Friday, May 29, 2015

City of Curses: The Wolf's Circle (Fate Core)

I've started to realize some things in my campaign in Crux lately.  And I've forgotten to mention some societies or organizations within the city that have bearing in my campaign.  Here's one of them.  Like the Destreza or others, this is one of those groups that sort of fall under the purview of an icon, in this case, the Wolf's Circle is a part of the Archdruid's purview: healing the city and keep its wild parts natural, and remaining vigilant about the more Abolethic elements out there.

The Wolf's Circle
The ways and means of the druids of Crux perhaps, seems the most illogical.  They live within a urban sprawl, one of the largest metropoli known to the world.  It would seem that to find any Druids in the steam and smoke of Crux would be odd.  Or individual.

But the Archdruid herself dwells in the City of Curses.  The many feyborn animal villages scattered throughout the city also point to the heightened numbers of Druids within the city's borders.  To most, this isn't a concern.  Nor does it seem like a secret worth fretting over.

Like many of the City's secret societies, lodges and orders, this one hides in plain sight.

The Circle Must Be Unbroken
The Wolf's Circle is a group of druids and other like minded folk from a number of different vocations, species and other backgrounds.  Their name comes from the Wolf-Mother Lupa herself; theirs is the circle of leylines Crux lies upon.  And there are a lot of them in the city of curses.

That is why the Ursyklon landed one of their living starships first here during their invasion.  Crux sits near or on so many natural ley lines, druids from all over the Maru Sea rely on someone to keep the lines clean of corruption or worse.  The Wolf's Circle keeps vigil over a circle of leylines of the same name.

This Order, although the Archdruid is part of it, tends to the natural parts of Crux.  They tend to the smallest of animal or the weakest of plant.  In secret they tend to the leylines, keeping them from failing.  From growing fallow.

Although most of their membership is drawn from Druids, they have long since branched out to a variety of others.  All are individuals with some strong tie to the City of Curses.  They train and meet with other members of the Circle.  They always keep an eye out for trouble.  But rarely do they have to turn to violent means.

Most often, a ley line only needs pruning.  Events of joy or events of remembrance, to reset their paths.  When violence is required, often the Circle asks the Archdruid for her aid.  Even then, the potential harm is mourned when it has to be used.

The ley lines crisscross all over Crux, including in its vast undercity of catacombs, from the living starship graveyard of Gruudl to the Blood Quarter.  These ley lines also empower the Wolf's Circle.  They can channel the natural forces undercurrent in Crux.  Sometimes this can change the wielder, making their flesh become more tied to nature.  Other times, they gain uncanny abilities, like the ability to shift form like Druids or communicate with all manner of animal or plant.

The Wolf's Circle most paranoid fears are of the Aboleth.  Something is stirring in the night, betwixt the stars.  Something ancient, something the ley lines can feel coming.  The Circle are the city's sentient minds, and they feel the push to help the city cope.  To prepare.

To ask to join the Wolf's Circle is to undergo a series of ancient druidic rites.  After being stripped of all clothes, the potential candidate's body is shifted in five forms.  Each of these guide the candidate and test them if they can hear the city's will or not.  If they can prove they can hear the city, then they are returned back to their original form.  If they fail, they are trapped in that animal or plant form for the rest of their existence.

Aspect(s): It Binds All Things; "The Circle Must Be Unbroken"; We Are the Land;
Wolf's Circle Stunts:
Language of the City: If presented with someone with whom you do not know their language or tongue, you can spend a fate point to learn their language instantly and fluently.  This can be used with animals, plants, even rocks or water.  However, it does distinguish different species with different sorts of language.
Greensight: If you are near a tree, you can see through it or any other tree in the City of Crux.  Of course, not everywhere has trees.  But still, you can at least see into most places.
City Shaman: So long as you meditate for an hour near one of Crux's prominent ley lines, the city speaks to you.  Its dreams are hard for you to truly realize, monstrous and incomprehensible.  But you do receive visions, ideas of its worries.  Look hard enough, and you can find answers to questions, or more questions.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

City of Curses: Icons: The Publisher (Fate Core)

The Publisher
Aspect: The Public Needs To Know!
Invoke When: Uncovering secrets or convincing others to tell you the truth.

Compel When: Presented with a chance to uncover secrets or when tempted to ask questions, even when it would be impolite to do so.
Quote: "The powerful have gotten away with their lies for too long.  Hear the truth, embrace the fervor and call for something new, something revolutionary."

The Publisher funds the three most prominent newspapers in Crux- he also helps to publish a variety of books and pamphlets as well.  Almost all of his efforts are directed to helping further one cause: stirring up revolution.

Common Knowledge 
The Church of the Machine brought the invention of the Printing Press to the continents of Ainesia and Necruxa.  The creation of newsprint led to the founding of various printing houses.  In cities like Crux, these papers became the backbone of conversation and news.  In Crux, the Publisher's three newspapers, especially the Daily Stargazer, set the tone for that conversation.

Sidebar: The Papers of Crux
The three biggest newspapers, Daily Stargazer, The Crux Herald, and the Skullmount Gazette, (in terms of logistical circulation) all are published by Davizi Printing.  The Publisher owns Davizi, and has spent the last five years growing it into the dominant newspaper publishing house.  But these are not the only newspapers in Crux.  There are many, but each of the other newspapers are considerably smaller, and they cater to very specific folk in the City of Curses.  The Publisher's papers are unique in that they aren't biased to favor any of the other Icons' views.  

Of course, they do espouse the Publisher's main views:  The spread and promotion of the Revolution, no matter the cost.

The Publisher's journalists and editorialists are known throughout Crux.  They are known to press all the powerful in Crux for stories, sometimes asking questions they don't want to answer.  Often anything they might regret having said gets published.

The Publisher is popular however.  He does listen to the people, and is seen as a needed part of the public discourse.  What gets published in his newspapers is the talk of the town.  Often this forms some sort floating part of what goes on in coffeehouses and other places in Crux.  The Publisher's use of selling space for advertisement space to small businesses over larger ones is also known, especially his refusal to ever use any ad that would promote the Bank of Crux in any way.

The advent of the printing press, invented and distributed by the Church of the Machine, led to the creation of the pamphlets and newspapers throughout Othebea, Ainesia and Ith.  In Crux, each neighborhood in the city of curses has always maintained their own private papers or newspapers, but the Daily Stargazer was the first daily newspaper in Crux.  It's printer, Davizi Printing, had been founded by Ainesian immigrants.

The Davizi family had left Ainesia before the Revolution Wars.  Even during the height of the violence in Ainesia, they remained staunchly in support of the Revolution.  They've kept that view, always augmenting their stories, editorials and published magazines with that view.  Those Ithic nationalists have always pointed this out- but the popularity of the Davizi has always borne them out.

They have always been critical of the Prince.  In turn, the Prince has... well, never acknowledged the Publisher or his journalists.  When the Prince's agents are pressed for comment, they give it, but even the most prominent of the Prince's agents will admit that the Prince has never given an order in regards to the Publisher or his journalists.  They seem outside of his concern.

Those who trade in secrets claim that the Publisher is actually a high priest of the Revolution, that his best journalists are also clerics of that faith, and that Davizi Printing's main headquarters in the Grand Bazaar hides a temple dedicated to the radical faith.  The Publisher does aim for destructive measures to garner reforms.  Even when it may cause more harm than good, he prints stories that might push folk to riot even if that might not be in the public's interest.

The Publisher pays for a good story.  Especially one that paints those in power in a bad light.  He also will help those wanting to cause trouble for the powerful... although this remains hard to prove.  He's helped many Revolutionary Clerics to meet with potential allies, and has acted as a catalyst for various attempts to catapult protests into full blown violent riots.  Those who want to fight the power, no matter the cost, they will find him to be a most helpful patron.

The Publisher's inevitable violent aims makes his list of potential allies fewer than other icons.  He works often with the Archwitch, to gain access to criminal means without involving the Prince.  The Archwitch often fixates on only her people, something that the Publisher sees as a form of leverage.  Both are desperate for change in Crux, both are eager to do what they can to achieve it.

The Tinkerer on the other hand, has been an ally of the Publisher since her leaving the University of Crux.  She isn't afraid to use the press to her advantage.  In turn, the Publisher has repeatedly commissioned the Tinkerer for various technologies to modify or enhance printing.  The Tinkerer knows little or nothing of the Publisher's political goals, using the garnered press for helping her workshop in Poorfellows grow.

The entrenched figures of power are the most vibrant, vocal opponents of the Publisher: the Archbishop and the Banker.  But their focus is on reformers of all kinds, and they don't distinguish the Publisher from other reformers like the Tinkerer or the Voice as well.   Acts of violence only confirm their belief that revolutionaries only want to see the city burn in chaos. 

The Voice presents a different sort of enemy for the Publisher.  Philosophically, the two seem similar.  Both are vocal in asking for reforms, and both do so in as public a fashion as possible.  But where the Voice refuses to associate with the Publisher- the history of violence associated with him is something she cannot tolerate.  The Voice wants change, but refuses to spill blood to get it.

Using The Publisher
The best method for employing the Publisher is through what one expects: yellow journalism.  His top reporters do what you see press do in TV shows and the movies, except their targets are the player characters.  They always are out for the best story- except they always tilt the story in favor of the Revolution.

Often having the actions of a previous session recapped with a short newspaper article, accusing the PCs of working for one of the prominent authorities in the city, committing atrocities- this sort of thing is the best use of the Publisher.  Having him react to the PCs' actions rewards them, in that their actions have some sort of echoing effect.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Gaming Materials: Coup

Ever just want to take things over, but have to do some deceitful stuff to get to power?  Well, if
not, Coup can at least help one learn how to do that.

This game has been around for awhile. I've been to pick up a copy of it after reading reviews for it, as bluffing games like it have a certain appeal to me. After playing it a few times with my gaming group. Originally out back in 2013, Coup, like the Resistance, is another bluffing party game.

Its speed and simplicity won us over.

Coup plays fast because one can take out others very fast.  One action a turn.  Each action doesn't have to be true.  And one is fighting to keep his or her facedown cards, his or her influence.

Influence is key theming that makes me like Coup.  Who one controls or manipulates is ever changing; the players represent almost faceless powers behind the scenes.  The game has a built in timing mechanism. This keeps games very short, and causes them to have some finality.  Conversely, this same mechanic can force one to attempt crazy last-ditch efforts.  All of this is reliant on being able to remember who has said who has what.  There is a depth there that I like.

Coup appeals both to my love of bluffing-deduction games (which I suck at, but love nonetheless), and my love any genre with intrigue.  Coup has five roles- it's 2015 update, Coup: Rebellion G54, purports to have 25- but I'd like to hack the game.  If only to have the role cards be blank.

I imagine how neat this could be as a legacy mini-game for any RPG.  Especially ones with political machinations going on.  Altered so that players (and the GM) can play out the shifting loyalties and politics that exist at levels outside the street level stuff of their player characters.

Each player would be given a index card representing a particular political faction.  The character cards in Coup would be the names of prominent NPCs in the campaign, possibly Icons of one kind or maybe groups of importance.  I could see the five character cards from coup being ported straight over to representing the five clans in Vampire: Requiem rather easily.

At the end of the game, each faction's last remaining influence card is noted down.  Obviously these are the current connections going on in the political game.  The next time the Coup game is played for determining in-game politics, these role cards are returned back to each faction.  I imagine each player would then be given the chance to do the exchange action before play- to give them each a chance to discard a role they don't want or perhaps shake up the deception in the game?

Maybe something like Rebellion would be better suited to this idea, but it's just the seed of it.  There are some notable flaws in it.  In particular, retaining knowledge of who last influenced whom and having it be open at all kind of reduces the chances of any bluffs working.  Maybe using the Legacy part of it to have the winner each time be the only one whose influences are known.  Maybe their faction gains a free coin each time they reveal a particular influence?

This is mostly just a random musing, but still, a part of me loves the idea of using part or all of a board game as part of a tabletop RPG.  I recommend Coup as a quick game for anyone who likes a bluffing game.  Have you or your group ever using non-RPG tabletop games or mechanics in your RPG sessions?  Comment and let me know how it worked out for you!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Center Cannot Hold: the Puca (Fate Core)

Here's a bit of a bestiary entry for Crux.  This is my own version of the Puca, a Welsh/Irish/English faery.  The goal was to create black-furred sadists.  They worked out well in a recent session of the Crux game I've been running at home (the Keepers of Crux).  They didn't put up too tough of a fight, but their creepiness really made a splash in the game.

The Puca
These fey are the size of Ferrets, and they specialize in crawling through extradimensional spaces.
 They are akin to gremlins and other such fey fauna.  In the case of the Puca, they also are irreverent shapeshifters, capable of shifting from one to a dozen of different animal forms.  They have a preference for rabbit, goat or horse forms.  Almost always, their forms are black-furred, with antlers that look like twigs.

Normally they worship and obey the lordship of the Fey Lord known only as the Stranger, but others stuck between realities can garner them as servants too.  They are easily controlled through magic, although they are amenable to working as unseen servants as long as they are provided with servings of milk.

The Puca once shared a world with the Fomori.  They invited the Ursyklon to take the world after the Fomori had started to worship the dark Void between stars.  After that, they came to dwell almost primarily in the Spaces Between.  The Puca have found the Spaces Between more dangerous in the last centuries.  Things are stirring in the dark, things that scare the black-furred fey.

Puca have an addiction to causing pain, a sort of taste for Sadism that can drive them to torture those they come across.  They don't always act on it, as milk often keeps their more sadistic or tricksy instincts in check.

Aspects Tiny Shapeshifter; Crawl In the Strange Places; Dark Fur, Dark Ways; Madcap Fey Thug; Cowardly Yet Bullying Lot;
Approaches Quick Average (+1), Forceful Fair (+2), Sneaky Average (+1)
Skills Puca Good (+3), Brawl Fair (+2), Stealth Average (+1), Knowledge Average (+1)
Puca Stunts
Crawl Between Spaces: Puca can crawl between the spaces between worlds.  They treat different planes and realities as different zones for purposes of movement.
Shapeshifting: Puca can change forms into any animal, not just the normal ones associated with them.  It costs them a Fate point.  When they change forms, they gain an aspect reflective of that animal in addition to their other aspects.
Sadism: Puca gain a +2 bonus to any roll that inflicts pain on another.  This just makes them giddy.
Midnight Fur: Puca gain a +2 bonus on Sneaky rolls made in the shadows.
Skill: Puca
The Puca Skill is for managing the shapeshifting abilities of the Puca.  It also covers their crawling through realities and self-control in regards to milk and sadism.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Center Cannot Hold: The Ramelin

The Ramelin
The Sandfolk, from birth, embrace pain.  All Ramelin children learn the same proverb: "Life is Pain."

To signify this, newborn Ramelin are ritually scarred along their right cheeks.  Each Ramelin family
has their own particular scar-runes, passed down throughout the generations.  More scars are added with each year the child survives.  Most Ramelin scars reveal much about their lives; the wealthier, the smaller, more precise scars they have.

Ramelin believe their tribe originate from the Sacred Mesa Akilahakram, deep in the Immortal Khanates of Maliph.  The mesa once had been deep in the jungle.  Its black obsidian stones formed the bones of the first Ramelin, or so the story goes.  The Jinn made them to serve.

Chained up to them, the first Ramelin were enslaved.  Slaves, the Ramelin say they remained that way until the Jungles of Rruk turned to sand by Ith's archmagic.  The tale of how the Ramelin became freed varies among each Ramelin community.

No matter the specific origin tale, all Ramelin wear obsidian jewelry to remember how their people once served the jinn.

Naming Conventions
The Ramelin have one name.  Their personal names often are compound nouns of qualities thought to create good fortune for the child's future.  Alternatively, if parents have had lost children before, a child will be given a name based on bad qualities, in order to help drive off evil spirits.

Outsiders sometimes will misunderstand Ramelin names, thinking the second noun is a surname, especially when siblings are given similar sounding names.  Because all Ramelin names are about descriptive nouns, there isn't a tradition of female or male names.  If a Ramelin has to have some sort of identification to further identify them, they will state their parent's names, their grandparents' names and so forth, sometimes including their clan's name as well.  But in general they identify almost entirely by their singular name.

Ithic and Othebean governments often record Ramelin names using a parent's name as a surname, if only to keep their paperwork in order.

To simulate the nature of Ramelin names, I've listed Prefixes and Suffixes separately.  I've avoided
saying exactly what kind of nouns they are.  There are two groupings, positive and negative.
Prefix Names: Ahmir, Ajsan, Kabyr, Zahra, Naarin, Kazeer, Nazek, Wajh, Hadija, Qazida
Suffix Names: 'abd, Zagurah, Tahr, Layla, Qadiz, Zu'allim, 'aynun, Kalb, Basali, Samaq
Example Names: Ahmirtahr, Nazek'abd, Kazeerkalb

The Ramelin often rely on particular dress and clothes to survive the harshness of the Maliphi sands.  Their long flowing robes help keep them cool.  Their clothes are practical.

The Ramelin have a long tradition of treating guests with hospitality.  An old hunting rite, its a
ceremony wherein they will offer a guest food and means for at least one night.  Many Ramelin in urban settings have modified the rite, treating guests in cities like their roaming cousins would.

Because of their respect for strength and survival, most Ramelin have no qualms with the race of another.  Even monsters are embraced by them if they prove useful.  The only line Ramelin hesitant to cross is any act that doesn't directly further survival.

Music and stories help one pass the time, but grand artwork only wastes resources to the Ramelin mind.  Marriage serves only if it helps with procreation, if relationships fail to produce children, then they are a waste.  If anything would be a waste and not further survival, then Ramelin tradition would frown at it.

Life is pain.  And survival is what the Ramelin know best.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

City of Curses: Lily

Life is best when one gets to wear a new, beautiful dress.  Silk, vibrant purple and enchanted just right to echo along with music, I felt ready to my job as a Diva.  I strode out of the Grand Bazaar, bedazzled and ready to face the City of Curses.  I was Diva, ready to help others hear the Singer's Song.

The bell chimed when I entered the establishment.

"We don't serve yer kind."  The barkeep immediately retorted at me.

I looked back at the signs on the front of the tavern's door.  The glass had been painted with the words,

'The Storm's Last Call, bar and restaurant.'  Underneath it had been written an additional phrase as well.

'Humans Only.  No halflings, Fiendbloods or Tinkers.'

I sniffed.  "I'm a singer of the song-"

"Aye," the one-eyed barkeep agreed.  "And yer a twins-damned fiendblood too.  Or didya think yer pretty horns wouldn't give it away?"

I sighed.  No point in pushing the point.

I walked back outside.  Sometimes I forgot my heritage, the years at the orphanage and truly thought I could walk away from my blood.  I walked outside.

More of the usual stares.  That other part of my job kicking in.  Divas sing the Singer's Song.  And we

Divas are beautiful.  It's a requirement.

So I found a street corner in Old Crux instead.  A bit of improvising, and I found myself atop a wine
barrel.  Weaving magic and music together, I sang for a time there.  Fog and smoke cleared.  I let the
music escape me, I let the singer sing.

"En tha uills ze wold cill zis nhama,
Zhames! Ly lova ot ly hartzi!
Zhera notola fet un lama,
No uni fet wif-hola zhama."

Slow, yet quiet.  I closed my eyes.  I tried to have my voice hit the soprano notes of each foreign verse.

 I felt the rhythm.  Melody and harmony.  I didn't need music, just my voice.

When I opened my eyes, I opened them to a crowd.  People of every stripe, all crowded around my barrel.

Of course, they also were blocking the doorway into the Storm's Last Call too.  My performance seemed to

have the incidental effect of reducing the racist's business.


I gave a brief bow.  Applause greeted me.  I loved that.  But it was part of the job.  Divas perform music, tell stories, provide entertainment- all to enlighten their audiences.  The Singer of the Song teaches that art provides insight.  Divas grant that insight to anyone they can.  We make the world better.  People hear the tales.  They live the lives of others.

The crowd dispersed.  I hopped down from the barrel.  I would be gone before the barkeep could come out to give his piece.  My fiendblood still lingered.  Tieflings were unfairly discriminated throughout the City of Curses, along with Androids and Ursyklon.  I wished my music might help teach those without fiendblood to open up, even if only for a bit.

The song had been Zhames's Call.  The main character was Zhames, a father whose tiefling son dies to save them from danger.  It was in ancient salish, but the undercurrent still was there.  Potential for empathy.

I continued my walk up the street.  The Old Wall stood in the distance, marking the middle depths of Old Crux.  Smoke and fog made buildings blur or hide.  I kept an eye out for carriages and horses, but navigating the streets, smoke and traffic wasn't a problem.

I learned to ignore the stares at my horns.  At my forked tail.  I had tied a dark purple bow around it, unafraid to show it.  Maybe that had the air of arrogance to it.  Maybe.  Maybe not.

Divas never show fear.  Beauty.   We master beauty.  Beauty always kills one's fears.

"Let me go."  The faint voice made me flinch.  Young.  A child's voice.

"Boy, fiendblood ain't welcome here.  You Orphans think you can wander around here?"  A gruffer voice.

My feet shifted and moved.  Without a single sound, I moved toward it.  Soon I had started down a dark alley.  Behind a collection of taverns and restaurants, angled downward.  I stepped through a pillar of smoke.

A tiny tiefling urchin cowered in the grasp of a much larger man.  The man had the look of the perpetual drunk I'd been accostumed to in this part of town.  His blood probably had more alcohol than saltwater in it.  Brave enough to corner a urchin child whose rags barely covered his feet.

"Excuse me."

The drunk blinked and turned his head to me.  He looked me up and down.  Then, after spitting at me, turned back to the urchin.

"Drek off."  He grunted.  Up this close, I could smell the moldy stink on him.  Yuck.  Couldn't even be bothered to take a twins-damned bath.

"Let the child go, and you won't piss yourself."  I calmly explained.  I paused, then remembered.  "Please."

The drunk would-be-urchin-beater squinted at me.  He curled up a fist.  Then he opened it, slowly grabbing a pistol.  He fingered it and pushed at at the urchin.

I sighed.  Idiots think guns make them immortal.

I grabbed the pistol.  I yanked backward.  I threw my body into a flip.  It didn't matter that I didn't finish it.  The drunk's arm wasn't built for it.  He tried to pull the trigger.  It fired into the air.

Too slow.  Too drunk.

Divas know how to fight.  Champions of our faith, we know the music of combat as well as the music of the soul.  The dance started in theatre tricks and fake combats, but ending in blood and mutilated bodies.  We don't advertise it.  Most people see us as free entertainment.  Or they see the Church of the Singer of the Song as pacifists.

We know how to fight as good as any Paladin or Fighter.  We also fight beautifully.

Bones popped.  Then cracked.  I stood on my head for a moment.  I heard the gun clattered to the ground.

The drunk couldn't speak.  Only the stink of urine came from him.  I'd broken most of the bones in his arm.

I rolled away from him.  Just as easily, I stood up.   The drunk fell over.  He clung to his arm.  Crying.

"Not as easy if one knows how to fight."  I told him.  He flinched at me.

I turned to the tiefling urchin.  "Hello.  You okay?"

He nodded.  Wide eyed, he looked up at me in awe.  Impressed by violence.  Ugh.

Sometimes I succeed only to dig things deeper.  I sighed.  Then I walked over to the crying, urine-stinking drunk.  I grabbed his broken arm.

I whispered a small song.  Its golden tone turned manifest, healing the drunk fool.  The bones knitted themselves.

The drunk ran away after that.  I guess healing him must've been the last bit he needed.

"Why?"  The urchin asked me.

"Why did I heal him or why do they do such things to us with fiendblood?"

The urchin shrugged.  "Either.  I just- uh..."

"Thought to pick his pocket.  He surprised you, and you didn't know how to get away."  I explained.  I remembered my own youth.  The years spent stealing coin for a quick taste of Burn.  "I healed him because that was the right thing to do."

"But dumb, he could just get some friends and come back-"

"No one said the right thing wasn't hard."  I looked over my dress.  I hadn't managed to stain it.  Good.  Ruining it the day I bought would've been a waste.

"Ok."  The child processed that for a moment, then added, "I kinda know they hate us.  We're monsters."

I shrugged.  "One's monster is another's hero.  Don't let hate define you."

Monday, May 18, 2015

Fury Road Review

Mad Max Fury Road has left me enlightened.  Yep, I just described a movie in terms of a religious experience.  A glorious experience wherein a man strapped to the front of a rig with a chrome guitar shoots flames.  Because awesomeness comes in such glorious packages.

Because it was.

Others have talked about the sheer joyous glory of Fury Road, but I can at least try to recapture a bit of the thrill it left.  I saw it with my roommates.  The three of us were overjoyed in the aftermath of car, sand and action.

Besides being a nonstop rush of a film, which I thoroughly enjoyed.  I tend to be over-critical of movies.  As one of my roommates had put it, "I've never seen you enjoy a movie."

It met my expectations.  But not just that.  The movie's first moments have its big buy-in- once you see the two-headed lizard, the ride is on.  It doesn't stop.  It just goes and goes.  Mad Max-chic kicks in, with the post-apocalyptic cars, modded and all styled in the rough desert.  Its a been awhile, but it feels like we never left.  The visuals just are glorious.

Fury Road has magnificent pacing.  Like a racehorse, it never lets up at any point.  It feels like a chase scene on steroids.  And that makes it beautiful.  The story isn't deep, and the characters aren't much deeper either- but that's fine.  Fury Road is exactly what it says it is: about a Road and all the fury taking place on it.

The other facet after seeing the movie that has me overjoyed is how its feminist themes are being received.  It has them.  What makes Fury Road also nice to see, is that there are female characters in it.  Some more badass than other characters, including Max.  Which is great.  We don't have that.

The darker other tones, though, is about the ownership of women.  Its easy to fail to see how it is a repetition of a theme from history.  Women as currency has happened before.  We tend to forget that, in prior age, women were traded in many cultures like one might trade around weapons or wheat.  In the worldbuilding of Fury Road, this gets touched on again.

It asks the question, when rebuilding the world, can you avoid the mistakes of the past?  Can we really learn from them, or will the new society just echo the worst of our pasts?

There is more going on in Fury Road than that, but I'd encourage you to go see it for yourself.  Pacing is a hard enough thing to do on your own.  But movies like Fury Road catch the brief perfection of nonstop well enough one can learn from its examples.

Pacing can make up for or even improve plots and characters better than anything else in a story.  This is why movies like Independence Day have appeal, despite their gigantic flaws, because excellent pacing.  A New Hope is perhaps the movie whose pacing can be seen as the most prominent example.  Pacing can be a great thing.

At least that's the thing that Fury Road reminded me the most of.  Pacing and it is key to excellent storytelling.  Its one of those nebulous things that takes time and skill to truly master.

Damn.  I want to see it again.  This is like the first time I saw Babylon 5 or Seven Samurai.  I just want to be part of that story and world once again.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Flash Fiction: Cold Garden Ship

I stood up, kinda cold.  The station's always been that way.

I say station like this place is really something big or important.  It isn't.  Just enough to keep out the radiation.

"It's colder than normal-"

"Noticed that."

I didn't recognize that voice.  It wasn't anything familiar.  Not Cooperative.  I jumped at the sound of it though.

"Calm down."  I turned around to try and find the voice of this new stranger.  "Don't.  Stay still.  Or else-"

"Else what?"  I didn't quite understand that tone.  "Sorry, haven't been around people for awhile... usually I get to just lie here, riding the garden ship between stops-"

"Quiet.  Garden ship?"  What?  Wasn't that obvious?  I mean, I figured all the plants the Spirit maintained would make it obvious.  "You call this a Garden ship- so you are what, its gardener or what?"

"Um... this would be easier if you-"

"No.  Answer me."  That tone again.  I didn't like it.

"I just sorta like it here.  They let me ride.  Just my little place in the Co-op and all that-"

"So this is a Cooperative Ship.  It transports plant material then?"

I sighed.  "Ok, I've got to see who you are-"

"Move, and I will put a hole in you."  The voice paused.  "Sorry.  I've disabled the machine.  You can speak honestly-"

"Why would you do that?"  That made even less sense.  The Spirit maintained the garden.  Even gone for a little while, it would start to...  "Wait.  Honestly?"


"You don't make any sense.  I just live here."  I hate talking with people.  It felt like swallowing a knife.  "PLEASE turn them back on.  It is their garden-"

"And you are what, the machine's little pet?"  Vitriol.  Pity.  I did not like that tone.

"And you think you can just ruin a nice place because you can?"  My home.  The garden had been quiet.  Nice.  "I hate people, you know?  I just wanted a nice place to stay awhile.  This is my home-"

"Ugh."  Spit.  Disgust.  Whoever this was, I felt the urge to strangle him rise.  I shouldn't want to do that, I know.  But still, by the Cooperative, this guy had no respect.

"Can I at least look at you then?"

That's when the lights went out.

"Ok, ok."  The voice sounded even more frustrated now.  "I know you think the Cooperative is helpful, but- look, me and my people want to help you.  To free you from the machines.  They took control, and- please let me help you."

"The Cooperative- I'm sorry, I don't understand you."  I thought about his words, as the chill intensified.  My body started to shiver.  "The Cooperative is bigger than this garden ship.  I mean, it doesn't even have a name.  That's kinda the point.  Its a work of art, see, and the spirit has been trying to replicate Earth ecologies from ten thousand years ago-"

"And you happen to fit in as what, some sort of exhibit piece?"  The grunt of frustration had grown a bit.  "I don't want to leave you here to die."


"Well- please come with me, and I'll-"

"No."  I shook my head and sat down.  "Just back on the power.  Turn the spirit back on.  The garden can't exist without them-"

"This Spirit, the AI- c'mon, it just uses you."  The voice had gone desperate.  "Please.  This is my last chance-"

"What?"  I didn't understand.  He had to restore them!  What kinda cruel joke was this?  "The Cooperative let me stay here to get away from people!  Just like you!  You all drive me crazy!  This makes no sense-"

"I tried.  I really did..."

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Center Cannot Hold: The Tomasi

The Tomasi are the human tribe one of my players has been playing- well, he's been playing a Tomasi-Aethamir, so his focus has been the Aethamir part.  As for me, I've elaborated these notes based on his character, NPCs and the way Tomasi have acted so far in the game.  The Tomasi in fact are named after him too, as I find it to be a neat one to say aloud.

Tomasi are the Seafolk, lovers of good food and magic, and unwilling to surrender in the face of adversity.

The Tomasi, or Seafolk
The People of the Tomasi Plateau for centuries prior to the rise of their empire were well-known for their own particular arcane traditions.  With a predilection toward summoning planar monsters, it makes sense that their tribe's ancient homelands would later form part of the core of the Sorcerous Republic of Ith.

The Tomasi were a proud people long before the Ursyklon arrived on Orphos.  Their ancestors were sheepherders, their magical talents focused mainly on agrarian pursuits.  Some archaeological evidence suggests they might've served as slaves to the more ancient unknown empires, like the Aetheric.  But nothing conclusive remains it seems.

The Ursyklon were quick to conquer the Tomasi, who withdrew to the edges of coastlines to escape them.  Those Tomasi who refused to surrender instead fled onto ships, leaving flocks to instead make fortresses and castles in the many islands of the southern Maru Sea coast.  Although eventually they would fall under the sway of the Ursyklon, the epithet stuck: the Seafolk.  The Tomasi have no special claim over the sea, but their refusal to surrender, to even flee onto saltwater rather than give up describes them.

The Tomasi conquered most of the Maru Sea later on.  Their architecture, magical techniques, artifice, and other matters shaped the coast of what later would be Othebea, Ith and Ainesia.  As such, their tribe is the most numerous along the Maru Sea.  Even its name refers to them: Maru Seawalker Zarak Tyranus.  Maru Zarak was one of the oldest Queens of the Tomasi before the Ursyklon, and she led her people in their flight to the sea rather than surrender.  Maru's Sea eventually stuck, as most came to view the sea as something just inherit to the Tomasi.

The Tomasi Empire built itself on magic.  Ever since, the Tomasi have been passionate about the use of magic.  Even Tomasi with no sorcerous ability recall their people's accomplishments in terms of spells, artifice and alchemy.  The only thing Tomasi have a stronger passion about is food, hence the old Tomasi quote, "cooking is the last, true and difficult magical art to master."

Naming Conventions.
Tomasi names follow this convention: First Name, Middle Name, Last Name, often followed by a family-specific cognomen.

Tomasi use Cognomen to distinguish family bloodlines, as most of their family names go back thousands of years.  Upon reaching the age of 15, Tomasi choose a family name of their two parents to be theirs.  A Tomasi Orphan has no Cognomen, often they simply were given the surname based on the place they were born- the name of the town or city, or the geographic locale, such as Field, Boulder or River.  The idea of changing one's name for marriage isn't one the Tomasi like- marriage is a magical binding, but even it cannot alter the true name of a person for the sake of propriety.

Tomasi Middle Names or Honor Names, are given by parents to their children.  This is their immediate family's way of recognizing a favored relative, or better yet, to denote pride in something their child shows promise toward.  Names like Windtalker or Tidesong refer to nascent magical talent, something Tomasi recognize from a early age, and go out of their way to reinforce and encourage.

Note that even though the Tomasi have male and female names listed here, there also a list of third-gendered names as well.  Tomasi interactions with androgynous entities thousands of years ago instilled in them a need to also allow the naming of those who aren't male or female.  Further, all of these Tomasi names are very similar- in Tomish it is extremely simple to alter a name to different gender.  It is accepted for one to switch genders and therefore names, often multiple times, if one wishes.  With magic allowing this to happen even at a whim, it became practical to have a option for unisex, non-gendered names.

Further, Tomasi often use nicknames, shortening their names to one or two syllables.

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
First Name (Unisex): Gavi, Kario, Adelgi, Adlio, Kristofari, Hicaeli, Mirabio, Odesti, Santi, Dami
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.
Surnames: Aurelia, Brutt, Caelia, Falvia, Gabis, Junia, Oppi, Porcia, Quintus, Zarak.
Cognomen: Adjutor, Brugus, Krassus, Dunio, Rallus, Honoratus, Isatis, Marko, Montanus, Tyranus

Example Names: Dafni Adelgi Caelia Dunio, Odesto "Otis" Shipsaint Aurelia Krassus, Hicaeli "Hike" Fishchild Oppi Rallus

Most Tomasi families can trace their family lines back to legions that served the Empire over two-thousand years ago.  Many of these lines also share noble blooded or kingly heritages.  Citizens of the empire never adopted quite the same kind of nobility as non-Tomasi.  "Tomasi do not harm Tomasi" is a old refrain from the Empire, and it continues on today.  This includes usury- Tomasi loan, but never expect to make money off their fellow Tomasi.
Tomasi Bard Maralda Bloodsong Inculti Tyranus;

Tomasi nobility tended to be accumulated by immortals of one kind or another.  The exception to the rule, of course, is the Standard.  True Tomasi Nobility have a family Standard, one that was carried by the Legions and their Summoner-Legionnaires.  This is the sign and symbol of the Tomasi Noble, one cherished about all other things.

These days, most Standards are frauds or were sold long ago to settle family debts.  Tomasi Nobility are rare, if they exist anymore.  Most lost their lands to others- Othebean nobles or monstrous spellcasters who bested them long ago.  Those Tomasi nobles with them today are poor, destitute, and know that they confer no true titles or lands.

But one can try to remember the old dreams.

Tomasi Styles.
Tomasi preference a wide range of styles, often adopting foreign fashions rather than their own.  The Tomasi like blue tones, but aren't afraid to experiment with arcane magic to try out new things.  Ithic Tomasi are known for weaving illusions into their fabrics, sometimes to silence their clothes, other times to give even their waistcoats the appearance of clouds upon water.

Tomasi are dusky of skin, while their hair tends to be brown or black.  The Tomasi nose tends to be their most mentioned feature, often mocked or praised, depending on who speaks (often it is hooked, but not always).  But because of Tomasi use of magic or alchemy, it is well accepted for Tomasi to use illusion or dyes to alter their hair color, even their skin tone based on personal preference.  Tomasi often have purple eyes, although ones that are grey aren't uncommon either.  Rarely one is born with golden eyes, with literal flecks of gold in them.

Last Note: The Tomish Tongue.
The last important note to mention is the Tomish Tongue.  Not the only trade language of the Maru Sea, Tomish spread further than any other language due to the Tomasi Empire.  Tomish borrows countless words from other languages.  It tends to serve as a default academic language as well, since the Ancient Tomasi recorded copious notes and essays, many serving as the basis of learning.

The Church of the Machine has long taught Tomasi as part of its curricular, especially to those who do not know it.  Because the Church favors it as their main tongue, it has had the odd effect of only helping Tomish spread even faster.

Tomasi Stunt
Passionate Chef: No matter how poor the tools, you can turn any meat or vegetable matter into a delicious meal.  Food you cook always has the aspect, Delicious applied to it.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

City of Curses: The Ghostfolk (Fate Core)

Alt. Race for Crux (Fate Core)

Sometimes one finds the curses in Crux last longer than a lifetime.  Far longer.  The dead denizens of
the city come in a wide variety, but the easiest to run into at those of the Ghost Street in Old Crux: Ghosts.

Ghosts are trapped in the living plane.  Occultic texts claim that some sort of emotional or something important in life chains them to life.  Some others disagree, finding ghosts with no "outstanding" matters who seem only bonded to a physical object they owned in life.  A rare few ghosts seemed tied to specific bloodlines, often haunting their own descendants in their own unique way.

Of course, there are gatherings and societies of Ghosts as well.  Some of them find the idea of being
"stuck" because they cannot pass over offensive.  These are old ghosts, many who view themselves as citizens of Crux much as any other.

There are also those ghostly entities that seem to have lost their sentience or intelligence.  Or perhaps
they are the ghosts of more ephemera things than people.  Either way, they haunt certain places or
objects, repeating the same actions over and over again.  Repetition, if anything, seems to define all
Ghosts.  Ghosts tend to repeat memories, especially ones tied to their own deaths.

Ghosts can be from all races, including, paradoxically, Androids.  Android ghosts are hard to find, but they exist, repeating the same tasks assigned them in life.

Ghostwalkers.  Capable of seeing ghosts, regardless of how ephemeral they are, the living mortals known as Ghostwalkers serve the Prince by keeping Ghosts in check.  Some ghosts welcome them, approaching them with their problems.  Other ghosts deplore them.  A few outright scheme to eliminate them, or maneuver in disregard of them.  After all, if a ghost wishes to slay an entire bloodline descended from the one who killed them, the Ghostwalkers are the only ones actively trying to stop them.

Laws.  Ith recognizes ghosts as citizens, even if they were unsorcerous in life.  But ghosts are considered to be legally new people, not continuations of their living selves.  This was done to prevent some from trying to kill themselves to obtain a ghostly nature.  Ghost Law, then, deals with the ramifications of ghosts, their living relatives and ghostly issues.  Some Ghosts ignore all of these, unaware or not caring because of their own madnesses.  Others protest for more rights, not content with the prospect of being counted as copies and not originals.

All Ghost characters have to take the Anchored drawback and Incorporeal stunt in order to gain access to the ghost extras, stunts and Ghost skill.

Possible Aspects: Lady In White; The Haunted Sword; Chatty Poltergeist Paladin;
Anchored.  You always know where your anchor is, and if separated from it, gain a +2 bonus on rolls to track it down.  
Drawback: You are anchored to a specific place, thing or possibly even people.  This isn't a thing you can easily escape.  You are always drawn toward it, like a moth to a flame.  You have the aspect Ethereal Madness you aren't near your anchor.
Incorporeal: You must be a ghost or must be somewhat ephemeral in one way or another.  You have no physical form, and can pass through them as though they were made of air.  In order to physically touch you, a corporeal creature or object has to use some form of ectomancy to interact with your form.
Drawback: You take a -2 on any roll to interact with physical objects, to carry, manipulate, move or otherwise use them.
Psychometry: You can use the Ghost skill to peer into past events, allowing you to use it instead of Investigate.
Telekinetic: You have some ability to interact with physical objects, your telekinesis is apt enough that you can move physical objects.  You can ignore the penalty to interact with physical objects that you have from the Incorporeal Stunt.
Unseen Spirit: You are invisible to any living mortal, unless they have some sort of magical ability to see the undead of some sort.  If you spend a Fate point, you can turn visible again.
Skill: Ghost
Ghost can be used as a skill for Ghost incorporeal interactions with physical objects (mainly dodging them).  It also covers any sort of supernatural senses ghosts might've developed.

Ghosts and Physical Stress
Ghosts have a physical stress track, but it doesn't refer to their own physicality.  They don't have any.  Instead, physical stress they take effect whatever anchors them.  So, any physical consequences they acquire belong to those anchors, not the Ghosts themselves.

For example, if a Ghost is anchored to magical sword, her physical consequences apply to that blade, not her.  She doesn't have a Broken Leg, instead the Blade Is Cracked or the Hilt Has Loosened.

Ghost Player Characters
One last note: it's okay if players want to play ghost characters.  That door is open, but there are some noted issues with it, mainly the interaction stuff already mentioned above.  The benefits, storywise, are plentiful.

A ghost member of the Party could do a lot, but their nature is anchored to a specific place or item or person.  They can act outside that, but it limits them greatly.  In Crux, partnering between Ghosts and Ghostwalkers would be the natural solution to any problems.  Ghostwalkers train to help ghosts, but many are apt enough to allow a ghost to possess them or to spend a lot of time around them.  Ghosts could also be allies, taken as stunts.

Lastly, it bears mention the practice of Ectomancy.  Although mainly a subschool of necromancy, ectomancy can manipulate and alter ghosts.  Sometimes this can mean helping some ghosts with cosmetic changes- being left with a butcher's cleaver for eternity in one's face is awkward enough.  Other times ectomancy involves rituals that can re-bond or re-assign a ghost's anchor, albeit it temporarily.  Ectomancy does allow one to create a permanent new bond with a ghost, but that ritual is a binding of blood, something that can alter one's destiny.  It isn't taken on lightly, and ghosts fear it because it might make slaves of them.

Edit Notes
Thanks to +Donato di Niccolò di Betto Bardi for pointing out some errors in clarity on the Ghost stunts.  Revised and tried to clarify things, hopefully it read better now.  And thanks to +Донато ди Никколо̀ ди Бетто Барди for pointing out a few problems too.  :D

Thursday, May 7, 2015

City of Curses: Walridr or Dream-Vampires (Fate Core)

The Walridr or Dream-Vampires

"White butterflies flutter even in the briefest of dreams."

Aspect: White Butterfly Dreams
Invoke When: Manipulating the dreams of others or recounting a memorable story or song
Compel When: Presented with a chance to hear a entertaining story or song

The Walridr are migrant vampires, their clan coming from the northern parts of Ainesia to Crux more than a century ago.  They lack magickal power over a physical element.  Instead, the Walridr are known for their psychic talents, especially with dreams.

The Knight Walridr enjoyed his own fair share of song and tales during his life.  A wandering antipaladin, his sadistic tastes carried over onto those unfortunate enough to entertain him.  Singers would drown in their own blood, hearing his laughter last in their ears.

Walridr rode across the breadth of Jarn and Ainesia.  He left countless bodies, his horde of cutthroats and warriors staining those unfortunate to play host to them.  But then one dark night, Walridr came across a strange new sight: a dark circus, who Sabizi performers song different songs, and darker tales.

That night Walridr spent an hour alone with a dark woman.  She had no eyes and stank of cinnamon.  The dark circus played while the antipaladin's mind learned to hunger for something more.  She whispered the secret curse of the spheres into his mind, staining him with a unsatiable curiousity.  A need he could never satisfy.  No longer able to dream, he became obsessed with finding a way to dream again.

Walridr Extras
Dream-Vampire: This stunt costs 2 Fate refresh, but grants the Walridr the ability to cast major spells so long as they fall within the flavors of Butterflies, Dreams and Song.  In addition, the Walridr gains access to the skill Walridr, which they can use in place of Sorcery to cast spells, any sort of knowledge on stories or dreams, and in place of Will for avoiding psychic attacks.
Drawback: Dream-Vampires always love to hear a good story, and as such, like anything that resembles one.  Walridr take a -2 when opposing anyone using the Flashy approach.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

City of Curses: Icons: The Archbishop

The Archbishop
Aspect: In the Name of the Twins!
Quote: "The Summer Rose provided the fire that birthed you, she is in every breath that protect life and helps others. The Black Rose gave you the mind and will to improve on that fire, to make something with it. Don't damn your soul with curses and magick like the rest of this cursed city."

For Othebeans in Crux, both visiting and migrants, the Archbishop has always been the true authority in the city. For the faithful of the Twins, the Archbishop is the voice of their will on Orphos. Through the Archbishop works the semi-secret society of the Eternal Order of the Eagle and the Crow, which hunt monsters in Crux in spite of Ithic laws against that.

Common Knowledge
The Archbishop resides with St. Zyra's Cathedral, near the middle of the Rose Quarter. The massive structure is one of the enduring monuments of Othebean rule over the city. Naturally it has long been the center of many different controversies.

The Archbishop is known for not only being the head of the Church of the Twins, both the bishopric of the Summer Rose and the bishopric of the Black Rose, but also to lead or advise a number of other groups as well. Charities, knightly orders and groups like the Eternal Order of the Eagle and the Crow all recognize his authority in their affairs. Of course his position has a great deal of political power, as the Church of the Twins remains the most popular faith in Crux.

But all the Archbishop influences is met with open arms.  Ithic law restricts the authority of the Eagles and Crows, making it illegal for them to arrest people.  Others, like the Church of Shraxes or the Church of the Machine remember or still have faced harassment and violence at the hands of the Archbishop's authority.  For the Archbishop's part, all such claims are denied or claimed as being part of the self-defense of those who couldn't defend themselves.
The first bishops of the Twins in Crux lived in secret.  The Tomasi empire had outlawed their faith, punishing those caught worshipping the Twins by pitting them against conjured monsters in their gladiatorial flesh pits.  Saints like Zyra acted as archbishop in those days.  When the Tomasi Empire fell, the Church of the Twins became more open among the common folk of Crux.  Its popularity was viral, becoming the major religion among those without arcane or sorcerous privilege.
The idea of an Archbishop, or head of the local church, came in the aftermath of the Othebean Crusades.  The Crusades were called after a series of arcane incidents in Ith.  Eldritch horrors summoned by out of control spellcasters ravaged the region.  The call for paladins of Othebea to cleanse Ith of its dark evils led to Othebea conquering it.
Last to fall in the Crusades was Crux.  The City of Curses came under Othebean control only after those leading the crusade knelt before the Prince.  The leader of the Crusade was also its Archbishop, who would come to reside in Crux as its first Archbishop.  
The Archbishop's early years in Crux sat on a knife's edge.  The Inquisition often would burn masses of witches and heretics, inciting the Prince to react against them.  These back and forths relied on the Archbishop to keep them from boiling over into all out conflict.  The monthly witch pyres would grate too much, helping to spark the revolution wars that ended in Ith's independence.
In recent years, the Archbishop also has become the chief ambassador for Othebea in Ith, offering diplomatic powers in addition to the other political powers of the position.  Memories still echo from when the Archbishop's inquisitors would burn tieflings, pagans and others in the Rose Quarter, sometimes in the forms of ghosts that still haunt.  The Archbishop has never apologized for any of this, maintaining that the Church of the Twins remains focused on helping others and showing them the path illuminated by the Summer Rose and Black Rose.

The Banker has become a prominent ally for the Archbishop. The charities and philanthropic efforts of the Banker often have helped the Archbishop maintain various parts of the faith.  There are those who accuse the Archbishop of being bought; but others ask how else they are to find the funds for the orphanages and other organizations the Church of the Twins maintains in Crux.

The Police Commissioner, despite being enforcing Ith's Laws (and whatever conflicts with the Twins faith that might entail).  The Metropolitan Police are strong allies of the Archbishop, chiefly because a part of their number are members of the faith.  The Commissioner has often acted in concert with the Archbishop, if only to help with recruiting more to the Metro.  The Archbishop helps the Commissioner by providing Clerics for various tasks, out of a need for duty- both the Order of the Black Rose and Summer Rose often seek some sort of civic duty as part of their very natures as faiths.

The Blood Barons are the most unlikely allies of the Archbishop.  Even though the Archbishop commands an order of monster hunters that might hunt or seek to stop them, four of the five elder vampires in Crux are members of the faith of the Twins.  The Inculti are the most fervent in their faith, often recommending some of their dhampir children as deacons or potential clerics for seminary.  Because they believe in the Twins, these vampires work to help the Archbishop out of a need to help affirm that faith.

The Archbishop has long made efforts to spread the faith to others, be they Ursyklon, Maliphi or others, including the  Tengu.  The Prophet of Winds has long seen this as a invasive attack against her people.  Tengu who've "gone crow" are converted Tengu- they've abandoned their people to assimilate into the Church of the Twins and its culture.  Its a derisive subject among the Tengu of both sides, who will refuse to speak to one another.  The Archbishop and the Prophet remain on opposites of this fight for the tengu's faith.

The Maliphi worship the Twins as well, but theirs is a much different version of the faith from the Othebean one.  As such, the Spice Khan and the Archbishop have long been bitter toward one another.  It never has been violent, but most know of the animosity between them.  This is a further extension of their two nations as well; where the Spice Khan represents Maliph, the Archbishop stands for Othebea.  Both mock the other, and both are quick to point to what they perceive as flaws in the other.

The Publisher opposes any religious authority from Othebea, always quick to cite the witch burnings of the past.  But it runs deeper than that.  Ainesia and its Revolution are core to the fervor of the Publisher and what he promotes.  Any traditional authority is something he and his publications oppose.  The Archbishop, however, is fully aware of the Publisher's constant demonizations.  The Church of the Twins has its own newspapers in Crux, promoting a view specifically to counter the yellow journalism of the Publisher.

Sidebar: Joining the Faith of the Twins
The established faith of the Twins places a central part in Othebea.  As such, there is long established series of ways one can join the faith, support it or even work for it.  Each of the classes of Cleric, Inquisitor, Paladin and others have found their own niches, all worth mentioning here.  Race, gender or other origins play no part in taking on these roles, as the Twins "give birth and death to us all."

Deacons, or the Deaconate, are servants, workers and messengers for the Church.  They are the most plentiful.  Many are volunteer deacons- they spend only a part of their time as deacons for the Church, while others find gainful employment as deacons.  Deacons can be of any class, often ones more associated with labor or less divine means, like Ranger, Smith or Bard.

Bishops manage various parts of the church.  The larger the congregation, the more Bishops there are to help maintain the various orders.  Bishops oversee various daily operations, and often report to a higher authority about their specific office and its tasks.  Most often that authority is an Archbishop, such as the one in place in Crux.  Bishops can be of any class, but often are Clerics or Inquisitors.  Clerics act often as Bishops, even when they have no official rank within the church.

Curates are preachers and often deal with congregations on a day to day basis.  Curates the traditional priest who manages his or her flock- they take confession and help conduct minor rites.  Curates are usually Clerics, usually very young or very old.  Although sometimes one might be assigned as a Curate as a punishment- either for something political or perhaps something worse.

Last mentioned here are the Exorcists.  These Clerics, Paladins, Oracles or Inquisitors are "troubleshooters."  Their rank and position often set aside, as they deal with supernatural and other problems first, asking questions later.  Church Exorcists handle different problems based on whether they are of the Summer or Black Rose.  They are the ones who are called by the faithful to deal with ghosts or to deal with a bizarre necromantic curse.

Monday, May 4, 2015

On The Importance of Hawkeye: The Everyperson

Between work and the horror that is spring/summer, I managed to catch a chance to see Avengers 2.  And then I came back the next day to watch it a second time.  Needless to say, I don't have any complaints about the film.  If anything, I walked away happy because one thing was done right: Hawkeye served as the everyman of Age of Ultron.

I use that term because its the closest thing I can think of to describe what I liked about his character building in the film.  Here is the normal guy of the team, who only uses bow and arrow.  Here is the essence of the Hawkeye I've read in the comics: grounded and always striving to do the right thing despite the mistakes he makes.  Everyman characters like that always are there to help the audience identify with them.  The everyman (or everywoman, or everyperson I suppose would be better, even though I can't think of that many female versions of the trope compared to the standard cutout ones) serves a critical role in big , epic stories.  These are your Samwise Gamgees, the "normal" character.  The one who doesn't seem that special.

That's key because the character proves to rise above what you think they could be.  They don't fail.  And we identify with them.  The everyperson is us, the one who stands up and does the epic thing no one else was expecting of them.  The first time I became enamored the trope was with Babylon 5- Vir Cotto, who was just a minor character in that series was pivotal because he was the everyperson of that story.  Ordinary,  but capable of doing more than others might think of him.

But the sad thing is its hard to use the Everyperson trope in RPGs.  I mean, in one way, all player characters are Everypeople in one way or another.  But they also tend to be somewhat superheroic.  And the players expect them to be... well, characteristic of things beyond what other character would be capable of.

It's unfair to think that lessens PCs in some regard.  By their very nature, PCs already do what everyperson characters are intended to do: help the audience identify with a character who proves what we all want to believe: we are better than what our doubts say we are.  It is the point of the exercise in one fashion: stories help us become more than we are.  Roleplaying Games sort of can do this as their main point.  So trying to make a character- whether an NPC or PC, as an everyperson doesn't really work, on paper anyway.  There is room for me to be proven wrong, of course.

This goes back to a worse problem, and that is using a trope or stereotype as the basis of a character. Characters, rpg, novel or otherwise, should be themselves.  Looking to just create a character based off a checklist or using a trope like a cookie cutter misses the point of characterization altogether I think.  Yes, you can design a character to fit a trope, but that is different than just duplicating something like one might extract a clone from the cloning vat.

Shouldn't we aim for magic, not something off a xerox?