Thursday, December 30, 2010

100 Dusks, 100 Deaths: the Egg, Poison Incarnate.

The old arts tell of an occult process of fermenting a cockatrice egg in basilisk dung for 100 nights. The poison in the artifact is perfect in its fatal potential (if thrown on a living target roll fortitude [DC 30] or die, success causes 5d10. Repeat for 1d4 rounds.)
The Egg is as fragile as a mundane egg, and smells of dead river clay.
The purpose of the egg is not as a weapon however, and was original meant as a focus for forgotten ritual spells (remnants of which may remain, or have been meaningless fragments without the Egg for reference). It modifies the effect of traditional spell casting in its vicinity. Healing spells may cause disease (15%) within 50 yards of Poison Incarnate. Curses have the same chance to be permanent. Investigation may find other peculiarities. Anything wet or damp within 10 miles of the Egg will spontaneously generate files, mosquitoes, frogs, snakes, and spiders. Each will be the deadliest mundane variety. Brown recluse spiders, odd emerald green arrow poison frogs, black mambas, the smaller insects carry malaria and other disease and are eaten by the frogs, which concentrate and intensify the harmful substances over time, wicking it out of their skin.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Men and Woman of Action

Our Cast:
Men and Woman of Action
The Foreign Empire
Rebel Republic
The XXth Legion
The Protecter Elect
The Former Advisor
The Old Stones
Secret Cult of Disaffected Wealthy Youth
The Young Spiritualists

[numbers correspond to the creative method, noted at the bottom.]

The players, Men and Woman of Action, are all former freedom fighters who opposed the rule of a Foreign Empire. They rose among the ranks of the opposition Rebel Republic throughout a guerrilla military campaign against occupying forces. They are and are well respected by the leadership of the Rebel Republic as well as the general public, being some of the only people in the region held in such favor. The occupation has become prohibitively expensive for the Empire, and they have recently submitted to a peace treaty. They are withdrawing their forces, the XXth Legion. The Men and Woman of Action have found themselves within the power structure of the new capital city during the transition of power. As soldiers, not politicians, they deal with the more sensitive situations that arise in the city. Specifically, conflict and violence demands their particular skills. Recently a wave of serial killings has been looming secretly behind the more pressing political situation. [1]

The investigation quickly reveals that it is entirely possible that the serial killings are cover for a politically motivated assassination, targeting the democratically elected Protecter of the new rebel republic… Unless, of course, it is targeted at his wife. The various clues that will be uncovered can be interpreted either way, and would direct the motive, and investigation, in very different directions: Calculated political subversion, or sexually obsessed madman. [2]

The only person who seems to be able to interpret the various clues correctly is imprisoned in the cities Garrison Penitentiary. He is the Former Advisor to the Legions command. This was until it was exposed in that he practiced illegal death magics, and used the helpless and wretched of the capital city’s poor as subjects and fuel for his practices. Often entrapping young men for sacrifice without any magic manipulation. He would exchange payment of family debts or paying commissions for the victim’s kin for their willful sacrifice. (A critical necessity for the magics he practiced. Lacking a congregation of believers who would offer themselves up for his divine arts, he turned to duress.) When this was exposed, it turned public opinion against the occupying forces. Among inside circles it was considered the single most important factor in changing the image of the Rebel Republicans from anarchists to liberators despite all the propaganda efforts of the Foreign Empire. The Former Advisor may have an inside understanding of the killings, but he is not revealed his hand. He is paranormally intelligent. [1, cont] The Garrison Penitentiary was passed over to Republican forces months ago as part of Transition.

The foreign powers withdrawal is scheduled and their XXth legion is currently preparing for its departure. The XXth Legion has occupied the capital city for nearly 200 years. They were the primary police and military force in the region. Being primarily guerrilla forces, the Rebel Republic’s peace keeping forces are unseasoned and untrained in the day-to-day maintenance of a large city-state. [3]

The capital city has been occupied for over 200 years. Unknown to anyone still living, the XXth legions war machines that have been in place for the entire duration carry powerful suppressive magics. Some of these war machines have already been drawn down and transported home. The old totems and statues of the ancient order are in fact stone golems in the form of composite human and animal beasts. They have come to be know as The Old Stones. As the XXth legions withdraw, the Men and Woman of Action will find that the Old Stones reawaken. They’re not necessarily hostile but they are extremely powerful and utterly disoriented because of their 200 year hibernation. The first thing they will do is begin to think. This will affect spiritually attuned individuals. One of the Old Stones is near the Garrison Penitentiary. The Former Advisor becomes aware of it’s awakening. Reports will surface of the Stones changing position slightly. Children may see them move. Many will write this off as extraneous anxiety bubbling up from a overwhelmed public. [4]

The Former Adviser, his crimes being against the people of the Rebel Republic, is being turned over to the new Republican courts upon the XXth Legions departure. In preparation, the new courts have already scheduled his execution. It is assumed that this will be their first order of business upon assuming power.

There is a Secret Cult of Disaffected Wealthy Youth occupying the wealthy sections of the capital city. They are the children of the wealthy members of the rebel republic, many of whom profited by the presence of the foreign empire. There is unease among the wealthy about what their treatment will be when the XXth Legion departs. The branch of magic that the Former Advisor represents fascinates these Youth. While not necessarily idealizing him or her to his people they are drawn to his charisma and the strange powers he commanded. It is unknown to even the cult what they will do regarding his scheduled execution. It is not outside the realm of possibility that upon finding out about these youth (it begins with him ignorant of them, it could be kept from him) the Former Advisor might make an attempt to groom one of them for participation in his arts. [5]

Contrasting the Secret Cult of Disaffected Wealthy Youth are the Young Spiritualists among the Republican Rebels. Initiate Spiritualists have been necessary and critical in the struggle. Many of them were entrenched with Republican forces. (Indeed one of the Men and Woman of Action may be one of them.) The XXth Legion targeted Elder Spiritualists who were sympathetic to the Republican Rebels with black mail, imprisonment, and execution. Spiritualists who capitulated to the legions pressure are now considered collaborators, and hold little sway with the public. The Young Spiritualists have distanced themselves from their elders. Not only socially and politically, but theologically as well. With the ease of conflict and combat, they have been coming out of hiding and returning to spiritual studies. They have been rediscovering the old ways. Since the military draw down, the Old Stones have been speaking to the Young Spiritualists' souls in the ancient tongues. They have been learning it unknowingly. This long suppressed alchemy of the word is meaningless to modern-day magic users. The Young Spiritualists speak it with the awkwardness of small children, yet it still commands forgotten arts. [6]

One of the tasks the PCs have been charged with during the transition has been providing an ear to the wealthy and nervous aristocrats of the Rebel Republic. The Primary Liaison is a fat hedonistic and utterly bombastic man. He is however possessed of machiavellian cunning, as well as powerful sway among the aristocrats. [7]

The public distrusts the accord that was negotiated with the Foreign Empire, and look to the Men and Woman of Action as representatives of the people interest. The capital city and indeed this whole new nation is a potential tinderbox, superstition prevents speaking of it, but many fear civil war will be the coronation of this sovereign state, the wailing of mothers and widows fated to be its only anthem. [8]

I used Zac Sabbath's One True Table to make this. 4 cups of tea, and one morning were harmed in the making of this adventure.

One-True-Table results:

[1] Where's the basic plot of this thing coming from?
Silence of the Lambs (#15)

[2] With a side of what?
London Fields (#14)

[3] Where am I going to get an idea for the big, crazy fight?
Viriconium. (#37) [I went with the roman city, not Vance.]

[4] And the totally incongruous element?
Composite Beast (#94)

[5] The multivalent trick the PCs can fuck with and turn against the adventure?
Jedi (prison break, showy execution goes wrong, 3-front assault, #19)

[6] And the new monster?
Apparent gibberish isn't (#92)

[7] Dumb prop/DM gimmick?
Larry Flint/Baron Harkonnen (#61)

[8] Nondeath situation-altering punishment a PC might face?
The Civil War (not the Marvel comics one, the actual one #29 [I went with Ireland’s])

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Plains of Regeneration: One Shot or new Campaign Intro

The PC's all wake up in an empty field. The weather is mild. The setting is pastoral. None of them have ever met. They have vague memories about their pasts. Details to specific to explain much, and broad ideas. "I was educated very well in a time honored institution..." where, what was it called, what did you study? "Umm... magic I guess..."
"My mother Had a ornate bluebird pin with cut glass eyes, and enamel paint. she always wore a black wool shall. she said it kept her safe..." Where did you grow up, who was your father, were you well to do? " idea..." a stranger approaches and hands them this:
then he is gone.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Eat the Sun

The clerical members of the sun cult, Sol'solis Mors'mortis, in the south eastern desert islands of the witches teeth survive in the most inhospitable of conditions. A simple incantation unique to the order binds them to the sun for their nourishment. This rite, preformed at morning sustains the sister or brother completely during the day, without any need for food or drink. It also prevents burns of any kind caused by the sun's rays.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

clockwork simulation sandbox.

Playing D&D with Porn Stars got me thinking here.

"How's your group different?"

He asks... I posted this as a comment on his post, but I'm cross posting it here to keep track of my response. I figure there are two differences:

1) We are very informed by different systems, namely White Wolf, Earthdawn and Fading Suns. Not the mechanics, but the atmosphere. The PC's are dangerous, the world is not a threat to them, they are a threat to the world, and this sensibility has affected our thinking and play style. Sort of a noir D&D. While danger is everywhere, physical harm and personal combat(which the PC's are capable of handling) are only one of the many threats that they face. In our games Dragons know that humans can, and will, slay them, and act accordingly. Using your vocabulary we run a narratively driven clockwork simulation sandbox. The clockwork simulation kicks in every-time they interact with npcs, most people just live their lives and try to get by, paupers and prices both. The PC's are killers who hone their bodies and minds to lash into combat with the very abyss. No one forgets that, least of all the NPC's. And the PCs need each other, because despite their differences, they have this in common.
2) Were into this kind of play, so we write back stories to launch ourselves into developed characters. So, ironically, the moment in this new episode where Gia said, “I was a vampire…” and everyone was aghast, “to start?!?” That would totally fly in my games. Because someone over here has an idea for a veteran of many military campaigns, and this person is an up and coming wizard among the leadership of the mage community.
I’m glad you asked the question, because I never thought about how influenced we are by those other systems, thematically. Also, we often do this with new players, some completely new to gaming at all. I usually tell new players about the world, and ask them to bring a character idea, before seeing a rule book. Shinning moments of this include a friend who wanted to play a “Filth Monger.” Huh, “What’s that?” “Well she roots threw filth, with a team of apes, and finds long forgotten things and sells them to antique dealers.” Awesome, we settled on Sorcerer with the leadership feat, for the apes of course. Full-grown male chimpanzee monk for the primary henchmen. I would never take back an experience like that, but I wonder if we rob something from new players by denying them the “character background is what happens levels 1-6…” concept, which I like very much.

Earthdawn Villain

Large Kaer partners with a dragon prior to the scourge. He is terrified of V------- (that horror whoes name escapse me... Vergergorm?) and thinks that the Kaer is a fairly impressive bit of magic. He is security, they provide respite. They make room for a herd of cattle to feed the dragon along with a sizable portion of the produce they can produce in their magic greenhouse or what the hell ever they build. But the cattle are in much to close quarters, and ventilation is overwhelmed, because frankly no one had ever kept a herd of cattle in a artificial field below the surface of the earth. They become diseased and die off. Effectively locking the citizens in with a starving dragon. He takes over, and forces a lottery system, and begins systematically eating the Kaer's population to survive. He gets by on a starvation diet, and generations of people go by trapped in this nightmare. Then the Kaer opens, and he is left not knowing what to do. to everyone who lives in the Kaer now, it is normal, they all grew up in a diabolical lottery system of being fed to a monster, that's all they know. He of course suspects what Icewing might do, or even Mountain Shadow, if they finds out how he survived. He could slaughter them all, but he knows that any Netharmancer would quickly ascertain what happened if he did so. It was a large Kaer, and certainly the humans had record of its existence, even after all these years. Some one would come calling eventually. He might still be figuring out what the hell to do, and getting the lay of the land. I think he has left and instructed the Kaer to seal it self off for now. His only leeway is that the magic level plateaued, and technically the Kaer might reasonably decided to keep itself sealed for now. But he is desperately trying to find a way to hid his crime. I think it is important that he can shapshift into human form. Not anything he wants, but a specific human body he can take on. I think it's a elementalism spell of some kind, rather than beast master type shapshifting. He walked among his prey. I think he is wracked with guilt, but also feels absolutely justified - humans lives are brief. Asking himself to starve to death so they could live would be like asking a Cathedral to be torn down because sparrows keep flying into the windows and dying in his mind. He also justified that if the Kaer was breached, he could in fact save them, the survivors anyway. He is not really sane anymore. First and foremost a survivor, who found out what he was capable of doing to meet that aim. Now more terror is afoot for the same reason.
Hooks. Bad ideas: PC's could find out about the Kaer, or they could find a spell that wipes the lingering traces of death from an area. But that would be pretty cut and dry, and he would kill them/steal from them and then kill them if at all possible. Better Idea: The Dragon could hire them to do something for him, investigate awareness of unsealed Kaers in barsave perhaps, and it could run afoul. He knows that if anyone dug up any reference to a joint dragon/human kaer it would provoke much interest, and I'm sure he is dying to know if any such information was archived in the great library during the preparatory stages. I figure Kaers are pretty huge feats of magic/engineering, and their preparation was a long and well documented affair- people were certainly planning for the end of the scourge, and wanted to be able to reconnect and rebuild life in barsave, but they also wanted to keep their hands close to their chest as to avoid revealing how to exploit their weaknesses. I'm sure much of the information is cryptic, and has varying degrees of detail. He may have a list of the Kaers architects (who he would have known), and wants to run threw all their known correspondences to see what was revealed privately, these could be in archives all over Barsave. It could start by him killing a still living Elf who was a corespondent with one of the original architects, and stealing his library. (the murder of a hundred year old Elementalist discipline of Upandal would be sure to be news, but a library has to be a valuable thing, and a good cover for a murder. He might go so far to sell the library to the Theran's to cover his tracks.) I think he wants to keep his distance from bardertown, and any of Icewings circle of influence, which prevents him from marching around the great library looking for information about dragons, which would be a huge red flag to icewing. The last thing they want if for the cult of the hunter to get their hands on information about the location of a caged dragon, and all this has occurred to him. I think that is his primary fear, he assumes, correctly, that if Icewing found out, he would slay him. Here is a list of things that have occurred to him, which he is dying to find out:

1: is his Kaer documented in the great library or elsewhere?
2: does Icewing know about it, or is he keeping an eye on it?
3: if not, does Icewing have agents in the various libraries keeping tab on interest about dragons in an effort to maintain radar on the cult of the dragon?
4: do any of the other great dragons in the region have skeletons in their caves, or ambitions, that he can exploit to gain their favor?

Monday, June 7, 2010

Another Essential Tool

University of St Jerome Dept. of Military Science

The Map

The Spire


Here is my proposal, a collectively written and illustrated narrative comic that utilizes the technology of role-playing games to generate itself. Here is what I would like to do: we play Dungeons & Dragons (in spirit, rules suck but chance and accident are excellent. There will be dice, and so it will resemble D&D) with me as moderator/Dungeon Master. I have a narrative that I think is fairly interesting it has a beginning and a middle and an end I have developed some of the key characters, but what I don’t have is a set of protagonists to navigate all of this.

This is my strength as an artist and as a writer, settings & plot points. I am not so skilled at generating personalities, I work more with archetypes and I think that my strengths are better suited to do so. I am much better at writing a villain, and while I think that it is perfectly suitable for a story to center on a villain, a villain is not a villain without contrast. I come from the school of noir writing. My cities, settings & buildings are themselves characters. Graphic novels are very evocative ways to have this happen, yet illustrated comic books frequently focus on the characters that are involved and the images in the background are treated secondarily, and here too is where my strength lies. It is in drawing these places, trying to give life to these characters who have no human form, but are just as vital to the story (i.e. peoples lives) as anything else. What strikes me as interesting is that both my skills in terms of role-play, acting as a dungeon Master and playing villains, and my strengths as an artist, illuminating places and zones in which things happen can come together in this project. What I need is actors. This is theater in a sense. But I’ll not only need actors, I need writers, producers, and so on.

This is how I see the project unfolding: we would play sessions of this campaign/narrative that I have, making relatively detailed notes about what transpires. The characters that people write to play in this game would look like themselves, and we would function as the models for the graphic novel that would be generated from this process. Using this process we would illustrate collectively by way of some method of collage. Unlike a traditional comic, which also requires many participants, people would not have specific roles within the production. Rather than pencil, inks, letterer, writer, editor, and so on we would fill in as world builder, monster maker, chaotic amoral, truth teller, social critic.

While doing this I think that it would be appropriate for us to occasionally stop and make a drawings or whatever else seem to be the most important thing to do at that time. I think that similar to the unconventional process of creating a comic book that this would be multimedia. We could utilize the photography drawling painting graphic design and so on. Anything that would translate into print media. We play to our strengths.

What I am doing now is starting a series of drawings of the locations these stories would happen in. What I would need is people to create characters to play within the setting, and perhaps generate some drawings – find or make the personal effects that they would have, or whatever else they find interesting. Once that is along I would like to try a session to see if this project is feasible at all.

My interest in sci-fi fantasy of any kind in it its ability to deal with real human issues in a detached way. I think one of the most brilliant examples of this recently has been Battle Star Galactica. Through the matrix of science fiction that show was able to deal with many of the most challenging philosophical questions that the Bush administration raised without necessarily jumping to judgments of the personalities that were at the helm of the administration. I think that this is brilliant because frankly the fact that it was Bush and Cheney was irrelevant to could have been any other two neocons the point was that there was a major structure behind it allowed all those things to happen are. Bush and Cheney would never have been able to do what they did if there were a very powerful engine behind supporting it. What something like Battle Star Galactica is capable of doing is it looking at these engines of power and even the specific details of what’s happening within current events but having the fictional aspect of the show act as a screen which allows them to go into greater depth than even the news media found itself capable of doing. So as much as I love the idea of fantastic characters running jumping climbing trees casting spells performing rituals and the rest of it, it is for me a very beloved screen but the wizard behind the curtain is still a political animal and a citizen of this world. I have heard criticisms of this line of thinking which suggests that utilizing these real human tragedies in order to support fictional storytelling in a sense trivializes what has really gone on and effectively profits from other people’s misery. I believe this is a real danger and if done improperly this can occur. But I do not think that is the end of the story and that in fact this sort of indirect social criticism has great potential. So my interest remains on marginalized individuals and their survival strategies, outcasts and outsiders, and the consequences of wielding power. I have ideas for stories which center on gender dynamics, queer identity, class, military strength and technology.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Wednesday, March 17, 2010