Monday, February 29, 2016

The Center Cannot Hold: Bursting Ley Lines

From Leylines of Crux, by Katnya Batscream, Priestess of the Wolf-Mother.

"The world of Orphos has a series of powerful ley lines that crisscross it. The Archdruid Srady landed his people near a confluence of those lines at the start of the invasion. That confluence, wherein thirteen ley lines converged, is the City of Crux.

Each line follows natural flows of energy. Like rivers, they move energy. What Srady noticed, was how all thirteen leylines flow their energy to a singular point. What is strange about that confluence?
It lies in the ocean just outside of Crux. It seems to build up there, even if there is nothing out there. If anything, it lacks anything of note.  Other than being fiercely protected by Cecaelia Witches and the Prince.

As long no one is trying to abuse the power of these energies, then there is nothing to worry. But as any druid knows, being about to tap into one leyline is an incredible thing. Not only do they grant powerful prophetic visions, but our own Druids once used leylines to strike down armies and to create miracles during the Invasion.  

Archdruid, I recommend we find a way to either redirect these leylines.  Or to cover up their existence at least.  We need to prevent someone from abusing them, or worse, creating an catastrophe."

Leylines and Druidic Power

Leylines have a significant effect in terms of certain magics.  Their energies can be used for prophecy.  They also can be used to power significant enchantments.  But Druidic magic understands how best to use them.

Arcane magick has rarely experimented with leylines.  It tends to focus on individual scales of magic make ley lines appear less useful.  Their scale of size and flow of energies seem too slow for wizards.

Ursyklon Archdruids during their Invasion, used leyline energies at key battles.  At each instance, they seemed to create miracles through them.   Many think the secrets of such archdruidic ley line magic are lost and forgotten.

Archaeology and Leylines.

The new Archaeologist class can use the same basic principles of druidry that apply to ley lines.  Their psychometry capacity can used on places, but few Archaeologists have tried that.  They tend to think in terms of relics when using their psychometry.  Archaeologists combine the magic of druids, the luck of rogues and the curiosity of wizards.  It is still a new class, but a few archaeologists haves started to study leylines.

Their psychometry can become a sort of vision into the past when they use leylines.  Archaeologist see this as a sort useful tool.  But they don't see uses for ley lines beyond just divination.  Afterall, the main focus of Archaeologists is knowledge.

Inward or Outward.

Most think of using leylines for divination.  The spellcaster can tap into the flow of energies, extending their senses through them.  Different classes can extend their visions in different ways.  Almost all Ursyklons can tap into ley lines as well.  For them, this often grants visions.

This is the inward application of leylines.  Each one is different.  A individual ley lines flow, history and location flavor it.  Ley lines connect to multiple dimensions and planes.  Although a light connection, most ley lines connect to the skein and even to the aether to a certain extent.  They seem to be concentrations of raw nature, raw reality in a lot of ways.

One can apply leylines in outward applications.

Each leyline has its own flavors.  Most see ley lines as sources of energy.  That is, they are rivers from which one can drink its power.

But like a river, you can pour more into them.  Rampant storms can cause rivers to burst their banks.  Ley lines are the same way.  Druids and others know you can pour energy into a leyline, bursting it to overflow.  Each leyline has its own flavor, a way it flows, which makes each outburst different.  A leyline running underground that overflows triggers earthquakes.  One running through a river causes the river to change direction.  One running through a city can cause streets to erupt into riots.

Bursting a leyline like that is dangerous, akin to triggering a disaster.  You can't control how or what'll it do.

But it isn't the only way.  One can also dam a leyline.  Druids can choose to block it's flow, pooling the energy at a single place or point.  Given time, this dam can burst too.  Or the druid can burst it. They use runes and enchantments to direct the dammed up energy whichever way they want.  Some believe this is how Ursyklons must've powered their living ships.

The Unexplored Reaches

Then, there are those unexplored parts of leylines.  Druids have never experimented too much with leyline magic.  Wizards have ignored them for the most part.  This can't last.  Not in the age of industry.  Not in an age that sees steam engines and magic working together.

Others have yet to explore what can or can't be done with their flows of energy.  The use of Archaeologist's Psychometry with ley lines suggest that other kinds of tricks.  Some wonder if one could power extradimensional spaces with the flow of leylines.  More than one arcane magic theorist have suggested applying the damming technique.  The best use would be for the sake of large-scale conjuration.   Perhaps like creating an eidolon, more gigantic than that has ever been seen before.

Industrialists have started some investigation into machines powered by leylines.  None of these have borne fruit yet.  Soon someone will invent the machinery that can drain leylines of their energy.  Then apply that energy for industrial uses.  Whether the Church of the Wolf-Mother will allow or stand for that sort of action remains to be seen.

Friday, February 26, 2016

In Transit Monsters 42 (A Story of the Hecate Project)

#InTransitMonsters is a #firstdraft #novel about Technology as Messiah.  Humanity is about to fall, and is forced to create monsters to save itself.  Can these giant monsters succeed, or will humanity's old ambitions damn the species to extinction?  A bit of a shorter entry, but better than none I guess.

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Lhyst (H plus 7 Days)
My eyes still felt strange to me.  I'd been using them to see for more than a day.  But I still stumbled here and there.

It was like learning to walk again.

Standing at the edge of Fontana, I watched the Monsters begin their assault.  Seeing them for the first time had been odd, but not frightening.  Each of them towered over me, their bodies proportions all wrong.  They looked more robotic than human.  I didn't know why they referred to themselves as monsters, but the word worked for the moment.

I stood on top of the ridge that overlooked Fontana.  Charlie had explained I couldn't go with them against the thing under the city.  I didn't disagree.  I watched the city I had been hiding in.  Me in my pressure suit, with Red.

@Rousseau: I wonder what the Enemy will do if this works.

"Who knows."  I retorted.  "As far as I know, no one's ever taken a city back from them.  Not without nukes."

@Rousseau: These monsters...  I see many advantages they have over normal soldiers.  I think they were designed.  Whoever it was, it had to be by something not human.  No human would design others to look so different.  It crosses the psychological barrier for human taste too much.

"You really think I want to talk about that stuff with you?"

@Rousseau: You're curious too aren't you?

I shrugged.  He was right.

"Yeah... Well... TBH, IDK."  I felt Rousseau connect to Charlie's mission dreamspace.  Soon she'd be giving her orders and start this operation.  "Why would a machine like you design giants, Rousseau?  Giants with weird bodies.  I don't see how that's helpful against the Enemy."

It felt strange to think I could hold conversations at length with my own BrainSys.  A piece of wetware lodged in my head.  But I'd gotten used to being blind pretty quick.  Adapting to having another voice in my head was getting easier and easier.

@Rousseau: They need that size.  Their unique abilities require energy and computing power normal human bodies couldn't contain.  At their size, organic reactors and computers could be incorporated into their bodies easily.  Their designer chose their size to facilitate their abilities.  

"Whoever designed them still got their heads wrong."  I said.  "They're too small, and their legs are too big."

@Rousseau: Their bodies are optimally designed.  Their anatomy has to compensate for their size.  Normal human proportions at their scale would cause have health problems.  They'd be unable to fight, if at all.

That made a sort of sense.

"Charlie should be about to start the battle."  I said.

@Rousseau: You expect her to give a speech?

"I would."  I paused.  "Well, I guess I would if I had to be in charge of this sort of thing."

@Rousseau: You're a deserter.  You did your best to try and avoid paying attention to basic training.

"And I was too scared to let them shot me."

@Rousseau: That's fair.

Then for a moment, I admired the view.  You don't know how much you miss a thing until you don't have it.  I hated being on this rock.  Mars had been a nightmare for me, from my first transit to now.  But I'd never actually looked at Mars.  It had its own sort of beauty to it.  Sure, the atmosphere wasn't pressurized enough for me to breathe.

Fontana looked a bit out of place to it.  Like we had dug into it.  Scarring Mars with bits and pieces of Earth.

"Maybe we shouldn't tried becoming Martians rather than trying to chain this place."  I wondered aloud.

Rousseau didn't respond.  Maybe that was his way of affirming with me.  Or maybe he was trying to give me some semblance of privacy in this sort of moment.  I think I could grow to like him.  I still didn't get why he picked that obtuse of a name.

 Charlie's voice echoed from the dreamspace she'd created.  It went between me, Rousseau and all the Monsters.    The audio synced. It was as though I were standing with Charlie and not outside of Fontana on the Martian rocks by myself.  Well, with Rousseau, if you counted a AI trapped in wetware in your head as being "by myself."

Then Charlie spoke, a bit of hesitance in her voice.  But there was some fire in there, if you paid attention to it.

"Gals.  Guys.  People.  Ugh.  Whatever we are.  We're going to go in.

"This is our first real Op.  The Enemy doesn't know how to react to us.  Remember our goal.  We're going to rip this thing out by the root.  Not because we need to prove ourselves.  Not because we are bloodthirsty brutes.  I want to see how this they react to it.  If we do this right, we'll might have a better idea of what to do next.

"Ok.  That's all I got.  I believe we can do this, because this is what we were made for.  Let's go!"

I blinked at her words.  It sounded more like a scouting expedition than actual fight.  Charlie had aimed low on her list of objectives.

@Rousseau: Clever idea there.  Kinda scientific.  Short speech, too.

"Short and sweet, I think Ros."

@Rousseau: Ros?  Really?  The girl talking to herself is going to give me a cute nickname too?

"Better than the blind deserter."  I said.  Then I turned and waited to see how things with these Monsters went next.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

In Transit Monsters 41 (A Story of the Hecate Project)

#InTransitMonsters is a #firstdraft #novel about Technology as Messiah.  Humanity is about to fall, and is forced to create monsters to save itself.  Can these giant monsters succeed, or will humanity's old ambitions damn the species to extinction?  A bit of a shorter entry, but better than none I guess.

Previous | Start | Index | Next

Foxtrot (H plus 6 Days)

I grunted as my aetherskipping put me back underneath Fontana.  The dark caverns greeted me.  Thunder echoed from my transit.

I'd almost hit my head on the way in.  Kneeling down, I opened both my hands.  Glowing dust fell onto the ground around me.

"C'mon..."  I waited for the goetic-whatever of Whiskey's to take.

Then my BrainSys clicked.  The motes illuminated the sewers around me.  I prepared to move forward, as the blue motes had expanded my perception.  Each mote created a network of glowing blue lines.  My BrainSys followed them.  They formed a grid before me.

I moved.

I had argued with Charlie for days to be given something to do.  A mission.  I didn't hesitate to get on with it.

The sewers and caverns under Fontana were big.  Concrete and steel labyrinthes meant to support the city above.  We had plenty of maps of them.  Enough we didn't need to have to reconnitor.  But Charlie insisted on it.

Even if it seemed like a boring waste to me, I still agreed to it.

I looked down over a ledge.  A series of broken, ruined tunnels opened before me.  But half the tunnels were wrong.  I noticed it, even in the odd enhanced light of the goetic motes.

Tentacles grew in and out every inch of the ceiling.  They pulsed.  Like roots.  Tiny Enemy spawn crawled all over each tentacle.

But the Enemy didn't seem to take notice of me.  The tentacles pulsated and grew.  Dog-sized spawn moved toward where I'd first transited into the sewers.

They had sensed me.  They moved toward where I'd transited.

That didn't confirm anything.

I ran down the tunnels, following the path of tentacles.  Yard by yard, they grew larger.  I came across sewer spawn.  They ate the concrete and the steel that held up Fontana.  Even running, I could see how methodical they were.  I jumped over centipede-shaped, hissing aliens, here and there.

I ran as fast as I could, going further down.  They clawed out anything artificial.  Slowly, munching on them.  Sewer Spawn suckled on cement underneath.

Then I reached it.

Deep under Fontana had been it's artificial heart.  A massive water processing plant.  As big as any building.  It should've appeared like a underground lake, latticed like some spider's web.  I didn't enter that.

I nearly fell down into it.  I stopped, staring down at it.  A morass of tentacles floated in the water.  Thousands of black eyes covered it.  I shivered.  Instead of a three or four story building, the cavern housed a monster the same size.

Its eyes looked at me.  No.  They weren't eyes.  They were spawn of some kind.

My arms then felt the slimy grasp of tentacles.  I shivered.  Then I aetherskipped back.

I'd gotten our information.  The Enemy had been replacing parts of Fontana with its own giant things.  If I could vomit, I would have.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Crux: The Venom Weavers

Analysis.  Contact successful.  Subject 52 collapsed within fourteen minutes.  Performed field autopsy.

Observation.  Contact poison 75 C is ten times faster than its prior fifty iteration.  

Professor: do you wish for me to continue this trial?  Or should I focus on 76 C?  I have several more scorpions in my internal containment bins.  If so, I have several more potential candidates.

Venom Weavers explore critical medicinal trials.  The nature of medicine research requires less than savory methods.  Ith has provided for them.  The unsorcerous of Ith have no rights, and often the Venom Weavers can utilize them.

In Baskets With Scorpions They Come.

Venom Weavers name comes from their practice of carrying venomous animals in woven baskets.  Often they weave medicinal magic into baskets.  Most folk tales describe their baskets as the source of curses and plagues.

Venom Weavers disagree.  Theirs is a interest in research.  For them, it's a science that needs critical effort.  They never chose the name Venom Weaver, preferring apothecaries or phlebotomists.  As servants of the Church of the Machine, theirs is a pursuit of knowledge that requires experimentation.

The last decade have seen a significant changes among the Venom Weavers.  From Crux, they begun to employ Android experimenters and vivisectionists.  The Venom Weavers have found ways to industrialize their research.  Android Venom Weavers often store countless poisons within their bodies.  Their wax android bodies have hollow bins filled with all sorts of venomous creatures.


Before the establishment of the Sorcerous Republic, Venom Weavers worked inside the shadows.  Their practices of grave digging and poisoning test subjects, always has attracted negative attention in other nations.  Only Maliph provided them any sort of protection.  But the Khans often would enslave Venom Weavers they favored.  The Venom Weavers would clash with rival researcher sects in the Immortal Khanates.

But Ith's laws created an underclass.  Anyone without sorcerous ability in Ith has no rights.  For the Venom Weavers, this created a pool of test subjects.

The Venom Weavers do not seek to be cruel.  They try to be humane and quick in their experiments.  But there are a few dark methods that have to be explored.  All for the sake of finding new medicines and new cures.  They often pioneer methodologies, including surgery and bloodletting.

The University Doctors

At Crux University, the Venom Weavers work within the College of Chirugy.  Chirurgeons of all kinds study at the university.  The Venom Weavers and their research are highly respected.  Their persecution gives them an extra air among the Esoterium Machina.

Venom Weavers now enjoy the backing of the Chancellor.  Even though common people in Ith detest or speak of the Venom Weavers as torturers, they've presented a long record of consistent cures.  Chirurgeons trained by Venom Weavers offer their services at a premium.  Venom Weavers themselves are certain they can find ways to cure anything, if given the proper time and resources.

Aging, gout, cancer and other diseases are things they are certain they could undo.  They regard divine magic and religions that bogart it as fading tradition.  Venom Weavers imagine an era coming where even common folk can receive effective medicines.  Medicines and cures with no divine arbiters to keep them from it.  As such, they've always found some conflicts with healers of other faiths.

Clerics of the many other faiths scoff at the claim that they bogart medicines from the common folk.  The Venom Weavers disagree.  They are quick to point at the outrageous costs of divine spellcasting.  This is despite their practice of preying on the poorest for test subjects.  Venom Weavers aim to make medicine for all, no matter how many bodies they leave in their wake.


Venom Weavers specialize in using vapors.  They use these vapors to counter what they believe to be source of most maladies: miasma.  These days, they weave cures into complex baskets.  They contain vapors that the Venom Weaver activates upon tossing on the ground.

They have many vapors.  Most can cure a great deal of maladies.  But Venom Weavers also know their vapors can be poison.  Their poisonous medicines are their favored form of defense.  In fact, the Venom Weavers know how to best exploit the same miasmas they combat.

The Crone's Basket: Woven together with owl feathers and ginko branches.  When lit, the Crone's Basket creates a miasma that afflicts all around it with the symptoms of old age.  Bones creak and skin wrinkles.  Anyone that shares their zone with the miasma must make a Vigor roll against the Basket's Potency skill (as set by its creator).  If they fail, they suffer from the Old Age aspect while in that zone.

Choleric Basket: Woven together with pig intestine and rice paper.  When lit, a Choleric Basket's miasma inflicts Cholera on anyone who inhales it.  They must make a Vigor roll against the Basket's Potency skill.  If they fail, they suffer from Cholera as a Severe consequence.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Flash Fic: River Magic

The greatest of us must be weighed in blood.  Those were the first words she taught me.  River magick has always been an American tradition, and we owe that woman for it.

They think she died out in that ship.  You can't kill a River Witch with a storm.

River magic doesn't kill it's wielders.  Water magic doesn't make a body immortal.  But you can use it to bend the rules.  Those who master water, those who call forth the sorcery of oceans and rivers, it gives command over the waters.  But not just the material waters we all see and call.

River magic calls the ways.  River magic controls the flow of more than just water.  That is where I never believed Theodosia died in that storm.

If you can control the magic in rivers and waters, you can command the flow of time.  Seconds and moments are yours to move as well as the drops in the sky.  Time is a river, and river magick gives it's acolytes the means to control it.

Maybe that witch lied when she told me her name.  Maybe Theodosia Burr died in that storm back in 1812.  But whoever she was, she taught me how to control the flow.  She filled my head with spells over time and water.  She taught me how many moments happen people never live to see.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

In Transit Monsters 40 (A Story of the Hecate Project)

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

Previous | Start | Next | Index

Lhyst (H plus 3 Days)

I shouldn't have come with them.  It felt like I was out of place.  Worse, I could sense several people around me.  None of them talked to me.

Great.  I had gone from castaway to prisoner.

Red remained at my side.  He'd become less of a guide and more of a compatriot.  He and I agreed on the point of getting to leave.  Foxtrot could tell I disliked being stuck in here.

Sleep came easier in the monsters' bunker than my bolthole.  Something made closing my eyes easier.  Maybe it caused less stress.  I blamed my subconscious.  It always did this sort of thing to me.

I lifted my head off my desk.  Blue hair dangled in front of my eyes.  I could see again.  I looked up to see the rest of the old classroom.  Like the one I'd had as a kid, but mish mashed together from several different grades or teachers.

"I'm dreaming again."  I smiled.  Of course I could see.  I had to be dreaming.

I stood up from the desk.  I walked across the multicolored matting with letters and numbers.  Toys of all sizes were here.  I couldn't help myself.  It felt wonderful.

I flopped down in a pile of plushy animals.  The old smells.  Childhood.  Dirt.  That stink of growing up.

"I'm still alone."  I told myself.  The room around me was empty.  No one else.  But it still looked and smelled and felt like home.  Maybe I could see one of my Dads again.  At least for a moment.

Dreams like these, I needed them like air.

"What about me?"  A voice called.

I froze.  The dream always had me alone.  Or the dreams would show my loved ones, but just out of my reach.  Childhood memories I could never really relive.  Sights I couldn't see anymore.

Never did I actually talk to anyone in the dream.  I relived it every night, recounting it during my days to keep my mind from cracking.

"Lhyst?"  The voice called again.  "I'm here too."

I stood up from the pile of mismatched toys.  Some of them were the same size I remembered them as a child, as big as I was.  Others were as tiny, shrunken from when I'd seen them as a babysitter in our neighborhood.  There was a girl sitting in the desk behind mine.

A little girl.  Black haired, she squirmed a bit when I looked at her.  She wore a pair of dirty coveralls.  The girl looked like she'd been finger painting.  Color paint covered her all over.  She avoided looking right at me.  She had that shy look.  That kind of a tentative nervousness of someone too scared to explain herself.

She seemed to match the childishness of the room.  She made me feel like I didn't belong.  That maybe I had been clutching to broken shards of my childhood.

"Who are you?"  I asked.  "You haven't been here before."

The girl shrugged.  "I've been watching.  You seem to be clinging to your memories pretty hard."

"You mind answering my question?"

"I don't..."  The girl sheepishly looked down.  "This always feels awkward when I'm not invited in."


"Um..."   The girl held up a hand, covered in paint.  "Look at the paint, Lhyst."

The paint didn't look like paint.  After a moment, I realized what it was.  It wasn't paint.  It was the same as the desk she sat at.  A texture, splattered on her.

"The desk?"  I shook my head.  "You are in my dreamspace... My... you can't.  My BrainSys isn't working well enough for that."

"That isn't true."  The girl looked up at me.  "My Oneiros had no trouble linking up with it.  It works just fine."

"That... I've been blind in meatspace.  It's been malfunctioning at most.  It can't be working.  Otherwise the tentacled things would've gotten to me."

"They didn't for other reasons.  I'm still trying to figure that out."

"Who..."  I paused.  I listened to her voice again.  "Charlie?"

Charlie squirmed again.  "I tried to match the setting."

I shook my head.  "You cast yourself as the child?  You do know how creepy that is don't you?"

"Eh.  I wanted to talk with you.  More in depth.  This seemed like a good way to keep you from dodging me again."

"I already told you all I know."

"You sure about that?"  Charlie asked.  "There is more in this that you don't know.  Your BrainSys has been functioning perfectly fine, from what I could tell."

"And it just let me be blind?  It didn't correct my vision at all?  Why would it do that?"

"He's been trying to help, I think."

"He?"  I stared at her avatar with incredulity.  "He.  You just called wetware in my skull a him."

"I don't know why he won't speak with you direct.  But he's been controlling your dog.  That animal has been rewired and programmed to help you."  Charlie looked up at me.  "I mean, didn't you ever wonder why an untrained animal acted like it was a trained guide animal for you?  And why it didn't just attack you?"

"I..."  I thought back to first meeting Redd.  He had always just listened to me.

"He did that.  He also alerted you to me and my people."  Charlie said.  "I've been talking with him."

"Why won't he meet with me then?  Am I such a horrible person?  Was it keeping me alive as a joke or something?  See how good the blind girl does?"

Charlie looked behind me.  Then she spoke with someone who I couldn't quite see.  "You really should do this.  I can't make her do it."

"Wait.  Is he here?"  I looked around.  "I thought I was alone in this dream- wait.  Has my sadistic jackass of a BrainSys been just force feeding me dreams over and over?"

"If I was quiet and subtle, they didn't come."  A male voice said.  It sounded like my Dad.  One of them.  The older one.

It's tone made me froze.  It sounded sad.

"Why can't I see you?"  I asked.

"He's still hiding I think."  Charlie paused.  "Rousseau, come out.  Pick something for her to look at."

"No... I can't."  Rousseau stammered a bit.  "She's right.  I have been torturing her."

"You've been saving her."  Charlie countered.  "Lhyst, you know that all BrainSys have strong AI, right?  They pattern themselves off the brain their share.  Rarely do they expand into self-autonomy.  Parameters and programming  chained them back so much.  But they are just as smart and thinking as you or me.  They just don't speak up.  They want to help, they want to make you better than you are.  Code makes them into chained slaves."

"I... I don't think this was a good idea."  Rousseau said.

"No... I think I understand."  I said.  "The Enemy couldn't see me.  He kept it from noticing me.  I get it now, Charlie.  There's somethings I do know... IDK the specifics."

Charlie nodded.  We then started to go over my memories for things Rousseau and I had seen.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Random Thought: Legends Are Lies

All legends are lies.  They do not exist, they are something we created for our own satisfaction.  Legends exist to satisfy an urge for stories in the human mind.  All legends are lies.

They are fabrications mean to lubricate key memories.  Memories of the dead.  The dead must linger on, so the lies about them mount.  Legends have to be erroneous.  Otherwise, they would tarnish the point.

A story is an idea.  Ideas don't die.  Or at least, they outlast a human lifespan by a bit.  Immortality by idea.  Even then, though, rot sets into the tales.  Things become forgot.  Embellishments happen.

Legends are meant to be immortal things.

They fail in that regard.  We cling to stories.  We need them in order to live.  Stories don't always work.  They sometimes fail us.  Sometimes legends create feedback loops.  They lead to madness.  Conspiracy theories are legends that have failed in some fashion.

There has to be a purpose to all things.  That is what the Legend tells us.  When we find there to be no purpose behind a curtain, it breaks our minds.  It means we gaze into an abyss.

An Abyss.  One where are no answers.  One where questions linger.  Where we see the complexity and cruelty around us.

Are legends bad then?  Or are they needed?  Do people need the lie to live?

Can we abandon our lies, or are we trapped by them?

History and Story

History is filled with a series of legends.  These are those things that bind us to our people.  These are those tales that bind us together.  But even then, these legends also contain the toxicity of our own society too.

There is a narrative to the legends we remember.  But questioning why some must be reviled, others ignored and still more that can never be remembered in legend.

Our stories paint legendary figures in the same light as our culture's favored majority.  They become white, straight men, faithful to god.  When you dare to break those legends, you are challenging the basis of psychology of people.

History is full of legends.  That is why you can't completely trust it.  Certain facts become hidden because they fail to match the accepted legends.

There is thought that censorship is some form of a sin.  But never do we think about those ignored.  We think the willful suppression of some facts to be an egregious error.  But we forget about those forgotten, those facts that are glazed over.

It isn't censorship to accept legends over facts.  It's faith.  It's a blind faith.

Is conviction to a lie more virtuous than the erasure of offensive language?  Or is the ideals of protecting against the harms of language something unrelated to legends?

One sees nostalgia, and sometimes must be careful not to be poisoned by it, I think.

Friday, February 12, 2016

"Viewing" Materials: Agent Carter (or, why the 40s is so fun)

Time for a review.  Typically I call these "Reading Materials."  But tonight, I'm going to go with "Viewing."  'Cuz I love this show and want to blog about it.

The great thing about the Marvel Cinematic Universe for me is how it connects.   They don't in an overt way.  They don't connect the dots for you.  They put pieces in.  They build bridges that are interesting.  But it means each part of the MCU kinda has to stand on its own to work.

Well, unless you are a badass like Agent Carter.

Yep.  Before you look at Jessica Jones for interesting women characters; remember Agent Carter.  This is the show that scratches the itch you have for a Black Widow movie.  And people watch it.  How?  WHY?

It's about struggles we all love to see!

A Theme of Struggle.

The themes of Agent Carter deal with the social norms of the 40s.  Carter herself has to deal with being a woman in the postwar world.  Peggy Carter, treated as just another part of the secretary pool.  But not just that.  It isn't a nostalgic glance back.

It's a fun, but honest, take on a earlier age.

That's the thing that I like about Agent Carter.  I mean, the whitewashing of a setting kinda ruins the point of struggles.  Carter has a struggle against the society around her.  Even against her own notions of what or who she is supposed to be.

We need more stories about how bad we used to treat those not in the majority.  Not to forsake the struggles of our time.  There is a importance in the metaphor of stories like that in Agent Carter.

The tale of how women and their positions were raised during World War II.  Then lowered back to what society deemed "normal."  That still resonates.  The story of how some had less power.  All because of a disbelief about their abilities.  Even when they are better than their white male peers, in the case of Carter.  Marvel always has a tendency to touch on some sort of flaw, be it in the setting or the characters or the story itself.

The metaphor sets up a struggle, where you're trying to overcome something.  It's a woman against her own people, even if she's trying to save them all from some nefarious scheme.  Which runs counter to the usual in my estimation.  Those who recognize Carter's ability are the exception, not the rule.

Which is a interesting struggle to watch.  Like all stories, it helps you to start to feel sympathy with the role Peggy's cast in.  Which is part of the point of such stories.  Action is all the better if it also feels like it advances the role of women along the way too.

The Past.

The other part of Agent Carter, is that you know how it ends.  This gives it a interesting thrill.  This is because, outside of Carter, no one else has any real job security on the show.  Any of them could die- I mean, no remembers Sousa.  Carter founded Shield, so only she has the permanence in the tale.  But even then, that doesn't ruin the tension.

You kinda enjoy each time Carter gets to be Carter.  And the show has a constant happen of upending expectations.  Enough episodes in, and you start to find that things are never what you expect.

The villains from season one touch on that.  And season two continues the same themes among the villains.  Twisty, bad guys who reflect back aspects of Carter.

That's the other shoe that Agent Carter fills.  It lays down line that other shows or parts of the MCU can tie into without having to actually tie into.  Agents of Shield already plays into this.  Although they never sacrifice their own stories.  Especially not for the sake of getting "X character to appear on Y show."

Some dislike the loose disparity between various MCU properties.  I've found, that unlike other people, I don't mind.  Agent Carter doesn't feel like Agents of Shield or Daredevil or Jessica Jones.  But key things still link them.  The Stark family.  Super-science gone awry.  Roxxon.

That's kinda the diamond in the rough to all this.

It feels like a reward to enjoy Agent Carter, then find the parts that vibrate into the rest of the MCU.  Because it does.  The first season tied into the background of the Black Widow.  And it did that without explicitly saying that.  Season two feels like its presenting new pieces for the rest of the MCU to play with.

I enjoy Agent Carter.  So far, it keeps doing what it says on the tin.  Carter kicks ass.

PS: Marvel, we still need a Black Widow movie, plx.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

In Transit Monsters 39 (A Story of the Hecate Project)

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

Previous | Start | NextIndex

Charlie (H +4 Days)

I gritted my teeth in frustration.  My Oneiros wasn't lying to me.  No signal from Earth.  The dreamspace constructs I'd created kept a constant contact with it.  They had nothing to report.


The frustration came from them not giving me any updates.  They lacked the need for complex linguistics, but I knew they felt like they'd failed me.  I didn't want them to feel that way.

It's alright.  I know it isn't your fault. I told my Oneiros, hoping their heuristics would understand.  It sounded strange, but over the last few days I'd become certain it could respond to me.  Act to my wishes or needs before I thought to.

Zero contact from Earth.  None.  What had happened?

There should've been at least a report to confirm a connection.  As far as I had known, no one on Earth had expected the Enemy to up and attack Earth yet.  They moved slowly, so slow that Nasr had been given two months to train us to fight them.

"It's been over a day."  Foxtrot told me as she entered the top floor of the bunker.  She'd avoided talking about what happened back in the sewers.  If anything, I didn't want to continue that talk.

"We aren't going out yet."  I tried not to grunt with frustration.  Foxtrot had done nothing but keep bugging me about when the next mission was.  She'd done it when we first had come to Mars a few days again.

I had no idea what to do next.

"You're the boss."  Foxtrot shrugged.  "Just getting bored sitting here."

"You really are just going to pretend you didn't have some sort of breakdown?"  I asked her.  I felt surprise at my own words.

Foxtrot didn't look up at me.  "Are we going to go do something?"

"You aren't going to talk about it."  I shook my head.  "Not at all?"

"You don't want to hear what I'm thinking or feeling."

"How do you know what I want?"

"Because you think I'm an idiot."  Foxtrot said.  "That I do things without thinking about them, or that I it out for you or something."

Oh.  I'd been too deep in my confusion of being in charge to ever think of it that way.  Foxtrot's words from the sewers came back to me.  She had feelings for me.  She thought everytime she tried to explain them, I'd just blow up at her.

Repeating our same pattern might not work.  Maybe I should try something.  Maybe there was something to do about it.

"Maybe I've never given you a decent chance."

Foxtrot tilted her head at me.

I tried to smile.  "I...  I never wanted to be in charge.  Nasr never explained why he picked me.  Not really."

"Oh."  Foxtrot looked away.  "I thought it was... Well...  You are the most creative of all of us, Charlie."


"You've always been inventive with your Oneiros.  Y'know, you do these...  things.  Neat things in dreams.  It's not just that.  Everyone always was surprised by whatever twists you use."

My face brightened at the compliment.  Naturally, I gave an articulate response.  "What?"

Foxtrot giggled at me.  "Of course they put you in charge.  You could imagine anything."

"Right.  Anything."  I paused.  My returned back to the issue at the back of my mind: contact with Earth.

No contact meant no orders.  No plans from others.  No interpreting them.  I could do what I wanted to do.

"Sorry to unload all my feelings on you there."  Foxtrot told me.  She looked up at me with her impatient eyes.  No, not impatient.  Fast eyes.  She couldn't sit still because she always had to be moving.

"I don't think you're an idiot.  But I need to mull over somethings.  We've got a mission coming, just requires a bit more time to work out, ok?"

Foxtrot gave another one of her confident shrugs.  She wandered back to the barracks below.  I shook my head.  Although sized for us, the bunker felt cramped with all twenty of us together.

It had to be worse for Lhyst.  I hadn't let the blind deserter leave.  She had argued with me.  Then she cursed at me.  At last she'd relented. Something had convinced Lhyst.  Whatever went on, she'd rather oversee it from her bolthole back in Fontana.  It scared her enough she'd rather hide than face it.

The tentacled things we'd faced made me wish I could hide with her.

I wanted to share a dreamspace with her.  But I remained uncertain.  What would I be looking for?  Some memory of what?  Any information might be worth knowing.

Like what they ordered normal humans to do here, I thought.  Nasr had taught me Sun Tzu's Art of War.  Parts of it weren't applicable to the Enemy.  But the part about information as the basis of serious warfare, that I retained.

@Oneiros: Scan Lhyst?

My Oneiros never had explicitly asked me like that before.  But I'd been leaning on it so often the last few days, maybe I shouldn't have been surprised.  After wondering if I indeed had heard a voice in my mind, I decided to test it.

@Charlie: You... asked a question?

@Oneiros: Ask.  Scan Lhyst?  For you?

@Charlie: Uh... Sure.  Can you give me a good idea of what a normal dream for her is?

A minute later a bunch of images and information appeared in my mind.  It was like a sudden epiphany.  Whoa.  Like learning something you never knew before.  A grasp for Lhyst's subconscious just came to me.  Not precise information.

But it felt genuine.  Like I got a read on her emotional states.  Her tastes.  What laid underneath her surface thoughts.

"Whoa."  I blinked.  "Oneiros, you can do that?"

@Oneiros: Just subsystem.  You harbor the core processes.

I smiled.  A part of me.  A humble part of my own tech.  Maybe I'd gone a bit crazy.  But I remember how Nasr had described Daemons to me.

I wondered.  Maybe Oneiros was a Daemon of my own creation.  Maybe all Daemons were like my Oneiros.  They didn't know how to talk.  Yet.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

The Center Cannot Hold: The Esoterium Machina.

I am revisiting and rewriting some #Crux stuff.  It felt like a good break to dive into the Esoterium Machina again, who they are and what they do in the setting.  They pursue knowledge.  Sometimes they poke into things they shouldn't.  Other times, though, they are focused on finding ways to make Arcane magick help everyone, not just the few lucky enough to be born with it.

For those who read this blog for fiction, no worries.  In Transit Monsters and the rest will get returned to.  I just like worldbuilding now and again.

The Ancient Collegiate Esoterium Machina.

Headquarters: Crux, Ith.
Spheres of Influence: Magic, Science, Knowledge
Symbol: A Gear, which it shares with the Church of the Machine.

Their name refers to knowledge granted from beyond what is already known.  The Esoterium Machina is a international fraternity of arcane spellcasters, technologists and magical experimenters.  They claim to have originated with the Aetheric Empire.  If so, then the Esoterium Machina preceded the Ursyklon invasions over 10,000 years ago.

The Esoterium Machina is a collegiate organization as well as an expeditionary one.  It focuses on students of the art of magic, their well-being and teaching.  Until the last thirty years, it had remained secretive.  The Esoterium Machina has expanded its focus to new fields in the last two decades. These include the technological wonders, like steamers or firearms.   The complex sciences of alchemy, too, are a part of their new modern additions.


The Esoterium Machina's earliest record instance is during the Tomasi Empire.  The Esoteric Pontiffs were an elite order of Tomasi Mages. They preserved knowledge.  The Pontiffs also organized academies  throughout the Maru Sea.  When the Tomasi Empire fell, the Esoteric Pontiffs continued their work.  Their academies remain, the centers of most cities found today in the Maru Sea.

The Esoterium Machina became a way for spellcasters to teach and learn.  In the Age of Bloodfire, the Order learned that it couldn't contain the more fervent or mad members.  So the Esoterium Machina developed a series of policies and bylaws.  Their intent was to keep the peace between different spellcasters.  It worked for a time, on the small scale.

The Othebean Crusades then came.  Othebea saw chaos in the arcane mages and Witches wandering the ruins of the Tomasi Empire.  They sought to bring peace.  They erred and saw the Esoterium Machina as more a cult than a means to restore order.

They directed a good deal of their initial efforts against the Esoterium Machina.  This caused a chain reaction in the southern Maru Sea.  Without the Machina to hold back its rogue members, more and more went out of control.  So more and more crusaders would journey to combat it.

The Esoterium Machina changed itself into a order of secret codes and messages.  It became a conspiracy throughout the Maru Sea.  All it's dedicated members kept Othebea from stomping arcane spellcasting out.  It would be these long, lean years as hidden mages that would later help free them.  These hardships helped the Esoterium Machina learn tactics that aided Ith's independence from Othebea.

After Ith revolted, the Esoterium Machina became a public organization.  The Order is not affiliated with any specific government body in Ith.  Most senators and other powerful politicians in Ith are members, as a matter of course.  To be a mage in Ith of any respect is to also be a member of the Esoterium Machina.

Even Othebea has ended its long war against the order.  Othebea has allowed the Esoterium Machian to even establish footholds in the Divine Monarchy.  The Order even has outposts in the Jade Lands, Ocrid and even the reaches of Dark Soram.

"Teach Them Wonders."

The end goal for the Esoterium Machina, on the largescale, is to spread the art of the Arcane.  The ideal is to get to the point that Arcane magic permeates every part of daily life.  It is the power to make one's imagination manifest.  Those that succeed at teaching it, understand how important the goal is.  Those who can't be taught, or worse, the inability to elevate the unsorcerous is seen as a failure.

This goal pushes the Esoterium Machina in interesting directions.  Some lead to expeditions or projects not thought up before.  Others create new wonders Orphos hasn't seen before.


Tiers organize the Esoterium Machina.  Those in the highest tier getting votes in the general policies and subjects taught by the order as a whole.  Those of the highest tier bear the Platinum Gear.  Ascension in the order is often done via a letter in a arcane cypher.  Almost always it involves receiving a gear of a new metal.

Controversy has dominated the subject of the destructive magic versus helpful magic.  Some consider the research into destructive magic to be dangerous.  Others counter that the best defense against such magic is to understand how it works.

Another controversy regards the unsorcerous: individuals who lack sorcerous powers of any kind.  Almost all these are humans.  In Ith, they have few to no rights.  Among some in the Esoterium Machina, this seems to be a failing they need to solve.  Others see it as a matter of divine providence.  Those without sorcerous means weren't chosen.  Providence gave some that power, and it would be ridiculous, one side claims, to not use it.  They point to animals, and ask if we should treat the unspeaking bestial animals we eat for food as persons.

None of these controversies have affected the Esoterium Machina as a whole.  But the controversies are growing hotter.  Advocates of the Unsorcerous make more and more demands for reform.  Reform that might create equality.  Reform that might make Arcane magic less of a societal elevation than it has been.


The Church of the Machine is one of the strongest allies of the Esoterium Machina.  As the faith's own doctrine is about teaching others, the two organizations work together.  They feel as though they are cut from the same cloth.  But they differ when it comes to the importance of arcane magic compared to other fields.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

In Transit Monsters 38 (A Story of the Hecate Project)

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

Previous | Start | Next | Index

Nasr (H +3 Days)
I shifted in place at the cocktail party.  I felt uncomfortable in my dress uniform.  A part of me didn't want to come here.  Worse, I felt out of place sipping water next to a woman in a red dress.  She kept guzzling down martinis.

I wanted to turn down Whyte's invitation.  It didn't make sense to me.  Why would the CEO of EpicVenture need to have me at a party?  For what, some sort of end of the world demonstration?

Mother talked me into coming to this anyway.  Despite whatever my father says, I always listen to her.  She always could talk me into these things.  She knew my buttons well.

Davyd Whyte stood next to one wall.  The lavish room didn't seem to faze me.  Maybe I should've acted impressed by it.  I have a hard time conforming to what my superiors want me to say or do.  Military or otherwise.  Yet I still refuse to resign.

Maybe Dom was right.  I'm a romantic.

A hologram completely replaced one entire wall.  It looked as though Whyte's luxury apartment wasn't located on a skyscraper in Manhattan.  One of the top floors, one of the newest buildings found in the city.  No, the rich man gazed out over the Jefferson Memorial.

The other people at the shindig had their eyes glued to the fire.  I didn't.  The survivor gut instincts I'd had told me what was more important to pay attention to.  He looked like a wolf about to turn on a herd of sheep.

I sipped at the tea in my hand.

"Chaos."  Whyte announced.  He said the word with a tone of shame in it.  That same shame I'd heard generals use for dying troops on lost worlds.

Like we could've stopped any of it, I thought.  Somethings were always bigger than you were.  Not unless you never actually stood in the battlefield.  It's easy to criticize soldiers if you never fought with them.

"It's spread about fifty major cities now."  Whyte continued.  "The Joiners set off counter-protesters.  The lack

of police, the years of fatigue... Anarchists and the mad are torching abandoned buildings all over the planet."

The Jefferson Memorial continued to burn.  My BrainSys told me that the feed was live.  Whyte had a camera, or better yet, some sort of AI creating this image for us.  I got the symbolism, for torching the memorial.

"Why isn't someone putting it out yet?"  I mumbled to myself.  The US Gov't still had one of the strongest

martial law enforcement in the world.  You'd think they'd want to keep images like this from circulating.

"These Joiners..." Whyte shook his head.  "They've given up on humanity.  The anarchists and others in the streets...  This is the first stage of death.  Anger."

Heads nodded.  I narrowed my eyes.

The crowd in Whyte's home included not just myself.  Dozens of government and military officials from all over the world.  I recognized a few faces.  Higher ups.  Clever people who never had to go offworld.  Bureaucrats.

"They are expressing that anger.  But I refuse to give up on humanity."  Whyte turned to the group.  "But I'm not a fool.  I don't believe in false hope.  Major Nasr?"

I blinked.  "Yes?"

"What is the status of Project Hecate?"  Whyte looked right at me.  Into me.


The rest of the crowd turned to me.  The mention of the project brought curiosity.  The first of the riots had started in response to us going public with the project.  I clinched my teeth.

"They think it might work.  It's insane.  It's a chance that could save earth and the species.  We've always been saved by our own technology."  Whyte shook his head.  "We always forget about the Frankensteins.  The Oppenheimers.  What happens when we release the genie from the bottle."

Every eye turned to me.  On the spot, Whyte had made this room of report-writers and minor politicians look like a herd of sheep.

"I'm no longer associated with Project Hecate."  I said.

"You know the status of Hecate, though."  Whyte continued.  "Your BrainSys has been keeping up to date on it, hasn't it?"

I closed my mouth.

"Furthermore, anyone able to observe your reaction can put two and two together.   You've become a believer in the cause.  At least enough to do your job.

"It's clear you don't want to admit what has happened."  Whyte looked at me.  "For months, the UN had recorded you declaring how Project Hecate couldn't succeed.  That all the monsters it bred would fail.  In fact, you tried to argue out of training them, for your superiors to find someone else to do it."

"Yes, I did said that-"

"So.  Why do you care if it did fail?"  Whyte asked.  "You already predicted it."

"The first squad hasn't reported in for about two days."  I admitted.  "We don't know why."

Murmurs filled the crowd.  Their eyes widened.  Some looked like they might try to join the protesting joiners.  The mad lunatics that wanted the Enemy to come to earth so they could join them.

"Calm down."  Whyte's voice seemed to placate the room.  His tone vibrated, as if each word were perfectly preselected.  Perfectly predetermined.

"I'm making a simple point."  Whyte told us.  "Project Hecate made monsters.  Those monsters failed us.  It was inevitable.  We all knew that.  We relied on the image of a witch to save us from death.

"What if there were another project?"  Whyte asked.  "Something secret.  Hidden so well that only a few could join it?  Something named for walking out of the depths of death?"

"What are you talking about?"  My tone drifted into anger.  "Some other project?  There isn't anything more.  Project Hecate hasn't failed.  Not yet.  Not until we get satellite or camera footage that confirms it."

"Major Nasr, you and everyone else here, are being given a chance to survive."  Whyte retorted.  "Not a meager opportunity.  I have access to several high-level Daemons.  This is only part of how bad Project Hecate will go."

The crowd murmured some more.  This played right into their fears.  The ones that helped motivate others to work with the Joiners.  Those voices who didn't like Project Hecate from the beginning.

"I know that the monsters Project Hecate will turn against us.  The cost of their fight is that they'll join the enemy.  Giant monsters with the most advanced biotech this planet has ever devised.  The remaining number will rebel as soon as they see the chance here."  Whyte waved a hand to the rest of the room.  "All the projections show that.  We should plan to survive the day the monsters return leashed to the Enemy, at least."

"Survive?"  I asked.  "You mean run away don't you?"

"Project Orpheus is something the Enemy can never find.  Something it could never deal with."  Whyte explained.  Behind him the holo of the Jefferson Memorial was replaced with a starfield.  A long cylinder hung in the night.  At one end was a large half-dome.

"Nuclear spaceflight?"  Someone asked.

"It never had been approved by anyone."  Another said.

"Not just spaceflight."  Whyte chimed in.  "Immortality.  A system built on the discoveries of the Hecate Project.  A system that can save the best of humanity.  Those who have the vision to make a better humanity.  One who has mastery over their technology.  Their destiny.  Not slaves to it.  Not monsters."

Monsters.  I pondered the word Whyte had chosen.  More in the crowd peppered him with questions.  I drew to the back.

I didn't like this scene.  These scavengers.  Survivors no matter the cost.  Was I one of these things?  These cowards?

@Lafayette: @Nasr_Muntaqim Interesting how they all crowd around a lifeline?  He managed to skip to bargaining.

@Nasr_Muntaqim: Excuse me?  Who are you?

@Lafayette: A fan of monsters.  Say yes to Whyte, and I can help.

I looked around.  My BrainSys didn't detect where Lafayette was coming from.  He or she seemed to be able to contact me without being obvious to Whyte.  What was this?  Some sort of layered Dreamspace?

@Lafayette: Someone is blocking signals to and from Mars. You need to be closer to Whyte, Nasr.  IF you really want to help that girl not be KILLED by her own side.

Ah.  Lafayette at least knew the right leverage for me.

I raised my right hand.  I forced a smile on my face.  Then in a loud voice, I called out to Whyte, interrupting him.

"Where do I sign up?"

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

In Transit Monsters 37 (A Story of the Hecate Project)

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

Previous | First Chapter | Next | Index |

Lhyst (H +2 Days)
My legs still hurt from the day before.  Why had I come back?  I could've just stayed in my bolt hole.

"We should just find a new place in the city."  I told Red.

Foxtrot.  That had been the name of the whatever-she-was that had taken me.  She'd carried us away from the mall.  Not just a few blocks away.  She had carried us to the other side of the Fontana.  Long enough that it had taken Red and I the better part of six hours to hike back.

After going through all that, I still came back.  Why?

I patted Red on the head.  He'd been my guide both ways.  I learned how to deal with my blindness on a daily basis.  But the dog made the difference.  He always found something I couldn't notice.

He knew the way back to where Foxtrot had left us.  Maybe the dog had some sort of cyberware himself.  Maybe Foxtrot had told him how to find her.

My own BrainSys kept flickering with static.  It didn't work.  Whatever had happened the day before to call Foxtrot to me hadn't repeated itself.

"I mean, she should be dead."  I said.  "She ran toward the tentacle-things.  Or whatever sound those things make."

We walked into the building Foxtrot had dropped us on top of.  It had been set inside a larger enclosed structure. Then it could've been safe from Martian elements if the outer shell hadn't broken apart.  At least that's what it felt like when I ran my fingers over it.

The dry ceramic had felt ragged.  Like a big eggshell.  If Foxtrot left us here, she'd come back for us.

Why was I coming back?

"I do this every time.  I keep thinking I'll just find them."  I growled at myself.  "Maybe my BrainSys does work.  Maybe it keeps inventing impossible people for me to meet.  Then the busted thing takes them away to see if I'm paying attention."

Red brushed up against me.  His way of helping me to find the door.  We made our way to the top of the building.

Whatever it had been, the building had a lot of office spaces.  My Dads had a worked at a office as I grew up.  I always asked them the same question.  Why did people have them anymore?  No one worked in them.

They said something about tradition.  But I think it has to do expectations.  People make things expecting them to be used.  How many worlds had we settled and built useless office buildings on?  I mean, it must've been collecting dust long before the Enemy even came to Mars.

I counted floors.  There had been six flights of stairs.  Once we reached the sixth, I recognized the cold, diamondplated door.  I popped it open.

Wind rushed by us.  I imagined red dust spraying all over the place.  I couldn't tell.  I barely could feel anything through my gloves.  A bit on the temperature or texture.

Red moved in front of me.  I took a step forward onto the roof.  Nothing important to find here.

"You don't think she's coming back either, do you?"  I asked Red.

The dog gave me a bark.  I named him after a color.  I didn't even know if his fur had a red tint to it or not.  Still, I think he disagreed with me.  Even if he had no idea what I was talking about.

What Foxtrot been?  My first thought had been another soldier.  Then she had grabbed and picked Red and I up like we were nothing.  Just as if we were little animals, she picked us up and ran.

After sleeping on it, I had became certain she had to be in some sort of new tank.  Maybe something designed to fight the Enemy.  I remembered the robot-themed anime my Dads used to watch with me.  It was silly.  Nothing like giant robots would come to save me from Mars.

Lurch.  Something under the roof, something metallic, groaned.  Then I felt the building shift underneath us.

"Shit."  Great.  My stupid whimsical feelings coming out here were going to get Red and I killed.

I ran back down the stairs.  Part of the way down I stumbled.  I hit a wall.  Things fell around me.

"Stupid fucking eyes!" I screamed. I wished they hadn't sent me off into a battle where I lost my use of them.

I kept moving.  Halfway down I realized I had been limping.  Then with only one stairwell left, I stopped.  The building wasn't collapsing.  In my panic I'd twisted my ankle.

"Idiot."  I told myself.

I moved out of the building.  It'd been stupid to expect Foxtrot to come back, whatever she was.  Giant robot or regular soldier.  I should've stayed at my bolthole.  The Enemy only came when other people showed up.

Everyone who would ever know me would die.  The tentacled things in the night would make sure of that.  Why couldn't I just accept that I was some sort of albatross?  All I did was help contribute to their deaths.

I stopped when I heard the crackling boom of a transit.

My static-clouded BrainSys acted up again.  Another message appeared, this time one I couldn't decide was a joke.  Or if it were some sort of cyberware glitch.


"What?!"  I exclaimed.  Then I repeated it over and over.

At some point Red started barking.  I felt footsteps near us.  Like Foxtrot before.  Not one.  Four pairs of massive footsteps.

"See?"  Foxtrot said.  "I told you I'd be back... sorry if I left you hanging."

"What are-"  I paused.  She sounded so cocky!  "I told you I didn't want your help!"

"Hey."  Foxtrot retorted.  "I was rescuing you."

"Rescue!  You call grabbing me and getting chased by... tentacle... things, a rescue!?"

"Calm down."  Another female voice said.  New.  Big like Foxtrot, but less cocksure in her tone.  "Foxtrot meant well.  We are... we didn't expect to find people alive."

"Zeus Protocol is a shotgun blast of a bad idea." I retorted.  "Big holes didn't get hit.  They just launched the nukes randomly."

"Well, I'm going to have to ask you to come along with us for a bit."  The new voice said.  "If you don't mind.  We need... well, intel is the word I guess."

"You got food?"  I asked.

"Uh..."  The new person paused considering what I said.  "We can come up with something."

"Great, sure."  I shrugged.  "You are the first people I've met who survived meeting those things."

"Meeting?"  Foxtrot asked.  "We just got done fighting a nest of things in the sewers."

"We ran away from fighting a nest of sewer spawn, yeah."  Another voice chimed in.  "Not back for a first engagement, right C?"

"Whiskey... I don't know what to call that."  The voice in charge said.  C.  I wonder what that stood for.

"You got a name?"  Foxtrot asked me.

Before I could respond, C instead answered for me.

"Her name is Lhyst.  She's from Boise Idaho."

It put a chill down my spine.  I'd never met her before, yet she knew my name.  I tried to respond to that, but I couldn't help but start to feel worried about what these... people were.  Foxtrot could move, I had figured out by then she could transit without a transit point.  And one of these new three could figure out my name without waiting for me to say it.

In Transit Monsters it said, I thought.  My BrainSys referred to them as monsters.  What did that mean?

Monday, February 1, 2016

Find the Path: Lazy Dungeon Craft

A recent game session, I devised a ad hoc way to handle generating encounters for a dungeon crawl.  So here it is, for free!  A clever way to get players to do part of the work for you.  Me, I use this as a way to surprise myself.  A neat bit of #gmadvice for your next game, system-agnostic-like.

I don't like gamemastering dungeon crawls.  Location-based encounters always have triggered my lazy impulse.  This goes for written dungeons as well as me crafting my own.  Part of it is laziness.  The other part is a component of my own gamemastering style: I dislike railroading my players.  Dungeons don't necessarily create railroaded adventures.  But I think too much specific planning ahead only leads to frustration or wasted work on my part.

So I normally dodge them.  My last few sessions have been driving toward dungeon crawl of some kind.  The narrative sort of needs it in order to move forward.  So I can't keep avoiding it.

My GM style learns on improvisation, so instead of crafting a dungeon, I cobbled together a random dungeon encounter generator.  I've decided to write down the trick here, hopefully it'll help someone else who doesn't want to script out a series of encounters and wants a nifty way to have random encounters thrust into their games.

Most random encounters are simple: roll dice for a table, use the result.  As much fun as that could be, I wanted to add a bit more.  Dungeon crawls are better if more minds are used to craft them.  As I am a singular mind, I had to expand my network of brains working on the problem.

Drawing the map would be easy, just using the classic five-room dungeon and rolling dice to assign doors as I went.  But what to find in each room?  If it was random, I could find a way to narrate it into the dungeon as needed.  For each encounter I recruited my players for the idea fodder.

Procedural Dungeon Creator

I call this procedural generation, although it's inaccurate to apply a video game term for it.  The idea is the same though.  Here's how you procedurally generate the encounters for a dungeon:

1. I gave everyone, myself included, a blank index card.

2. I told them to choose one of the following: barrier, monster, trap or puzzle.  They needed to write it down in secret.  If a player wanted to elaborate on the thing they wrote down, they were free to do so.  The more information the better.

It's fine if a player can't think of anything; they can just choose one of the options presented without having to elaborate.

3. I shuffled all the cards together.  They shouldn't get folded or anything like that.  One of players did do that and I had them re-do their card.  No marked cards.

4. As they entered a room, I'd draw a card.  The map already had been planned, but the contents of each room would be based on whatever I interpreted the card's contents to be.  If it said puzzle, I put a puzzle in the room.

5. Rinse and repeat until you run out of cards.

Alterations For Taste

For the sake of narrative, you can totally slip in your card to represent that sort of thing.  These can be triggering key events, as you need them.  I think you could also do other things with the cards, too.

Each player could also put down an aspect from their character, especially one that might cause trouble for them.  Or you could use the cards for social encounters at a big social gathering.  Then you might make the options more like: Negative, Romantic, Secretive, etc.

This assumes you also have decent grip on the basic mechanics of whatever system you're running.  Games like Apocalypse World or Fate Core provide great basic tools for steering through this sort of thing.  But other systems can be done ad hoc as well.  For Pathfinder or something similar, if you already know what flavors the dungeon is going to be, you can feel your way through whatever encounters players have put on the cards.  If you want to do something with trolls and a player describes a monster and nothing more, you've got a golden opportunity to do what you've been waiting to do.

The more details players use, though, require you to cause complications.  If a player is expecting a particular thing, complicate it bit away from what they've written down on the card.  Surprise them.  This is a mechanic that surprises you, but you can also use to alter player expectations.  That can be fun if handled the right way.