Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Random Thought: Reflections on 2015

The mind wanders sometimes.  The sky doesn't abate.  It just is.  The earth doesn't stop.  It just is.  But the mind?  It wanders.

It creates things from nothing.  Somethings from nothing.  That's the art of the mind.  The Naming Mind makes things out of nothings.  The imagination crystallizes concepts from nothing into being.  Time is one of those things.  It doesn't exist, except where the mind has imagined it.

Another year has past.  Yet the mind imagines that.  The sky and the earth don't care.  Time doesn't bug them.  The mountain doesn't think, perhaps that's why it seems to beautiful to us.

Thoughts On 2015


Well, another year hasn't past.  Not yet.

We still got a few days left.

It's easy to think of New Years as a time of regrets for me.  Add on top of that the failures of humanity.  Wars.  Corruption.  Corporations. Climate change.  The mad stupidity humanity seems to run towards.  Things always seem like they could be falling apart.

Yet... I don't really agree.

It's easy to give into my doubts.  To think my stories and art mean nothing.  After all, I'm the naming mind mentioned up above.

Over the centuries, humanity has managed to hone and rid itself of a number of ills.  Yes, antibiotics might no longer be useful.  In a few years, our medical science might be unable to stop some epidemics.  Yet we've managed to eliminate a number of them.  Even with lunatics being anti-vaccine these days, we still are on the verge of a new universe of medical breakthroughs.  The applications of research because of the human genome project still are finding new tools that'll open up more and more amazing avenues.

Climate change is acidifying the oceans.  It's raising the global temperature and we don't know how.  By the same hook, through, 2015 saw us make actual global steps to working on that.  Maybe we'll have serious problems because of it.  But it seems we are trying to work together despite the moneyed interests trying to stall it.

Copyright law has more or less left our culture stagnant.  The internet keeps putting this to the proverbial test.  Piracy on the Net will continue to exist I think.  Truly interesting new work on the Net violates copyright on the face of it: game streams.  I'm not saying the system is going down, but the line has already blurred.  We aren't getting characters put into the public domain yet.  But on the other hand, I think there might be a new age of cultural ideas entering the public domain.

Wars have gone down in number.  Despite terrorism and gun violence, human deaths due to violence still aren't as high as they once were.  People got upset over a lion dying in Africa this year... which is worth note, considering we once thought lions fighting things to the death was a valid form of entertainment.

Humanity isn't a graven, horrid monster.  We're doing better.  We could be better faster.  But sometimes you need to note what changes have happened before you write down all of the mistakes.

Me in 2015

So I'm not trying to be down on myself.  2015 didn't see that many big things happen from me.  But Crux got a lot bigger.  I started a novel/series, which I plan to get back to in my next post (InTransitMonsters).  I wrote a fair bit of flash fiction, although a lot of it ended up set in Crux.  I revised one short story (Black Friday) and wrote some new ones altogether (Holiday, Iron Justice).  I tried to start a comic or two, but none of them ended up anywhere.

My home game of Crux felt like it had a stellar year, becoming one of the longest RPG campaigns I've ever run.

My artwork feels like it hit a new plateau.  It felt like it got better.

I also visited two places: Spokane, Washington and Anaheim, California.  I walked them.  It's easy to say "I know a place."  But you only really know a place after you've walked it.  Seen how people do their regular day in it.

I never thought of writing them on here.  This blog is mostly my musings and ramblings.  It's not about me.

2015 I added a bunch more to this blog.  2016, I want to continue the trend of me rambling.  And possibly finish a few things.

There are some secret projects.  Maybe I can get those done too.  

Monday, December 28, 2015

Holiday 3 (A Short Story of Regrets in the Year 2100)

Here is part 3 of #Holiday.  Zara Gates must deal with being alone on #Christmas, in the year 2100.  It's a #shortstory of regrets, and how Zara has to deal with how she's gotten there.  This is the last part.  If you enjoyed it, great!  Please share it.  If you have suggestions to improve it, those are welcome too.  ;)

This story is an attempt to address loneliness and depression during this time of year.  If you have suicidal thoughts or that sort of dark emotions, there are people who can help you online to deal with that.  Don't think you have to suffer.  
Part 1 | Part 2

Holiday Part 3.

Zara walked out of the Crossway in Helena at sunset.  Christmas eve.  Every breath foggy she exhaled felt ragged.

She didn't bother with turning on her cochlears.  She just wandered around outside the Crossway station.  She didn't know what she was supposed to do.  She'd never spent a Christmas alone.  There always had been someone.

Lingering bitterness about Paul came back to her too.  "Why did I live so long?"

Zara didn't cry.  Not in public.  Not in Helena.  It was a strange city.  Nothing like how she remembered it forty or more years ago.  Buildings and things that Zara didn't recognize.  Apps would guide her to her hotel.

But she didn't want to go to her hotel.  Zara's stomach stung.  She wasn't hungry.  The tears wouldn't stop trying to come out.

Her blind wandering and stumbling ended when Zara took stock of where she'd been going.  She looked down.  And down.  Three stories high above black pavement.  The older woman dropped to her knees.  She put both hands on either side of the building's edge.

"No."  Zara told herself.  This wasn't her.  She shouldn't even have been able walk to a ledge like this.

Cars and foot traffic moved about below unaware of her.  Not much.  Most people still seemed to stay indoors.  This weather wasn't the cold she remembered as a child.  But something about the growing dark of night, it cut to the bone just much as it did when she was younger.

Zara's eyes blurred with tears.

"I don't want to do this.  I'm healthy, I'm alive... I'm..."

Maybe that was the center of it.  Who would care if she did die?  Why was she working so hard to live?  Paul never got to have that.  Zara couldn't remember what he looked like.  The image the net had of him looked foreign to her.

"That was my fault."  She told herself.  "Why didn't I move up here to be with my brother?"

No one answered it.

"I've locked myself alone for so long."  Zara looked down at her wrinkled hands.  She still would have worked, if she could find someone willing to hire an old woman like herself.  "But why?"

Zara watched the people below.  She didn't have anyone left.  Her friends had long married, moved or died on their own.

She climbed to the edge of the building.  A breeze drifted by, pushing her away from it.  She shivered.  She closed her eyes.

"I just want a white christmas."  Zara told herself.  "I just want a white Christmas-"

Zara looked back down.  A child's scream caught her attention.  A little girl, no more than five or maybe six, was sobbing on the sidewalk below.  People walked around her.  Zara recognized that look.  The lonesome tears.

"Mommy?!"  The girl cried.  Zara winced at the tone.

"Mooooommmy!"  The girl cried again.  She fell down at the edge of the sidewalk.  Her little blue coat looked like it had been soaked by the puddles and slush of the too-warm winter.

Zara closed her eyes and stepped away from the edge of the building.  She listened to the crying little girl.

"Ari?"  A woman's voice replied.  "You're soaking wet!  What happened?"

"Mommy- I tried to make a snowball and fell into the puddle."  The little girl sniffed.  "I feel cold."

The woman chuckled a bit.  Zara watched the woman take the girl's hand.  The two walked off, down the street.

That girl wants snow, Zara thought.  She doesn't know what it was like.  We took that away from her.

Zara's eyes stayed on them, until they disappeared into the cold night.  Snowflakes of a sort began to drift from the sky above.  The older woman thought about the edge of the building again.

Zara made a decision.  She went back to where it was warm.

She didn't know how she was going to make that Christmas happen.  But Zara was certain she could give a stranger somewhere a Christmas.  Maybe one like the ones she remembered.  Maybe that would get rid of the cold she felt in her heart.

"A white Christmas."  Zara told herself.  "Just like the ones we used to know."

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Holiday Part 2 (A Short Story Of Regrets In the Year 2100)

Here's part 2 of Holiday.  Set in the 2100, this is the #shortstory of a #Christmas an elderly woman, Zara Gate spends alone- the time when the cold cuts harder is when you have no one to share the holiday with.  A story about regrets and how one deals with a Xmas alone, the regrets of things both personal and grand.  If you enjoyed any bit of this tale, let me know!  Please share and I'm always glad to find ways to improve on these things.

Beginning of the Story | Part 3

Holiday, Part 2
It took a few moments of silence before the male nurse's voice spoke up.

"My apologies ma'am... I'm sorry for your loss.  He died in his sleep, so it had been painless."

The voice just echoed in Zara's mind.  Little Mark dead in his sleep.  Her body shook.

"I...  That's..."  Zara stumbled over her words.

"Well, if there is anything you need, Miss Gates, you can reach me-"

Zara ended the call.  She couldn't listen to anymore of it.  She closed her eyes.  How could you do this to me?  Zara thought.

No.  I'm no spring chicken myself.  Is it because he's my little brother?  Of course it was.  He was her only remaining family.

"Why?"  Her eyes filled with tears.  "This all ties back to that night with Paul.  Another Christmas without snow."



The car ride back then had been so exciting for Zara.  After years overseas, she and Paul had finally gotten back to the states.  They were going home to Montana.  She couldn't wait to see how things would go.

Things were going to be perfect.

"Hmm."  Zara murmured.

"Really?"  Paul replied.  "You've had a nonstop grin on your face this entire trip."

Zara gave him a sleepy look as he drove.  "A White Christmas, Paul.  We haven't had one yet."

"Well..."  Paul shrugged.

The jeep crested over the white and glimmering Rockies.  The snowfall was too light for Montana, but it still was snowfall.  Paul pulled the jeep into a overlook part of the highway.

"We aren't supposed to stop yet."  She looked over at Paul.  "This isn't Glacier yet."

Paul looked down.  He gestured at the mountains around them.  "Look in the glove compartment, Z."

Zara tilted her head at him.  Tired, she didn't like it when he pulled tricks like this.  Her heart raced a bit.  She knew it could be certain something.  That made her panick.

She opened the compartment.  Zara pulled out the tiny velvet case.  She flipped it open.  Then she snapped it shut.

"Zara.  We've dated and done all sorts of things off and on these last few years.  Fighting climate change on the ground level, I guess."  Paul coughed.  "This is my Christmas present for you.  I promise to-"

"No."  Zara whispered.

"What?"  Paul looked at Zara.  He looked confused.  Lovesick.

Zara shook her head.  "I mean, I can't.  Not now, Paul."

"What do you mean, not now?  We're visiting your family.  We're two young people in love-"

"-which is why I need to think about it."  Zara finished.  She looked over to the snow drifting in the distance.  Such a gorgeous view.  Why couldn't she just say yes?  What made her hesitate?

"Why?"  Paul sighed.  "IDK.  Maybe I shouldn't ask that."

"I..."  Zara bunched up her shoulders.  "I don't know if I want a family, Paul.  I should be happy and- why did you spring this on me like this?  On the way to spend Christmas with my folks?  We're going to be seeing them in a few hours.  Why would you put me in this position?"

"I was trying to be romantic."

"I don't need a idiot male to romance me."  Zara's tone came off sharper than she meant to.  She winced at the acid in her words.

"Fine."  Paul shifted the jeep back into drive.  He took them back onto the highway.  "This idiot male will do his best to shut up for the rest of the trip."

"Paul, please don't be that-"

"Fine, Z."  Paul gave her a irritated look.  "Just let me-"

He didn't finish his words.  Paul didn't see the truck as it slammed into them.  Their fight caused him to drift over into the other lane.

Despite the snow, Zara didn't consider that a white Christmas.  She walked away.  Paul never got to see how bad that Christmas ended up.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Holiday Part 1 (A Short Story Of Regrets In the Year 2100)


Holiday is a #Shortstory I've decided to do for the sake of Xmas.  #Christmas in the year 2100, as an elderly woman rides a superfast train to see her only remaining family- a reflection on the desolation of the world she's grown old with, and a reflection on the regrets her own decisions have made for her.

Holiday


Zara blinked her weary eyes open.  She could see the shining crags of the Rockies and the fresh green of trees below.

"Two hours by Crossway."  Zara told herself.  "I'm too old for this."

Christmas.  She rode the Crossway so she could spend Christmas with her only living family.  Her brother.  She hadn't seen him since the year prior.  The only reason for me to leave home.

My eye gazed through the transparent wall of the Crossway.  The faster-than-a-bullet train kept throttling toward Helena.  We were passing over Glacier National Park.  What used to be Glacier National Park.  There were no glaciers down there.  The grey and burnt pines looked lonely below the Crossway.

The wildfire. Zara thought.  I remember worrying about it burning across Montana.  Everything looks so desolate.

Zara had visited Glacier back as a child.  That had been such a long time ago.  She ignored the automated voices announcing facts about Glacier.  They would stop there for a few minutes before continuing onward to Helena.

She'd know it couldn't have touched Helena.  Zara mourned the loss of another large chunk of Montana's wild beauty.  It felt her childhood had burned.  Those precious few moments of early aughts and teens, back when everything felt gigantic.  The magic burned along away with the ashes in her reflection.

Zara could see her own reflection in the glass of the Crossway.  The superfast rail flowed above the ground.  Zara roughly understood that the Crossway used superconductors and a vacuum tube.  It accelerated faster than car or train travel.  No one drove by car anymore.

Desolation.  The landscape through the glass mirrored her reflection.  White hairs and wrinkled, freckled cheeks.  Old scars on one cheek from being overseas so long ago.  Zara winced at her own image.  She couldn't afford the youth-restoring anti-geriatrics she'd seen others use.  Every bit of her eight-five years seemed to appear in each shadow in the burnt trees of Glacier.

"Christmas without Snow."  Zara said aloud.  She wished a bit for the cold wet snow she remembered from her youth.  When winters weren't just wet, but white.  Her worst Christmases always were the ones that weren't white.

Snow.  Zara closed her eyes, trying to remember what this might've looked like with snow, not ashes.  Ashes.  All her eight-five years, it always had been ashes never snow.



"It's Christmas."  Zara had told Paul.  "Don't you want to have a little snow?"

The young man smiled at her.  The warm tropical, salty air had made his hair look like a tangled mess.  "Z, only you would come to indonesia looking for snow."

"Hey." Zara shoved him over playfully as she grabbed another bag to unload.  "I know what I signed up for.  It's Christmas, Paul."

"You miss the snow then?"  Paul asked.

"You're a Portland kid."  Zara said, pushing the young red hairs out of her eyes.  "You're used to rain.  I grew up with snow in December.  Seems unfair to be out here with so little.  I mean, I know it's silly, but wouldn't a bit of snow at least make it feel better?"

Paul grimaced.  "I know.  This isn't enough."

"They don't need more food, Paul.  Or even snow."  Zara sighed.  "A little snow, I guess.  Just a bit of a sign the whole world hasn't forgotten charity and goodwill you know?"

Paul put her arms around her.  "I know.  Just like those white Christmases we used to know, huh?"

"Rich folks get those."  Zara murmured.  "Seawalls too.  They get to keep their homes while the rest drown."



Zara's eyes flickered open.  Her phone vibrated in her coat pocket.  Others on the Crossway didn't even notice her.  Of course they didn't.

No one under the age of fifty was around her.  Not that Zara could tell the difference.  They'd all adopted Tele.  The constant stream of data coming from an implant.  All the younger people around her looked catatonic.  Like zombies.

But maybe that was how her parents felt about smartphones when she was a little girl.

"Uh... hello?"  Zara asked.

"Hi.  Is this Missus Gates?"

"Miss."  Zara corrected.

"'Cuse?"

Zara held back a sigh.  "This is Zara Gates.  I'm not married.  It's 'miss'."

"Oh."  There was a confused pause before the younger man's voice continued.  "Well, the automated system wasn't able to reach you in the night, so it alerted me to call you..."

"Okay."  Zara waited.  Then after a moment, frustrated, Zara asked.  "About what?"

"Oh, right.  Sorry, uh, Miss... Gates... This is Paradise Suites in Helena Montana?  Your brother had been a resident of ours."  The younger man coughed.  "Something happened in the night."

No.  Zara thought.  Oh nonononono.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Reading Materials: Five Great Books (2015)

Owing to being sick, I missed my Friday post.  And almost missed Monday's too.  So, here it is.  
I've read a bunch this year.  A eternal part of me always trying to learn something more before moving onto the next.  I read print and listen to audiobooks.  This year wasn't much different.  I've gone through a huge variety.  And in previous Reading Materials I've touched on books I've read this year.  Still, here are the five ones that I liked most.  This isn't ordered, nor are all of these "2015" books.

Regardless, this is meant help me to at least order my thoughts on them.  Lists seem to be in fashion this time of year, so why not go about this in list fashion?

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison.

Generic fantasy that sort of hit a itch I didn't know I wanted scratched.  I say generic, but the Goblin Emperor kind of felt like it's own unique journey of a book.  I found myself enamored by its anxious protagonist.

Also intriguing was how the book approached the many traditions and manners of a aristocratic crout.  Conflicts tend to involve how the main character flubs or has to approach particular things.  What I liked was the political depths that came with each decision made.  Even better when the character grew into his own, at least showing confidence.  Not action-packed, but you don't have to be.

Apocalypse World by D. Vincent Baker.

An RPG rulebook.  Yep.  Those count for this list.

This is on the my list.  I'd been meaning to read Apocalypse World for a few years now.  I've tended to be scared of reading new systems, because often that's how I draw myself into wanting to run them.  Apocalypse World, though, is enlightening for Game Mastering on its own.  Apocalypse World is very much the kind of book you don't need to prep for.  In fact, that seems run against the very concept of it.  I should do a more in depth essay on my opinions of it.

Regardless, I've already found ideas in it I'm more than happy to use.  Always love it when a RPG does that without me having to run it to get use from it.


Aeronaut's Windlass by Jim Butcher

Jim Butcher's two previous series, the Dresden Files and the Codex Alera, sort of are this drug I engage in from time to time.  Butcher is the kind of author whose books you don't easily put down.  Page turners.  Aeronaut's Windlass is steampunk, and as I've mentioned previously, I loved how he handled a large cast.

But the part that sold me on the book, and kept coming back to it, were the mad characters.  Folly, especially.  The idea of a magical system wherein your mind cracks in order to work it has been done before.  But Folly presents a mad practitioner who wants to help and protect others.  That and her name.  You name a magic-user steampunk setting character Folly?  Yeah, I'm in the backseat for that.

Debt: The First 5000 years by David Graeber

This anthropological look at debt and economies sort of changed my views on human relationships.  It very much points out flaws in the idea of a free market.  I would normally just ignore that and move on, but I was compelled by how it matched up with other books I've read about various human institutions and history.  Ideas like how every culture considers moneylending to be wrong.  Or the references to things I didn't know, like the idea of a Milk Debt.  The debt you owe your parents.

The book goes into deeper details on it, but the central idea is on debt.  Debt as the main force in human economies, even in our modern ones.  Fascinating read, especially for giving me insights I can later try to use for my own games and the like.

Hellboy In Hell by Mike Mignola.

More or less the only significant Hellboy I got to read in 2015.  Mignola is one of my major artistic influences.  Hellboy ranks up there as one of the most interesting sorts of tales to digest.  It isn't done by any means, but the Mignola's version of the Inferno is full of awesome.  Hellboy remains a stellar character, repeatedly having sticking to who he is, rather than be drawn down anyone else's path.

Stories about journeys into the underworld and hell always are enlightening.  They kind of help define what the universe is, in a way.  The Myth of Eurydice underlines the cruelty of Greek Gods, even at their most merciful.  Japanese mythology and the tale of Izanami and Izanagi paints a mythos wherein death is the result of a couple's failure to maintain their marriage (sort of, I'm interpreting here).  Christian mythos puts Christ as descending into Tartarus (not Hell- he's supposed to go into the Greek version of hell to free people.)  Seeing how Mignola interprets hell intrigues me after having enjoyed the dark universe of Hellboy for a very long time now.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Random Thoughts: Imaginary Places

In our stories and dreams, sometimes we think of places that aren't.  They don't exist.  But we humans have these strong collective mythologies.  We even craft physical embodiments of them in the real

I'm a monist.  I don't believe in the supernatural.  For me, these fictions are always that: fictions.  They don't exist.
world.  Places that mirror the imagined locales in our minds.

There is no such thing as a spirit of a place or thing.  There is no metaphysical entity that actually does the things that are done by such things.  They don't exist.

Yet we still require to alter the state of a place to fit the dreams we imagine.  What creatures are we, that such things need to be?  Why?

I've visited some of them.  There is something important about such things humans craft for the sake of dreams and whimsy.  Disneyland.  The Pyramids.  The Statue of Liberty.

I've also visited natural places.  Wild locales that seem unchained.  That same word crops up again: they have a spirit to them.  That's the rub.

The idea of a genius loci or kami of a place is important.  A spirit exists in these places.  An imaginary one.  Not a real one.  The difference is key: an imaginary spirit is a human metaphor for something.  The genius loci of a place is a metaphor for things we can't describe accurately.

We name them.  We give them epithets.  We even spend years of our lives dedicated to their upkeep.

Yet we can't quite grasp in words or art what exactly they mean to us.  But encapsulated in the idea of a spirit, we can carry across what we feel about a place.  Spirit do not exist.  But the cultural metaphor does.

Sometimes there is a spirit in a thing.  And using that word to articulate the notion that a place is something you can't quite describe, is fine.  More fittingly, I doubt you can truly capture some things without such metaphors.

As long as we believe they are important, that is what makes the spirit exist.  We give them the breath of life.  They are manifestations of us.  We are projecting our will through reality.  What we feel about a place, that is its spirit.

Sometimes you need to embrace it.  Relive the magic before you lose the thing that keeps you sane.  The madness of your very human imagination.

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Center Cannot Hold: The Icefolk

Here is a bit on the Jotnar Tribe of humans in #Crux.  They and Ice Giants have formed a society dominated by space-bending, teleporting witches.  In Bor, they've clashed with Ursyklon and the neighboring Jarn.  But with their unique magic and culture, they've got a cultural solidarity few other Human tribes can match.

The Jotnar or the Icefolk of Bor
I locked the door behind me.  I returned back to my book.  At least some diversion from the day I'd
been having.  Sometimes the City of Curses asks for more than you have to spare.  

I sat down, got comfortable.  I opened Of Blood And Prudence back to where I'd left off.  I didn't get to have more than a moment with it.

An owl hooted.  I looked up to see a white owl with glowing blue eyes perched atop my bookshelf.

"City of curses!  Where the hell did you come from?"  I didn't have a window open.  Everything should've been locked.

"Rarl."  A familiar voice came from my bedroom door. 

"No."  I shook my head.  "How did you get in here?"

A woman with blue dreadlocks and white furs stepped out from my bedroom.  One eye was blue, the other red.  Her brown skin hid behind a veil.  It left only her eyes visible.  The image of a gaping blue maw had been painted over it.  Her left hand glowed with a unearthly light.

"Rarl."  She repeated.  "You didn't answer my question.  One does not test the patience of one of the Zinka.  Have you ever heard of the Spirewitches of the Jotnar?  Walls mean nothing to me."

"I... I..."  I found myself confessing long before she attempted to repeat the question.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Center Cannot Hold: Faiths: Geministic Apostles

Tired.  This is shorter than I want it to be.  But it's a start on me thinking through how some of the different faiths work in #Crux.  The Church of the Twins is a diverse and popular faith.  This means it has plenty of different sects within it.

Apostles of the Twins


Sects of the Church of the Twins (Geminism) differ based on their founding messenger.  The Apostle who founds their sect serves as the source of their name.  Othebes, for instance, founded the Othebean branch of Geminism.  Apostles are sometimes recognized by other branches of the faith.  Some are seen as prophets of equal veneration.  Other sects treat different apostles as villains or antagonists.

Othebes

The Angel Othebes introduced Geminism to the lands that would later become the Divine Kingdom of Othebea.  The kingdom so venerated the angel that they named their nation after it.  Othebes created the monarchy, directly interfering with politics to drastically change Othebea.

The Othebean sect of the Faith uses the iconography of roses.  Orders like the Summer Flame and the Blood are Othebean.  They focus on the facets of childbirth and protection for the Summer Rose, death and mourning for the Black Rose.

Malkith

The Hound-Headed Devil Malkith introduced Geminism to the peoples of Maliph around the same time as Othebes.  Unlike Othebes, his veneration isn't the source of Maliph's name.  The name Maliph is a Rosac misinterpretation of the name Malkith, which Othebeans assumed was the same figure as Othebes.

Maliphi members of the Faith believe any sort of imagery distorts it.  They prefer the use of actual scripture rather than iconography.  Maliphi religious orders include the Assassins and the Child-Emirs.  The Assassins slay and kill, believing themselves to be the embodiment of the Black Rose's intent on the world.  The Child-Emirs call themselves the chosen of the Summer Rose, eternally young as child, yet old enough to obtain the wisdom of the aged.

Gaisa, Lady of the Towers

The Fey lady Gaisa appeared to the Sabizi of Rani five hundred years ago.  Unlike Othebes or Malkith, her version of Geminism never became the dominant faith of Rani.  Like many other faiths, Gaisa's teachings became part of the tapestry of Rani's diverse faiths.  The city of Gai in Rani takes its name from her.

Gaisan's believe the Twins to be lovers as well as sisters.  To live with them is to maintain the balance between death and birth, youth and age.  It is a faith about strong passions.  One must find their reflection.  Their soulmate.  The Gaisan monastic order of the Heartdancers reflects this.  They use charm magic and enchantments to bind people to one another, sometimes deleting memories they feel interfere in creating better relationships.  Such is the way of their dance.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

In Transit Monsters 29 (A Story of the Hecate Project)

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#InTransitMonsters is a #firstdraft #novel about Technology as Messiah.  Humanity is about to fall, and is forced to create monsters to save itself.  Can these giant monsters succeed, or will humanity's old ambitions damn the species to extinction?

Morgan Hobb (H minus One Day)

My footsteps echoed.  The concrete in the abandoned parking garage looked cracked.  Roots pierced the ceiling here and there.


I adjusted myself.  Choosing to be Morgan today sort of took less effort than the previous weeks.  It felt right.  But a part in the back of my mind still wondered:  Maybe I'd gotten used to it.  Or, maybe instead, I just wanted to be the man who fathered Charlie.

Damnit Ghale, I thought.  So angry at Miri, but still too scared to actually talk with our child.

Ghale always hesitated in her personal life.  Even having the abortion whacked her.  She didn't want to do it, and yet she convinced me it was the best thing.  I'd helped her make that decision.

You should never push someone off that cliff.  Not unless you feel like you can get used to that pain.

I had come to this old place to meet with an older friend.  Meeting in flesh codified the secrecy of it.  Online I could have a record of some sort.  An AI or a dozen could observe and take down anything said.  An old place like this, though.  It could be secured against the ever-present spying tech of Earth.

"Rebar in the concrete."  A voice called out.  "Stand still a moment."

"It's me."  I replied.  "And I know about the Faraday Cage."

"And if you remember the damned scanner, you'd shutup a second, too."  A annoyed voice retorted.  The voice sounded guttural, echoing from far off.

I paused a moment and waited.  Then there was a sharp ping that echoed through the old concrete labyrinth.

"Satisfied?"

"Yeah.  Hundred paces to your left."

I nodded and turned to my right.  After a hundred paces, I stopped.  Then I ripped a piece of grass and detritus near a hole in the ceiling.

"Hey!"  Rover yelped.  He blinked his one eye at me.  Irritated, he emerged from under the pile of grass and tarps he'd been hiding under.  "Y'know how to ruin an entrance, don't you?"

"Showboat."  I retorted.  "How are you?"

Rover blinked at me.  "Going with the penis these days?"

I kicked at Rover's shins.

"Yowch!"  Rover jumped away from me.  "Ok, ok.  Forgot to close my yap on that one."

"Feeling more like Morgan the last few weeks."  I crossed my arms.  The defensive tone surprised me.

"Moira.  You do make a great dame."  Rover scratched his chin.  "Always wondered about doin' it myself."

I rolled my eyes.  "Right.  Rover, enough bullshit."

"Bullshitin' half the fun of the job."  Rover looked around for a moment.  "Sometimes if I talk loud enough, the antidepressants actually work."

I gritted my teeth.  "You promised me some dirt on what's been going on with the Joiners, behind the scenes."

"That was a month ago."  Rover paused.  Then he nodded, almost as if to himself.  "This'll make you wish you had a stiff drink on hand."

"Stiff drink, check."  I rubbed my neck.  My implants weren't stinging.  "Skip to the details, rover."

"You need to stop watching so many vids."  Rover handed me a jump drive.  "It's pretty bad, M.  Them Joiners, they ain't like anyone thought.  Their leadership isn't there."

"Isn't there, as insane or what?"

"Isn't there, as in, not human."  Rover shook his head.  "It's all in there.  Not proof, but clues enough to convince me.  I've seen them before.  Back when I was in the service.  Daemons, several by the look of it."

"Daemons?" I blinked.  "But- that doesn't quite explain.  Most of the people involved in the Joiners can't know that kind of tech.  It's military or black market."

"Daemons."  Rover shook his head.  "That ain't the part that scares me, M.  These AI ain't acting right."

I looked up at him.  "They're AI, they aren't going to act human."

Rover closed his eyes.  "Ok, M, you didn't serve, and prolly never dealt with a Daemon.  I have.  They are like a psychic power in your head.  Telepathy and prescience wrapped into one.  You and your entire unit, acting in perfect coordination.  You don't have to think, because the AI has already predicted your moves.  You and the rest just act by that.

"These daemons, they are... IDK, they're fucking up alot.  Like, they are acting incompetent.   That's why they keep catching these folks, so easy."

"That..."  I shook my head.  "They must've programmed them to act that way.  That's the only explanation."

Rover shrugged.  "That's what I thought.  But, it doesn't explain their orders."

"Their orders?"  I blinked.  My belly did a flip flop.  "These daemons are receiving orders?"

"Yeah, M."  Rover waved a hand.  It pointed to the other.  Then he opened and closed it, miming a mouth talking.  "Left hand is chewing out the right.  Always checking and reseting them.  It's like the Daemons are looking for excuses to break from their orders."

I shook my head.  "Thats... Well, it's nothing I can use."

"Yeah.  AI hearsay."  Rover shrugged.  "Nothin' linking it to EpicVentures or this Martin guy you asked me about.  There are IP addresses in there, if you want to go dreamsnoppin' yourself."

"Right.  Thanks."  I turned to go.  Rover grabbed my shoulder.

"M?  Can I tell you somethin' honest?"

"What is it?"  I asked.

The old veteran's one eye watered.  "If you made up with your gal, go spend time with her.  This Hecate baloney isn't going to save us.  Them monsters and AI won't do the trick.  Our tech never does it.  Make good with your gal and your god."

He offered his hand.

"See you later Rover."  I told him.

"IDK on that.  Waiting for the end, it's..."  Rover waved his arms about.  "The bloody squids take their time.  Maybe they'll be kind and just skip to killin' us."

I left him.  I imagined my daughter.  I'd seen those images.  Miri had turned my daughter into one of those.  It didn't make me sick.  It made me want to worry for her.  Pride made me convinced she'd save us from the aliens.  But my mind remembered vets like Rover.

All our technology.  It never saved us.  All our hopes and plans failed too.

"Maybe it isn't the tool.  But the user."  I wondered aloud.  "Need a new kind of human, maybe Miri's right on that."

I hoped I wasn't lying to myself.

Monday, December 7, 2015

City of Curses: Nike the Younger (Flash Fiction)

Here is a bit of #Flashfiction from #Crux.  The City of Curses, told from the point of view of a cursed Ghostwalker.  Nike Pandoretzi, a Ghostwalker reaching the end of her years, makes a mistake.  It might cost her, in ways one might not think of as a cost.  

Glad to get some fiction out of my head for this sort of thing.  Hope you enjoy!  :D  Remember, Demonwalk is but around the corner!  

Please share if you enjoy, always looking for eyeballs for this sort of thing.


Friday, December 4, 2015

In Transit Monsters 28 (A Story of the Hecate Project)

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#InTransitMonsters is a #firstdraft #novel about Technology as Messiah.  Humanity is about to fall, and is forced to create monsters to save itself.  Can these monsters succeed, or will humanity's old ambitions damn the species to extinction?

Ghale (H-Day minus two days)


"Sometimes I wonder why anything comes out of my mouth at all."  Charlie told me.  She floated
beneath the catwalk.

My heart pounded at the familiar thought.

"Life is hard like that.  Not everyone can know what you are thinking."  I said.  "I'm sorry.  Charlie, I should- I didn't know that Miri had-"

Crunch.

My head spun to one end of the catwalk.  The dark metal at one end lurched.  My gaze locked onto a blue and white shape.  The long form wrapped itself around the catwalk.  The tranparent glass on the sides of the catwalk kept it from entering the catwalk.  A snout and a pair of jaws snapped at the cables holding the catwalk aloft.

Another crunch.  Then there was a snap.

"I need to get to the door."  I moved backward, stumbling.  Time slowed as I watched the blue and white creature finish off the last cable holding the end up.

Then one end of the catwalk dropped.  I slid downward.  My fingers tried to find some sort of purchase.  Something to hold onto.  My fingers strained as I found something to hang off of.

Above me, cables dangled the catwalk.  I winced in pain from my meager hold.  Only three cables held one end of the catwalk.

Startled, the blue and white creature fell off the end of the catwalk that had dropped.  It landed in the water.  My eyes widened.  A ferret the size of a human splashed into the water below.  It looked surprised and then swam off.

"What?!"  I shrieked.  "What and why was that?"

"Kyra!"  Charlie called.  "Ghale!  Are you ok?"

The girl monster looked up at me from the water below.  So much closer that I had been before.  The distance to the water below made me wince.  The fall could certainly hurt me.

Unlike in vids or the net, I found I couldn't hold myself there.  My clutch felt tight.  I looked up at the other end of the catwalk.  Thirty meters of tiny grated carbon fibers.  I couldn't climb that.

"I can't hold on too much longer."  I felt my fingers flash with pain.  "Death by ferret.  That's kind of ironic for me, I think."

"Ghale, let go."  Charlie said.

"I can't.  The fall will definitely hurt me.  Maybe the water will break my fall, but I don't know if this is too high or not."

"Ghale.  I'll catch you."

I looked down at the grey and black metallic hands below me.  Charlie's too long arms were bent and ready to catch me.  Her too small head for her body looked worried.  She seemed closer than I thought she could be.  I pursed my lips.  Some part of me clutched tighter to the catwalk.

Why did she scare me?  Her face looked like Morgan's.  I could see myself in it.  But wrong.  Monstrous.  Then her eyes had that concern only a human could have.  I'd seen it in Miri and Martin and Moira.  That urge to help no matter the cost.

"Mom.  C'mon."  Charlie said.  "I know what I look.  Let me help."

I closed my eyes and let go of the catwalk.  I floated in the air.  I held my breath.

Cold, strong arms caught me.  I let out my breath.  I opened them.  Charlie's face looked red.  She blushed.  She held me in her arms for a moment.

Then I looked around.  "A ferret."

"Sorry."  Charlie winced.  "Whiskey made Kyra, and sometimes she bites off more than she can chew."

I laughed.

"Are you- did I say something funny?"  Charlie looked concerned.

"No, no..."  I shook my head.  "Just kind of cute.  Despite being a big, giant robot-girl thing, you still managed to sound cute.  A monster girl talking about her pet ferret seems too cute to not laugh at."

"Cute?"

"Ferrets always get into trouble."  I told her.  "I have a pair of my own, albeit less gigantic.  If Molly and Folly were that big, I don't know how I'd be able to fed them."

"Oh."  Charlie tilted her head.  She held me carefully, trying to keep my body above the water.  I climbed onto her shoulder.

"Charlie, I guess we should start over."  I told her.

@Nasr_Mustaqim: @Charlie, @Ghale_Putnam, are you ok?

@Ghale_Putnam: Everything is fine.  @Miri_Putnam, you might need to send in a crew or something.  Kyra just chewed off a catwalk.

"Start over before or after the interruptions?"  Charlie asked.

"Hi."  I put a hand on my chest.  "I'm your mother."

Charlie blinked.  Her voice grew quiet.  "I'm, uh... Charlie?"

"Yes you are."

"I'm sorry I'm... like this."  Charlie gestured at her misproportioned body.  "I didn't choose it.  I mean... I knew you were afraid of me or maybe I did something to scare you."

"No."  I shook my head.  "You didn't do anything."

"I- I saw that nightmare.  I thought that was why you never came before.  To see me."

"I..."  Words escaped me.  She knew I was her mother.  Of course she knew.  Maybe she'd known longer than me.  I avoided seeing her even after I'd learned about her.  "It was never your fault, Charlie.  I failed you.  I shouldn't have waited this long."

"You didn't know about me, did you?"  Charlie asked.  "For the last ten years?"

"I made a choice a long time ago.  Your father and I.  I- We didn't want to bring a child into a dying world.  It seemed cruel to be born to die.  So, I... We... had an abortion."  Tears streaked down my face as I spoke.  "But her corpse and they used her genome to create you.  Something about it made the process work.  I don't understand it, but that's how your Aunt explained it."

"I was born for war."  Charlie's voice sounded full of remorse.  "That's the purpose of me.  I look wrong.  I have steel grown in flesh.  Organic and technology meshed together into something different.  I'm the abomination the old stories were so scared of, I guess.  I don't feel like a weapon or some evolutionary next step.  I don't know what being a giant robot girl monster thing is supposed to feel like.  But I want to help.  That's what being human feels like, isn't it?"

Hugged the glowing blue and odd-sized head of my daughter.  "If that isn't the definition of human, we can rewrite the dictionary, I think."

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Black Friday 3 (Revised Repost)

#BlackFriday is a #ShortStory about a white witch trying to retrieve her sister from the darkest, most horrible, day of the year.  It is one the time in the modern world that praise to the Demon Mammon over runs the thoughts and urges of people.  In the United States, we call this horrid holiday Black Friday.

This is the last part of the story.  Eek, the ending is messy.  Still, glad to go back over this old tale.  If you enjoyed Black Friday, I recommend sharing it.  Feedback is always welcomed, even if it seems like I never do anything with it.  This story is released under a creative commons license, see at the bottom for more info.


I believe the holidays and gifts are for creating strong, happy bonds.  Shopping isn't a part of that.  The mad fury of Black Friday always reminds me that our society has things that need improving.

Monday, November 30, 2015

The Center Cannot Hold: Sects of the Wolf-Mother 1

#Crux post for tonight.  Sects within the Church of the Wolf-Mother.  These are the first few I decided to do writings on.  All of the faiths in Crux are intended to be broad and unaligned.  Each has room for folk of all nine alignments.  The core tenets are the same, with individual sects taking them in their own favorite directions.

Wolf-Mother Sects.

The many different Totems of the Wolf-Mother are her many spirit children.  Each has their own cult

Like any faith, one who worships the Wolf-Mother will often pray and respect multiple totems in their daily lives.  Those dedicated to specific totems in their lives tend to be specialists of some sort, not necessarily priests.  Priests and Druids of the Wolf-Mother honor multiple totems, but very rarely dedicate themselves to a individual totem.  They honor totems and the Wolf-Mother.
and sect that surrounds them.  Here are a few of the notable sects within the Church of the Wolf-Mother.  Each totem has favored offerings.  If these offerings have an effect is unknown.  But they are minor rites each totem appreciates when performed.

Classes like the Streetcooks or Wolf-Riders dedicate themselves to specific totems.  Their classes are formed on metaphysical ideas they share with the totem they worship.

Each of these sects are centered around Totem Spirits.  The Totem Spirits like Catholic Saints: they are significant presences within the Wolf-Mother faith, but not the same as the main divine force of the Church.

The Tailless One: Urnaneapa (Humans)

Aspect: Embrace Humanity's Brilliance
Area of Influence: Human Relations, Beauty, Sexuality
Feastday: Last Och-Moki of Pak'Lupi
Favored Offering: Obeying the command or wishes of a human as eagerly as possible.

Humans are unlike any other animals Ursyklons have encountered before.  The Tailless One offers new lessons to those with an open mind.  The Tailless One as a concept is controversial, at least to humans.  The Tailless One shows a aggressive loyal tie to humans, encouraging his worshippers to obey humans or even pursue romantic relationships with them.  He often manifests as a human, hairless gorilla, giant bonobo or albino chimpanzee.  The Tailless One is the Patron Totem of Human Civilization, Ursyklons who favor human culture over their own and Technology.

Ursyklon Class: The Dolls (Antipaladin variant).
Dolls dedicate themselves to the service of the Tailless One's favored children, humanity.  As such, they dress themselves as human children.  To most Ursyklon, Dolls are strange cultists at the least, dangerous fanatics at the worst.  Dolls trace themselves back to when the Tomasi Empire existed.  Most Ursyklon were treated like animals by the Empire.  Dolls created a tradition that kept the Tomasi pleased, by becoming subservient pets to humans.

Dolls are the origins of words like Halfling for their people.  Dolls possess an obsession for a particular human's affections.  They know how to learn the sexual desires of others.  Dolls possess the means to change these desires in humans, using it to trick and cajol their favorite humans into loving them.  Theirs is a maniac form of love, where they need constant stimuli from their lover, or else they begin to do whatever they can to get their attentions again.

Mad-Eyed One: Urnanegogn (Owl)

Aspect: Wisdom In Madness
Area of Influence: Knowledge, Madness, Secrets
Feastday: 2nd Och-Raeg of Lupi-Tengri
Favored Offering: An hour of mad ranting or rambling in public

Wisdom comes from many places.  Seeking wisdom even in madness always reaps benefits.  Urnanegogn cares for the act of learning, no matter where it takes you.  Mad journeys are a requirement for that.  Even if they take you to places only death knows.  Often she appears as a Owl, but Urnanegogn has appeared as a Raven, Coyote and even a scarab before.  Always journeying to places beyond where she is expected.  She is the Patron Totem of academics, necromancers, morticians and the insane.

The Hungry One: Urnanemoki (Ferret)

Aspect: Always Be Hungry For More
Areas of Influence: Food, Adventure, Hope
Feastday: 3rd Och-Tengri of Lupi-Tengri
Favored Offering: Eating a lavish meal as fast as possible

To have an appetite is to be alive.  Each meal is like the rising sun to the Hungry One: new chances are born with it.  Urnanemoki cares only for the here and now.  Experience life, don't slow down, rush into it.  Often she manifests as a ferret, but also sometimes appears as a weasel, polecat, pig or wolf as well.  Clever enough to get into trouble, the Hungry One often has trouble getting back out again.  She is the Patron Totem of wanderers, students, adventurers, and ferreters (rabbit-hunters).

Wolf-Mother Class: The Streetcooks (Alchemist Variant)
Streetcooks serve the needs of the hunger Urnanemoki teaches.  Recent advents in alchemical and other devices let them cook things in the streets at fast paces.  Some even have learned how to combine spells with fried treats.  Hot meat on sticks that also cure injuries.  Tea that also grants one vision in the dark.  That sort of thing.

Streetcooks and their methods of alchemy aren't academic.  Theirs is a more imprecise kind of science.  They tend to invent recipes and extracts on the fly, so they eschew explosives.  Potions and on the fly alchemy is their forte.  That and cook tasty food.

Far Sighted One: Urnaneanguz (Eagle)

Aspect: Nothing Can Hide From the Truth
Areas of Influence: Honesty, Investigations, Observations
Feastday: Third Och-Kai of Caenalupi
Favored Offering: Dead rodents left atop a high place, or, spend at least an hour watching others who cannot see you.

Urnaneanguz cannot abide a lie.  Honesty is the highest virtue, and to uncover the truth is the highest endeavour according to the Far-Sighted One.  Do not stand for liars or thieves.  Those who promise the truth and fail to uphold it need to be found.  Urnaneanguz often manifests as a Eagle, but is known to appear as a Falcon, Vulture or even as a Dove.  Vigilant, the Far-Sighted One sees things others can't.  He is the Patron Totem of journalists, investigators, hunters and truth-seekers.

The Howling One: Urnanesawol (Wolf)

Aspect: Many Howls, One Voice
Areas of Influence: Teamwork, Cooperation, Family
Feastday: 1st Och-Paku of Uz'Lupi
Favored Offering: Sharing a meal, preferably meat, with a loved one.

Family is important.  It need not share your blood.  But family is still important.  Urnanesawol is second child of the Wolf-Mother, who in turn fathered all the wolves that share her sacred form.  He knows the mother, and teaches how sacred and important family must be.  Urnanesawol often manifests in the form of a black wolf, but will appear as any canine, including shepard dogs, jackals or coyotes.  He is the Patron Totem of Fathers, Mothers, counselors, and charity workers.

Wolf-Mother Class: Wolf-Riders (Paladin Variant)
Wolf-Riders take their name from their obvious mounts.  Even human members of the holy order ride canine mounts, even if theirs are gigantic variations.  The method of Wolf-Riding is based on a magical kinship with the beast.  Normally predators like wolves cannot be mounts- their bodies can't support a rider very well.  Wolf-Riders and their bonded mounts bypass this, the Wolf-Rider becoming a literal extension of their mount in the process.

Wolf-Riders serve the Church directly.  Their task is defense, but from within and without.  Like the Howling One, they do what they can to build families.  They rely on teamwork to give them an edge over their foes.  Like a strong pack, they help their communities be strong so they can handle any crisis.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Black Friday 2 (Revised Repost)

More revised for the Friday post.  Sophia finds where all those coins were going in GenMart on #BlackFriday.  This #Shortstory originally was written back in 2013.  I've decided to go back, try to pretty it up, and repost it.

Black Friday, why must you serve Mammon so?

Please share this story if you liked it.  Also, as always, thanks for reading! :D


Black Friday 1 (Revised Repost)

Well.  Things have been getting delayed a bit this week.  As it is #Thanksgiving, it means tomorrow is #BlackFriday.  I don't like that holiday.  

I associate it with Mammon.  The greedy demon?  Yeah, that one.

So two years ago I wrote this short story, inspired by my low opinion of holiday shopping.  It's about a young white witch, Sophia Clas, trying to find her sister Lucy who supposed to be working Black Friday at a dark and foreboding big box store known as Gen Mart.

This is a revision and a bit of a repost of the first part of the story.  If you enjoyed it, please let me know, or better yet, share it with others who might like it too.  I plan to revise the rest of the original story, at least to make satisfy me.

Enjoy!  And remember, Mammon's Day but comes once a year...


Monday, November 23, 2015

In Transit Monsters 27 (A Story of the Hecate Project)

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Charlie (H minus Two Days)


I floated.  The ceiling of the facility felt comforting.  After the weeks of being in sand and heat, the
past two weeks back home felt welcoming.  The fear of being away had gone.

I just basked in it.  Things were going to get worse.  I didn't let myself fall into a dream.

"I wish I could capture this."  I told the icy-glass, giant ferret Whiskey had made.  Kyra scurried from down the wall and sniffed at me.  "Yeah.  I think you know what I'm talking about."

The weasel swam over to me.  It made the strange noise she always made.  I'd connected with her mind a few times.  Those had been the strangest of dreams.  Machine images, throbbing with the urges of an animal.

Kyra had become kind of useful.  Although tiny compared to my size, the goetic bot still was gigantic compared to most humans.  She could squeeze into spaces we couldn't.  Whiskey had given her a bunch of senses, most of which I think she didn't intend.  Intelligence too.

I scratched the wet, glassy goetic ferret under the chin.

"Don't know what I'm doing here."  I looked around the chamber.  Despite how cramped most of the facility was for us, I had this chamber to myself.  Foxtrot had avoided me ever since what had happened in training grounds.

"Hello?"  The small voice broke my reverie.  I shot up in the water.  I looked around.

Kyra tilted her head.  The glassy ferret wandered off.  I tried to identify where the voice came from.   One of the catwalks at the top of the chamber.  I looked at it.  Ghale Putnam.

I shrunk back into the water.  A part of me wanted to hide.  My gut just wanted to disappear into a dark, dark place.

"You..."  Ghale's voice shook a bit as she spoke.  "You do know I can see you down there, right?"

I tried to drift further to the bottom of the bouyant saltwater.  It had been created help us move easier.  We could walk and live in Earth's gravity, but having the chance to float still had reduced the pain we each felt.  I don't know if normal humans have that.

The pain in each joint.  The constant throbbing.  Cramps.  A dull background thrum.

"Just go away."  I whispered.

She didn't hear me.  I could still see Ghale standing on the catwalk above me.  I knew who she was.  I didn't want to see her.  The last thing I needed to do is speak with my mother.  She didn't know anything about that.  She thought her own daughter had been aborted ten years ago.

"Charlie, I should've done this... before."  Ghale's voice trembled.  "But I can leave... Can you even hear me from down there?"

I blinked my eyes.

"I saw your dreams."  I said.  I don't know why I said that.  It just crept out of my mouth.  I wish I could've kept the words from leaking out.  "Nightmare I mean.  Your memories of what happened."

"You mean what I did."  Ghale said.  "I made a choice a long time ago.  You weren't- you aren't supposed to exist.  Sorry, I don't know how to explain."

I lifted my head out of the water.  "Each night you see yourself strangling it's neck."

"Yes.  You've walked into my dreams haven't you?"

I looked up at the catwalk.  My Oneiros could see the tears streaming down her face.  My hands shook.  Nasr's training kicked in.  My Oneiros showed me the multitude of ways I could rip the catwalk off the ceiling.  Or crush it.  Pipes and lines above it could be twisted a part with a single kick.  That would turn the interior of the catwalk into a gas chamber.

A hundred ways I could slaughter this tiny woman.  I couldn't.  It just wouldn't be fair.

"Yes.  I did it two months ago."  I told her.  I unclenched my hands.  "I wanted to know how you knew Aunt Miri."

"You found out."  Ghale shrugged.  "I can't blame you.  If I had what you could do, I'd do that too.  I'm in no real position to give you any fault for that.  I've been avoiding this."

"I don't mind if you keep avoiding it."  I replied.

Ghale smiled.  "For a genetically designed weapon, you seem awfully afraid of confrontation."

Friday, November 20, 2015

Random Musings: Pandemic Legacy and Other Thoughts

Ok.  With Desert Bus going on, and my own lead up to other things getting weird, I figured I should do a more rambly kind of blog blog.  So let's go into random thoughts after playing Pandemic Legacy.

Wanderings.

Pandemic Legacy have been stirring up weird ideas for me.  Pandemic Legacy has this nice effect.  It makes a favorite board game of mine (Pandemic) feel more like a RPG than anything else.  As a GM, it kind of just makes my heart go a-flutter.

I realized the other day that Pandemic Legacy makes telling a narrative better than other board games I've played.  Others have tried to inject flavor into them, like Eldritch Horror.  Eldritch Horror has diminishing returns on its narrative for me.  Especially after playing Pandemic Legacy.  Some mechanics work well.  But others don't, and the story of one session doesn't carry on.  Worse, sessions can be erratic if you don't go out of your way to parse and control what cards get chosen.  It tries to tell several kinds of Lovecraftian stories, which result in randomness.

I've enjoyed how things from one session carry over from one session of Pandemic Legacy to the next.  The idea of opening secret things that add tiny details that end in a big changes.  This makes each session a dynamic experience.  Can I adapt the feeling opening a secret that changes the status quo by adding new rules to a tabletop RPG?  How?

Microscope

Microscope has a component in it each round of play, where one player gets to pick an element and make it into a Legacy.  In future rounds, it has the potential of coming up again and again.  Because Microscope is about exploring a history, this element is great.  It means Legacies are an element akin to, although not quite the same as, the Pandemic Legacy mechanic of opening secret boxes.

Microscope is more about a history.  Not necessarily about the same characters over time.

I've toyed with messing with hacking Microscope for something within a RPG game.  Microscope relies on procedure content generation: players making content.

Pandemic Legacy uses pre-made content.  In contrast, this is feels like part of the difference between board games and RPGs.  Pandemic Legacy isn't looking to encourage roleplaying, but implies a story along the way.  This is pre-made and none of the players know what the content is.  Microscope is about creating content.

Setting Lite.

I think the best way would be to do something that was like Apocalypse World.  Part of what I like about Apocalypse World is how classes for characters feel compartmentalized.  With options laid out one spot.  There feel like neat choices to make, and they are there to see.

Maybe the key is making the setting and rules lite.  A book with blank spots, that each player has copies of.  I don't like pre-plotting that much.  But then again, maybe the blanks should be procedurally generated (ala the players).  Or to borrow from Apocalypse World, be multiple choice in places.

I've been thinking about having players generate a history for the setting before character creation with Microscope elements.  The periods are pre-created, with rest of the timeline filled out.  This might be too granular, but it could be revisited each session.  A round of Microscope before each session, adding changes to the setting core book.

Unlocking more complicated rules as things go along seems like it has legs of some sort.  Still trying to process the right way I could do a thing with it.

Madness.

So instead of character advancement, things get unlocked.  Instead of character sheets, each character gets a book.  Maybe specialized for classes, maybe not.

At the end of each session, giving the characters the option to answer a question or choose a new rule to enter play, could be interesting.  The idea would be that questions and rules would be in each rule book.  Blanks would get filled as sessions went on.

Perhaps having a definite number of sessions is the best solution.  That means that by the end of a string of them, you hit the end of the arc and the end of the story.  A small book full of character details, rules and the like.

I need to munch on this some more I think.

Also: Commissions are open for any regular readers who enjoy my artwork.  Check it out if you want to try and commission for me.  Always open to at least trying something.  :D

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

In Transit Monsters 26 (A Story of the Hecate Project)

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Ghale (H minus 2 Days)

Martin cleared his throat.  Despite it being a Dreamspace, he still had his avatar portray him as accurate as possible.  The gesture had meant to gather attention.

He looked like a relic from a different era.  Which he was.  His generation had thought their world was going to end, like ours only recently had come to terms with.  For Martin, it had been the world humanity had poisoned.  For us, it had was our only encounter with a intelligent, extraterrestrial civilization.

"Thank you for coming."  Martin began.  Press Avatars stared without blinking.  Thousands of screenshot prompts hit the dreamspace.

Martin looked up from the podium to the rest.  We'd already sent out a press release.  We'd opted for using a dreamspace press conference.  I started to wonder about that choice.  It had been a security concern.  A way to reduce the chance of the joiners or one of the myriad of terrorists from launching an attack.  Maybe it would make us look weak.

That hadn't been the reason for my stomach churning though.  An impatient Miri sat next to me.  She didn't want to be here.  

"My co-Director, Ghale Putnam and I decided to hold this announcement.  The UN gave us the choice to decide whether to inform the rest of the world about our activities.  Until now, that secrecy has been paramount.

"The Pygmalion Program has been working hard for over ten years.  We had the unenviable task of trying to find a solution for our conflict with the Enemy.  That much about us has released to the public before.  The UN security council gave us clearance to breach certain laws.  These laws restricted research and development on human genetic designs and artificial intelligences.  In two days, we plan to launch the result of the work we've done outsider those laws.  Project Hecate will transit to Mars in two days time."

The dreamspace filled with whispers and chatrooms.  I gazed around.  Standing up, I continued where Martin had left off.

"We've opened the wiki files for Project Hecate to the world.  We'd also like to introduce the end results.  These are the soldiers Pygmalion has crafted to retake Mars from the Enemy."  I gestured.  Heuristics reacted to it.

Images took over the dreamspace.  Examples of what Miri had come to call Homo Sapiens Hecate appeared.  Each of Miri's monsters.  Their proportions looked wrong.  Heads too small their bodies.  Legs thicker than anything human.  Metallic skin.  All of their hair looked short.  Their bio-organic bodies looked more than a little inspired by the Enemy.

My daughter.  Charlie was among some of the images.

I had gotten used to them.  But shocked texts filled the room.  Something caused the dreamspace server to rock with traffic all of a sudden.  Shocked whispers.  I tried to keep my composure.

"An artificial intelligence has redesigned the human genome."  Martin inserted.  "She created the baseline according to our requirements-"

"A machine designed human."  One of the avatars voiced.  The journalist's avatar didn't ask.   It just sounded shocked.

"Of course."  I answered.  "That was the point of ignoring the laws on scientific research-"

"How do you know they won't join the enemy?"  Another interrupted.

That unleashed a torrent of activity.  Questions and texts flooded at us.  Avatars got up, screaming at us.

@AdamOphelia980: @Pygmalion.  These things exist?!  

@Yolun$456: @Pygmalion.  Is earth worth the cost of this damage to human genetics?

@MattHellas78: @Pygmalion.  YOU DARE SPEND GOV MONEY TO MAKE THESE MONSTERS?!

@TheiaThylios: Um, my BrainSys is acting strange- has something infected the chat?

@Gylos1860: My system is typing- HUMANITY MUST BE PURE-




I blinked my eyes open.  I lifted my head from chair.  My eyes hurt.

"That could've gone better."  I muttered.

I looked over to the other two chairs.  The three of us had sat down in the Pygmalion conference room before starting the press release.  Miri blinked at me too.  Her eyes were bloodshot.

"My head..."  Miri shook her head.  "I expected some tense questions but- what was that?"

I looked at a nearby screen.  Messages drifted by.  A news source reported it.

"Ugh."  I grumbled.  "Someone snipped us."

"What?"  Miri looked at the screen.  "'A memetic virus took over fifteen-hundred BrainSys at a Press Conference five minutes ago.'  Memetic virus?  That acted that fast?"

"Terrorists."  I studied my reflection.  I tried to adjust myself.  I looked like I'd woken up from a fever.  "Terrorists infected us."

Beginning BrainSys Diagnosis.  Please Wait While the System Scans.

"Why-"  Miri paused.  "Nevermind, I understand that some people don't understand our work.  How?  You and Martin said it was a secure connection."

"I don't know."  I looked over to Martin.  "Martin, you awake?"

The old man laid in the chair.  His head slumped.  I blinked at him.  Miri followed my gaze.

"No."  I told myself.

Miri moved over to Martin.  She lifted his head.  The movement had been gentle.  Miri took care to   She put her ear to his mouth.

"He's breathing, but just barely."  Miri shook her head.  "We need an ER transit.  Now."

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Center Cannot Hold: The Demons (Fate Core)

The Demons.

Demons are what you make of them.  Devils exist in opposition to Angels, having fallen from the heavens.  Devils have an order, and the many Hells they tend are dark abodes.  Demons are what you make of them.

Devils make deals.  They will appear when Angels come to destroy or decimate, and offer refugees a chance out.  Demons don't make deals.  That isn't what they do.

Demons are what you make of them.  They become whatever people fear.  They become whatever punishment the sinful imagine.  Demons are the dark mirror, trapped in images imagined by those they will never meet.  Demons are souls who've become the suffering they imagined in life.  They also become the monsters others dream of.

Among Demons this means most seek out ways to share their communal suffering.  Theirs is a existential pain.  Spiritually scarred by the weight of others, each Demon is weak to a form of forgiveness.

Shedim

The Shedim are guardian demons.  They will protect others and do them favors.  They are guard spirits.  But the Shedim act the part of things that aren't demons.  Liars and charlatans, Shedim thrive off of helping others to find ways to be led astray.

Shedim will protect you from death, but they'll plant suggestions that'll help you twist your faith darker.  They led astray, giving you lies that only end with the end of your family and other aspirations.  These mysterious beings become the sole motivation for your life, keeping you safe, while you grow more and more distant from those you love and care about.

Shedim are aware they are leading others astray.  It's a compulsion.  They don't mean to do it, but their urge to protect others is genuine.  This makes it hard to sense them as demonic spirits.  Shedim are the lost souls of those who were too arrogant to save others.  Unwilling in life to admit their own errors, each death caused by their arrogance bound them as Demons.

Aspects A Guardian Shedim; Left-Handed Help

Shedim can be treated as a stunt, if a character accepts their aid.  

Stunt: Shedim.  You are immune to physical or magic attacks, making you invincible against those sorts of attack.  However, each time the Shedim defends you, it comes at a cost.  Most often this cost strains those around you, as you seem to insult or push them further and further away.

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Keepers: Questions

Rebooting Crux for it's second season- despite awkward timing stuff- felt like it was a success.  At least in my goals.  Having a session where you more or less do a conversion to altered rules, advance the time and all of that, carries certain risk about them.  Luckily my group places some trust in me.

I had multiple sections of what I call questions.  I asked the group questions, but the purpose of each set of questions were different.  These were key to what I thought the session had to do.  The group needed to have idea of what the game was about and what kept their group together.  We'd questioned it prior to it.

So questions seemed apt.

Same Page Questions

The first section of questions weren't character centric.  They were game and group specific.  The urge to just leap in and crack characters without no bigger framework wouldn't help.  The questions about the game as a whole were just reconfirming things we'd already been doing.  I borrowed parts and pieces of the Same Page Tool from here.

I wasn't looking for a consensus, I just wanted to get an idea of what the game was.  Preferences crept in a bit too.  It confirmed that I didn't need to adjust some dials, although I think it helped to clarify things.

The last questions were about the group the characters belong to, the Keepers.  After a bit of discussion, I helped sell the group on the idea of a backstory for the group that connected all of their characters' own backstories to it.  Although the original Phase Trio we had should've done this, it helped to at least cement a group identity to a degree.  Something we could craft group stories around, without individual character arcs carrying things out of hand.

Character Questions

For characters, I created a series of leading questions intended to help players come up with things they did with other player characters during the timeskip.  I didn't want five separate stories of "what happened" during the break.  I wanted a series of quick scenes or stories that could be called back to.  Players or myself could use these hooks for future story fodder.

It also helped me get newer characters installed into the group proper.  The three characters that have been there the longest tended to not have as strong connections with the new ones.  Despite my previous attempts, having a session devoted to creating that connection seemed the best route to solve the problem.

It feels like it worked.

Each question borrowed from Apocalypse World and other places.  They had [BLANK] in them, where a player would replace it with a name of a different character.  A few had multiple choice options in them, letting a player choose the context.

Here's an example:

What happened to ruin an evening you and [BLANK] were having?  Why did things at [Choose One: the Opera/ the Scroll and Bones Pub/ the catacombs under the Skullmount]?

I didn't care how big the answer was.  Just so long as it was honest and the player got what I was trying to do: create moments shared between characters.  Things they could touch back on.

Results?

In the short term, it felt like a success.  I don't know what'll be in the long term yet.  If any of the work done carries over to help the flow of a session, good.  If not, I got enough information on how it worked for future stuff.

I always can canned the game and do something new.  That tends to be the one thing: if a thing isn't working, you can just kill it.  Trying to force it to fit when it won't means you could just cancel it and try something new instead.  It sounds callous, but I don't believe in saving a story that is failing.  The return you get for it has to be worth the work, otherwise you spend years tweaking a thing.

Of course, you have to have a good idea of whether it's failing or not.  I'm still not sure if I'm a good judge of that.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

In Transit Monsters 25 (A Story of the Hecate Project)

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Dayvd Whyte (H minus 3 Days)

I tapped my palm lightly on the Conjuring Box.  The signal activated it, calling forth the next programmed order.  My Daemon programmed that order, never with my consent.

#Conjuring Beverage.

My Daemon ordered a drink for me.  Grape juice.  Like I always would have.  Predictable.  As the Daemon was supposed to function.

I gazed at the purple fluid in the glass.

"Davyd?"  Rahm's voice shook me from the reverie.

"Ah.  Yes.  The last bit of planning."  I took a sip.  My paranoia about the Daemon still held from the previous months.  Tiny things the Daemon shouldn't have gotten wrong.  Tiny slips or mispredictions.

Errors.  I'd scrubbed that Daemon and had it replaced with a new one.  Reprogrammed.  New heuristics, re-tuned to me and my social media.  Then the errors appeared again.

So I replaced that Daemon with another new one.  Never were the errors major ones.  Categorically, they all were harmless.  Tiny turns or flips of probability that shouldn't have driven me paranoid.  But I couldn't trust it.  I had become certain that something in the AI had gone wrong.  I couldn't afford any uncertainty, especially not in this stage of the plan.

Rahm's face looked across at me from the Circle displaying a holographic image of her.  The most brilliant woman in any world.  She and I had crafted a scheme to save the human species from the aliens.  Even better, it would help launch our species to the next evolutionary step.

"Of course."  Rahm pursed her lips, waiting for me.  "You've determined the best way to trigger a global depression?"

"Well, there already has been one."  I said.  "We just kept losing so many people. Governments had to resort to mandatory incomes and other solutions.  Massive social welfare that kept people fed.  Fewer people means fewer jobs.  Yet the amount of resources grows.  We have more than enough for everyone, even if there are so few of our species left."

"End of the world, and all the excel sheets balance out."

"Yes."  I took another drink of my grape juice.  Rahm rolled her eyes at me.  We could've texted this meeting.  We also could've transited to have it in person.  Rahm gave me a smile.

Even digitized, this felt worth it.

"You have a way to throw everything apart."  Rahm said.

"A house of cards just needs a good breeze to fall."  I replied.  "You just have to provide the right sort of stimuli."

"Like a certain corporation suddenly changing the rules? Like the ones over prices in a bunch of territories they now control?"

"Necessary sacrifices.  But I'm doing what I can to be minimal about it."  I told her.  "The joiners will exacerbate them."

"I can't believe you left them all alive."  Rahm shook her head.  "Those lunatics kill their own children as political statements.  Then you kept the UN from uncovering their whereabouts.  Quite a clever flip."

"I found them."  I pointed out.  "They think they've been on the run.  I managed to track their Daemon and it's efforts online.  It's been easy to keep the rest of the UN from tracking them with that.  I made sure that the worst ones faced some form of justice."

"And you are going to start approaching people then?"  Rahm asked.  I could sense the excitement in her voice.  This had been why she'd dreamed up the technology behind Orpheus to begin with.  "I've compiled-"

"-a list of the best and most able minds that humanity should preserve."  I finished for her.  "Almost.  Project Hecate needs to launch first.  And it has to, at the very least, be the frightening failure we've been helping it set up to be.  Once those monsters start to die to the Enemy, it'll be the last straw for most people."

"You can't announce this to the public.  You know the chaos it'll create."

"I know that.  I won't."  I smiled.  "But it'll be far easier to attract people to our side if they are certain there is no other choice.  Orpheus requires them to die to work.  We can't afford for any doubters."

Rahm nodded.  "Yes."

The two of us took a moment to linger.  We gazed at one another through the holographics that were transmitted via microtransit.  Her freckles and blond hair.  Each little sign that she'd stayed up the night before, reading or working on Orpheus.  The genius that had created it.

"Any doubts yourself?"  Rahm asked.

"No..."  I said.  "Certainty has become... well, after Rick died, it became the most important thing."

"I wonder about them.  I think about the price for all of it.  The doubts try to creep up in the back of mind, you know what I mean?"

"I suppose."

"Well," Rahm said, "I then think about how badly we've ruined this place.  Our planet.  Without transit technology, we would've killed our civilization with climate change.  Without our tools, we are a race of psychotic apes.  We should do better."

"We kill the species to improve upon it."  I agreed.  "That is the basis of Orpheus.  The genesis of your genius idea."

"I wish we could give the chance for immortality to those like the Joiners.  But I understand, Davyd, I do.  They are the very thing our species has been propagating... These mad believers who ignore reason for their own basic desires.  How clever of you to use them to help ignite the pyre."

I lifted up my glass.  "To the smartest woman humanity has ever known."

She lifted a similar glass on her end of the video.  "To the survival of the species."

We both drank to that.