Archive for May, 2012

World Creation III: Barney and the Church

31 May

(Later than expected, but technically still daytime when I sat down for this one. Schedule kind of snarled up on me.)

Logically, Barney had just been asleep inside the flophouse. Logically, it was nearly morning, and retiring now would throw him well outside the bounds of a healthy sleep schedule. Barney was smart enough to know both of those were true, but his senses told him he was tired, and so he crawled up in the spot by the disused church that his instinct told him would be safe and dry.

Barney dreamed that night of a bedroom. He was bundled in sheets of yellowing linen that were soaked through with his own sweat. They were heavy as iron chains. They hurt. They cut off the blood to his arms, or head, or something, so he couldn’t rest but could only fight them. Whenever he wrestled himself upright he caught a glimpse of dirty paintings and cracked walls before his weight and his headache brought him back down to the mattress. Something was swimming in front of his eyes, and then was swimming inside of them. Something was tickling his nostrils. Something was caught in his teeth, and it was moving. He was choking on air. He was drowning in his own hot spit.

The last thing he remembered in the dream was the door creaking open, and footsteps, and two blurs of darkness. “He’ll be just like this for another two days,” said one, and then they both left for good. He didn’t remember anything after that, but he knew the dream went on.

Barney didn’t believe in dream interpretation, so when he woke up he put the whole thing out of his mind and got some breakfast from another vendor.

The man running the flophouse had not been wealthy, and his wallet was growing light in Barney’s pocket. The money wasn’t going to last much longer than the next street pie. It was becoming clear that if Barney wanted to get used to this eating business, and he rather already was, then he was going to need to find gainful employment of some sort.

The troublesome part about that was that Barney had been keeping one eye open since he got here and he’d seen barely anyone worth mugging. Part of this was the low traffic; the streets looked deserted, although Barney knew better. He could feel the twitching of skittish vagrants trying to minimize their profile in gutters, squats, piles of garbage in the alley. None of them would have valuables; probably they were afraid of being attacked by other vagrants more than anyone else.

The main question was where the good pickings could be found. He intuited pretty naturally that certain parts of the streets would be hotspots, where an industrious man could safely and peaceably relieve the unwary of their valuables, and others would be a waste of his time and would intersect with constable patrol routes. It was all well and good to say “let’s experiment,” but Barney had nothing to build on and was counting on this to prevent him from starving. Too much experimentation and he’d go hungry or get arrested. Luckily, Barney was a lateral thinker, and before too long he had an answer: keep walking until some people tried to rob him.

Barney was crossing an empty street thirty-five minutes later when a young woman walked out of the alleyway and stopped in front of him. She smiled prettily at him. She was a distraction.

“Beg your pardon, sir, but could we trouble you for a few pence to restore the Judgmentists’ Church up Barkley Avenue?”

Barney didn’t answer, but took a sharp turn and walked onto the pavement. The woman hadn’t expected him to keep moving, and she tried to stay in front of him, but by then he’d put his back away from the street and he could see the woman’s accomplice, a man in a flatcap, who was holding a rope and had stepped out of another alleyway as if to sneak up behind him.

“You two working alone, or do you have a boss?” asked Barney.

The man and woman glanced at each other.  It was the man who lost his look of indecision, and turned to Barney to say, “‘ere now, hand over your wallet or we’ll choke you ’till you turn violet, understand?”

Barney withdrew his axe handle.

A minute later, Barney had lost a little bit of blood, and littering the pavement were two battered broken-fingered thieves, the choking rope, the woman’s skinning knife, and a few loose teeth. And then Barney repeated his question.

One problem had been solved.

 

World Creation III: Rutskarn is Nuking Comment Thread at First Sign of Trouble

30 May

Awright, so here we deal with the prickly issue of religion. In keeping with the alternate history theme, I’m going to be taking a few real-world religions for a magic carpet ride through bizarre mutations, so if you’re a bit sensitive about the topic of modern faiths, maybe give this one a miss.

One thing I should get out of the way now is that to facilitate changes in the status quo, a few unpleasant things happen to famous holy places and people. I imagine some would find this sort of thing a bit offensive. That’s fine–but if you proceed anyway, I do want you to take on board that I’m not wreaking fictional destruction on this stuff out of spite or disrespect, but out of nerdy historical-fiction interest. I just want to give the players of the campaign a new theistic paradigm to chew over, that’s all.

But I’m fully aware that some people find even fictionalized disaster falling upon the heads of certain major world religions to be a little distressing, and that’s okay. It really is. And you won’t need to read this post to appreciate the others afterwards.

Still with me? Then let’s continue.

Read the rest of this entry »

 

This Week to Come

29 May

The schedule’s going to be a bit different this week, because I’ve been working on a little bit of content for later on. It’ll break down like so:

Wednesday: World Creation

Thursday: Stream

Friday: WC Fiction

Saturday: One-shot Recap

??? (May come any day as a bonus post): D&D Next: Thoughts/Experiences

Stay tuned.

 
 

Two Moons

25 May

In keeping with the theme of “all Un-night World Creation, all the time,” here’s a rough-and-dirty sketch of the twin moons Lumus and Caleus.

Note that unlike the pre-Change world, Lumus is always full, because it’s no longer displaying reflected sunlight; rather, it glows with the energy of Nightmare. Caleus is also always full, but has phases characterized by changing coloration.

Note also that they would not appear in the sky together, and that the color of Caleus tends to bleed into the sky. This is just a side-by-side mockup of the two.

 

 

World Creation III: Where in the World is…Half the World, Actually

23 May

I’m going to hold the fiction until Friday, because the comments on the last post are giving me the sense there’s something I need to address real quick. Before we push onwards, I should probably explain the whole “half of the world is wiped out” angle.

You may recall my last World Creation series was built very organically. I started with a world geography and extrapolated what sorts of civilizations and creatures would profit in it. That’s a great way to design a grounded, realistic-feeling campaign world…but rightnow, I’m trying to build around an aesthetic, not a standard of realism. A lot of the time I’m starting with a feeling and trying to work my way backwards from there. That’s how I got Caleus and Lumeus, as you may recall: I wanted to get rid of the sun without making the setting pointlessly grimdark, and that led to a hundred choices that influenced the whole.

This brings me to the Great Erasing. When I sat down to think over what I wanted,  I came up with three ends I wanted to accomplish:

  • Introduce the fantastic element without integrating them all the way down the timeline back to Ancient Egypt
  • Nevertheless permit me to make sweeping-yet-justified changes to how society and religion work
  • Reduce the number of countries I need to work with

So I sat down and decided that at some point, probably around 1850-1870, something happened that made the sun go away, Caleus appear, Nightmare and Fantasy hotspots generate, and about three quarters of the landmass in the world vanish–replaced by an ocean that seems to literally go on forever. The campaign would take place about fifty or sixty years after that happened.

Well, that was easy. Fast, simple, and about as subtle as a kazoo at a funeral. Plus, it gives me a fun opportunity to figure out what other stuff got messed around with during the pseudo-apocalypse. I’ll have a whole post on that later, but as a sampler of the sort of shenanigans I’m going to pull: in the year 1916, there are three popes.

Now, you may have found yourself asking why this whole global erasing thing happened. As in, why did it happen in universe–vengeful gods? Alien invasion? Tampering with eldritch artifacts? Practical joke gone too far? The truth is, I’m not sure there needs to be a fancy preset reason. I’m not sure there literally needs to be an explanation more complicated than “because that’s how this setting works.” That worlds of Nightmare and Fantasy got explosively merged with Earth is just a function of basic cosmic principles. As for why people think it happened, well, there are hundreds of theories both scientific and religious. It’s fine enough for me to say, “There’s no real reason,” but there’s no way people living in that world would accept that lying down.

Speaking of which: next week, we talk about the Diadism Movement and why it means there’s a city that’s one big haunted mansion and a city that’s like Las Vegas if it were the endpoint of a pilgrimage.

 

World Creation III: Magic and Society

22 May

A bit pressed for time this week, so here’s a filling-in-the-cracks post about how each nation reacts to and integrates magic.

In general, every nation has some level of instinctive distrust for magical enterprise. Magicians are dangerous and unregulated, and every political figure fears on some level that their power may be usurped by a Nightmare caster or their mind subverted by a Fantasy-wielder. Some nations try to regulate and control it, some nations ban it outright, some nations recognize the difficulty of regulation and allow a carte-blanche approach. But whether or not it’s legal, magic exists everywhere.

The New Empire: When I get to the political landscape post, I’ll break this down, but the New Empire is basically an allegiance of England, France, Belgium, and Scotland. The forces of both Nightmare and Fantasy are strong in these territories, with France having a stronger affinity for Fantasy mutations (thus breeding more relevant magic affinities) and Scotland having a preference for Nightmare.

The New Empire has made illegal the working of any civilian mysticism not related to the creation of animations, and even that they heavily regulate and control. Often, a blind eye is turned to Fantasy magic performed outside of city limits. There do exist Nightmare casters in the military, and the New Empire retains a single individual, the Black Baron, that is allowed to probe the darkest mysteries of the universe unimpeded. The position is ostensibly a lifelong one, although so far every Black Baron has been murdered within eight years of his or her tenure.

Animations are used for civil policing and military action, as well as for labor. This conspires to essentially cripple and ruin society in ways I’ll have a whole chapter explaining later.

Criminals, gypsies, and in France a rising bohemian class all employ magic towards making a living or creating art.

Ireland: Ireland has a few really bad Nightmare affinity spots. As a result, it churns out a lot of potential magicians. A good part of the territory is consumed by rival warlords who keep their chosen people safe from Nightmare beasts, and from other warlords, in exchange for servitude.

Spain: Spain is the center of a blindingly powerful Fantasy nexus. In certain areas, Fantasy casters are more common than regular persons. These communities tend to be insular and unambitious, verging on xenophobic and slothful–put into a stupor by the ever-fluxing nature of reality. Some have fled this maddening vortex to find refuge in milder territories.

Portugal: Portugal is a little bit fascist, and keeps both Nightmare and Fantasy magic strictly illegal except in military applications. I’m really going to need to spend more time explaining Portugal later on.

Russia: When the world was partially erased, a good chunk of Russia was sheared off. As a result, its system of government is in disarray. Populism never caught on in this reality, so it’s still under a Tsar, but the Tsar is from a new dynasty and a little bit crazy. All magic has been banned, but enforcement is pretty spotty. It’s not uncommon to find peasant healers, Nightmare bandits, and hedge magicians around.

Prussia: Half of Prussia is locked in a perpetual all-out war with the Nightmare beings of the Black Forest. Nightmare magic is a fact of life to these people, and every town has magicians who can track the beasts and give them a taste of their own medicine. It tends to be frowned on in urban environments, but it’s technically legal almost everywhere. Of course, the best practitioners are on the Kaiser’s payroll.

Ottoman Empire: Like Portugal, this is something I’m really going to have to go into later. Suffice it to say that the Ottoman Empire is a badly fragmented collection of independent city states, and is no longer an actual empire in anything but name. There’s rarely the opportunity to regulate magic use, let alone the enthusiasm. There do exist cities that dwell on the concepts of Nightmare and Fantasy for religious and philosophical reasons. Sooner or later, I’ll do a post on Diadism, and then I’ll go into what those mean.

Right, I think it’s about time to actually discuss what these countries look like in this alternate universe.

 

Self Indulgency Theatre: From 2009 to 2012

17 May

<Post suspended due to HTML issues>

 
 

World Creation III: O’Toole’s Tour

16 May

Barney recognized everything but the city. His hands, the night, his footsteps, the English language—he was familiar with all those things, even if he had no idea what any of them meant to him. The city wasn’t like that. As far as he knew, he was looking at these miserable streets for the first time. The people were strangers, strange in face, strange in clothing, strange in name. The alleys twisted off into dark tunnels his mind couldn’t map. The signs swinging over the doors to the pubs and workhouses and stores were all meaningless and random, like made-up places in the background of an engraving.

Barney didn’t so much know as feel that something wasn’t right. He kept walking. Why not?

A thin old man ran a food stand outside a worker’s dormitory. Barney smelled some kind of meat. His new wallet was out and several pounds withdrawn before he’d even seen the dish, and the transaction was barely completed before he’d stuffed about a third of it into his mouth at once.

“It’s hot,” said the old man. He wasn’t really speaking to Barney, or to anyone. He’s wasn’t cooking too much, either. Both of these took a backseat to his current passions, which were  reading a two-day-old version of the Blackchapel Times and filling a pipe with tobacco.

Barney finished in a few minutes. He wiped his hands off on his pajamas, not on the coat. Then he leaned against the stand.

The old man lit his pipe, finished his page, and looked up. From his expression, he obviously hadn’t really expected Barney to still be there.

“You waiting on someone?’

“No,” said Barney. “Resting a bit.”

Eyes looked him up and down. “Been out of work, have you?”

Barney shrugged. It was probably true.

“My sympathies, friend. My brother just lost his job at the factory. It ought to be against the law, yeah?”

“Losing your job?” asked Barney.

The man looked at him as if he’d made a clever fart joke in the middle of a wedding ceremony. “Nah,” he said, after it was clear that Barney was more stupid than tasteless. “Animations. Name the first bit of good it’s ever done for you or me, eh?”

“Can’t,” said Barney.

“There you have it. Bloody hulking bastards.”

Barney didn’t really want to talk to this man, so he started walking instead. Twenty minutes passed, and then he had to stop again, because he recognized something. It was just hard to pin down exactly what.

Up ahead was a small shack, rotted through, that smelled like mold and darkness and old potatoes. It was dark inside. The place was in all probability a squat, because from the look of things it wasn’t so much a place of residence as it was a camping tent.

A thin taper of smoke poured from a hole in the roof.

Unfamiliar.

There was the rhythmic sound of chopping inside.

Unfamiliar.

He could practically hear the vermin living in its crippled rafters.

Warmer…

 

Barney recognized everything but the city. His hands, the night, his footsteps, the English language—he was familiar with all those things, even if he had no idea what any of them meant to him. The city wasn’t like that. As far as he knew, he was looking at these miserable streets for the first time. The people were strangers, strange in face, strange in clothing, strange in name. The alleys twisted off into dark tunnels his mind couldn’t map. The signs swinging over the doors to the pubs and workhouses and stores were all meaningless and random, like made-up places in the background of an engraving.

 

Barney didn’t so much know as feel that something wasn’t right. He kept walking. Why not?

 

A thin old man ran a wicker stand outside a worker’s dormitory. Barney smelled some kind of meat. His new wallet was out and several pounds withdrawn before he’s even seen the dish, and the transaction is barely completed before he’s stuffed about a third of it into his mouth at once.

 

“Careful,” said the old man. He was’t really speaking to Barney, or to anyone. He’s wasn’t cooking too much, either. Both of these took a backseat to his passion in life, which was reading a two-day-old version of the Blackchapel Times and filling a pipe with tobacco.

 

“Hungry,” said Barney. He wasn’t really justifying his behavior so much as clarifying it, examining it. There was a little note at the end there where it sounded like it had been a real revelation to him.

 

The old man lit his pipe, finished his page, and looked up. From his expression, he obviously hadn’t really expected Barney to still be there.

 

“You waiting on someone?’

 

“No,” said Barney. “Just looking for somewhere to rest a bit.”

 

“Been out of work, have you?”

 

Barney shrugged. It was probably true.

 

“My sympathies, friend. My brother just lost his job at the shirt factory. It ought to be against the law, yeah?”

 

“Losing your job?” asked Barney.

 

The man looked at him as if he’d made a clever fart joke in the middle of a wedding ceremony. “Nah,” he said, after it was clear that Barney was more stupid than tasteless. “Animations. Name the first bit of good it’s ever done for you or me, eh?”

 

“Can’t,” said Barney.

 

“There you have it. Bloody hulking bastards.”

 

Barney didn’t really want to talk to this man, so he started walking instead. Twenty minutes passed, and then he had to stop again, because he recognized something. It was just hard to pin down exactly what.

 

Up ahead was a small shack, rotted through, that smelled like mold and darkness and old potatoes. It was dark inside. The place was in all probability a squat, because from the look of things it wasn’t so much a place of residence as it was a camping tent.

 

A thin taper of smoke poured from a hole in the roof.

 

Unfamiliar.

 

There was the rhythmic sound of chopping inside.

 

Unfamiliar.

 

He could practically hear the vermin living in its crippled rafters.

 

Warmer…

 

Barney felt fear.

 

World Creation III: The Magicians

15 May

As I’ve established, there are two basic schools of magic. One is a manipulation of Nightmare, also called Lumeal Magic, while the other is a manipulation of Fantasy, also called Caleal Magic (recall that the Nightmare and Fantasy moons are known, respectively, as Lumus and Caleus). Magicians attuned to Nightmare can practice certain kinds of manipulations, while magicians attuned to Fantasy can practice others.

I knew I wanted Nightmare and Fantasy to have a range of broad applications as well as specialized ones, and to be useful to people who aren’t, for example, scurvy-crippled adventuring murderers. That’s a blind spot of magic in a lot of RPG systems: even the non-combat spells are clearly designed for someone who’s planning on getting into combat in the immediate future.

Nightmare

Lumeal magic is, unsurprisingly, nasty stuff.

For the most part, civilized places don’t allow Nightmare magic at all, although at least one government (which I’ll talk about later) has a man or woman called the Black Baron who’s allowed to use it for certain purposes. On the other hand, it’s not uncommon for lumeal magicians to find underground work in the city, primarily in the criminal underworld.

There are three basic practices of Nightmare: perversion, communion, and allegiance. Read the rest of this entry »

 

The Weeks to Come

12 May

As some of you may have guessed, Conspicuous Content Week was by way of ass-slapping the life back into this stagnant webzone. We’re moving back–not just a few months back, but way, way back to the cobwebbed and tea-stained era of having certain days ordinated for certain series. And so, for what my sleeplessness-atrophied brain has tentatively calculated is the seventh day of uploadmas, I’m going to provide a schedule of future content.

Things gonna run down like this:

  • Tuesday: World Creation
  • Wednesday: World Creation Fiction
  • Thursday: Streamin’
  • Friday: Art/Whatever I Feel Like
  • Saturday: Miscellaneous/Blackchapel Revolution Updates

This schedule will be refreshed every Monday morning, so you’ll become aware of any last-minute changes or illnesses, if relevant. I’m going to try to keep to this schedule with the same care and dedication I’ve kept to it this week.

Alright, back to work.