build their homeworld before defining themselves.  So, you get to distribute ten points amongst these three skills.

Next, each homeworld has a single stunt of its own, something that allows you to make it have its own kick.  Here are three examples of homeworld stunts.

Progenitor Ruins: A begone spacefaring civilization long ago abandoned an outpost on your homeworld.  Your people have scavenged it, learning tricks to spacecraft here that others can't quite catch up to.  Reduce the cost to create Starship Proxies and Icons by 1 Black or 1 Red.

Aeon Crystals: Your homeworld is seeded with massive psionic crystalline structures.  Your Civilization gains a +2 on Culture and Psionics rolls made on your Homeworld.

Eucemopolis: Your homeworld is covered by a single city, the original geography and surface long ago buried in buildings and parks, making room for a lot of people.  Your Civilization's Population track is increased by 2.

Newly Found Planets.
New planets are created randomly, each of their skills is rolled with a 1d6-1 roll.  Then the planet gets its own aspect after that.  New planets should be generated by the player to the left of the one discovering it.

New planets start with only one Aspect and they start with no stunts.  Later on your Civilization can try to add Stunts or Aspects to planets by expending Fate Refresh to do so.

Description: What does this Planet look like?

Stars, those burning balls of gas...
Stars are a bit simpler.  Their skills are thus: Mass, Age, Resources.  Like Planets, you can roll for a newly found stars with a 1d6-1 roll.  Starting civilizations get to distribute 5 points among the star's three skills at the beginning.

Mass is how large the Star is relative to other stars.   More massive stars tend to have more matter in orbit around them, including other stars.  They also have a higher chance of collapsing into a black hole or exploding into a super nova when they die.

Age is how old the star is.  Younger stars tend to be more violent in their activity, while older ones are more stable.  Older stars are more likely to collapse as well, however.

Resources measures how much energy and other resources can be safely taken from a Star.  All stars have some resources that can be mined, but it is possible to overmine them, causing them to lose stability prematurely.  In this cause, Resources helps determine the Star's stress track.  A star has one stress box per 2 ranks in its Resources.

Red Resources are the only resource you can mine from a Star, unless you have stunt that lets you do otherwise.

Stress Track: Whenever Resources are taken from a star, those attempting to take them have to roll against the star's mass.  If successful, the star takes stress equal to the number of shifts earned.  To prevent stellar collapses or premature supernovae, the star can take on a condition from the track below:
[_]Mass Coronal Ejection (+2) [_] Solar Ion Storms (+4)

These conditions affect the entire star system, and persist permanently after happening.

Stars also have their own aspect, which defines their entire star system to a degree.

Stellar Extras.
Stars can often be double or triple or even huge clusters.  They can fall into a wide variety of looks and feels that I don't want to get too specific, for fear of preventing the ability to do more with them.  So here's the rule: When a star is created, roll 4dF.  For each +, that is how many extras the star can have.

For players creating stars, that means stunts or second stars or other unique things to that system.  For stars found, that is how many companion stars the system has.  If a star rolls and has any -, each of those minus means some sort of cosmic danger lurking in the system.  If its all -, there are no planets in star system at all, again, only if this is the roll for a randomly created system.

Each star also has a set of three coordinates they occupy space in.  First is quadrant, which is a 1d4 roll.  The galaxy has four quadrants, and each quadrant is grid made up of sectors.  Each quadrant has 27 sectors (adjust for taste) and each sector is made up of groups of stars within two to ten lightyears of one another.  Second roll for which sector, which is a 1d3 roll for each part of the grid.  One for X, one for the Y, and one for the Z.

Star travel between stars for proxies is 1 turn per lightyear, unless you have a stunt to get around that.

Within sectors, you roll 4dF to determine how many other stars there are in that sector.  And so forth.

Description: What does this Star and its system look and act like?
STRESS: [_] [_] [_]
CONDITIONS: [_]Mass Coronal Ejection (+2) [_] Solar Ion Storms (+4)

Okay, that a rough idea of how that part works.  I'm not a 100% certain of it, but its a system I think I can playtest with my group.  Next I'm going to try and get other ideas figured out, mainly stunts for civilizations.  Also a framework for treaties and collaborations between civilizations sounds like a step to go.

That and combat things.

Well, whatcha think?  Too complicated or understandable?

Saturday, January 25, 2014


After thinking on somethings, I decided to up and alter a couple things, mainly to keep up with simplicity.

Proxies: You can use a skill to create a proxy that fits its purviews.  Proxies can have ratings.  All proxies start with a resource cost of 1.  Each additional resource spent grants the proxy a rating, starting 1 for 1, but then doubling in cost past that. For a rating of 1: 2, for a rating of 2: 4, for a rating of 3: 6, for a rating of 4: 8 and so on.  The relevancy of Red, Green and Black kinds of proxies still stands.  Red and/or Black for starships, Green for people and places, Black/Red/Green for cities and things.

You also should pick a skill the rating is applied to for the proxy.  Ratings are free bonus shifts that are added to the roll should you succeed.  They also subtract from the shifts generated by attacks when you are defending with a skill.

Proxies have a stress track of their own: [_] [_].  Just 2 boxes.  They also can take on a single consequence, which the proxy can expend at anytime to gain a +2 bonus to defend or try to do something.  These Proxy consequences can go away at the start of your next turn, unless some justification prevents them from being amended, making them more longer lasting- these might cause these Proxies to become Icons of their own.

Proxy Template
PROXY NAME (Its not iconic, but still it should have a name)
Description: What is it?

Altering/Upgrading Proxies. 
Like I said in the prior post, Proxies and Icons will go away over time.  And you should let them, as time goes on, disappear or die off.  They aren't the central pivot of your civilization, and everything moves onto newer things.  That said, you might want to repurpose or upgrade an existing proxy with something new.

There are some options here.  First, you could promote a proxy to a Icon by spending Fate refresh to do so.  You need to give the Proxy an aspect.  And you need to choose a stunt for it too.

Icons: Just a cost note for Icons, I don't think they need too much altering.  They use the same cost ratios as Proxies do.  But here is addendum for Icons only: You can spend additional resources to grant Icons abilities based on the resource, as one time buys.

The Icons you begin play start with a rating of 2 in their chosen skill.

Bonus Military/Aggression Stunt:  The Icon gains a stunt related to the Military or Aggression skill.  This costs 2 Red Resources.
Bonus Hazardous Aspect: The Icon gains an aspect for the Icon that represents something hazardous and toxic about.  This costs 1 Black Resources.
Bonus Stress: The Icon gains a additional Stress box.  This costs 1 Green Resource.
Bonus Culture/Science/Art Stunt: The Icon gains a stunt tied to the Culture, Science or Art skills.  This costs 1 Blue resource.
Second Skill: The Icon gains a second skill they can apply their rating.  This costs you three resources, they must all be of the same type as the first resource spent to create the Icon.

ICON NAME (make sure its badass or go home)
Description: What is it?

And here are some examplage, if you be curious.  You can steal these for proxies in your own stuff, just focus the flavor down a bit.

Corporate distributor of genetically modified grains from the homeworld, they understand how to negotiate prices in new markets.  Their convoys transfer goods between worlds, and sometimes open up new markets for the first time.
3 Red Resources, 1 Green Resource
Trade; +2

Berserker gangs of the Emperor's chosen, the fifth horde lead the forefront of the Empire's conquest, pillaging and raiding star-by-star.
2 Red Resources, 2 Black Resources
Warfare; +2

Nestled amongst an forest of ancient and gigantic trees, this city bustles with plant life and structures more alive than dead.
2 Green Resources
Survival; +1

Friday, January 24, 2014

Flash Fiction: Wolves and Giants

Northern Asia (Modern Day Finland), 399 AD

The giants dominated the valley.  Six or seven times the size of a fullgrown man, each giant's bronze and ice armor glittered in the sunlight.  From her spot on the ground they looked like they towered over the mountains.  A legion of Giants.

The tallest, most scarred of the giants stepped out toward her.  He looked like their leader to her.  She scanned her thoughts, reaching back into the mask she wore.  The memories and ideas of a past generations of her bloodline didn't tell her anything about him.

She tried not to let that discourage her.

The leader pointed down at her.  His voice boomed, like a large drum slammed hard.  "We come for the one who took our brother.  Where is the monster who is called Lupis?"

She stood a bit taller.  She regretted not having the others here.  But this was a thing she had to do by herself.

"I am she."

The giant blinked at her.  "You claim this realm for thyself?"

"It belongs to no one.  And those here obey my laws, beast."

"You are the one who slew our brother?  One damaged in mind, who wandered lost, who you choose to kill instead of return to our own realm?  You realize the dishonor this brings, do you not... she-Wolf?"

"I am not She-wolf, giant.  I am Hela of Lupis, my father was the Wolf before me, and my grandfather was the Lupis before that.  And yes, I know your brother was slain.  You are too late, its been many years since.  Go home, and I'll let you live."

The giant chuckled.  "Perhaps you think highly of yourself, high enough to face a Jarl of Ygg?  Or do you think us weak to let such a dishonor stand untested?"

Giants in the horde behind started to chant, pulling out bronze coated with ice.  They pounded their feet, swords clanged on shields.

The wolf raised a hand.  Their shouts died down, the sound itself being drawn into her.  She took their voices, the loudness of it for herself.

"Your brother slew my Father, giant.  You think I don't know what it is to face dishonor?"  The sheer volume of her voice deafened the larger creatures.  Some bleed from their ears, cringing in pain.  "I grant you mercy."

She was glad that she had enough control to keep tears from streaking down her face.  She'd learned that much, these last twenty years.

The giant nodded, and sheathed his blade.  "We go then, monster.  We will forget this slight, this day.  But those of Ygg and the many other worlds watch and wait.  We you exiled so long ago are waiting.  One day this world will pain for the suffering you caused.  One day we will take this world back."

"But that day isn't today, now is it?"  She said.

The giant shook his head.  And the giants left her alone.  She tried to keep the tears down.  To keep them away.  The mask thrummed, memories of many others whispering to her.  Including her father's.

"Long live the Wolf God," they chanted, making Hela of Lupis shudder in fear.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


Another splat of thoughts on the subject, although now I'm starting to find limits and problems, but those are on my end.  I'm still going to post this one, though.  Partly because I try to post some sort of writing everyday.   And partly I want to see if anyone else has thoughts to add to it.  Here we go.


Exploiting resources is a form of Creating an Advantage- Survival, Science, Industry, and Exploration are skills capable of taking resources from a planet (or star or whathaveyou).  Industry is better at acquiring Red or Black resources, and Survival is better at acquiring Green resources.  Stunts can change this, usually.

Spending resources, well, thats a different matter.  You can spend resources to create extras that act for you.  State what the thing is- organization, corporation, fleet, machine, whatever- spend the resources needed, and there you've got that thing.  Its not important enough to get its own aspects, and it doesn't have its own skills.  These proxies are just, lens through which your Civilization acts.  To finish it, and to see how long it'll last, you roll whatever skill you have that creates that sort of thing, opposed by the resources' opposition skill that applies.

When you create something with either Black or Red resources, there is some risk of hazards polluting the planet the proxy is being created on.  There is a added roll here, a sort of resist Hazard roll (Suvival vs the resources Hazard skill?)

And again, you aren't going to be able to be super-specific.  That is, you aren't going to be naming every city, every ship and so forth.  That isn't the point.

What about those scenes I mentioned about taking place before?  Lets get to that.

Icons: If you spend a point of your Civilization's fate refresh, however, you can make something Iconic.

All Civilizations start with 1 Icon for free.  Icons have names, and these names are their primary aspect.  They can be leaders, celebrities, flagships, robots, cities, etc.  If they are a person, then that person represents your civilization, acting as a sort of avatar of what its trying to do.

Icons are lens for your civilizations skills, or at least thats my current idea for them.  They use your skills to roll.  But they get their own aspect which can be brought to bear.  And they have another thing too: their own stunt.  This stunt is the trick, the thing they bring to the civilization.  They also have a second aspect, their fatal flaw.

Now, there are some crazy ideas you can permuate here.  What if you have two leading Icons in your Civilization?  What if they disagree?  Hmm.

Thats a collary here: Civilizations can split, merge or fade away if one of their Icons lead them astray.  But thats the risk.  You get a great bonus, a great boon, but it comes with its own risks.

Icons also die.  They go away.  They are mortal, whilst the great thing they worked for continues on.  But the Civilization doesn't lose that expenditure of Fate Refresh when a Icon goes.  Someone or something new replaces it, or the Civilization advances technologically because of their sacrifice and it learns a new stunt, or the Civilization's Fate Refresh goes up.

Using Proxies and Icons.
Like using anything in Fate, it requires you to roll the right skill to get it done.  All civilizations start with the same space capability.  That is, they can get things into space, but they don't have FTL.  You want FTL?  Take the stunt for it.  Otherwise, it takes years for them to get from star to star.

Each turn players can only use one proxy or icon during their turn.  Each turn represents a bit of time, like a six months to a year.  This means for civilizations without FTL, star travel can take a long time.  Things in transit are an exception.  Once in transit, they stay in transit, continuing to move the same way they you first directed them.  Only if you use them during your turn would they stop, if you thought that necessary.

Exploration: You can use your Proxy to uncover new planets, new life and potentially meet one of the other civilizations out there.
Industry: You can use your Proxy to get more out of the resources you take from a planet or star, sometimes getting some sort of bonus amount.
Trade: You can use your Proxy to trade Resources with other players, maybe getting a better deal from them, sometimes not.  Economy is the same as this, but it can allow both players to recover some of their spent resources in tariffs and the like.
Culture: Your Proxy can create works of art or new stories- inspiration that leads to new projects or leads an Icon to arise.  Also you can use it to create a boost of sorts.  Art also does this, except that its creations can become memetic, lasting long enough that they might spread to other civilizations.
Aggression: Your Proxy can attack or take care of a something that requires a violent approach.  Warfare functions identical to this, except that it can also allow a Proxy to intimidate others, preventing the need for conflicts from time to time.
Faith: Your Proxy takes care or overcomes some obstacle facing your civilization, like a civil war or public discontent.
Survival: Your Proxy can help your civilization recover, sometimes bring back lost Population.  It could also establish new advantages, sometimes colonies or outposts on new worlds.
Covert Ops: Your proxy tries to perform espionage, trying to perform an operation to obtain a intelligence objective about another civilization.
Science: Your proxy can focus on performing research and working toward new technologies.  This allows you to expend resources or fate refresh toward buying new stunts.
Engineering: Your proxy can build another proxy, but does so at a discount.
Psionics: Your proxy can use Psionics to learn something about a planet, something cosmic or something about a people or another time.
Pacifism: Your proxy can attempt to broker peace between other civilizations, trying to get them to the table to talk.

Costs and Things.
I'll try to make a precise price list at some point, or have some examples, I guess.  Here are the flavors of proxies and what not.

Black Proxies and Icons: Things that require Black Resources either require a massive power source or a big deadly weapon of some kind.  They all carry a hazard potential.  Black proxies and Icons require less than other resources do.  A city's power plant might need 1 Black to power it, while a starship would need 2.

Red Proxies and Icons: Things that require Red Resources can be any sort weaponry or war vessel.  It can also be any sort of mass industrial device, like a stardock or a industrial city.  It also might be needed for cybernetics or robotics, albeit the mostly metallic kind.  The price here is usually set at 2 Red for something like City, 3 for any sort of starship.  A fleet of starships might cost 5 or 6, although some stunts could change this price around.  Red Proxies and Icons that cost more than 2 can be supplemented with other Resources.  1 Black can create the power source, reducing the cost by 2, while Green can replace Red on a 1 for 1 basis, often using carbon and organics instead of metals.

Conversely, Red can be used rather cheaply to found organizations, corporations and the like.  For the same cost of a City, a proxy Corporation can be made.  Red resources cover most metals that interest business, and this could create the backbone of one of the major movers in your civilization.

Green Proxies and Icons:  People.  Farms.  That sort of thing.  Also, it can represent genetic mods and biotech of various kinds.  Your biopunk leviathans sort of can be inserted here.  I guess you could use a combination of Green and Red resources, and the right justifications to make one.  I price creating a Icon that is also person as costing 1 green.  Biohazardous weapons, lets set at 2.  Terraforming I'd imagine would cost 1 or 2 green over multiple turns.  Thats a thing I'll have to come back to.

Blue Proxies: Super-tech.  The advanced, space twisting kind, like time machines or weapons that explode stars.  Dyson spheres and the like.  Information networks that enable instant communication over many stars might cost 4 Blue, while a ultra-advanced starship might cost 2.  1 would be some sort of new life form, perhaps the civilization's evolution into a new form?  Or just something new, I suppose could work too.

Blue can be used in place of Red, Black or Green resources too, so any of the other resources' proxies could be created with it too.

This is the tricky part, and the one I'll be trying to figure out.  Here is a prototype idea, and I'll try to rework it once I've let it percolate awhile.  At the end of each players' turn, there is a scene for that civilization.  Each player comes up with a question about what happened for the civilization this turn.  The player of that civilization picks that question, and the players all create or use NPCs that would've been present and act out that scene.

We know the mechanical results, but the scene is, like in games like Microscope or Fiasco, the focus point.  Its where we get our big story beats, and so forth.

I'm still trying to decide if this is a hack that needs a GM or not.  Among other things I suppose.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Dead Man Stew 5

Start of the Story | Previous Part | Next Part

Noir and Bert drove around for the better part of four hours.  Noir didn't find any answers, just more questions from what they'd seen.  He found the echoes of more ghosts.  Those few ghosts he did find couldn't talk, or at least be, understandable to him.

"I had hoped at least one would've learned how to communicate to me.  Its like all of them were drowned, and that's making it hard to get clues from them."  Noir shook his head.

"At least we knew all them were killed the same way."  Bert patted him on the back as they started to prepare dinner for the Inn.  "Besides, you might be a little dependent on your abilities, you know?"

Noir didn't respond.  He was already throwing something onto the stovetop.  "I... Maybe you're right.  But I think I need more clues about what's going on here.  I need to see more of the dead... maybe if I get one of them to possess me again-"

Bert grunted in irritation.  "That sounds dangerous, boss."

Noir didn't respond to that either.  Instead he ignored Bert for awhile, and the two of them went into motion working.
During dinner, Noir didn't see any sign of Vickie, making him wonder where she'd gotten off too.  He also didn't see Jesha.

He wondered why he cared about where they were.  And why he didn't focus on one over the other.  It seemed so... chauvinistic of a instinct.

Noir spent most of his evening trying to figure out how to best deal with the ghosts.  It was outside his normal fields, really, dealing with ghosts this exclusively.  Especially without a body.

The Necromancer decided to wait until that evening.  He decided to see if more ghosts would appear, following the appearance of the first one.  If that was true, then the Inn itself might be central to what was going on.

Around midnight Noir opened his eyes, awaking with a start at the gut feeling he had.  The same gut feeling he had when something dead was near.  He got up from the chair he had been watching from, to a sight that both excited and scared him.

Ten ghosts were floating and moaning about the Inn's lobby.  More of the drowned shades meant more ectoplasmic salt water on the floor.  Noir nearly slipped onto his face when he first moved toward them.  The floor was slick with the ghostly salt water, and it almost was up to his ankles.

Each ghost floated in the air, as if floating in the water.  They stank of fish.  Seaweed covered them like it had the first ghost.  Their ectoplasmic flesh looked sickly pale.  It had become puckered.  Wrinkled too much, from being in the water for too long.  Their translucent flesh dripped watery blood.  Their eyes had gone black.  Their moaning and voices were too monotone to be intelligible anymore.

"I'm Noir.  I can help, if you-"

They reacted to Noir's movement.  Noir didn't like that.

Like rabid animals they stared at him.  They were quiet, following his every step.  Noir got the feeling they were waiting for a moment of weakness.

"Feral.  You've gone feral, haven't you?"

Some of them turned their heads.  One hissed, ectoplasmic blood spittle spraying as it did so.

A woman's voice yelled at him. "Head's UP!"

Noir turned his head just in time to not avoid the blow his skull.  A salt shaker bounced off Noir's head.  It twirled in the air behind.  The necromancer hit the ground, falling into ectoplasm.  "The ghosts... Damn it Noir!  Stupid stupid stupid!"

Noir felt the nearest ghost wrap ectoplasmic tentacles around his neck.  Something flowed into his throat, salty.  He choked, trying to cough it out.

He saw a monster.  Or was it a monster?  It giggled like a woman as it tore into the flesh of his neck... not his neck.  No, not his neck.  Noir was feeling the ghost's lonely memories flow into him.  Stronger than before.  Much stronger.

The ghost was going to drive Noir insane.

That was when the second salt shaker broke beside him.  Noir felt salt grains cover him.  The ectoplasm recoiled, the salt driving it away like ice melting in the presence of fire.

Noir coughed up the ectoplasm.  "I can't... see... breath... can't..."

A strong arm lifted him onto his feet.  "Don't worry about that yet.  C'mon.  Get behind me."

"Jesha?"  Noir recognized the voice, but he couldn't see her.  Salt blinded him.  He tried to rub it out.  He watched the scene play out through a watery, tear-stricken left eye.

Jesha stood in front of him, her dress covered in ectoplasm.  She held up another jar of salt in one hand.  In the other she had... Silver?  She dangled the silver wolfhead pendant in front of her.  The presence of the pendant drove the ghosts away.  It seemed to pain them.

"Go on!  BACK!"  Jesha swung the salt shaker, splattering it against one ghost.  It screamed, evaporating in a blaze that consumed it.  "You ain't getting this one tonight!  Understand me?"

Jesha held up the wolf head pendant, chanting.  Noir blinked, stumbling into a chair.  He watched as Jesha chanted a simple spell, powering up the pendant.  So simple she didn't realize it was a necrokinetic spell, Noir decided.  She wanted it to drive them off, so it did.

"I serve the Darkness.  His throne will rise again, as the moon rises in the sky.  His howl is salvation.  I serve the Darkness!  Lupus dei!  Lupus dei!"

The ghosts left at the sound of that chant.  The spell drove them away.  They glared begrudging at Noir as they left.

Noir felt his heart beat harder.  Was it the Inn that attracted the ghosts or him?  These feral shades, were they bidden by Noir being here or was the Inn the reason behind it.  He tried to suppress the guilt in him.

"Oh.  No, not that..."  Noir shivered.

Jesha turned to him.  Her eyes glittered in the dim light of the room.  She flipped her blue, black and red dreadlocks over her shoulder.  Without her star-shaped sunglasses, Noir could see her eyes.  They were blue, so very dark.

"Its okay, you'll be okay Noir.  Nasty things."  Jesha gave him a warm smile, pulling a chair up to him.  "Dangerous out here at night with the likes of those."

"I... don't..."  Noir shook his head.  "They shouldn't have been able to come in, at least not without-"

Jesha pointed to the decorative sign next to the door.  All Travelers Welcome, it said.


"I think I don't understand why you were down here by yourself, Noir."  Jesha pulled out a flask and took a swig from it.  "At least I don't understand what a lonely cook would be doing here by himself, and not in his room.  At least turn on the lights, you know?"

Noir didn't answer.  He tried to think of how to get out of this.  He really didn't feel like explaining himself to this person he barely knew.

Jesha continued.  "We both know I lied about myself earlier.  I could tell you read through it, but you didn't say anything.  You acted cool, real cool.  Like you've done a bit of lying to people to get things done.  Important things you only sense under the skin, you know?"

Noir stared at her.  He tried to keep a straight face.  Who was this Jesha?  Could she be the monster?

"Salt evaporates ectoplasm."  Noir observed.  "Even ghosts bathed in saltwater can't stand salt itself.  Thats a conundrum, isn't it?"

"Is it?"  Jesha replied.  "Death isn't a ending, or so I was taught.  You know these things, don't you?"

"I don't know... these ones in particular."  That sounded better in Noir's head, truth be told.

Jesha shook her head.  "Noir, I know these things too.  Don't do the fake cover with me.  I've told people what I do, and something they believe me, other times they hear what they want to.  Other times, I need a lie.  For my cover.  You?  You don't need to lie."

Noir shifted.  He wasn't sure how to respond.  "What do you think I am, Jesha?"

"Some of the old spirits call you people Deathwalkers.  Back in the middle ages your kind would talk to the dead, helping them find release.  For a special few, you'd reveal the secrets of death.  Revenants some call those, the walking dead you would make.  Sometimes that would end well, giving people closure."

Jesha grabbed a pair of glasses, pouring some of her flask into each.  She continued.  "Other times, though, they misjudge.  Dead body comes to life, and it turned into a monster.  Eats people.  Some people had to put it down.  That me.  I'm the one who puts down the messes, Necromancer."

"Necrokinetic," Noir corrected, "I prefer Necrokinetic."


I didn't expect any real response to this, but the first post on the idea got enough attention I decided to write up something more based on some notes I had for it.  

Planets, Stars and other phenomena have resources your civilization can acquire and use: Red, Black, Green and Blue.  Using these resources, you can create permanent things, using the Create Advantage action to turn resources into usable things.  I'm being vague here, but I intend to try and be clearer at some point.  Or not.  Sometimes vagueness helps.  Resources are extras, something your Civilization gets when it exploits, or rather, uses a its abilities to take resources out of a planet, star or other thing.

Red Resources are volatile elements, the kind needed to create weapons and power machines.  Red resources aren't as bad for power as Green resources and it isn't as efficient as Black resources, but Red is more plentiful than either.  Red resources can be as bad as Black resources over time, causing environmental problems if overused.
Power +2, Weaponry +3, Hazardous +2, Food +0

Black Resources are radioactives and toxic elements.  Black is the best for using power, and it can be used for a variety of scientific purposes.  Your civilization can also use Black to create WMDs, often powerful enough render populations dead, sterile or worse.  Black resources are immediately bad for the environment of planets and populations they are used on, always inflicting harm on environments if strict measures aren't used to keep them in check.
Power +3, Weaponry +2, Hazardous +3, Food +0

Green Resources are renewable biomass, organics and hydrocarbons for most.  Green is the best for helping feed and grow population.  Green is harder to turn into usable power or weapons, but it makes up for that in lack of hazardous problems.  Some stunts can make Green better to use, some advanced stunts allowing it to supplant Red or Black altogether.  But compared to the others, the price required to get to those technologies can tempt some civilizations to stick or reinforce their Black or Red resources instead, gambling that they don't go bad at some future point.
Power +1, Weaponry +1, Hazardous +0, Food +3

And there is the Blue stuff.  Blue Resources are things post-scarcity, the beyond and better than all the others.  Blue resources are quicker to replenish than any of the other resources.  On top of that, Blue can do what any of the other Resources can do, but the Hazard risk is far lower.  The only problem with Blue resources is that require a great deal of infrastructure to get to- they aren't inherent in any Planet or Star.  You have to create them, and that bears a higher cost with them.
Power +3, Weaponry +3, Hazardous +0, Food +2

[insert color here] Resource is the aspect each of these have.  If your civilization possesses any unspent resources, you can invoke their aspects, often by spending the resource in the process.

Each planet, star or other cosmic phenomena has a stress track for Black, Green and/or Red resources.  These are ticked off (one at a time) whenever you perform an action to harvest them.  Planets also have condition tracks you can mark off when are extracting resources, and sometimes you can come up with the right justification to make those conditions go away:
[_]Extreme Storms [_]Ecological Poisoning [_]Unstable Tectonics [_]Nuclear Winter 

I imagine stars and other things could have their own condition tracks too.  Maybe that can be something for another day.

On another note, a new skill to add onto civilizations here: Trade.  I'd imagine Economy would be a add-on skill, more or less.  Trade covers exchange resources with other civilizations, as well as distributing them properly throughout your civ.  Trade is great for trading things, but that requires some sort of exchange- yes it can be one-sided, but you still have to give something to get something out of it.

Thats all I have time for it tonight, just a small addition to what I've been thinking of.  I'll see if I can get something more done in regards to exploration and warfare and conflicts all that thought out at some point.


Monday, January 20, 2014

Dead Man Stew 4

Noir was cleaning up after lunch had been served. The only real takers were a few guests and Jesha, of course. Noir figured it had to be Jesha, because one plate had a napkin with lipstick on it. He shook his head, throwing the napkin away. He no interest in pursuing her, but she seemed interested in him. And he still didn't understand the predatory aura he sensed from her. That and how her mere presence annoyed Bert and Vickie. "And the drowned Ghosts too. She shows up the morning after they visit me, asking about hauntings? Did she sense what I could do?" Noir asked himself. Could she be the monster the ghost had seen? "You learned about the killing then?" Vickie asked. That made Noir jump. He hadn't seen her approach. She still unnerved Noir, and his body wasn't helping. He knew her, that she meant well. That had been the Vickie he'd known the last time he'd been here. That's why he helped her. The fact that the woman had changed into a bombshell didn't help matters. He already enjoyed her personality, but now physical attraction made it hard for him to resist looking at her. Her face looked supermodel perfect, but her body wasn't freakish. He felt a pull to her, almost as strong as the pull he'd felt for Elle. Elle. That made him pause. Long enough to notice Vickie was talking to him. He hadn't been listening. Remembering Elle did that to him. "I'm sorry Vickie, what was that?" "The deaths Noir. You saw Ghosts last night didn't you?" Vickie's eyes hit the light, glittering in a way that took his attention. He focused on her every word. "People have been dying around here Noir, all of them drownings." Noir blinked. He nodded in the affirmative. He told Vickie what had happened to him the night before, leaving out the part about vomit or voluntary possession. Noir decided to just let her know about the parts that Bert hadn't thought were crazy or stupid. Like he was trying to impress her with his manliness. High school. This feels like I'm in goddamn high school again. Control, Noir, Control. "I couldn't understand them. Either the water really ruined their mouths at their time of death or something cut their throats before hand... Doesn't matter, I just know what I saw. A monster drowning them. Probably the same for the rest of them." Noir finished. "What are you going to do about it Noir?" Vickie asked. "Is there anything I could do to help?" "I have time before Dinner tonight. I think I'm going to go out and try to see what I can see around town." Noir finished cleaning the dishes, putting them away for when he got back. "But even if I found something... I don't know. This is kind of out of my knowledge. I don't how to deal with it." Vickie nodded. "You helped me with him, and I'm sure you'll think of something." Noir shrugged. He couldn't think of a right answer to that. He turned to Vickie, part of him wanting to say something else. Vickie had bent over the trash. She pulled out the napkin Jesha had left, lipstick and all. She frowned at it, like it stank of something horrible to her. "'Always marry a cook, my mother used to say.'" "I didn't invite that sort of attention from her, Vickie... I'm spoken for, you know?" Vickie smiled. "Yeah, poor college girl doesn't know that, huh?" Vickie crumpled up the napkin and let fall back into the trash. She left the kitchen, giving Noir a wink before she walked out. Noir couldn't open his mouth, instead he just found himself stuck there staring at her walk out, step by step. Once she was gone, Noir shook his head. "Damn it. Good thing I'm a slave to my flesh here." Bert smiled and slapped him on the shoulder when he walked out of the Inn. The two walked to the Cadillac. "What is it you expect to find?" "Its a thing this time, Bert. Usually I just let the ghost or dead person take me to their killer. Then I finish things with that." "You kill them for your Dark Man?" Bert gave him a look. Noir never explained that. Most of the time the necromancer chose to avoid sharing too much, but he needed another head to help him figure this out. "Ugh, no. I can... sort of put them to sleep. Report them to the police. That keeps them under lockdown, you know? Long enough to be tried when they find the planted evidence." Noir opened his door and got in. "A thing huh? Any clues eh?" Bert started up the cadillac. "Bloodsucking. You told me that all those things on vampires were wrong or off and somesuch." "They are. Undead tend to have more variety than a few extreme cases." "Extreme cases?" Noir looked out through the front windshield as they hit the highway into Newport itself. "Drinking blood can have... effects on Posthumans." "Like what? It gives us dead people awesome powers?" Bert smirked. "I wouldn't mind some awesome powers, you know." "No." Noir shivered. "I've only heard of them from my teacher. It breaks one of the rules she taught me, because it creates an abomination. Taking blood is a symbolic gesture. That and blood has energy in it. "Before, that life circuit I told you about that I mend? Blood overrides it. It supercharges the undead- I'm sorry, Posthuman- processes. Each posthuman human reacts differently. Some can pass on their traits to others, their own flavor of it. "The blood also starts something else in them. They become dependent on the blood to continue to exist. And it prevents the degradation process that all Posthumans have to deal with." Bert concentrated on the road. "Thats all bad huh? Sounds like it makes things easier for the undead." Noir smirked at the use of the term. "This is a side effect or two that is common to all them too." "They get all evil and shit?" "If by evil, you mean they act without any humanity? And that they become predators? All the stories I heard were bad, Bert. Villages and entire cities burning bad." "Oh. And they are predators huh?" Bert took them down a road leading to the nearest beach. "And they each are different, too? Anything like Vickie's changes you think?" Noir looked over at Bert. "I... I don't think so Bert. I know Vickie. She isn't a killer. And I think I would've sensed something like that from her." No, Noir thought, but maybe Jesha is. Maybe she's covering her nature from me. Noir wondered how Jesha could hide being something dead from her. But then again, wasn't it a nasty coincidence that she wanted to be alone with him? And that she showed up right after those ghosts had come to see him? He knew Jesha was trying to pretend to be some college girl out ghost hunting. Noir knew that was a lie. And he knew something about her irritated Bert and Vickie. "Wolf in sheep's clothing." Noir muttered. Bert didn't respond, he just kept on driving.

Sunday, January 19, 2014


Here's an idea: using Fate Core to model out a RPG where you play Galactic Civilizations exploring the galaxy around them.

Its a simple concept, and it means that players spend a part of the game playing civilizations making big actions, ones that take years, decades or centuries to complete.  So, Scenes are going to be the smallest unit of measure of time here.  When Civilizations embark on something, the difficulty roll takes place, and a scene is played to reflect that.

Civilizations have skills: Aggression, Culture, Exploration, Faith, and Survival.  There are other skills too, but you need to have a stunt that enables or turns the skill on for you: Engineering, Industry, Warfare, Science, Art, Psionics, Covert Ops and Pacifism.

Aggression means the willingness to cause harm and start conflicts.  Handy if its the only means to handle crises and threats.   Also means it can trigger wars, as your people are used to using violence to handle their problems.

Culture means the willingness to create new ideas and spread them.  Handy for communicating ideas or trading information.  Bad, however, because your people tend to tell stories and talk when they should be doing other things.

Exploration means curiosity and the will to act on it.  Handy for finding new things or exploring new regions.  Bad because your people like to wander off, and might try to find something where they shouldn't be looking.

Faith means the ability to work together because you all believe in the same ideals and things.  Handy for keeping the civilization together.  Bad because it can keep your people from embracing new ideas and can drive them into attacking what might be a improvement for them.

Survival means using and understanding nature in order to stay alive.  Handy if your civilization needs to scrap by when resources are low or a trouble rains down on your people.  Bad in that it makes your people isolationist, and more prone to distrust outsiders.

Civilizations all get their own stress tracks, like so:
Population.  The numbers of your civilization.  There aren't any hard numbers here, but the less boxes you have, the fewer people are able to act to advance the civilization.  You can lose Population boxes and you can gain them too.

Military.  This is a add-on form of stress that is based on your rating in Aggression or Warfare.  You can spend Military stress to prevent the loss of Population stress.

Diplomacy.  Measures your civilization's resistance to diplomatic liasons and approaches.  To convince your civilization to agree to something it doesn't want to do, other civilizations or groups have to whittle you down in this.  All civilizations have a base Diplomacy of 2.  Some stunts can increase this.

This is the first rough idea I had of it.  More or less there are also stats for Planets and Stars.  Exploring or scouting sectors around you are turns in the game, following a sort of cosmic initiative of sorts.  Still hammering out the rough structure.

Scenes are roleplayed out after rolls are made, and players act out the scenes based on the results.  Aspects are things I'm also trying to figure out for it.

More to come on it when I think of it.  See ya.

There is a part two this here, if you want to read more on my musing.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Dead Man Stew 3

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Noir woke up sore the next morning.  After running into Bert, the undead man had been kind enough to point out the salty stench that followed Noir.  So he took a shower and returned, explaining the previous night to Bert.

"Dang you stank to all hell."  Bert shook his head.  He wiped grease off his hands.  He'd been working on the cadillac.  Vickie had found a variety of odd jobs for Bert to perform since the previous day.  "Caddy is gassed up, Vickie paid us enough for that.  But I guess we're staying now that you found something worthwhile?"

Noir shrugged.  "I still haven't had a meeting with the Dark Man since that crossroads months ago.  Besides... I want to try and help those... those ghosts.  It was so intense..."

Noir trailed off, unable to think of the right words for it.

"And you vomited all over the floor.  Who lets any old ghost in their home?  Hell, I'm still surprised that I get to say things like that.  Ghosts."

"Imagine being the one they ask help from."  Noir interjected.

"Seriously, you let it into your body and didn't mind that?  Jeez Boss, I don't get you."

"What do you mean?"  Noir asked, confused.

"You don't date or even try to get into a bed with Vickie.  But strange dead girl floats around and you're making space in your body for her.  And sounded like a rather rotty girl too."

"Vickie is a exception..."  Noir said, keeping his voice low so Vickie couldn't hear.  Across the room from them, Vickie was at her tiny front desk, chatting with guests about the weather.  The sun was low in the east, and the pacific looked cold and gray this early in the morning.  "I don't understand it.  And you haven't been undead long enough-"

"Posthuman."  Bert corrected.  "Vickie told me thats what they call us, Posthuman you know."

Noir rolled his eyes.  "Not the point, I guess, but I'll remember that.  You haven't been undead to notice it yet, but your body stopped its cellular growth months ago, remember?  You haven't had any new hair or fingernails grow since then."

"Oh... I never noticed that... What does that mean exactly?"  Bert asked.

"Undead- er, posthumans I raise have a limited shelf life Bert.  I just corrected a internal circuit in your life force.  I patched a leak in the dam, more or less.  But you still died.

"A living body has a number of self-correcting processes that keep it alive.  When you restart them, they only can keep equilibrium for so long before they fall apart.  Your body isn't rapidly replacing itself.  My bit of lifeforce in you can only do so much, but most of your body is still dead mass.  Its resisted total rot, but eventually rot will set in.  You'll be unconscious by then.  Your mind will fade away, and it'll be a painless step for your energies to break apart.  The spell will die, and you will no longer be a walking corpse."

Bert blinked.  "You said that at the start, I remember.  But how'd Vickie get... you know?"

"I don't.  Maybe she found a way to add more energy to the circuit.  Or maybe something in this old house reinforces my spell and changes it.  Or..."  Noir shook his head.  He couldn’t find the right words for it.  "No, she wouldn't do the other option."

"What's that?"

"Monstrous.  It-"

The bell of the Inn door rang as a new visitor entered.  As she walked in, Bert interrupted Noir with a guttural growl.  Vickie looked up, her smile turning into a frown.  Both were surprised, Noir sensed, and reacted badly to this girl's aura.

Noir looked at the girl, sensing immediately a familiar, yet odd living.  She was tall, almost six and half feet tall.  Her fair, ruddy skin looked cold in the wet Northwest weather.  Her dress hung down to her knees, a blue dress with red flowers.  Her sunglasses were a pair of stars, the lens dark.  Her black, blue and red hair hung down behind her to her waist, all of it in dreadlocks.  She had a black duffel bag over one shoulder, muscled arms with tattoos covered in white arm warmers, fishnetted to reveal the tattoos of roses, lilies and wolves.  Her legs were long too, covered in leggings stained with green grease, the same one gets from sitting in freshly mowed grass.  She wore high heels, black, stained a bit with red.

Noir's eye noted the silvery wolf pendant she wore around her neck.  It glittered in the light.  The woman smirked as she walked in.  She stunk a bit of alcohol.

"Hey, where can a girl get a room, eh?"  She asked Vickie.

Vickie pulled down a key.  She pulled out a clipboard from under the desk.  She didn't say a word.  She tried not to make eye contact with this new visitor.  Not like she'd done with others, Noir knew.

The girl signed in.  She paid in rumpled cash, some bills dirty with blood splotches.  She then took a key.  Vickie vanished, walking away as fast as she could.  Noir realized that Bert had left too.  Both undead- posthuman, that word was going to take some getting used to- had fled, rather than deal with this girl.

The girl pulled out a cell phone, checking it for messages.  Noir didn't understand what to make of that... Only that the cell phone wasn't on, and it was small enough most people wouldn't have noticed.  She liked to project an image of sorts, or at least Noir was guessing.

If Noir could, he'd best describe the aura he felt from the girl as predatory.  Like a wolf.  Or a monster.  Someone used to hunting.  "A foreign land is a land of wolves."

"I'm sorry, what was that?"  The girl asked him.  She acted as though she were talking on the phone.  "Darn.  Lost my connection, oh well.  Guess she'll tell me later."

Noir wondered if she were crazy or something like that.  He decided against that.  He done this act himself once or twice.  "Its a old saying my father used to say, I'm sorry if I interrupted you."

"What saying is that?"  She asked.  She took off her sunglasses, and that's when Noir realized she was taller than him.  Not by much, but enough to mean he was looking up at her, not vice versa.

"I, er..."

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to bug you-  I'm Jesha.  I'm here to get some R&R you know?"  She smiled, trying to use some sort of expression or something.  It made Noir feel uncomfortable.  He was a small town kid, people always seemed off putting to him a lot of the time.  She offered a hand.  He took it.

He felt her aura then.  Noir paused, looking at the pendant.  She opened her eyes a bit, reading him back a little.  "Ah.  That saying?  Please, I'm curious."

"A foreign land is a land full of wolves," Noir replied, more thinking than focused on what he was saying.  "Places strange are dangerous and everything might be dangerous to you, a wolf."

"Hmm.  I'm not sure I like that.  Wolves are such... glorious animals."

"I'm Noir Bedarte, by the way.  I'm the cook here, at the moment anyway.  You said you were here for some R&R?  This your first time in Newport?"

Jesha looked out one of the inn's big front windows.  Wind blew needles and pine cones about.  "Yes.  To be honest, I came here for something else, you know?"

"Lots to do here, even this time of year.  Whales, the aquarium, all sort of stuff."  Noir shrugged.  "This is the third time I've been around this place myself."

"Whales?  Hmm."  Jesha moved up close to Noir, eye to eye.  "Ghosts.  I came to see some ghosts, you know?  Old places like this are filled with them, aren't they?"

Noir paused, not sure how to answer.

Jesha continued.  "You believe in ghosts don't you Mister Noir?"

Noir just looked at her.  "You never know."

Jesha smiled at him.  "I like you, Mister Noir.  Always marry a cook, my mother used to say.  When she wasn't drunk, anyway.  Room thirteen, if you're interested later, eh?"

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Flash Fiction: Hot Enough to Burn Dragons

Too tired to get a decent full update tonight.  An outline also went missing for Dead Man Stew, but still, I did something rather than bitch about it.  Here is a quick flash fic of one kind or another.  Enjoy!

Shanghai, 1900.  Days after the Boxers Rebellion.

"I loved Shanghai.  But alas, even you damn Mortals can screw up anything, can't you?"  The dragon, disguised as he was in the form of a old fat man, still had the tone Ra had expected.  Maybe it was the only shape the greedy bastard could fit into, or maybe the dragon misunderstood it.  Ra still saw the irony in it.

But Ra didn't time or the patience to make jokes with this creature.  "My king has sent me here on business.  You should have some more respect, he chooses to let you stay in his realm unchallenged, monster.  Watch what you say."

Ra stood the height of a average man, and he looked British.  His accent was that of a street born londoner, but his clothes was a well-to-do suit of an american style.  A golden pendant of a bird was clipped on the vest over his heart.  His dishwater blond hair glimmered a bit in the hazy light of the opium den the Dragon had taken them to meet.

The dragon waved a hand.  He puffed again on a small bit of tobacco.  Ra resisted the urge to burn it off his face.

"What Realm?  What King lets his subjects fight one another?"

"They aren't his subjects."  Ra heft the gold bar onto the table between them.  "They can do whatever they want to one another.  If they don't bend the knee, he chooses to leave them be.  They don't help the enemy.  Unlike others I can think to name."

The dragon shrugged.  "This is what you expect to pay for the Skull?"

"Its the price He allowed.  Take it, if want a piece of advice, Dragon."

The dragon narrowed his eyes.  "I don't listen to mortal lackeys of a angelspawned killer like the Wolf.  I do not fear Wolves, nor the sheep he sends."

The dragon snapped his fingers, a metallic clack of claws summoning a man with a long sword.  The man shoved the sword against Ra's throat.  "I have sheep cleaver, you see?  Power here is still power, mortal.  It belongs to those born to deserve it."

Ra closed his eyes, then opened them again.  "I'm no sheep, monster.  You ever hear the names of all of the Neven?  Ever hear the tones of the name of Shiva of Ra?"

A halo of hot light surrounded Ra.  It didn't touch his clothes, but the sword being held by the man turned white-hot, then slumped down, gravity changing it into liquid.  The Dragon stared down at the puddle of melted metal and steel.  His mouth slumped open.  "The Phoenix.  The Wolf sent-"

The dragon didn't finish the thought as Shiva of Ra incinerated the creature then and there.  He burned so hot that not even flesh made of fire could withstand it, blinding many of those who saw it.  All that was left was a crater, and a man walking away with a skull.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Dead Man Stew 2

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Noir's kitchen skills didn't go unrecognized.  Vickie managed to keep him busy most of that day.  And the for next two days.  Noir started to enjoy it, although he knew it couldn't last.

It liked having a job again, something that people depended on him to do.  Well, something that living people depended on.  Noir still knew it couldn't last.

That night his internal pessimism turned out to be correct.

"Elle?"  Noir could hear her voice.  He could see her, far away and down the hall.  "Elle please... don't leave..."


He couldn't make out any of the words she had been saying.  It was just at the edge of his hearing.  At one moment, a murmur.  At another, a hint of the woman he knew and loved.

Noir ran for her.  "Elle please!  I need to... help.  Help you... I'm sorry I failed you-"

When Noir caught up to Elle, her back had been turned away from him.  He touched her shoulder.  He didn't see Elle turn.  All he saw was that it wasn't Elle anymore.  Noir jumped, frightened by the walking corpse in front of him.

...then he opened his real eyes.  The small nightmare had gone away.  Noir shivered, sitting up straight in his bed.

He looked across his room.  Next to the window something howled.  A translucent shape, trying to get in.  Noir shook his head.  "Ghost.  Its a ghost.  I should've figured... about time for some dead thing to interrupt..."

Noir walked over to the window.  He peered at the ghost floating on the other side, translucent in his ghost vision.  Noir had always been able to see dead things, spirits or ghosts or whatnot.  He never really had to turn that sort of thing on.  He just sensed them, like some people could quickly decipher a puzzle, he saw them.  Unlike those puzzles, Noir had never seen most people put all the clues to the dead around them together, to get a real feel for them.

Some people saw things that weren't there.  They took all the wrong clues and strung together fake pictures.  They lied to themselves, seeing ghosts that were never there.  Others lied the other way, talking themselves into thinking that those too dark rooms or times they got goosebumps were just one time things.  They liked to pretend that nothing bad ever happened.  Some even saw ghosts, real ghosts.  Each time Noir had seen the same people shake their heads and act as though it never happened.

Noir always saw the dead.  And he tried to listen to them.  This particular dead, though, made him cringe a bit.

Her floating in midair made him a bit queasy too.  She dripped ephemeral bits of saltwater from her hair.  It looked faded.  And her see-through ghostly skin also looked faded.  Like coat left to soak for too long.  Her teeth and eyes had a rusty look to them- like all the iron in her body had decided to collect there.  Reddish hues dripped at her pores.  She was covered in seaweed, her arms misshapen.  Dislocated.  They looked like someone took them out of the way.

The ghost had on torn and tattered street clothes, echoing her death by drowning.  He couldn't tell what color her eyes or hair had been.  And her face looked like it was coughing, sputtering up water.  She looked young, like a teenager.  Like she should've been in school or out on the beach with friends or something instead of being dead.

"Oh you poor-"  Noir threw open the window.

"Come in!" Noir invited her in, waving his arms.

She responded with a watery "Thputs."  She floated into the room.  The drowned ghost hovered in the air, and Noir closed the window, trying not to let rain or wind in.  "Hwwp."

"I... can't really understand you.  I mean, I do do that sort of thing, talk with people in your condition, thats my specialty, you know."

"Muh cundthwwn?"

Noir shrugged.  "My name is Noir Bedarte.  I can help, but you clearly can't tell me what happened.  Can you try to be very clear?  Try it slowly."

"O... Kw... Duwned."  She hacked and coughed, ephemeral saltwater slopping down onto the floor.  It faded, evaporating as it left her form.  "Blud... Drawned... Pwain... Nut know wth to dwo.  Shthe muwst be stupped."

"Uh... that isn't going to help me, I think."  Noir bit his lower lip.  He really didn't want to do it.  It wasn't his favorite sort of spell.  It could go very bad for him.  "I... know a way to learn what you know... but..."

The ghost nodded, ghostly saltwater ectoplasm leaking onto the floor from her mouth like drool.  An affirmative, Noir reasoned.

"Ok, please... and this is going to sound weird..." Noir gulped.  "Don't hurt me, ok?"

The ghost girl cocked her head in confusion.  Noir lept at her, slamming his fist into where her chest should've been, had it been physical.  He let a bit of himself and the ghost mingle.  The essence of the two melding for a moment.  With that brief connection, the necromancer closed his eyes.  He drew her into himself... and let the ghost girl have control of his body.

"Owhp.  Whath hath you duwne?"  Noir asked himself, feeling his lips move of another's accord.  He felt drool crept down his mouth, salty ectoplasm coming out.  "You... buwdy strawng..."

Although speaking through his mouth made her a bit clearer, Noir knew he wouldn't get clear enough information... he waited for the inevitable second symptom of being possessed by a ghost.  His body doubled over.  Pain seared his head as memories that weren't his came into his mind.  He couldn't scream, his throat burned as ectoplasm started to block his breathing.

He tried to focus through the images hitting his mind.

Joy.  Late night at the beach.  Smiles all around.  A group of teenage girls talking to one another.

A euphoria gripped the back of his mind.  Noir tried to fend it off.  He tried to keep it from taking over.  Noir felt like a rider on a insane roller coaster ride.

Pain in the back of the head.  Blackness.  It roared at her, and she tried to crawl away from it.

No... Not she!  Not she!  Noir thought to himself, trying to keep his mind in one piece.

She cried.  "No, please!  You took everyone else!  No!"

A creature grabbed her.  It broke her wrists in its grip.  She couldn't look at it.  Her begging didn't work.  It didn't work with her friends.  Each of them had begged, and it took them.  Black oily claws held them tight, and then pushed them into the saltwater.

Bubbles followed.  The water turned red.  The creature giggled, lapping at the saltwater.


No, that isn't me, Noir thought.  He felt her fear.  The creature, covered in black slammed down into the water where her friends hadn't returned.  Saltwater flooded into her mouth, drowning her.

Bubbles came out.


Noir hacked.  He coughed and coughed.  Saltwater came out in big splashes onto the floor.  Ectoplasm mixed with his vomit.

Noir shivered.

He couldn't breath.  His lungs burned hot.  Acid hurt his throat.  His eyes wanted to pop out of his head.

Noir tried to open his mouth and breath, but just saltwater came out.  He looked down at his own body.

It was the wrong body, he didn't remember these clothes.  And where did his friends go and...

Noir coughed again.  This time the ghost came out of him, ectoplasm trailing from behind her.  She looked down at Noir, her red eyes wide.

He got up out of the pile of vomit he'd landed in.

"I'm so sorry."  He said.  "That was..."

The drowned girl ghost stared at him, her gaze blank.  Then she turned around, and left him to sit there.

"I don't know what..."  Noir shook his head, trying to get a grip on it.  "So intense a death... so much fear... and joy and... Intoxicating.  What... the hell, Noir! Get a grip."

He looked down.  His nose wrinkled at the stench of the salty vomit across his inn room floor.  "Ugh.  Drowned ghosts.  Monster... and vomit to clean.  Well now I feel more at home."

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Dead Man Stew 1

Hey.  Here is a new story, or the start of one.  Dead Man Stew is a tentative title, I need to think of something more clever than that.  This is the third story to feature Noir Bedarte, Necromancer with Heart of Gold.  In the first story, Noir did what he does, collecting bad people and helping out the deceased.  In the second, its Christmas Eve and Noir gets dragged (literally) into dealing with a house haunted by a hive of poltergeists. 

Here, Noir and his dead buddy Bert get stuck.  Noir helps out a old friend, but will ghosts from the past throw off his plans?

Anyway, comments welcomed.  This is a rough draft, which I have outlined to be seven parts.  If you enjoy it, let me know.  If you don't, let me know.  Either way, I learn from it.  Enjoy!

* * * * * * * * * *

Next Part of Story

Bert shook his head in the negative.  "Nope.  She's dead, Jim."

"Great.  At least we are near Newport."  Noir replied.

"Depends on your definition of 'near', boss."  Bert slammed the hood to the old black cadillac closed.

"You're undead, Bert, you don't get to complain."

"Sadly, you think the living would be willing to share that little bit of providence with us dead folk.  Still, going to take a while."

Noir shouldered a backpack.  "I used to backpack by myself before we met.  It'll be fine."

"That's pretty optimistic.  That optimism gonna pay for food or gas when we get there?  Because I know we don't have enough for either."

"Hey Bert, it could be worse."

Then it started to rain on them.

"Couldn't get worse, eh Necromancer?"

Bert and Noir spent the next hour walking southward in the rain.  Noir covered himself up.  Bert, still being of the dead variety, ignored it.  It was slow going, walking down along the coastal highway.

"You use to stomp around here?"  Bert asked him.

"Two or three years ago I traveled through here, more or less.  Aha!  Its still here!"  Noir pointed off to a old Victorian house overlooking the bay.  The faded grey siding looked cracked and aged.  Trees grew around it.  They were somewhat overgrown.  The place looked like it had been a bit behind on some of its maintenence.  But in the cold Newport rain, it looked like salvation.

"What's still here?  That ratty old house?"

"Not a house!"  Noir moved straight for the building, remembering the place from the last time he'd been in this part of Oregon.  "Its called the Sleepy Bear Inn.  The owner owes me a favor or two."

"Favors for what exactly?  You turn some dead dog into a zombie for him?"  Bert scratched his chin.  Noir could feel part of the artificial life circuit he'd put in Bert do that bit of mimicry.  Noir knew that Bert couldn't feel the need to scratch random itches anymore.  But his subconscious kept up the act, trying to live while he could.  "Or did you perform one of your other tricks for 'em?"

"She."  Noir quickly ran onto the front porch of the Inn.  He dive under for the cover.  Bert followed.

The porch's view of the bay had become obscured by the overgrown trees around it.  Noir nonetheless took in a deep breath.  He remembered how he'd seen her boat that day.  How he ran down, trying to get to the drowned bodies before first responders could beat him to it.

"Vickie drowned nearby.  Someone forced her under the saltwater.  I found him."

"By him, you mean sold the guy to your Dark Man?"  Bert asked.

Noir didn't answer.  Instead, he opened the front door of the Inn.  It creaked.  A bell jingled as he walked through it.

A woman's voice called out.  Noir, soaking wet, smirked at Bert.  "Hello?  Noir is that you I feel?"

A pale, slim woman greeted them.  Noir blinked at the sight of her.  Vickie's green dyed hair had changed very little, but her body didn't look like how he'd left it.  She nodded a head at him, her green flower dress cut low.  Bert whistled.

Noir gave him a glare.

Vickie smiled at Noir.

"Hi Vickie." Noir began.  He reached out with his senses.  Yes, it still was her.  But what happened?  What did she look so different?

"You noticed the changes then?"  She asked.

"You... wow."  Noir shook his head.  "Last I saw you, I mean-"

"I was a pear-shaped hippie girl with hawk for a nose."  Vickie snorted.  "And the glasses too.  Ugh.  I don't need those anymore.  Thanks to you, I mean."

"Right."  Noir didn't believe it.  It was indeed Vickie, the same essence.  He had no reference for this.  Undead kept the same shape as they died.  They couldn't grow or change.  At least, as far as he'd been taught.  His curiosity peaked.  Could this unlife he gave others evolve and grow on its own?  could it change them?  The possibilities flooded his thoughts.

"Looks good to me, lady."  Bert patted Noir at the back.  "If that's one of the perks, Noir sure didn't tell me about it."

Vickie's eyes widened.  "Oh.  So you are traveling with the dead now, Noir?"

"More or less."

Vickie waved them over to a counter.  "What can I do for the man who made me into a beautiful corpse?"

Noir gulped.  Bert spoke for him.

"We need dry rooms I think, or at least gas money."

"Yeah... we kinda struck it dry outside of here."  Noir added.  Something inside Vickie's essence shocked him.  It felt like a sort of vitality he hadn't felt before.  Underneath.

Vickie shook her head.  "Sorry guys... I have a room to spare, but as for money..."

She waved her hands around at the derelict Inn around them.  "I've got this whole place to run, and its going downhill.  I barely have enough money for the meals I promise my customers.  Its hard for a dead girl like me to break even."

Noir felt part of him warm to those words.  He fought them down.  He remembered Elle.  He couldn't let her down, even if it felt right.  Instead, he had an idea.

"Ok, Vickie, how about I offer my help then?"

"Help?"  Vickie tilted her head.  Her almost perfect face wrinkled into a smile.  "How would a necromancer on staff help me?"

"Necrokinetic," Noir corrected.

"Necrokinetic," Vickie repeated.

"Let me show you."

"This, I want to see."  Bert shook his head in disbelief.  "I want to see how you smoking a joint and whining about dead people is going to help us here."

Noir moved quick, taking one tray from the oven.  He checked the rice and beans on the pot.  "Good, almost done.  You get those all fried over there?"

Bert stared down at the mess he'd made of the small assignment Noir gave him.  "I ain't a cook."

Noir rolled his eyes.  "Its pretty easy."

"Says you.  Where the heck you learn to cook- what did you call it?"

"Bacalao a la Vizcaina?  My father taught me."  Noir moved deftly, finishing a half dozen dishes as he went.  "Codfish Stew, Bert.  Good for you."

"Right.  You know I don't eat, right?"

Noir laughed.  "Dead people.  You can still taste, right?"

"Riiight.  Your dad was a chef then?"

Noir kept working.  He frowned at the question.

"Noir?  You hear me?"


"What?" Bert blinked.

"Aita was a Doctor.  He owned a herd of a dozen sheep and few dozen ugly acres to keep them on.  I was in charge of the sheep, and most of the time, also in charge of the kitchen."

Bert slopped some of the things in his bowl into the pot.  Noir checked, adding some onions before moving on.  "What about your mom then, Noir?  You get to spend time in the kitchen with-"

Noir shrugged.  "Never saw her most of the time.  She was working up until the divorse.  One day they argued, I couldn't follow all of it... then I started to have to take care of everything.  He showed me how to cook, how to take care of sheep, and he made sure I didn't fall out of line during all of it."


"Don't- It isn't your problem.  My parents separated because of... I can't really explain it right.  Aita enjoyed being a Doctor, and my Mother didn't feel like being his whipping mule by the time I could walk.  And I... well, I saw horrible dead things.  They ignored me, their fighting just got worse and worse.

"But then she left.  Aita just would work late every day.  I had to get everything done by then or else he'd beat the shit outta me.  But hey, they left me alone.  I learned to talk with the ghosts that lived there...  Elle and I..."  Noir's voiced trailed off.  "Never mind."

"Never mind what?"  Bert looked at him.  "Elle who?"

"Don't you worry about it Bert.  No one important."

Bert took a tray of bowls filled with Codfish stew.  "Aita, that Puerto Rican?"

Noir sighed.  "No, it isn't."

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