Friday, July 28, 2017

Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all

Life is busy and full of existential dread, so all's been quiet on the hobby blog front.  I've been playing far more than I've been running, and so don't have much to share.

I've been playing a sequel to the Deadlands game (a government-backed group in the 1930s trying to put the pieces back together after the first game), Rushputin's Erebus-Salzenmund Boogaloo (Earthmen stranded on a strange fantasy world for DCC), and Arashi's 7th Sea game (a very, very political game because the player characters have strong opinions about social justice and consequently have a habit of starting revolutions in our wake).

If you want to know what I'm doing running-wise, I'm largely running Tip the World Over on Its Side for Unknown Armies and helping moderate the Unknown Armies Fan Club.  Occasionally, I'm still running Crux of Eternity for D&D 5e (six years running!).  Very occasionally, I'm running Isle of Anhak for Lamentations of the Flame Princess, and What Luck Betide Us for D&D 4e.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Carcosan Algorithm

Author's Note: I'm sure this post is due in equal parts to the classic World of Darkness plot about Clan Tremere infiltrating the Mormons to compile humanity's True Name out of their genealogy records, as well as Watch Dogs' plot about the Bellwether behavioral prediction algorithm.  And maybe a little Ex Machina for flavor.  So, uh, apologies.  Also, despite being written for Call of Cthulhu, you could probably adapt it to another modern occult system with a little tweaking.

Magic in the Cthulhu Mythos is ultimately revealed to be not the product of symbolic interactions, as suggested in other occult traditions, but high-level theoretical physics and hypermathematics far beyond human comprehension.  A symbol like the Elder Sign doesn't symbolically bar the transit of nonterrene entities — it physically bars them by interacting with subatomic particles to create four dimensional barriers through which nonterrene entities cannot pass.

In this way, the principle of sympathy still applies, but is more like balancing an equation than trying to trick the universe into identifying one thing as another.  (Your average occultist probably can't tell the difference, though, and some philosophers would say this distinction is irrelevant, basically amounting to navel-gazing.)

The modern world generates lots of data, and requires several ingenious solutions to compile and interpret this data, lest it lie useless on hard drives..  (Some believe our ability to generate data will soon outstrip our ability to store it.)  Whatever the case, data is big business, as modern data-crunching methods can use this to generate targeted advertisements, as well as enable espionage by compiling information about someone's networked habits.  (If you're buying medicine at the local CVS and looking up symptoms on WebMD, you're probably ill.  If you're buying unhealthy food, you're a health risk to your insurance company.  If you're making the same credit card purchase at a local deli around 12:30 PM every weekday, you probably work nearby and are getting lunch there.)  There's a lot of concern that someone — the government, hackers, or private corporations — could use this information to insidious ends.

You don't know the half of it.

In certain occult circles, there's a known rivalry between the Brothers of the Yellow Sign and the Fungi from Yuggoth.  Tales about the two vary, but some have theorized that the fungi were instrumental in manipulating human evolution to create modern human thought.  The Brothers oppose them, because modern human thought acts as a hyperspace grid binding their god, Hastur, and this entity can penetrate in regions where human thought has been corrupted by the Carcosa-mind.

As such, a group of hackers have appeared, evidently affiliated with the Brothers of the Yellow Sign.  (Occultists in-the-know often call them by the cheeky name "yellow hat hackers.")  While they engage in same sorts of espionage and sabotage that other hacking groups do, their true purpose is quite sinister.  They are attempting to gain unfettered access to the global datastream, specifically search engines and social media platforms, as well as the processes that collate these disparate data.  Once they have co-opted the processes that compile and analyze personal data, they can use these pieces of information as variables in a complex hypermathematical equation attempting to correlate human civilization with Carcosa.  When the equation is solved, theoretically, Earth will become coterminous with Carcosa, and "the liberated Old Ones would teach them new ways to shout and kill and revel and enjoy themselves, and all the earth would flame with a holocaust of ecstasy and freedom."

Looks like you'd better stop those hackers before they get that far; rumor has it that they broke into Google's servers last week, and who knows how long it'll take for them to finish their calculations?

Friday, March 31, 2017

Unknown Armies, Dark Shadows Edition

Back in the winter, I introduced Nicole to classic Dark Shadows.  We only watched a couple of plotlines — some day, when we have more time, we'll watch the whole thing, but that's probably a year's undertaking — but we hit a lot of the classic plots.  (Ultimately, we focused on the plots that ended up being revisited in House of Dark Shadows and the 1991 revival.)  If you're unfamiliar, it's a very melodramatic soap opera from the late 1960s and early 1970s.  The basic structure was to rip off Gothic novels — the starting plots are pretty unabashedly taken from Jane Eyre and The Count of Monte Cristo — but after a few episodes and flagging ratings, they pretty quickly added supernatural elements.  Josette's ghost is the first weird thing to appear, but they pretty soon include phoenixes, vampires, werewolves, patchwork men, sorcerers, time travel (lots of time travel), and Lovecraftian horrors.

At any rate, coupled with Unknown Armies, third edition, being in my headspace, I drafted a character creation chart for the first 200-ish episodes.  The four Collins family members and their governess — Carolyn Stoddard, David Collins, Elizabeth Collins-Stoddard, Roger Collins, and Victoria Winters — are meant to be the player characters, although no stats are provided.  (At some point, I should probably fix that.)  Their starting relationships are included, however, although their relationships to the "cabal" have been left blank.  Their various other contacts, as well as some artifacts and the manor house itself, are included.

Click to enlarge.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

State of the Madicon 2017

The state of the Madicon is strong.

Nicole and I made the annual pilgrimage to Harrisonburg, VA for Madicon 26. (Interested parties can read about Madicon 22, Madicon 24, and Madicon 25.)

This year's foray into the dealer's room resulted in the Tome of Beasts, a rather weighty monster manual from Kobold Press for fifth edition.  We also grabbed dice, miniature yard flamingos, and two old Mage: the Ascension posters.

Friday evening saw my first game of Frostgrave, which I've been wanting to play for a while.  Rushputin ran pregenerated warbands.  I forget which one I was playing the first game — I probably lost in terms of the one shot, but if it were campaign play, any treasure hunt you can walk away from is a success, I think — but the second game I started playing the Witchfinder General.

Click to see the original over at Warpstone Pile
At some point I need to stat out a warband for campaign play.

Saturday saw the return of the Anhak game.  (Interested parties can read about last session's antics here.)  The party made liberal use of Jeff Rients' carousing rules, essentially partying their way up the coast back to the city of Vor Taluum.  They also managed to shrug off the effects of most of their drunken shenanigans, leaving everybody with a pretty good impression of these rich adventurers.  They suffered no problems back in Vor Taluum — the merchants that apparently want them dead sent such an elite assassin they assume the job was finished — although the elf did inadvertently double-cross one of his contacts while trying to grab a wizard's tome.

I guess we'll see how that all turns out.

Otherwise, this year's Madicon was fairly quiet, although quite fulfilling.

Monday, March 6, 2017

I Want a New Duck


There was a conversation over at the Unknown Armies Fan Club, and somebody posted these poor Swedish translations over pictures of birds.  One thing led to another, and the Tomb Duck was born.


The tomb duck is a duck that has felt the touch of ultimate evil, rather like an anatine version of a bodak.  Like regular ducks, they tend to hang out by the water, although their aversion to sunlight means they are typically only found underground, or at night.

Tomb Duck (Lamentations of the Flame Princess/OSR)
AC 14 (AC 8 in AD&D), HD 1d4, Move 60', Fly 270', Morale 12
Attacks: Death Gaze (victims within 30' that meet the tomb duck's gaze make a saving throw vs. paralyzation or die)
Tomb ducks are immune to charm, hold, sleep, slow, and poison.  They have infravision to 180 feet.  Tomb ducks take 1 point of damage per round from direct sunlight and are turned as undead.

Tomb Duck (Dungeon Crawl Classics)
Tomb Duck: Init +0; Atk special (see below); AC 12; HD 1d4; MV 15’, Fly 90'; Act 1d20; SP immune to charmholdsleepslow, and poison, infravision 180'; SV Fort +0, Ref +0, Will +2; AL C.
A tomb duck attacks with its vicious death gaze.  Anyone within 30 feet meeting the tomb duck's gaze must make a DC 10 Fort saving throw or else be instantly slain.  Tomb ducks take 1 point of damage per round from direct sunlight and can be turned.

Friday, February 17, 2017

The Last King of the Dwarfs

I previously mentioned the dwarf settlement of Baritherdar in The Artists of Anhak, but it's only now that current events have given me their monarch, the Last King of the Dwarfs:


I mean, I immediately thought dwarven king when I saw it.  Didn't you?

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