Friday, February 28, 2014

Portland In Black 8

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"You sure?"  Jesha put a hand on his shoulder.  "Noir, you're crying."

"Its nothing."  Noir shook her hand off him.  "Please don't-"

Noir didn't remember what else he said.  Just ringing from the explosion that knocked him to the ground.  Noir felt broken glass underneath him.

It took Noir a moment for his hearing to return.  As the ringing stopped, his ghost senses tingled as Ellie turned toward him.  He could feel the slivers of emotion washing over the ghost, the uncertainty of the situation causing him to feel her nervous curiosity.  Noir tried to resist the apathetic wash of emotions.

"What's happening?"  Ellie asked.

"Noir, stay down."  Jesha's voice sounded more like a command.  Noir could hear a guttural undertone to it.  "Trouble."

Noir looked up at the broken windows.  One of the cops was down, her face covered in blood and glass.  Another held up a gun, having survived the explosion.  Noir couldn't see any of the other cops.  He frowned.  Had he lost count of how many cops were here when they arrived?

Noir could also hear something approaching.  To him, it sounded like a pair of footsteps, albeit light ones.  It surprised him how subtle he could sense them, like at the very edges of his senes.  "Jesha... can you hear that?"

"Hear what?  Poor guy, gone deaf."  A new voice, this one sounding raspy, like it was coming out of a antique accordion.  It sounded somewhat male.

A woman giggled.  It sounded just as raspy as the first voice, with a bit of sticky cough behind it.

Noir spun to the source of the voices, just in time to watch a cop tumble to the ground with a broken arm.  The couple were pale and white, their skins looking like that hadn't seen any sunshine in quite a long while.  Both of their eyes were sunken.

The man had a potbelly, but wore a ratty tux.  The suit looked like some sort of prom rental, but only if the rental had been left out in the weather to get infested with mice and worms.  His stark black hair covered one of his eyes.  Noir couldn't see any color in his eyes.  Both of his shoes were caked with mud.  He slouched, his teeth craggy and misshapen.  He grinned in Noir's direction.

The girl with him, on the other hand, looked just shy of fifteen to Noir.  She wore a purple prom dress, matching her companion's in its rotten grotesquery.  She stood as tall as her companion, her skin just as white as his.  Her makeup was thick, painted into the likeness of skull across her face.  She had a necklace, a thick comprised of human teeth.  She had a rotten mass of maggots and worms in one arm.  It took Noir a moment to realize it was the decayed corpse of a tiny dog.

"Oh.  They don't look nice, do they?"  Ellie asked Noir.

Noir sighed.  It didn't take any use of his ghost senses to tell what these... things were.  His ghost senses had sensed their approach because of their unnatural nature.  He just wasn’t apt enough to notice how subtle their approach had been, undead or not.  "A foreign land is a land full of wolves."

"I hate it when you lie like that."  Jesha growled.  "Remember how I said to keep down?"

"Yes!  Keep down like your ladygirl says!"  The prom dress undead chattered at Noir.  "Be a good boy!"

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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Portland in Black 7

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"You don't know anything about the afterlife?"  Ellie's eyes darted around.

"Sorry, I'm just a guy with a talent for the dead.  Philosophy isn't really my gig."  Noir shrugged.

Jesha took another sniff of the air around Ellie.  She still couldn't sense the dead girl, and looked imploringly at Noir.  Noir looked around, noting the odd looks from the cops stuck watching them interact with the corpse.

"Why is she...?"  Ellie paused.  "Did she just try to smell me?  Can you smell ghosts?"

"She's... well..."  Noir shrugged again.  "Jesha hold on a second.  Close your eyes and let me..."

Jesha blinked at him.  "Let you what?"

"Just hold still, okay?  You want to see her or not?"

"Humph."  Jesha closed her eyes shut.  Noir placed her hand over them, a brief sparkle of purple flame passing over them.  He then took his hand off of Jesha's eyes.

"Open them."  Noir said.

Jesha blinked.  She then looked up at the ghost floating above Ellie's body.

"Better?"  Noir asked.

"Yeah."  Jesha smirked at Ellie's ghost.  "Jesha.  Who killed you?"

Ellie blinked.  "Killed?  What?"

Noir sighed.  "I like to try and... be a bit more subtle than that Jesha."

"And she wants us to find them, right?"

Ellie blinked at them again.  "I was killed...?"

Noir waved a hand at the bloody windows.  "Those familiar?"

Ellie shook her head.  "No... I..."

"You don't remember what happened?"  Jesha asked, this time more gentle in tone.  "I'd thought that you'd... uh..."

"Its all sort of blurry."  Ellie said.

"You can't remember exact details about your death."  Noir explained.  "The material that held those memories have deteriorated.  You can't expect to recall it perfectly.  Its rare for a victim to remember details right away."

Jesha nodded.  "Ok... my mistake then."

"I... remember faces.  Some customers... that's all.  Then it goes black."  Ellie said.  "And I don't feel anything about it.  Shouldn't I... be sad or something?"

"Things... are distant now."  Noir waved a hand in the air.  "You aren't entirely the same any more.  some emotions are harder to sense for you now.  Others are easy.  Sadness, fear... these aren't as easy for you to sense.  But for your memories, that's all I need to find them.  Would you like me to find who did this and solve it for you?"

Ellie gave a nod. "That seems... right."

"Good."  Noir closed his eyes.  He reached through his bond with Ellie.  He tugged on the energy between them, drawing forth the memory into his own mind.

Another twenty minutes and I can go.  Good. Ellie thought to herself.

Tonight Ellie was going to finally get her time down to a minute fifty on the track.  Her late night practices had been working, and soon she'd be ready for the next season of sports.  She ached to get back out there, even if this job paid the bills for her car and her cellphone.  It bored her to be stuck standing still all day.

A pair of young men dressed in old hoodies sweatshirts approached her till.

The first thing she noted was their smell.  It made her want to gag.  They stank of something, and she didn't like the smell of it all.

Noir blinked, rubbing tears out of his eyes from the memory.  He had a good look at the two men's faces, but not much more.  That the smell, he remembered that distinctly.

"Everything alright?"  Jesha asked, her face masked with concern.

"I'm... okay.  Just... a memory is all..."

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Grafhamir Journals 1

In character journal entry follows for my groups first session of the "Wrath of the Righteous" AP.  My character is Henric Grafhamir, Paladin and the third noble son of a old Ustalavic Family that has been part of the Mendevian Crusades sense the beginning.  He thinks they are nothing but honorable and glorious stories, and is in for a bit of a problem when he runs into the truth of them...

Things are worse than the stories my parents and grandparents had told me.  I had planned to arrive in Kenabres to take my oath as a Crusader, but even Iomedae couldn't predict the horrors this day had in store.  When I woke up in the dark, I didn't understand what happened- I tried to help others, despite the confusion we faced.

Then I remembered what happened.  Armasse, the weeklong festival that used to be held for Aroden, was in full swing in Kenabres.  I'd come to Kenabres to say my vows as a Crusader, to finally take my place in the Crusades as the Grafhamirs before me had.  But things went wrong.  The Storm King, I refuse to write his name here, attacked.

Its all a blur, but I remember seeing the Silver Dragon Terendelev being struck as the ground under us fell apart.  Her magick stopped our fall.  That was the last I saw, a silver dragon reaching out to save us as the Storm King tried to strike her down.

We collected ourselves at that point.  In the dark, seven survivors and I found one another.  Iomedae saved us from the same wounds and deaths that met others.  Yoruba, Magaambyan Conjurer and a Elf looking into the story of his parents who'd orphaned him; Makoa the Strong Armed, a half-orc savage who seems to enjoy violence a bit too much, but his strength is to be respected; Helin Ius, a local Tiefling and a thief who I am to try and reform, although she things I can't notice her thieving ways.

There were some wounded too, Anevia Tirablade, a young woman who broke her leg in the fall.  She hasn't said much about herself, but I think she's warmed up to us.  Aravashnial, a Riftwarden who was blinded by the Balor's strikes.  He and Yoruba seemed to have bonded, through whatever arcane matters that bind wizards.  He's been informative... albeit not as morally as I'd like.  Lastly, there was Horgus Gwerm.  Gwerm is a Mendevian Noble.  He respects my own heritage enough that I can lead him to act better than his instincts- but he still has cowardice trapped in him.

There is something more going on, but I trust Iomedae to reveal what is going on with Gwerm, Anevia and Aravashnial in time.  If I need to know it, I'm sure she'll reveal it.  Otherwise, I'll keep myself to my own business.

We sent Makoa and Hel ahead, so they could use their ability to see in the dark to spot danger ahead of us.  There were some dangers, and some interesting things we found.  I became certain of Hel's thieving nature based on a squabble she started with me over potions- something I purposefully asked for that seemed to draw out her greedy nature.  I'm not going to confront her on this, but I plan to try and see if I can steer her to a more righteous path.  I have more immediate concerns, and Iomedae has taught us to lead by example anyway.

They found a Chapel of Torag in the passageway.  It was important to note, because it had been abandoned.  A dwarf in the chapel had become some sort of undead thing in the Chapel proper.  It attacked us, slashing into me.  Mokoa had been quick to slay it, however.

We didn't leave the Chapel right away- despite Gwerm's objections.  I helped to show everyone how to cleanse the Chapel.  We cleaned it and rededicated it- to the best of our ability.  We could feel Torag's blessing at that.  

I became convinced at that point that we had been saved by Iomedae for a greater purpose.  Even though many others had fallen, why just us?  We need to prove ourselves to Iomedae.  We need to lead and help people.

Later on, things almost went horrible, if it hadn't been for a our mysterious Alchemist companion.  A mad Dwarf Wizard ambushed us, his spell knocking Hel and Makoa unconscious.  Another spell nearly killed Yoruba.  I struck at the wizard, not certain how long I could stand... until a bomb from our Alchemist companion left a burnt corpse.  I don't know what we could've done without him.

We continued on, coming across old Crusader statues from the First Crusade.  Aravashnial proposed a theory, suggesting that demon-tainted descendants of the First Crusaders built them, and now dwelled in the tunnels we were wandering.  We saw, not long after that, that he was right.

At one long tunnel, we came across two people- deformed, perhaps, but still people.  We helped save their companion from under a boulder, in return, they took us to where their people lived- a place they call Neathhome.

Perhaps the one part that gave me the most pause along that journey was the pair of Crusaders we found dead.  One of them had a unholy symbol to a Demon Lord.  The Templars of the Ivory Labyrinth.  We left the unholy symbol there, all the better.  One doesn't want to be caught with such a thing in their possession, be it against the Inquisitors, or be it against the taint of such Demon Lords at all.

We arrived in Neathhome.  The local chief or leader (I don't remember getting his title) greeted us, and informed us of another group of those underground who were working with the Templars.  He pledged allegiance with those aboveground.

I'm unsure of going to the surface yet.  Iomedae sent us here.  We are obliged to stop the Templars I think.  If I can, I'm going to suggest to my companions that we try to swear an oath to Iomedae that we'll stop the Templars- to prove ourselves worthy of her attention.  Then again, who knows what they expect to do... But I feel a strong bond forming between us, even if what horrible things I've seen so far don't measure up to the stories my parents and grandparents had told me.
Henric Grafhamir, Arodus 16, 4613 AR

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Portland In Black 6

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"Okay.  Jesha... could you keep people away from me?"  Noir asked.

"No interruptions then?"  Jesha asked back.

"Yeah... things might get a little weird..."  Noir then began to focus his emotions.  He closed his eyes shut.

Noir let his emotions and thoughts whirl in his mind's eye.  They spun into a storm of crackling energy.  Noir focused it more, stoking the storm until it became a fire.  The burning flame of necrokinetic energy bubbled from him.

"Can you hear me?"  Noir asked Ellie's corpse.  "Do you want want to come back?"

He held onto the spell's fiery form.  Alive, the spell tried to wrestle out of his grasp.  Noir waited, his question powered with a bit of the right amount of energy to get a response from Ellie's spirit.

Once he heard the response, Noir's eyes flashed open.

The necromancer let the spell go.  Purple fire erupted from his mouth and eyes, pouring onto the ground.  It crawled toward the young woman's corpse.  It crawled into her eyes and mouth.

Her body then jerked up for a brief moment.  Then it fell back down.  The purple fire then died down, its sparks all gone once Ellie's body had touched the ground again.

"Whoa."  Jesha's eyes were wide at the sight of the Noir's magic.  Some of the cops and agents on the scene starred as well, some of them shaking their heads in disbelief.

Noir stood up.  "I'd have thought you'd seen this sort of thing before."

"Not... the spell part.  That fire you spat out-"

"Not fire.  It just looks that way.  My mentor's magic always looked like snakes when she woke the dead."  Noir explained.

"How long do we wait then?"  Jesha asked.

Noir shrugged.  "Could be a day, an hour or-"

A young woman started to scream.

"Or less than a second."  Noir finished.

He let his vision drift, until he could see the ghost floating above Ellie's body.  Noir saw a form in translucent ectoplasm.  It glowed green.  Her ghostly body wasn't any different from her living one, still drenched in the ectoplasmic equivalent of blood.  It dripped in a puddle under her.

Frightened, Noir could see Ellie for who she was.  A pair of earrings dangled from her ears.  Her face had become tear stricken.  She looked every bit the normal american teenage girl fast food worker, her job a lucky means to an end.  She didn't have a perfect body.  Her body was a bit pudgy in parts, and her ears looked a bit too small.  But Noir could see the muscles in her legs and arms, like the toned muscles of a school athlete out of her season, but able to get back there soon.

Not that was going to happen anytime soon.

“Where- who are you?”  The newborn ghost asked.  She shivered in midair, trying to warm herself.  “Why is it so cold?”

“Human bodies are quite warm when they're alive.”  Noir answered.

“Alive?”  She looked down in horror at her body on the ground beneath her.  “Oh.”

“I’m sorry-”  Noir paused, stumbling over the next words.  Ellie.  Why did she have to have the same name as his Elle?  They weren't the same.  They didn't look the same.  But the similarity still hurt enough to cause the stumble in the first place.  “I’m sorry.  My name is Noir.  I… I have a talent for dead people.”

“Are you talking to her?”  Jesha sniffed the air, her black, blue and red dreadlocks flying about as she tried to get a sense of the ghost.

Noir ignored her.

“You’re scared.  I know, its frightening to learn that you’re-”

“Deader than a doorknob?”  Ellie answered.  “Why am I- What did I do to deserve staying here?”

“Nothing.  I asked you if you wanted to come back.  You did.”  Noir replied.  “I don't know if there is an afterlife or whatever.  All I know is, you agreed to come back.  Or else I wouldn't have cast the spell at all.”

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Monday, February 24, 2014

Portland In Black 5

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Blackthunder drove off, leaving the Noir and Jesha outside the crime scene.  A fast food place, police tape closed it off.  Rain continued to drizzle.  Cars drove by on the nearby highway.  A few persons milled about, one or two heads rising to look at the two of them.

Noir gulped at the sight of the place.  The windows had been covered in blood.  The blood had been smeared into letters, words stained for the whole world to see.  They formed the words, "Wolf Man Cometh."

"Huh."  Jesha commented.  "There's a theme I don't sense here."

"You don't like all the wolf language?"  Noir asked.

Jesha pursed her lips.  "Its mildly offensive."

"I guess anyone who turns into a giant wolf might find it offensive."

"Its offensive that people tie that into wolves at all."  Jesha shook her head.  "There's a old biased symbology at play here.  Its sick and wrong."

Noir paused.  "How so?"

"A misplaced blame."  Jesha waved a hand at all the bloody letters.  "Wolves didn't do this.  People like to think of them as bloodthirsty monsters.  They used to massacre them in droves, out of the fear of them.  It's absurd, but humans still run scared from them, even after doing so much harm to them."

"Fear isn't logical."  Noir replied.

Jesha didn't respond to that.  Noir took that as a cue to walk into the restaurant.  Jesha followed after him.

A trooper stopped him with a hand.  Noir handed over the folder Blackthunder had given him.  The trooper flipped through the paperwork for a minute, then handed the folder back.

The trooper didn't say a word as he held up the police tape, letting Noir and Jesha walk pass.  Noir hesitated as he walked into the crime scene.

Jesha seemed unaffected by it.

Blood was everywhere.  A woman's corpse laid in the middle of the floor.  Blond, her eyes were lifeless, dressed in a fast food uniform.  Noir's nose took in the smell of the rotting flesh.

The sight of this made his stomach lurch.  Nauseated. Noir tried to push down the bile and vomit trying to make their way out of his throat.

"Ugh, poor thing."  Jesha said.  She took note of the look on Noir's face.  "You going to be okay?"

"Just... not used to seeing so much blood...  Give me a second..."  Noir felt embarrassed.  He'd dealt with all sorts of dead bodies, but this one felt different.  Different enough he almost lost his composure.

"Ok."  Noir said.  "Lets see what we can do with this."

He knelt down next to the dead girl.  The necromancer reached out with his necrokinetic senses, trying to look for any sort of spirit.  Noir closed his eyes, concentrating.  No ghost or anything had taken hold.  Not yet anyway.

"Damn." Noir opened his eyes.

"What is it?"  Jesha asked.

"There isn't a ghost here.  Her death didn't leave anything afterward."  Noir sighed.

"Oh.  What do we do now then?"  Jesha asked.

"I can... well, I can make a ghost.  That is, if she is willing to come back."  Noir looked down at the body.  "I'm afraid to do anything more complicated after what happened back in Newport."

Jesha gave him a sympathetic look.  "That wasn't your fault, Noir.  She betrayed your trust."

Noir ignored Jesha and knelt down.  He tried to control himself.  He was trying to focus, to start the process casting the spell that would bring this girl back as a ghost.  Noir stared at the girl's name tag.   It made him frown a bit.

He corrected his thoughts.  Noir started to focus on the spell that would bring Ellie back as a ghost.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Portland In Black 4

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"You're it, sunshine."  Blackthunder shook her head.  "You were so happy to hop into something that wasn't your business before, Necromancer.  Why are you choking up on it now?"

Noir didn't respond.

"That's what I thought.  You want to hear the details now, or do you want to keep trying to weasel out of it?"

"He isn't trying to avoid it, Blackthunder."  Jesha interjected.  "I'm curious myself about this... Wolf?"

Blackthunder sighed.  "Who are you again?"

"Independent subcontractor.  He might give me this job, you know?"  Jesha smirked.  "This serial killer's been up and down the coast?  Then why haven't I heard of him?"

"He isn't contacting the press.  We don't know why, but he's been just leaving bloody sites for law enforcement to find.  He doesn't leave as big as messes as this one.  But he left it, with the same old calling cards he's used in Salt Lake City, Phoenix and Sacremento.  The local agent... he knew this girl.  They really want to find this guy."

"But no witnesses.  No sloppy bits to make a case out of."  Noir answered.  Police work didn't run on miracles, despite the image most people conjured of it.  It relied on witness testimony, lucky breaks and noticings the right thing at the right time.  Most scientific approaches helped establish clues, but they didn't actually get investigators anywhere.  Add in a variety of things, like the cost of a investigation, the nature of the investigators, biases and all that...

"So far."  Blackthunder said.  "This crime scene is still fairly fresh."

"Wait.  This isn't a cold case?  Why-"

"I have my reasons, Bedarte, okay?  You go into the scene, talk to the body.  Go from there, right?"

Jesha gave Noir a curious gaze.  Noir shrugged.

"If whoever died left a ghost.  Sometimes that doesn't happen.  The death has to be... emotionally strong to trigger that."  Noir scratched his chin.  "Otherwise, nothing.  Serial killers tend to leave bodies that leave ghosts, but that isn't a exact rule."

"When you see what happened, you'll think there is a ghost there."  Blackthunder handed Noir a folder.  It looked like some sort of official document.  "That'll get you into the scene.  You're girlfriend will have to wait outside."

At the word girlfriend, Noir could see Jesha's smirk widened.  This whole thing made the undead hunter excited.  Noir felt some irritation set in at that.  "She's not my girlfriend."

Blackthunder ignored him.  "I haven't any legitimate authority on this scene, so I'm just dropping you off.  My bosses aren't going to like me even going near this... thing."

That got Noir's notice.  "Wait.  Why?"

"There's more going on around this town than just some serial killer at some fast food joint, Bedarte.  There is some sort of gang war between different external threats going on.  Some of my superiors don't want to get noticed by some of the organizations fighting one another."

"Translation: supernatural things, they don't want to have to fix them."

"The USMS is about analysis and threat assessment.  We don't fix problems, necromancer.  Sometimes that isn't something you should do."

"Unless you need me to do it."  Noir answered.

"Unless I need you to do it."

Jesha shrugged.  "Or maybe you don't do something or do something based on whether or not its the right thing to do.  Overthinking it just makes things worse."

Blackthunder just shook her head as they pulled into Beaverton.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Doubt Is a Horrible Thing

Doubt is a horrible thing.

Its an outgrowth of some basic human instinct, something defensive.  But it spawns so much horror with it.  And before you know it, horrible things get made out of it.

Doubt is one of those little deaths you face in everyday life.  By little Death, I refer to a common act you engage in.  Total emotional surrender.  When you've become nothing, even for a microsecond, its a moment of death.

Life is embracing movement, action and about living.  Not living, that isn't being, its a surrender of yourself.  Sleep, love, fear, all of these are the Little Deaths you fall into in life.  

Doubt is one of the more poisonous little deaths.  It unmakes you.  That isn't good.    Doubt is a dark urge to throw away something, be it an effort, a piece of art or just plain opening up.

Its hesitance, not the introverted kind, but the kind borne out of the horrible fear that you are unworthy.  You think you and what you have to share aren't worth it.  Thats how its an awful little death.  You become nothing in service to it.  What's worse, is that the little Death unmakes what you've created.

This is the greatest harm I can fathom that Doubt fashions.  It slays those that can't defend themselves: Ideas.  Stories, dreams, art and more are unmade in this fashion.

Doubt kills them.

Resist the doubt.

Help kill it.

Don't spread it.


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Portland In Black 3

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"Right."  Noir decided not to push any further.  Straight answers weren't something he expected from the Dark Man.

 "I don't like you."  Jesha stated.  She gave the Dark Man a cold stare.  "Don't think you can try and pull any tricks here.  Answer Noir's question.  What is it you want?"

 The Dark Man stood up, pushing the plate away as he did.  He tossed out a crumpled hundred dollar bill.  "Why my dear, I want the next person Noir brings to justice.  This time, I can't really help except to pay ahead of time.  You both should try to be more patient with what is going to happen next."

 He nodded his head and left.

 Noir sighed.  "That doesn't work.  You can't intimidate him."

 "It isn't a 'him.'" Jesha retorted.  "Monsters don't get to be persons, Noir.  Why do you deal with such a... thing?"

 Noir cocked an eyebrow.  "I have my reasons."

 "That payment?  Is that it?"  

 "I don't feel like explaining it, ok?"

 Jesha opened her mouth to demand further from him, but someone else shouted over the two of them.  

 "Noir Bedarte?"  Loud enough to make the meager number of people in the diner silent, they all stared at the source of the shout.  A group of government types, their suits and outfits emblazoned with shields and the letters USMS.  A pregnant woman in dark black hair, shorter than Noir, marched to where Noir and Jesha sat. 

 "Oh."  Noir pinched his nose.  "I really didn't want to have to see you ever again."

 "And I want to find a federal statute that is against necromancy so I can see how well prison treats you."  The USMS agent's nose flared as she talked to Noir.  "Instead, I'm here to tell you that you get to be a consultant.  Dead body, a serial killer and you are the closest person who talks to ghosts."

 "Gonna pay me for it this time, Agent Blackthunder?"

 "You going to bring those dead agents back to life?"  She retorted.

 Jesha stared at the woman.  She shrugged.  "Sounds like fun to me.  Never hunted serial killers before."

 "Thanks for the support."  Noir told her.  


 "Jesha, this is Agent Blackthunder.  I've done work with her before."  Noir explained as they got into the dirty rental sedan Blackthunder had parked outside the diner.  

 "We didn't ask for your help on that.  You did more harm than good."  Blackthunder curtly interjected.  

 "The poltergeist needed my help.  I helped."  

 "Right.  That going to bring those dead men back to me or do you have a spell for that?"  Blackthunder got behind the wheel. 

 "What's USMS exactly?"  Jesha gestured at the lettering on Blackthunder's clothes.  "I've run into FBI and some others, but I haven't heard of the USMS before."

 "Most haven't.  United States Multiversal Survey."   Blackthunder explained.  "We investigate external and supernatural threats.  Most often we deal with incursions and sites that have been visited by external entities."  

 "Ghosts and things."  Noir suggested.

 Blackthunder sighed.  "We catalog more than that.  And we are just about looking and keeping tabs on threats.  My unit, External Hazard Containment, focuses on trying to minimize damage caused by external threats.  We don't go hunting or stirring up trouble.  We're the people who keep track of what is going on."

 "Right.  And this you're taking us to is some scene or something you need analyzed or..."

 "It isn't my site.  Its a local matter.  More of a favor I'm doing for somebody else."  Blackthunder took them onto the freeway, heading westward toward Beaverton.  "Its a serial killer, somebody who has been terrorizing the whole west coast for the last six months.  Calls himself the Wolf.  Grisly stuff."

"Oh joy."  Noir chimed in.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Portland In Black 2

Start of Story | Next Part

Jesha frowned at the man joining them.

Slender as a post, the Dark Man wore a dark suit.  Gray and silver bands cut through his sideburns.  He had a trim goatee.  His skin had a bronze tone to it.  His eyes had a dark glow to them, his face wrinkled.  The Dark Man sat down beside them, taking a seat next to Noir.

The heavy-set waitress appeared, dropping a plate of waffles down for the Dark Man.  She then left, not staying around long enough to take Noir or Jesha's orders.  Jesha glared at her exit.

"Some service, huh?"  Jesha spat.

"I think so, Delores knows my order by heart you know."  The Dark Man dug into the waffles.  "Great waffles here.  Not quite the best, but one does with what one can."

"Right.  I don't like the smell of this... thing."  Jesha said to Noir, ignoring the Dark Man.

Noir sighed.  "You didn't have to come along, remember?"

Jesha let out a annoyed grunt.  She kept her mouth closed, but she didn't look pleased with it.  She wanted to see what Noir's meeting with the Dark Man was going to be like.  She didn't want to admit Noir was correct.  Not yet anyway.  Or at least, that was what Noir guessed she was thinking.

The Dark Man politely ate his waffles.  He slid a folder over to Noir as he ate.  He smirked in Jesha's direction.  "Expanding your operations?  Good.  You are going to need the help."

"Depends on whether or not your payment is worth it."  Noir responded as he picked up the folder.  It had a single photograph in it.  Noir paused when he saw it.  "Oh."

"Payment enough?"  The Dark Man asked.  He slathered syrup, ketchup and pepper onto his waffles.  That made Noir blanche a little at it.

"Yes, yes it is.  I'll do what you want.  Who is it this time?" Noir asked.

Jesha tried to look at the photograph, but Noir quickly folded it and put into his coat.  A recent picture of Elle.  That was a lot more than Noir had expected.  And it was enough for him to be able to ask contacts with.  Maybe enough to even dare some spells that were past his skill level.  Still, he didn't want Jesha to know about it.  Elle wasn't any of her business.

"Oh.  This is a advancement.  I want the next one you find."  The Dark Man continued to eat the waffles.  He seemed to take enjoyment from every single bite.  "You still think of me as the Devil, Noir?"

"Would any sort of answer get you to be more clear with me about what you want?"

The Dark Man laughed.  "Oh, its never about what I want.  Freedom can't be about pleasing others, Noir.  Its helping everyone find the answer to that question for themselves.  What is it do you want?  That is a question you have to answer for yourself.  And I've always been trying to help you with that."

Portland In Black 1

Noir Bedarte is a necromancer with a heart of gold- and he finds himself in Portland Oregon, to find a new serial killer called the Wolf- but Portland's own insane undead have plans of their own for him...


 I don't know why I write these.  You're never going to read them.

 I've met someone.  She's different.  Strange in some of her habits.  She's attached herself to me.  I don't know why.

 Portland.  We're here.  I'm revisiting the City of Bridges again.  The Dark Man wants to talk with me.  He has another job for me I think.  I might be closer to finishing our deal.

 Is Elle still alive?  You never met her.  I want to find her again.  To be sure.  I've worked so hard at this, my patience is still running strong.

 Jesha is... still taking some getting used to.  She's been good at messing up my way of doing things.  She has a talent for... impulsive decisions.

 Your Son,

 Noir shook rain off his back as they entered the little dive diner called John's.  A heavy-set waitress glanced at Noir and his companion.  She didn't bat a eye at either of them.  Jesha's tricolor dreadlocks and tattoos didn't look that out of place here.  

 Portland didn't seem to mind this sort of thing.

 "That still isn't an answer."  Jesha replied, tossing her wet locks.  It splashed all over Noir, making the dark haired man frown.  

 "Its something I have to do.  You don't have to be here."

 "And thats bullshit.  I'm not going to let you talk to this guy alone, if you aren't going to explain why you have to meet him."

 Noir shrugged.  "Its something I have to do."

 "That isn't an answer."  

 They sat down.  Jesha didn't look any happier, glancing over the menu.  Noir didn't feel hungry.  But he never felt hunger anymore.  His powers didn't let him do that.  He never was sure why they did that.

 Noir picked up a menu.  "You really didn't have to come you know."

 Jesha gave him a harsh stare.  "You don't have a choice on that."

 "Why is that?"

 Jesha shrugged.  "You are too fragile to wander around by yourself, necromancer."

 "I did fine before I met you."  

 "Right.  You are bloody injury waiting to happen."  Jesha flipped the menu over.  She frowned.  "Why do you go to places like this?  They don't mention how organic their vegan items are."

 Noir paused.  "Why does- are you vegan?"

 Jesha cocked an eyebrow.  "You paid no attention on the ride into the city?"

 "Not my business.  Just like this isn't your business." 

 Jesha sighed.  She brushed a black, blue and red dreadlock from her face.  "I'm a vegan, ok?  I try to avoid eating meat."

 "That sounds ironic on so many levels to me."

 "Like a necromancer with a heart of gold?"  

 That comment made Noir blush.  Jesha smirked at his blushing.

 Noir coughed, trying to change the subject.  "Don't- Jesha, I- I..."

 Jesha propped her head with a hand.  "There's a reason for it.  The vegan thing, I mean.  You get to have me as a companion for awhile you know."

 "Why?"  Noir put the menu down, not sure what to make of something when he wasn't hungry.  "You- I mean, how can somebody like you not...?"

"Control I'd imagine, Noir."  The Dark Man's presence made Noir jump.  "Self control.  She doesn't want to be use to the taste of meat, lest she lose control.  Isn't that right my dear?"

Friday, February 14, 2014

USMS Log Entry: Tesla02131915.NE.RED

USMS External Threat Profile: "The Plasm"

Found by USMS contributor and known Magi Nikola Tesla in 1915, the Plasm has only appeared once naturally, its rift only visible for a very short span of time, one second.  Tesla confirmed that the Plasm can be induced at any locale through artificial means.  Its a dangerous realm with a very explosive energy output, and its being inhabitants are considered ultra-hostile.

The Plasm itself appears to be a reality with little to no entropy.  All forms of energy from it are explosive, especially when they interact with our planet's oxygen-rich atmosphere.  The first natural Plasm rift destroyed the building it opened into, releasing at least one of its natives in the process.  Some speculation suggests that the Plasm might connect directly to a star.  Others speculate it might be connected to all stars simultaneously.


Natives of the Plasm are energy beings.  Tesla described the one he interacted with as an "Angel."  Its body form was humanoid, but with three wings at the time Tesla interacted with it.  Other USMS agents also described the same Angelic description.

Several key dangers were noted during the time it was there.  First, it did not consume any energy.  Our local entropy seemed to poison it to a degree, but it lost energy cohesion without taking any in.  Second, its molecular structure wasn't based in any form of element we recognized.  It bonded to any local element, creating permanent ionic bonds that exploded on contact.

A living, contained explosion, the Native also showed strong psychic ability.  It blinded Tesla's own psyche to a degree.  The entire local populace were also blinded.  The Native escaped, but only long enough to become permanently bonded into local architecture.  It is constantly monitored, but the native remains alive and unable to move from its position.


Tesla and others interactions with the Plasm Native were not positive.  It does not recognize any form of carbon life to be considered actual lifeforms.  This disregard means that if more Plasm Natives should appear, they could cause untold harm without intending to.  The Native is kept under surveillance.  As of yet, no one has recorded a instance of a Rift to the Plasm being opened since Tesla demonstrated it in 1916.

Cults that worship the Plasm and its Natives can be found in the EHC Database on Plasm Cults.  Comparisons to Angelology and Demonology still pending confirmation through independent studies.  The USMS currently does not substantiate any rumors or theories that tie the Plasm to Angels or the Heavens or any relating religious belief.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Find the Path: Violence

Here's another bit on Pathfinder.  Its been in my head lately, and it seems sensible for me to put my musing up here.  I've got another short story in the works.  It will come, but I need to get the outline for it figured out first.  Meanwhile, though, I've got short things like this I can throw out there.

Pathfinder inherits its relationship to violence from D&D and the culture around RPGs since their creation.  Violence is not only accepted, but the main goal or means in a good many RPGs.  Violent means are used, and rules exist to expand on how or why they get evoked.  Physical violence is a staple of the genre, to an extent.

I understand the need for violence, to a degree.  But just as some forms of violence in Video Games feel like they go a step too far, sometimes I feel like the rules in RPGs are too quick to make reveling in violence a enjoyable experience- and sometimes, encourages it to be the only experience.  This is a narrative complaint, and should and will vary by group.

Its the rules I point to.  Violence becomes a chief means because its the easiest means to use.  Its expected to be used.  Good narratives can come out of asking whys about the use of violence.

But is there any more you can do to change how players treat violence in a tabletop roleplaying game?

John Wick's Houses of the Blooded treats Violence as simple as possible.  Its a single roll, and a lot of other times, violence just happens regardless of dice rolls.  In Microscope and others like them, the game isn't about violence, except as a means to a single end.  Other systems try to create new rules for things that aren't tied to violence at all, so that players have something else to use or spend time on.

I have my own thoughts on the subject, and its a simple Hack for Pathfinder.  I posted it on some forums before.  The responses I got were... well, they ranged from complicated rebuttals to very mild interest.  Very mild.

I call it Violence, but you could change the name to whatever you'd want.  IDK.  Its a 7th ability score.  Base Attack Bonuses are removed from the game entirely, instead being replaced with this ability score.  Violence is added to Strength or Dexterity whenever you are attacking, etc.

First of all, this means there isn't a big stat that goes up when you level that also is primarily about attacking things.  Thats the main reason for the idea.  Base Attack Bonus sounds like its for hitting things, and it goes up with each level.

Second, I think it might make for some interesting interactions for characters.  Violence measures a character's willingness to commit violence against others.  The higher it is, the easier it is for a character to attack others without regret.  Some wizards might have no compunctions about killing, while some Paladins might be hesitant to strike that blow.

I do know the problems the idea of this raises, of course.

I'd tie the 7th ability score into more house rules in order to create a different sort of balance on various things.  A magic system that is different from the normal Pathfinder rules, so that martial characters aren't ruined by this.  More manipulations between pairs of ability scores.  And so on.

Still its one of those ideas.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Flash Fiction: Bored Angel

My head hurt.  "Ow."

I blinked my eyes open.  "That hurt like hell."

I looked at myself, sprawled on the ground.  There was blood there too.  My blood?

"It looked like it hurt.  You okay?"

I spun my head around.  Bad idea.  It only made my headache more.  I did identify the person speaking to me.

A young woman gazed down at me, with dark hair.  Three pairs of black wings grew out of her back, each wing six or seven feet long.  The black feathers fluttered in the air around her.  She wore a simple white gown.  Her eyes glowed, and she floated in the air above me.  An angel, she had a halo of glowing verdant light.

"Watch out.  You want to be careful with that sort of thing.  You could make it worse you know."  Pause.  Well, not worse than somethings I suppose."

"Who- Ow."  Yep it hurt more.

"Not really that important right now.  Or anymore, really.  This is it for you."

"Excuse me?"  I still didn't get it.

"That fall you took was lethal.  I'm sort of in the business of collecting on things like this."

"Wait, the angel of death?  Thats what- you've got to be kidding me-"

She cocked an eyebrow at me.  "Azrael.  And I don't do it for everybody.  A lot of you people die, and alot of you need help with things.  You're one of those cases."


Azrael shrugged.  "I'm not a psychopomp.  I've met those.  And the other kinds of people who do that sort of thing.  Certain of you merit containing.  You never knew it, but you are one of those.  Your energies aren't allowed to leave this plane."

"What does that mean, exactly?"

"A wolf long ago made a bargain, and you are one of those who pay the price for it.  No worries, this isn't imprisonment.  Its one of those... things.  You come back.  Whats the word?"


"After a fashion I suppose.  You get to come back after you do a thing or two."

"What is that?"  I asked the Angel of Death.

"Well," Azrael smiled, "help keep a really bored Angel company for a little while."

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Reading Materials: The Better Angels of Our Nature, Why Violence Has Declined

The latest book I've finished had violence as its central focus.  Not the recitation of it, but the explanation as to why Violence has declined over the last three hundred years.  Steven Pinker presents the case for this, then attempts to come up with a theory or two to explain the why violence has fallen.

Its a rather optimistic revelation to learn that humans have consistently gotten less violent over time.  We aren't cruel to animals as much as we used to be.  We treat children far better than we used to.  Our major nations try to avoid war out of social norm.  In every category we seem to have become less violent.  Pinker makes a great case for this, especially shattering the idea that the modern notion that the current era is more violent than the past.

As a Humanist I already knew most of that part of the book.  Its a keen observation to make that humans in the 21st century live in a era of unprecedented peace and that most people avoid violence if they can.  It takes recognition of perception bias in your own day-to-day life, as well as recognizing that violence just doesn't happen as often as it used to.  There is a nostalgia bias where a lot of people tend to think of the past as being part of a more golden era.  The past was never as bad as now, is the gut feeling.  But once you realize that isn't true and take the scientific view of things, you come to realize the truth.  People are getting better, and living better lives.

Things get better with time.  Modernity is a clear boon to humanity.  This optimistic humanism is one of the things I try to strive for, but Pinker does a better job of being a realist about it.  The book tries to maintain perspective without losing its scientific focus on the data.  Pinkner presents data, and his theories as to why are based on data.

I'm not going to go into all of it.  I've taken some good bits and pieces from Better Angels.  The neuroscience of violence, for example, is very handy.  Humans in violent conflicts see themselves as the victims in almost all cases, even if from a higher view things are different.  Its psychological, for a violent thug to complain about being victimized.  Its a scientific set of symptoms to go along with a conceit I knew about stories, in that everyone thinks of themselves as their own hero, not as the villain of their own story.

Note that this doesn't make one a relativist.  Its a good note to remember to make villains and characters who use violence who have some justification for it.

Another fact is that a lot of violent crimes are committed as a sort of vigilante justice on part of the one committing the crime.  They think its the only way to create justice, and it takes a especially specific set of conditions to bring them to being violent.

It also makes sense.  It ties into what I understood about some philosophers before, the idea of the Leviathan.  The state that has a monopoly on violence so that its people don't act violently against one another.

Perhaps even better though, this is the sort of book that helps me to understand why I want to be a pacifist.  That is what I want to be, and its good to have reasons to help explain when and why I deviate from it.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

FATE GALACTIC: Civilization Creation, Stars First

More specific notes and constructive thoughts on the Fate Galactic.  Star creation first.  It took me awhile to think out how to properly do star skills, and I think I hit on the best way to do them.  All input is welcome!

Previous Chapter: Galaxy Creation

Here is how civilizations are going to be created.  Its a top down process, starting with the Star System the Civilization comes from, then its homeworld.  Once those have been created, then the nuts and bolts of each civilization can be created.

There is my own personal twist to this process, too.  I've decided to grant Stars and Planets their own skills as well.  These skills are intended to be used for providing opposition against Civilization roles, if possible, and to maybe help inspire flavor in each system.  I'm going to avoid throwing around too many aspect slots, even at the Civilization level.


Stars refer to Star Systems as whole bodies.  They include the central star, which can vary from the average yellow dwarf to binary systems to the huge blue giants, as well as all its orbiting bodies.  These can be its outer ice and rocky clouds, whatever gas giants orbit it, dwarf planets, asteroids and anything else in system of note.

Creating Stars can be done through random rolls (most often when you need a new system during a game) or you can generate them as follows.

Before any Aspects are created for a Star, the player to your left picks one of the three Star Skills: Resource Difficulty, Hazards or Gravity.  That skill is set to the lowest rating.  This way each player is responsible for choosing the weakest skill for each player's home star sitting on their right.


Resource Difficulty
Resource Difficulty sets how hard it is to acquire and gather resources in the Star System.  All Star Systems have resources of some value, its just a matter of how locked into whatever bodies they in.  GMs can use this skill to cause wrinkles in some of the resource obtaining goals of Civilizations.
Attack: Resource Difficulty doesn't attack.
Defend: This is the main purpose of the skill, acting in resistance to skills like Industry or Survival that try to pry resources away
Overcome Obstacle: Resource Difficulty doesn't overcome obstacles.
Create An Advantage: Resource Difficulty can trigger labor strikes, riots or destabilize markets.  Sometimes other Civilizations try to trigger Resource Difficulty to create such problems, but it isn't a thing they can directly control.  Sometimes a important mineral vein acts on its own accord.

Hazards sets how difficult the various hazards in a Star System are to deal with.  Asteroid belts, solar storms or other phenomena can create obstacles for Civilizations to overcome.  They can cause disasters that might harm or disable populations those Civilizations care about as well.
Attack: Hazards can cause harm directly to a Civilization's population.  Storms and other natural disasters cause problems and lead to the deaths of thousands.
Defend: Hazards doesn't use the Defend action.
Overcome Obstacle: Hazards can overcome any sort of safeguards created to try and contain them.  Shields and other structures can be torn apart by the Hazards if its storms and other effects are strong enough.
Create An Advantage: Hazards also can create long lasting crises, system-wide storms, catastrophic meteor showers and anything else that can cascade into even larger problems.  Feedback loops can be formed where a series of meteors trigger a mass ejection of plasma from a the main star.

Gravity is how strong gravitational forces are in the Star System.  This is a key to most forms of FTL travel, as well as interplanetary travel.  The stronger the local gravities are, the harder it is for starships to navigate without problems.  Note that Gravity is being presented here as a narrative force, not necessarily acting exactly the same as the nominal physical force.
Attack: Gravity acts in the form of inertia.  Most often this is acting as setting the difficulty for traveling in a hurry.  FTL travel often has to deal with a variety of complications, and Gravity covers the wide variety of different sorts of mass in objects that can't always be easily predicted.
Defend:  Gravity doesn't use the Defend action.
Overcome Obstacle: Gravity doesn't overcome obstacles.
Create an Advantage: Gravity sometimes can cause or contribute to cosmological phenomena that bar or alter travel in a region.  In especially heavy gravity regions, eddies of gravity can appear without warning, causing travel issues for anyone in the vicinity.

After each player has their Star's weakest skill chosen, they then choose the rating on the other two skills.  One is set as Average (+1) while the other is set at Fair (+2).  Players are now free to provide explanation and background to their star based on its skill set.   It is suggested that they try to come up with a single sentence to describe their civilization's home star system.

However, if players cannot think of something, don't waste too much time on it and move on.

Based on whatever background they have for their home star, players can create a single Stellar Aspect for it.  This aspect applies to all planets and civilizations located in the Star System.  You can leave this blank if you can't think of something specific.

This is a chance to customize the star system however much a player wants to do.  If they want to establish this system as a Binary Star System or having being located within a wormhole, this is their chance to do that.  Whatever is established as this Aspect is true, and always true, unless something seriously big later allows you to change it.

Self explanatory, but it helps at this point to give it a name, even if its M8990 or Contag Prime.

Star Stunts are handled a little bit more oddly.  Each player identifies the player who is the furthest away from them at the table.  This is your first stunt.  Write down that star's name; this is the furthest star away from your star.

This stunt is simple.  Any travel between your star systems takes longer to happen, be it actual turns or whatever in narrative reason.  It costs at least 2 shifts worth of effort to make it easier to happen.

The next two stunts will be your Star's closest neighbors.  We'll get back to these during the Star-By-Star phase.  Leave them blank until then.  All stars will have up to two stunts that name their closest neighbors, although others may be added to them over time.

If you need to visualize it, each star created could be written on Index cards and put on the table.  Over time more stars will join them, right now you have a basic enough of an idea of whose systems lie where, and what each star system is like.  Like actual stars, their exact position is fuzzy.  It changes because stars move.  Galaxies shift.  More stars get added over time.

Including Home planet creation and the basic steps to Civilization creation itself.  I'll also have rules for handling Roleplaying Civilizations and handling the abstraction of that too.

The Great Conclave of Magi

"For Men of Great Wisdom, Great Power, and Great Magick, there must always be Greater Restraint and Responsibility."

There are austere, pristine buildings scattered throughout the globe, their front wooden doors decorated with the image of a eye on a palm, a pyramid, a goat's head or any of another myriad of symbols.  These sites have stood for hundreds of years.  They have been managed by a society whose membership only recently learned to cooperate on a international scale.  The Great Conclave protects and provides community services to mages of all kinds, even if in the modern era the number of magick practitioners is at a all time low.

Prior to 1873, the magi who would form the Great Conclave operated in their own separate clans, societies, covens, conclaves and collectives throughout the world.  Meetings between magick practitioners had always been dangerous, often lethal to both mage and non-mage alike.  Every decade magi would meet to establish or reaffirm agreements between various powers.  These conclaves also were chances for magi to share information and to coordinate against mutual threats.

Regional Conclaves came together, creating bylaws that let Magi govern their members.  Some nations, like the United States, force their magi citizens to join such local Conclaves.  These Conclaves helped to cut down on violent and cruel crimes committed by magi.  The Great Conclave had been a innovative idea, suggested by the more prominent magi (also some of the most secretive about their magick associations).  Mark Twain and others drafted the basic document that formed the Great Conclave, including the Great Laws.

In 1900 the Great Conclave faced trouble when a convention being held in Moscow suffered a attack.  A rogue Black Magick practitioner killed four hundred members of the Conclave.  She would be caught by the Great Conclave, and summarily punished.

In recent years, the Great Conclave has apologized for various acts its committed during World War Two, including some complacency with Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.  Its track record with more aborinal magick practioners has also improved, albeit slowly.  Most imagine that a new reordering of the Conclave is coming up, where more liberal aims will be embraced by the Conclave.  Facing issues with LGBT and other rights that the Conclave has historically buried might help it to bring back some of the magi that left it years ago.

Somewhat byzantine, most of the Great Laws were established to satisfy two important concerns.  First was safe conduct and interaction between magi.  The second concern served a more political aim, to keep powers aware of magi satisfied that magi were never acting in anyway to harm, infiltrate or harass them.  The Great Laws are still somewhat dated, having been written before most international law had been created in the 1940s and 1950s.

Violate Not Loyal Men: Magi cannot influence or affect any humans in a way that would be detrimental to the states they live or work for.  This includes killing, charming or reprogramming.

Respect The Property of Others: Magi cannot affect or harm any property that belongs to another with magick, be they magi or non-mage.  In recent years some Magi have tried to extent this over animals, hoping to stop those magi who use magick to harm or kill animals.

Aid Not The Others: Magi are never allowed to aid or assist anything not of this world.  The Great Conclave of late is most concerned with this law, as more magi leave the Conclave to work for powers that are directly helping Others to infiltrate and invade the planet.

Like other organizations, the Great Conclave isn't secretive about its nature.  Almost a hundred percent of humanity still seems ignorant of their existence.  Most people don't even recognize their existence, often thinking of it as being either fictional or a joke.

The Old Masters of the Conclave have pet theories to explain this.  The most popular is the theory of the Veil.  Promoters of the Veil theory suggest that a set of primordial magi created a enchantment over most of Humanity, creating a veil of ignorance.  This veil keeps most from actively recognizing or seeking out the supernatural.  Through this ignorance, most people don't act in anyway that would empower forces that don't have their best interests.

Detractors of the theory like to point out that this doesn't explain the existence of those who can see through the veil.  Neither does it explain away historic magickal catastrophes or cults that were created by Others and their followers, like the Cult of Moloch or the Order of the Neven.

The Great Conclave believes that magick is a hidden human attribute that still hasn't blossomed into a final form yet.  It seeks an answer to the mysteries about it, ultimately aiming to use it to help all humans ascend.

The Great Conclave also protects many secrets.  Hidden truths about the world it knows could be misused by unwise magi.  Some of these secrets tie into the Others, powerful magickal sites and horrors the Conclave kept hidden instead of let be destroyed.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Dead Man Stew 9: Bloody Salt Water

Noir stepped out onto the lobby. Most of the windows were broken, one wall had been destroyed. The storm of undead swirled outside the Sleepy Bear Inn, screaming in their torrent of translucent green. No ghosts were in the lobby at all. They had vacated, and wisps of ectoplasmic sea water clung to the floor. This was the eye of the storm, safe ground from the torrent of ectoplasm outside. Vickie stood there, next to the window. The glow of the green ghosts highlighting her as she stood there. She looked. Noir couldn't not stare at Vickie. Her dress was bloodsoaked, ruddy sea water dripping from it onto the floor around her. Vickie stood still. Frozen, like a statue of ice. She didn't breath, because she didn't have to. Noir just stood there, and he felt Vickie's presence wash over him. His body reacted, and his mind was paralyzed by the sensation of it all. He just stood there, watching, like he was waiting for her to do something. "Its alright, Noir." Vickie waved a hand at the storm outside. It growled back at her. Like chained dogs they strained to get closer to her, but something held them back. "They know their place, Noir. Isn't that nice? Like you, they want to help me help them. Isn't that what you want Noir?" Noir felt his legs move him closer to her. "I... er... Vickie-" "The blood isn't mine you know," Vickie replied. "Whose is it?" She turned to the necromancer and flashed him a smile. Noir felt warmth flood his body. Baser, lusty instincts took over as his chest puffed up. He took another step closer. Noir reached out his arms. He would embrace this woman. This was salvation, love, true grace from the pains of the world. This is where he belonged. It'd all be fixed. No more wandering and no more grumbling. Vickie placed a hand on his chest. She smirked as hair fell down to cover her face. Noir could still see her glowing crimson eyes lock on him. "Not yet Noir. Soon." He stopped, disappointed. A voice in the furthest back reaches of his mind screamed at him, but he couldn't hear it. No. A part of Noir Bedarte found it better to be controlled, cajoled by whatever Vickie was doing than continue to chase Elle. The tired part of him wanted a place to rest awhile. To start over. But when he was about to act on this, instead a bit of cold curiosity escaped Noir's mouth. "Why?" "We'll get to have our embrace. Eventually. Don't you want to see all the dead you've been fretting over?" Noir closed his eyes. He focused on the question in his mind. Almost like casting a spell, he felt concentration guide his words. "Why Vickie? Why would you kill so many of them?" "Oh." Vickie blinked and looked out at the storm of young male and female ghosts. Some of them were bulbous, others skinny. All looked like they'd died the same cold way: drowning. "They need to be fixed, Noir. I only kill the most disgusting of them, the ones who need to pay for their crimes." Noir paused. "Crimes? What crimes?" Vickie waved a hand. "Every year some partiers go out and cause problems. They dump garbage onto the beaches, harass the wildlife. More than a few of them I found after they'd tortured poor creatures who'd deserved better. "The first one... That was the hardest, Noir, but somebody at to do something about those fucking assholes. A whale had been beached not far from here. It had been raining, and well, the local biologists and others thought that it might get out in the coming high tide, as long as people kept a distance. I took up a vigil. I can't stand to watch the thing be alone and... "The fucking morons came out that night. Three of them, drunk as hell. I watched them ram their motorcycles into the poor thing, over and over. They just keep doing it... and I went down there to stop them. "It didn't take much, really." Vickie looked back into the storm. "The three of them were too stupid not to take my free offer for a sexy boat trip. We got out there. I threw each of them overboard. Too stupid to not listen to me. Then I dived in after them. You know that dead people can swim? I don't need to breath, Noir. They needed to breath. So I clutched onto their necks hard. I cut them open and swam in the bloodsoaked water they left behind." Noir stared out at the storm of dead. "And the rest of them?" "They deserved it all Noir. Guests of mine who didn't deserve to live with Nature. Each of them committed a crime no one else would've stopped. I had the power to stop them." Vickie shivered. "And each of their deaths felt so... delicious." Noir shuddered. "Vickie... that's..." "My body didn't change because of all that. I've met other Posthumans like me who hunt Humans. They taught me how to better blend into them. Not all of them are as... picky as I am, but we all want the same thing. A better thing for all of us, Noir. Fewer humans. It'll save the world." Noir felt sick to his stomach. The charming spell Vickie had placed on him kept him from acting on it right away. But Noir let his disgust corrode Vickie's influence over him. A bit at a time. Noir instead spoke in a monotone. "Culling." "Depopulation is needed, Noir. Your species is too wasteful, too disastrous on nature. Your betters can fix you though." Vickie patted him on the cheek, like one might pat a dog. "I won't let any harm come to you, Noir. But you can help me fix Newport. Be good, and I promise you all of me for yourself." Noir's body liked that idea. He chided himself. This internal conflict felt like one he was going to lose. Boards snapped. They creaked. Crack. The wooden door to the dining room exploded off its hinges. It flew into a nearby wall. "What the hell is that?" Vickie spat, staring at the source of the door crash. "Her?! I thought she'd checked out this morning-" The creature in the doorway wasn't the same Jesha that Noir or Vickie had seen before. It was a huge, black-furred wolf. It stood nine feet at the shoulder. Black, red and blue dreadlocks hung from her head. Both of the wolf's eyes glowed a bluish white light. Its fangs were bared, growling at Vickie. "Jesha?" Noir scratched his head. "Uh... you are bigger than I remember..." "'The better to eat you with, Red Riding Hood,'" The Wolf responded. It sounded like Jesha's voice, except translated through a set of guttural sounds that made Noir take an involuntary step back. "Hey bitch! Catch!" Vickie didn't waste anytime. She picked out the Inn's reception desk and threw it at Jesha. The desk flew through the room. "Try harder than that." Jesha ducked under the desk, which crashed into the ceiling above her. Jesha dashed under the caving ceiling. She fell down upon Vickie, claws extending from paws and teeth clamping down onto the beatific undead blood drinker Noir had helped to create. Noir wasn't sure Wolves were supposed to have claws at all. "Argh!" A moment later, however, there was a snap of bone. "Get off of me you big FATASS BITCH!" Jesha's left front leg bent the wrong way as Vickie broke it. The giant wolf snapped at vickie, trying to get a hold of her. Vickie used her smaller size, dodging each snap. "Get back here!" Vickie leapt at Noir, grabbing him by the neck. Noir didn't resist as Vickie grabbed him. Vickie dragged him. "Stop! One move and I kill him! How many things do you think he's got that are ready to come out if he bites it?" Jesha hesitated. Her eyes betrayed a frown of frustration. She backed up a step. "Fine. Don't hurt him." "Good. Stay right there Bitch." Vickie dragged Noir, moving toward the busted front wall of the Inn. Massive bites had left her right arm a bloody pulp. She limped as she dragged Noir with her. "You stay, until we are good and far away, you got it? Or-" Vickie paused. She let go of Noir, shivering. Noir held up a hand, eyes closed. The spell sustaining Vickie flowed into him. He looked it over, drawing in energy around him. He took the entirety of the spell that Vickie had been kept alive with. The spell had been corrupted. The once living, beautiful creation of his had been warped and corrupted. It had grown cancerous, taking more and more from Vickie. It had replaced most of what she'd been originally. Noir shattered the spell. He took out every thread, every piece of it. The shards of it blew apart, like ashes in the wind. He opened his eyes to see a bloated, waterlogged corpse, covered in blood, on the floor behind him. Still. Unmoving. He moved away from it, stepping out of the Sleepy Bear Inn. The sun had come out, and not a single ghost could be seen in the sky. All of them had gone, released like rubber bands from a pin that had been chaining them down. "Oh. Too much. Too... much..." Noir felt drained. His arms went limp. Part of him wondered what had happened to Bert and if he'd see him again. Blackness hit him as he slumped onto the ground. "That is so cute. You never watched him sleep before?" Jesha asked. "That sounds creepy as hell to me." Bert replied. "Just turn the music up and let him sleep." "Whuh?" Noir sat up. His hair had been frazzled. He was in the cadillac, and his head throbbed. "Newport... Giant wolf. What happened?" Jesha looked back at him from the passenger seat. "You talk in your sleep you know." "Bert why is there a strange person in the car?" Bert shrugged. "She insisted." Jesha waved her right hand at her arm, which hung in the sling. "Bert took pity on a cripple. You, on the other hand, I decided to take along too. Necromancer might be handy." "Right." Noir shook his head. "You can't stay-" "You think you get a choice in this? I still haven't gotten that kiss from you." Noir blushed. He tried to avoid her gaze. Jesha chuckled. "That's what I thought, Noir."

Friday, February 7, 2014

Find the Path: The Sorting Hat

Here's an idea I had today for a variant for Pathfinder's character creation.  Maybe its a sort of handle on my whole style of Game Mastering, but I think it might make things interesting any way.  This variant plays on a important concept Ben Robbins and others have mentioned, using players as randomizing elements.

I call this method the Sorting Hat method for determining Ability Scores in Pathfinder.  Yes, I'm borrowing from Harry Potter a bit to do that.  Big leap and all.

The very first thing you do when you do this method is have what Character Concept you have in mind for your character ready to go.  No background or anything just yet.  Just know you want to play something, even if its unremarkable as 'Half-Orc Druid.'

You also need to be creating characters together as a group.  If you aren't doing this already, well, to use this variant you're gonna want to.  Besides, its just good policy to make characters together, so you know what each other are playing.

Step One: Take a note (Index Cards work best!) and look at the player to your left.  Ask them what their character concept is.  Now write down a ability score on the index card.  Don't show it to them!

Pass it to them face down.

You are going to be selecting their character's Weakness ability score.  This means you should pick something that won't make their character impractical to play (Paladins shouldn't have charisma as a Weakness, Clerics shouldn't have Wisdom and so forth).  Some character concepts are flexible enough it could be any score, however.

Step Two: Each player looks at the ability score chosen for them, all at the same time.  This is the ability score that must start at 8, and can't have any points added to it.  Its your character's weakest ability, the thing they suck the most at.

Before you blanch, take a moment to think it over before you complain or want to change concepts.  Yes, you can change your character concept to better match the weakness, if you think it'll fit better.

Quick Aside: You could also change things up.  Get a hat.  Before revealing each person's weakness, they put the hat on.  The person who choose the weakness plays the sorting hat, more or less discussing with the player (in character of course, even if it isn't a real character yet!) about their destiny, and what they should be compared to others who've walked it before.  Have fun with it.

Make Character Creation fun for all the players.  :D

Step Three: Each player explains why that ability score is their weakness.  What part of their character makeup or background caused it?

Step Four: Each player then spends the rest of their ability scores, using a 28 point buy.

That's the idea behind the methodology.  Its not a complete character creation setup.  I do think it'll go well with some other ideas I had for modding Pathfinder, although not all of them can be as awesome as this FAE conversion or Green Ronin's fate Freeport conversion.

Still, I have more of these, Black Tome Hacks, that I collect and create for a rainy day.  Whatcha think?  Usable?