Cypher System Deadlands Homebrew Progress 4

Ugh, slow progress. Between work being nightmarish and Red Dead Redemption 2 being dreamy, I’ve had little energy to devote to getting Foci done, so it has taken a while. But it’s done! There wasn’t too much real change to be made: a little more horse, a little less computers and a few word changes to the Foci in the Cypher System Rulebook and we’re good.

Some of these might seem familiar to Numenera players, but there are some fascinating new ones thrown in there too allowing you to make characters who…

  • Awakens Dreams; pretty rad dream powers, putting people into dreams, pulling stuff out of dreams and into the real world.
  • Bears a Halo of Fire; one of the “Covered in _” foci, bursting into flames as a way of life, with a few cool burning shit up abilities.
  • Blazes with Radiance; another “Covered in _” foci, this has only a little overlap with Bears a Halo of Fire and focuses more on light manipulation.
  • Builds Robots; I kept this even though we have a Weird Science Flavour, for people who want to double down on tinkerin’ with gadgets. Doesn’t mean you couldn’t play a gadgeteer or the like, even if you don’t take Weird Science. Maybe you’re a Mormon Drifter and you just like a little company. I’m not going to judge.
  • Calculates the Incalculable; a mathematics savant who uses predictive models to make life easier for themselves.
  • Carries a Quiver; archery specialist, obviously. Can use Intellect or Speed to aim arrows, which is kinda cool.
  • Channels Divine Blessings; almost didn’t keep this because of overlap with Blessed Type, but who am I to deprive anyone of making a Holy Roller Fightin’ Sort? You get to choose your God’s portfolio, which is nice.
  • Commands Mental Powers; all sorts of telepathic shenanigans.
  • Consorts with the Dead; Necromancy by any other name would smell as – augh, good god, what is that stench? Speaking to the dead has its advantages though. Unlike Shepherds Spirits below, you get to animate corpses to do your bidding.
  • Controls Beasts; Beast buddies, beast mounts, beast allies.
  • Crafts Illusions; Illusionist, pretty simple looking. At least that’s what they want you to see.
  • Crafts Unique Objects; Craftsman who can increase the utility of his own gear and also eventually craft artifacts.
  • Defends the Weak; bonuses for being the party Tank with some crowd control.
  • Doesn’t Do Much; a boost to combat abilities and non-combat skills
  • Employs Magnetism; seems pretty overpowered, this is a powerful array of metal-manipulation abilities. And at 6, you get to treat a non-magnetic thing as though it is magnetic… so… Fortunately the Intellect cost is high.
  • Entertains; BARD.
  • Exists in Two Places at Once; Creepy mirror twin follower who will go do stuff for you.
  • Exists Partially out of Phase; Meef’s ability from our Numenera game, he isn’t entirely all there.
  • Explores Dark Places; getting into and out of places abilities.
  • Fights Dirty; an array of dastardly abilities to help you out in combat.
  • Fights with Panache; an array of swashbuckling abilities to help you out in combat.
  • Focuses Mind over Matter; Telekinetic abilities, as displayed by Giana in Numenera.
  • Howls at the Moon; Lycanthrope abilities
  • Hunts Outcasts; Primed with skills for taking on the humanoid abominations of the Weird West.
  • Hunts with Great Skill; Trackin’ and Sneakin’ with extra abilities for use against your quarry.
  • Infiltrates; a lot of overlap with the Stealth Flavour.
  • Interprets the Law; finally fulfill your dream of being a simple country lawyer! Also, you get to shout Objection! as a stunning attack on people. True.
  • Leads; as seen in Numenera exemplified by Sharad who bosses people around and what-not.
  • Lives by the Gun; firearm expertise.
  • Lives in the Wilderness; lots of wilderness survival skills
  • Looks for Trouble; a mix of fightin’ and healin’ abilities.
  • Masters the Swarm; creepy-ass swarm abilities.
  • Masters Weaponry; since archery and gunplay are covered in other Foci this one covers melee weapons (pretty much). “Throws with -” below covers throwing weapons.
  • Metes Out Justice; you get to decide who is innocent and who is guilty and then you get abilities to treat them accordingly.
  • Moves Like a Cat; knock things off shelves. But also, a big boost for Speed users.
  • Moves Like the Wind; even more goodies for Speed users, this one lets you move real fast. Like, real fast. SO fast people can’t identify you as you run past them.
  • Murder; focus on ambush and sudden, overwhelming strikes.
  • Needs No Weapon; one of a few ways of building a Kung Fu-Western character.
  • Never Says Die; an impressive array of damage mitigation abilities, to help you build a very durable tank.
  • Operates Undercover; bunch of spy abilities.
  • Performs Feats of Strength; big boosts to Might and abilities related to that.
  • Rages; another Might boosting and utilizing Foci, this focussing on temporary surges.
  • Rides the Lightning; another “Covered in _” Foci that mixes damage dealing with movement abilities.
  • Sees Beyond; A Foci that lets you see way more than other folks experience and makes visible (to you) the invisible and hidden.
  • Separates Mind from Body; give your mortal coil a rest for a bit and send your soul out wanderin’, doin’ stuff.
  • Shepherds Spirits; similiar to Consorts with the Dead in that it has communication skills, but this time you get assistance from spirits. These characters are so au fait with the spirit world that they get to choose whether or not to come back as Harrowed when they die.
  • Siphons Power; be an energy vampire! Why not?!
  • Slays Monsters; the monster equivalent Hunts Outcasts, this is primed with skills for taking on the monsters of the Weird West.
  • Solves Mysteries; lets you spend Might and Speed to Intellect tasks, so it lets you turn a non-Intellect heavy Types into a bit of a thinker. Other generally useful spread of abilities.
  • Throws with Deadly Accuracy; the last of the weapon specialization Foci.
  • Wears a Sheen of Ice; a “Covered In _” Foci with a greater emphasis on crowd control and protection.
  • Wields Two Weapons at Once; As modelled by Red Pepper, this lets you hit with two weapons, with increasing effect.
  • Works Miracles; different to the Channel Divine Blessings because it focuses almost entirely on healing.
  • Works the Back Alleys; The Urban Ranger, a spread of abilities to help out.
  • Works  the System; more con-man than thief, lots of ways of during people especially those that rely on bureaucratic systems. I edited a lot of this because it originally had a lot to do with computers.
  • Would Rather be Reading; Boosts to Intellect with some non-combat skill benefits.

Alright, Descriptors shouldn’t take too long as they’re pretty short.

Then we’re good to make characters!

 

Cypher System Deadlands Homebrew Progress 3

Okay! Making Decent progress. Types and Flavours are done, and they’re the most setting-reliant and take the most work. Foci and Descriptors should be easier and faster to incorporate, with probably no changes for the vast majority of stuff. So I’m already figuring out a introductory scenario and should get that written up soon. The bunch of old White Dwarf back issues from the mid-80s have been great for idea stealing.

Types:

Got yer Fightin’ Sort, Spinner, Drifter, Huckster, Blessed and Shaman types figured out. The last three are just variations of a template, with a couple of different rules.

  • Fightin’ Sort: Combat specialists. They’re real good at the hurtin’ business.
  • Spinner: Social Interaction specialists, but it goes a bit beyond that. They’re able to fiddle with memories, supernaturally intimidate, it is (potentially) more than just a silver tongue.
  • Drifter: is your Jack of All Trades, with things that don’t quite fit in other Types. But there are a few things that no one else can do. The Drifter isn’t just hedged bets between other Types, it has a lot of its own stuff going on.
  • Huckster: Magic flinging, it’s the most offensive of the three magic classes for sure. As well as the spell type abilities, there are a few added abilities relating to how they cast their spells and rules regarding their dealings with the Manitous. I put in a skill called Blood Magic that allows an advanced Huckster to spend Might rather than Intellect to cast spells – a kind of desperate ploy – but once they start that they have to keep spending Might until they are successful.
  • Blessed: Blessed spells tend not to be offensive (although there are a few) but they are all simple Intellect point buys like regular Cypher System/Numenera spells.
  • Shaman: Shaman have a mix of offensive and useful spells – the deal with Shamans is that a lot of their spells are rituals – they can do some amazing things, but it takes time. Their spell durations are a bit better though. This frees up the Shaman to bit a bit more free with his chips than other magic users – which seems suitable for a more physical role.

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Cypher System Deadlands: Homebrew progress 2

You seem unsure about where Duluth and Chicago are, map, but this is by far the least inaccurate Deadlands map I could find. The rest appear to have been drawn from memory, one putting Bismarck, Fargo and Minneapolis all in the same state…

So after hammering out Fightin’ Sort, Spinner and Drifter as Character Types, I came up with a simple equipment list, thought about bullets, and fleshed out the Stealth Flavour and the Weird Science Flavour.

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Home brew progress 1

Oof. “Keep the Huckster’s deck mechanics” I thought to myself. “It’ll be fun.” I thought. Oh boy, was I wrong. I do not have the head for that kind of mathematics.

My draft for the Warrior Type: Fightin’ Man, (which may get changed to Fightin’ Feller, I haven’t decided yet. Woman or Gal if you’re character is of that persuasion. Maybe Fightin’ Sort is the best) was easy peasy. It’s mostly how you would like to hit things and how often. Still interesting, but not complicated. The only thing that required substantial changes was the armor proficiencies, which I decided to change to riding proficiencies and got me thinking about modifiers based on how fast you’re hurtlin’ across the high chaparral.

When I got to Arcanist, which is going to be the basis of the Adept Type for Hucksters, Divines, and Shamans, I was determined to have Hucksters use card decks for their Magics. I was not ready for poker probabilities, much less probabilities that include Jokers wild and variable hand sizes.

Regular old cypher system wizards cast their spells against their victims using their victims ( level x3) as their target on a d20. 2nd level mook, roll a 6 or better. Easy. It also means that level 7 stuff is untouchable without easing the test somehow, with assets or training or whatever.

By using the old Deadlands hierarchy of poker hands, they can fit into that one to ten level range. But they don’t fit well. At the lowest end of the scale, to overcome a level 1 victim with a die, you have an 90% chance of getting 3 or higher. Casting against a Level 6 victim means you have a 15% chance base. Level 7 is out of the question without some sort of assistance or easing.

But with cards, you have a 58% chance of getting a Pair OR BETTER (enough to overcome a Level 2  Mook) when drawing 5 cards (with Jokers Wild) as far as I can tell. That’s a considerable drop off from 75% that you’d have when you roll a die.

If a Straight is used for a level 5-beater, it’s chance is 1.4% as opposed to a 30% chance with the die.

So that blows.

I have to look at what Easing means with card spells. Does it get you an extra card (not statistically as awesome as you’d imagine) or does it make the test easier?

Or, given the difficulty with Poker, do I abandon that and go with Blackjack? One card face down, one face up; player decides whether or not to spend Effort to buy more cards. Go Bust = rolling a one. Failing to make the target number, just a simple failure. You can naturally beat a Level 7 target, which is better than a die roll. But the possible results aren’t going to be a nice diagonal on a graph like die rolls.

Hmm, more to ponder.

 

 

Time to hit the ol’ dusty trail?

An entirely idle thought crossed my mind the other day: GURPS tried to be a universal RPG system by piling on the rules, just so much customization, while the Cypher system might have a better chance of being a universal system by being simple.

This is not an original thought. There are a few games systems that take a more basic approach and I’ve heard, do it better than the Cypher System; FATE, Powered By The Apocalypse, etc.

But I like the Cypher System: on top of the simple rules, I like the Cypher’s wild card-ness in Numenera. A random throwaway piece of scavenged tech can turn any scene into a fiasco/triumph/complication and that isn’t a bug, that’s a feature. While other games (AD&D.x) lend themselves to a “Christmas tree” of magic items that people rely upon, you can’t really do that in Numenera. Your various power boosts are fleeting and changeable. And it’s SUPER fun when Bryce remembers that he has a lightning storm suppository and whips it out… in… in the heat of battle and THAT is the weird thing that turns the tide.

Being able to come up with Cyphers for a setting is pivotal for me then, because that’s the thing that makes the simple system the most fun. It’s easy in Numenera, you’re scavenging tech from a junkyard a billion years old and a planet wide. For other systems, the cyphers have to change up a bit.

(I’ve ordered a setting-agnostic Subtle Cypher deck. Rather than being cyphers for the characters to use, it’s better to think of them as cyphers the players use. I’ve yet to decide how I’ll fold them in to Numenera.)

So could I think of a setting/game that I’d really want to Cypherize? Two words: Yes.

Deadlands.

There a couple of things that make me think the Weird West would make a good CS setting for us.

A: We all liked Deadlands.

B: We’re already using Poker Chips for our stat pools. Thematic!

C: Deadlands was a great setting with some really cool elements to the rules set and also some really time-consuming elements to its rules.

D: The character archetypes in Deadlands could be fairly easily recreated with the Blanking Blank who Blanks with enough depth. You can have your Fighter/Magic User/Specialist x Native/Mormon/Holy Roller/Tinhorn/Veteran/etc x Lives in the Wilderness/Uses Ghost Rock/Died a While Ago etc. The Cypher System Rulebook has a bunch of generic entries for this and with a few reskinned to be more setting appropriate and. A few created from whole cloth… That would be one of the few things that would have to be established before play.

E: The other thing that would have to be established before play would have to be the form of the Cyphers. But Deadlands has that built into its lore with Ghost Rock. Ghost Rock is (SPOILERZ!!!) literally ghosts trapped in rocks. That people burn as fuel. So what if you had a Ghost Rock chunk with a spirit that talked to you, let you know what it was, struck a bargain with you to help you when you released it? Suddenly your character is walking around with disposable boosts and effects… i.e. Cyphers.

Thinking about what I’d keep from the rules set, it’d pretty much only be the poker hands for spellcasting/arcane skills. That isn’t too hard – the poker hands simply turn into a number, that number can be the equivalent of a die roll. It’s a slower way to resolve things, but I like it a lot.

The other stuff, the different dice for stats and skills, the card draw for initiative, I’d abandon all that. I’d definitely put poker chips to use as bullets. Anything to get pencils down.

Well, that all seems like a lot of work. Good news everybody! Lots of other, more industrious, people have had the same thinks that I just thunk. I’ve found quite a lot of partially completed thoughts re: Weird West roleplaying.

If folks are interested, I’ll try to put something together out of what other people have come up with. If you’ve played Deadlands before let me know what you liked about it and what you didn’t.

 

 

Playing the field.

I’ve been enjoying running Numenera, as long as I don’t have to go off book too often. Sometimes I’m really feeling the improv nature that the rules permit and encourage, and sometimes I’m super not in the mood. Fortunately, I have plenty of material to lean on most of the time.

I’ve also been enjoying running Paranoia, not just because I think it’s a good game once you get around the Initiative rule, which isn’t that tough, but is a bit clunky in practice (often because I can’t remember what number I just called out), but because there’s no long term commitment.

I got three connected adventures to run and three more connected adventures, but no campaigns or long running stories or fascinating character backstories to juggle. Those are all things that enjoy, but being free of them and just having a four night stand with a fun game is pretty rad too. And hey, leave your players wanting more and they’ll hopefully remember it fondly, rather than remembering only when the campaign ground to a halt.

This winter, we’ve got some changes going on. Numenera 2 is out, with all new adventures and stuff. Male Blilie 2 is out now too, so it makes sense to take a bit of a break in Numenera – or at least the current storyline. I have a small campaign that’s designed for new characters and could run that with no impact on Bryce. Or anyone else. It’s just a game, jeez.

You know what else is fire? This cover design.

I have another couple of games either coming this Winter (hopefully) or having just arrived. The Stars are Fire is a Sci-Fi RPG using the Cypher System that Numenera players are familiar with, but setting appropriate. The Legend of the Five Rings is a fantasy RPG drawing from Eastern legend and history. (Because Oriental Adventures is SO problematic guys). Star Trek Adventures is an erotic horror LARP. No, not really, its Star Trek, having adventures.

L5R and Star Trek both have Starter Kits, aside from the main rulebook. I’m a fan of these, with their custom maps, pregenerated characters and their learning curve scaling adventures. I think it’s a great way to spend $25-$40 anyway, but it’s a great way to get people dipping their toes into a game without splurging.

The L5R one is LUSH, Fantasy Flight pouring the franchise rights into their magical machine that spits out glossy new editions of card games, board games and RPGs with shared art and fluff. They are able to flood a property onto the sales floor. So if you see stuff for L5R, it could be any one of the game iterations.

Oh, some ancestors gon’ get shamed, I tell you whut.

The L5R starter kit puts you as almost-samurai of several of the great clans, attending your gempuku, coming of age ceremony. Which is also a contest. Which is also not quite what it seems. Plenty of investigation, social play, world revealing as you go and each encounter is staged to introduce a new mechanic as you go, so you don’t have to understand your character sheet before you play, but chances are you will understand it by the end of the first session.

I’m crushing really hard on this setting its deep, deep lore and the possibilities that the setting raises. The complexity of the game is really all in the situations you put yourself in and consequences your actions have. Imagine if everyone in Game of Thrones was a Paladin. Imagine how fucking complex that would make it.

Make it so… much easier to find the starter set, thanxkbye.

I haven’t seen the Star Trek one yet, but I’m interested in that too. Needless to say, that’s one that I shouldn’t run until Bryce gets his life back right-side up. The rules for that one are surprisingly simple. Roll 2d20, and try to roll under your (Attribute+Specialization): you only need one success to pass the test. And good news, player characters are hyper-competent! Far cry from Star Fleet Battles of yore. Players play Star Fleet from Ensign to Captain, (this is a game that’s fine with splitting the party and balanced so rank isn’t too important to playability) with the Ship itself a shared character that they all have a role in creating and playing. I’m excited about this game,… just gotta find the elusive Starter Set and get Bryce out and playing.

There are, of course, other RPGs I want to play (Fiasco, Dusk City Outlaws (nudge nudge, JIM) Dark Heresy, good old Call of Cthulhu) but those have a long shelf life and aren’t going anywhere. Similarly, I and probably you, have a boatload of board games. Rising Sun certainly hasn’t been extinguished in my mind yet and I haven’t started painting yet… And I have Tang Garden coming too sometime soonish, (I think). And there are still plenty Mansions of Madness to burn to the ground as we try to save them. And Doomtown. And did you know I own Blood Bowl?

I’m going to play this and my garden is going to be the most harmoniously beautiful and I’m going to rub it in your face harder than I’ve ever done before. There’s no victory like an aesthetic victory.

What I’m saying is, we’ll survive the winter. I’ll shoot out an email and try to figure out what people want to play and when, once MN United’s season is done (I don’t think we need to worry about playoffs…)If we end up playing something that isn’t your cup of tea, I wouldn’t worry too much, I’m not committing to anything for too long. Chances are your choice will come around.

Numenera 22 – um, some other numbers.

We got pretty much through Weird Discoveries, the 10 instant adventure supplement for Numenera. They’re planning on doing one for Numenera 2 and I’m psyched for that because they are really minimal set-up adventures that are generic enough that they can be slotted into any remote area of the Ninth World (which is… like, most of it) but full of Numenera flavour. 

I wish more games designers would do this because it definitely suits my purpose and I bet there’s a bunch of 40+ GMs who find themselves with not quite enough time and want someone else to do the heavy lifting.

There are two we never got into, one because I couldn’t fit it in and the other because the lure didn’t get taken: that’s one of the things I thought would be a problem with this setting – that there’s so much weird stuff that the players might not be able to differentiate between things that were worth investigating further and things that are just weird and awesome.

Anyway, me needing a break from running Numenera coincides with the using up all the instant adventures I was planning on using, the release of Numenera 2, Bryce being on paternity leave/sleep deprivation mental vacancy, me spilling coffee over all my damn notes and the release of a bunch of other interesting RPGs. There are still other things in particular I want to run for Numenera – The Devil’s Spine short campaign is quite a different thing from the freewheeling explorer’s for hire High Plains Drifting shit we’ve been doing. There are two other downloads from MCG, one of which is excellent. And there are six adventures for free in N2. So we have plenty of mileage left in a game I enjoy and I’m pretty satisfied with that. I enjoy the Cypher system as a game system too and I’m looking forward to playing The Stars Are Fire with it (see other post where I dribble over other games).

I do find that if I don’t recap, I have no recall of what we did. There has been a few times where I just have no idea what I’m doing if someone doesn’t remind me. So I should really get back on that…

Oh boy, I haven’t updated since they were looking for Jip Krofwarten. There’s been some water under the bridge since then… in brief; they found Jip, found out that he was indeed another Meef-alike called Jip Krofwarten, and he was wanted by some heavy powers because of his relatively innocent involvement in a heist. Jip was trying to play the angles to try to get out of the situation rich and alive, but the players largely didn’t care to get involved in the caper and Red turned him in to the authorities for a reward. 

The situation was not resolved as Jip would not give up the location of the artifact he’d stolen from the thieves who’d stolen it from one of Giana’s father’s lieutenants (it was his fellow clone, Meef, who had them). When torture wouldn’t work on him, they decided to grab his girlfriend and kid of the street and torture them instead. 

While all this torture and manly resistance was going on to Meef’s benefit, Meef was conning a dying airship captain out of his flying ship. With the means to skip town and get away from the various dangerous entanglements Jip’s situation had ensnared them in, they were invited along to meet Dracogen, creepy af shadow entity. They had problems, he had solutions: for completing a job, they’d learn the way to the Temple of The Blind God (although Jip also claimed to know how to get there, before they handed him over to be tortured). 

They took their flying ship, The Ruffian, out to a remote village that had appealed to Dracogen for help. They fixed their wagon… leaving their village smashed and burned but danger free. (This adventure would be impossible to describe without revealing the twist, but it was a good one, I enjoyed it.) And Dracogen was well pleased and coughed up the information. 

So taken was he with them that he had further work for them, a delve into the famous Orgorek. They had been approached by Jip’s future Mother-in-Laws, incensed that the party had endangered their daughter by handing Jip over for torture. So they worked out a deal with Dracogen to have Jip freed inexchange for exploring the Orgorek. 

They flew way up north, The Ruffian outfitted with crew, a sex yurt for Red trailing off the back and a welded-on crew cabin. they checked out the Orgorek and found a bunch of interesting things, not least of which was an Octopus explorer they named Vern whose skim-craft had crashed into the heavily defended Orgorek.

Heading home they were almost taken over by the Iron Wind, but found last second shelter in a chasm, their ship crashing into ancient structures. They encountered a priestess with a problem, sort of solved the problem, and then fixed their ship up enough to head off home.

Numenera 17 – 21?

Now that I am released from the tyrannical grip of the excellent Pillars of Eternity II, (STRONG RECOMMEND), I finally have time to update. Major spoilers for the Into The Obelisk scenario from Weird Discoveries – there’s really no way to write around it. After that, like immediately after that, it’s largely all winged, as we start getting into some story arc stuff and then also the really excellent scenario Hunting for Krofwarten by Chris Fitzgerald that appeared in Cyphercaster Magazine.

This week sees Numenera 2 go to the printers and I have a free preview PDF to read of a bunch of the new stuff. You can too, if you head over to https://emails.kickstarter.com/mpss/c/CgE/6TYCAA/t.2hx/gHxkKywNRKq_60y3UDBhtg/h2/Zdlbc2K-2B6kehm9Op4-2FKAZaVN2yVdII7-2F4mmUCHdCAtBKhf9l4aBRkW4bAkHa-2B59ClSonYQZVZOjIa7u5KN9vHuuDv-2BClwP5MDK9t-2Bk5cfryAlo8onTV56oBi4SwXcPED

I think that’ll work.

So, quickly then because there’s a lot to catch up on…

Floating away from Berenock as fast as they could float, they found that the Captain of the vessel wasn’t particularly pleased that they’d wrecked his months of negotiations with the various bureaucratic committees required to secure contracts to Berenock’s amazing natural dye crops. What’s done is done though and he didn’t seem to hold any grudges, or murderous need to dump them over the side into the sky.

I would quite happily spend all day looking at pictures of fantasy airships.

The group asked that they be returned to The Beanstalk, which they were and they bee-lined it to Vecchi, who was, after all the friendly face they knew here.

Vecchi had a job for them, since he was rooting around his old contacts to perhaps find where Meef’s double.. sorta.. Roche had gone in search of the Temple of the Blind God and why, and what was going on with all the dudes that look like Meef. Vecchi had been tracking, as much as possible, the Iron Wind’s passage across the Plains of Kataru and noticed, among the chaotic data, an anomaly: a place the Iron Wind would bend its path to avoid, the village of Duzanan. Maybe, thought Vecchi, that had something to do with the giant obelisk floating above it. Probably, eh?

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Numenera 16: The Berenock Deception

Berenock is only briefly described in the adventure in Weird Discoveries. Literally the only information is that it is free of the despotic rule of House Nooran, it floats in the sky and is accessible by fish-dirigible. So I ended up winging everything and I’m quite pleased with how it turned out: it felt like a place with identity and put the players into more than a few conversarguments about whether or not it was worth saving. The easy way would be to have a flawless Disney-eque village or a Totalitarian Shithole with which to contrast House Nooran’s plans. But Berenock turned out to be a bit more complex than that. It’d be nice to return there someday. For me, anyway.

I searched through Pinterest for some ideas and that turned out to be a good way to throw a couple of ideas together and have something to show for it, in this case the character studies by Ivan Dedov, an artist about whom I know nothing, except that he painted austere dudes with fancy hats. That was enough to get me started and the players through solicited input and reactions to things I added helped create the rest. Cheers Ivan.

Berenock City Guard.
Art by Ivan Dedov for something completely different, but after stumbling across this and a few others of his, I started putting together what Berenock might be like.

Berenock is a floating island city state, aloof and removed from the surrounding (relatively speaking) settlements of the Southern Plains of Kataru. Surrounded by farmlands, the city proper is small, a jumble of different architectural styles, arranged in an aesthetically pleasing way; although the predominance of onion domes is noticeable. Resources are in short supply on Berenock, so a lot has been preserved that in other regions would have been replaced.

Visitors arrive at an area set aside for docking airships and niacali, an enclosed port on the edge of the city. The party’s niacali gondola touched down gracefully and they climbed out to be greeted by a functionary wearing a lovely square hat. After something of a misunderstanding regarding who Red Pepper might be, the functionary returned with half a dozen white conical hats for them to wear during their time in Berenock. Their compulsory white conical hats.

They found Berenock to be an orderly, subdued place. The people, all wearing hats denoting their place in the carefully managed society were friendly enough, but very reluctant to speak about certain topics. One such topic were the Gazers, groups of floating metal spheres that roamed the streets, checking everything out.

Their dialect was a bit off the beaten path from the typical truth spoken in the area and they used a modified form of alphabet. Their clothing was heavy and fairly drab, considering their main export was dye – the dyes, extracted from flowers grown in the fields surrounding the city, were used to dye food too and it was possible to by vivid blue meat on a stick, or lime green pickled eggs, although it didn’t do anything to change the taste. Of all the many bright coloured powders on display, there were no reds at all.

The people of Berenock didn’t seem to have much livestock or previous world technology (at least visible and in use), but they got around on foot through their well cobbled streets or by way of hovering scooter like devices to which they attached trailers and panniers to make floating carts and rickshaws. PWT was sold at a stall in the market, but seemed to be very heavily monitored by the Committee for Relic Preservation and Dispersal.

They took a turn by a museum, , under the auspices of the Committee for Education and Veracity, dedicated to telling the story of the peaceful(ish) revolution that ousted the Noorans – the populace, having grown sick of the inept brutality of their ruling house overthrew the Noorans in absentia and simply refused tho allow them to return. There was some pushback by the nobles, but not that much and so the Directorate which governs the Committees that make up Berenock was formed and everyone has been very content since then, thank you very much, stop asking. Please, stop asking.

After getting a feel for the city, they headed to the assigned visitor lodgings: a comfortable inn in an ornate stone building, called Pierlu’s Hotel. Solely for the use of the white hatted visitors, the rooms were small and simple, and most of the visitors seemed to have gathered in the taproom.

There they met a man named Calgor Addor, who had folded his conical cap at a jaunty angle and seemed as skeptical about Berenock and its tightly ordered society as they were beginning to feel. Furthermore it came to light that he was also here on an errand from Orrudis on behalf of House Nooran. He had been tasked with awaiting some great signal, which he was then to relay to the Seneschal and so begin the restoration. In the mean time, he’d discovered that the city state wasn’t free with their red dye because it was a potent euphoric when mixed with alcohol. He planned to make a fortune when a grateful House Nooran was handing out concessions to it’s restorers. He gave a hit of the red powder to Meef, who greatly approved, or if he disapproved, had a wonderful time doing so.

The gnawing doubts about the liquid-filled “recording device” plagued the party however, especially as they’d seen a Berenock-made munition for sale at the market (a relic of the more bellicose Nooran era) that looked pretty similar. Sharad used Calgor to set up a meeting with a functionary of one of the Committees to figure out what the device was and how it worked. There was a lot of discussion among the group about whether this was really a recording playback device or a bomb and whether or not they could record a copy of the audio recording. The meeting would have to wait until morning, however, as curfew had been imposed.

That night, Giana was awakened by a very very high pitched sound, on the edge of her hearing, coming from outside. She looked out her window onto the street below and saw a man running frantically, pursued by Gazers. The panicked man didn’t get far before a larger, slower metal orb appeared to cut off his escape. A metal limb unfolded from the larger orb and it quickly lunged at him, the limb lashing out, the man instantly liquified where he stood. He splashed to the cobbles. The floating orbs slowed and retreated and the city stayed silent.

A Gazer.

Giana was horrified but within minutes couldn’t quite tell you what it was that had horrified her. By the time she could tell anyone about it the next morning, she’d forgotten almost all of it, except that  she had a vague notion of being appalled by something bad that had happened.

They made their way to the market, to meet with Calgor’s contact, Ludov. The nervous young man worked for the Committee of Relic Preservation and Dispersal and had a flat metal plate with a series of cables that he was able to plug into the “recording device”. He made anxious chit-chat as he waited for the results to come up. Sharad, looking over his shoulder saw the results as they came in and acted quickly, snatching the plate away from the startled man before he could see them. The man wanted to know what gives, but Sharad pretended that he really didn’t want to know, changed his mind, very suddenly. While this was going on, there was a kerfuffle at the edge of the marketplace, which then became a panic. Gazers appeared and, causing a panicked crowd to flee, one of the larger orbs that seemed dimly familiar and ominous to Giana. The poor sap that Calgor had gulled into helping them was helpless before the floating orb as it approached and with a flick of an unfolding arm, liquefied him on the spot. The party fled in horror.

Disassembler, by McHugh

Sharad was closest to the orb when it puddled the poor techie and while everyone else was able to sidle away/flee with everyone else, he had a harder time evading the Gazers. Fortunately, he managed to swipe a hat to replace white cone and that gave him just enough of a diversion to get away from the Gazers and get swept up in the tide of other flat-fronted hats.

The team regrouped at Pierlu’s but it wasn’t long before an armed patrol of guards, along with a whole bunch of Gazers and a Committee member appeared at the hostelry. They had come to see the party, but ended up finding only Meef, Sharad and Giana. Red and Loretta kept a low enough profile that they were not brought along. Also not brought along: the ‘bomb’ and the metal plate that had been used to analyse it – Giana managed to TK those out of the way and amazingly – onto the roof.

The trio were politely but firmly ordered to accompany Aless, the Committee member, to the Directorate’s tower in the center of town: the out-of-place metal cylinder. They were politely but firmly put on floating scooter rickshaws and politely but firmly driven to the tower. There, at the foot of the cylinder, in front of its open force field covered entrance, they were politely but firmly allowed out of the rickshaws and asked to follow the Committee member.

Committee Member Aless.
Art by Ivan Dedov again.

At this, Sharad balked. Even though Meef and Giana went through the shimmering wall of light (and had not been harmed or disarmed), Sharad wasn’t going through. He tried bluffing one of his guards, with uncanny success, because he’s Sharad and talking people into things is kind of his bag. The guard, convinced that Sharad was a friend of his father’s, reassured Sharad that it wasn’t an ambush or trap.

Sharad eventually consented and entered the tower. Aless led them through to a central atrium with a ramp that wound up to the ceiling far above. Along the ramp were doors, lots of doors, labelled with the name of the committee that met behind them presumably.

And that’s where things got hazy. Back out of the tower after the meeting, they could remember little of the questions they had been asked and what had been decided, except to say that they had explained and the committee had released them, with the understanding that they leave as soon as was convenient.

On the ride home however, the guard who had been convinced that Sharad was an old family friend pulled the rickshaw cart into an alleyway and told them that their minds had been clouded. He gave them a crystal liquid that would apparently clear the fog from their memory. They took it and their memories returned: they recalled walking through the door marked as the home of the Committee of Public Safety and Moral Hygiene, the vibrant sunlit garden beyond it, the questioning by the members of the committee seated on a balcony, the story they spun about knowing nothing about the bomb that the Ludov revealed.

The town was starting to get to them, they decided: creepy surveillance bots, weird hats, liquified dissidents, and memory manipulation. However, what the Committee had told them didn’t put Orrudis and the plans of House Nooran in any better standing. When they ran into Calgor, the mercenary agent was incredulous that they believed anything that they’d learned. Berenock’s Directorate, he said, was manipulating them – it was the Directorate’s employees who had told them the recording device was a bomb and given them a memory ‘restoring’ fluid. He believed that the Berenockians were skillfully turning the party against Orrudis as they were masters of thought control.

MAEKS YOU THINK.

Their minds were not changed, however, they were content to leave as the Committee had requested. They scored a bunch of red dye powder from Calgor in exchange for shins and said goodbye. They set about hiding the ‘viral bomb’, Meef finding a wall cavity in which to hide it.

The following morning, another troop of guards arrived at Pierlu’s with Committee Member Aless bearing gifts for the departing party. Sharad was the only one brave enough to actually go down and talk to the Committee Member. He was thanked for his cooperation and presented with a shallow chest: a fine tricorn hat for Meef, Sharad and Giana each and a beautiful selection of Berenock’s finest, most vibrant dyes.

As he presented these farewell-don’t-come-back gifts/bribes he suddenly went rigid and blood cascaded from underneath is hexagonal hat. He slid to the floor, his head fountaining blood from a neat slot that had been cut into the top of his skull. Sharad looked on, aghast, as one of the guards turned at the sound and screamed “They’ve killed the Committee Member!” he rushed into the room and Sharad immediately put him in Stasis and bolted up the stairs.

As the guards responded, the party sprang into action, variously hiding, fleeing, or preparing for combat. The guards, meanwhile advanced cautiously into the hallway in which the party was individually quartered… and were butchered by an unseen foe. One guardsman, decapitated seemed to writhe in midair as a spray of arterial blood wrote FINISH THE JOB on the wall. That’s some penmanship. The message appeared to be directed at Red, who was about the only person who could see it who wasn’t being sliced to ribbons by some unseen force.

They were able to confirm that Aless was dead, a single penetrating wound to the top of his head, piercing his hat. Someone was able to snatch away his cane,  but they left the crate of gifts behind. They fled the hotel as the Gazers descended on it, more guard patrols arriving as well as the dreaded Liquidator orbs. One such Orb got itself between Sharad and the rest of the party who were preparing to make a dash for the airport/landing grounds. Sharad threw up a wall of energy, the crackling lightning keeping the Orb at bay while it tried to find a way around it.

Then, who should come to the rescue, but Shome, follower extraordinaire. He stole a rickshaw and set it speeding towards Sharad through the wall of energy, bailing before he had to pass close to the Orb. The floating scooter passed through the wall and skidded, inert and fried to Sharad’s feet. Sharad, leapt aboard, kicked it back to life and zoomed away from the scene.

Hurrying through the quickly emptying marketplace before the landing grounds, they were pursued by Gazers and the larger Disassembler orbs, but hid, Sharad nabbing another passerby’s hat. Then they vaulted over the counter of a place selling street food on skewers that was built into the wall surrounding the port and popped out on the other side.

They raced for the nearest airship, Red spotting a signifier and delivering a passphrase that had the captain hurriedly ordering the lines severed and the sails set for hasty exit. The party was hauled aboard as the ship slipped its moorings and lifted into the sky. Peering over the gunwales they saw Gazers and Disassemblers cross the wall that separated the city and the port, but they were too late.

Airship, by Tao Yang.

The last arrival they saw as Berenock slipped away under them, was a lone figure, standing on the precarious end one of the long guide beams of the airship dock and a full suit of dark blue plate armour. It shimmered into sight, seemed to consider the rising airship for a second or tow and then turned and walked gracefully down the spar, shimmering out of sight again.

 

Rising Sun toe-dipping

We’re two games in on Rising Sun, and I’m still happily baffled at how to win at that game. Our first game (me, JIM, Ben and Rolland) was a learning experience and Ben ended up romping home to a comfortable victory. Our second time out (me, JIM, Ben and Matt) and it became obvious that just a single (unsuccessful) game under your belt was a big advantage against someone who had not played before. Someone can explain the component parts of the game, but until you see how they interact with each other, it is difficult to grasp the bigger picture. Ben won again, but he had me by only 4 points, JIM not too far behind and Matt, despite coming last (I think) made a good go of it and was at one point doing well.

I had the fearsome Oni of Skulls this game. He was kidnapped and then killed himself, so he’s dangerous… to himself.

The rules of the game are easy. The three phases (Tea Ceremony, Political and War) are simple enough, but how they work together becomes so entertaining as the game goes on.  While you decide who you want to sorta work along with during the diplomatic Tea Ceremony, the Political phase is about getting your Force out onto the bits of the board you want to win, and during the War phase you resolve contested bits of the board.

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