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Autumn War - The Field

Aug. 20th, 2009 | 11:18 am

Sanctuary, Shelter and the Field.

Sanctuary is any place safe, warm and inhabited. 
 Requirements
Sanctuary must be shelter .
Must not contain the remains of a speaking creature.
Must not contain fresh blood of a speaking creature.
Must not be haunted or contain an monster, mockery or stalker. 
Must not contain an entrance to the underworld.
Sanctuary must be inhabited for a full turn of the moon or created through Hearth Keeping Rituals.
Benefits of Sanctuary
Recovery is not limited to 1 die + Storytelling/Innocence per rest cycle.
Monsters, Spirits, Stalkers and Mockeries cannot enter Sanctuary without first beating Sanctuary (D6 = 3 + # of people inside) in a Conflict.
Many Spirits cannot enter Sanctuary at all.
Benefits of Sanctuary for Hearth Keepers
Hearth Keepers can sense the presence of hostile persons, etc within 20 yards of Sanctuary.
Hearth Keepers can use Sanctuary dice to ward off Monsters, Spirits, Stalkers, Mockeries, and humans, preventing them from entering or taking action against the place.  These dice are affected by the Hearth Keeper's Spirituality, and can use Tactics.
Hearth Keepers count as 3 people for determining occupancy.
Hearth Keepers can use Sanctuary Dice as Grief dice to prevent people inside Sanctuary from breaking it.
Hearth Keepers can use or lend Sanctuary dice to other sorcerers for the purpose of working magic.
Hearth Keepers can set up a small Sanctuary within a structure, rather than making the whole structure a Sanctuary.  This field Sanctuary only lasts a single rest period or as long as the Hearth Keeper remains within it, whichever is shorter and has dice = # occupants -2.
Sanctuary is Broken when
Blood is spilled through violence.
Life is taken through violence or accident.
A Monster, Stalker, Mockery or Spirit enters.
An entrance to the Underworld opens.
Shelter is broken.

Shelter is any place that protects from wind, rain and darkness
Strength of Shelter depends on the structure.  It is measured in the number of negative environmental modifiers it can protect you against.
- Tree, Overhang, Doorway - 1
- Shelter Beech or Lean-to - 2
- Tent - 3
- Kacia Hut or Shack - 4
- House  - 5
- Cave or Castle - 6+
Benefits of Shelter
Not subject to negative modifiers = strength of the shelter.
Not subject to dark wind.
Making Shelter chances are you are going to mostly find shelter, but just in case...
-Shelter 1 requires 1 scene.
-Shelter 2 requires 1 Day.
-Shelter 3 requires a tent and can be done as part of a camp setup scene.
-Shelter 4 requires a week and appropriate Arts.
-Shelter 5 requires a month and appropriate Arts.
-Shelter 6 requires a year and appropriate Arts.  Any additional strength requires another year per.
Shelter is Broken when
Environmental conditions create negative modifiers = to strength of the shelter +1
Environmental conditions include Fire.
Environmental conditions include Submerged.
GM should use discretion as to whether a broken shelter is also destroyed.

The Field is anyplace else in the world.
Subject to all environmental conditions.
Subject to dark wind.

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Push-Hands Stakes

Jun. 6th, 2008 | 04:43 pm
mood: creativecreative

Here's the big idea.

You have a character.  The character gets a certain number of dice to roll (I'm working with the general idea of D6s with 5-6 being successes), based on whatever you like (you can make this as explicit or hippy as you like - I've already got some ideas).  When you go, you get to roll them in order to get something you want, something you define, you know, Stakes.

Here's the thing.  Your stakes are constrained by what you ask for, and certain stakes are going to be harder to get than others.  These require a certain number of successes in addition to whatever you would use to determine if something went off or not or what you use to compare with an opponent.  This is a threshold.  I've worked up 5 Actions, which you take when you've got initiative, 5 Reactions, which you take in response to  someone else's action, and 4 Side Actions, which you can take as an Action or a Reaction.

Why would I do this?  Well, because a little restriction reminds people what they can actually do with Stakes.  Telling someone you can do anything you want with them is one thing, the only problem with that is that I tend to forget it, and a lot of other people with less of a background have a similar problem.  Also, I know some people who would rather narrate things happening to their character, rather than their character's actions, which, granted, is alright with me, but I think I want, for the games I plan on trying out, a little more emphasis on character action than things happen and the character benefits.

Here they are, with examples given by a team of adventurers, Jet, a fighter type; Ruby, a social manipulator; Amber, a sneak thief; Saph, a sorceress; and Esme, a detective, or something.  They are trying to acertain the connection between a merchant and a spooky cult.  In the course of the investigation, Esme and Amber sneak into his suite of rooms at the inn, Ruby keeps him distracted downstairs and Saph and Jet are stuck dealing with a thug and a sorcerer in his employ.  Let's see how things turn out...

Action
  • Push [1] – Pursue a Stake Directly.
    • Jet attempts to stab her assailant.
    • Ruby tries to get the attention of the merchant.
    • Amber tries to shimmy up a drainpipe unseen.
    • Saph tries to harm the spirit with sorcery
    • Esme tries to find a clue to the Merchant’s activities in his room.
  • Feint [2] – Test a motive or reaction, gain information about a reactor.
    • Jet feints to see how her opponent will attack her.
    • Ruby tries to find out if the merchant is alone tonight.
    • Amber checks the windows for traps or alarms.
    • Saph tries to find out what kind of spirit the merchant’s sorcerer is using.
    • Esme tries to interpret the merchant’s activities from his effects.
  • Hold [2] – Entrap or entangle the reactor, prevent them from leaving.
    • Jet tries to grab her opponent’s arm.
    • Ruby tries to hold the merchant’s attention and keep him downstairs.
    • Amber tries to River Tam in the hallway while a servant passes under her.
    • Saph tries to hold the spirit in place with her sorcery.
    • Esme follows a trail of blood drops through the merchant’s suite.
  • Pull [3] – Compel reactor to do take some action.
    • Jet retreats deeper into the alley, drawing her attacker.
    • Ruby tries charm the merchant and get him to try to seduce her.
    • Amber throws a rock to get a servant to look toward the sound.
    • Saph tries to compel the spirit to do her bidding.
    • Esme plants evidence that the merchant’s allies have betrayed him.
  • Expose [3] – Reveal vulnerability in the reactor, gain subsequent bonus.
    • Jet gets her attacker to overextend, leaving himself vulnerable to attack.
    • Ruby gets the merchant drunk.
    • Amber releases a sack full of mice in the hallway to draw off attention .
    • Saph compels the spirit to use a powerful attack, which it will not be able to use on her friends later.
    • Esme plants false orders from the merchant’s guild.
  • Link [4] – A push with a follow up action. The cost of the follow up is not included in this, so a Linked Push would be [5]. You can Link more than once.
    • Jet attacks her assailant and then trips him [Linked Expose – 7].
    • Ruby continues to charm the merchant and gets the his friends to leave the table [Linked Pull – 7].
    • Amber Picks a lock and sneaks into the secret room in the merchant’s suite [linked push – 5].
    • Saph weakens the spirit and binds it to her prayer beads [Linked Hold – 6].
    • Esme finds a hidden document and decodes it [Linked Feint - 6].
 
 
 
 
 
 
Reaction
  • Block [1] – Deny a Stake Directly.
    • Jet blocks her opponent’s attack.
    • Ruby deflects a question about how she knows the merchant.
    • Amber disables ye olde crossbowe trappe.
    • Saph sets her shields against the sorcerer’s curses.
    • Esme replaces the hair that was put across the window.
  • Sacrifice [2] – Accede to Actor’s Stake, take an Action in return.
    • Jet lets the assassin knock her over but uses the momentum to grab and throw him.
    • Ruby agrees to go upstairs with the merchant but convinces him to get intimate with her in the hallway.
    • Amber slides down the trick stair trap, but controls the slide so that she is behind some barrels at the bottom and can’t be seen.
    • Saph lets the sorcerer’s curse get through so she can counter-curse him.
    • Esme leaves traces of her presence, but is able to slip out of the suite unnoticed.
  • Dodge [2] – Avoid the affect of a Stake (but remain engaged).
    • Jet jumps aside to avoid her opponent’s charge.
    • Ruby delays intimacy with the merchant without making him suspicious.
    • Amber leaps around behind a table before the cultists in the basement can see her.
    • Saph ducks down a side alley as the sorcerer’s fire spirit goes roaring past.
    • Esme waits for the merchant to be too engaged with Ruby to notice her and slips past.
  • Bind [3] – Deny the Stake and entrap the actor.
    • Jet blocks another attack and binds up the weapon.
    • Ruby distracts the merchant and keeps his attention on her so that Esme can escape.
    • Amber knocks a bookshelf on the cultists, pinning them in place.
    • Saph knocks a curse aside and engages the sorcerer in a witchcraft fueled staring contest.
    • Esme begins to lay a false trail for anyone who would follow her.
  • Escape [3] - Avoid the affect of a Stake, disengage from Conflict.
    • Jet leaps into the canal and swims away from her attacker.
    • Ruby convinces the merchant to go back and get her some more wine and slips away.
    • Amber shimmies up through the dumb waiter chute and squeezes out through the kitchen.
    • Saph distracts the sorcerer with will-o-the-wisps and leaves before he can find her again.
    • Esme covers her trail from the destination of the false trail and heads back to rendezvous with her friends.
  • Redirect [4] – Turn the effects of the Stake back on the Actor or other Target.
    • Jet uses the attacker’s downward motion to drown him in the canal. Yuck.
    • Ruby fakes tears in the common room and leaves the merchant’s friends with a bad impression of him.
    • Amber dodges by an attacking cultist and pushes him down the dumb waiter.
    • Saph turns the ghost back on the sorcerer that summoned it.
    • Esme arranges so that those searching for her will meet and each think they other has turned traitor.
 
 
 
 
 
Side Actions
  • Cover [1] – Protect another from negative Consequence.
    • Ruby makes a story to explain why Jet is covered in canal muck.
  • Aid [2] – Help another win a Conflict.
    • Esme uses her knowledge help Saph heal Jet and prevent her from getting infection.
  • Count Coup [3] – Action that does not pursue a Stake, but gains Coup.
    • Amber comes back to the rendezvous point by roof-running, because roof running is cool.
  • Narrate [4] – Narrate a change in the environment independent of the Actions and Reactions of those involved in a Conflict.
    • Jet’s player narrates that her lover has thoughtfully drawn her a hot bath in anticipation of the state she was bound to be in when she got back.
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Malus - Character, Kingdom and Adversary.

May. 28th, 2008 | 03:43 pm

Starting with Character
You are a human being, a young person, tasked to awakend the Good and save the Kingdom.  Describe yourself; what you look like, what you wear, what you carry with you, where you came from and why you, most important, decided to stand up and fight against the Adversary.
You begin with the three Attributes (Innocence, Experience and Courage).  Put a point in each one.  Now, you have 5 more points to split up amongst them any way you like.  This doesn't represent how much Innocence, Experience and Courage your character has (you can assume that, as heroes, they have a surfeit of all three), but how much, to start with, your character relies upon each Attribute.  
Once you've got them divided,  you get to choose abilities, one for each point you have.  These abilities are different depending on the attribute.
Innocence: Either a friend or companion you have or a group (class of creature, affiliation) with which you make friends easily.
Experience: A skill, something practical that you know how to do.
Courage: Either some sort of ability you'd use in a conflict (arguing, swordsmanship, stare-downs) or some group of bad guys you are good at defeating.
None of these things can be supernatural powers or magical abilities.  Magic is either the inborn inheritance of a magical creature or the wickedly disruptive, absolutely corrupting province of the Adversary.  If you are good at making friends with mice, either they talk or they just like you.  If you can climb walls, it is because you are a good climber, not Spider Man.  
That said, you have been given a gift.  Describe it.  This gift may indeed have some kind of power in it.  
Tell everyone else about your character, listen to each other person, in turn describe theirs.  Write down your reactions to each one on the character sheet.

The Kingdom
In order to save the kingdom, you will need to do battle against the Adversary in different locations of the kingdom.  Choose someone to draw a simple map with a number of circles or boxes = the number of players in the group + 1 (or more for longer games decide beforehand) and lines connecting them.  Each player gets to describe a location (one or two sentences at most), starting with the person who drew the map.  Continue round-robin until all locations are named.  Each location defines a chapter.  

The Adversary
Put 1 apple of each type in a pile or cup, then add apples of red, green or gold until you have all of the Players accounted for.  Each Player draws an apple.

The Black Apple - Player with the black apple names the Adversary (name and epithet) and names their one weakness.
The Silver Apple - Player with the silver apple names the source of the Adversary's power, and the thing they do that people most fear.
The Red Apple - Player[s] with [the] red apple[s] describe the Adversary's appearance and name ways in which the Adversary can tempt enemies.
The Green Apple - Players with green apples describe the Adversary's possessions and name ways in which the Adversary can threaten or injure enemies.
The Gold Apple - Players with gold apples describe the Adversary's lair and name the influences that the Adversary has over the kingdom and can afflict and vex enemies.

If there are three Players, then put the silver, black and one other apple in the kitty, the person who drew the other gets to name all three.  With four Players, the two who did not get the silver or the black apple get to decide between them what the last remaining apple means.  For more than 5, add apples as you decide as a group, depending on what sort of Adversary you want to face.  Alternately, assign different attributes based on what you decide as a group.
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Malus: Allegorical Storytelling

May. 27th, 2008 | 05:19 pm

The Big Idea - Malus is a lot like that writer's exercise where you take a hero out of danger and then put the hero right back in.  It's meant to have, I think, 3 to 7 players, no GM, because that's how we roll in hippy town.

Characters: Born human, making their way in a mythical landscape, fighting against an evil Magician.  Some may have been transformed into other things, but, for the most part, they are human.  Humans, transformed or otherwise, have no natural access to magic powers, though access is available.  Magic, sorcery, whatever, is inherently evil and warps the user in Very Short Order.
Characters have 3 Attributes - Innocence, Experience and Courage.  

Innocence: Goodness of the heart and lack of evil knowledge.  Innocence is keyed to friends you have or friendships you make, and how much those friends are willing to do for you.  Innocence is vulnerable to Temptation, which takes it away whether you succumb or not, but, in return, it becomes Experience as you learn about yourself and the world.

Experience: Understanding, knowledge, learning.  Experience is keyed to things you know or know how to do, and how good you are at doing those things.  Experience is vulnerable to Peril, which forces the clever and the rational to act quickly or suffer, but, in return, it becomes Courage as you gain confidence to face adversity.

Courage: Daring, bravery, the ability to face dangers and battle foes with weapons, wits, or wills.  Courage is keyed to enemies you can defeat or ways in which you succeed in conflict.  Courage is vulnerable to Want, which is an enemy that cannot be defeated with strength, but with cooperation, but, in return, it becomes Innocence as you put aside old angers in the spirit of friendship.

Malus: The apples represent the power of evil, influencing the Magician and making the heroes' lives difficult.  There are five different kinds of danger represented by the apples and each one has a different color.

Red Apples of Temptation: These lower the hero's Innocence and raise hir Experience.  The magician is alluring, and has snares and hooks set for the heroes that oppose hir designs.  The hero who gets a Poisoned Red Apple ends in a state where they must be rescued from their desires and the wiles of the Adversary.

Green Apples of Peril: These lower the hero's Experience and raise hir Courage.  The magician will have fearsome minions and set up deadly traps to defeat the heroes.  The hero who gets a Bitter Green Apple ends in a state where danger surrounds them and they must be rescued from the force of the Adversary.

Gold Apples of Want: These lower the hero's Courage and raise hir Innocence.  The magician has control over the land, that, while limited, can be made to block, stymie or endanger the heroes.  The hero who gets a Rotten Gold Apple ends in a state where their efforts are in vain, and the only way past is through accepting help from others.

Silver Apple of False Life: This apple ends the Chapter; it does not affect the Attributes of the Receiver and it negates the affects of the last turn on the Attributes of the Giver .  The Receiver of the Silver Apple must tell of a hitherto unknown power that the Magician has just shown, something to stifle the progress of the heroes and makes the Magician that much more difficult to defeat.

Black Apple of Sorcery: This apple also ends the Chapter; it does not affect the Attributes of the Receiver and it negates the affects of the last turn on the Attributes of the Giver.  That said, the Giver must record a point of Darkness on their character sheet and state how they succumbed to the temptation to use Sorcery to move ahead.  

The Basic Mechanic: Tell the people about how your hero saves another from danger but gets into danger of your own based on the apple you've been given.  Hand an apple to the next person in line who does the same.  When each Hero has gone, the Chapter ends.  Complete Chapters = number of Heroes + 2 to defeat the Sorcerer and win the game.  

There's more to it than that, but I have to hit the road for now, so this is the basic gist.

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Iron Game Chef Notes

Apr. 18th, 2008 | 03:34 pm

The Autumn War 

At the end of summer, the people of the province of Oaks and the people of the province of Pines went to war.  Throughout the autumn, there were skirmishes, but the first and only real battle did not come until almost the eve of the winter.  The battle was bloody, hard-fought, and, in the end, inconclusive, the only winners being the ugly birds, the raven, the vulture and the black eagle.

You are a war widow or war widower, one who has given up the one you love most to the war and lost them on this battlefield  at the meeting of your territory and that of your enemy. You've come for your due, the remains of your love to bury, and you will brave deserters and bandits, enemy patrols, grief, memory, ghosts, the cold and scavengers to find the body before the first snow falls, and, perhaps, make peace with the other side before another battle comes.

Using art from Donna K. Fitch and Kevin Allen Jr.

What does it do: You play grieving widows and widowers (or parents or lovers, or siblings) who have lost your loved one in the battle of fallen leaves, from both sides.  As you search for the bodies of those you love you band together in order to protect yourselves from the dangers of the aftermath of a large battle, resolve your differences and come to terms with your grief.  Or you do not.  

How does it do it: Fucked if I know.

Why is it fun: Because it presents you with many different options for how to go about what you're doing, gives you an opportunity to mend relations with your ostensible enemies, and forces you to choose between getting what you want and doing what you must.  Or it should.  Also, you get to explore themes like grief, suffering and conflict in a setting with plenty of danger and possible intrigue.
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D&S Setting and Cultures

Apr. 16th, 2008 | 09:59 am

One of the things that I noticed with letting the players generate their culture in the alpha test of D&S is that four visions make for a very dysfunctional bunch of people, especially when three of them decided they were going to be not of the same people that they were living with.  G drove for familiarity, B for the exotic, R for amusement, and J to fill in  some of the things in the middle.  The effect was amusing as an exercise, but really difficult in play, since the people they created were thoroughly irresponsible drunks and all their authority figures were some other ethnicity.  It's fun to make but hard to run.  Really, I don't want to make any difficult on myself than I have to.

G is going to want an authority to be part of that is largely positive.
B is going to want a setup where doing the things you want to do as a player are going to come into some sort of conflict with the values that the character and their society hold, one that has to be resolved.
J is going to want internal consistency, such that one aspect of the culture flows directly from another without too much just-soing  and tortured logic, so he can make things that he wants to happen happen.
R is going to want there to be plenty of chances for traditional adventuring and to get embroiled in as little non-adventure foolishness as possible.
T is goint to want to be the good guy and the hero and look cool.
I am going to want crisis and explosions and corrupt, evil authority as targets for my moletov cocktails.

All of these things are not only legitimate things to want from a game, but good things, and each of them makes for good games.  The problem comes in where each of us tries to come up with a game tailored to our own tastes and sensibilities, which, to certain extents, has something that that at least three of the others won't want.

Which is to say, there's a lot of room for conflict.  Granted, a creative setting designer can come up with something for everyone to do by themself, but damn is it hard when everyone is putting their own things in.    

This is a long way of saying that I'm not doing any more collab settings for games I intend to run.  They get very difficult, very quickly, and I've realized that pulling off difficult setting-related balancing acts =/= awesome game.  So, shoot for the awesome.

Culture and setting is one thing that gets tricky to do well, since J and I like a lot of diversity of choices on that level (B, I think, prefers a lot of choices on a lower level, and that definitely has it's strengths.  I'm not sure what the others have for opinions on that matter), but, given the diversity of the people in my group and what they want, it pretty much demands some diversity on the macro level.  My major argument in favor of it runs along the lines that it's a lot easier to go with since different people are going to look different, have a different language, dress differently, and that makes it easy to tell the people who have a strong chivalrous class that actually tries to adhere to chivalry and the people who have a corrupt priestly class and armies of pious warrior monks.  It makes it easier to know at a glance who is on what team and when.

I've been carrying the Player's Guide to Everway around with me for the last week and a half, intending to use it as a template for coming up with the cultures "back east," in the D&S world, but it occurred to me that a more fun, useful and satisfying way of making up the cultures with an eye toward the things that PCs are going to do in the course of their interactions with the culture work like so.

1) What is the culture's big lyrical art form.  Because I am a writer and think that said profession is the most important in all the world for telling you about the culture of a people.  People who tell stories about a trickster-ish culture hero are going to be different than people who write ballads about romantic misfortune and murder are going to be different than people who educate their children with parables about animals who exhibit human qualities.    They are all going to kind of cross-pollinate, I am still going for a vaguely central to east European feel to the setting.

2) The Seven Deadly Sins as they Relate to the Culture
Pride - National character and how they determine who's in charge.
Avarice - Things they do for money and how commerce and trade happen.
Wrath - How you're going to be getting into fights and what they are going to involve.
Lust - Sex and love and gender and art, as appropriate.  Or not.
Gluttony - Food and leisure and vice.
Envy - Conflicts and grudges.
Sloth - Threats and things they have yet to face as conflicts.

And that's it.  

Going to try, maybe after lunch and more work gets done.

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Nightmares of Gaming Past - nWoD Apocalypse

Apr. 9th, 2008 | 01:15 pm

Back in 2006 I ran a short lived, and apparently much missed nWoD game based on the idea of a quantum apocalypse; that is to say that one larger universe ran into our own and knocked it into a third; in the process, three universes were screwed, most of the world's people and larger animals died,  and weird things started showing up.  The cast was composed of a foster care raised Sea Bee, veteran of the Syrian Conflict (Gulf War part 4)  with PTSD and a drinking problem; a dead-behind-the-eyes CIA operative; a cypher of a building superintendent and a professor of classics and amateur eschatologist.  I never revealed it to them, but in our world, it turns out that empathy to others was the common denominator and threshold for people killed off by the initial event, and that only the psychos lived.  This was something I hadn't planned, but confronted with this quartet of doom, it made sense.  They were later and briefly joined by an avian descended doctor from one of the alternate earths, and a low tech frontier girl from another.  They made their way from Middletown to Groton, stole a boat and sailed up to Boston, where they hooked up with some other survivors and were ready to go investigate the group of survivors in Maryland before the world moved on and we did something else.



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Darkness and Sky Prospectus

Apr. 9th, 2008 | 12:39 pm

What Does it Do?
In Darkness and Sky (D&S), Players take the roles of heroes with tragic pasts and great needs who have become the protectors, though not necessarily the leaders of a community in the early days of settlement in a fantasy frontier and through successive generations.  Player Character actions center around exploring the environment (including the ruins of an advanced Empire that once inhabited the land), interacting with native creatures and spirits, interacting with the settlers and with other settlements, searching for resources and repelling threats.  

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Old Realestate, New Purpose

Apr. 7th, 2008 | 03:09 pm

Since SUP has decided to do away with free accounts, it turns out that I am sitting on gold, having a pair of free accounts still setup in my name.  Woo!  
Okay, gold is probably a little reckless.  We'll say some very nice tin.  Anyway.  This is going to be my design blog for Dorkery, especially Darkness and Sky, I think.  But hey... We shall see.  
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