Monday, 12 November 2018

Lag

This is a role-playing game about displacement, jet lag and home sickness. The characters are strangers staying in a luxury hotel in a foreign country.

During play the characters will discover the world outside their hotel life, have meaningful discussions in the hotel bar, and difficult conversations with whoever it is on the other end of the call home.

Lag

All of the characters suffer from Lag, the difference between their personal time zone, the time zone they left and local time. As the game progresses the characters will move away from their home time zone as they adjust to local time.

Scenes

During the game the players explore each character’s arc in three kinds of scenes:

Mission scenes explore the character’s reason for being here, and will involve their local contacts (to be played by other players). These will be connected with their Archetype (see below).

Calls home scenes explore the character’s ties back home. These connections may be personal (e.g. family, lovers) or professional (e.g. Head Office).

Hotel encounter scenes with other characters in the hotel. Chance encounters in the elevator, the bar, waiting outside the hotel for the morning taxi.

Archetypes

The Celebrity

This Archetype is all about connecting with fans and the public. Their Mission is to entertain, promote something or otherwise use their face and media presence for commercial gain.

The Corporate

This character is here to work with other members of their organisation. They may be discussing strategy, dividing spoils, or electing a leader. The character may well have to defend their territory from rivals.

The Entourage

They’re here simply as a hanger-on to someone else. They may be a child, a lover, or a freeloader. Their mission will be to make the best of their situation and not become bored.

The Entrepreneur

This person is here to buy or sell. Their wares could be rare, illegal or highly valuable; whatever the reason they need to be here to make the deal in person.

The Exile

This character is running from something. Maybe they’re a fugitive from justice, perhaps they’re a disgraced VIP, or they could be a refugee from a war zone.

The Hatchet

This character is a troubleshooter is here to fix a problem that relies on their expertise. This may involve a technical problem, political situation, or silencing someone. Expect hard decisions and not making any friends.

The Pilgrim

The Pilgrim is here to find something. It could be a reconciliation with a lost child or lover. It could be treasure, knowledge, or spiritual enlightenment. It could be inspiration for their next masterpiece.

The Player

This character is a criminal intent on theft of something from an individual or organisation. It could be a heist, a confidence trick, or state or industrial espionage.

Back Home

Examples of people you have left back home:

Domestic

The Domestic connection indicates a family member, dependent or lover. This relationship hinges on personal obligation and conversations will hinge on emotional connections such as family obligations, the status of a relationship, or guilt at being here and not at home to take care of the other person.

Head Office

This is someone with a position of power over the character. Obviously this could be a company boss, but equally it could be a crime boss, a family patriarch or matriarch, or even a client. In each case the conversation will hinge around business obligations, and the cost of the character’s inaction (both threats on the person and what failure means for the character’s organisation).

Nemesis

The last category is someone who poses a real threat to the character. They could be a rival who is eyeing up your territory, a cop who is convinced of your guilt, or a blackmailer who is trying to force you to do something.

The city state

The city-state is a peculiar mixture of ostentatious new wealth and conservative attitudes. It’s eager to court foreign business, and the city centre is a luxurious tourist hotspot and temple to capitalism with outstanding hotels for business guests and a dazzling array of restaurants and retail outlets to tempt passing travellers on an overnight layover. But outside this centre the state rules the population with draconian laws, overcrowding is severe and the gap between rich and poor is vast.

Systems

My first go-to system is Dramasystem and specifically Malandros for the dramatic vs. procedural scenes. In this example the Procedural scenes will probably fit with the character’s personal Mission, and the Dramatic ones will work with Hotel encounters and Calls Home.

PbtA is the alternative, which could work with the usual setup (follow the characters around for the first session) but might require careful consideration of the various Fronts.

Also, playbooks.

Inspiration

Mostly inspired by working for weeks on end in Singapore with an 8 hour time difference from home.

Film examples

RPG examples: Over The Edge (obviously).

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Cow sighted

Been quiet here and on the podcast for various reasons; the main one is I’ve been pouring my creative energies into getting ready for Concrete Cow 18.5 on the 15th September. I’m offering 2 games: in the morning I’ll be running StormHack (that’s Stormbringer meets Whitehack) with the classic Chaosium scenario “Stolen Moments” from the 4th edition Perils of the Young Kingdoms.

Getting ready for that has been relatively straightforward to the afternoon offering, where I’m hoping to run Grand Tableau (aka hipster Everway). I made a fortune deck using Lenormand cards (Pixie’s Astounding Lenormand, to be precise). I’m quite pleased at how it turned out…

First, slip the card into a standard MtG style card sleeve (I do this to protect the original Lenormand cards in case I want them back in the future). Then get some backing card, approximately tarot-sized. We mount the sleeved card onto the larger card with the card meaning below it, like this:

Then slip that whole thing inside a second card sleeve that’s sized for larger cards (I think the sleeves are made by FFG and designed for games like Dixit).

There we go… and the final touch, put the 36 cards inside a nice wooden box.

Quite pleased with this effort, and not a bad way to spend an evening while watching Iron Fist season 2 with one eye. Hopefully I’ll get takers on Saturday.

(the scenario is The Death Hand Of Saint No-One, which is actually a Continuum scenario — we’ll see how it turns out exchanging time travellers for urban magicians)

Friday, 10 August 2018

Thursday, 26 July 2018

Grand Tableau: Gates, Courts, Primes

And now for something completely different, because I can never work on just one project (in fact this is what was bugging me as I was trying to finish the last post).

This is my character sheet for Grand Tableau (a remix of Jonathan Tweet’s Everway using the 36 card Petit Lenormand deck, with elements in common with Amber).

The picture is low res but the vector pdf is here. Haven’t tried printing it yet.

Now, about the deck.

Cosmology and the Fortune Deck

The 36-card Lenormand deck has four Aces, twelve Court cards and twenty numbered cards. These represent three tiers of reality:

  • The Aces are the Primes, which are universal cosmic principles.
  • The Court cards are the four Courts of magic. These are the twelve schools of magic available to PCs (at the start). Kings are static, Queens are dynamic and Jacks are mutable. When I run this game I plan to make extra cards and give them to the players as table artefacts.
  • The numbered cards represent Gates between each tier of occult society. These correlate with the ratings in each element.

The Gates have a kind of informal hierarchy. No one card is necessarily stronger than another, but they represent a transformation of magical awareness.

  • The sixes represent the first step; gifts, opportunities, guidance and crossing thresholds.
  • The sevens are all about connections and networks in occult society.
  • The eights are about gathering, consolidation, thoughts and ideals, symbols and membership.
  • The nines concern themselves with legacies, remnants, plans, deep impressions, future vision, truth and falsehood.
  • Finally the tens are about evaluation, power, transformation and territory.

As magicians gain strength in each of the suits they will transform according to the level they’ve achieved. At a rating of six they become an attractor, becoming visible to occult agencies. At seven they will start to notice their peers. At eight they will acquire a mark that identifies them to their peers, and may choose to enroll in a College. Nine and ten are very uncommon and usually involve specialisation in the chosen College.

That will do for now. Time for bed.

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

StormHack characters part 3: demons and ambitions

The character history method from part 2 should produce interesting, three-dimensional characters with a bit of mystery and personal plot hooks.

By comparison, demons are cartoonish, one-dimensional, one-trick ponies — which is intentional. Demons are all about a character’s singular purpose in life and how it’s both a path to power and damnation. Whereas the human side of the character should feel “real” with believable professions, the Demon side is much more like a character class.

I. Brief notes on demons

A demon represents a character’s drive. What I mean by this is that the demon is essential for the character’s heroic aspect. A superlative warrior unmatched in combat owes their ability to their demon; their identity is the demon, the two are inseparable.

There are six Demon Realms that define six dimensions of activity.

A Demon Realm has associated lesser and greater suits, or petitions which may be made for magical aid. A demon can access the lesser and greater suits from its realm, as well as the lesser suits from two adjacent realms.

A demon always seeks to transgress against its master. It achieves this goal by accumulating power through its master’s over-reliance on its services.

When a demon successfully transgresses, it undergoes metamorphosis.

II. Generating the demon character

To generate the demon half of the PC you need to decide on Drive, Demon Realm and Seeming.

Drive

Drive is a lot like a Character Class. It’s a direction for the character’s life, something they’re supernaturally good at. The basic fantasy tropes of fighter, magic user, thief and so forth work here; in fact I really encourage thinking in these terms. The demon is all about power and exceeding human capability, and the powers it bestows fit into these particular classes. In fact, it’s probably not possible to think about Drive without thinking about your demon’s Realm at the same time — so we’ll cover that next.

Demon Realm

The Realm of Violence defines warfare, causing harm and injury. Its demons are demons of combat, demon weapons. It borders the Realms of Durance and Majesty. It is almost always associated with martial Drives, i.e. fighters and soldiers.

The Realm of Durance concerns surviving pain, disease and injury, and superseding the limits of the body. Its demons are armour, shields, wards and pacts. It borders the Realms of Violence and Flux. It will be associated with martial pursuits as well as the wilderness, for example scouts and rangers, barbarians, and possibly some priests or druids.

The Realm of Flux concerns movement through and perceptions of space and time, and its demons are transporters, teleporters and gates. It borders the Realms of Durance and Contrivance. It is often associated with athletic and/or larcenous Drives such as thieves, acrobats, or assassins.

The Realm of Contrivance is about satisfying desires and needs. Its demons are lovers, seekers and procurers. It borders Flux and Voyance. Its drives are frequently arcane, including illusionists and sorcerers.

The Realm of Voyance deals with knowledge of past, present and future. It borders Contrivance and Majesty, and its demons are scryers, seers and ledgers, and its drives frequently involve priests, oracles and sages.

The Realm of Majesty controls minds. Its demons are possessors, controllers and parasites. It borders the realms of Voyance and Violence. Its drives are politicians, leaders and enchanters.

Seeming

Last, have an idea of what the demon looks like — to the PC, and to the external observer. Many demons, especially low level ones which are only beginning their metamorphosis, appear as some kind of motif on the character. A fighter might have a particular sword, for example. It could be clothes, body art, a piece of jewellery. It could be something large and immobile, for example a hotel, but this would limit the scope of the game to in and around the hotel (which wouldn’t play easily with a hex crawl).

Perhaps more interesting is the PC’s internal perception of their demon. If you go with the idea of the player to their left playing the demon from time to time, that player will be helped by knowing how the PC actually sees their demon. Is it a voice in their head, a long shadow from behind a tree, a reflection, a speck of dust in the corner of their eye? Or is it more overt, like a goblin that sits at the end of their bed?

III. Example: Kayl’s demon

We know a lot about Kayl’s past from part 2, but what about their ambition?

The obvious choice is to follow Kayl’s background and make them some kind of witch or mystic. Perhaps when the adventure starts they’re just on the cusp of awakening; they have realised their potential and manifested their own demon.

For Kayl’s Drive we simply write Fane Witch. That’s nice and punchy; it’s direct in the description with just a little hint of the connection to their backstory.

If Kayl’s a witch, the more obvious Realms for their demon are Voyance, Contrivance and Majesty. Contrivance would make them some kind of conjurer or illusionist, and a very physical kind of magician. Majesty would make them a kind of social manipulator, and confrontational with it. The middle ground is Voyance, which would make them a seer and able to connect with other worlds. Note that they will access minor powers from Contrivance and Majesty as well.

What is this demon’s Seeming? Kayl’s player decides that they have taken to wearing makeup outwardly, great black smears over each eye which makes them seem strange and ferocious despite their youth. Inwardly their demon mostly manifests in their dreams; it is the voice of the matriarch interred at Aelfa, speaking from the threshold of her tomb under a sky like ash.

And that’s all for now. I’ll come back to StormHack with actual mechanics in the near future. But the next post will be something a bit different.