Author: arrefmak

Just a guy, gamer, writer.

Lady Walker, returned to the City of Notions

Lady Walker is my new Player Character. Within the #InvisibleSunRPG, the PCs are described in a sentence ritual for the GM and other Players.

Lady Walker is a Bizarre Empath of the Order of Makers who Eats Knowledge.

How you get to that sentence is a process of reading through the rules and making personality and profession choices. This part of the rules is called the Key. You have five choices to make. You’ll have to read most of the Key (and some of the Path) to really understand the choices.

But perhaps before that, you should understand the premise of the Invisible Sun game. You are one of the Vislae (children of the Invisible Sun), laced with strong magics, previous history, and freshly returned to the Actuality (Real World) from the Shadows (a Grey world exactly like the Players already know.) There was a War, great and terrible, and much of the City of Notions (Satyrine) was evacuated when the weapons and damage became so horrendous that there was little expectation anything might survive. Now you are back (and ready to pick up your history and start the game.) Large amounts of the City are in ruins. Strange things are loose. The Dead wander.

Vislae have different aspects—literally versions of themselves that coexist but operate independently on different levels of reality—so vislae are properly referred to as “they.” Walker presents as female, with a deep fine textured skin of darkest earthen chocolate.

So the setting is deep and mixed well with mysteries. Magic is surreal, weird, and powerful, and every PC has their own take on that, even within the arcane choices made at the start.

So I’ll unpack the PC ritual sentence, without detailing all the various choices possible, to say something more about who Walker is and may become. Note the GM is encouraged to tweak things in the rules or during the game!

Step 1 for the character is choosing your arcane Order/Community. Walker is within the Order of Makers, and crafts magic into many forms. There are complex materials and long nights of work to create these arcane things. Money and time are precious and magical mistakes are somewhat common. This choice provides focus to how your magic best manifests. The rules speak of five choices here. For you old-timers in RP games, this choice is close to a character class.

Step 2 is choosing your Heart of magic, and thereby defining the most true thing about you, and perhaps the most open thing about you. Walker is an Empath. This means that feelings and thoughts come easily, and the surrounding flow from others is important. This choice dictates points allocated to your attributes and skills. The rules speak of four choices here.

Step 3 is choosing your Forte and thereby the most active part of your person. This is what you do best, or most uniquely compared to others. Walker is an Eater of Knowledge, hungry in the pursuit of information. (And in addition to the implicit hooks the GM gets from this, there are all kinds of other hints and suggestions in the rules for things that may influence and taint based on Forte. Colors. Backgrounds. Appearance. Clothes.) Forte has lots and lots of choices. Online I’ve also seen folks building their own Forte, so this really does get creative. There are 60 pages of Forte in the rules.

Step 4 is choosing your Soul, which is Secret and I shall say no more. Except that there are at least 13 Soul patterns by all accounts.

Step 5 is choosing your Foundation, which is the basic common thing that is so obvious. It is your history, where you came from, what you learned to be when you aspired to be an adult. It also constrains things about you, such as resources, wealth, property, connections to friends and associates. Alas, Walker is Bizarre and is not so well connected. The Bizarre may be strange but are not really concerned that people may know this and/or judge. The rules speak of eight choices here.

As you can see from the above, there’s a ton of choices to read through just to get an idea of what you want to mash together for your own PC. Just this little process done solo, results in some nice history, ideas, and direction before any collaboration gets going. But before you have your first adventure session, there’s a GM guided Session Zero, where things about your PC get shared, where your PC gets hooks and bonds with other PCs, where your neighbors are devised, and where the City of Notions gets some landmark love from a melting pot of Player Ideas.

More on this next time.

by the way WordPress…

bad dog, no biscuit…

new and improved editor does not let me see HTML, does not let me copy my own posts for a new post add, does not let me do many basic things your site has always allowed…

fair warning… thanks, who needs your help!

#InvisibleSunRPG begins for me, actual play write-ups likely

Hullo there!InvSun

Is this thing on?

Well, having received an invite to an #InvisibleSunRPG a year ago and having had to turn it down due to health and aging issues in my family, I’m putting the audience of ‘something more than zero readers’ on notice I’ve read the rules and built a protagonist and the GM’s going to turn the lights on this tiny group of four PCs soon for a PBEM.

Yes, just like in by-gone days. PBEM.

I’m excited. It’s a very different world full of very new mechanics. I’ll post as I learn. I’ll try not to belabor mechanics as most of you will not have any access to game materials (the Kickstarter is delivering things to backers). I’ll post things about PC design and/or the wonder of exploring a new world and mindset.

Invisible Sun is a Kickstarter game from MCG.

In a RP galaxy, long long ago…

GMing for kids is a whole other universe.

Diceless is pretty well suited to it.

What does work against you is agenda. Kids don’t always know what adventure they want or what’s possible  And they really don’t usually have a feel for sticking their niche or adventure wants to other PCs.

More on this later and here’s a blog to follow!

 a new blog: https://alongtimeago856907942.wordpress.com/

#acus2018, the games played

An extraordinary Ambercon where all games were above average (and this is a crowd of great roleplayers) and the fun was wall to wall. I ran 4 games and played 4 games. I even got almost enough sleep!

Slot 1. Agents of the Argent Rose: City of Oaths (GM me)

A really fast-paced chapter in ongoing adventures, all inside the Palace this year.

The Team working on peeling back the secrets of the world Grandpa Corwin has created. Somehow he’s forgotten important things about its creation and he’s so cagey, has he really forgotten, or is there something there he doesn’t want to talk about?

The Team dug deeper and deeper. Everyone seems pretty sure that Grayswandir has something to do with the entire mess. But the Goddess Kali hints that the wedding of Lorelei and Corwin itself may be part of the origins of the troubles.

Vivian and Venkatta vacuum up all military intel of the Stigma history across the globe.

America seems to be coming apart under influence of Stigma. Kali is offered an escape from Corwin’s confinement of all to the Palace, and immediately takes it.

The Team takes a lead from Simone and goes to find the Trump cards locked in Corwin’s study. Three locked draws exist there. The first yields Trumps, 4 with white unicorn backs and one with red serpent back. Simone recognizes the unhandsome man who spoke to Corwin briefly in years past.

Locked drawer two yields a silver serpent in mobius loop. Not familiar at all.

Locked drawer three yields a silver feather that smells of ozone.

Spells are released as each drawer is broken into. Each spell seems different from the others, surely as if placed by different people.

Corwin arrives, more questions are had, but when Corwin doesn’t recall the Trumps or any of the items, everyone recognizes the worst case: something powerful is messing with the Realm.

Explosions and violence follow, two of the items try to escape, the feather is briefly used to quiet the serpent.

Team members and grandpa are seriously injured and Lucien saves the day, sorta.

Slot 2. Agents Extraordinary: 1968

Fun for any addict of 60s spy themes.

John Drake has gone rogue, killing agents, and vanishing in Europe. Modesty Blaise follows clues from New York to Vienna. Modesty also sends Illya Kuryakin clues. Drake tries to meetup, but since Modesty doesn’t want to join the agents in peril list, she sends an actress/messenger who arranges a quieter meeting with Drake for the next morning.

Before any of that can happen, most of the Agents Extraordinary also arrive in Vienna. Will they arrest Drake? Will Drake kill Modesty? Will we ever not be paranoid? Will Felix Leiter get to enjoy his vacation? NO!

Everyone is captured and sent to the Village! Stay tuned for next year!

Slot 3. The Kraken Retrieval Squad

Themed off Rebma and very loosely based on the A-team adventures, this was a pretty good romp. Got to meet some new players to me, which is always part of my aim in taking on GMs and games new to me.

My character was seriously a trouble magnet the whole time. I think the team was half hoping I’d get thrown in a dungeon.

Overall a very interesting mix, which fulfilled the A-team style, I thought.

Barca, master of disguise, Garner, master scrounger, Howling Mad Kodrum, trump specialist, Ms Grazie, master of height and muscle, Joss Sloan, charming rogue with cunning plans, and S’Mestra, trouble magnet.

We had a grand military parade of Rebma’s might. The Kraken broke free and our not-charming Rebman handler, Tiberius, screamed at us like it was our fault.

Ya, we fixed it all up. Of course.

Slot 4. LoGaS: Gossamer Alternity! (GM me)

I took a stab at putting a new alien race (Kinz) in the Grand Stair to see if such adventures would play out well.

I got a bigger response than expected (meaning the game actually ran) and the players did well by the concept.

A twisty variant of LoGaS.  Prepare a 50 pt character with the LoGaS (Lords of Gossamer and Shadow) rules. Note that Kinz are able to understand any intelligent beings, even humans. Speaking to other intelligent beings requires Exegesis. Make a point on your PC submittal if you do NOT have Exegesis. Characters submitted 3 weeks before the con get to use 70 pts.Note! Kinz characters must have less than nine lives remaining, but your stats are based on your original life and points above. Players decide how many lives remain. Your previous deaths will bonus your stats, so please include descriptions of your previous deaths so the GM can calculate your fame and game stats. GM will not ask for your Kinz‘ Secret Name, however, if you share your Personal Name with other members of the mission, you will have Icon contact possible during the mission and beyond.No readings of T. S. Eliot’s book ‘Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats’ are required to enjoy this game.

And then shared some additional items with Players in an email before the con to buff up creating the PCs.

there are three broad backgrounds/clans of Kinz you can associate your PC with (or provide your own small tribe background)

Scouts/Navigators
so curious, such explorers, they originally came from parched dusty climes but have spread all over the Stair because they always seek what is over the next Door threshold

Sages/Shamans
so mad, such minds, they originally lived in mountain forests but have spread all over the Stair because they always need to hear new stories

Bards/Brawlers
so feisty, such many scars, they originally lived in cities but have spread all over the Stair because they always need to test themselves

After a few questions, and based on some chat in the LoGaS Facebook group, I added a cultural background, etc.

Since the Kinz are smaller and crafty, they rely often on being mistaken for cats and left alone to gather information or wander around listening. Even if you had the same stats as an amberite or a gossamer lord, you have a hard time fighting them on equal footing. You weigh 20 pounds top range, and those pesky two legs are usually 6 to 12 times bigger. That mass makes a difference to your Strength and Warfare. However, you can confer abilities (or Artifacts) on your Kinz that will translate also upon death, as that becomes part of your legend.

The Alternity is a mind state inside of the Stair and Gossamer worlds. Humanoids generally dream there but don’t recall anything about it. Exceptional people can travel in the Alternity, or adventure there, where dangerous ideas are found. One such dangerous idea is killing the Grand Stair. Kinz can with effort drag humanoids etc. into the Alternity, but then they may remember the journey, so it is not done often. Children are easier to work with than adults.

That’s pretty much the mission. Find out who/what/how someone is planning to kill the Stair.

and finally just before the con, a big summary:

KINZ summary:

culture with internal conflicts

the Kinz respect the Grand Stair by tradition. They originate from at least three gossamer worlds within the Stair network. Studies are inconclusive as to which world might be the ultimate origin of Kinz. Loosely speaking, the Shamans, Bards, and Scouts correspond to the mini-cultures of those three worlds, but there are also at least five other worlds not as old that have their own tribes. So far there has never been a civil war, and the (Kinz) Council has three Speaker seats for every gossamer world of the Kinz. Day to Day, the Kinz are much about their own agendas and passions. This also means they are polite but not overly ‘team players’ until a crisis presents itself. The Family is more important than Politics. Religion is a loose idea that only has a loose following, mostly centered on the Venerables and Bastet.

a non-human perspective that has its own logic

the Kinz seem to have always recognized the Alternity. Within the Alternity, they realized that other sentient species had a part in a Grand Design. However, it has been disappointing to discover that most other sentient species do not process the Alternity or work against the horde of Bad Ideas that thrive there. In fact, many of the Bad Ideas have been proven to come from other sentients. This leads the Kinz to treat with most TwoLegs as if they are ….immature species. There is Chowder (read Council) debate regards finding partners in the Grand Stair who can help to manage the Bad Ideas.

hierarchy with unusual authority/positions

Kinz generally defer to their own kind who have died more times. Which is to say, they are polite and listen to opinions. Only those Kinz who have died 8 times are considered Venerables. Dying more than 5 times confers Elder to your honorifics (as you are headed into your few remaining lives.) No Kinz has ever lived more than 9 lives. However, it is said that some rare cases, the Kinz who have best lived their 9 lives may exist in the Alternity after their final death.

child raising and reproductive culture

Due to death, gender change, or demands of the Alternity, and with an Understanding that young children are perceptive of the Alternity, raising children is a task given to the older experienced parent once the children are weaned. It is very common for the First Adventure to be led by the Guardian Parent. Assistance from the Blood Parent is not expected nor demanded, but Adoptive Parents or Grandparents will often participate.

gender identity

Kinz recognize five genders, two of which (female & mischief) can bear young:
Female / shows all the physical sides of warm-blooded child carry and reproduction
Male / shows all the physical sides of planting seed for children
Mischief / shows both physical sides of child reproduction but cannot impregnate self (intersexual)
Topsy / shows no physical gender traits at all, with no sex interests, but may find a partner that inspires a gender transformation to another gender state
Yowl / may show physical gender traits but has no interest or ability to reproduce unless Circumstantial

history and place on the stair

the Infinite Stair was first mind-mapped by Bastet, who later became a Goddess of the Alternity, or just a really powerful dead female (PC choice)
Bastet was part of the early culture meld of the three worlds of Kinz
Bastet believes that the Grand Stair favors Kinz and needs their assistance, and she also says she can talk to it, go figure!
Kinz respect a symbiotic relationship with the Stair

Since the Kinz are smaller and crafty, they rely often on being mistaken for cats and left alone to gather information or wander around listening.

Even if you had the same stats as an Amberite or a gossamer lord, you have a hard time fighting them on equal footing.

You weigh 20 pounds tops, two legs are usually 6 to 12 times bigger. That mass makes a difference.

However, you can confer abilities (or Artifacts) on your Kinz that will translate also upon death, as that becomes part of your legend

 

The Alternity is a mind state inside of the Stair and Gossamer worlds. Humanoids generally dream there but don’t recall anything about it. Exceptional people can travel in the Alternity, or adventure there, where dangerous ideas are found. Kinz can with effort drag humanoids etc into the Alternity, but then they may remember the journey, so it is not done often. Children are easier to work with than adults.


crafts/arts/music that is not human

Kinz love to tell stories and sing
Kinz have opposable thumb pads (4) and dew claw
they will make complex musical instruments to enhance their stories (they rarely carry around their prized instruments)
the culture is not tool-based, but Kinz love to create things and are good at whittling and/or sculpture

!physical!

four legs are the major dexterity mode for the Kinz (if your attributes are above Paragon, it won’t matter much to normal actions, if you sell down, there will be limits)
opposable finger pads (four thumbs)— meaning they have no problem using tools, or picking things up, they also wield retractable claws
!do not make overpowered!

average Kinz is small and no more than 20 pounds
they are nimble and quite athletic but prefer to sleep in short bursts that allow them to monitor the Alternity
they are quite self-sufficient and generally, do not carry tools or other burdens


!multiple lives!

Kinz have nine lives, when fatally injured, they surge with Alternity energy and regenerate into a new body
the new body can be different in size, gender, markings, etc, but will retain your Attributes et al

they will regenerate in the vicinity of their death but rarely into a deadly environ

!avoid monoculture

Players are encouraged to devise their own tribe/gossamer world if they want to take on that task for PC design

Scouts/Navigators, world Riverhunt

so curious, such explorers, they originally came from parched dusty climes but have spread all over the Stair because they always seek what is over the next Door threshold

Sages/Shamans, world Monastery

so mad, such minds, they originally lived in mountain forests but have spread all over the Stair because they always need to hear new stories

Bards/Brawlers, world Shenanigans

so feisty, such many scars, they originally lived in relic cities but have spread all over the Stair because they always need to test themselves

Slot 5. Pendrad: Labyrinth! (GM me)

A serial game running about 4 times now. This year, a rescue mission to find or bury missing agents of the Fae Khans.

Again, this is the GM adding complexities of Amber and Chaos to the Grand Stair rule set. Not something you are likely to see in other games. The Fae are quite flexible and powerful compared to your average Stair dweller or PC.

Everyone did a smash up job.

Slot 6. They Fight Crime! (Space Opera Edition)

the GM created an alternate version of Firefly for the PCs to adventure in using James Arnoldi’s Key RPG system. The game system worked very well.

With a random selection of pregen characters, we all started right away with immersing into our roles. The twist was we each got a secret Motivation from the Player on our right to incorporate into the play. It seemed to work well for everyone.

Robin Grant, Captain of the space freighter Odyssey

Vincent ‘Ernie’ Grant, Hot Gunman for Hire

Vivian Hill, crusty engineer

Meer’Ton, alien hot-shot pilot

Prince Rutann of Zircon, tourist charming rogue

Dr Peter Tanner, medic and guy protecting his sister

Miserly Tanner, psychic waif of illegal Federation experiments

It’s been a long time since I’ve played in James’ Key system, and this seemed a smoother ride than I expected. There are Flaws to disadvantage you, and Keys to advantage your Expertise in six Attributes. A pretty slick package that works fast.

The parts were juicy ones, and everyone seemed to have a very good time. Viv was heroic, the Captain was steely and uber-competent, Ernie was loud and full of action/ideas/menace, while Meer’Ton, the Prince, and Dr. Peter were all played by the GM as some folks got pulled from the game by Real Life conflicts.

By chance, I got the random draw I would have picked anyhow, Miserly was the wild card in the crew, her actions always being a bit unproductive and distracting.

Our choices started out bad and got worse as we went along, one step ahead of disaster or being broke and stuck in on a station/world. We crashed in and out of several worlds, and situations, one step ahead of the law in some cases. In the end, we lost the Prince and pilot to the story line (they left for greener pastures) but the Feds never caught us.

A clever bunch of roleplaying kept us ahead of complete calamity. A good crew.

Special note here, the GM was feeling poorly and might have canceled the game, but he found a special reserve of awesome and we all had a great time.

Slot 7. Dark Water: The Company 2018

Serial consequences on the Grand Stair. A new team, more players than ever before, and this game came out very well.

The Company is a team of low-level mercenaries who are tracking fallout from an original adventure on the found Fountain of Youth. The water there turned out to be anything but friendly. Several adventures now have circled around how getting rid of the original problem has spread issues to other Doors.

This year it was gossamer Phoenix’s turn to be checked and cleared.

The good news, Prof Nine-thousand Entry 3 (9KE3) finished grading all the semester papers during the adventure, AND helped solve a knotty logistical problem in Phoenix. YaY us! The princess was saved. The world was rebalanced. We had a party!

 

Slot 8. Soft Cimmerian: No Mirror Has Two Sides (GM me)

Well… this was the ninth? outing of the Soft Cimmerian game, now a closed-game not open to new players. #softcimmerian #acus2018

the plot was a bit of social ninja work by one PC who can mask his presence from those of lesser Psyche, so he shared out a tale of anxiety and mystery: the crown princess seemed to have an aura that paled and wavered on social occasions. Eventual reveal: the 8-year-old was dying of a rare Chaosi war-poison. She’d been harmed right under the noses of all her significant security layers.

Lots and lots of interesting reveals to Rebma history, the burden of thrones, and how complex Rebma politics can be as a comparison to what is known about Amber politics (reflection of, where the King is always right.) Moire is not always right.

A scary plot that could have broken important NPCs or seen some dead— if the Gallants of the Glass did not do some very heroic measures. So they did commit fully and wove a great story through the minefield of plot tragedy.

Yay!

ranks, narrative power, LoGaS and Amber Diceless

LoGaSThe Rules As Written for Lords of Gossamer and Shadow are clear, the Attribute Auction establishes the ranks of skill for all the Players, and then the GM can create his NPC cast based on that ladder of ranks.

Oh, but what happens if someone joins the game in two months? You have to squeeze them into the ladder of ranks. That’s a bit awkward.

And what if you have been playing for 18 months and the NPC cast is now over a hundred people? How many NPCs of 2.5 rank or 1.5 rank or secret new 1 rank is the GM going to track? And how many dead ties between Attributes have you now created?

And what happens if you go to a gaming convention and the GM starts everyone with a pile of points because auctions take too long? Well, you can build the ladder after everyone does their point builds in secret. Also a bit awkward and it doesn’t add much to in-world play.

Bid numbers versus ranks is a long-standing GM style discussion for running diceless games. (Long standing as in going back to the earliest internet mailing lists.)

It’s complicated by those folks who want to know how much a fight staged with 2nd and 3rd rank PCs ganging up on 1st rank Strength PC, for example.

1st rank is still going to win, but how close is it?

Some long time ago, I had a web reference page for something I called ‘story values’, which is basically narrative ranks, or scale of Attributes for the campaign. The Rules As Written include an overall real-world relationship for Mortal, Superior, and Paragon ranks. And that’s where I start for scaling what’s not said in the rules (ie, much higher ranks.)

Why scale up practical in-game effects when the rules already tell you who is going to win? Does it matter exactly how strong someone’s Attribute is if it is clear they are the winner? I think it does matter for immersion and the practical side of letting a PC plan their actions out. The best diceless play is when system disappears for the Players (IMHO). Practical, easy to remember scale of Attributes helps this immensely.

So here’s a chart captured from the Wayback Machine, a scale of narrative ranks as they stand in my Amber Diceless games:

diceless_narrative_ranks

The 3 columns to the right include the scales of artifacts/items, Attribute numbers, and ‘story value’ or a real-world feat scale. Mortal (average healthy) equals practical 1 rank scale.

Application is, a Player who decided to not spend points on Strength, has Amber rank, which is 4 times better than Mortal. Meaning that Strength moves 4 times more stuff than what you’d expect a human to move. Easily then, this PC knows he can toss humans out of his way, but is not stronger than 5 mortals working together.

Then the rest follows, based on what trial and error I did those years ago: Prince Gerard (depending on how the points were handed out by the GM) could easily toss young Amber royals out of his way, being 16 times stronger than Mortal and 4 times stronger than PCs who bid no points in Strength.

The chart was a big success for me, because it made Attribute contests flow very quickly. It also allowed Players to ‘feel’ for their capabilities before the game ever started. It also could help during an auction bid process, but that was not its purpose in design.

The chart begins to address lots of conflict issues. Two PCs with heavy investment in Strength, let’s say 25 points, are nearly as strong as Gerard when teaming against him. Do they have his skill? No.

I brought this info out of the dusty nowheres of history as a bookmark to discussion and future commentary.

Talk to your GM in session zero before the game starts about the baseline of such rules in play.