Archive for March, 2012

Hitlympics, Episode One (Ruts)

29 Mar

Guest-starring Josh, Mumbles, and an ensemble cast of Ventrilo vagrants.

 

The Excuse, Part One

29 Mar

Del Taco parking lots are depressing places to be at 3AM, because you’re never the only one in them. It steps on the little macho frisson of swagger that comes from being up and getting fast food at odd, unreasonable hours, which is literally the only good part of being up that late. There’s no fraternity there because while you’re all miserable, it’s purely self-inflicted misery. Each one of you is there because you should have been done with your essay or your presentation or your experimental taxidermy ages ago, but you aren’t, because with barely any internal conflict you’d surrendered up all your free time to stupid internet images and bizarre YouTube videos. And now you’re reaping your reward, which is an all-nighter, a pissed roommate, a C+, and a lukewarm bean burrito. Join the club.

Maybe it was that sense of resentment that made me ignore the lump of skin in the overcoat loitering by the dumpster—or maybe it was that I’d never once had a conversation with a man dressed like a leprous flasher that I didn’t immediately regret. For whatever reason, when he waved his hand in supplication, and hissed at me, I tried to press past him.

“Hang on,” he said. His voice was high, and hoarse, and old, and unmistakably British. “Hold. I’d have a word with you.”

I gave him a glance. Then I tried to take the glance back, so I could give it a proper wipe-down and maybe go rinse it off. It wasn’t that he was ugly so much as it was that he was absolutely jawdroppingly hideous, from his gnarly little cockroach moles to the wrinkles that looked like they were applied with a hacksaw to the grey hair that looked like he’d dipped his head in a box of spiderwebs. When he parted his lips, his teeth looked like corn kernels drowned in brandy.

“Are you the one?” he asked, spitting as he spoke.

“No,” I said. “Easy mistake to make. Have an outsanding morning.”

“The one the ghost boxes call Buttacos?”

“What? How the hell did you know that?”

“There’s no time.” He wrapped a hand around my shoulder, and for a moment, I smelled traces of oils, unguents, exotic spices—like an Egyptian mummy. “I will explain on the way to Tokyo. Come, your demon carriage departs upon the hour.”

“What–”

“For now, let this explanation suffice: my name is Oliver Cromwell, and together, we are going to kidnap every United States President in one night.

 

Reports of My Death Have Been Nearly Accurate

28 Mar

I’d like to get this out of the way immediately: my unannounced downtime was not in any way related to my steamy psychosexual affair with the ghost of Margaret Thatcher. Surprisingly enough, she was rather reasonable and considerate with regards to my schedule. The tractor-trailer full of black ops spooks that took out my kneecaps with a baseball bat and put on a mind-control helmet to make me campaign for JFK’s re-election was a bother, but if that were the only problem, I could have worked around it. The discovery that I’m actually the hallucination of my evil twin brother didn’t put me out of the game for more than a couple hours.

The reason for my extended, out-of-the-blue hiatus was…

Well, there are two possible answers.

The first would be that I had finals to study for. Some of these finals would be very important, and would have a significant impact on my GPA, my ability to get a job in the future, my ability to get job security in the future, and–crucially–my ability to pick up future chicks in the future. And maybe all this came on me so fast I forgot to actually mention that my ass was getting kicked.

I could go with that account. It has some commendable qualities, like being accurate, provable with factual evidence, and containing nothing that literally incriminates me.

But it’s kinda boring, so I’m going to go with another story.

I’ll tell you that tomorrow. In the meantime, a schedule of content:

Thursday: Extremely Accurate Tales of Notblogging

Friday: Jibar vs. Rutskarn vs. Josh vs. Mumbles

Saturday: More World Creation

Sunday: Happy (?) Days

Stay tuned.

(Also: Stream is postponed to Thursday at 5:00 PM, will be extra long. There will be a preshow if you can make it.)

 
 

World Creation III: Brainstorming

05 Mar

The key to brainstorming is to get the sense of what you’re creating should feel like, hold it in your head, and then machine-gun every image, idea, gameplay element, or concept that comes to mind for the next twenty minutes. Then, when you sit down to write the alpha version of the setting, you go through your list very carefully and try to include everything that makes even a little bit of sense. The good stuff will either work perfectly or bend to fit the developing setting, and the crappy stuff will get filtered out organically. A good rule of thumb is that if you forget to carry something over from one draft to the other, it wasn’t working.

I purchased a lab notebook to work on the campaign. It’s graph paper, two hundred sheets, alternating white to yellow. I’ve set up a system wherein I draft setting material on the white pages, then draw relevant diagrams or illustrations on the next page. Nearly everything from these posts is a condensed white page. Ideally, I’ll be providing some of my yellow pages as the series progresses.

The first page of the notebook is my brainstorm. Here’s my list of concepts, unexpurgated, with asterisk notation for a few items:

  • Investigation
  • Exploration
  • Recurring areas and themes
  • Player home base—vehicle?
  • Steampunk?*
  • Fate system
  • Custom powers/supernatural?**
  • No science (no hard science)
  • Guns?
  • MacGyver?
  • Ghosts
  • Trading sanity for power
  • Carnivals
  • Kings
  • Shadow jesters***
  • Fashion
  • Fugitives
  • Woman who dispenses justice****
  • Gypsies
  • Masks
  • Carriages
  • Magical realm
  • Drug magic
  • Absinthe
  • Night and Unnight*****
  • Night Moon=Lumus, Unnight Moon=Caleus
  • Insects (low culture)
  • Furs
  • Silk (high culture)
  • Trains?
  • Polka
  • Undercity
  • Cities built on hills?
  • Rocky, alien landscape
  • Three dimensions: real, fantasy, nightmare
  • Nightmare impregnations
  • Puppet magic
  • Exotic erotica******
  • Dogs that walk on hind legs
  • Magicians
  • Three-figure pantheon
  • Intelligent horses
  • Nightmare defects
  • Fantasy traits
  • Crazy mages
  • Social mages
  • Class (social)
  • Murder most foul
  • World maps
  • Bloating disease

 

*The question mark here indicates some uncertainty with this idea. It’s okay to note that you’re not sure about something—usually, in my case, it means there’s something about the idea that works and something about it that doesn’t, and it’s useful to note that so you give it a closer look later. In this case, upon reflection, the uncertainty stemmed from wanting a sleek, velvet, cucumber-cool Victorian setting without any actual steampunk trappings.

**This is a little confusing to someone not reading it from inside my head-space, so let me clarify: I mean that I don’t want to make science a focus of the campaign, and that I don’t really want to worry about doing scientific research.

***This is a case of writing something down without having any goddamned idea what it means. Rather: it means nothing, and later I’ll have to make it something.

****Meaning a woman who judges accused persons. Less Judge Dredd, more Minority Report.

*****This idea came out fully-formed, so I didn’t really bother to elaborate. This will be an important facet of the campaign, and will get a post all to itself, so there’s no need to go into this right now.

*******I did say this would be an unexpurgated list. Don’t worry, I’m not going to go into this part of the setting beyond a few discreet notes further down the line. The fact of the matter is that I’ve got a mature group of players, and that exploring sexuality (even bizarre sexuality) is something we’re all comfortable doing. This may end up being relevant only once or twice, or it may become a recurring theme, or it may become part of a character’s arc, depending on how the players respond to it.

 

So now we’ve got a basic idea of what the campaign setting’s going to look like. European, anachronistic, with tendrils of horror and fantasy touching upon a world not built for either. Yes, it seems I’ll be treading upon the familiar ground, “other worlds are encroaching upon our own.” This has the potential to offend the sensibilities of some players, because they’ll have seen it in a hundred other places, but you can get around that if you make the other worlds interesting enough and really flesh out what effect they have upon conventional reality. A thoughtful enough story overpowers any sense of seen-it-before.

In my case, I quickly boil down three “worlds” I want to include. One will be the players’ world, which, at this stage, may be an all-new world or may be an extension and mutation of our own history. I decide to make that call later.

The second world will be Nightmare. As I see it, Nightmare is a self-contained world of monsters, physical and biological impossibilities, darkness, and unrestrained evil. It is a parasite dimension that reaches out to infect and corrupt all that it touches. Bad things come from Nightmare, but the worst stuff can’t leave it, because they simply couldn’t exist in our world. It’s a nebulous idea now, but refining it is a job for later.

Fantasy captures the flavors of both the art-deco, absinthe-drinking bohemian artistic movements of period Europe and the fairtytale tradition of England, Germany, France, etc—both flavors I want represented in the campaign. Rather than pinpoint what Fantasy is, right now all I’m going to do is but I identify two tropes I want to avoid. The first is the whole, “it turns out fairytale creatures are based on actual magical creatures,” thing—relevant only if I decide to make the players’ world based on our own. I’m not interested in making the realm of fantasy part of our own history. I want it to feel like a newcomer, an outsider, a force of chaos our world has no preparation or context for. The second trope is the “ultimately, fairtytale is just as evil and scary as nightmare,” thing, which has been getting a lot of play lately.

For those who haven’t encountered it, it’s a deconstruction of the Disneyfication of European folklore—Disneyfication referring to the process that strains the tales, and the creatures within, into harmless and colorful stories. Some authors have correctly noted that these most folklore is actually pretty grisly in its original state, and that creatures like fairies, objectively considered, actually demonstrate a certain disturbing detachment from human morality. This is done pretty well by authors like Pratchett and Butcher, who portray elves as selfish and amoral beguilers that don’t care how many human lives they have to destroy to get what they want.

I’m not going to do this because I’d prefer to create a strong contrast to the excesses of Nightmare and the moral complexity of reality, and because most of my players are already involved in a Dresden Files game focusing on fey courts. In my setting, I think I’d like Fantasy to be neither sinister nor overwhelmingly good, but rather warm and positive in a low-key way that will nevertheless give some people the creeps.

 

Next week: Night and UnNight, expanded.

 

Payday 5

03 Mar

Last episode of Payday is in the can. My audio’s a bit of-you can be sure that’s going to be fixed by the next time we record.

I couldn’t get to a scanner to upload the art for World Creation, so I’ll knock that out with the tablet and put up the post next time I get the chance.

 

Blackchapel Spectators

01 Mar

Now that The Blackchapel Revolution has begun–anyone in the game should drop in for the arrival of Phineas von Rutskarn, which just went live–I’ve given some consideration to some reader requests to spectate the game. Having explored Mythweaver’s capabilities, I’d say this is possible.

Anyone who’d like to watch the game can send a private message to Blackchapel, the account I run the game from. Make the subject line “spectate,” and I’ll hook up your spectator invite post-haste.

And as a general response to a question I’ve been getting from players: characters are tentatively due by March 14th. Sooner, or later, can be arranged. Please make some reference to the fact that it’s your character build when you PM it to me.

(Unrelated: we’ve recorded the last Payday episode. It’ll be up, along with the next World Creation, before the weekend.)