29 September, 2016


Perhaps a FUBAR magic system.

Just inspired by a post made by +Scrap Princess, not too long ago. It's not quite the same type of magic system indicated in that post, but a riff on it.

Characters have a range of base magical effects, they each basically add or remove a single trait to the magic's target.

  • Damage - Add a negative "injured" trait to a person, or a "damaged" trait to an object. 
  • Focus - Add a positive "focused" trait to a person.
  • Healing - Remove a negative "injured" trait from a person.
  • Repair - Remove a negative "damaged" trait from an object.
  • Stealth - Add a positive "hidden" trait to a person or object.
  • Reveal - Remove a positive "hidden" trait from a person or object.
  • Horror - Add a negative "scared" trait to a person.
  • Courage - Remove a negative "scared" trait from a person.
  • etc...

(Since most actions in FUBAR can add or remove traits like this, we might need to make these effects more "magical" by allowing character to spend magical resources like herbs, crystals, faith or other elements to apply multiple traits with a single invocation, or might apply more potent versions of these traits...the specific elements used to push the magical envelope depend on the type of magic practiced)

Roll 3 six-sided dice as per standard FUBAR rules...allocate them across the categories Success, Sacrifice and Story.


  • 1-2: No magical effect occurs
  • 3-4: Base magical effect occurs
  • 5-6: Base magical effect occurs, but draw 2 "And" result cards (one will apply) 


  • 1-2: Draw 4 "But" result cards (two will apply)
  • 3-4: Draw 2 "But" result cards (one will apply)
  • 5-6: Don't draw any "But" result cards 


  • 1-2: GM chooses the outcome from the various "And" and "But" cards
  • 3-4:  The outcome from the various "And" and "But" cards is determined randomly
  • 5-6: The caster's player chooses the outcome from the various "And" and "But" cards 

The following result cards would be created and placed in two separate piles at the centre of the table. There would probably be a lot more cards in those piles, but these are the first one's I could think of.

"And" result cards
...and it's more widespread than expected (Effect targets all allies or all enemies as appropriate)
...and it lasts longer than expected (Any traits generated by the effect are more long-lived)
...and it's more powerful than expected (A higher benefit or penalty level is applied by the effect)
...and an unexpected side effect makes things easier for an ally (GM determines how this applies)
...and you have become infused by magical energies (You gain a bonus on your next spell this scene)
...and no-one knows who cast the spell (Counterspells and detect magic effects are harder)

"But" result cards
...but not yet (GM holds the spell effect in reserve until they decide it would be an interesting time for the effect to manifest)
...but it lasts shorter than expected (Any traits generated by the effect are more short-lived)
...but it has been redirected (GM determines the new target of the effect)
...but you've become weakened in the attempt (Caster gains the "fatigued" trait, or magnifies it if they already have it)
...but the effect has been reversed (If the reversed effect isn't obvious, the GM determines how this applies)
...but something important to you has been lost in the process (GM determines what has been lost)
...but this has made things harder for an ally (GM determines how this applies)

Images in this post from The Ghetto Tarot

27 September, 2016


If you follow my fledgeling Instagram account, you'll notice that I've been getting a bit obsessed with the app "Prisma"... filtering all sorts of photos through it, then tweaking them a bit further in Instagram and posting them. I've shared a few of them on other social media platforms too.

LARP photos, scenic shots, all sorts of things...

It might be a quick way to illustrate some game texts in the near future (I just need to edit out the "prisma" in the bottom corner).

If you haven't been following these shots...here's a random assortment of a few of them.

25 September, 2016

Elimination of Duplication

After a few days break, working on other projects, I looked back at "Tales" and realised that there was something that simply felt like it was a odd duplication within the rules. Two of the mechanisms seemed to be doing much the same thing, and one of the incarnations of the mechanism didn't seem to be addressed very well at all in the rules.

Needless to say this had to be attended to...

...and I've stripped out impairments completely.

Generally the idea behind the impairment system was a series of predefined traits that would aply penalties in a variety of situations. Such impairments would include such concepts as being "tired", "hungry", "injured", "scared", "cursed" and similar effects. If you suffered an impairment, it would temporarily make things harder for you, but this basically works the same as temporary disadvantages. There were a few badly worded and vague ideas about rendering these impairments into permanent disadvantages, but since temporary disadvantages do that as well... why have two things that work (for all intents) the same way?

Instead, I think that there should probably be a standard range of disadvantages that are always possible to acquire, then a few disadvantages (and a few advantages) that are specifically linked to certain scenarios. For example, a "Lost" trait might be appropriate in a fairy tale forest, but might not be as appropriate in an urban cyberpunk setting. As another example, "Diseased" might be appropriate in a scenario about the Black Death, but might not be as suitable in a tale with lighter subject matter. The disadvantages are tailored to the scenario, and maybe there are a few disadvantages that might be tailored to specific characters (a golem might slowly lose charge, gaining the "low power" disadvantage in much the same way that regular characters earn a "tired" disadvantage, a courtesan might pick up the "dishonoured" trait which effectively renders their advantages at court irrelevant).

Another thing I need to consider as I rework Tales is the way scenes change. I'm happy with the changes in mechanisms as acts shift through the course of the story, but there's nothing about the way scenes change within an act. All temporary disadvantages would end when a scene changes, because otherwise I'd basically end up retreading the path that FUBAR takes. I could theoretically get away with leaving the whole concept nebulous and vague, but that's what a lot of games do. Since the duration of temporary advantages is linked to the changing of scenes, it really needs clarification.

More thought required...


21 September, 2016

Rationales behind Design Decisions

(This post discusses the game design released in alpha format in my last post)

In Tales, and in "The Eighth Sea", I made a deliberate design decision to involve other players in the process of judging whether actions succeed or fail.

I warn you, there will be some Forge terminology in this post. As a linguist, and more specifically a sociolinguist, I'm at odds with certain elements of Forge terminology, but then again I'm at odds with a lot of the terminology across sociological fields and academia where a specific term is given a specific definition in a specific context, then other people use the same term in a slightly different context only to find that the meaning doesn't quite hold the same definitive meaning when used elsewhere. It's always been one of the thorns in the side of Forge theory, and one of those places where other people seem to hate it because the terminology is used in different ways by different people. Where I'm using those terms in this post, I'm trying to use them in a regular/commonsense usage, and clarifying with specific definitions where I feel necessary.

In a lot of games, the chances of success in a task are determined purely by the roll of dice or the play of cards. This is sometimes referred to as "fortune at the end", you declare your intentions, you apply modifiers based on the specific situation in which the task is occurring, then you call into effect the randomiser (cards/dice/coin-flip/dice then table consulting, etc.) and the outcome is defined purely by the output of that randomiser. The notion of "fortune in the middle" plays with this a bit by providing some mechanisms that play with the outcome, throwing a bit more control into the hands of the players... do they choose to accept a bit of sacrifice to push the result from a failure to a success. This is solidly in the zone of the "Powered by the Apocalypse" games, it's also the location where FUBAR was playing.

The other thing to be considered is the DFK model ('D'rama, 'F'ortune, 'K'arma). Where Drama resolution generally relies on resolving an action in a way that makes most sense in the context of the events that have happened before, Fortune resolution is purely random, and Karma resolution sees the agent with the most effectiveness winning the contest of action resolution in every case. Personally I see most games as having a weighted combination of the three resolution forms in their mechanisms. Commonly, we see a game where skills (Karma) are added to a die roll (Fortune)...where the size of the skill modifiers and the size of the dice show where the tendency lies between these two points. Lately we've seen a lot more games where results of actions provide traits or modifiers that directly feed back into the story, and the story feeds back into future die rolls through those modifiers (thus adding more Drama to the mix).

What I'm looking at with Tales is certainly more of a "Fortune at the End" type of mechanism, but it's specifically designed to be more interactive across the whole table when resolution of an action occurs. Instead of one person interacting with the rules, and possibly with the GM, everyone has their say in what happens. The degree of Fortune in this game has actually been stripped back even further. Other players specifically choose whether they want actions to succeed by playing cards from their hands. The only real Fortune element, comes from the random replacement of cards in a players hand once they have manipulated the outcome of someone else's action. If there's any fortune at work in an action, it's "Fortune at the Beginning" because all the players have had their hands randomised before the action is even declared.

More importantly, the resolution of actions is a social activity that occurs outside the narrative. If one player decides to be an ass (either by constantly hogging the spotlight, or just doing stupid stuff), other players will be inclined to offload their bad cards on that player, so they have good hands when it comes to resolving their own goals and storylines towards the end of the tale. Similarly, if one player wants to take a sacrifice for the team, everyone else will have the opportunity to give that player their bad cards for the same reason. This system also basically stops a player from getting a consistently bad run, either the other players will feel pity on them and offer better cards in later actions, or they might end up finding that this lagging character impacts the entire team and making it impossible for them to succeed as a group. It's a game about teamwork, it's not deliberately posed that way in the rules, but after a game or two this should become apparent...actually, I'd like to hope that a lot of players pick this up during the course of their first session using these rules. It's certainly how things worked out in the numerous games of "The Eighth Sea", it may have also helped that those games were run at conventions and between sessions people would talk about the game experience.

It's probably also worth noting that this game has a deliberate end game structure. Players can engage the personal goals of their own characters, or may engage in the general scenario goals. There are always decisions to make...do the desires of the one trump the desires of the group? Can personal goals be completed before the end game kicks in? Can scenario goals be completed before the scenario ends? Are you willing to help someone else achieve their personal goals so that the group as a whole has a better chance of resolving the scenario goals?  

So there's nothing here about "how much damage does Weapon Q do a point blank range?", or "what psychological effects might befall someone who has just seen their closest friend eaten by a monster?", those are the things other games seem to obsess over. This game is all about providing the framework to tell stories, and slot goals and objectives into those stories. The fiddly bits might be provided in the scenario books and setting books...but don't count on it, they'll probably be more about ways to modify the general framework of the rules to reflect the storytelling conventions associated with different genres. These are the kinds of things that most traditional games ignore, or take for granted.

So our rules touch on the social contract, maintaining active concentration on the developing story is important, even if your character isn't currently the focus of attention. All the players are expected to follow the story, to pick up on loose threads, and even contribute their own. They engage the situation in a meta-context through the system, and in an immersive sense through their characters. The ephemera is kept to a minimum, in an attempt to maintain the focus of the session on the story. Generally, a lot of the conventions in this game have been deliberately kept traditional, such as the notion of a single game master (in this case referred to as the 'Narrator' to maintain the context of storytelling and tales).

I could probably write a whole lot more about reasons why I've done certain things in certain ways, but I'm probably boring you as it is...

Now I just need to work out and illustrate some of my own pictures for the game.

Tales Version 2.0

Here's what I've been playing with over the past couple of days...

Tales Version 2.0

It still needs a bit of work, and I haven't written up any scenario or setting booklets for it yet, but I think there's enough here to start some discussion about the mechanisms of the game.

Once a bit more refinement has been done, I'll add some proper page layout as well.

20 September, 2016

Rules that vary to match the scenario

One of the things I find about convoluted rule sets is the idea that there needs to be a mechanisms to cover every contingency, whether or not that contingency comes into play. Just in case the characters are disarmed, and fighting over who gets better hold of the jade statue, let's include grapping rules. On the off chance that characters moght need to sneak in somewhere, avoiding the attention of guards, let's include some dramatic stealth rules...

...all these rules need to go into the main book...

...oops, we've blown our page count. Let's keep the common rules, then throw the uncommon rules into a "player's guide", and the rare rules into a "GM/DM/Referee's guide".

We've all seen systems like that. It's common in "traditional" games. I know that my description is fairly glib, and designs teams are probably more likely to think that their rule systems are becoming more versatile, and thus more likely to be used in a variety of game styles and story types, when they add those extra rule mechanisms to the system ecology.

Hence I want to do something different.

It was always the intention in both the original incarnation of "Tales" and the first published version of "The Eighth Sea", to create a fairly streamlined core system that would roughly handle just about anything... it was similarly the intention to create a series of specific stories, each of which included a specific new rule that facilitated the type of actions associated with this specific story. I started doing this a bit with "FUBAR", and it seemed to work. It also seemed to work with "Ghost City Raiders"...I just need to stick to it.

The current "Tales" rewrite, with pocketmod core rules and pocketmod scenario guides, seems a good fit for this style of modular rules. The whole idea is to generate a simple set if rules that anyone could quickly get the hang of, with the depth you need, only when it's needed.

19 September, 2016

Blog like a Pirate

Yarrr...it be the 19th o' Septemb-arrr, so it be time to be talkin' like a Pirate. The buxom swashbuckler who be spendin' the last 13 years as me helmsman made a wise decision to get married on the 20th o' Septemb-arr, else that weddin' might a been quite a confusin' day indeed.

T' be honest, today snuck up on me like a monkey with a musket.


Enough pirate talk, it's taking too long to work out what I want to say in scurvy slang. 

Even though I didn't realise it was coming up, I've been working on a project that's related to my first published game..."The Eighth Sea". That game was based on a earlier unfinished work named "Tales", which designed to be a generic system but was probably more of a convoluted mess. "The Eighth Sea" had elements of the original game stripped out, and a few other elements added in. It probably had a lot of loose unconnected bits, because at that stage I hadn't read much about ensuring game mechanisms support the narrative, I don't even think the "clouds and boxes" post by Vincent Baker had even been made yet... I had a few tools in the game that created funky effects, and a few ways to direct players in certain ways. More narrative than many of the mainstream games of the era, but certainly not complete or polished.

Recently I've decided to get back to basics with a game concept. So I went back to "The Eighth Sea" and "Tales", stripped it down to the core resolution mechanism and applied some of the better fitting game design theory to the mechanism...to see what fit. 

The aim was to produce a pocketmod set of core rules...with a possible pocketmod scenario booklet, or setting booklet, and a pocketmod character sheet/passport. Nothing more. The whole thing runs on a deck of cards, so the game could be packaged in an Altoids tin, or some other small tin.

The first scenario and setting booklets will probably be based on The Eighth Sea to cromprise the rewrite of the game which has been 8 years in the making...

18 September, 2016

Now on Twitter

After resisting it for years, I've finally gotten around to making a twitter account

Here it is.

I don't expect to post much there, it's mostly just a means to stay in contact with a few people who use it as their dominant social media platform.

15 September, 2016

Breathe (Part 2)

The ideas posed in the first part of this post would be the point where I'd leave things for an Aussie Freeform. A few archetypal ways of manipulating the situation, a few goals that point certain characters in certain directions...then you just let the players go. A GM per 5-10 players (plus a head GM), and if decisions need to be made, the outcome is determined by whatever is best in the context of the overall story, even if things look like they should head a different way at the immediate scale. Maybe throw in some egg timers for specific effects that require delicate work (like hacking the server, tending to someone's wounds, fixing the power, or adjusting the oxygen-beds). Players can't do anything else while the sands in the timer are running through; and if they are disturbed, the count resets. Combat would be enacted through basic wrestling, each player has a literal bottle on them representing their oxygen supply (maybe attached by loop velcro to a hook velcro belt), if one player can remove the other player's oxygen, they've won the conflict. Stealthy players might just rip oxygen bottles from other players when they walk past... Maybe to reflect things with a chance of success or failure, you have one of those games where you hold a wire loop and need to pass it along a twisting wire without touching the wire, buzzers and lights go off if you fail the task and you need to start again.

For something a bit meatier, a bit more abstract and a bit more accessible to less dexterous or physical players, I'd consider adding a simple test mechanism. Rock-Paper-Scissors is always easy because you don't need to carry a deck of cards, and you don't need a flat space to roll a die on. This is all getting away from the Australian freeform angle of the game, but might make it more approachable to other types of players. Maybe a basic pair of attributes... mind and body, on a scale from 1 to 4. When two players have opposing goals (or when one player confronts a task with a specific difficulty value) they declare their intentions, then compare their numbers.

If the two opposing sides have equal scores, a simple RPS test occurs. If either side wins, their intentions are enacted first. If the opponent's intentions are still valid, theirs may occur next...but generally if the two characters have goals that could occur simultaneously, there's no real need to test things.

If one side has a score 1 point higher than the other, their intention is enacted on a win or a tie. The side with the lower score only succeeds if they specifically win the conflict.

If one side has a score 2 or more points higher than the other, they automatically succeed.

In most cases, characters will have scores of 2 and 3, it's only in a few rare circumstances that 1s or 4s might be in play for a character on their own. But if two characters work together to a common goal, they might use the highest character's score +1 per person helping them. Characters might have special equipment that gives them a +1 in specific circumstances...Similarly, a character might waste a bottle of oxygen for extra exertion in a physical action, gaining a +1 in the process.

Injured characters would lose temporary points from their physical statistic, characters losing their sanity would see a reduction in their mental statistic, characters suffering oxygen deprivation (on their last bottle) would lose a point from each.

I wouldn't do anything more than this with regards to game mechanics. That's complicated enough... this game is more about the interpersonal drama and conflict than anything else.

Distress call has been sent, a rescue "should" arrive in 3 hours, the characters have enough oxygen for 2, the oxygen beds are down, the power is failing, and there's a slow leak. There's a few ways people could survive:

  • working together, but there's a risk that skill attempts won't work.
  • sacrificing the members of the crew who are deemed "expendable".
  • one person stockpiling oxygen for themself
  • possibly others I haven't considered (I'd give bonuses for this)
This isn't an "Alien" situation where characters are picked off one by one, via some horrific monster. It's a slow burn psychodrama in a potentially zero sum environment, where things will go horribly wrong for those who choose to do nothing.

I really want to play this a few times. Perhaps over the course of a convention...one group comes in to rescue the crew, only to find that they themselves need rescuing by the next crew. Characters investigate what happened before, while trying to work out how to save themselves.

13 September, 2016

A Thief in the Night

Aussie designers are killing it at the moment...

Here's a concept from Steve D...
If he doesn't end up writing this, I desperately want to.


This idea was posted on Facebook.

From Joe MacNamara...

Game idea: it's a one-off freeform. It's bleak-as-fk sci-fi; the PCs are asteroid miners, and they need a constant personal supply of oxygen, represented by poker chips or something like that. Every 30 minutes, a GM comes around and collects a poker chip from each PC; any PC who can't produce a chip dies in 30 seconds. The chips represent bottles that can be screwed into your gear and are therefore tradeable; some PCs have far more than they need, some of them won't last the 3 hours. If I did this, I'd do it worth hard player elimination; no replacement PCs, if you die that's it. What are people's thoughts?

Frakkin' brilliant!

I rewatched Danny Boyle's Sunshine last week, so this idea instantly sent my mind racing. It's got built in tension, where there might be enough oxygen for everyone to survive, but might not...and if anyone exerts themselves (such as combat), they'd find they eat their way through their oxygen even quicker. It's got inherent game mechanisms that tie directly into the narrative fiction, in the form of those oxygen bottles that might be crucial to survival. It prompts player interaction and trade. You can tune the darkness of the scenario up or down by changing the amount of oxygen available.

(Strangely, as I write this, I'm reminded of my Familiar game... but instead of oxygen canisters, the characters require mystical energy to remain in the mundane world, and the more they exert themselves, the more mystical energy they use up. Hmm... food for thought.)

As a core mechanism, it's clever. But I always want to add a bit more to things.

We could easily port the concept across to a 'Starfleet' type of premise. Give each of the characters specific roles, where each of them will have the chance to use the abilities associated with their roles to gain additional oxygen for the economy, or modify the play environment in some way...

Engineer: capable of turning on (or off) power in various parts of the facility, or may fix broken things.
Bio-technician: capable of restoring the oxygen rejuvenating plant-beds, as long as other conditions are met. Also capable of healing minor injuries.
Security: trained combatant, may either instantly win physical conflicts, or may avoid using excess oxygen while fighting.
Medic: capable of healing major injuries, and access to a range of drugs and poisons which have various modifying effects.
Communications: capable of sending messages and distress calls. Also able to decode cryptic codes that might be found through the scenario.
Senior Officer: capable of giving orders to other crew that are expected to be followed. Able to modify the pay rates of crew (which will be paid out to any survivors at the end of the scenario).
(Optional Xeno-archeologist: capable of providing information about the alien artifact at the centre of all the problems, as long as other conditions are met)

There are all sorts of ways that we could play with this.

If we work off the idea that all characters have a name, a goal, a set of abilities that might be used to achieve a goal (preferably their abilities achieve someone else's goal), and an obstacle preventing their own goal's achievement (which can be overcome through someone else's abilities).., then that's all we need for the dynamics of a dramatic narrative to unfold.

The core goal for everyone is surviving the scenario.

Secondary goals might include:
   earning a certain amount of money to pay for a loved one's medical treatment back home,
   making sure someone specific doesn't survive the scenario,  but making sure the death looks like an accident,
   erasing compromising data from the server,
   identifying the massive file on the server that seems to have been compromising several of the systems,

More to think about, but that will do for this post.

10 September, 2016

An analogy

From a facebook post I just made...

Here's an analogy... For the purposes of this anlogy, we have a gun range and a gun shop that sits right beside the gun range, where people talk about their hobby and a range of topics associated with their hobby.

The cast of our analogy include:

A seasoned marksman who has been in the hobby for years (no, actually decades). This marksman currently runs another range and while he generally shoots rifles, he is generally interested in all elements of firearms.

A new range owner who has spent heaps of time promoting his new range (actually the one next to the gun shop) but is running into the same problems that the seasoned marksman has seen time and again over the years.

A young shooter, who has shot a few times but certainly doesn't own a range of their own, and is a friend of the new range owner.

Scenario begins:

New Range Owner: I spend all this time and effort making targets, and all they want to shoot at is that silly shrub on the side of the range that looks like a duck.

Seasoned Marksman: Yep. Been there.


(The seasoned marksman suspects that her next line is going to be "AND I'M A FRIEND OF THE RANGE OWNER, AND IF YOU KEEP TALKING TO HIM YOU'LL MAKE ME CRY")

The seasoned marksman is a part of a community of similar range owners, and checks the member listing to see if this you g shooter is someone he should be concerned about...maybe they run a range of their own, maybe they co-own the range next to this shop...nope, they're just showing the traits of someone who is mouthy and obnoxious.

Meanwhile on the other side of town, a range specialising in shotguns decides it won't let rifle shooters come anywhere near their site, even if those rifle shooters are interested in seeing how shotgun enthusiasts do things differently. This shotgun site was just shown on a quirky TV show with all of the enthusiasts carrying rifles... and look, there's the new range owner and the young shooter with them on TV.

A few old the seasoned marksman's old shooting competitors see how ludicrous the whole situation is. They all spent years trying to get the hobby to a point where it is now a small but legitimately accepted pursuit. They agree through various phone calls and personal chats that these status seeking new arrivals don't respect the work that was done for them, and that they stand on the shoulders of others who did a lot of the heavy lifting.

Then there's the dude who has a reputation for making an ass of himself in NERF circles, but who runs a popular air-rifle show and therefore thinks he is the gatekeeper to the hobby for anyone who hasn't held a firearm of any type... He chimes in, saying that the seasoned marksman isn't building a good reputation, despite the numerous things that the seasoned marksman has heard about him. The marksman dismisses him as another youngster who also has no respect for the events of the past.


The seasoned marksman goes home, and vents his frustration by explaining the situation in a thinly veiled analogy about LARP. He knows that many of the young ones won't read it, others might be too oblivious to realise the analogy refers to them, and many of the old shooting competitors will fead through the analogy and get a good laugh out of it.

03 September, 2016

Contemporary Space Supernaturals

Many of my thoughts about Vampires and other supernatural beings in space have focused on a sci-fi perspective. But upon waking this morning I considered another idea...

What if the epic battle of the outer solar system were playing out simultaneously with our recorded history?

...and what if the religious texts of the modern world were simply half remembered and mistranslated accounts of event before formally recorded history?

Noah's ark may have been a tale about a interplanetary ship captain who fled his world as it was being "flooded with radiation" due to an environmental catastrophe on a lost world which became shattered into the asteroid belt...

The Tower of Babel is a reflection of an ancient space elevator which opened a diaspora to the stars... where the bible says people were flung across the world it's only because ancient translators could understand the concept of a diaspora across many worlds...

Izamani and Izanagi didn't so much create the masses of land by plunging spears into the sea, instead they terraformed habitable land by plunging spears of irradiated plasma into the mantle of the Earth...

The world is flat, with an ocean surrounding it...but only in the sense that the planets orbit the sun in a single flat plane, and the surrounding ocean is the Oort cloud...

Hephaestus was one of the greatest scientists and engineers of the golden age, building power armours, devastating weapons, and quantum manipulating technologies at a level that has never been surpassed...

Artemis was one of the greatest inquisitrixes ever, hunting creatures of the dark and monsters that had been sent from the cold vacuum of deep space to ravage the "sanctuary planet" of Earth...

Atlantis was a great city on Earth, maybe it's where the whole conflict began, maybe its story reflects one of the great battles between light and darkness...or maybe it was simply collateral damage in something vastly more mysteious.

Recordings of angels and demons are mistranslated accounts of the supernatural beings of the inner and outer Solar System visiting Earth to recruit new warriors (or harvest psychic energy) for the eternal war raging beyond the "sanctuary planet"...

We could then follow the strange and unexplainable events of history, offering some of them as potential story hooks linking Earth to the great war beyond. Crazy rednecks being abducted by aliens aren't so crazy after all. The "little green men" might be necro-engineered ghouls/revenants designed and bred for vast lifespans and the ability to survive with minimal life support (and energy usage) in the deep orbits.

The earthbound technocracy might simply be trying to keep the peace using their metaphysical enlightenment and ancient technologies so advanced they still appear magickal to the mundane population (perhaps akin to the MiB movies), they don't want the sanctuary of earth breached by the monstrous entities of the outer solar system, but they are willing to accept refugees from the outer worlds (or from beyond the solar system) as long as they are willing to keep a low profile. Meanwhile, the mages of the traditions are oblivious to the horrors beyond time and space, and they work with their enlightenment to gain power for themselves at the expense of weakening the mystical shield that has stood in place for centuries.

(Indeed, this mystical shield protecting the sanctuary planet of Earth might be the very reason why miracles have been less common in recent centuries and why magic has been harder to achieve as recent history has progressed).

I haven't worked out the whole lot yet.

I don't want to shoehorn the whole world of darkness into this idea, but there are enough insteresting fragments across the setting that can be combined in this new format that it might be a really cool sandbox to play in.

01 September, 2016

Asymmetric Play

Thinking more about these operatives in an eternal war between a "One Universe/One Truth/One God" legion of technocrats seeking to establish order in the outer planets, while a group of eternally warring ancient monstrosities maintain their millennia-old principalities and kingdoms. This is perhaps akin to the Warhammer 40k notion of human space marines waging an eternal war against the chaos gods, just as much as it is related to the idea of the Technocracy against the most ancient of Vampires who fled to the outer planets to escape the damage of the sun.

The latter is still the core framework of the game. The vampires are able to simply slip into slumber while they make the journeys through dark-space taking years or even decades shifting from one planet to another (and months to get from a plant to a moon). The technocracy might employ state of the art jump drives (or blink drives) to instantly travel those distances, but such jumps require nuanced calculations and are subject to random instabilities that even the most power of their psychic clairvoyants can't predict.

There are numerous "neutral" ports in the deep black (Neptune, Uranus and Pluto); places where the vampires have sworn not to fight openly, and where a neutral crew can make a living, or pick up trade jobs. There are even a few places in the shallow black (Jupiter and Saturn) where the Technocracy have sworn not to openly attack free agents or neutral crews, as long as they don't openly use dark powers. But much of the solar system beyond the asteroid belt is rife with war. Dark rusting hulks of ancient vampires drift between worlds on voyages that may have lasted decades or even centuries, some of these ships have even fallen into stable orbits of their own, principalities of rust and biomechanical blasphemy, ruled over by vampiric lords and ladies who have long been considered myths by those who maintain a connection to the waking world.

The nature of the blink drives has basically meant that the Technocrats don't need to go through the mid or deep black if they want to explore deeper into the galaxy or universe, they simply skip over these parts of reality to get where they need to go. They could leave the vampires in peace, but it's a matter of pride that they claim the entirety of their home solar system before they start the push to other star systems.

For the purposes of asymmetry, the vampiric ships are slower than the technocrats. They need to be self sustaining entities capable of keeping the ghoul crews alive, and are therefore much larger than the sleek crystal and titanium blink ships of the Technocracy.

But at a more fundamental level, there is an inherent asymmetry between the characters who draw their powers from each side. I'm viewing the Technocracy as more of a collective, if characters incur penalties from their psychic/mystic/technocratic powers, it takes longer for negative effects to impact the narrative, but when those penalties manifest, they affect the group as a whole. I'm viewing the Vampires more as lone wolves, and when they incur penalties from their disciplines/blood-magic, they manifest far more easily but only affect the individual responsible for that power.

So basically...

Penalty Level 1 - No effect
Penalty Level 2 - No effect
Penalty Level 3 - Minor group effect
Penalty Level 4 - Moderate group effect
Penalty Level 5 - Major group effect

Penalty Level 1 - No effect
Penalty Level 2 - Minor effect to self
Penalty Level 3 - Moderate effect to self
Penalty Level 4 - Major effect to self
Penalty Level 5 - Character becomes an NPC and moves against the rest of the group

If a team has two light characters on it, their penalty effects would be cumulative... (eg. Penalty level 1 from one character and penalty level 2 from another character make penalty level 3 for the whole party)

If a team has two dark characters on it, they track their penalty effects separately.

If a team has both light and dark on it, the effects would be cumulative from each side... (eg. Penalty level 3 from the light character and penalty level 2 for the dark character... The light character only suffers the "minor group effect", because the dark character's effect is personal. The dark character suffers the "minor group effect" and a "minor effect to self".) 

I'm thinking through the narrative potential here. I expect there to be some odd twists in the way things work at various party sizes of differing light and dark consistency, and this twist in the dynamics will make different types of crews employ different strategies.

More to think about.