Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Until the Thrill of Speed Overcomes the Fear of Death

I'm still accepting characters for the Unknown Armies play-by-post illegal street race on Facebook.  It's The Fast and the Furious meets Tim Powers.  In addition to bragging rights and in-character glory, the winner gets a copy of underground occult filmmaker Kenneth Anger's The Complete Magick Lantern Cycle on regionless DVD (we have a lot of international members, so I had to make certain it was something everyone could enjoy).

Until the Thrill of Speed Overcomes the Fear of Death

You have until February 11, 2016 to submit a character.  Join us!

Friday, January 29, 2016

Until the Thrill of Speed Overcomes the Fear of Death

So over on the Unknown Armies Fan Club on Facebook, I'm running a play-by-post illegal street race in Los Angeles — think The Fast and the Furious meets Tim Powers.  In addition to bragging rights and in-character glory, the winner gets a copy of underground occult filmmaker Kenneth Anger's The Complete Magick Lantern Cycle on regionless DVD (we have a lot of international members, so I had to make certain it was something everyone could enjoy).

If you're interested, come join us:

Until the Thrill of Speed Overcomes the Fear of Death

If you're interested, you have until February 11, 2016 to submit a character.  Join us!

Unknown Armies, Third Edition

Atlas Games has a notification website for Unknown Armies, third edition.

Of course I signed up.  And so can you!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Dapimancy (New-Wave Videomancy) — version 2.0

This is almost the same as Dapimancy from eight months ago, except that now there's a way to gain significant charges.

People watched television the same way for over half a century, but newer generations are more accustomed to watching their television shows on-demand, and frequently in a single sitting.

Within the last ten years or so, a shift has occurred, with a couple of would-be Videomancers showing behaviors less influenced by the old-school of being beholden to the television schedule, and closer to the custom of binge-watching.

Those who have encountered the occult underground call their new school "Dapimancy" — after the Latin word "daps, dapis" referring to sacrificial banquets — although some occultists derisively call them Truphemancers (after the Greek word for effeminate luxury).

Dapimancy used to be a minor school, but with the advent of original streaming programming, somebody figured out how to gain significant charges.

aka Binge-Watchers, Bingers

The Videomancers are rubes, Marx's opiate-drunk cultists suckling at the teat of organized entertainment.  You're a monk, a hermit, who goes into seclusion and returns enlightened.  Your living room is the poustinia, your couch is your sajjada, your Netflix account is your gospel.  You retreat into the wilds so that you may bring wisdom back to the world with you.

Dapimancy forms a middle ground between Infomancy and Videomancy — you take the same inputs as Videomancers, but you remix them like an Infomancer.  You accept the truth of television at your own pace, not based on the dictates of some production staff with no knowledge of your personal truth.  If Videomancy is the Catholic Church, you're Martin Luther nailing your theses to the wall.  You're Thomas Jefferson, taking his favorite pieces of the Bible and making the good book his own.  (Of course, Elvis did the same thing, too.)  The gauntlet has been thrown, and the networks and cable companies — those long-standing monoliths holding television hostage — are running scared.  You're bringing television to the people, one marathon at a time.

The central paradox of Dapimancy is still caught up in the tension between the isolation of television watching and the commonality of the experience, but it turns it on its head by letting you make your own truth.  We're all watching the same shows, but we watch them according to our own schedule on our own terms.  You're free to indulge whenever you want, but when you start, you cannot stop.

Dapimancy Blast Style
Like Videomancers, Dapimancers have no blast.  However, there are persistent rumors that some Dapimancers have determined how to inflict fatigue and health problems on their victims — just like they've been sitting too long, letting their arteries clog and their muscles atrophy.

Like Videomancers, Dapimancers charge up by watching television.  Unlike Videomancers, they can watch whatever they want, as long as they carve out chunks for it.  You don't have to catch every episode of Game of Thrones as it premiers on HBO, but once you start watching it, you'd better have cleared your schedule, because you're in for the long haul.

Also, once Dapimancers are on a kick, they're on it until it's done.  Once you start watching Game of Thrones, you can't intercut episodes of Dexter.  It garbles the nuances of both shows.

Generate a Minor Charge: Spend six hours watching your current program du jour.  You can take small breaks between episodes for food and the bathroom, but you'd better plan carefully.  (A truly knowledgeable lord of the occult underground might notice similarities between this and Charismatics from Thin Black Line, page 17-19, but it's doubtful anybody has that much on the ball.  With the probable exception of the First and Last Man.)

Generate a Significant Charge: It was recently discovered that it's possible to gain significant charges by binge-watching shows as they air.  (This works best with original content, because other shows tend to arrive in huge blocks — although you're welcome to try if you're starved for charges.)  If the new season of Jessica Jones hits at 12:00 AM PST on November 20, you'd better be prepared to sit and binge watch until 1:00 PM.  Significant Dapimancers tend to keep very odd sleep schedules.

Generate a Major Charge: Nobody's gotten a major charge yet, although it probably involves starring in a program, just like old-school Videomancers.  Dukes suspect it involves starring in a streaming-only program — here's hoping you end up on Daredevil or House of Cards or Transparent.  There's a persistent rumor that the numerous flash-in-the-pan pilots on Amazon Prime streaming are masterminded by some Merchant to act as a vehicle for would-be major Dapimancers.

Taboo: Once you start, you can't stop.  Interrupting a marathon robs you of all your charges.  As with Videomancers, this means that power outages can royally screw you over, and anybody who knows you're charging can schedule a home invasion and rob you of your charges.

Random Magick Domain: Like Videomancers, you understand people and events through observation, as well as adapting oneself to expectations.  It's perfect for spies and voyeurs.

Starting Charges: Dapimancers start with 5 minor charges, just like Videomancers.

Dapimancers have the same formula spells as Videomancers, as seen in Unknown Armies (second edition), pages 160-163.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Tabletop & LARP RPGs Advice & Inspiration

Because I don't have nearly enough to do, I recently took over the Tabletop & LARP RPGs Advice & Inspiration group on Facebook from Patricia Willenborg.  It's already sitting at around 200 members, but could always use more, particularly people who have advice to offer.

Come check us out, would you please?

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The West That Never Was: Harmonia

So I'm currently reading The Remarkable Life of John Murray Spear: Agitator for the Spirit Land by John Benedict Buescher, possibly as preparation for an Unknown Armies game I seem increasingly unlikely to run.  (It would also be an excellent resource for anyone running a God-Machine Chronicle game.  The idea of John Murray Spear as a mortal cult leader — or even a stigmatic — contacted by angels of the God-Machine would be a pretty rad time.  Astute observers might also note Spear's frequent dealings in Lovecraft country, and disturbing parallels with the Nyarlathotep avatar the Tick-Tock Man.)  You can read a basic run-down at Wikipedia or other sources, but as a very brief background, John Spear was a New England Unitarian minister in the mid-1800s who became heavily involved in prison reform, equal rights, and suchlike.  He eventually became active in the Spiritualist community, and claimed he was being contacted by a bureaucracy of spirits (including several famous figures from American history, notably Ben Franklin, Benjamin Rush, and George Washington), entities who were giving him instructions to build a new America on spiritual principles.  He built a god-machine (that was either destroyed or never worked, evidence is unclear), he built model communities based on spiritualism and socialism, and basically did the messianic occultist cult leader thing.

After the destruction of the god-machine, Spear's activities continued with the conception of what would be an ideal city, a New Jerusalem run by mediums in constant communion with the spirits.  It would be an enlightened, socialist society called Harmonia.  The spot was in Kiantone, on the site of an old spring.  (Spear and his followers believed the spot had mystical properties left by the machinations of an ancient race.)  It only met with limited success, but the plan was to build the city according to the symbolism of the human body (most of Spear's creations follow anatomy in some way).

Of course, as awesome as all that would be as background for a modern (or historical) occult horror game, I was immediately struck by the timeframe.  What if this were in the Wild West rather than New England?

What if it were in the West That Never Was?

(Note: As per the theme in the first West post, I'll reference spell names from Lamentations of the Flame Princess, but similar spells are available in pretty much every fantasy RPG.  If you want to do that Boot Hill/AD&D crossover, just look for the appropriate AD&D spells and go from there.)


Population 1,020

Harmonia is a mixed theocracy-magocracy, a community primarily run by clerics and magic-users.  However, only the day-to-day operations are actually performed by mortals; the true work is done by the spirits.  The local government makes heavy use of Speak with Dead, Commune, and similar extraplanar communication spells (alternately, the entities they contact are willing to come to them).

The town is completely without mundane defenses, as the government is entirely pacifistic.  They instead rely on faith and the guidance of spirits to avoid external threats.  (It's entirely possible that some manner of "guardian angel" guards the site against interlopers.)  As expected, weapons are not allowed in town — travelers must either divest themselves before entry, or turn their weapons over to the townsfolk, whereupon they will be destroyed.  (Note that if travelers just drop their weapons outside town, the townsfolk will gather and destroy them.  If the travelers do something clever, like burying their weapons, but they look like the sort to carry weapons, the townsfolk will use Locate Object to find them, excavate them, and destroy them.  They're pretty thorough, although it might take a few days to locate well-hidden weapons, so the PCs might be able to recover them.)

The town is built on the site of an ancient healing spring; access to the spring is free, but monitored so that no one tries to pollute the well.  A single drink of water will cure the most serious ailment affecting the imbiber, as per a Cure Disease, Cure Light Wounds, or Neutralize Poison spell.  (So someone who is diseased, poisoned, and wounded would need at least three drinks to be fully healed.)  The water can be bottled, but loses potency after a day away from the well.

The head of the town is the Reverend John Spear, a spiritualist and minister from Back East.  Now in his sixties, he was an adventurer and rabble-rouser in his youth, and is a 10th level cleric.  He has a family Back East, although they do not live out here as they do not understand his spirit communion.  (His daughter, Sophronia, participated in his spiritual explorations, but she died of brain fever a couple of years back.  He still communes with her, however.)  He is tended by a council of mediums, low-level clerics and magic-users whom he provides with scrolls when resources allow.

The townsfolk do not use wealth among each other, but when dealing with the outside world, they gather their wealth through the use of the Locate Object spell.  (Gold mining is a popular profession, as is a certain level of dungeon delving.)  They will sell general goods to outsiders for nominal fees (use the standard rural values; at the DM's discretion, prices may also be lower for some goods), although they sell any found treasure and treasure maps at normal (but relatively fair) values.

If your game uses Cattle Punk tech as described in the first West post, it is available here (although weapons never are).  Also note that if you are just running traditional D&D, you can strip the Western elements and Victorian-level technology with no trouble.  (The more technology available in your world, though, the more steampunk they get; they're all about the divine essence as a New Motive Power, an advanced engine that powers the world and whose power can be harnessed by mortals.)

Note that the nature of the spirit entities that guide the townsfolk is left deliberately vague.  Spear certainly thinks they're angels and spirits of the dead guiding the town to a glorious future, but they could be anything: ancestors, aliens, angels, demons, devils, the ghosts of the ancient race that enchanted the spring, gods, psychic projections of Illuminated masters (or aboleths or illithids), spirits of the Duvan'Ku, the weird entities summoned by the Summon spell, or any other entity of the DM's choosing.  The creatures chosen will naturally influence the town's goals and general feel to some degree.

Students of popular culture and science fiction may also note that "Harmonia" sounds suspiciously similar to "Harmony," the name of the Wild West version of The Village from The Prisoner.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Revised Map of the Sorrowfell Plains

So I finally made an actual document on all the named settlements of the Sorrowfell Plains.  It's on Google Drive for any and all interested parties, although there are spoilers for some of the smaller settlements, so if you play in one of my games, you may wish to avoid it.  Consider it a very brief gazetteer of the Sorrowfell Plains setting.  Check it out:

Sorrowfell Settlements

The settlement write-ups correspond with the settlements on the revised Sorrowfell Plains map, made in Hexographer.  It also contains spoilers, and it's a pretty big image, so I also threw it in Google Drive:

Sorrowfell Plains (revised map)

And just for completion, you can also check it out here:

Click to enlarge
Note that the Tower of the Archmagus in last week's treasure map sits where Duchy Jepson resides today, in Hex 90.28.  You can probably determine the rest of the points on that map using this one.

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