Saturday, November 30, 2013

Lend a Hand

Lend a Hand
by Tobie Abad

Sometimes in a game, a hand isn't just a hand.  Sometimes the digits mean more than fingers.  Sometimes the palm does more than just rest there.  Here are some ideas to throw into your games for a little twist.

1. Maybe the hand is a hand...
Someone must have cut if off for a reason.  Was there a bracelet that couldn't be removed?  A suitcase handcuffed to it's wrist?  A ring that granted immense powers to its owner?  A weapon that was far too deadly it had to be disarmed?

There is also the matter of asking who did the cutting.  If the owner was the victim, then clearly we can imagine the perpetrators being desperate enough to amputate the limb.  But what if the owner was the one who did the severing?  What would drive a man to slice away one's own hand?  And using what?

2. Maybe the hand is a glove...
Crafted from materials not of this earth?  Or perhaps of materials that are from this planet, but in no way meant to be capable of being sewn into a glove?  Remember Hellboy's stone gauntlet?  What about a glove sewn from flesh?   What if the glove was an impossible one - crafted from light?  Molded from sound?

3.  Maybe the hand is weapon...
Claws are a common trope, but what about hands that wove new memories?  Or hands that stripped things of friction?  Or hands that excited those touched to dance... even if they were inanimate things (that would explain why the winds always blow in her vicinity)?  What if the hand was a black hole that consumed anything it touched?  Or a matter whirlpool that twisted touched objects counterclockwise into impossible spiral shapes that still lived and breathed and loved?

4. Maybe the hand is a key...
And it opened any locks it touched.  Or worse, could slide into anything as if it were water, whether it was wood, stone or flesh and bone.   Maybe it translated any text it was slid over into something one could read?Maybe when laid upon a dead body revealed who did the terrible deed?

5. Maybe the hand can lend a hand...
The hand can be sentient with its own ability to move, act and think.  Perhaps it is all that remains of a close friend the character once had.  Or perhaps it is the remnant of the character's rival that seeks to destroy him some day.  Maybe it can transform into a miniature figure with its own weapons and armor?  Or perhaps its can manipulate reality with a wave of its digits.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Vampire 30-Day Challenge : Favorite Entity Over-all

Vampire 30-Day Challenge : Favorite Entity Over-all

Given the whole foray of various World of Darkness things out there that stalk mortals and seek to accomplish their own goals, if I had only one single entity to choose in the entire World of Darkness line, it would unfortunately be something that is not part of the Vampire the Masquerade line.  Instead, it is the darker opposition that exists in every Wraith: The Oblivion game:  The Shadow.

The Shadow is the literal darker half of every living being that existed, given strength and sentience when a mortal dies and finds himself trapped in the Shadowlands as a ghost among the Quick.  The Shadow is the side of you that you never wanted to face.  The Shadow is the part of you that you wished did not exist.  The Shadow whispers, screams, demands, pleads, seduces, tricks, depending on what archetype it is and worst of all, the Shadow cannot be severed from you for the better.  It can, however, eventually untangle itself from you, and with its full autonomy devote itself into making your life an even greater living hell.

And the best part?

The Shadow is meant to be portrayed by another player at the table.  In our few Wraith games, those who portrayed the shadow had a mask to hold up and wear when they spoke at it, so it was very clear to all those concerned if the Shadow was whispering at that time.  Man, the Shadow even had these awesome powers (called Thorns) which allowed the Shadow-player to literally throw temptation and lures at the other player.  These ranged from information, to extra dice, to new powers.


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Vampire 30-Day Challenge : Favorite Methuselah

Vampire 30-Day Challenge : Favorite Methuselah

Among the many interesting characters that graced the various Vampire books, the Toreador Mi-ka-il was one of the elders who caught my fancy.   The vampire saw himself as a literal archangel and held a fantastic dream for the Cainites of the city of Constantinople.    This dream was a perfect paradise where vampires would gain spiritual attainment and it was a dream he did not carry alone.  The Ventrue Antonius the Gaul and the Tzimise Dracon both supported this vast dream and each of them became parts of what was to be called The Trinity (with Mi-ka-il himself being the Father, Antonius the Son and Dracon the Holy Spirit).

This was a dream that would not come to pass.

So great was the Methuselah's Presence that to all who looked, he appeared as a living being of illuminated glowing stained-glass.  A pity he was an Archangel that would fall from grace too soon.  Besther, as Mi-ka-il was once named, would find no safely in his subterranean haven (an underground copy of the dome of Hagia Sophia) and would eventually find Final Death from the fangs of a Baali called Mary the Black.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

I hate the local net and my laptop

So I tried to run a game via Google Hangouts for the first time.

Sadly, it didn't go well.  The net connections here in the Philippines aren't nice enough to have the video feeds moving the whole time.  Then there's the issue of my laptop being so ancient that it was struggling to function well.

I will also have to admit that I was very conscious the whole time of the staring blue eye of the camera.  I guess I'm not that used to being in front of the camera, compared to being in front of people.  There's something disarming and unsettling about a camera eye staring at you.

There's a lot of crazy banter going on here too, which was fun. But man, I hate now NASAL I sound.  Geez.
But I really want to be able to run games online so I will have to find ways to do this better perhaps with the use of my partner, Rocky's tablet or my ipad in the future.

But man, starting at the 9 minute mark, we can already feel the lag moments starting to grow wider and wider.  Frustrating :-(

This is not the last time I'm trying this tough.  The first time might have been pathetic, but hey there's no where to go but up in the future, right?

The Dolls are in Drivethru!

Just letting you all know that Doll, Advanced Doll and the audiobook versions of both are now available on DrivethruRpg.

Many thanks to Josh Jordan who trusted in me enough to write up as many new rules for his Doll game.  Please do support the game!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Vampire 30-Day Challenge : Favorite Other Entity (Changeling)

Vampire 30-Day Challenge : Favorite Other Entity (Changeling)

Now this is a challenge.   While in the other entries it was more of "who do I remember?" for Changeling it more a matter of who do I choose?  I loved the Changeling line so much for the characters and personalities they offered and I have to admit this question is hard for me to decide upon.   Given the need to give an answer, I will cheat and name the ones I loved in no-particular order.

Queen Mab
Oh you glamour-filled bitch.  I loved how you were such a force to be reckoned with in Changeling the Dreaming.  I loved how you watched over the Kingdom of Apples, even with Goblin Town there in its shadow.  And I love how you cared for David, regardless of how things were, and more so even after he chose an Eiluned wife and vanished.

David Ardry
A true tragic hero, with a sword that sought him out like a loyal dog.  David was wonderfully written to have just enough dimension for a Storyteller to develop into a great character.  His love for his wife, Faerylith, was commendable, and his tragic destiny under King Meilge's plan was just... such an experience to uncover as a player.

King Meilge
A fantastic villain worthy to spar with the Oathcircle.  The power of his Mask and the depth of his deception was a delicious threat to throw at the players.  His ambition was wonderfully matched with his pride and in the end, I love how his care for faerylith could lead to his undoing.

And finally, Duke Dray.
Love him.
So much.
Once I had him always quoting songs for multiple sessions.  The players thought it was some in-joke that I was doing.

Then on the following session, I sprung the reason:  the songs were an extended bunk to affect another character in the game who was the singer of the songs.  Yeah, I loved portraying his over-the-top villain antics as silly yet purposeful.

Duke Dray.

For the Doctor

Something is wrong with the Universe, and you know exactly what it is. We used to live in a candy-colored age, full of wonder and danger in equal measure. Standing over the balanced Universe were its mighty guardians, the Time Lords. A great war destroyed all but one of them. He was the Earth's defender, protecting it time and again from alien threats. He was a god humbled by death. He was your friend. He was the Doctor.
And then he died.
Now the Doctor's enemies gather and plot, scheming to claim the Universe for themselves. Only you, his stalwart and learned companions, stand against the encroaching darkness. It's a good thing he trained you so well, isn't it?

I highly recommend this for those who want to play a Dr. Who role-playing game, but aren't that accustomed to playing role-playing games.  The rules are lite enough to easily dive into gaming and yet nicely mapped out enough so you feel there's a difference between character types.

The game is available at:

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Shadows and Choice : The 13th Age

Shadows and Choice

The 13th AGE

Andruin, played by Karlo
Human Fighter, Loyal follower of the High Elf Artanis
Blacksmith, Solider of the Emperor, Slave Gladiator and Bodyguard.
One Unique Thing: He is the only human who understands the language of the Elves even if he was never taught it.

Artanis, played by Biyanka
Elven Cleric, Godsoldier of the Priestess
Goddess Initiate, Noble Diplomat, War Medic, Bearer of Secrets.
One Unique Thing: He is actually Artanelias, a female Elf, who hides her gender to retain respect from others, as well as to hide her relationship with Andruin.

Thorg, played by Kevin
Half-Orc Barbarian from the distant mountains
Clan Builder, Clan Champion, Clan Diplomat.
One Unique Thing: Thorg loves reading.  Surprisingly, Thorg is eloquent and well read in things.

Donal, played by Kevin
Half-Elf Ranger from the Undying Lands
Street Orphan, Hunter, Bounty Hunter.
One Unique Thing: Donal, for a half-elf, looks completely human.  He does not show any signs of being an Elf or of having any mixed heritage, save for when his eyes are struck by light in a specific way.

Odu Foxburr, played by Rocky
Halfling Rogue, who offers a whole new name to each new person that meets him.
Con Artist, Spy Master, Art Thief.
One Unique Thing: Odu is a smooth-talking bastard who loves violence, even more so than Thorg.

This was our first time EVER to play The 13th Age.  Rocky, Karlo and I have tried Dungeon World before and loved the system, so I felt this was nice step closer to the crunch of Pathfinder/d20 without losing the fun of Dungeon World's lighter feel.   Biyanca and the two Kevins had never played this yet, nor Dungeon World, so it was definitely going to be a dive into something new for us.

Given the Icon system, I opted for a different approach:  I had each player draw one of six Tarot cards I had prepared (with one of the cards being a blank card).  Whoever drew the blank card was currently in service of the Prince of Shadows (whether willingly or forced, I left the player the freedom to decide) while the other cards represented the different Icons that the heroes were affiliated with.  I also had each roll a six-sided die to represent the relationship they had with the card.  Ones were weak relations, while Sixes were very close relationships.  These two systems would later add so much more to the game.

The game was based in Waterdeep, or at least inspired by it.  I opened the scene with Artanis on her knees as she spoke with the Lords of Waterdeep.  The Temple of the Priestess wanted a Sealed Box to be brought to the further temple down south at Calimshan.  Concerned that the GodSoldier of the Priestess was travelling alone with only one warrior companion (Andruin), the Lords of Waterdeep insisted that they would gather a few more adventurers to accompany them.     One of the Lords inquired why Andruin had gained Artanis' faith.  Artanis explained the two had met during the War of the Orcs, and had grown to trust each other.  She did not admit that they had also fallen in love, given none knew it was a female elf beneath the blessed plate mail armor that she wore.

"Gather at the Gate by the morrow.  Your companions should be there."

Elsewhere, at a tavern called The Forgotten Realm, Thorg struggled to enjoy his book on "The Intriguing Ecology of the Manticore" as a bunch of drunk human thugs nagged him and bullied him into an arm wrestling match.  "Why do you seek danger, my friends?" he tried to ask them but instead had someone knock his book to the floor.  As he picked the book up, Thorg realized he had to teach these punks a lesson and agreed to the arm wrestling match.

Not too far, Odu watched and realized one of the annoying humans wore a cape of high quality.   Odu quickly concocted a means to take it from the man during the match.

At the bar, Donal walks up to the bar and ignores the screaming as the match begins.  A man in a grey robe also at the bar tells him the bartender is too busy betting to serve anyone.  Both serve themselves some ale.  As they watch, the man in the robe offers Donal a job, claiming to be in need of adventurers of particular skills.  Donal easily accepts the offer and is told to head to the Gate at the morrow.  The man in the robe watches as Odu intentionally sets a mug to spill by the man's boot, and during that brief distraction, helps the men clean their clothes (and the cape) of the stains by offering to handle it for them.  The man in the grey robe follows Odu outside and gives him the same offer.  Odu throws a hard bargain, and this is met.  He then realizes the man is a Lord of Waterdeep with enough resources to spare.  Odu agrees and hurries off to have the cape trimmed to fit him better.

Finally, the man invites Thorg to the journey, and Thog readily agrees, happy to get away from the noisy mess of people.


Dawn. The man in the robe finds Thorg already there, reading a book as he waits for the others.  As the group finally meets each other, the plans are shared.  Artanis and Andruin had chartered a ship to sail the Sea of Swords down to the City of Baldur's Gate.  And from there, the plan was to charter a caravan to the south.   Odu quickly befriends the Captain, gaining his confidence and favor with a bit of Smooth Talking.

The first few days of the journey is quiet, with Donal and Artanis both feeling sea-sick as they ride a ship for the first time.  Donal insists on sitting on the crow's nest, anxious to play scout as the journey travels, but his lack of sea-legs causes him to struggle to stay awake for the first leg of the trip.  Artanis locks herself in her room, with Andruin handling any affairs outside the chamber.

Most of the journey began smoothly.


The shadow whispered to Artanis, reminding her of its demand.  Stain the Sealed Box with the Blood of a Hero, and burn it as a dedication to the Shadows.  The Prince of Shadows reminded her of her family held in its power, and of their deaths if she were ever to betray him.


And from the water, orange eyes glowed and waited.  Ready to strike.


Nightfall came and the attack was both sudden and cruel.  Vicious water-borne monsters that seemed like ants yet were the size of horses shot out from the depths and began attacking the vessel.  As the crew hurried to light the deck and provide illumination for all, Odu, Donal and Thorg brought the battle to the beasts.  Neither Artanis nor Andruid were present as the party fought against the wicked things that seemed to have the ability to spit acid and call more of their kind.  Thorg found himself denied of his Cleaving blows when both Donal and Odu slew the beasts before his axe could land.   And by the time Artanis and Andruin join the battle, the monsters fall down dying and broken.

The heroes were not without their wounds, however, and this gives Artanis the opportunity to visit each other and offer to treat their wounds by taking some of their blood.  All save Donal and Odu agree.  But even as she stains the box with Thorg's blood, she eventually learns the Prince of Shadows has not come to make things easy for her.


Nightmares force Artanis up.  In her dreams, the Prince of Shadows questions the blood she had stained the box wtih.  "You are meant to sacrifice the Sun, my dear," the Prince teased and Artanis realized the Prince wanted Andruin's blood to be used.  As Andruid helps calm Artanis from the nightmare, Artanis slips as she explains, "He wants me to gather your blood Andruin.  The Goddess demands it must be yours."

"He?" Andruin contestsed and drew his sword fast enough to hold her at bay.  "Something is wrong here."

None on the crew would know the two would slip away upon a rowboat in hopes of pulling away from everyone else and drawing them into the tragedy that was to come.


Land.  Donal realizes he can see land.  Baldur's Gate is not that far away.
But neither is what looks like a rowboat at sea.  The deckhands quickly identify it as one of the ship's own.  And the group begins to realize that on that boat might be something or someone important...

... but the waters trash and bubble as something rises from the depths.

"Priestess," Artanis called out in prayer, "Help me."  But the Priestess remained distance, still angered that her loyal Cleric had replaced loyalty to her for the love of a human.  The Prince of Shadows laughed, knowing he had Artanis fully in his grasp.  "Do as I say or I shall summon the great beasts to slay your companions!"  When Artanis continued to refuse, the dark Icon fulfilled his threat, and the rowboat exploded into shards as the massive serpentine head rose from the depths.

"A Hydra!" Donal screamed, recognizing the beast.  He quickly told the others of the danger of this manner of beast, "While it's heads do not multiply when severed, these monsters give birth tremendously fast and spawn duplicates of itself when in battle.  However, during the birthing process, the beast exposes its beating heart, a vulnerability we can exploit!"  With the Hydra named as Donal's target, the Ranger begins unleashing arrow hell at the beast.  But the beast is not without its abilities, and through the Prince of Shadow's help, the monster's trashing begins to force the ship to spin in place as if upon a whirlpool, forcing everyone on board to divide their focus on both combat and keeping their balance.

More hydras erupt as the group take too long to slay the first one and its first duplicate.  Artanis and Andruin struggle to swim back on deck in the rough waters.  Artanis uses her elven teleportation to carry them both back to the deck.

Odu, Thorg and Donal begin coordinating their strikes, with Donal's arrows becoming makeshift stepping stones for the others to land deadly blows upon the creatures.  At one point, Odu leaps into a severed hydra head to crawl deeper down its throat to find more sensitive organs to tear apart.  Thorg fells a hydra and in glee, leaps across the water to another nearby hydra to pound his axe down upon its head.

But the four hydras, though dying, were still a challenge for the heroes to face.  And the waters began to boil as the Prince of Shadows summoned more to spite them.

"You must choose," the Priestess whispered to Artanis, as Odu leapt to the Cleric, took the box from her hand, and readied a blade over it.  "Do you love him or me?"  Artanis stared at Andruin as he fought against the Hydra, but knew she had to fulfill her duty.  As she reached for the box, Odu stabbed the blade into it, proclaiming, "I cleanse this in the name of the Priestess!"  Artanis never knew that the vile and wicked Odu was actually chosen by the Priestess herself to cleanse the evil she frowned upon.  And with the ritual of the box abruptly disrupted, the Prince of Shadows can only cry out in anger and promise to return in time.   Artanis screams as she feels the Prince attempt to take her with him, but the Priestess hold her tight and the two vanish in a brilliant display of light.

In the distance, a surge of sea creatures suddenly flowed through and snatched Donal from the group.  And just when the group thought they would have to face against the remaining hydras with their now limited numbers, powerful ballista tore at the monsters and punched through their armored hides.  The Emperor's Navy closed in and using their deadly ranged weapons, forced the hydras down back into the depths.

Odu drops the box to the ground, and as the Prince of Shadows snarls at him and promises vengeance, the halfling pisses onto the box as a message to the Icon that he's not afraid.


Thorg is approached by the captain of the Imperial Navy, and the soldiers escort him back to "his ship."  The group learns that Thorg has long been one of the Empire's best warriors, and they were more than happy to be of service to him again.

Donal awakes beneath the depths to learn that his birth parents were actually a mortal man and the High Druid herself.  Born of such prestige, Donal realizes that his role in the 13th Age was more than just that of an adventurer.  He was to be the bridge between man and Elvenkind.

Odu, now the Hand of the Priestess, continues to smite evil and cleanse the world of the taint that the Priestess desires removed.

Artanelias, now devoid of her armor and false seeming, remains steadfast in prayer and meditation somewhere in the mountains as she offers herself to the Priestess to atone for her selfishness.

And Andruin, standing at the road leading to Baldur's Gate, realizes while the rest have found new roads to take, he stands at the same old road as before.  He devotes himself to finding Artanelias and just as before hopes to prove to her that his love, no matter how the world demands things otherwise, will never ever fade.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Vampire 30-Day Challenge : Favorite Other Entity (Wraith)

Vampire 30-Day Challenge : Favorite Other Entity (Wraith)

Wraith remains a "Wish I Could Play/Run It More Often" game system, but given the darkness and morbidity of it, there will always be a huge difficulty in finding players who would appreciate it.  More so the book called Charnel Houses of Europe: The Shoah, which provides a lot of heavy yet factual information as well as game-related stats for those who want to run a game based on the events of the Holocaust.  Clearly this book was controversial for most, given its subject matter, and many even felt such a serious and painful event in history should never be material for a game session.  But for me, games are not just moments to have fun.  They are also opportunities for discussion, exploration and remembrance.     As the book's dedication reads: "This book is dedicated to the survivors of the Holocaust, who have spent 50 years telling their stories. What you hold in your hands is a tribute to their perseverance, and in some small way an attempt to carry on their legacy for the sake of the generations who will never know them. Todah raba."

One character that stood out for me in this book was Nikolai Dimitrius.  Nikolai was one of the soldiers who hoped to find release from the horror of truth of Babi Yar by committing suicide.  Clearly, things would not go that easily for him.    But he was a promising character who showed even among the perpetrators, there existed the chance that some humanity resided within them.  He was a brief beacon of hope in a dark and terrible world.  But even then, he was less a beacon of hope and more a portrait of cowardice.  A display of caring for oneself more than of rising to try to make a difference.  He saved one, but killed himself rather than try to save more.   It was a great portrayal of opposing polarities for me that I wanted to explore.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Wickedness is a Virtue ep01 : Vampire: The Dark Ages


Wickedness is a Virtue

Episode One

Vampire: The Dark Ages

Fra Atilio played by Marvin
Lasombra, 9th Generation.  Monk of the Holy Order of Heaven.
Fra Atilio was embraced by his Sire in a bid to keep the sect alive.  Atilio was once just a Nubian slave that served the former monk.  Atilio has inherited the destroyed Sire's Herd and Influence in Jerusalem.  He is allied with a fallen knight who was meant to fight in the Crusade.

Dmitri Malakov played by Jeffrey
Toreador, 9th Generation.  Son of a wealthy merchant family, embraced into the clan by Lorelei, his Sire out of love.  He never loved her back.  Still remains in the familial estate in Frispoint, maintaining the family trade on furs, and learning more of his vampiric condition the hard way.

Stefan Wandermann played by Rocky
Tzimisce, 7th Generation.  A survivor of a forced embraced when his sire transformed him merely to be a distraction against some hunters.  Survived after learning to hide his homeland's earth in pockets in his body.  Long based in Italy where he had resumed his role as an artisan and hungry to learn more of the various art styles of the different cultures.


Stefan is travelling with his sibling in blood, Micah.  The two discuss the art styles that exist and ponder on the directions they may take in the many years to come.  While Stefan tries to minimize his feeding, Micah seems calm and indifferent to the lives they take.  When Stefan asks where they are travelling to, Micah simply tells him to trust his brother.

Elsewhere, Fra Atilio speaks with his and hears their confessions.  For months, the followers of the sect would pray to Fra Atilio for confessions, and by the taking of blood, he would absolve them of their sins. After choking a woman unconscious for her calls for a confession which he could not give (Atilio was still full), Atilio stood at the roof top of the building and surveyed his domain.  An odd monk at the street caught his eyes as the monk walked past an awning towards a dark alley were ruffians awaited, only to suddenly become a guardsman of the city.   Atilio opted to follow him from the rooftops.

Dmitri Malakov on the other hand continues watching over the family estate in his parents' absence.  His father has still not returned from a trip to Jerusalem.  One of his father's favorite clients, a Jonathan, has come to complain about the delays.  But as the guy rattles on, Dmitri is increasingly incensed by what he understands is a foul rotting odor from the man's breath.  Soon, his senses flare as he realized he can hear the mutterings of the servants across the room, who are wondering about their master who no longer eats the food they cook, nor leaves his chambers during the day.  He feels the fireplace is too strong too, and abruptly dismisses Jonathan, and walks out on the meeting to hurry back to his room.  There, he opens the window to step out onto the balcony only to find Lorelei waiting.  She asks him to invite him in, which he refuses to give, and to spite him reveals she had intercepted a letter addressed to him from Constantinople. She claims it is written in a foreign tongue, and wanting to hear word from his father, Dmitri relents and agrees to do something for Lorelei in exchange.  The letter, it turns out, isn't written in Italian, and Lorelei heads straight down to the courtyard to wait for Dmitri.  The two, it so happens are going on a trip to Jerusalem, the same place where his father was asking Dmitri for his help.   When Dmitri tries to kiss Lorelei, thinking to woo her to his favor, she slaps him and tells him, "No.  That is earned."

Micah and Stefan eventually arrive at Jerusalem, which Stefan ponders on if it was a wise idea.  He still feels uneasy about having traveled so far from Italy.  Micah, however, reminds him that in Jerusalem the very hearts of the Christian, Muslim and Jewish faiths converge.  "You will find the grandest of art among their Churches, Mosques and Temples."  As Micah walks off to make arrangements, Stefan looks around to get some familiar bearings of the place.

Fra Atilio tracks the strange fellow to an old building which he realizes was the former headquarters of the Templar Knights.   He considers stepping inside to investigate when his attention is captured by a woman standing at the far end of the street.  She motions at him to remain quiet, and waves at him to hurry away.  Fra Atilio stares back at the Nurse, but she runs off before he can say a word.  A guard soon asks him if there's something a matter in the streets, and Fra Atilio's role as a confessor provides him enough leeway to tell the guard to leave him alone.   He steps into the stables beside the boarded up Templar headquarters and hears a male voice ask him, "You can see.  You are the one who was sent to me by Him?  You are him?"

Dmitri and Lorelei's long journey is punctuated with stops as Dmitri wars with himself on the need to feed.  Lorelei celebrates each feeding and relishes seeing the anguish in Dmitri's eyes as he tries to pull away from feeding on people and simply drink from beasts.  At one terrible moment, Lorelei feasts on a beggar she lures closer and offers her bleeding wrist to Dmitri to sup from.  Overcome by hunger, Dmitri does so, and at the last moment stop when he realizes what he's doing.  He pulls the beggar away from Lorelei and runs off to find any of the Hospitalliers who may help him.  Lorelei tries to draw him back with a Summon but he resists.

A fireball erupts into the sky from not too far away.  Stefan runs towards the flame, curious to see what caused such a display.  A crowd gathers as a building begins to burn.  The onlookers offer that it used to be a Templar headquarters.  One suggests that this is God's Sign that they have lost his grace.  None of them can see the scene that unfolds inside.

Fra Atilio confronts the speaker, who turns out to be a Nosefratu called Brother Bernardus.  He mutters strange things about four, or five, and about having been Chosen by a greater force.  He seems oblivious to the fire and is just thankful that Atilio had finally arrived.  Atilio recalls accidentally smashing the oil lamp on the ground when the Noseferatu startled him.  He completely forgot to double check if the burning wick was doused.  And as the fires rage higher, Atilio leaps out of the burning ruin and calls out to the people who have gathered.    Stefan realizes the man is a Cainite and promises to investigate this further when given a chance.

Dmitri finds a Nurse waiting for him, who quickly takes the beggar, and tells him that they have been waiting for him.  Before Dmitri can ask anything more, the nurse reveals a third eye and emits some kind of light upon the injured beggar.  She reveals her name as Aisha and tells him she was the one who send his father's missive to summon him here.  Dmitri allows Aisha to guide her deeper into Jerusalem, and eventually, they come upon a building where she claims he is restrained.  Dmitri's father is in danger, but at the same time, is a danger to all others around him.  Aisha and her people have embraced the task of burning away all evil they find in the world, and Dmitri's father has an evil they cannot defeat.

As Fra Atilio runs off to vanish into the night, Stefan returns with Micah to the room they have for the trip.  Micah admits he had brought Stefan here with him for a reason.  Micah seeks to meet with a Lasombra of great influence.   And to meet with a Malkavian whose rantings relate to the Tzimisce's plans.  Micah wanted his sibling around to have someone he can trust in case things go awry.  The two head off while the night grows darker and eventually come upon a great well.   Micah shares how legends say in the Week of Blood, during the First Crusade, almost 100 years ago, this very well was filled with blood and bodies from that crazed time.  Some whisper that there is a reason such an event transpired then.  As they look below, they see a man currently in the well, inspecting its walls.  Micah calls out to the man and names him as "Anatole."  The Malkavian admits he is impressed to see two Fiends this far from the Slavic mountains but welcomes them nonetheless.

The powerful Faith emanating from certain religious landmarks forces Fra Atilio to take a longer detour.  This path leads him through a graveyard within the city.  Ignoring any fearful tales of walking ghosts and living statues, he arrives at the home of the fallen knight who serves him to find the place empty.  Shadows instead reach out to caress him.  The Lasombra realizes Obtenebration is at work!  As the two manifest tentacles in preparation of a confrontation, Atilio realizes the other Lasombra is a woman, who claims to be seeking the same man he is.  Atilio and the Lasombra woman call for a truce and bear in mind each one's presence is in the city.  Fra Atilio, however, now wonders what other things have come to his city.

Dmitri goes to the basement where his father is locked in.  Aisha and the others hurry back upstairs and lock the door behind them.  The thing that greets Dmitri is a monster that towers over nine feet tall.  The massive bear howls and attempts to tear the doors open.  Dmitri runs back upstairs but fails to get there before the bear slams him down to the ground.  Dmitri's father, it seems, has become a were-bear.

While waiting for Micah to end his discussions with Anatole, another figure comes to the well.  Stefan greets the newcomer and the newcomer offers a friendly smile.  He identifies himself as the bishop Ambrosio Moncada and thanks Stefan for his kindness in allowing him closer without the threat of injury.  Stefan senses the great destiny this man is to have in the many years to come.

As Dmitri comes to, he realizes Aisha and her people have pulled him out of the basement.  His father, the were-bear uneasily sleeps as the powers of the Salubri keep him weak.  The group bears much injuries from the struggle and Dmitri realizes his father is beyond reach.  Whatever semblance of him as the man who loved him is gone.  "We must kill it.  Destroy it.  Before it finds strength once more."  Dmitri's limbs have been severed by the bear, and Aisha had saw it fit to leave it for the bear to devour.

"Decide, and there may be enough flesh left for you to recover your arms."

Dmitri hesitates.  Aisha reminds him that his father called him to come here in order to lay him to rest.  But Dmitri is uncertain if he has the strength to do it.    The choice is nearly taken from him.  A trio step into the building, with odd powers that hint of an infernal source.  One breathes out and vermin pour from his body like a living shadow that skitter and scamper all over Aisha's people and devour them alive.  Another grins at Dmitri and from his gaze, Dmitri realizes the man reads every single unspoken sin he has ever had.

"Stay away from my Childe," Lorelei growls as she comes into the room, a crucifix brandished before her.  The three vampires pull away, repelled by the symbol of the Christian Church.  As Dmitri stares at Lorelei, she tells him that regardless of their differences, they will always be family.  And family will have to deal with blood.


"I brought you here to accompany me," Micah admits, "For I have great visions in store.  Great plans.  I seek to gain respect of the Voivodes.  And I have had dreams which whisper to me ways to do so."   Stefan listens to his brother, Micah Vykos, as he talks about a destiny where their names shall forever be remembered.

And inwardly he trembles with fear recalling Anatole's words.

"You.. your destiny was meant to come later.  Not now.  Odd.  It seems to still make sense."


And Fra Atilio, on this walk home after the encounter with the Lasombra woman, finds himself once more walking through the cemetery.  There, finds a man dressed in the clothes of a crusaders walking aimlessly among the tombs.  The man calls out "One" and cries out in what seems to be a confused state.  Atilio walks closer and attempts to help the man, but the words do not seem to register in his mind.  Instead the man continues to call out, "One" and rants about "Now there were five..." and "Something is broken.."

When Atilio mutters, "Five" the man's attention is suddenly upon him.  And when Atilio opts to attempt to feed on the man, the blood overwhelms his senses so much that by the time he comes to, he realizes the sun is rising!  Prying the grates of the nearest sewer, Atilio slides down into the muck below in hopes of finding safe cold darkness.

But instead, down beneath the cemetery, he learns he is not alone.
He finds a second crusader, lost and mad, muttering over and over again...


Fra Atilio realizes the numbers are meant to be literal.
Somewhere in Jerusalem, there are five lost crusaders seeking each other.

Why?  What for?
And what happens when they find each other again?

These are the questions he will have to face once night falls once more upon the city of Jerusalem.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Vampire 30-Day Challenge: Favorite Other Entity (Mage)

Vampire 30-Day Challenge: Favorite Other Entity (Mage)

Magic has always had its allure and the temptation for greater power will always be there.  Unfortunately, while I loved the mage, I must admit to never really finding the Mage metaplot as interesting.  So I will confess to finding this question harder to answer.

So with out much choices to really choose from there's only one I can cite to represent the Mage I liked.  This would have to be Samuel Haight.  Yes, the infamous shinning example of what ambition and power gaming can bring you is the person I will have to mention here.  Why?  Given how encompassing the Mage line is, with a cosmology that crosses over Werewolf, a vital enemy that resonates with Changelings, a Sphere which renders Wraith their plaything and a history that locks fangs with Vampire, Samuel Haight for me epitomizes the darker and brighter aspects of Mage.

Samuel Haight teaches us to never let anyone else tell you what you can and can't do, then proceeds to complete the lesson by being the universe's biggest douche bag in all of metaplot history.

Thank the gods he ended up as an ashtray in the end.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Vampire 30-Day Challenge: Favorite Other Entity (Werewolf)

Vampire 30-Day Challenge: Favorite Other Entity (Werewolf)

I will admit I was never a huge fan of Werewolf.  I liked the concept, I adored the idea of the Triat and the concept of the Fomori. But I just felt the Werewolves were less about horror and more about super heroism and that admittedly turned me off.

But if I were to choose a Werewolf entity I liked, I would have to give the vote to the Fomori.  Heck, I even ran a few games based on them!  (Sadly only one got recorded.)  But the idea of playing ordinary folks who are irrevocably changed into these disgusting horrors that have awesome abilities was just too cool a concept to ignore.  Among the many stomach-wrenching powers I loved, my first vote will have to go to Stomach Pumper which allowed the player to launch disgusting juices at opponents.    A wicked second place goes to Savage Genitalia which just really was a homage to animated classics such as Urotsukidoji: The Legend of the Overfiend.  Finally, I will always adore the concept of Brain Eating.

The Fomori were disgusting and cruel and I loved how the write ups in the book of examples on how Pentex and its affiliates lured people into the corporation worked.  Granted, there was some concern over the supposed homophobic sections of the book, I found them personally to be appropriate given the book's context and theme.

The Fomori are monsters that truly explore the idea of humanity pushed to its brink.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Vampire 30-Day Challenge: Favorite Other Entity

Vampire 30-Day Challenge: Favorite Other Entity (Mortal)

Okay, this is an interesting twist on the challenge.  My favorite mortal other entity.  By definition, mortal does include werewolves, mages, changelings and the like since they are not immortal characters (compared to mummies, vampires, etc).  However, if one were to use Mortal the way the World of Darkness refers to them, those wouldn't count as well since they are supernatural creatures.

To choose someone who fits BOTH definitions then, I would have to say my choice would be Sullivan Dane.  The vampire hunter featured in the back of Vampire: The Masquerade.  He was classy and dangerous and always wore gloves.  He understood vampires and knew how to use their weaknesses against them.   He was calculating and calm and I liked how he looked.

And you can never go wrong with giving them gloves.

He was like the Terminator when we had him show up in our games.  He understood how to use the environment against the kindred and had immense senses to find advantages where we thought none existed.  He was truly an antagonist worth remembering.

I feel sad he never got transported to the Vampire: The Eternal Struggle.  It would have been cool to have had a Sullivan Dane card, perhaps one who had better abilities than the Muddled Vampire Hunter or Millicent Smith.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Gossamer Saga ep05 : Homebrewed System

The Gossamer Saga : Revolution

Episode Five
"Field Work"

Home-brewed Game

Kale, Quince and Ash make preparations to revisit the ruins of Staniga.  The three have realized that the cultists that were encountered in the past were huddled beneath the city's streets. The possibility existed that they had escaped the destruction of the city.  Ash sadly has little to share in the discussions, with her memories addled when she "lent" them to Chi'tairn.  Quince demands a weapon from the Blacksmith and when his demands seemingly get threatening, the smith calls his golem guardians once more.  While they argue, Kale uses the device that had been attached to his hand to open a portal beneath the golems.   Quince even forces the ceiling of the chamber to collapse, forcing everyone including the blacksmith to jump inside.  Instead of reappearing at the rafters where Kale and Ash once arrived at, they instead find themselves in the chamber where Kale had confronted the demon and created a massive tree to escape.

Back at the Gossamer Tower, Larkspur and Faraker return with Chi'tairn who appears in the guise of Ash.  With her totem and memories, Chi'tairn's disguise works well to bring her inside the tower without alerting others.  Larkspur schemes to get back at Ballouise for being always spoken of as the Bright One, and opts to use the cloak Magda had given her.  She recalls the cloak was meant to cause Ballouise's influence to fail.  She considers the idea of unraveling the cloak into thread which she hoped to use in some kind of sympathy magic, but the attempt fails.    But as she learns Ballouise is the center of the religion, Larkspur takes it upon herself to spread the faith, and bring back the light to Staniga.

Elsewhere, Dawn and Chi'tairn are talking about Staniga and what they are up against, but neither of them truly grasps the immensity of their foe.  Chi'tairn protests the choice of Dawn's helper and asks for an artifact which she needs if she is to help Dawn.

Back at the place beneath Staniga, Kale, Ash and Quince investigate the cavern.  The blacksmith and two of his golems are with them, drawn through the portal thanks to Quince's machinations.  As the group argues over how to investigate the location, the blacksmith has one of the golems tear open the door.  Ash continues to struggle through her memories as she finds bits and pieces of recollection on why the place was important to her. She finds the room which drew her close before and starts to look though the contents for anything that would jog her memory.  Kale and Quince argue with the blacksmith, who insists he wants nothing to do with them.    Ash sadly fails to find anything that strikes her as important.

Larkpur, back in her room, gains a visit from Dawn and Chi'tairn.  Dawn tells Larkspur of the importance of Chi'tairn reaching the bottom of the tower, past the room of Seers, where an object of import lies.   Dawn expresses how imperative it is for Chi'tairn to get this object.    Larkspur is tasked to make a distraction, which she accomplishes by using the angelic manifestations her room had created for her to support the Trust.  The angels gain her likeness and with both song and religious fervor, Larkspur steals the attention of the guards and seers quite easily, giving Chi'tairn the opening she needs.

Ash continues to dig through the boxes while Kale considers inspecting the mirror for another glimpse of his father.  The mirror still works and Kale sees the image of a crowd of shabbily dressed people in a dark area.  When Ash cuts herself, it happens to be the same moment when her memories surge back into her mind.  Ash sees the mirror and challenges Kale about an old argument; whether or not there is a time to kill a person.  Kale insists his father is a good man and considers that he and the others may be food for the demon.    Quince attempts to understand the golems.  Using the Trust, Quince recalls the order of the Apiary and gains control of one of the golems.  When the group finally get to the room with the people, Ash realizes that Kale's father is not someone who registers in her memories.  If Ash was to kill someone, it definitely wasn't him.  Kale fails to recognize his father in the crowd.  Quince starts to menace the people, demanding they talk and give answers but none seem to have anything informative to share.

An explosion rocks the Tower.  Larkspur sees Chi'tairn fly through the air and slam into the wall.  As Larkspur quickly moves close, she declares Chi'tairn under her protection.    The guards quickly surround them both.

And back under Staniga, Quince considers calling the demon somehow as evidence once the Order catches up with them.  The group knows the Order is making its way to locate them and they have a limited amount of time to either find more evidence or find a way out.  Tokens surge and suddenly almost completely invisible figures move towards them.  Kale looks at the far wall and sees the corridor beyond it where armed cultists close in on their location as well.    The group finds themselves trapped as cultists close in to catch them, and the invisible assailants turn out to be guardsmen from the Gossamer Tower!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Vampire 30-Day Challenge: Favorite Enemy

Vampire 30-Day Challenge: Favorite Enemy
And again, I wrote a post answering a question that had not yet been posted.  So here I go repeating what I wrote previously:

My favorite enemy would be Jadviga Almanov of Bohemia.  The woman is cruel, selfish, devious and deadly.  The woman lies the way humans breathe.  The woman spins facts around with the ease of a potter and concocts plots with the ease of a storyteller (ahem ahem).  I have portrayed her in three different ways given the multiple times we have played Giovanni Chronicles in our group.

The most memorable one that I recall would be when I based her on Anne Bancroft's portrayal of Ms. Dinsmoor in the 1998 Alfonso Cuaron film adaptation of Charles Dickens' Great Expectations with a dash of my favorite Judi Dench.  She was seemingly lost in her thoughts and tended to move into weird tangents while talking to others, but without warning would snap into full predatory focus and remind the vampire of who was the teacher and who was the student in the scenario.

She challenged the players to truly prove their loyalties to their sect, forcing them to turn a blind eye towards their sect's horrible skeletons or challenging them to speak up and take action against their self-appointed leaders.

My personal favorite moment with her, was when she eventually wrapped her strings around a player character so well, he could not help but admit to caring about her as she was the closest thing in the World of Darkness he ever had to a mother.  A true mother.  After all, "She watches and waits, and knows my every moves.  And yet, she berates and insults my every attempt to break free from her.  She is the deepest hatred and the source of my wrath, but without her I would have never been reborn."

He still killed her.  He held her close, kissed her and told her it will all be okay, then held her in place as the sun rose past the horizon and began to burn them both.  And in the tiniest of moments remaining before Final Death came to claim them both, he willed the Earth below him to swallow him up and left her to burn alone in the unforgiving heat.

"Goodbye mother.  Today, I have shown you.  I am no longer the student."

He rises at the return of night and finds her ashes on the ground, near the remains of her darkened ring are scratches on the ground.  He blows against the ashes and they reveal the markings she had left before the flames consumed her completely:   You taught me well today.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Vampire 30-day Challenge: Favorite NPC

Vampire 30-day Challenge: Favorite NPC
Hmm this is a tough one.  There are just so many good characters in the game to choose from.  Then again, we are talking about a game line which has spanned from prehistory to the modern times.   Do I choose Saulot himself, an Antedeluvian whose actions in the past linger all the way to the present and whose machinations unfold to cause terrible things at the dawn of Gehenna?  Do I choose Ambrogino Giovanni whose ambition and tenacity far outweigh those of his contemporaries?  The man who sought to devour God himself and become an omnipotent force in the World of Darkness itself?

What about the ladies?  There's Fatima al Faqadi, the Assamite who breaks the all-male tradition of the Assamite Clan, or Lucita Aragon, Fatima's lover, and the "daughter" of the infamous Ambrosio Moncada who eventually work together to kill the Archbishop for all he had done.

So many to choose from.  So many awesome characters to cite.

My group's favorite would be the infamous Lady Jadviga Almanov of Bohemia, who became even more reviled to the players than Claudius Giovanni himself.  Boy was she a thorn on their side, double crossing the Conspiracy and then double-double crossing the Founders when she had the chance.  She was a Blueblood in more ways than the Ventrue would ever admit, and she was a wicked vile thing that knew how to manipulate even the best Cainite out there.

But I guess I would have to admit that my personal favorite would have to be Anatole.  The Malkavian from the Dark Ages who finds himself glimpsing the machinations of the Antedeluvians long before the rest of the World of Darkness learns to believe in their existence.  His rants and ravings do not go completely unheard of, thankfully, and many Noddists even seek him out for guidance and information.

He eventually pours out everything he could of his visions as a stream-of-consciousness record that covers the walls, floors and ceiling of what will become the location of his Final Death.  This happens at the turn of the millennium just as the coming of Gehenna begins.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Oh Onyx...

So, this came on live...

And while I do feel excited about it, I feel miffed that this is getting ready and yet there is still no clear sign of Exalted 3rd edition will be giving me more than just updates anytime soon.  I understand the reasons for the delays, but I just feel frustrated that I've already shelled out a lot for a book that's not coming around anytime soon, and I now can't get this upcoming cool book cause my funds were devoted to a project that can't offer me a download of 99% of the text the way this one has... on its first day on Kickstarter.

I just feel frustrated.

I really want to support the Onyx Path.
But I am starting to wonder if my money on Exalted is going anywhere.

I wish they'd at least give us backers more than just them updates.
Other projects I backed sent earlier drafts of pdfs.  Others even sent text documents for backers to help proofread, etc.  And from the Exalted kickstarter?  I've gotten a piece of artwork.

So, will I back the Demon Kickstarter?  I might.  I dunno yet.  Maybe.
With a chuck of my funds redirected to help those struck by the typhoon, I might have to pass on this for now.  Here's hoping those who DO support it don't feel as shafted as I do about the lack of Exalted updates beyond just... words.

System Shopped: The Storm Rises - Forbidden Desert

The Storm Rises
System Shopped: Forbidden Desert
by Tobie Abad

One of our favorite board games is the Forbidden Desert by GameWright.  In this game, the players have crashed into a desert and cooperatively have to find the parts of the airship that are buried in the desert.  But there are dangers in this desert.  The sand can bury the whole group, defeating them.  The need for water can overwhelm them, their thirst finally killing them.  And finally, the storm itself may rise higher and higher until it becomes so strong the players have no hope of surviving.  This was exemplified by The Storm Picks Up card and the Storm Meter in the game.

For us, we can call it, The Storm Rises.

Now let's talk about adding that thrill to your games.  Here are a few ways to do so:

I. The Storm Rises
At the start of the game session, take a small container and place it prominently in front of you.  Be sure to do this so the players notice.  Then start your game.  Don't concern yourself with any questions they may ask about it.  Don't explain what the container is for.  But as you run the game, each time the players fail a dice roll, throw in a token/die into the container.  As they continue to make sure errors, add more tokens/dice.  Every now and then, check how many have been added and respond with a "Hmm..." or "Tsk tsk.."

The storm rises.  The players feel something is up.  Worry grows.  Fear begins to set in.  And you never had to tell them to think that.

II. The Rising Escalation of Danger
Another way to approach this is to have a single die set on the table in front of you.  As the players go through the story, adjust the die up one face.  This rising tide of danger should match the pace of the story.  Why?  This rising tide of threat will represent the bonus that all opposing rolls will get against the player, specifically for all appropriate combat rolls.  This will represent the oppressive surge of dramatic force that makes the heroes feel that everything is against them.

III. The Battle Should End Soon
Perhaps instead of giving opponents bonuses to their rolls, you can instead make the bonus an adjustment to all damage rolls that they make.  So while the enemies are not "suddenly getting better," the stakes of the battle are more and more felt as a lucky break on the opponent's side can spell a deadly wound upon the hero!   Perhaps just to keep this from going out of hand, reset the counter back to zero the moment the extra damage is inflicted.  And don't forget this can apply as extra damage the heroes inflict upon the enemies too.

IV. The Timer
I've been running Jared Sorenson's Lacuna with a real-time rule which wasn't really specified in the book.  All game sessions for Lacuna have been having a 3-hour time limit, which really helps give the game a tension that doesn't exist in other games.   Perhaps your Storm Meter can instead be five minute reductions of this time table each time they are triggered.   This might be a tad harder to pull off for most games which are grounded in reality, but for fantasy games (or surreal ones like Lacuna) this can easily make sense in an in-game way.

V. An Actual Storm
Lastly, you can have an actual storm battering upon the setting as the story progresses.  Regardless of the timeline of your game, a rising storm can have numerous consequences that are sure to complicate and challenge your gamers.   Look into the hazards brought into play by strong winds, torrential rains, and rising floods.  Consider the complications of power outages, overflowing rivers, and improperly maintained sewers.  Remember to take into account the problems of limited visibility, the lack of access to food and water, and even the greater possibility of infection.  

Storms are not limited to wind and rain, either.  Think of the grand danger posed by a terrible lightning storm as it ignites dry woods and shuts down power plants.  Imagine the terrifying affair of a sandstorm that blows winds strong enough to cause the swirling sand to strip flesh from bone.

In the Forbidden Desert, when the storm rises it is no joke.
Why not add that to your games as well for a new experience your players won't soon forget.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Vampire 30-Day Challenge: Favorite Alternate Setting

Vampire 30-Day Challenge: Favorite Alternate Setting
I find this topic to be a bit confusing, since Vampire's line-up was mostly a singular metaplot save for the Gehenna book which offered alternate scenarios.  Unless one takes into account the hint of a cyberpunk Vampire setting hinted at White Wolf's magazine (named White Wolf Magazine).  I suspect, however, the question is intended to suggest that Camarilla is the main setting, then Sabbat, Inconnu, Tal'mahe'Ra and probably even the option to play Ghouls, Gargoyles, minor Bloodlines (Blood Brothers, etc) and Revenant families are the Alternate Settings.

Given that possibility, I will have to say the Sabbat.

I always celebrated the freedom that Sabbat offered, whether it was potential for stories that explored the fine limits of morality, or games that allowed the cathartic release of frustration and anger.  The option for Sabbat games allowed players to be the monsters in the game, or alternately portray the dark heroes that the Camarilla will never truly understand.

Of course, the Sabbat were very broad strokes of the monster spectrum, with selfish demons like Sascha Vykos to the calculating Ambrosio Luis Moncada to the truly monstrous ones like the Little Tailor of Prague.  So players were given a very wide berth of options to explore.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

A Single Moment : Work in Progress Teaser

A SINGLE MOMENT : Work in Progress Teaser
by Tobie Abad

The two samurai stared at each other.

Once they were friends. Brothers. But now the time has come for honor to be regained.
For vengeance to be unleashed.
The two samurai narrowed their gaze. Tightened their grip. Adjusted their footing.

There is a single moment to end it all.
That time is now.


A Single Moment is a two-player game that is played in a series of scenes (or for longer games, game sessions) called Chapters. Each Chapter represents a flashback where the players explore the events that lead to this single final moment. So imagine the game as a movie that opens with the Samurai finally facing each other, then having a series of flashbacks that explain their relationship and how it lead to this final moment, with the finale being the final fight itself.

To play A Single Moment, you need the following:
1) Two players who are willing to play the role of Samurai warriors who have a duel to settle
2) A character sheet for each player (you have permission to print out personal copies of the sheet at the back)
3) Around six pieces of six-sided dice per player. It helps to have a different color of dice for each player.
4) Three colors of tokens. One color will represent Choice Points. Another color will represent Hatred. The last color represents Edges. For groups that aren't comfy with so many tokens, you can simply track them with marks on the character sheet.

(side text box)
How Many Chapters should A Single Moment be?
For a short game, five chapters is enough.
For longer games, eight chapters is an option.
Bear in mind, a chapter may be a single scene, or a whole game session, depending on how you want to approach it.

The game will always open with the Opening Scene.
Unlike most role-playing games, in A Single Moment players do not start by creating a character concept.  Instead they go through the first scene establishing who they are, who they are to each other, and what the setting is.  Starting with the player who last saw a martial arts movie/documentary, that player declares the following and fills in the missing details:

"My name is (insert name).
I am of the (insert name) Clan.
This is my story."

The next player then declares his version of the same declaration.
Once these introductions are made, the two players will alternate declarations of the following items, starting with the first player.  Each player can fill in the detail of a single item at a time.  Players must work together to build a coherent setting.  The declarations are:

The story is set in a (describe the locale).
The story happens (describe when the story occurs).
The story lasts (describe the length of time the whole narrative will eventually take).
The story is a story about (choose one Virtue).

There are seven virtues of Bushido, the unique philosophy which ruled their martial training and day-to-day conduct.  One of these seven virtues will serve as well as the key theme of a game of A Single Moment.

I. Rectitude
A story of dying when the time to die is right.   Of striking when the moment to strike is right.  It is the foundation of all the other virtues.  The unwavering power behind a decision of morality.

II. Courage
The spirit of daring and bearing.  To rise and meet even that which one cannot fathom.

III. Benevolence and Mercy
Understand when to befriend even one's enemy.   

IV. Respect
There is a proper order in all things.  A harmony brought by politeness.

V. Honesty and Sincerity
There is no need for written pledges. One's word is one's bond.

VI. Honor
Live and die by one's honor.  Or commit haragiri (seppuku) to preserve lost honor.  

VII. Loyalty
One's loyalty is more precious than life itself.

With the setting set, whoever made the last declaration for setting then officially opens the Opening Scene by declaring the first fact of the location of the final battle.  As before, players then alternate turns in choosing declarations to make:

The single moment happens (state where).
The single moment happens with (Choose one: None, Many, Select few) to bear witness to it.
The single moment happens at (declare the time of day).

Once all three declarations are made, the next player then closes the Opening Sequence by creating the first Chapter.

Every Chapter is created in the following manner.  
1) A player declares the opening lines of a Chapter to set what the scene will be about.  That player is the Active player for the Chapter.  The opening line should always begin this way, "I recall that time when (short summary of focus on Scene)."
If the player opts to, he may choose to make the Chapter focus on one of the Three Key Chapters.  (See Key Chapters below).

2) The players then co-narrate the scene, with the Active Player portraying himself, and the other player taking the role of the Game Master.  The other player will role-play for any other characters who are introduced into the scene.  Either player can introduce characters when they want, however only the player who introduces a specific Key Role is permitted to role-play that role (See Key Roles below)

3) Whenever conflicts arise in the scene, players resolve using dice and spend Choice Points when necessary. (see Choice Points below)  Conflicts include dramatic moments in the scene, or when there are disagreements between the two players on how an event or action should resolve in the Chapter.  The Chapter must support the short summary given above.

4) At the end of the scene, players note down the Edge they have gained, any Scars they have received, and any Hatred they have earned.  The Chapter ends.  (See Edges and Scars below)

5) The next player then becomes the Active player and creates a new Chapter.
If this was the Final Chapter, the game then moves to the finale:  A Single Moment.
[teaser ends here]

So I've been working on A Single Moment and so far it has started to shape into a much more realized game.  Given the first set of feedback, I've tried to polish things better and clear the system more.  I am still undecided if I shall attempt the Kickstarter route with this, or take my first solo dive into Drivethrurpg.

I still need to find a good artist whom I can commission for some art pieces and a good graphic designer who can nicely lay this out into a pdf, mobi, epub document for actual release.

But yes, we are getting very close to me finally releasing a solo stand-alone project for the role-playing game community to enjoy.

I'm pretty excited!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Vampire 30-Day Challenge: Favorite Scene/Location

Vampire 30-Day Challenge : Favorite Scene/Location
I would still have to give this to Giovanni Chronicles I, The Last Supper, when the players discover the true nature of the event they have been invited to at the Red Lamb Inn.  As Marianna is brought in with the clamp around her throat and the tap engaged, the players learn the horrific truth of what role they are to play in the dinner with the elders.

Yes, it is campy and rail-roady now.  But back then, it was a masterful stroke that caught most players off-guard.  Most vampire games would have the players start by playing what is called the "Prelude" where they meet their Sire and experience the Embrace.  In Giovanni Chronicles, what began as a Prelude turns instead into a horrible nightmare where the players realize their characters are meant to be the food for the Elders who had been given them as personalized feeding treats.  Only the timely arrival of Raphael de Corazon and the rest of the Founders forces the Conspiracy of Isaac to embrace the player characters and leave them to buy time for their escape.

So the player discover they were not meant to be embraced at all, and now are embraced with the blood of Elders in their veins, and stand before the very group that will found the Camarilla who see them as threats and tools best kept on a tight leash.

It epitomized for me the tragedy of Vampire's Dark Ages.  It was a time where great power was easier to grasp, but the social chains of prestation, status and the three pillars of society pounded the vampires down to pawns nonetheless.

I still fondly recall the players back then, using the "holes in the back of their napes" as the small means to check if the other was indeed their ally or just someone masquerading as them.  It was a detail none save them, if not the Conspiracy of Isaac would recall.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Weeping Blade Smile ep02 : Legends of the Wulin

Weeping Blade Smile
Episode Two

"Water Chestnuts, Bird's Nests and Pheasant"

I am the Omnipotent Dreamer, Ching Eng.
Upon my charts I trace the lines of Destiny and see the entanglements that are to shape the flow of the world.  I see two elders discussing over tea the fate of their daughter.  I see how they wish to the strings of happiness of my beloved Xiao Shiah Lin to the detestable Bai-Yan.    I see how the yang of Governor Yang Sung yearns for the yin of Yue Fan, but his attempts to know her are confused by Gallant Eagle and Vigilant Hawk's confusion over which woman the rotund official desires.  I see the former lieutenant of the Rabid Dogs hunt for the trail of their wayward master.   His questions lead him to the Xu Clan, where a small temple is watched over by Xu Tan Nu, whose Priestly affairs are practiced when the husband is away.  This visitation would most likely be witnessed by Bai-Yan, who would remember the significance of the ivory comb he had left in the drunken man's possession.

Today is a sweet day for poison.

That much I am certain.  Xiao Shiah Lin is destined to cross paths with me again.  Just as the Vigilant Hawk will be tasked to hunt himself.  

I visit Dong Wang, the prisoner of the Eagle Talons, and easily gain access by sharing with them a wine softened with sleeping herbs.  The man admits to me his actions were meant to humiliate the Xu Clan after he and his brother were bested by Xu Rui on the Mountain Pass.    When I inquire about his appearance, he admits that he was advised by Man In Green Robes to the whereabouts of a Doctor Din.  The Doctor, it was said, was to give him the benefit of the Flesh-Shaping Technique.

The Governor writes a letter to invite Xiao Shiah Lin to his home.  I must subtly urge the others to reconsider the invitation.   I must prevent her from being there when he enjoys the fruits of my labors.

How do I draw the others in?   Perhaps it would be best to start with the Doctor.  And the Flesh-Shaping itself.  That would be the answer to the question puzzling Xu Rong Sai, who would soon come to visit the Xiao Clan to ask my beloved's mother, Xiao Cai, his questions regarding medicine.  There are precious few to ask about such techniques, and Xiao Cai may be the closest one he shall consider.

This would require, however, a more active part for me to bring Xiao Wei Long and Zi Ying to the same household.  Xiao Wei Long will be drawn by the smell of wine, and Dong Long would be the perfect lure for the Frozen Wolf.  The two chasing each other should draw Zi Ying's attention as the Vigilant Hawk's sight will surely capture their movements in the city.  If things go well, this would then draw Yue Yi into the web as well, as their sounds are sure to reach her sensitive ears.

All gathered, the need for hospitality would force Xiao Cai to invite all to a dinner.  And in that dinner, Xiao Shiah Lin would be far to preoccupied to reconsider the Governor's invitation.

Jasmine.  Yue Yin still smells as fragrant as before.  And Xiao Cai is surely to serve Xiao Shaih Lin's wedding wine to celebrate XIao Wei Long's return.  This would emotionally hurt my beloved enough for me to sweep in and comfort her.

"Tonight is a good night for truth to reveal itself," Yue Yi predicts and I agree.  Tonight is indeed a night of truths.

The dinner.  My beloved's cooking is marvelous.   There are snippets of conversation but I am lost in the deluge of flavors that usurp my focus.   The first dish invigorates the senses.  Awakens the tongue for the flavors to come.  The second dish seduces the palate.   Yue Yi touches my arm to warm me the soup is hot.  I feel my skin afire.  Are my longings for her still alive?  The third dish reveals richer and thicker spices mingling among the meat.  Xiao Wei Long and Xu Rong Sai seem preoccupied over something.  The details elude me.  Xiao Cai mutters something about her husband having been abudcted.  The Rabid Dogs are lose.  Yue Yi is hired to locate the man posing as Frozen Wolf.  I turn to Vigilant Hawk but find myself unable to say anything out of confusion.  Xiao Shiah Lin?  Yue Yi?

How does the heart choose which death to permit and which happiness to embrace?

News reaches the people.  The Governor is dead.

My predictions remain true.
More so when I make sure they happen.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Vampire 30-Day Challenge : Favorite Adventure You Have Ran

Vampire 30-Day Challenge :  Favorite Adventure You Have Ran
Hmm... another challenging post.  Given the many games I've run, if I were to stick to White Wolf, it would be the Changeling multi-chronicle game I had (It spanned three generations of characters).  Some would feel the best adventure I ever ran would be Sacrament, that had four players, and around 13 Lurkers who were non-players but were given information on the game's plot and the freedom to contact the players "in character" whenever they wanted to.  It was a meta-fest that really hit awesome moments. ("Tobie, can I help the players in the scene?  One is texting me to help out."  Me: "Sure, we're playing at [name of venue]. If you can get here in thirty minutes, you're in the game.")

But again, I have to keep the answer Vampire-centric to match the 30-Day challenge theme, so with that in mind, I think I would have to choose:

Giovanni Chronicles.

We just can't get enough of this adventure.  Yes, lots of naysayers out there will cite how rail-roady it is, with unbalanced characters and insane scenes, but in many ways those are the things that make us love it.  The rail-road allows us to explore other avenues without leaving the plot.  The unbalanced characters tells us to stop thinking about "defeating them" and instead allows us to explore interacting with them in various ways.  It is like enjoying a movie you've seen over and over again.  There's always some new angle to discover.  Some new scene to appreciate.  Some new line to throw.

And yes, we do twist things around.  I've had games were Marianna DIES during the Last Supper, and all Marianna scenes later on are attributed to the actions of a player.  I've had a version were all save for three Conspirators were destroyed by the Founders.  This lead to the Conspiracy of Isaac being more ruthless and cruel in their later actions.  I've even had a game where one player ends up the Childe of Ambrogino Giovanni.  Oh yes.  That child would, in the end of that game, diablerize his very own Sire in a bid to claim the Tetragrammaton for himself.

Giovanni Chronicles are such a delight to run.

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