Friday, May 31, 2013

Prop: The Winter Artisan

From Rise of the Guardians
Prop: The Winter Artisan

The Winter Artisan was a True Fae whom Jack Frost devoured in the 1700s and re-forged into a Prop for his own use.  It appears to be a five foot long gnarled walking stick lovingly embellished with carvings of snow flakes and autumn leaves whose mien reveals a light frosting against its lower tip.

  • The Winter Artisan can be used to sculpt ice attached to anything it touches (i.e. ice blades on one's boots for use as roller blades).  Water does not need to be provided.  The creation can be up to Size 5 although successful uses can forge something larger.
  • It can blast an enemy with sharp spikes of ice that functions to a range of 20 + Wyrd yards.  +8 automatic successes added after a successful hit is made using Dexterity + Weaponry.
  • It can change the colours of any natural fabric to an autumnal (as in autumn leaves) or wintry design.
Fae Weakness: The Winter Artisan can only be destroyed by summer's fires - such as a naturally occurring bush fire in an Australian summer or the Summer King calling down fire against the prop.

Learn more about Jack Frost over here.

London Fae Spotlight: Jack Frost

This NPC is a True Fae from Changeling: the Lost that was made for use in my Tatters of the King World of Darkness conversion.  You can read the story of the Jack Frost over here.  You can read more of my materials, thoughts, and creations in The Tatters of the King campaign list of articles over here.  If you ever choose to use him, please let me know as it encourages me to supply more information on these guys.

Aww, isn't the True Fae cute?  You can trust him.

Titles: The Winter Artisan (Prop), Jack Frost (Actor), The Bluebirds of Playful Serenade (Wisp)

The Tell:

Jack Frost's tell is a general blue, white, and skin tone colouring with etchings of black as well as a pattern of frost (also known as rime) that appears on clothing or glass.

Storytelling Hints:

Jack Frost is too good to be true.  He's full of ready smiles, enthusiasm, and fun ideas that he just has to share with you.  He has a knack for making his false sincerity seem somehow believable and he can make you really want to believe in him.  This is, in part, due to his ultra-competitive streak with the other True Fae which makes him seem a great ally against the Others.  Think Peter Pan if he were a True Fae.  Unlike most True Fae, he does understand enough about how humans work to be able to believable fake assisting them in the long-term due to an amulet he wears which contains pieces of his soul.  Don't mistake it for true emotion for he is no Banished.  His amulet raises him from a whimsical being that cannot comprehend humans to a whimsical being with the comprehension of a human.  If you fall down and hurt yourself, he will show concern because *click, whirr* that is what you do but that won't stop him from forgeting a few moments later or begging you to keep moving even if it'll cause you injury later on.

Favored Changeling Creations:

Jack tends to make changelings seemingly by accident when he grows interested in a mortal and decides to spirit them off into another world.  Over time and the course of several adventures the mortal begin to change.  If they're lucky, he tires of them after returning them back on Earth (leaving them a Fae-touched mortal).  Oddly enough, some of the mortals returned continue their transformations - often into a Darkling that yearns for their old master.  Some Changelings are simply abandoned in some random realm in Arcadia though this is normally due to some confusion or miscommunication over whether the mortal or Changeling desires to remain behind.  Due to his love of all things winter, a mortal may develop into a Snowskin or Waterborn to better deal with the elements that he favors or other kiths like Truefriends, Playmates, or Weissen Frau.  If he abandons them in a foreign realm, they may become a Darkling of some description.  If he lures a Changeling into his adventures then they may develop a dual kith to adjust to the lifestyle.


Jack Frost wants an adventure.  He steals Changelings from under the Others' noses, seemingly befriends motleys of Lost by assisting them against other Fae incursions, and otherwise causes enough trouble that one day he is bound to become a Banished.  One day.  Not today, though, as he has so far arranged a wide number of Feuds that make the attacks entirely legitimate.  He also has particular preferences for his Titles and will trade Titles with other Fae if he wins one that is inappropriate to the way he sees himself - this is the result of a Pledge made when he was bound by an occultist in the world.

Example Feuds

  • See the Red Queen, Snow Princess and Pied Piper (coming soon) entries for the feuds he has with them.
  • If Jack Frost can steal the Seamstress' sewing needles and gifts them to a Changeling who stitches the Seamstress into a room, he wins a title.  If the Seamstress collects enough pieces from Jack's adoptive or made Changelings to create a form in his likeness, Jack will forfeit a title to the Seamstress.
  • Jack Frost has sworn on the Wyrd and his true name that he will never kidnap a mortal or a Changeling.  They must always come willingly to him and he must never outright lie to them about where he is taking them.  He may never purposefully injure nor kill a human being nor Changeling except in defence of his life or someone who is his sworn friend.  Naturally he finds ways around this when it suits him but generally these rules actually assist him in appearing to be the only trustworthy Fae on the planet (which, naturally, he is not).
Title Statistics
You can find them here:
Jack Frost's Tale

Style Changes

I've had a comment that the style I had used previously was rather hard on the eyes and the individual couldn't read more than a paragraph at a time.  How about this one?  Is it any better?  I'm always open to comments.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Flashpoint: What Did Happen

In my last Tuesday article I wrote down what my plans were for the last Flashpoint session.  If you haven't had a chance to read that yet, I would recommend doing so as it'll give you a greater understanding of the contrast between a Game Master's plans and how it can actually go down.  In truth, I think the issue here was not a simple matter of players doing the unexpected and more a case of the Game Master not knowing what campaign they were actually running.

Rather than a rollicking game of high adventure on the high seas with a bunch of buccaneers, I have a group of admittedly eccentric characters desperately struggling to survive in a gritty world of danger where precautions must be taken which are both realistic and nasty. 

This contrast became all the more distinct in the last session because their opponents were those rollicking buccaneers whom I'd assumed my own PCs were (and whose behaviors and choices are, ironically, more like what I expected my players to choose and do).  Seeing my PCs take darker courses of action that would not be out of place in a Game of Thrones campaign came as a bit of a shock to me.  Suddenly I had the clash of perceptions literally playing out in game!

So here's what really happened.

Proteus went on to visit another pub to try and spread messages about that they were after Carnegie due to a debt.  He was hoping to draw the attention of the Red Mantis Assassins or perhaps even Carnegie himself in the hopes of flushing out a new lead.  One customer started talking about a mean-spirited fellow called 'Carnage' but that didn't seem right so Proteus kept asking around.

Then in comes a big fellow with that kind of All American build - lantern-jawed and broad-shouldered - who spoke like one might expect from an American Ace pilot from the eighties.  Despite his booming, yet somewhat proper, language he wasn't assaulted by the very lower class customers of the pub which indicated he was known here and known to have skill and power.  Proteus struck up a conversation with him and the man seemed quite interested to here more about why he was after Carnegie.  The man, who had yet to introduce himself, offered a lot of interesting tidbits about Carnegie having his own ship and having turned to a life of piracy.  He didn't seem to know much, though Proteus was now interested in the man for a spot of naughtiness.  He soon figured out that Carnegie was a pansexual.

Proteus got himself invited to the captain's cabin where Carnegie soon called in two of his crew to entertain them.  He rings a bell and 2nd Lieutenant Charlie Schmidt (Shelyn Paladin) and 3rd Lieutenant Bette Rolsh (Desnan Inquisitor) comes in.  2nd Lieutenant Schmidt is an attractive (high Charisma!) woman of Keleshite appearance who sings delicately so as not to overshadow the conversation her captain is having.  3rd Lieutenant Bette Rolsh is an attractive (again, high Charisma) Varisian dancer with bells on her wrist and ankle scarves.  Proteus knows neither their names nor occupations.

Shortly into the whole affair, things go to Initiative as they try to use their various enchantment spells to make him submissive.  Unfortunately for them, he passes save after save and gets quite cross with them - especially when Schmidt attempts to grapple him.  His special vest causes her one damage per round and Proteus thinks the whole thing is rather ridiculous.  He uses suggestion on the captain to force the man to hear him out.

Proteus finds out that their 1st lieutenant had been captured and states that: "It's not my fault he was fool enough to get captured.  It wasn't my captain and it wasn't my ship."  Proteus also finds out that this captain used to own the Egress back in the day, but shipwrecked it on an island (not quite true, as it was his first lieutenant who did so).  Proteus pretty much invokes the salvage rule with a shrug.  Proteus mentally contacts his monkey and tells it to go warn the others.

And at that point Proteus' player had to leave so I took some liberties with the timeline and will need to make an arrangement with the player for what happens in between.  Without some handwavium, there's a chance that the timelines will need massive retroing.

Meanwhile, back on the ship

Everyone returns to their bunks.  Archer finds a note from Kitzy asking for him to come to her cabin.  He drinks some tea (which is how he can regain grit points) and goes to her cabin.  The lantern is facing the door so he has to step inside and out of the way of the light to see inside the cabin better.  He sees that there is a draught in the curtains at the aftcabin windows.  He also sees there is an Aquatic Elf in shadowy armor standing behind Kitzy, likely with a knife to her back.

The stranger demands to know why they have been hunting down Carnegie.  Archer demanded to know who the stranger is and why he came here.  Each refuses to answer the other.

Then Archer uses a babbling speech ability (can't remember the ability name) from his Gunslinger archetype and the stranger is so confused he stabs himself in the thigh.  Kitzy rushes away and Archer shoots him twice.  We then go to Initiative and Archer goes first and gets another turn immediately on the heels of the last.  He shoots two more times, this time doing subdual (guess he just winged him?  or shot a beam to fall onto his head?).  The stranger, Sellanarius (Black Smoke), is knocked unconscious.

They take all of his equipment and leave him in his undergarments, finding that he was actually a Chelish slave.  They bind him with Shackles of Compliance in the midshipman's cabin and Lhye heals him to awaken him.  Sellanarius scowls at them and manages to make his rolls versus the manacles to keep refusing to answer most of their questions.  I'll do it in dialogue form below, as it's more interesting, but this whole thing did take longer.

"Who are you?" asked Archer.  "What is your ship's name and rating?"


"You broke into my cabin and assaulted my guest," said Archer.  "You are at my mercy.  You had better give me your ship's name and rating."

Sellanarius glares at him.  "It's a barge called the Rocker."

This continued for a short while until Sellanarius fails his save and describes it as a large pinnace called the Silent Shade.  Archer doesn't believe him, however, and leaves him to Lhye and Lieutenant Marxus' tender ministrations.  He then goes onto the top deck and meets Proteus' monkey who gestures at the Silent Shade as it leaves the harbor.  Archer quickly leaps aboard the Egress (as its faster) and Lhye, Lunjun and Marxus follow with their prisoner.  The Exodus is left to Wellard's control.

They quickly ensconce Sellanarius in the all the more cramped midshipman's cabin on the Egress.  Archer asks one more time for information before leaving him to Lhye and Marxus to extract the information.

"You're a Chelish slave," said Lhye.  "Did they send you here?  Don't you want to be free?  I can free you *or* I can torture you.  What do the Chelish want?"

Sellanarius doesn't respond.

"Fine."  Lhye leaves and returns with a bucket of bilge water.  He then explains how Feast of Ashes works.  "You will be starving hungry.  You will eat anything I put in front of you but it won't help.  Now tell us who you work for."

Sellanarius, being a loyal person, and also an obstinate one, makes his save versus the cuffs and states, "I work for Asmodeus himself.  He came personally to give me his contract."

Lhye casts Feast of Ashes on Sellanarius (who fails his save) and gives him the bilge water which he desperately drinks before immediately (upon becoming nauseated) throws it back up.  Feast of Ashes means that food and water nauseates him even if its good and it requires a save to hold it down.  Lhye makes a note to himself to keep an eye on Sellanarius so that he doesn't die or fall ill from Filth Fever (which Sellanarius does catch, by the way).

Sellanarius doesn't try to escape as he is just handcuffed because, well, Manacles of Compliance are good for one thing and while I grew bored of rolling for every question, I determined that the trade off would be that he would physically do whatever they said as though he failed those rolls.  He just wouldn't give them answers.

The Egress follows the Silent Shade but the Silent Shade has occasional bursts of wind directly behind the sails using magic of some sort.  This allows the Silent Shade to get 600m ahead of the Egress and then the two well-matched ships largely hold those positions as they give chase.  Ship chases take hours, sometimes days, so Archer settles into the routine.

Lhye returns every hour to check on Sellanarius and asks the same four questions: "Who are you?  Who do you work for?  Why are you here?  How do you know Carnegie?"  At first Sellanarius gives ridiculous answers and then, later on, he starts answering made up questions. 

Sellanarius also starts referring to Lhye as "Chelish".  When Lhye responds aggressively to it, threatening to hang Sellanarius if he continues, and stating that he left Cheliax behind and hates it as a terrible place."

Sellanarius looks at him in wonder and states: "But you brought it with you.  You are Chelish and everywhere you go is Cheliax because you bring it with you."

That really gets to Lhye but he tries not to show it..

I did make a few rolls for Sellanarius to cope with the torture, and he did, and thus even the torture didn't prise information out of him until, after sixteen hours of this (during which time Sellanarius started taking real damage from dehydration due to vomiting and Lhye had to heal him), Lhye tries a few other enchantment spells which gets Sellanarius talking.

Sellanarius admits that he works for Captain Carnegie who had been an ambassador's captain for a time before fleeing with the information.  Lhye states that they should pleased then, as he serves Andoren, and surely they stole that information to use against his Chelish masters.  Anything less would simply paint a target on their backs.  Sellanarius, feeling rather bitter, states that he sees no reason why serving Andoren's interests would benefit anybody as they don't appear to be much different from Cheliax.

Lhye puts forth a plan of action.  They will give Sellanarius the ability to communicate magically to Captain Carnegie to propose a trade: The information and Proteus for Sellanarius.  Sellanarius states that his captain probably would accept such a trade.

The two then argue the rightness of Lhye's course of action, which really showed the flawed nature of the human condition.  Sellanarius is aggressively pushing Lhye's buttons because to do anything less would weaken his resolve and potentially cause him to break and he can't ever let himself become meek again - even though it might get him killed.  Lhye is trying to justify his actions to the one person who's extremely unlikely to validate those actions - the victim.

We left it with the Silent Shade slowly approaching a fort on the edge of an island in an archipelego filled with shoals that they can more comfortably pass through due to their experience and the Egress' inexperience in the area.  Who knows what is to come?

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

How It Feels To Be A Vampire

Human or Vampire - one just seems (and is) more deadly.
Let's say that you are Embraced and to begin with the virus makes you feel more alive on a physical level.  I mean, you no longer deal with life's little irritations of dead legs, aching muscles, soreness from sleeping at a bad angle, or tense muscles from sitting at a desk.  All of those little pains ... gone.  Even the bigger pains just don't seem so important without blood loss and the threat of death from bleeding out or infection.  That's the first thing you notice and it doesn't seem so bad.

It's only later on when you're dealing with other people that you really start picking out the downsides.  When you meet your sire, your Beast doesn't rebel against the first contact but it does try to compel you to attack / compete or get the hell out of dodge.  Only the Beast isn't a physical entity.  It's not your heart hammering against your ribs although some kindred find it easier to define it and delineate its boundaries as though it were something so coherent.  Oh no, its an irritation beneath the skin.  An agitation within the mind.  An instinct or drive for fight or flight that is similar to the low-level anxiety of being in a bad conversation and either wanting to leave or wanting to idly smack them in the nose to make them stop talking.

Imagine that?  Imagine being so irritable that almost every kindred you meet gets the same kind of response that you, as a human being, might get from being stuck in a lift with an annoying person for way too long.  I'm surprised they're not more eager to hang out with Mekhet who've hidden their Beast as that would quiet the sensation of the Beast - at least quiet it in terms of one's reactions to the Mekhet.

It kind of explains the Danse Macarbe somewhat, even if you take immortality and a circle of predators out of the equation.  Grudge matches are necessary simply to kill off some of that tension by redirecting it towards ones enemies.

Then you've got humans where even if you're not hungry you're idly eyeing them off like a satiated person eyes off their favourite pudding that they're not meant to eat.  Sure you can have a conversation around that pudding but every so often a thought will intrude.  Can I fit it?  Do I have room?  Should I ask for a slice?  The moment you're no longer full, the thoughts become a little more intrusive as the Beast is a predator that leaves little margin for error.  At a certain point, the thoughts become so intrusive that they are unbearable.  They tear at the kindred's mind like a human being gasping for oxygen or whose throat burns for water.  What would you do for relief?

The trouble is that if a kindred lets control for an instance, the instincts take over and the kindred is like a Geiger Alien - all drives but without the cunning.  Eat, kill, flee.  That's all they understand.  Suddenly that friend is no longer a person but a decanter full of the good stuff.  That irritation is now an enemy that must be destroyed.  That roaring fireplace is now something that cannot be faced.  When you come to yourself, you're not where you were before and you only have vague impressions of what you've done - which may be more a part of a person's coping mechanisms (dissociation) than any element of the Beast.

So we've spoken about people and the difficulties of having a good conversation with someone.  There are plus sides, still.  You might have magical powers that allow you to read minds and convince other people to like you.  You might just be able to win in an arm wrestle or any foot chase against a mere mortal.  So not only are the people you deal with irritating, but you get to feel a bit smug because on some levels you're better than them.  The Beast exarcebates this (especially if you're higher Blood Potency) but even without that, you need to be convinced that the upsides are better than the downsides.  Especially as your Humanity drops and humans start instinctively shying away from you.

Otherwise, if you truly let the crippling self-doubts in to make you wonder why you're still existing, well, you probably won't exist for long.  So those that roll with the superiority to make themselves feel better are naturally going to be the ones that survive which means that Nature Favors the Power Hungry and the Smug.  At least until the power hunger or smugness leads to acts of stupidity.

Oh, and let's not forget the difficulties of sun proofing a home.  Imagine knowing the world was toxic for approximately 12 hours out of every 24 unless you put yourself in an almost air tight container.  It's not easy to ensure that no sunlight enters.  I mean, we're not talking direct sunlight.  We're talking any sunlight.  If your eyes can adjust to vaguely make out silhouettes then that's still enough sunlight to likely cause an aggravated damage over the course of the night.  True, you still don't have to make it quite air-tight but that's a poor consolation.

Now when you're walking down the street and someone lights up, you get the urge to take a couple steps away.  Those homeless guys standing around a flaming bin are actually somewhat protected against you unless you're really keen on approaching and can swallow the fear.  Just be grateful its not the time of yesteryear where you not only were up only at night but your own light sources were starlight or ... firelight.  It must've been a pain trying to do your studies by gaslight or firelight.

Anywho, if you want more articles on vampires you can take a look at my vampire campaign over here.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Flashpoint: What Didn't Happen

I'll do the Actual Play of what really happened in my Flashpoint campaign later on.  For now I want to provide some contrast by posting what I had planned to happen.  While I normally just wing it, I thought I'd do some adventure planning before the session.  My players are pretty good and I can generally get an idea of how it might go.  Sure, things change and outcomes can be entirely unexpected, but with a fair bit of second guessing and knowing how to play to my players, I can normally be pretty safe that the basic premise won't be entirely derailed.

Until this session....

This session couldn't have turned out more differently.

I will analyse why it went so differently later on, after I've done the post of What Did Happen on Thursday.  The analysis will touch on the campaign as a whole as this isn't just a "Oh, players did something unexpected" and more of a "Wow, I've lost touch with what the campaign has become".  As to be honest, I *should* have expected what happened.  In hindsight, it makes perfect sense that the characters did what they did.  It just didn't match my presumptions of the game I thought I was running (but really haven't been).

Now onto the session plan of what didn't happen....

Oh, and if you're a player of my campaign, I don't mind if you read this.  These aren't epic spoilers and you might be amused to find out how my plans differed from reality.  Your insight into the analysis would also be appreciated.

The Actual Play That Never Happened
So our daring crew of pirates and privateers are seeking Kitsy's Chelish ex-boyfriend, Carnegie, to seek out the information he stole from the Chelish ambassador.  They've learned that the Red Mantis Assassins are after him and that he's likely still in the city.  One of the their best witnesses is now manically obsessed with Lhye due to a Major Curse he levied against her, which has likely left her sister more angry than anything else.  The two of them are likely to be coming after them, one way or another.

When they head back to their respective ships, Archer finds an aquatic elf in his cabin with an enchanted dagger to dear Kitsy's throat as the elf uses her as cover.  The elf, who dresses in a black camouflage, makes demands as to who they are and why they're after Carnegie.  The elf dives through the cabin window (left unfastened for this express purpose) and into the water if attacked or at the end of the conversation.  Kitsy swoons, if it seems appropriate, to get the Captain to catch her.

Kitsy identifies the Aquatic Elf as Carnegie's slave, Sellanarius, though questions about town identify him as the fearsome Black Smoke thief from the sleek vessel, Denarius.  He'd been out of commission for a few years following a ship wreck and stranding on the Inner Sea islands and no one knew if he were still alive for the past six years, though perhaps the legends have changed and someone knows if he's resurfaced.  The vessel, Denarius, now that he thinks about it looks rather like his own....

Alyssa returns to the ship with Wellard and a few other crew members who are each carrying a shipmate who had attacked them in a bid to kidnap them.  They're all unharmed.  Alyssa's work with her sap knocked out six of them without taking a fatality of their own. 

Tangential Note

I've told my players that Alyssa is significantly higher level than them.  She has to be, considering her work smuggling tiefling babies and children away from Lastwall and the area of the Worldwound where they are summarily executed when found.  I've gotten player approval to keep her around and told them that she can always do the work of a thief if they need a lock picked as they have no one to manage it themselves.  Having Alyssa show off her skills in the background in an area that the players didn't realise might be an issue, is a good way to do it.  This way she steals no limelight from them but manages to be a functional and useful crew member.  Why does she need them?  She has no crew of her own nor knows the first thing about piloting a ship or making those sorts of decisions.  Besides which, she doesn't think of herself as high level.

Back To Actual Play That Never Happened

In their interrogation of the crew members they find out that the Black Smoke has identified Proteus' ship as his own and he wants it back.  He is quite a skillful ranger just as Carnegie is a skilled sorcerer.  The crew are quite confident that Carnegie will win, though they also state that he isn't without honor, and that they can be assured of having a nice ransom for their return - even though they're just sailors.  They have little fear of Lhye, especially since they have a half-orc among them, and seem rather immunised to fear effects and intimidation (they have a paladin in their midst).  Wellard can also tell that none of them are evil.

The paladin (if detected) is a female 2nd lieutenant known as Charlie Schmidt, and she is a cheerful Shelyn paladin willing to offer them a game that she's sure Carnegie would approve of.  She sees that none of them are evil and her buddy, Denny Weiser (midshipman Desnan Inquisitor), has even noticed that a few of them are good.  The terms are this....

The crew members are ransomed back for 10gp each with an officers ransom of 25gp.  This would net them a nice little 110gp and goodwill from their lot.  If the papers are mentioned in the same breath as the Andoren cause, then copies of such are likely to be forthcoming anyhow - especially if they take the wager.

Then a wager is to be made.  There is a good little archipelago of islands not too far out from here where ships can play hide and seek to their heart's content.  Carnegie's vessel against their choice of vessel.  All crew are to be provided with saps or otherwise must do subdual damage.  Magic is perfectly acceptable.  Damage done to cripple the ship is also acceptable.  Both ships have three days to find and engage each other.

If Carnegie wins, they get to keep the good ship Denarius (also known as the Egress).

If they win, they can take two of Carnegie's canons, a keg of gunpowder, and a rather special firearm whose design is a secret recently invented by Carnegie's Dwarf / Gnome powder room expert team.

Either way, winner has to pay for a night of drinking and carousing at a local inn of the winner's choosing.

Lieutenant Charlie Schmidt also wryly notes that Carnegie is a massive worshipper of the Chaotic Good god of drink, Cayden Cailean, which is why he grew quickly fed up with Cheliax despite his own (at the time) Lawful Neutral ways.  He is a true buccaneer, all about the experience, though he has a price on his head from Mantis Assassins, the Aspis Consortium and the Hurricane King himself is also none too fond of him.

One way or another, there is an attack by the Red Mantis Assassin sister, shocked and horrified by what has happened to her sister.

Anywho, see you on Thursday for what actually happened last session....

Monday, May 27, 2013

Call of Cthulhu Spell Conversions: Dream Vision, Flesh Ward & Hands of Colubria

For those attempting to run Tatters of the King using World of Darkness rules like I did, it can be handy to have one of the cutlists' offensive spells handy so you can set up the combats as necessary.  This spell has been designed using similar rules to what you will find in the Second Sight book.  If you would like to read other articles like this one, you can take a look over here.

Flesh Ward

Prerequisites: Occult **
Effect: Your flesh can better cope with, and even ignore, damage from a variety of sources.
Dice Pool: Stamina + Occult.
Minimum Successes Required: 5 successes.
Ritual Length: 1 round per roll.
Duration: 1 day.
Cost: 1 Willpower point.
Suggested Equipment: A ritual dagger with which to gently score the flesh (+2); loud and rhythmic chanting (+2).
Suggested Penalties: Cast silently (-1); cannot move hands in ritualistic gestures (-2).
Ritual Details: The caster's flesh grows hard and rubbery, causing attacks to slide off their blubber rather than striking true.  The caster can ignore the next five points of damage, whether done all at once or over several turns.
Drawback:  If the expenditure of the willpower point to cast this drops them to 0 willpower, they gain a temporary derangement (mild) for the next week.

Hands of Colubria

Prerequisites: Occult **
Effect: This spell causes your arms to become 10 foot long poisonous snakes that each have their own attack roll (allowing two attacks per turn) using your Strength + Brawl to strike.  The snakes' poison is Toxicity 6.  The character must resist the poison with each successful attack.
Dice Pool: Intelligence + Occult.
Minimum Successes Required: 1.
Ritual Length: 1 round per roll.
Duration: 1 round per success.
Cost: 1 willpower point.
Suggested Equipment: The ground dust of snake scales assists in this casting, providing a +1 bonus.
Suggested Penalties: Attempting to cast this twice in one night levies a -5 penalty to each roll.
Ritual Details: This spell is performed through a quick chant in a strange and alien tongue that causes the arms to twist into the shapes of two venomous snakes of a malignant colour.
Drawback: The snakes cannot be hidden and are visible to all to see.  Naturally this may cause issue if it's performed in a public place.  If the expenditure of the willpower point to cast this drops them to 0 willpower, they gain a temporary derangement (mild) for the next week.

Send Dreams

Prerequisites: Occult **
Effect: Dreams can be sent to a targeted individual within a twenty-mile radius.
Dice Pool: Manipulation + Occult versus Composure.
Minimum Successes Required: 1 success.
Ritual Length: 1 minute per roll.
Duration: A round per success.
Cost: 1 Willpower point
Suggested Equipment: Beeswax candle used to light the herbs (+1); Candles made from human fat used to light the herbs (+2); candles made from the fat of an oneiromancer used to light the herbs (+3), sympathetic connection to the target burned, i.e. hair or blood (+2)
Suggested Penalties: Attempting to cast this while the target is awake (-5).
Ritual Details: The caster kneels upon the floor before an ornately crafted bowl made of "the copper from above", an alien metal etched with particular runes, that are filled with specific herbs and a dram of the caster's blood.  These herbs must then be set afire to waft a weird greenish smoke.
Drawback: Those who experience a dream vision lose one willpower point upon awakening due to the terrifying supernatural nature of those visions.  If this would drop them to 0 willpower, they gain a temporary derangement (mild) for the next week.

Dealing with Prejudice and -isms on an in-game level

Storytellers who run games set in earlier times or modern places where sexism, racism, classism and homophobia rear their ugly heads are likely to consider the question: "Should I go with realism or escapism?" 

On the plus side, realistically depicting the nastier side of world history is not only more realistic but can actually help educate people on the realities faced by large swathes of the population.  On the negative side, a lot of people play characters like themselves and this means that you're less likely to be introducing players to what it would be like to deal with sexism and racism for the first time in their lives.  You're more likely to be confronting someone who's already dealt with it (though hopefully to a far lesser degree) in their lives.  They might not want to have to face the same real world struggles over and over in the game.  They are playing a game to deal with something different after all.

There's three main choices I can see (though feel free to comment on more):

You can ignore the -isms or at least relegate it to the sidelines so that only unlikable characters demonstrate it and then only rarely.  There is nothing wrong with this approach, especially if any of your players are uncomfortable with the opposite.  There's nothing worse than being part of a discriminated group in real life and then having the rest of your player base peer pressure you into facing that discrimination during your hobby as well.

You can play it realistically with characters encountering both so-called 'well meaning -isms' ("You shouldn't go in there, ma'am.  It's not something a lady should see.") to prejudicial cruelty ("This is no place for a woman.  I will not have you undermine my word, little lady.  If you try to go in there, I will knock you flat.")  In this case, it's best to ensure that you're not unfairly biasing the actual play experience in favor of one group or the other.  In other words, if female characters have to sit out scenes in gentleman's clubs than male characters have to sit out scenes in maternity wards.  Anything else will unbalance the game and actually undermine the player's enjoyment.  You can read more about this idea and this question at the Yog-Sothoth forums.

Finally, you could make a point of it.  If you want to really boost the immersion factor of the roughness of another era, why not make it all the more obvious by inverting the groups?  Change nothing but the colour of the skin or the genders.  Yes, it's artificial but it's the kind of artificial that can really underline the experience of what it's like to have your genetalia or skin pigmentation define them as inferior.  Alternatively, you could have men playing female characters and women playing male ones to see it from the other perspective, though this won't necessarily be as effective.

What do you guys think?  Dealt with this yourself?  Any ideas on how else you could deal with it?

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Dystopic: Mysterious Phone Call & Miami's Visionary Dream

Phone Call

Miami is standing behind the counter at the bookstore while the others are off doing their own thing and Dallas is left taking out the books you've been processing. The phone rings. Picking it up you hear a young female voice with a faint New Orleans accent: "Hello? Are you free to talk? I'm only going to speak to you."

"Hello Athenaeum Antiquarian Bookstore, may I ask who is calling?" says Miami.

"I can't say. Not yet. Your reputations precedes you and I ... I don't want to get involved. Not really. I just ... I ... I thought if I helped you, perhaps you could leave us alone, perhaps I could prove the Court of Stolen Shame was no threat to you."  She sounds rushed and more than a little anxious.  (As an aside, the Court of Stolen Shame is the Ravener Court.

"Ultimately the matter that was discussed between the Court of Stolen Shame and our groups liege lord is not my decision to make, but I would like it resolved where we come to an agreement that benefits both parties."

"No, no, you misunderstand. I just want to give you some information ... as a sign of good faith. No strings. Just remember us well."

"Okay, I'm listening," said Miami.  "What information do you have to give me?"

She took a deep breath, let it out.  "Something happened in your old house. I'm not sure what. I really don't. But I think its connected to ... I think a spirit may have been summoned to get something? Or perhaps it took it upon itself to fetch it? Whatever happened, it was big enough to rip a minor doorway between the realms, open Saturday nights, past midnight. Not sure where exactly but it'd be somewhere less well-travelled in the house."

"Hmm....  Interesting."  Miami remains non-commital though naturally his interest is piqued.  "One of my other contacts briefly mentioned some strange phenomena in the area. On what date did this happen?  After my host and wife were murdered?"

"Must've been. I don't have any dates. This is all secondhand. But, er, I wouldn't suggest looking into the doorway on your own. The other side of the mirror is a really dangerous place to go."

"Okay, that is very interesting phenomena. I'm not jumping to any conclusions at this stage. I'll have a talk to some friends. So it didn't feel like a Fallen's Lore then? Some other kind of entity.  Was there any physically out of the ordinary occur in the area? Any strange residue or something left behind?"

"It's not something....  I ... I haven't been inside your house ... I know because I, well, I ... take a look and you'll see. I don't know if it kept your books but I know it took them. Where? For whom? I don't know. But if you take a look, be a bit careful as the house has a new family inside it. If you don't take a look, well, it's up to you. It's some entity made of electromagnetic style blue sparks.... Engenni. That's what they call it. Anyway, I've got to go. Make of it what you will."


One night, Miami will have a dream of a storm brewing over the horizon over a wall that also looks like the view from the back fence of his childhood home. He is sitting out there and his dead wife brings him a drink, a cocktail with mint in it, and she sits down beside him but he doesn't look at her and she doesn't speak. Finally there is the clap of applause and he gets up and heads inside into the home he had once lived in with his wife and children.

He goes down into the basement, shoes dripping water - somehow he knows its salt water - and he walks to the back of the basement and climbs up the supporting struts into a gap in the rafters that seems to yawn open and darker than all of the rest. Somewhere on that rafter lies a book, open, that is slowly dragged away by a sparking shadow as he crawls towards it. Finally, as he reaches out, it is snatched away and he falls back onto the cellar floor. There is the sound of marching music and a sharp voice barking commands in some other language. There is the clomp of boots and shadows of uniformed men flash across the walls.

Finally a man lays a knife on his shoulder, crouching down behind him, and murmurs something in his ear, "It's not my fault. Save me." He sounds young, so very young, and you realise that you are standing over him and his face is in shadow and you're the one holding the knife to his throat and he repeats, "It's not my fault" but you cut him anyway and there is a resounding boom of an explosion that waves through the air behind and around you.

Somewhere, out there, the wall cracks and figures beat against it ... dead shambling creatures ... but as you watch you realise that the shambling dead are on the wrong side of the wall.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Dystopic: Miami Uses Vampire Contacts to gather information

Councillor's business in Miami (IRL its Cork: Thanks Royskeane)
Miami did his downtimes this fortnight to gather some more information on his unsolved murder.  I'll post up the prop kit from his murder a little later for those who want to see all of the connections themselves. For now, suffice to say, he and his wife were killed by members of a Miami University fraternity who raped, mutilated and killed his wife and *merely* mutilated and put him into a coma - he later died of his injuries and his body was taken by Prometheus for possession. One of the other frat boys called the police who arrested the four kids who later died in prison under mysterious (and soon found to be supernatural) circumstances.  The mainstream media were sorry for both the loss of the boys as well as Miami's family (perhaps they were paid to be) as attention and blame was shifted from those four boys to an 'unidentified group' thought to be responsible who had simply planted the evidence on those kids.

Miami's host had been friends with two kindred (vampires) due to the Santerian connection (his religion), his burglarising bookhounding, and the much weaker Masquerade in Miami.  I mean, after all, there are zombies, so that whole supernatural cat is out of the bag - though most people don't know vampires are for real.  Anyway, he has them as his contacts so he checked with them to see if they knew anything about his situation.


Contact History: A vampire from Clan Gangrel, the Bloodline of Mara, and the Circle of the Crone. Originally from Cuba, she now havens in a decrepit mansion in Shenandoah (Coral Way) near Little Havana, with a high fence and a large swimming pool in the backyard covered in weeds and algae. White Hispanic with dark eyes and black hair. She was a iyalorisha priestess while she was alive and has spirit Cruac rituals for contacting the Orishas and divination. A sensual creature maintained immaculate by ghouls before venturing in public. It was in her home that Carlos broke into searching for a book wanted by a client, and she was the first vampire he encountered or so he believed at the time. Divining that Carlos was favoured by Yemoja, she decided not to kill him and they developed a rapport.  She occasionally comes into Carlos parent's occult store to "buy supplies" and chat, but has learned not to mess with his mother in law, Consuela.  Her favorite Orisha deity is Yemoja, Mother of the Dark waters.  Striking Looks **

Apparent Age: 26


Downtime: Miami asked Lucretia to check up on the Miami councillor who's details were included in Miami's murder kit.  No one's quite sure why his information was included in that kit.  The councillor seems to be a nice enough person who is keen on diversity and been a bit of a voice for a variety of different demographics not otherwise represented on the Miami Council.  Even Prometheus isn't sure on how he is important to Miami's case, only that he is.  Silly Fiends....


"Hello friend who is my stranger, I managed to meet the councillor at a nice little soiree but it seemed that fate kept interfering in our paths, causing me to expend considerable efforts to meet him over several occasions although I did catch his eye at least.  I also managed to gather some information on his general perspectives ... the rates are largely assigned according to the whim of those who have purchased the right to live in the local corporation of Miami but he has some rather socialist views on enlarging the government infrastructure to cater towards charitable cases, which is in direct opposition to his leading opposite number in the ward who wishes to remove those who refuse to work to the west of the wall and import willing workers in their stead - an artificial method of removing poverty if ever I heard one - but one that is quite popular among most of Miami's populace - including the working poor, ironically enough."

"Anyway, as to your councillor himself, there was nothing about him that seemed connected to your death other than his prior history at the same fraternity as those dead monsters (he used to go to that university several years ago and was a member of the fraternity).  Perhaps he, himself, knows more.  He does seem oddly slippery though I wonder if he is to blame for that or if it were simply the fates themselves....  Oh, one other thing.  Some of his greatest detractors have been dying - largely of natural causes, sometimes accidents - but all quietly and off the media these past couple of years.  Perhaps something else there?"


Dexter "Dex" West:

Contact History: A vampire from Clan Ventrue, the Bloodline of Geheim, and the Ordo Dracul. Dexter is a Coroner, biochemist, alchemist and occultist. Apparently from Provinence, he claims to have been a friend of H P Lovecraft and the inspiration behind the writer's Cool Air, Herbert West Reanimator and the Case of Charles Dexter Ward stories. He was the one who hired Carlos to steal back an occult text from his old lover and rival, Lucrecia of the Circle of the Crone.

Apparent Age: 30


Downtime: Miami asks West to look into the Fraternity to see what kind of occult influence they may have, whether they are supernaturals and, if so, what kind, and what kind of entity can open up a dimensional portal, and describes the darkness with electrical sparks.


West knows of a variety of myths about creatures that could open up dimensional portals although he doesn't have anything confirmed on their existence. Sorcerers, fae creatures creeping out of barrow mounds, extradimensional beings, cryptids, spiritual entities.

The Fraternity, however, are more boring from what is publicly known about them.  They are right wing conservatives without any obvious occult ties.  There are no known supernaturals among them, no relatives with ghoul connections or anything like that.  It is possible that they might be hunters, but no evidence to support that theory either.

There have been no mysterious deaths on campus.

Herbert West had also seen the darkness with electrical sparks himself while keeping an eye on Miami's house after the murders.  There was a static discharge in the local area that caused the hairs on the back of his arms to stand on end.  While he can't be sure as he didn't confront it, it is likely to be either some kind of spiritual entity or some kind of backfired sorcery. It might be a device though that is less likely.

Friday, May 24, 2013

True Fae Tale: The Pied Piper

This is one I'm looking forward to using in one of my upcoming games as I like the sense of otherworldly creep-factor that I get from the very idea of this one.  The story I've included here is pretty much the same as the one you would have heard elsewhere but it's nice to gather up all of the information in one place.  Besides, sometimes the classic tales are more terrifying than anything I could have dreamed up.  You can read more about the Pied Piper, other True Fae Tales, and other Changeling-specific articles over here.

The Pied Piper is a famous myth that may be inspired by reality.

The Pied Piper

Hamelin, Germany.
Sometime in the Middle Ages.

Some say that this was his beginning or perhaps it was his end.  Whether True Fae or Changeling at this time, who can say what inspired the tale?  Perhaps it were even a vampire whose tale was later absorbed by a True Fae to fix what it had become.  Perhaps it began as a simple cautionary tale and has no roots in history at all.  But on one day the town of Hamelin was visited by a man in pied clothing who claimed to be a rat-catcher and promised to clear the town of Hamelin from a rat infestation.

The rat-catcher went to the mayor of the town and offered to remove the rats in exchange for payment.  Upon the mayor's acceptenace, the rat-catcher used a wondrous pipe to sing the rats into following him into the Weser River where every rat but one did drown.

The Mayor, from greed or ignorance or spite, refused to fulfill his end of the deal and declared that he would not pay the rat-catcher that amount.  The man left town in a rage, promising revenge. 

On Saint John and Paul's day, the inhabitants of that town were in church when the rat-catcher returned, all dressed in green like a hunter, and played his pipe to lure the children of Hamelin into a cave, perhaps leaving only three children behind (one was lame and fell behind, the second deaf, and the third too blind to follow).

The Pied Piper began in Germany in the Middle Ages though he ventures across Europe and the United Kingdom these days.  However, in these days he never speaks though it is said that when a person makes an offer that he can fulfill under the night's sky and within earshot of a visible rat, he will appear in multicoloured clothing with only a nod for greeting before turning to fulfill his end of the deal.  He will return in expectation of payment and, if rebuffed, which happens often since the dealmaker often understands little about the deal, he will come back to exact his revenge.

Sometimes he might take what is most beloved - cleaning the street of its children though only one resident took part in the deal - and sometimes he simply sends a swarm of rats with oddly childlike faces after the deal breaker to consume them slowly.  Those who stumble onto his Arcadian Realm often find its entrance in caves or sewers, a single wrong turn landing them in his Realm, or hear the sound of music that when followed takes them there.

Oh, by the way, there is a startling historical reference connected to this.  You can read about it on the wikipedia about a reference to: "It has been 100 years since our children left."

Thursday, May 23, 2013

New Character Exposition

While regaling a new character with the team's previous exploits can be pretty fun, in some games there are often points where new characters need to be told large amounts of world building exposition - often in a big lump sum at the start.  This is often the case with new characters in World of Darkness - new vampires or Changelings, etc.  If you skimp on this, or simply paraphrase it, the player of the new character might have difficulty figuring out their characters' own thoughts on the subject since the describer's biases aren't revealed and therefore they don't know how their character might have tilted.

So what's the best way to do it?

You could think about introducing a character who is either strongly biased or an interesting take on the situation.  That way the players can all remain interested (as can you), in seeing how this cynical elder Sheriff who desires torpor will describe all of the trouble-prone covenants.  The new slant to it all will keep people from getting bored as they're told, once more, about the basics of the game world.

Or you could contrive a way for them to be more deeply engulfed in the world.  Give them a quick run down of the covenants and then have them introduced to several single-covenant-run-soirees who can give them a pretty good feel for the groups.  Throw in a badly treated yet apparently loving it ghoul and you should be able to cover much of vampire in a nut shell.  Oh, and you can always describe the reactions of their Beast rather than having to get someone to say: "By the way, it doesn't like fire!"  I mean, any vampire passing a man lighting a cigarette gets that sneaking suspicion.

So that's just a couple ways to deal with the exposition.  Create or choose an NPC that'll make the conversation fresh and exciting (unless you have a PC who happens to make it all sound new) or simply throw them in the deep end and introduce them to as many canonical elements as you can in a quick space of time - namely one or two sessions.  Can you think of any other ideas?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Invictus Groom & The Auction House

For those who don’t know much about Vampire: the Requiem, the vampires within a particular court are generally split into five major factions (called covenants).  One of these factions, the Invictus, style themselves as nobility with extravagant titles, liege lord / vassal connections, and a focus on having lots of top quality servants.  Some of these servants are fed vampire blood to make ‘ghouls’, which has nothing to do with consuming dead flesh and everything to do with becoming besotted with the kindred that feeds them (love at third drink) and being addicted to vampire blood.

The Invictus have a covenant position called a Groom whose responsibility it is to focus on developing a good stable of humans, the same way a person might develop a stable of horses.  They might breed them over centuries, cherry pick them from the herd of humankind, or even attempt to interbreed ghouls (which is difficult) to create ghoul families who have a little of the tainted vitae as a part of their very beings.  The Invictus in a particular court might have several grooms or none at all.  Even if there is only a single groom they tend to specialise in a particular type of human flesh.

One can imagine that Invictus from other courts might even send human retainers to purchase appropriate humans for their own purposes.  Other covenants, as well, might look to the groom to purchase a human skilled in a particular manner – though this is less common for fear that the human might be Dominated or at least recognisable by the Invictus.

In my London game, James Tyler has to deal with an Invictus groom called Martha Sinclair, who was liege lord to a missing kindred.  Martha is a Ventrue ancillae of 116 and she specialises in artists, entertainers (including BBC presenters), media figures, talent scouts, agents, and the beautiful people. 

Although not a Daeva, she is close ‘friends’ with the leader of the ‘sweet salons’ held by the Daeva, Leila Grant, and has a standing invitation to attend.  She also uses the ‘sweet salons’ club, the Bright Spark, for her auctions due to the nice ambience and Leila’s impressive security.  In exchange, Leila Grant gets some of the better picks of Martha’s humans for sale as well as unwitting ‘extras’ to populate the club on ‘sweet salon’ club nights.  The two need each other and for so long as their relationship is mutually beneficial, they can remain allies.  Thus the two strive to keep the status quo working as they do enjoy each other’s company yet are old enough that they would turn on each other without some pragmatic need to bind them.

Matha’s best picks go to the elders of her covenant first, her clan second, and then the elders and older ancillae of the court third.  The better picks not yet sold (or sometimes tithed rather than sold as elders have certain expectations) are then offered to Leila Grant, then other Invictus and members of the ‘Sweet Salon’.  Finally others may purchase from the rest. 

In order to represent this, there are private offerings made to those within her covenant or clan’s elders before the auctions begin.  The first auction includes exclusive invitations to the ‘Sweet Salons’ members as well as the elders and older ancillae of the court.  The younger kindred know better than to bid against such important personages but are more than happy to bid against each other.  The second auction is for those not already sold and includes an open invitation to all members of the court – even the Carthians.

These two auctions occur twice a year.  Many of Martha’s slaves believe they are simply under contract to her as they still provide her with her revenue through perfectly mundane performances.  As part of their contract, the women must wear a fine gold necklace of interlinking hands and the men must wear large gold cuff links of a hand bound in what looks like a silk rope.  These are her symbols and woe betide any kindred who steals, ghouls, or kills a human being with such a symbol upon them. 

The Deputy Sheriff Leila Grant is Lady Sinclair’s good friend, after all.  While the elders and older ancillae will be annoyed that they might have lost the opportunity to have a good slave, they will not directly interfere.  After all, if Lady Sinclair can’t protect her humans then what good is she?  Still, they generally disapprove of such actions.

And what of the humans that are sold?

Their fates depend on their masters.  Some will become blood bonded.  Others given a ghouls’ supernatural powers.  Others will simply continue their duties, doing what they’re told according to contract and only realising their trap if ever they try to leave or start a family of their own desires.  Some will disappear, drained dry or suffering excruciating experimentations.  Perhaps one or two will even be Embraced.

If you use Martha Sinclair, or a groom like her, she could end up enemy, friend, or simply a part of an auction that they need to win on behalf of their own liege lords or mentors.

It’ll be interesting to see what James Tyler plans to do with her.  I can imagine him braving all of the issues to kill the slaver, hunter that he is.  You can read more articles from James Tyler's campaign, including a few more London NPCs and places, over here.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Flashpoint: Not One Conversation, But Two

Proteus may start in a nice tavern but, as you might expect,
ends up in a seedy one.  (Spyros Kapsaskis)
This was another session where we didn’t have very much focus (me, particularly) so we didn’t get through very much in our two hours of gaming.  The crew returned to Rickety Squibs.  Lunjun made a Circlet of Intelligence over the journey (well, more a collar of Intelligence) that Lhye put on his giant wasp so that it was intelligent enough to be trained.  While technically a wasp normally has intelligence – rather than intelligence 0, I thought it made enough sense that it could go from being pheromonally controlled to capable of making its own animalistic decisions.

They then returned to Bloodcove.

Proteus led them to one of the fancier clubs in town which was built into a naturally occurring hole in the giant mangrove tree whose floor was sculpted red tree sap and whose furnishings had been grown from the wood.  The group split off once inside as though they didn’t know each other.

Lhye quickly met up with a few women wearing Calistrian designs in their outfits who were subtle prostitutes.  Lunjun mostly kept to himself.  Archer started up conversation with the barkeep while he looked about in search of ... well, something that might provide a clue.  It was this very perceptive mood that enabled him to hear what happened with Proteus’ conversation.

You see, Proteus insinuated himself with a group of likely lads and ladies and started chatting to them.  The conversation began well enough but then Proteus’ player rolled a 1 on his Gather Information check.  We go with botch rules for 1s on skill checks due to the sheer level of interest that such a sudden spike in bad luck can cause so we all knew something bad would happen.

I told Proteus’ player that his character spoke to them in a cheerful enough manner but that his audience began to look askance at him.  He made an effort to repair the conversation which only caused them to look deeply worried.  He tried to distract them from whatever faux pas he made with a jibe at the bartender, which led to a few of them scraping their chairs back and reaching for the pommels of their swords.

I then took Archer’s player aside and told him what had actually been said.  Proteus had been having an entirely different conversation from what he thought he had done.  He had been cheerfully mentioning his worship of Zon Kuthon and the need for non-consensual pain to enlighten the masses and bring reality’s truth to the mind’s eye of the residents here.  When he had made that jibe at the bartender, he had actually pointed out one such cruelty he could do to that man.

Archer acted quickly (remind me to give him one of the Spin Me A Yarn Cards, players-o-mine-who-read-this) and snapped at Proteus for owing him coin.  He battered Proteus about as he threw him out the pub, exacting his ten gold coins.  He then apologised to the group, stating that Proteus was a con man who would pretend at being a Kuthite to convince people to believe in certain scams.  Then Archer returned to his seat.

Lhye managed to gather a little information from the whores on Kitzy’s ex-boyfriend – Carnegie apparently took up with a Captain Sudholz of the good ship SudScraper which was apparently a merchant ship with a piratical bent. 

Lunjun had rolled a natural 20 on his Gather Information check so he overheard two Tienese women who had been eavesdropping.  The women giggled at how Carnegie was still in the city and surely would never make such a big point of joining that ship if he had really done so.  Lunjun went over to them with drinks and introduced himself – hoping to gather more information from them.  He offered a 10gp bribe.

The women laughed at him.  One declared that her shoes were worth more (they were – they were magical).  She asked to know why Lunjun wanted Carnegie.  He explained that Carnegie owed them.  She declared that anyone who would go to such effort to find someone was after a bigger slice of loot.  He offered her 100gp.  She offered him a tip per 100gp.  He agreed – but only if it were a good one.

(At this point, no one had cottoned on that anyone who would scoff at 10gp and see 100gp as only enough for a tip might be of a moderately high level.)

She told him that there was a price on Carnegie’s head and that the Mantis Assassins had been commissioned to take that price by killing Carnegie.

Lunjun stated that he already knew that and wouldn’t pay for information he already knew.  Having thought this was quite a good piece of information, the woman stated that he could say as much about any of the tips she had and refuse to pay her at all.  The two reached a stalemate and Lunjun withdrew to the counter with his gold.  He explained the situation using a whisper spell to the others.

Lhye decided to have a shot and decided to go with intimidation.  “Hello,” he said.

They pretended they couldn’t speak Common and spoke Tienese at him with blank expressions on their faces.

Lhye cast Hold Person on one of them and her friend drew a dagger.  The friend said: “Get out, before I gut you” and made an Intimidation check of 24.  Now I don’t make PCs do what NPCs tell them with successful NPC social checks.  It’s more to give an indication that a person actually is a bit scary, or not.

So Lhye cast a Sleep Hex on her and down she went.  He went to bundle the sleeping one up but the bartender ordered him to unhand her.  This was a decent establishment and he wasn’t going to have a kidnapper destroy his reputation.  Lhye tried to threaten him by stating that it was better than having the shop destroyed.  The subtle prostitutes also moved into position – leaving nine potential combatants.

Archer defused it by snarling: “What the hell are you doing off the ship?  I never gave you leave!”  He cajoled Lhye into putting the girl down and cast a curse on the sleeping girl so that she would suffer from Mania towards him.  The two of them left the club.  Lunjun followed soon after – knowing the girls would soon snap out of the spell and could identify him.

The crew returned to find Proteus at a seedy tavern not far from the ship.  Archer accused him of his Kuthite words and Proteus was genuinely confused as he didn’t remember saying that.  They thought he might be possessed so they marched him to the nearest church – rock pools held sacred to the Gozreh worshippers – and he sat in one such rock pool to prove the point that if he were possessed before he wasn’t anymore.  The animals in the pool seemed not to find him a threat.  A hermit crab even walked over his hand though he wasn’t particularly still.  A butterfly landed on his forehead.

They then left the site and purchased one of the few legitimate holy water vials from the so-called ‘priest stalls’ that lined the street near the Gozreh site.  Proteus drank it without an issue.  Proteus was then bothered by a kitten for food.  It seemed he had gone from marked by Zon Kuthon to being a friend of the animals.

Archer let the issue drop.

For now.

Evil Pathfinder Character Concept

The player of Proteus came up with an awesome evil character idea today in a conversation with Lhye's player and the two of them really built on it.  In Pathfinder, you can afflict characters with an insanity using the Bestow Curse spell.  One of the optional insanities is Psychosis which turns the victim of the spell's alignment to Chaotic Evil as well as granting a +10 bonus to Bluff checks to pretend they're not evil.  In other words, you could create an evil character that goes around with the party and does nothing wrong ... except turning the occasional random NPC into a Chaotic Evil person.

Imagine an elf going around for hundreds of years, casting the spell on humans so that they can then hunt them down while they're older with the rest of the party.  The elf could even cast it on human babies - like the paladin's son - which could create either children who grow up to be serial killers or even evil toddlers who themselves start killing the people around them.

Considering that you don't need to be insanely high level to do this, just imagine how often this could be thrown about by various evil characters in the game world.  Oh, your best friend chose to marry the love of your life?  Turn one of them Chaotic Evil!  Your boss promoted someone instead of you?  Make the new employee Chaotic Evil and then leave the area with your family.

I mean, yes, Chaotic Evil doesn't necessarily mean that they will be all that actively evil but it's bound to lead to some pretty bad acts of random violence.  Then again, Chaotic Evil that comes with a side of 'pretend to be innocent' suggests serial killing or otherwise violent sociopaths who impulsively commit evil acts according to their fantasies.

It is messed up how easy it is to be evil in roleplaying games.

I mean, sure, Remove Curse will work on them but the Bluff bonus means that years of evil deeds might pass before anyone suspects the villain.  By that time, they might believe they were born bad rather than that they were the subject of a curse.

So people, what magically evil plans have you thought up that cleverly uses certain spells?  Proteus' player (who happens to also be Leningrad's player, if you read both the Dystopic and Flashpoint Actual Plays), got any further ideas for this?

Monday, May 20, 2013

Unspeakable Promise & the Unspeakable Possessor

This article is all about running a Call of Cthulhu game involving the Unspeakable Promise in the World of Darkness system, though there's some advice here that's good for people running the game with the BRP or Trail of Cthulhu system.  If you'd like to read more articles where this came from, you can find them over here.

The Unspeakable Promise

Some people are foolish enough to make bargains with Hastur in the vain hope that what they gain will be more than what they will lose.  In the fabulous Tatters of the King campaign (by Chaosium), your characters not only get the chance to deal with Hastur but also have the opportunity to learn the spell themselves and could be foolish enough to make the promise.  How do you deal with that?

Firstly, try not to be too much of an evil genie about the promise.  Hastur is far more insidious than that.  The promise will work.  The characters will get what they asked for.  After all, there wouldn't be so many Hastur cultists willing to make the deal if it never worked out.  Just look at Edwards and Bacon who both seem pretty happy with what they've gotten.  If an investigator makes a deal to become an epic marksman, they really should have spells or skill buffs that make them a better gunman.

Secondly, be a bit of an evil genie about the promise.  Whose to say that Edwards' homicidal sadistic / masochistic tendencies weren't a byproduct of his deal for the ability to regenerate himself?  Whose to say that the cost for Bacon's power and knowledge isn't the need to drain life from victims (despite regular usage he's still not all *that* young) or that he wasn't turned into a sociopath from the sudden insight?  Have a think about what the cost will be for the deal made.

Let's return to the marksman idea.  Perhaps the character becomes increasingly fixated on figuring out ways to kill the people around them.  You don't need to tell the player to become fixated.  You could simply start describing good sniper placements, fields of view, possible exits, alongside lovingly described depictions of their enemies dying and just how easy it would be.  It might begin with villains but then expand to include police officers who give them speeding tickets and then annoying waitresses. 

In the Storyteller system, you could use the vice mechanic to highlight the descent into the darkness.  Treat killing someone with a gun as an extra vice for the character.  Remove the ability to make Morality rolls to avoid losing Morality when the character murders someone with a gun.  They should automatically lose it.  In the BRP system, you might give them a 1/1d6 sanity check whenever they fire their gun due to the shocks of pleasure and joy it gives them.

Hastur is all about madness, after all.  Drive the characters mad but do it through temptation.

The Unspeakable Possessor 

When a character who has made the Unspeakable Promise finally dies, they are possessed by Hastur itself (or perhaps some sort of lesser aspect of Hastur) which causes the victim's body to twist into a boneless giant humanoid with an overwhelming desire to kill others with its draining touch though it is capable of animalistic cunning.  This isn't an entity that you would want to face lightly.

Strength: 6
Dexterity: 2
Stamina: 9

Intelligence: 4
Wits: 3
Resolve: 5

Presence: 2
Manipulation: 1
Composure: 5

Athletics: 3
Brawl: 5
Occult: 5
Stealth: 1
Additional skills may be retained from the original host at the Storyteller's discretion.

Size: 8
Health: 17
Initiative: 8
Defence: 2
Willpower: 10

Le Parkeur: 4
Spelunking: 4

Armor: 3/3 (scales and rubbery flesh)

Draining Slam.  On a successful touch attack, the Unspeakable Possessor rolls Resolve + Occult versus the target's Stamina + Supernatural Potency.  If the target fails this roll, they die.  If the target succeeds on this roll, rather than dying outright they take aggravated damage equivalent to the successes made on the original Resolve + Occult roll.

More Links for Tatters of the King

Don't worry, this isn't the main article today but merely a little teaser with a few cool web-sites that I recently found for the Tatters of the King campaign.  We have a tatters wikispaces that is quite useful for those people trying to keep to the timeline (which is one of the strictest parts of this campaign) and an invitation to an online game that might be interesting for some folk.  I don't know if all of the places are filled but I do know that it isn't set to start for another month or so.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Nautical Campaign Worthy Links

A look at why so many resource books for different games vary so much when reporting on how many tons can be kept in the cargo holds of the ships.  It's a rather specific little article but still an interesting read for those wanting to learn a little more about ships.

A Game Master muses on historical piracy and privateering as he tries to figure out what would be the right era for his own game of piracy.
This is mostly about in-game maps in general but as maps are such a big part of nautical campaigns, I feel like it works here as well.  These two blog posts talk about reasons why players shouldn't be so certain of the maps they receive, even if they are sanctioned by their characters' in-game governments.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Dystopic: Dead Women Tell No Tales

A showdown with a Tyrant in an abandoned school. 
Seems fitting.  (Tiffany Bailey)
The following morning the team regroup to discuss what to do next.  Despite Tokyo pushing for their first contact to be with her Minister, there was a concern that the Lion Ministry's people might be a little cross about their demonstration the night before.  Besides which, having the court's military people behind them would be helpful as it would be the Lions who would be sent after them if the Tyrant figured them out.  So they decided to head to the pizzeria to track down Garcia, using London as the figurehead and pretending that they were all his subordinates.  To do this, it was decided that no one else should speak - though Tokyo did suggest that it might be an idea to show themselves as a team of peers.

They all piled into the pizzeria and placed their order with a guy who didn't seem to much know how to do counter duty and then were sent into a back room to meet Garcia.  They were surprised to see that Garcia was not alone.  Not only did she have half a dozen of her own people from the Lions Ministry in that room (including Jackman and Garrand) but she was also seated at a table with a woman with a layered cut fringe, two skull-topped sticks in her hair / ponytail, black ink running from her kohl-lined eyes as though she were constantly crying black blood, and wearing loose trousers under a Chinese-style high-shouldered tunic with slits up the side to mid-thigh.  London surmised correctly that she was the head of the Ravener court - the court of Stolen Shame.

London, put on the back foot, asked for the woman's name.  She refused him.  He became offended by this lack of a simple courtesy.  Her response to that: "The name you have given me is likely a lie.  The name I would give you is bound to be the same as you have no right to my name.  Why do you demand a lie for a name and why are you angry when I refuse to lie?" 

She also declared that she was apolitical, that she preferred to be honest, that she hadn't knowingly aided the Tyrant (which London took to mean that she had, but was trying to seem otherwise), and that she couldn't speak for her court as to whether they had killed for the Tyrant as they were free Fallen and she didn't track them at all times.

Learning that she was apolitical and noticing how little she revealed, London figured her for worse than worthless.  As she was a Ravener, he figured her for a cold and callous creature who doubtless didn't care about what happened within the city.  So he tried to dismiss her so that he could talk to Garcia and finish this part of the mission.  The Ravener refused to be silenced but she offered to speak to one of the other Fallen instead who had been so silent thus far.  London rejected that out of hand, stating that she only wanted to corrupt them with her ennui.  The Ravener said that were they free Fallen they should be able to make their own decisions in this.

When she tried to speak to the others, however, none responded.  Until she gave her condolences to Miami for his loss.  Sensing her going for a weakness, London tried to shut down the conversation and Miami apologised for his insubordination.  When the Ravener offered hints of more information, Miami couldn't help but respond and London, feeling increasingly irritated but recognising that it would be wrongful to shut down Miami's lead on his wife's killers no matter who it was from, grumpily let the conversation continue.  After all, they had all focused on the political fall out from his appointment to the cruel and tyrannical Ministry of Aurochs (which would have turned him against his peers or destroyed him) and poor Miami's loss had fallen by the wayside.

The Ravener spoke cryptically and though there were some pretty good hints in there as to what they were facing and where they should look, her naturally vague way of speaking and her suppositions meant that most of it was lost on the team.  In the end, they felt like they had learned nothing from her.  Oh well, I'm sure they'll find the clues again somewhere else.

The Ravener, having said her piece, then agreed to leave.  Her half a dozen followers (who had a delinquent cast to them - likely criminals and thugs) went after her.

London spoke to Garcia briefly about the Ravener and found that she was referred to as the 'Sweet Priestess' and that she provided succor to the other Raveners.  She wasn't a Tyrant of them, however, as she believed them all to be free people.  Then they moved on to other things.

Garcia offered her neutrality.  She wasn't going to help them assassinate the Tyrant but she wouldn't stop them either - she even implied that she probably couldn't if she wanted to.  Though she really didn't seem to want to get involved one way or another.  After all, she didn't know London (whom she knew by a different name - city designations being a sign that they were working for a big organisation after all), and had no reason to suspect that he would be a better Tyrant.

London assured her he didn't want to be Tyrant.  He would be the Aurochs Minister instead.  He also stated that he had no plans to assassinate the Tyrant.

During all of this, Tokyo had tried to crack through layers of security and had found that the place was abuzz with several wireless hubs and dozens of other devices that caused a field of 'noise' to chew through.  She finally figured out that she'd need to get access to the closed-circuit information and went to the nearest access point (surreptitiously, of course) to touch it and hack it.  Inside she found several emails from the Tyrant demanding results on who had slain her Minister.  The last email, unread, was also a summons to a particular location.  Tokyo read it and deleted it.

When they all left, Tokyo explained what she had found.  They resolved to go there.  It was an abandoned five-storey school building in a suburb that had been built on the outskirts of town to house refugees but which had since been closed down due to the contractors hauling in radioactive soil to level off the ground.  This whole mini-suburb has a number of tall buildings - between 6 to 12 - but has since been blocked off with fencing and abandoned over the past couple decades.  They landed the flyer on the quadrangle and then went into the building through the front doors.

They headed into the assigned classroom to find Tyrant Chakraborty pacing while an unknown woman with long curly hair stood by.  Upon seeing them, the unknown woman drew forth her revelatory form and revealed herself to be the Aurochs Minister!  It turned out that she'd found a new host after all.  They also noticed a man with a sack over his head handcuffed on the floor in the classroom.  Despite the presence of a hostage, Oxford had a thermite grenade ready to douse the room (likely killing the hostage, the Tyrant and the Minister - of which only the third *had* to die and the first wasn't meant to die at all).

Luckily for the hostage, Leningrad got on the drop on them all.  He charged forward and slammed his blades into Minister Ortega's side.  She responded by beaming images into London's brain of storefront grille's rattling back to reveal a horde of shambling walking dead.  Had she set up a series of infection points in case of her death?  Oxford quickdrew his gun and dealt the woman a fair chunk of lethal damage.  London speedcuffed her with epic successes, hoping to take her hostage to learn what they needed to know about the infected.  Tokyo stayed out of the way to begin with but then headed in to try to pick the hostage's handcuffs.  When the Tyrant turned to mist, Nomad6 dropped down to do the same.

As the Tyrant misted out, London spun around and used the accursed side of his Radiance to knock her out of mist form.  Becoming real once more, she opened the door and started out into the corridor but Oxford had decided that she had to die (being as she was still aligning herself to the Aurochs Minister) and he threw a thermite grenade in with her as she closed the door.  It erupted and dealt so much damage that she died in the first round (9 lethal).  During this time, Ortega simply healed herself, threatening them with what would happen if she didn't check in with her subordinates in the next few days.  Leningrad stabbed her once more for good measure and Tokyo downed her with a touch of paralyser from her fingertip-injectors.  She passed out.

The group freed the hostage, who turned out to be Remiel, who offered to go and get the CDC so that they could deal with any rampaging zombies.  There was some concern about releasing him.  They didn't expect to get him back, after all, and were worried that he'd just run off and leave a whole bunch of zombies in the city.  In the end, he mostly got them on side.

At this stage they're heading back to the chopper with an unconscious Minister Ortega in hand and Remiel walking beside them.  They intend to deliver Ortega to the Prometheus Project and to alert the CDC to the potential trouble in Miami.  They still have a potential new Tyrant to enthrone as well.  Perhaps the Minister of Eagles?