Saturday, 29 September 2012

The City Rises

The City rises.

The streets are beginning to remember their old names, the memories the walls, the bus stops and the traffic lights used to have are now becoming more and more vivid. The people of the City are beginning to notice it. They are not sure what's going on yet, but they feel a tension in the air, like the City is holding it's breath before it exhales and opens it's eyes.

But not everyone is confused and disturbed by this. There have always been people who knew this will happen. People who live in places that sometimes don't even exist, who you pass by the street every day and seem to have a strange look in their eyes. They know that something big is happening. For some of them, this has been the thing they have waited for all their lives. Now they have crawled out of their hiding spots and their secret places and wars once waged in silence are now beginning to escalate into the open. 

The cabals of old are dissolving. While old ties and feuds still hold true, most who are "in the know" are beginning to break old alliances and form new ones, with only one goal in mind - Be the one who controls the City when it finally awakes.

 This is the set up for a board game I am planning. (The 15 cards challenge game is almost done, just a few minor tweaks in the cards) I have the basic set up ready, all that's left is to actually create all of the characters, powers, items and events that are in it and start testing. Should be fun.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Greg Stolze is Awesome

While this is hardly a news flash, I still feel that it must be written down proper. Greg Stolze is awesome, and you should go and read everything written by him. Seriously, everything.

If Gary Gygax is The Creator in the pantheon of RPG deities,  for my money Greg Stolze is The Perfector.

That is all.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

The 15 Card Challenge

(Note: All cards shown in this post are to be considered WIP. This is the first stable(-ish) version of the game, so things are bound to change, and with them so will card design)

A few friends of mine and I decided to do a little game-making challenge. I had 15 blank pieces of cardboard in sleeves (I usually use those as tokens during Magic games) lying around, and was wandering what to do with them, until a friend of mine suggested to make a game out of them. So I did. And so did another of my acquaintances.

This is what the original 15 Card Challenge stated:
Design a board game in which a key component are fifteen cards (They must be exactly fifteen. No more, no less). It's unimportant if all the cards have the same function, or even if all fifteen of them are in play at the same time, but all fifteen must be considered during the design.

Now, my original idea at the time was to do something similar to the game called Summoner Wars, with each card being character or creature or whatever with different skills and statistics, but limitation on the number quickly made this next to impossible. Instead I decided on a more traditional card game, with players drawing cards, playing cards and so on.

The game's working title is DUAL also known as Mathereal: The Game. Yes, the name needs work. Whatever.

The basic set up is this - The game is played with either 2 or 3 players. Each player starts with 20 Will Points and 20 Wound Points, with the person who's Wound Points drop to 0 being taken out of the game. In a 2 player game, each player is handed a hand of 5 randomly dealt cards, with the rest being shuffled and placed face-down as the Void. In a 3 player game, there are 3 cards given to each player instead. At the beginning of his turn each player draws the top card from the Void into his hand. When a card is played it is put on the bottom of the Void, which means that eventually it will be drawn by a player again.

The game itself consists of 14 cards with various effects and a Plane card, which has two sides - Material and Ethereal.
Material Plane and Ethereal Plane
There are cards in the game which allow you (or force you) to switch the plane card from one side to the other. Each card is split into a Material and Ethereal half, with Material effects being usable only in the Material Plane and Ethereal ones only in the Ethereal one. (Makes sense, doesn't it?)
Each player has two actions during his turn. One of those actions must be to play a card from his hand. The second action has some more freedom. It can either be to play a second card from his hand, or use the Invoke ability on card that is Influencing the Plane.

Effects that have Influence on them, are put into play in front of the player, with the side that's influencing being put facing the Plane. Invoking an Influence means paying the invoke cost, which causes the listed effect to occur. What this means is that a player can place an Influence with his first action and the Invoke it with his second action.

When the Plane is switched, all cards that Influence it are turned 180 degrees. If the card has an Influence effect on it's other half, that effect is now active. If it doesn't, the card is still considered to be influencing the Plane, but it's effects are not active until the Plane is switched to the proper side. Some influences are fragile (or too powerful) and as such get put into the Void if they ever stop influencing the Plane. (Note: This is a major design problem that I am still not sure how to handle. I do like the fact that you can have a card with two Influences that changes it's effect depending on the Plane's status, but the cards that only have an Influence on one side are kind of tricky rules wise. Are they still considered influences? A player can only have one card influencing the plane, so do they still count towards that player's limit, even if their effects are not active?)

Each card has a number right under the Plane symbol. That number is the cost required to play the card in Will Points. When a player (Not If. When.) runs out of Will, the cost is directly taken from their Wound Points. So if you try to play that card up there and you only have 1 Will Point left, that would mean you will pay 1 Will and 2 Wounds to play it. This system is made to ensure that no player will be able to just keep the game going on forever, and creates tension. The game's dynamic becomes less of trying to screw over your opponent, and more of trying to hold off the inevitable end so he'll die before you do. There are of course some cards that restore Will and Wounds, but they are few and far between, and can only be used as a momentary delay rather than a push forward.

The game still needs massive amounts of testing, because while the core mechanic (The Plane, the two effects on each card, the Void and so on) is solid, the trick is in actually making the cards themselves balanced so as to create an interesting gaming experience. I will be posting more on this as it progresses.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012


..I really have to stop writing posts in here after coming back from work and before going to bed. I keep finding typos, repetitions and grammatical mistakes in previous posts.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Avatar: The Artist

I've seen people try to design The Artist on the UA website over there -->, but I haven't really been that impressed with them, so I've decided to make my own. I am fairly sure the power-level is not at all right, but there's no way to tell without playtesting.

The Artist

Humans have created art for as long as there have been such creatures as "humans". They've drawn on the walls of their caves, created figurines of their desires and Gods and regardless of what social, political or economical state they have existed in, there have always been someone to draw, to create.

The Artist is an embodiment of those people. He creates art, sometimes to praise the glory of his religion or political views, sometimes to bring beauty into the world, sometimes for money, sometimes to show some Truth to his audience, for entertainment and sometimes just for the sake of Art itself. Whatever the reason, the Artist paints, draws, carves, sculpts.

The post-modernist wave hasn't been kind to the Artist, with everyone throwing around questions like "What is Art?", but the Artist will still survive, as he always does.
The Artist must always be expressive in his works, he must always have a reason to exist, though the reasons need not always be the same from piece to piece.

The Artist, unlike the Chronicler is an entirely visual creator. Painting, drawing, sculptures and carvings are his domain. Films are not, since they require other people, and an Artist must create alone to show his view in the purest way possible. Animation and Comics are still fuzzy, but more and more people are considering those to be valid art-forms, and a lot of avatars are still fighting to push them into the public eye as true Art.

The Artist has three taboos. He must create. If a week goes by without the Avatar painting, sculpting, carving or drawing something he is distancing himself from the Archetype.

Second, the Artist must do his creative work alone. Having someone else help him with the piece will muddle the Artist's vision with the one of the person helping. Artists who work in comics and animation must do the entire thing alone. (This is also why live-action movies are out...Unless the Avatar writes, acts and directs the entire movie all by himself.)

And third - The Artist must strive to preserve Art. What is and what isn't considered art is up to each individual Avatar, but once a decision has been made it must be maintained forever.

Masks: (I couldn't come up with any masks for the Artist, so this remains blank for now)

Tools of the trade - the paintbrush, the pencil, the stick of charcoal, the chisel and hammer, clay, marble, stone, wood. The palette, the canvas and the tripod it stands on, along with clothes and aprons covered in paint or clay are also strong symbols.

With the rise in popularity of digital art, drawing and 3D software, along with graphic tablets are also becoming potent symbols of the Archetype.

Suspected Avatars in history:
Every occultist, mystically aware art critic or Avatar of the Artist will tell you endlessly about how his or her favorite artist was surely channeling this Archetype. It seems logical that people like Leonardo and Michelangelo were channeling (consciously or not, we'll never know) the Artist. Andy Warhol was either an Avatar who  wanted to expand the public's perception of Art, or someone who wanted to fight and destroy the Archetype by undermining his certainty.

1-50%: The Artist can tap into his understanding of human consciousness (knowingly or not) to help him with creating art. With a successful roll against his Avatar skill the Artist may add up to +15% to his next roll when using an artistic skill to create a work of art. (His skill still can't exceed the stat that governs it)

51-70%: The Artist gains deeper knowledge of symbols and their meanings, as manipulating them helps him in creating more powerful artwork. The Avatar may now use his Avatar: The Artist skill when rolling to understand the meaning of any symbolic action or to try and figure out the appropriate symbols for a given situation. (This includes the symbols used by other Avatars and Adepts, the symbols needed when performing Tilts and such.)

71-90%: The Artist can now create Works of Art that carry a tangible emotional charge. When an Avatar decides to create a Work he must pick a theme that relates to one of the Madness Meters. Once the piece is created he rolls against his Avatar: The Artist skill. If the roll is successful the Work can now be used to either heal or induce stress on the chosen Meter. (The purpose of the Work must be chosen before it is created. The same Work can't be used to both induce and heal.)
If the Work was created with intent to induce stress, seeing it for more than two seconds causes a person to roll a Stress check on the chosen Meter equal to the tens of the Avatar skill roll made after it's creation. 
   Example: Vince wants to make a bit of protection for himself, so he creates a carving the size of his palm that incorporates very strong themes of the Invisible Clergy. Once he finishes he rolls against his Avatar skill and rolls a successful 56%. From now on, whenever someone is shown the carving for more than a few seconds they must roll against an Unnatural-5 stress check.

Works created to heal stress can be shown to people who then must make a successful Soul roll lower than the roll the Avatar used in enchanting his Work. If they do, they can then decide to remove either one failed or one hardened notch of the chosen Meter.
   Another Example: Joshua has been using his Works to heal people of their nightmares. He decides to help an old war veteran with his flashbacks and makes a painting showing a moment of peace and serenity. He makes an Avatar skill check and rolls a successful 43%. Whenever the old veteran sits down to look at the painting and makes a successful roll of less than 43 he can chose to remove one hardened or failed notch from his Violence meter. Once he has no hardened or failed notches the painting will simply stop having an effect on him.

Each Work can also only be used to trigger or heal someone a number of times equal to the tens of the Avatar roll used in enchanting it. After that it becomes a mundane piece of art like anything else the Artist makes on a daily basis. 
An important note must be made that a Work can never affect it's creator, though it can affect other Avatars of the Artist just like anyone else. Sociopaths can't be affected by a Work, as they are too emotionally deadened to feel it's effects.

91%+: The Artist can create a Masterpiece with a successful Avatar: The Artist roll. An Avatar can have only one Masterpiece, ever. If he wishes to create a new one the old one must be destroyed (Doing that would cause him to break taboo though). What can the Artist do with this Masterpiece? A lot, really. If it's a drawing or sculpture of a person it will create the actual person. (Not an animated statue that moves around, but an actual flesh and blood person). They will have their own feelings, thoughts and emotions, though they are in a positive disposition towards the Artist that created them. People or other creatures brought to life this way are fully aware of their nature. If the Masterpiece depicts a place, it becomes a portal to an Otherspace that looks like the one depicted in the drawing or painting. If a person enters it they will show up on the painting, walking around the place. If the Masterpiece is destroyed, creatures created with it simply cease to exist (and Reality re-writes itself so that they never did), and the Otherspace is closed off forever, along with anyone or anything that was inside it.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

"Riders on the Storm" an Unknown Armies One-Shot Recap

So, today I ran a one-shot I'd made for Unknown Armies, which I entitled Riders on the Storm after the famous The Doors song. It was supposed to serve as an introduction to the UA system, along with some of it's setting. Here's how it went:

The Setup: A group travels to a high school reunion to a small mountain hotel near Crystal Lake, Minnesota, but end up being greeted by a bloody murder and a suspicious stranger on a motorcycle.

(Ok, yes - I did set it up in a real place, which I've never seen...but whatever, none of us are from the States so it didn't matter much)

The Punchline: Three avatars of the Dark Stalker have agreed upon a showdown in that very same area. The lake's name is the same as the one in the Friday the 13th movie, and the reunion is during a new moon, so it fits their bill perfectly. All three of them are quite far on the path of the Faceless Man, and the survivor of this will go on to pursue the Godwalker.

An avatar of the Masterless Man has been having dreams and seeing signs ever since this agreement took place and travels to the Lake to try and save whoever he can and prevent any of the Dark Stalker avatars from advancing on their paths.

The Resolution: Only two of my players showed up, and there were five player characters to distribute, so I ended up playing all three of the Stalkers and three of the PCs.

They were, in order:

William "Bill" Bonney  - The Gunslinger

The Masterless Man avatar. A guy obsessed with western gunslingers for most of his life, and the one who had an omen when the Dark Stalkers made their agreement, and went over to try and save as many people as he can. (This role was taken by one of the players, since it's crucial to the plot)

Tim Collins - The Social Worker
A social worker, he had no Obsession since he has just never felt all that strongly about anything in his life so far. Also had a very serious fear of guns, which was pretty hilarious when the Detective gave him Bill's huge revolver. (He was the second character played by a player)

Phillip - The Police Detective
He was one of the more active characters (which is why it's such a bummer I had to play him instead of a player). He was very no-nonsense, especially after seeing an old acquaintance from high school and the two hotel owners gutted like fish and left to rot in the lobby.

Jeff - The Comic Artist
Jeff is the only other person besides Bill with any sort of supernatural ability, which is also why it's a shame nobody got to play him - I had all sorts of cool descriptions for his Aura Sight ability when he looked at Bill or the Dark Stalkers. He did play the role of setting off the final clusterfuck of a fight and then running away from it, after being close to decapitation. (A few inches higher and...well let's not dwell on that)

Robert - The Dilettante
He was perhaps the least prepared of all the characters to do anything, but I gotta admit I wasn't sure just what to make as the last person going to the reunion...and during the game it didn't really matter, since when he saw the corpses he just up and fainted, and after the fighting began he just ran off into the forest, eventually ending up in one of the nearby hotels.

Bill arrived early, saw the corpses...and just at that time the group arrived with Phil's car. Bill managed to get on the second floor, but made noise and Phil found him and took him back down at gunpoint and started questioning him. This was going fairly well, and Jeff was starting to see there is something different about William, but when he tried to tell it to Phil he just dismissed him as being weird again.

At around this time one of the Dark Stalkers -  Jason, a slim and attractive young man who for a while pretended to be just here for the reunion as well. However when Jeff got out and saw him, he nearly fell over with fear, and after Bill got out as well (Phil had gone upstairs to investigate a noise he heard) and Jeff managed to blurt out something, Jason had no choice but to draw out his knife and start slashing at people.

Meanwhile on the second floor of the building a second of the Stalkers - Wallice, had managed to hide from Phillip and then go down and around the building, using the Dark Stalker's unnatural ability of moving very, very fast when he is not being observed to end up right behind Bill and slash at his back. The reaction of the players as they have just subdued Jason on the ground and were beating him up, then someone just up and appearing out of thin air, for all they know, and almost cleaving someone in two was quite good. He started fighting with Bill, while Jason got out of Tim's grip and started cutting him up real bad, real fast. Jeff meanwhile, after trying to uselessly hit someone just up and bolted towards the door to get Phil, who was now going back downstairs.

Since the whole thing wasn't a complete mess by then, the final Stalker decided to show up and knock out Wallice, so he can take the kills for himself. Shawn, as I conceived him, was a completely looney guy the size of an overstuffed bear and with a mask on his face. A complete freak, through and trough. At this point two important things happened.

- Jason had cut up Tim real bad so much so that he just collapsed on the ground from all the pain and blood loss.
- Bill managed to get to his revolver (Tim had uselessly tried to shoot at Jason before, but failing miserably and had dropped it when the second attacker appeared) and finally start shooting some bad guys. Jason got half of his head shot off, got back up with the power of his Avatar skill and after managing to stick another one in Bill, getting the rest of his head blown off as well.
- Phillip got outside and started shooting as well, getting a few decent shots into Shawn and Wallice, who were both trying to fight with Phil, and with each other.

In the end, Bill and Phillip managed to take down all of the Stalkers, with Tim dying from wounds he had taken during the fighting. Jeff was also fairly ok, and after Bill had driven both of them back to town and brought them to the hospital all of them were patched up. This is about where it ended, since I had planned it to be a short scene anyway.

I think both my players enjoyed it well enough, though Tim dying wasn't as fun, which can be suspected, although I really had underestimated the power of the PC's, and they had managed to take down all three of the Avatars themselves (Bill having an absurd amount of wound points due to his Avatar of the Masterless Man skill did help a lot with that). I know UA has a very deadly combat system, but I imagined it would be skewered towards the Stalkers. Then again, with so few actual players there wasn't enough interaction between the PCs, and the three Stalker didn't have the chance to pick them off one or two at a time.

If either of the players wants to post about how they saw the game, I imagine that would add to the overall picture. All in all, not a great success, but I'm happy I finally ran this thing.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Let's try this again...

Right then, this whole "Urban fantasy TV Show" shtick is not really going to go anywhere, but I don't feel like abandoning this blog. As such, I figure I might as well just use it as a general soundboard for my ramblings, because...why not?

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Tim Powers or "Why can't they just make Last Call into a TV series already?!"

Right, so - this thing is still alive! No, really!

Let's talk more about inspirations. Tim Powers. The man is an amazing writer, is one of the main inspirations for Unknown Armies (which, as stated earlier - is itself inspiration for this), and his Fault Line trilogy is made out of pure awesome.

Powers' work when he isn't off creating the steam-punk genre is actually very firmly based in reality. Characters have mundane problems and thoughts, they mill around with their (usually not very enjoyable) lives...until things just take a left turn down Weirdness and Batshit Crazy and suddenly everything is turned on it's head, those same people are running around trying to resurrect dead mystical kings, run away from people who eat ghosts or just interact with completely insane people.

This TV series from the bat is going to start at that point. From the very first episode the audience should be thrown into the weirdness full on, and preferably shouldn't be left any breathing time where they might start asking questions. The scene should start with stuff like one of the main (or secondary) characters getting out of bed, shaving, brushing his teeth, getting some breakfast...and then going to his garage and start stabbing his hand with a dagger, then cutting to some other character having stabs appear on himself and dying.

Ya know, stuff like that. I'm not entirely sure if this would really work as a narrative device, but it's what I see in my head when I think about it.