My Games

Friday, July 8, 2022

MRD2 PR 4: Political Intrigue in Non-Violent Dimensions

I was worried how this session would go, because there was very little in the way of "encounters" in the traditional sense or anything that would require them to use their character sheets, and a FUCKTON of NPCs and logistics. But it went better than I could have hoped. This was some good Social Intrigue, which I am all about. I don't know how well this will translate to a PR, despite my efforts to make these PRs more interesting.

I was inspired by the Scales of Conviction system for the videogame Triangle Strategy, where key plot events are decided on a vote, and the player has to talk to the various NPCs and gather information to try to sway the votes of the rest of the party. I figured that would work even better in a TTRPG, and it did. At some point either here or on Iconoclastic Flow I'll make a post about that in the abstract.

For the NPCs, I used a lot of real actors voices as "touchstones". I am infamously anti-touchstone, but in this case it did make sense for me. With the number of NPCs being juggled, I really needed each NPC to be distinct, and while I'm very satisfied with how my voice acting and improv went for someone with no professional training, I was afraid to rely on my abilities, so at least providing the touchstones as a failsafe I do think helped in this case. Also, for most of them, I tried to subvert the touchstone, like one NPC who is like if Mr. Rogers had serial killer vibes, or one who looks like Freddy Mercury but sounds like Ben Stein, or one who is like an anime space heroine but sounds and acts like Natasha Lyonne / Nadia in Russian Doll.

A lot happened this session, hopefully I don't end up forgetting anything in this PR...

Color Codes:
  • NPCs, the actors I try to embody with my so-called "voice acting"
  • Design Notes
  • Hyperlinks


The Corporation
RegeXperience: “Live for the RegeXperience”. Childishly edgy experimental entertainment and defense company that doesn’t want the world to know what’s really behind their algorithm. EXPERIENCE, ALGORITHM, ENTERTAINMENT

The Manager
Baz Beetz: Infectiously enthusiastic “artiste” and true believer in the company mission who is as profound as nonsensical.

The Cyblessed Liaison
“Tastes like eating out the ass-end of human progress.”: Like a cheap flaccid little candle dripping wax down an otherwise glorious cake wearing a tacky suit reminiscent of a 1980’s faux-wood-paneled station wagon.

The Issue
  • The Corporations were hit by an anomalously bad Quarter. The Cyblessed Liaisons are arranging a meeting in neutral territory, The Vessel of Tehom: Venus City.

The Team

Ben: Larry
Nazarite Contract: Fast Lane Fintechnomancer
Larry's past life was one of public mission in conscious contrarianism to his peers partying with the money of their employers. The brief accolades received from new acquaintances never quite made up for the lack of money and freedom. When he'd ask what others were doing to make the world a better place, they'd stare as if they had never considered the question before. What's the point of caring if no one else does?

Lukas: Icarus Tromp
Nazarite Contract: Infrared Ranger
Was an heir to a crime family but betrayed them when his conscience caught up to him. In need of structure and a sense of justice, but without any good frame of reference and few other options, he shortly thereafter accepted the Nazarite Contract with The Corporation.

Huffa: Ernst
Nazarite Contract: Psychonautical Sub-Mariner
Golem: Forgetting Pile - An oozey amorphous Golem collective made of empowered trash and detritus.
An old man who trawls through the unconscious sea gathering the things people forget from their dreams. Sometimes its material that The Corporation deems useful.

Where we left off...

  • The Team got into a Golem fight with the Golem Entropy Elancer in a strange Vessel of Tehom bathed in red light, only to be whisked away back to reality, in San Francisco, in the office of The Startup, mid-conversation with The Founder Ash McLaren.
  • Larry and Ikarus engage in PRO Conflict with Ash, eventually convincing him to accept a buyout.
  • Meanwhile, Ernst breaks into The Cofounder IQ Warburton III's office, learning that The Startup may have some entanglement with the Space Settlements, and a mysterious entity known as Hibernating Hyberia.
  • After Ikarus makes a Karmic Attachment with Ash to seal the deal, some spacetime anomaly occurs, revealing underneath Ash's helmet a draconic, chitinous, moth-like monster which has eaten his brain and hijacked his body, but after being told "you weren't supposed to see that yet", reality reverts, Ash seems oblivious, and Eternal Flamethrower scans suggest there is no such anomaly.
  • The situation with The Startup mostly resolved, The Team heads to their meeting at the Vessel of Tehom: Venus City.

How to get to Venus City

The Manager explains the three options (Baz Beetz in his Wernor Herzogian affect):
  • You must find one of the mysterious rabbinical orders of the lost tribes, prove your worth in a mortal combat of legal wits, take their secret blend of psychedelics, and wander the Sinai Desert until near death of dehydration, while contemplating your deepest loss. Or…
  • Expose yourself to the superhot toxic gasses of the planet Venus while reaching sss-exual climax to the thought of your parents fornicating your birth. But…
  • Unfortunately we cannot afford the time for these de-lic-iously ab-horrent experiences, so this one time we may expense the Quarkerizer Machine. We will be torn apart by our very subatomic particles and reconstructed from the same quarks in another plane of existence, in but a blink of an eye. If only one could remain conscious for the agony of Quarkerization, but alas this is not so.

Vessel of Tehom: Venus City

The opulent Venus City, home of the superorganism Asherah*, is like a science fantasy Ancient Israel. In Venus City violence is physically impossible, and so it has become a neutral ground for diplomacy and trade across Tehom.
* Later some of the Asherah may be differentiated, but for now they all sound like Daria.


Just the Cyblessed Liaisons, Nazarites, and other Corporate interests. Handful of issues need to be voted on at The Meeting, so The Team will need to suss out who believes what and convince them to vote whichever way they think suits their interests.
  • Pro- or Anti- Corporate Alliance.
  • Crush Upstartups or bring them into the Fold.
  • Consolidate Power in the Space Settlements, or Appease the dominant families.
The Team's stances:
  • Pro-Alliance: Seems generally advantageous; typical cartel stuff.
  • Fold Upstartups: They already bought out The Startup and Ikarus has Karmic Attachments with The Founder and The Cofounder.
  • Consolidate Power in the Space Settlements: The Team are initially ambivalent, but as they learn more about the situation in space and get entangled in the intrigue, this is what they decide.


The other Corporations have their own Nazarite Teams, but there are already waaaay too many NPCs here as-is, so for now they are decidedly nameless and featureless, although they can be assumed to be wandering around and/or with their Managers or Cyblessed Liaisons not unlike The Team themselves. For simplicity, it could be said that the QuinceSoft Team is undergoing a restructuring and unavailable, and one or both of the other Corporations’ Teams could also have had other priorities.

The other Voters may try to sway each other, so even an NPC with an already favorable voting pattern should still be sought out to be sure. This can be on an as-needed basis or randomly rolled or whatever.

The Team / Baz Beetz (Regexperience)

Ezra Black -> Delilah Samson
Supportive professional who is a perfect manager but for the fact that he MUST be a serial killer.
Mr. Rogers type but murder-y.
  • Pro-Alliance
  • Crush Upstartups
  • Consolidate power in the Space Settlements
“Beauty is all around us”. Transgressive cosmetics brand and pharma company allegedly complicit in the underground transmigratory drug boom.

Freddy Mercury -> Eden-Cheney Processing
Unfortunately named dullard with a terrible voice who is the spitting image of his more famous namesake and begrudgingly uses it to his advantage.
Like if Ben Stein were reskinned as Freddy Mercury.
  • Pro-Alliance
  • Fold Upstartups
  • Appease Space Settlements
“Honest measures for honest folk”. Old energy company providing affordable fuel and meat both derived fresh from the beasts of Tehom.

Finny Bates -> QuinceSoft
Unqualified beneficiary of nepotism and conniver with a speakeasy smile who knows how to play the game.
Patrick Bateman type.
  • Anti-Alliance
  • Crush Upstartups
  • Consolidate power in the Space Settlements
“A little chaos is good”. Formerly fun software and social media company desperately pursuing dangerous biotech augmented reality.

(Asherah in dry, sarcastic, monotone Daria voice) "Thank you so much for introducing yourself Finny, we are all well aware of who your Uncle is, and how great you are as a Manager. We are sooo grateful you were able to come today."

Pirate Queen Prismasha ("Empress of Space") -> Independent
Sardonic and slightly unstable smoker in a suave sportcoat who is surprisingly successful.
Natasha Lyonne type.
  • Anti-Alliance
  • Crush Upstartups
  • Consolidate power in the Space Settlements
Why is she here? Why does she get a vote? The Cyblessed aren’t telling…
KAO: If one PC wants to say they have a pre-existing relationship with Prismasha…

Larry accepts the Karmic Attachment Opportunity, establishing that he and Prismasha are old frenemies.

The Scenario

They have some free time before The Meeting. They are told of three locations, but they don't know who will be where, so they can just go to wherever sounds interesting. There are also some "random encounters" along the way.

The Court of Those Who Live and Die on Technicalities

A Court of Hell nested within Venus City, where Legal Precedent and Fine Print define reality.

The Team decides to head here first. On the way, their NPC campaign, the Jingo Jangles Transdimensional Toon Doughboy, experiences an episode of shell shock and must be calmed down. Not played for laughs. Something in the environment triggered him, it can be anything because Doughboy isn’t real, he’s a “False Idol” manifestation from a Vessel of Tehom, the embodiment of the idea of Post Traumatic Stress and the dehumanization and trauma of war and conflict.

"Someone doesn't make a place where violence is physically impossible, unless they've experienced a lot of violence..."

Ernst uses his Nazarite features to pull an object from Doughboy's subconscious, a flipbook comic that is like the Maus of Doughboy cartoons, helping him to confront his trauma, his own victimhood in the face of war, his genuine attempts at heroism. This Resolves the Karmic Attachment, but Ernst chooses to make a new Karmic Attachment with Doughboy to continue developing this relationship.

When they arrive at the Court...

They find the entrance is a massive projection of an encrypted pseudo-code on microfiche, and underneath it a podium with an empty wine glass.

A line of Amalekites and stranger beings are escorted by Asherah, explaining how pricking one’s finger and pressing into the wineglass, the glass will fatally extract all the blood to overflow. Holographic lighting reflects off the blood as it overflows, and if the spectral analysis of the blood matches the code based on one’s Karma, it is determined whether they will receive a favorable reincarnation, or be sentenced within The Court.

The Team catches IQ Warburton III aka The Cofounder exiting a conversation with The Lawyer and The Emissary.

The Emissary: From Tomino’s Array. Wears the symbol of the Ziegler Bead, a majestic and romanticized ophan (bio-engineered slime mold). They're supposed to have like Czarist Russian Aristocracy vibes but I ended up RPing him more like a Dandy.

Ernst approaches the Emissary. The Team has not yet dealt with the Issue from the first session involving the Space Settlements, and are clueless as to how things have Escalated.

They learn that Ziegler Bead is gaining power across the space settlements, and their Solar Tech and Ophan would be useful for the Corporations, but they want a seat at the table. According to The Emissary, Space is the future.

"There are rumors going around, titter titter, tatter tatter, <finger beak gestures> I'm surprised you haven't heard yet."
"Give us a seat at the table, or, you can keep your shitty little dirt rock, while we take the future."

Ernst non-commitally agrees to consider the offer.

Ikarus approaches IQ Warburton III. Given their Karmic Attachment which becomes confirmed, they bond over an implied shared background; in Ikarus' case having left behind his crime family, with IQ it is unknown. He expresses regret having given up that power, only to later be exploited by The Corporations, and seems amenable to the buyout if it gives him power. Ikarus and IQ work out a deal that if they can Fold the Upstartups, IQ and Ash will be put in charge of the other Upstartups and maintain control of their IP. Ikarus was offered to Resolve the Karmic Attachment, but if the deal fell through, the consequences would be greater, so he chose not to Resolve it yet. When confronted, IQ claims he was talking to The Lawyer because he was interested in getting in The Court but it turns out things are more complicated when Nazarites try to Recurse, and was talking with The Emissary because the Ziegler Bead had also been bidding for a buyout of The Startup.

Ezra Black (murdery-y Mr. Rogers) is poking around, clearly interested. When confronted by Larry, he offers to change his vote in favor of Folding the Upstartups, if Larry can make a Karmic Attachment with The Lawyer on his behalf, and after a discussion with The Lawyer, Larry accepts the Karmic Attachment, left open-ended for the time being.

"Why do I want to go to The Court? Well, folk generally think of me as a good neighbor I try to be nice. To give the youth a positive role model. But sometimes... I'm not very nice."

THE LAWYER: An Amalekite Recurser with the Poltergeist Form Pyramid Shining Brightly. He is a lawyer who offers his services in exchange for Karmic Attachments, facilitating getting in and out of The Court safely (probably), for those desperate enough to take a bum deal.
  • Shorter up close than they appear from a distance.
  • The environment around them is magnified, saturated, emboldened, like a gaudy aura.
  • Face like a leprechaun, corpse blueish hue and wispy navy blue goatee, gold reptile skin zoot suit over a blueish skirted blouse, fedora with a whole feathered serpent taxidermy ornament on top.
  • Carries a cane with a pyramid shape on top.
  • Bill Burr type.
"Who is he to me? Fock you! Who is he to you? I don't fockin' care, you gonna sell me your Ka-ma or not?"

Huffa asked whether this means Karmic Attachments are diegetic- literal things that exist within the setting. I told her "yes and no", that yes Karma is literal in the world as per MRD1, but that sometimes it's an abstraction and sometimes it's literal, and she seemed to understand what I meant and was satisfied with the answer. There are reasons why I think of it this way that extend beyond the scope of this PR. Fitzgerald defines intelligence colloquially as "the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function", but anyway if this idea of Karmic Attachments as being both literal and not literal is too confusing or dissatisfying for you or someone in your group, then fuck it, sure, they're always literal.

Also, I vaguely suggest that "Nazarite and Recurser powers don't play well". This was a hedge against if they tried to enter The Court themselves, because I did not have that nearly sufficiently prepped and basically just wanted to tease it while still discouraging them from trying to enter for themselves when there was already so much else going on anyway. Fortunately they didn't try to enter themselves, but eventually I will circle back around to this because MRD1 and MRD2 absolutely should be cross-compatible.

Asherah Garden

On the way to the Asherah Garden, they bump into Prismasha (scifi anime space princess except Natasha Lyonne). While still upset with Larry, she agrees to vote their way if they absolve her of all responsibility whatsoever.

"Hey, look at me <two finger eye to eye gesture>, I don't want to see you again for at least 100 years, eh? <puffs cigarette> OK? Ok."

She also tells them to protect her friend Captain Cobra of the Pirates of Perversity, and to destroy the Ziegler Family (leading to The Team's stance to Consolidate Power in the Space Settlements). She claims the Zieglers are fascists, and that the situation has gotten dire in the Space Settlements and people are starving. She is non-committal about whether Captain Cobra is a good guy or not, but claims his heart is in the right place, and implies he's a Larry-type (relating to their Karmic Attachment).

When they arrive at the Asherah Garden...

The desiccated remains of an eldritch giant, its punctured chest housing a garden of hyper-tropic (“stop motion”) flowers, frolicking mandrakes giggling in theremin singsong, and five dimensional fruit that ripen in moments and drop like a bead of honey exposing enzymes unzipping Tehom for momentary peaks into spacetimes.

They find Freddy Mercury (if Ben Stein were reskinned as Freddy Mercury) contemplatively staring into an unzipped spacetime. He wants to interpret the prophecies, but after deep analysis and an agile meeting, their analyses failed to find any meaningful results.

"No, I'm not the famous musician, I'm a Manager. I have a 10 step plan for the next three quarters, and after that, it does get complicated, but don't worry, I can explain."

Ernst makes a Karmic Attachment with Freddy Mercury to eat the psychedelic five dimensional fruit and interpret a prophecy, to sway his vote to Consolidate Power in the Space Settlements.

He rolls the words METAMORPHOSIS+PARASITE, and interprets this as relating to the Ophan bio-engineered slime molds in Tomino's Array, and keeps the Mods as well.

The Vision Words
  4. ASH
  10. ELDER
  11. MUTANT
  12. ALIEN
They potentially could also have done a WIS Save or used a Nazarite Feature to get Mods from the visions or make prophecies, in addition to the Karmic Attachment. These other prophecies would also have affected the events that will unfold later in the campaign, but they chose to just stick with the one.

The Fifth Temple

On the way to The Fifth Temple, an Asherah senses the Leaping Lorenzino app and wants to confiscate the phone or force Larry to delete it, seeing it as a “False Idol” from another Vessel of Tehom and a mockery of this holy place. The Leaping Lorenzino feels shame and embarrassment. Leaping Lorenzino is inherently campy so it can kind of be played for laughs up to a point, but not so much that it undermines the sentiment of what it means to be ridiculed and dismissed for being who you are- it's ok to be kind of campy and ridiculous! 

"'Boo hoo' Why do they hate me? I am just a Leaping Lorenzino! I dance, I prance, I do the 'hee hees' and 'hoo hoos' and 'ha has'. I am just what I am, why is that wrong?" Ambiguously European goofy accent

Unsure what to do, Larry runs away, only to bump into another Asherah, handing out a free gift of a Venus Figurine "Golem". They can use two Words to create a Core for the Golem, turning it into basically another NPC companion. They choose to use OVATION+METAMORPHOSIS to transplant the Leaping Lorenzino's consciousness into the Venus Figurine, making it Kosher for Venus City. This Resolves Larry's Karmic Attachment to the Leaping Lorenzino, and he chooses not to make a new one right away.

When they arrive at The Fifth Temple...

<I wanted to embed this image but blogger is awful and for whatever reason won't let me add any more images into this post>

Majestic, crystal-smooth algae-green hot spring with a vivid orange sulfur ring floating like a stadium-sized teardrop at the height of a skyscraper. Asherah Golem stand or float in prayer all around it, seeming to fill or be filled by its contents yet maintaining equilibrium, whistling like a glass harmonica.

Within the orange sulfur rings, Cherubim piloted by Amalekites pay reverence. In the haze, it appears there is a Corporate Golem among them.

The Team receives a text from Baz Beetz that he and The Cyblessed Liaison are "having a schvitz" in the hot spring and they should join. Don't forget the Wernor Herzong accent.

Ikarus Ices to summon the Chemysterious Cascader to investigate the Cherubim while an Asherah Venus Figurine Golem (a mecha-sized one, not like the Leaping Lorenzino's new body) escorts Larry and Ernst up to the hot spring.

An Asherah initially blocks Ikarus from passing, but he makes a PRO Save to convince the Asherah he is with the Corporate Golem. He finds that it is Finny Bates (Patrick Bateman type), clearly committing treason and selling secrets to the Amalekites.

He blackmails Finny into voting The Team's way, and also learns that Ash McLaren and IQ Warburton the III aka The Founder and The Cofounder of The Startup respectively (they don't really have special voices...), were originally Nazarites on his Team at QuinceSoft. Finny stole their IP and fired them, and now wants to use their old IP as leverage. 

"Look, maybe we got off on the wrong foot here, let's find each others bandwidth again, we can really synergize here, and after I talk to my uncle, we'll reach a new level of scrum mastery. Trust me, I'm always right <wink>." Fuck this guy

Finny threatens to "have a conversation with his uncle", and Ikarus pulls a power move telling Finny to tell The Uncle to reach out to him directly, which was Rped really well so he received the Mod POWER.

At the hotspring, The Cyblessed Liaison, who is a Eugene Levy type, their bosses boss, and in the loose Cold War analogy for MRD2 is like the CIA to the Corporations' Banana Republics, chastises The Team for having allowed the Quarter to go so poorly. 

"Well, see, uh, I think we need to talk about this Quarter. It seems like you all really fricked it up. It's ok, these things happen, this is part of a team growing to maturity, we can discuss this like adults. But, well, we need to make sure this doesn't happen again."

They question The Cyblessed Liaison about Virtual Boy, the entity they had learned about in some of the documents they had decrypted which seems like it may be behind all of this, and when The Cyblessed Liaison responds that they shouldn't know about Virtual Boy, they question why he's asking about the quarter if he already knows about Virtual Boy. Caught in the bind, The Cyblessed Liaison stands up in the schvitz, revealing his glorious full frontal nudity, greasy waxy dad bod, with all the cybernetic holographic pareidolic psychedelic enhancements, and gives them an "early bonus" Word: POSTMODERNISM.


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