Friday, October 31, 2014

THE VILLAGE: Horror RPG idea

Its a small town, and there are no big heroes to save you.  Monsters, trouble and danger permeate every shadow.  There is no big protective government to save you.  This is the tiny medieval village during the Black Plague.  The small fishing town being plagued with cthonic horrors from the sea.  The last colony on a backwater world, far from the interstellar tradelanes.

You and your handful of people are one of those tiny pinpricks of light in a wide swath of darkness.  This is a horror game: players have little control, and worse, their choices only help to boost the Trouble they face.  They aren't really in control of the narrative at all.  Survival becomes more and more desperate.

Each player is playing one of the central leaders of their group.  To create a new Villager, you need to answer the following 3 questions:

  • What do you do?
  • What is something the Village wants to have?
  • Who or what would you die for?

Then, you need to distribute five points among the five alignments: Good, Evil, Neutral, Law and Chaos.  Villagers get six cards: an Ace, a Jack, a 2, a 3, a 4 and a 5.  Whenever your character tries to do something that would be conflicted or challenging, like getting the village to build a well or fending off a horde of mindeating spiders, you have to spend one of these cards for your skill check.

Add the relevant alignment to the card you play.  Each alignment is a sphere of influence- Good is about helping others, while Evil is about hurting others.  Law is about community, while Chaos is about individual efforts.  Neutral is about knowledge and nature.  If in doubt, open a PHB or look them up.

Aces always succeed, but they also cause a point to be added to the Trouble pool.  Each time Villagers survive Trouble, they add another point to the Trouble pool.  Each day that a Want the village has goes unfulfilled, add a point to the Trouble pool.

Jacks always fail.  But whenever you play a Jack, a point gets removed from the Trouble pool.

Villagers only get to redraw their discarded hand of cards after they've had a moment of happiness.  You know, genuine peace.  Sunshine in the rain sort of thing.

Trouble only is emptied, that is goes away, when a Villager dies to Trouble.  Otherwise, Trouble only makes more Trouble.  Whenever a difficulty needs to be set for a skill check, the GM rolls a d6.  The GM can add more d6s by spending Trouble.  The GM can also double the number of monsters/foes that Trouble is using in a scene.

Once Trouble has taken its victim, though, it goes back to whence it came.


That's the bare bones of the idea.  Need to flesh it out a bit more.  Meant to be something somewhat... spooky I guess.

Thinking of NaNoWriMo

I decided I want to try Nanowrimo this year.  I've tried to get back to older ideas for stories, but none of them really survived the journey.  I've written a novel before.  So I know I can do it.  I just don't want to do what I did for that first novel, which was a haphazard bit of guess work chapter by chapter.

In this case, I've found my worldbuilding for Crux, Noah and other setting have pointed out my strong suit: worlds.  If I can build up a world, I can write a story set in it.  So, I need a central concept for it to hinge on, a setting to build around and a good deal of cheating on my part.

When I start Nanowrimo, if I miss the goal mark by the Nov 30th, I'm not going to stop.  Like Crux, this'll take over the blog for the immediate future.  Or maybe not.  I might try to revisit Crux from now and then.  Crux has grown to a big file too: last I checked, it was around 40K worth of a setting.

My move from Pathfinder to Fate Core made me realize that I should try to focus on making Crux system-neutral I suppose.  A friend or two has suggested I try kickstarting or doing something like that for Crux.  I'll be honest, I'd love to commission some sweet art for it.  And editing for it would be neat.

Right now, I'm running some players through Crux, so I think it'll evolve through actual trial and error: players might trigger or help me generate more ideas for Crux.  Ideas like the Medicos, a group tied to the Voice that I didn't dream up when I first messed around with it.

My Nano Novel
I want to do some ground work for it, but the idea is to repurpose a prior setting of mine and reimagine it.  I have dozens of these lying around.  Only with Noah: The Kaiju-Song and forward have I had bravery to post parts of these setting whole hog, rough drafts by themselves.

The story I want to tell is one where technology isn't responsible for a dystopia.  A future scifi story where science and technology free humanity, not drive the plot as a antagonists.  Where humans have started to speciate- you know, becoming more diverse kinds of human.  To start the slow drift toward creating new species.

I think that's the kind of story that needs to be told with SciFi these days.  Something where the path looks brighter, but while still being a interesting story at the same time.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

City of Curses: Street Doctors

"The central polemic against our city is fear, not tradition, not logic, not morality.  Fear of its past.  They call it the city of curses, out of fear, not genuine knowledge.  If anything, there are more cases of miraculous events in this city than those of curses.  There are people who care for their neighbors here.  There are healers, dreamers and those who try to take away the burden of the less off.

"They fear what this city represents.  Crux is the center of the world.  The wheel of the world spins around it.  This was the Ith was born in, and this was the city the Singer of the Song first sang her song.  This isn't a place to fear.  The vision of the future of our world can be found here.  A vision of beauty if you are willing to look for it."
--The Voice
Crux: The City of My Youth.

Medicos (The Street Doctors) 

The University of Crux boasts one of the premier medical learning institutions on the Maru Sea, training physicians and medical doctors from all over the world.  The Medicos, however, have no ties to that institution.  A collection of informal physicians, each Medico relies on training from prior medicos, and strong support from the Church of the Singer of the Song.  Medicos, or Street Doctors, heal others without asking for payment in return.  But because of their informal nature, it isn't uncommon for grifters to try and fake their craft.

To combat this, Medicos work with Divas to drive out grifters.  They've developed a system of codes, magical symbols they use that the disenfranchised can use to call them for aid.

Some Medicos rival the best doctors at Crux University.  A few use techniques that only others have seen in divine magic, bringing back the dead or beating back horrible diseases like Blackboil or Hellfever.  Street Doctors often can be seen among protesters or reformers, and often they find support from the Voice or the Publisher.

In Crux, those in dire medical trouble often look for the sign of the Medico.  They serve and don't ask questions.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

City of Curses: Sea Witch 4

This is the fourth part of a short story about a Sea Witch in Crux, Arsania, a Cecaelia a bit more open than others of her kind.  After refusing a job, someone leaves a ring in her possession that just brings her more and more trouble than she really wants...
Part One | Part Two | Part Three

The tiny building I used for my shop sat near the docks, at the end of a narrow alley.  One had to know what to look for to see it, something I considered a plus for my business when I started it.  I didn't want to be popular, I wanted loyal customers who'd come for the quality of my witchcraft.

When I brought Little Annie there, it didn't feel unique to me.  I suddenly was aware of how vulnerable my shop was within the docks.  In the alley, there was little to no light.  I never bothered to learn anything about the local patrols.  I barely knew my neighbors.  I just kept to myself, never really worrying about them.  And they didn't worry about me.

It scared me.  I had no one.  Nobody to notice anything out of the ordinary.  No, it just looked like I was leading a child to my shop.  No one would say a thing.  Hey, Octopus Lady has a apprentice now, no need to bother her any!

Great.  Good job, Arsania.

My fingers shook as I tried to unlock it.  I found the key, trying not to cry out.  I felt the cold tip of Little Annie's knife press against my back.

"It's alright, Miss."  She said in a consoling tone.  "Deep breaths and all that."

I tried to take a deep breath.

She's going to knife me when she gets the chance I told myself.  But my fingers continued their shaking, and I managed to get the door open.  She's going to knife you and leave your body to rot on land.  

The door creaked open like it always did, the rusted bell failing to ring out once again.  I opened the door more, and let a magic word slip from my mouth.  Lanterns flickered on.

"And light there was.  Get going."  Annie ordered.

I obeyed.  I moved slowly down the stairwell to the floor of my shop.  The building had sunken beneath some of the sea.  It made my basement and bottom floor underwater.  It meant I could work in saltwater, something that made my life a great deal more relaxing.

But Annie didn't know that.

"Its down here."  I told her, keeping only one lantern on.  I tried to mask the water near by with the light.  I gestured at a bit of glittering silver on the floor.

"Excuse me?"  Annie asked.  "Still blind, I can sense your body..."

Annie shrugged.

"Oh."  A part of me felt ashamed over that.  She was still blind, and I had said something rude.  Shouldn't I feel bad about that?  "I'm sorry-"

"Give me the ring, that's all the apologies I need."

I moved toward the ring.  As I picked it up, I could sense the malevolence in the ring.  The intelligence within it.  It tried to control me, the demon within trying to claw its way out into me.

Muffins slid into the water nearby.  She didn't make a sound when she did so.  Of course she didn't.  She was a creature of the sea.

"No."  I surprised myself with my words.  Then I acted.  "No, Dirtwalker.  I don't think so."

I dove into the seawater.  I lost the ring in the process, it sliding from me in my dive into the water.  I could breath again.  Under the water, I could see and hear.  I moved without having drag my tentacles.

I spun myself around, letting water spin around me.  I called on my Patron, the spirit of the sea and storm.  It rumbled through my flesh.  I channeled it into the water around me.

"Not so fast, Miss."  Little Annie dove into the water after me.  I could sense her vibrations in the water.  The Dirtwalker floundered around much like a fish would in a boat.

In the water, I could sense the spells she used.  Fiendish magic, letting her sense thoughts around her.  Like some sort of bat, she could sense the gist of nearby thoughts enough to construct her own senses.  When I dove into the water without thought, Annie could never have sensed it.  And when I started to cast my spell, her senses lit up once more.

"No."  I said to myself.  "Don't let this dirtwalker intimidate you."

Little Annie swam at me.  Her knife swung at me.  But it was pathetic.  Her movement had no grace in the sea.  The one-horned tiefling was more like a one-horned rat.  And I could feel her lungs, she needed to breath air.

I let loose my spell.

"You don't get to leave.  Freeze."  I felt the magic of my patron seal the surface of the water above.  It went frigid, turning to ice.

Annie continued to swipe at me.  I instead danced about her.  I moved without effort.  My tentacles slipped and slid about me with grace.  I was one with the sea once more.

"You think you can beat me, Dirtwalker?"  I sneered at her.  My words echoing in the water.  "This is where I live, where I was born."

Annie couldn't talk.  She couldn't risk losing any precious air.

"Look up, dirtwalker."  I gestured.

The little tiefling glanced up, her rags dragged her to the bottom of my sea-flooded room.  Her eyes widened.  Panic started to enter her eyes.  She rushed at me again.

Again I dodged it.

"Annie, you're going to drown.  Is your mother going to stop that?"  I slapped her with a tentacle.  She tried to stop me.  She tried to slash at me.  But the dirtwalker was too slow.

"But you know what?  I'm going to not let you die.  But this is a lesson, little demon-girl.  Don't harass me.  Don't come here again.  Don't ever try to threaten me with your little crazed tricks again!"

I threw a new spell at the flailing tiefling.  She was trying to break through the ice above.  My spell let me use the water itself.  I grabbed her with raw currents and squeezed.  Bubbles flowed out of her mouth.  She tried to scream in pain.  Instead, she drowned.

I smirked.  I grabbed my former assailant with a tentacle.  The two of us surfaced to the top.


Oddfellow stared at me in my shop.


"You don't... well, my lady, you normally stay down there."  He gestured down at the sea-flooded room below us.

I smiled at him.

"Didn't feel like it.  Here."  I handed Oddfellow the ring.  The Android Paladin glanced down at it.  "Please get rid of that for me.  Not worth the trouble."

Oddfellow nodded in agreement.  "I see you made it home alright."

"Of course.  I had a bit of trouble..."  I patted the wrapped bundle on the chair next to me.  "But I'm working on that for now."

Oddfellow looked down at the wrapped bundle.  It took him a moment, but then the android saw the person wrapped under all the seaweed and cloth.  He gave me a concerned look.

"Oh, it isn't what you think, Oddfellow."  I picked up the bundle.  Little Annie, true to her name, was quite little, at least enough that I could lift her up.  "I have to make sure my patient is well before I let her go home."

"Patient?  Looks more like a prisoner-"

"Oh,"  I brightened a bit as I spoke, "this little one drowned.  I'm still helping her recover.  Hopefully when this is all done, she won't ever have such a terrible accident again."

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Keepers: Game Session 3

We finished the characters.  It took us three sessions (each being three hour sessions, which is why I think it took so long).  But now I've got characters.  So here are The Keepers:

Aislinn 'Ash' Caoimhe Srady Wiseowl: a Ursyklon "Archaeology Major."  With a affinity for some rodents, Ash is a Thief- but more of the Archaelogical kind.  She tends to work in the Archaeology department, frequently taking on "Expeditions" into the Skullmount's Catacombs for interesting relics.  Prior to meeting the rest of the Keepers, Ash had run into trouble with a relic she'd found under Crux.  When the criminals assaulted her, she stumbled into Pyro.  Gav's own gang had been involved with trying to get the relic- he called it off.

Ishida Hana Gold-Sun: Assigned to deep cover at the University, this Tengu Ninja has more or less stumbled into association with the Keepers.  This deep cover has caused some of his own Clan to think of him as having "Gone Crow."  Ishida stole a piece from a machine at the university- it had been found in the catacombs.  Of course, the place then exploded into fire- a fire caused by the Android Pyro.  Gav himself showed up, helping contain part of the machine, keeping it from exploding further.  Ishida later that night would try to deliver the piece of the relic he'd taken; while on transit, the relic somehow spawned monsters.  These monsters attacked Palace Hill, during a concert starring Gav.  Gav and the rest of the Keepers don't know about this; Ishida is more than happy to not share it- it would interfere with his mission.

Gav Windwaker Zarak Marko: A Genius and Magus Prodigy, Gav is a poor boy from Poorfellows, unaware he is a Aethamir.  Gav used to be part of a street gang in the slums of Poorfellows.  The Voice has opened doors for him, allowing him to attend Crux University.  His first major performance at Palace Hill was cut short when it was assaulted by monsters.  Gav was forced to fend off the monsters, being aided by the efforts of Ishida and Ash.

"Pyro" or Pyrotechnician, unit# 3235: An Android, Pyro is the property of the Crux University Alchemy department.  He operates as their Gunpowder technician- although Pyro has a fascination for using it all sorts of applications.  Not long after Ash run into conflict with criminals outside the university, Pyro at the same time became hopelessly lost in the city.  He ran into her, recognized her from the University and tried to ask for help.  Instead, he became more lost, until he ran into a flesh merchant in the Grand Bazaar who tried to resell him.  Ishida interfered, having the Prophet of Winds pay off the merchant- letting Pyro go free, albeit leaving Pyro indebted to Ishida.

I also have a collection of NPCs now too.  My players tolerated a bit of NPC generation, but now I've got a enough to really dream up plots.  I have a direction to go too- the first story also has an aspect: The Wolves At the University.

"The machine the university recently uncovered has gotten the attention of the Ursyklon.  The Archdruid herself plans to visit the Chancellor and the University.  The Archdruid wants to ascertain if this Machine is of Aboleth design- and to decide if she needs to intervene."

Sunday, October 26, 2014

City of Curses: The Ghostwalkers (Fate Core)

The Esteemed Ghostwalkers
In a darker era, the city of Crux's own age proved to be troubling.  Generations of the dead infested the city's shadows.  Ghosts collected like moths.  Too many to be contained by spells- more would come, the curses and age of the city like Crux proving more and more difficult to contain through short gap measures.  This is where the Ghostwalkers trace their origin.

The Prince created their group.  He provided cash, a place for them to train and commissioned experts in the field of Ectomancy and Necromancy.  The Ghostwalkers are adamant on one point- the Prince refused to use the University, perhaps because it hadn't been founded yet.  Or perhaps the Prince doesn't trust the University to do the job he wanted done.  He entrusted the Ghostwalkers, and their tradition was born.

Ghostwalkers are small group of spellcasters of all varieties, each focusing on ghosts and other spirits.  Ghostwalkers speak for the dead- they walk with them.  They talk for them.  Crux's community of Ghosts rely on the Ghostwalkers to keep them happy.  And the Ghostwalkers contain the Ghosts, keeping them from causing trouble.  The Prince continues to be their Patron.

Potential Aspects: Esteemed Ghostwalker; The Prince's Ectomancer; Possessed By A Ghost and I Liked It.
Potential Ghostwalker Stunts: 
Ghost Companion: You have a apparition that has latched onto you.  In addition to having the Ghost aspect, this companion has a Class and Trouble Aspect.  Like an animal companion, they also have a Ghost skill, which is rated as Fair (+2).  Ghosts have two boxes of Mental Stress, but only 1 box of Physical stress.  To touch a ghost, an effect has to be able to affect something incorporeal and dead.

Ghost Sight: You can see ghosts, apparitions and other incorporeal creatures.  You can use a magical skill like Faith or Sorcery to let you Notice Ghosts trying to hide from you.

Other Icons
The Ghostwalkers have a few enemies in Crux.  The Publisher and his ilk see them as oppressors to Ghosts, just another form of secret police.  University necromancers often clash with them, as the necromancers seek out fresh ghosts for experiments.  And the Demon's Orphans, oddly enough, respect them, even though they are convinced the Ghostwalkers are hiding secrets about some of the oldest ghosts in Crux, ones that know things about the Prince he doesn't want to get out.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Specialists Versus Generalists

In stories, there is a tendency for the most interesting characters to be specialists, while generalists tend to be not as interesting.  I'm talking about characters here, not mechanics or rules.  I'm not talking systems here.  I'm talking about how fictional characters get more interesting the most specialized they are.

This has to do with the nature of limits.  The more specialized a character is, the more limits they have.  Limits (sometimes we call these laws) make characters more interesting.  They keep a character from bulldozing over obstacles. Good stories are about overcoming limits.  Great stories are about characters admitting to these limits- maybe they overcome them, maybe they don't.

This has to do with how we humans as audiences empathize with the character- if they can overcome their limits, it satisfies a urge in us as well.  When characters come to terms with their own limits- it can help us as humans learn to realize our own limits.  This mythological cornerstone explains why characters with limits- flaws and complexities are more interesting to us.

Here's my main example for this: Harry Dresden, from the Dresden Files.

Harry is a Wizard and he's also a Private Investigator.  Despite being a Wizard- Harry's human.  He specializes at finding things, causing trouble and fire magic.  Harry specializes as a Wizard and a Private Eye.  Memorable moments in the series are when Harry meets his limitations- sometimes he gets confronted with them by his enemies.  Key to Dresden is how he rarely backs down from his limits.  He hits them, like a race car crash.  Dresden isn't good at everything: if anything, his limits come up almost all the time.

Being a Wizard doesn't help: it makes Dresden unable to use technology at all.  That alone makes stories with Dresden interesting- He can't use the internet to solve a question.  He has to look for the answers himself.

How does this apply to RPGs then?
I write this to point out how, as a Game Master and a player, specialists tend to have more story potential than generalists do.  Where a generalist has a tool for every job, the specialist has to think of a solution to a problem.  They have to be creative in their problem solving.

Specializing means you have a spoon for most of your problems.  Looking at it one way, you can only use a spoon to do one thing.  But looking at it another way, a spoon can break through locks, torture people or kill a man.  Its a matter of explaining the how, and how your specialty comes in.

City of Curses: Regions Revisit

One of the things I didn't do before was do a bit of a think on the Aspects and potential faces in Crux as a City.  This is me spending a post sketching out some ideas.  So, let me get these down as I am thinking on them.  I also want to use some kinds of Location stunts, too, but I think those will emerge as I go along anyway.

What is a Face?  A Face in this context is a NPC that also is a manifestation of the region itself.  I
like to think of them as an expression of the Aspect and ideas going in that region- they capture its tone, and sort of define what scenes there might be like.  I've decided to keep faces quick and concise, with a description.  More details might be needed, who knows. (I'm borrowing this term from Dresden Files RPG for a large degree).

The Grand Bazaar: 
Aspect: Everything Has A Price
Everything Has A Price refers in large to the nature of the size of the Grand Bazaar.  Its easy to find anything there, including illegal black markets.  And when your there, you can find yourself tempted by all kinds of deals.

A face of the Grand Bazaar: Ulhed-ut-Arino, the Flesh Merchant.  
Slavery is illegal in Crux and Ith as a whole.  However, some argue there are many ways to make a slave out of a soul without ever dealing in the slave trade.  Ulhed is one of the wealthiest Liches to be found in Crux.  Ulhed steals and trades in Androids- often he purchases kidnapped Androids.  He also deals in other illicit goods- magic items that create thralls, for example.  The Maliphi Lich sells the item, never a "person."  This blurry line and the corrupt city watch let him run a brisk business.

Ulhed is a obese corpse of a Lich, often perfumed.  His shop is really a massive open air tent.  His robes a purple with a gold trim.  He has placed two diamonds in his eye sockets.  There is always a clinking from all his piercings.  He eschews the use of any sort of staff or wand.  The only magic to be spotted on him are his many rings.  Ulhed also is always carried by his own gold-chained Androids, whose wax faces have malformed from misuse.

The University of Crux:
Aspect: Knowledge Is Power
Knowledge Is Power refers to the drive of most of those at the university to seek out knowledge.  Their pursuit of knowledge, sometimes a manic drive.  Sometimes this ends well, other times... other times, the pursuit of knowledge here doesn't end well.  This can be invoked for knowledge, but it can be compelled for the dangers some knowledge can bring.

Face of the University: Doctor Lyam Kyringer.
Lyam Kyringer is one of most brilliant physicians in the world, blending oracular insights with medical knowledge to execute new wonders.  He also is Othebean, and hates every inch of Crux.  The city frightens him, yet he works at the University, lecturing many classes on Medicine, Prophecy and other divine insights.  Dr. Kyringer keeps strong ties to his faith in the Church of the Twins, but still researches for new discoveries in medicine.

Dr. Kyringer is Rosac man in his early thirties.  His eyes are a dark red, while behind a pair of wire-framed spectacles.  A skinny man, the doctor wears brown suits, often in earth tones reminiscent of his home of Othebea.  He keeps a tiny golden eagle pinned into his surcoat.  The Doctor is cursed by spirits, who often haunt objects around him- as part of the price of his oracular insights.  Often his fingers are stained with ink.  He cringes at most things about Crux, often cursing the city under his breath.

The Wish Quarter:
Aspect: The Fiendblooded Ghetto
The Fiendblooded Ghetto refers to majority of people in the Ghetto, Tieflings.  It is their place in the city, a place most others avoid outside of the Wish Festival.  It is easy to find Tieflings here- the Church of Shraxes is dominant.  This also can bring out the worse kind of trouble too: the Wish Quarter is the main turf of the Demon's Orphans and the Archwitch too.

A face of the Wish Quarter: Little Annie.
A waif of a girl, Annie is a one-horned tiefling that looks more like a child than a woman.  She is also blind, but makes for that with a bit of fiendish magic.  Little Annie often wears rags and acts the part of a child.  She has almost psychotic faith in Shraxes.  She refers to her as "Mum."

Annie is one of the elite killers of the Demon's Orphans, often sent out to do crazy jobs other members would refuse.  Her tricks and bit of magic let her deceive her foes.  Little Annie plays the lost little girl, asking help from her own target, to find her "Mum."  Then she ambushes them, often slicing them someone aware from attention.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

City of Curses: Sea Witch 3

This is the third part of a short story about a Sea Witch in Crux, Arsania, a Cecaelia a bit more open than others of her kind.  After refusing a job, someone leaves a ring in her possession that just brings her more and more trouble than she really wants...
Part One | Part Two | Part Four

My arms were full.  With a bit of mental concentration, I called Muffins to me.  He opened the door to the potion shop as I left.

"Come again, later lass."  The shopkeeper told me.  He sounded bored to me.  I paid him no mind, too busy coordinating between my familiar and my arms.

Here's the thing about you dirtwalkers that annoys me.  You stare at those of us who weren't born
with monkey-legs.  I'm being serious here.  Imagine how hard it is to walk on land with tentacles. Now imagine doing that with your arms full with thirty or so pounds of various magical potions and poultices.  Now throw in trying to mentally command a little Octopus-Penguin, who likes to wander off to investigate every little thing that attracts his attention.

Sound difficult?  Frustrating.  Now try to imagine doing that while walking through the Grand Bazaar.  The busiest open market on the Maru Sea.  Its crowded.  So many people.  And I don't like people.  Being elbow to elbow to them just makes it so much more worse.

So, between the shouting people, and all the other distractions, I hurried toward the darker streets of the Grand Bazaar.  Its less crowded there.  Besides, I'm one of those dirtwalkers try to avoid anyway.

That was my second mistake that night.

"Miss?"  The sad voice jolted me.  I nearly fell over.  Muffins stared up at me, staring at me.  I, of course, had lunged out with tentacles akimbo, trying to keep from dropping anything.

I tried to identify the source of the voice.

"Sorry miss."  The voice that had scared me belonged to a little waif of a Tiefling girl.  She wore rags.  Her eyes were glazed over.  A blind little demon child.  One of her horns had been broken off.  I could see bones under her flesh.  And one wandering the streets of the Grand Bazaar.  "I didn't mean to scare you."

"Thats-thats fine."  I stuttered.  A part of me felt guilty.  A smarter part started to kick me.  This had to be some sort of danger, wasn't it?

Struggling with my items, I tried to continue on my way.

"Miss..." The little scrap of a tiefling blinked her blind eyes at me.  That made my heart bang.  How could I be suspicious of a beggar?  "Please can you tell me... I think I'm lost.  I'm trying to find someone."

"Someone?"  I paused.  "Who are you looking for child?"

"Been lookin' for me mum, Miss."  The little beggar licked her lips.  "She said, 'Slice and dice her if she don't give it'."

I paused.  "Uh... what?"

The beggar tiefling's left arm pulled out a long knife.  Where she had been hiding it... I have no idea.  She jumped on top of my shoulders, knocking me down.  She stank of garbage and brimstone.

I tried to slide away, instincts kicking in.  I felt ink splatter uselessly on the ground, making me panic even more.  I tried to grab her with tentacles, trying to throw the little thing away from me.

That didn't work.  She pressed her forehead against mine, her body wrapped around my head and torso.

"Mum said you might try runnin'.  They think me blind.  But I can hear your heart beat, squiddie."  She pressed the knife close to my throat.  "Miss, give Annie the ring.  Be nice about it too."

As she pressed her body against me, I could feel her real body.  Annie wasn't a child.  No, I felt a mature woman's body under the loose rags.  And muscles too.  The knife pricked my throat.  Sharp.

"I... I don't have it."

She headbutted me.  My left eye stung.  I cried out in pain, tears streaming down my face.

I could hear Muffins giving a fit.  Made sense, because his mistress had just gotten herself trapped in a position that no spellcaster could really handle.  If I tried to cast anything, Annie would just rip out my throat.  I couldn't even draw up my focus to my patron.  Arsania, you idiot.

"Really now?"  The Demon's Orphan forced my right eye open.  "Swear to little Annie.  You speaking the truth?"

"I... I don't... have it."  I sobbed.

"So, I have to gut and leave ya then."  Annie said, kissing my cheek.  "Teorgio said he gave it to you.  Must've lied to me-"

"No!"  I screamed.  "Please!  I can get it-  I just- I just need time-"

"Mum asked me real nice to get it for her."  Annie gave me a cold stare.  "Don't lie to me.  I can tell."

I took in a deep breath.  "Plea-please.  I can get it for you."

"Well," Annie smiled.  "Take me to it, then."


"Please?"  Annie got off me, offering me a hand up.  "I can be polite at least, Miss.  Get me the ring, and that'll be that.  You give me your word?"

I nodded.

"Well, then."  She grabbed my hand and helped me up onto my tentacles.  The little Tiefling surprised me with her strength.  "No worries Miss.  I believe you."
She clutched onto my left hand, letting me lead her back to my shop.  I shuddered.  I tried not to shake with terror.

"No fear Miss!"  Little Annie beamed up at me, her blind eyes seeing nothing of my tears.  "My mum will be so happy with me!"

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Center Cannot Hold: Classes 8

Being brief tonight.  The last bit on the history of classes in Crux.  Crux is the City of Curses, and sits at the center of the world of Orphos.  I created it as a dark fantasy/steampunk without the punk setting.  I currently am running a Fate Core game set in it.

Slayer: The less said about Slayers the better.  Theirs is a dark art.  Those who seek it become dark themselves, even if they struggle to keep a bit of the light within them.  Those who do know of the First Slayer, aren't willing to share that tidbit.

Summoner: Summoners came about during the Tomasi Empire.  Their Legions relied on a swift force of summoning Witches and Conjurers to surprise and reinforce them.  Summoners were outgrowth of that, Wizards who used parts of the Witches bondings rituals with greater powers, but instead directed toward another kind power: spirits of the Aether and the planes beyond.  The first Summoner was the Tomasi Empress Arlassa the Green.  Arlassa could summon forth a colossal entity from the sea, a tentacled behemoth the size of a tower.  It swallowed disobedient legions whole.  Later attempts to summon it again only would prove disasterous, and attracted the attention of Othebea and its own crusades centuries later.

In the modern era, most Summoners perform research studies for the Esoterium Machina.  They experiment with their Eidolons, sometimes developing them into useful research tools, other times making breakthroughs in containment and wards against planar entities.  In Crux, most Summoners tend to also be Ursyklons.  These Ursyklons embrace the totemic bonds with their Eidolons- they see themselves as a new generation of Ursyklons, breaking from tradition to forge a new path for their people.

There is a another kind of Summoner at the University of Crux however, ones who want to uncover Arlassa's secrets.  They see a potential in new kinds of Eidolons, perhaps ones who might help to unlock technologies and magic abandoned by Ursyklon and Aboleth millennia ago.

Witch: The first Witch was the first Wizard to admit that he had failed.  In that act of humility, Ared Silverune earned the power and patronage of Shraxes herself.  He founded the methodology of calling greater powers and asking them for power, making pacts that empowered him more than study alone.  Summoners would later use these techniques themselves, in more unique ways.

Witches cover a variety of fields.  For the Cecaelia, the Sea Witch often forms a central part of their communities.  Ice Witches in Bor help their tribes to survive harsh winters.  And of course, Tomasi Witches accelerated the fall of the Tomasi empire when they began to summon entities they could never really control.  Despite Othebea's crusades in the past against the class, secret Othebean White Witches have a tradition all their own.

In Crux, most Witches provide arcane services other spellcasters might think below them.  Weather witches provide predictions on the weather to fishermen and traders.  Bone Witches help maintain the graveyards and stamp out undead infestations as part of their service to the Church of the Black Rose.  Other witches walk the streets, selling balms and minor ailments to passersby.  Witches form a key part of the magic available to the less well off- perhaps the best known Witch in all of Crux is the Archwitch, whose Patron is the Goddess Shraxes.

Wizard: Wizards were the First Class- the first Wizard made the first choice, changing reality though that decision.  The name of the First Wizard is lost to time- Ursyklon claim that the First Wizard predates even their civilization, a being born on a world long and far away from Orphos.  But their choice still echoes in Orphos, especially in the story of First City.

First to learn the secrets of magic, Wizards on Orphos gathered to form the earliest known cities.  The Esoterium Machina refer to these forgotten cities as the Maru Civilization.  It remains unknown which of these cities was the first.  However, one of these forgotten cities remains deep underneath Crux.  The wizards of Maru Civilization practiced a cthonic form of magic, directly interfacing with the realm of pure magic known as The Aether- they had no schools of magic, only focusing on the pure mastery of becoming one with the Aether.  Only the Aether-Blooded know for sure what happened when the Maru Civilization over-reached itself and tried to infuse themselves with the Aether itself.  It didn't make them into the gods they imagined it would.  Centuries later, the first Aboleth would come to Orphos and find no cities left after the disaster that had happened.

Wizards in Crux find all sorts of roles for themselves, but measure their reputation by membership within the Esoterium Machina.  Wizards, as a whole, specialize and seek out ways to make names for themselves, through the creation of new spells or discoveries not yet known.  Several classes are in fact, born from Wizards who had succeeded at the research necessary to craft their own new paths: Magus, Summoner, Witch and others were all created by Wizards.  The urge to experiment and explore the nature of the universe through magic remains something that drives all Wizards.

Monday, October 20, 2014

City of Curses: Sea Witch 2

Part One | Part Three | Part Four
This is the second part of a short story about a Sea Witch in Crux, Arsania, a Cecaelia a bit more open than others of her kind.  After refusing a job, someone leaves a ring in her possession that just brings her more and more trouble than she really wants...

Oddfellow glared down at the ring.  "A dark thing.  Who would dare leave such a thing here for you?"

I shrugged.  "Teorgio.  Twins-damn it, Teorgio."

"What?"  Oddfellow gave me a quizzical look.

I explained my earlier encounter with Teorgio to the Android paladin.  Oddfellow huffed.  He looked disgusted.

"And what, he thinks that'll make you change your mind then?"

I smiled at the thought of the Android's attitude.  Oddfellow always thought in such melodramatic terms.  "Or its something he couldn't say anything about aloud, Oddfellow.  Something dangerous?"

Oddfellow blinked at that.  "Dangerous?"


Oddfellow insisted going with me into the market later, although I thought he was being a bit cute.  I hid the ring back at my shop.  I wasn't sure what to do with it.

"I could sell it to one of the Archwitch's people, I suppose."

Oddfellow shrugged as he escorted me through the Grand Bazaar.  "Would that be wise?  Giving them such a powerful potential ally?"

I sighed.  "That isn't really my problem, is it?"

Oddfellow blinked for a moment.  "Perhaps.  But I have a duty to try and contain such a thing, I think."

"Perhaps you do, Oddfellow.  But didn't sign up for that sort of thing.  Maybe you can take care of it for me then."

Oddfellow nodded.  "I can check in with some folks I know who might have means to contain it.  But I don't want you to be left alone, not if the Demon's Orphans are going to be interested in you."

"Oddfellow, they don't anything about this."  I shook my head.  Again, with the melodrama.  He meant well, I knew that much.  But I didn't need someone to look after me.  "I can take care of myself, Oddfellow.  They know nothing of that ring."

Oddfellow nodded.  "I'll be back as soon as I can for that ring, Arsania."

With that, I was alone.  Part of me regretted that.

"He's a android."  I told myself.  "I drive him away for his own good.  I can't afford..."

I let the thought drift away.  I had errands to run.  I found out later that had been my first big mistake that night.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Crux Session Report 2: Still Doing Character Generation

This wound up being only part 2 of character generation.  Considering that I'm teaching both system and setting as I go, I'm not surprised at how slow its been going.  Patience, however, I'm sure will be rewarded.

For instance, I don't have names yet.  After hearing people's character concepts and other barebones on what they want to do with their characters, I'm certain the name The Keepers is going to be the name of this little group.  They've decided to have subversive characters.

Here is what the Keepers are comprised of so far:

  • A Tengu Ninja pretending to have "Gone Crow" so he can do a deep infiltration of the University for the Prophet of the Winds.
  • An Alchemy Lab Android with a focus on gunpowder experimentation- he also has a fascination with blowing things up.  Mad bomber from the Muppets style I think.
  • A genius Magus with ties to the Voice- who also is a Aethamir who grew up in the Tomasi part of Poorfellows- a slum kid who got a chance to hit it big.
  • And lastly is the "Archaelogy Major."  A Ursyklon who grew up all over the place, she is at the University mainly out of a habit for looking for new chances to explore and "study."

I also decided on the principle issues for the campaign as well.  The beginning ones anyway:
Legacy Issue: Aspect: The Unknown Machine.
An ancient machine was found underneath Crux.  The Ninja stole a important piece from this machine, from above the lab that the Android lived/worked.  That Android had accidentally started fire while studying a different part of the machine, launching himself into the same space as the escaping Ninja.  The Genius Magus, of course, managed to appear long enough to stop the machine from exploding.  I love Crossing Paths.

Current Issue: Aspect: Raging Wolves.
How do the Ursyklons react to the Chancellor's actions?  What do they want to do about the mysterious machine that had been found?

Future Issue: Aspect: Ninjas on Campus.
Why are there Tengu Ninjas on the University Campus?  What are they doing?

So far I think my main plots will be intrigue centric, with different Icons motivating the characters to work together.  I need to create a common foe of some kind, I think, to really bring all four together.  But I still have a bit of character creation to wrap up with my players though.  After that, though, I the Keepers have plenty of stories in them to tell.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

City of Curses: Naming

I haven't gotten to this in most cases for Crux, but now it seems apt that I write down at least a little on the nature of names in the setting.

Human Names
Most names in Maru Sea culture follow the traditional western name pattern of First Name, Middle Name, Last Name.
Example Human Names: Tomasi
For the Tomasi, middle names rarely are of importance, and the ancient Tomasi placed importance on a second surname, a cognomen to help distinguish between members of larger families.

In Crux, the Tomasi are the most common ethnicity of human to be found: here is a quick list of names and such that Tomasi Human might have.  Each of these lists are ten on purpose.  Use a d10 rolled on each to create a random full name for a Tomasi character, if you so wish.

First Name (Male): Gavin, Teorgio, Adolgo, Aldo, Kristofor, Damian, Nichel, Odesto, Santo, Walpero
First Name (Female): Gava, Kara, Adele, Adla, Dafni, Erminia, Hicaela, Mirabella, Saveria, Viola
Middle Names: Often a given name from a favored relative.  The Tomasi aren't afraid to also given sea-based names as middlenames as well: Stormchild, Seaborn, Windtalker, Windwaker, Tidesong, Brinehand, Saltblood, Fishchild, Shipsaint, Seatalker.
Cognomen: Cognomen often are a form of nickname; listed here are names of various Cognomen to be found in Crux itself.  Adjutor, Brugus, Krassus, Dunio, Rallus, Honoratus, Isatis, Marko, Montanus, Tyranus
Surnames: Aurelia, Brutt, Caelia, Falvia, Gabin, Junia, Oppi, Porcia, Quintus, Zarak.

Android Names
Android naming structures are very bare bones compared to Tomasi tradition.  Unless raised by humans as though they were human (which one or two are raised as, in a few cases), most Androids have only one name.  Cruel or overly logical owners will name their Androids after their serial numbers, the four digits assigned to each Android as they are created (8511, 1768, 3456, etc).  Others will name their Androids based on Function (Soldier, Labdrone, Porter, etc).  A few Androids will be allowed to create their own names, often a strange mix of personal tastes.

Here is a list of potential Android names.  Roll 1d10 if you are interested in a random name.

Android Names: Distiller, Packdrone, Porter, Grinder, Fusemaker, Computer, Coldhands, Gravedigger, Stitcher, Boomer
If you want a serial number for a name, roll 1d10 four times.  Each roll designates each digit in the name.

Ursyklon Names
Ursyklon can have up to six or seven names; this is due to their long history, and a variety of noble traditions they've maintained for centuries.  Most often, Ursyklon have the following naming Structure: First Name, Nickname, Ancestor Name, Family Name, Clan Name, Honor Name, Secret Name.

Often Ursyklon are named in honor of their closest elder relative of that gender identity: sons are named after their grandfather, whereas daughters are named after their grandmother, and so forth.  All Ursyklon are given an Ancestor Name, honoring an ancient hero.  Ursyklon have family and clan names.  If the Ursyklon is recognized in the community for their past actions or deeds, they often are given a Honor name, recognizing their deeds.
Lastly, all Ursyklon have a private secret name, one that they only share with their closest family.  Its seen as rude to share this name outside of the most intimate relations.

First Names: These names often are also used as ancestor names as well.

  • Male: Alistair, Callum, Murchadh, Ycott, Fertus, Neillian, Finlay, Dunkan, Maltolm, Kuart
  • Female: Aila, Elspeth, Iona, Qhona, Sheena, Zorcha, Kean, Worven, Xilias, Rileen 

Family Names: Degan, Hogan, McCann, Kordon, Srady, Zastings, Ormond, Materson, Megaton, Towan
Clan Names: Horsestrong, Ratsneak, Crowtongue, Wolfsong, Bearroar, Tigerglare, Eaglesoar, Frogeater, Sharkrider, Batscream
Secret Names: There isn't a list of these.  Secret names are something that generally don't get known.  They tend to be monosyllabalic.

Tengu Names
Tengu tend to have three names: Family Name, Past Life Name, and a Clan Name.  Tengu eschew personal names, often going by the name of the most notable past life they can remember.  Very few Tengu earn personal names, often these personal names will later be used by descendants who they are reborn into.

Family Names: Nakatomi, Shimaya, Fujimura, Ishida, Ono, Ueda, Koyohuni, Daemoto, Kobayashi, Sato
Past Life Names: Nari, Duri, Bora, Sora, Iseul, Areum, Hana, Gun, Chul, Kwang
Clan Names: Burning-Storm, White-Feather, Ice-Wind, Ghost-Scorpion, Witch-Sword, Night-Talon, Sea-Wing, Gold-Sun, Red-Monkey, Silver-Owl

Thursday, October 16, 2014

City of Curses: The Sea Witch 1

The Sea Witch
Part Two | Part Three | Part Four

I sighed, the saltwater above me stirring as I did.  I knew the words would carry, the subtle aura around me would do that much.

"No, Teorgio- I don't provide that kind of service."

The skinny man head drooped at that.  He knew better than to press me on this sort of thing.  He put
up a hand in a placating gesture of surrender.

"Ok, ok.  I just have a timeline is all, Arsania- there isn't anything She could do for you?"

I caught the subtle emphasis on she.  Teorgio worked for The Voice, albeit indirectly and in his own way.  In addition to being the best known musician on this side of the Maru Sea, the Voice also was the title of the highest priestess in the religion only known as a The Singer of the Song.
Charity work was a favorite thing of hers too.  She had foundations and groups that combed the city for people to help or causes worth her attention.  It made her a prominent political force. In Crux that also meant The Voice had enemies.

The last thing I needed was new enemies.

"You trying to tempt me with something?  You can't make wishes for me, you know that.  I'm a sea witch.  I predict the weather and make charms against the chill.  Why should I risk what I have already?"

Teorgio gave a weak smile.  Even though he stood over my head at the surface, I still could sense his disappointment at that- he sounded almost desperate.  I didn't need magic senses to read that.

"Thought it might be worth a try anyway."  He turned toward the door.

"What were you going to ask for anyway?"  I asked, my curiosity getting the better of me.

"Never mind... You said no.  I've got to find someone who can... Do this deed. See you around, Arsania."

I bid him goodbye.  I tried not to ponder his words, although part of me worried about the potential consequences.  We Cecaelia like our privacy.  I was considerably extroverted for one of my kind- I ran a shop for dirtwalkers.

But I liked my privacy, just a different sort than my sisters at sea would understand.  The rest of that day went by quietly.  A inkstained woman stopped by to pick up the weekly forecast for one of the newspapers.  A grumpy old fisherman stopped by for a charm that evening.  Both tried to exchange in small talk with me.  I surprised both with my lack of comment.

When Oddfellow stopped by, it made my day.  The bizarre Knight of Summer Flame smiled, the half of his face covered in red plate not detracting from it.  He bent down, but I floated to the surface of the saltwater pit in my shop, eager to greet him again.

"How does the day warm you, my lady?"  Oddfellow bowed.

"You only do that to make me blush, Oddfellow."  I felt my cheeks glow purple at his comments.

"As you asked, I have delievered a message to your kin."  Oddfellow paused, bending down.  He picked up something from the floor I hadn't noticed before.  "Your sisters wish you well."

"And I wish them well.  They still want me to come back home?"

"In as few words."  Oddfellow held up a silvery ring.  "Is this yours?  I never guessed you for jewelry, Arsania."

"I still can't believe they can tolerate you."  I shook my head.  "We hide ourselves from all sorts of humans or halfings or others, but one misshapen android calling himself a knight, and we fall over him."

"I am a knight."  Oddfellow corrected.  Then he paused.  "Although, I expected Octopusfolk to perhaps have better tastes myself."

That made me giggle a little.  Then I sensed it.  A brief bit in the air, the smell of something.  I looked at the silver ring Oddfellow held.

Oddfellow grimaced, his expression pained.

"Oddfellow, what's wrong?"

"This ring is a stain."  He grunted the words, his gears creaking from sort of strain.  "Darkness.  Something evil lurking in it."

I studied the ring.  It made me want to hiss.  "Twins damn it Teorgio- Sorry Oddfellow."

"I agree on the damning part, I think."  Oddfellow dropped the ring onto the ground.  "What sort of dark thing is that?"

"A ring with a mind trapped in it."  I told him.  "A cursed ring, with a demon trapped inside.  Most likely a daughter of Shraxes."

New short story.  More will come.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Crux Build: Spellcasting in Crux Fate

Spellcasting in Crux Fate
Here's a quick guide to casting spells in my Crux Fate game.  It borrows from all over, but mostly I'm using Mage as inspiration here.  To cast a spell, you need to do this:

1. Declare you are going to try to cast a Spell.
2. Describe the spell effect you want to accomplish.
3. The GM determines if that is a Cantrip or a major spell.  If it is a Cantrip, it activates and that's that.  If its a major spell, you need to use Sorcery or Faith to determine the effect.  You'll use that skill to perform one action, which will be the spell effect (attack, defend, overcome obstacle, discover, or create an advantage).  Spells created as advantages have stress tracks, which can be attacked by attempts to dispel the spell (the base number of stress boxes is 2, plus any shifts you wish to spend on them).
4. You must pay 1 mental stress to cast the spell, unless it is a cantrip.  If its supposed to be a permanent (or long enough to be the same thing) you must spend a fate point as part of the cost of casting a spell.  Fate points can be avoided in the casting cost if the right material components are provided for casting the spell, most often this isn't necessary, though.

Minor Spells: "Cantrips"
Minor spell effects are effects that don't need any sort of mechanics to be turned on.  They don't deal stress, they don't create aspects and more or less are window dressing effects.  Nicknamed cantrips here, you don't have to turn them on for them to work.  You need to have justification for them, like an aspect or stunt.

Example: Zhaul Wolfsfang has the class aspect Wolf Clan Urzahadi.  Since Urzahadi are a unique Ursyklon version of Druids, he wants to use the aspect as justification for a cantrip to create some water.  Since he just wants to create a tiny bit of water, like a gallon or so, its a spell the GM is fine with.  He creates a gallon of water, using it wash off his hands.

This can use this to do a variety of minor effects, from create light to sending messages on the wind.  Although this might seem somewhat potent on its own, it still is reserved as a restriction.  Should a spell effect need any mechanics to work out, it should be a major spell.  Alternatively, you can choose to let players of spellcasters to use Sorcery or Faith to deal direct attacks like it was Brawl or Shoot.  Consider creating a stunt to allow that if you think that would make Sorcery or Faith too potent of skills.

Major Spells
Major spells require mechanics to work, a whole host of effects that might cause stress (attacking the enemy with a fireball) or might alter the situation drastically (creating an aspect like Control Weather).  They might also grant you some form of justification or permission to do other things.  Cure spells, for instance, allow you the chance to justify lowering the time some kinds of physical Consequences take to be reduced.  Spells cannot ever cure Severe or Extreme consequences, those always take time to fully recover from.

Major spells always cost 1 mental stress.

The fast and dirty way to handle most major spell effects is to give them an aspect through the Create An Advantage action.  Major spells have their flavor determined by what kinds of flavor you've chosen with the stunt that lets you spellcast.  You are restricted to those one or two choices, which often can force you to be creative (how do you use Abjuration to boil water, for instance?)

If a magic effect is something permanent, or fiat, you need to spend a fate point to create it as well.

Permanent Enchantments & Magic Items
To create a magic item or to make something permanent, you need to spend a fate point.  Typical items vary, but most work like this:

Potions, Elixirs, Scrolls: Anyone can use these, even nonspellcasters.  Potions and elixirs require that you drink them; scrolls require a successful Sorcery or Faith check to cast the spell in the scroll- opposed to the Sorcery of whoever created the scroll.
These items provide boosts for a scene.  Fiat effects from scrolls will require the user to spend a Fate point- but scrolls can't be turned into permanent effects.

Wands, Staves, Rods: These take the form of stunts most often.  Not what you were thinking, right?  Welp, these are object based stunts- meaning you get the stunt so long as you have the item tied to the object.  This is also to allow some diversity in the kind of item.  In PF, your Wand of Magic Missile will be just that- but maybe the one you've created also does a bit of abjuration, and you made it from oak.  So maybe Oak Wand is a better name for the stunt:

Example Stunt: Oak Wand.  So long as you are holding the Oak Wand, once per scene you can spend one of its stress instead of your mental stress to cast magic missile or an abjuration effect.  The Oak Wand has two boxes of stress, and it recovers its stress only when you have time to properly re-energize it (i.e., at a major milestone or similar event).

That is one way to do it.  You could also be very specific on the kind of spell it casts, in exchange for more stress for the item in question.  Two stress boxes is ideal for this sort of thing I think.

Wondrous Items: Like Wands and Staves, these most often provide item-based stunts.

Magic Armors and Weapons: These should be named.  Outside of that, they provide a new aspect and some new justifications.  That's about that.

Note that magic items and permanent effects still require time and resources to create.  If you don't have necessary Resources, you might have to take on consequences or other means to provide that if you don't have them.  Time as well- some items can a day or days to be created.

New Stunts:

This stunt lets you cast major spells.  Casting them costs you 1 mental stress.  You can only take one flavor of spellcasting: Alchemy.  In addition, you can create elixirs or potions without having to pay fate points.  Note that crafting these items still requires some time and resources to create, however.

Arcanist Exploits.
This stunt lets you cast major spells.  You have to select two flavors of magic, except one of these flavors has to be Exploits.  You are used to breaking or bending the rules of magic, and can exploit them well.  You can choose to spend a Fate point during a scene to change one of your chosen flavors of magic to one of the following instead: Fire, Water, Earth or Air.  This lasts until the end of the session, when it reverts back to what it used to be.

You can use Sorcery in place Weaponry or Brawl for attacking.  In addition, you can choose to cast a spell through the weapon you wield, charging it with energy (elemental of whatever kind that seems apt).  You take 1 mental stress and you gain a +2 bonus on your next attack with it.

Ok.  That's it for tonight... I feel better getting that all written out somewhere.  Anyway, thanks for reading.  

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Center Cannot Hold: Stunts for Crux 1

Stunts For Crux
So I'm going to go on a Stunt making binge while waiting to finish up Crux.

Rage: Once per session you can choose to fly into a Rage.
 Rage only lasts for a scene, and during that scene you gain the Raging situation aspect.  In addition, you can't be impeded by physical obstacles- you barrel through them, ripping open holes, sundering walls, knocking over foes and continuing on as though you were a battering ram.  However, during a rage, you can't do anything intelligent, wise or social.  Others run away screaming in fear from you, and you are easily best by anyone using any complex tactics against you.
Bloodrage: Functions like Rage, except that you can cast spells while in a Bloodrage.  This functions lets you spend physical stress to cast spells (much like any other spellcasting stunt can).  When you select this stunt, you should select two flavors of spellcasting, one of which is Blood.  The other flavor can be anything, but most likely is tied to a bloodline of sorts (such as Draconic, Fey or Elemental).  Sorcery remains your main skill for casting spell effects.

Wildshape:  You can spend a fate point and turn into any of the following four forms.  While in a animal form, you cannot speak or cast spells.  Animal forms give you additional aspects.  In addition, each form has a "always on" ability as well.

  • Falcon: You gain the aspects Bird of Prey and Tiny.  You can fly as movement, and can move between zones through this flight faster if those zones all touch open air.
  • Bear: You gain the aspects ITS A BEAR! and Large.  You can use Physique to defend against physical attacks, gaining a +2 bonus on rolls to resist taking physical stress.
  • Wolf: You gain the aspects Pack Tactics and Canine.  You have a excellent sense of smell.  If given enough time to examine someone's scent, you can learn at least one thing about them based on their smell, much like others might learn from listening or watching them.
  • Mouse: You gain the aspects Tiny and Rodentia.  You can escape notice immediately and can escape quickly in this form.

Animal Companion: You have a partner, an animal that aids you and your efforts.  Your Animal Companion has a Name, Concept Aspect and Trouble Aspect.  They get to have one Fair (+2) skill, and two Average (+1) skills.  This animal companion has three physical stress boxes and one mental stress box.  You can spend fate refresh to give them stunts.  Whenever you reach a milestone that lets you increase your fate refresh, you can spend it again to add stunts to your animal companion.
Of course, this companion might advance during milestones on its accord.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Reading Materials: Wield

Got my copy of Wield in this week.  So I read it.  I'll admit it: I sort of got the book blindly.  I'm a Wield is interesting because it offers a unorthodox subject for a rpg.  Normally, in RPGs you have characters wield powerful artifacts and magical items.  In Wield, you instead play those powerful items.  I am a +John Wick fanboy- usually I pick up his latest RPG for ideas to farm from.  That and they are interesting games.  They always have something different going on.

Its akin to getting to be the One Ring or Excalibur.  And in this sense, Wield does deliver a ideal set of tools to do that.  I haven't run it yet, but the bare bones of its character generation section alone got my brain inspired.  You would conclude that being the powerful item used by another as not be practical.  Wield takes this problem and turns into a interesting idea: your Wielder is played by one other players at the table.

Note that this means each player is playing two characters: the item, the other being the wielder for another's item.  Heroes (or pawns, if you are a ancient uber weapon of doom) are pre generated characters, emphasizing that you are first your item (or vatcha), first.  You play someone else's wielder, but that character is sort of temporary- you can drop them, control them, whatever.

This part makes me really curious about Wield.  It puts the item first as the driver of each player's story.  Wielders get the shaft- but how that comes about, and the interaction between them and their vatcha really intrigues me.  Using player for important NPCs- that is a golden concept for me.

I feel re-inspired about other ideas based on my first read through of Wield.  Even though its more of a vanity book- I'll be honest, the editing needs work, I kinda dislike the mechanical crunch in it, and dislike some of the interior art.  Despite this, I think its a solid concept.   I want ways to give my players ways to do more at the table.  RP is the main reason I GM anymore.

I like Wield, but its going to sit on the shelf until I feel like the perfect opportunity rolls by.

How to use it in other games:
Wield inspires an idea Wick has planted in my head before.  Use your players for significant NPCs.  Especially ones that should be tied to particular players.  That's the immediate use you can take from it.

A deeper take from it?  Let your players play NPCs that aren't people, that affect specific people.  Assign Icons, for instance, to specific players if you are using something like them.  In D&D, you can do the same thing with alignments- each player gets to play an alignment, and you the GM can designate goals for each alignment in each adventure.  Give these Icons or Alignments some sort of points they can give to push control over PCs.

That's me musing over it right away; I think Wield has kickstarted something in my head at least.


Thanks for reading!  Reading Materials are my review-style articles: I explain my opinions on a thing I've read, then I try to explain my first musings on the subject.  Comments are welcome, unless they promote bigotry.  Good ideas are praised, while bad ideas are ignored.  Great ideas are stolen outright.  See you around the bend...

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Find the Path: The 3x3

The 3x3
This is a perversion of the original 3x3x3 that Cortex and Firefly first used.  This is intended to generate NPCs for a campaign as part of character generation.  Each player will have 6 NPC cards.  I've dropped Contacts from the selection, preferring to focus on the two subjects player's will care more about: Rivals and Allies.

On all six of these cards a player needs to list their name.  After a "-" they should note what kind of NPC this is, Rival or Ally.  Each player can define two of the following for each NPC: A Name, their Character's Relationship with them (in one or two words), or one truth about them.  If they want, they can also write down which Icon that NPC is associated with.  Not everyone is associated with a particular Icon, but some PCs might want specific allies and rivals as their connections to particular Icons.

Remember, there needs to be room left for other players after you're done with your part with it.

After everyone has detailed their very first Ally, everyone hands one of that to the player to their left.  When a player receives another player's Ally, they need to first list their name on the card some where.  Next, they need to decide- is this an ally, rival or a contact of theirs as well?  If so, list that next to their name on the card.

That player will also have the chance to play this NPC against the player who created it- if the NPC is around, most likely the GM will hand them their card and let them handle that NPC unless something important or story related is needed (even then, the GM may still just give that player the card and let it happen anyway).

That player also gets to define up to 3 truths about this NPC as well.

[An Aside: What is a Truth?
A Truth is one true thing about a NPC.  It can be somewhat broad, but always should be precise in scope.   You are defining a single thing about the NPC, which is always true, but not necessarily always "known."]

This process is repeated until each PC has at least 3 allies and rivals.  This is a great step for players to continue building connections with one another.  Each NPC should have a player assigned as RP'er, and each NPC should have some of it's background generated by another PC.

This should help to create a NPC web around the PCs, which always is handy.  And most of it should be player generated, helping give them some buy in.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Reading Materials: Unframed, from Engine Publishing

Unframed is a GM/gaming book from Engine Publishing, part of the same outfit as Gnome Stew.  It's the fifth system neutral book intended for helping GMs and players.  Unframed focuses on improv.  It's filled with essays on improvisation, each providing a different insight.

My personal style as a Game Master and player leans heavily on improvisation.  As such, I wanted more tips and ideas for encouraging roleplaying and improvisation.  And that's what I got from Unframed.

A key part of improvisation is a sort of confidence game.  You are trying to get others to believe you, while leaving yourself open to a degree.  Key to good roleplaying is a sacrifice of dignity to a degree: player characters are both audience and writers.  Improv helps with that, and it can help the game's depth.

Unframed is helpful, but still requires a interest in that kind of RPG.  Of late, the classic Narrative vs Gamist debate of RPGs has re-emerged, a perennial debate where one's preferences are central to a vitriolic clash of views on story RP vs gaming tactics.  I think it's better to remember how best to have fun; for me and some others, we enjoy the RP over the game part.  

In fact, I prefer GMing only because as a player I tend to feel restricted.  Roleplaying my character tends to get stopped or halted to accerate toward the next encounter.  My RP gets stalled, or ultimately has no impact on the game as a whole.  At least as GM I feel satisfied with my improv and RP.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Find the Path: Alignments as Icons

Santa Vaca is something John Wick posts about, often ideas on modifying the rules of D&D for more story than mechanics. Here's a suggestion I have, and how alignments relate to Crux, since its the most prominent in my mind.  The Pathfinder end of Crux uses Alignments more inspired by Eberron or Arcanis to a degree- alignment isn't predictable, and religions aren't bound by only one alignment.  Anyone or any faith could be of any alignment.

So most of the normal restrictions on alignment become based on personal choice, not some moral choice on a macro level.

John Wick's article talks about alignments reflecting Powers.  So he makes a suggestion for use of a alignment subsystem and stuff.  I'm not going to riff off that necessarily.  Instead, here is my alt subsystem: Alignments as Icons (or at least heavily borrowing from the idea).  Rather than track or maintain how much you stick to your alignment, this system instead helps generate some story based off what alignment you've put yourself in.

Like Wick's system, you get points to spend in Alignments.  Unlike that system, these represent the Powers of Alignment, but players can only invoke them at dramatic times or they get rolled at the beginning of a session.  For each point you have in a alignment, one d6 is rolled.  On a 5, that alignment is involved and will help you overcome or find a solution to a situation.  On a 6, the same happens, except there is a consequence to it.

Unlike with Icons, an alignment's influence in a situation is to provide solutions and help that fall within their purview.  If Good is involved, that means you get help from someone doing Good or are presented with a chance to do something good, that also leads to you getting help or a clue of some kind.  If Evil, instead someone kills or something dark that helps you- or you are given the chance to kill someone who'll have the critical information you need.  And so forth.

The idea is to have the alignments steer some of the kinds of encounters that are going on.  If players drift a bit darker, this system gives them encounters that reward that dark behavior.  It also could reward a character for being lawful or chaotic or whatnot... Overall, its a tool to help define some plot or story elements based on player choice, like Icons do.

Outside Applications
Also, like Alignment itself, you can retool this for any game outside of Pathfinder or D&D.  Fate Core for example, could let you have this sort of subsystem or the traditional Alignment system.  Of course, for Fate Core, each Alignment could be System-wide Aspects, invocable like any other aspect.

Lawful could be invoked to help create advantages tied to traditions or laws, or it could help reveal obscure traditions.  It also could be compelled to cause a player to be inflexible on a issue, taking a conservative stance at a time where flexibility could be valued more.  They surrender to the City Watch, being honest and obeying authority where others might choose to flee, for example.

City of Curses: Alt Race, the Cecaelia

I never thought to make the Cecaelia a major race of the setting, but within Crux itself... welp, the Cecaelia within Crux itself are certainly an option.

Alt Race: Cecaelia
Cecaelia are a race of humanoids, whose lower halves are Octopi, eight tentacles.  Their coloration tends to vary.  Cecaelia are an offshoot of early Aboleth experiments on humans; they prefer their isolation, only developing clutches based around particular prominent witches.  The Cecaelia Witches in Ith have citizenship, using their underwater talents to aid Ithic trade and research.  The Cecaelia tend against socializing with outside races.
All Cecaelia have can be compelled to experience pain or dehydration due to their water-biased natures.  Even though they are amphibious to a large extent, they still can't live for too long term out of water without experiencing problems.  Thus, all Cecaelia have this weakness stunt, Sea-Breather: they take 1 stress each time they refuse a compel to return to water.
Aspects: Child of the Sea Coven; Octopus-Human Hybrid; "Deep Enough Below, All You Find are Shadows"; Eight-Tentacled Loner; Cecalia Treasure Diver;
Cecaelia Sea Witch: You can use Cecaelia in place of Sorcery for the purposes of casting spells.
Cephlapod Strider: You can use Cecaelia in place of Athletics for swimming, and you gain a +1 bonus whenever you use Cecaelia to Quickly swim.
Ink Bladder: When you use Cecaelia to make the Ink Cloud or similiar advantage on someone, you can always actively oppose any overcome rolls to get rid of the ink, even if you're not there.(Normally, if you weren't there, the character would roll against passive opposition, making it a lot easier to escape.)
Skill: Cecaelia.  
The Cecaelia skill covers all information on Cecaelia culture, and work as a managing skill for things specific to their anatomy- like their ability to swim, their ink bladder, etc.

Class Stunts
Another thing I plan to do more of is a series of Stunts that at narrow and flavored to match various classes in Pathfinder I think.  Here are some witch-themed stunts:

Witch's Familiar: You have a familiar given to you by the Patron that has granted you your magical powers.  A Familiar is an extension of yourself, so it uses the same skills as you.  It has a single aspect, two physical stress boxes and two mental stress boxes.  Whenever you cast a spell that creates an advantage for you, your familiar can use any boost or advantage you have.  Whenever you reach a milestone, you can choose to give your familiar a stunt.

Example: Muffins.  Aspect: Inquisitive Octopus-Penguin. Physical Stress: [ ][ ]; Mental Stress: [ ][ ]

Sea Witch: As long as you are near a sizable body of water, you always know which way is north.

Hexer: Whenever you create an advantage with a spell, if that spell is a hex or a curse, you can spend a fate point to turn into a moderate consequence instead.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

City of Curses: Crime and Crux's Laws

Crime, Law and Punishment
Despite the larger organized criminal networks in Crux, a number of much smaller gangs flitter around as well.  Areas like the Grand Bazaar or Poorfellows are unclaimed as turf for the Prince or The Demon's Orphans.  These others are small-timers, usually unsorcerous resorting to illegal tactics in order to survive.

These gangs often have a racial or ethnic component to them.  Tomasi brotherhoods and sisterhoods with long histories that compete with immigrant gangs from Othebea and Ainesia.  They stick to smaller, petty crimes- often protection rackets, gambling, prostitution and theft.  These small time gangs also stick to their neighborhoods.  They like to claim some sort of benelovence,  seeing themselves as protectors of their slums against more impersonal criminals, holding to a street form of honor.

The Law
When Ith took control of Crux from Othebea, one aspect of the law they changed was the right of justice.  In Othebea and some other states, the Right of Justice grants certain classes and individuals the right to judge and pass legal judgements over others.  It used to be a right the Eternal order of the Eagle and the Crow would use to detain and execute criminals, often at the behest of the Archbishop in Crux.  These days, Crux follows the laws set down by the Ith government: Citizens get a trial by jury.  Otherwise, the law will not protect your interests.

The Sorcerous within Crux do have to obey certain laws themselves.  The Agreements outline specific spells, artifice and magic items that are restricted.  Any spell known to cause havoc or destruction are outlawed outright.  It's hard in practice to enforce, and there isn't a precise listing.  

Spells such as Fireball or Earthquake are obvious cases.  Other spells are harder to categorize.  Animate Dead would seem to be nonviolent, but is illegal in Crux except for use on the corpses of Androids or animals.  Any spell the replicates shapeshifting is legal, while Lycanthropic shapeshifting isn't.

Curses are a even more gray case.  Despite the auras and other evidence present, most times Curses are perfectly legal.  Often Crux punishes criminals through such curses itself.  Civil suits can be leveled against the casters of curses, unless they are unsorcerous, but there is no crime on the books for casting a curse that doesn't directly cause property damage.

The right if a trial by jury extends to even the unsorcerous.  However, the number of cases that end in their favor tend to be few.  Everyone, however, feels the brunt of punishment regardless of Sorcerous ability.

Most criminals serve time on Perdition Hill or they face some sort of curse cast by a court appointed Mage.  Curses vary by the scope of the crime.  In theory, citizens come have their sorcery stripped from them via such a court appointed curse.  In practice, most curses never remove a spell casters ability to spell cast.

Curses will fit the crime.  If you crippled a person, your legs are cursed into jelly.  If you stole money, you'll be cursed blind.  If you are a man who rapes a woman, you are cursed into one and forced into community service for a time.

Of course, the courts of Crux are as corrupt as the City Watch at times.  Judges can be bought or sold, and more than few are in the pockets of particular icons, especially the Prince's.

Monday, October 6, 2014

City of Curses: Police in Crux

Ok.  A little bit on the police in Crux, their uniforms and means.  And one or two mechanical bits for Fate Core and PF people interested in #Crux.  So far, so good I think.

Crux Metropolitan Police, City Watch and the Skull Guard.
One of the more byzantine parts of Crux is its police forces.  Although the concept of a civil police force is relatively new, the city has always had some sort of armed force maintaining law on the streets.  Of course, almost always any City Watch or Skull Guard were also in the pocket of somebody, and never worked purely to maintain the Law.

Crimsonspire: The Crux Metropolitan Police
The creation of the Metropolitan Police was done against the will of the civil government of Crux altogether.  The government of Ith created the Metropolitan Police.  Because the Commissioner and most of the Metropolitan Police work out of Crimsonspire in Havershill, the organization tends to get known as Crimsonspire by most.

The Metropolitan Police has some restrictions on it and how it can work within Crux.  They have been banned from performing actual investigations- instead they are only allowed to enforce law and detain others for crimes they actively observe.  In reaction, the Commissioner of Police maintains a secret, illegal detective agency within Crimsonspire.

The Metropolitan Police wear gray uniforms.  Their badges are blazoned with the seal of Ith: a pentagram of fire, water, earth, air and spirit bound around a eye of gold and silver.  All Metropolitan police are also issued some form of firearm, but are required to pay for their own arms.

The City Watch
The first policing force of Crux, the City Watch were created by the Prince and the city council millennia ago.  The City Watch enforces all the municipal laws of Crux.  Of course, it's also the most corrupt police force in Crux.

The pocket that City Watch tend to belong to tends to be the Prince and his criminal organization.  The City Watch has control over the management of the Port of Crux, often overlooking specific cases of smuggling or other illicit trafficking.  Of course, not all City Watch follow the same line.  Some will work for the Archwitch.

The City Watch uniforms tend to vary, although most often it is some form of blue.  Almost all City Watch have steel badges.  Each badge bears the seal of Crux itself: a skull on a cross.  All city watch have to provide for their own uniforms and arms- but are paid barely enough to get by.  Yet most City Watch can afford masterwork arms and expensive uniforms.  Bribes and other illicit means keep the City Watch fed.

The Skull Guard
The Skull Guard are a policing force located on the Skullmount.  They were created two centuries ago by Othebea, when that nation took control of Crux.  Tasked originally with maintaining strict controls over magical study and research at the university, the Skull Guard have evolved into the campus security.  They don't answer to the Chancellor of the University, however, a long standing point that the university has been trying to change since their formation.

Many university students know that the Skull Guard aren't as corrupt as the City Watch, but they are biased.  Some of the Skull Guard can be bought off, but others feel strong loyalty to the main reasons they were created: to keep tabs on some of the actions of the university as a whole.  The Skull Guard still is managed mostly by the Church of the Twins, even enforcing some older policies that the Chancellor disagrees with to this day.

Skull Guard wear white and black uniforms, emblazoned the skull symbol and seal of the university.  Skull Guard live and work out of homes in Old Crux, and always have to commute into the campus each day.  The Skull Guard use no lethal weapons of any kind, instead relying on a mix of unarmed abilities and specializing in identifying arcane or bizarre occurrences.  The Skull Guard is trained to handle the strange happening of the University, but can't always determine with certainty the best course of action.  So the Skull Guard often will hire adventurers to investigate cases beyond its understanding or skill.

Of course, the Chancellor and professors will also hire their own investigators.  Because the Skull Guard remain outside his control, the Chancellor looks for others to double-check them.  He and other professors also look for those more willing to support... more controversial subjects the Skull Guard would otherwise stop.

New Trait: Constable (Pathfinder)
No matter which force you belong to, you've been trained as a Constable- someone who enforces the law.  You always know the law or city ordinances, and can name them off the top of your head.  You also know whose beat a particular part of town is- you can name the officer, which police force they belong to, and know a bit about them.  In addition, you gain a +2 bonus on Initiative checks so long as its out in the streets or in pursuit of a criminal.

Fate Core: New suggested Class Aspects: Crimsonspire DetectiveMetropolitan Constable;  City Watch Constable on the TakeSkull Guard Constable;

New Stunt: Constable: No matter which force you belong to, you've been trained as a Constable- someone who enforces the law.  You always know the law or city ordinances, and can name them off the top of your head.  You also know whose beat a particular part of town is- you can name the officer, which police force they belong to, and know a bit about them.


Thanks for reading!  Comments are appreciated, so long as they aren't promoting bigotry.  Good ideas are praised, bad ideas ignored and great ideas stolen outright.  See ya around the bend...

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Center Cannot Hold: The Diva (Pathfinder Paladin Archetype)

The Diva: A Paladin Order

The Divas are the holy paladins of the Singer of the Song, devoted to spreading goodworks through the act of entertainment.  All Divas blend aspects of Bards and Paladins, using music and performance to inspire others to become better than they are.  All Divas always dress and appear as beautiful women.  The favored icon of the Divas is the Voice, whom many in the order regard as their leader.

Pathfinder Paladin Archetype: The Diva

Beautiful Women: Divas do not have a lawful alignment requirement.  Instead, all Divas need to have dress and act as beautiful women- a tradition that doesn't care what your actual birth gender is.  As the Divas have both male as well as female members, they don't care about the sexual orientation of their members.  The nature of the actual archetype requires the appearance of a fair woman to unlock its abilities.  If the paladin isn't in the proper appearance, they lose their class features until that is rectified.
Detect Evil: Divas lose this class feature altogether.
Singular Beauty: Divas can add their Charisma modifier to their Fortitude and Reflex saving throws.  In addition, Divas can add half their character level to Perform checks.
Replaces Divine Grace.
Holy Performance: Divas gain the Bardic Performance ability of a Bard.  They never gain the bardic music abilities of Countersong or Distraction, however.  Instead, they add Disappearing Act and Healing Performance to the list of Bardic Performance they can use.
Replaces Lay on Hands and Mercy.
Bardic Magic: A Diva adds the following spells to the list of spells they can cast: 1st-Charm Person, Chord of Shards, Detect Evil; 2nd-Distracting Cacophony, Glitterdust, Silence, Suggestion 3rd-Clairaudience/Clairvoyance, Good Hope, Exquisite Accompaniment, Haste, Reviving Finale, Thunderous Drums, Discordant Blast; 4th-Archon's Trumpet, Greater Bladed Dash, Greater Shout, Hymn of Peace, Joyful Rapture, Mass Suggestion, Stunning Finale

Diva Rumors
The Fallen Singer: Some claim that a the most recent killer stalking the streets of Poorfellows is a Diva, singing her victims to their death.  The Divas find themselves facing public hostility as more and more victims are found dead, blood from their ears.  They look for someone or anyone who can find and prove that their order isn't tied to the brutal murders.
The Protest: Divas are helping the Voice to organize a protest for the Unsorcerous on Palace Hill.  But efforts are being made behind the scenes to twist and pervert the protest.  The characters find themselves turned unwittingly into helping turn the peaceful protest into a full blown riot- can they overcome the Fervor and stop the riot?