RPG Welcome to the Technocractic Union

I have uploaded an in-character video for my current Mage 20th chronicle. I originally started work on this a while ago, but due to health problems, limited time and not knowing much about making videos I placed the project on hold. My health has improved a bit, plus I’ve had time to think and do a bit more research, so I’ve remade the video; I accept that my video making and acting skills will take time to improve.

This introductory video is part of a series for my current World of Darkness chronicle, focusing on Mage 20th. There are a whole bunch of things I think I need to work on, but at least it’s a start.

 

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Impressive Reboot of Trinity

I love so many role-playing games and in particular the old Trinity universe. So I was ecstatic when the Kickstarter for a new version was announced, it’s called Trinity Continuum, from Onyx Path Publishing. The old White Wolf Game Studio published the original Æon Trinity in 1997; the game became known as Trinity due to a lawsuit with MTV due to their Aeon Flux, something that I recall helped spread word about the game at the local games shop I worked at. Set in the 22nd century Trinity was about humanity rebuilding after the Aberrant wars, with the game focusing on psychic humans call Psions. Over the years the Trinity Universe was expanded over the years to include Aberrant (Supes) and then Adventure! (Pulp) A d20 version in 2004. There was also a Trinity Battleground wargame (see end for poster collection). Then it was gone…

Like so many others I’ve been running the same Trinity campaign for many years, linking characters across multiple timelines. A big part of the appeal of the old games is their diverse settings and how they relate to each other, however, the old games were clearly not designed to fit neatly together, which put some people off. The Trinity Continuum Kickstarter has revealed that how Trinity Continuum fits together was a core design, and having read the new manuscripts I am very impressed. The multiverse of Trinity Continuum generates Flux, which besides being a great joke about old lawsuits, very nicely gives a basis to the luck and powers of the people in the different eras. This also makes any Trinity setting cannon, allowing Onyx to publish different products without violating anyone’s campaign deviations. This was never a problem for me, I would buy things and adapt them, but I appreciate many gamers felt the old vast metaplot made new products irrelevant to them.

Trinity Continuum will be using the new Storypath system, which I think is a big improvement on the old Storyteller system. For example: the introduction of the Momentum is a great mechanic that gives failures now add to the Momentum pool, which the party can use to overcome problems later. Momentum can also be used to power skill Tricks. There is more to Storypath system, so definitely check it out. I saw a negative post about somebody not liking the idea of Momentum and “failing forward”, personally I think this is a great addition. As normal for me and my group if we want to tweak things we do, and I already contemplating testing these mechanics in other games like L5R and GURPS; all part of the RPG mental toolkit 😉

The Storypath system is also used by Scion, but each game universe has its own tweaks; I love this because it will enable easy transition between different game universes, whilst allowing each game universe to have specialised mechanics to enhance the gameflow envisioned by the designers.

The core Trinity universe eras have been expanded in the Trinity Continuum. The Kickstarter is for the core rules, with a focus on modern day games. This has been done with foresight, allowing for games ranging from things like the Bourne Identity, Chuck (2007, TV), A Town Called Eureka (2006, TV), Fringe (2008, TV). There is nothing stopping a group from playing less action and super science games, such as focusing on the Æeon Society in the modern day that links to an era spanning campaign about the organisation over time.

A Kickstart add-on is Trinity Continuum: Æon book. This covers the original Trinity 22nd era, but there are a few tweaks, 99% of which I love. What is particularly impressive is how the Unity part of the setting is being given rules to help demonstrate the point, designer Ian Watson explained in an interview about how Psions can empower another Psion, like in Orpheus. One of my players always emphasises reasons for teamwork and they are going to love this tweak.

In a Polyhedron interview there were many gems such as a future settings of Anima, which will be set in 2084 (Total Recall, Remember Me) emphasising Implants and Memory Tech, and focusing on questions of identity. Another focus is people retreating to virtual realities after the Aberrant War, I wonder if full-borg conversions will be an option, or at least remote controlled androids, something like Surrogates. There was also mention of an era set in the ancient world, a Sword & Sandals style game; this was inspired by the Adventure! game notes of Doctor Primoris (who later became Divis Mal).

Another important point discussed in the interview was how diverse the old Trinity games were due to the global scale of the setting; it’s always great to have more game specific material. The new version will be building upon this legacy, which will include an expanded look at Africa, which never got its own sourcebook back in the old days in part due to them having so much to expand on; I’m sure it would have eventually if the games had not been cancelled.

Trinity Aberrant Books

There was such much I wanted to write about this Kickstarter, I had planned on summarising my own games but that would be too big a project and miss the point of highlighting what other people need to know about the Trinity setting. Thankfully lots of information is now available about the Trinity Continuum as well as the Storypath system via the Kickstarter. So before I end I will give a few campaign ideas that I have been pondering.

Psions Lost In Space / ST: Voyager: A Jumpship takes a group of people to a new colony, but they end up lost and so far away they are cut off from Earth. A campaign emphasising survival and testing the Unity ideas of the people aboard.

Paramorph Time War: empowered by the Trinity Continuum’s Flux, and assisted by many books, films as well as my trusty GURPS reference books. A vast Time War. Since leaving my old job games master job running Play-By-Mail games, one of the designs I have part finished is a way of tracking dynamic timelines, but due to how grand the game goal was I had to strip it back, and focus on a smaller project. I also have work from old Suzerain game focusing on time travel in tabletop games. Running a single player campaign would be much easier, imagine playing a character like Max Mercer seeing the sheer scope of the cosmos and trying to figure out how to help our species, add in the complication of other time travellers doing the same thing. This could be done for a group, maybe the group need to combine powers to jump.

Attack of the Titans / Kaiju Planet / Pacific Rim: Maybe set after the Aberrant War in a world that was even more devastated. Maybe beastlike Aberrants are left behind on Earth, but they have mutated further to become giant mindless entities. Can humanity defeat these Kaiju, and if so at what cost in lives and further global devastation?

Nova Terminators: Maybe the Op-net was destroyed not just because two Novas had a war, maybe there was a 3rd Nova that planned on world domination by initiating WW3 and ruling the remains like Skynet (SkyNova). In this world SkyNova succeeded and humans are now fighting a losing battle against Terminators. Maybe this game focuses on Daredevils and Psiads?

Æon Amber: Last year I finally got around to reading the Amber series by Roger Zelazny, Arthurian style court drama on a multiverse scale. Although travelling between every universe fighting other powerful factions is a bit too grand in scale; the TV series Sliders is a good example of this. Given that I am also looking forward to Changeling: The Lost 2nd Ed, maybe I can add this in as well? A nice way of cramming on more epic gaming in to limited playing time.

Lords of Light: Another Roger Zelazny book in which a human crew arrives at a planet but struggles to survive, so they alter themselves becoming vastly powerful entities. The crew masquerade as Hindu Gods subjugating the planet’s native inhabitants. A very interesting story following Sam trying to overthrow the crews control of the planet. This story would likely make a better fit for a Nova/Aberrant style game.

I’m sure many gamers are contemplating other campaign ideas, particularly the classic: Atlantis, Roman era, ancient Egypt dynasties, Aztecs, Mystic China, etc.

Trinity Battleground

At the time of publishing there are 19 hours of the Kickstarter left. There are lots of stretch goals unlocked, so join in and reap the benefits even if just for the new PDFs and the $15 for most of the old 1st Edition Trinity books. I think Trinity Continuum seems to balancing the modern RPG approach of specialised rules whilst not sacrificing a broad ability to run so many games, this alone is a great reason to join in. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/200664283/trinity-continuum-aeon-rpg/description

I dug out my old posters, publisher catalogue from working at Tower Models and the Trinity Battlegrounds wargame.

Trinity and old White Wolf Posters

 

Kickstarter – Changeling: The Lost

At the time of posting the Kickstarter for the role-playing game Changeling: The Lost 2nd edition has just 14 hours to go. This is a project that I strongly recommend to get involved with, especially now so many stretch goals have been unlocked.

The game is part of the Chronicles of Darkness, from Onyx Path Publishing (previously staff from the old White Wolf company). Changeling: The Lost is a deep and fascinating game, taking the classic World of Darkness’s Changeling: The Dreaming and substantially changing it; this was achieved by ramping up the bleakness, adding more than a sprinkle of bizarre Lovecraftian torment, all leading to memory and identity issues. The Lost is closer to the mythological Changelings: a human child being stolen by fairies and replaced with a duplicate.

For anyone that does not know the previous edition, or for those that are familiar but undecided, I would strongly recommend at least reading the Kickstarter page. If you still not sure then I will try to provide you with an extra reason: I have mentioned in my previous blogs the concept of maximising our ‘role-playing mental toolkit’. Even if we never play a game, simply reading the setting and rules can provide incredible inspiration, as well as game fusion potential. Like the GURPS gaming line, many of the World of Darkness and Chronicle of Darkness books can provide very diverse and well-presented information. I very much consider all of the Changeling games to be worth buying because of the interesting themes and differences to most other role-playing games. For just $10 a backer can get most of the Changeling: The Lost 1st books in PDF format, which alone is a bargain.

Changeling

My Campaign Ideas

Before I run any role-playing games with my group we have a discussion about the sort of ideas and characters they’d like to explore. Given how much gaming we have all done they are often happy with the answer of “Surprise us.” I have been playing around with ideas for Changeling: The Lost campaign for quite a while, and I eagerly await the 2nd edition’s release. I have a few different campaign ideas for the players to vote on; since role-players have no problems coming up straightforward ideas, here are some more quirky ones:

Taking the inspiration from the film Contact (1997). The idea being that a team uses a new device to contact aliens, but it is the Gentry. When they finally escape it would be like the ending of contact, but the PCs know that they shared an experience.

Drawing upon the book Roadside Picnic, or the Stalker game series, a strange zone where the laws of physics seem to be broken. The twist for Changeling could be a seemingly ordinary group of friends come across a strange zone that does not break the laws of physics, but that of consciousness.

A game focusing on escaping The Village, but in the style of Patrick McGoohan’s The Prisoner TV series. This series’ obsession with questions and information gave the lead character and the show overall a strong identity. Adding the surreal elements helped to add the psychological disturbance.

The PCs are at a games Convention participating in a Cthulhu LARP, unaware that they are drawing attention from the True Fae (Gentry), or maybe they previously had and are about to remember.

“Hey, look, a Dungeons & Dragons ride!” Whether running a game taking inspiration from the cartoon series, a convention LARP, or the Gentry running their RPG. This doesn’t have to be run as zany and there is a lot of richness in D&D to draw upon.

Taking inspiration from the film Melancholia (2011), a beautiful psychological sci-fi that is a bit of a flawed gem. This is an extremely slow film that takes some dysfunctional moments between friends and family and becomes a realistic portrayal of depression, and then it oddly adds what amounts to a supernatural element.

Predator & Prey: pitching the players a cross between the movie Predator and The Running Man; maybe Alien or going full AvP craziness. Why am I writing Sci-Fi pitches? Well the party alternate between the roles of predators and prey, keeping one of the Gentry entertained as they try to figure out how to escape. In one scenario they are heavily armed hunters, in the next they are running away a lot, and in some they are both.

Cthulhu Fae: running the game in the style of one of the many Cthulhu games. The lower the PCs sanity the more the real world is revealed to them.

If I’ve not convinced you yet, consider that my ramblings are not doing the game justice, and check out the Kickstarter page anyway.

Disclaimer: Artwork is copyright 2017 Onyx Path Publishing http://www.theonyxpath.com

Prelude – Secret Rage PBM 5

This continues on from part 1 PBM Thanks & Secret Rage.

I’m off to visit Richie this weekend, and to go to GollanczFest. So there will be plenty of time to discuss the ways I plan on running the Chronicle, and see if Richie has developed or changed any of his ideas. It is also possible we will play a session or two.

Here are the next few pages of the comic prelude that I showed in my last post:

Batjutsu Secret Rage p3

Batjutsu Secret Rage p4

Batjutsu Secret Rage p5

Batjutsu Secret Rage p6

Disclaimer: This is a fan project for a friend, not a commercial product. Vampire, World of Darkness, Vampire the Masquerade, etc., are registered trademarks of White Wolf Publishing, Inc.  “Portions of the materials are the copyrights and trademarks of White Wolf Publishing AB, and are used with permission. All rights reserved. For more information please visit white-wolf.com.”

Prelude – Secret Rage PBM 4

This continues on from part 1 PBM Thanks & Secret Rage.

Where and when to start a game are typically essential questions. When I worked at KJC Games I took the long-time running fantasy game Quest and added in role-play with moderation. Since the game had been running for so long, and some customers knew nothing about role-playing, there was a lot of discussion about the best ways to implement such a dramatic change. In hindsight there are so many things I’d like to have done differently, but given the scale of the operation and time pressure, at least it mostly worked out well. So when I proposed this campaign I knew I would need to treat it as another professional undertaking, and not ignore lessons I had previously learned due to being too caught up with enthusiasm.

Years before when I had run my two big Vampire PBM games I had written out very detailed backgrounds, as well as spent a lot of time discussing things with the players. The Elder Night City PBM game had even more background than the Methesulah game, in part because I was merging R. Talsorian’s Cyberpunk with the World of Darkness (WoD), plus the WoD timeline had moved forward by many years. Although two players were replaced, since they lacked the time to play, surprisingly the final sixteen players eagerly read everything and put a lot of effort in to their turns 🙂

The previous bit of nostalgia was at the forefront of my mind when working on Secret Rage. Since Richie and I know the World of Darkness so well, at least I didn’t need to write a synopsis of the cosmology and numerous powerful organisations. This brought me back to the essential question, instead of having the character be somewhat established, why not set the game before the spirit even existed, or better yet at the birth of the spirit. This was somewhat inspired by a local role-player who decades ago was somewhat infamous for setting his D&D games at level 0. The joke became that in the next campaign the players would be playing the grandparents of their characters, with the goal being to make sure their family got born. Then the next campaign their grandparents’ dogs.

Since Richie is an artist, and a lover of comics, I had the idea of making the prelude a comic. I am not much of an artist, and I need to be careful about my ever present wrist RSI, so I accepted that I could not make it high quality. As spirits are more abstract than mortals, I thought this simpler approach could even turn out to be something distinct. Whilst I cannot use speech recognition software to draw, I can use things like https://pixabay.com/ for free artwork, and a few minutes with GIMP https://www.gimp.org/ isn’t a problem. Apart from using a few Werewolf glyphs I decided it was best to avoid using any official artwork, which is a shame since the WoD has some amazing art.

Batjutsu Secret Rage 0

Batjutsu Secret Rage p1

Batjutsu Secret Rage p2

Next time, more of the prelude.

Disclaimer: This is a fan project for a friend, not a commercial product. Vampire, World of Darkness, Vampire the Masquerade, etc., are registered trademarks of White Wolf Publishing, Inc.  “Portions of the materials are the copyrights and trademarks of White Wolf Publishing AB, and are used with permission. All rights reserved. For more information please visit white-wolf.com.”

Spirit Game – Secret Rage

This continues on from PBM Thanks & Secret Rage.

I developed the Secret Rage idea by changing the player character from that of following a lineage of Garou, to that of playing a powerful spirit. Making the game about a powerful spirit, something effectively immortal, which can guide Garou, who the player can also play, gave me the idea: “A chronicle to prevent the Apocalypse”. This idea links to the forthcoming new World of Darkness that is in development, which builds upon the old World of Darkness (oWoD), but the end days (Gehenna, Apocalypse, or Ascension) never happened.

The scale of this spirit game is even bigger than my old Vampire Methuselah and Elder PBM games, more like the professional games I ran at KJC Games. Whilst the spirit has vast powers and epic plans, the key is to treat the character like any other, to be propelled by motivations and personal drama. An added benefit with this project is it also allows me to playtest ideas from a commercial PBM project that I’ve been working on for years: Elemental Masters. This game is about the building blocks of reality and the plots of pantheons; I seriously need a better name than this working title, meh.

A few RPGs go in to some detail about spirits, particularly several of the World of Darkness (old WoD & Chronicles) as well GURPS Spirits. Sadly despite the numerous details they present, I still wanted more depth. To be fair to those books, I do tend to go overboard with my ideas, plus the Spirit label is so all-encompassing, so it is no surprise that a collection of predominately enigmatic entities are described in vague terms. One of the strengths of the WoD books is how many ideas they present, whilst not creating a rigid structure to limit possibility. As normal for any GURPS book, GURPS Spirits is filled with a plethora of thought provoking ideas, and plenty of rules options, plus plug-ins to such a powerful system.

When I first read the Werewolf I was reminded of how the game brilliantly compares with Dungeons & Dragons; I’ll justify that statement another time. Manual of the Planes was my favourite D&D book, and Planescape is my favourite setting, so it is no surprise to reveal that Umbra is my favourite WoD book, my second favourite is the Mage Book of Madness.

Spirit Scale

Given the cosmological scale of any spirit world to its setting, any decision made can have far reaching impacts upon said setting. It is common to declare that the ephemeral nature of spirits makes them mysterious to mortals/beings of flesh, which is understandable given that Spirits are not player characters (PCs). The three tiered Umbra (High, Middle and Low) in the old World of Darkness effectively contains every idea and its spiritual impact, so detailing literally everything would be an impossible task. It is up to each group as to the scale of any Umbral impact they want to explore, there is certainly enough information for any Storyteller to launch all manner of games.

Given how many different games I’ve played for extended periods, I’ve gotten to explore the core setting of each game. This is another reason for my obsession with all RPG cosmologies, to explore. For example a very long running game of Legend of the 5 Rings slowly became about the setting’s cosmology; I am quite looking forward to the forthcoming 5th Edition and to see what more they add. As a Star Trek fan, I did consider another name for this campaign:

Tellurian Trek!

Spirit Courts

Another important consideration is the complexity of any Spirit Courts, powerful gatherings that surely would have connections to each other. A design dilemma is how best to present such entities, especially if they are long-lived, and thus would have many ancient relationships to work out; never mind the historical events they could discuss.  The Dungeons & Dragons setting Planescape went in to a lot of detail about the Blood War, which I think really added depth to the D&D cosmology; the machinations of ludicrously powerful entities and Gods is better presented in that setting. Werewolf did a good job of summarising many Spirit Totems and their relationships, and the setting itself is based around the Triat and Gaia.

I believe the vast cosmological scale of is one of the key reasons so many players of the World of Darkness setting preferred Vampire over Werewolf or Mage, and to a lesser extent Wraith, Changeling and Demon. Vampire is a rich enough game; it has plenty of characters, depth and history, without needing the Umbra to be brought out of the shadows. When Dirty Secrets of the Black Hand came out, a few players I chatted with explained that they didn’t like the new layers of plots, and some said they disliked the Umbral tie-ins; there were of course forum posts debating this point. Several players I’ve chatted with who love Werewolf or Mage typically list the vast cosmology as a reason why they do. Of course plenty of players, like myself, appreciate the different games for different reasons.

Spirit Psychology

Years ago I had written a collection of ideas about spirits for Elemental Masters setting, but I had not fleshed my ideas out enough. Typically for me I had avoided finalising ideas due to constantly feeling that I needed to research more. Finally with years of research and this idea for Secret Rage I was able to finalise ideas. I had been working on detailing the psychology of different types of spirits, also drawing upon computing and philosophical ideas. Exploring ideas such as compartmentalised minds, how an Incarna’s brood relationship works, how I think slumber works, more about a spirit’s relationship with Gnosis, Gaia, etc. My spirit work is not ready for public release, but things are at a good playtesting stage, which Richie and I will explore.

I’ve considered whether to develop this work in to a commercial product, so it is interesting to note that the new White Wolf have the Storytellers Vault.

Next time I go over the spirit choice for the game.

PBM Thanks & Secret Rage

A while ago when I was mostly bedridden several of my friends would skype with me. It really helped to have some extra communication, and thankfully with a wireless headset it meant I could rest in bed. One of my long-time friends is Richie; he’s self-employed working from home, and has a young child, so he’s ludicrously busy, yet he still allocated time for me.

In addition to saying thank you to Richie for his support, I have tried to offer small gifts to show my appreciation. Richie and I first role-played together well over twenty years ago. Due to his busy life he’s not able to game regularly, so I thought a Play By Mail (PBM) game would do us both good, neatly sliding in to his hectic life schedule, at whatever pace he could manage. I wrote an introductory series to PBM here.

Roughly a year ago we discussed playing old White Wolf’s Aberrant game, since Richie’s a fan of comics, but he’d not played that setting yet. Aberrant has a rich Supers setting with mature themes, and lots of world changing powers to explore. Sadly this game never quite got going due to how busy Richie always is, and since I was still struggling with my health I didn’t push the subject. I have managed to offer a few other things as thanks, for example I made this small thing a while ago when he was ill:

BatJanoSandman

More recently I returned to the idea of offering a better present by running a PBM game. As we are both writers I considered proposing a classic style Dungeons & Dragons game emphasising the Hero’s Journey arc. Although this may feel a bit too cliché to many role-players, I think it is worth keeping in mind that there is so much you can do with good old D&D, there are so many settings and styles of gameplay. I also considered a Cthulhu game, given the single player nature of this game maybe doing something along the lines of Groundhog Cthulhu: Live, Go Insane, Die, Repeat. Or maybe going a bit over the top and running a GURPS Infinite Worlds game. I went through lists of other RPGs, even games that I’d not tried out yet. Eventually I settled on a game that I thought was the most likely to get Richie to bite, so I suggested the Gift of Werewolf.

We both adore Werewolf: The Apocalypse; well we adore all of the classic World of Darkness (cWoD). Despite how much we played Werewolf, we still want to play more, both feeling the genius game was overlooked by many gamers, and those who did take an interest in the World of Darkness games typically favoured Vampire. Over the years when I’ve been asked to pick to my favourite cWoD game I’ve always picked the World of Darkness as a cohesive whole, since that was how I always ran the setting. So my friend knows that when I suggested Werewolf, I really meant the cWoD with the primary focus being Werewolf.

After some chats I made a list of ideas for the Werewolf PBM for us to discuss further, and things quickly developed; typically I wanted to do something more and a bit different than my previous games. The initial premise was Richie playing a lone Garou, however, role-playing a lone Garou is a bit depressing; they are primarily pack animals after all. So I proposed a game spanning eons, we could use Past Lives to allow for story that covered such a time period, a chance to explore a powerful historical and social background of the Garou, and it could be about preventing the Apocalypse. The new White Wolf Publishing company are working on a new World of Darkness, one that roughly continues from the classic, without the Apocalypse/Gehenna/Ascension ending. Whilst we are waiting for those products I considered this to be an intriguing idea.

Over the course of a few weeks I played about with the premise and kept coming back to wanting to do something more like my Vampire Methuselah and Elder PBM campaigns. Meanwhile Richie wrote a cool short story, things were a go. I then had a more intriguing campaign idea, one that would take the Past Lives plan to an even bigger level, and take the game in a radically different direction. It didn’t involve abandoning what we’d initially set out to do, and Richie’s story would tie-in.

Next time I’ll go in to more detail about my Secret Rage.

You can check out some of Richie’s great designs at http://www.richiedigital.co.uk/