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The Flames Lit Up The Night

the ghosts were howling in the late afternoon we were singing along to the same old tune
Alongside Mage: the Ascension, the other White Wolf game I keep revisiting my purely hypothetical plans for is Vampire: the Requiem.

Unlike the my dissatisfaction with the Ascension to Awakening transition, I think Vampire really benefits from the local, ground-level focus Requiem brought. The limits on cosmological buy-in and supernatural history don't just give you greater mechanical freedom in building your own little corner of vampiredom, it ends up foregrounding your world-building decisions on the street level. The first questions you ask aren't how the local Sabbat relates to Montreal or Mexico City, or whether the Tzimisce elder has a pew reserved in the Cathedral of Flesh, but whether your city even has a prince or not… or even other vampires. It's a different kind of game when biggest monsters on the block are your player characters.

As much as I like it, though, that doesn…

The Ascension Will Not Be Televised

Question: If Control's control is absolute, why does Control need to control?
Answer: Control needs time.
A conversation on G+ led me to a few days of thinking about how I'd actually approach a Mage: the Ascension campaign. I regret never getting the chance to have a real go at a campaign back in the day, and the regret of reading so much of it but playing nothing is a fishhook that tears in a little more every year.

Anyway:

• The Technocracy 'Won.' Characters would be a multi-disciplinary amalgam acting as 'Reality Cops,' tracking and neutralizing cognitive deviants and other threats to maintaining Consensus. The timeline of missions depends on the nature of the threat: a large-scale social movement requires a similarly long period of investigation to get to the root, while a folie a masses requires simply locating the centre of the delusion and eliminating it. Multiple missions would be ongoing at one time.

• Cosmology: Ghosts In, Blue Öyster Cult Out. While th…

Night's Black Agents — dust settles on old bones

Here's an optional rule for Night's Black Agents to really bring out that old-boys'-network le Carré flavour.


OLD BONES
In addition to the 55 General Ability points characters start with under the DUST rules, characters who start the game fifty or older gain bonus General Ability build points, depending on their age:

Character's
Starting AgeBonus
Points50-59560-691070-791580+20
These bonus points may not be spent on Athletics, Health, or Hand-to-Hand. In games which also use the BURN rules, spending bonus points on Stability is also prohibited.

Bonus points spent on Network and Sense Trouble, however, are doubled.

Today In Things I Am Doing Other Than Writing Blogs

Wrangling some layout stuff for Pelgrane and Fire Opal's 13th Age.


The Place Where Black Stars Hang

Here's a random colony generator, for those times when you just have to violate human biology in a new and exciting place.

[A] [B] on a [C]. It is under the control of [D], and currently facing a threat from [E]. 

A — Quality
1: Failed, seemingly-empty
2: Violently divided
3: Understaffed
4: Ramshackle
5: Fully-functional
6: Overtaxed

B — Function
1: Mining colony (Examples: gas-mining balloons, seismic power station, mobile helium-3 extractor, unusually non-automated labyritnth deep in the planet's crust)
2: Industrial colony (Examples: raw-material refinery, semi-automated factory, repair facility with massive drydocks, bio-manufacturing centre, junk/salvage processing centre)
3: Agricultural colony (Examples: vat-farms, luddite primitives, oxygen farm)
4: Settlement (Examples: terraforming homesteader community, refugee camp, splinter sect, mutant colony, crash survivor camp, squat)
5: Outpost (Examples: listening post, expedition base, refueling station, isolated laboratory)
6: Forti…

Risable Pursuits

Procrastination is the mother of invention, and I'm never more inventive than when what I should be doing is what I'd normally do to procrastinate. Therefore, here's some unplaytested, probably horrible, very likely subconsciously plagiarized rules for Risus: The Anything Game.

These adjustments are of the 'serious Risus' sort, the kind which slightly disincentivizes Hairdresser vs. Sorceror combats and other symptoms of the High Gonzo Mode in favour of an action or "pulp" mode (whatever that means these days).

All of these variants are based on the big important variant.

The One Risus Errybody Variant: Instead of adding the total dice together to compare against a difficulty, a roll is counted as a success if any of the numbers on the die match. In combat, the winner is the one with the largest number of matching numbers, including multiple sets of matches (e.g. two 2s and two 3s all count as four matches).

If the number of matching dice is a tie, then…

By These Strange Lights

"Tempus Fugit/Max" is probably the best, most pristine example of the X-Files mythology episodes. Unlike most of the other mythology episodes (especially the pilot), it manages to hang the mythology elements on an physical, forensic and answerable mystery—What happened to the plane?—and letting the mythology elements—abductions, MUFON weirdos, sinister government operatives, crashed ufos, recovered alien technology, incredulous locals—interact in and around it. That the key mystery is intricate enough to support the episode without the mythology is essential. If you took the military's cover story at face value, it would make complex enough premise for a Law and Order episode. The actual work of collecting and analyzing the evidence provides suspense which is eventually released, instead of cascading into an increasingly sprawling web of never-answered sub-mysteries, something no individual player can really keep straight.

COVENANT — Part Two

Last time, on Trail of Cthulhu: Covenant...


•  In Iolanthe's sweltering apartment/psychic studio, Carmenelli hands Iolanthe a note about a seance he's hastily arranged.

• Needham begins his investigation into the financial history of Michael Thomas, pastor of the Chapel of Contemplation by talking to Father O'Leary, a salty old priest in the North End.

• Jacob interviews a new maid to care for his children, and lays out the rules governing their care. Esther hands him an address.

• George, Marty, Ephraim Weaver, Carl Standford and Ralph Gilman and sundry others are relaxing in the Silver Twilight lounge; Ralph invites them to a seance he's arranged in one of his father's properties.

• Fred gets a call from Carmenelli, inviting her to a seance that night.

• Needham, tracing the way to the old Chapel of Contemplation, talks to a few more characters in the North End, which point him to a narrow, empty lot down a North End alley. He avoids falling into the crumbling f…

COVENANT Part One - Characters

Here's the list of PCs for my Trail of Cthulhu miniseries campaign. The biographies are perfunctory, reflecting the lack of play behind them; I like to develop backstories in game.


The characters are organized based on patron.

HERMETIC ORDER OF THE SILVER TWILIGHT

George Mewhinney
Occupation: Dilettante
Drive: Duty
Sources of Stability:
• Mummy!
• Lodge friend Ralph
• Boxing club trainer Ferdinand

A Harvard alumnus with an ongoing sideline as a boxer, looking to jump-start a career in politics. To do so, he's become a Neophyte in the Boston lodge of the Hermetic Order of the Silver Twilight. Friends with Marty McTavish, bodyguard of a fellow lodge member.

Marty McTavish
Occupation: Criminal
Drive: Sudden Shock
Sources of Stability:
• Dog, Peepers
• Landlady, Gerty

Personal bodyguard for Ephraim Weaver, an Initiate-level member of the Boston lodge, and friend of George Mewhinney, a Neophyte. Still suffers from amnesia concerning an incident three years ago.

ROCHEFORT DETECTIVE…

A Century of Shadows

Copy of an email sent to my regular group.

This campaign is a miniseries of short episodes surrounding the origin of Delta Green. The time is 1927; the setting is New York, Boston and rural New England.

Everybody chooses one of five patron groups for your character to belong to. While some can be your character's employer, most of them are associations based on your character's interests. Players who've already chosen a patron and Occupation are also noted.

The Hermetic Order of the Silver Twilight, a fraternal organization with an esoteric scrim. The Boston Lodge is located in a large house just on the edge of the city, where many prominent and wealthy members of Bostonian society mix. The Hermetic Order itself is open only to men, but the Order has a daughter-organization for connected women.
     Suggested Occupations: Any except Hobo. Members should have a high Credit Rating, or be from a politically-connected family.
    —Rachel: Dilettante

The Rochefort Detect…

Long Lives the Thief of Lives

My submission to the (unofficial?) 2012 Delta Green Shotgun Scenario content took second place. Not bad for a first try, I suppose, but next year I shall surely lay waste to all before me.

I mean, uh, congratulations everybody.

[Map] Four Left Turns And You're In A Whole New Place

In those strange aeons before Starbucks and iPods made the white, bitten apple ubiquitous, those of us who held fast to the rainbow fruit lived in an alternate gaming world, two years behind everyone else and echoing their statements in similar, if slightly different languages. Deprived of the vast torrent of Doom clones sweeping PCdom, we contented ourselves with the visually dark, narratively dense and occasionally surreal shooter Marathon, from a Bungie Studios that consisted of a dozen or so dudes and bug reports logged on a mountain of pizza boxes. One of the most interesting levels was the result of Marathon's not-actually-3d software, which extrapolated 2d geometry into the illusion of 3d space. So, while you couldn't make a simple ramp, you could force players to battle each other in two overlapping, intersecting grids which occupied the same 'space.' Since then (and Myst, et al), I've been somewhat obsessed with the exploration of spaces which defied no…

Delta Green Shotgun Scenario 2012

My submission for the 2012 Delta Green Shotgun Scenario contest is up! You can read it here and if you like it, please vote for it in the poll!

Investigator Weapons Volume One

Investigator Weapons Volume One: The 1920s-30s is out!

I did the cover and layout design for this one.

The Nameless Sandbox, Part One

I've been following Dreams in the Lich House's Cthulhu sandbox posts with interest, since the idea has been kicking around in my head for a while now too. (I'm a lazy blogger, though.) The sandbox I picture is something halfway between what I imagine most (good) Vampire games are like—politicking, favour-mongering and investigations punctuated by unexpectedly violent responses—and Pelgrane's excellent Armitage Files campaign-in-a-box kit, which Dreams mentioned a few times. He adopts the term 'target-rich environment' for the idea: lots of clues toward lots of concurrent mysteries and suggestions for a player-directed exploration of the environment.

I want a place which has what every D&D adventure area has: dangerous subterranean locations (like 'The Haunting'); dangerous wilderness locations (like 'A Night on Owlshead Mountain'); a 'home base' with different societies coexisting (or not coexisting, as it were); a source of hirelings…

Inspirare Septimana

Quizzicus Zakus

1. If you had to pick a single invention in a game you were most proud of what would it be?
The Mirror Labyrinth. Haven't finished it yet.

2. When was the last time you GMed?
This week, last monday, in person.

3. When was the last time you played?
Online: Last G+ game. Uhh. Last two weeks? Not sure.
In Person: Mid-December, there's a holiday hiatus.

4. Give us a one-sentence pitch for an adventure you haven't run but would like to.
Umm. Hmm. A quiet sobbing comes from just the other side the bathroom door…

5. What do you do while you wait for players to do things?
Goad them into discussing options. Describe environment more. Remind them of previous options. Reiterate situation.

6. What, if anything, do you eat while you play?
As a player: whatever I've brought.
As a GM: whatever the group cooks.

7. Do you find GMing physically exhausting?
Yes.

8. What was the last interesting (to you, anyway) thing you remember a PC you were running doing?
My PC? Um. I tried to assassinate a guy. A wh…

Sound and Vision

In case you didn't see them elesewhere, and still have cash left after Boxing Day, here's a couple dazzling products with some drawin's I did in them:

Weird Adventures, pulp metropolitan fantasy. With hobo goblins.

NOD 12, featuring a minigame called Mutant Truckers.

"HIS NAME IS…"

Roll 2d6:

1-2: Potential informant gurgles blood, and spits out (1d6: 1-2 pins, 3-4 snakes and frogs, 5-6 unidentifiable organic matter, highly acidic) before dying from internal haemorrhaging.
3-5: Potential informant reacts with terror to symbol on the character, or is struck with intense paranoia. Accuses PC of being "One of them!" and flees through nearby window, down slippery steps or over cliff.
6-8: Potential informant is fatally struck with a (1d6: 1-2: knife, 3: shuriken, 4: poison dart, 5: arrow, 6: bullet) from the shadows.
9: Potential informant reacts to other half of binary poison sprayed on PC earlier in adventure, and dies messily.
10: Potential informant gasps in terror, looks past the PCs and suffers a fatal heart attack.
11-12: Potential informant suddenly jerks free, grabs suicide pill and downs it. If medical aid or stomach pump saves them, reroll on chart.