Thursday, 29 March 2012

To The Stars

A Microscope - derived shared world timeline for gaming in.

The idea is that we play different games each week, place them in a particular point in the timeline, and gradually fill in the details.

After trying numerous free online Timeline creators and finding tham all bugged to fuck, I am simply posting this on my blog.

CAPITALS are long periods of time. The whole thing should take fifty to 100 thousand years, so there is a lot of figurative space between the lines. 

We played for three hours and the whole of human civilisation collapsed twice.

The Rise of a People to the Stars

***********BEGINNING***************NOTHING BEFORE THIS POINT**********

(HOT/COLD WARS) – dark

  • Echelon Zero's artificial consciousness emerges from a soup of logic and thought. - light
  • First recorded rampant echelon system – dark


  • Ill fated echelon 3 series used against the HMBT's – light
  • 'Blueprints' for Zero Point Way-station stolen by spies – dark

  • Ten million ships fly past Zero Point Way-station during opening ceremony – light


  • The last message arrives from a collapsing technological planet – dark
  • The last message is received by Zygmunt Blank, the final Soldier-Scholar, Edward Roosevelt, an Engineer and the sculptor Absolom Faringer. In a nihilistic rage Blank kills Absolom Faringer and out of regret he dedicates himself to preserving Absoloms art. Roosevelt attempts to bring Blank to justice but is himself murdered in the sculpture garden on Zero Point. The only witnesses are Roosevelt’s son Archibald and an Gene-engineered Velociraptor named Spielberg. The sublime Art of Faringer sparks a human renaissance that ultimately returns mankind to the stars. The future of mankind was midwived by murder. Both light and dark.


  • Archibald Roosevelt agrees to be the founding genome in order to re-establish humanity because it is the right thing to do. - light



  • Destruction of Zero Point Way-Station – dark
  • Bo Lucas, insane Space Marine, destroys Zero Point whilst under the incompetent command of Sebastian Fortesque during the battle against the Schwärm Laden. Echelon V was the artificial intelligence occupying the defending ship. - dark
  • Karl-4 the Hyper-Neanderthal President of Humanity is persuaded to let Echelon VII lead the Ontological-Warhead strike by Stanislaw Brock the Grand Hierophant of Earth. Echelon VII will encode humanity in the Sun's Corona then seed Jupiter with self-creating nanoswarms that will transform the Jovian mass into a Hypermind that can re-constitute and recreate mankind. Sigmund Ross - Chief Warlock, and mutated psychic, and Augustus Schwarzkopf, 11-Star General of the United Military of Mankind, decide not to accept the offer and will stay and to fight to the death - dark
  • The Echelon VII series leads the final strike against the Schwärm Laden proto-realm - light
  • Ontological warheads are used against the Schwärm Laden for the first time – light


  • Sigmund Ross returns from Proxima Centauri – dark

*************END*********NOTHING BEOND THIS POINT*********************

Wednesday, 21 March 2012


Terra Borges

A challenge by Noisms to create a campaign world based on a random selection of animals/monsters. I used borges 'Book of Imaginary Beings.'

This is what I got:-

The Chinese Phoenix
The Tigers of Annam
The Norns
The Lunar Hare

Every species is intelligent and has a culture.

So, there were years of Strange Global Aurora when every sky was lit by colour. When it ended, mythical beings had returned from space, animals had taken strange new forms, much of humanity had been poisoned by evil sorcerers and a dark thread existed hidden in the world.

A Dark, Hidden God

The Odradek's look like a spool of thread, they are the dark hidden gods of the setting. No-one notices them as they harrow the empty spaces between the moments. They eat the thread of the Norns. Odradeks live in a government of touch, their tribes are Carresments and the Empress of all the Odradeks is the Ambulatrix. Odradek names are shaped of the silence between spoken syllables, magic spells are actually Odadrek names. That is why they sound different to each person. The words change but the indrawn breaths and micromutes between each phenome are always the same. Few people know this. Each Odradek can consume a small part of reality, when you speak its name, that is what happens. This looks to most like magic, but really is just the twisting and expulsions of the meta-weave as it struggles to repair and re-balance the world. Like flushed skin after a strike, or like bleeding after a cut.

Chonchons are the only remains of one third of humanity.

It's not a bad as it looks, really.

 They were created when evil sorcerers poisoned all of mankind to war against the FengHuang. They can only be seen by each other, unless they wish it, making them deadly predators on the other creatures. Despite this, most Chonchon have gone back to Human-style societies because it makes things more interesting and they get to live in functional groups. The Chonchon have invisible cities inside mountains of smokey volcanic glass. They have visible tribes who trade with FengHuang, Griffins, Norn, Lunar Hares and Roperites . The visible tribes police the occasional predators of the unseen tribes who use their invisibility and magic to prey on other species. Chonchons might be invisible magic flying heads but they are still human. They care about the same kinds of things, have politics, art e.t.c. The original evil Chonchons thought that by transforming mankind en-mass they would produce an army of monsters. They were wrong, humanity transformed fell back into strange versions of the patterns of their original selves. The epic pettiness of mankind saved it from disaster. Chonchon historians generally regard the change as a good or neutral thing. They have a very positivist/whigish attitude and believe that most of human history was just a long run up to the inevitable point when people lost their bodies, grew wings and learned magic.

PC Chonchons will probably be from one of the visible tribes who are assigned to interact with the outside world. They may have a special mission or be the equivilent of rangers, sent out to learn, grow character or keep a general watch on things happening outside.

The Chinese Pheonix, or FengHuang. 

Can't really see the third limb in this picture.

 These are man-sized birds with long necks, a third claw comes from the middle of their chest and can manipulate objects. These birds of perfect harmony used to live on earth in the early ages of ancient China. They disliked the nature of growing civilisation and migrated to live in the Sun. They bred there until migrating back to earth in a mass coronal ejection. This brief tide from the sun spread strange Aurora across each horizon of earth, from this fell perfect intelligent birds who could only act in correctness with each other. FengHuang roll a natural 20 for Wisdom every time. The Return of the FengHuang woke the Griffins, Tigers, Goofang and Valkyries. The FengHuang need only what birds need, but they value harmony above all else. This leads them to trade pieces of their wisdom to other species in order to produce a more perfect world. Their version of perfection may not match that shared by others. When they trade wisdom by giving information, it cannot be retrieved. This means that old FengHuang that interact too much with the world can gradually be reduced to something near the level of an average, intelligent bird. This has happened to many since the FengHuang returned from the sun.

PC FengHuang are probably these 'fallen' birds. They will go on adventures in order to regain their wisdom. They do this the same way anyone gains wisdom, by putting themselves through a wide series of strange and important events in the hope that this will lead to personal growth. As they become more wise, FengHuang can see more of the nature of the world, but they are less able to use this knowledge. XP gains them strange powers, but using these powers loses them XP.

Goofang or LibertyFish are fish that swim backwards. They are huge man-sized intelligent lungfish.
They move backwards to avoid the fates woven by the Norns. This means they have true freedom. Goofang always save against magic so long as they move backwards. When they are moving backwards, they always fail initiative. Their flippers are very flexible, they can hold items in their tail-fin which they can use to manipulate things behind them or arc over their bodies to do thing in front of them. They have big goggle eyes on the sides of their heads which means moving backwards isn't as much of a chore as you would think. Almost 360 vision. They can prance around in quite a delicate manner on their forefins. They can swim, but slowly, as they will try to do that backwards as well. All Goofang are heroic bastards, they cannot stand the idea of another intelligent creature captured or enslaved and will happily leave their vast mud-tribes in order to ensure liberty and do good. They are like the knights or paladins of Terra Borges

Griffin These are just Griffins.

The guy with the Lyre is probably just an employee to provide mood music while fighting is done.
They start as dog sized from the egg. As they grow through man size they can use their front talons to grasp and hold objects but as they get bigger their talons harden and extend. They lose intelligence as they level up and gain hit dice. Eventually they become potential monsters. Young griffins are quite civilised and urbane, they wear clothes, spectacles, read and smoke pipes. They can walk about on their hind legs if they wish and glide a bit. Griffins live in FengHuang or Chonchon cities. They are big into culture in their middle years and usually have salons and the like. May well go adventuring for the aesthetic experience or to discover lost or new forms of art.

The Tigers of Annam are the judges and maintainers of alignment. They are also Tigers, so they can fuck you up. Pale Blue True Neutral Tigers that hunt divergent actions. Ultra-clever but utterly pitiless like real tigers. They know about the threefold alignment model and believe in it. If you step outside the narrow confines of your alignment (I.e act in an interesting way) then they can sense it and will come after you. They have the intelligence of a supercomputer but the emotional and self-awareness of a forum troll. Anything that cannot be explained in the most reductive terms, they cannot understand.

 The Norns are human women who survived the Chonchon poisoning. They can needle-out strands of the world and re-weave it. Norns know Kung Fu but with thread. Threads can do different stuff depending on how they weave it. Like Wonder Womans truth telling lasoo thread, healing thread, hunting thread, thread of invisibity thread for finding of things. Thread takes exactly as long to weave as actual thread and once its been used once then that's it, weaving for them is like Vancian spell selection. They need to think in advance about what they will weave. Odradeks ar natural enemies of the Norns. Norns work by tying things together, ideas, places, people, space, time. Odradeks do the opposite. Norns know that Odradeks exist but do not know what they are and cannot find their true form. Think of them as deamons. Two natures of the Thread, the Norns creating, and the Odradeks feeding off its destrucion. Two different kinds of magic.

Lunar Hares come from the moon of course.

Dude knows Alchemy.
They returned when they saw the FengHuang come back from the sun, riding their coronal flare. Silvery man-sized Hares that know the alchemy of the moon. Alchemist/cleric/scientists. Of course these guys are also from ancient China, they moved to the moon around the time of the first Emperor. Now they are back and can do Medieval-style-but-it-works medicine and science.

Valkyrie's are lone hero’s who exchange their lives with those who die in heroic circumstances. If someone dies hard doing the right thing but has noble work left undone then one of the selectors of the dead will choose to swap places with them. The soul go's off to wherever but the body gets back up with a completely new personality (usually female). Valkyries cannot bring their memories of the afterlife with them but they know what they are and have a deep sense of purpose. If your character dies,and if they were noble, they can get straight back up with a new personality.( 80% chance female). Valkeries always start out as brave, puer and good, but they have never faced the temptations of the physical world before and can get corrupted fast.

Roperites are crazed, evil miniphants that hunt with prehensile, looped proboscis. Cruel, smart, wolf-like predatory elephants the size of ponies.

An evil that cannot end.
They range around in packs and strangle things with their fierce noses. They have a power structure, and keep slaves and rule cities and have tools. Imagine if Wolves were also Mongols, or if wolves were intelligent and could use tools and one of them was like the Wolf Genghis Khan and lead them in gleeful warfare against the rest of the world. They are, obviously, enemies of the Goofangs. The Goofangs and the Roperites have like a Mongols/Teutonic Knights thing going on except its elpholves and backwards lungfish knights.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Monsters of Incompetence and Atomic Bread


There are three apparently unrelated ideas swirling around my mind.

This post in Monsters and Manuals about the changes in game design shaped by vocal minorities.

This article on the development of ultra-white 'Atomic' bread in the 1950's.

And the book, the Psychology of Military Incompetence by Norman Dixon

I feel a strong relation between the ideas in these sources, yet I am having trouble clearly delineating the nature of the connection to myself. What follows is a kind of internal dialogue to see if I am, in fact, correct. Or if the soup of my mind has failed me again. How can these things be related?

The simplest connection is between Dixon and Manuals.

Monsters and Military Incompetence

The main theme of Dixon's book on military incompetence goes roughly like this:-

Warfare is very difficult and produces enormous stress in the people who undertake it. As a consequence, the organisations that are directed to warfare develop rituals, manners and structures that are designed to control, displace, channel, and otherwise deal with stress. Because these organisations develop such qualities they then attract individuals who find themselves in personal need of these qualities in normal life. (Italics mine.)

In Dixon's own words “..those very characteristics which are demanded by war – the ability to tolerate uncertainty, spontaneity of thought and action, having a mind open to the receipt of novel, and perhaps threatening, information – are the antitheses of those possessed by people attracted to the controls, and orderliness of militarism. Here is the germ of a terrible paradox.”

How does this connect to the post in 'Monsters and Manuals'?

The post suggests that changes in game design for Dungeons and Dragons have been driven by a minority of people who base their beliefs about the nature of RPG's on the most negative assumptions possible, and then ask the creators to change the game to eliminate the possible en-action of those dark assumptions.

Another quote, this one is by K.J.W Craik, I took it from Dixon's book. He used it as a heading for a chapter titled – 'Socialization and the Anal Character.'

... a form of adaptation is thus achieved by narrowing and distorting the environment until one's conduct appears adequate to it, rather than by altering ones conduct and enlarging one's knowledge till one can cope with the real environment.”

So, R.P.G's give us rules to simulate life. They take complex, living situations and break them down to a series of abstract rules that, unlike real life, can be fully and directly comprehended in their totality.

It is possible that because of this R.P.G's attract exactly the kind of people who really need rules for complex living situations. (I can state that this is probably a small, but real, factor in my own attraction to R.P.G's)

It is also possible that the members of the group that are least socially-capable actually produce a greater impact on the engine driving the hobby than the majority of the group. They are 'louder', they are willing to argue for longer, they devote more energy to arguments (especially online). They have poorer social radar which means they will ignore the tacit signals other people use to know when to shut up in a complex situation. They have nowhere else to go, someone whose life is based around D&D will be much, much more directed and focused on changing or influencing the game than someone who has other social options.

If R.P.G's attract this kind of person, and if we also assume that the least socially-capable members of the group also produce the loudest 'signal' in the games audience, then we can see how a game that provides life simulation as a kind of necessity for most of its players in order for them to achieve other aims can be consumed by those for whom those rules are a need in themselves.

I propose that the situation between Military forces and those who are attracted to them is analogous to the connection between R.P.G's and those who are attracted to them. Both will initially attract a wide spectrum of personality types. But ultimately, both can become dominated by those who need the organisation most. These people are not necessarily the ones the organisation most needs.

But how does this connect to Atomic Bread?

Atomic Bread

Aaron Bobrow-Strain is a bread enthusiast. The kind of person who will obsessive search out the methods to create interesting breads from history and then try to recreate them in the kitchen.

In this article he attempts to re-create 50's Wonda-Bread, and while doing so, gives a fascinating analysis of the history of industrial food, our relation with the things we eat and a host of other things. It's an excellent piece and I recommend you take a look if you have the time.

I will briefly summarise the things I understood (or thought I understood) and that seemed to leap forward with a hidden relevance.

During the 1950's, the US government apparently becomes concerned that people are not eating enough bread.

They embark on a massive project to find out why.

They aim to discover what people want from their bread, the results are surprising:- “a clear portrait of America's favourite loaf emerged. It was 42.9 percent fluffier than the existing industry standard and 250 percent sweeter. "

People want really white, really fluffy and really really really sweet, bread. The government tries to give them what they want. They challenge nature itself and produce 'USDA White Pan Loaf No.1'

People hate the bread. They complain about it to a huge degree. They distrust its fakeness, its softness and its whiteness.

They buy it in huge numbers.

They regard it as modern, powerful, they believe in it's artificial enrichments.

There are lots of strange and fucked up elements that go into societies relationship with its bread. But there are two things to remember.

One. It was brought about by large numbers of people trying to do the right thing. The cryptic government bread programs are to strengthen the nation and protect the health of the people. The people want to eat the right thing. The corporations want to make bread faster, better, and sell it large volumes. None of these are essentially evil or immoral.

Two. There is an essential dualness to the peoples relationship to the product. They hate it and they want it. They complain about it and they buy it. They trust it and distrust it.

So how does the bread paradox relate to the Monsters/Incompetence axis?

We can have a human system, generated only by people trying to do the right thing, in which the wrong people are doing the wrong thing, actively disliking it and yet unable to pull away. All driven by human need, and a desire to fulfil it.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Balach in 25 words oR less

Balach is the fantasy setting I daydream about when nothing else is on my mind.

Shattered time casts ruins of glass and concrete through trapped land of lost peaks and unseen depths. Anarchist flag city thrives in own corpse. WARCHIMPS.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

They Must Be Fought

Jeff Rients posted about a D&D world where the only gods were the Evil Boss-Monsters from the Fiend Folio.

Lolth - Spider Queen of Demons
Cryonax - Prince of Freezing Blood and Shattering Ice
Imix - Prince of All-Consuming Flame
Ogrémoch -Prince of Crushing Stone
Olhydra - Princess of the Drowning Waters
Yan-C-Bin - Invisible Prince of Thunder and Lightning
Ssendam - Lord of Insanity
Ygorl - Lord of Entropy

For some reason I started thinking about this Quote from Dr Who -
'Some corners of the Universe have bred the most terrible things, things that stand against everything we believe in. They must be fought.'

Then I thought about dark heroes in a world ruled by evil gods. Roguish bastards putting cold steel between the people and the gods that would destroy them. And about sanity points and stuff like that. Then I thought about the horror of trying to be honourable in a world where the only gods are bad. It sounds fucking awesome.

Then I thought about saving throws and how little sense they make.

Saving Throws

Poison or Death
Petrify or Paralyse
Wands or Device
Magic or Spells

They stand between the PC and death, but what do they represent? They are totally disconnected from the stats, chilling out there on the side of the character sheet, so it can't be that. So I came up with this.

Breath – the favour of Olhydra
Poison or Death – the boon of Yan-C-Bin
Petrify or Paralyse – the eye of Ygorl
Wands or Device - the favour of Lolth
Magic or Spells – the word of Ssendam

Will you serve the gods and gain their favour?


I will call it 'Swords Against Madness' or 'They Must Be Fought'

Saturday, 3 March 2012


Netrunners in Cyberpunk are awesome and boring at the same time.

They are awesome because they have their own little min-ruleset, stuff only they can do, seperate from anyone else. They are boring for the same reason.

My Cyberpunk DM told us that no-one ever plays the netrunner because the game has to stop for everyone else while they do their thing.

I thought there must be a way to make them more interesting. And I was right, it seems like quite a number of people have come up with net-running house-rules to make the whole thing less stressful.

Most of them seem to be simplifications of the existing rules, none of them are what I had in mind. Below are the poorly thought-out houserules I came up with to weave the Netrunner into a Cyberpunk game in an intuitive and direct way without corrupting the central idea of the character and without screwing the difficulty curve too much.


Netrunners are the Solo's of the internet. They use their Interface skill in the same way Solo's use Combat Sense. They add it to all initiative and awareness rolls in a virtual space.


Netrunners can be like Ariel or like Caliban, but not both at the same time. They can move through systems like a spirit, go anywhere, uninterrupted and unconstrained. Or they can be like Caliban and actually do things in the real world. But they have to choose which. If a Netrunner wants to make any material thing happen in the real world then they are inextricably located in that space, they have to stay there while they do it, can be found there and can't move till it's done.

The Magic Key

There is a kind of Magic Key that Netrunners have. Its an actual item, about the size of a packet of cigarettes. It usually looks like a black box, but it can look like almost anything else of the same size.

It affects digital signals. It's impossible to stop because all it does is leave a slight trace in the noosphere that makes it possible for a Netrunner to trace the owner. It also makes it easier for the Netrunner to invade systems that are near the box.

Within 10 meters of a Magic Box any action the Netrunner undertakes involving invading, hacking or corrupting the datasphere can be done as a single dice roll using a skill. Hackers use skills to do things in Cyberspace the same way people use them in normal space. Stealth to sneak around guards, shadow/track to trace people, Elec Security to break in, Pick lock for opening locks in the physical world, Forgery for making fake virtual documents, drive or pilot for driving robot vehicles by remote, knowledge checks for rapidly researching information e.t.c

Owning one of these boxes is highly illegal.


If the PC's have a magic box, and if there is a cybersphere around them (i.e an urbanised area or equivilent) then the Netrunner can assume to be continually present in the area. Listening through phone mikes, peeping through Security cams, traffic cams, even cybereyes in peoples heads, if they are ok with that. You are present but to DO anything (Open a lock, commandeer a cybercar e.t.c) you have to roll.


Public systems have such little protection that they can be broken into without a roll. (It's still illegal to do so and they will fry you if they catch you.) Everything else is protected. There are six levels of protection. 10, 15, 20, 25, 30 and 35, tell the DM how you are breaking in and they will tell you what you need to roll.

Corps, Governments and Individuals will send things after you. Programs, AI's and othe netrunners. They will try and stun you for pickup (if nice), brainfry you, or wipe your personality and replace it with one they like more. (This may have already happened.)

You fight at a distance with the Friday Night Firefight rules. Your guns are programs you buy. (Haven't worked out yet if these are real programs or just use the gun rules re-skinned.) You roll INT to fight at range.

You can fight hand to hand in cyberspace if you are a badass. In this case you can brawl, swordfight e.t.c with enemy programs using your skills and weapons and Martial Arts, if you know them. You roll COOL/WILL nor REF to fight hand to hand.

Can I Find A...

"Can I find a security cam covering the approach?" "Can I find a car with cyber controls and drive it into that guy?" "Can find an electric door and close it on them as they go through?"

Yes, roll LUCK. If you hit, you found it. If you miss maybe you didn't find it, or, if the DM likes, you found what you want but there is a complication. i.e someone found you as well, there is something you have to do or something you have to know first. 

Matthew Lillard was fucking brilliant in that film.