Thursday, October 31, 2013

Must Read: Pixar's 22 Rules Storytelling

The awesome DinoIgnacio posted this version of Pixar's 22 Rules on Storytelling which was originally tweeted by former Pixar artist Emma Coats back in 2011.  The rules are fantastic and can benefit game masters, players and storytellers who want to make their games have more coherent and awesome experiences.

Check it out here:

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Vampire 30-Day Challenge : Favorite Path of Enlightenment

Vampire 30-Day Challenge : Favorite Path of Enlightenment
Got to admit, I wasn't that much a fan of the Paths of Enlightenment that were offered in the game.  While I liked the idea and I found nice insight in seeing what each path constituted as their hierarchy of sins, I personally found it odd that there was a need to diverge too much from the morality scale which I felt could have stayed universal for all.  I would have just stuck to having certain path adherents have certain bonuses to certain rolls and penalties to others to reflect their twisted morality.

But if I were to choose, I'd have to lean towards The Path of Evil Revelations.

The hierarchy of sins wasn't really that impressive.  It helped give some ideas on how these people would react, but it was in no means revolutionary or awe-spiring.  What it failed to do, however, was touch on the name of the Path iteself: Revelatory.  The Path's sins did not encourage the search for hidden power, or the embrace of temptations and secrets, which I felt was more apt given the concepts.

The history was a bit weird, with the Path supposedly started by Brujah during the 1600s.  Kinda bothered me a lot given the Baali Clan and other really diabolical Cainites were around far earlier than that.  Supposedly that was only when the "rules were codified" but I still have my doubts that massively huge practicioners of a Path seeking revelations that did not shy away from human sacrifice and vile acts would have only penned their "rules" that much later in the era.

So with all these complaints, why do I list it as my Favorite?
Because  I loved it nonetheless.  It was like that old ragged shirt you got back in high school which you stubbornly refuse to throw away.  The path had so much potential I just had no plans of letting it go.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Quick Ideas: Horror into this weekend's game

Halloween is just around the corner, so here are some quick ideas to inject some dose of horror into your game this weekend.

13th Age
None of the Icons can be "felt". The world seems devoid of their presence and reach.  Attempts to talk to agents give non-committal answers.  Replies tend to be "Not today," or "Perhaps after the night has broken." When they finally return, they refuse to explain what happened in the 24 hours that passed.  However, amongst themselves, the Icons would refer to that day as "The Moment," and seem to speak of it with much dread or reverence.

But nothing, not even Divination magic and the like will ever reveal what "The Moment" was about.

Aeon Trinity Universe
The day begins with a scream.  People see strange horrible things rise up from the darkness.  Soldiers see fallen comrades rise up like the hungry dead.  Civilians see night terrors and old childhood  fears brought to life.  The worst hit are the Psions who even see visions of Aberrants/enemies they have defeated and destroyed coming back to life.

People die. Property is devastated.  The fight for survival is intense.
Then, after 24 hours, they wake up.  It was a dream.  A nightmare.
But one the ENTIRE universe shared.

Big Eyes, Small Mouth
Given these games could be practically of any genre, the closest horror touch I could think of is to throw a dream sequence.  Draw inspiration from the nightmare sequence from Akira, or by having the players encounter a horrific encounter which is inspired by other anime shows.  Tentacle monsters, demonic possession and purple skies can all work.

Castle Falkenstein
Steam ceases to work for a few days.  No one knows if its magic gone awry or something else, but for some reason, water heated up creates only vapor, not forceful steam.   The various areas of New Europa are grounded and forced to help their people.  Many fear the effects may be long term.



The Boggins have learned to do something unheard of: become human.  One Boggin steps out of the darkness in the body of a man! The Cats have to deal with the threat, but now they have to find a way to do so without alerting the other humans.  After all, one can easily imagine what they would do if they learned the cats systematically hunted and killed down one of their own.

Changeling the Dreaming
The Sluagh curse reverses itself.  All the Kithain suddenly are unable to speak louder than a whisper, save for the Sluagh who now can speak and shout and all that jazz.  However, the reversal comes with a price:  Each name a Sluagh utters pulls forth a dark version of the owner of that name.  And these dark forces are malignant and intelligent.

Soon it is discovered that the dark shadows are a strange form of Nervosa that have gained power thanks to the Sluagh's universal desire to be heard.  And they will only be dispelled if every Sluagh swore to embrace the silence once again.

Changeling the Lost
The Hedge has grown hungry.
Each time one of the Lost travels into the Hedge, there is the possibility of being swallowed by the place and never ever being again.    Some say the Hedge swallows those who have sinned against its unknown precepts.  Others whisper that the Hedge has now allied itself with the Gentry, and those that have long escaped are being taken back.

But there are whispers, that the Hedge will ignore you if you directly sacrifice to it another changeling.
No one knows if that's true.  However many are willing to try.

Children of Fire
There's a new rumor spreading.
They say the Rapture had already happened.

And the Children of Clay are not the only ones left behind.

DC Heroes
Time to run a game focused on your favorite scary bad guys like Clayface, Scarecrow and Sinestro.
Or time to dig up your favorite movie monsters from

Dungeons and Dragons
Start the game as normal.  Play through scenes as normal.  But then, whenever an opportunity arises, have one player notice something terribly odd or wrong about another.  Best to do this without saying it aloud.  Like a note you pass on to the player.  Perhaps the knight doesn't polish his weapon as normal.  Perhaps the Paladin stops saying his prayers for the evening.  In EVERY players' eyes, another player character is NOT doing something he normally does.

Finally, when one of them decides to act about it, play it to the hilt.  Let them argue! Let them question one another.  But do NOT admit what you told the other players.  Let them try to prove among themselves which one is the imposter.  When finally one strikes or tries to kill another, that's when you step in and reveal that character was a Doppleganger.  Then reveal everyone else except the one who attacked are dopplegangers as well.

And finally, reveal the rest of the party to be trapped somewhere, finally waking up from the poison/spell/enchantment that held them prisoner.

Dungeon World
The Fate Hammer is falling, and all are fated to fail unless it is stopped.
How it is stopped is an epic move that your group can decide.
But while it falls, each time any player rolls 4 or below (not counting bonuses), the Fate Hammer strikes.  Each strike affects the game's system itself.

On the first strike, rolls of 10+ or higher now need 11+ or higher (while 7-9 becomes 9-10).

On the second strike, rolls of 7-9 suddenly need 8 to 10, will rolls of 7 counted as 6 or below.

On the third strike, rolls of 11+ now need a 12 or higher.  8-11 becomes the success at a cost.

On the fourth strike, rolls of 8-11 now need 9-11 for a success at a cost.  8 and lower are failed rolls.

On the fifth strike, and all succeeding strikes, everyone takes -1 ongoing, cumulative to the number of strikes beyond the fifth.  (So if it reaches the eight strike before the Fate Hammer is stopped, everyone is already suffering an ongoing -4 to their rolls)


Add the Aspect:  Butterflies In Stomach to the game session.
Whenever players are doing something they feel confident about, feel free to use this Aspect against them.  After the second hour of the game, add a second one:  Foreboding Feeling.
When they ask why, just say they feel it but cannot understand why.  They just know something is wrong.
By the third hour, add this new one:  Looming Threat of Danger.
Whenever scenes start with any level of uncertainty (meeting total strangers, interacting with villains, etc) always add a hint of something unsure. "You think they might be carrying weapons" "something that looks like the shape of a gun under the coat" or even "He seems to avoid eye contact, fidgeting often."

In the last few minutes of the game, have these Aspects fade away.
And just when the game ends, have some news broadcast or newspaper talk about some other group of heroes that just destroyed a certain ancient idol of a forgotten deity from being used in a strange ritual by (insert name of enemy group).

And have the reporter end with, "God knows what could have happened if they happened to succeed?"

Go for a horror-inspired playkit.
Or better yet, choose any playkit, however for relationships, view them all with a lens that has all the characters either be monsters or murderers.

Houses of the Blooded
Most think the Fashuva are the things to be feared.  Or the Spectres.
But instead, let's play a game where the players are Veth servants of the Lady No.

Houses of the Blooded: Blood and Honor
Murder stalks the Clan.  People are dying.
What if, in the end, the group learns the deaths are caused not by treachery or cruelty.
But instead by a wicked fog that would not fade.
A disease that hangs upon the wind.
A sickness that has to be survived by sheer determination alone.

Lacuna Part I. The Creation of Mystery and the Girl from Blue City
Start the session with the mission parameters begin given.
But slowly let the players realize they are hunting down Mystery Agents of the Corporation.
Their Control responds with clicks and whirls as if using an ancient telegram device.
And upon a mirror, they see they are all Spiders.

Legends of the Wulin
Time to bring the dark forces into the game.
The necromancers and the spirit talkers and the worshippers of the dark and the shadows.

Monster Hearts
The monsters discover that something hungers for them.  A monster that feasts on monsters alone.
And worse, only humans can see it.  Somehow, the predator has found a way to become invisible to all other supernatural creatures.

Night's Black Agents
Draw inspiration from games like Amnesia and movies like Chernobyl Diaries.
The group wakes up to find themselves in the ruin of an abandoned nuclear facility.  And the city around them is dead.  No tools, no communications, naked and weaponless.

And they have 24-hours to get to a safer location before the environment, the residual radiation and the monstrous children that have become servants of the vampires come to kill them.

Our Last Best Hope
Something is in the blood, killing people.  A conscious virus.  A sentient cancer.
Once inside a host, it can take control of that host and use it to spread itself further, by overriding the host with a belief that only he can stop it.. but in doing so spread the virus more.

The team is the only one that knows it exists.
And the only one that can stop it.

The sun does not appear.  Night remains even as day break should come.  The kingdoms worry as monsters and other horrors relish the darkness.  Another day passes, still no sun.  And another..

Soon it becomes clear a powerful ritual has been used to keep the sun at bay.
And the only way to bring it back, is to burn a populated city as a sacrificial rite.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Vampire 30-Day Challenge : Favorite Edition

Vampire 30-Day Challenge : Favorite Edition
Oh, the dreaded edition wars question.  Let's see, we have First edition which very few ever got to try.  We have 2nd edition which rocked the hardcovers and tended to have very dated artwork.  We have Revised edition which sort of shifted gears away from Tim Bradstreet artwork and slid towards a more anime-manga-inspired look.  And then, we have the new World of Darkness line, which by all means is a whole new game of its own, but is close enough to count (at least in my opinion) as another edition/incarnation of the Vampire game concept.  And finally, we have the 20th Anniversary edition which tried to tie things together revamp classics that needed revamping and re-approach concepts that were deemed broken or in desperate need of rewriting.

So given those, which one is my favorite?

The answer, admittedly, comes easy:  2nd edition.

Yes, it was clunky and messy, with Disciplines that were easily abused, Paths that didn't quite make realistic sense, and had a plethora of non-playing characters whose stats did not seem to make any sense save for they had what their creators wanted them to have.  

It was the edition of railroad-heavy Chronicle books, of Masquerade of the Red Death, of the Soul Eaters, and of trenchcoats and katanas.

But it was marvelous.

I loved how the material was rich and new for its time.  How it challenged the old and familiar staple myths and gave them new form.  People were used to Anne Rice and Bram Stoker, but how many were accustomed to vampires being flesh-molding monsters who would use your own spine to impale you?  How many thought of vampires as third-eye bearing pacifists who stole your soul to heal you?   The books were tremendously rich in creativity and perhaps what they lacked in better design, they made up with inspired writing.

So yes, my fond memories of 2nd edition will never fade away.  It doesn't matter if certain levels of Disciplines didn't make sense back then.  Or that Celerity was far too over-powered for its own good.  It was a rollercoaster ride of fangs and violent drama that will never be forgotten.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Antigone Council ep01 : Night's Black Agents

The Antigone Council

"The Breaker of Poland"
Episode One

Night's Black Agents


Washington, D.C. - United States : 23:49:52
Nicole Tran, ASIS-Specialist Officer.

Working late at the Embassy, Nicole is working on the paperwork regarding a drug bust that she had just handled. The KaQoH gang had smuggled merchandise on a Quantas flight by using the relative of the Governor General as a mule. Traffic Analysis and Data Recovery allows Nicole to realize the relative, who also happened to be a famous celebrity, was involved. Without Data Intrusion, however, Nicole thought she found a dead end. That's when she receives a message from an anonymous source, giving her the celeb's password. It allows her to uncover the celeb's emails which contained the flight details, and proof that even the crew were implicated in the mess. A new mail arrives that moment and Nicole sees it is an invitation to join an organization addressed to her. Nicole marks it unread. Her phone rings. Her fiance, David, is waiting outside. Nicole get's lost working a bit more than expected and realizes she's left David waiting for almost two hours. As she rushes to meet with him, David calls, telling her he is quite fine waiting. Then he screams. Nicole hears David in utter pain. She rushes out of the elevator and nearly bumps into an office mate and ponders on the strange sounds in the phone. An echo of some sort. She rushes down the parking lot and finds the car empty. Save for blood. A severed finger. The engagement ring still on it. She presses the phone closer and realizes she can hear a ping. The elevator. She rushes back to the building.

The security guard tries to help her, but Nicole frantically searches for the echo. She finds David's cellular phone in the trash bin beside the elevator. As the door opens, she finds something else. The rest of David's hand.

It was a Mystery that was to drive her forward...


Somewhere in the United States : 16:29:15
Robert Fioncchiaro, 1st SFOD-D.

Robert steps into the confessional booth and starts talking to the priest. The priest knows it is him, and reminds him that he is not supposed to hear about anything questionable.  Robert talks about his operation in Iraq, which was intended to be the extraction of Jessica Tran, a journalist who had information on Bin Laden.   The four of them (Charlie, Jeffries, Redbull) were at the outskirts of the city.  It was mid afternoon.  Intelligence and Interrogation garnered them the information that one of the cousins of the Terrorist leader was in the building.  As was the journalist captive.   Observing the streets (Streetwise) garnered them the intel that there were twelve armed soldiers to deal with.  The two-storey residential building was going to be broken into.  They marked the entry and exit points.  Mission went green.

They penetrate the location with little fuss, using smoke grenades to generate confusion, and with Redbull sniping down any other soliders who come into view.  Robert and Charlie quickly move deeper into position, but when an old woman walks into their path, Robert pins her down and zipties her to keep her restrained.  To his surprise, Charlie shoots her, claiming he rather makes sure their backs are covered.  Flashbangs are thrown to disrupt mobilizing opposition, and very quickly they locate the reporter.  But what they find waiting for them with the reporter catches them totally by surprise.

He moves faster than either of them could react, and Robert finds himself on the ground covered in Charlie's blood and guts.  The man vanishes in a fog that comes out of nowhere and leaves Charlie with the reporter to ponder on what just happened.

It was a need for Atonement that would bring him forward...
(those most would mistake it as a hunger for revenge...)


Mesquite, Texas.  United States : 08:11:05
John Smith, KGB Cleaner.

The text messages arrive.  The directions are simple.  John Smith grabs his bag and heads straight to the airport.  As he is walking down the terminal, a woman in a suit tries to stop him, asking him inquisitive questions in an attempt to force him to reveal more about himself and who he works for.  But Smith remains silent, receives more messages asking if he needs assistance.  In response, another man in a suit shows up and tells the detective to leave him alone.  She watches him leave.

Smith arrives somewhere else, is driven to a two-storey house, and there sees the "masseuse" who is in a panic.  She is actually an assassin and was supposed to kill the target while he slept by injecting him with a poison that would resemble a heart attack, but she messed up and the two had a long fight before she finally killed him.  There's blood everywhere all the way to the second floor where she finally shot him in the throat and killed him.   Without saying more than a few sentences, Smith tells her to start cleaning up the blood.  He removes the bullets, slits the man's wrists and slides him into the bathtub.  He then walks to the gas main and creates a leak.  The text messages confirm the secondary objective and he shoots the girl in the ankle.  Disabled and in pain, she barely can muster a fight as he injects her with the sedative to knock her out.  He closes the windows, leaves her in the living room in a towel, then set's a small timer for the needed spark.  Smith is back in the car driving to the airport when the house explodes.

There, the woman in the suit is waiting again and Smith sees her walk up to him.  He drops his book intentionally, which she picks up to hand back to him.  "The Cardinal and the Kremlin," she mutters, "Interesting choice."    He gets back on board the plane and this time is served a drink by the flight attendant even before he asks for one.

A note in under the drink:  Services Terminated.
He sighs in dismay.

With No Where Else To Go, Smith would eventually consider new horizons...


New York City, New York.  United States : 08:11:05
Clarice Rosenberg, FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit

Clarice at home relaxing as she reads a book by Jeffrey Matthews entitled, "God-Machine".   She ponders on why the book feels so real, how the author seems to be drawing on events which seem to correlate too much with real world events but her attention is drawn instead to the television where the news covers the death of Justice Armand Poole.  The judge had died in a freak accident while at his home in Mesquite Texas.  Clarice remembered those years she worked with the judge.  She remembers him being extermely racist and sexist, except whenever there were cameras rolling.   Curious to the circumstances behind the death, Clarice decided to ring up her old contact, the award-winning reporter Jessica Tran (Network: 3) and Tran admitted that the judge's death was being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  Special Agent Miranda Desmond was in charge of the investigation.  The discussion shifts and Bin Laden's name gets mentioned and suddenly the call is abruptly cut.  Clarice's succeeding calls reach instead Tran's voice mail box.  More irked, Clarice calls Tran's boss at the network and brings up the concern that the call was cut.  He tells her she's on leave, having dinner with some friends at Les Grilles.  Dialing the restaurant's number, Clarice finally gets back in touch with Tran and learns she had a brief fugue state when she mentioned the terrorist's name.  As it turns out, Tran was still suffering from traumatic flashbacks of the day of her rescue in Iraq.  Unwittingly, Tran then induces a traumatic flashback on Clarice as she talks about the strange attacker that day.

The inhuman speed and odd motions reminded Clarice of the thing that attacked her mother.  The thing looked human, but was crouched over her mother with its maw open to reveal jagged teeth that look like they had been filed into points.   She recalled her mother fighting back, her mother's hand scratching the man across the face with her long nails.

She comes to and Tran was no longer on the line.  Clarice tried to shake it all off by walking a bit around the house.  When the doorbell rang, she nearly jumped out of her skin.    Clarice finds a woman outisde in a gray jacket over a business smart suit.  A baseball cap covers her head.  "I've come to offer you a job," she tells Clarice and hands her a photo that had been printed out on photo-paper.  Clarice stares at the scarred man's face.

The same scarred man.

"There is an address in the back," the woman tells Clarice, "If you're interested, I shall see you there."

And that urge to Avenge her mother would fuel her forward...


Norfolk, Virginia - United States : 22:19:38
Nicole Tran, Inactive ASIS-Specialist Officer.

Nicole meets with a woman in a grey jacket, suit, and cap.  Through Tradecraft, Nicole easily sees she used to work with the Federal Bureau.  She slides Nicole a folder, and as Nicole looks at the picture she gasps.  The blurry picture shows her missing fiance.   There's not much background to tell where he is.  His expression is hard to read.  Perhaps snarling?  Smiling?  A word caught mid-sentence?  Photography helps Nicole realize the picture is recent, even without a time stamp.  It was taken with an older digital camera, probably back before they had resolutions over 2 MB.  The greenish cast of the light suggested fluorescent lighting.  Definitely not in a First World location.  "Ever been to New York?" the woman asks.

Elsewhere - United States : 17:19:38
Robert Finocchiaro, Retired 1st SFOD-D.

Robert is meeting the same woman.  She presents to him an offer to be part of an organization that seeks to uncover the truth.  When Robert questions her of being crazy enough to believe his story of what happened in Iraq, she tells him, "Then I guess even the three others I've contacted are that crazy as well."  Robert's Tradecraft notes that she seems familiar with some of the CIA measures.  Perhaps Special Division.

Elsewhere - United States : 17:19:38
John Smith, Former KGB Cleaner.

Smith doesn't even let the woman say more.  He hears she has a job offer and he takes the envelope.  He nods.  "There's a gazebo.  The address is at the back.  Tomorrow.  I'll see you there."

New York City, New York.  United States : 08:52:05
Clarice Rosenberg, FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit

Clarice arrives at the park to see the gazebo.  She fails to notice the other's already there.  The three watch as she arrives and were given instructions to wait for her to enter before they follow.  Clarice sees the woman in the cap who smiles as she arrives, then brings out four boxes just as the three others step inside.  "The victims were similar in numerous ways.   The perpetrator, sadly, remains at large.  For some reason, our respective organizations have turned a blind eye.  If you wish to learn more, you will find information in the boxes intended for you.  You may choose to pursue this mission on your own.  Or you may choose to be part of the organization to seek out the answers the rest of the world is not ready to give.

I shall be back in two nights, and you have til then to make your decis-" the woman stops as Smith walks up to her and surrenders the box.  "I'm in."  The others are a tad surprised.  "I'm in too," Finocchiaro responds, but keeps his box.  The girls opt to thing about things.


Nicole Tran finds an address inside her box.  St. George's Medical Institute.  An old abandoned hospital in London.   The phone in her box contains three other phone numbers.   She tries a number and contacts Clarice.

Clarice is busy viewing the contents of her box, a burned DVD.  Inside is video footage from the surveillance camera from the sky.  In it, the Iraq incident is clearly seen, with some kind of fog pouring out of the building, just before it collapses, then drifting away northwards... only to completely stop, and change direction, as if it was intelligent.

Clarice shares what she knows of the hospital in Tran's notes.  St. George is one of the supposedly most haunted hospital in London. 18 patients were murdered within a span of 5 days, with all of them supposedly dying only in fifth day.  The man behind the murders stretched out their tortures, ensuring none of them died until the fifth day.  A certain wealthy businessman was funding its rehabilitation, but the man committed suicide before it could be finished.

The two talk about joining.  Tran teases Clarice that "Miss Smiles" might know more than the group realizes.  Remembering their drives, the two silently agree to go.


Finocchiaro's trip to the watering hole was far from just a night out drinking.  Instead, he meets with an old buddy of his, his ex-handler, Colonel Anderson (Network: 2) and asks him about Operation Dawn.  Anderson tries to warn him that its not safe to ask around about that.  Finocchairo reminds him that he will need his help sometime and Anderson tells him he owes him.  But warns him some answers are best left untouched.


Smith sees the woman in the cap get agitated and watches as she calls the three others.  An operation needs to be done tonight.  She asks them all to confirm if they are joining.  They are unanimous.    The operation is to be in Poland.  The target is a Nikolai Svetzgrei.   The man is arriving at Poland at 4:00a.m. local time and has a suitcase handcuffed to his left wrist.  He is flying to Wlochy a district of Warsaw, Poland to meet up with a woman named Gabriella Castallenos.  An exchange of some sort was to happen.

The team has barely the night to prepare.  As each quickly mark down what they anticipate needing, all four pack up for the trip. The woman in the cap apologizes for the hastiness, but reminds them it is imperative that the suitcase be retrieved.


Wlochy District, Warsaw Poland : 03:12:01
Unnamed Operations Team

As the group disembarks, they are given what equipment the woman in the cap was able to gather for them.  They quickly make their way to the other hotel nearest to the one Svetzgrei was staying at.  Wasting no time, Tran starts hacking into Svetzgrei's email address and easily does so.  She finds the email from Castallenos.  It takes Tran little effort with Digital Intrusion to break into Castallenos' email account and send Svetzgrei a message changing the meeting place to their new venue, and doing the same to Svetzgrei's account to send the real Castallenos' a message that the meeting is cancelled for now.

Clarice gets to work, however, preparing a disguise to match Castallenos' look.  While the others pick up some supplies at the nearest 24-hour mini mart.  They arrive at the Melody Grand and find the staff a tad more eager than expected to see them.  As it turns out, Clarice's disguise matches the appearance of Malena, a celebrity who often sneaks off to this very hotel to celebrate her private parties!   With less than two hours to prep, the group quickly spreads out with Tran connecting to the hotel's security feed, Smith preparing the adjoining room for the time they need to sever Svetzgrei's hand to get the suitcase.  And Robert prepping the weapons and keeping an eye out for trouble.   The plan is to have Clarice seduce Svetzgrei and lure him to the adjoining room, where she is to knock him out with a sedative.  Smith then walks in, chops Svetzgrei's hand off, and takes the suitcase, then the group exists.

At six a.m., trouble comes in the form of six bodyguards that are accompanying the target.  Robert easily recognizes the six to be former Spetsnaz and warns the others by calling them that he has to go out of sight.  Robert however catches sight of "The Breaker," an infamous former Spetsnaz who reinvented himself when he retired as a wrestler.  Smith decides to prepare for trouble by calling an old contact named Boris (Network:5).  Boris and Blatva are former KGB who are based in Poland now.  They are told to prep for transport if the group needs to escape with new identities, and tickets back to the United States.

Clarice meets with Svetzgrei and the two start chatting it up over breakfast.  Svetzgrei  is clearly a lecherous man who cannot stop touching Clarice.  Robert, however, notices a second wrinkle in the plan when he sees the real Castallenos step into view.  Tran reviews the tapes and true enough, Castallenos had arrived, knocked out the two other bodyguards at the entrance, and is clearly angry with the change of plans.  Robert intercepts, and before she would voice out an alarm, knocks her out cold.  He drags her away out of view just as the Breaker steps into the corridor... sensing something amiss.

Smith exists the room and heads straight to the fire exit door facing the hallway.  He considers a secondary plan in his head while the others move in place.  As Clarice guides Svetzgrei to the room, Robert calmly joins Tran in the adjoining room to ask how things are.   Castallenos is tied up and laid down nearby.  Tran admits things are going smooth, until they realize that someone else is riding on the signal.  "There's another team."

Smith heads to the floor below the one they've set up and sees a woman with a bulky pack emerging from the elevator.  Without hesitation, Smith shoots her in the face and grabs her pack.  "Sorry about that," he coldly says, "But I need this."

Clarice begins to undress, and at the last minute plants the knockout agent onto Svetzgrei's face.  As he drops, Robert and Tran open the adjoining door to move to the next phase.  With the meat cleaver in hand, Clarice begins to chop the hand free.  The meat is tough and the bone does not give easily.  Blood splatters all over Clarice's chest and face.  The guards sadly, suspect something is up, and Robert is forced to delay the bodyguards by opening fire at the door.  With covering fire keeping them from entering, Clarice breaks the hand off and starts carrying the case back to the others.  Neither see Tran forced into a fight with Castallenos who viciously starts kicking and pinning Tran down even while tied up.

Bullets fly and Clarice get's pinned where she is.  Robert downs a few guards, but the others continue to force them to stay where they are.  The "Breaker" arrives, sees the situation, and wisely decides to enter via the room beside the one Svetzgrei entered.  Just as Tran knocks Castallenos finally down, the "Breaker" walks up to her is about to slam a meaty foot onto her neck.

An explosion.

As the explosion kills the bodyguards in the hallway, the blast only flings the "Breaker" into the opposing wall.  Clarice, Tran and Robert grab the suitcase and hurry to escape.  But the Breaker pulls out a pistol and is about to fire.  Leaping from her run, Clarice deflects the shot by slamming into his arm and shoving her open palm into his ribcage.  Something cracks.  The blow forces the Breaker down to the ground.

The group reach the ground floor and find Smith waiting for them by the car.  The hotel staff are also gathered outside, and many sigh in relief as they see their beloved "Malena" emerge from the smoke and flames.  The group hurries to the car amidst the flashes of cameras and cellular phones taking snap shots.   They arrive at the airport where Smith's prepared tickets allow them onboard real quickly.  None choose to peer into the suitcase.


Logan International Airport, New York, New York

The four see the woman with the cap confirm the safe delivery of the suitcase and watch as she hands it to her associate.  She congratulates them on a successful operation and reminds them to anticipate her call.  "There are things out there which others in the government would want to keep confidential.  We have the opportunity to find the truth."


Wlochy District, Warsaw Poland : 06:12:01

The rubble moves.

A man rises from the burning rubble and the hotel staff watch in disbelief as the charred naked man walks up to them.  The blacked skin shifts as the figure raises its leathery head and opens a cracking maw.  The staff scream as they feel death claim them in a swift and crimson cloud.

Then silence.
Silence save for the crumbling of wood and the dying sound of guttering flames.

Nikolai Svetzgrei shakes the ashes and burned skin off his body.  He raises his stump of an arm and grits his teeth, revealing sharpened fangs.  Blood oozes out of the stump like branches of a coral growth.  Then they tighten into the fleshy form of a regenerated hand.


Logan International Airport, New York, New York

The group sees the card the woman in the cap had given them all to keep.
On it, her name is written:  Samantha Miles

Clarice smiles.  She never notices the splatter of blood droplets still dotting her lip.  She unconsciously licks her lips to wet them, swallowing the blood.

End of Episode One

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Vampire 30-Day Challenge : Favorite Dice

Vampire 30-Day Challenge : Favorite Dice
As some of you know, I blogged about my modest dice collection in an earlier post.  So it is interesting that I find myself having to blog about dice again.   Given that this is the Vampire 30-Day Challenge, I guess my best bet would be to mention which one so far in my collection has won my heart, given I have made a few new acquisitions.

So my favorite dice set right now are my Houses of the Blooded official dice.

Beautifully marbled with a mix of crimson and gold, these dice are just a wonderful thing to behold.  Even better, the dice feel very nicely weighted, unlike some dice which feel very light or too heavy.  I really love these dice.

If there's anything that bothered me about this dice, it would be how the Houses of the Blooded symbol was used to replace the number six instead of the number one like most custom dice were approached.  First few times we used this, we actually misread the dice and counted the symbol to mean "one."

But otherwise, these dice are just beautiful.  Absolutely pretty and elegant.  Makes me wish I had ordered more.

Now, let's say this was not a valid choice, given it is a set of six-sided dice.  This is, after all, the Vampire 30-Day Challenge and we all know White Wolf games use ten-sided dice.  So let me first feature the two newest dice I acquired in the last few months.

First is the mother of all my six-sided dice, a giant green die who you probably would not want to see angry. Found him lonely in a singles dice bin and realized it was best that I take him home.

The second is a white ten-sided die which was also in the singles bin.  I really had hoped to had found a set of white ten-sided dice, to complement my collection of black ones.  Would have been a nice touch to have for games where good and evil things are in the same story.  But for now, all I have is one.

Finally, there's the fiery gold and red set which I really wanted to keep.  I was supposed to sell it to my boss, but given he's determined to save up for now, he told me to keep it as my own instead.   Given I'm taking a trip to Singapore again soon, I was thinking of getting him a whole new set to keep as his own.  Here's hoping I find the kind he likes.

And finally, to answer today's Challenge, my favorite die in my set - as far as World of Darkness dice are concerned - contrary to popular belief is not the official new World of Darkness dice set I have.  Those are really pretty, I admit, but the fact their painted to support the new system more than stay broadly applicable means the dice are barely readable if the results are below 8.

That greatly reduced their usability.

So the winner instead is my marble-green Vampire the Masquerade die.
Classic.  Mysterious.  Sharp.  The die captures what I love about the old Vampire world.

Who knows, maybe soon I'll find a set to complete this lonely ten-sided orphan.
Or even better, find a shop with enough stock to own thirteen.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Beheld Saga ep01 : Dungeon World

Beheld Saga 
Episode 01

Dungeon World

Their name was The Order of the Elven Song.

Aegor the Elven Druid was of the Towering Mountains, but as an Elf, had always had an affinity for the Great Forest.  The feathers in his hair was a constant tell of his Druidic nature.  He knew how to Shed to avoid getting hurt too badly in combat.  Halek was always prey than a hunter in his opinion.  The spirits always whispered to him about a great danger following Enkirash. He did, however, trust Astrafel enough to teach him a secret rite of the land.  He had haunting eyes, the color of clouds about to rain. He had messy hair with feathers.  He wore weathered hides.

Enkirashthe Elven Wizard was the sort of Wizard to have Counterspell as one of the first things he ever mastered.  He sensed Aegor was to play an important role in events to come and so he joined this band.  He hated how Halek was keeping an important secret from him.  Astrafel was a poor sod who didn't understand the world enough, in Enkirash's eyes.   He had sharp eyes. His hair was stylish as was his robe.

Halek was the Half-Elven Ranger who kept a keen eye on his cougar, Fenris, for the beast's Savage nature had to be tempered before its Quick Reflexes and Keen Senses killed someone who was not a threat.  He had guided Enkirash before and felt the Wizard owed him for it.  He was disgusted how Astrafel had no respect for nature.   He had faith in Myshakal, the God of Healing and Restoration who expected Offerings and sacrificial rites in return for the spells he was blessed with. He had sharp eyes.  He wore a hooded, travelling garb which hung on his lithe body.    The tan-colored couger was savage with unkept fur.

Astrafel the Elven Bard knew the Grand Histories of the Known World and used his Lute as his musical instrument.  He understood that Enkirash does not trust him and it is with good reason.  Aegor had entrusted him with a secret and he had no plans of sharing it with others.  He had trained, however, to be a Fighter as well and his Signature Weapon was his Rapier, which was excellently crafted and could pierce armor with ease.  He had knowing eyes and wore a stylish cap. His clothes were finery, ostentatious fine clothes that nicely covered his fit body. The lute hung on his back. The rapier on a belt hook.  The color of his outfit was purple.

The town was Codcliffe.

It was a sad, dismal town by the sea.  The rains poured down and the group opted to go to the first tavern they spotted to gain shelter from the storm.  Inside, the people seemed to all carry some heavy burden.  A woman approached to welcome them, which led to Fenris growing in response as if she were some threat.

"How are you feeling right now," Astrafel honestly asked.
"Absolutely terrified," the woman responded, "We don't usually have your kind around here."

The group easily noticed that most sat closer to the fire.  A band was on stage, a trio, but their musings were struggled.  Weak.  No one seemed to pay any attention to the music.  But everything changed when the Bard opted to sing.

"A wizard!"
"You did this?"
"How long was I.."
"Where am I?"

The voices came suddenly.  The people moved as if waking from a long dream.  Most were panicked.  Confused.  Some were beginning to grasp what happened.  And true fear set in.  The Druid erupts from beneath the table (he was uneasy being with so many people) in the form of a bear to terrify the people and force them back, but the Bard instead announces the bear to be some form of entertainment.  The confusion creates the same effect.  The people hesitate.

It was the Year of the Wombat.
6 day of the third month of the year.
4th Candle Hour.

But people all recalled different dates.

There was a heavy atmosphere in the air.  Enkirash attempted to dispel it but it would not fade.  He tried twice and still nothing.  It was like a fog that one could not see.  Only sense.   Halek follows the barkeep to the back door she ducks behind.  When she notices him, instincts kick in and a knife flies from her hand and almost meets its mark.  He catches it, but not without cutting himself.  "A fighter?" he asks.  She admits she retired.  He asks her about missing time.  She admits she has lost three months.

Enkirash steps out of the tavern, and at the edge of the rain, attempts to Counterspell the aura one last time.  Finally it works.   But then he realizes it may have worked too well.  He sees the three musicians earlier attempting to leave, stating something about heading to the North Gate and not wanting trouble.  Enkirash does not realize this is the last time he will see two of them ever again.

And at the port, a black ship.  Its sails in tatters.  Its bow, a strange mass of protrusions like roots.  Like.. tentacles.

The people all want answers, but no one truly has any.  Even the Barkeep tries to help calm them down.    She explains to the party that there have been hooded men in the town.  They arrived months ago.  Upon a black ship.  The rains never stopped since they arrived.  They always traveled in packs.

"Enkirash, whatever you did.  You just attracted them," the Ranger growls.
"I know," the Wizard growled back.
"I know you," the Bard smiles staring at the Barkeep.  He starts talking about the great battles of the North.  Of the King and his Paladin.  Of the Knight's Templar who had lost their head.  "Your name is Gillean," he motions at the Barkeep.  She nods.  Astrafel shifts back to his song,"...And the chicken was his friend!"

A hooded figure arrives.

The moment it steps inside, people start dropping.  Fainting.  As if the very sight of him forces them to lose consciousness. The party is very quickly left visibly unaffected (at least those that did not bother to hide).  The group attacks and easily, the thing is felled.  Opportunity was on their side.   Halek peruses the corpse and finds a pouch with glass and gems around its arm.  He reveals the head beneath the hood and finds tentacles from an oblong head.  It takes them a moment to realize what it is.

"Illithid.  A mind flayer."

Halek suspects the gems are key.  "Are there any mines in the area?"
"By the sea?" Gillean considers, "The nearest is many miles away.  Possibly from the City of Felis further to the North.  It is a coal town.  Has a nearby port."

An old woman offers information.  Aletha is her name.  She shares the story of a Ghost Ship.  Sailed to port and everyone had been driven mad. She shares how there was much talk about some kind of tentacled monster. Thought it was the kraken, or something massive.  Could have been one of these flayers. Come from the sea?

Not from the Continent.  Group traveled from across the sea.  That much the party agreed upon.  These things were not typical things you'd run into.  The group considers their options and decide they have three things to consider:  the Port to see if the Ghost Ship was still there.  The Town Hall, where supposedly church services were held in the past.  "There may be religious items that may prove useful there," Astrafel admitted.  It was a temple to Fenfaril, the Weaver of Tapestries.  The Father of Magic.   The last was the tavern of survivors.  Broken from the spell, it was only a matter of time before more Mind flayers noticed these charges were free.  Worse, the group had no idea where truly to bring them to safety.

"What about defending them?  Fortifying this tavern?"

Gillean would have been a good option, but the Paladin, as it turned out, had given up on her vows.  Enkirash conceals Aegor in an Invisibility spell.  

The group splits up.  Aegor transforms into a flying thing to investigate the tower.  Halek sneaks to the port to check on the Ghost Ship.  Enkirash and Astrafel consider their options at the tavern, unawares of the three Mind flayers closing in on that location that very moment.  The wizard is preoccupied with the corpse of the illithid.  He realizes with the brain, he could use it as a component to create a ritual to protect a single person from the Sleep Curse.  Astrafel on the other hand talks to Gillean, attempting to glean why she had turned away from her Deity.  He learns she broke her vow to uphold the Law.  When he prods further, Gillean points at an old man in the tavern.  "He is a criminal.  My... former God... demands he be killed for his trespasses.  I said no."

At the port, Halek is forced to hide when something... different comes into view while he observes the Black Galleon.  A blue glowing bird flutters from the sea.  A pirate, fluttering against the breeze like a ghost, rises from the darkness.   Halek hides, and bides his time, not wanting to reveal himself to what may just be something of the undead.  He decides to carefully make his way back, not wanting to bump into that thing once more.

At the town hall, Aegor discovers the building has been replaced by a massive tower.  People, lost in some daze like state, march into the tower with buckets.  Outside the tower, stacks upon stacks and piles of rocks are scattered about.  Were the people digging inside that tower?  Aegor fluttered through a window and found the world spinning around.  Crashing into the ground, Aegor shifts into a spider at the last second to hide beneath a bucket carried by one of the miners.  The people are digging upon what seems to be a floating island of rock in a strange other-dimensional location.  The mind flayers observe as the humans dig with their hands, load the debris into buckets, and carry them out.  In the hole, a massive metal coffin of some sort is partly revealed.    The illithid almost senses his presence, but thankfully the dazed mortal that carries the bucket out to empty it unwittingly carries Aegor away from the mind flayer's psionic scan.   The druid hurries back to try and inform them of his findings.

The three mind flayers enter the tavern.  As people start dropping, this time Astrafel and Enkirash  attempt to fake falling asleep as well.  But the mind flayers sense something is wrong.  They sense the psionic echo of the death of one of their kind.  Rather than act like fools, these intelligent other-worldly fiends instead cast Fireballs into the tavern.  Astrafel and Enkirash realize this is going to hurt.   Very.  Bad.

The flames spread out as an orange carpet all-consuming and blindingly hot.  Then pull back to wrap around the form of a woman, who holds an old lifeless man in her hands.  Her tears drip with fire as Gillean gently places the dead old astrologer down to the ground.  "I hear you, Father," she weeps, "And I embrace your presence to rid this town of these vermin."  Her Paladin-hood has been restored, but not without personal loss.

The fight goes well.  Painful, messy, but well.  Enkirash deflects numerous attempts of the mind flayers to use their psionics to bring the heroes down.  In the end, the heroes defeat all three illithids, but know without a doubt their actions are no longer unnoticed.  Whatever other Mind flayers out there are sure to know of their presence now.

And that's when the ghostly form introduces itself, and explains to them the real reason the tentacled things were in Codcliffe.  "They seek Blorc, the God of the Illithids, who sleeps the eternal sleep in the endless timeless ocean."  The thing looks.. well, is dressed like a pirate.  A colorful one at that.  Beneath the feathered hat however instead stares back a single greenish coopery orb with a single golden eye.    Astrafel gasps, "A beholder!"

Kurd is his name.  And he identifies himself as a Pirate of the 7th Seas.  Master of the Planes.  A disowned child of the Family Co Bayin.  He had sold a map to the illithids,  as it turns out.  A map he claimed would lead them to the burial grounds of the slumbering Blorc.  "I did not realize that my duplicity would ironically turn out to be unwittingly a truth.  I HAD sold the Mind flayers a map that DID lead them to their slumbering deity's prison.  And so, now I attempt to undo the danger I have unwittingly initiated."  The Beholder wore a Pirate's hat.  Tiny fine chains linked the boots to the pants, the pants to the jacket, the jacket to the gloves, and rest of the outfit  to the hat, like a human-sized puppet.  Kurd would use his eyestalk's Telekinesis to move his arms around when he wanted to look a bit more humanoid.  It was almost as if Kurd desperately wanted to have been born a humanoid.

Astrafel easily realizes Kurd is a Bard as well.  Multi-classed enough to have tried many roles.  Aegor asks how much time they have to stop the things.  Kurd admits two weeks is being generous.  "There were 21 of them, but now given your notable collection given you are all beginners in Spelljammer Hunting Norms, only seventeen now remain as four are dead." He talks about numerous realms: Toril, Faerun, Ravenloft, Krynn and admits that this particular incarnation of Faerun interests him the most.  The others are confused to what he means.

Halek does not like the blue ghostly parrot.  Neither does Fenris.  Kurd admits he had dabbled a bit in being a Ranger in order to have a familiar of his own.  A ghost parrot familiar, to be more precise.

The Order of the Elven Song realized they had less than two weeks to war against outer planars.  Enkirash silently hungers for the secrets of the realms which the beholder Kurd knows.   Halek feels that Kurd does not understand life in the wild, and plans to teach him.  Astrafel is excited to begin writing ballads about the adventures with Kurd.   And the blue glowing ghost, Archon, squawks in excitement as it senses a new adventure that is about to begin.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Vampire 30-Day Challenge : Favorite City/Setting

Vampire 30-Day Challenge : Favorite City/Setting
Hands down, for me this would have to be Transylvania by Night.  Followed very closely by Jerusalem by Night.  Both settings offered very rich character concepts that players would be excited to meet, as well as contained story seeds that were very interesting to explore.

It comes to no surprise that a huge majority of our Vampire: The Dark Ages games were set in Transylvania, and even those that were not (such as the Giovanni Chronicles, or this other game inspired by Joan of Arc set in France) would have major plots and story arcs that lead to the players travelling to this terrifying land.

Jerusalem, on the other hand, just felt amazing with its mysterious characters, its religious significance and its Modern Day role in the events of the coming Gehenna.   My players still fondly recall the terrifying sight of seeing all the people who have trekked to Jerusalem in hopes of praying for salvation becoming the embodiment of the Malkavian Madness Network as Malkav reached out and took their corporeal forms to serve as vessels.

Ah yes.  Great times indeed.

When it comes to NON-WRITTEN settings however, my favorite city to play in is New York City.  The combination of rich and poor, of security and danger, of high rise towers and underground subways remains a delightful world to explore in a fictional way.

A huge majority of my games tend to use New York as our default setting.  And admittedly, we embrace it for its fictional story potential far more than any real-world accuracy.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Folding Window : Flux (Night's Black Agents, Cat, Dungeon World)

The Folding Window

Held a one-shot Friday and had two players who were free.  BJ was a good friend of mine who has been an active gamer for quite some time.  Eric was a new friend who was about to play under me for the very first time.  Eric was a young gamer who had yet to experience the many gaming options that exist out there.  So I was kind of torn on what games to run for him.

Then I recalled John Wick's Flux.
And it all fell into place.

Under the guise of just getting them exposed to other games, I introduced them first to Dungeon World and had them create a character each.  Eric created a Thief.  BJ created a Bard.  After they were curious to how the game would go, I then collected the sheets and told them about a different game.  This time, I handed them character sheets for John Wick's Cat game.   Eric created Mister Cuddles, a cat who was a seducer, territorial and fatherly.  BJ created Fluffybunch, a cat who was composed, well-read and unseen.  The two were taught the basics of the game's system, were amused at its elegance, then were told to surrender the sheets.

And finally I handed them sheets for Night's Black Agents. After explaining the premise, the two were creating their concepts.

Eric opted for Jean Claude Dumas, 30 years old.
Employer: NATO (Special Division)
Drive: Atonement
Symbol: Blood-stained white flag. (Little girl he shot)
Solace: Mother (Hometown of Paris)
Safety: Bedroom. Childhood home.

While BJ decided to portray Nash Rogers, 35 years old.
Employer: CIA
Drive: Altruism (not want kids involved)
Symbol: Nintendo Controller, no cord. (Innocence)
Solace: Emily (Ex from Grad School, Decent terms)
Safety: Massachusetts. First condo unit. Building now abandoned.

The scene opens with a chase, with dusk fast approaching.  In their maneuverable military jeep, Rogers was at the wheel and brought their vehicle closer and closer to the target's truck.   They were at Cuba and bullets were flying.  Jean sees one of the targets draw out an RPG and finds himself leaping to the Jeep's side to get ready to leap onto the truck.

The Arab targets had stolen the suitcase.  The suitcase contained something called The Folding Window.  And the two were trying to get it back.

With his training fueling his leap, Jean lands on the truck, grabs the rocket propelled grenade launcher, and smacks it against the other Arab's face.    He looks up at Rogers, who is trailing behind, and yells "Ram him," trusting him to do it correctly.

The truck spins, giving Jean  the momentum needed to throw another Arab off the truck.  When the vehicle skids to a stop, Jean finds the target drawing the suitcase out, and threatening to destroy it.  Jean jumps him, and the suitcase is accidentally thrown into the air.

"Please... stop.." the leader of the Arabs pleads.  Everything seems to move in slow motion.

In the gap between seconds, Nash Rogers recalls his meeting earlier that day with M.   The two discussed the importance of the Window.  How it was believed to relate to "Nymphs"  How it was referred to by others as the Narcissus window or the Window of Sleep.  He recalls the rumors about how it supposedly was some kind of biological bomb that could imperfections away.  Or at least claimed to.  And would leave things as fragile as porcelain.    When Rogers questioned why M would assume he would be interested in this mission, she nonchalantly explained, "The drop is happening at an Elementary School in a dangerous location."  Roger realizes she was prodding him to action, knowing he would never be able to ignore the possibility of children being at risk.    He recalls the tentacled horror he once faced with at Marrakesh and decides to do something about the Window.  If he doesn't, who will.

In the same gap between seconds, Jean Claude Dumas recalls his meeting with Emannuelle Minue, his former boss.  She tells him about the Folding Window and how it may just be the first world's working teleporter.    An unnamed Arab had been detected to be making plans to steal the objective.  Minue tasked Dumas to intercept it first.  When Dumas pushed for more intel on the opposing group, Minue admitted the group was not one of the bigger players.  Most likely an independent group.  But it was being spearheaded by Viktor Arganto, Minue and Dumas' former superior whom had detected.


A woman sets her sniper rifle at the top of the Archo, a 5-storey building overlooking the piazza.  She peers through the scope and sets aim at the back of Dumas' head.   She offers a hint of a smile as she slides her finger to the trigger.

She is known as La Giocondo.  Her smile matches the Mona Lisa's.


Gunshot.  Arganto falls dead and the two others drop out of sight behind the vehicles for cover.  Rogers recalls the Archo building and realizes its the best place a sniper would be poised.  He informs Dumas of its location and tries to draw the sniper's attention by standing visibly in view.   Surprisingly, the sniper does not fire.  And soon it becomes apparent why as police cards close in on their location.  Dumas and Rogers split up, with Roger heading off to find the sniper and Dumas moving to bring the suitcase to the extraction point.

But that's when things start to go crazy.

The two begin to have flashes where they see the world differently.  In one incarnation, they are cats, in a massive house where other cats question their actions.   It takes Dumas a lot of focus to remember that the orange tabby named Guillermo was the policeman earlier who asked him to hand over the suitcase.   Rogers struggles with his own memories.  He remembers vaguely walking into an alleyway and finding some old man offering him some young girls to "use as he wanted."  Rogers recalls shooting the man, and telling the children to run.

But now, he stared at his fur-covered paws and clambers up the nearby truck.  He sees a window and through it, he sees another cat.  A familiar one, talking to a kitten.


Roger has a brief recollection of talking to some kitten, when another flash hits.    He stares at the dwarven child in front of him who asks him if he can take him to safety.  Roger stares at his hands and ponders on why they are women's hands.  He stares at the musical books tied to his waist, and looks up to see a familiar thief coming face to face with a elven ranger.  They, however are too far for him to get to.

The thief twists at the last second and pins the ranger against the wall.  She throws him questions about the Fallen City of the Dunes and demands for his name.    The two exchange blows, with neither landing a clear one against the other.   The ranger threatens him, claiming to know a secret he dared not share to anyone.  "Halycon," she mutters, and the thief falters, though he fails to recall the meaning of the word.  The dwarf forces his mind through the odd memories and recalls he is Nash Rogers.  He sees the ranger is actually La Gioconda and shoots her to stop her.   Dumas stares at her dead body, now realizing what the word meant: Halycon was where his mother lived.  She was being held hostage.   The two suspect the suitcase may be causing these hallucinations and quickly get to the extraction point, board the boat, and get into international waters.  There, Rogers realizes Dumas plans to surrender the case to his superiors, so he slides a tracer instead and allows Dumas to go.

He knows they willl meet again in the future.


Weeks later, Dumas is at the cafe and finds himself waiting for Emmanuelle who never shows up.  The waiters draw semi-automatic weapons and open fire, and Dumas finds temporary shelter by kicking the metal table to its side and hiding behind it.

A phone call.  Dumas flicks it on and hears the voice of Rogers in the other end.  He tells him that he has been double crossed and that it would be best he follow his instructions.  Dumas, however, did not come unprepared, and has a little gift he had left behind for himself:   A submachine gun under the seat.  Shooting his way to freedom, he runs down the alley Rogers instructs him to, and finds a van waiting for him.

Rogers helps him in and the two drive of.

They aren't certain of why Dumas' people had betrayed him, but they knew they had to stick together to work things out in the end.  And the suitcase?  Dumas made sure it would not fall in anyone's hands.  As the explosion rocked the cafe behind them, Rogers realized what M meant when she told him, "Dumas will work with you.  That is assured."

Roger realized M had papers in her hand.  And on one sheet, the mission parameter was marked: Successful.  The location:  Halycon.

It was a secret he was to keep from Dumas from that point on.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Vampire 30-Day Challenge : Favorite Non-Camarilla Clan

Vampire 30-Day Challenge : Favorite Non-Camarilla Clan
When our group finally got a hold of two specific books, we realized there was a whole wide world of choices waiting for us to try playing: Vampire Player's Guide, 2nd Edition and The Player's Guide to the Sabbat.   Both books offered information on the other Clans that exist, from the Assamites to the Lasombra, the Tzimisce to the Ravnos, we found ourselves relishing the idea of playing the other facets of the World of Darkness.  The Darkness could grow darker.  The Shadows could stretch longer.

And what called back to me was Brujah Anti-Tribu.

I liked the idea of the Rabble having members that detested even themselves.  I liked the opportunity to embrace a much more violent concept and explore a lineage that celebrated its animal urges.  My character was inspired by Sharon Stone of Basic Instinct.  She was a rebellious idealist who believed that the City could be ruled better if the Prince was dead, and in her unlife, she explored a life among the Anarchs, toyed with joining the Sabbat, eventually fought off Assamite assassins and eventually forged a new Bloodline where she could use her blood to form skin-masks (think Mission Impossible), spider-climb, and eventually channel her blood into a dominatrix-inspired vitae whip that could split stone.

Yeah.  Those were *those* days.
And sadly, I don't recall her name.  Or can't find the home-brewed discipline that was once posted in that huge Vampire web resource.

If this Challenge was to require a much more appropriate Non-Camarilla Clan as a choice, then it would have to be the Giovanni.  Yes, it has much to do with the deliciously rail-roady saga called the Giovanni Chronicles.  But it was definitely a memorable romp for its time which allowed me and my friends to get a chance to interact with many of the World of Darkness' luminaries through the ages.  Our group loved the books so much, I actually ran it four times I believe, with each time approaching things with a slightly different slant.  But yeah, the loathing loving hatred we have for Ambrogino Giovanni is without equal.  Even more than the world-wide disgust that exists for Samuel Haight.

The Giovanni Clan was unapologetically a Clan of bastards.  And they were very proud to be bastards too.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Soundtrack Suggestion: Millennium Limited Edition OST - Mark Snow [2 of 2]

 Millennium TV Limited Edition (2CD)
by Mark Snow
Part Two of Two

This is the second part of the Soundtrack Suggestion and review of Millennium Limited Edition soundtrack. You can find the first one here.

As mentioned in the first one, the soundtrack is composed of 51 tracks, split to two Discs (Disc one has 51 tracks and Disc two has 50) and runs a total of 148 :47 minutes. And the second disk opens with an extended rendition of the Main Theme.  Main Title (Disc 02, Track 01) gives us the 3:33 minute long version which just sounds wrong to me.  The vocal track Main Title - Vocal Remix (Disc 02, Track 25) remains hilarious.

Like before, the tracks are based on key episodes.

Midnight of the Century
Delete (Disc 02, Track 02) has an almost positive feeling in its tune.  But this feeling fades quickly into an almost ethereal haunting song.    Branches/Angels (Disc 02, Track 03) in contrast sounds more grounded at the onset, but shifts to chimes and voices that resound an almost innocent motif.  By the 40-second mark the two give way to synths that give a feeling of yearning and sadness.  But then at the 2:30 mark, the music completely shifts to a more sinister haunting song suggesting a larger scheme at work.

Damascus (Disc 02, Track 04) opens with what sounds like strings and carries itself with a middle-eastern feel.  At the 1:50 mark, the song shifts gears to chimes and lots of metallic banging which swirls into a dizzying spiral of discordant harmonies.  At 3:00, the song is replaced by an almost imposing thematic motif you'd expect when the Hollywood bad guy is revealed, and then spirals back at 3:40 into a more religious sounding experience.   The Subject (Disc 02, Track 05)  shifts gears and uses the main theme's leitmotif as its introduction.  Hopeful and inspiring, the track tries to give a positive slant to the mood, but at 2:50 that hope might need a bit more help from outside sources.    Aerotech (Disc 02, Track 06) is a dark lumbering piece that just seems to lose hope.

Trail (Disc 02, Track 07) is a struggling piece that wants to rise up but seems weighed down by a looming threat.

Somehow, Satan Got Behind Me
Alarm (Disc 02, Track 08) opens with a vicious sequence of strings but suddenly catches you off guard at 44 seconds into an almost comical carnival-esque tune.  This would have sounded odd and pointless before, but ever since America McGee's Alice and Silent Hill made carnivals wonderful horror venues, the track works.
X-Fyles (Disc 02, Track 09) is a wacky parody of the X-Files theme.  The carnival leitmotif returns here for a few bars, then ends with another X-Files parody theme.  Overall, its a perfect piece if you were to ever spoof the X-files in your game.  Sympathy of the... (Disc 02, Track 10) is the climactic track for this batch, with an almost noir introduction that shifts to the carnival leitmotif.   Here, the whole piece comes together with a closing moment that blends the show's main theme with the carnival touch.

The Time Is Now
Hot Birds (Disc 02, Track 11) is a lukewarm piece that barely shifts in mood (unlike most of the tracks in the album).  As most pieces, this offers a tiny light of hope but offers it with some level of calm that the others did not have.   The Peter Principle (Disc 02, Track 12) tries to carry the same mood of the first, but in a more embodied way with piano keys carrying the harmony and strings whimpering the main themes of the batch. But I feel the track loses itself in the 1:08 minute mark when the mood shifts to a percussion-lead piece which embraces a sense of foreboding danger.  I feel the two could have been two separate loopable pieces.
Catherine (Disc 02, Track 13) tries to offer a sense of completion to the batch, with the main themes being carefully drawn out.

Silence is Golden (Disc 02, Track 14) begins with a solo piano echoing in the silence but is then overshadowed by looming danger.  The track continues with a dark foreboding threat, but kind of gets too campy in its execution.  Candy (Disc 02, Track 15) is a darker play on themes which I was enjoying until it hit the two-minute mark and decided to remind us all of what 90s tv music sounded like, which is really sad since the latter part of the soundtrack (3:20 minute mark) the song gets hauntingly cool in ways I which the whole track was instead.

Santos Elves (Disc 02, Track 16) opens with a dreamy Christmasy feel of lightness and joy.  The song goes all the nine yards with a woman vocalizing at some point that you'd imagine snow-capped mountains and dancing angels.  Unwrapped Gift (Disc 02, Track 17) opens with a sense of normalcy and carries it all throughout the track.  It ends with a series of chimes which you almost fear will go badly... but doesn't.
Love Jordan / Hobbit House (Disc 02, Track 18) has the vocalization return and take center stage.  This time even a male voice joins the vocalization.  While still hopeful like the first two, the constant vocalization pushes this track to the WTF level.
The Way It Was (Disc 02, Track 19) sounds like something you'd hear from those guys selling those magic flute thingies - a kareoke version of some song - til the vocalizations return.  And suddenly its like some second coming gone bad.

Goodbye To All That
Shrapnel (Disc 02, Track 20) is a return to the darkness and foreboding atmosphere of the show.  The piece maintains a pulse-steady beat until it shifts to an almost silent piece with nothing but the synthesized piano leading the new theme into focus.
Channel 14 (Disc 02, Track 21) maintains the dark and abysmal mood that was started by Shrapnel.  The track is definitely heavier, with at point having a repeating high pitched whine reminiscent of the infamous Psycho screeching.
Locked Out (Disc 02, Track 22) is like a farewell piece to the first two.  Sad. Dark.  Succumbing.
Drilling (Disc 02, Track 23) opens with a sense of tragic panic, but then quickly slides into a state of defeat.  The music laments.  It makes you feel that you've failed.  It makes you feel that you've... 3:00 mark and suddenly the piano kicks in and there's hope.  There's a light at the end of the tunnel. This track is wicked.
End Title (Disc 02, Track 24) once again returns to the show's main theme as a book end close to the soundtrack.  It feels like a cheat though, to realize this appears far too many times in the album.

Overall, the soundtrack is a very difficult one to use in games, but for games where heaviness is vital to the mood this one works nicely.  I found it amusing how the second disc had so many WTF tracks in it.  But then again, this was a service to the fans, so I understand why they'd make sure to throw in the funny moments in there.

Definitely not a soundtrack for beginning game masters who want to try using music to support their games.

Millennium OST track suggestions:
WTF moment: Main Title (Disc 02, Track 01), Main Title - Vocal Remix (Disc 02, Track 25), Alarm (Disc 02, Track 08), X-Fyles (Disc 02, Track 09), Sympathy of the... (Disc 02, Track 10), Love Jordan / Hobbit House (Disc 02, Track 18), The Way It Was (Disc 02, Track 19)
Introspective/calm moment: Hot Birds (Disc 02, Track 11), Catherine (Disc 02, Track 13), Santos Elves (Disc 02, Track 16), Unwrapped Gift (Disc 02, Track 17)
Tense/mystery moment: Damascus (Disc 02, Track 04), The Peter Principle (Disc 02, Track 12), Silence is Golden (Disc 02, Track 14), Candy (Disc 02, Track 15), Shrapnel (Disc 02, Track 20), Channel 14 (Disc 02, Track 21)
Combat music: None
Hopeful moment: Delete (Disc 02, Track 02), The Subject (Disc 02, Track 05)
Drama/sad moment: Branches/Angels (Disc 02, Track 03), Aerotech (Disc 02, Track 06), Trail (Disc 02, Track 07), Locked Out (Disc 02, Track 22), Drilling (Disc 02, Track 23), End Title (Disc 02, Track 24)  

Best Used In: Dark, depressing, heavy games like Tremulus or Kult.  Can still be used in games were horror is an added feature such as Night's Black Agents and Monster Hearts, but the music seems more suited in games where the players don't seem to have much hope.  

Vampire 30-Day Challenge : Favorite Camarilla Clan

Vampire 30-Day Challenge : Favorite Camarilla Clan
When I first got a chance to truly play Vampire: The Masquerade, I didn't have access to the information yet that there were other Clans such as the Ravnos, the Assamites, the Followers of Set, and so forth. So when I perused the actual book at last, after all those months of playing our makeshift Vampire game, I found myself focusing on a single Clan to explore.

Clan Malkavian.

Clan Malkavian very quickly resonated with me and my interest in dark character concepts. I can still recall my first character. His name was Gabriel Dufford and he was an artist. He believed that there existed a fine line between life and death, and made it a point to stare deep into the eyes of every single person he would kill. He would stare deep inside and with his significantly high Auspex, he would search the windows of the soul for any hint of the supposed soul that was within.

His weapon of choice was a straight razor.

He always wore an all white-suit, and had a tendency to get lost in thought when in the presence of others. He would be fascinated with how they moved, how they spoke, how they lived, and hungered to know who among those around him had a soul he could finally see.

He didn't last long. The Humanity rules were cruel to poor Gabriel. And soon he was too far gone to be a safe member of Kindred Society that the Prince had him destroyed as an object lesson to all other Malkavians in the city.

I miss you Gabriel.

I hope the Madness Network holds you tight.

May we meet again someday.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Vampire 30-Day Challenge: How I Got Started?

Vampire 30-Day Challenge: How I Got Started?
While I've already posted here the story about how I got started in the Role-playing game hobby, I haven't really shared yet the beginnings of my gaming life with White Wolf Gaming Studios' Vampire: the Masquerade.

Way back in the 1990s, my friends and I were playing role-playing games practically every weekend. If we were not spelunking dungeons and saving kingdoms in Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, we were balancing heatsinks and struggling with wrong facing in mecha combat. Our occasional jaunts included TOP Secret spy work, Marvel Superheroes heroics, science fiction awesomeness in Star Frontiers and a healthy host of Palladium games. One fateful evening, our then game master Ryan came up to us with a giddy smile. He had heard of this awesome thing called the Storyteller System and learned that the game was Vampire: The Masquerade! But we didn't really have a means to buy the book back then. You see, here in the Philippines most of the gaming related items one can find were either Dungeons and Dragons related, or were directly ordered stuff. At my young age then, I didn't quite have the option of ordering books then, so we had access to the next best thing:


Jyhad was the original name of what most know to be Vampire: The Eternal Struggle, the collectible card game based on Vampire: The Masquerade. The card game was beautiful. While most of the world was celebrating Magic: The Gathering, I was adoring this game which allowed one to create Powerbases, Equip weapon, find Allies, call for Political Votes, Attack opponents, or indirectly strike at opponent's using various means such as Hacking, causing riots and other things. The game was unbelievably dense, and included systems to Influence more Cainites to service, sneak into opponent's Graveyards to destroy torpid vampires, or even form alliances with other Antedeluvians in the game while the Edge isn't held by someone else.

It was just beautiful. And even more awesome, many of the cards were directly inspired by the game. Discipline Cards allowed one to give Vampires new powers. Various cards allowed players to make use of these Disciplines, and in some cases even allowed players to create new Childer or acquire the services of Mages or Werewolves and Fair Folk to serve their purposes.

So without access to the actual books, our group had one last hope of feeling what a vampire game might be like: We homebrewed a game using the cards as our foundation and Palladium's system as the crunch. It sounds crazy, I know, but it worked for a good number of fun games. It was crazy though. Like having Celerity branched out to so many variants of the power to use for stealth, or dancing, or attacks, or defenses.. or how Potence can allow some vampires to throw things as deadly projectiles, or allow others to rip things free and use them as clubs.

But man, that was our first taste of what Vampire could be like. It was crazy, it was inaccurate, but it was glorious! We had debates with Anson and Democritus. We would attempt to seduce Camille Devereux who was our femme fatale in the game. We would freak out when Dr. Jest would show up, and we would trust on Bianca to cover our backs.

Eventually, Ryan would find a copy of Vampire: The Masquerade and we would discover how far off we were in the actual game, but there was no forgetting how much fun we had rolling d100s to determine if we could use Blood Rage when we tapped Thaumaturgy, or to project Govern the Unaligned when we focused on Dominate.

But yes, in summary, it was Ryan who got me bitten and Blood Bonded to the World of Darkness. And it was Vampire: The Masquerade that made a Blood Doll out of me.

And I definitely have NO regrets whatsoever.

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