“I Know a Guy That Knows a Guy”

June 14, 2018

So I came up with a new Rote for Mage: the Ascension that I felt like sharing.

I Know a Guy That Knows a Guy (Mind 3, Corr 3, Entropy 1)

Need a guy that knows how to do the thing or how to find out what you need to know? Filter the universe through the complex and often random interconnectedness of humanity and you should, within a few degrees of separation, be able to trace those chance connections to find a guy you know that knows a guy that knows that guy, and how to make the connection. You might also add a dot of Matter to find a guy that has a specific type of object you’re after. The more successes gained, the fewer degrees of separation. Ever wonder how that Syndicate fixer always knows a guy? This is how.

Possible tweaked versions folks have suggested:

  • add life 3 to make a “guy guy” by adding to the duration you lock the effect onto a preexisting contact that then uses it to build up a stock of “guys” that he can tap at a moment’s notice letting the mage build up contacts and influence over time. (William Macklin)
  • add Time 2 to know not just how to contact your “guy”, but when is the most advantageous time to do so. “So… make sure you talk to him before next Tuesday.” “Why?” “Well… he’s going to have an unfortunate accident.” (Daniel Jones)
  • Add Spirit to include spirits or ghosts as “guys” in your degrees of separation. “I do know a guy that used to know a guy. Bad news is, he’s been dead for awhile. Good news is, I know how to get in touch.” (Daniel Jones)

Kami Powers, Rorqual Edition!

December 6, 2017

It’s time for me to post more content for the Possessed. Yay? The original source of the Powers below is World of Darkness: Blood-Dimmed Tides (pp. 14-15), but the mechanics needed a little tidying and point values, so here is my adaptation of them to the rules in Possessed: a Player’s Guide. They were originally intended for Rorqual (a specialized form of Kami cetaceans), but may have broader applications. For reasons that I will cover below, two out of three of these particular powers needed considerable adaptation to become playable. Note that my text uses the terms Gnosis and Steep interchangeably, a nod towards the Rorqual themselves.

Breach (5) – Only Kami may take this Power, and it is all but unknown outside the rare cetacean Rorqual. The Kami can make a spectacular leap from the water that has a purifying effect on the waters around her from toxins such as crude oil, or even supernaturally active toxins. When she reenters the water, she may spend as much of her carried Steep as she likes; the first point spent cleanses the area covered by the Kami’s actual splash, and to the depth that her splash down carries her. Additional points of Steep increase the area of effect by half the radius of the first, with a maximum range out to line of sight. While supernaturally active toxins can be cleansed, the area of effect is reduced to one fifth in such cases. Naturally, a Rorqual will only use such a Power as a last resort, as they do not consider the energy they carry to be theirs to spend.

Song of the Sea (3) – Only Kami may take this Power. The Kami sings a sad, haunting alien melody to coax the power of the Grottoes or a Caern into their body. It usually takes about ten minutes for each point of Gnosis that they absorb. This may be a long, slow process but it is considerably faster than conventional meditation.

Steep Reservoir (6, 7, 8, 9, or 10) – Only Kami may take this Power. This character is functionally a living Caern, able to collect and store vast amounts of Gnosis from undersea Grottoes or terrestrial Caerns, well beyond the limits normally imposed by their own Gnosis score (the Rorqual refer to it as Steep), and is capable of transmitting it to other supernatural creatures (Shapechangers, Changelings and Mages being the most likely recipients) via touch. Supernatural creatures can be granted up to 5 points of Gnosis (which are converted upon transmission to Glamour, Chi or Quintessence etc, if necessary for the recipient in question). This Power comes in several tiers, with the maximum available tier a function of the Kami’s overall body mass. Smaller Rorqual in the form of porpoises or dolphins, for example, can hold 100 points of Steep. Certain larger Rorqual are theoretically capable of holding five or ten times as much (another reason not to restrict such leviathans to NPC status). A dolphin sized character can store up to 100 Steep for a cost of 6, a small one like a Beluga (up to perhaps 15 feet, comparable in weight to a hippo if you want a terrestrial equivalent) can store 200 at a cost of 7, a moderate sized whale like an Orca or Minke whale (or an elephant, which is of similar weight) 300 at a cost of 8, a large whale like a Humpback, Grey or Sperm whale (say, 60’ length) 500 at a cost of 9 and a huge one like a Finback or Blue Whale 1000 at a cost of 10. No extant natural terrestrial animal is large enough to accommodate the 9 or 10 point versions of this Power, though not all Kami are derived from terrestrial animals. Obviously, Spirit Ties is a prerequisite for this Power. (This power was extrapolated from World of Darkness: Blood-Dimmed Tides, pp. 14-15, and is not explicitly named there. I codified the specific tiers, within the overall range found in the source material).

Note: the Human Form power from WoD: BDT is not included here because it is just a specific instance of the existing Power: Transformation.

Note on Breach: I modified this Power’s area of effect considerably. The original scope of this Power’s reach was laughably small – it seems to me this came from the writers not having really thought about the scale of bodies of water, even though Blood-Dimmed Tides repeatedly reminds readers just how vast the ocean is. One cubic foot of water makes up 7.48 gallons and would cost 2 points of Gnosis to cleanse in this way. A theoretical Blue Whale Rorqual with a Steep Reservoir of up to 1000 points, if they blew the entire thing, could purify 5000 gallons of water.

An Olympic-size swimming pool is approximately 50 m or 164 feet in length, 25 m or 82 feet in width, and 2 m or 6 feet in depth. These measurements create a surface area of 13,454.72 square feet and a volume of 88,263 cubic feet. The pool has 660,253.09 gallons of water. An adult humpback whale is up to 52 feet in length, a sperm whale might reach 60 feet and a blue whale might be 100 feet long and weigh in excess of 200 tons. 5000 gallons of water amounts to 668.44 cubic feet of water, so compare: 88,263/668.44 = 132.043. It would cost 1000 points of Gnosis to purify less than 1/100th of an olympic sized swimming pool (the entire pool is only half-again as long as the whale’s own body!) Volume = side length cubed, so to determine the size of a cube that would occupy 668.44 cubic feet of water, we only need its cubed root: 8.74 feet. So 1000 gnosis can only purify enough water to fill a cube with sides 8.74 feet long. That’s… pitiful. According to this link, a typical suburban swimming pool with 18’ x 36’ in dimensions, 3 feet deep at one end and 8 at the other would hold 26,658.72 gallons of water. So purifying a volume of water too small to even hold the body of a moderate sized Rorqual (say, a grey whale @ 49 feet in length or a humpback @ 52) would require 5332 Gnosis to purify. The splash from the whale’s actual breach probably displaces more water than that. 1000 Gnosis would only be able to purify 1000 gallons of water if it is supernaturally poisoned – a big rig trailer can move 18 portable water tanks of 1k gallons each.

Lines of Authority

July 2, 2017

That title sounds a bit pompous, but it will suit. Anyhow, here’s another of those occasional non-geekery related posts that crop up on here. Come to think of it, it will actually seem pretty geeky to some, but it’s geekery of an altogether different order than the fare that usually makes its way onto my WordPress.

There’s a curious little card in my wallet that’s been there since the Clinton administration, one which I obtained from my late father. Upon this card is the following information about myself and the men that have gone before: Read the rest of this entry »

Abilities in M20: Brawl Additions!

September 26, 2015

Okay, so anybody that read my previous M20 related post knows that my initial reaction to the division between Brawl and Martial Arts in M20 was extremely negative. During a discussion with Satyros Phil Brucato, the game’s developer, in the M20 Facebook group, this fact came up, and I’ll shortly get to why that fact is relevant to this post. I have great respect for his wide ranging talents, his creativity and his hard-charging work ethic, even if I don’t always agree with his output. To be honest, how could anybody ever really always agree with another creator’s or artist’s or writer’s output if they’re actually thinking for themselves? It’s just not going to happen. So long as folks can be polite about those creative differences, cool.

Anyhow, Satyros argued that I was giving this particular creative decision short shrift and that I ought to take a closer look at how he integrated a meaningful distinction between the two more fully into the combat system and also built it into the Focus rules. He pointed out that this distinction was not exactly new to the Storyteller System, having appeared previously in Kindred of the East and World of Darkness: Combat back during the 2nd edition era. To that last I maintain that I disliked the division back then too and don’t care for either of those prior books. I took those rules’ having been left out of the Revised editions of Vampire, Mage and Werewolf as a sign that White wolf had moved on from the concept also at least insofar as the Storyteller system was concerned. He suggested that I step back, blank my slate and ignore the negative associations I have with the prior sources and look over the combat and focus systems on their own merits with an open mind. This I have done over the course of the past month or more, mulling over the implications of the division within the rules themselves, on play and how I feel about said implications. A more serious and thoughtful dive into the book did change my views on a number of things from my first impressions (the value of Esoterica, for example), but I hardly found all points persuasive. Read the rest of this entry »

M20 and a Syndicate Character Concept

June 10, 2015

Backers of the 20th Anniversary Edition of Mage: the Ascension have got their hands on the prerelease version of the PDF, and though I’m sure there’ll be updates, what backers (like myself) have is largely what the final game is going to look like. My own impression is, of course, mixed, as the reception of anything related to Mage inevitably will be given the nature of the game and its interminable edition wars, paradigm-related flamewars etc.

Overall, it’s well constructed with an eye towards giving fans of all three prior editions something to smile about, and it also embarks on the challenging task of updating the setting and Awakened society without stifling creativity, making the Spheres, Paradigm and Consensual Reality more accessible to players as well, with laudable aplomb and skill.

While I could do without it being “Mage: now with 500% more kung fu!” that last part’s easy enough to fix by dropping that superfluous Skill along with a couple of other similarly unnecessary additions and possibly tweaking how players can get access to those pages upon pages of martial arts-related special maneuvers. The addition of Martial Arts as a separate Ability from Brawl feels reminiscent of Kindred of the East, The Book of Combat and Exalted. Man, I feel dirty from having had to reference any of those three in my blog, let alone all three in one post. However, that particular (minor but noisy) gripe isn’t what got me writing tonight.

No, what got me writing tonight is a character concept that leapt all but full fledged into my brain while I was making catfish tacos with mango salsa for dinner tonight (they were awesome, incidentally). One of the great things about the rise of Onyx Path is that they finally made the (beautifully nuanced) Revised-era Technocracy convention books that White Wolf left hanging after the excellent Iteration X Convention book. Probably my favorite from that line was, of all things, The Syndicate (though I disagreed with cutting off the SPD, but hey… I just might be biased) for its very interesting exploration of an easily demonized and oft-caricatured Convention.

Anyhow, as I was cooking, I was thinking on the Syndicate and on the Management and Human Resources sidebar from M20 and extrapolating on that. I was also thinking of sympathetic Syndicate mages, and then a character concept occurred to me. Here’s a  breakdown of the concept below:


Healthcare Provider

You always felt the calling to be a healer. To nurture the growing, heal the hurting and comfort those whose loved ones are beyond help. Therefore, like many young people, you dreamed of becoming a doctor. Life has a funny way of kicking people right in the dreams sometimes. You had good grades in high school that gave you high hopes. Though you were a fine student, your real aptitudes were always people and groups and the “soft subjects” like debate and speech rather than biology or chemistry: you were the treasurer and student council rep for the Rotaract Club, and were a natural leader.

Still, you were determined to be a healer. Between your grades, extracurriculars, charm and skillfully leveraged family connections you entered a prestigious med school. That’s where your dreams started to crumble: while smart and competent, you just weren’t cut out to excel as a physician. Surrounded with driven, genuinely gifted med students, you rapidly fell into (and then below) the middle of the pack. Then you had to face the heartbreaking truth and find something else to do with your life. Read the rest of this entry »

Character Creation Blog: An AD&D 1E Adventuring party

January 8, 2015

Okay, here’s another character creation exercise, but this one’s going way back into the sands of time: a classic 1st edition AD&D 5-member gang of murder hobos adventuring party! Each will be made along the “old-school” conceit of disposable PC hardcore character creation principles: 3d6, in order, with no rerolls on attributes (aka “roll ’em and weep”). The concept here is that an intrepid, foolish or perhaps deviously cunning DM has asked his players to each show up with their own pregenerated 1st level adventurer for a dungeon crawl, and the players have done exactly that without bothering to discuss them with one another. Read the rest of this entry »

So The Votes Are In…

July 25, 2014

Okay, so the collective wisdom of the backing Wyrm fans has spoken. My vote didn’t win, not that I expected it to. Based on the campaigns (rather than necessarily the characters themselves), the results here were two out of three predictable, at least insofar as, for what it’s worth, I saw two of them coming a mile off. One of those predictable results, Ian Robertson the Money Magus, is a very interesting addition to the cWoD canon.

The result that surprised me was The Unrevealed. So this guy never revealed who his nominee was, and he never really campaigned other than a really generic last-minute post halfway through the voting period, after the bulk of the votes had already been cast, but he got the #3 spot. I’m not quite sure what this means, but my best guess is that folks voted for The Unrevealed mostly as a “meh. None of the above” reaction as much as anything else. Most of the nominees weren’t especially exciting, so I can completely understand that particular reaction. It may have been some other motivator that drove this success, but I’m not sure what.

I totally saw the #1 coming, but the main thing I take away from this candidate’s success is that I’m apparently completely out of touch with the criteria by which the plurality of voters made their selection for a candidate. All I cared about was, to quote my prior post, “their merits as a possible board member to be added to the World of Darkness’ canon”. Clearly the voters and I had very different interpretations of said merits, because had I ranked my personal preferences in order from most to least desirable, this candidate would have been in the next-to-last slot. I’m okay with having a difference of opinions with other gamers however, since differing opinions over minutiae can be described as the very soul of fandom.  I’m not going to shout “WrongBadFun!!1!” or whatever, but it’s also safe to say that candidate #1 is quite safe from existing or appearing in any game over which I am the Storyteller.

On the Pentex Board Nominees

July 16, 2014

Okay, most of you that would actually read my blog are already aware of the W20 Book of the Wyrm Kickstarter. One very interesting aspect of this kickstarter is the election to place three new members on the Pentex board of directors. There are some really interesting nominees, and some… whose existence I will cheerfully replace with preexisting canonical board members or new ones of my own devising should they win. I’ll break down my take on each nominee here, strictly based on their merits as a possible board member to be added to the World of Darkness’ canon, which the most important thing we’re doing with regards to these guys and what I’ve seen of their campaign thus far. None of this is a value judgment on the creator of said character, just what I think of having them appear in a Werewolf: the Apocalypse supplement as members of the Pentex Board. Read the rest of this entry »

Jumping Genres!

July 4, 2014

My last post was written mostly with humorous intent, but also was intended to get some thoughts churning. Protestations to the contrary notwithstanding, I wouldn’t derail an existing and relatively serious,steady game so wildly as to put something like the Deck of Many Genres into play. That would be a rather gross abuse of the social contract between GM and players, really.

I would, however, shift genres in a game as long as that made sense within the context of the game… and I would also run a game where the very premise revolves around shifting genres/layers of reality/alternate dimensions where the players move from one genre to the next and possibly back again. It might work best with a certain pre-determined number of predesigned genre/setting/layers where the players will run genre-shifted iterations of the same character/soul/self. I think that could be really, really fun.

Originally I was going to go back to the last post and edit it to that effect, but then after my friend Terry made a comment on his repost that was very much in line with my thinking, I decided this might be better suited if I post it by itself. I’ll share a few specific examples of times I’ve experimented with the genre-shifting concept already in games and found it a satisfying pursuit, point out a few narrative media where this technique or a variant has been used to good effect. I’ve never run a campaign where shifting realities and genres was a major part of the premise, though I have done individual adventures in a couple different systems that explored the concept either seriously or otherwise.
Read the rest of this entry »

Deck of Many Genres

July 2, 2014

Mandatory Legal Disclaimer: side effects of bringing the magic item in this post into a game with a group that takes their games too seriously or that aren’t already expecting some serious weirdness may include rage quitting by players, blank stares, loose teeth, lost friendships or, in extreme cases, critical existence failure.

Recently while at my desk, an idea occurred to me for a magic item that might inspire far more dread in the hearts of players than even the infamous Deck of Many Things… as the title suggests, this is none other than The Deck of Many Genres. This is a magic item that is best reserved to particularly open-minded, experimental or creative play groups and GMs, and would clearly be much easier to use in a game like FATE, Wushu, Capes or Savage Worlds that can be retooled to new genres on the fly without hours of number-crunching misery. Alternately, a wily or enterprising GM might have stats generated for existing characters from your D20 or whatever game in FATE, Capes or something similarly fast and fluid that can be taken to hare off into crazy land with this thing as a side jaunt. Read the rest of this entry »