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.