Monday, October 23, 2017

Horror: A Potential Introduction

I wrote this for Demon City but I'm on the fence about whether to include it. I believe it all, but I think it might be a little heavy and not-to-the-point for somebody who just picked up a new game.

If you can mentally cast yourself in the role of a totally new GM picking up this book and can read from that pov, and then manage to form an opinion on whether you think you'd want to read it in the book, let me know.

Horror: An Introduction

You expect an author, at this point, to go on about how we like to be scared. Or, worse, how they do. How I discovered I liked to be scared one dusty summer break sitting on the mustard carpet in the corner of the neglected bookstore.

I didn’t, really. I discovered first that I liked to imagine things: Superman, a dragon, rockets, and as a teenager I was running out of things to read and so, maybe against my better judgment: Stephen King, then Lovecraft, all that. I liked them alright.

I kept liking imagining. And as the play (and then, later, the work) of imagining things kept on, I realized it was very hard to use that imagination for anything as an adult—as an adult who needed like all adults to occasionally talk to other adults about their adulthood—without imagining horror.

There will never not be trouble. Some things you have to make because they aren’t there—some things you make because they are.

I have noticed adults who are good at imagining but not good at imagining horror can be bad with people, and with trouble. They can’t experiment with a new train of thought…what if it goes somewhere horrible?  People are at their most dangerous (accidentally dangerous and on-purpose dangerous) when they have things they don’t want to think about.

I’ve made game-things and most weren’t really horror, but they all had room for horror (or brutality and isolation and other horror-cousins) because without the detailed exploration of the possibility of everything going to shit then imagined things really are just escapism, just checking out of this place where we live and checking in to a dazzling comfort zone.

This might be the primordial purpose of horror in the end: to enable you to continue to invent and create not just in the presence of-, but against-, the awful.

Horror—the genre—is what imaginative people use to keep their imaginations in working order in the face of horror—the fact of life.

So like here's a game about it.
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Sunday, October 22, 2017

Ye Three Lynkes of Sundaye

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Saturday, October 21, 2017

A moron, but likable. A small and pale puppy. A sheer drop.

The Host of Demon City can roll dice like a player, but, just as D&D can be a little more fun with miniatures, Demon City is a little more fun if the Host uses Tarot cards.

The exact method will be described later, but it makes keeping track of large fights a little easier and each threat has special cards associated with it (A haunted house will have The Tower associated with it for instance) used throughout the adventure in which they appear, which help the creature when they are drawn and which have a special (different) benefit awarded to the PC if they defeat that horror.

Anyway this is a section on the meanings of specific cards outside the context of any specific horror....

Interpreters of the tarot always tell you two things: (a) A clear and apparently historically-reified meaning attaches to each card and its placement in the interpretive matrix and it took me years to figure it out, but also (b) interpreting the cards is more art than science so hey whatever. These are what the cards mean in Demon City—which has its own uses for meaning.

There are many uses for the cards, including:

1. As the Host’s throws for NPCs, horrors, etc as well as rewards for PCs resulting defeating horrors (as described in the first section of the book).

2. To create fortunes or precognitive flashes (By showing a PC all the cards associated with the menace they are currently facing and, in some cases, telling them the significance of these cards.)

3. To randomly determine characteristics of Contacts or other NPCs (Each card has at least one kind of person associated with it or characteristics of a person).

4. To randomly determine buildings or locations (Each card has at least one kind of location associated with it).

In the last two cases, you can pull multiple cards to describe something in more detail—The Hierophant and the 8 of Cups together would be 
a retired priest or an abandoned church.

Additional numbers are provided in parenthesis so that, if necessary, card effects can be rolled up with dice—roll d100 and reroll anything too high.

(00) The Fool—A moron, but likable. A small and pale puppy. A sheer drop. A stranger will be kind to you, despite your mistakes.

(1) The Magician—A wizard or liar. A deceptive performance, before a large audience. Avoid a spell, or cast one unerringly.

(2) The High Priestess—A cagey and intuitive woman in a hat. A religious hospital. A nurse. A 12 to perceive unholy forces.

(3) The Empress—A blonde, imperious, dishy. Beauty. A bend in the river. Gain a point of Appeal if you roll a 10 exercising or drop a point of Cash on plastic surgery.

(4) The Emperor—A father, bearded. Entrenched authority. A public building in white marble.  Someone will assume you’re an authority figure.

(5) The Hierophant—A religious leader. A grey church. Traditions. A 15 to drive off unholy forces.

(6) The Lovers—An erotically charged relationship. Touching. A good place for hook-ups. A new Contact who finds you irresistible.

(7) The Chariot—A racer or a driver. A ride, pimped. Any vehicle. A showroom. A 10 to drive well.

(8) Strength—Someone tough. A fierce animal. A place for athletes. A boxing gym. Gain (not just regain) a point of Toughness if you roll a 9 exercising.

(9) The Hermit—Isolation and the perspective that comes from isolation. A desolate place. A brutalist parking garage. Led Zeppelin IV. A 10 on a Perception check while alone.

(10) The Wheel of Fortune—A gamble or gambler. A casino, a track or a card game. The Host is about to leave a decision entirely up to luck, but it goes in your favor.

(11) Justice—Someone inclined to fairness. Possibly blind. A police station, a protest, a courtroom, a place where activists meet. An 11 to hit someone who has hurt a friend.

(12) The Hanged Man—Reversal. Inversion. A contrarian or iconoclast. Punished but not punished. A place of execution. A 12 to hit a captor.

(13) Death—Someone who is old and knows it, or something. A graveyard, an ICU, a home for dying people. Double damage on an already damaged foe. Won’t work on what’s already dead.

(14) Temperance—A moderate or teetotaler. A bad haircut. Wherever middle-aged couples relax. A vegan restaurant. Roll an extra time if detoxing and pick the best.

(15) The Devil—Undeniably wicked. Any place of enslavement, calculated iniquity or accumulated power. A 15 to hit an enemy, but your friend is hit, too.

(16) The Tower—One who overthrows. A building that is mazelike, high-security, or haunted. A 16 to successfully trespass.

(17) The Star—A celebrity of some kind. Someone or something uncanny, distant. A celebrated place. An alien place. Acquire renown for your work.

(18) The Moon—Someone given to passions. Dark or pale. Animals. Cause a rounds of panic in an enemy that is hurt or surprised.

(19) The Sun—Very young, but wise. Skin prematurely worn. Leathery. A rooftop in daylight. A greenhouse.  Illumination. A 19 to a Research check.

(20) Judgement—Someone on a panel, or a board, or any judge. A room where great decisions are made. Someone with power will agree to help you. 

(21) The World—A foreigner. A global perspective: Little Armenia, Little Jamaica, the airport, Chinatown. Add a Contact overseas.

(22) Ace of Wands—A beginner, capable.  A redhead. A startup’s office. Work/train during downtime and gain a new skill on a 9.

(23) Two of Wands—Someone with concerns abroad. A waterfront or beach, rapidly developing. Add an extra die when executing a plan you made.

(24) Three of Wands—A brown-haired man. A room with blueprints.The Department of Regional Planning. Gain a point next time you add a new Knowledge-based skill.

(25) Four of Wands—A family member. Normality. A place unchanged for a very long time. Add a die and pick the highest when spending downtime with family.

(26) Five of Wands—An arguer, surrounded by chaos. A fighting ring or debate hall. Add a die in a multiparty melee.

(27) Six of Wands—Someone black-haired and proud. A parade or award ceremony. Regain a point of calm after a victory.

(28) Seven of Wands—A fugitive or desperate person.  A small business. A drug front. Gain a die when facing multiple opponents.

(29) Eight of Wands—Online a lot. A hydro-electric plant. Impersonal forces. Gain a die working with a machine.

(30) Nine of Wands—A disabled person. An exhaustive collection—archive, museum—nearly complete. Gain a die after awaking from an injury.

(31) Ten of Wands—A bureaucrat, working too hard. An overburdened business or agency. Add a die while talking to someone hard at work.

(32) Page of Wands—An apprentice or enthusiast. A grand opening. Add a die when dealing with any kind of supernatural for the first time.

(33) Knight of Wands—A genius in their field. A sentient spell. A place of unharnessed power. Gain a point of Occult. Occult: 1 if you don’t already have it.

(34) Queen of Wands—Voracious, and a total babe. A black cat. A disguised witch. An excellent restaurant. If you roll a 9 while reading, gain a point of Knowledge or Perception.

(35) King of Wands—Successful and admired. A lizard. A necromancer. A source of impeccable, if flamboyant, menswear. Uncover a work of occult knowledge.

(36) Ace of Cups—Acutely sensitive. Preternaturally aware. An impressive fountain. Gain a Contact.

(37) Two of Cups—Warm and reasonable. A mutual beneficial relationship. A kind woman’s home. Roll an extra die when spending Downtime with an ally.

(38) Three of Cups—Charismatic and not drunk yet. A friendly dive under a place where no-one eats. Succeed on an Appeal roll to meet a stranger.

(39) Four of Cups—Hungover and apathetic. Where people are sleeping off a party—or a bad clinic. Gain a die vs inebriation.

(40) Five of Cups—A gaunt soul, dark of aspect. A ruin or ruined place. Gain a die vs Calm loss at the sight of violence or death.

(41) Six of Cups—A natural victim, paying no attention. An unsuspecting and idyllic place. A carnival. Roll an extra Downtime die when with family or friends.

(42) Seven of Cups—Someone misshapen and delusional. A district of retail luxury. A theme park or retro diner. Succeed on a Deception roll.

(43) Eight of Cups—A retiree or once who has renounced the past. An abandoned place. An 18 to escape.

(44) Nine of Cups—A jerk, smug of aspect. A vast, proud venture, long in the making. A 19 to impress someone.

(45) Ten of Cups—Someone pleased to help. Generosity. A center of LGB or T life. Receive an unexpected gift.

(46) Page of Cups—A sentimental weirdo. A fondness for seafood. A pleasant wharf. 10 to locate a hidden animal.

(47) Knight of Cups—A romantic with full lips. A library without windows. A place of breaking glass. A 10 to seduce.

(48) Queen of Cups—A ginger woman with strange possessions. A psychic. An antique shop or prop house. A 10 to discover some rare object.

(49) King of Cups—A wise and wealthy man in elegant footwear. A houseboat or yacht. A 10 to persuade someone of your good intentions.

(50) Ace of Swords—A tattooed man. A decapitation strike. A busy corner in the center of the city. An 11 to a called shot.

(51) Two of Swords—Dangerously obstinate. Defensiveness. Manslaughter. Deadly ground. A 12 to defend.

(52) Three of Swords—One who complains. A bad tattoo shop. A 13 to a backstab.

(53) Four of Swords—A quiet thinker. A prepared assassin. A mausoleum. An extra die if attempting to work straight through downtime.

(54) Five of Swords—A gloating fiend. A thief and orchestrator of violence. A hub of iniquity. A 15 to commit an unjust act.

(55) Six of Swords—An exhausted traveler. A crossroads. A 15 to negotiate with hostile powers.

(56) Seven of Swords—A petty schemer. A spiteful failure. A business operated as a front. A 17 to steal from someone who likes you.

(57) Eight of Swords—The perfect victim. Kidnapped or compelled. A support group or center for the afflicted. An 18 to convince someone you are sinned against.

(58) Nine of Swords—An insomniac. Shopping from home. A guilty conscience. A bachelor pad with a hand-me-down quilt. A 9 to inflict a head wound.

(59) Ten of Swords—A soon-to-be-corpse—or a corpse. The murder card. The worst neighborhood. A 10 to afflict the already-afflicted.

(60) Page of Swords—Someone playing with fire. A gun shop with inadequate security. Learn a weapon skill when rolling a 9 to work during Downtime.

(61) Knight of Swords—Quite intentionally an absolute menace. A stabber. A themed pub. A 10 in a fight.

(62) Queen of Swords—A formidable woman. A home with a high fence. A 10 to damage.

(63) King of Swords—A very dangerous man. Closed rooms where crimelords meet. A 10 to intimidate.

(64) Ace of Pentacles—Efficient and practical. A place with a strange door. A vacant lot. Establish a new business.

(65) Two of Pentacles—A juggler or a chancer. A playground or ball field. Reroll a failed Cash check.

(66) Three of Pentacles—A team player. A cathedral or place made of stone. A 13 to a group effort, devoid of violence.

(67) Four of Pentacles—An absurd miser. A roof with a fine view. Greed revealed as only greed. A 14 to grab someone or something.

(68) Five of Pentacles—A battered beggar. A terrible charity. Refusal. A 15 to a Calm check in the face of suffering.

(69) Six of Pentacles—A charity worker. A distributor of gifts. A Goodwill or Salvation Army. A 16 to persuade a skeptic of good intentions.

(70) Seven of Pentacles—Straightforward and hard working. A quality control officer. A growing business. A 17 to notice financial irregularities.

(71) Eight of Pentacles—One practiced in their craft. A place with a prominent public sign. An 18 to apply an Occupational skill.

(72) Nine of Pentacles—A prospering dork. A golden garden. A bird of prey. Leisure. Gain the trust of an ordinary animal.

(73) Ten of Pentacles—A member of a powerful family. Thin white hounds. A vast estate. Undo a Cash loss.

(74) Page of Pentacles—A neophyte schemer. A university campus. Gain a point of Cash if you roll a 9 working through Downtime.

(75) Knight of Pentacles—A hustler. A summoned thing. A sketchy lawyer. A club with a dark reputation. Bribe someone successfully.

(76) Queen of Pentacles—A woman, rich and slow-moving. A sad stone monument. Regain a point of Calm lost to the supernatural.

(77) King of Pentacles—A man of ill-gotten wealth and dubious taste. An enormous mall. Move to a better apartment downtown.

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Thursday, October 12, 2017

Possible Blade Runner Spoilers

Blade Runner 2049 is like someone saw Blade Runner, wrote a fucking massive amazing sandbox setting around it, then the players kept going into hexes that only had like one line of description "Rusting towers rise from the pale plain" "Like LA in Blade Runner but harder to see and now with giant holo girl ads for, like, Apple""An abandoned Jeunet and Caro set" "This is a water hex" .

"Wait you want to go to the Corporation? Fuck, it has....walls? They're....gold?"

You can feel the GM stretch out as the players finally get to the Las Vegas hex, the only one they've prepared in advance. It even has a set piece! "As Harrison Ford punches you, old Vegas acts flicker on and off the stage".

The problem is it's a solo game, the only player is so boring they think they're on an adventure path and the GM is using the worst random tables "Vegas acts? Like what?"
(Randy Newman? Joan Rivers? Don Rickles? Cirque De Soleil???)
"Like...Elvis Presley!"

"Ha Elvis lol memes. What's my girlfriend like?"

"Uh...stepford wife, plus...Amelie, plus..Friends? And also a giant sexy advertisement when she's dead and you're walking in the rain"

"Whoa poignant bro, can my car shoot missiles?"

This movies is so bored of its own future that the best parts were Luv the Replicant being bored of the other characters--scanning the police chief's head then dropping it, bored, summarily kicking Harrison Ford so he didn't have to keep pretending to care about a boring baby, shooting Sean Young because they were too bored to get her eyes right.

And god, that last fight scene, like watching hamsters try to share a dish.

Someone else's hamsters.

Anyway there's a game design or GMing lesson here, I'm pretty sure: you can have all the ideas you want--new ideas, old ideas, stolen ideas, original ideas--but they're useless unless someone at the table slows down long enough to care about one of them.
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Monday, October 9, 2017

What Do These Games Have In Common?

Paranoia
Numenera
The Strange
the Apocalypse Engine games
Delta Green
13th Age
Shadow of the Demon Lord
The One Ring
Cyberpunk 2020
Trail of Cthulhu
?

Answer:

All of them produced charity pdf bundles for Bundle of Holding, and all of them officially did worse than the new Bundle of Lamentations--which has now officially raised more money than any other previous Bundle of Holding.

As of this writing you have 3 days, 1 hour, 24 minutes and 41 seconds to get one.



Monday, October 2, 2017

Roland Barthes: Dungeon Master

From Roland Barthes' lectures, Collège de France, 1977 (from How To Live Together: Novelistic Simulations of Some Everyday Spaces, Tr: Kate Briggs):


Of Games

Novels RPGs are simulations that is to say fictional experimentations on a model the most classical form of which is the maquette. The structure, an outline (a maquette) through which topics, situations are let loose.

More than one language game exists because more than one desire exists.

Take note: the game is normative it wants to resist, prevail over the disorder of the given, it thinks of chance as disorder.

But our method—the one we're adopting here—involves shuffling the cards and dealing them in the order in which they appear. For me now whenever I'm working anything any thematic grouping of traits (of index cards) always makes me think of Bouvard and Peuchet’s question: Why this? Why that? Why here, why there?=An automatic distrust of associative ideology (which is the ideology of the ordered presentation genre.) The card players motto: “I cut the deck”. I react against the fixity of language.

The systematic gradually breaks down, is disappointed—the non-systemic flourishes, proliferates. Yes something direct has to be put in place in order for the indirect, an unforeseeable to emerge.



Of Fantasy

Now the first force I am able to investigate, to interpolate--the one I can see is it work within myself even through the illusions of the imaginary--the force of desire. Of, to be more precise (since it's the point of departure for our research)--the figure of the fantasy.

Let's be clear that a fantasy requires a setting (a scenario) and therefore a place.

Now fantasy=scenario but a scenario and bits and pieces always very brief=just a glimmer of the narrative of desire. What's glimpsed is very sharply contoured, very brightly lit, but all of a sudden it's gone: a body I catch sight of in a car as it goes around the bend before it plunges into the shadows.

I engage in the exhausting strategies of desire.


Of GMing


I truly believe that for a teaching GM relationship to be effective the speaker GM should know only slightly more about the topic than the listener player--sometimes, on certain points, less--this is the process of exchange.



Of Foes

Animals=Evil. Demons figured in animal form, a vast theme.  Anthonian theme: demons entering Saint Anthony's cave: snakes, lions, bears, leopards, bulls, wolves, aspic, scorpions: all "the wild beasts." Their figurative profusion in painting. Animality=infranature: aggression, fear, greed, flesh: man without law.
Of The Party

But what's the fascination of the small group (the gang, the sanatorium)? The state of autarky (autarkadia: self-sufficiency) contentedness=plenitude. It's not the emptiness that draws us in its the fullness of or if you prefer the intuition that there's a vertiginous vacuity to the plenitude of the group.

Autarky: strong intradependence + 0 extradependence. Independence marks the boundary and so gives the definition the mode of being of the group.

Bion makes this clear “Leaders who neither fight nor run away are not easily understood”.

Of The Dungeon

Description of the protective enclosure: Robinson Crusoe meticulous almost excessive quasi obsessive set of defenses against others as soon there's a suggestion of the presence of another man on the island (footprints)--> mad defensive measures. A house that's completely buried from view, invisible whole system of fortifications, of hiding places, enclosure as craziness, as an extreme experience.

Already in Robinson Crusoe--a "healthy" "rational" "empirical" subject if ever there was one--panics at the prospect of danger (the footprints in the sand) endlessly reinforces his defenses. Absolute protection is never achieved (mirage asymptotic). Stockade enclosure camouflaged by a thicket, no door--unmistakably the theme of absolute enclosure--just a little ladder that Robinson pushes up behind him. The colonists apartment in the granite wall in the Mysterious Island--a ladder that can be pulled up then in an elevator. The symbolism of burying oneself below ground and walling oneself up is based in the empirical fact of protecting oneself (symbolically speaking, the only absolutely protected space is the mother's womb). To go outside is to be exposed, to be defenseless, it's life itself. Making it impossible for enemy to get in gets converted through access through neurotic exaggeration into the self-imposed impossibility of getting out.

Piranesi: prisons are supposed to be the anti-hut (note that they’re vast, anti-cellular structures demonic capsizing of levels)—> Space of crisis, of drama, of the sublime (Burke= “a sort of delight full of horror, a sort of tranquility tinged with Terror.”)  Piranesi: “out of fear springs pleasure."

The Labyrinth: Symbolizes the paradoxical labor whereby the subjects sets about creating difficulties for himself. Walling himself up within the impasses of a system. It is the archetypal space of the obsessive. The Labyrinth is this space of active enclosure. Endless futile efforts expended on finding the way out. In the subjects effort to find the exit he only acts exacerbates his only his own imprisonment. He walks, constantly changes direction, etc yet remains in the same place. Labyrinth: a system that's hermetically sealed by its autonomy. Example: The system of a love affair--once inside there's no way out, and yet the labor it requires is immense. Finding a way out an almost magical act: the glimpse of a thread of a different system through which you then have to pass--Ariadne's thread. The Labyrinth is a very effective symbol of that state, an inextricable system of walls, but one that's out in the open air graph paper there's no roof...To someone looking on from the outside (looking down from above at their notes) the solution is obvious, in contrast to the person inside it: a situation typical of a love affair.

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P.S.

Check it: Red & Pleasant Land is Reddit /RPG game of the month--and it's not even a game.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Panic Modes

Panic Modes occur when a Demon City character is at exactly 0 Calm. (Not negative calm--at that point total ineffectiveness kicks in, but since you lose 1 Calm point at a time, you will always pass this point on your way to negative calm.)

How a PC behaves when they panic depends on their role:

Curious

The curious character's panic will come in the form of fascination. In addition to this general role-playing prompt, in the round after they hit 0 Calm they must try to find out something new about the situation they're in.


Friend

When in a panic, the friend character's loyalty will override everything and they'll try to get whichever character they are most loyal to (or one of the characters they are most loyal to) out of the situation. In addition, they must spend the next round after they hit 0 Calm trying to get their friend out of the situation.


Investigator

Used to relying on method, and here for practical reasons, the investigator in a panic is simply less effective. In addition, they must spend the next round after they hit 0 Calm either fleeing or acting with only 1 die.


Problem

The problem will revert to instinct when in a panic. In the round after they hit 0 Calm they must use their special abilities


Victim

The victim in a panic is energized. In the round after they hit 0 Calm they will act with 1 additional die if it is against the entity or entities they believe to have hurt them, and will keep that die for that purpose until the menace is defeated or driven off.
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