My Games

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Off to the (Karmamare) Racetracks: GM Notes for Maximum Recursion Depth Module

This is the second in a series of posts attempting to turn my GM Notes from the last handful of sessions of my current Maximum Recursion Depth campaign into something like a functional module (see Doctor Lovesmenot's Halloween Party, as well as a recent batch of play reports). As I say in the last post, this is not meant to reflect either the content or overall quality of what will be published in the Kickstarter-backed MRD Book, this is more so for general reference/practice.

Unfortunately, these play report/module posts have been some of my least popular posts in a long time. Granted, this is all just a passion project and I'm going to post whatever I want, but it's still a shame, so probably I'll bank these kinds of posts for down the line, and in the coming weeks, I'll try to mix things up.

I posted this note in the last module as well, but to reiterate: I sometimes put these generic Karmic Attachment Opportunities, Save or Conflict events, or other "canned" stuff in my notes. That being said, if I'm being honest, I often see these as more like "backup". They're there for inspiration, or for if I can't think of anything better in the moment, or I need something to push things along. That being said, I usually try to defer to player action and elaborate on the spot with more interesting developments. I've retro-actively included some of those in this writeup, to varying degrees, but I'm not sure how well it really captures how things actually played out at the table. This is something I intend to pay particularly close attention to for the module that will be published in the Kickstarter-backed Book.

This module includes two leads, which involve NPCs who effectively join the team as companions. As I discuss in this post, I'm a believer in using NPCs to join the party not as GNPCs, but as Specialist assistants. If the players are confused or struggling to decide what to do, these companion NPCs can provide some information or suggestions. They also have special abilities or skills of their own, which the players can leverage. For instance, in Conflict, they could suggest a companion do something in particular, in lieu of taking an action for their character. I rarely have these NPCs acting autonomously in Conflict, usually it's assumed they're assisting in some capacity, but it only affects rolls or options if players invoke them specifically.

The Investigation

  • The Client: Barry* O’Brien. A big trucker-looking cab driver, severely handicapped, carries himself meekly. Has a tin nose, giving his gruff voice a tinny-nasally quality, whistling like a mouse.

    • Make a Karmic Attachment with O'Brien to accept this job and help him clear his debt, his gambling addiction, and/or his guilt over his son's death.

  • The investigation: Has a gambling addiction, always falling for get-rich-quick schemes. Made a bad bet, lost a lot of money, and was going to have to give up his taxi and taxi medallion (and livelihood). Took his son with him on a ride, hopped up on meth and "cheddar" (the "study drug" dharmafinil), and got into a major accident, killing his son and totaling his car. His son was sentenced to be reincarnated as a pack mule, and he sees this as an unfair sentencing that should be placed on him when he dies instead.

    • Barry O’Brien-Gonzalez (the son; not technically “Junior”) was sent to The Court of Those Who Bet on the Wrong Horse.

    • This was a mistake on the part of the Judge Devil- not the least because this Court was actually decommissioned over a decade ago- unbeknownst to its archdevil.

    • Junior is not there anyway, as he was intercepted by Pepper Pan and the Recess Rascals just as he arrived at the Court.
* I changed the name from the play report to avoid confusion with Rick Barrett.

Getting to the Court / Complications

  • The entrance to the Court is Karmically Attached to O'Brien by way of the underground casino ring he used to play at. The underground casino changes locations regularly but O'Brien has a couple possible leads on the next location.

  • O'Brien is on the run from the casino, and therefore no longer knows the exact location, but has contacts who he trusts in these locations who may know more (they all use codenames); Shining Ostrich, and Rock Dove & Wild Turkey.

On the Way to Following the leads

  • The party is mugged (randomly roll for party member and item).

  • The mugger is a Poltergeist child, one of the Recess Rascals. A pale child in a pirate outfit. Carries a stuffed giraffe that can elongate its neck into a thrashing, toothy whip.

  • Will try to flee; can be intercepted either by a good plan, a NAT Save, or NAT chase conflict. 

    • 10 HP, Nd6 in running stamina (outpace the team), Wd6 for the giraffe to whip up the environment and blindside strike somebody (obfuscate the team's line of sight).

  • If defeated, will mumble something about the Recess Rascals, turn ethereal, and fly away, leaving behind the item, as well as a single-use Sachet of Nixie Dust. If not defeated, will laugh at the party and boast something about the Recess Rascals, and Karma Roll for the party member to see if the Recess Rascal accidentally drops the item.

    • Nixie Dust: +1 NAT Saves and flight for 1d4 hours. Flight requires NAT Saves to maintain.

SIDBAR on The Leads: The leads play out very similarly and the party should only follow up on one or the other. If you end up running both, there is one climactic conflict for each lead, and only one of those should be followed up on, or you'll need to change up some stuff, but it should be modular after that point, meaning no need to radically change The Court if somehow the team does investigate both leads. That being said, you can always bank the other lead and plug it into a different Investigation.

Lead One: Shining Ostrich

  • Shining Ostrich: Located in Parkchester Bronx in an apartment facing The Oval. An Eritrean immigrant who was once a famous Cat Burglar / Femme Fatale, until her throat cancer. She now speaks with an electrolarynx. Her grandson manages an Ethiopian hedge fund with Chinese connections, which has some kind of connection to the underground casino. Will accompany the party in her old sexy cat burglar costume, and she still wears it.

    • Karmic Attachment Opportunity: Her grandson wants her to leave the neighborhood and move in with him in Westchester. She needs to prove to her grandson that she can live on her own (or be convinced to move).

  • There have been some muggings around the Oval, she wants to take down the gangsters. 

    • There are four of them, 5 HP each, three with knives (Nd6), one with a gun (Nd12, 8 WIS).

      • Gun: A gun. They're really cheap and easy to get. Nd12 for violent conflict, but must roll WIS Save to use, and on fail, the wielder accidentally shoots themselves or an ally instead.

      • Gun information will be in the Items list in the book.

      • See SIDEBAR about guns in MRD in this post.

    • The one with the gun is witty and clearly the leader (Pd6, the others Pd4), goes by Fox-Hare.

    • The gangsters are just kids.

    • Fox-Hare is on the honor roll and desperate for a scholarship for college, wants to study computer science.

    • Karmic Attachment Opportunity to help the kid get out of crime and get into college.

  • Fox-Hare has a DS (Digital Spirit) Friend*, Black-Sheep Shepherd, which appears in graphical form as a fox wearing the stretched skin of a Hare. He has had this DS Friend since his first electronic device as a child. 

  • Black-Sheep Shepherd is the one who stoked his interest in computer science but also encourages some of his more impulsive decisions.

    • Black-Sheep Shepherd will attempt to hack the party’s QuaosNet** social network accounts (or other accounts- everyone's got something), stealing their information (Wd6) or undermining their social media presence (Pd6). 

    • Requires WIS Save to notice; or else they'll be slowly drained and not know how.

    • If caught, will give up within 1d4 turns regardless of whether it is winning or losing and undo any long-term social or privacy damage (but not literal Damage dealt), as well as give the party a single-use Mantra of Adblock***.

      • *More details on DS Friends will be in the book, but nothing you absolutely need to know.

      • **QuaosNet is a social network in MRD, made my QuinceSoft, a tech company in the setting. It comes up in some things in the book, but nothing especially important.

      • ***Mantra of Adblock: Wd10 in conflict against those who would try to sell you things, and immunity to PRO Damage from them. (This will be in the book)

Lead One Climactic Conflict

  • Shining Ostrich's apartment complexes comes to life, sprouting little mechanical feet and mechanical appendages, attacks the party.

    • 100 HP from outside, instant defeat if the team break into the complex and shut the fuse box.

  • The team will be accosted by human-sized mini-apartment people wearing fedoras and trenchcoats.

    • 5 HP each, Nd6 silenced micro-guns, Wd6 manipulating the environment against the party.

  • Upper hallway windows are vulnerable if the team can reach them.

  • Front windows are vulnerable if the party can get past the horde.

  • Fire alarm / Sprinkler System in the building.

  • Other tenants may help...
Afterward a portal opens up in The Oval leading to the Court of Those Who Bet on the Wrong Horse. The apartment complex was sent after the party because Junior is missing and the archdevil of the Court believes the party is responsible.

Lead Two: Rock Dove and Wild Turkey

  • Rock Dove and Wild Turkey: A vigilante duo and romantic partners who primarily fight to protect foreign sex workers in Flushing Queens, but also do other work to protect immigrants. 

    • Rock Dove is Taiwanese-American and immigrated to Flushing at a young age. 

    • Wild Turkey is Hong Kongese and immigrated to America a few years ago. He now lives in Little Fuzhou.

  • The duo have a reluctant partnership with the underground casino, which they occasionally turn to for information on illegal underground activities.

  • Karmic Attachment Opportunity: A Russian oligarch is staying in Little Fuzhou to meet with a Chinese business partner, and later an infamous New York real estate Crimelord. The duo intends to go after him and needs help breaking into his hotel room.

  • The oligarch is protected by four Orange Goblins, private security of the infamous NY Crimelord.

    • They are known for their suicide tactics and willingness to cause collateral damage, particularly if it would violate the morals of the would-be attackers. 

    • 5 HP each, Nd6 claws, 2Nd6 suicide bomb.

    • Trained to weaponize reason and morality against opposition (Wd8 psycho-ethical assault, -2 related WIS Saves against them, immune to WIS Damage), but vulnerable to those who exhibit alpha behavior (+2 related PRO or NAT Saves against them).

  • The oligarch is not currently in his room. He intentionally relocated, asking his secretary Yana Yasak, to wait for him. 

    • He intends to frame her for an illegal real estate deal with the NYC Crimelord that the IRS is about to uncover, and she needs to be in that room during a certain time window for the frame job to hold up in court.

    • Karmic Attachment Opportunity: She realizes something strange was going on from some discrepancies in the paperwork and needs help to escape the hotel and be witnessed by the hotel staff before the critical time period, so she has an alibi.

  • Yana is blind and Karmically Attached to a Seeing Eye Devil-Dog.

    • It looks like the New York City sewer mutant offspring of a Chinese Lion Dog.

    • It protects her from critical harm but is only minimally under her control, and he often snaps at her or forces her into work she doesn’t want to accept.

  • The Devil-Dog will not let the party interfere.

    • 10 HP, Nd6 Bite, Pd6 howl of dominance.

    • Can be convinced (WIS) to recognize the party as friendly to Yana's long term interests. If convinced, will spit out a Devil in the Sheets Credit.

      • Devil in the Sheets Credit: One credit to hire a succubus/incubus for their services for 1d4+1 hours.

      • This is currently in the book, but I'm considering taking it out. This item just seems like it will cause needless discomfort for some people, even if principally I'm not opposed to these kinds of things and am pro-sex work. If I kept it, I think I'd want to elaborate on what it entails and try to avoid making it anything obnoxious. For the sake of disclosure, I had originally intended for Yana to be a sex worker but decided against it because it just felt too exploitative and uncomfortable in the way I had originally designed it, and ultimately I think the revised version of this module is more interesting.

Lead Two Climactic Conflict

NOTE that as written this is nearly identical to the Lead One Climax. If the party investigate both leads, choose one, or find a way to combine them.
  • The buildings along the street will come alive, sprouting mechanical appendages from both sides to trap the party within.

    • 100 HP from outside, instant defeat if the team can break into one of the buildings and shut the fuse box. 

  • Will be accosted by human-sized mini-city people wearing fedoras and trenchcoats.

    • 5 HP each, Nd6 silenced micro-guns, Wd6 manipulating the environment against the party.

  • Highrise windows are vulnerable if the team can reach them.

  • First-floor windows are vulnerable if the party can get past the horde.

  • Fire alarm / Sprinkler System in the buildings.

  • Hotel staff, other customers, or people from other businesses along the street may help...
Afterward a portal opens up within a Chinese-style archway leading to the Court of Those Who Bet on the Wrong Horse. The apartment complex was sent after the party because Junior is missing and the archdevil of the Court believes the party is responsible.

The Court of Those Who Bet on the Wrong Horse

Looks like a massive version of the chain sports bar Wrongside Racetrax, the kind of place where people go to eat too much cheap food, drink too much domestic beer or sugary cocktails, watch sports, and place illegal bets. The bar is overstaffed with bored and anxious devils, and mostly empty of customers. The scattered, remaining poltergeists continue to make bets and continue to lose, but seem largely unaffected by their unsurmountable growing debts.

  • Hooters: The attractive, big-eyed, avian-humanoid waitress and hostess devils. Overly excited to seat and serve the party. Will start bringing over food and drink they didn’t order, most of it covered in dust and mold. Will give canned lines about the sports teams and urge the party to place bets. They’ll grow increasingly forceful if the party tries to leave, and will not provide any useful information unless the party starts making bets.

  • The bets are a Karmic Attachment Opportunities, and there is only a 1 in 6 chance of winning (WIS Save to learn the odds). 

    • Each bet attaches the player to a Karmamare.

    • Winning the bet grants a Gift Shop token and auto-resolves the Attachment. Failure leaves an open attachment to the Karmamare.

  • Hooter Stats: 5 HP, Wd8 ability to entice the party and force their guard down (karmic-related, otherwise could arguably also be NAT for willpower).

  • Another table of schlubby Poltergeists are being egged on by Hooters and will taunt the party into betting (PRO Save/Conflict, 3 HP each).

  • If things get too hot with the Hooters, Barsabbas the arch-devil will call them off.

Karmamare Generator

You can make up your own names, but here are some suggestions on a d10:

  1. FauxJack

  2. Skycookie

  3. Maverick Queen

  4. Drunk Driver

  5. Traffic Jammer

  6. Late Bloomer

  7. Colt Magnum Suicide

  8. Bronco Rogers

  9. Buck Danger

  10. Daymare

I used the SS&SS Monster Generator as a point of reference, but you can make your own. I intentionally leave the abilities rules-light and no stats, but you could make this more involved if you want, particularly for the Karmamare Race.

  1. Hummingbird-like, superspeed, OCD.

  2. Comprised of simple shapes, hallucinogenic, vulnerable to points.

  3. Comprised of nanotube fibers, dampens WIS, very stupid.

  4. Algae swamp monster. Absorbs NAT, gambling addict.

  5. Chimeric (Shark, Moose, Wolf, Oyster). Existentially terrifying, but also afraid of itself.

  6. Corpulent, rolls rather than runs, unstoppable as long as it wears its bib.

  7. Undead / taxidermied with human parts. Can use its human hands to hold things. Gets distracted by True Beauty.

  8. Has a crab-like shell. Is nigh-invulnerable, but is pregnant and ready to burst at any moment...

  9. Made of hard-light and able to levitate. One of the other Karmamare's hates its guts...

  10. Floating ouroboros horse that can consume and reproduce itself if injured. Vulnerable if head separated from back-end.

Barsabbas: The bartender and also archdevil of the Court, who looks like the love child of Chow Yun Fat and Ted Dansen in a white/gold-black/blue suit.
  • True form is like Jersey Devil / Blue Mustang / Horse Face Devil.

  • He will try to play it cool, but it is clear that he is underpowered. He is not aware that his Court has been decommissioned, and thinks outside forces must be plotting against him, explaining why he has so few poltergeists left.

  • No stats necessary; He's weakened, but he's still an arch-devil...

  • He believes the party is working for Pepper Pan and the Recess Rascals, who intercepted Junior.

    • Karmic Attachment Opportunity: If Barsabbas can be convinced that the party isn’t working with Pepper Pan, they can make an attachment to defeat her.

    • He wants Junior returned to him- not given a better sentence.

    • If the party learns beforehand and tells him that he’s been decommissioned, that also changes the equation...

  • Barsabbas will not allow the team to escape unless they make a Karmamare Race bet (they'll ride Karmamares, the Jockey Devil will race on Barsabbas' behalf).

    • Even if they've come to friendly terms, it is his Devil-nature.

    • Not all players have to race, they can investigate the Court such as to find clues as to what's going on, or to look for an alternative exit.

    • Barsabbas will give each PC a Gift Shop Token beforehand if they agree to the race.

    • If a PC had not already made an open Karmic Attachment with a Karmamare, they will do so as a condition of the race.

Gift Shop

The number in parentheses is the cost in gift shop tokens.
  • Quince-Tini 2 Go: (1) A Quince-tini in a bottle. For 1d4 hours, -2 WIS, +2 PRO.

  • Wrongside Racetrax T-Shirt: (1) Makes you Basic.

  • Wrongside Racetrax Novelty Poker Chip: (2) Automatically win one bet. Automatically lose the next bet.

  • Quince-enero Hotsauce: (2) 3d6 drops. Each drop grants one conical (AoE) blast of Promethean Fire (Wd10, but Wd4 to self).

  • Wrongside Racetrax Gift Card: (1) Can be used to open a portal to The Court of Those Who Bet on the Wrong Horse 1d4+2 times.

The Racetrack

Jockey Devil: At first appears as a cyber-tech centaur (cyborg armor over jockey attached to Karmamare), but its true form is half humanoid, half karmamare, half RACETRACK.

  • The Jockey Devil will not reveal its true form until right before the race starts.

  • The racetrack ring bends, twists, stretches, compresses, contorts to its movements.

  • The karmamares are attached to meridians along the track and cannot escape unless they win in a race against the Jockey Devil.

  • Up to 3 laps for the race.

  • 50 HP: Whittle down before the end of three rounds to reflect either disabling the Jockey Devil, or finishing all three laps before the end of the de facto time limit.

  • Each turn gain a Mario Kart style item, lasts one turn (1d6):

    • Switch (1): Spank yourself to swap places with another Karmamare.

    • Fixed Bet (2): One Karmamare will take a fall / do something to your benefit.

    • Dark Horse (3): Like being covered with a sheen of galaxies. Can perform one extraordinary feat (or gain bonus to Save).

    • Devil Dog (4): Devil Dogs usually used to keep the Karmamares on track, but can be used to trip one up on the track instead.

    • Supershoes (5): Stepping into the shoes gives your Karmamare an Iron Man-like power armor (Rocket leap, laser attacks).

    • Blinkers (6): Gives the Karmamare cosmic awareness (provides some unique insight or WIS Save bonus).

SIDEBAR: On the whole, I think this went well, although in retrospect I wish I had designed it more concretely. On the one hand, I like leaving these things mechanically flexible because in the moment things often play out differently than you expect, but still, sometimes really cool ideas come out when you over-design, even if you don't stick to it too rigidly. If I were to include this in a published module, I would expand on it, probably with a caveat about encouraging GMs to alter it to their needs or preferences.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Doctor Lovesmenot's Halloween Party: "Module" / GM Notes for Maximum Recursion Depth

This is a follow-up to my "They Did a Mario Kart" set of play reports for the last three sessions of my Maximum Recursion Depth campaign. In this post, I'm sharing a cleaned-up version of the GM Notes for the first two of the last four sessions, which accounts for one Poltergeist Investigations. I intend for the module included in the Kickstarter-backed book to be more complete than this, I'm just trying to put this stuff out there. Next week I'll have another post like this for the next Poltergeist Investigation, which will include The Court of Those Who Bet on the Wrong Horse (including the Karmamare Race) in addition to an adventure in New York City leading up to that. I think the next post is somewhat better formatted.

NPC / enemy stats are generally all at the end (in a published version, they'd be better integrated).

NOTE: I sometimes put these generic Karmic Attachment Opportunities, Save or Conflict events, or other "canned" stuff in my notes. That being said, if I'm being honest, I often see these as more like "backup". They're there for inspiration, or for if I can't think of anything better in the moment, or I need something to push things along. That being said, I usually try to defer to player action and elaborate on the spot with more interesting developments. I've retro-actively included some of those in this writeup, to varying degrees, but I'm not sure how well it really captures how things actually played out at the table. This is something I intend to pay particularly close attention to for the module that will be published in the Kickstarter-backed Book.

Any suggestions, comments, advice, general discussion, etc., would be greatly appreciated!

The Client: Rat Jack

The Investigation: Rat Jack wants the team to investigate Goblin Jack. He is as vague as possible about the truth of Polterzeitgeist / The Council of Jacks.
  • He knows that Goblin Jack had a Karmic Attachment with Doctor Lovesmenot.
  • He believes Goblin Jack also had a relationship with Pro-Fane.
  • The team can follow up lead on Doctor Lovesmenot (Coney Island) or Pro-Fane (Bushwick).
  • Karmic Attachment opportunity for one PC (on behalf of the whole team) to investigate Goblin Jack for Rat Jack.

The Court: This was the first Poltergeist Investigation I've run for Maximum Recursion Depth where I intentionally avoided the Investigation -> Court adventure structure. Instead, the "Court", or "Dungeon Crawl"-like part of the module is in Doctor Lovesmenot's swanky, extra-dimensional luxury penthouse apartment in East Village Manhattan.

Doctor Lovesmenot’s Hectic Eclectic Erect-ic Freak Show (Coney Island)

  • NOTE: The Freak Show is very loosely based on a real place in Coney Island, but is not intended to reflect the real place. Despite the name and concept which may seem insensitive, they're actually very self-aware and intended to be empowering towards "freaks", and they discuss the history of Freak Shows and where they've been problematic, and where they stand today.
  • Doctor Lovesmenot: A genderqueer experimental performer, primarily in drag and burlesque, but also other forms of live theatrics and other media entirely. They look like a cross between Jareth the Goblin King and Snake Plisskin, or Ziggy Stardust and Mad Max Rockatansky. They were raised as part of The Doppler Potential and see Goblin Jack as a sibling. They are not part of the Seneca Collective per se but are associated with many of its members. 
    • There is more to them than I have currently written about, but you can play them off as mysterious and with Presence, like a folktale wizard- they may not show off a bunch of flashy superpowers, but they hold an innate and nuanced kind of power. 
  • They are throwing a Halloween Party tonight in their East Village luxury high-rise penthouse and invite the team.
    • Many people who know Goblin Jack will be there.
    • Goblin Jack himself may show up.
    • Karmic Attachment Opportunity with Doctor Lovesmenot who is also concerned about Goblin Jack and Rat Jack.
  • Baek Yesu will be there (he’s so hot right now!).
  • Doctor Lovesmenot will be very vague if asked about Goblin Jack. They will refer to him as their brother, but not acknowledge whether they mean that literally or figuratively.
  • Deseret Avengers are outside protesting the show. A squad of Devils arrive to claim a poltergeist.
    • Here or at Tiki Bar, not both, if the team does follow up on both leads.
    • This may lead to a riot. The poltergeist will be someone who dies in the riot that ensues. Why were the Devils here if the poltergeist didn't exist yet...?
    • If a riot does ensue, Seneca Tiger may show up.
    • Karmic Attachment Opportunity if the team tries to defuse the situation before a riot ensues. This could be with one of the prospective rioters, the performers, the audience, etc.

Dromedary Urban Tiki Bar (Bushwick)

  • NOTE: This is a real place, if I were to publish this, I would change the name. This is an entirely fictionalized representation and not reflective of the real place. They're a cool bar in Bushwick that sometimes hosts drag shows and other events.
  • Pro-Fane is performing.
  • She is in a TikTok feud with Moon Marine, who is claiming Pro-Fane is responsible for the “Platypussy Leak”, as a way of discrediting Pro-Fane’s claim as a sex-positive figure (Moon Marine may or may not actually believe this to be true).
  • Pro-Fane invites the team to Doctor Lovesmenot’s Halloween Party.
    • Karmic Attachment Opportunity with Pro-Fane who is also concerned about Rat Jack, Goblin Jack, and Doctor Lovesmenot.
  • If asked about Goblin Jack, she will say that they met through Doctor Lovesmenot, that she didn’t understand their relationship and that Goblin Jack was not like the rest of that crowd, and that he seemed like a well-meaning but angry and dangerous person.
  • Deseret Avengers are outside protesting the show. A squad of Devils arrive to claim a poltergeist. 
    • Here or at the Freak Show, not both, if the team does follow up on both leads.
    • This may lead to a riot. The poltergeist will be someone who dies in the riot that ensues. Why were the Devils here if the poltergeist didn't exist yet...?
    • If a riot ensues, Moon Marine will intervene (on everyone's behalf).
    • Karmic Attachment Opportunity if the team tries to defuse the situation before a riot ensues. This could be with one of the prospective rioters, the performers, the audience, etc.

SIDEBAR: As an example of how things play out differently in-game vs the module writeup. I don't remember how exactly it came to happen this way, but basically, a Deseret Avenger pulled out a gun and was going to commit a mass-shooting on behalf of Moon Marine (of his own accord- not directed by her to do so, he was just an internet fanboy). It ended up playing out as a really intense scene where they talk him down from it- no joke maybe one of my favorite moments as a GM ever. I had the Devils show up at the end, basically as a way to move things forward from that point, but basically just moved past that because, after the attempted shooting, it just wasn't necessary.

Doctor Lovesmenot’s Halloween Party

  • Massive penthouse, exotic, full of theme rooms. A long tunnel-like hall with psychedelic lights and patterns leads to the living room where most of the party is taking place.
    • Ceiling angled, non-Euclidean-like curves and stretches in the architecture.
    • Modern, sci-fi / technological, smart home.
    • Costumed people, kinksters, nature spirits, rogue poltergeists (Polterzeitgeist).
  • The team will find somebody murdered in one of the theme rooms. The longer the team goes without resolving the murder mystery, the more guests will be murdered.
    • The victims are at first former Deseret Avengers, people who were once part of hate groups or had committed hate crimes but have reformed, or people who have infiltrated the party “undercover” from the Police (and/or The Doppler Potential) or Deseret Avengers.
    • If the team doesn't attempt to keep the murders under wraps, eventually the cops will arrive, led by Detective Dick "Fuck Ya" Smashburn.
    • Spoilers the killer is Goblin Jack.

SIDEBAR: I'm not great at writing mysteries, and when I ran this, the team never really had reason to suspect it was anyone besides Goblin Jack. I just leaned into that, and it became less about a murder mystery, and more about just finding him and figuring out why he's doing this, or who if anyone was working with him, but I think a better GM at mysteries could set it up better than I did. If I were to publish this, I would put in more work to create other leads ahead of time so it's more of a true murder mystery.

  • Party Guests / Suspects:
    • Doctor Lovesmenot as themself.
    • Pro-Fane as herself.
    • Baek Yesu as Mr. Nobody (Doom Patrol): Karmic Attachment Opportunity. He is concerned that his political efforts are distracting from his music, and needs help finding his creative inspiration again.
    • Moon Marine as Sailor Moon (why is she here?! She's hoping to gather dirt on Pro-Fane in retaliation for The Platypussy Leak).
    • Rob Santos as Tuxedo Mask (possible victim): An Uruguayan immigrant who used to work for Mateo Silva and was himself a Deseret Avenger and Mormon, before coming to terms with his sexuality, leaving the church and Deseret Avengers, and joining this crowd.
    • Rick Barrett as Joker (Persona 5). Karmic Attachment Opportunity. He is concerned that people are not taking his political efforts seriously enough because of his political work, needs help working on his image and priorities. 
    • Soft Mother as a Playboy Bunny: Although she is on "friendly" terms with Doctor Lovesmenot, it would be a mistake to consider her an ally. This may not be obvious to the team unless they talk with the NPCs.
    • Chester as himself: A drug-dealer, primarily dealing in the college/study drug Dharmafinil. Has ties with Rat Jack.
    • Udo Kier as Dracula: NOTE Udo Kier is a real actor. The fictionalized version here is not meant as a statement about the real person and would not be included if I were to publish this module. Within the setting, Udo Kier died recently, but used connections to cover-up his death, and continues to work as an actor in the Material World, as a Rogue Poltergeist. He is of Ruritanian descent (IRL he's German) and has some ties to the Deseret Avengers, but is not himself part of the DA. Karmic Attachment Opportunity to help him keep his secret, or alternatively to help him come to terms with his death (this latter result would divest more Karma / be considered the more profound result).
    • Alexei Strauss as Rawhide Kid (possible victim if not "canonically" already dead in your game).
    • Clara Cocksure as Dominatrix Cop (possible victim if you're ok taking her off the table).
    • Unknown as The Monkey King (possible victim): Basically just a red-herring, but could easily be used as a future plot thread.
    • Hannah Thompson as Sexy Pirate / Catering Staff (possible victim if the murderer becomes an Ashura- see further below): Daria-like personality. Aspiring Broadway actress who sees this work as demeaning, but needs to pay the bills. Karmic Attachment Opportunity to help her decide whether this is all worth it...
    • Hay Boy as himself. This is a reference to the first campaign, but I do intend to write up about Hay Boy at some point. He's not critical to this module. He will probably be added to the module in the book...
    • Your own NPCs (or random other possible victims)

SIDEBAR: In trying to do a Murder Mystery module at a party of LGBTQ+ people and POC, I inadvertently wrote myself into a corner where most of the victims / potential victims are LGBTQ+ or POC, which I don't feel great about. I don't remember exactly the order of operations when I designed this; I tried to make most of the potential victims people who were undercover or with ill intentions as a way to justify why Goblin Jack would target these people, but then, in order to make more potential Karmic Attachment Opportunities and to make the scenario more dynamic, I chose to make it so that some of the victims were reformed, but that then meant more of the victims were LGBTQ+. If I were to ever publish this module, I would definitely put some significant work into modifying this.

  • In addition to the entry hallway and main room, there are theme rooms. Randomly roll or on-the-fly assign some of the NPCs above to the rooms.
    • The Lovecraft Reading Room: Stuffy “intellectuals”, mostly men. May get a clue by winning a bad-faith argument (PRO save/conflict) against one of the “intellectuals”.
    • “The First Hipsters” Art Exhibit: Paintings on the wall like cave paintings, erotic club dancing. WIS Save to overcome the wild passions of the art and/or glean a clue, NAT Save/conflict to safely navigate through the crowd.
    • The Unseelie Court: Fantastically-themed room, smokey, drug den, dharmafinil. NAT save to avoid contact high, WIS save/conflict in psychedelia to glean a clue or fend off a threat.
    • The VIP Station: Like if the MTA system had a first-class lounge. PRO save/conflict to justify the team's place in this room and glean a clue.
    • The Twinkle Star Viewing Room: An entirely translucent room cycling between a raw view of the city and holographic projections of the future of the city overlaid on top of it.
    • The Rubber Room: A bedroom made entirely of soft and rubbery things, like a high-tech bounce house. Very very lewd.
    • "The Dungeon": An elaborate augmented reality medieval fantasy-themed “playroom”. Contains Orkas, the self-aware Orc King AI. Intellectual, contemplative.
    • The Sensorium: A spa-room of sounds, colors, smells, and textures. NAT Save to avoid fatigue. Contains ASMRelda the ASMR Guru.
    • The Zen Fascism Room: All of the furniture is people. Contains Tik Tok the Man in Moment.

  • The murderer is Goblin Jack, who has been hiding in the vents and/or as a partygoer, is at first targeting Deseret Avengers or other people who may be associated with a hate group who have infiltrated the party.
    • He is on the verge of becoming an Ashura, and if this happens before the team figures out what's happening and intervenes, he is more likely to kill an innocent person by mistake. 
    • If the team fails to find Goblin Jack / contain the problem within a reasonable amount of time, the party is raided by SWAT working for The Doppler Potential.
    • Most partygoers flee, some hide, many are killed or seriously injured.
    • Goblin Jack starts picking off SWAT and other survivors.
    • The team has to decide whether to cooperate with SWAT to stop Goblin Jack or work independently.
    • Enemies: Wire Mother, Redlight / Greenlight (two SWAT officers in experimental high-tech gear), SWAT.

NPC Stats

These are in no particular order because I didn't think this through when I was collating my notes...

Consider these "soft" numbers. I'll frequently adjust enemy stats depending on how much time we have left in the session, how powerful the team is, how many players are present, how much of an emphasis I want to put on the scenario, etc. Better that than fudging the rolls...

Wire Mother
  • 30 HP
  • Wd10 for existential trauma conflict. Nd8 for physical conflict.
  • Drips nutritious milk that can be lapped up if in close range. Recover Nd6, at risk of getting cut on a wire barb causing Wd4 of existential loneliness and learned helplessness.
  • Being in close range of Wire Mother risks accidentally lapping up the milk and/or getting barbed.

Goblin Jack
  • 30 HP.
  • Nd6 in physical conflict, increase die size each round of Conflict.
  • On taking damage, green ichor splashes out for Nd6 area damage.
  • 1d6 HP regen per turn.
SIDEBAR: If Wire Mother and Goblin Jack seem "unbalanced", that's intentional. They're supposed to be very powerful and dangerous. In MRD I encourage players to take an OSR approach of trying to solve problems with creative and lateral solutions, rather than outright Conflict or single dice roll Saves.

Redlight / Greenlight
  • 8 HP each.
  • Xd6 each, various kinds of attacks, whatever makes sense in context.
  • By high-fiving and yelling "redlight", "greenlight", or "blacklight", can induce red-phase, green-phase, or black-phase.
  • Red-phase cancels out all NAT Conflict or NAT special abilities, green-phase cancels out PRO, black-phase cancels out WIS.

Dick Smashburn / Clara Cocksure
  • 8 HP each.
  • Gun: Nd12, WIS Save required. On failure, may accidentally shoot an unintended target, an ally, or themselves, or in some other way critically misfire.
  • WIS 12 (for gun WIS Save).
SIDEBAR: The WIS Save for the Gun item is not meant to be slapstick. The implication is that guns are dangerous weapons and even supposedly trained professionals can easily fuck up under duress. This is a general rule of generic guns in MRD. I don't necessarily care if it's "unrealistic", if it's too far overbalanced in the opposite direction of guns in most games, it's more just a conceptual thing.

  • 5 HP.
  • Gun (Nd12, WIS Save req, see above).
  • WIS 8.

Raiding Devils
  • 5 HP.
  • Nd6 in physical conflict, Pd6 in intimidation/authority conflict.

Moon Marine
  • 15 HP.
  • Pd8 (charismatic conflict) or Nd8 (physical or magical conflict).
  • Once per Conflict, can cancel all Conflict Damage for one turn with her Wholesome Dance.

Doctor Lovesmenot
  • 15 HP.
  • QuinceSoft Jazz Trumpet: While being played, gives the performer and all allies +2 to NAT Saves, +2 NAT Armor, and increases NAT Damage by one size.
  • Soul Mate x2: Guarantee one Karma Roll Success.
  • Tesseract Cutter: A knife that cuts into one's mind in fourth-dimensional space for Wd6 Damage.

Seneca Tiger
  • 15 HP.
  • Nd8 physical conflict or willpower conflict.
  • For each round, the first physical attack against her will always fail.
  • Immune to any kind of intimidation (but not to the point of fearless-stupid).
  • While there is no canonical answer as to whether or not Pro-Fane is Seneca Tiger, it's fun to say you should never have the two together at the same time (unless one or the other is a fake). 

Monday, January 4, 2021

They Did a Mario Kart: Maximum Recursion Depth Play Reports Catch-Up

I realize I have not written an MRD play report in quite a while. The last one being the first session with my second group, here. In the 2-3 sessions since (I've lost count 0.o), quite a bit has happened. I'll try to roughly recap here. Also, I reread my Marvel / DC / My Hero Academia FASERIP One-Shot post for the first time in a long time, and looking back on it, I really like it. It wasn't a great play report, but it was a solid not-review, and also worked well as a self-contained module. As I continue to think about how I want to write up the Module for the MRD Kickstarter Book, that one-shot was a good reference, so in addition to the Play Report, at the bottom, I will try to collate some of my GM Notes into a semi-usable module in another post, not unlike what I did for The Court of Those Who Succumb Prematurely to Crippling Expectations which I also included in the Ashcan Edition of MRD

I'm going to gloss over a lot of the particulars in the Play Report, they'll be included in the "modules" in subsequent posts. PR 5 was recent enough that the details are still fresh so I dig a little deeper, but the GM notes / "module" posts to come will also elaborate significantly.


Alco (SlimyKeyboard): A student in a trade school for plumbing. While working the pipes for the Poltergeist Investigators (the original team), she inadvertently activated her Poltergeist Form, Ghost in the Mirror, and has since joined the team.

Jack (Eight): A "wetworker", a Recurser with the Poltergeist Form, On a Full Moon an Ichor Heart. Works for the Nature Spirit drug dealer Chester, and has joined this team of Poltergeist Investigators on Chester's behalf.

Adore "Dori" Greyfeldt (Fiona Maeve Geist): An enforcer, also working with the team on Chester's behalf. Her Poltergeist Form is Crashing Rocket Nixie.

Pauling Linus (WildFDiscord): A scientist who moonlights as a Poltergeist Investigator, with the Poltergeist Form Afterbirth of the Broken Machine Dragon. After the last Play Report, his original team ultimately failed to save Goblin Jack, and the team was forced to use their Reincarnation Rituals to escape. On return from his reincarnation Court of Hell, he found a former companion of his, another scientist and Poltergeist Investigator by the name Watson. Much to Pauling's chagrin, he developed a Reincarnation Attachment with Watson, who escaped / auto-reincarnated alongside him. Watson blames Pauling for his death and abandonment in the Court of Hell. The rest of the original team have scattered.

PR 1

The first session of the 2nd group. We're technically now on the 3rd group but it developed directly from the second so I consider it part of the same campaign. There were a handful of sessions for the 1st group, I never wrote play reports for them, but the events of that campaign are canon to this campaign.

PR 2

At Doctor Lovesmenot's Halloween party, the team failed to stop Goblin Jack from becoming an Ashura. The police, led by Dick "Fuck Ya" Smashburn, stormed the party with a SWAT team after the murders got out of hand, alongside Wire Mother, and Redlight / Greenlight. They "killed" Goblin Jack (forced reincarnation), and SWAT had the party surrounded until they committed their reincarnation rituals to escape. Jack and Dori, hired by Chester who was also at the party, helped Chester, Doctor Lovesmenot, and the other NPCs like Rick Barrett and Baek Yesu escape. Unbeknownst to Detective Smashburn, Wire Mother was brought in to coverup Goblin Jack's association with The Doppler Potential*

*The PCs and possibly the players themselves don't technically know this, but I've already written it on the blog, so...

PR 3

Chester has become the new Poltergeist Investigation team's Handler. They take on a new client, Barret O'Brien*. He is a gambling addict who owes a secret underground casino a lot of money. In his haste to run from the casino, he gets into a car accident with his son, Barret O'Brien-Gonzalez aka Junior, who dies in the accident, and is sent to The Court of Those Who Bet on the Wrong Horse to be reincarnated as a pack mule. He believes this is unjust and wants his son sent to a better Court, with a better reincarnation.

O'Brien has a few confidantes within the casino that the team can follow up for leads. They choose to investigate an older woman from Parkchester Bronx, known as Shining Ostrich. She was an infamous cat burglar / femme fatale back in the day, but today is on the straight and narrow due to her bout of lung cancer, and she now speaks with an electrolarynx. She is an Eritrean immigrant, and her grandson, who has ties back home and throughout the world, is hedge fund manager of an Ethiopian hedge fund with Chinese backing, which also it seems has ties to the casino.

On the way to the party, a child attempts to rob them. They chase after the child and recover the stolen item, and the child turns into an ethereal being, reveals themselves as a Poltergeist, and flies off, saying something to the effect of "just wait until Pepper Pan and the Recess Rascals** find you, you'll see!"

In exchange for providing the team information on the casino, she asks the party to help her deal with some street punks in The Oval outside her apartment, to prove to her grandson she can still live independently, and to relive her glory days. After viciously taking down the punk kids, the apartment complex around The Oval itself comes to life. While Jack, Pauling, and Watson hold off the apartment-monsters outside, Dori, Alco, and Shining Ostrach break into the main building to deactivate the monster from the inside, fighting monsters and blowing holes through the floors floor-by-floor until they get to the fuse box in the basement. After defeating the apartment monster, a portal opens up.

* I accidentally used the name Barret twice >.<. In the module writeup, I'm changing it to Barry.
** The prominence of Pepper Pan and the Recess Rascals is fallout from the original campaign for which I wrote The Court of Those Who Succumb Prematurely to Crippling Expectations, but never wrote a full play report for the whole Poltergeist Investigation. If the original team had done things differently, it's possible that this event and where it's heading would be totally different.

PR 4

The team have found themselves in The Court of Those Who Bet on the Wrong Horse. It's themed after The Wrongside Racetrax sports bar chain (like an off-brand Applebees) and is full of sports gambling, including Karmamare races. The Court is sparsely populated and seems to be falling apart. The archdevil of the Court, Barsabbas, puts on a strong front, but it becomes clear rather quickly that he's been weakened. He believes that Pepper Pan and The Recess Rascals, on behalf of the archdevil of The Court of Those Who Break Their Toys who models himself after the Toys R Ours mascot Joffrey the Giraffe, has been sabotaging his Court. It turns out Junior never arrived at his Court, and he was the one who created the apartment monsters and opened the portal, believing the party was working with Pepper Pan and the Recess Rascals.

As a means of winning his respect and appeasing his Devil nature, they accept a Karmamare Racing bet with Barsabbas. If the party wins, they'll be able to escape the Court. If Barsabbas wins, they have to serve him.

At some point before the race starts, the team learns, inadvertently through Watson, that this Court had actually been decommissioned, but due to bureaucratic error, Barsabbas was never informed. So while he thinks Joffrey has been undermining him and trying to take his territory, which may be true, his undoing has actually been driven by this fact.

Alco and Pauling make Karmic Attachments with Karmamares and enter the race against the Jockey Devil, a cyborg centaur creature that is half humanoid, half Karmamare, HALF RACETRACK. They do a Mario Kart*, and are going to win the race.

In the meantime, Jack investigates a few things from the sidelines. He eventually proposes to the team and to Barsabbas, that they'll throw the race, allowing Barsabbas to save face, in exchange for assistance against Pepper Pan and the Recess Rascals, and for the right to use The Court as a temporary refuge as needed. They accept the deal, and that's where we leave off.

* More details on "The Mario Kart" in the "module" posts to come.

PR 5

After returning to New York, they learn of an upcoming Christmas Toy Drive Festival in Forest Hills Queens, and that Pepper Pan and the Recess Rascals first appeared at the Christmas in July in August Toy Drive Festival at the same location. They have the option to explore O'Brien's other lead, or go straight to Forest Hills, or...

Pauling had previously made a Karmic Attachment with Baek Yesu to help him rediscover his creative inspiration for his music. Towards the end of the prior session, he worked out a deal with Barsabbas to try to get Baek Yesu a new record deal, to help inspire him. It turns out that Rick Barret and Baek Yesu have been hiding out in New Jersey, waiting to find out whether or not there is a warrant for their arrest, although this appears not to be the case, and they suppose that there's been some kind of coverup. Chester also mentions that there's a gangster in Newark, Romeo Suzano aka Sweet Romeo, who owes him money. So the team decides to head to Newark

Barsabbas' agents Ox-Head and Horse-Face meet up with Pauling, Alco, and Baek Yesu at The Prudential Center in Newark. Barsabbas owns a partial stake in the New Jersey Devils and intends to work out a deal for a live performance. They find some sneaky language in the legal jargon and use poltergeist features to alter the nature of the contract in Baek Yesu's favor.

Meanwhile, Jack and Dori strongarm their way to Sweet Romeo, and convince him that "the family" has it out for him, and he gives them the Hell Money, which they load into a QlippothNet crypto-currency account.

They also learn of an experimental ternary-logic AI + Tibetan Buddhist monkey robot art exhibit at The Newark Museum of Art, and that the museum is supposedly being haunted by a rogue Poltergeist, and they choose to investigate this. The museum curator The Worcestershire* walks them through the exhibit. The "Do No Evil" monkey robot claims to recognize Pauling, but that must be a mistake...

They come back to the museum at night and find a security guard who is clearly just The Worcestershire with a Groucho Marx disguise. They do some investigating and eventually find The Bear, a large were-bear woman in a baseball outfit, the rogue poltergeist. She juggles three baseball bats as balls of magical energy appear and repeatedly spikes them out in all directions. The team has to subdue her while also protecting the art, which they manage to accomplish.

After all this, they return to New York, to be continued...

* Another NPC from the first campaign that I never wrote up in a play report, but he's become a personal favorite to roleplay because he has a very goofy schtick. 

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Buddhist, Taoist, and Chinese Mythology References for Maximum Recursion Depth

One concern I've had with writing Maximum Recursion Depth is that while it utilizes elements from Buddhism, Taoism, and Chinese mythology, I am not an expert on these subjects, nor do they reflect my personal lived experience per se; rather, what I've tried to communicate, is that within the game, these ideas have been filtered through my actual personal, lived experience. I've gone out of my way, such as in my interview at The Hardboiled GMShoe's Office, to make this point, and to highlight elements of the setting that are separate from these influences (such as the NY Factions and Weirder Factions blog posts).

That being said, I think it would be disingenuous to ignore these connections altogether. So I want to talk about some of the ideas from Buddhism, Taoism, and Chinese mythology that influence the setting, why I chose to use certain terms but not others, how I'm interpreting those ideas, etc. Again, I want to reiterate, I am not a scholar on these topics, they are not my lived experience, this is not intended as a thorough, scholarly reference; these are just my personal interpretations. This is also a non-exhaustive list. I may add to it or edit it. I will almost certainly forget stuff. There are things I reference here that I have little more to say about at the moment besides "I read this, it probably influenced me, but I don't remember the particulars". Also, the items in this list are in no particular order. There are also plenty of other books of science and philosophy that have influenced me, but here I'm focusing specifically on Buddhism and Taoism.

First I'll do a bibliography, then I'll do an index of concepts.


Journey to the West

It's hard for me to describe exactly why, but I've always been fascinated by this story. I guess in part because of how ubiquitous it is, without many Americans necessarily realizing it. It heavily influenced the early Dragonball stories, and by extension many anime and videogame characters. It's been an influence throughout Chinese fiction. There's something very archetypal about it. It's got the kind of gonzo, borderline science-fantasy stuff that I love about Chinese mythology, although it's technically fiction and not mythology. You've got gods and devils with crazy transformations and superpowers, magic weapons, martial techniques, magic sutras, interesting and morally ambiguous characters; it's good stuff. It also deals with Buddhist themes and is a satire for its era. 

If I'm being honest, I only ever read the first volume of the four-volume translation, and that must have been 15 years ago at this point. The first volume is mostly a self-contained story, basically Sun Wukong's origin story, and near the end, it becomes the prologue for the true journey. I regret not reading the full thing, but if I'm being honest, it's... tough. The problem is that the book really leans in HARD on satire of specific things that I just have no frame of reference for; either linguistically, culturally, or temporally. I can respect in particular how it critiques the interplay between Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism in China. I think that's the thing that I found most interesting, aside from the gonzo fantasy of it all. While it's unlikely that I'll ever read the full thing, I could see myself one day reading The Monkey and the Monk, an abridged version of the story by the same translator. Generally, I hate to lose that context, but frankly, the context was mostly lost on me anyway, so if it's between never reading it, or reading the abridged version, I think that's what I'll have to do.


One thing that made getting into Buddhism a little trickier for me than, say, Taoism, is that there are many different branches, and even within any given branch, there is not necessarily one single book to turn to, like Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching. While I'd read various sutras and scholarly articles and such on Buddhism, I only just recently read The Dhammapada. What's nice is that this version I linked in particular provides a lot of context for the book, why certain translation choices were made or not made, differences between versions of The Dhammapada, differences between different versions of Buddhism, etc. It felt like a good introduction, although I can't speak to that authoritatively. My understanding is that The Dhammapada is a collection of sayings from Siddhartha Gautama, the original Buddha, and so I guess this is the closest thing to a Source of Truth.

I was worried going into this book, that I would come to realize that a lot of my conceptions of Buddhism were wrong, or that I had fundamentally misrepresented some facets. Fortunately for me, I don't think that is the case. Like many theological or philosophical texts, there's a lot of room for interpretation. I don't necessarily strictly agree with everything. There's definitely a bit of self-confirmation; I'm reading into it a particular interpretation based on what I want to believe. I'll go more into the particular ideas in the concepts index, although a lot of it is just taking stuff from the index in this book.

In brief, one thing that I like about Buddhism is that it's actually kind of nihilist, more in an abstract sense than in the very loaded, specific sense in western philosophy which is its own can of worms. I think a lot of Americans have this very New Age-y, whitewashed idea of it, and it certainly can be interpreted that way to some extent, but actually, a big premise of Buddhism is that the material world is this entropic, dysfunctional system, and true happiness comes only from breaking free of this broken system.

The Awakening of Faith: The Classic Exposition of Mahayana Buddhism

As I said before, it's tough picking out the best primary sources for Buddhism. I was led to believe this book is a good primary source for Mahayana Buddhism, one of the main branches of Buddhism, which was the version that initially spread in East Asia. Given my prior affinity for Taoism, and my appreciation of the satire and interplay of these ideas in Journey to the West, I was more so inspired by Buddhism within the context of China specifically, so I wanted to educate myself at least somewhat on that level in addition to primary teachings from Siddhartha Gautama. 

I'm still reading this book, but so far I'm enjoying it. As with the translation of The Dhammapada above, this one includes much-appreciated context. I already get the sense that Mahayana Buddhism leans just a bit more into the nihilist or almost absurdist, kind of funny aspects of Buddhism that I like. I think I actually laughed a few times while reading this (to be clear, in a good way). If I'm being honest, I could not off-hand articulate the specific differences between original Buddhism and Mahayana or other branches, that's just a level of minutia that I struggle to care about frankly. I'm just concerned with the ideas, I don't care what lines other people draw so much, except to the extent that I genuinely don't want to overstep or offend, which I realize sounds like a contradiction, but so it goes...

Tao Te Ching

Up until maybe the last few years, I would have considered myself more so a Taoist than a Buddhist (I don't know if I'd really consider myself either, but at least on some level). I had read the Tao Te Ching when I was younger, at a really pivotal time when I was going through some things. I've reread it several times since, but even that has been a while, so it's hard for me to articulate many particulars, although I'll try to do so in the concepts index. I've read several translations, and there are some really bad ones. Unfortunately, I don't remember off hand which translation I've read that I most prefer, but I think I've read this one before and thought it was good.

Chuang Tzu

This is another Taoist book. I read this several years after the Tao Te Ching, while I was going through another rough time. I only read it the one time, and while it certainly influenced me on some level, I really can't speak to the particulars at all anymore, the influence is sadly no longer a conscious one. I'll have to reread it someday. Penguin Classics is generally trustworthy in my opinion, as far as translations go.

Vinegar Tasters

This allegory holds a special place in my heart for some reason that I can't totally articulate. I think it just does a really good job of encapsulating the relationship between Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism. You have Siddhartha Gautama (Buddhism), Lao Tzu (Taoism), and Confucius (Confucianism) each sipping from a pot of vinegar. Buddha says it's sour, it's bad, we need to start over or move on. Confucius says it's bitter, but can be refined, or sweetened, or fixed in some way. Lao Tzu says: guys it's vinegar, it is what it is. Back when I was more so a Taoist I preferred Lao Tzu's take, and to some extent I still do, but I do genuinely think all three are interesting perspectives. There are too many things about Confucianism, even from my minimal understanding, that I don't like, which is why I haven't read as much into it, but in a very abstract sense, the idea of being systematic, one could extend that to just saying, be scientific. I also like how the bureaucratic aspects of Confucianism influence Chinese Buddhism and Chinese mythology.

Several books on the "to read" list

The Tibetan Book of the Dead: First Complete Translation I was not originally interested in this, but I had read incidentally that apparently "Book of the Dead" is actually a pretty gross mistranslation, one that's been kept mainly just because it's taken on its own cultural significance, but actually it's more so a book about Buddhism metaphysics in a more philosophical sense, which interests me much more so.

The Way of the Bodhisattva Another book on Tibetan Buddhism. Several of these books were put on my radar from a list of suggested readings to get started on Buddhism, I no longer remember offhand where I found that list.

In the Buddha's Words: An Anthology of Discourses from the Pali Canon (The Teachings of the Buddha) Another book of teachings by Siddhartha Gautama. I know The Dhammapada translator provided context on that vs. Pali Canon vs. other things, but again, the particulars just slip through my mind, but my understanding is that these are different.


Unlike the "bibliography", I'm not providing specific links here, just wiki it. For several of these, I focus as much on how it relates to MRD as the concept per se. In many cases, I use more generic terminology in MRD, in part because I wanted to avoid terminology overload, and in part because I wanted to avoid preconceived notions or aesthetics. While someone certainly could use MRD to tell a story more specifically rooted in Buddhist and Chinese mythology, I don't want the terminology itself to impress too deeply on GMs and players at the expense of a broader world.


Karma is a super-loaded term at this point because so many people have this overly simplistic, New Age-y understanding of what it means, and also because it is genuinely a complicated and multifaceted idea that gets interpreted in different ways within the broader scope of Buddhism. Roughly, it is the consequences of one's actions, but whereas most people equate that to "good actions -> good consequences / bad actions -> bad consequences", my take on it, and the take I use within the game, is that Karma is like Mass. It's the quantity of Material "stuff" you've integrated within you. Perhaps Weight would be a better analogy, since it's also the thing pulling you down, deeper into the Material World's "Gravity". And if the Material World is this entropic, corrupted place, then attachment to it is also this corrupting force. Despite how loaded this term is, and I know this will inevitably confuse some people and become a barrier to entry, I do think it is important to use this one word. It's central to all the other ideas in my opinion, and it's at least somewhat familiar, even if I'm using it in a way that's different than many people may be familiar with.


This broadly corresponds to both the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama (it's a translation thing, but this is where The Dhammapada gets its name), but also to the phenomenology of Buddhism (although Dharma also exists in Hinduism and Jainism). It seems so broad in its scope, that at least to me, I don't know how useful of a term it is unless you already have sufficient knowledge of Buddhism which I myself lack, so I didn't see the point in including it in the game, but I thought it must at least be acknowledged here.


The cycle of death and rebirth, of reincarnation. This is basically the gameplay loop of Karmic Attachment and Reincarnation within the context of MRD. It's a super important concept in Buddhism, and one of the most fascinating in my opinion, and along with Karma I think is one of the most all-encapsulating. However, I decided that within MRD it would probably be easier to just call it the Karmic Cycle since that's effectively what it is, or at least what it is within MRD, and then it's one less term to have to remember while gaming.


Also translated as Hungry Ghosts, particularly in Chinese mythology. These are the basis for the concept of Poltergeists in MRD. I take a very loose definition of the term, but basically, they're "souls" (in quotes for reasons) that haven't been reincarnated and that have unresolved Karma. The idea that they're "hungry", to me connects to the idea of Attachment, and that's definitely not an accident. By my interpretation, although by no means canon, it's less about punishment for "bad Karma", or at least not entirely. It's a natural consequence of the system of the Karmic cycle / Samsara, independent of right or wrong. I chose the term Poltergeist over Ghost because... in part because I associated Poltergeist more so with the idea of unresolved issues than Ghost, which I see as maybe too generic, but also, it just had a good ring to it. Preta does as well, but then, that's another term gamers would have to remember.


Sometimes translated as Formations, or Conditioned Things. In some ways, this is like the mechanism of what I call Karmic Attachments in MRD. Again, I didn't want to get bogged down in the terminology, especially since I really don't know enough about it and it probably comes with a lot of baggage that people who know more about this stuff than me would inadvertently bring with them. The cognitive neuroscientist in me and the data engineer in me both find this fascinating for thinking about subjectivity, perceptions, and mental models, but I can't really speak to this too authoritatively.

The Three Marks of Existence

Impermanence (anicca), No-self (anatta), Suffering (duhka).

Impermanence I think gets back to that idea I've said about Buddhism being entropic, that everything we construct, literally, mentally, metaphorically, eventually breaks down into chaos.

No-Self I struggle with a bit. On the one hand, and again speaking somewhat as someone who used to study cognitive neuroscience, I agree with the idea that the Self is an illusion; just a useful construct, or an epiphenomenon of our biology. Anecdotally, I've struggled with how to reconcile No-Self with Samsara / the cycle of reincarnation (that's why I put "soul" in quotes in the Preta section), and I get the impression other people struggle with this as well. I think within Buddhism, it doesn't mean that there is no afterlife or reincarnation, but rather that even that metaphysical... "soul", for lack of a better term, is not a true Self, but is also malleable and impermanent. I know that at various points I've had a stronger grasp of this concept, but this is still the one I struggle with the most in terms of its greater implications in Buddhism, even if, as I said, there are other ways in which this makes very intuitive sense to me outside of Buddhism per se.

Finally, Suffering. As I understand it, this Suffering, or perhaps it's argued the root of all suffering, is the discrepancy between how we innately Condition Things (Sankhara) in a world that is by its nature entropic (Impermanence/anicca). This is again where my idea of Karma comes into play in MRD- whatever you're trying to accomplish, whatever game you're playing, it's a losing game; The Only Way to Win is to Stop Playing.


Hell in Chinese Buddhism, combining elements of Taoism, Confucianism, and traditional Chinese mythology, with the original Buddhist concept of hell called Naraka. Most accounts of Diyu I've read do put a finite number on it, but that number varies, and I liked the idea of making them Numberless. I like how in Chinese Buddhism, perhaps because of Confucianism, there is this very bureaucratic, ordered sense of the metaphysical world. It also lends itself well to satirization, as is done in Journey to the West. Importantly, the idea of the metaphysical worlds; Diyu and Tian (Heaven), as being bureaucracies, is not meant in the more colloquial/pejorative sense that one might be inclined to assume, although again, the satire leans into this, rightfully so. To me, it's more a matter of thinking about things systemically. So The Numberless Courts of Hell are an example of rigid, dysfunctional bureaucracy; bureaucracy for its own sake. The Celestial Bureaucracy, at least prior to the ascension of Sun Wukong (The Monkey King), is the idea of a functional, adaptable system- the ideal form of a system. 

Admittedly, this is where I take a very different interpretation from Journey to the West, where in that case, if anything The Celestial Bureaucracy was already being represented as fallible (although not necessarily entirely dysfunctional), and Sun Wukong, though still ultimately more flawed, was in some ways provoked by the system itself. I'm still undecided, if I'm being honest, on what stance I want to take on Sun Wukong and The Celestial Bureaucracy exactly. I am pro-systems thinking, but that is very different than being pro-bureaucracies as they exist in practice. It's like the difference between being a critical thinker or scientist, vs. believing in "law and order".


Pronounced more like Dao, translates roughly as The Way. While it's obviously more so relevant to Taoism, as I've said before, I was actually originally more interested in Taoism than Buddhism, and anyway it's the historical interplay of those two along with Confucianism, that has inspired MRD more so than Buddhism or Taoism per se. It's been too long since I've read the Tao Te Ching (pronounced more like Dao De Jing, as I understand it) to fully articulate all the particulars of it, but I love the concept of Tao. I get the impression that a lot of western thinkers struggle with it, more so than Buddhism which can at least kind of be interpreted in a way more consistent with western thinking. I mean, I kind of think the East/West dichotomy gets overstated anyway, but here I do think it matters.

So as I said with Vinegar Tasters, there's a version of Tao that's more about "the balance of nature / the way of things" that maybe works in a new age-y way, and I do enjoy that side of it. But there's also this side of the Tao that's about reconciling seemingly contradictory concepts, of non-binary logic, of deconstructing conscious thought, of Wei Wu Wei (action through inaction). Within MRD, I think this is maybe the answer to the inevitable question: If the only way to win is to stop playing, why play at all? While ultimately you need to divest your Karma and detach from the Karmic Cycle, because all exertion is Impermanent and attachment is Suffering and true Awakening comes from the acknowledgment of No-Self, there are also real problems in the world that affect people, and even though philosophically we can acknowledge the bigger picture, there's a more literal kind of suffering that it would be nice if we could get rid of in the meantime. From a software engineer perspective, it's sort of to me like how you have to reconcile on the one hand that there are times you need to refactor your codebase, but that takes a lot of time and effort, and in the meantime, you need to maintain and extend the current codebase, and maintaining this balance requires a degree of compartmentalization, and an ability to enter a Flow State. It's a bit more nuanced I think, than a lot of western thought, and requires one to acknowledge different scopes of a problem and how they interrelate and to not lose sight of the forest for the trees.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Maximum Recursion Depth: Weirder Factions

Weirder Factions

This is the second post on Factions in Maximum Recursion Depth, the first focusing on Factions in New York.

There are still more factions I haven't written about than in this or the prior post, either because I haven't fully developed them yet, or because they blur the lines between Weird and "Realistic". There are also some NPCs I haven't included in either of these posts, either because they don't fit neatly into these factions (such as Doctor Lovesmenot), or because they are cool in a gameable sense, but aren't necessarily "notable" NPCs for the faction- more like videogame minibosses (for instance, Redlight and Greenlight). I'll try to write another post at some point for the stuff that didn't make it into these first two.

On top of that, none of these really formalize in any way The Celestial Bureaucracy, nor The Numberless Courts of Hell, which I realize may confuse or annoy some. I'm intentionally avoiding formalizing those factions, honestly, for several reasons, but when I do decide to take that plunge, if I decide to do so, I may do a post on that as well.

The Polterzeitgeist

Human consciousness is not built to sustain extended periods of immateriality, and especially not the inevitable friction of being an immaterial being in the material world. As such, rogue poltergeists, those who for whatever reason linger in the material world rather than serving time in one of the Numberless Courts of Hell to be reincarnated, are in a vulnerable position. Rogue poltergeists are, in the first place, more likely to have accrued a lot of Karma in their lives, and this Karma is paradoxically both what sustains them, and, in a downward spiraling feedback loop, what destroys them. In the end, most rogue poltergeists, if not returned to a Court of Hell or reincarnated, go insane, and become something more like a Nature Spirit. However, a rare few do manage to find a balance, becoming something no longer quite human, but also not quite a Nature Spirit. These are the Polterzeitgeist.

The Polterzeitgeist is led informally by “The Council of Jacks”, although it is more like a living culture, or a people defined by their oppression, than it is a movement per se. Their only uniting goal is their desire to be allowed to continue to exist in the material world, without being reincarnated. Beyond that, the Jacks each have their own activities and their own personal agendas. They see their relationship more as siblings than as political peers.

Notable NPCs:

Rat Jack: Humanoid rat in appearance and in character. He'll turn on anyone if it suits his interests, but at least he is reliable in his self-interest. He closely associates with Chester, a Nature Spirit and drug dealer, often managing certain logistics of the drug trade. Nonetheless, he is generally not a malicious person, and can actually be quite sentimental, even if it doesn't permeate through his actions.

Goblin Jack: Short, awkward, rugged, mangy looking creature. The type who looks pathetic at a distance, until you realize he's not as scrawny as he looks- it's just lean muscle as tight as steel, with a square jaw, and those teeth do look sharp... An idealist at heart, but also angry, and sadistic, and on the verge of being consumed by his Karma and becoming an Ashura. In his most recent past life, he was raised as part of an organization known as The Doppler Potential alongside Doctor Lovesmenot, who he sees as like a sibling.

Jungle Jack  (In development)
Honeybee Jack (In development; may replace with an ant-themed Jack)
Dragon Jack (In development)
Potentially others...

The Doppler Potential

A distributed intelligence, a living system birthed as an emergent property of the United States government. Its modern name is derived from a combination of the Doppler Effect and an Action Potential in the brain, and as a reference to the sound of a speeding police siren passing one by. The collective actions of humanity can be thought of as a connectionist neural network and by extension, a wave function, where individual humans are to civilizations as neurons are to the brain. This model had been converging nonlinearly towards the manifestation of a superorganism for some time; the crests of the wave function interfacing with the nodes of the network at an increasing rate. With the formation of the United States Government, the frequency of the feedback between the superorganism and humanity reached a critical mass, like post-synaptic potentials in the brain summating into an action potential, setting off a cascade response wherein the superorganism became self-aware, in some sense, if not necessarily as humans think of self-awareness.

The Doppler Potential exists as a living idea, manifesting in jingoism, religious-like reverence towards historical American figures and artifacts, cultural mores, institutions, and the systems behind them. It operates as a meta-governmental, multi-body organization interfacing with all aspects of the United States government.

Through various aristocratic families, housing projects, government orphanages, and similar means, The Doppler Potential has engineered, mostly behaviorally but more recently also technologically and genetically, human agents, corporations, and artificial intelligences, which serve either directly for The Doppler Potential, or completely unknowingly serve its will across the country and even the world.

The Doppler Potential has reached god-like status, although it is formally recognized by the Celestial Bureaucracy and the Numberless Courts of Hell as an incorporated human. It is karmic, although as a superorganism, and a young one at that, it does not necessarily interact with the karmic cycle in quite the same way as normal humans.

While the results of the Doppler Potential’s will may be interpreted as negative, or outright evil, by many humans, it does not see its actions as evil any more than a human would think themselves evil for killing brain cells on a night out drinking. Nonetheless, it’s utilitarian (if we’re being generous), if not outright Machiavellian treatment of humanity, is perhaps net-negative from the perspective of individuals. Even so, it is neither the total cause of nor total solution to all of humanity's problems, and in fact, could potentially be leveraged towards its salvation, if only humanity could understand it and come to terms with it.

The Doppler Potential makes no effort to hide its existence, but in most cases, it is simply too complex, and for many humans too existentially and epistemologically challenging, to even acknowledge, and therefore it is able to operate in plain sight, despite not being recognized in the general public consciousness.

As the United States has descended towards militarism and fascism, so too has the Doppler Potential become increasingly violent and hostile towards its perceived opposition, although its motives are often inscrutable.

It is not necessarily the only of its kind.

Notable NPCs:

Soft Mother: A cartoon humanoid in the form of a voluptuous woman, like a cross between Jessica Rabbit and Betty Boop. She serves as the mouth of The Doppler Potential; her words comforting but without substance.

Wire Mother: A putrid, zombie-like humanoid, naked, seeping noxious milky fluids, held together by a barbwire exoskeleton. She serves as the gut of The Doppler Potential; impossibly disgusting, yet plays a crucial role in its ability to gain sustenance (not so crucial that she cannot be replaced, of course).

Detective Dick ("Fuck Ya") Smashburn: A short, bald, mustachioed, middle-aged, no-nonsense cop who plays by his own rules (or so he thinks), and dreams of “the old days”. He is not aware that he is part of the Doppler Potential, but his actions serve its greater and often arcane purposes.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Maximum Recursion Depth: New York Factions

Minwha of Tiger and Magpie. Relevant to one of the factions, inspired by my discussion with Gearoong

Unlike most of my Weird & Wonderful Table-style posts, I want to break down in greater detail my thought process for these factions, and my approach to factions in MRD more generally (don't worry, I'm only writing a few anyway!). This is because MRD is meant to take place in a world that is mostly like the world as we knew it circa 2019, and while these factions are all fictional, they tie into real-world elements (to varying degrees), and so I want to make sure people understand my intentions.

I love New York City. I've wanted to live here for many years, and despite Covid, I am glad to have been here for nearly two years so far (holy crap!). A lot of life goals have been accomplished here, it's been fulfilling in ways that go beyond the scope of this post. Normally, I prefer to play in entirely Weird, unconstrained settings. But in mid-pandemic world, I am finding it cathartic and inspiring to play my campaign in New York City, a version that simultaneously reflects the real place that I love, but tints it with the magical Weirdness that reflects something more authentic to how I actually feel when I walk the streets of New York than the objective reality. There are so many cultures and subcultures either unique to New York or born here; not hiding per se, but drowned out from the sheer mainstream noise. There is a reason why so many stories of Magical Realism are set in New York and other cities- because that magic truly does exist, in a fashion. A MRD campaign does not have to be set in New York City, but my current campaign is set here, and given how much this setting is an expression of my personal beliefs, sensibilities, and feelings, it seems fitting to focus on New York for this setting, at least for now.

New York is diverse, and Weird, in all the best ways. There are cultures from around the world, and those cultures intermix and transform and become something unique unto themselves. It's not a melting pot- a watered-down, dumbed-down, flavorless homogeny of cultures, nor, and I can't stress this enough, is it a "wonderland", a fetishism of the "exotic" and "other", that exists for the amusement of a white American like myself. The factions in MRD are meant to reflect the diversity of New York, in all senses of the word, to play into some of the themes and tropes of New York's history and media representations such as crime dramas, pulp adventures, noir, superhero stories, and so on, to reflect various aspects of the real world as it exists today, and to express the almost magical realism I describe above, but also to express that these cultures don't exist in a vacuum. There is no one Italian Mafia or Yakuza in this setting- it isn't the Black gang in one neighborhood and the Mexican gang in another. There's the faction of Black Twitter - Seneca Village activists - Mindan Korean Japanese Americans, and another faction of TikTok Gamergate White Nationalists - outcast Deseret Extremists - Uruguayan American Conservatives. It's a mix of things that do exist (or a version of them), and things that don't exist but one could imagine existing- that seem strange but have an internal logic to them which is as much due to chance as anything else. They are decidedly fictional but demonstrate how Weird reality and culture can actually be. 

But, again, I'm a white American, so I want to be very careful about appropriation, about misrepresenting real cultures, or being insensitive in any way. So I hope the above sufficiently explains my thought process, I hope it succeeds at expressing the magical realism I am describing, and I hope it does so in a way that is generally reasonable and decent from a liberal perspective.

Also WARNING there are some heavy topics explored in these factions, especially in the links, so trigger warning on that. I personally want MRD to be more of an escapist experience, but also, it is core to the idea of MRD that we have to face the bad things- both in ourselves and in the world. So these factions do reflect that, to some extent, but that doesn't mean that these issues have to be at the core of a MRD campaign.

In regards to the Kickstarter: I plan to do a short series of Faction posts for MRD, this being the first. I don't know how much of this will actually wind up in the book, but much of this comes from developments within my MRD campaigns / playtests. I hope to weave some of these NPCs and concepts into the module for the first issue in some implied fashion, but I don't think these explicit writeups will make it into the first issue. If people appreciate these Faction writeups, cleaning them up and commissioning art for them would be something I would potentially like to do for a subsequent issue of the MRD "Zine".

Seneca Village Collective

This faction began as a Black Twitter movement that formed after an act of police brutality against an African American in Central Park went viral, followed by the mainstream awareness of the historical Seneca Village. A Bronx-based band known as the K-Pop Orchestra, known for their jazz covers of K-Pop music, contributed to the popularity of this movement. The K-Pop Orchestra also shed light on the racism of Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo and the ways in which the Korean Japanese experience relates to that of the African American experience, which then led to the cross-cultural Seneca Village Collective as it exists today. While the Collective is both intranational and international, The Bronx and K-Town in New York are generally seen as the focal places of the Collective.

While the Collective mostly focuses on awareness campaigns and charity drives, the vigilante Recurser Seneca Tiger, most well known for fighting against police brutality and supporting Black and other minority communities in the city, has spearheaded a more active group within the Collective. While Seneca Tiger generally promotes social activism and volunteer work over reactionary efforts and violence, she states in no uncertain terms that America requires radical change and that radical change may require radical action. Seneca Tiger's true identity is unknown. It has been speculated that the Tiger part of her vigilante identity is a subversion of the Tiger in Korean folklore as a symbol of the historical Korean ruling class, leading some to believe she is of Korean or Korean Japanese descent. Another theory is that she is actually an African American drag queen who performs at the Dromedary Urban Tiki Bar.

Notable NPCs

Seneca Tiger: Rogue vigilante who advocates against, and directly subverts, police brutality, particularly towards minority communities. The Seneca Collective does not acknowledge her as part of the organization for legal reasons, but it is generally understood that she leads the extra-legal operations of the Collective. Her vigilante costume is a form-fitting, full-body leather suit, in the general appearance of a tiger. The costume is colorful and flamboyant and has large, asymmetrical eyes and a stretched smile, like a tiger minwha. It is unknown what, if any powers she has, but she is nonetheless formidable.

Pro-Fane: Popular African American drag queen, primarily located in Bushwick. Her style is like if a Japanese horror girl became a ganguro TikTok influencer. While not technically part of Seneca Collective leadership, she serves as one of several public faces of the group and is deeply involved, to the point that some even believe she is secretly Seneca Tiger. Moon Marine is in a feud with Pro-Fane and attempting to dox her as Seneca Tiger, in retaliation for believing Pro-Fane responsible for "The Platypussy Leak".

Rick Barrett: The founder of the K-Pop Orchestra and also the Seneca Collective. An intelligent, articulate, thoughtful person, passionate, and excellent performer. Very much a renaissance man for the 21st century. Some have accused him of using the Seneca Collective as a means to promote his formerly obscure K-Pop Orchestra, but those who know him understand that this is not true, or at least not so simply.

Baek Yesu: K-Pop star of Korean Japanese descent, who repatriated to South Korea. His music is known for being especially political, dealing with issues of racism towards Korean Japanese, and more recently collaborating with the K-Pop Orchestra performing about racism towards African Americans. He is considered one of the co-leaders of the Seneca Collective, alongside Rick Barrett, and has been spending more time in New York.

Deseret Avengers

The name is somewhat of a misnomer. The movement started as an online White Nationalist hate group proclaiming to be the anti-Zion, a play on the racist and misogynist beliefs present in the redpill/blackpill movements and a reference to the film The Matrix and the Marvel superhero group The Avengers. However, ironically, a counterculture of punk/skinhead Mormons in the Slavic/Germanic European country Ruritania, and conservative Mormons of Uruguayan descent, identified with the movement, in some cases due to a misunderstanding of its roots. As a result, the Deseret Avengers are decentralized and lack any singular goal or leadership. While online they are primarily young male gamers, their New York presence has been more so driven by upwardly mobile Uruguayan immigrants, and separately the Ruritanian immigrant community.

The Uruguayan faction holds up Mateo Silva, an executive of a financial firm with ties to the White Party in Uruguay, as their champion. While he is not believed to be a member of the Deseret Avengers per se, some internet conspiracy theorists believe he has been sending them coded messages in various televised appearances.

The online (and to a lesser extent, Ruritanian) faction has rallied behind Moon Marine, a vigilante Recurser, TikTok and Instagram Influencer, and self-proclaimed anti-feminist gamer-girl. Besides promoting her brand and "recking the libs", it's unclear what, if any, broader agenda she has. She has done actual good as a vigilante, and many of her fans are entirely unaware of her political affiliation, which has been carefully manicured to attract vulnerable individuals who may be influenced by the online conspiracy/hate groups associated with the Deseret Avengers (or in some cases, genuine Mormon missionaries who are themselves unaware of the full breadth of the hate group, but who generally support Conservative values).

Notable NPCs

Moon Marine: Famous superhero who got her start as a viral TikTok star. Despite having marketed herself towards kids, preteens, and teens, some have criticized the not so subtle degree to which she's leveraged sexuality towards her success (made doubly complicated by the fact that her age is not known, as she keeps a secret identity). She has also been criticized on many occasions for casual racism and promoting traditional gender roles, and while her marketing team has largely kept it undercover, she is known to associate with the Deseret Avengers online. Nonetheless, she has saved NYC several times, and she has done advocacy work as a role model for young women. Her costume is like a blue US Marine dress uniform with a platypus theme, such as the bill on her hat.

Mateo Silva: Uruguayan immigrant, ardent Republican, dedicated member of the Church of Latter-Day Saints,  and classic American success story. Despite celebrating himself as American, he has made a point of also advocating for Uruguayan culture and making it known that Uruguay is a high-income and democratic nation, while also condemning (and inadvertently promoting) its social progressivism. Despite his political associations, he is sometimes considered a proponent of Latin American diversity and awareness. Nonetheless, he is also criticized for his religious extremism, as well as his exploitative business practices. He does not directly associate with the Deseret Avengers, but many Mormon Uruguayans identify him as such.

Clara Cocksure: NYPD Detective who is paradoxically a cussing, no-nonsense hardass, and also a wait-until-marriage conservative Christian. After a recent incident of police brutality, it was discovered that she publicly associates with the Deseret Avengers on social media.

Alexei Strauss: Ruritanian immigrant from Queens who committed a mass murder-suicide at his high school. An investigation uncovered that he was deeply embedded in the Deseret Avengers online community under the pseudonym XP, and had expressed extremely dark and hateful sentiments. His surviving classmates and teachers claim that he was socially awkward, bullied, and struggling in school. His Numberless Courts of Hell case record has gone missing and he is classified as a rogue poltergeist. As such, he has become the center of many extremist conspiracy theories within the Deseret Avengers.