innocent_man: (coffee)
OK, so! I finished God-Machine Chronicle yesterday. Now Michelle just needs to get the last edits done and it's officially out of my hair for a while. What else is going on?

Well, lots of things. I gotta say, I lament the death of LJ. I really miss being able to post something and get a lot of responses and comments. I can do it on Facebook now, of course, but that's not the same. It's too public, too open, and I can't control the discussion enough (which for certain topics is necessary). But at the same time, it's too impermanent. Once something's off your timeline, you'll probably never see it.

I think sometimes about porting this over to blackhatmatt.com or something, but I dunno. I like the interface here. Ah, well. It is what it is.

Stuff I gotta do:

  • Get edits back to Road to Hell on Earth authors: this week.
  • Get Demon outlined and to authors: As soon as I get the bible.
  • Get my bit of Tragedy done and to Michelle: this week.
  • Do write-up from the game last freaking Monday: momentarily.
  • Notes for tomorrow's game: today.
  • Make a character: today.


Let's get started! The Key, Part III. )
innocent_man: (buttons)
I keep thinking of "The Cold Black Key" off the Where's Neil When You Need Him? album. I used that on my soundtrack for my Werewolf game, though.

Anyway, running a little behind on this, yeah? Well, in fairness, my dishwasher's been busted this week, so naturally I've been slow doing game write-ups.

SHUT UP.

Continuing our playtest. )

System Notes: Conditions. I think they work OK, Michelle suggests that the system might need to be a little more homogeneous (like, that you choose an effect from a list, maybe?). I worry that'll make them feel more like Aspects than they already do. We didn't get to do combat; I had hoped that Mallory would catch the dude and in retrospect, I should have had him trip or something. Next time.
innocent_man: (buttons)
Monday night I ran a World of Darkness game using the rules revisions from the upcoming God-Machine Chronicle. So here's what we've got.

The characters are all law enforcement...but from different cities:


  • Ashton King, behavior psychology and profiler from Detroit.
  • Khandi Cochrane, medical examiner and forensic expert from Tulsa.
  • Ryan Mallory, fresh recruit and crack shot from Columbus.
  • Walt Lundy, FBI agent and the team's handler from Washington DC.


Here's what happened: Three nights ago, three murders took place (Tulsa, Columbus, Detroit). Each murder happened at the same time, in exactly the same way...in locked or closed rooms, with no witnesses. The prevailing belief is that this has to be a group pulling some kind of trick, but the powers that be, after a lot of media exposure and talk about the "Phantom Killer" or the "Tri-State Ghost", put together a task force, one officer from each city, and put a plane at their disposal. This is mostly show for the media, and the departments have their own investigations ongoing as well.

So the characters meet up, introduce themselves (in Tulsa, which is where Cochrane's lab is, of course) and start going over data. The three victims were Rosa Kerby (Tulsa; female, 43 years old, husband was home at the time); Craig Lowder (Detroit, male, 26 years old, lives alone, multiple locks on door which weren't disturbed); and Gloria Ault (Columbus, female, 35 years old, husband was out of town, house alarm wasn't tripped but was armed).

The victims had nothing in common. They hadn't moved recently, they'd had no common cable or repair companies, and they never met each other. They were different races (Kerby was mixed Hispanic/white, Lowder was black, Ault was white), different ages, and different socio-economic status (Kerby was lower-middle, Lowder was blue collar, Ault was upper-middle). Each had been killed by a single puncture wound to the throat, piercing the carotid artery; they bled to death in seconds.

In all three crime scenes, a strange doodle was found on the wall in black marker. The actual marker was found in Columbus. Put together, the doodles resembled a key. CS teams also found a set of fingerprints at each scene, one that didn't match any of the inhabitants and (thus far) hadn't turned up in any databases).

Cochrane and Lundy went to the lab to go over data and assist with the autopsy of Kerby, while King and Mallory went to the local hospital's psych ward to interview her widower (he was still in severe PTSD and shock).

Cochrane discovered that the wound on Kerby's neck was thin and narrow; her best guess was an ice pick. There was one wound, forceful and decisive, but very precise, probably delivered while she was standing or sitting up by an assailant in front of her using his left hand or behind her using his right. There was some kind of residue in the wound, probably from the blade; analysis revealed it was rust. Blood toxicology came back negative, and her stomach contents revealed she'd eaten dinner and nothing after that.

Cochrane made some calls and found that Detroit was dragging their feet on the Lowder autopsy, so she called the airport and had them make the plane ready; she'd just go do it herself.

Meanwhile, King and Mallory were at the psych ward. They questioned Bill Kerby, Rosa's husband, and learned that he'd had trouble sleeping so he'd left the bedroom and gone to the living room to read. About midnight he heard a thud from the bedroom, rushed in (thinking she'd fallen) and discovered her on the floor, bleeding to death. He hadn't seen or heard anyone, and the door the bedroom was still closed. He had, obviously, been the first suspect, but King felt his grief was genuine. The forensics didn't match anyway.

The characters regrouped at the crime scene and studied the initial photos and the room. The doodle (the top of the key) was scribbled on the mirror next to where Rosa had fallen. Based on the blood splatter, the group concluded that she had been sitting up in bed, had thrown the covers off (maybe to get up), and had been stabbed from behind by a right-handed assailant who was slightly taller than she was. The arterial spray hit the wall, she fell right out of the bed and onto the floor...but that's where it got weird.

There was no way someone could have gotten out from behind her and out of the room without leaving footprints, and there were none, not on the bed or through the blood. The killer had, apparently, simply vanished.

At this point, the characters decided they'd head to Detroit and look into Lowder's murder. So that's where we pick up next time.

System notes: Honestly nothing to report. We used the new system for extended actions, but since the new stuff only comes into play when you fail or exceptionally succeed (neither of which happened), that didn't really change much. The group wasn't crazy about Aspirations, but that was mostly because it was the first session and they're hard to set until you've played the character once or twice (which I've amended the text to reflect).
innocent_man: (Default)
So, look what I found from five fricking years ago on RPG.Net:

(I am really goddamn tired right now, so if this doesn't make any sense, blame the fatigue and end-of-semester boozing earlier.)

BlackHat_Matt's World of Darkness:

There are supernatural beings in the world, and everybody knows it. Well, everybody at the top end of the world (where highly educated mages, ancient vampires, and the richest, brightest and "best" of the world hobnob) and the bottom end (in the slums, ghettos, and rural areas where no one's going to hear you until it's too late and lycanthropes, feral vampires and street mages try to hash out a living).

The folks in the middle? The folks who live in the burbs and pay their taxes and all? They know about the supernatural in the same way that, in the real world, they know about hunger or disease or poverty. Pretty abstractly and thus not a real pressing concern on their time (until it happens to them somehow).

The game focuses on the street-level stuff. The World of Darkness is painted in blues, grays and dark purples. Organizations of supernatural creatures are more like gangs, secret societies or crime families than global networks, and if they're bigger than state-wide, that's scary and rare.

The supernatural is the truth no one wants to admit. Everyone knows it, but mostly you just try to get by and keep your head down. The numbers are low; there aren't that many vampires or werewolves (the ones who really prey on people - oh, yes, werewolves fucking eat flesh), and they aren't dumb enough to make targets of themselves. But some folks can't help but see the supernatural. Cops have to respond to calls about blood-drained corpses. MEs and forensic pathologists have to worry that the body they're working on might rise up...hungry. Bartenders in this World of Darkness are knowledgeable and paranoid. Alcoholism and suicide rates are higher among these professions.

The World of Darkness is part film noir, part splatterpunk, part psychological thriller and part humanist manifesto. Here's the take-home message: You take hope where you can find it. There is no one coming to save you, and those wolves at the door aren't fucking metaphorical. You might be a vampire, a mage, a cop, or just someone trying to get by in a world like this, but at the end of the day (night), the question is: What are you going to do?

Light a candle, or curse the darkness?

Gee, think this has been in my brain for a while?

By the way, there's an update on the book situation over here. It's not good news.

I would, however, like to make a character.

The Game: Cortex
The Publisher: Margaret Weis Producations
Degree of Familiarity: Some. I've played Serenity and run Leverage, both of which work on this engine.
Books Required: Just the one.

So, the Cortex book is basically the game system, presented so you can use it as a generic system a la GURPS or d20. In the back, we've got several sample settings, which is good because it's hard to make a character with no setting, yeah? So which one?

Hrm. I'm not terribly fond of any of them, really. One is Star of the Guardians, which is more-than-vaugely Star Wars-ish, with hints of Dune. It's the one that interests me most, but there are no campaign seeds or suggestions, and there's so much backstory (told very quickly) that I can't help wondering if the setting would be interesting if I haven't read the novels (which I haven't).

Oh, what the hell. I haven't made a sci-fi character in a while. Let's do this.

The setting write-up talks about the ruling class, folks called the Blood Royals who were genetically engineered to be leaders and psionics. They have access to these kickass things called Bloodswords, weapons that work by stabbing you in the hand with needles and then becoming Lightsabers. I like that, and it's tempting to play a Blood Royal, but it's also tempting to play the Han Solo type who has no time for that kind of magic.

Ah, hell, I so rarely play the Chosen One. I'll make a younger character, then, someone who was looking forward to a life of leisure before the destruction of the old republic (like I said, you can see some Star Wars in here). That'll put me as a novice character, I think.

My Concept is "embittered princeling." He was only five when the monarchy was overthrown, and he's been in hiding in various places ever since (it's been 18 years since the overthrow of the monarchy; I think that's "current day." Honestly the summary makes my eyes glaze over).

Attributes. I get 42 points, and each die type costs its value (so a d10 costs 10). Hang on.

Agility d10
Strength d6
Vitality d8
Alertness d6
Intelligence d6
Willpower d6

Derived Attributes. Fuck you, these go at the end.

Traits. These are Assets and Complications. I start with no free Assets; I have to take Complications to get any. So hang on, let's look at the list.

I want Combat Paralysis (d4). Makes sense for a dude who's lived a mostly-sheltered life. Same reason, I'll take Low Pain Threshold (d6). Ooh, On the Run makes sense. I'll take d12; something about him threatens the status quo to an alarming degree (again, this would require digging into the setting a bit more). Finally, I take Rotten Luck (d8). Twice per session, the GM can make me reroll a successful roll. That sucks, but with a good GM it'd be fun.

Right, that's my 30 points (I can't take more than that). Now, Assets! I take Blood Royal (d8), which lets me use a Bloodsword and psionics and stuff. I should look up psionics, then.

OK, so the system is pretty loose. I'll take Telekinesis (d10), and say that he would have more psi, except he hasn't really had the training he needs.

Ah, hell, go big or go home. I'll take Destiny (d12), which eats the rest of my points. Once per session I can be saved from a roll that would kill me. My Destiny might be to bring back the nobles or some shit. Or, like, bring balance to the Force. Oh, wait, wrong IP.

Anyway, Skills. I get 62 points. This works like Serenity; I can take a General Skill up to d6, but if I want it better than I have to specialize. I'm hip.

First thing's first: Bloodsword. I buy Melee Weapons up to d6, and then Bloodsword to d10. Costs me 10 total.

Athletics d6, sure. Pilot d4. Ranged Weapons d4. Guns d4. Lot of broad, light combat training, but little experience. I have 34 left. I'll take Tech d6, Knowledge d6 (Blood Royal d8), Covert d6, Influence d6 (Intimidate d8). Six points left. I'll spend 2 into a Stealth specialty and put the other d4 into Discipline.

Technically Gear is next, but fuck that. I'm already bored. How about Derived Attributes?

I get 14 Life Points (Vitality + Willpower), 16 Initiative (Agility + Alertness), 14 Endurance (same as Life Points), and 16 Resistance (Vitality x2).

Nothing left but a name. Characters in this universe evidently have American-sounding names. Let's say this guy's name is Bryn Garlon, just because it sounds more Star Wars-y to me.



innocent_man: (Default)
Sensitivity in RPGs is a topic I'm well familiar with. I've written lots and lots of words for White Wolf, after all, and whether you believe them when they say "Games for Mature Minds" or not, there's no denying that you wouldn't run a game of, say, Demon: The Fallen or Vampire: The Requiem for the same group of people that you'd run, say, Mermaid Adventures.

My experience has been that a not-insignificant percentage of gamers have triggers, topics that they don't want to hear about in a gaming (or, sometimes, any) context because it's emotionally traumatic. Child abuse and rape are probably the most common ones, and if you look at the numbers, it's not surprising (I'll take a moment and say this to my fellow male gamers: Something like 1 in 4 women have been sexually assaulted. If there are four women in the room with you, odds are one of them has been sexually assaulted. Rape jokes aren't funny. They're not.). If I think I'm going to be running a game that will include horrific or violent elements, which is often, I usually ask if there are things I need to avoid.

And then there are subjects that aren't triggers, exactly, but can still cause discomfort and heightened emotional response. Just to differentiate them from triggers (and this distinction is entirely mine; if this sounds like I'm making this up as I go, it's because I am), let's call them "buttons."

Kids are a button for me. Including children in a horror game is uncomfortable to me, because I'm a dad and one of my recurring fears (the only one, really) is something bad happening to my kids. I'm going to guess that any parent reading this gets that. Hollywood knows this - you want to establish someone as the bad guy, you can show him being mean to a kid (or an animal) and boom, we know his role. This means that when kids do get hurt or killed in movies (Mimic and Sleepy Hollow leap to mind), we notice. It's out of the ordinary.

What about RPGs? I played in a game of My Life with Master a few years back at Origins, and the GM asked about triggers before we started. I said that I didn't want harm to come to kids, which is usually not something I specify, but see, in that game, you're the bad guys' minions. I can play a character who hunts down people who harm kids, and it's going to change the tone of the game for me, but I can do it and enjoy the game. If I'm the one who's doing the harm? It removes so much moral ambiguity for me that I can't really get into it.

So it's a button for me. I was never abused as a kid, and my experience with child abuse has been secondhand (remember, I work in an elementary school). In RPGs I've run, I've occasionally included abuse or neglect as a plot point, but I'm pretty clear on where the moral lines are drawn there. I don't mind pushing buttons, because it's almost like poking at a bruise. It hurts, but sometimes it's a good hurt.

Which brings us to curse the darkness. People die in this game. The system is not forgiving to PCs. You can play kids, but you don't get special consideration (either for or against) for doing so. And that means that if you're playing a kid, your character might die in play. Does that make for a compelling story, or is that just uncomfortable? I suppose it depends who's playing...but it's a button I don't mind poking, in the safe space of a game.

Here's a picture from the interior artwork of the book (photograph taken by Steve Karpinecz, digital manipulation by Sarah Petrie). The model is my daughter, Teagan. She's not really afraid (I don't believe in method acting, certainly not for kids), she's just really damned good at conveying emotion (wait'll you see the other shots with her).

This photo is one 10 in the book, and together they illustrate the example of play. That example goes to some uncomfortable places for both me and my wife (Michelle Lyons-McFarland, who's also my editor - her two sons are in the book, too), but at the end of the day, it's a button. I knew when I started working on this game that I wanted it to have the potential to push buttons. And looking at this photo, I think it will.

Teagan Hiding
Watch this space. Kickstarter coming soon.
innocent_man: (cahalith)
So, yesterday we were supposed to make characters for Misspent Youth, but sadly that didn't happen (it'll happen in April). Instead, Rob, Mike and Jess made mortal World of Darkness characters, and we played an interesting game set mostly in Tuscon (specifically at this cafe, which you should totally visit if you ever get to Tuscon).

It's like a clip show, with clips you've never seen before. )
innocent_man: (mentak)
In cleaning my office, it became obvious that I needed a better system for keeping my character sheets. I run a lot of WoD games, and I consider them all connected (to get a sense of how absurd it all is, click here), so characters introduced in one game can and do show up in others. And since I'm still running Changeling, just started running Hunter, and am about to run Vampire, it behooves me to know who the heck is in my World of Darkness.

Might be interesting to you, maybe not. Anyway, it's below the cut. )

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