Sunday, February 24, 2019

Weird & Wonderful Blasted Lands: Tarsos Theorem Appreciation

I still don't have as much time or energy as I would like for tabletop or blogging right now, but one thing I've wanted to do is a series of posts where I take some of the generators and other tools that my friends have made, and do 'something' with them. In some cases it may be building worlds or monsters from their tables, or adding entries to their tables, or making scenarios. I'm leaving it loosely defined. Likewise, I'm not making a finite list of who I'll cover or when. I want to show appreciation for the awesome people out there, but I don't want people to think if I don't get to them right away that it means I don't appreciate them! I'm just doing these when I can, how I can, for whoever I can, as they pop into my head randomly.

I'm going to start this series with Tarsos Theorem. Saker Tarsos was one of the first friends I made in the blogosphere community, and currently he's working on some really impressive stuff, so it seemed like a good time to do this already.

So with that:

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There is a planet, a gas giant with beautiful rings which contain many broken ships, slowly hurtling towards the sun.

Within this ecosystem of refugee ships, there is one ship of particular interest to the treasure hunters of the stars, the Oberon Mariner Tango. It is rumored that within the ship are mineral resources, priceless ceramic artifacts, and databases of ancient cryptocurrencies. It is known that civilization on the ship all but collapsed nearly a century ago, after a disastrous collision with another ship containing rare and dangerous lifeforms from throughout the galaxy. Few historical records remain, and they come from dubious sources at best. Even so, they provide a rough account of events preceding The Impact:

Three hundred years ago Grodlise, the High Priest of the Unsteady Haven, forsook all the taboos of their fellow Refugees, learning the Uplifting arts of Savagery, in order to prepare for dark days ahead. It is believed that Grodlise traded an arm and a leg to Limb Dogs in exchange for the silicon eye of a long-dead god. The eye gave them the power to summon creatures and extract life essence. Through hideous experimentation, they combined bits and pieces of summoned creatures and siphoned the life essence of a most cherished, deceased friend. They did not know that the silicon eye was madness-inducing. They believed they revived their friend. It was their revived friend who taught them the uplifting arts of savagery. It is ironic that the fall of Oberon Mariner Tango's greatest civilization would occur as a result of the actions of the once great High Priest Grodlise.

Two hundred years ago Sirilise, Slaver of the Reassuring Caravaneers, led the reconstruction of the Haven of Salvage, in order to fill starving bellies. Sirilise was known for his deadly marskmanship, and his Gabor wave-rifle. An amateur programmer, he used his wave-rifle to program the AI of a dangerous android, accidentally triggering a Schrodinger reaction. Thus, the enslaved Reassuring Caravaneers became unwitting quantum waveform undead outlaws, said to swagger across the circuits of the Oberon Mariner Tango to this day. It is ironic that the revival that was to come, could only have occurred as a result of the actions of a slaver.

One hundred years ago Korliseing, the Gang Leader of the Unsteady Temple, forsook all the taboos of their fellow Prospectors, learning the Uplifting arts of Rediscovery, bringing hope to the downtrodden. Korliseing was opposed by the natural predator of all progress, the Spirit of Degeneracy. It is said to appear as an alert, droning old man with tiny, constantly fidgeting hands. In its presence, one will experience a sense of deja vu, yet to speak in the past tense will dissolve any sense of motivation. Some believe that the Spirit is some manifestation of Grodlise or their friend, or perhaps one of the undead waveforms of the Reassuring Caravaneers. It is ironic that just as civilization on Oberon Mariner Tango was about to reach its second apex, The Impact occurred.

All that is known about the impact is that the captain of the invading ship was Xixaka, a wriggling mantis monk who could command androids, had a penchant for mutilating dead bodies, and was adventuring for sweet, sweet vengeance. Of all the monsters he brought with him in The Impact, one is feared most. It is believed to be a giant maw on comically small legs, with a roar that triggers specific panic responses in sentient beings' brains. As a survival mechanism, it can spit forth a tiny clone of itself upon death. It is believed to be a creature from another dimension. Its guts are interdimensional worms that can be harvested as a means of faster-than-light wormhole travel. Some say it was metaphysically drawn to Oberon Mariner Tango by Grodlise.

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And here are the tools and generator results that went into this creation

Disreputable Wizard
You find this individual trying to bring their most cherished friend back to life through hideous experimentation. They are feeling contemptuous. They have the power to Summon creatures from other worlds. Once, long ago, they lost an arm and a leg to a pack of Limb Dogs. They currently have the madness-inducing silicon eye on a long-dead god.

Rambunctious Apocalyptic Outlaws

  • You find these rapscallions ineptly programming the AI of a dangerous android.
  • They are swaggering.
  • They are bizarre in that they exist as a waveform of probably outlaws yet to be collapsed into a concrete reality.
  • Recently, they were caught in the blast of a Schrodinger-Bomb and now are simultaneously alive and dead.
  • They are led by a deadly marksman with a high quality sniper rifle.

Wandering monster appears: The enemies' natural predator.

  • You find this creature starving and searching for its next meal.
  • It is feeling suspicious.
  • It is a giant maw on comically small legs
  • With a roar that triggers specific panic responses in sentient beings’ brains
  • That can spit forth a tiny clone of itself upon death that tries to escape.
  • Long ago, this creature was exiled from its own dimension.
  • Guts that writhe like snakes can be carved from its corpse. 
This spirit appears as a droning old man with tiny, constantly fidgeting hands. It is feeling alert. It was once tasked with opposing all change. You will know when it is near when you experience deja vu. In its presence, you must never speak in the past tense or else you will lose all motivation for your current goal.

This ship is called the Oberon Mariner Tango. It is a uninhabitable Mining Frigate with no survivors. The engine, thrusters, and jump drive are non-functioning. It contains 146 scrap, 22 ore, and a cargo of ceramics. The ship was ruined due to crashing into another ship and the crew were pet hoarders.

You find this blockade runner concealed within the beautiful rings of a gas giant. It seems ruined. It is on a trajectory hurtling into the sun. It contains data banks storing massive amounts of cryptocurrency, and a gang of infamous space pirates have made it their lair.

Mantis Name: Xixaka
This is a wriggling mantis monk who can command androids, has a penchant for mutilating dead bodies, and is adventuring for sweet, sweet vengeance.

1. Korliseing, the Gang Leader of the Unsteady Temple forsook all the taboos of their fellow Prospectors, learning the Uplifting arts of Rediscovery, bringing hope to the downtrodden.
2. Sirilise, Slaver of the Reassuring Caravaneers, led the reconstruction of the Haven of Salvage, in order to fill starving bellies.
3. Grodlise, the High Priest of the Unsteady Haven forsook all the taboos of their fellow Refugees, learning the Uplifting arts of Savagery, in order to prepare for dark days ahead.


Saturday, February 16, 2019

I Believe Mandy Morbid / Zak Sabbath is an abusive piece of shit

I debated whether to post about the Zak Sabbath is an abusive piece of shit situation for several reasons.

  • Others have written about it much more elegantly. 
  • Others have dealt more closely with him and in my opinion are more qualified to discuss the matter. 
  • I've intentionally disengaged from the OSR community (in no small part because of him, incidentally, but I won't entirely blame him for some of the things that I regret about how I've engaged with the community). 
  • I was not quiet about the fact that I grew to hate his guts and don't think I can talk about this in a reasonable and mature way that doesn't make me look like an asshole. 
  • Posting this is, in at least a small way, an acknowledgement of his significance, and I don't even want to give him that.

I'm posting this only for two reasons:

  1. To contribute to the "Zak Sabbath is an abusive piece of shit" signal on the internet so that hopefully nobody else gets abused by him or inadvertently supports him.
  2. As a Jewish heterosexual cis-gender male involved in kink and BDSM as a dominant, a set of qualities I share with Zak, I think it's important that I say that I believe Mandy Morbid. I don't mean to be a white knight or anything, but I do feel that as someone with many privileges, I should publicly declare my support.
That is all. Let's take out the trash and move forward.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Aquarian Dawn: Intro / Prose

So I'd be lying if I said I'm not extremely stressed out right now with my data engineering fellowship. After the first couple weeks in New York I basically stopped going to the gym, I haven't cooked or baked in forever, and I haven't done anything creative. The majority of what I've posted since January was stuff I pre-drafted or really old stuff I salvaged. I'd like to get back to World of Wonders, but that post was mostly a minor edit of a thing I wrote years ago and don't feel great about, and I don't want to post the rest of it just to say I did it, I want to make sure it's actually good.

I've been thinking about my micro-setting Aquarian Dawn, which I'd like to run for some of my local friends here in New York when I actually have a moment. I've got a whole bunch of ideas I haven't had the chance to properly write up yet, this barely scratches the surface, but I thought this bit of prose might be a decent intro to the setting. I've worried basically since the start of this blog that my setting writeups are too stiff, so maybe this more organic approach will do it some good, even if I feel it's leaving out a lot of worldbuilding.

I'd say the setting has a bit of The Witcher, Vampire Hunter D, X-Men, gritty street-level superhero comics, and Game of Thrones. It's relatively low fantasy and intended to be a bit more reigned in than my usual stuff (we'll see how true to that it ultimately ends up being), and more pre-apocalyptic than post-apocalyptic. I guess it's a bit political too.

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The archmages, the few of them left, say the magical things are coming back. That the roads are gonna get dangerous. That the crops'll get ruined. That we don't have the infrastructure for it when it happens, and that a lot of people are gonna die and maybe it'll be the end of us. Nobody's listening. Nobody wants to. That's why there aren't so many archmages anymore.

We killed all the pretty magical things a long time ago, or anyway we left them for dead, when we built the roads. We killed the ugly ones too, mostly. But not all of them. The archmages say when we killed the magical things, to build our roads, that we set off a cascade of sorts, and that's why the elves left the world or ran into the forests, and the dwarves went far above or far below and got all weird. The halflings were another matter. There's no mystery to what happened to them. Just some good old fashioned greed and bigotry and casual genocide. Remember that the next time you read about one of them stabbing folk for their jacket and leaving them to freeze, on the side of the road.

So here we are, living in our comfortable homes, riding along our convenient roads, with more food than we know what to do with. But the food's been enchanted with the gods know what and there's no nutrition in any of it. And there are fewer and fewer mouths to feed anyway because only a fool would have a child in this day and age, and that's why we have so many fools. And every day one of our wonders of science and magic breaks down and there are fewer and fewer left able to fix them. We yearn for the days when we used to turn the dials and flip the switches, forgetting all the accidents and all the gross things the magic used to do to our bodies and minds. Instead we drown in drink and drug, or drown in dread, and I don't think anyone really understands why.

So instead, they blame it on the irrelevant elves and dwarves, or the poor halflings, or the savvy fey-folk. Or the aquarians. The nobles like to talk about them like they're an invading horde, like the monsters of yore. Creatures with no individual will, collectivist insects dredged from the eastern shore to see the end of our way of life. The aquarians don't give a fuck about us. And frankly, I think they might be the only ones left who aren't monsters.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

World of Wonders Pt. 1: Primer

This is the first post about my World of Wonders campaign setting. It's a speculative fiction setting with superheroes, a significantly alternate history, and science fiction elements. I conceived this setting well before East of West was a thing, but that's the closest parallel I can think of off-hand, so if it helps, think East of West but more superheroic. Grant Morrison's 18 Days could also be a good reference point for this setting.

I originally wrote this "primer" many years ago as a single document, but for the purpose of the blog I'm going to break it into parts. Admittedly I think this section alone is a little abstract, but hopefully once I post pt. 2 it will be more clear what this world is about.

Sadly this setting has been neglected in recent years, but at one point I considered this my "main" setting, long pre-dating Phantasmos. It's been several years since I've run this setting, and I imagine it could use some tuning up, maybe integrating my 100 Weird & Wonderful Superpowers.

Anyway, I'm sitting on two ideas for short campaigns in this setting, one a Watchmen-esque followup to my first campaign, the other more of a Teen Titans / X-Men style teen game. The original campaign was run in Mutants & Masterminds 3e, which is a system that I appreciate for what it is but don't have too much interest playing again. Instead, I'd be really interested in trying the Valiant Universe RPG (Cue System), Masks (PbtA), or maybe giving FASERIP another go. If this setting seems interesting and you'd like to try it out, let me know.

Also, I should say that I tried to write the primer in a sort of tongue-in-cheek style that sort of riffs on both Silver Age comics and some of the cliches of tabletop RPG books. Please let me know what you think of that stylistic choice as well. In retrospect I think it's still a little dry and I probably needed to lean into the stylistic writing much more heavily, but I've also been told in the past that when I do stylistic I go too far with it, so I'm never sure.

In addition to my list of superpowers linked above, if you'd like to read more about my take on superheroes, check out my FASERIP Superhero Crossover One-Shot, basically a What If? My Hero Academia was the near-future of a Marvel/DC crossover (with a few other settings tossed in for good measure).

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The World of Wonders Campaign Setting


Welcome to The World of Wonders! This exciting campaign setting explores a world where superheroics and magical alchemy is as commonplace as technology. Despite the myriad and complex differences in terms of historical events, cultural and religious representations, and even science, this world maintains a certain degree of parity with our own world. For instance, the impact of magic on society and its rate of development is not fundamentally different from that of technology on our own world, and many historical events still happen and historical persons still exist, albeit in some cases under very different circumstances. You are encouraged to look through the documentation (or ask your GM, if they have done their homework) to learn more about the world, but if there is no specific reference (and your GM can’t think up an answer on the spot!), it is best to assume that the event or person did occur in this world, under whatever circumstances would be necessary for the event to make sense. Much like our own world, The World of Wonders is as deep as you want to make it; you don't need to have a Ph.D in history, theology, or the sciences to fully appreciate the world, but the more you know, the more you can do. Knowledge is power, indeed!

Religion and Culture

In part due to the existence of alchemy, and in part as a result of the alternate history of The World of Wonders, certain aspects of religion and culture differ from the real world. For instance, in a world where alchemy, mysticism, and magic are empirically validated, there is less of a dichotomy between religion and science. Most people accept the existence of gods in some capacity, and furthermore there is little argument over whose gods are the “true gods”. Most people either believe all of the gods are real, or are all representations of a single truth, with the greatness of a given pantheon being determined by the degree to which it proliferates. In other words, wars are not fought over religion, but the value of religion may still be intertwined with war.

Despite modern geopolitical and economic globalization, there has been less cultural homogenization than in our world. Instead of a handful of broadly-reaching empires at a given time, many smaller empires have occupied their territories for longer stretches of time. Within these empires, nations and cultures change, and occasionally throughout history these borders have fluctuated, but with only a few exceptions (particularly the 20th century), the geopolitical landscape of The World of Wonders has remained relatively stable over the centuries as compared to our own. Because of this, ethnocentrism is tacitly acknowledged, however racism in the sense that we think of it in the modern world is uncommon, as there is little historical precedence for one society being substantially more powerful than any other for any significant stretch of time.

Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta's comic book series East of West, while grittier and apocalyptic, is a good point of reference for what I envisioned with the World of Wonders.

Wonders

            The World of Wonders campaign setting is named so for the titular Wonders. Wonders are the superheroes of this world, and are usually associated with a god or religious concept, although they do not have to be. While the most obvious wonders are those who are born with or spontaneously gain powers, many wonders do not have powers in the traditional sense; they are either extremely talented in a particular way (martial arts, technology, alchemy, etc.), or they acquire a magical or advanced technological artifact. For this reason, it can be sometimes difficult to determine whether someone is a Wonder or not, or for that matter what a Wonder actually is. The study of Wonders is generally considered a field of alchemy.

Pt. 2 (in hopefully ~2 weeks) will include a list of the major world powers and a brief account of the history of the world.