Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year From Down Under!

For the new year I'm going to try my hand at photography so I can add pictures to some of my posts. Not all of them, you understand. I fill enough time writing them let along getting over 350 photographs as well. I'm happy for the landscape pictures to be re-used at will using the Creative Commons 3.0 license (attribution or at least link backs would be nice) but I retain the copywrite of any images that have people clearly marked out in them. I don't want them showing up in awkward places.

Naturally any pictures of videogames, videogame box art, and RPG book cover art don't belong to me. If I use any other Creative Commons pictures for any reason I will include an attribution below the photograph. If it has such an attribution, it also doesn't belong to me.

But yes, anyway, yay for getting the photo bug! You'll be seeing a lot more of Adelaide around this blog.

As for the next Masks episode, well, I'll be uploading that tomorrow.

Anyway, happy new year!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Horrors: Researching Slang

Just a short one today as we're in that magical time between Christmas and New Years. I'm planning on including a one-page glossary (including terms like ARP and Wermacht) and a single page full of common slang. Now rather than go do something silly like rely on web-sites (who knows what sources they used?) or autobiographies (their language doubtlessly had been updated over the years), I've bought a subscription to several UK newspaper archives from the era and have been taking a look at British movies of the era. Yes, both of them may not necessarily use the most common slang but, let's face it, the United Kingdom is so diverse that there's doubtless a dozen different sub-sets of slang.

It's funny, though, how much slang hearkens back to yesteryear. Terms like 'cool' were occasionally used and you could certainly find terms like feminist, chauvinist, and mysoginist, which one might expect would have sprung forth from a later era.

There's also plenty of so-called American slang alive and well in Britain at the time, which makes sense considering Hollywood's movies and comics were spreading their slang about. Some of it caught on. Plenty of it didn't.

Anywho, that's my post for the day. More a random thought than anything deep and meaningful.

Hope you had a Merry Summer Holiday and will have a Happy New Year!

Arrival: Awkward Situation Meet Kidnapping

Dante (Nico in Male Form due to Transformation wand) and Ruby (aka Rochelle) arrive at the Grand House at the appointed time and are shown into Cameron's part of the house. Cameron's bedroom was kind of like a hotel room at a majestic hotel with a receiving area / bedroom area dividing the room with a large walk-in robe and a large bathroom to one side. Dante stretched out on the couch, acting as an airheaded Douche bro but the whole crisis of faith thing prevented him from being very convincing. He could tell that Cameron was curious about them and their purpose here, especially considering the awkward "We're Totally Married Yet Don't Act Like It" way he related to Ruby.

Cameron offered them a shower with real running water - even hot water! When Dante offered Ruby the first shot at it, Cameron pointed out that they might as well shower together. Being married and all. So Dante shrugged and went in with her, promptly sitting on the edge of the tub while she showered and keeping his head politely turned away. If he wasn't bisexual, he wouldn't have cared so much but it seemed rude to peer at someone's naked body when you were interested in it.

Then it was Dante's turn in the shower, though Ruby wasn't quite as polite as he stripped off though she did look away when he was totally naked. Cameron came in with their fresh clothing and Dante made up an excuse about being almost done, thus why Ruby had already stepped out. It would've been believable -- if he wasn't still very sandy and obviously mostly unshowered. Cameron pointed out he might want to comb the sand out of his hair before leaving. Cue more awkward conversation. Finally Dante wrapped a towel around himself, feeling rather awkward and worried about random boners (being born a woman means you don't truly know how male anatomy is suppose to work). Ruby made a point to help wipe some of the sand off his chest. Awkward.

It's one thing to sleep with 2 out of 3 of your team mates. But all 3? Even the one who was meant to be off-limits due to being a straight woman? Curse that wand of Become Striking Looks 4 Male!

Cameron provided Dante with a pair of shoes that fit! Clean new socks. A silk shirt in a nice colour and black slacks. Oh, and boy underpants. Dante was excited about the items of clothing in that order. Squeezing male Size 10s into women's Size 8s hurt but what else could he do? They hadn't had time to nip into a shoe shop.

Cameron then provided Ruby with a flashy, skin hugging silver dress, though while it did highlight Ruby's assets (Striking Looks 2), it wasn't to Dante's tastes. Dante preferred his women dressed fun, funky or in militaristic / survivalist fashions. Still, the dress was kinda cool.

When they went to the ball it was more of a dinner party at this stage with 40 of the settlement's finest (or most preferred) sitting around six tables and enjoying themselves. His mother's table had room for her husband and four children on the left (no seating placement for Nico anymore) though his younger sister's table setting was empty as she had relocated to the furthest away table with her favorite honchos. Daniel could be seen talking to the leader of his team of Scavengers. Tara, Nico's older sister wwho set up these balls, could be seen mingling with folk (Vice: Envy). Cameron took Ruby and Dante to the table of guests who mean little in the scheme of things, then nipped off to have his obligatory time with mother dearest.

Cameron came to sit at Dante's table just as Daniel made a speech about how he has been formally accepted as his mother's heir and that, to celebrate, he wants to pass around free wine found by his new Scavenger team. The rest of the new Scavenger Team entered and Dante felt a heat coming off them in waves. Danger Sense heading into the red zone! Dante and Ruby didn't touch the wine. Cameron did, despite Dante's vague warnings about the whole situation being suspicious. Those who drank the wine started to gasp and drop their glasses, loosing at Daniel's scavenger team with shock and horror.

Dante felt something hammering at the back of his eyes, as though Smiling Jack were trying to tell him something, and with a deep breath and some brief shutting of the eyes, Dante came to really see them for what they were. One man who had previously seemed to wear an eye patch actually had only one eye like a cyclops. A woman's body and limbs bristled with thorns. The leader seemed to have a human face connected to a steel body. Each seemed inhuman. Each seemed wrong.

Dante's mother began chanting a banishment as the Scavengers got into position to view the entire room, pulling out their weapons. The Bad Guys, unaffected, roughly bound her hands behind her back and marching her off. When Nico's father tried to get involved, they beat him unconscious. Then Daniel smiled around at everyone and pulled out his mother's chair, sitting down pointedly to show his newfound power. Of course, the head of the Bad Guys had his own ideas and he made a snide introduction of: "Our King!" before two of his buddies came up behind Daniel and slammed a sharp-edge crown onto Daniel's head.

Daniel pulled himself free of his chair, using a Castigation that made him huge and threatening, assuming a somewhat demonic form, but the Bad Guys beat him down before he could hardly finish his transformation. The Bad Guys then told the stunned crowd that they would be back soon to take over the settlement before going to the stage area of the ballroom, pulling back the curtains to reveal some weird sandy dessert before stepping through it with mother and Daniel in their arms.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Arrival: Home Is Where The Pain Is

After punching the devourer, the team heads towards Nico's home town. Nico, now calling herself Dante to match her masculine form, ends up spending a night en route in one of the buildings. While sleeping Dante had an Infernal Vision.

A man in Scavenger clothing with a rough cloth veil over his face walked with an unerring yet exhausted looking gait across the sands of New York, carrying a busted and taped together AK-47. He walked with his gaze straight on some key point in the distance. As he moves a couple dozen men in black suits with rather ordinary faces step forward from the alleys and say things like: "You're not supposed to be here" and "Identify yourself" and "We need to talk to you". They seemed so inhuman. So fixed. He ignored them so they get in his way, trying to grab him. He fires at them with the AK-47, still trying to move through, but they overpower him through sheer numbers and he falls to the ground, his dust mask falling off to reveal a decaying face. The man was a walking corpse! As he falls, he flings the AK-47 away from himself to lay in the sand.

Then Smiling Jack - the demon with the fixed grin - strolled down the sand toward the AK-47 before stopping about a dozen feet away. He reached up to his own face and pulled it free like a mask, revealing Nico's underneath. As Nico stared at the gun a single tear slid down her face. There was a sense of both longing and ... despair, maybe?

When Dante awoke, he could sense the direction of that gun. Somewhere in Queens.... He knew that he didn't need to rush over there right away but once this situation had been resolved, he would need to go.

As they neared his home town, Dante gave Jack the sniper rifle and relics to take care of so that they couldn't be confiscated on the way inside. Jack couldn't enter because he'd gotten into a skirmish with her older brother once upon a time while trying to warn the family. Their cover was that Dante was Rochelle's boyfriend (Rochelle being called Ruby during all of this) with Johnny coming through as their tagalong.

Nico was nervous when they used the demon tests (bit of blood on an electronic apparatus) for fear that it would detect her as demonic. Thankfully they entered without issue. She had worried while Johnny undertook the test. His experiences with his geist sounded a lot like demonic possession after all.

Once in town, Dante played with his cover by flirting with Rochelle - whom he called Ruby. Although Rochelle was straight and knew 'Dante' was actually a woman, the Nick Sanderson disguise was Striking Looks 4 and when you add that to Nico's Presence 5 and Socialize 3, you have someone who's really good at flirting. So Rochelle got a bit affected by the flirting, or so it seemed.

In between being flirty (yet respecting boundaries), Dante sought out gossip among the locals, borrowed someone's guitar to play a few tunes (having mysteriously discovered a specialty in guitar), and attempted to auction off the various items from the bag of dildoes they'd brought with them to trade. After trading one dildo for a bunch of tinned fruit, her younger brother, Cameron, appeared (Vice: Lust). Cameron bid two tickets to his family's ball for all of the loot on display. Dante pointed out that he didn't have any clothes for the ball so Cameron Chetaine offered to loan him some. Dante accepted as it helped her overarching goal but he was sad to see his loot sold off for such a meh price. Especially the glow-in-the-dark lubricant.

Although the settlement only contained 200 people, it managed to maintain two pubs due to the wealth of the Chetaine family and the general encouragement of vice in the region. There's a bunch of unfamiliar Scavengers hanging out at the seedier pub. The kind of folk that make her skin crawl when she uses Sense the Unrighteous. To make matters worse, this unfamiliar team contain about 20 or so individuals. Naturally Johnny was already gambling with the henchman.

Her ruminations were distracted by her younger sister arriving. Michelle strode up to the bartender with a group of hangers on in tow and slammed a shotgun down on the counter, threatening him with all kinds of violence if he didn't return her end of the deal (a couple crates of booze) since the shotgun nearly blew up in her hands. The bartender seemed quite shocked by all of this and kept maintaining that it was a good quality gun so Michelle stuck a knife to his throat and told him not to lie. While the bartender trudged off, Dante did the exact opposite of what a random Scavenger would do.

He intervened. He offered to assist Michelle in getting to the root of the problem by mentioning that Ruby was the daughter of a skilled gunsmith and could easily locate the problem.

Michelle was instantly suspicious. Who the hell walks up at that kind of moment to offer their help? Dante pointed out that he was new in town and figured that at the very least he could get a free drink. So Michelle let Rochelle take a look at the gun and Rochelle pointed out that if the shotgun hadn't been such a fine piece of work, it probably would have exploded in her face as some shotgun shells of the wrong size had been filled with pebbles. Obviously some amateur with a reloading bench tried to make it work out and sold them as genuine.

Michelle told the bartender to give Ruby and Dante a free drink before stalking off. Dante stealthily followed his sister, worried that perhaps his older brother, Daniel (Vice: Pride), might be to blame since he was the one who seemed to be planning a coup. Dante tracked her down to a dinky old house at the outskirts of the protection field (generated by the six red stones) and crept up to the back window. He saw Tara and her hangers on burst in and start accosting a gun dealer for his faulty ammunition. She then proceeded to badly beat him up with the shotgun while her pals kept his pals at bay. She was the daughter of the boss, after all. Best not to rough her up. At the end of the rather brutal assault, she lifted up the shotgun and admired it's workmanship for not cracking under that assault. Dante took that point to creep away and head back to the pub just in time to see Johnny leaving.

Johnny told Dante that he'd gathered some information. It turned out that the new Scavenger group worked for the older brother and seemed to get at all of the good stuff. There's also rumours that they take out other Scavengers and then kill them (or come across them and kill them) and then blame it on monsters or unstable buildings. No one goes out with them anymore and everyone tries to avoid them. It looks like Daniel is trying to get a monopoly on all of the trade, perhaps trying to wrestle it away from mother dearest.

Dante and Rochelle then split from Johnny once more and went to kill time until the ball. Dante's head (and heart) was already reeling from this outsider's perspective of his family. It was one thing to live here, torn by wanting to do the right thing to do and by loyalty to the family, it was a whole other thing to leave and experience the life of a Big Damn Hero only to return and get a cold hard look at his folks. It had only been six or so weeks but it felt like years had passed. This place seemed alien and wrong and Dante half-wondered if his own family were monsters who should be slain. He kept his crisis of faith to himself, squeezing it all into a pit in his belly for now. For someone with the Virtue of Faith, a crisis of faith is a big deal. It'll be fun when that implodes all over the place but there's hardly time to really think about it.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Arrival: Punching the Powerhouse

Gipontel took her with him through a portal doorway to the side of the Abyssally tainted warehouse (which wasn't too far away) and pressed his hand to the wall, collapsing it in on itself and hopefully disrupting the Abyssal energies contained within. Or at least burying them. Nico took it all in her stride though the demonstration of his sheer destructive might made her recall the novelisations of Supernatural she had read and their depictions of angels. It looked like she had her own form of Castiel. Albeit a little more seemingly mentally unstable, judging by his strangely affable and friendly nature.

The conversation continued about her being Shaitan and she told him that he had no proof of this so wasn't it a bit crazy to buy into it?

So Gipontel started rattling off syllables of great power that seemed to resound to Nico's very bones. These syllables seemed to be the very summary of her essence and so, naturally, she whipped out her gun and accused him of trying to cast a spell on her. She wasn't too sure what she expected to achieve with a gun since the safety would doubtless be on the moment she thumbed it off, but he stopped talking so it worked. He then told her three syllables of his own True Name and left it at that - proving his contentment with his assumptions. Nico simply chalked it up to a spell cast by a crazy person who wanted to believe so much he even lied to himself.

Nico asked Gipontel about others like him and whether there was anyone of his kind at the university. After all, she was apparently a demon anyway. Gipontel he explained that there was, in fact, a Fallen at the university and that his name was Uzra. Naturally he also invoked the Fallen's name so the guy at least had a head's up. And yes, that Uzra was Dr. Alvin Gruber.

Well, boy did Nico feel vindicated!

Naturally once Gipontel left, Nico made herself look like herself again and made a beeline for the university where she met with a rather despondent looking Gruber. She tried to toy with him a bit about the information she had on the protective dragon of the place but he cut through her crap by telling her that he knew that she knew. He demanded to know what she was planning to do about it. Naturally Nico hadn't thought that far ahead. At the very least she knew she wouldn't win a bout of fisticuffs with him.

Nico pointed out that she hadn't tried to kill Stix or the Baccanal guy and therefore Uzra wasn't top of her list anyway. Yeah, she's great at winning friends and influencing people.

Unfortunately for her, she had managed to step on all of his triggers but not in an anger-inducing way. Uzra is an interesting sort of Fallen. A deviant who seeks to validate himself through seducing those who disdain him. So he goes to kiss her again. She pulls back (more amused than offended) and zaps herself with the transformation wand so that she became a man. Uzra seemed thoroughly bemused by this. He obviously didn't swing both ways. But he used his own magic to force her to shift back to female and resumed kissing her. So she pulled away and rejoined the others (who were in another room at this point) and asked if she could stash some stuff here before they went on another run.

Uzra took that to mean that she was planning to stay afterwards but Nico brushed off his assumptions. Once she had cleared out their bags of anything nonvital - keeping the bag of dildoes as marketable items for her home community - Uzra reached out to shake her hand goodbye. As she took his hand, he used his magic powers to zap her nerves into gear - throwing her into a powerful orgasm that dropped her from her feet. Lore of Flesh has some interesting applications when you really think about it.

Jack, naturally, charged him after seeing Nico fall. Both hatchets were out as he swung for Uzra's head. Uzra stepped back and caught them both by the haft with superhuman strength. Jack tried to wrench them away. Johnny and Rochelle stood back confused. Nico dragged herself back up to her feet, punched Uzra in the face for a few bashing and walked out, followed by the others.

She was naturally both offended, angry, (horny) and creeped out.

That night she massively flirted with Johnny in a mates-but-kinda-not way and when he made a move (the ever so charming and subtle hand on the thigh), she had Rochelle take her watch so she could take Johnny into a back room. Before they got at it, she made Johnny promise to sleep with other people too because she wasn't after any exclusivity or even expectation of more. Johnny happily accepted that bargain. And then, well ... you can guess.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Masks: Half Moon Cult Ideas

I really like the Secrets of New York book. I especially like the "Half-Moon Cult" adventure although it's lack of a box out timeline did make it rather painful to piece together when everything happened or was about to happen. It was also problematic having Mogens and Eugene Vanderklei's stats printed in the Yorkville section rather than in the adventure section. Still it was pretty solid for a one-shot scenario. I've used it to draw James Paterson to New York so I can later start my Masks campaign.

But if you have a player like mine who pokes into everything, you will need to have a bit more information on this cult. Firstly, witch-cults aren't known to include several dozen cultists which indicates that a few things. Firstly there's eight apartments in the facility itself. They're quite small apartments, little more than a cramped room or large-ish office, which indicates that there are eight cultists though they might be hot bedding (sleeping when the other's on duty). I determined that there were six cultist security guards in the facility who were probably younger sons of the cultists and who alternated twelve-hour shifts five days a week with some overlap. These were also the individuals used for retrieval. There's also Albert Day, the chief of security.

In truth anyone in the facility needs to be either a cultist or controlled in such a way that they might as well be. I assumed that the cook was a cultist, placed the nurse as Eugene's wife, and then included the two assistant scientists on the payroll. It explains that while the facility is pristine there just isn't much experimentation going on because there's not enough people to really get it cranking. Besides which, in occult experimentation scenarios there's very rarely a fleet of scientists helping each other. It's normally just a few mad geniuses having flashes of insight.

Mogens is a cultist. I put in the claim that he had a wife just as all of his ancestors have had a wife. In truth it's a lie and a cover for when he recreates himself as his own son. I see Mogens as an aromantic asexual. His interests lie elsewhere. This is mostly because giving him a family or anything similar just adds complications. His home security guards are regular people who know nothing of the occult. They do know that their employer is scary, however, and will kill them or their family members if given reason to do so. This means that they don't need to be slain to end the cult.

So we have Mogens, Albert Day, Eugene Vanderklei and his nursely wife, Vanderklei's two assistants, six security guards. I decided to limit the coven at twenty four + Mogens. That's a nice manageable number who could attend ceremonies in Mogens' home (as described in the book). The others are all dilletantes, media moguls and key businessmen. A husband and wife team of dilletantes are Mogens' heavy hitters and know a few spells to compel others to do their bidding and then forget the memory afterwards.

The next main question is: What occurs at the ritual? The adventure assumes that the only natural choice is to head to the laboratory but there is an equal chance the players will want to straight to the source and attack Mogens. Is this a good idea? Hell no! But we need to have some idea of a ritual to make it work as well as some objects and religious paraphernalia that can be found locked away in Mogens' bedroom. If you look at Mogens' spell list, you'll see that he can create a number of items, so those should certainly be present. What else?

So we have a New Moon Cult. Areas of light and darkness will matter. Black and white ritual table cloths. While the other cultists wear full black, I like the idea of Mogens wearing a half black / half white suit, like two vertical halves of a suit sewn together, with a tie that shows rather disturbing imagery of Nyarlathotep, a coven and some sacrifices. A tie that causes 1 sanity loss to any who pays too much attention to it. A glance at it while talking to Mogens is fine but a closer examination - enough to give a full description - is a 0/1 sanity hit.

So that covers some of the decorations. But what could they spend their time doing during their rituals? A eugenics cult of business people doesn't really work for ecstatics and, besides, I have the Bloody Tongue cult for that. I wanted something sedate. So I see them interlinking hands in a circle around the ritual chamber, intoning strange syllables that feel like the rising and crashing of waves across alien shores, and whose sounds create flickers of imagery in one's minds - imagery of alien worlds and bizarre cityscapes and possible futures of humanity. Just brief flashes, nothing more.

Mogens leads them in this prayer and then once per month they take a sedated homeless victim of another race and lay him upon a thick round table made entirely of folded bandage-like material and wrapped in a white sheet, perfect for soaking blood. The victim is both sedated and given a paralysing draught but the sedative is a weak dose designed to keep them in a half state for the start of the ritual when each participant strides forward to carve a moon-shaped line in the victim's flesh while the other's intone. By the time Mogens must take his place to scoop out each of those twenty four circles with a melon baller, the victim is fully aware but unable to scream.

Out of the shadows behind Mogens coalesces Nyarlathotep in his avatar of the Black Man and the shadow seems to thrum and vibrate, not fully drawn into our reality (because that should not be such a regular occurence) but vaguely there, and it reaches out and pulls the essence of the victim into itself and leaves the victim's corpse in a state of terrified rictus with a multitude of round cuts from its body. Then, and only then, do the intonations begin to drop away, the shadow dissipates, and they all retire to one of the other rooms for a brandy.

The servants are worshipful and devout to Nyarlathotep but aren't allowed to be true cultists. There's a housekeeper, maidservant, cook and general dogsbody.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Plot, Character, Conflict, and Setting - What Are You After?

Most adventures focus on Plot (what has been done or is being done), Conflict (triumphing over adversities using dice and mechanics), Character (how people feel and who they are), or Setting (immersing people in a sense of place).  Any good adventure has all four but naturally some play styles and adventures prioritise them differently. Some campaigns very strictly prioritise one over the other. It can help to think about your priority list for these four things and to speak to your players about their own interests and expectations. Each of these four elements have their needs and their focus. Since a game only has so much time, you need to think about what you will prioritise during that time.

If characters are a big deal then there should be time available to build relationships, to explore a crisis of faith, to come to terms with changes, connect with the character's history through NPC meetings, among other things. If this is the least priority than players need to pack any character development into the moments in between major situations. It needs to grow organically from comments made at crime scenes and choices made during conflicts. Since there's no real time for it, it will likely occur more slowly through a series of progressive and minor details, if it occurs at all. NPCs all need to have a place in the plot or be relegated to mere tools. There's no use in the players giving their characters any children and expecting them to be anything more than a talking point. Any aunties or family friends need to either be plot points or useful tools to the character so they should be described to the Storyteller in terms of occupations, skills and hobbies, rather than in terms of relationships. In a game like the World of Darkness, such fellows would need to be represented by allies, contacts or retainers if they're to come up at all.

If setting is a big deal then there needs to be time spent on cultural events and behaviours, historical detail, and physical descriptions of people and places. The players need to be aware that some time will be spent on where they are as much as on what they are doing there. They also should be given the chance to develop their character's background as they learn more about the setting so that they can adapt their characters to it in order to better integrate themselves into this reality. If it's a low priority then location descriptions should be short, sharp and snappy - perhaps with only one or two telling details on top of the practical necessities of room description. History and detailed cultural descriptions aren't necessary and will only slow the game down. Historical accuracy is generally not a big deal when setting isn't, though sometimes people want accuracy but just don't want much focus on the details of the world at large. Generally games which put setting at a low priority are better off with either generic settings or places which are

If plot is a big deal then there needs to be more acceptance that player's choices will be curtailed somewhat or at least limited in scope. This is necessary because heavily plotted games (like crime scene investigations) requires so much focused pre-session work involving locations of clues, prop creation, and consideration of situations that running off the rails or rejecting an adventure out of hand is a sure fire way to run into empty space with nothing to do and nowhere to go. Naturally even heavily plotted games should not be on rails. The Storyteller should think of the plotted adventure as a building filled with corridors, vents and doorways between rooms. While the players shouldn't leave the premises (thus departing the scenario), nor should the Storyteller provide only one path. If plot is a low priority, such as with pure sandbox games, then the players need to take far more responsibility in determining where they go and what to do. The lack of plotted spots set in stone (or even clay) means that the players may have little to no guide rails aiding them in finding their way through to their desired accomplishment. Such games are most often focused on the resolution of goals rather than the experience of rising tension through clear-cut beginnings, middles, and ends (though sometimes they may naturally form).

If conflict is a big deal then there should be plenty of creatures to encounter and obstacles to overcome. There also needs to be a clear-cut motivation and, ideally, guilt-free consequences for pummeling or killing dozens of minions to reach the conclusion. If there are to be high consequences of failure or discovery, or ambiguous enemies and villains, the Storyteller should be upfront with the players and be aware that the players might then choose to deal with some of these conflicts in a far less lethal and action-oriented way. If it's a low priority then there should be fewer opportunities for combat (as they take up a lot of time) and what combats and obstacles there are should be dealt with in a brief fashion. There also should be a variety of non-physical methods allowed in-game as the players might consider using their resources or social skills to defuse a problem.

Of course how much you prioritise each session is up to you but it's a good idea to keep some consistency through the campaign. After all, it can lead to confusion if a pure sandbox narrows several times into tightly focused plots and players can get frustrated at sudden interruptions of long periods of Conflict-Plot-Setting which broadens out into sessions focused on Character Development. Sure, you can pull it off, but it does make it a little harder.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Musings on Masks: Episode 05

EPISODE SUMMARY (Sedated): Wherein James Paterson attempts to follow the abusive attendant while sedated when the attendant steals away with a heavily drugged Jack Frost.

EASTER EGGS: I didn't research the effects of thirties sedatives on a person's mind and body so I just guessed my way through it.  Did you notice?

I was also naughty and uploaded the audio file attached to this article on Sunday as I knew I wouldn't have access to what I needed today to do it.

ADVENTURE LAYOUT: I really had no idea how James would win this one.  I figured that he'd end up either lost or stuck in the room with Jack Frost, having his feet placed in lead boxes, and then having to wait until his next major interview to be able to report what happened to him.

Luckily James managed to think up some strategies that still made sense to a sedated mind and didn't rely too much of reflexes.  I was quite surprised and happy to see him make a success of such a difficult and early stages mission.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Horrors: Pictures

Since it's Christmas week I'm going to do a short post. It's really hard to find pictures for roleplaying games. Oddly enough I've heard you can commission artwork for $25 to $100 a pop and yet to license a photograph that could be purchased by dozens of different folks dozens of times it costs much more than that. I understand that photographers deserve their money, too. It's just odd that a custom picture would cost so much less than a photograph that would be relevant to a multitude of folks.

I've also tried looking for the odd Public Domain photograph and found that they're not normally in the Public Domain anymore but are now owned by places like the Imperial War Museum. No such luck there.

I'm not yet at the artwork stage but even a brief look at the situation makes it seem to be the most complicated and annoying part of the process.

Ah well, when you're doing anything as big as creating your own roleplaying book you've got to expect to run into a number of annoying bits. This one, thus far, seems to be the most annoying bit to date and I haven't really started on it yet.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Arrival: G Man Revelations

The team found a place to bunk down for the night. Nico set a devil’s trap by the door in the vain hope that Gipontel would step through it. Naturally he waited until after they’d left the building the following morning before approaching them. Gipontel told Nico that the rod had once belonged to his friend and then he explained how to use it. There are five gems. A red one on either end, one green one in the middle, and one blue between those two. The user placed one of the red ends under their chin and touched the green gem (while activating it with faith) to record their current appearance. One could thus record a different appearance on each side of the rod. In order to transform one places the correct side under the chin and then presses the middle green button to effect the transformation.

Gipontel bid Nico to do just that so that she could gain a new appearance to infiltrate her old home town to stop her brother. He assured her that the demonic test won’t go off because it must have been rigged the first time as she didn't *ping* as a proper demon would.

Nico couldn’t help but feel like putting the rod beneath her chin was like putting the muzzle of a gun there. Would it open her to possession? Would it kill her? Transform her into a mass of still living gore? One could never know with demons. She just couldn’t bring herself to use it.

So Gipontel activated it for her and the change was instantaneous. Suddenly her feet didn’t fit too well in her shoes and that wasn’t the only heaps obvious change.

She was a man now and, judging by the look on Rochelle’s face, an attractive one at that.

She felt her face and found piercing holes by the eyebrows and nose. She had calluses on her hands as though she were a guitar player rather than the calluses of a scavenger. The rest of her skin was smoother than she'd ever felt before. Even some of the grit had fallen off due to the resculpting of her skin. She also had tatts now.

Johnny thought it was all rather humorous and exclaimed: “I knew it!” when Gipontel pointed out that it used to be one of his old friend’s hosts. It turned out the guise was that of a rock star called Nick Sanderson, lead singer and back up guitarist to a pre-arrival rock band (who basically played songs like the Deftones).

Nico decided to put that to one side for now and demanded to know about the strange over-sized Odin worshippers. She pointed out that she entered the warehouse that he had warned her against and nothing bad had happened to her.

Gipontel stated that just because he was a demon didn't mean he knew every supernatural in the city but he was glad that the warehouse issue hadn't become too problematic. You see, the warehouse had become one of those places where the Abyss oozed through the cracks and therefore those things that had come from the shadows on the ceiling were Abyssals. Nico vaguely recognised the term from some of the demonology textbooks - the entities from the 'walls of entropy' which demons famously despised. It made sense to her that Gipontel wouldn't like them either.

Gipontel again explained that he thought she was his friend, Shaitan. When she argued that she had never died and thus couldn't be possessed by the rules he had stated that his particular breed of demon followed, he agreed with her. Somehow Shaitan had been born as someone not quite human but close enough to it. He wasn't sure why this had happened but he was sure that it must have. She figured he was crazy and told him to stop chasing ghosts. The past was the past and it was time to move on rather than locking himself up in the vain hope that someone will come along and tell him what he should be doing. Especially since the person he was waiting for was apparently dead. Gipontel had mentioned something about Shaitan and trials and failure and rupturing in the school, after all, and he felt quite free to mention his friend's name with no expectation of a response. Rather than waiting for what would never come or latching onto someone in the desperate hope that they were the same person, maybe he should go and live his life.

Since the conversation was based on assumptions of human psychologies, she wasn't sure if it would work or what the results would be but his responses to it largely seemed human enough. She could see that he still wanted to believe but her words also seemed to be sinking in. Especially those words about being more active in stopping the world from being destroyed.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Arrival: Odinson & the Nords

There are some things you just don’t expect while walking the streets of post-apocalyptic New York and that’s stumbling across a battle between a demon and ... Vikings. Nico almost lost a round in shock before telling Rochelle to set up her gun and take a couple pot shots at the beast. The Viking men swung axes and wore furs and leather armour so at least it was a good view.

After the beast was despatched, they came running over to Nico’s team and requested help for their champion who was badly injured. Nico followed them in and found herself in the warehouse she had been advised to avoid. A giant of a man (literally Size 7) was slumped against a wall with cuts across his chest. They declared him to be blessed by Odin’s son and said they were fighting against the evil Fenris during these end times.

Nico laid on hands and pretended to be praying to Freya (seemed appropriate though she knew sweet eff all about Norse Gods) when she made her Latin chant and used what is essentially a Benediction co-opted by my Storyteller to the cause and made into an accessible merit. It took ten minutes but I managed to heal five lethal. My Intelligence is 2 and as I only knew 2 prayers it made my dice pool a measly four.

They were very grateful to her and disclosed that they were on a mighty mission to take on a big fiery demon – the very same one she was after as well. She figured the giant fellow to have sold his soul to a demon unwittingly but also figured they could use the extra meat shields so she agreed to go along with them. They were also collaborators, after all. They made their way out of the haunted warehouse and something began to coalesce out of the shadows on the roof. The big guy slammed it with a hammer, breaking the wall, and they hoofed it out of there and kept on their way.

After a day’s travel they found the place they were after. Several patches of ground were charred with a section around a particular old butcher’s that was entirely blackened. They spotted the demon not too far away just before it spotted them. The huge Nord charged it and it flew up into the air and dove at him. Nico sent Rochelle to the left to set up a sniper position with Jack by her side to haul her away or defend her if she were specifically targeted. Nico veered right with Johnny so that they weren't bunched together in case it splashed a specific area with flame.

The Nord threw his hammer which hit it as it dove and near knocked it out of the sky but it kept coming and knocked him down. There followed a series of low rolls on the Nord’s behalf and pretty low rolls on the demon’s while Rochelle and Nico shot at it. The Nord crawled away while the demon followed, burning the Nord through sheer proximity, and the gunshots hitting it sprayed burning blood onto the Nord who somehow survived the onslaught.

Finally the devil tried to fly away, was shot down by Rochelle who took out its wing joints with an epic shot, and as it lay there bleeding and trying to heal the Nord approached it with his hammer. It begged, “Wait! Wait!”, but all for nought as the Nord brought the double-headed hammer down and crushed its skull.

Jack made a deal with one of the lesser Nords – two hand axes for an ink kit and some red ink – and they parted ways but not before the boss Nord was given a bit more healing and provided us with the suburb where the Feasthall lay – Sunset Park to the far west of Brooklyn. They also revealed their religious text – a book on Norse myths that may have been fetched from a public library.

Shaking their heads, Nico's team went to search the warehouse and found a number of bodies placed roughly as decoration / warnings / lures for smaller demons. They robbed the bodies of jewellery, items and equipment like good little scavengers and then found a waste pit beneath a large grille that Nico had to climb down into which had been filled with entrails from some of the bodies collected earlier.

She searched through it using a few of the broken rifles and managed to snag a number of religious iconography on jewellery, a decorate athalme, bejewelled sword and the double-ended rod itself. They had what they had come for but what would they have to deal with next?

Question: Why place the Vikings in Sunset Park?

Answer: It was a random stab at the map by the Storyteller that ended up making a lot of sense in retrospect. A later look into the area revealed that it had a high population of Scandinavians back in the 1940s at least.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Too Many Themes Spoil The Plot

Sometimes purity, clarity and simplicity are the order of the day. I don't mean simplicity within the plot itself. Oh no, you can do writhing and tangled webs of conspiracies just fine. I mean simplicity of focus. I think that's why games like the World of Darkness discourage mixing the game lines because when you have a changeling, a vampire, a werewolf and a mage in the same team you don't really get to spend much quality time exploring any of those conditions. You don't get to play up the X-Files' conspiratorial paranoia of Mage without undercutting the savagery, territoriality and intimidation that saturates a werewolf's life nor do you get to play with the twisted mythis fantasies of the changeling or the isolation and pull toward the monstrous of the vampire.

Or rather, you can play with all of them, you're forced to play with all of them, but you haven't the time and dedication to do any of them justice.

While the mythic madness and labrynthine horrors of a changeling assisting their vampiric friend through their requiem before dashing off into the hedge to hide from their enemies can attain that purity (see, two themes and two indicated moods), one has to look at where those two genres intersect and then focus on that intersection. In this case, myths match with both (though vampires deal with the kernal of truth in an ocean of falseness aspect of a myth while changelings deal with the fatalistic side of it). Humanity is a vampire's grip on reason (as opposed to madness) and Clarity a changeling's grip on reality (versus madness). Both deal in labrynthes, whether the physical version of a changeling's hedge, the conspiracies infusing the mortal realm of vampire, or the winding nature of courts of monsters that can be found in both.

But where do werewolves intersect with changelings? Where do mages? There are answers to this, naturally, though some will find easier and more intriguing connections than others. How do you find the points of intersection between three such creatures? What if the main intersections between two outright clash with the intersections between another two?

Thus most world of games support having all of the players in one domain and then allowing glimpses and glances of these other creatures as seen through the vampires' lens. It's easier. It's simpler. And it requires less balance.

And yes, while this is a very specific example to the World of Darkness, it is true of all things. If you try to include themes of personal damnation, glories of power, comforts of home, adrenaline-packed action, PCs as spiders in their webs of political intrigue and the heroic struggle against the evil odds ... you're going to have a very confused game. Even several themes that are related can be problematic because you only have so much time to do them justice. I mean, yes, of course there will be dozens of themes popping up over the course of the adventure but there spring up naturally and spontaneously and aren't as much trouble as when the Storyteller tries desperately to hold several complementary yet distinct (or even a few clashing) themes in their heads.

So think about what you really want and go with that.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Dark Young Conversion

I used this entity against James Paterson in a new World of Darkness conversion of "The Dark Child" which, I believe, can be found in the Cthulhu Britannica books. I hedge my bets when I say that because it's been several months since I ran it. Since James was alone and didn't have much in the way of armaments, I played it more like an environmental obstacle. Despite being a vampire at the time, he nearly died and was only saved because its summoning demanded that it avoid leaving a certain (rather small) radius of the house. Bear that in mind when fielding this in World of Darkness. Cthulhoid monsters are meant to be very tough and very scary. This certainly manages to be both.

The Dark Young are greater (yet less sentient) splinters of the idigam, Shub-Niggurath, which can materialise and become fully corporeal in the real world.  This is why the Dark Young haven't been discovered in our world despite our dwindling woods - they exist mostly in the Hisil.  They are still potent and terrifying beings, however, whose mere presence can force you to flee in terror.  They appear much like trees yet their ropy branches writh and thrash and their bark-like hide splits to reveal gaping mouths with gnashing teeth that drools green sap whose trunks function as short legs yet they smell lie the charnel house.  They are also quite thick for their height - generally only reaching between 12 and 20 feet high.  Among its ropy branches it possesses four ropy sinuous tentacles which it uses to attack up to four different targets in a round.  These can strike or grapple their foes or it might trample a victim with its massive hooves.  It makes hooting and bellowing sounds.

Rank 4 Spirit

Power 9, Finesse 3, Resistance 15.  Essence 25.  Defense: 15.  Size: 12.  Health: 27.  Initiative: 18.  Speed: 13 (Species Factor 1).

Numina: Ban of Power.  Ban of Power.  Camouflage (look like tree).  Chorus (commune with other Dark Young).  Fearstruck (instinctively cast on all viewers).  Gauntlet Breach (allows it to cross the gauntlet whenever it pleases). Materialise (becomes solid in our world).  Stalwart (harder to damage).  Elemental Immunity (Fire, Acid, Electricity).  Multi-Attack (May spend essence to gain additional attacks up to four attacks that each use Power as their dice pool and must be used against creatures on the same plane of existence - mundane world, Hisil, Twilight - these manifest as tentacles).  Knockdown Attack (May spend a point of essence and roll a resisted Power versus Strength or Power to knock down an opponent who is on the same plane of existence using the Trampling Hooves attack - if the Dark Young fails this roll then the target still takes damage but isn't knocked prone).


Trampling Hooves +5B (14 dice - Power with a +5 bonus due to size)

Sucking Mouth

Tentacles +1L (10 dice, may grapple for 9 dice)

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Musings on Masks: Episode 04

EPISODE SUMMARY (Pretence): Wherein James Paterson feigns schizophrenia in order to get close enough to speak to the other main survivor of the art gallery fire / collapse and to find a despicable abuser among the Colney Hatch staff.

EASTER EGGS: I didn't notice any here but let me know if you saw any.

ROLEPLAYING SCHIZOPHRENIA: It's difficult to try to roleplay a multitude of people suffering with shizophrenia so I largely focused on the kind of institutionalised dysfunctional behaviours that could occur in that kind of environment and mixed in some sedated thinking.

I had a much better idea about Jack Frost's mentality and really enjoyed the shifts in his thinking which occured quite naturally and separate from, yet related to, his hallucinations and delusions.  Trying to play someone who was both manipulative yet struggling with sedation was also a pretty fun exercise that tested me.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Audio Problems

Having trouble getting my computer to check, let alone upload, the next Masks track so I'll need to try again tomorrow after work. Sorry about that. Seems like the silly season is even working its magic on my computer now.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Horrors: What Needs To Go In

It's always interesting trying to figure out what needs to go in, or come out, of a rulebook. Sure you need the rules, absolutely. Character generation needs to go in. Equipment lists are handy. Some information on the basic setting, particularly the kind of historical detail that isn't easy to find on your average wikipedia though general details need to go up there as well. That's easy enough.

But what about the supernatural aspects? How many entities should go into the creature compendium? How much advice should I give on creating your own? What kind of Game Warden advice is needed? What kind of Player Advice? What about paranormal societies, relics, and strange places? Is it more important to give examples or to provide tool kits? How many tool kits do people need? What kind of tool kits are they after? How much information is necessary?

These are the questions which boggle my mind when I consider the third section in the book. There's just so many options of what you *can* put into that section that it can make it hard to realise what you *should* put in there.

What about you guys? How much world material do you think should go into a core book?

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Arrival: Coming Together

Nico arose that morning somewhat hung over and gave Al the baseball had she had bought from St. Helios. She greeted Jack and went out looking for Rochelle whom she found doing a deal in this little settlement’s cock fighting ring where cooked chickens were being sold. There were apparently live chickens being kept in another warehouse and she figured that she could purchase a couple bags of manure to take to the university to help their food supplies.

She took Rochelle aside to a semi-secure location and levelled with her. Rochelle already knew that Jack was a werewolf but she also needed to know that Nico had ... demon blood. Rochelle took it surprisingly well, though she was obviously still a bit shocked. Rochelle asked after Johnny Starr’s situation but Nico told her that Johnny would need to speak for himself.

Nico then gathered everyone together and opened up a dialogue where everyone explained what they were and what they could do. Jack pointed out the issue of lunacy and Nico decided to trade her tin foil hat relic for some amulet that would protect Rochelle against it. From everyone’s power discussions, it seemed that Johnny Star was, in fact, the most potent with his ability to create wind homunculi, turn invisible, puppet others, etc. It was funny because Johnny obviously didn’t see himself as the most dangerous. The idea kind of perplexed him.

Nico was surprised at how well everyone took her revelation. Her condition was logically the worst. She literally shared blood with the Enemy. But oh well, if they weren’t going to make an issue of it then neither would she.

Nico asked the team whether any of them wanted to go their own way, with especial consideration to Rochelle. Rochelle wasn’t sure about her situation but she also knew she didn’t want to leave. She wasn’t too sure how helpful she would be, being human. Nico pointed out that every creature she’d killed had been killed with a gun and her normal skills. Rochelle acknowledged that, but still seemed a little unsure.

They split up for a bit and Nico went down to make the trade with Stix but Stix didn’t figure it was a fair trade. So she threw in the Hedge thorn and he accepted it, giving her a wolf skull engraved with sigils. When she returned to Warehouse 13 to show the others, Jack took one sniff at it and left in a rage. Turns out it was a werewolf’s skull ritualistically taken from a murdered werewolf to keep it in that condition. Considering that Jack had a human femur in his backpack, Nico didn’t think him one to judge but she sure as hell wasn’t going to tell him that. There were a lot of human bone relics out there. But she figured he’d seen fewer werewolf corpses then she’d seen human ones so it made sense he’d be more precious. She made a point to talk to him about it, keeping it in a cloth bag and treating it with respect. He agreed with the practicality of it though he still didn't like it.

Jack admitted meeting Nico's older brother before meeting Nico – or rather fighting with her older brother – and had sensed the same vibe from her as her brother. That man didn’t have the subtle exorcismal powers, however, and instead could clothe himself in the powers of a demon for combat. Jack had tried to visit her family to forewarn them of an oncoming calamity but her brother had fought him off and confounded him at every turn. Apparently something terrible would likely happen by the end of the month and Jack figured the man responsible.

Nico knew her eldest brother’s vice was pride and that he’d been chafing at the restrictions of not being in charge. She scolded Jack for not telling her earlier that a) he already knew her secret and b) that her home town was in mortal danger. Nico gave her team the day off for some rest and relaxation regardless of these problems. They had some rather heavy information to come to terms with in regards to each other and they needed some time to learn how to relate to each other – especially Rochelle.

Nico wrapped the massive armor piercing sniper rifle that she’d left at Alyssa’s and gave it to Rochelle, trading a battery recharger and four batteries for ten additional high calibre rounds from Stix. Rochelle was pleased with it though she wasn’t sure how well she would carry it. Nico also gave every team member a food brick (single bite swells to fill you up and contains a day’s worth of nutrition), traded for a decent hiking backpack for Johnny, grabbed the two bags worth of manure and set out for the university.

The university patrols stopped them and took them aside into a processing office where they went over everyone’s stuff – taking especial notice of a shard of glass in Johnny’s possession that had an agonised face impressed into it. It was the egg of his wind elemental, but Nico tried to pass it off as just another relic. Jack’s engraved human femur got a few more looks, though, so they had to wait until they sent for Dr. Gruber.

Gruber took her aside for a chat about her friends, asking if she will vouch for them. Nico vouched for Jack quite readily, pointing out how he’d helped her save a woman, but was less eager about vouching for Johnny whom she didn’t know very well. Gruber’s security consciousness led her to become less and less keen on vouching for any of them, especially as he indicated that she was reaching a point where she had to either join (and learn their secrets) or leave.

She declined. She was a collaborator, after all, and she didn’t want to lead Gipontel to this place. For all she knew this secret was why Gipontel wanted her. So she made comments about being a lone wolf, gave them the two bags of manure (which surprised security since they’d figured it was here to trade and not as a gift) and left.

Gruber was a bit perplexed as well, as (judging by his words) he had assumed that she’d brought the manure as an investment in the place. In truth while she had planned to be there for the winter it wasn’t why she had brought it. She’d brought it because they needed it and it was in her power to accomplish.

So, like Big Damn Heroes, they walked away from the university under the assumption that they would need someplace else to sleep this winter due to that monstrous (and kooky) demon, Gipontel.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Arrival: Smooth Principal

That night as they clustered around the bedroom, Nico explained her ruse against the Principal when there came a knock at the door. Nico answered it and in came Gipontel dragging one of those metal wheeled luggage trucks. He was naturally in his suit with Converse sneakers and didn’t look very dusty. Nico half-wondered if he had used magic to step straight into the corridor and how she would explain it to the warehouse folks that he was there. She also wondered if she should try to gun him down from behind and flee but she doubted she'd make it very far. The idea of being a collaborator boiled her blood but she didn't fancy the idea of dying, presuming the gun didn't just jam.

Gipontel had something for them to do. He wanted them to go and collect a special rod for him that was hidden in a demon’s ‘nest’ in a large butcher’s in one of the light industrial areas in Brooklyn. In return for that he would make Rochelle some kind of exoskeleton that would make her stronger and more robust.

Nico agreed. What else could she do?

Gipontel seemed rather eager about the idea of this being the start of an ongoing relationship. He even had some ideas about uniforms. This was when Nico started figuring out that maybe Gipontel really had been alone for too long and maybe isolation with only seven humans for company for 20 years really had done his head in. Either that or his latest host was a bit of a kook.

You see, he had drawings of possible uniforms and they were ... comic booky in the extreme. One was even a Power Rangers rip off. One had a bee motif with black and yellow stripes. There were others, equally crazy. All in superhero poses. She politely and tactfully mentioned that military uniforms were designed with the needs of missions in mind – i.e. camouflage + ease of movement - though he didn't seem all that sold on the idea. He suggested that they needed some kind of symbol to denote the team and perhaps even individual symbols such as a half moon for Jack, smiley face for Rochelle, skull for Johnny and pentagram for Nico. Nico suggested something generic, like a dragon.

He then recommended they have a picture of him on the back of the uniforms, giving the thumbs up. She wasn’t sure if he was joking. She still isn’t. She managed to counter that, however, mostly through downplaying it and distracting him onto another topic of conversation. After all, he was meant to be in hiding.

Nico asked him a riddle to see if he knew the answer. Did he know about a dragon in the local area? Gipontel was perplexed. There was no such thing as dragons. In the end, figuring it was something keeping the university safe (or at least hoping) and not wanting to give it away, she lied about it just being a verbal trick. Gipontel saw through the lie which just made him all the more confused but he let it drop.

Finally, Gipontel left and the team got wasted on booze and dope as a way to cope with their new crazy world. Well, everyone except for Jack who had to stay healthy and went out for a run instead (probably in wolf form). Alyssa, the brothel madam, hung out with them too and exchanged booze for hash before settling a deal with Johnny Starr – a morning to remember and some breakfast for a dildo. She propositioned Nico that night (seems to like encouraging monster hunters who kill beasts for free to stick around) but Nico was way too stoned.

The last ones awake were Johnny and Nico who ended up desperate for food and plotting to bake the pre-mix cake. They found the stove and debated whether they should use the gas without permission and pay for it later but they needed eggs and oil, or ideally eggs and milk, and Nico didn’t fancy grabbing any of that without pre-approval.

So instead they stumbled up to a spare room and crashed on the same bed. Nico had Iron Stamina and had been up for so long that she went to sleep she was out like a light so when Alyssa came to fulfil her end of the bargain, Nico was moved to another room where she woke up without any real hangover.

Thank the Player for giving her five Stamina.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Black Shuck

A quick and dirty copy of a World of Darkness critter I used in one of my games. Hope you enjoy.

Black Shuck

The Black Shuck

Intelligence 1, Wits 3, Resolve 3, Strength 6, Dexterity 5, Stamina 4, Presence 4, Manipulation 1, Composure 2.  Size 6.  Health 12.  Willpower 5.  Initiative: 7.  Defence: 5.  Speed: 20.  Athletics 3, Brawl 3, Stealth 2, Survival 2.  Tooth & Claw Fighting Style 3.

Teeth +1L: 10 dice.

Teleporting Leap: The Black Shuck can spend a point of essence and roll Strength + Athletics to teleport up to 100 yards away.  This is a standard action and must be completed on its own turn.

Heat Trail: The Black Shuck can spend two points of essence while making a mundane leap over a person or object to set it aflame with a successful Strength + Athletics roll.  This fire is equivalent to a torch but the person must make a roll to put out the flame.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Musings on Masks: Episode 03

EPISODE SUMMARY (Tracing Survivors): Wherein James Paterson speaks to the pathologist Maurice Patterson before heading off to Colney Hatch Mental Institution to seek permission to speak with the other survivor of the building collapse and gallery fire.

EASTER EGGS:  Colney Hatch really did suffer a fire in the early twentieth century that killed 52 individuals in the Jewish ward. To be perfectly honest, the fact that 52 people were slain in the art gallery was either a coincidence or a subconscious memory of the article on the Colney Hatch fire.  Luckily I like my players' idea so I'll be going with it. In other news, the National Fire Service doesn't exist in this era. It won't be formed until midway through the Second World War. Whoopsy!

MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES: Normally I wouldn't have done yet 'another asylum tale' but I really needed to build a rapport between James and Jack and the only way to do that was through repeat contact. You'll see why that connection is incredibly important in a later episode.

While the main medication they could give them at the time was a sedative with confinement as a major treatment due to lack of resources, I also tried to look at the staff of Colney Hatch as generally trying to be helpful.  They just lacked any good treatment options and were willing to accept certain abuses as inevitable due to the strain on the orderlies. Considering how every aspect of the patients' lives were in the hands of the staff, this isn't a reasonable view for him to take.

James keeps his mouth shut during this portion of the conversation so he could get the job. Otherwise I think he would have told him off for it.

OTHER THOUGHTS: I think that the nice Jewish neighbour which Charlie briefly mentions will totally need to make an appearance after they leave and return to London. She might be able to forewarn them if the Masks cultists start snooping about. I just need a name for her. I already picture her as the right combination of sweet, nosy and well-meaning that she'll notice if anyone tries to poke around their home or stalks them.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Stomach Bug = No Posts Today

Sorry but I lack a spare drafted post to put up today and am too ill to put up anything myself. Normally I have a few articles up my sleeve but it's been that kinda past month or so where I have kept drawing on those hidden archives.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Arrival: Straight Talk

Gipontel granted Nico's request to be dropped off on a particular street not far from Styx's warehouse. He did so, and the moment the portal closed, she ran over to Styx and sold her silver sword for something to protect against scrying.

Her gave her a ... tinfoil hat empowered by the desperate belief of a schizophrenic.

Hmm, not the most stylish of accessories but, hey, beggars can't be choosers.

She put it on and headed East in the vain hopes of being able to escape the Stranger's attentions.

She hoped to cross the river (that hopefully had been made more shallow by all the sand) to get out of Brooklyn via that great big old island and then onto the mainland to begin her journey toward Texas. She figured she couldn’t stay here with an almighty demon keeping an eye on her.

She decided to call herself Odessa for awhile to make it harder for folks to find her.

Why Odessa?

Well, she felt cunning like Odysseus for getting out of his grips.

She shouldn’t have been so prideful.

She didn't get too far when a creature swept through the air above her to attack Warehouse 13. The monster had a long sinuous body with broad rips and a rounded maw and it began sucking a human stuck on the streets up into his mouth. A gunshot distracted it from its prey and turned it towards her. She managed to shoot it through its vacuum belly several times, causing its suction to weaken by the time it reached her to the point where it couldn't suck her into its maw. Finally it slumped to the ground in front of Warehouse 13 – a monstrous carcass for them to sort out.

She headed back to the victim and grabbed a few pool cues and some fabric from inside the brothel so she could set his broken arms and leg. She got people to bring the victim inside and then she set out again.

Only to find that after a few hours the roads started looping back on itself, dropping her off by Warehouse 13 again and again. It seemed that space itself was twisted before her. On her third try to get loose, she ran smack bang into Johnny Starr who had found the journey back surprisingly quick and easy. Someone was messing with them. Someone who had probably been a principal of a certain school....

When they returned to Warehouse 13 for a drink they found Jack and a rather shaken Rochelle sitting at the bar. Nico requested free drinks and board for the night from Alyssa and, considering she had just downed a monster assaulting the place, was given them. Nico was a handy person to have around, after all.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Arrival: Whoopsy

So it looks like when I wrote up a whole bunch of articles prior to their posting, I missed an article! Not sure if everyone was just too kind to comment or if, perhaps, no one was reading along and therefore didn't notice it's absence, but here it is ... Gunshot Medicine and the Crowley. I'm linking back to it because if I schedule it to publish a month prior to today, even though I published it today, it'll appear as though it had been published all those months ago which means ... folks who come into it late in the game and want to follow the whole thing will find it all in order as they read along.

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Necessity of Emotional Distance - Fear

As a horror Storyteller, I love the toe-tingling, spine-chilling sensation of fear (within limits). I find it cathartic to play with a sensation that I don't get to feel very often in real life (thank goodness). My life is safe and simple with the usual First World problems and anxieties that riddle the average Westerner and so putting my mind into a situation that taps into the primal sense of fear and confusion is a welcome relief from that. Welcome, because it is fictional.

Regrettably I have no other Horror Storytellers around me who aim for a sense of fear. I've experienced horror games that evoked repulsion. Horror games that play on the most horrible thing that can happen to you where even the average NPC is a *bad guy*. I've played in games with horror themes. I just never played in a game where the intent and design were based around scaring me ... or even my characters. Not really.

Add to that the fact that my players aren't Horror Players. Most of them hate horror. They rebel against the idea of the vulnerable protagonist. They find No-Win situations to be the height of irritation and sometimes contrivance. They become dejected or depressed when too many Bad Things happen. One even has the occasional nightmare based off my horror games because, well, the horror sessions really work on her.

And that has all led me to realise that there's a reason why horror games are less common than other sorts of games. The World of Darkness does tragedy quite well but it's focus on being the monster makes it less scary because your player avatar can quite easily become entirely unsympathetic. Oh no, the monster died. Sure it sucks that it was my monster that died, but that's hardly going to keep me awake at night.

Sure, there are investigative games with horror backbones like Call of Cthulhu which have vulnerable protagonists that are reasonably popular but the average Call of Cthulhu published scenario isn't generally very scary. Some have potential. Most are more interesting perspectives into a world of horrors rather than anything else, which is doubtless in part because it's hard for a published adventure to have the personal touch required of a truly scary game. And such games have plenty of room for a sharp focus on investigation or pulpy action, rather than on the lived experience of what it would be like to be in that situation.

Because, let's face it, a shoggoth in real life is scary because it exists. But then again, a ghost that does nothing other than stand in the corner of your room would terrify me in real life. In a roleplaying game where you can distract yourself with clue trails, dynamite and meta-knowledge, that shoggoth becomes far less scary.

DISCLAIMER: This isn't to say that Call of Cthulhu or even World of Darkness is fundamentally non-scary. I'm merely stating that it's easy enough to play these two games in a way that touches all those horror themes without ever really trying to scare the player (or if you are the player, to scare yourself) and that's one of the reasons why they can be popular. They can target a broader demographic of action heroes / villains and investigators, respectively.

So why is this the case? Why is horror such a small demographic?

There's probably numerous reasons but I'm going to assume the big one is that people avoid negative feelings and embrace positive ones, more often than not. Most people aim for a sense of empowerment, satisfaction and success in their roleplaying games. They want to feel like a hero, or at the very least a badass, because those aren't feelings they normally get to have in their day-to-day lives. They want to feel extraordinary. They want to charge across the room and take down the enemy rather than cower and crawl away on a broken leg. Sure, some players want their empowerment to be realistic rather than cinematic but that's probably because it feels more satisfying to them to have survived situations in a feasible manner.

Also, odds are those people who do like horror are those people who find it hard to feel scared and, like a numb tooth you're pretty sure should be sore, they keep trying to poke it. I don't know a single player who is easily scared and yet still enjoys horror videogames, movies or roleplaying games(though they probably do exist). Most horror fans get barely a fear twitch and thus keep searching it out - which ironically helps reduce their ability to be scared through sheer exposure.

I mean, think about fear for a moment. Fear tells you to leave the scary thing alone. Story-based fears also exist in your head, rather than in the real world, and therefore you can't literally leave them behind. If it truly manages to get under your skin than it can interrupt your sleep patterns, plague you at night, and make you nervous about leaving the house when it's dark inside. While the odd tingle during these times could be pleasant, generally fear either settles on you like a blanket or is shaken off entirely. It makes sense that people would avoid that.

Does that mean we shouldn't chase that moment of terror?

No. I don't believe so.

It just means we need to be aware that most people don't want that and while we can play with the themes of horror in their games, we probably shouldn't be dousing them in it unless they ask for it.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Player Improvement ... Not on the Web

Now I know that I'm not a fantastic player. I sure do have my problems. Unfortunately, while I can get advice on the web for how to DM a game there's paltry advice on how to deal with problems as a player. Look up DM burnout. Look up how a player can help a DM with burnout. You'll see a similar set of articles by DMs for DMs.

But why is that?

For every DM dealing with the pain of burnout, there's generally around four players itching to get their fix and knowing it's about to get cut off.

What is it about being a player that encourages passivity and prevents players from getting and giving tips on how to keep their DMs in the game? I say this also as a player who has felt that passivity and sat there, brooding, unaware of what to do or where to go.

I mean, there are advice columns to DMs on how to re-educate, re-form, re-sculpt and re-design their players. Sure most of them won't ever work because, y'know, changing another person is really, really hard. If DMs suddenly found the magic cure-all for controlling misbehaviour, we'd all be highly desired in managerial positions and putting DM on your resume with three player references would make you a shoe-in at a job interview.

So it's not that we're magically better equipped to cope with it as DMs than as players.

But why are there so few articles out there to help players figure out what they can do?

I mean, players are in a really good position to help their DMs stay motivated. They can help mitigate player and gameplay issues. They can increase tension in a horror game and mysticism in a fantasy game. In fact, they have as much control over out of character issues as the DM does. Sure, perhaps a bit less 'official power', but they're at least one-fifth of the group and therefore can bring in all of their own conflict resolution skills or at least not contribute to whatever problem is affecting the game.

Why are all the articles on creating characters more suited to their genre directed to DMs and not the players who are making them?

Why aren't there reams of articles from players wondering how to play a better horror character (or be a better player in a horror game)?

There are DM articles on how to get players to take notes. Where are the articles for players on how to best take their own notes or cope with note-taking when they really don't want to but know another player won't do it?

I get that there's not much a player can do between sessions to prep for a game and generally there should be no need to do so but there are other areas where the greater numbers of players and their greater involvement in the area (i.e. concept creation) should lead to more articles on the subject.

But I would have thought that there'd be at least as many players crying out for help or wanting to help as DMs and yet the player base is silent on such meta-considerations and seems to instead focus primarily on stats, lurking on forums and participating in the occasional Funniest / Scariest / Deadliest Moment threads.

I just so rarely see pro-active articles from players saying such things as, "Hi, I'm a player, and I'm having trouble with my DM / Fellow Gamers / Own Habit / Gaming Needs.  How can I fix this?"

Though maybe I'm just looking in all of the right places.

If you know any good player-directed articles, please link them in the Comments section below. I know I'd be very interested as a player.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Mad Dash & The Shiny Red Button

This one's for the players though Game Masters may be interested as well.

Have you ever wondered why sometimes you abandon all caution and madly sprint toward some goal with little thoughts to the repercussions even though you know it's not that sort of game and you weren't even wanting to play that kinda character? Have you ever gotten so frustrated that you hit the big red button just to try and find some way out? Or lash out wildly in the vain hope that you might happen to hit the right thing?

All of these are the sort of incidents that I like to call "The Leap For Life". It's like you're surrounded by a big old abyss and the only way out of it is to somehow find an invisible bridge that you're pretty sure exists out there. So you're circling the edge of the pit, again and again, until you get tired and frustrated and you simply leap off any old point in the hopes that your feet will touch the invisible ground.

After it's all said and done and your character lies broken on the ground, you look over to see the Game Master shaking their head and tut-tutting. Turns out that there was a trapdoor in the middle of that platform which would have taken you out of there.

The trouble is you were so focused on that pit and the invisible bridge you were sure existed out there that you just didn't see that trapdoor. Every hint that the Game Master thought they were giving you that pointed toward that trapdoor merely painted the walls darker and made the abyss stretch out longer. It turns out they kept giving you hints that you were looking in the wrong direction, they weren't giving you many tips on what were the right one.

Or, perhaps, they assumed a motive you didn't have. That trapdoor led to a nasty confrontation with an evil megalomaniac but out there, beyond the pit, was a basket full of kittens about to be drowned by orcs. It was just meant to be a hint. Some background element. But it stuck in your head. You needed to get to that basket. You needed to be a hero to the kittens! Evil megalomaniacs be damned (unless they happen to have those kittens).

I've been there. Trust me, I've been there.

A switched on Game Master (or damnably lucky one) will simply redirect you by putting that basketful of kittens at the megalomaniac's feet. All of a sudden you stop pacing the edge of the pit and dive for the trapdoor. Excellent! Plot = Motive and now they're both going the same way.

But what if the kittens were always with the megalomaniac? Or perhaps there never were any kittens and it was an entirely fabricated notion you got in your head?

Memory is a funny thing. People come to the wrong conclusions all the time.

How is your Game Master meant to figure it out then?

This is where party games work out well. Talk to your PCs about your motive and intentions and not just your actions. If you all only focus on getting over that pit and never mention why, your Game Master might simply desperately try to redirect you towards where they *think* you want to go. Sometimes it's a good idea to clearly state the intention as best you can which means you need to figure out what you and your character actually want.

Maybe your character is going all out on the Big Bad because while all the writing on the wall says that this is *the* Big Bad, the guy who's untouchable until the Third Act, and you know your character doesn't, and shouldn't, stand a chance against him, your character also can't *not* try to do something now. You're gunning for the Chelish Admiral or assaulting the Vampire Prince ... in a public area ... surrounded by guards.

The Game Master's too busy thinking up ways to not do a Total Party Kill to figure out why you're doing something so suicidal.

Time to figure out why for yourself (if you don't know already), and tell them. Tell them that your character can't stand idly by while the Big Bad has their loved one hostage. Tell them that your character is a stubborn mule and knows he'll die but, hey, it'll make a good write out. Tell them that everything seems to point to an imminent confrontation anyhow so you're just trying to find the right time. Tell them through conversations with NPCs or PCs, narrated thought processes inside your character's head, or even out of character.

Otherwise, how will they know to provide you with an alternative?

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Musings on Masks: Episode 02

EPISODE SUMMARY (Interviews): Wherein James Paterson speaks with two detectives from Scotland Yard who are investigating the collapsed art gallery which had almost killed him followed by the grim realisation that not only did Bartholomew Hospital do the autopsies ... but that James knew the local pathologist and therefore had a way to gather more information.

EASTER EGGS: The police detectives and the pathologists are all borrowed content:

Detective Inspector Barrington has also been investigating the Egyptian Murderers at Scotland Yard as well as the mass death in the old art gallery.  He's a canon character from the Masks of Nyarlathotep campaign book.

Detective Sergeant Jones is Mr. Handy's creation (hope you don't mind me borrowing him) that you can see on the Masks of Nyarlathotep play-by-post campaign that originally began under Raiko and which I recently took over.

Maurice Patterson is an optional player character in the Masks of Nyarlathotep companion book in the London chapter.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Horrors: Guns & Equipments

At present I've been focusing on the weapons and equipment list in my Horrors on the Home Front book. It's a bit of an interesting thing to do as part of the trouble is figuring out just what sort of equipment players might need to know about alongside just how many different guns players might need stats for. Most of the other weapons are easily resolved using my new-fangled weapons chart (where each weapon's damage is dependent on both the weapon and the character's skill with that weapon) but firearms require information on clip capacity, base range, and methods of reloading, among other things. It also helps to add some historical accuracy by knowing how a person might pick up a particular gun.

In the equipment list, I have a few different considerations. One is that while people know what technologies are available today, there's far less understanding of what might be available in the late thirties and early forties. Another consideration involves all those relatively useful items that you don't realise you need until you're standing right in front of the problem without it. Finally there are some pieces of equipment that can simply help the Game Warden determine what people should likely have on them - or which provide neat world building opportunities - such as There's a bundle of technologies that the average player / Game Warden wouldn't know were available in that era and I want to make sure they can easily spot the ones that were.

I'm also including a few other handy bits and pieces that are just plain interesting - like the badge which Catholics wore which told people to fetch a Catholic priest for last rites if they were badly injured in a bombing raid.

If you know any tech that might be handy for players to know about, or particular weapons you feel really need to be included, please mention them in the comments box below.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Arrival: Meanderings

So there Nico is, standing on fuel-soaked sand and trying to keep the attention of a big bad earth-bending demon in human form. To begin with, she pretended to have the protection of a much more powerful demon - Maksim Rukov - and drew on the information from the diary and the comic book, hoping the thing had drawn itself as 'Smiling Jack'. It turned out her assumptions were correct - though the Stranger seemed upset and appalled that Maksim could have claws, horns and a fixed smile as the Stranger had 'solved that'. He was so upset by the idea that he collapsed a nearby building.

She remarked that she couldn't explain the whys and wherefores of his appendages, only that she had witnessed them. When he asked her for his 'friends' location, she tried shooting at him again but since the safety was mysteriously on again, she simply threw her gun down and put her silver sword to her own throat. If he rushed her, the secret would die with her.

She gave him an ultimatum. Give her friends until dawn to get away and she would tell him.

The Stranger seemed confused by the ultimatum. It seemed rather pointless to him - not to mention boring - to wait for dawn. Besides which, he could turn the sword to rubber before she could cut herself. So she grabbed out a lighter and threatened to burn herself alive.

The Stranger countered by saying that not only would that be a rough way to die but that he could simply smother the flames by controlling the dirt around her.

Things progressed from there with increasingly harebrained schemes until she ... claimed that she, herself, was Maksim Rukov. He had seemed to be implying that she might have been when he asked her about her food preferences ("Do you like chocolate or energy drinks?") among other things. She 'proved' it by reaching into her pack to pull out the Resident Evil energy drink, drinking it with relish.

When he asked why she'd lied, she claimed that it was to see what he was really like. He released her from the sand trap, took her through a doorway and teleported her into his library where he offered her tea. She tried to say as little as possible in order to avoid giving herself away but he seemed way too wrapped up in the idea that she really was 'Shaitan' to get upset.

He told her that his last host - the principal - had been killed by a falling girder. He'd survived a fair amount of time, helped others escape the school (she correctly guessed that he'd been the one to create those gripping hands out of the walls) yet died from something so simple. He also discussed the creature clique that Rukov had led. Tara was dead. Billy had fled into the Hedge. Viriel had accepted the 'offer' to become an embodied demon rather than remain an insubstantial fallen angel in a host and had subsequently been destroyed. Timothy was a sheriff somewhere. Zaphriel had been upset by his truck's destruction but was otherwise still around. The Stranger was surprised that Haruta hadn't chosen to be embodied.

Nico asked him to keep her identity a secret (which seemed the right thing to say considering Maksim Rukov killed a vampire gang due to the possibility of his identity being revealed) and apologised that she had things to do. She said she would visit again soon.

The Stranger seemed a little distractable by this point and agreed to let her go.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Arrival: Book Burnings & Mysterious Earth Bending Visitors

Nico was 'woken' for her shift, except she wasn't truly conscious. She spoke in a dazed manner and took her position, unmoving, for ten minutes. Then she took the book, the lighter fluid and a lighter before going into another living room to set the book afire. She watched it burn. She only woke from her sleepwalker's trance when she heard an unfamiliar voice behind her ask: "Isn't it a bit dangerous to burn that in here?"

She whipped around and leapt up, suddenly awake. A man stood behind her with scruffy brown hair, a suit and Converse sneakers. Shocked by the sight of him, she promptly pulled the trigger on her carbine and ... click. The safety was on. She felt a little ashamed for her trigger happy ways - he could have been human, after all - but was mostly ashamed for forgetting to take the safety off.

"Why did you burn the book?" asked the stranger, nonplussed.

Her team mates woke up and came forward, training guns on him. He seemed utterly unafraid, which worried her.

She demanded to know who he was and why had neither pack nor weapons.

The stranger ignored her questions and instead warned her about the dangers of the fire. She stomped it out and started casting a banishment ritual at him. SInce it took a minute a roll it wasn't the quickest form of anti-demon assault but it seemed to do the trick. With a perturbed frown, he stepped through a doorway and disappeared.

The team fled with their packs, keeping the meteorologist in the middle as they clustered around him. They kept glimpsing the stranger in different spots along the street but when they fired they didn't manage to hit him. Those eagle-monkey hybrids were attracted to the sound and settled down on the rooftops. At one point, the demon dropped the diary, now intact and unburnt, from a rooftop as though taunting her.

An earthquake swept the street, knocking most of her team mates flat and sending the eagle-monkey hybrids flying off in fright.

Nico muttered to Jack to get ready to grab the lightest person in wolf-form and flee. She'd try to cover him. On the count of three, he shifted to Urshul and picked up a terrified Rochelle, throwing her onto his back where she clung for dear life. Then he fled, leaving Nico and Johnny and the meteorologist behind. She started desperately trying a banishment - though she knew it would take too long - and started pouring lines of lighter fluid around herself, getting her pals to chime in after her chant (in this case, the Lord's Prayer since they were unlikely to know any other).

She also warned them to run when she said so, further splitting them for safety since a running gun battle wasn't doing anything. As she told them to go, the ground churned beneath her feet, sinking her down to her ankles and hardening. The other two fled in opposite directions but she was trapped.

And the Stranger approached her once more, wanting to know why ... why she had attempted to burn the diary.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Game Translation: The Cat Lady

The Cat Lady is a point-and-click adventure game where about Susan Ashworth, the local Cat Lady, who is suicidally depressed and gains what little joy she has from the neighborhood cats whom she calls to her apartment through piano music.

This is a profoundly emotional game which begins with Susan's suicide. She finds herself in a disturbing Afterworld where a strange old woman called the Queen of Maggots offers immortality in exchange for the murder of five psychopathic "Parasites" who will try to hurt Susan. Over the course of the game, not only does Susan need to deal with these Parasites but she also needs to confront herself and a terrible moment from her past.

Any Game Master trying to ape this style of game would do well to read the last few Friday articles I wrote to do with the necessity of emotional distance in roleplaying games (Disgust, Sadness, Happiness, Hate, and Anger). This isn't to say that you can't do an emotional game only that it is something which shouldn't be done lightly. While people might emphathise with a character on a television screen, experiencing it first-hand through a roleplayed encounter when you have immersed yourself in the character's perspective is another thing entirely. When a person is looking at you and talking to you, it's difficult to divorce yourself from what they're saying without divorcing yourself from the entire game experience as well.

For similar reasons, while I adore the videogame I wouldn't recommend it to everyone due to its themes. Nasty things happen in this game. Not only the shocking cruelties performed by the "Parasites" (human serial killers, generally) but also the very realistic cruelties which a normal life can throw at you. This game deals with situations involving suicide, depression, anxiety and causes of such mental health issues which can be deeply upsetting to play even in a videogame.

So let's assume that despite all that you want to run a game in this mould and your players are happy to tap into the sort of anguish which marks the day-to-day life of such a character. Firstly take each player aside and talk to them about their characters. Spend at least an hour discussing their character's history, needs, loves and hates. You need to get a very good idea of what these characters are like and what they're about. Remind them that anything they bring up now is usable in the game and that they should either prepare themselves for that ... or remove it.

A character who has suffered a miscarriage in their past, after all, can't hope to get through this sort of game without references to miscarriages, happy (or unhappy) families and little children coming up over the course of the game. If they're not comfortable with that, they should really remove that element of the game and introduce a new one.
Sometimes this game becomes a little surreal...
There also needs to be a debrief after each session. Don't simply send them home right after. You should discuss the game for a bit together (yes, this involves talking about those dreaded feelings) and then ideally curl up on the couch together, eat chocolate-dipped strawberries and watch an upbeat movie or something. Shake off the bad feelings with a chat that acknowledges them and then let that negativity seep away. If you send people home right away, you risk them dwelling over something that you might not have even realised would strike a nerve. The last thing you want to do is inspire a night alone crying or a weekend feeling despondent. Hopefully this won't happen. By scheduling in that extra time after a session you increase the chances that it won't happen ... or that it'll at least happen in a way that leaves the player feeling supported.

Remember also that this type of game is about cartharsis. It's about experiencing something dreadful with the chance of coming out on top. While the world of The Cat Lady is pretty bleak with overworked support staff too indifferent to care, police officers who just don't believe you, and a general sense of grime and disillusionment, there is still the possibility of a decent ending. There's even a good ending, though it's harder to get.

Figure out those endings. At the very least, the characters should achieve some sort of closure before the story ends. To get the players invested in this sort of game and then leave the character without closure risks leaving the player without closure as well. A lack of closure leads to dwelling and no cartharsis. Avoid that.

Okay, so what if you just want to play a darker semi-mundane world involving tricky actions to take out the "Parasites" rather than focusing on evoking anguish in your players to help them (and perhaps yourself) achieve the sort of cartharsis people seek in tragedy?

Most of the advice you can get from any good old point-and-click adventure game can come into it here. Rather than successful skill rolls, think of it in terms of decision points. Should someone really have to roll to jump a fence? No. The question isn't "Can they....?" but "Do they....?" In this kind of game where failure (in the form of death) isn't the end you can certainly pre-plan decision points where failing to pay attention to environmental cues and doing something silly like slamming open the door to attack the knife-wielding psychopath automatically ends in failure.

Taking the dice out of it also throws the emphasis so squarely on decision making that players who are liable to throw themselves at things when they get frustrated will instead have to sit up and start paying attention.

Anyway, a campaign based around The Cat Lady or including elements of it, should appeal to Communicators the most.

Tacticians generally like to think their way through problematic situations so they can have a lot of fun trying to figure out what to do to get past their current "Parasite".  Unfortunately some of them have problems with perfectionism and the fact that in a game like the Cat Lady you're bound to occasionally get it wrong before getting it right might not sit well with them.

Action Heroes might enjoy it for a short change of pace if they're into horror games but they will otherwise find it very frustrating to have to play an essentially vulnerable and largely noncombative character.  Even if their character gets a gun they really shouldn't start to rely on it.

Explorers may enjoy the rather gritty and disturbing version of our reality, especially the unusual situation in the Death World.

Investigators will have their work cut out for them discovering the identity of the "Parasite", their modus operandi and the best way to survive their current predicament and take down the "Parasite".  Unlike the Tactician whose focus is on success, an investigator's focus is on discovery so they're a bit less likely to get frustrated.

Communicators tend to come in one of two flavors - the political types who love to play their own little version of Game of Thrones (who won't love this game so much) and the psychological types who just want to crawl down the rabbit hole of their own character's and their other NPC's minds (who will absolutely love and adore this style of game).

If you want to check out the trailer, you can find it here. If you want to read up on the TV Tropes you can find them here.

For the next Game Translation, you have a choice of these: Blood Dragon, Gears of War, Dracula: Origins, Realms of the Haunting, Outlast or Dishonoured. If no one picks anything by next week, it'll be either Realms of the Haunting or Dishonoured.

If you want to see the list of games I've done thus far, you can find the Game Translation series starter over here.