Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Oh Old School Fantasy Love

I must say, I really enjoyed this.

And yes, I dare say I would LOVE to see this get the full Peter Jackson film treatment someday.


Friday, December 27, 2013

The Antigone Council ep02 : Night's Black Agents

The Antigone Council

"Androv on a Plane"
Episode Two

Night's Black Agents


Undisclosed location. Undisclosed Time.
Samantha Miles, Dispatch Officer.

Samantha Miles is in a video conference with a group of people, who seem intent to criticize her selection of agents to work for the Antigone Council.  As they share their views on each one, the matter boils down to, "Can they be trusted?"  Miles admits, "No.  But that's why we have John Smith as their operations leader."


New York City, New York. United States : 11:21:05
Clarice Rosenberg, FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit

Clarice finds safety as she visits the old neighborhood church where she grew up.  She holds her mother's rosary and quietly prays for guidance as she realizes the world might not be as complicated as she had expected.  The world might be far more insidious.


Gold Coast, Queensland - Austraila - 11:49:52
Nicole Tran, ASIS-Specialist Officer.

Nicole Tran visits the Age Care Home to speak to her grand mother.  She feels safe here, as she speaks to her mother whose age has deteriorated her condition.  The grand mother mistakes her for her own daughter, and asks, "Did Arkady pass by today?"  Nicole simply pretends he did to keep her from worrying.  Her thoughts swirl back to the loss of David, and she hopes that the group she has joined will help find answers which the ASIS could not uncover.


"As you can see," Miles continues as the group watches the live video feed of the Church and the Home.  Neither Clarice nor Nicole realize they are being watched, "The agents are well monitored and show much promise in helping us deal with.. the threat."

"And of the others?"

"Currently in Berlin.  Blind drop.  Operation to commence in two days.  By then the ladies will be back."


Tiergarten, Berlin - Germany - 16:52:01 local time
Robert Finocchiaro, 1st SFOD-D.
John Smith, KGB Cleaner.

Robert Finocchiaro waits inside an adult sex shop for the blind drop. John Smith had confirmed that the drop will be taking place inside the private booth #6 at noon. Assigning Robert to wait inside the shop as a customer, John reads a book at a cafe across the street. 

A 5-foot tall petite woman with a red mow hawk and piercings steps inside the shop and glances at Robert. before ducking behind a shelf of dildos and other adult toys.  As the noon hour passes, Robert worries that the drop has been cancelled and peeks into the booth to check if anything was left behind.  True enough, a burned disc is found under the television set as planned.  He wonders if the woman was the contact.

John and Robert regroup at the hotel, and send a coded message back to Miles on the successful retrieval of the drop.   The two pack up, knowing they have a flight to make in a few hours.  As they make their way to the airport, Robert is amused and shows off his cover identity for the trip.  "Looks like my name is John Smith for this flight," he grins.


New York, New York - United States - 11:52:01 local time
Clarice Rosenberg, FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit
Nicole Tran, ASIS-Specialist Officer.

Office space.  That was the excuse that allowed the three women into the office building.  On the 14th floor, Miles shows Tran the prepped computers and tells her to get things started.  Miles wants a live connection with the two who are most likely enroute to their flight back to the United States.  "See if you can find a way to get in touch with them."
They learn from John and Robert (Notice) an unexpected surprise: The Breaker of Poland is on the flight.
Somehow, the man they presumed dead was a passenger on the flight.

Clarice decides to contact Jessica Tran (Network: 3) and tries to get her to confirm if the body of Mikhail Androv was found in the ruins of the burned hotel in Wolochy, Poland, the Melody Grand.  Jessica admits she can check, but asks Clarice if she is willing to do a favor for her too.  She is curious about something called the Rosenberg Diary, and hopes Clarice can help out.  Clarice wonders if its related to her family, and Jessica jokes that may be possible.  Clarice promises to look into it.

The flight was going to last at least 10 hours.  Miles has Nicole message the two to stand down and under no circumstances let the man know they are there.  She then tells Clarice to get ready and map out a plan to shadow the Breaker when he arrives, "We just might be lead to whoever is behind this mess."

Berlin Air, enroute to New York from Berlin.
Estimated flight time, 10 hours and 30 minutes.

During the first few hours, both John Smith and Robert Finocchiaro resort to looking asleep and covering their faces somewhat.  John sticks to reading his book, while Robert covers his face with a sleeping mask and wears headphones to deter people talking to him.

John soon learns the couple seated beside him are a newly wed couple, who seem to be insistent in getting from him tips on whether or not it really is exciting to have sex in the bathroom plane.  They seem to have mistaken the glances John and Robert were exchanging to mean that.

Robert notices the annoying kids seated in front of him, and so he contacts the flight attendant (Intimidate) to make sure no one bothers him during the flight.  The attendant immediately apologizes for the "bad seat" and glares at the children to remain silent.


John pretends to fall asleep, sinking into the blanket.  The couple giggles and escapes for the bathroom at the rear of the plane.  Robert too pretends to sleep deeply.


Around three hours in, the breaker suddenly stands up from his seat and stumbles to the business class bathroom.  When some people happen to be along the path, he loudly urges them aside and slams the door to the bathroom shut loudly.  The man seated across from Robert stands up, walks towards that area, and observes the bathroom door for a moment.  Robert and John quickly surmise the man is the Air Marshall of the flight.  


Back in New York, Miles demands a way to keep track of the team and Nicole gets on to it.  She figures out a way to bounce the signal from the airplane's transmissions to link up to the telecommunications services that have coverage even at that distance.  Using her Digital Intrusion and Surveillance, she eventually finds a way to transmit and receive information from the plane, by silently switching on mobile devices serviced by a specific carrier. 

Nicole quickly works a way to tap into the mobile devices in the flight and lucks out on a shot of the Air Marshall .  She searches for his file, and thanks to her Research, identifies him to be Troy Venzer.  She notes his superior officer is a man named Donald Deutsch.

Clarice, on the other hand, has fully transformed herself into a flight stewardess.  She bids the two goodbye and makes her way to Logan International Airport, with the plan to meet with the breaker as he steps out, and somehow, follow him as he leaves the airport.  Miles warns her to be careful.


The man emerges from the bathroom after some time, and walks calmer back to his seat.  The Air Marshall walks back to his own seat, and eventually strikes a short conversation with Robert.  John retires to the bathroom for a short moment, and walks back to his seat without a word.  Robert realizes John is preparing for something.


Around two hours left before landing, the breaker once again roughly hurries to the bathroom.  The Air Marshall stands up, concerned, and Robert learns close as the Marshall passes.  The Marshall knocks at the door, asking if everything is okay, and the breaker eventually answers in a calmer voice, admitting he was feeling violently ill.

When he emerges, the Marshall sternly warns him, and thankfully the breaker backs down and apologizes to the authority figure.    John and Robert count their blessings as the plane begins to make its descent and no incidents have happened during the whole flight.

Logan International Airport, New York - United States - 22:32:01 local time
Robert Finocchiaro, 1st SFOD-D.
John Smith, KGB Cleaner.

Clarice Rosenberg, FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit

As Clarice walks towards the new arrivals from Air Berlin, she (Notice) sees the breaker walk towards the men's room.  John and Robert follow behind calmly, with Robert giving Clarice the signal to watch the door.  Clarice quickly reports to Miles and Nicole that the two seem to have changes the plans to shadow the guy.  A group of foot ball players emerge from the crowd and approach the men's room as well.  Clarice uses a bit of her savvy (Flirting) to convince them to walk with her to "another bathroom," where they can get to know her more.

Inside, John calmly confronts the Breaker and makes no effort to hide his identity.  Robert draws out the gun of the Air Marshall which he had (Filch) taken without his knowledge, and warns the Breaker to try anything.  At that closeness, however, both can see how the Breaker does show signs of a man who had been stitched back up together.  The Breaker seems amused to see the two, and calmly surrenders to them, warning them, "You have no idea what you just apprehended."

To the team's surprise, a car is already at the terminal waiting for them.  Nicole and Robert jump in, after securing the Breaker inside, and learn that John Smith had prepared for this possibility (Preparedness M.O.S.) even before the trip to Berlin.

"Where are they taking him," Miles asks Nicole.

"House viewing," comes Nicole's reply.


Undisclosed location, New York - United States - 23:02:04 local time
The chair is bolted to the floor.

The Breaker is secured against the chair itself with cable ties.  Nicole and Clarice feel odd about what is about to happen, already sensing something is up.  Miles informs the team to get whatever information they can, and leaves them to handle it as she claims she needs to report to the Council.

In the basement, John gets dressed into his Cleaner usual outfit, with the apron, the elbow gloves and his tools.  Robert looks at his team-mate uneasily, sensing this was about to get... dirty.

"Something is wrong with my device," Nicole taps her screen as she notices her laptop seems to be on the fritz.  The digital clock seems to be showing a two hour delay.   Clarice stares at the many monitors that Nicole had set up and struggles to accept the impossibility of it all.  The man was showing no heart rate and yet was there sitting and talking to the others.

Well, perhaps not talking.  Gloating.

"You have no idea at all," the Breaker sneers.

To Robert's shock, John begins to cut the man, plunging the cutter blade into one of the slightly open stitches on the man's chest, popping apart the threads that tie him together.  The man hisses, telling them that they cannot stop what is coming.   The others struggle to stay calm, but are deeply disturbed as John cuts away a flap of the man's face, clipping away the skin without hesitation.

"He's dead, yet he's... not," Nicole is deeply bothered, and her fears multiply when she stars to see the Breaker struggle against his bonds.  The way the body moved... the unnatural motion of it... reminded her of something... of someone..

"John," Robert tries to stall him, but John simply cuts another flap of skin away.  Almost as if he's eager to find what's lurking underneath.

"The time's all wrong," Clarice notes as her own watch shows a delayed time.  The lights begin to flicker and the Breaker continues to laugh.  One of the cable ties breaks off!

"Hit the switch," Robert yells as the John finally opens up the Breaker's chest with the Y-shaped cut used during post-mortem investigations.  Where the man's heart should be, a black oil hovered.  It was roughly round shaped, but pulsed and grew spinky protrusions as the Breaker got more animated.  The Breaker ripped his own arm off to free it from the chair.  He was now lurching forward to tear himself free.

"Hit It!"

Gunfire.  Shots struck the Breaker, and yet he remained squirming.
Electricity surged through the body, and the black oil erupted like a jagged obsidian flail.  The body continued to writhe.  Robert found himself recalling a long blocked memory:  The Delta Force operation in Beirut.  "Burn it!"  And so they did.


As the toasted body of who was once the Breaker cooled down, the group reached a calmness enough to inspect it further.  (Forensics) revealed that the estimated time of death seemed still consistent with when they burned him down, even if the monitoring equipment earlier registered no pulse, no breathing, nor the actual presence of a heart in his chest.  (Chemistry) determined that the black oil was not present anywhere else in the man's system.  It seemed to have accumulated and simply... stayed.. in the chest area.  Now burned, there were tremendously small traces of the oil left behind.  (Military Science) Robert realized the operations he once took part in Beirut concerned these multiple metal canisters of Black Oil.  They were marked with biohazard symbols.  The operation was to burn each and every one.

"They called it... the Nigredo.   There was supposed to be something called the Albedo as well.  And a third word, I just can't recall.."

"Rubedo?" Nicole offered.  "The White, the Black and the Red?"

The silence was interrupted by a ring tone.

All turned to Clarice, who drew out her cellular and saw Jessica Tran's name.  "Yes, Jessica," she muttered as she held it to her ear, "What do you have for me."

"He was sighted there," Jessica admitted, "But there's no official papers stating he died there.  I'm still going to check into that first thing tomorrow morning. The thing is, the reason I called was something else.  I looked into the Rosenberg Diary I was hoping you could help me out with.  Turns out, the Diary was penned by the woman in charge of something called Operation: Orange Soda.   And the name of that person.."

Clarice gasped.
The name was that of her grand mother.

End of Episode Two

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Aqueduct : Shadows of Esteren

The Aqueduct

Shadows of Esteren

Ran a one-shot Shadows of Esteren game for my office mates with three players joining the fun.  Richard asked to try a fantasy game and after narrowing it down to something with a gothic horror feel, I felt Shadows of Esteren was the perfect game to try.  Ever since Mahar and Erich introduced me to the game, I've been wanting a chance to take a stab at running it.  Thankfully, that day came on Friday the 13th of December.

The Cast
Azaz, a Demorthen who lives in the outskirts of Celementine's Valley.   He lived alone, ever since his home and family were razed by what Azaz believed to be the spirits angered by his actions.  He had the Stones of Animal and Fire.  He had a sixth sense on things and was nimble.   Played by Richard.

Sklaer, a Mercenary from a small town. Though he was among those considered noble in his home town, he had become poor for reasons he rather not mention.  He knew Survival and Fighting Arts: two weapons. Played by Ryan.

Tor, a young soon-to-be Varigal who was about to be given his first task by the Chapter House to prove his readiness.  He had fighting arts: Archery, Good sight: Hawkeye, and was Quick.  Played by Jigs.


The scene opens in the small city of Ingress where Viktor, an old and experienced investigator, is at the Chapter House.  He had requested for a varigal guide and Tor would happen to be the one available for the job.  Though uncertain if the young man is ready for the job, Viktor sees the fire of enthusiasm within and decides to accept it.   Viktor shares that he had been called to help out as something seems to be attacking people in the darkness of nightfall in Clementine's Valley.   As he adjusts his monocle, the old man gives Tor some funds to purchase the needed equipment for the trip to the Valley, which was to take a few hours down the path at the Southern Woods.  "Are you the son of the Varigal Degor?" Viktor asked to which Tor confirmed, "Yes."  "Then you should do well."

They sadly, would find themselves a few hours later lost in the woods, with Tor admitting soon that he had practiced more his archery skills than his wilderness lore.  The two eventually find the path again and hear the sounds of commotion within.


It stood like a bear, towering at nine-feet tall, with a black coat of spindly protrusions extending from its body.  Its six limbs were muscular and jagged.  And its head was like that of a fleshy mantis, with black orb eyes that reflected the faces of those it killed.

What bothered Sklaer as he ran towards the thing to strike it with his short spear, was the utter silence of the scene.  Even with the people running away in terror, and the village militia struggling to overcome the fear that forced them to the ground,  and the poor victims that were crumpling into ripped apart pieces around it, not a single wide-open maw made a sound.

It was almost as if the thing swallowed the screams.

The thing moved, and Sklaer leapt to dodge but he moved too slow.  He crashed to the ground slightly bruised from the impact.  Then the fire came.

And the noises.

The demorthen wreathed the flames around his extended hand, the tongues dancing from a small stone in his palm.  Azaz muttered quite plainly, "The thing hates fire," and though they had never met before he and the mercenary moved to flank the thing between them.

The thing rips itself into two, revealing insectile forms that hid beneath the flesh and fur.

Both Azaz and Sklaer struggle to mentally take that moment in.


"An Obos," Viktor mutters as he and the 17-year old Varigal come across a thing dead in the forest.  The investigator studies the markings.  "Obos are infestors.  They enter their hosts and live within them.  But these things take time to breed.  I am tired from the walking.  Can you carry me the rest of the way?  We must hurry to the Valley."

Tor picks him up, carries him, and the two quickly make their way to the valley where sounds of metal can be heard.


The Demorthen tries to confuse the thing, throwing fire at its face.  The thing moves to strike when an arrow flies through the air and kills it.  Azaz turns to see a young man with an old investigator by the gates of the town.  He holds a bow in his hands.

The arrow that was launched has killed the obos.

As Sklaer searches the corpses for anything that would be of value, the town's mayor comes to the group to thank them, with a magience weapon in her hands.

"Clementine," Azaz mutters.  Viktor smiles at the old woman with the weapon and its quickly clear to them all that they know each other.  "You can stay at the Nearby Inn," Clementine tells them, but then turns to the mercenary, "And you?"

"He works for me," Viktor interrupts to their surprise.  "We will need an additional hand with weapons to deal with this issue.  I will pay you."  Sklaer agrees, happy to hear there will be money involved.

"Being mayor is no joke," Clementine snarls at Viktor.  "Be glad this isn't your job."


At the Nearby Inn, the voluptuous redhead owner named Mosel welcomes them and shows them their rooms.  Azaz leaves to speak with the mayor who doesn't seem to happy to see him come visit.  "I never trusted your kind," she growls but he counters, "You need me."  She hands him some money to pay the group.  Reminds them to settle this as quickly as possible.

The group opts to rest for the night.


Morning comes and Viktor surprises them all to already be awake by the time they gather for breakfast.   Viktor had gone around to gather information and has learned that some obos nests were found in the vineyards.  Tiny nests.  Not the kind that would have grown larger mature ones like those that inhabited the bear.

"The vineyards are cleared out leaving only one possible place they may be hiding in." The group stare at Viktor as he explains, "The aqueduct.  The valley has an aqueduct to help them maintain their vineyards.  I suspect there is a nest in there."

The group finishes breakfast and prepares for the spelunking.  Tor quietly counts his arrows and worries if he is truly ready for this.


The tunnel they take is filled with water.   As the water continues to rise as they get deeper and deeper, some of them slip and struggle to keep their balance.  Viktor tells them the tunnel should end at a junction room which would most likely be where the nest is hidden.  "What we have to truly worry about is there probably is a queen there.  Obos cannot breed on their own.  They need a queen that should be laying eggs."  The others shudder at the thought.

The junction room is at least ninety feet deep.  The group emerges at the bottom and sees the two metal ladders at the opposite ends that allow one access to the many other pipes in the chamber.  Some pipes leak water, while others seem dry and sealed.  Viktor moves to a slightly raised area and starts pulling out things from his kit.  The others watch as the devices lock into place and slowly become what look like the framework of a tiny shanty.  "I will prepare the means to cleanse the aqueduct here.  The rest of you find the queen and the nests.  They are likely to be at the levels above."

The three stare at the two ladders.  And they unanimously agree to stick to one ladder.

Two flights up, they start to find pipes that are covered with web like filaments.  Cocoon like prisons.  "Nests," Tor mumbles.  Sklaer starts ripping part of his clothes to prepare a makeshift torch with one of his short spears.  Tor ignites an arrow from Azaz' lantern, reminding the others, "These things dislike fire."

"There," Tor spots the pipe with the excess filaments.  The group wonders what to do next.  Tor let's fly an arrow into the pipe.  And the chamber is suddenly arush with obos flying out!

"The mother is in there!" Viktor calls out!  "Good find!  Now just buy me time to prepare the device!"

The things are legion, flying like a swarm of swords!   All three struggle to keep the terror at bay as the things swirl closer and closer.  Only the mercenary's burning spear keeps the things at bay.   Tor's eyes follow the pipe and sees a lower junction of the pipe that lead to it.  "We fill it with oil.  We burn it out," Tor suggests.

Deciding its the best thing to do, Azaz first crawls to the lower pipe and pitches an oil pint inside.  Then he heads back up and throws a second pint of oil into the pipe.  Tor launches a second arrow to ignite it.  The explosion flares out from both ends, with Sklaer being thrown to the floor by the blowback, unconscious!

The mother emerges.  The queen of the obos.  A massive engorged thing of fire and cracking parts.  It screams in anger and swallows the sounds away.  Tor is forced to sling his bow back and starts dragging the unconscious mercenary with him.  Azaz struggles to keep things at bay with his fire.

But the obos are relentless and eventually some break through the flames and rip at them. Tor suffers multiple wounds, with his condition quickly getting critical.  Even Azaz starts taking injuries that are quite bad.  Sklaer wakes up in time to help defend them as they retreat back to Viktor.  Thankfully, it was enough time to get the magience device running.

The shanty activates and unleashes a fan of oil sprayed out from the shanty like a fountain.  Small sparks from lighters ignite the oil and a burning wall of flame rises to block the obos from reaching the group.  They struggle back into the pipes to make their escape.


The town cheers as they emerge, seeing them alive is hint enough for them to believe that it means they were victorious.  "Too old," Viktor mutters to the group, "The queen was too old.  It was a few generations old.  Something or someone must have let them grow."   Azaz catches a woman in the crowd who isn't cheering.  He recalls her when the "bear" attacked, and recalled how she seemed to be wanting to rush forward to the scene of the attack.  Like someone wanting to rush towards a loved one.  Sklaer notices the woman as well and separates from the group, making his way to a nearby building to clamber up and try to find the woman.

As Clementine comes forward to congratulate them, the unexpected thing occurs.  Azaz launches a crossbow bolt into her chest!  While everyone stares stunned at what happened, Tor pulls away into the crowd, not wanting to be associated with the demorthen.  He doesn't know why he'd do that, but he does know he's done his job.  As far as he's concerned, he's hurrying back home to Ingress to get away from this crazy place.

Sklaer hears the crowds panic and struggle to make sense of what just happened.  He decides to hide and waits for nightfall to escape.  Azaz uses the distraction to leave, and Viktor is left behind, holding the dying Clementine and with tears in his eyes, whispers to her to rest and that everything will be okay.  She dies in his arms.


Days pass.

Tor, now a varigal, still has sleepless nights when she recalls the odd events at Clementine's Valley.  

Sklaer stole away during the cover of night and never looked back.  He still wonders who the other woman was and will never grasp why Azaz had chosen to murder Clementine.  He never mentions his trip to Clementine's Valley ever again to anyone.

Azaz finds himself surprised to find Viktor finding his home at the outskirts, and the old man learns that Azaz mistook Clementine to be behind the nests.  Viktor tells him that he understands and that the town is now safe.  "You are welcome to return," Viktor tells him, "And as mayor I can pardon you of what happened."  Azaz tells him he will consider it.

And in the cover of darkness, a woman visits the new mayor of Clementine's Valley.  Viktor smiles as the woman leans close, kisses him on the cheek, and tells him, "Our babies were a success.  The obos can be bred to protect our valley.  All we have to do is prepare a new batch in the future."

Viktor smiles.
It is good to be mayor, after all.

Friday, December 20, 2013

My List of Things To Run in 2014

Since I'm saving the 2013 Retrospective post for the coming New Year, I felt I should at least post about games I would love to run in 2014.  This year was a fantastic romp with me having expanded my horizons with over 12 games, and that's not even counting the many other games I got to try running even after that self-challenge.

Anyway here's a list of games I hope to be able to run in one way or another in the coming year.

Something Cthulhu...
I will admit, I have had very little exposure to actual H.P. Lovecraft work.  I've read a few stories, and seen some of the films inspired by his work, but I've yet to truly run a game that was written with Cthulhu and Lovecraftian horror in mind.  There was my personal nod to the mythos which I ran for Rocky, Victor and Mahar called, b/Dread which was really directly inspired by Alan Moore's Neonomicon. Then there was the attempt at a Google Hangout game with Arj and Erich using the tremulus system but sadly due to technical issues that didn't even go beyond a third of what I wanted to achieve.  So yeah, 2014 is the year I want to wet my hands on some deep Mythos game.
Possible systems:  tremulus, Cthulhutech, Eldritch Skies, Trail of Cthulhu
Target purchase: Graham Walmsley's "Stealing Cthulu"
I've heard so many good things about this book that I just might find the funds to get it for my research into constantly being a better GM for my groups.

Something Dune...
This, I shall admit, is one of the two games I want to yet am terribly afraid to do so simply because I feel I will do the source material no justice.  But ever since Rocky got me to actually read Frank Herbert's DUNE, I found myself spellbound by the intensity of the world.  The many lines where science, politics and religion intersect mesmerized me.  The concepts of the Navigators, the Bene Gesserit and the Reverend Mothers, the Shai hulud and the Fremen, all these were both exotic yet surprisingly familiar for me.  And I wanted to somehow capture that experience and reshare it to my players in a game.  (Part of me is tempted to do something soon in one of the chronicles I'm currently running, but we will see if I get the courage to do so.)  Given how much Rocky loves Dune, here's hoping I actually succeed when I take the dive into trying.
Possible systems: FATE, DUNE: Chronicles of the Imperium, DUNE: A dream of rain, DUNE: Twurps
There are also DUNE-related games created by fans using the Apocalypse Engine, so that's another direction to consider.

Something In Outer Space...
Yes, this would be the Star Trek game.  I'm too scared to even call it that in the title.  But Rocky loves Dune as much as he loves Star Trek, and I would love to find a way to run him a game that captures the feel of the shows.   But man, there's just so much lore in the show that I just know I'll get things wrong.  I can't even tell the alien species apart yet, or recite who are allied with whom.  But if the gods be willing, I would love to find a way to celebrate the geekdom with my partner more by running him and other members of the local Star Trek group, Via Astris, a session or two.
Possible systems: Federation Commander: First Missions, Star Trek: The Roleplaying Game (Decipher), maybe even Diaspora

Something with Big Robots...
I miss mecha.  I miss players fighting swarms of aliens in an attempt to save the remnants of the human race.   I miss those flowery explosions and those fractal trails of missile smoke.  I miss the intensity of war and the drama of love during such a tumultuous time.  It would be like Miss Saigon with forty meter power suits.  It would be like Romeo and Juliet while planets are torn apart.    I miss my mecha games.
Possible systems:  Robotech/Macross (Palladium), The Aegis Project, Bliss Stage, Battletech

Something very different...
My first dive into something very different was when I heard about Sorensen's Lacuna - The Birth of Mystery and the Girl from Blue City and told myself, "this sounds so crazy and different I just have to try it."  And guess what, it had the wonderful feeling of experiencing something so uniquely new just like when I first had a hand in trying out a game by an old company called Chameleon Eclectic, Psychosis.   The game was such a fresh new take that I just had to try it and boy was it truly a rush.  Nowadays, many people are finding this kind of a rush with the Apocalypse Engine, and with Fate.  But what about the less known games that are out there?  From Josh Jordan's Heroine, to Ben Lehman's Hot Guys Making Out... Perhaps one of the many games in the upcoming Protocol Game Series of Jim Pinto, or maybe a wacky game like Nick and Jake's Sea Dracula.   I just want to make sure I don't make the mistake of sticking only to a few game systems like I did in the past.  There are just so many new approaches, experiences and twists to role-playing games out there now that one would be a very close-minded fool not to try and experience more.

Something in Time...
A long-term Doctor Who game chronicle.  I want to run this.  While I'm no major Whovian, I do want to explore the fun of running around timelines, saving the universe in so many ways.  I want to see River Song get the spotlight this time, as the characters join her on a romp to rescue the Doctor himself.  Which incarnation?  Spoilers.

But yes, I want a Doctor Who long term game.  One where I can throw in a plot that unfolds and reveals all its twists within a span of three to six real world months.  And yes, I want River Song to be part of the run.  I'd probably even call it, "The Many Misadventures of Miss Song"

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

In development: mem:RE

Another one of my upcoming projects is mem:RE a super spy agent where what you can do is as flexible as what you can recall.

Each player is an Agent.
Each game session is called The Mission.
The Mission can run from one to three hours.  It runs in real time.

 At the end of the time period, if the Agents have not succeeded in the Mission, the Mission is Aborted and they are Reformatted.

Inspirations for the game include:  Josh Whedon's Dollhouse, Jared Sorensen's Lacuna, the Wachowski siblings' Matrix, Peter Chung's Aeon Fluxx, and David Cronenberg's eXistenZ.

For those who find the premise curious, do check out the protoype for the character sheet.

If I'm lucky, or the gods be kind, I might just launch the finished game as a Kickstarter project.
Or perhaps a Drivethru product.

Here's hoping.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Blood and Smoke: the Strix Chronicles

It begins!

I was such a huge fan of the chronicle books that were released before in the Classic World of Darkness, I find myself tempted to support this just to see more of them come out in time.

Check it out folks:

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Vampire 30-Day Challenge : Best DM I've Had

Vampire 30-Day Challenge : Best DM I've Had

I have not been a player that much in my life.  From my first game under those seniors in the school bus, to my first few games with my brother Mike, and cousin Arjay, as we explored Marvel Super Heroes, and misunderstood the Dungeons and Dragons boxed sets, to eventually my games with the neighborhood friends (Oliver, Rommel, Quincy, and Ryan) who allowed me to join their ongoing Forgotten Realms campaign as Shel Downwind, female Paladin of Tymora, then the many other games using Macross, Robotech, Star Frontiers, Top Secret, and such, to the games with schoolmates that included a Legionnaires game using the D.C. Heroes MEGS system, the various White Wolf games, and those odd few LARP sessions, I actually don't have that huge a pool of Dungeon Masters to choose from as my favorite one.

I would like to say Adrian Martinez.
A great friend of mine whose passion for gaming is paralleled by only a handful of people I personally know.  He is a gifted storyteller who understands the intricacies of theater and story and yet knows how to balance drama and character with drive and passion.  Sadly, I have not had more than a single game session under him due to the fact that in many events we usually are both running games for other people.  And worse, I haven't been able to game with him again since... personal events severed some ties.  Rocky and I still hope to hear from him again someday, and hope to rekindle the gaming flames once again in some near future time.

Thus the honor goes to the GM who made a HUGE difference to my gaming life: Ryan Mendoza.    
Ryan is my childhood gaming GM, my friend, and a huge inspiration and motivator to my gaming life.  It was he who let me portray that female Paladin and break the ice with a new group of friends I did not even know back then.  He was the one who pushed me to try running games as well. He was the one who taught me to learn to just run a game as a GM and to stop getting too worried about having to know everything down to the smallest detail.  He was the guy behind me who gave me the thumbs up whenever I'd run darker games and remind me to enjoy the darkness every now and then.

Currently, Ryan is headlong in a freefall dive for his other huge love, making comic books.    If you want to check out his stuff, take a peek at Shuriken Studio and check out his comic book: Weird Cases Volume 1: Matt Loner and The Shadows of Eden.

Thank you, Ryan.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Vampire 30-Day Challenge : Favorite Supplement

Vampire 30-Day Challenge : Favorite Supplement

Without repeating stuff I've already named in previous Day Challenges, I would then cite the Days of Fire online tickler as my favorite "Supplement" to the Vampire game.  The online tickler was present on the www.white-wolf.com website way back when the game line was about to close with the Days of Judgement line of books.  I actually "saved" the tickler (and added a few of my own entries) here cause back when it came out, I ran a series of end of the World of Darkness games for various groups and used the tickler to help them feel like their actions were making a difference (or at least getting noticed).

But yeah that was a lovely add-on to the game which really helped push the immersive quality and horror of the World of Darkness to the sessions.   I am still excited to see more alternate forms of supplements that will come out to enhance games.  Hunter, for example, had a series of modules called The Collection of Horrors which included audio clips to enhance the game.  Some games like The Bell (Flying Monkeys) come with an awesome soundtrack to make the games more fun.  I feel we can say goodbye to the days when only other published books count as supplements to the games we love.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Vampire 30-Day Challenge : Character I Will Never Play Ever Again

Day 28-A character you will never play ever again

I will answer this with a very brief sentence.

I will never ever play again characters who are insulting cultural stereotypes just for laughs.

And I do hope if I do slip in this promise, since sometimes one does embrace stereotypes to make character tropes more easily identifiable, if any players feel offended or uncomfortable by that portrayal, they will tell me immediately so I make the proper corrections.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Happy Birthday John Wick

Yes, I will easily admit it.
I worship the guy.

I love his views on gaming. I love his games.
I so wish to someday write for him.  Or with him.
I so wish to someday game with him.
Or run a game for him.


John Wick inspires.
John Wick challenges.
John Wick creates.
John Wick mystifies.

I am proud to say I am a John Wick fan.
And I only pray that he appreciates how thankful I am of having him as a font of inspiration (I was about to write muse, but I felt odd thinking of him in a Greek dress).  But I think one can easily peek at this blog and see the many articles, games, and home-brewed systems I've come up with thanks to the inspiration he has shared.

I even wrote these Houses of the Blooded fan-systems:
Add the infamous Weeping Angels of Dr. Who to your Houses of the Blooded games.
Add the awesome concept of Giri from Blood & Honor to your Houses games.

A party event for your Ven.
Add the infamous Thief from Settlers of Catan to your games, whether for your Provinces, Vassals and other optional systems.
More systems for your Houses Game, including a way to come up withs more interesting gifts for Althuas.
Inspired by unlikely movies, some quick scenes to inspire your Houses games.
Five unlikely inspirations you might find just as inspiring for your game.
Adding the concept of the infamous Cathedral of Flesh of the World of Darkness into your Houses games.

John Wick, someday I hope to release my own game.  
And yes, you will be among those I shall thank for inspiring me to take that creative leap.

For now, however, all I can offer is a HAPPY BIRTHDAY GREETING that comes off as a huge fangasm moment.  And I hope that's okay.

Learn more about this awesome man and support his games here:

Beheld Saga ep02 : Dungeon World

by Reine Brand
Beheld Saga
Episode 02

Dungeon World

The town of Codcliffe needed heroes.
And The Order of the Elven Song  arrived.

In the days following their arrival, the heroes had begun doing what they could to win back the town from the clutches of the Illithids.  Astrafel and Enkirash had each  slain one of the mind flayers.  Aegor had slew five with the use of his shape-shifting gifts.  Halek and Fenris on the other hand had killed six.    Slowly the "safe zone" in the town grew larger and expanded, as more rescued townsfolk gathered those they could and kept them safe.  With hit-and-run strikes and tactical assaults followed by strategic retreats, the four were well on their way to liberating the town.

But the group had many things that complicated the matter:
The townsfolk would fall unconscious and be unable to help them during battles due to some ritual which Enkirash had yet to break.  The Illithids did not seem to suffer the need of sleep either, forcing the heroes to cycle their activities in order for some to still regain some semblance of rest.  And worse yet, the group had started to notice an Illithid whose robes were of a different color.  A leader, perhaps? 

Enkirash suggests Aegor sneak in to deal wtih the leader. "I know you can do this. I have foreseen it."  Kurd admits to having sworn to uphold peace and detest violence.  The others convince Kurd to at least go with them and bear "witness" to the events.  To just observe and write songs of it soon.  Kurd agrees and admits maybe even someday they can visit his own homeland.  The group admittedly is just happy to have an anti-magic ray on their side.

Fires.  The heroes rush outside to find many buildings have been set ablaze.  The mind flayers, hovering in the air, have thrown fireballs at them and flown away.  The others can still hear the screaming of those inside the buildings who have awoken due to the pain of the heat.  The many others, however, remain trapped inside and asleep and unaware of the coming flames!  As they quickly spread out to try and help, Enkirash notices a dazed man walking up to them with a scroll in his hand.  Aegor leaps at Enkirash as a leopard to pull from away from falling debris, then snatches the letter to check what it contains. Astrafel sings songs about helping people and tries to empower everyone to act better together in killing the flames.  His songs guide the people to bring water and try douse the flames.  Enkirash checks the scroll and finds no magic upon it.  The scroll is a warning.  To leave or for more people to be burned slowly to death.  The group realizes there is no time to delay.  They have to strike.  They know the mind flayers have gathered by the tower to try to exhume their deity.  It was the best place to strike.

The Paladin, Gillean, is overcome with anguish of hearing the dying screams.  She rushes to the nearest building and embraces the flames away from it.  She is too late however, and far too many people have still died a fiery death.  Angered, she runs towards the tower as the flames dance around her.  She has grown tired of protecting and now seeks to fight.

The others realize it is time.  Kurd offers his ship.  To fly to the tower from above.  To take down the Illithids before it was too late.  The group agrees.  They head to the port to bring the ship.


Angered, Halek rushes off to track the mind flayers, and at one point even drops his carried rations to keep chase.    As he gets closer, to the tower he begins to hear the frustrations within as the other mind flayers have begun to question if the payment is enough for their sympathies.   As he peeks from his hiding place, he discovers the one in the different robes speaks in Elven.  And more interestingly, has feet that touch the ground.  Halek was certain: the man was no Mind flayer like the rest.

"Send the Nautaloids. We must bring the tomb to another place."

The three mind flayers take to the sky and Halek realized they were headed back towards the direction of the tavern.  As Gillean arrives, Halek informs her that the leader seems to be inside.  The Ranger opts to rush back, fearful that the townsfolk and the others would need his help against the trio.

He does not see Gillean enter the tower, ready to fight.
Or the robed figure addressing her, and revealing his non-Illithid face.


A giant falcon soars to the sky.  Aegor and the others are on their way to the docks to get the ship.  The others were unaware of the mind flayers already enroute back to the tavern where the group had set base.  Aegor, however, felt something was wrong and opted to trust his animal instincts.

As he soars on his journey back, he notices the tavern is already under assault by the things.  He dives to strike!   Halek had been launching arrows at the three, with Fenris striking in coordinated moments from the nearby rooftops.  But the mind flayers use their Telekinesis to lift the roof of the tavern off it like an opened can. They squeeze the debris into a boulder, then engulf the boulder of wood in flames.  The townsfolk, asleep from seeing the three, are unable to run.  And the boulder, burning with flames, is then dropped upon them!

As an arrow stuns one mind flayer, Halek attempts a second called shot with his bow and misses.  Aegor angles his dive to crash into the remaining two mind flayers, and sheds away the massive form before the impact hurts him as well.    The air around them begins to shift though, as smaller debris begin to get flung towards the tower's direction.  Something has happened and everything is starting to get sucked towards that direction.  As Aegor assumes a new flying form, Halek and Fenris leap on and the three charge forth, believing that the others would eventually join them at the tower.


The winds get worse.  Rooftops and tiles begin to tear away. Carriages are dragged in the same direction.  Where the tower once stood, a gaping hole in the realm now stands.  A portal into somewhere else.

The Portal Hungers:   Roll +Con
10 : You've only suffered 1d6 damage
7-9 : You've suffered 1d6 damage plus, choose one:
    You are out of spells/ammo
    You are dangerously separated from the rest
6 : You are down to 1d6 hitpoints

Most of the group resists the terrible winds, but are separated from each other.  The biggest victim of the winds is Astrafel who not only get separated from the rest, but loses his Lute in his fall.    Aegor opts to find the bard while the rest rush into the tower.

Inside, the other realm is truly a sight to see.  Four Nautalis ships close in, with long grappling hooks descending from their sides.  Enkirash and Halek see Gillean in a battle against the robed figure at the edge.  His Drow features are now plain for all to see.  Gillean is caught in the Drow's polymorph spell and is transmuted into something tiny!  Halek commands Fenris to rush and snatch Gillean while the two close in to fight. But the Drow uses an item to summon a winged monstrosity into the scene to fight them while he connects the grappling hooks to the tomb and gives them the signal to leave.  Enkirash realizes Fenris had been overwhelmed by its animal Instincts and had swallowed Gillean whole! The Drow laughs as he leaves, clearly believing himself to have succeeded in his diabolical plot.    Halek and Enkirash wish to fight, but they realize they have to save Gillean first before it is too late.  As they hurry out of the collapsing tower, Halek sees a bag from one of the Illithid bodies and snatches it before they go.


Outside, Aegor finds the lute and searches for Astrafel.  When Astrafel notices the massive animal, he sings to be noticed! The Druid, seeing his leader, drops the lute to snatch the bard before he fell from the collapsing roof he was on.  Astrafel bemoans the loss of his lute and Aegor opts not to admit he had dropped it.  The two search for any signs of the Lute.  The bard mumbles a sad lonely song as they realize there cannot find the instrument.  When it crashes to the ground in front of them, Astrafel is heart-broken as it was "a gift from the Elven King himself."

The two are picked up by Kurd's flying vessel and return to the tower to see Halek and Enkirash struggling to get Fenris to throw up.  The animal, however, has no understanding of the word.  Aegor comes close and using his Druidic ability to speak to animals easily coaxes the Savage Fenris to allow him to draw the monkey out of its stomach.  Gillean, it seems had been polymorphed into a monkey.

The enemy had escaped.

There seemed no choice left in the matter than to try and take chase.  

"I know where he would go," Kurd admitted, "There is only one place.  But I will not force you to come with me unless you want to."

The place Kurd had in mind, was Sigil, the City of Doors.


The group travels through the Phlogiston, the substance that separates the spheres, and stops at what seems to be a dock in the middle of rainbow gases.  Kurd explains no spelljammer vessel can enter Sigil.  "For Sigil, you will need to use something else."

The group steps inside and Kurd talks to the man in charge, easily swaying him to allow the others passage through what looks like an ordinary door.  Enkirash's sharp eyes catch the detail that the key the man uses to open the door oddly bites into the man's skin and draws blood before it opens the door.  The groups steps through and discover the wondrous and odd world of Sigil.

Kurd tells them of the six districts and suggests that he knows a man who might be able to offer information.  The man is based in the Clerk's Ward and so it will take some walking to get there.  He was called "The Teacher" and for Kurd, he was the closest thing to a true friend.   Along the way, the group tries to absorb the sights as beholders argue with trolls over payment, humans talk to blue-skinned figures that speak with images and letters, and odd triangle-shaped creatures with arms and legs march down the road in perfect synch.

Halek digs into the bag which he had taken from the Illithid and realizes it is a Bag of Holding.  He pulls out bottle after bottle of picked things and opts to sell it to a seller by the bridge.  The seller goes crazy, offering large sums of coin for the jar containing what seems to be a pickled bat.  Another man offers instead two Keys and tells him he would be foolish to trade that for merely coins.  Halek agrees to the offer and watches as the man throws away the bat and holds the container up and smiles at having acquired something he calls "A souljar."  Halek starts to wonder how valuable these odd things really are in his new Bag of Holding.

The group quickly learns that in Sigil, the currency generally accepted is any coin from the realms.  But proper exchanges are done with pain as the currency.  Kurd explains that the sole power in Sigil is the Lady of Pain, and she has actually locked Sigil from being infiltrated or visited by any Divine power.  Halek realizes that explains the faint presence of Myshakal in his senses.  The group continues through the districts, with the members of the Order soon splitting up due to finding curiosities int he marketplace.  Halek purchases an arrow of shadow that supposedly can hit its target regardless of where it is.  Aegor and Astrafel discover that a woman selling musical instruments can repair his damaged Lute, but then has heard of the Eleven King supposedly having shared a popular anecdote of a man he fooled into thinking he was gifted a precious lute, when all it was was just an ordinary instrument.  Astrafel tries not to get further depressed while Aegor realizes, "You're a medusa!"  She takes offense at the monster label and admits she is still hoping to gain better acceptance for her kind in time.  She relates her story of having come to Sigil due to love, but the man who promised her a key never gave her one.  The keys Halek presented turn out to be the keys she speaks of.  Each Cager (people of Sigil) are given a Key to freely travel through any door in Sigil to another realm.  She had hoped to have one but never did.  When they offer the key Halek had gained (one had a snake pattern and the other a dragon), she is overwhelmed with joy and agrees to give Astrafel anything in her shop for it.  

Enkirash finds a shop of curious items and learns the man helming the place was a halfling.  The bald figure admits to having once been an adventurer, but laments how in time "saving the world loses its charm."  He offers Enkirash some advice, telling him it is best they choose their adventures and stay away from the larger stuff until they have no choice.  He then mumbles something about once having been an Archmage and is just happy to simply manage a shop now in Sigil.


The drow.

Halek spots the drow in the market place and quickly moves to take chase.  As they run, Aegor and Astrafel hear the commotion and follow suit, with Astrafel telling the medusa to take care of the lute.  Enkirash rushes off as well after them, and the four close in on the Drow whose attempt to escape has ended with him wrongly running into a cul-de-sac.

The group gets violent and the drow takes some blows.  With this happening in public, many start worrying about the violence in the streets.  Enkirash notices the Lady of Pain's people observing them as the others start screaming at the Drow to undo the magic done to the Paladin.  The monkey screeches in agreement.

"I can't," the Drow admits, "Not after I lost all my magic."

The Drow had opened the tomb, and what he had hoped would be his rise to greater power was instead an ancient power slapping him for being disturbed from his slumber.  The Drow had been stripped of all his Wizard powers.  Enkirash realizes this oddly meant the Polymorph, which was to unravel once the caster casted a new spell, could not be undone.  Not unless the Drow gained magic abilities again.

"Baccalaureus?" Kurd's voice rang out and the group watched as the beholder approached the downed drow.  The drow, it seemed, was the same man called The Teacher.    They learn that Baccalaureus had played Kurd for a fool all this time, twisting him and using him for his own ends.  Kurd wasn't even a bard.  Or a ranger.  The ghost bird, Archon, was just an illusion one of Kurd's own eyestalks had cast.  Angered, the group pulled Baccalaureus to his feet, and knowing the Lady of Pain herself was watching them, excused themselves to head to the Teacher's home to continue the interrogations there.


It was true.  He had lost any semblance of magical ability.  And worse, Kurd was indeed just a beholder that had dreams of being something better.  The Teacher had stolen the young beholder from the Underdark and regaled him with wild stories of heroism and adventure.  The Teacher was even the one who devised the hook-clothing for Kurd to have a "body."

The group realized they would have to take Baccalaureus back to the Realms with them, to eventually teach him Arcane magic back and release the Paladin from her polymorphed imprisonment.    All that remained was to use the Key to head home.  The group debates long on how to trust the Teacher and who would travel through the door that opened first.. or last, fearing the Teacher had created a portal to sudden death.  With a Charm Person spell, Enkirash suceeds in learning that the portal is a safe journey.  However he also realizes that the drow does care not if he died now, having lost everything he had struggled to gain. If there was one thing he desired over everything and anything else, it was to be granted a chance to start over.  Reincarnation.  Or perhaps just relearning.

Aegor, impatient, transforms into a serpent that coils around The Teacher, ready to crush him if he tried anything.    The Dragon Key is used and the group find themselves back in the Realms, standing in what seems to be an ancient altar.  Happy to have a way home, the group invites Kurd to still join them for their adventures.  "While the rise of that tentacled God may have been foiled, there's no reason you cannot stay with us and LEARN to actually become a Bard?"  In a show of faith, Astrafel even hands the Beholder a makeshift "shaker" instrument to start with.

Kurd smiles, excited to truly be an adventurer.

And the group turns in surprise as the monkey suddenly speaks.

"There is evil here."

Vampire 30-Day Challenge : Character You Want to Play In the Future

Vampire 30-Day Challenge : Character You Want to Play In the Future

Hmm this is a toughie for me given as the Storyteller in practically all the White Wolf games I've been in, I get to pretty much "play" anyone I want.  But if I were, in any recent time, told to be a player and could play anyone I wanted, I would ask for the joy of having a game start in the Dark Ages, and be given the chance to actually play a character based on River Song of Doctor Who.  I would love to be a temporally displaced character who (maybe due to True Magick going awry, or some Thaumaturgical ritual going wild, or maybe even some True Brujah cursing me with Temporis) keeps appearing or coming to consciousness in various timelines of the World of Darkness and having to survive each "jump."

For that game, I would probably fashion my River Song as a Malkavian, just so she already can cope with the madness of not really having a "permanent life" to hold on to.  She's be loaded with Auspex, Dementation and a touch of Celerity to survive her jaunts and I would probably have her less concerned about her survival and more excited over the chance to see the world in so many ways because prior to what was happening to her, she was just a blue-collar worker in some city who got attacked by some hungry Kooks and left to die in the street.

River Song in the World of Darkness.
And a chance to visit all the cool metaplot moments.
To be there in the fall of Constantinople.  To see the forging of the Camarilla.  To witness the death of Cappadocious*.  To be friends with Tremere before he tries the ritual.  To bear the sight of the cause of the Week of Nightmares.  To stare back at the Red Star.   To hear the Crone whisper to Caine's ear...
That would just be wonderful.

I can imagine her appearing in 1444, at the Convention of Thorns, and as she learns of what will transpire there, Rafael de Corazon would probably notice her whimsical smile and ask her of her opinion regarding whether or not the Masquerade would work.

And she would answer one single word before vanishing to another time line.


Saturday, December 7, 2013

Vampire 30-Day Challenge : Day 26-Favorite Discipline

Vampire 30-Day Challenge : Day 26-Favorite Discipline

I will have to reply to this with two answers.  Yes, I am cheating, but hey it is my blog.

First, let me choose among the basic Disciplines available, and by basic I meant what typically is permitted during Character Creation in a Camarilla game.  If it were what I would want to play with in the game, that would be Presence.  The sheer drama of it all was just lovely.  The ability to sway people even before you speak was just delicious.  The dark touch of creating passions and bonds without even letting them taste you blood was wicked, and let's face it, few would even resist an offer to taste you blood after a few touches of Presence.    And most importantly, the "vampiric pager" called Summon.  To be able to emotionally reach out and say, "[Enter name here] come to me now." and they feel it?  Just badass and cool.  I love it!  Dominate had too many setbacks to limit it, from Generational differences to not having eye-contact or being unable to speak the target's language.  Presence achieved more with a smile.  And yes, while it could be unpredictable, it did keep your servants and pawns from becoming mindless followers.

Among all Disciplines offered, though, I would have to switch to Auspex as the most useful, most efficient, and most dangerous discipline out there.   Being able to sense, to see, to know, and at even later stages, to HURT without physically doing something was an advantage that was hard to compete against.  While Obfuscate was just as fun, Auspex was useful whether or not you were alone or with others.

Many of the more unique Disciplines like Obtenebration, Vicissitude, Daimonion, etc had nice moments, but they did not feel as comprehensively conceptualized the way Auspex was.    I loved having NPCs who used it, and I loved it when the players were able to capitalize on it to get more information and clues to have an edge over their opponents.

I would give my left kidney to have real-world Auspex powers from 1-8.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Vampire 30-Day Challenge : Favorite McGuffin

Vampire 30-Day Challenge : Favorite McGuffin

Clearly this would be the Book of Nod.  Vampire was rich in its mythology, and in my games the Book of Nod was a delicious artifact to have in the game itself for players to learn about, fight over, struggle to keep or destroy, and have present as a key point in a story arc or two.  The Book of Nod supposedly was penned to contain the very thoughts and words of Caine himself as he spoke of his experiences and visions.  It was like, the vampiric Bible so to speak.

I feel bad, however, that the actual Book of Nod published by White Wolf wasn't that intense.  Neither was the other companion piece, The Erciyes Fragments.  Both, while very nicely written, had far too many art pieces that were clearly of the modern slant.  A better approach to the book was how they did The Chronicles of the Black Labyrinth for werewolf which was written with lots of dark lore, and illustrated to look like those old wood-cut artwork as well.

I liked though the Book of Nod as a concept and I loved sharing players fragments of the actual passages in the book as we played.  Back then, players weren't quite clear how many Antedeluvians really existed, nor what Clans and Bloodlines existed during the Second City and so on.  So to share passages from the book felt awesome for the players.  It was a sense of discovery that sadly will be hard to repeat now in a time when a quick Google Search can reveal so much material that used to be stuff that was fun to learn in-game.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Unifying Calligraphy : Blood and Honor

Unifying Calligraphy
A One Shot for a Friend session

Blood and Honor

This was a requested game night session that some friends asked for to help accompany a friend of their's back into the gaming world. The friend had stopped gaming for a while due to personal reasons and his friends thought it would be nice to have him dive back in with a tagsessions game.  Of course, who am I to say no to that?


The Clan was called Toitsu (Unifying) and the province was known for its Calligraphy.  The clever Daimyo, who was known for his Prowess, had the following Samurai in his service:

Taiki (Large Radiance) was the Onmyoji, played by Jojo.
Taiki was blessed with visions and was known to be quite Charismatic.

Takeru (Warrior) was the Kaishaku, played by Matt.
Bearer of the Clan Blade, he was Born to the Blade and known to be as Swift as Lightning.

Shizuka (Quiet and calm) was the Oniwaban, played by Princess.
She was gifted with Insight and it was said that the Winds Whisper Things To Her.

Shori (Victory) was the Hatamoto, played by Nikos.
He was perceptive and loved the game of Go, being the Excellent Strategist he was.

Kujaku (Peacock) was the Takumi, played by Rocky.
He had the Daimyo's Favor and was respected by all for his Resourcefulnes.

The story begins one late evening, as the Samurai continue their duties.  Shizuka is looking out of the window when she senses something is wrong.  She clambers up to the roof of the Daimyo's palace to find a man dressed in dark robes of a Samurai there.  The man identifies himself as Fukuro and admits he his the Oniwaban of another Clan.  He warns her that the Masayoshi Clan will no longer stand by.  He warns her that the Toitsu Clan has no choice but to surrender.  After delivering his message, he leaves by leaping into the darkness of the night.

At the Training Dojo, Takeru battles against their foot soldiers and is happy to see that it takes all eighteen of them for one to finally strike close enough to tear part of his robe.  He leaves them with words of encouragement and finds a vistor at the Dojo's door.  The man, in his green and black robes, presents himself as Chochimochi, lawgiver of Edo and he has come to continue an investigation.  He asks the Kaishaku to be escorted to a place he can stay the night.   The Kaishaku identifies the green seal of the Emperor and brings him to a nearby geisha house to rest and relax.   He then hurries to see the Daimyo to inform him of the visitor.

At the Geisha house, Kujaku hears from the Okami about how the new okiya are still not ready.  The Daimyo had suddenly shifted in his tastes and the Okami was forced to find new young girls to train.  The Courtier learns that even the type of tea the Daimyo likes has changed now to one he prepares himself.   This change intrigues Kujaku, and he decides to visit the Daimyo to learn more.

Shori is in the presence of the Daimyo as they talk about how they acquired a western cannon.  Back then, travelling wise men had visited the province and were seeking to acquire the knowledge of their calligraphy.  They gave in exchange the formula for the gun power and the techniques to create a weapon that used it.  And how the cannon currently resides safe beneath the Daimyo's room, with a pulley system ready to haul it to key locations to protect the province.  At first, the discussion was about how the Fushuri Clan has its concerns. The Takumi was to go with the Kaishaku to settle the matter.  "The Kaishaku is an open sign of prestige.  We should have a hidden ear to accompany the envoy." Shori soon learns that the Daimyo wishes to talk about something of import.  However, he asks the Hatamoto to get some hot water.  Shori is a bit surprised that the Daimyo would prepare the tea himself! He turns down the offer three times before finally leaving to get the water.  Along the way, he bumps into Kujaku and Takeru.  While the three argue over who should bring the water over, Shizuka walks past them all and heads straight to the Daimyo to report what she had encountered.  But the Daimyo asks her to wait, has the others gather, and invites them all to step into his chambers and join him for tea.    Courtier recognizes the tea: It is from the Imperial Gardens. It is very rare. It cannot travel far. "I do hope your brother his well."

As they enjoy the tea, each Samurai share their reports and the Daimyo seems unsurprised.  He admits to them that the Clan had actually been in a tenuous relationship with the Masayoshi Clan since the last year and the Daimyo had hoped to settle things amicably.  However, things did not come to pass in their favor.  The Masayoshi Clan had declared war, and the Daimyo, it seems had been attempting all diplomatic approaches in secret all this time.    Aware that the time has come to step forward and do something about the situation, the Daimyo charges Shizuka to infiltrate the opposing Clan's province to learn what she can of their strength.  Then, Takeru and Shori were to take charge of preparations for the war itself.

Are we ready for war?  The Hatamoto reports:
"We have pre-surveyed locations where the cannon would be effect."
"Gears and pulleys, allow our great cannon to be moved."
"We have watch towers at strategic spots. The guards know how to signal others visually, if need be."
"We have done the best to teach the Samurai and the Ashigaru to use the cannon."
"Fortress is ready for supplies for a long siege."
"A Treaty has also been signed with the nearby Provinces: refugees may go here."
"We also have blacksmiths from the allied Clan."

Taiki, however, would be the first to feel the brush of violence.  High up the moutain, 800 steps from the province itself, was the temple.  As he was making offerings to the ancestors in the Shinto temple, a visitor who smells of burning hair was to warn him of the impending danger.  The man was bald and had an unhealthy tone to his skin.  The deformed monk was Morokoshi, and Taiki knew him from the before as a young man named Takeshi.  "I can only warn you that danger comes to the Clan.  Depart and leave while you can.  The Masayoshi cannot be stopped."  As Taiki thanked the monk for his warning, a second visitor would come to bring violence.  Arrogantly dressed in red and blue, with a coiled golden dragon adorning his chest, Hagane Hito would come forward to threaten Taiki with his drawn Katana.  The Onmyoji remains calm and makes a prediction that moment that the Toitsu Clan shall prevail in the end.  When Hagane Hito is told by Fukuro to withdraw, the Hatamoto cuts himself with his blade, "This blade shall taste Samurai blood," he snarls.


The samurai gather and consider the preparations for war.  Of the military strength of Masayoshi, they have learned the following facts:
"They are strategically weak."
"They do not understand the power of gunpowder."
"They have no horses."
"Toshiba Clan rumored to have gone against the Emperor."
"Secret cave network of tunnels to escape exist behind the Shinto Temple."


The Executioner visits the Omniyoji and learns of the recent attack.  Given the troubles, Taiki decides it would be best to tell the Executioner about the Clan Sword.  He tells him of the legend of the sword.  How it was said to proclaim, "I have no principles."
The Kaishaku replies, "I shall follow and embrace the walking away from tradition."

With a determined declaration, the Onmyoji proclaims, "We will prevail."


"You've uncovered where the tea comes from."

"For several months," the courtier muses.

"Then you know why she sends the tea to me.  I have a secret. None know. But the Masayoshi may have uncovered it.   How else would they gain the emperor's approval?"

The courtier nods to the Daimyo's words, but his eyes scrutinize the man more thoroughly.  There was something he was not admitting.  Through Cunning, the courtier noticed the following things: He concealed a small portrait of the family on his person, he and brother look very very alike, he has no sisters, and he has been dye-ing his hair.

The courtier slowly began to understand what was going on.


The Daimyo writes a letter, addressed to his mother, who lives somewhere nearby the waterfalls.  The spy master's network reports this to him.  The spymaster also learns that the Masayoshi are a bigger Province (Rank 2) and seek to eliminate the Daimyo.  They believe they have to stop him from usurping the Emperor's throne.


The Geishas gather more information on the Masayoshi, based on the rumors people have shared.   The Daimyo supposedly is mad, but currently ambitious.  The hatamoto, Hagane Hito, is said to be Invulnerable and had survived a few Katana strikes in the past.  Most intriguingly, the Masayoshi do not have an Onmyoji.  It was said that the Masayoshi fields suffered from pests the previous season, their armies have been showing signs of discontent.  Many of the common folk believe they are being punished by their ancestors. And there are rumors the Masayoshi do not have an Executioner nor Yojimbo.  They have no Clan Sword.

The Daimyo admits to them that the Masayoshi have been attacking since the previous year.  Just that a lot of the attacks have been subtle.  It is then that they realize that the Masayoshi have embraced the symbology of the owl.

And owls never build their own nests.

"They have been among us all this time."


Summer arrives.  A new Season.  At the Shinto Temple to discuss the unfolding war.  The Onmyoji speaks to the rest of his prediction. "My readings remain the same.  We will prevail."

The Samurai gather at the home of the Spy Master for a meeting with the Daimyo.  They speak of the cannon being prepped for the fight.  Of a landslide, ready to be triggered, to block the mountain trail leading to the Province, to force any enemy army to a narrower path.  And of having enough supplies to hunker down and wait the war out for months to come.

But then the Masayoshi strike, and their manner of attack catches the others off-guard.  Rather than attacking with their disgruntled army, the enemy samurai instead stalk the streets of the Province.  The Masayoshi soldiers that had infiltrated the Toitsu Clan's army had found their way into the palace and had uncovered the cannon.  However, not truly knowing how to use it, they instead accidentally discharge it.  The cannon booms as it destroys part of the Daimyo's home.  And the people panic as the enemy Samurai walk the streets and slay anyone that comes too close or catches their attention.

"Clan Toitsu was to prevail," the Onmyoji reminds them, and the samurai rush outside.  Shori sees the Masayoshi Hatamoto at the street, but rather than confront the man, he diverts to the palace to deal with the cannon.  Part of the landslide was triggered by accident and great rocks roll from the mountainside onto the province, destroying homes, farms and killing people.  As Shori reaches the palace and finds the ruins of the Daimyo's room he realizes the enemy that hoped to steal the cannon had instead killed themselves.  He ushers the Ashigaru to gather and calls on the other warriors to follow his lead.  When he notices the other Samurai from other nearby provinces (perhaps provinces attacked by the Masayoshi months earlier), he demands they come to help and gets disgruntled when they refuse to obey his commands.  When he chances upon Morokoshi, the monk that came to warn Taiki, he instead has the monk killed despite the monk's show of surrender.  Shori cared nothing about dishonoring the Clan, given the anger in his heart.
Given the last minute-nature of the game, this art work served
as the key inspiration for the enemies in the story.

Takeru and Shizuka find themselves encountering Fukuro, who hurls owl-shaped daggers at the Samurai to stop them.  When Takeru tells Shizuka to go ahead and guide the Daimyo and the others to safety, he raises the Clan sword to challenge Takeru to a duel.  Honor-bound, Fukuro drops from his hiding place and agrees to the duel, which has Takeru telling the nearby soldiers to move aside and leave them to fight.  However, Fukuro reveals his empty hands as he proclaims, "I do not believe in swords."  Honor demands that Takeru fight in this battle of Strength instead of Prowess, and in his mind he realizes Strength is his Weakness.  "Then I shall keep my in its sheath," Takeru clutches the sword against his arm, so only the hilt stretches slightly from his closed fist.   "Let us end this."  The exchange is swift, and Fukuro gets cut by the blade when the sheath is accidentally flung from the blade.  With honor at stake, Takeru realizes he must end the fight quickly and slams the hilt against Fukuro to knock him out.  As a show of honor, he commends Fukuro's skill, but then demands that he surrender having lost in the duel.  Fukuro yields.

As Taiki, Shizuka and Kajuki escort the Daimyo down the road, the Hatamoto catches sight of them and closes in to kill the Daimyo.  Taiki insists the two leave and promises he will buy the others time.  The Hatamoto, Hagane Hito, was believed to be Invulnerable, but Taiki believed in what the ancestors whispered to him and embraced the faith that he would succeed.  The battle was cruel, with Hito slicing deep into Taiki's arms with his blade, but staying it enough to avoid amputating the onmyoji's arms.  Pride had Hito boast to everyone else how he was invulnerable and the general just could not help but waste time boasting about his superior Prowess.

Kujaku and Shizuka bring the Daimyo into the Geisha House, and as the Okami brings him away, a geisha in the house stands forward to challenge the Samurai.  The woman was muscular and deadly, and Shizuka stepped forward to do battle.   Armed with a whip, Shizuka seems to have an upper hand at first, but against two Samurai, she easily is forced to yield as well.  The Daimyo, now hidden in a disguise, escapes with the two samurai towards the Shinto Temple.  The group steps outside in time to see Hagante Hito losing to Taiki as the Onmyoji strikes a blow into the Hatamoto with the blessings of the ancestors surrounding him.

As the Daimyo steps into the Shinto Temple with the tow samurai, they find themselves facing a man with a similar face at the entrance to the tunnel.  The man, the leader who had lead the Masayoshi clan to strike, turns out to be the true Daimyo of the Toitsu Clan. The man resembled the face of the Emperor, and it soon becomes clear that the Emperor - in a fevered dream to leave his commitments and embrace a different life - had replaced the Daimyo of the Toitsu Clan.  No one believed the original Daimyo of what had happened and this fractured his already fragile psyche.  Driven mad, the original Daimyo now believed himself to be the TRUE Emperor, and "sensed" that the Toitsu Clan's Daimyo, who "resembled him", was planning to replace him on the throne and take over the empire!

The two samurai could not come closer, as both noticed that the mad one had acquired a gift from the foreigners as well: a lit cloth to ignite a fuse, and a pistol.    The words of the Omnyoji returned to their minds:  The Toitsu Clan shall prevail!  Who was the Toitsu Clan?  The original but now mad Daimyo?  Or the one they served?  To whom did this prediction apply to?

"We are the Toitsu Clan," the Courtier mumbled just enough for the other samurai and their Daimyo to hear, "No matter what has happened, we are the Toitsu clan.  We will prevail."

A pistol was as deadly as a Katana.  The two knew one wrong move and the pistol could kill them just as quickly as the blade would.  However, both spied that the pistol was spilling its powder all around, and the bullet had dropped from its chamber from all his swaying.  At the right moment, the two rushed forward to separate their Daimyo from the mad one, and shove the mad one to the ground.  The powder however was scattered enough that when the mad one dropped the lit cloth, it ignited and enveloped the mad one in flames!

As he burned and died, the two samurai turned to the real Emperor, their Daimyo, and dropped to the ground in supplication.  The Daimyo... the Emperor.. frowned as he understood his time as the Daimyo was done.  It was time to return to his true responsibilities.


As the Province worked to repair the damage wrought upon the place, the Samurai spoke with the Emperor.  In some ways, the group felt something was different:  He wasn't truly the Daimyo they were meant to serve, nor was he one who followed the traditional ways.  However, he was someone they had grown to care for and trust.    And now he was to leave.

"When I see you again in the future, I will permit you to stand within 100 paces of me.  To perhaps even join me for a meal.  As Emperor there are duties that rules that must be retained."  He bequeathed the Province to Taiki, who was to become the new Daimyo of the Toitsu Clan.

The group gave their sad farewells and the Emperor began to walk towards the carriage waiting for him.  Chochinmochi, the emperor's policeman, held the door open and waited for the Emperor to step inside.  But then Kujaku stepped forward and realized something.  Against protocol, he spoke up.

"You meant something else, my Emperor."

All turned to the Courtier.

"What you meant to say was, we are the Toitsu Clan. The Clan of Unification.  Now the Clan is to help move forward to unify the rest of the land."

The Emperor stared at him, and then look at the other Samurai.  They all nodded in silent agreement, as they understood now that the Toitsu Clan, once a simple Province, was now to become an Empire.  And one day, it will truly embrace its name and unify all under heaven.

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