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.


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 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.


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?


@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.


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.


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.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

City of Curses: Eyes of Red (Flash Fiction)

Kunan fell.

That had been his intent after all, although half way down panic set in.  He'd never lept this far down before.  Kunan had aimed for the largest detritus he could see in the alley below the wall.  He hoped it could catch him.

Nonetheless, he fell.

The wall he had jumped from had been the main division between the Wish Quarter and the landfills of the Rag Coast.  Kunan could withstand the stench.  His father's stables had enured him against whatever could be over here.  He just hoped the fiend-blooded gangsters following him weren't.  They didn't follow, but he could see the five of them watch him fall.  They then started to run, looking for ways to follow him down.


Kunan landed on the detritus.  Something cracked.  The air vacated his lungs in a burst.  He tried and failed to right himself.  His left leg didn't move.  It burned.  Lightning shot from it.

Kunan felt his leg.  Bones had twisted themselves under the skin.  He felt something cold in his right leg.  Red started to bleed into his clothes.

"Drek."  Kunan told himself.  The pain came whenever he tried to move the leg.  His right arm didn't want to move either, it dangled.  Kunan's mother had been Ramelin.  She always taught her son that life was pain.

His father wasn't.  Kunan's Tomasi father would then roll his eyes.  Then his father would tell him that sometimes running away from pain was smarter.  Smarter than trying to outlive it.

"I've gotta get out of here.  Before the tieflings..."  Kunan panted with effort, using his left arm to find leverage.  Garbage and trash slid around him.

Kunan's left arm dug under the grime and muck.  The young, overweight man felt for some sort of crack or crevice.  Fingers found purchase.  Enough that he could tug himself under more trash.  Kunan then paused, waiting.

He closed his eyes.  He hoped that the tieflings wouldn't see his injured body among the garbage in the Rag Coast.

The young groom hadn't meant to wind up in Crux's most notorious landfill.  The entire neighborhood had been overrun by garbage and other things.  Butchers dumped their offal here.  The Iron's poured their runoff into the river next to it.  On top of all that, this was the cheapest place to get rid of the dead.  No one charged you for your body to go here.  Most Unsorcerous ended up here.

Kunan didn't want to join the corpses the pigs ate.

"You see him?"  A voice called.

"Fuck this guy, he can't protect his horses down here."  Another voice said.

"Yeah, but-"

"Yeah what?  Idiot threw himself off the wall into the Rag Coast."  It sounded like one of the Tieflings.  Guttural, tainted by fiendblood.  Most tieflings looked like some part of demon.  Kunan had no idea why that was.  His mother always cringed at them, saying they should've killed in the crib by their mothers.

That didn't matter now.  His horses were as good as gone.  His father would thrash him for that.  Kunan had thought he could get rid of the thieves and save the horses.  Why hadn't he just given them up?  Why did he put up a fight?

"You're right."  The other voice said.  "Sorry, sometimes the bloodlust just takes over me."

"C'mon, lets get out of here before Cullach shows."

Kunan winced as he tried to crawl out from the pile.  He had to follow them.  Kunan didn't know what he could do to them.  But maybe if he followed he could find a clue to figure it out later.  Kunan had raised those horses himself.  Those were his first sell.  At least supposed to be.


He jumped up at the sound.  Kunan then landed on his bad leg.  Pain lanced up it.  Lightning made him scream.  It echoed.  Kunan hoped it wouldn't bring the tieflings back.

A dirty, brown and white tiny pig looked up at him.  A tiny little fella.  Kunan blinked at him.  The tiny pig had an inquisitive look.

"Where did you come from?"  Kunan wondered.

"He be one of mine."  A grunting voice spoke.  The Tomish it spoke sounded like it wasn't coming from a human.

A pair of red eyes emerged from the nearby shadows.  A old boar of a swine came out from the shadows.    He wore a wide brimmed, black hat.  He looked Kunan up and down.  Kunan recognized the look of intelligence in the large pig's scarred eyes.

"You can talk."  Kunan thought aloud.

"Aye.  Be feyborn.  I'm Pa Cullach.  You got a name?"  The pig sniffed as he spoke.

"Kunan.  I just was trying to get away- look, you know someone who can help me?"  Kunan said.

"Help you?  You running away from them Tieflings?  Demon's Orphans and that drek?"

"Yes, up until I took a bit of a fall."

Pa Cullach looked up to the top of the wall that divided the Rag Coast from the Wish Quarter.  "Bit of a tumble I'd say.  Boy, can you walk?"

"Do I look like I can walk, pig?"  Kunan put emphasis on that last word.  He didn't care for being condescended down to.  "I need help, I'm bleeding and-"

"I smelled the blood."  Pa Cullach said.  "Just wanted to know if you could walk or not."

"I can't."

"Good."  Then Pa Cullach's porcine jaws clamped down on Kunan's throat.  A wet scrunch and pain throttled Kunan.  He couldn't scream.  Blood just curdled.  He choked.  He thrashed.

The feyborn, talking pig held him down.  Kunan's eyes widened as a herd of pigs swarmed all over him.  Hungry red eyes.  Teeth tore into him.  Twenty hungry swine ripped him into dozens of pieces as Pa Cullach fed his herd.

Monday, November 9, 2015

City of Curses: Neighborhoods: The Rag Coast

The Rag Coast.
Aspect: Ragged Waste
Connected To: The Irons District (to the South), Grand Bazaar (to the Northeast, Port of Crux (to the North), Palace Hill (to the East), Wish Quarter (to the Southeast).
Most Significant Icon: None
Well Known For?  Filth, Crematories, Butcheries, Penny Graves, and Grotesque Swine.

Stinking of filth and grime, the Rag Coast sits along a stretch of the Locke river. Sewer grates and landfills dominate the shore line.  This is a dumping ground for offal and dead animals from the Grand Bazaar and other parts of Crux.  

I don't linger here, at this eyesore that springs from the city into the sea.  This is a place to dump the unwanted.  One shudders at the thought of what might have left here.


Landfills and other detritus always have clogged parts of Crux.  At first caught in nooks and crannies.  In the last few centuries it had gotten out of hand.  The founding of the Ragwalkers had led to neighborhoods like Old Crux and the Grand Bazaar clean.  But the worst place remained.

Although the Ragwalkers rid a great deal of the sewerage and garbage, they couldn't take care of all of it.  The industrial waste of the Irons District and slaughterhouses had to go somewhere.  The Rag Coast is where most dump it into the Locke river to float out to the sea.  The Locke by the time it flows into the sea is already laden with waste from northward.

The Rag Coast also handles the dead.  Most are the unsorcerous dead, or those bodies people want to see go away.  The herds of pigs that seem endemic to the area consume any dead left out.

The Grotesque Swine of the Rag Coast.

Herds of pigs inhabit the Rag Coast, some tended by humans or the exploitative feyborn pigs.  Among these herds are also are the grotesque pigs, or bear-pigs.  Each of these swine are more massive than any simple boar or pig.  Each stands the height of a full grown human at the shoulder, almost sixteen feet in length.  They have been known to attack and eat horses.  Grotesques are kept at bay by the Rag Coast wards.  A series of enchantments that keep them from wandering into the Grand Bazaar, or the Docks.

They do make into the Wish Quarter.  The Tieflings do what they can.  But their side of the wards the Ragwalkers have rarely maintained.

Grotesque Pig Stats

Aspects: Grotesque Pig; Really, Really Big Pig
Fair (+2) Fierce: Audacity Good (+3), Mechanics
Good (+3) Beastly: Influence Great (+4), Vigor Superb (+5), Vim Superb (+5), Violence Great (+4)
Average (+1) Swift: Animalism, Deduction Good (+3), Skulduggery
Massive Pig: Grotesque Pigs get a +2 on Vigor or Vim whenever their big size could prove useful for them.


No icon has a claim over the Rag Coast, although Tieflings claim it is a pet project of the Prince's to torture them.  But there isn't anything of value for anyone to find in the Rag Coast.  Not unless you are trying to dump things you don't want there.

The Police Commissioner has been trying to wrest some sort of control over the area.  The Rag Coast seems key for all sorts of investigations.  The Commissioner doesn't have the legal authority to conduct investigations within Crux, however.  Attempts to search the Rag Coast have all fallen through.

The Archwitch and her own use the Rag Coast as a quick dumping ground for those willing to pay them the right price.  The Archdruid and other Ursyklon do what they can to try to rein in the feyborn pigs of the Rag Coast, the Cullach.  The Cullach seem to enjoy using their own unintelligent kind, sometimes even eating them.  The Archdruid is certain the area is poisoning local leylines.  But she hasn't been able to find druids willing to try to take over the area.

The Cullach are handy to ask about any bodies dumped in the Rag Coast.  They keep any trinkets they find.  Some have accused Pa Cullach of eating dead humans himself.  He seems to always find the freshest dead left to rot.  For the right price, the old boar is more than willing to tell others of his tasty takes.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Keepers: The Second Season

The Reboot.

So, I hit a snag, and a problem, in my home Crux game.  The temptation to kill the game and start with something fresh has to compete with my urge to finish it.  You see, I made a big mistake.

The problem stems from the error I made in creating the game to begin with.  Crux had been a pet side project, and suddenly using it to run a game was more of an impulse decision.  I did it because I had been drinking and breathing it for two or three months beforehand.  On top of that, I had two new players- new to me, not to gaming- and I had little experience running Fate Core, not one of my slipshod hacks of nWoD or Pathfinder.

I don't want to play or run Pathfinder again.  It isn't bad, I just feel exhausted with it.

But Fate Core?  I still think I could learn how to do it better.

Mistaken At Inception

The big mistake is that I hurried didn't really forge a good story around the group the characters belongs to.  This means they have, well, no cohesive reason to work together.  It never came into being.  Because of that, there isn't a group story, just their individual stories.  Which has worked remarkably well.  But there isn't a group story going on.

So the question, "why do you work together?" needs to be answered.

My idea is do what I've been calling a soft reboot, but it's more akin to season two of a tv show.  Often you'll see TV shows that get second seasons do something different at the start of season 2.  Especially if they were uncertain if they were going to have a second season at all.  First seasons will often finish a storyline, which is great.  But finishing that arc and keeping the story going requires a bit of a "soft" redo on a few things.

Agents of Shield did this.  The first season elements- the bus, Shield as an organization, etc., didn't make it 100% whole into the next season.  Season two established new characters and new central locations.  B5 did similar things, as did other shows.  Often this is because of budget.  Season two got a chance to redo a key set, having learned from mistakes during season one to improve on it.

"Soft Reboot"

This is my plan.  I say soft "reboot" but really mean a new season.  Things get tweaked.  Changed.  Characters get revisited, reexamined, but not changed radically.  Central to this is getting the characters a new central plot platform.  The Keepers, as they are called as a group, get their own story arc of sorts.  A central mythos to give them a strong reason to work together.

To do this, I'm having a second character creation session.  I'm going to try to do things differently, to improve on my mistakes.  Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

City of Curses: Myths: The Vault of the Last

Crux, 1435 After Othebes

Tynann Wiseowl tried not to fall over with anxiety at the sight of the angel in the air above her.  

Afterall, Angels appeared so rarely.  Each other time had ended in some sort of disaster.

"Um, pardon sir, or ma'am?" The Ursyklon girl stammered at the six winged, red-haired feminine being hovering above her.  As a Ursyklon, Tynann felt tiny compared to the angel's towering height.  "I don't know, if you are one or the other or... you know..."

The red-haired being looked down at her.  Eyes glowing with white energy dug into Tynann's soul.

"Keeper.  Take me to the Vault of the Last."

"Riiight."  Tynann tried not to wince at the words as the angel spoke them.  Being a Keeper had been something she'd been hoping to have get out.  "Uh, how do you-"

The angel bent over.  She placed a fist on one hip.  "The Vault.  You will take me to it."

Tynann crossed her arms.  She didn't care how powerful this being was.  Tynann didn't care for that.  That was rude.  She kicked herself for entertaining that thought.  

So instead of snapping at the angel, Tynann instead sputtered her words out.  "Oh."

The Ursyklon girl pointed.  "I have to inform the others first.  You understand that I can't take you to it without them knowing about it?"

"We know what the Vault of the Last is."  The Angel said.  Each word seemed to echo, as if material.  "We were sent to deal with it.  It is tainted, forever by the Not."

Tynann paused.  "Angel, you mean to destroy it?"

"We mean to deal with it.  Your order tends to it."  The angel replied.  "Take me to it and let me bring it a honorable end."

"I am blessed by the worldsoul."  Tynann whispered.  Her eyes glowed green.  "Celestial foreigner.  My people fear you not.  We keep the Vault for the day it is needed.  We refuse devils and demons.  Angels are no different for our work."

The angel tilted her head.  "You threaten one of the high."

"Um..."  Tynann tried to close her eyes.  "I'm doing my job.  You know what it is."

"Call your others, then."  The Angel sat down on a nearby barrel.  The street continued to pause and stare at her.  "We will await them.  Then we will... discuss this honorable end."

The Vault of the Last.
Some stories tell of a sealed locale under Crux.  A place as old or older than the city itself.  Sealed away.  The name always sticks in the back of the mind: the Vault of the Last.

The name itself is part of its mystery.  The Last?  Did they build it, or is the Vault the last thing to be found in the city?  Is it for some future end, or is the last of something far older?

  • The Skullmount is believed to have belonged as the skull for some long forgotten god.  If so, perhaps the Vault of the Last is the weapon that took the head from that god?
  • Not all Aboleth were contained by the Ursyklon.  The Prince must've made a deal with one or two, giving them their own place within his city of Curses.  The Vault could be a place where they wait in stasis, unwilling to give the Ursyklon the chance to stop their reawakening in centuries to come.
  • Ancient empires existed long before Crux.  Their greatest treasure must be contained there, something the Prince has used by doesn't want others to find: the key to eternal youth.
  • The iron cage of Shraxes must be located somewhere.  Why not a Vault?  What better place for it?
  • Maybe it wasn't a weapon, but instead something that could kill its own creator.  The egg or child of the long dead god-mother.  Maybe it slumbers, waiting for someone to wake to mature fully...
  • A tool so powerful it frightens Angels.  A doorway that opens onto the myriad of planes, making Crux potentially a centerpoint of gateways.  The Vault could be a vast nexus, something best left sealed so that so many planes don't melt into one another.

Monday, November 2, 2015

City of Curses: Icons: The Voice.

#Crux post for today.  Another icon down, the Voice.  No one knows her birth name, just her nom de plume.  Once a found voice for a opera, she has blossomed to one of the major forces for making lives better in the city of curses.

Aspect: Sing It For the World!

Quote: "No.  I'm helping you because I believe in what you are.  You are the best.  I can tell.  I can't see or hear you, but I believe in you from what I have experienced so far."

The Voice is most well-known celebrity of the Maru Sea.  Known for her talent at singing, composing music, theatre and more.  Her fame is only matched by her generosity.  The Voice matches the beauty of her performances with her charitable efforts.

Common Knowledge

The Voice first could be thought as a celebrity who most in Crux associate with Palace Hill.  But many people in Crux don't think of her first as a singer.  They don't even think of her as the highest priestess of the Singer of the Song in the city.  For most, the Voice helps people.

Her vocal support of labor has enamored her among the working class.  The Voice and her myriad of charities are always seen at protests.  Her editorials are read throughout the city.  The Voice calls for social reforms, often done through nonviolent means in contrast to the Revolution in Ainesia.

She headlines the most stunning and beautiful performances the city ever sees.  The Voice is a headline that most read attentively.  She is the Voice of the age, after all.


The epic opera Of Children Dreamt, fifteen years ago had been a landmark moment in the Revolution Wars.  Ith had won its independence and Ainesia remained locked in its own series of conflicts.  Music and performances had become less seen in the Maru Sea.  Of Children Dreamt did what Ariastics always believed: it softened hearts and opened doors.  The Singer's Ceasefire came into being because of it's performance throughout the Maru Sea.

A young woman, her face covered in a massive port-wine stain birthmark, had been chosen by Of Children Dreamt's author, Eshua Blindsong Sardhu to sing it.  Despite trepidations and concerns, the young woman's voice entranced audiences.  The prima donna of the opera sparked the Singer's Ceasefire.  It opened negotiations for the Treaty between Othebea and Ith.  It even paused fighting in Ainesia.

She would prove to be multi-talented.  In the years following, she wrote her own ballads and operas.  Many considered it the start of a new revival in music and art.  A enlightenment of song that heralded a brief, albeit short, moment of peace following the dark horrors of the Revolution Wars.

Even as her legend grew, the singer refused to ever give her birth name.  For a time people called her by her first role, Youth.  People gave her the appellation of the famed Bards that served Ainesia royalty centuries before:  The Voice.

The Voice ascended in fame steadily from that moment on.  In the last ten years she's proven herself to be concerned with the affairs of others as well as herself.  When a man started to beat an Android openly in the street of Palace Hill, the Voice had been seen stopping him.  After enchanting the man, she bought the Android's freedom on the spot from him.

The World's Labor League, despite holding meetings for illegal unions, have always been supported by the Voice.  In unsubtle terms she's held fundraisers for them.  She's spoken with Senators of Ith for expanding the rights of Unsorcerous.  Her standing advocacy for the Unsorcerous stands out in Ith.  Unafraid of the consequences, the Voice funds those that might help save those less fortunate.

She hires adventurers to perform various tasks in the city.  She meets and gives time to those who want things of her.  Most do not know how she does what she does.  She performs every night, writes during the day, and still manages to find time to patronize heroes to help others in Crux.  But she does all of that.

She does it all, despite being both deaf and blind.  She does it magnificently.


The Tinkerer's interest in the welfare of Androids and the Voice's interest in helping others, makes the two of them natural allies.  But the two do clash from time to time.  The Tinkerer often rarely leaves Poorfellows, while the Voice is certain more activity is needed to help Androids find some sort of freedom.

The Chancellor of the University and the Voice both work together.  The university supports a wide range of music and arts.  The Voice sends many of her own apprentices to the University.  She finds needed talent there.  The education that advances them to the next level needed for performing and making better lives for themselves gives her good reason to work well with the Chancellor.


The Banker and the wealth the Banker manages pay a good part for performances of the Voice.  The Banker does try to control the Voice.  To convince her to rein in her protests and social reform efforts.  Most of these are bad for business.  These efforts often fail.  The Banker hasn't yet turned to violence or worse, but is willing to help supply clients with ways to bypass the Voice's efforts from time to time.

The Publisher is intense rival of the Voice.  Despite both wanting social and government reforms, the Voice opposes the use of violence to achieve such aims.  The Publisher thinks this is naive, and that change requires a violent revolution.  Both speak out and manuever in opposition to one another, while still trying to keep the movement for change going forward.