Saturday, August 31, 2013

Falling Ishtar ep05 : Dungeon World

Falling Ishtar
Episode Five


Dungeon World

The presence of the Mark upon people brings the rise of fear and tension.  Through a magical ritual, Cairre reaches out to the populace of the City of Towers to try to calm them down, but acts of violence erupt as rumors spread about what the marked people happen to be.  Gil decides to try to reach out to the people, and addresses them through the same ritual that Cairre had created.  “Subdue them, but do not harm them. They are not aware of what they do”  But given the destruction of the tower and the death of the Duke himself, the City of Towers was now ungoverned and needed someone who would rise to take his place.

“For the first time, you are now truly free. Free to do what you will.  Free without the burden or rule or taxes.  What do you with your freedom will determine how history and all others of our kind will view you from here on out.  But remember, everyone will be watching.”

Gil's words reach out.  But with them, he shares a warning.

“And.. guard your freedom jealously.  Others will come to seek to take it from you in a variety of ways.”

The group gathers at the tower and discusses their options.  The Lady Unisa wants to Gonol as she believes that was where Roderick was staying.  Melisande suggests however that the evil Wizard was at the City of Flowers.   She recalled the smell of flowers in the air.  And the cavern-like chamber they were in which seemed organic.  There were legends of a great epic monstrosity, the Tarrasque, having been felled in Gonol during the Age of Myth.  Was the enemy encamped within?  “Bob says to Gonol,” Bjorn's words are spoke with conviction.  The visions he had been receiving from the God of Stone were, as far as he was convinced, undeniable.  “I owe Bob a favor,” Melisande admits, and the vote is cast to head to Gonol.   Given the limited time left to prepare, Hob starts going through the magical cache of Roderick with Melisande's help.  She notices that he identifies items faster than her.  She gets curious to how he is doing it.  

“I just know when I see a magical item,” he admits, not wanting to share the truth that his uncle was the Magus of the City of Flowers.  His family was one touched by magic, but unlike the rest of them, he opted to learn the path of the sword.

Hob finds the following items for the group.  A Cloak of Elevnkind for Gil, which would allow him to blend in any surroundings.  A Gauntlet of Giant Strength for Hob, which would allow him to Messily separate a body part of his opponent with the right move.  The Monstrance of a Saint of Bob for Bjorn, which granted him greater ability to protect those close to him.  A Circlet of True Sight for Cairre, which would strip past all illusions and allow him to see beyond normal sight.  And finally, the fabled Bardic treasure known as the Torc of Echoes, which allowed Bards to magnify their voices for greater effects.   These new treasures, plus the Ring of Patterns they had recovered from way back, would give them an edge against their opponent.

Visions reach Cairre.  The Magi of the Council are trapped.  Each try to send a warning to the others. Lodin manifests as eldritch talons rip at him.  Adon appears as a spinning coin that arrives and informs him that they have been betrayed.  The coin shatters.    Annika's message is through a fluttering feather of light.  She blames the humans for the folly, and reveals the Homelands are burning.    Incensed, Cairre pours through the tomes for a ritual he wants to use.  The ritual is to allow himself to become a vessel for Roderick's spirit as the Lich is virtually immortal unless somehow trapped.    Cairre realizes the necromantic ritual will need the blood of an elf, taken viciously with a mortal wound.  He finds the ritual he wants, an ancient one written by an archbishop named Lazarus during the Darker Ages.  The archbishop had used his ritual to trap a demon that had escaped the spiritual prison it was in, so he trapped it within himself to save the world.

Gil approaches Hob and hands him one of the Silver Lances that he had acquired from his journey with Bridgette.  He teaches him the key words for Greatsword, Warhammer, Spear and Lance.  Hob accepts the weapon, but focuses on the task he had decided to do for the day:  Gather the objects in the tower and help Bjorn discern which ones were evil.  Bjorn's Detect Evil is cast over and over again, as they segregate the magical items to two piles.    After intoning to the God of Stone, Bjorn sacrifices the evil items and gains both guidance and a blessing from his deity.  He sees the vision of six towers of stone rising around them, and a seventh tower of Silver piecing the eclipsed sky.  "This place is protected from the dark spirit Roderick's touch," he intones.

Melisande gathers the city's musicians and starts teaching them the songs that she uses to counter possession.  She uses her Torc of Echoes with a Mirror Image spell to hold a concert for them all to hear her song.  She knows that only Bards can truly weave their songs into magical spells, but at least she is giving the people hope.  When she returns to the tower, however, she finds an unexpected visitation.  The four elven students she was teaching have come to visit her.  They bear bad tidings.  The Homelands has been offered a chance to be spared of the impending doom, so long as they withdraw from the mortal lands.  And the Elven Council has agreed.  "We want to come back with us," the eldest, Ganymede, implores.  But Melisande chooses to stay with the group.  And as she, "turns away from the Sun" the magical nature of the Elves responds to her decision.  She changes, and her Sun elf features fade away as she becomes one of the Moon elves (the kind of elf that Gil is of).  "No wonder the Moon Elves age so quickly," Melisande realizes and bids the four farewell.

Hob sacrifices the Silver Lance in his possession, using its metals to start creating a whole new signature weapon.  As a blacksmith, he creates a massive war hammer that is stained with his own blood.  Bjorn smiles at the sentiment, clearly seeing how the fighter has truly embraced his faith in Bob.

Illure is sent into the portable hole to check on Cedric, who had once slipped inside.   Gil worries that the boy had gotten into more mischief.   The four guardians of the chamber seem to be dragons.  Young ones.  But dragons nonetheless.

Kirin has a discussion with Melisande, and she learns the druid seems to view everything with a lens of having a price, or an exchange.  The obsession towards value and wealth interests her.  "I am not used to thinking of things without a price," he admits.  And she tries to explain the concept of friendship to him.    By the time Kirin has opted to leave, Gil realizes that the four young dragons in the portable hole are of the color of the scales that mark Kirin's tell.

Morning comes.

Cairre speaks to Bridgette and tells her the truth he has uncovered.  They are siblings, and Roderick, as it turns out, is their father.  The Paladin is shocked, but realizes that would explain why she was not touched by the Mark even though she believed herself to be the first born all this time.

The group enters the Portable Hole and prepare themselves to face against the four dragons.  The four menacingly make their approach, but the group stands their ground as they attempt to parley with the great beasts.  When one charges forward to strike, Hob smashes at it with his warhammer, flinging it upwards to reveal its less armored belly.  He then lops off its head with a timed swing that messily splatters the body away from the head.  A second one looms closer, but Gil pins its head down against the gold with the silver lance, transforming it into a mancatcher with a single word.  Illure distracts the wyrm enough for Gil to position himself perfectly to trap the dragon.  That close, he notices the dragon has a scar over one eye.  He notices the intelligence in its stare.

The group resumes discussions, explaining that the man who trapped them inside was the evil Roderick, and that they were hoping to free the dragons to the world outside.  None of the dragons, however, have any concept of a world "outside".  And it seems, none of them feared the touch of death. Magical energies in the chamber resurrect the felled dragon.  "In here," One-Eye growls, "We are Eternal."  As the dragons resume their assault, the heroes kill a second one as Hob once again crushes a dragon's skull with a blow from his hammer.  A second dragon is fried when Cairre unleashes a spell.

"They are being brought back to life," the wizard realizes and traces the magic to the four statues that line the walls of the chamber.  Each statue represented one of the greater deities of the land:  Stone, Coin, Luck and Darkness.   Cairre considers trying to deface the statues to break the magic, but worries that it might not work.

The dragons change tactics however, and dive into the coins and treasure, striking like predators beneath the tall grass.  Melisande is caught by surprise by one assault but manages to strum the Silver Lute fast enough to raise a sphere barrier to protect herself.  Cairre is struck as well by another dragon, but a Silver Arrow launched by Gil stuns the dragon long enough for Cairre to cast a fireball into the wyrm's maw.  Illure swoops in, as directed by Gil, to lift Cairre away from the dragon while the ranger runs across the treasure to snatch back the Silver Arrow.  Hob grabs Bjorn and flings him upwards towards the ceiling.  From above, Bjorn uses the momentum to crash into another dragon below.  "For Bob!"  Melisande nearly bursts her vocal chords as she unleashes another sonic strike at the Dragon that dragged her through the treasure.  Had it not been for her protective sphere, she would have suffered the same injuries it did.  Her voice, does however, blast away enough of the treasure to allow her to clamber back atop the hoard.

But the battle seems to rage without end, as the dragons are raised from death by the magics of the room.  The Eternal Chamber seemed to live up to its name.   “We came to search for the Fallen star.  We moved to the depths of the earth.  There is no way out, the labyrinth is eternal," the markings read on the walls. Cairre ponders on how to deal with things.  At the bottom of the treasure room, Bjorn touches the stone floor and once again communes with Bob.  "Bob's guidance is clear," Bjorn calls out as a quick petition for guidance shows him where to go.  "The hole," he points at the distance, "Go to the hole."

They rush off out of the Eternal Chamber, and lose the dragons in the maze-like winding tunnels.  Soon, they find a cul-de-sac to set camp in and try to recover somewhat.  Wounded and exhausted the group tries to recover from the dragons' assault.  But even while camped the group finds no solace.  Shadows stalk them in the darkness, and sadly, dealing with these spirits draws the dragons to their location.  

The fight resumes, and the group is forced to find a way out.  As Bjorn casts Sever to disable one of the closest dragons, the others barrel through until they find a strange room with arcane traps.  With the exit in sight, the group tries to traverse the trap-laden room.  But miscommunication within the group causes the room to unleash its eldritch punishment, and the group is forced to exit at the far room.

No one expected that from that very doorway they were rushing towards, the Lady Unisa would emerge.  Cairre sees it as the opportunity he was waiting for, and thrusts the necromantically prepared dagger into her stomach.  But the words that follow from her lips catch them all even more off-guard.

Outside.  Roderick was not outside.
It wasn't even the City of Towers.

Cairre talks to the dragons, with one-eye seemingly becoming their spokesperson.  Cairre tries to convince them of the truth, of Roderick's evil nature, and of the freedom that awaits them just outside.  One-eye and one of the dragons agrees to accompany him outside.

Unisa bleeds from the necromantic wound.  Melisande and the two other dragons bring her to the Eternal Room under Cairre's words.  Unisa must remain alive long enough at least until Cairre succeeds in stabbing Roderick with the knife.  Through Melisande's songs, Unisa's wounds heal.  But through the necromancy, they never cease to bleed.

As the others pour out of the doorway, they discover that they are already at the Ruins of Gonol.  The underground city with its fallen temple to Bob had a doorway to the labyrinth maze.  And that same maze was linked to the Eternal Room which the portable hole opened to.  The group was at the destination they hoped to head for.  And the dragon Voarex was already there.

Illure and Gil leap into battle, with Cedric in tow.  The goblinoids charge forward, swarming to strike them down.  But Voarex had the upper hand, and the heroes were forced to act quickly to gain an edge.  As Cairre and the two dragons step out, Voarex howls and prepares to attack.  Cairre realizes the four dragons were not the children of Voarex.  In fact, Voarex relished at the chance to kill them at last.  They were children of Kirin, it seemed, and Voarex had been searching for the perfect opportunity to finally destroy the spawn of his rival.

As Voarex prepares to breathe upon them, Hob and Bjorn rush to stop it.  As Bjorn uses the monstrance to protect Hob, Cairre casts a fireball to try to deflect the deadly breath.  The backblow of fire, however, still injures them.  Frustrated, the dragon decides to end the fight.  It camps down its fanged maw upon Hob in a bid to swallow him whole.  But Hob strikes, thrusting his weapon deep into the wyrm's throat to kill it from the inside.  But the dragon's massive bulk falls upon them all, and very things quickly take a turn for the worse.  Cairre is pinned under the monster's bulk and while trapped is kept from being completely crushed by the Great Sword which holds the dragon's weight away from him.  He sees the younger dragons crushed and watches as One-eye transforms to a humanoid form to reach for his hand.   Bjorn is pulled free from the massive corpse by Gil and the two then pull Hob out from the beast, who happens to hold a stone war hammer in his hands: the very Artifact of Bob which was long buried in the temple's ruins.

As the dragon blood threatens to drown Cairre and One-Eye, the two feel the blood drain away.  A hole in the ground drains all the blood away, and as Cairre checks what the hole was, he finds it to be a strange feature built upon the very floor.  A feature on one of the stone tiles that still holds the sigil of the Temple of Bob.

But the dragon Voarex is dead.
And the heroes are alive, with possible new dragon allies.

"Five days," Unisa admits, "We have five days to stop the Lich Roderick."

Hob considers staying at the Eternal Room to watch over Unisa, and to gather possible magical items that the group can use.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Turn Undead can be Awesome

Here's an inspiring video to show you how to approach it.

I love how he uses the Turn to not just repel the monster...

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

He's Crazy!

He's Crazy!
by Tobie

Insanity is a tricky aspect to handle in a game.  On one end of the spectrum, you have those who love playing it like a Monty Python sketch on full throttle, and my memories of this approach range from players who've portrayed the bunny wabbit slipper Malkavians to those who think being an insanely ancient druid means talking to animals in cutesy voices and embracing the idea of comic relief.    At the other end, you have those who push it to disturbing, psychopathic levels, which while less funny, aren't functionally that different in hindering rather than helping a game.   I recall a recent Paladin that was portrayed as a guy who pretty much tried to decapitate anyone who lied, showed a hint of evil, or questioned his "righteousness".  And there was the other player who spend almost thirty minutes of real time just staring at the rest of us, and finally when he was prodded to act in a scene, goes all out screaming obscenities - then stops to explain, "That's how madness really is" -  before continuing his explosion of verbal rage.

I don't like that.

I don't like it when players think "accurate" is more important than "fun for everyone".  I don't like it when players think "amusing for me" is more important than "amusing for everyone including me".  Role-playing games are a social activity.  And unless the game has a system geared to being antagonistic to each other (cause yes, there are such games) I dislike any player who tries to make a game session just a chance to mess everyone else up.

Given that, here are some suggestions on how to approach a not-quite sane character in your games - assuming you are someone like me who wants the game to still be fun for all.

Early note:  I'm not writing a blog post that seeks to define insanity, or to do it "justice" in any way or form.  This is not a post that tries to favor neurosis over psychosis or anything like that.  Nor is this post attempting to belittle the true struggle some have with mental disability.  This is merely a post suggesting how players and gms who want to have an insane character in their stories can approach it without making it less fun for everyone else in the game.  Those who feel insanity or mental disability (and so forth) should never be in a game, feel free to not have them in your own games.

Even the Joker Can Make Sense
Take D.C. Comics' infamous villain, the Joker.  Yes, he's psychotic in ways we can only dream of.  One comic even described him as "constantly reinventing himself" or possibly being hypersane, in the sense that he's like that because he is aware he is a comic book character, hence nothing matters.  None of them are really alive.

Now, that I can work with in a game.  The character might sprout nonsense at times, or wear something outlandish, but when push comes to shove, the Joker still focuses on the goal.  The joker still makes sense in what he does (only that "sense" tends to be something extremely questionable and unthinkable when viewed with our perspective.) but then acts in a way which still helps move the narrative along and allow other players to interact with him.

The Insane One Isn't Alone, Unless it is a Solo Game
A good guide is to keep the internal logic of insanity intact.  Once the insane action goes way over the character's own sense of what makes sense, then its most likely leading to more disruptive displays than not.  Yes, in the real world insanity is a serious issue and can make things difficult in real life.  But in a fictional story, consider at least keeping it at a level that allows the game to still be fun for all who are part of it.  Batman, for example, can be deemed to have his own share of insanities and yet for the paranoid, overly careful lone wolf he tends to be he still works well as part of the Justice League, even if many scenes are showing why he supposedly does not.  The Doctor from Dr. Who on the other hand can have his moments of mania and one incarnation even suffered from a God-complex moment.  But they were always shown to still rein in their "tendancies" to work with the rest of the team.  Tip too much past being able to work with others, and you slide away from Punisher and slip more towards Dr. Doom where the neurosis start either making the character so antisocial it makes the other players prefer to NOT interact, or transforms the viable concept into a caricature just so the player still feels its "being fun."

Consider letting the GM keep you guessing
This works best for players who want the challenge of actually being "saddled" with the neurosis and not feel like they're in full control of it.  In my games, I have offered to run the neurosis for the player, and while challenging, this has resulted in pretty awesome moments.

For example, one player wanted to have paranoia but didn't want to just come up with reasons to be paranoid.  So here's what I did:  Whenever his character was handling scenes away from other Player Characters, I would "color" the narrative to suggest the paranoia.    Him learning another player left to buy supplies would be described as, "You learn that Anna for some reason you cannot fathom opted to leave without telling you.  The last time you saw her, you noticed she broke eye contact very quickly.   Did she really go to get supplies?"  In a later scene, when Anna returned, the character confronted her about leaving and the rest of the team were telling him he's being a jerk.  I slipped the player a note and it read:  "You notice Anna glanced at James before James started complaining about your actions.  Are they in this together?"

Given the games had systems to "check if she was lying" and the like, for those I stuck to my guns and always answered truthfully.  Although to help push the paranoia, for that player such rolls were done behind a screen.  Whenever they failed, I would alternate between truth and lies.

The player? He loved it.  He loved not knowing for certain if he could trust them.  The other players?  They liked how they didn't feel he was just making stuff up.  They liked how I sometimes gave a double meaning to a simple action. At some point, they even threw in some of their own "double meaning" actions to push the paranoia angles.  It worked brilliantly.

In another game I ran (which was a Vampire the Masquerade game) the players were elders who had held fast to their unlife til the modern nights.  Given how the rules required them to have some Humanity loss, which to explain to the non-Vampire gamers meant their characters had some level of mental degeneration, I opted to handle their derangements for them.  One player had it simple:  Sanguinary Animism.  So whenever he fed, I would run a few scenes where he thought he was the victim, living part of the victim's life until he reasserted his mental dominance.  The other, however, was the prime moment of awesome.  The second player had a Venture who had risen high in the ranks of the Camarilla, with an eye for the Princedom.  His Sire visited him nightly, offering advice and suggestions on how to take any rivals down.  And after numerous game sessions, when he finally accomplished his goal, he called for a grand ceremony and asked the Ventrue to bear witness to his achievement.  As he regaled to everyone how this was a huge step forward for the Ventrue Clan to solidify their hold on the city, he turned to his Sire to thank him for always believing in him.  The crowd remained silent.  He turned to the crowd, angered that they did not applaud his Sire, and slowly began to hear from the gathered their small whispered murmurs of how... the Sire was not there at all.  In fact, the Sire had met a Final Death many centuries back.

He was, all the while, talking to himself.  And saw that "self" as his Sire.

Finally, Consider a Kind of Crazy you can Keep to the Side til the Big Moment.
Have you seen the show, Hannibal, for example?
If yes, then you know what I mean.

If no, then I suggest you check it out.  And you'll see how that would work really well.
Basically have any actual manifestations of the psychosis emerge when the character knows he is alone.  Think less Gollum screaming at himself and more certain examples that would spoil certain movies if I mentioned them.    Maybe the madness manifests only when he is alone.  Or maybe the madness slips through when his defenses are lowered, and gain full control when he finally falls asleep.  More Baltar.  Less Mister Bean.

Always having clear and focused characters can be boring, I admit.  But opting to play a less sane one just for kicks and not paying attention to how that ruins the fun for everyone else?  That's just crazy.  And its the kind of crazy that can get one kicked out of a gaming group.

So don't do that.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

In Flux ep04 : Shadows of Esteren

In Flux
Episode Four
"Donan's Journal - Opportunity"

My name is Donan Roik.
I am an Investigator.
After the exhausting events in Reizh, we decide to go to the southern most point of Toil Carea, Deanagh.  We heard there are people who understand Old Magic there.  I notice Rashid seems to figdet with his things often. Almost makes me wonder if he's hiding something among his things.  (Like that thrice-damned book, for instance.)  The scenic paths change as we journey, with trees becoming stranger and the sky being darker.  I admittedly feel apprehensive.  In this journey, had I been forced to travel alone, I would probably have not survived.  But the Varigals definitely manage the journey well.  And Glenn seems to prove extremely useful given his obsession with food and its preparation.  We do not have even a single night where we go hungry.

[There is the concern of my other appetite.  I've come to a realization that the group I accompany would best not be the target of my sexual wiles given the complications that are sure to arise if I were to ever allow one to feel more favor than the other.   Thankfully, my own skills with the hands combined with tying my own arm tight enough to induce a loss of sensation enough to seem like it was someone else's hand makes things much more... acceptable.]

It was during the first month of camping when I wrote this entry.
Rashid seems to have restless nights.  I opt not to ask what's wrong, but he seems to be bothered by something.   We soon travel to what I am told is the Sighing Forest.  Foraging gets harder as we arrive here, with the woods being less kind to non-wildlife.   We see a small village that might be a place we can consider visiting.  I feel the urge to get the flesh going.  The nearby village means other people.  Other people means opportunities.

"It is a trapper colony," Niall explains as we approach it.
"Are they educated?" I ask, remembering that horrible place that should not be named.
"Are you?" Rashid rebuts.

We squabble on the path on whether or not to go.  Someone at the village sees us, and greet us. I send Glenn to say hello.  They talk about having a wonderful harvest.

"I think its a safe place, Glenn found his people," I mused, remembering how the lumbering giant seemed to be so obsessed with preparing meals and handling groceries.

"Many Feonds about," the man at the gates mutters when we comment on the village's high walls.
"How come he gets to say it?" I ask aloud, impressed.  I guess Feonds is different from Feondas.

The tell us the place is the "Town of the Sighing Woods." They sell furs.   The man, I think, is named Tashvili.  And his kindness is a welcome treat given the horrid people we've met before. Kindness however quickly spirals into unexpected casuality as he starts openly asking me about having "an itch."  The nerve of this man to read into my actions that way.  I feel antisocial.  I talk about wanting to burn an illiterate person once a week.  He asks what illiterate means.   Odd, given he claims their town has only three books of import.  How can one know about books and not know about literacy.  The owner of the books.  Now maybe there in lies the answer.

The hamlet probably has around sixty people.  A small sample size of people.  Here's hoping at least one of them is worth bedding.  Amusingly, Niall mutters to himself, "I could use normal." I admit I couldn't agree more.

Niall offers his belief we cannot outrun winter.   He recommends we stay in til it passes. I admit I rather hear from Rashid.  Rashid, after all, has time and time again shown greater competency in journeyman skills.  Rashid admits any delays would leave us in the cold.  With that, it is settled.  I know I can trust Niall, on the other hand, to handle any threats and danger.

Maurice, a school teacher, owns the books.  He seems to be in charge of the place too, but that might just be because people by nature do then to shift towards the smarter person, so long as that smarter person is also the more social one. Maurice just arrived three, or four, years ago. He is in his 40s.  Had a wife and kid.  But supposedly they have already died.  (I will never openly admit it, but to have one's own child die before you do... that is just horrific.)  Rumored to be one of the "robey" people in the past, but lost his family as punishment from Sustraine.   I will always question this religion which seems so intent in raising itself above all others, then punishing those who seek to free themselves from its chains.

Tashvili's daughter, as it turns out, can read.  She's supposed to be 18 winters old.  Given Tashvili is 29, he probably adopted her from a family that died.  His wife likes to knit.   We are brought to the only Tavern in the city, which he owns, and he offers us the floor to sleep in.  They clear the area each night for those who will sleep.  The drinking, it seems happens during the day.  Different.  Simple but fine.

He also shows us a bright red barn.  He was able to get the one can of paint when the merchant came. Did I stress how odd I find it that they only drink during the day.  I head out and wander to look around the town.  Everyone else I see is a woman.   I presume it is because the men are out hunting.   I focus first on getting to know the location, that way if trouble happens I know my way around.  I note which places are closest to the hamlet's gates, and which places have nooks or crannies where I could theoretically hide in.

I start meeting the women after becoming confident enough about knowing my way around the hamlet.  Then I narrow my focus to a widow named Pauline.  She is childless and has been a widow for around eight years.   She is 24 years old.  A sixteen-winter old bride.  That must have been one very lucky man.  But then again I am luckier I guess, given he's dead and I am here to meet her.

I start charming my way into the women's hears, using Pauline's loss as a reason that each and every wife should do their best to care for their husbands better.  I tell them of the harshness of the wild and how making sure each of them are welcomed home well will make the exhaustion and loneliness fade away faster.  The women are swayed easily, and many start asking me to stay longer.  To share more stories.  I weave a fictional one about a varigal saving my life when I was trapped by a charging bear.  "Perhaps tonight," I tell Pauline, "If you will let me have the honor:  I can be your husband's presence to end your loneliness.  We need not do anything.  I just feel he would have wanted you to feel a warmth close by."

I spend the night with her.

I can only wonder what the others are doing at the tavern.  They are probably chatting with Tashvili's daughter.  Or debating over the events of the previous night.  Or worse, some argument over whether or not the strange book was important.

Morning comes.

I write a poem for Pauline, and hope it perhaps inspires her to learn to read.  I take a fruit from her table to eat as I walk back to the tavern.  It is empty.  Save, of course, for Tashvili.  He teases me about having... relations, but I deflect it and claim it was foot massage.  I tease his curiosity on it, and in the end offer to give him one.  I give him a great one, causing him to scream just as loud as Pauline did.  Pleasure can be given in many ways, after all.  I'll leave them all wondering.

Rashid returns and catches me and the guy panting and tired.  Rashid just judgingly stares at me.   I smile.

Three days later, we meet the literate Maurice.  Small talk peppers the discussions, but I quickly push for the topic of the books.  As it turns out, he owns the following books:  Plants and its environs, How to Cook, and Minerals and Flux.  He turns out to be the school teacher in the hamlet now.   I urge him to share more about himself, and start by asking indirectly.  I ask about the last Feonds attack and he admits it was ten years ago.  From there, it is easy to pull him to share more about his life.  He admits he was once a missionary.  But he has left the order to become a teacher here instead.  He suggests that his wife and daughter's deaths were lessons Sustraine had given him for leaving.  I feel tempted to remind him that such otherworldly forces cannot dominate our lives.  But I inwardly hold my tongue.   Maurice however asks us to clear something for him.  He does not believe the Feonds are always active, that it takes a few years between their attacks, and think if they are quiescent, then they can be killed.  He wants us to help prove this theorem of his, and offers to give us something which in his words proves why, "you need to take Sustraine seriously" at times.  I try not to scoff.  Niall, however, does seem curious.

He draws out a key and a chest.  As it is opened, there is a glint of brightness within.  It is a cudgel made of lead, and yet there are glints of another metal.

I learn the chest is from Gwidre, where reputedly holy people are from.

I throw deception away and ask directly about the Book.

"That book.  Every worshipper and priest knows of that book. The Lost Book," he explains.  He talks about how when Sustraine came, as the legends say, he taught people everything save for the contents of the Book.  The Book contained lessons that we were not meant to learn.  But someone read it and took it away.  He shares how the feonds are "the punished".  They are the ones who read the book but failed its test.

I ask him directly why he knows so much of the book.

"I know of the book because I want to know what could have made those things that killed my family."

The drive he feels is undeniable.  I feel there is much to benefit from in taking this task.   The lair he speaks off is inside the forest, and even the hunters are wary of that place.  One of them is always deeply injured whenever they visit that locale.   Not wanting to be seen as the one in charge, I throw Niall the decision and leave.  But I already know how he will respond.  I know he will take the box and the blessed weapon.

I know this means I will get a chance to see these Feonds face-to-face.

I spend a day teaching Glenn to groom.   The poor man is a mountain of mess.  I show him how to trim his hair, and how to shave his beard to a more respectable level.  Thankfully I confirm he knows how to maintain a level of hygiene.  It could have been much worse.

The signs of the first snowfall come.
The hunters return home, with large furs, animal carcasses that have been recently skinned, or even salted.  I notice how a group approaches not their wives, but Maurice.  I read easily from their body language and facial expressions how disappointed they are.    I suspect they were given the same task we were offered.  A Feonds lair.  Deep down, I must admit, I feel a rush of excitement to see it.


Friday, August 23, 2013

Sentai-fy your Games!

Sentai-fy your Games!
by Tobie Abad

I have NO doubt that not everyone will want to do this.  Oh don't worry, I don't blame you at all.  In fact, I am certain that there is a much smaller demographic of readers who will find this article useful.  But hey, I love you, people in the niche groups.

Wait... did I hear you right?  What is Sentai, you ask?

Asians like myself tend to be familiar with Bioman, Gatchaman (Battle of the Planets) and Super Sentai series.  Some of you might be familiar with this thanks to Power Rangers as well as Sailor Moon (although Sailor Moon touches more on the magical girl concept.)

So here are my suggestions on how to sentai-fy your games!

1) The Rule of Five
There must be FIVE main characters in the game.  It doesn't matter if they are all players, or if the others are non-player characters.  Five is the magic number of a Sentai group.  As the story progresses, a fifth or even sixth member may emerge (usually with one being a dark horse who falls from grace and eventually redeems himself) but five is the number which makes the game have that sentai feel.

2) The Colors Must Matter
While many Western sentai concepts ignore this rule (for instance, note Animorphs doesn't really embrace the color scheme as much) Sentai teams tend to follow a color-coded approach to their uniforms, clothing, and accessories.  The guy in red, for example, probably owns a red car, likes red drinks, and tends to have a red armband or red watch.  The girl in yellow, on the other hand tends to have a yellow skirt, or wear yellow shoes, or might live in a yellow condominium and so forth.  D.C. Comics Green Lanterns have recently embraced this sentai trope by introducing the other colors into their franchise (with Orange for Envy, Blue for Hope and so forth).

You can push this to less tacky and more moody, if you think about it, by describing any scenes or narratives with color codes for each character.  The red vampire for example would tend to notice the night sky contrasting the red brick buildings in the neighborhood.  Or feel the masses of people like a crimson tide pushing against him.  Or the rust-colored cages we walk ourselves into.

3)  Strike a Pose
Each member must have a key pose.  Typically this key pose is the group pose, where each one shows their personality or key fighting stance.  Given the way table top games tend to be, having the characters gather for a group pose might be... pushing the envelope.  So you can always reduce this to making sure they have a signature move.  Exalted, for example, has combo uses in charms manifest with a specific Essence display.  For a Sentai-Exalted game, be sure to connect that essence display to their specific personal look with the matching color to boot.

You can also just require the players to describe a specific favorite pose they take whenever they roll a tremendous success or a natural 20.

4) The Weapons Matter
Each one would have their own signature stylish weapon or armament of choice.  In sentai, you've had everything from swords, to guns, to guns that turn into swords, to boomeranges, or even yoyos.  Have the character have a signature weapon he or she would be a master at.  Give them a huge bonus when using the weapon to encourage them to keep using it.

5) The Enemies Should be Dressed to fit the part
Enemies in Sentai shows are always overly-dressed and clearly evil.  So play your villains to the hilt.  Alien hybrids, strange cyborg things, animal-like plants and so forth.  And don't forget to have a signature line or key phrase for each one.

6) Teamwork MUST have its moment of Glory
Every Sentai group as their Team Attack which can range from them simply moving in unison, or them projecting some empowering force as they all chant the same battle cry and press a button.  Give your group the appropriate bonuses when they learn to gather together and (at the prompting of the leader) call upon their Team Attack.

And be sure to reward it ONLY and only if they actually perform it in unison.

Optional #7 Rule
Given most Sentai shows are officially not western productions, having some kind of dubbed/subtitled angle to your game is always a fun plus.   But this will only really work if your other players are familiar with the genre.  And actually enjoy it.

So, let's go!
Role-playing Powerful Greeting:  Now!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The God Machine Chronicle ep03 : World of Darkness

A God Machine Chronicle
Episode Three

"Fact and Fiction"

World of Darkness

Donald wakes up naked in Central park. People are staring at him. He hears the pounding sounds of a boombox and tries to get his bearings.  He has faint, vague memories, and struggles to get to his feet. But when he notices the police making their way to him, he breaks into a run.


Seth is still at old man Donald's home.  He sees the article of Stacey Macyntire, his sister, and pulls it from the wall.  The article is an old one, about her having invented some kind of litmus test for alcohol.  Seth follows the thread attached to the article and finds it leading to someone named Zee. “Am I supposed to bleed to death?” Conners asks teasingly, and Seth lookd down to see the police officer still bleeding from his self-ricocheted gun-shot wound.  Seth finds the kitchen and brings back a bottle of alcohol.  Conners is looking at a clipping, about a man named George Calin who has his face.  The man has a massive meltdown after accepting an Oscar. “Do I suck out the poison?” he teases but the smile fades as Seth pours the alcohol on the wound to clean it.  

"This the sort of thing you've had before being a cop?"

“Not after this, not like this. Not this?” Conners grimaces.


Wyatt stands in the other room.  He towers over the old man Donald and tries to gleam more information from him. “They call you a Prophet. The one who saw past the illusion.," Donald tries to explain when Wyatt asks why is he supposedly vital in all this.  And who these others are who share his face.  "We are not living in a program," Donald continues, "But we are living in a prison, we just can’t see it.”  Wyatt realizes this sounds much like common gnostic faith.  The parallels to his own novel, the God-Machine are unmistakable.
“And thus they continued their duties, unaware of their actions being merely programs they were given.”


Donald started quoting lines from Wyatt's novel, which continued to unnerve him.  He could not quite grasp the idea that his stupid novel had started some kind of group.  Or religion.

"This is just a state of mind?" Wyatt asked.

“The Rennerds would disagree.”  Wyatt flinched.  The Protagonist of his novel the God-Machine was someone named Rennerd..  When Wyatt decided to try following that train of thought, he asked how one would hide from something that one was connected to.  

“By being irrational. Something imaginary among the numbers," was Donald's reply.  But then he followed the answer with a question.  "You are not the Prime, are you?”
Wyatt slowly shook his head.  Donald seemed dejected, and quietly walked back to his bedroom.  Wyatt watches as he pulls the key out, slides it into another door, and opens the doorway into a room with pipes and steam.

Then leaves.


Ronald runs and tries to find a place to hide.  He sees a portalet at one side and pounds the ground to get there are fast as he could.  Thankfully, there are less bystanders in the area this time, giving him a chance to slide on some clothing as he runs.   As he gets to the portalet, however, the door opens and a woman inside steps out.  She resembles Zoey, Ronald's younger sister.  "Rey?" the woman asks.  

They hide by the plants as the cops arrive within the nearby yards.  The cop draws a phone from his pocket and begins fiddling with it.  A high pitched whine hits, and it almost forced Ronald to leave his hiding place.  Ronald opts to stay hidden.  Allows time to pass.


Wyatt steps out into the hallway, with the intention of heading home, but notices something odd.  The walls, to his recollection, were a shade of tan.  Today, however, they seemed to be a tinge of blue.  The numbers at the door were not numbers.  They were instead braille.  The door to his home turns out to be locked.  And as he considers going to the super to have it opened, the door opens.

His mother.

Wyatt stares at her, wondering why she would be at his hone.  He also wonders why she seems to be wearing some kind of one piece jumpsuit.  But then, he realizes she thinks he's someone else.

Someone named Rey.

"I'm not Rey," he tells her.

“You’re not?”

“I’m Wyatt. What are you doing in my apartment?”

The parents start talking to him as if he was in an intervention, telling him that they don't blame him for the drugs.  Or the men.  Wyatt doesn't know how to make sense of anything they are saying.


Conners studies the other clippings on the wall and sees a few more familiar faces.  He even finds someone named Rey Tinsey, and this guy does resemble them as well.  Seth and Conners finally start to discuss their encounter with the men in white.  Conners admits he thinks guy in white is not normal. “I shot him in the chest. I know I shot him in the chest.”

“Where’s your radio? Call for help. Or at least tell them you’re bleeding. Should we bring you to a hospital or something?"  Seth ponders.

But both wonder if it would be safe to reach out to anyone else about these events.
Especially when they have no idea who these men in white are.


The Mobius bar.  Ronald and Zee sit down and take the chance to talk about Rey.  She doesn't have a picture of him, but tries to explain to him how Rey had committed suicide.  Jumped off a building.  The bar owner, a Russian stocky woman, asks them if everything is okay.  Zee smiles at Red and tellsher all is wel.  Ronald asks if there were any encounters with men in white.  Zee seems confused, admitting that she wasn' expecting him to quit being part of the Rennerds.  Red tells Ronald, "It is good to see you though, Rey."

"He mentioned something about having to take, 'the capsule'," Zee mutters.

"Can you help me at all?" Ronald asks.

"Help you regain your memories?"

"Yes, or at least tell me I am not dreaming," Ronald admits.  His eyes scan the bar and he catches a tall dark cross-dresser at one table, reading a book called The God-Machine.  Her metallic make up and huge hair seems like something from the 80s.  Ronald starts to notice the cross-dresser... looks like his infamous friend, KaQoH.

“Can you help me find my brother. I think he faked his death,” Zee admits.


Wyatt stares at his parents.  They talk about their worries of his "lapses" and try to ask him to admit what drugs he had been taking.  They mutter about him claiming to be other persons.    The father talks about asking someone to help, and a call is made.  Seconds barely pass when a visitor arrives at the door.  Wyatt tries to stay calm, the whole time bothered by this second set of strange parents.

"Doctor Faciem," the mother greets the man as he steps inside, "Perhaps you can help us with our son."

Wyatt sees the man in white enter the room.  He locks himself in his bedroom, which now looks like some kind of entertainment room with large monitors and screens, and stares out of the window to see a world that seems very far from what it should be.   An amalgam of cultures almost like that of the movie Bladerunner can be seen outside, and the clouds dance in colors he has never seen before.

"That is not what you think it is," the mother warns Wyatt, and he notices her waver for a moment as if a heat wave passed by.

Wyatt slams the window open.

Everything breaks apart.   The world outside is an image. As are the parents.  Doctor Faciem tries to calm him down as red lights alarm all over.  A screen activates and inside, a stern woman in a uniform demands he comply and surrender.  She warns him that he is a passenger on a Story Ship travelling through the Fictional Universe.  "You are merely a minor anecdote in a greater calling.  If you are a threat to the narrative, we will do to you what we do to all Fictional Universe threats.  We edit them away."

Wyatt cannot cope.  He drops to the ground, feeling his sanity slipping away.
Doctor Faciem smiles.


"Here," Conners tells Seth as he hands him something.  Seth finds Conner handling him a key.  To his place.  "I have to deal with the boss for now, I've been missing for a few days from work it seems.   But I want to know you will be okay."   Seth decides to go to Conners' place to get some semblance of normalcy and rest.  Conners leaves to get the car he left back at the other place.

"Do me a favor and feed the dog," Conners touches Seth's face and reminds him to do that task.  Seth is still confused.  He doesn't recall when he started getting interested in men.

Conner's place isn't as shabby as he thought it would be.  Given the guy's O.C. nature, the place is pretty clean.  A Chinese guy who lives across the room stares at him suspiciously.  The dog barkes and rushes to him, excited to see a guest.  As Seth tries to call the dog down, a voice can be heard outside at the hallway, as a woman named Madella seems to have come to visit.  She calls Conners "Ham," and the Chinese guy starts teasing her to give it up.  "He's got some man in there with him!"

Madella screams at him back, annoyed that he'd try to tease him that way.  Realizing no one is answering, she starts calling out for the dog.

The dog's name is Bruno.

Seth lies on couch. Tries to get some rest. Mercifully, he falls asleep.


The cross-dresser has the same tattoo.  Ronald can see hints of it underneath her clothing.    He cannot understand why there are all these parallels.  These strange echoes of each other.  “Have you ever felt lost, as if you’re the only one who doesn't grasp the world.”

“I am acting as logical as I can,” Zee replies.

“So I’m the crazy one?” Ronald asks

Zee does not reply verbally.  Instead Ronald starts to see her with shifting gears and cracks on the surface.  He loses consciousness once again.


Wyatt wakes to find himself before Admiral Redd who is interviewing him to discern who he is. "You are possibly a Fictional Universe alien.  I will ask you a simple question and you must answer.  Name the three major events that have transpired in your timeline."

Wyatt stumbles for words and mutters, "Barack Obama as President... Wyatt Wrote a novel that didn't sell as much.  And a storm devastated the City of Marikina, in the Philippines."

"Wake up," a voice seems to whisper.

Admiral Redd pulls out two spritzers and asks Wyatt to choose one of them.  She does not explain why.

"Wake up..."

Wyatt opens his eyes.  He is back home and Mara is getting dressed.  He looks around, confused where he is and wondering why his dreams keep getting more and more elaborate.  He slides out of the room and rushes to Donald's room. The floor is wet with olive oil.  There are two sets of foot prints.

"Wyatt, let's go.  We are running late!"

Confused, he just follows her lead and quickly learns that they are headed to a press release.  Wyatt supposedly had sent in an outline of the next big novel, and the book is to be entitled, W.  They had agreed, it seems, to give the press ten keywords on what the novel will be about.

Wyatt stares at the gathered crowd of cameras and reporters and closes his eyes and merely utters the ten words that come to his lips.
"Agents, Dimensions, Revolution, Machines, Alternate Dimension, Different Versions of ourselves."


Seth wakes up to the smell of freshly brewed coffee.  The cleaning lady greets him and Bruno (who had fallen asleep between his legs) and she tells him she brewed three cups of coffee.  Seth soon learns she is actually Conners' mother and she visits in secret to clean his house when he's not looking.  She was able to get inside thanks to the spare key the Asian guy across the hall had to the place.  Seth tries not to wonder why he has that key.

The mother is pretty cheerful and tells Seth she is happy her son is socializing.  She shares how as a child, the poor boy was forced to do things perfectly for many years.  She tells him the trauma never left him.  Seth asks her to stay a bit but she confesses that she never feels safe in the place.  "Did you know?  Many tenants have left the building without even paying!  Sometimes I feel this place is cursed.  Or something."  When he asks her if he should mention she visited, she quickly tells him no. "Mister Eyes will see and Mister E is gone.”

Seth found that saying very odd.


A man steps out of the crowd in the press release event.  Wyatt sees the man walk towards him and has a flash in his head that the man was someone he had seen in that subway dream.  "I have to break the Master Piece," the man tells him and draws a pistol from underneath his clothes.

Wyatt gasps and the pistol discharges before he could do anything.  

As he drops to the ground, blood pouring out of his stomach, the man rushes to leave.  "It was the only way to make the Machine Fail!" he utters.  And just as Wyatt starts to expect seeing his life flash before his eyes, he sees Mister Nose come into view and walk up to him.  He surveys his wound and calls out, "Mister Eyes?"

A second Man in White emerges.  

"I will go track the shooter," Mister Nose tells Mister White.  "Can I count on you to ensure this iteration is watched over well?"  Mister Eyes nods.  "The wound is not grave.  I can see he will survive this."

Wyatt realizes the man who shot him.... 
was Rey Tinsey.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Gossamer Saga e03 : Homebrewed System

The Gossamer Saga : Revolution

Episode Three
" The Fallen"

Home-brewed Game

Months have passed.

Armies have been steadily moving towards the provinces.  The soldiers seem to have been headed towards the Capital on foot.  But these events are not much the focus of the heroes.  Instead, they busy themselves with personal matters.

Kale uses the mirror to peer at his father's location.  He seems to always be in the same room.  While Kale has been having Ash stay in his room to keep her safe from her self-created night terrors, Kale uses the mirror only when Ash is away.   At one time, when Kale summons the visions, the image shows a brighter location that usual.  Candles.  Robes.

Ash arrives.  Kale asks her about "her boon" and Ash admits she does not know what he means.  Kale shows her the mirror he received but Ash instead notices, "that place..." She recalls Staniga's Ass and uses the Trust she had learned to Perceive better.  Ash realizes she recognizes the place.

It was the same temple she was in when Chi'tarn first recruited her for the Gossamer Tower.

"I never got to finish my mission there.  I wonder.  What if the man I was supposed to kill was you father?"

"Could you promise not to kill him," Kale asks after Ash offers to bring him there.  But Ash admits she would never make a promise that contradicts an earlier promise.


Larkspur angrily thinks of Ballouise and how she has usurped the identity of the Bright One. She stalks Ballouise, spying on her for weeks.  A knock on door.  Larkspur opens the door to her room and finds Ballouise standing outside.   Larkspur reacts surprised to see her but Ballouise tells her she has noticed the other observing her for the last few days.  "It goes both ways," Ballouise explains as she refers to the use of the Trust to observe another, and the Totems to find another in the Tower.  Reacting to Larkspur's subconscious, the stained glass in the room shatters.  Ballouise smirks, "I just wanted to make sure, since I keep bumping into you in the hallways."

Larkspur subtly accuses her of posing as the goddess.  She clearly still does not believe that Ballouise could actually be the inspiration or source of the stories of the Bright one.  They switch the topic of the conversation to talk instead of a mission to look into the disappearance of the Regent.  Ballouise tells her she should do it with Quince.  Larkspur thinks of the fear and uses it as a resonance to find Quince in the Tower.


Quince is supervising the archivists in the library.  They were amused how he periodically returns to observe them, but now they are getting frustrated and annoyed with his constant interference as he tells them of ways to do things more "efficiently."  Over time, they realized it was simpler to just do what he said.    Quince sees only success and proudly remarks, "Now there is a proper chain of command.  It is efficient."

Larkspur arrives, and tells him of the mission to find the Regent.  "What of the others?" he asks.

"The mission was for only the two of us" Larkspur replies.

"How unfortunate," Quince remarks, "I will be back. I will procure a fish."  Larkspur's eyes widen as she recalls how Quince had used fish to handle annoying people.


Back in the other room, Kale and Ash continue to argue on whether or not killing is a necessity.  "You should never kill," Kale implores Ash, but she admits, "I never kill indiscriminately."  Ballouise arrives and the two set aside the discussion for the time being.  Ballouise tells them of the Regent of the colonies and how he has been missing for quite some time.  While Kale talks to Ballouise about these things, Ash sees the Mirror which Kale left on the bed, and picks it up.  "Things have been much more interesting since the arrival of the Caerdin army," Ballouise suggests that they should consider looking for the Regent together.

But Kale, being Kale, reaches out to Larkspur using the Totem.  He asks her if they have a mission as well, and tells her that he and Ash were tasked to find the Regent.  Ash, amused to remember the quest she never finished, decides to head there immediately.  Kale panicks upon realizing Ash had left with the Mirror, and quickly shifts out of the Gossamer to follow her.


In the temple, Kale follows and is surprised to find himself with her up on the rafters of some building.  Thankfully, Kale quickly balances himself and looks around.  Down below, robed and hooded figures arrive.   Kale asks for the Mirror back, and perhaps to sweeten the pot, offers Ash a knife to keep.  "I don't think we should be here," Kale mutters but Ash insists that she has to finish this job.  Almost as if to force them to make a decision, the two see a young woman brought into the chamber and laid down on a white sheet atop the altar.    "Should we do something to stop this?" Kale asks worriedly and Ash questions doing so with Kale's own words, "I'm not supposed to kill, right?"

"We don't have to kill anyone," Kale stresses.

"Then show me how," Ash mutters.

Knowing Kale was bound to draw the attention of the cultists, Ash slips away to the far side and as Kale distracts those present, slithers through a doorway leading deeper into the chamber.  Kale uses his Trust to empower his own body to become faster and stronger, and leaps down to where the woman is.  He tears off the manacle that locks her to the alter, then carries her on his shoulder as he leaps for the further doorway.  The robed figures shriek and claw at him, but are unable to stop him as he kicks the door open to head out.  But alas, instead of the freedom of outside, Kale finds another corridor and realizes something Ash had not told him:  They are underground!

In the other side, Ash moves silently through the corridors, and uses the Trust to Perceive the walls around her as shadows.  She remembers how back in Staniga's Ass, she would use the shadows to block out distractions and focus on her target.  She uses it here with the Trust pushing her abilities to impossible levels, seeing through the walls as if they were immaterial smoky lines.  Realizing there are so many people in this level, she calls out a false alarm to trick everyone to start rushing off to leave.  In her mind, it would permit her a chance to scan the faces of those leaving.  If her target is seen, then she can deal with him.  But if not, then he is probably imprisoned somewhere and will be left alone.


Quince and Larkspur consider heading to the Capital to find the missing Regent.  They discuss on how to find the missing Regent, and Quince suggests they just head there to get information.  But Larkspur admits it would help if they had something of his.  "Why?"  Quince asks.

"Because community links from one thread to another, that's why," Larkspur explains.

But Quince counters that objects are not what represent community.  "People do."

They opt to go to Regent's area.  The place is massive castle that is built against a mountainside.   Larkspur opts to head for the plateau while Quince takes a detour to head for the Apiary. "It has been a while since I've been there," Quince admits.

Larkspur eventually makes her way to a small clearing in the area.  She searches for the city marshal and acts all impressed about seeing the large buildings, pushing the idea she's a common person from the rural lands who happens to be lost.  The guards, accustomed to such people getting lost, offers to show her to where she needs to go.  Larkspur throws a few jokes about having to deliver "buns" and gets them to help her find her way.

Quince visits the Apiary, and they seem to be well tended.  The hives are buzzing with activity.  He gathers some honey, then considers going to the capital to "sell" the wares.


Kale uses his magic to delay the pursuers.  But the lack of light makes his escape harder as does not knowing where to go.  He grows a massive tree to help him stay safe against the monks and even takes a branch off to use as a makeshift weapon if he can.

A voice in the darkness.

"Who disrupts my feeding?"

The voice again asks, "Who disrupts my feeding again?"

Seven foot tall woman, greenish skin.  Black glowing pools for eyes.  She reaches for Kale.
The thing breaks the giant tree.  Kale disappears.


Ash sees her target and makes her way to him.  A second door catches her attention, with something about it seemingly familiar, but she opts to ignore it for now.  Her mission is her goal.  It has not been fulfilled for far too long.  When she finds the room, she sees it is empty.  But using the teachings she learned of the Trust, she peers using the darkness of Staniga as her guide, and the target becomes visible to her Perceive.  As she pretends not to know the target is there, she suddenly swoops with her knife to slash at him!

He parries with a staff.

"Who?" he asks with far more words than she can recall.

"The Bright One's Shadow," Ash retorts, amused at herself for finding a new way to name herself and she attempts to leap over him.  But he uses some unseen force to slam her against the wall.    Ash swings the blade at him, but instead of aiming with the steel, she visualizes the shadow of the blade as the carrier of her will.  "Destroy," she whispers and begs her shadow to cut the man.  Alas, the man is trained in the Trust as well, it seems, and a magical barrier deflects the strike.

"You may call me, Larkspur," Ash hisses.

"I will remember this name," he growls and vanishes through a portal he creates by slamming his staff to the ground.

Alone, frustrated with having failed, Ash opts to head back to the earlier door.


Larkspur uses the hierarchy of the group to look for the Regent.  She remembers the order of her homeland and reflects upon that as she stands at an alleyway to seek out the missing Regent.  However, what she finds instead through the Trust is... the Seneschal.  And oddly, the man seemed to register as not being part of the hierarchy.

"A word if you may, Quince," Larkspur calls out to him using the Totem.  As she explains what she has glimpsed, the odd man replies instead, "There is redundancy here.  Inefficient."

"This finding means he is powerless where he should be most powerful," Larkspur suggests.

"Then we must shake the nest," Quince replies succinctly.  "The Wasps come to a hive to tell them they are here to take over.  In this case, it is because the Regent is gone.  Those who have spirited him away will make their moves."

"But how," Larkspur queries, "How will these people know of this?"

"You are noisy.  You will figure it out."

Larkspur stomps to the park, screeching about as if she were some preacher of the Bright One.  There was a time she would never do such a thing, given her faith to the Goddess.  But given Ballouise, perhaps she is more wont to do this act of sacrilege given the Bright One might actually just be Ballouise's other name.


Quince finds a tavern and steps inside to sell the mead he has brought.

As he sells his wares without struggling to generate profit, he takes the opportunity to spread rumors as well of Prosperity being in flames and of others being trapped within until the army that passed had left.  With a gentle prodding of the Trust, he ensures the rumors will spread more by twisting it around people's desires and instigating the urge upon them to seek out the Regent as well.

"Efficiency," Quince mutters to himself.


A day has passed.

Larkspur hears rumors that Prosperity is a smoking husk that once was, and that an army has been spreading and pillaging and the like.   She is a bit taken aback since none of those were rumors she created.   Larkspur makes plans to head back to her homeland, so she returns to the tower for now.  She finds the tower in high alert.

"A breach!" the guards exclaim in alarm.

Turns out, as Kale escaped from the monster by shifting back to the tower.  And as he shifted, he took with him the naked woman he had rescued from the robed men.  The Gossamer tower sensed the companion and diverted his shift to the main lobby instead of  his room.   "We have a breach!" guards call out as they rush to the area with their pole arms and intercept Kale and his companion.

Gorval arrives, definitely looking very unhappy with the situation.  He demands Kale explain himself.


Ash returned to the door.  She inspected it and tried to see if there was anything odd but couldn't shake the feeling there was something calling to her.  She slipped inside and finds lots of boxes and chests and cabinet doors.  Not wanting any more delays, she called upon the Trust to break each and every door.

The sound alerts others to her whereabouts.  And as they make for the door, she wraps her arms around everything she could gather from the cabinets, and spirits herself away back to the Gossamer Tower.

She had hoped he was able to take with her whatever seemed to call at her.

But falling to the ground, clattering against the stone floor, was a cufflink that bore the Caerdine Imperial seal.


The group is gathered once again at the Gossamer Tower.  They are scolded for not working together.  They are told they are grounded for a month.

"With everything that happened, not a single one of you even found any true information about the Regent!"

"We were looking for a regent?" Ash sheepishly asks, unaware of such a goal all that time.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Tagsession Books to soon be released

I've been working on eventually releasing my own selection of books (maybe on RPGnow or DriveThruRpg) and I do hope that at least some of you readers of my blog decide to support them when they come out.   I still am having cold feet about this, admittedly, and I keep reminding myself to do what John Wick told me to do ("Just write it for yourself") and to worry about finding layout people, artists, and an audience later.

 Here's an idea of what's in the pipeline:

A meta-game role-playing game where even the players themselves are characters in the game. Play Immortals that wear Masks to enjoy the limitations of a mortal life. In this game, using meta-game knowledge is part of the fun! But beware, the Enemy lurks and worst of all, is the only person you really trust.

In a world where you can remix your brain to tap into memories you need, where does identity and loyalty lie? The Mission must be accomplished before time runs out. And unlike most role-playing games, in MEM:RE games do unfold in real-time and your choices to survive might make you the very danger your allies face.

At long last, you've found him.  The two of you stand before each other at the end of a long bloody saga.  But will you have the Edge, or the Hatred to see it through?

The coming of honor or disgrace must be a reflection of one's inner power - Xun Zi

TAGSESSIONS: Ideas for the Dramatic Gamer : Volume One
Tips and essays on how to approach gaming in ways which might be different from what you are used to.
This book will contain the following:
Story Fragments
Key Lines

TAGSESSIONS: Homebrewed Happiness: Volume One
Compiling the simple quick game systems I've written for my friends for the Creative Pay-It-Foward challenge of 2013.  This will contain most likely the following:
Kumiho of the Nine: A KoreanDrama RPG
Cat Dreams/Neko Yume : A Ghibli Inspired RPG
Survivor the RPG*
Adventure Time Advanced*
Adventure Time: Simplified RPG*

*Given the direct inspiration of the material to copyrighted material, I am still uncertain if the book will contain these games, or will contain a stripped-down version of the games for general play.  I feel sad though if I have to do that since they were directly written to capture the feel of the original material, while others were written to simply emulate the said material.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Why Are We Marginalizing Our Own Role-Playing Games?

Why Are We Marginalizing Our Own Role-Playing Games?
by Tobie Abad

Back in the 80s, I used to have to hide my passion for gaming.    The 700 Club was still at the heights of its campaign against role-playing games and I still (and no, not fondly) recall how many people really looked at me as if I were practicing some kind of demon worship every weekend.  There were even a few books of mine that felt the "cleansing flames" as well-meaning members of my family opted to burn some of my books in a misguided attempt to save my soul.

Today, gaming is less the target of religious groups but sadly more the target of misunderstand, misinformation and internal discrimination.  You have video games which have role-playing game-like elements being touted as role-playing games.  You have purists who believe that there is only one "true" way to play a certain role-playing game. And worst of all, you have gamers who insist that certain role-playing games which challenge long accepted notions of gaming are NOT role-playing games and are given instead all these other labels as if such discrimination was necessary.   I sometimes wonder if things were better when Christian Groups were all at arms to attack gamers, because at least back then, we were all united in trying to show our love for our hobby, that attacking each other was the last thing we would do.

What's wrong with us nowadays?  Why should computer games with role-playing game elements like Diablo and many MMOs be called role-playing games when you're not even portraying a "role" but you're just playing a character and repetitively doing certain tasks to get powers and equipment, only to face more things and repeat the cycle?   Where's the freedom of exploring the role you've been given?  Where's the development of a narrative which is clearly influenced by the player's actions?   I've learned to accept that such computer games can be referred to as crpgs (Computer Role-playing Games) or even jrpgs (Japanese Role-playing games) since they've earned recognition as a genre of gaming.  But I don't see how they are a role-playing game at all when the closest thing to them being one is the fact you don't play yourself.

But then neither is acting, or cosplaying, but neither are a role-playing game.

Earning experience points, having a leveling up skill tree, or choosing character types and classes do not make a game a role-playing game.  They are just games with elements of popular role-playing game systems.  It seems to be insulting to the hobby to say that just adding some system to another game or having a few similarities already makes it a role-playing game.   Role-playing games are not the dice and math and points that exist in its systems.  Those are just ingredients that make many simulationist and dramatic games function better.  I don't even want to get into that time one friend mentioned, "It has a character sheet, so it HAS to be a role-playing game."  That's like saying golf is a baseball game since it has a ball which you hit with a stick.

On a similar note, other table top role-playing games which throw away the need for an incremental leveling system, or throw away the need for crunchy skill trees and the like, but still allow a person to embrace the role of a character and explore that character's personality and see the repercussions of their actions and decisions should still be recognized as a role-playing game.  I don't get why fantastic games like Fiasco and Our Last Best Hope have to be segregated as "Story Games" rather than role-playing games when they are simply role-playing games that pay more attention to characters and shared story creation than they do to levels, experience gathering and multiple systems to determine hits, misses, and health bars.  I heard some people insist the distinction is merely for purposes of labels and setting expectations ("so that does seeking to play games, earn experience points and get cool shit don't get disappointed to learn Fiasco ain't about any of that") but hey guess what, role-playing games as a hobby can have many facets and genres already.  

It is a stupid as saying Speculative Fiction should be distinct from Fiction.  Fiction is about non-real settings or stories.  It has many subgenres such as Fantasy, Science Fiction and the like.  There's no need to call fictional what if stories something different, when that's already what Fiction is.

Many supposed Story Games out there are still role-playing games minus the crunch and tables (and in some cases the need for a Game Master and even dice) but are role-playing games nonetheless because they are social games where players portray a role other than themselves and build a story with fellow players.   You can simply distinguish them as narrative or tactical role-playing games.  Or maybe even as dramatic and action role-playing games.  But to insist they aren't role-playing games per se?  That's just idiotic and unnecessary.

Given the rich landscape of gaming that exists, whether or computers, on table-top, or even as physical activities, role-playing games have truly evolved from their Chainmail roots that were deeply still engrained with their War gaming elements.   The big twist back when it all started was less about "what stats should this unit have" and was more about "What if I wanted to explore more the specific character?"  And now, we have so many ways to explore the story and lives of "the specific character".  We have games for every genre, games in so many languages, games where we become the greatest of heroes, the darkest of villains, the gods and the creations, the experiments and the failures, we have games that allows us to be everything from sentient animals, to aliens, to disembodied spirits, and even victims of a telepathic cockroach.  We have games where polyhedral dice are used, where six-sided dice determine results merely by their color, where playing cards and tarot cards and personalized cards become randomizing agents or story guides, or where the use of specific key words and verbal tags become systems which determine who wins in the battle, the debate, the seduction, or the choice.  We have games where the players challenge the game master, or work with him to forge a story, or where everyone plays the game master at some point, or everyone shapes the world around a single player, or where no game master was ever needed in the first place.  We have games where players even embrace the roles of multiple characters, or portray stories in multiple time lines, and everything else in between.

We have such a vibrant and bountiful selection of role-playing games to indulge in - each with systems that favor tactical or narrative, drama or style, realism or fantasy, that challenge or encourage or even at times do both in the same instance.  

We live in such a wonderful point in gaming life.
Why do we have to marginalize our hobby and label other games in so many less unifying ways?
I wish more people just learned to embrace the joys of role-playing games and focus on exploring and sharing them with their friends.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Recruitment #10 : Lacuna

Recruitment #10
Lacuna, Part I. The Birth of Mystery and the Girl from Blue City

New recruits.    Reception congratulates them all for successfully getting this far in the recruitment process.  They are all given the Employee Record Sheet to fill up and reminds them that if they are having any memory problems, they should not be alarmed.  "Memory loss is quite common in the Blue City."

The new recruits include:
Agent Hooper.
Agent Trapp.
Agent Taylor.
And Team Leader Agent Tillman.

"The time is 6:52.  You only have two hours to fulfill all the necessary mission parameters before you will be forcibly ejected from the Blue City. Do not respond if you contact Agent "

Before they are lead out to the slab, however, Team Leader Tillman was given a private message from Chief Wagner, the Mentor he trained under.   The message read:


They go under.


Agent Trapp is the first to wake up.  He finds himself in a room with bare walls and windows.  A bright billboard outside the window was the only source of light.  On the board is the image of a woman.  She smiles and waves at him.  Sadly, Trapp cannot read the text on the board.  He looks out of the window and realizes he is eight storeys up.

Agent Taylor wakes up and finds himself inside a bathtub half-filled with water.   As he pulls himself out of the water, he quickly moves towards the door to listen if there is anyone there.  Hearing nothing, he slides out of the room and takes the door to his left which brings him to a room with a Polaroid photo stabbed with a knife onto the headrest.  Moving closer, he sees the photo has a word written on it, and even if he was not a Reader, he realizes he can read the word.

The photo shows someone he recognizes.  He pockets the photo and slides the knife under his belt.    He approaches the other door and listen.  He hears a woman outside the door and from the sounds, he realizes she is loading a pistol while talking to someone about others being late.

Agent Hooper wakes up and finds himself in a classroom.  The room is empty, with no one else present save for one standing figure.  Hooper gasps in surprise but calms down as he realizes the figure isn't a person.  It is a mannequin.  And it was dressed in what looked like a military uniform, with pins on his chest.

He walks up to it and checks its pockets for anything useful.  What he finds is a broken Lacuna device.  Light gleams past the doorway, suggesting someone walking past it.  Hooper stealthily moves closer and leans in to listen in.

Agent Tillman wakes up and realizes he is lying on his back.  A light shines on his face, and as he sits up, the person shining the light warns him to do it slowly.  Tillman realizes she has a pistol trained at him.  Holding his hands up, he shows he is weaponless and tries to calm the other person down.

She maintained the gun at his direction, and told him, "I will ask you three questions and you will answer each one with a single word.    Lacuna device?"

Tillman checks his clothing.  He realizes he does not have one.   "None."


Tillman considers what to say next.

Agent Trapp finds the next room, and it is a room covered wall to wall with newspaper clippings.  He starts ripping a few off the wall and finds a red and black and white wallpaper that shows off a repeating eye pattern.

The group soon gathers, as Agent Tillman's encounter with the woman is the noise that draws them all to the same location.  The sound of a phone ringing reminds Tillman that he had not yet received the mission parameters.  He sends two of the agents to check the distant corridors at the end of the passageway, while the rest of them head back towards the earlier chambers to find the ringing phone.  Agent Trapp realizes he saw a phone in the other room.  The woman is paranoid, however, that one of them is a spider and trains the gun to test if the person is a spider.  When Agent Hooper is smacked with the butt of the gun to test for spiders, the woman admits that, "A real Spider would have emerged from the pain.  I guess you're all truly Agents.  Thankfully, Hooper has had training as a medic and treats the wound after pick up the fallen tooth.  
The end of the passageway continued into two corridors, giving the whole place a T-shape when viewed from above.  Taylor and Hooper move down separately to investigate and both notice how each corridor has eleven doors to check out.  Taylor notices one of the doors ajar and slowly approaches it to investigate.  He hears the sounds of someone inside, so he carefully reaches inside to find the light switch.

He finds a young girl in blue.  She stares at him.  But her words barely seem to reach him.  She seems to suggest danger.  But then vanishes as if she were just a ghost.

Agent Trapp shows Team leader Agent Tillman and the woman the room with the phone.   As Tillman moves to take the phone, the woman demands for their names.  She then uses her Caller ability to contact him directly and tells him she's the contact.  Tillman makes the call to Control and learns of the mission parameters:

Locate the Personality Frauen
Escort Personality to Extraction Zone 11 71 41
Once Frauen has Ejected, Activate Lacuna Devices.
Count to three and make a wish.

Taylor's eyes widen as a man emerges from the corridor.  As the bullet flies from the first shot, time seems to suddenly slow down to a crawl.  Taylor dodges out of the way, and Hooper slides forward to assist.  When the Spider attempts to shoot a second time, Hooper perfectly times his shot to parry the bullet with his own!  But more doors begin to open as more Spiders begin to emerge.  Even with Trapp rushes to help them out, it is starting to become clearer more and more that this might have been a trap!

Frauen tells Tillman that they have to go.  But Tillman continues to study the news paper articles to find the code of 11 71 41 to determine the location of the extraction point.  It takes him some time to find it.  He then asks Control to confirm the location of the Extraction Zone.  Noting it down, they make their way deeper into the chamber where Trapp first emerged from.  The others are hot on their heels behind them.  As they make their way down the stairs, Trapp recalls the room with the windows and noticed how there were vehicles outside the windows.  Trapp rushes ahead of them and soon finds one of the windows has a helicopter waiting outside.  He never remembered feeling so happy to be a Driver until today.

Lightning.  Rain begins to fall.  As the group starts making their way down, Taylor and Hooper hesitates.  Both find themselves questioning certain loyalties as the Spiders make their offers.   But with the confusion on whom to trust, the pounding rain separating  Agent Trapp from the others, and time ticking away, Frauen gets shot and everything seems to fall.



The group are at the reception area, informed of their failure in the mission to fulfill things within the mission parameter.  As the receptionist berates them for their failure, the phone rings.

"Officer Miner?"

They learn that if they cash in a total of ten Commendation Points, they would be allowed to return to the mission.  The group readily agrees to and dives back in.

11th of November

71 incidents so far

41st avenue

Fraulen mumbles in her wounded state,  "Your all expendable. Just memories. Nothing but memories."

Team Leader Tillman recalls the destination, and realizes that they are back at the very location before they were forcibly ejected.   Picking up the injured woman, the team leader tries to yell at everyone else to follow Agent Trapp, but he does not see Agent █ conversing with a Spider on a possible deal.  "I can tell you everything they have hidden from you.  I can tell you the truth about Lacuna.  About the Company.  About the Mystery Agents."  Agent  still remembers the clipping he had picked up, the one which seemed to show an image of him in a life he did not recall.

"Memory loss is common in the Blue City. What if they can add to your memory?"

Outside, Agent Trapp takes the helicopter up to the air as he notices more and more spiders clambering up the buildings.  He sees the Blue City from the sky and marvels at the massive letters that form the structures, and the color-tones that determine certain locations.  But then he hears the distant hissing of static and suddenly, the rain transforms into a pouring torrent of frogs.

Blood and bits splatter all around as the helicopter rotor blades slice them into shreds.  Worried that the others still have not shown up, and seeing the spiders clambering up the walls, and knowing the blades cannot withstand a constant torrent.. he decides to Eject.

A stand off.

Loyalties his the lowest point as Agent Taylor reveals to Agent Hooper the picture that he had found in the building.  The polaroid that was stabbed with a knife showed the image of Agent Tillman.  The word on the polaroid was "MOLE"

Tillman, however, insisted that he was not the Mole.  And even with the gun trained at him, demanded that the others listen to his orders.  "I knew there was something fishy. You're the same age as me and you're already team leader," Hooper mutters but before any of them can do more, the crashing helicopter tears through the wall!

As the dust settles, only Agent Hooper seems to have survived the crash.  The Spider walks up to him, congratulating him for doing so.  The Spider folds away its face and reveals the face of Officer Miner. "You will do," the man tells him.

And back in Reception, Agent Trapp is the only one awake.  The receptionist tells him that sadly the others did not Eject in time.   They were alive, but will definitely require some time to recover.  All save for Agent Hooper, however, who has seemingly gone brain dead on the slab.

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