30 October, 2018

#Inktober Day 27 - Thunder / Ritual


Chimera has been introduced earlier in this series, as have her dedicated followers from the Order of the White Lotus. As an avatar of dreams, Chimera has the ability to change her appearance in a limited way to blend into the dreamscapes and spirit realms she wanders through, but anyone capable of seeing the truth in dreams will always notice her dragonfly wings.

Chimera has a second ability that has gained notoriety across the realms. This is a technique of ripping apart the fabric of time and space to create temporary wormhole portals. Depending on the elemental pressure or energy charge differentials, there is often a shockwave produced by these portals, sounding something like a thunderclap... the greater the distance or the differences between realms, the larger and louder the shockwave.

Members of the Order of the White Lotus are said to know ritual markings that help to ground these wormholes. This allows Chimera and the most powerful generals of the Order to travel through their wormholes in near silence regardless of differernces between realms.

#Inktober Day 26 - Stretch / Outlaw


In some parts of the spirit realms, belief is fragile and the bubbles of planar reality are at risk of being obliterated by the howling winds of oblivion. In other parts if the spirit realms, rigid tradition, faith and stagnant belief lick reality in a stranglehold. The hellish realms of the outer reaches feed on the beliefs people have in a tormented afterlife, their denizens and rulers bond themselves to these eternal beliefs, becoming virtual immortals as they do so.

In these stagnant realms, darkness can fester, groweing like a fungus, sloiwly consuming the living, recycling it to give birth to new energy in time. There are forgotten parts of these realms, areas where the darkness grows over parts the people want hidden, but in those hidden places the dark truths lie concealed. Demons torture the souls of those who lived lives found wanting, and sometimes they themselves grow bored of the torture, leaving pitiful souls strapped to torture implements as the darkness slowly surrounds them with it's tendrils, leaving them tortuously comfortably numb.

Occasionally, a wanderer will encounter one of these forgotten victims, gibbering blasphemies and spewing vitriol in languages long forgotten by the mortal world. Even if they could be understood, their ramblings are insane beyond the comprehension of any mortal mind. It is best to leave them alone and move along quickly,

#Inktober Day 25 - Prickly / Elder


Just as it is possible for a consciousness to transform the spirit world around them, those who are not careful find that the spirit world changes them. Those with a singular focus find themselves becoming corrupted by the energies associated with that goal... of course they themselves may believe that corruption comes from dilution of the regined energies of a singular focus, as such they see themselves purified of external taint.

Those who linger too long may develop notoriety as a conceptual avatar, perhaps becoming synonymous with a concept like hate, torture, or fear. In this way the decadent noble houses of the outer reaches were born, and new upstart revolutionaries seek to overthrow them with their own twisted power. 

Some call the pin-headed cenobyte the eldest advisor to the noble House of Pride, others claim he is a more recent denizen of the realms, twisting fate and reality with a mysterious cubic artefact dredged up by crustacean scavengers and traded for the soldiers of a thousand dead legionnaires. Few know the motivations of this dark being, they only know to keep clear of his path or risk torment beyond their worst nightmares.

#Inktober Day 24 - Chop / Unicorn


There are legends that unicorns are able to sense innocence, and will only allow the most innocent and virtuous virgins to ride them. Legends accompany beliefs, beliefs fuel the spirit realms, and the spirit realms give rise to legends in a symbiotic feedback loop. In certain outer realms, there are anthropomorphic unicorns, appearing generally human except for their equine heads, tails, and pearlescent horns. Linked to the mythlore of the unicorn, these beings are able to sense purity and innocence among those around them. In those places where these unicorn-folk are found, they often adopt the roles of judges and arbiters of truth. While they have few members, there are rare settlements where half a dozen or more may make their homes, and in such places they will take turns as the local executioner, using their ability to sense virtue as a final line of defence to ensure only the guilty are executed.

#Inktober Day 23 - Muddy / Star


Dangerous things are always threatening to pour into reality from the primeval chaos that exists just beyond the relative stability of the spirit realms. Thankfully, there are various orders of peacekeepers, rangers and outlanders who are willing to get their hands dirty so that others can live without fear of the worst. 

To say that they've seen some shit is an understatement.

Among the more notable groups who patrol the dark places are the Order of the Tin Star. These lawbringers are constantly patrolling the darkness, looking for souls to rescue and wrongs to right. Along with their shining star medallions, the easiest way to identify a Tin Star ranger is the presence of their hounds. There will almost always be at least one hound, but often may be half a dozen or more; and they will range in size from chihuahuas and terriers through to saint bernards and Irish wolfhounds... some have even been known to stride the dangerous deep realms with wolves and hellhounds. 

(This one is dedicated to Steve Dee, if he ever reads it)

#Inktober Day 22 - Expensive / Shell


It has been mentioned that humans aren't the only soul-bound mortal dreamers capable of influencing the spirit realms. Cetaceans and cephalopods are among the most notable of the aquatic dreamers, but there are certain long lived crustaceans who also have the ability to achieve the deeper levels of awareness necessary for dream.

Some of the oldest of these dream crabs scavenge the bottom of the dream sead, collecting the detritus of the forgotten and the abandoned, sometimes adorning their shells with the trinkets they find, and sometimes restoring and trading the forgotten back to the shallows where they might come back to the terrestrial realms (whether they are wanted or not).

29 October, 2018

Old School Regressive?

I've posted in a few locations about the concept that the "Old School" in the OSR is actually a dog whistle for conservative and regressive gamers to rally under.

There are a lot of reasons for this, and it seems to be gaining traction in a few different parts of the web, but one of the biggest problems here is the definition of the OSR. Different parts of the community have different definitions for it, and whenever there is an element that is problematic, other parts of the group say "oh no, that's them... we're the good part", it's the 'Not All Men' argument all over again. Or it could even be likened to the symbolism of the White Supremacists...

Is it or isn't it?

When I think of some of the big name games in OSR, I think of Labyrinth Lord, OSRIC, and Lamentations of the Flame Princess (Wikipedia tends to agree with me on this). One of the common ideas across the communal identifier is that people will know it when they see it... these three are commonly pointed as being big players in the niche market, so it's curious when one of the staff of Lamentations says...


Is that akin to saying, "yes, I'm holding my fingers in an unnatural way for the camera to display an OK symbol, but I'm not like those other people holding their fingers in OK gestures, and it doesn't even mean anything offensive anyway!!?"

Lots of people have seen through this...
(I am enjoying the RPG Opinions group on Facebook for it's stimulating conversation on a variety of roleplaying topics covering various parts of the hobby... but that's another topic) 

Lamentations is also known for it's penchant for art that should be on the side of a mid 1970s Sandman...
...and titles like "Vaginas are Magic" or "Eldritch Cock" that are clearly designed to appeal to males who are struggling to make meaning of their lives beyond adolescent jokes. It doesn't do a whole lot to bring progress to the hobby. An abundance of tentacles and allusions to hentai don't do a lot to counter this argument.

But this isn't just a post about how a single game is regressive, it's about a whole movement.  Besides, whether it's OSR or not, Lamentations of the Flame Princess does exactly the regressive thing that I think places it squarely in the OSR camp.

Race as Class

Humans can be fighters, rogues, clerics or magic users, but elves can only be elves, dwarves can only be dwarves, and halflings can only be halflings. It's an exoticisation of "the other", a blatant stereotyping for anything that is a bit different.

This has been pointed out now in a few different forums, and in each case, the expected responses were obtained.

From women who game, I tended to get responses that agreed with my assessment.


From progressive and rational thinking males, I got responses that either agreed, or accepted that it was a valid way to consider the situation.

From more regressive types, I recieved backlash.


There were also the responses that you can always change the games because the OSR is more about rulings than rules...

...but I've already had a couple of rants over the years about how I don't like ad-hoc and piecemeal systems. There is also an underlying social reinforcement here, where "the rules apply to everyone else in the world, but not to me... I'm a unique and beautiful snowflake", which is hardly socially or psychologically healthy.

This inspires either a gatekeeping mentality, where the person who has all the books is a stronger arbiter of what is or isn't possible, or adds work to a game that many people consider a pastime of leisure and escape. I'm probably not picking the right words here, some people enjoy that extra work, and that's the very reason why they game. I guess that I'm trying to say that this mentality feeds into a barrier against inclusivity in the hobby.

Progress in the hobby forms a positive feedback loop with inclusivity. A conservative attitude says we've already got enough gamers, keep everything the same. A regressive attitude says that gaming has already progressed too far, and that "those RPGs over there aren't real games"...and I've seen that come from various members of the OSR when they refer to Story-based games. 

I could probably rant a whole heap more on this, but that will do for the moment.

27 October, 2018

#Inktober Day 21 - Drain / Fae


Soul energy and dreams keep spirit realms alive, they shape reality and fuel magic. This means that the energy is slught by many entities, and an entire economy has developed around it. Low ranking sprites and imps are assigned the task of harvesting the energy from dreaming mortals, while half-feral poltergeists patrol hospitals and nursing homes waiting for the elderly to cross over so their souls can be sold into slavery or distilled into spiritual fuel. The infernal and celestial bureaucracies run on taxes imposed on these harvesters, and those who dare to cross their checkpoints as they travel across the realms.

Harvesting a passing soul is a one-off event, but the draining of dreams can be a sustainable business lasting for decades. Careful fae go out of their way to inspire dreamers during the day, carefully concealing themselves, and if they manage to nudge the actions of a dreamer toward the goals of their nobles, then a little bonus might come tneir way too. At night, these careful fae tap the imaginatory energy of their dreamers, nurturing and keeping the dreams alive. Less careful fey rip the dreams from their dreaming victims, turning dreams into nightmares. The energy harvested by these less careful fey tends to be more raw, more dangerous, more volatile.

#Inktober Day 20 - Breakable/ Wind


The etheric winds constantly swirl across the spirit realms, sometimes drifting like a zephyr, sometimes howling like a hurricane. They carry fragments of chimeric flotsam and jetsam that batter the realms like millions of sand grains, eroding the edges of dreams and realms until they too become spiritual debris in the eternal maelstrom.

The will of a single soul can prevent gradual erosion of a local realm in the endless storm, but more souls dedicated to a single ideal are required for securing larger realms, or for preventing the effects of the more dangerous storms.

When a population is divided in it's beliefs, cracks begin to appear in a realm. The patterns of growth and self healing give way to statis, fragility and brittleness in a realm. These are dangerous times, where a single savage storm can obliterate a realm, and where the reflection of this loss in the physical realm might be revolution, war, or more physical like earthquakes or global climate change.

Everything has repercussions, all is interconnected.

26 October, 2018

#Inktober Day 19 - Scorched / Mirror


Traditionally, mirrors are powerful magical foci. In some cultures they are considered portals between places, in others they simply act as windows between the physical and spiritual planes. Merely possessing a mirror isn't enough to access the potential magic in it, a mystic needs to have a specific goal in mind, and have knowledge about the loopholes in reality that can be exploited with it.

Separate to foci, and the enchanted mirrors that often operate at the centre of realms, or function as power sources in their own right.

23 October, 2018

Minorities within minorities, and fractal mysticism


This article is exactly the sort of thing I want to explore in the interconnected mystical series of games I have in mind.

In a world where Muslims are being persecuted for their faith, and members of the Sufi sect of Islam are misunderstood further still, life is a battle for respect and recognition. Similarly, in a world where LGBTIQ+ rights are being eroded by ultra-nationalists and right wing scaremongers, and where groups like bisexuals are excluded (or at least obscured) from spaces designated safe for the various members of the queer community. Therefore, life as a bisexual Sufi must be a constant uphill battle on many fronts.

But, this is exactly the type of character these games need. Such characters could spend a huge proportion of their time trying to "fit in" with the world around them... so much time and energy, that they have nothing left to make a significant difference in the world compared to those the system favours. Those characters who embrace their individuality and difference don't waste their time and energy, and actually gain mystical advantage from their differences. When they dedicate themselves to making a change, the differences magnify it. It's a powerful thing, I don't want to belittle it.


It even reminds me of the third episode of Doctor Who's season eleven (if you haven't watched the episode, do so ASAP because this is going to be one of those episodes considered a classic and a seminal piece of Doctor Who lore in future years). The way Rosa Parks was presented as a positive force for change, the hero of her own story.  There are powerful stories out there that need to be told. I'd be arrogant to think that I should tell them. Instead I just want to provide a toolkit that can facilitate the telling of narratives such as these. 

20 October, 2018

#Inktober Day 18 - Bottle / Twin


The many and varied orbiting spirit worlds exist on a multidimensional field where one of the many axes is comprised of temporal possibility, while another is comprised of causal probability. Between these axes are the realms that were, the realms that weren't the realms that will be, those that could be, and those that should never be allowed to come to pass.

Among those realms of the past are static worlds constantly cycling through a single day of historical importance, realms locked into step a decade or three behind the physical world, and realms of alternate presents where a single change in history might have led to a dramatically different global climate. Among those realms of the future there are infinitely more possibilities, all competing to be the "true future" which will eventually supplant the mortal realm when the time is right.

Any potential technology could exist in these realms; flying cars, cold fusion, faster than light starships, laser guns, cybernetics, immortality via chips in the brain stem, anything at all. But these realms exist in quantum flux. In order to become the "true future", many of these realms send clones, robots, Deloreans, soul transferred operatives, or other tools at their disposal into the mundane world. Here these travellers wage a shadow war against one another, each pushing obscure agendas designed to strengthen their own realms chances of becoming reality.

The more exotic a technology, the more noticeable it is in tne physical realm, and the more easily it will be noticed by conflicting reality potentials. For this reason, some of the best true future agents are clones sent into the mundane world after killing their originals (in times gone past, they might have been called doppelgangers)... perhaps even better than those are the operatives who change the will of the collective masses by afopting the roles of movie directors or producers. 

#Inktober Day 17 - Swollen / Royal


The decadent outer reaches of the spirit realms are home to a number of ancient dynasties that have ruled vast exiled empires for longer than recorded history. Constantly fighting among themselves, riddled with inbreeding, and dangerous beyond belief, these corrupt and savage nobles are heartless and  barely resemble the humanity from which they are descended.

There are seven major dynastic houses waging perpetual war, drawing influence from celestials and infernals, mortal dreamers and eldritch horrors from beyond the edges of the known, they channel the power of a hundred sources into a thousand Machiavellian schemes. Each dynastic house has power unimaginable to those in the mortal realm, they are only vaguely understood by their affiliation to the concepts of the seven deadly sins.

The House of Gluttony is known for it's rampant consumption, whether food, money, or anything else, they use things up, discarding the waste regardless of any impact it might have on the rest of the world. Those with a deeper understanding of such things claim that the House of Gluttony created capitalism... others claim they merely subverted it to their own ends.

18 October, 2018

#Inktober Day 16 - Angular / Crossroads


There are numerous spirit realms, most overlapping two or three other in a vast interconnected labyrinthine puzzle. Most realms draw their stability from conscious minds inhabiting them, but some realms lie dimensionally adjacent to dozens of others, with doors connecting places that are with those that should not be. These realms leech energy from the living realms, and those that are most stable are those functioning as conduits and thoroughfares between more populous and vibrant parts of the multiverse.

Some of these realms attain notoriety in myth and legend, such as Yddragsil, or the River Styx. Other realms remain deliberately obscured from the wider community, such as the Eternal Stair and the crossroads of the Paths of Oblivion. Those who do know of the Eternal Stair, and the Paths of Oblivion, know that they intersect at a planar inn where spiritual nomads can find respite for a while on their journeys across the planes.

Those few who know of this hidden sanctuary also know that it has the most comprehensive collection of alcoholic spirits of anywhere in the known planes. 

#Inktober Day 15 - Weak / Glasses


When the physical body dies, the echoes of its resonance sometimes linger as ghostly forms. It is debated as to whether these echoes are lost fragments of soul energy, or the beliefs of those left behind in the physical realm. For simplicity, these echoes are called ghosts, and they share an affinity for the aspects of the physical world that their lives were most associated with. The  ghost of a dog walker might manifest an ability to talk to animals, while the ghost of a serial killer might manifest an aura of palpable horror. Those who spent their lives gardening often find their new homes in the elysian shadowlands quickly overgrown with verdant plantlife and it becomes their eternal destiny to tend that vegetation into a garden, or let it overgrow and consume them, weakening their essence until they become nothing more than eternal fertilizer.

Some of the most beautiful gardens in the shadowlands appear to have delicate sculptures scattered throughout them. Observant wanderers in those gardens may notice that these sculptures still move ever so slowly, or may see them becoming one with the gardens as a ghost's mortal descendents start to forget their legacy. Those ghosts with a strong enough will, or self-awareness, learn to empower themselves through other means, eventually transcending their ghostly status to become something else entirely.

#Inktober Day 14 - Clock / Music


Across the realms, time can be an erratic commodity. In the physical world, time was regulated and harnessed by humanity, and in the adjacent realms time remains relatively constant, but in the far off realms it may move far more quickly or slowly than expected. Those who seek order across the realms have been known to install clock towers at crossroads and barrier thresholds. With dedicated monks tending them, they regulate the flow of time with chimes ringing out at specific intervals.

Such clock towers are always tended by conscious entities and are never automated, because it is observation from a divine spark that collapses the quantum wave and ensures reality remains intact. To maintain sanity, groups of monks are often stationed together, often working together to create musical passages with the clocktower bells. These musical passages reflect the changing hours, days and seasons, or may have encoded messages that secretly spread across reality. 

Review of The Law


Special thanks to Jeremy Smith for reviewing The Law.

He'll be doing a series of reviews for various games in a dedicated group over on MeWe, so I figured that I'd get in early before he was inundated with other games to review. I've included a copy of the review here for those who aren't on MeWe, or who aren't intending to join due to the political views of the site's owner.


Based on this response from Jeremy, I might finally get around to offering my games to other reviewers.

17 October, 2018

#Inktober Day 13 - Guarded / Demon


Before their minds have been locked into societal norms and cultural paradigms, children are a wellspring of creativity and potential. Unburdened by the expectations of the mundane world, and still capable of following their deepest intuitions, they are often able to see through the barriers enshrouding the planes. They see the denizens of the spirit worlds as 'imaginary friends' or 'monsters under the bed', even though those same beings are unable to be seen by adults who have been programmed by the construct of 'maturity'.

The strongest children spiritually are often those who have a stronger affinity for the etherial and astral realms, this often means they are less attuned to the physical world, possibly rendering them physically weaker, or less mentally focused than the people around them. When forced to conform, they feel uncomfortable, socially awkward, and uneasy. Spirits value these children immensely, because they might have the potential to change the worlds with their dreams, or might have the potential to devastate them if they fall u der the influence of darker forces.

#Inktober Day 12 - Whale / Clock


It's anthropocentric and arrogant for humans to believe that they are the only intelligent beings in the mundane world, many members of the ape family, many corvids, cephalopods, and tool using creatures scattered across the animal kingdom have enough of a divine spark to make their own mark on the spirit realms.

Perhaps the most powerful souls outside of humanity are the cetaceans, including dolphins and various species of whales. This might explain why a number of the spirit worlds consist of vast oceans with limited land masses, or with strange sunken ruins sprinkled across them.

There truly are some things in the spirit world that humanity wasn't meant to know.

#Inktober Day 11 - Cruel / Sweet


The spirit realms often draw on the dreams of the mortals. Dreams of worlds that were, dreams of utopias yet to come, dreams of dystopias to be avoided, dreams of worlds that could have been but never were.

The native inhabitants of these realms naturally fit the environment where they are found, but when enough mortals stop thinking of a realm, those with self-awareness often flee to nearby realms and do what they can to masquerade their existence in a new home.

Animal spirits who lose their natural environments adopt humanoid forms in the urban spiritscapes, but retain their memories and the hardwired instincts of their former lives. Demonic succubi who have lost their hells take on more wholesome and sweet visages to blend in with the dreamscapes they now call home, but underneath linger the elements of darkness that formerly defined their existence.

12 October, 2018

Wiccans vs Fascists

If you don't see gaming potential in this, there's something wrong.

Here's where it's from

Wiccans are mobilising against the rise of the right wing, and this totally plays into the concepts I've been aiming toward in my game about mystic familiars and urban magic. Minorities gaining power from the victimisation they feel at the hands of the mainstream, protectors of ancient ways, warriors for diversity, people who dislike one another but have a common enemy who threatens them all. Meanwhile the seemingly monolithic juggernaut controlling the world pushes further toward oblivion while it distracts the masses with light entertainments and meaningless diversions.

I can see so much potential in this...



#Inktober Day 10 - Flowing / Pumpkin


There are places across the realms where the barriers between realities are weakened, these often align with locations of folklore and superstition such as crossroads, edges of forests, and graveyards. There are similarly times when the barriers fluctuate in their power.

There is a general chicken and egg debate regarding whether the beliefs of mortals influence the barrier strength, or if the fluctuating barriers are sensed by the mortals and thus lead to their beliefs.

If graveyards have a weakened barrier between worlds (perhaps due to the increased spectral activity of the restless dead, continually puncturing the barrier with their attempts to complete unfinished business), and if halloween is one of those times when the barriers are weakened, then when the two coincide (halloween on a graveyard), the barrier is doubly weakened and may be eliminated altogether... especially if some other phenomenon such as a full moon further influences the situation.

For this reason, wards and barriers need to be erected. This may be done through simple carving of pumpkins... but as the collective belief in the pumpkin's power is eliminated by consumerism and the banality of the modern world, these carved talismans are losing their power. On the posotive side, that also means that the barriers are getting less weak at these times.

Of course, the unhinged religious fundamentalists have a strong belief in demons and a rabid fear of the unknown, so while they remain a force in the world, the demons will always have an easier time influencing our reality. Some fear witchcraft, giving it power... some disbelieve it, thus weakening it... some believe the only power resides in saints, or angels, depending on the sect of their fundamentalism.

Regardless of intentions or beliefs, pumpkins are still carved in the places where Halloween is observed. To avoid this part of the festivities is to open the world to the darkness, without providing adequate barriers to prevent it's foothold in the physical world.

11 October, 2018

#Inktober Day 9 - Precious / Masquerade

 

The realms of the spirits tend toward the extremes. There are places of hideous nightmare, vistas of primal nature, apocalyptic hellscapes, burning deserts, and frozen crystalline wastes. But just as there are realms inspired by the dark nightmares are hells, there are other realms inspired by magnificence, dreams and heavens. These are no less dangerous.

Those who live in the dark places are known for their bestial violence, predatory urges, and uncivilized violence. Those who live in the light places are known for their beauty, culture, and arrogance. Both seek to manipulate the mortal world, an eternal game of chess, or go. Both conceal their identities to prevent the overload of psychic energy and paradigm shattering insanity that their mere appearance invokes in mortals. These creature are gods, demons, kami, oni, avatars, titans, fey and great old ones.




#Inktober Day 8 - Star / Wings

Star / Wings

The demi-celestial Chimera has made it her duty to defend the mortal realm from the darkest beings drawn to it like moths to a flame. But there are so many of those beings, and only one of her... so she bestows an awakening on lesser spirits, and grants mystic insight to mortals who are willing to assist her. Often these spirits and mortals are drawn to one another, sharing a symbiotic bond as mystic and familiar.

In the mortal realm, these pairs may make low key shifts to reality, preventing the mundane masses from knowing the truth, but in the various spirit realms they may reveal their powers more flamboyantly, taking on the roles of wizards in realms inspired by fantasy dreams, or super-powered heroes in realms inspired by comic books.

Those who have yet to prove themselves have lesser powers, but once a follower of Chimera has shown loyalty and bravery, they may gain admitted to Chimera's Order of the White Lotus. From there they may be granted other powers such as the ability to manipulate dreams or fortune, or access the highly coveted "Dragonfly Wings of Chimera".

Other powerful entities across the realms have established their own orders of loyal followers, disciples, and saints, some dedicated to similarly altruistic purposes... others not so much.

09 October, 2018

The Great G+ Exodus

Well, it's happening. Google Plus is clising down in under a year, but the pricess of winding down has begun. I get a lot of traffic here at the blog from G+ because my posts automatically get reposted there as a part of the wider Google ecosystem. That means I expect traffic here at the blog to drop off a bit, unless I can find a way to repost blog entries to somewhere new.

This news hit me about 6 hours ago, and in that time, a few hundred G+ members have engaged in the great G+ exodus. This move has shifted a decent chunk of my game related community to the MeWe platform.

I've already set up an Artists Group over there, and a few members have already joined. I've also established a group for Australian Game Designers (or those interested in them).

If you're interested this is me... I think it'll take a while to build back up to the 3700 followers I had on G+ (especially when there's a cap of 50 new contacts per day).

There are some great advantages to the new site, such as the ability to add sketches, audio, and markdown text, but these are offset by the politics of the site's founder. When there doesn't seem to be any better options, you've got to take the good with the bad. We'll see how long until another community exodus is required. 

08 October, 2018

#Inktober Day 7 - Exhausted / Apple

Exhausted and Apple

Like the roses of the legendary Flame Gardens, the apples of the Celestial Orchard are a highly-desired delicacy. The trees on which these apples grow are magnificent specimens, standing hundreds of metres tall, on high altitude mountains.

Protected by entities who might otherwise be considered demigods or primal avatars, the Celestial Orchard is a realm of rampant virulent life. But such life is inherently vegetative, animals who linger in the area for too long have their souls and energies drained to nourish the huge trees and their sacred fruit.

In the time it takes most intruders to climb the giant fruit trees, or even see the fruit, the psychic drain has already begun. In most cases, it's only the swiftest flyers can reach the fruit fast enough to avoid succumbing to the drain; but the most successful pickers of the fruit are the sloth totems, who exert such low levels of energy, and conserve their speed. Though they live in a state of perpetual exhaustion, they eat enough of the fruit to live forever. 

Note: The laws of physics vary from demi-plane to demi-plane, and don't necessarily make complete coherent sense. Most say this is because the spirit world draws on the dreams and beliefs of mortals in the central physical realm, where the strongest beliefs and dreams derive from those with the strongest creativity, and the weakest grasp of science. Don't try to make logical sense of it, the spirit realm doesn't work that way.

06 October, 2018

#Inktober Day 6 - Drooling / Lantern

I was really tempted to go with an interpretation of the moth memes going around at the moment, but decided against it at the last moment.

Drooling and Lantern

Unwary travellers in the dark caverns of the outer spirit realms sometimes vanish mysteriously. Those travellers who are more perceptive, or at least more nimble, often return to the more civilised parts of the spirit realms with tales of lantern predators, bioluminescent entities, or at least entities with bioluminescent lures that shine in the inky blackness of the untravelled outer realms.

There is great debate as yo whether these creatures are echoes of the distant past, distorted nightmare fragments clinging to the outer edges of the planes of the subconscious, or entities drawn toward reality from the deepest chaos and darkness between realms. Few have managed to study these entities, for few who linger in their presence retain their sanity for long.

05 October, 2018

#Inktober Day 5 - Chicken / Poison

Chicken and Poison

The subconscious is a strange thing, to communicate with the conscious mind it takes the concepts it needs, and finds the nearest archetypal forms, then it combines those conceptual archetypes with the aim of conveying a hybrid idea. Sometimes the conscious mind understands the deeper meaning... and sometimes it misreads the combined archetype.

In the spirit world, if an archetypal combination manifests enough times, it starts to gain a substantive solidity. In the physical world, there is talk of mythos and logos... the thought and the word. The concepts form, and when they gain power of their own they become named. If they become powerful enough they gain enough substantiality that they become capable of manifesting in the real world. Monsters are "born" or "found" on the edges of civilisation, new stories are "told", new machines are "invented" at the cutting edge of technology... some call this magic.

The cockatrice, and other creatures like it, were once hybrid archetypes, but with enough people giving them power they gained a degree of physicality in the spirit realms. Even though the "educated" people of the modern world don't believe the superstitions and myths that once gave these creatures strength, their names still exist and they are remembered in the folklore and deeper culture. Names give strength, and in the spirit realms these creatures are still dangerous to those who linger in their territory.

#Inktober Day 4 - Spell / Clouds

Spell and Clouds

There are entities bound to the periphery of our reality. Unable to exist in our world, but unable to drift too far from it. Like a planet orbiting a star, if they get too close they burn from it's overwhelming radiance; if they get too far away, they freeze and enter an inert hibernation until awakened by those who bring enough spark of creative radiance to awaken them.

Those known in mythlore as gods exist in such a state. If they contact the mundane, they become infected by the passage of time, if they drift to far from the faith of believers, they lose coherence and become one with the dark chaotic void. Thus they remain cursed to linger in a liminal space of dreams and faith. Some gods fracture their essences, using slivers of themselves to infect dreamers and entities of the material world with a divine spark. Some of these slivers attain a consciousness of their own before fusing with a mortal.

The eternal dreamer, known by some myth fragments as Morpheus, spawned just such a sliver. This awakened sliver echoed the dreams and memories of mortals, taking human form in the process. It tended toward the primal essence of birth and life, rather than confrontation and death, and thus identified with the feminine over the masculine... she adopted the name Chimera.

Knowing that if she stepped foot in the material world she would begin to age, and knowing that the dark places would drain her divinity, she roams the spaces between dreams and memories. She enters the dreamscapes of slumbering mortals, implanting hopes and desires, and harvests the emotions that empower her astral miracles. Many spirits have encountered her at some time, as she acts as a beacon of light against the darker forces encroaching ever closer to the waking world.

#Inktober Day 3 - Roasted / Flower

Roasted and Flower

It is said that in the hidden places of the spirit realms, there are paths that lead to pocket demi-planes that might be described as hells. A number of these demi-planes call out to lost and doomed spirits, like honey-traps offering beauty and fulfillment of desires, but trapping those foolish enough the enter.

One of the more notorious of these is the Flame Garden of Roses, filled with the most beautiful blossoms inspired by the dreams of horticulturalists in the physical realm. The flowers here attain shades that could never be cultivated in the waking world, and their petals are used to flavour the ambrosia consumed by the most discerning celestial entities. Only a few know the paths to reach the Flame Garden, fewer still know the secret rituals needed to escape it's eternal burning. Those who do manage to find the realm without knowing the escape rituals are doomed to spend millennia burning away to ashm eventually joining the pile which ageless elemental gardeners use to fertilise the roses for eternity.

04 October, 2018

#Inktober 1 and 2

I'm really torn this year with #Inktober, I always try to push myself a bit when I generate the images, and this year I was thinking of using a set of alcohol markers that I haven't had much chance to play with yet.


At this stage, I'm probably going to generate all the images in plain linework, scan them in, then colour the images later. But again I'm not sure if the best option is to colour the originals, or print them out then colour the copies. I suspect this is a factor of my hoarding instinct, wanting to keep my originals rather than accept that they might get damaged if I stuff them up in the colouring process. But enough about me... here's the first two pictures.

Poisonous and Magic

Most of the images I'm producing with this series have a vague intention of working with the spirit world project that has been explored in this blog. I focused last year's Inktober around "The Law", and that's given me a stockpile of 31 images that haven't been used yet.

For poisonous and magic, I've combined archetypal concepts. The venom of the snake, the weaving of mystic energies. The dark tentacles of metaphysical entities toxic to our reality, struggling to get through.

Tranquil and Broken

For tranquil and broken, the first idea that came to mind was a scene of a zen garden, somewhat neglected, and falling back to nature. A few reworks and the image ended up here, maybe a scene depicting one of the many realms that characters might visit in their travels.

01 October, 2018

Similar issues across the hobby

Yes, there's political stuff going on in the world...
Yes, that political stuff is important and has a massive impact on many designers I know and respect...
...but this post isn't about that.


I saw this post on G+.


It really reflects a lot of the ideas I've been thinking about with the story fragments in this game about spirits. I like the idea of having narrative goals measured in some way, and I don't want the measurement simply to be handled by GM fiat, but like in the examples indicated I've also seen a break in the immersion when other players are used to gauge someone's performance in character. This can get really messy when one character has a goal at odds with another character, and that other character's player is given an adjudicatory role.
 
I like this concept of having a series of resources or traits that need to be accumulated over the course of the story. Make friends, accumulate gold, raise an attribute, train in a skill, kill a nemesis, solve a number of puzzles, etc. We've already got these concepts in place through the threshold tasks that need to be met before those character levelling events unfold at the end of a story. There's even the potential for varying the difficulty factor of different stories, where some stories allow a quicker path to the critical moments of ascension while others have a slower and steadier path. As indicated in previous posts, this speed variability doesn't disrupt the game.

But now I'm a bit torn by this idea of having introverted scenes where a character reaches thresholds in their story, then explains the thought processes in their head, how they think the events of their narrative have changed them, and what they think they've gained as a result of their journey so far. At each threshold, one of these "introversion scenes" is resolved, and a player gets no more than one "introversion scene" per game. The other players act as a "council of elder spirits" and vote on what bonus is actually achieved by the character. Over the multiple threshold scenes, a character will need to achieve a certain range of these bonuses before they may confront the stories resolution.

But what are these bonuses that need to be accumulated?

I don't have the answers yet, and I'm sure other designers have also worked through these ideas in the past, so I guess it's time to do some more research. Maybe have a dig through Eclipse Stage (which I'm sure I've got sitting on a hard drive somewhere )