Open Setting Development: Pikesburg Supernatural Societies

Fleshing out Pikesburg as a city went very well! Now that we have the city and the PCs, it's time to create the societies in which the PCs operate. The main two societies are mages and demons. The mage Traditions have a history spanning centuries. Demons, by contrast, have only been back on earth for roughly a decade - plenty of time to establish a new, post-imprisonment hierarchy, but not long enough to get too entrenched in rituals or customs. Here is what I'm thinking so far for both:

The Traditions' Protocols are the laws that govern mage society. They are:
  • Respect Those of Greater Knowledge
  • A Tutor's Debt Must Be Repaid
  • A Mage's Word is His Honor: Break Not a Sworn Vow
  • The Will of an Oracle Must Always be Obeyed
  • Betray Not Your Cabal or Chantry
  • Conspire Not With the Enemies of Ascension
  • Protect the Sleepers, They are Ignorant of What They Do
  • Be Subtle in your Arts, Lest Sleepers Know You for What You Are

The Traditions' stronghold in Pikesburg is Hedera University. While all the public stories about its founding and history are true, it is also a means for the Traditions to recruit the best and brightest who have the potential to awaken. One of the buildings on campus serves at the Traditions' chantry. While the building has a name commonly known to the students, faculty, and staff of Hedera University, the chantry's true name is known only to the awakened mages of Pikesburg. There are three classes of mages at work in the chantry - students, mentors, and fellows. Students are newly awakened mages learning their art. Mentors are experienced mages who teach those with lesser knowledge. Fellows are the leaders of their Tradition within Pikesburg and sit on the local council governing mage affairs in the city. Only fellows are allowed unrestricted access to the chantry's resources. There are a handful of other positions in the chantry. Sentinels guard the chantry from outside threats. The herald communicates the council's will to the mages of Pikesburg. The deacon is the head of the chantry and leader of the council. In honor of the fact that the Order of Hermes founded Hedera University, the chantry's deacon is always a member of the Order.

Here is the council. Not all Traditions may be represented in Pikesburg. If a particular Tradition does not have a presence in the city, it does not have a seat on the council.

Akashic Brotherhood:

Celestrial Chorus:

Cult of Ecstasy: Josh, will your character be the Ecstatic fellow, or will you be leaving that to an NPC?

Dreamspeakers: An urban shaman. He grew up in the city's slums, but attended university on a scholarship. He still resides in the slums trying to make life a little better for those in the grip of poverty. He feels the effect of urban decay acutely in both the physical and spiritual realms. He sees them both as a reflection of one another. He hopes that by making relatively small changes in one, it will be magnified in the other.

Euthanatos: Don't have a backstory for her yet, other than she was inspired after reading Sandman. She felt a particular kinship with Death and users her as her role model. She goes by Didi.

Order of Hermes: An extremely conservative, elderly man. Sees most of the other councilors as flighty and not trustworthy with serious matters. Feels like the weight of the city is on his shoulders. He is probably a member of the Hedera family.

Sons of Ether: The leader of an alternative history group in Pikesburg. I will probably be stealing liberally from the steampunk episode of Castle for this one.


Virtual Adept:

Dan, as an orphan mage, your character probably won't be entirely accepted by the local mage society. They'll probably be putting some pressure on him to join an actual Tradition.

Infernal law has not had time to be anything other than direct and to the point:
  • Obey the will of your superiors.
  • Respect the territory of others.
  • Protect the security of the infernal courts.

Infernal court is made up of the local tyrant and the tyrant's five ministers. The Minister of Eagles is responsible for gathering information for the court. The Minister of Aurochs is concerned with the defense of the court. The Minister of Lions enforces the will of the court. The Minister of Dust is the intermediary with human society. The Minister of Dragons is the court appointed opposition.

I only have concepts for the local demons. One is a preacher for a mega-church. Another is a militia man/urban survivalist. The preacher might be a good Minister of Dust, and the militia man might be good as the Minister of Aurochs. I have an idea in my head of the local tyrant being a former gang leader who was killed in a shoot out. It needs a lot more fleshing out though.

Luke and Anna, do you see either of your characters as an active member in the infernal court?

The one thing I have solidly for demon society is that they conduct their business in one of the rotting, abandoned factories. They see the rusted, neglected development and spoiled waterfront as the perfect parallel for what humans have done to what was once Eden in the demons' absence.

Kelcey, your character will probably be the only actual mummy operating in Pikesburg. Depending on what backgrounds you take, the Cult of Isis or the Children of Osiris might have a presence in Pikesburg.

As you can see, there is quite a bit that still needs to be fleshed out. Who are the other mages and demons in Pikesburg? What is the name of the chantry? Is there anything I haven't thought of that you all think would make a good addition to the local supernatural societies?

Open Setting Development: Pikesburg

A huge project for work that has taken up all my time for the past few months finally went live last Friday. I haven't had a proper role playing session since before that project started. Last night, I floated the idea of starting up a new champaign of some sort. After thinking on it, I decided a classic World of Darkness game is the way to go. The 20th anniversary has me really thinking World of Darkness lately. Folks seemed to react pretty positively to the idea, so now it's time to develop a setting for the game. I love the open development process White Wolf has started taking with the new classic World of Darkness books. I'm going to try an experiment to see how well it works for a local troupe. I have a feeling it will help the players feel more invested in the setting if they have a significant hand in building it. Before I get the setting though, I need to share my initial notes about the game setup for the players:
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Now, on to the setting itself! In any World of Darkness chronicle, the city it's set in is as much of a character as any of the NPCs. I'm hoping the players in the Changeling game could see that about Wells Crossing and Hughs High School, even though we went an entire chronicle before they were actually named. That was actually somewhat deliberate since I wanted it to feel like any extremely rural town in America.

This chronicle's city needs to be a classical World of Darkness decaying metropolis. I thought about setting it in Chicago since that is the most iconic cWoD city and this is a 20th anniversary game. I decided against that for two reasons. First, I don't know the city well enough to do it justice, and second, we've never set a game there so it wouldn't have any special resonance with the players. With that in mind, I decided it needs to be a fictional city. I briefly considered setting it in New Bremen, but that name has entirely too much baggage associated with it. This chronicle's city will be Pikesburg.

Pikesburg was founded a little over two hundred years ago as a missionary outpost. It gradually grew in stature as a minor shipping hub thanks to the river and roads leading west that intersect in it. When the industrial revolution hit, the little town exploded almost over night. It was in the perfect location to receive raw materials and ship out finished goods. The river provided a seemingly limitless supply of power and the means to dispose of industrial waste. Money was plentiful for anyone with capital. For the working class, the city was a hell with nightmarish working conditions for minimum pay, exorbitant rent to pack far too many people into far too little space, and virtually no way to break free. Still, workers flocked to the city with tales of easy money and no way to find out the truth until it was too late. Organized crime and corruption became rampant.

Eventually, things got better as workers organized and the unions gave rise to a middle class. The situation settled into an equilibrium of sorts that lasted for most of the 20th century. It was during this time that the city modernized and underwent a more healthy expansion. Enrollment in the private university originally founded for the children of the wealthy industry barons expanded as Pikesburg offered tuition assistance for residents. Local businesses diversified the city's economy, but manufacturing remained the engine that drove Pikesburg. Unfortunately, what seemed to be a limitless foundation proved to be unsustainable.

In the 1970's, the factories began shutting down as manufacturing fled the nation. Nothing moved in to take the factories' place since nearly a century of industrial pollution made the land unusable for anything else. Economic hardship gradually spread throughout the city like a cancer. The only area that seemed immune was the financial sector. Over the next few decades, the financial and banking district became a forest of glittering skyscrapers while the rest of the city rotted. In 2008, even they began to crack as economic downturn gripped the global economy.

Today, Pikesburg is once again a city of extreme wealth and abject poverty. Unemployment officially stands at close to 20%, but those in the know suspect the actual number is higher. Crime and corruption are once again rampant. At night, people flock to the clubs and bars as an all too brief escape from the insurmountable problems of the day.

Notable locations include the city's university. It needs a name - something evocative of its founding as an exclusive, private school. There are two centers of the city - the current, ultramodern downtown with its high rises, trendy night clubs, modern art galleries, and the like and the old city with its decaying gothic architecture from a bygone era. The oldest building in Pikesburg is a giant Catholic cathedral that dates back to the days of being a simple missionary outpost. The old graveyard attached to the cathedral's grounds is still in use to this day. The city's slums are growing a little more every day as one by one houses from the better neighborhoods get foreclosed on. The old industrial district on the river front is filled rotting factories and abandoned shipping centers. Gangs rule this area. Only the extremely brave (or stupid) venture into this area. There is a relatively large nature park that was donated to the city by wealthy philanthropist to give the working class someplace where they could escape the tenements. Unfortunately, those old tenements are an extension of the industrial district, so the park rarely sees use now days. Recently, there has been a push from the hipster movement to reclaim a part of the old city. Coffee and tea shops, loft apartments, used book stores, vintage curio shops, and indie art galleries line this street.

So now for the players, what else does Pikesburg need? What state is it in? What's the name of the river? Is there something else that would make its history more interesting? Let's expand it and make Pikesburg really come alive!

Prepare for Dragon*Con!

Between the changes for this year and the number of new folks going, I figured a post gathering all the information everyone will need for Dragon*Con 2011 in one place would be handy.

Registration is changing significantly this year. I guess after the insane lines from last year, they realized something needed to be done. Here are Dragon*Con's instructions for how registration will work this year:
Dragon*Con will be using barcodes to speed up the registration process for 2011. Those of you who have purchased your memberships in advance will receive (or have received already) a postcard with a barcode on the mailing label. Please bring that postcard (with the mailing label intact and legible) AND a valid government-issued photo ID with you to the registration area at the convention. That will greatly speed up your (and everyone else's) registration experience at Dragon*Con 2011. Forgetting to bring the postcard or the valid government-issued ID will slow down your registration process.

For those of you who are paying on-site, you can shorten your time in line as well. Click here and fill out the form, submit it, and it will generate a .pdf file with a QR code that you print and bring to the on site registration area at the convention. This form is not connected to any database, it is merely a utility for printing your own QR code.  The QR code will contain all your demographic information, mildly encrypted and base64 encoded. As always you will need to have a valid government-issued photo ID with you as well to complete the on-site registration process.
Eternal members pick up their badge in the Mariott room L508 at the following times:
  • Thursday 3pm 2pm-11pm
  • Friday 8am-11pm
  • Saturday 8am-9pm
  • Sunday 8am-9pm
  • Monday 8am-noon
All other registration is at the Sheraton in Georgia Hall 2 – 12 during:
  • Thursday: 4pm 2pm 10am – 10pm
  • Friday: 8am – 10pm
  • Saturday: 8am – 10pm
  • Sunday: 8am – 10pm
  • Monday: 8am – 5pm
They'll also be offering memberships for Dragon*Con 2012 for half off at this year's Dragon*Con. If you're going to the 2012 show, this is definitely worth while!
You've told us, and we've listened. Granting a financial reprieve for NEXT year's 2012 show....we'll be selling memberships for $60, at THIS year's show. They will be made available for that delicious pre-regging price at the Sheraton. Just look for the posted signs! $60 price is only offered at the show. TAKE ADVANTAGE!!
(I can remember when $60 was the expensive, at the door price.... >_> )

As of a couple years ago, there is now a major bowl game in Atlanta every Dragon*Con weekend. Apparently, there was a problem last year with the football fans harassing the girls in costume after dark. They're putting measures in place this year to keep people who shouldn't be at Dragon*Con out at night. Basically, make sure you have your badge with you at all times! Here is the new policy:
For people who are only staying at the hotels and do not have a badge, they will need their room keycard in order to enter the hotels at peak times. If people do not have either, they will not be allowed to enter the hotels during these times.

Only people will Marriott room keys will be allowed to enter the Marriott, only people with Hyatt room keys will be allowed to enter the Hyatt, and so forth if they do not have a badge.

If someone has a badge they will be allowed to to go to all the hotels at all times.

We will be strict about this and there will be several staffers and hotel security posted at all the entrances/exits. We are enforcing this policy for everyone safety during the peak times.

Did you know there are two food courts at Dragon*Con? Did you know you could get from the Hilton to the Mariott to the Hyatt and back again without ever being on street level or walking on Hyatt's stairs of death? Here are a couple of really good walk throughs of the central three con hotels.

Dragon Con Food Courts

DragonCon 2011 Hilton to Hyatt

Don't forget to rehydrate! Stop by the Hyatt rooms 223 & 226 - The Dragon*Con con suite provides free snacks and drinks for all!

The web version of the schedule can be found here!

The iPhone, Android, and Blackberry apps are out! Here is the information from the Daily Dragon.

What to see the massive cosplay groups? Here is the photoshoot schedule showing groups, times, and locations.

Here is the information about the 2011 photo scavenger hunt!
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Vampire: The Masquerade

I can't even begin to describe how excited I am for this! Vampire: The Masquerade was extremely influential on my role playing tastes and GMing style. The only thing that would be better is if White Wolf gave the same treatment to a 20th anniversary edition of Changeling: The Dreaming. I'm not counting on it ;)

Anyway! The book is ONLY going to available to folks who pre-order! The last day to pre-order is July first!
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  • Tags

7th Sea Planning

After far too much drama, the Changeling game is on (hopefully temporary) hiatus. We all agreed that we want to keep gaming though, so we decided to start up another game - 7th Sea!

Much like the Dreaming before the Changeling game started, it's been years since I last gamed in Theah! It's a little staggering the amount I've forgotten. I'm definitely going to have to read some of the books again before we actually start. I really am excited to dig into it though after watching Mysterious Cities of Gold recently. I can't remember character names off the top of my head, but here are the character concepts folks have given me so far:
Dan: A Vesten who wishes to gain the hand of the daughter of his village chief in marriage. His long standing rival in the village is also after her. The village is an extremely strategic port, however, so the Vendel have secretly allied with the rival of Dan's character. In order to settle who gets to marry her, the village shaman consulted the runes and devised a test they must each overcome in order to be worthy of marrying her. Dan's character is currently out in Theah trying to piece together the clues and succeed in the test before his rival does.

Luke: A Montaigne street rat who, through a fluke of genealogy, is actually the next in line to take over a prominent noble family. He was actually supposed to be second in line, but the person who everyone expected to take over the family died under mysterious circumstances. Shorty there after, there was an assassination attempt against him. He is keeping his true identity secret until he can discover who is trying to manipulate the inheritance.

Josh: An Avalon Sea Dog captain and glamour mage. His first mate is a fiery Innish red-head with a very short fuse. He is currently "between ships." He lost his previous ship when he, in a bet with Berek, sank a Montainge navy ship without firing a single cannon. Since then, he hasn't come across a ship he likes well enough to steal yet.

Kelcey: An Eisen traveling missionary. He has a Dracheneisen bound copy of the Book of Theus. If things get out of hand, he makes sure the villains "feel the word of Theus!"
Now, I need to come up with a story that works with all these guys. I was halfway debating starting things off the Erebus Cross trilogy since it's a pretty good introductory romp across Theah, but Kelcey and, I think, Josh have both played through it already. I do want the first few sessions to be kind of an introduction to the world and feel of 7th Sea since Dan and Luke have never played before. So yeah, anyone have some good story ideas?
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Into the Dreaming

Strange, strange dream last night. The plants decided to take over the city. They created a dome of vines over the city so no one could get in or out. The vines released a mist that would create doppelgangers of the people so no one knew who was really a person and who was actually a plant person. There was one of the big Cantrell family gatherings going on at the time, and we were all trying to figure out a way out of the city.

I might have to use that in a Changeling game sometime.... if we have another Changeling game. Have I mentioned how much I hate pointless drama? If not, I do hate it. Massively -.-

In other news, I found a couple unopened boxes of Arcadia: The Wyld Hunt cards very reasonably priced on E-Bay the other day. Arcadia was a very short lived CCG based on Changeling: The Dreaming. Instead of a deck, each player creates a character and quest. You then use the character and quest to adventure through Arcadia trying to complete your quest before your opponent. Of course, you can play cards to impede each other's progress and actually fight each other when you're in the same location. It's fun, but it really plays more like a board game than a card game. It's a shame they didn't release it as a non-collectible card game. Anyway, I need to make a few characters with it so I'll have another stand-by game besides the 7th Sea CCG for the times when a role playing session falls through at the very last minute (like this past weekend).

Summer needs to hurry and get here. I'm over being cold. There's so much I want to do outside!

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPhone.


The Dragon In My Garage

by Carl Sagan
"A fire-breathing dragon lives in my garage"

Suppose (I'm following a group therapy approach by the psychologist Richard Franklin) I seriously make such an assertion to you.  Surely you'd want to check it out, see for yourself.  There have been innumerable stories of dragons over the centuries, but no real evidence. What an opportunity!

"Show me," you say.  I lead you to my garage.  You look inside and see a ladder, empty paint cans, an old tricycle -- but no dragon.

"Where's the dragon?" you ask.

"Oh, she's right here," I reply, waving vaguely.  "I neglected to mention that she's an invisible dragon."

You propose spreading flour on the floor of the garage to capture the dragon's footprints.

"Good idea," I say, "but this dragon floats in the air."

Then you'll use an infrared sensor to detect the invisible fire.

"Good idea, but the invisible fire is also heatless."

You'll spray-paint the dragon and make her visible.

"Good idea, but she's an incorporeal dragon and the paint won't stick."  And so on.  I counter every physical test you propose with a special explanation of why it won't work.

Now, what's the difference between an invisible, incorporeal, floating dragon who spits heatless fire and no dragon at all?  If there's no way to disprove my contention, no conceivable experiment that would count against it, what does it mean to say that my dragon exists?  Your inability to invalidate my hypothesis is not at all the same thing as proving it true.  Claims that cannot be tested, assertions immune to disproof are veridically worthless, whatever value they may have in inspiring us or in exciting our sense of wonder.  What I'm asking you to do comes down to believing, in the absence of evidence, on my say-so.  The only thing you've really learned from my insistence that there's a dragon in my garage is that something funny is going on inside my head.  You'd wonder, if no physical tests apply, what convinced me.  The possibility that it was a dream or a hallucination would certainly enter your mind.  But then, why am I taking it so seriously?  Maybe I need help.  At the least, maybe I've seriously underestimated human fallibility.  Imagine that, despite none of the tests being successful, you wish to be scrupulously open-minded.  So you don't outright reject the notion that there's a fire-breathing dragon in my garage.  You merely put it on hold.  Present evidence is strongly against it, but if a new body of data emerge you're prepared to examine it and see if it convinces you.  Surely it's unfair of me to be offended at not being believed; or to criticize you for being stodgy and unimaginative -- merely because you rendered the Scottish verdict of "not proved."

Imagine that things had gone otherwise.  The dragon is invisible, all right, but footprints are being made in the flour as you watch.  Your infrared detector reads off-scale.  The spray paint reveals a jagged crest bobbing in the air before you.  No matter how skeptical you might have been about the existence of dragons -- to say nothing about invisible ones -- you must now acknowledge that there's something here, and that in a preliminary way it's consistent with an invisible, fire-breathing dragon.

Now another scenario: Suppose it's not just me.  Suppose that several people of your acquaintance, including people who you're pretty sure don't know each other, all tell you that they have dragons in their garages -- but in every case the evidence is maddeningly elusive.  All of us admit we're disturbed at being gripped by so odd a conviction so ill-supported by the physical evidence.  None of us is a lunatic.  We speculate about what it would mean if invisible dragons were really hiding out in garages all over the world, with us humans just catching on.  I'd rather it not be true, I tell you.  But maybe all those ancient European and Chinese myths about dragons weren't myths at all.

Gratifyingly, some dragon-size footprints in the flour are now reported.  But they're never made when a skeptic is looking.  An alternative explanation presents itself.  On close examination it seems clear that the footprints could have been faked.  Another dragon enthusiast shows up with a burnt finger and attributes it to a rare physical manifestation of the dragon's fiery breath.  But again, other possibilities exist.  We understand that there are other ways to burn fingers besides the breath of invisible dragons.  Such "evidence" -- no matter how important the dragon advocates consider it -- is far from compelling.  Once again, the only sensible approach is tentatively to reject the dragon hypothesis, to be open to future physical data, and to wonder what the cause might be that so many apparently sane and sober people share the same strange delusion.
Obviously, the dragon's name is Elliott ;)

Carl Sagan's invisible dragon story from here.
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Christmas Planning!

Almost done Christmas shopping! I don't think I've ever been this on the ball about it before.... This is amazing being so close to finished this early!

Now, once that's done, all I'll have to do is come up with a good, old school, 90's World of Darkness one shot! Everyone involved (who would give an opinion) seemed to lean more toward Mage and Hunter. Between the two, I think I'm leaning a bit more Mage. I could definitely go Hunter though, if folks would rather do it. What do you guys think?

I should be back home for a week or so around Christmas/New Year's. I still need to coordinate on the dates with the rest of the family so I can make sure to have as much overlap as possible. On the bright side, I shouldn't have a project due January 1st this year ;)

Speaking of when folks are going to be in town - Jason, do you still read this? If so, do you know when/if you'll be around?
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