Monday, 20 July 2020

the Sea of Flies

A flyblown miasma next to blackened gums and pitted fangs: the Amphetin Palisade. The Sea of Flies chokes the air a quarter mile away with the taste of ozone and old metal. It remakes its surroundings continually and one day, the Palisade will fail completely and the Sea will grow.

I feel it is more science than sorcery. It obeys no almanacs, no solar or lunar bodies, no gods or demons or the ranting of priests. Indeed, it spites them. The common guess is that it was made somewhere, some basement laboratory of an engineer currying favour of a King long since vanished. Once it had served its political purpose it was forgotten, burrowing into the Husk.

I reason this as I question my brother’s motives for walking into the Sea of Flies. What was he looking for? God? Purification? Truth? Death? I think he found all of those. It did not kill him, only changed him into a crackling, sharp-smelling outline. He no longer communicates in any language I know, simply drifts after me, arms outstretched.

Sunday, 19 July 2020

The King

The King is the Divinity of the City.

The Queen has Authority in the City.

The Bishop has Territory.

The Rook prosecutes the Queen’s Warrant in the Territories.

The Knight has Ambition.

The Pawn has Family.

These conditions are exclusive; they are a source of envy and the reason a Knight becomes Bishop, Rook becomes Queen, Pawn is made King, and Queen becomes a Knight.

All of these transactions are commonplace through the ages. The only exchange noted in history is when the King’s cup is taken; then the meaning of Divinity is called into question.

the Path through the Husk

a Husk Knight to her Squire

The doors to the Husk open like a moon-blighted flower, and close like the lips of a giant sucking marrow. Your only path is forward, and you need to find one of the Pivots. Demesnes swim about you, little fish. Step on them only briefly. But once you have your foot on a Pivot — Roseburn Jetty, or the Chattel House are common — your tether will be stronger. You walk the orbits of each constant. Find your quarry, chase them down with singular revulsion. The Husk will let you leave.

Saturday, 18 July 2020

My Life With Dom

This is a political playset/skin for My Life With Master by Paul Czege.

Making the Master

Dominic Cummings is the Master. His Aspect is Brain and his Type is Feeder, although you might think Teacher is also a fit. I lean towards the former which is about feeding the ego, as opposed to the latter which is about evangelising a world-view.

The 19th-century Demesne is replaced by 21st-century Downing Street in London. The Townspeople are the British electorate. The Outsiders are oligarchs, cronies, and other elites in the 1%.

The Master’s Needs (which are what he needs from the Townspeople, and what he uses to threaten the townspeople) are to turn a blind eye to evidence of corruption and failures of government, and to follow the populist narrative against the moderate middle.

The Master’s Wants (which are what he desires from the Outsiders) are recognition of and inclusion in the 1%.

Fear is around 2-3 (the Master does not have a strong, threatening presence), and Reason is higher. This should make for a shorter game with higher incidence of Connections.

Making the Minions

The Minions are the Prime Minister and other members of the cabinet. Generate them like this:

First, assign your Self-Loathing and Weariness as you see fit.

Second, consider how they are both Less than Human and More than Human.

Examples of being Less than Human:

  • Lies compulsively in the face of contradictory evidence, unless the public is no longer outraged
  • Laughs inappropriately in television interviews, unless called on it
  • Spaffs money everywhere, except when spending on the vulnerable

Examples of being More than Human:

  • Powerfully charismatic and likeable, except when alone with family
  • Decisive and quick to act, except in life-or-death situations
  • Applies laws fairly and consistently, except to cronies

Third, create your Connections and Love as per the rulebook.

In Play

Dominic Cummings will ask the minions to do things for him. These acts can be Villainy or outright Violence.

Villainy will be the cynical manipulations of the public. It can include sacrificing people to save face, backing up a lie, making public appearances to further a political scheme and so on. Assume that when this happens they will face some kind of political opposition, for example from:

  • other politicians
  • paperazzi
  • activists
  • ordinary members of the public
  • memes on social media

Violence will be actual illegal and/or harmful activities. They always hurt the Townspeople, either directly or indirectly. They include schemes to syphon away money from community projects, efforts to silence whistleblowers, austerity policies being put forward in the House, and stirring up extremist groups to violent acts. Opposition to this may include the above and also mass gatherings of activists with riots and demonstrations.


This is not my original idea; Mo Holkar ran two political games called alternately My Life With Tony and My Life With David. Unfortunatley I didn’t play in either of them, but I’ve take the high concept.

Friday, 5 April 2019

Game Sketch: Earth Superleader Macrofortress

Characters play various world leaders who know each other and have both domestic and international concerns.

One: Scenes

  1. Conference calls. These are calls between the world leaders petitioning each other for help, admonishing behaviour, demanding love, and so on. Game model is Dramasystem with a relationship map, dramatic poles and emotional concessions etc.
  2. National issues. Each world leader has a political concern which they have to address, and to do this they need to take certain political actions; they can do this by using Drama Tokens earned in Conference Calls. Their handling of their situation will determine their ranking amongst their peers.

Two: Interdimensional Threat

As the game progresses the threat of a malign alien intelligence looms over the world. This is signified by a Threat Counter which increases over time (similar to the Doom Track in Arkham Horror). Furthermore all National Issues stem from this alien threat, and the characters will balance solving their National Issues with the greater good; fixing national problems to remain in power has an adverse affect on the Threat Counter.

Three: End Game

At some point, all of the world leaders will have to band together to fight the alien menace. Here they will literally merge into one entity, the Earth Superleader Macrofortress (ESM) and do battle with the entity in time-honoured fashion.

  • Their national standing will determine which part of the ESM they occupy. The most prestigious is the head which makes all the strategic decisions in the fight. After that the limbs make many of the tactical decisions under the direction of the head. The least prestigious is probably the gut, which exists only to power head and limbs and generate waste with no decision-making in itself.
  • Each PC therefore has a decision to make: increase their national standing to ensure the highest prestige in the endgame, but at the cost of making the final threat stronger.

Four: Fluff

The actual fictional basis for the ESM can be decided by the group. Examples:

(a) consider world governments constructing their ESM platforms in space; at the end of the game the world leaders are brought up to their respective platforms via space elevator, and will pilot their individual craft and merge them into the ESM to do battle. At the end of the battle they may or may not have enough power to return to Earth.

(b) the world leaders will at the point of crisis be biologically shaped, enhanced and fused together into one monstrous giant which can do battle with the alien threat in a remote desert area. Assuming the fused leaders prevail, they are then fused together for the rest of their days (and may or may not be functionally immortal); and given their gross collective body, they can no longer exist on land for long periods of time. Instead they must wander into the ocean so their massive form is supported (consider the undines in Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun) and become a new Leviathan. They may in time encounter other Leviathans, fused world leaders of previous ages, now doomed to haunt the depths, becoming legend to a population with all too short a memory.

This idea inspired System Mastery 144: Cyborg Commando and the concept of five world leaders assembling to form Voltron. I used to own Cyborg Commando; I bought it in a sale in the late 80s for £4.10. It is utterly horrible.