Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Carcosan Algorithm

Author's Note: I'm sure this post is due in equal parts to the classic World of Darkness plot about Clan Tremere infiltrating the Mormons to compile humanity's True Name out of their genealogy records, as well as Watch Dogs' plot about the Bellwether behavioral prediction algorithm.  And maybe a little Ex Machina for flavor.  So, uh, apologies.  Also, despite being written for Call of Cthulhu, you could probably adapt it to another modern occult system with a little tweaking.

Magic in the Cthulhu Mythos is ultimately revealed to be not the product of symbolic interactions, as suggested in other occult traditions, but high-level theoretical physics and hypermathematics far beyond human comprehension.  A symbol like the Elder Sign doesn't symbolically bar the transit of nonterrene entities — it physically bars them by interacting with subatomic particles to create four dimensional barriers through which nonterrene entities cannot pass.

In this way, the principle of sympathy still applies, but is more like balancing an equation than trying to trick the universe into identifying one thing as another.  (Your average occultist probably can't tell the difference, though, and some philosophers would say this distinction is irrelevant, basically amounting to navel-gazing.)

The modern world generates lots of data, and requires several ingenious solutions to compile and interpret this data, lest it lie useless on hard drives..  (Some believe our ability to generate data will soon outstrip our ability to store it.)  Whatever the case, data is big business, as modern data-crunching methods can use this to generate targeted advertisements, as well as enable espionage by compiling information about someone's networked habits.  (If you're buying medicine at the local CVS and looking up symptoms on WebMD, you're probably ill.  If you're buying unhealthy food, you're a health risk to your insurance company.  If you're making the same credit card purchase at a local deli around 12:30 PM every weekday, you probably work nearby and are getting lunch there.)  There's a lot of concern that someone — the government, hackers, or private corporations — could use this information to insidious ends.

You don't know the half of it.

In certain occult circles, there's a known rivalry between the Brothers of the Yellow Sign and the Fungi from Yuggoth.  Tales about the two vary, but some have theorized that the fungi were instrumental in manipulating human evolution to create modern human thought.  The Brothers oppose them, because modern human thought acts as a hyperspace grid binding their god, Hastur, and this entity can penetrate in regions where human thought has been corrupted by the Carcosa-mind.

As such, a group of hackers have appeared, evidently affiliated with the Brothers of the Yellow Sign.  (Occultists in-the-know often call them by the cheeky name "yellow hat hackers.")  While they engage in same sorts of espionage and sabotage that other hacking groups do, their true purpose is quite sinister.  They are attempting to gain unfettered access to the global datastream, specifically search engines and social media platforms, as well as the processes that collate these disparate data.  Once they have co-opted the processes that compile and analyze personal data, they can use these pieces of information as variables in a complex hypermathematical equation attempting to correlate human civilization with Carcosa.  When the equation is solved, theoretically, Earth will become coterminous with Carcosa, and "the liberated Old Ones would teach them new ways to shout and kill and revel and enjoy themselves, and all the earth would flame with a holocaust of ecstasy and freedom."

Looks like you'd better stop those hackers before they get that far; rumor has it that they broke into Google's servers last week, and who knows how long it'll take for them to finish their calculations?

Friday, March 31, 2017

Unknown Armies, Dark Shadows Edition

Back in the winter, I introduced Nicole to classic Dark Shadows.  We only watched a couple of plotlines — some day, when we have more time, we'll watch the whole thing, but that's probably a year's undertaking — but we hit a lot of the classic plots.  (Ultimately, we focused on the plots that ended up being revisited in House of Dark Shadows and the 1991 revival.)  If you're unfamiliar, it's a very melodramatic soap opera from the late 1960s and early 1970s.  The basic structure was to rip off Gothic novels — the starting plots are pretty unabashedly taken from Jane Eyre and The Count of Monte Cristo — but after a few episodes and flagging ratings, they pretty quickly added supernatural elements.  Josette's ghost is the first weird thing to appear, but they pretty soon include phoenixes, vampires, werewolves, patchwork men, sorcerers, time travel (lots of time travel), and Lovecraftian horrors.

At any rate, coupled with Unknown Armies, third edition, being in my headspace, I drafted a character creation chart for the first 200-ish episodes.  The four Collins family members and their governess — Carolyn Stoddard, David Collins, Elizabeth Collins-Stoddard, Roger Collins, and Victoria Winters — are meant to be the player characters, although no stats are provided.  (At some point, I should probably fix that.)  Their starting relationships are included, however, although their relationships to the "cabal" have been left blank.  Their various other contacts, as well as some artifacts and the manor house itself, are included.

Click to enlarge.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

State of the Madicon 2017

The state of the Madicon is strong.

Nicole and I made the annual pilgrimage to Harrisonburg, VA for Madicon 26. (Interested parties can read about Madicon 22, Madicon 24, and Madicon 25.)

This year's foray into the dealer's room resulted in the Tome of Beasts, a rather weighty monster manual from Kobold Press for fifth edition.  We also grabbed dice, miniature yard flamingos, and two old Mage: the Ascension posters.

Friday evening saw my first game of Frostgrave, which I've been wanting to play for a while.  Rushputin ran pregenerated warbands.  I forget which one I was playing the first game — I probably lost in terms of the one shot, but if it were campaign play, any treasure hunt you can walk away from is a success, I think — but the second game I started playing the Witchfinder General.

Click to see the original over at Warpstone Pile
At some point I need to stat out a warband for campaign play.

Saturday saw the return of the Anhak game.  (Interested parties can read about last session's antics here.)  The party made liberal use of Jeff Rients' carousing rules, essentially partying their way up the coast back to the city of Vor Taluum.  They also managed to shrug off the effects of most of their drunken shenanigans, leaving everybody with a pretty good impression of these rich adventurers.  They suffered no problems back in Vor Taluum — the merchants that apparently want them dead sent such an elite assassin they assume the job was finished — although the elf did inadvertently double-cross one of his contacts while trying to grab a wizard's tome.

I guess we'll see how that all turns out.

Otherwise, this year's Madicon was fairly quiet, although quite fulfilling.

Monday, March 6, 2017

I Want a New Duck

There was a conversation over at the Unknown Armies Fan Club, and somebody posted these poor Swedish translations over pictures of birds.  One thing led to another, and the Tomb Duck was born.

The tomb duck is a duck that has felt the touch of ultimate evil, rather like an anatine version of a bodak.  Like regular ducks, they tend to hang out by the water, although their aversion to sunlight means they are typically only found underground, or at night.

Tomb Duck (Lamentations of the Flame Princess/OSR)
AC 14 (AC 8 in AD&D), HD 1d4, Move 60', Fly 270', Morale 12
Attacks: Death Gaze (victims within 30' that meet the tomb duck's gaze make a saving throw vs. paralyzation or die)
Tomb ducks are immune to charm, hold, sleep, slow, and poison.  They have infravision to 180 feet.  Tomb ducks take 1 point of damage per round from direct sunlight and are turned as undead.

Tomb Duck (Dungeon Crawl Classics)
Tomb Duck: Init +0; Atk special (see below); AC 12; HD 1d4; MV 15’, Fly 90'; Act 1d20; SP immune to charmholdsleepslow, and poison, infravision 180'; SV Fort +0, Ref +0, Will +2; AL C.
A tomb duck attacks with its vicious death gaze.  Anyone within 30 feet meeting the tomb duck's gaze must make a DC 10 Fort saving throw or else be instantly slain.  Tomb ducks take 1 point of damage per round from direct sunlight and can be turned.

Friday, February 17, 2017

The Last King of the Dwarfs

I previously mentioned the dwarf settlement of Baritherdar in The Artists of Anhak, but it's only now that current events have given me their monarch, the Last King of the Dwarfs:

I mean, I immediately thought dwarven king when I saw it.  Didn't you?

Friday, November 25, 2016


I usually try to maintain this as a neutral ground, like the Tenkar's Tavern, but I think this is important enough to merit comment.  In the spirit of Richard T. Balsley's orangelist of RPG professionals, I have compiled my own list of industry professionals that ought to be boycotted.  Don't purchase a role-playing game supplement produced by any of the following:

Birch Bayh
J. W. Fulbright
Fred R. Harris
Harold Hughes
Edward M. Kennedy
George McGovern
Walter Mondale
Edmund Muskie
Gaylord Nelson
William Proxmire
Bella Abzug
William R. Anderson
John Brademas
Father Robert F. Drinan
Robert Kastenmeier
Wright Patman
Shirley Chisholm
William Clay
George Collins
John Conyers
Ronald Dellums
Charles Diggs
Augustus Hawkins
Ralph Metcalf
Robert N.C. Nix
Parren Mitchell
Charles Rangel
Louis Stokes
John V. Lindsay, Mayor, New York City
Eugene McCarthy, former U.S. Senator
George Wallace, Governor, Alabama
Black Panthers, Hughie Newton
Brookings Institution, Lesley Gelb and others
Business Executives Move for VN Peace--Henry Niles, Nat. Chmn, Vincent McGee, Exec. Director
Committee for an Effective Congress, Russell D. Hemenway
Common Cause, John Gardner, Morton Halperin, Charles Goodell, Walter Hickel
COPE, Alexander E. Barkan
Council for a Livable World, Bernard T. Feld, Prof. Physics, MIT
Farmers Union, NFO
Institute of Policy Study, Richard Barnet, Marcus Raskin
National Economic Council, Inc.
National Education Association, Sam M. Lambert, President
National Student Association, Charles Palmer, President
National Welfare Rights Organization, George Wiley
Potomac Associates, William Watts
SANE, Sanford Gottlieb
Southern Christian Leadership, Ralph Abernathy
Third National Convocation on the Challenge of Building Peace, Robert V. Roosa, Chairman
Businessmen's Educational Fund
Karl Feller, Pres. Internat. Union of United Brewery, Flour, Cereal, Soft Drink and Distillery Workers, Cincinnati
Harold J. Gibbons, International Vice Pres., Teamsters
A. F. Grospiron, Pres., Oil, Chemical & Atomic Workers International Union, Denver
Matthew Guinan, Pres., Transport Workers Union of America, New York City
Paul Jennings, Pres. International Union of Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers, D. C.
Herman D. Kenin, Vice Pres., AFL-CIO, D. C.
Lane Kirkland, Secretary-Treasurer, AFL-CIO (but we must deal with him)
Frederick O'Neal, Pres., Actors and Artists of America, New York City
William Pollock, Pres., Textile Workers Union of America, New York City
Jacob Potofsky, General Pres., Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America, New York City
Leonard Woodcock, President, United Auto Workers, Detroit
Jerry Wurf, International President, American Federal, State, County and Municipal Employees, Washington, D. C.
Nathaniel Goldfinger, AFL-CIO
I. W. Abel, Steelworkers
Jack Anderson, columnist, "Washington Merry-Go-Round"
Jim Bishop, author, columnist, King Features Syndicate
Thomas Braden, columnist, Los Angeles Times Syndicate
D.J.R. Bruckner, Los Angeles Times Syndicate
Marquis Childs, chief Washington correspondent, St. Louis Post Dispatch
James Deakin, White House Correspondent, St. Louis Post Dispatch
James Doyle, Washington Star
Richard Dudman, St. Louis Post Dispatch
William Eaton, Chicago Daily News
Rowland Evans, Jr., syndicated columnist, Publishers Hall
Saul Friedmann, Knight Newspapers, syndicated columnist
Clayton Fritchey, syndicated columnist, Washington correspondent, Harpers
George Frazier, Boston Globe
Pete Hamill, New York Post
Michael Harrington, author and journalist; Member, Executive Comm. Socialist party
Sydney Harris, columnist, drama critic and writer of 'Strictly Personal,' syndicated Publishers Hall
Robert Healy, Boston Globe
William Hines, Jr., journalist; science and education, Chicago Sun Times
Stanley Karnow, foreign correspondent, Washington Post
Ted Knap, syndicated columnist, New York Daily News
Edwin Knoll, Progressive
Morton Kondracke, Chicago Sun Times
Joseph Kraft, syndicated columnist, Publishers Hall
James Laird, Philadelphia Inquirer
Max Lerner, syndicated columnist, New York Post; author, lecturer, professor.
Stanley Levey, Scripps Howard
Flora Lewis, syndicated columnist on economics
Stuart Loory, Los Angeles Times
Mary McGrory, syndicated columnist on New Left
Frank Mankiewicz, syndicated columnist, Los Angeles Times
James Millstone, St. Louis Post Dispatch
Martin Nolan, Boston Globe
Ed Guthman, L.A. Times
Thomas O'Neill, Baltimore Sun
John Pierson, Wall Street Journal
William Prochnau, Seattle Times
James Reston, New York Times
Carl Rowan, syndicated columnist, Publishers Hall
Warren Unna, Washington Post, NET
Harriet Van Horne, columnist, New York Post
Milton Viorst, reporter, author, writer
James Wechsler, New York Post
Tom Wicker, New York Times
Gary Wills, syndicated columnist, author of "Nixon-Agonistes."
The New York Times
Washington Post
St. Louis Post Dispatch
Jules Duscha, Washingtonian
Robert Manning, Editor Atlantic
John Osborne, New Republic
Richard Rovere, New Yorker
Robert Sherrill, Nation
Paul Samuelson, Newsweek
Julian Goodman, Chief Executive Officer, NBC
John Macy, Jr., Pres., Public Broadcasting Corporation; former Civil Service Comm.
Marvin Kalb, CBS
Daniel Schorr, CBS
Lem Tucker, NBC
Sander Vanocur, NBC
Carol Channing, actress.
Bill Cosby, actor.
Jane Fonda, actress.
Steve McQueen, actor.
Joe Namath, New York Giants; businessman; actor.
Paul Newman, actor.
Gregory Peck, actor.
Tony Randall, actor.
Barbra Streisand, actress.
Dick Gregory [comedian].
Charles B. Beneson, President, Beneson Realty Co.
Nelson Bengston, President, Bengston & Co.
Holmes Brown, Vice President, Public Relations, Continental Can Co.
Benjamin Buttenweiser, Limited Partner, Kuhn Loeb & Co.
Lawrence G. Chait, Chairman, Lawrence G. Chait & Co., Inc
Ernest R. Chanes, President, Consolidated Water Conditioning Co.
Maxwell Dane, Chairman, Exec. Committee, Doyle, Dane & Bernbach, Inc.
Charles H. Dyson, Chairman, The Dyson-Kissner Corp.
Norman Eisner, President, Lincoln Graphic Arts.
Charles B. Finch, Vice President, Alleghany Power System, Inc.
Frank Heineman, President, Men's Wear International.
George Hillman, President, Ellery Products Manufacturing Co.
Bertram Lichtenstein, President, Delton Ltd.
William Manealoff, President, Concord Steel Corp.
Gerald McKee, President, McKee, Berger, Mansueto.
Paul Milstein, President, Circle Industries Corp.
Stewart R. Mott, Stewart R. Mott, Associates.
Lawrence S. Phillips, President, Phillips-Van Heusen Corp.
David Rose, Chairman, Rose Associates.
Julian Roth, Senior Partner, Emery Roth & Sons.
William Ruder, President, Ruder & Finn, Inc.
Si Scharer, President, Scharer Associates, Inc.
Alfred P. Slaner, President, Kayser-Roth Corp.
Roger Sonnabend, Chairman, Sonesta International Hotels.
Business Executives Move for Vietnam Peace and New National Priorities Cont:
Morton Sweig, President. National Cleaning Contractors
Alan V. Tishman, Exec. VP, Tishman Realty & Construction Co., Inc.
Ira D. Wallach, President, Gottesman & Co., Inc.
George Weissman, President, Philip Morris Corp.
Ralph Weller, President, Otis Elevator Company
Clifford Alexander, Jr., Member, Equal Opportunity Comm.; LBJ's Spec. Assistant.
Hugh Calkins, Cleveland lawyer, member, Harvard Corporation.
Ramsey Clark, partner, Weiss, Goldberg, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison; former Attorney General.
Lloyd Cutler, lawyer, Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering, Washington, D.C.
Henry L. Kimelman, chief fund raiser for McGovern; Pres., Overview Group.
Raymond Lapin, former Pres., FNMA; corporation executive.
Hans F. Loeser, Chairman, Boston Lawyers' Vietnam Committee.
Robert McNamara, President, World Bank; former Secretary of Defense.
Hans Morgenthau, former US. Attorney in New York City
Victor Palmieri, lawyer, business consultant, real estate exec., Los Angeles.
Arnold Picker, Muskie's chief fund raiser; Chmn. Exec. Comm., United Artists.
Robert S. Pirie, Harold Hughes' chief fund raiser; Boston lawyer.
Joseph Rosenfield, Harold Hughes' money man; retired Des Moines lawyer.
Henry Rowen, Pres., Rand Corp., former Asst. Director of Budget (LBJ)
R. Sargent Shriver, Jr.
Theodore Sorensen, lawyer, Weiss, Goldberg, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, New York.
Ray Stark, Broadway producer.
Howard Stein, President and Director, Dreyfus Corporation.
Milton Semer, Chairman, Muskie Election Committee; lawyer, Semer and Jacobsen.
George H. Talbot, Pres., Charlotte Liberty Mutual Insurance Co. ; headed anti-VN ad.
Arthur Taylor, Vice President, International Paper Company.
Jack Valenti, President, Motion Picture Association.
Paul Warnke, Muskie financial supporter, former Asst. Secy. of Defense.
Thomas J. Watson, Jr., Muskie financial supporter; Chmn., IBM.
Michael Ellis De Bakey, Chmn., Dept. Surgery, Baylor University; Surgeon-in-chief, Ben Taub General Hospital, Texas
Derek Curtis Bok, Dean, Harvard Law School.
Kingman Brewster, Jr., President, Yale University.
McGeorge Bundy, President, Ford Foundation.
Avram Noam Chomsky, Professor of Modern Languages, MIT.
Daniel Ellsberg, Professor, MIT.
George Drennen Fischer, Member, Executive Committee. National Education Assn.
J. Kenneth Galbraith, Professor of Economics, Harvard.
Patricia Harris, educator, lawyer, former U.S. ambassador; Chmn Welfare Committee Urban League.
Walter Heller, Regents Professor of Economics.
Edwin Land, Professor of Physics, MIT.
Herbert Ley, Jr., former FDA Commissioner; Professor of Epidemiology, Harvard.
Matthew Stanley Meselson, Professor of Biology, Harvard.
Lloyd N. Morrisett, Professor and Associate Dir., Education Program, U. of Calif.
Joseph Rhodes, Jr., Fellow, Harvard; Member, Scranton Comm. on Campus Unrest.
Bayard Rustin, civil rights activist; Dir., A. Philip Randolph Institute, New York.
David Selden, President, American Federation of Teachers.
Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Professor of Humanities, City University of New York.
Jeremy Stone, Director, Federation of American Scientists.
Jerome Wiesner, President, MIT.
Samuel M. Lambert, Pres., National Education Assn.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

D&D Print-on-Demand


It's probably already blowing up your news feed (I saw it over at the Tavern), but Wizards of the Coast is slowly rolling out their backlog of D&D pdfs in print-on-demand format.  They have a smattering at the moment (only 19) — a handful of books for Basic/Expert, 1e, 2e, and 5e — but the plan is evidently to roll out more each week.  Check 'em out!

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