Archive for April, 2012

The Excuse, Part 2

09 Apr

I’ve had weirder bus trips. On one occasion, I was on an LA commuter bus when an officer of the LAPD informed me that there was a bomb rigged to the engine. If the bus dropped below 50 miles per hour, it was apparently going to explode and kill all of the passengers. We probably would have all died, if it weren’t for the fact that the cop was Keanu Reeves, and was a master of high-speed stunts and maneuvers.

It occurs to me, upon reflection, that what I just said was actually the plot of the film Speed, starring Keanu Reeves, and did not actually happen. So, that was all I had. I guess I’ve never had a weirder bus trip.

It took Cromwell a long time to finish his story, mostly because he kept trying to translate it into modern English, partially because he was talking through the contents of his takeout bag. I’ll spare you a direct account. It’s long-winded, full of awful botched transchronological analogies, plagued by mixed metaphor and infrequently—but startlingly—racist. Which is made all the more irritating by the fact that it was demonstrably very simple to summarize:

“Okay,” I said, “so you burned the actual Baba Yaga, she put a curse on you that sent you to our time, you can only lift the curse by getting a high-grade Freemason sorcerer to do it for you, and the only one you know of was a US President. But you don’t know which.”

“Exactly.” Oliver Cromwell bit into his bean and cheese burrito. I could read, from the crinkle of his brow and the sudden far-off glaze that slicked his eyes, that were this another era, there would be a dozen angry men with pikes and round helmets sacking the drive-through in inside of an hour. A single tear rolled down his cheek, shed in mourning of his lost power.

“So you decided to kidnap all of them,” I continued. “At once.”

“We can’t leave them to scheme amongst themselves. I would imagine there to be quite a rapport between fellow statesmen, era notwithstanding.”

“Yeah, but, what? That’s deranged.”

“Is it? Once we have taken your devil bird to the Orient, my friend, I shall prove to you that it is as ranged as any truth beneath heaven.”

“Also, wouldn’t having the ability to kidnap a dead President imply the ability to travel through time? Making this whole thing pointless?”

“Not at all. You will see soon enough.” He bared his beady teeth in a grin, withdrew his strawberry churro, and tore off the head of it—and then paused, and sank a little.

“This is not nearly so good as the portrait made it look.”



Stream Change

04 Apr

Due to alterations in my schedule, the weekly stream will now take place at 5:00 PM, PST, on Thursdays. Tomorrow’s stream will be another long ‘un to compensate for the short notice. The url remains

See y’alls then.


World Creation III: That’s Totally a Moon

04 Apr

Looking back to the last post, it seems like now is the logical time to explain the concepts of Night and UnNight, and how the patchwork solution to an aesthetic issue became the groundwork behind half the setting.

Early on in development, I faced a nagging concern regarding the game’s aesthetic. Most of it falls within a basic horror/dream/gothic look, and in consequence, I noticed that whenever I conjured up the setting in my own mind it was lit up in moonlight. My vision (even as vague and unfocused as it was) did not account for daytime, and in my experience as a GM, anywhere from 60% to 90% of a character’s activities generally fall within that time frame. This represented a bit of a boggle.

I wasn’t immediately sure that I was going to bend over backwards because of this issue. Even if I still couldn’t imagine a daytime encounter by the time the setting was fleshed out, I could probably fudge and BS things around so that most of it took place at night. But it was at least worth examining the problem from a few theoretical perspectives, so I started brainstorming ways to introduce perpetual gloom without coming off as obviously overindulgent.

Some ideas were immediately discarded. The notion of setting the whole thing underground got scrapped when I remembered that Echo Bazaar did the exact same thing, and that several of my prospective players are familiar with that mythos. You don’t even want to look like you’re copping an already existing franchise, because if you succeed, it’ll be the authors you inadvertently ripped off that take all the credit. Another idea was that there’d be perpetual sun-blotting pollution, but that was ultimately discarded as being a little too evocative of cyberpunk for my tastes. I certainly could make it work, but why bother? In a world of infinite creative possibilities, the chances of there being an equally effective solution that also fit my motif were fantastic.

The most direct solution, and the one I found myself coming back to over and over, was to make it so the world was wrapped up in eternal night. The stars lay perpetually overhead; the moon appears, arcs from horizon to horizon, and disappears for a while before reappearing once more. Some of this vision was appealing, particularly the fixation on the moon. Moons are pretty evocative symbols of mystery and the occult, both things with a strong presence in the campaign.

On the other hand, I found myself wanting some contrast to night. Just not, you know, daytime. There had to be some middle ground.

With this in mind, I sketched out the idea of the UnNight. When the moon goes down, another moon comes up. This moon’s brighter; it will always be full, but phases instead between colors, giving the world a sort of ghostly tint whenever it’s out. For the sake of practicality, let’s say that the rays of this moon perform the same functions as the sun (warmth, photosynthesis, etc). More specifically, it performs those functions without actually possessing the requisite physical qualities. Crops grow under the UnNight moon. Why? Who knows.

The thing that makes me decide to go for this approach is that it merges seamlessly with my idea of presenting both Nightmare and Fantasy as parallel realms. Night is the dark phase, and its moon, which I dub Lumus, is the gateway to the realms of Nightmare. UnNight is the warm phase, and its moon, which I dub Caleus, is the gateway to the realms of Fantasy.

I’ve done a lot of good with this design decision. I’ve accomplished my aesthetic goals by creating a unique look, I’ve reinforced the setting’s themes, and I’ve given myself a lot of stuff to work with further down the road. I’ve even given myself the makings of a vocabulary—from now on, I’ll refer to things evocative of Nightmare as being lumeal, and things related to Fantasy as being caleal.

I’m beginning to feel that I’ve got the backbone of the setting worked out. Sooner or later, I’ll have to sit down and figure out what I’m doing with magic, and I’ll really have to sort out the roles and structure of Nightmare and Fantasy. For now, though, I’ve got a pressing concern: do I use this material to create my own brand new universe, or do I apply these rules to our own history?


Seeya Later, Elevator

01 Apr

I’m having to redo the World Creation map because of some recent changes notes changes, so expect that Wednesday morning.

There’s a chance you haven’t seen this yet, and if so, you need to fix that. It’s the Elevator: Source episode of Spoiler Warning, and it contains puns, semiserious criticism, and my screaming like a tiny baby.