Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Featured Artist: Jamie Jones

This week's artist is a master of perspective, scale and atmosphere, and every image tells a story. When I first became aware of his work, I was dumbfounded by some of his paintings.

I'll just skip straight to the art this time, so enjoy.

Monday, 29 November 2010


Göteshafen is the trading port of the Hermetic Order State, and lies on the northern shores of the White Sea. It is the only Hermetic city that is open for foreigners, and few have ever seen the hinterlands. For centuries merchants have traded with the Masters of the Tower, and Göteshafen has is a busy, rich, multi-tribal melting-pot where dialects from all over Eria are heard in the streets. All under the watchful eyes of the ever-present Proxima.

The first thing visitors to Göteshafen notices is the wealth and cleanliness of the local inhabitants. All streets are cobbled and free of sewer and garbage, and beggars are as rare as street-magicians in Aragorn. Merchants come in from the hinterlands with their goods, and it is said that the crops have never failed in the Order State. In many ways, Göteshafen appears to be an ideal city.

One thing that sets the inhabitants of the Order State apart is that they seem to live in a bygone era - their tools and attires are those of centuries past; tunics and breeches are worn instead of shirts and trousers, cloaks are worn instead of coats, swords are broader, armours heavier, and there are no mechanical machines to be found. Likewise, the traveller who expects to see arcane wonders, flying horses or giants doing manual labour will be disappointed, in fact, few foreigners ever see a wizard - unless they have connections or important business with the Tower.

The Burgmaster of Göteshafen is Master Vermis Ludenius bani Bonisagus, a shrewd diplomat and merchant. It is said that nothing happens on the White Sea that he doesn't know of within three days, and that he better at factoring costs than a Wezellian. Since he took over as Burgmaster, trade has more than doubled, and even if all Humanists have been expelled, there are now more ships visiting Rederhafen than ever.

The coastline is patrolled by the Orders fast and deadly galleys, and only the most desperate smuggler will attempt to sneak past their picket. So far, none have lived to tell the tale. It is this type of ship that makes up the bulk of Battlefleet Hermetica, now deployed to the Erian Gap and the Pendrellian Coast.

[Picture source: 1 The ORB; 2 Radojavor on DeviantART]


Clarifications & Houserules

Mana is the essence of Creation, the fluid form of Prime, the Quintessence, the life-blood of magic. It emanates from the Ethereal Planes, and before the Dead Star fell, it filtered freely into the Material Plane. Since then Mana has become a rare commodity, as the remaining reservoirs have been tapped into, and their essence has been bound into hard patterns, or burnt to fuel magical rituals. Some of this will be dissolved into the fabric of creation, and flow back into the residual pools.

The metaphysical laws that govern Mana is a mystery to the remaining magicians, but it is known that Mana flows through Ley-lines, and that it gathers in Hallows. In earlier ages, the Ley-lines were stronger and more numerous, but as a Hallow is drained the lines leading to it will falter and in many cases vanish alltogether. Wars have been fought over the control of Hallows, and will undoubtedly again.

There are still locations where pure and undiluted Mana flows into the Material from the Ethereal, and such places are highly valued, and those who control them will guard them closely. The Watchtowers are such locations, but most of these have been destroyed. Still, even the ruins of a Watchtower will hold a rich Hallow.

Mana can be found both as fluid energy, and as solid form. In the former, it is called Tass or Vis, and takes the form of liquids, plants, crystals, or oils. It is measured in mY (one point), Bucket (twelve mY), Chest (three Buckets), and Barrel (50 mY). Orders, cabals and magicians often have their own units as well.

The canon-rules for Mana are found on pages 77-79 of Mage: the Awakening. The following is a short summary.

A mage can contain 10 mY in his pattern, plus of Gnosis - 1. The amount of Mana that can be spent pr. turn is dependent on Gnosis.

Mana must be spent to fuel the following feats of magic:

  • To cast an improvised spell, unless the primary Arcanum is the mage's leading Arcanum.
  • To cast a spell on a target beyond sensory range.
  • To inflict Aggravated damage (prerequisite: sufficient dots in casting Arcanum).
  • To fuel a spell that demands the expenditure of Mana.
  • To heal bashing or lethal damage (three mY/health-level).

A mage can amass Mana in the following manners:

  • Perform an oblation in a Hallow.
  • Scour the Pattern (convert physical stats or health-levels to Mana at a rate of 1:3).
  • Blood Sacrifice (kill a creature to convert its life-energy to Mana).
  • Convert Tass to Mana (requires Prime 2 unless the Tass can be ingested).
  • By meditating Mana can be drawn from the mage's Source (houserule, see this post). 

Costs for teleporting the Pius are as follows:
Line of sight -- 2
Within same Realm -- 3
Edge of same Realm -- 4
Different Realm -- 5

[Picture source: Fine Art Prints]

Sunday, 28 November 2010



The Corps of Hellghasts is the elite of the Ordo Ultima Thule. Following the defeat of general Helmand Döner's forces on the world of Varanger the OUT went into hiding, and it is believed that they today control one fringeworld, as well as at least two larger constructs.

According to intelligence, the Hellghasts are picked at age five, and they go through at least fifteen years of gruelling training before they are accepted into the Corps. Reports indicate that they go through several graduations where they are pitted against one another in deadly combat, the victor being allowed to continue his training.

The final stage of the initiation is said to involve the cadette being inserted on a Netherworld alone, unarmed except for a knife. Here he is expected to track and kill a wolf-demon and capture it's spirit. If he survives, he will then have the demon-spirit bound to his soul.

The greatest caution is reccomended when dealing with Hellghasts, for they are utterly corrupt and extremely dangerous. They are all equipped with high technological weapons and equipment, they are highly trained, and they are fanatically loyal to the OUT.

Luckily, as far as we have been able to ascertain, the Corps of Hellghasts count no more than two and a half thousand, and as far as we know, they are deployed in batallions of five hundred.

When confronted, exercise great caution and proceed with due dilligence. If possible, kill on sight, failing that, observe and report. Do not approach!

Photogram A-04

Analea reference pic updated

I mentioned that I've been looking high and low for pics to illustrate Analea, and I finally found it. She looks a little young, but I can't get everything I want. The original post has been edited to reflect this.

[Artist: Pasqual Quidault]

Battlefleet Hermetica

Fortress Ship Katedral

Until recently, the ships of the Adversary has been able to enter the Inner Sea at will, and from there reach the White Ocean. The shores of Eastern Pendrell, Wezell, Livonia, the Empire, and the Order State all lay open to Black Ships and other such foul foes. Not so anymore. As the summer of YE 1022 draws to an end, new sails are being seen on the inland seas.

The ships of the Hermetic fleet have long been a familiar sight along the Erian coasts, but they've always sailed alone on their unknown errands. Now the Masters of the Northern Tower have sent a clear message to the world, the wizards are at war. The Battlefleet Hermetica now controls the Erian Gap, and its vessels also patrol the Pendrellian coast. The fleet is supported by Wezellian Men-O-War, but the undisputed lord of these waters is the Hermetic flag-ship, the mighty fortress-ship Katedral.

Katedral is unlike anything seen on the oceans of Argos in all the ages that have passed. Built of stone, her towers and battlements defy all reason, and she is a monument to the might of the Hermetic Order. Crewed by Proxima, carrying three war-cabals, and commanded by the one-armed Master Octavian Arbalestus, the Katedral is nothing but a formidable floating fortress. She also carries a hunt of wyverns. These sleek, dragon-like creatures serve as steeds for one of the cabals, and a few of them constantly patrol the skies above the fleet.

[Artist: Pasqual Quidault]

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Chapter: Point of Catastrophe, part III

(Death Comes From Above)
The final part of the second chapter of the Dark Spear

Cast: Gryff Galan, Mandan Bansl, Yolander van Zaar, Toadface, and Prince Aegir of the Enæidun. Also, as NPCs: Hans Willem Smit (Wezellian Onkel), Octavian Augustus Arbalestus bani Flambeu (Hermetic Master), and Geoffrey Colomb (Admiral of the Argonauts).

The following takes place between 25 and 27 Octavum, YE 1022.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Analea Castillaverde

"You have no place in this world, deepspawn, nor will you ever leave it alive!"

Doña Analea is the widow of Faleandros Castillaverde, Knight Commander of the Knights of St. Invictus. Her father was a merchant in Victoria in the Old Colonies, and the family fled to Cora when the Dark Horde conquered the Colonies. She met Fale when he served in the Order's garrison there, almost fifteen years ago. The raven-haired young girl and the knight fell deeply in love, but the romance seemed impossible, for as a Knight of the Sword, Faleandros had sworn a vow of chastity.

What changed their lives, and bound them by a bond even stronger than marriage, was the intervention of St. Invictus. In 1008 YE, the Grand Master was visited by an apparition of the saint himself, telling him in no uncertain terms that the marriage was a Right and Just thing, and that the laws of men should be set aside for the good of man. And so it was that Faleandros and Analea were wed by the High Prelate of the Order on Invictusmass later that very year.

It may well have been the saint's intention all along, or it may have been the internal tension in the Order caused by the marriage of a knight that caused it, but within a year Faleandros received his promotion and was posted as the Knights' ambassador to the Waymar Islands.

The years in Freeport were the happiest in Ana's life. She gave birth to three healthy children, and together with Fale she built a beautiful home. The couple spent time hunting, riding, and fencing. The birth of their first child, a girl named Ascencion, brought a great change to her life. During labour, Ana Awakened to True Magic. Faleandros, being of a long line of enlightened magicians within the Order now devoted all his time to raising his growing family and educating his wife in the Arcane arts.

When the Ordo Ultima Thule started to tighten their grip on the Islands, Faleandros opposed them both openly and with all his might. He also strongly urged his wife to take the children back to Cora, but before this could happen, events took a turn for the worse. Cora fell, and the few reports that made it across the Outer Sea from Eria bore news of pyres and dark tribunals. Then the ships stopped returning all together.

By then the situation went from bad to truly dire. The Thulists no longer ruled from the shadows, but came out in the open. Fomori and Hellghasts rounded up all who dared speak against the new order, and no one saw them again. The night they came for Falendros, Ana and the children had gone to Port Edras to try and arrange for passage off the island for the family.

When word reached her of her husband's capture, she went through yet another great change. Deep in her soul a great fire erupted, and without hesitation she returned to Freeport to save her beloved Faleandros. She never found him, but she killed several fomori and three Hellghasts at the Donjon, and she recovered the Castillaverde artifacts before they were sent away.

Since then she has become known as Lady Furia, The Widow, and many similar noms de guerre among the population. She has tirelessly conducted a one-woman crusade against the Outsiders and all who affiliate themselves with them, for she believes that her children will never grow up unless the evil is driven off. Due to her zeal, she has become the de facto leader of the resistance on the island of Cordomar. She still searches for trace of her husband.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

The Great Explosion of Rederhafen

At five o'clock in the morning on 25 Octavum, YE 1022, a tremendous explosion shook the very foundations of the Wezellian capital Rederhafen. The centre of the blast was somewhere in the commercial district, probably around Tailor's Row and Seven Lodges Road. Most of the commercial district was destroyed, as well as Neue Stadthalle and the Temple of Justice.

In the aftermath, a ferocious fire raged through large parts of the city, further destroying a number of banking houses, mercantile offices, warehouses, as well as large residential areas. It is believed that the fatalities have reached more than 10,000, amongst these several influential persons, including at least three Onkels.

It is believed that the blast was caused by a bomb planted in the city by agents of the Ordo Ultima Thule in retaliation to an attack upon them by the Pius Cabal.

[Picture source: Tom Reeder's Blog]

Reports from the War

The Pius Cabal has now been questing for a full month, from 25 Septium to 25 Octavum. Certain things have happened in this time. These are some of them.

  • The two armies of General Magnus Emil, Duke of Westerfold, and Lord Marshal Roeder has won a series of victories against Imperial forces, and all lands west of the River Meren is now controlled by the Alliance.
  • The Red Death has broken out in the Imperial Electorship of Orlon. Reports tell of whole towns fallen to the zombie plague.
  • An army of 30,000 men under the command of Don Artugio Marabazar has left Aragorn and marches towards Corillia.
  • A combined fleet of the Knights of St. Invictus and the Hannuman Caliphate has defeated the Black Ship Corpsesong in the Bay of Oden.
  • Wezellian forecasters predict famine in large parts of central Eria this coming winter.

[Picture source: Ocean's Bridge]

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Featured Artist: Murray Groat

The object of this week's feature appeared on my blogroll last Friday. Nathan Long over at Sabrepunk posted a fantastic Tintin/Cthulhu crossover cover by Murray Groat, a.k.a. Muzski. A quick google-search later, and I had found the rest of the set on the artist's DeviantART page. Sadly, these are not available as prints, and equally sadly these are only covers for non-existent albums. Dammit.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Chapter: Point of Catastrophe, part II

Cast: Mandan Bansl, Gryff Galan, Jolander van Saar, and Toadface.

The following takes place between 24 and 25 Ovtavum, YE 1022.

Previously, the cabal decided to attack the Ordo Ultima Thule on the Waymar Islands, and to take down the OUT battle-ship ADMIRAL VORTIGERN. This chapter starts with the good ship Pius - now rigged for flight - high above the Isles. Three Reavers have been defeated, and several more are forming a defensive formation between the Pius and the OUT base.

Below them, the heroes could see more Reavers taking off from the island, and amongst these there was a wing of three white vessels. They climbed from a jungle-clad valley, and suddenly they vanished in thin air - they had breached the Gauntlet and entered the Umbra. This is the Achilles Heel of the cabal, as  both Thaumathurges have vanished.

The magicians decided to up the ante, and they called on the Great Dragon Ahariman. He came out of the sun, falling towards the ground at immense speed, heading towards the OUT base. As the dragon passed the Reaver-formation, fire engulfed them, and many were struck out of the air. Suddenly cannons hidden on ridges and hill-sides started a frightful barrage. The sky around Ahariman became riddled with lethal dark blossoms, and glowing trails of death whipped the air.

And again the lookout called, "Meteorite, hoi!"

ADMIRAL VORTIGERN, the enormous steel monster, engulfed in flames, came thundering into the Troposphere. The Pius sprang into action, and as soon as the flames were extinguished, Captain Galan ordered the ship to teleport.

The Pius jumped to a position where Bansl could fire the White Arrow the cabal had forged for this job. Immediately the enemy's defences opened up, and the decks of the Pius were scoured by red hot metal poured from the countless guns jutting from ADMIRAL VORTIGERN's hull. Even so, Bansl calmly took aim, and fired his cannon. The White Arrow pierced the thick hull without trouble, and galan teleported Bansl, van Saar and Toadface aboard the enemy, then he took his own ship to safety.

In the steel bowels of the great battle-ship, the OUT found that a war-cabal is a terrible thing indeed. The magicians effortlessly fought their way to the bridge, and only there did they meet resistance sufficient to slow them down. Bansl's bombs proved invaluable in clearing closed rooms.

Two Hellghasts stood between the heroes and the door to the bridge, and Toadface whooped with joy at an enemy worth walloping. He charged the two as van Saar shifted time to get behind them. Despite the Hellghasts being fearsome fighters, they stood no chance against two Masters and an Adept, and the battle ended shortly.

The bridge was scryed, and Bansl came up with the idea to use a basic apparition-spell to deliver his ordnance into the room without exposing themselves to the enemy. Thus it was that the bombman blew a great hole in the hull of the enemy ship, and almost killed his brothers-in-arms as well. Bansl himself will of course tell you that everything was under control all the time.

With the ADMIAL VORTIGERN now falling helplessly towards the sea, Captain Galan brought the boarding-party home again.

Further East, the OUT base was now burning, but the dragon, now grievously injured, was fleeing. Relentlessly pursuing the wyrm was a fleet of Reavers. Each was pouring death into the ancient creature, and it was clear to the magicians - who were scrying this from afar - that Ahariman would fall.

Again the Pius was readied for battle, and Captain Galan teleported her between the dragon and the pursuers. As the enemy vessels screamed past them, the Pius opened up with both her broadsides. Of the seven Reavers following the dragon, four were blown out of the sky, and a fifth soon followed.

Toadface, being an Adept of Life, asked to be put on the wounded dragon's back, and Galan promptly teleported him there. Once on the ancient creature, Toadface could feel broken bones grinding against each other, torn tendons and ripped muscles straining to keep moving. The dark and sinister sea was coming closer by the minute, and it looked like there was a malicious shadow following them just below the surface.

Toadface started pouring his magic into the dragon, and despite his best efforts, it did not seem to be sufficient. At last he reached deep into himself, and sacrificing ten years of his life, he managed to bring enough strength back to Ahariman to make him able to climb again.

Simultaneously, the Pius had become threatened by the three white white Reavers. Coming out of the Umbra, one on each side, and one beneath the ship, they made ready to board with dozens of Hellghasts. The cabal didn't think twice, and they retreated.

Toadface was at this time clinging to the dragon's back as it climbed higher and higher, towards the sun. As the horizons widened around him, he felt the light fill his soul, and before the dragon came too high he let go. Before the Pius left the Western Isles, Galan brought the dragonrider safely back aboard.

The Pius anchored off the western coast of Pendrell. Here the wounded crew-members were seen to, and teh ship was mended. There was extra rum for each man, and the cabal celebrated the victory.

At 0500 on 25 Octavum, an enormous explosion wiped out a large portion of Rederhaven. Tens of thousands were killed, and several important buildings were lost. The Ordo Ultima Thule's revenge for the loss of ADMIRAL VORTIGERN has begun.

Storyteller's note: This is a great example of what the Pius Cabal is capable of when they act rationally and in concert. Still, this is only the third victory they have had since they left the Dark Continent (a year ago, RT). Since then, they have made invaluable contributions to the defence of Argos, but they have avoided battle.

The first great victory was the defeat of Captain Armand, following the Dark Triumvirate's attack on Wezell. The second great victory was the defeat of the Flood at the Battle of Geminon Field, where the migrating people were turned towards the lands of the Temple. And now, the defeat of ADMIRAL VORTIGERN. Three victories, against three enemies.

There are in effect three different groups of enemies. The Dark Triumvirate, the Temple of Man Supreme, and the Ordo Ultima Thule. Behind, or below, there is of course Cthulhu, but he's a little out of the reach of mortals.

Following the first victory, they were told by the Queen Mother herself that if they meddled in her affairs again, she would not forgive. Not worth all that much, perhaps, but since then she has left the cabal alone. The   second victory has not yet borne fruits, but by the end of YE 1022 or so, the Flood should start pouring into Temple-lands. This war is also being fought by the Enlightened Alliance (in effect every friendly magician and all their allies).

The Ordo Ultima Thule has been allowed to operate freely on the Western Isles for a generation, and now they have been attacked openly.

[Picture source: LayoutSparks.com]

Sunday, 21 November 2010


There are two major types of trolls, mountain-trolls and forest-trolls. These all have a few things in common. One is their stupidity - trolls are very, very dim-witted. Another is their hatred towards Christianity, and it is a well known fact that trolls are able to smell the blood of a Christian. This causes trolls to go into a violent frenzy.

The greatest vulnerability of trolls is their severe intolerance to sunlight. This is due to their inability to properly absorb calcium, and even a very short exposure to UVB-radiation will cause a violent calcium build-up. In younger trolls this causes their blood-vessels to shut down, and the result can best be described as something akin to an explosion - the troll will essentially burst. In older trolls, this build-up happens in their skeleton, and the appearance is that of the troll turning into stone.

In Norway, trolls have long been a part of our fauna, and there are currently three troll-reservations in the kingdom. The government has kept this a well guarded secret for more than a century, and TST, Trollsikkerhetstjenesten, or the Troll Security Service, has managed to cover up all troll-related incidents. Up until now.

Earlier this year, two hard-drives containing hours of footage were delivered anonymously to Filmkameratene AS, a Norwegian production company. Despite thorough investigation, neither Filmkameratene or the police have been able to verify the material on the drives. Nor have they been able to get in touch with the people appearing in the material. The four youths have disappeared, and the troll hunter, a man named Hans, has not been found. The Norwegian government has denied any connection to the events, as well as the existence of both trolls and TST.

The hours of footage has been edited, though not manipulated in any way, and has been released to the public. The documentary Trolljegeren, or Troll Hunter in English, has been watched by thousands, and yet there's no word from the government. The media has been treating this as a joke, but I have seen the film.

If you have the chance, watch Troll Hunter. Universal Pictures International will release the film in France, Spain, Germany, Austria, Benelux, Switzerland, CIS and the Baltic countries. Following the film's world premiere at the Fantastic Fest in Austin, TX, USA in September this year, a deal for US distribution has been made (1).

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Word: Undead vs. Soulless

There's been a debate in game about whether or not the fomori and the minions of the Ordo Ultima Thule are undead or not. Just to have this on record, here's the official BoW-definition of the two terms.

Undead: Someone who's body has died, but who's soul is still bound to the body. They are technically dead, but the soul has not passed back into Creation. E.g. a zombie, a vampire.

Soulless: Someone who have given up their soul, or have had their soul snatched away by some means. They are technically alive, but they possess no soul. E.g. a Hollow Mana Forfeited.

[Picture source: Edvard Munch on Art History Library; 2 ExileHazard on DeviantART]

References: Commonwealth

The Commonwealth of Man is the other faction of human Outsiders involved in the current affair on Argos. This post is intended to be a reference-post, providing imagery for elements allready in play. As the PC van Saar said, the Commonwealth may appear to be a new friend, but they are bound to have their own agenda where Argos is concerned.

No further information will be provided at this point.

Expeditionary Corps officer


Locust-class flying vessel

Learman 2-pounder automatic cannon

Millhouse-Burns Mk. XII service-rifle

Paladine service-revolver

[Picture source: 1 & 2 Duncan's 20mm Colonial Modeling; 3 Cloudships of Mars; 4 NavWeapons; 5 Wikimedia Commons; 6 REME Museum]

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Featured Artist: Harry Clarke

This artist was brought to my attention by a post at Fighting Fantasist earlier this month. The prints featured in this post are all black/white, and were published as full-page illustrations to E. A. Poe's Tales of Mystery and Imagination, probably around 1920 (my sources differ). Harry Clarke (1889 - 1931) was born an Irishman, and was educated as a stained-glass artist and book illustrator, he was also a leading figure in the Irish Arts and Crafts Movement.

What captures me about this work is Clarke's merciless use of black. It is almost like the white in his pictures are fighting for survival, something that lends itself well to the images in Poe's writing. Coopdevil of the Fighting Fantasist managed to get hold of a copy of a book featuring these plates, and I must say I am a little envious. Then again, until he posted on the topic, Clarke was an unknown figure to me, so I guess I shouldn't complain.

For more Harry Clarke, follow >THIS LINK<

Monday, 15 November 2010

State of affairs

Pit Sylph
-Picture unrelated-

My post-count will be lower for a while now, mostly due to work, but also because of current in-game developments. The former is pretty much self-explanatory, but the latter deserves a few words. The guys have started dealing with one of the really big enemies, and we've also began what'll probably be the final story in this chronicle. Therefore I've arrived at the decision that pumping out red herrings isn't the right thing to do at this point.

Mind you, I'm still working on the BoW, but what I'm prioritizing these days are NPC stat-blocks, vehicles, a demon or two, and similar eyes-only/need-to-know kind of stuff. Some of this will make it to the blog, but that'll be when and if it becomes relevant.

So for the next while and a bit, I'll be around, and I'll post something when I have something to post. A word on the three regular topics before I push 'Publish'; the Featured Artist, the Saturday Night Special, and the Chapter. The first will be maintained for the time being, while the second will probably not make it. The third is a given, so stay tuned for that. I'm also thinking that I'll set myself the goal of publishing one realm-description - with map - each week, as I have a list as long as my arm to go through here.

So why am I preparing for the end? I'm moving, that's why. In the beginning of February next year, I'll be packing my crap and making like a tree. More on that to follow.

[Artist: Keith Thompson]

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Saturday Night Special, feat. Heartless: The Story of the Tin Man

The artwork is by John Howe, the Tolkien-illustrator. I decided to post this particular pic because it is one of my all time favourite fantasy artworks. It also serves as an excuse for today's rant.

Howe places great weight on one of my ideals for portraying fantasy. Realism. The knight's armour is correct down to the smallest detail - Howe takes his research seriously. That kind of attention to detail strengthens the illusion. The only thing deviating from probability is the wyrmling in the knight''s hand, and as everything else looks so probable, that small deviation becomes less improbable.

I don't know where to begin...

I've never liked chainmail bikinis much. It may look good, but the rampant impracticality of it ruins the suspension of disbelief for me. The same goes for the ridiculously large sword that's become more an more common these days. So where am I going with this? Well, storytelling (note the lower-case 'S') is a tricky business. We all have our preferences, and we all have things we don't like. As Loquacious said when I commented on her Changeling-post: You're ok with sacrificing cats, Nazis from space, Elves and places that can't be found on maps; but Changeling is too weird?

I think my point is that most of the stories we tell when we play are totally unlikely, and would have been utterly unbelievable, had we not maintained some alibi of probability. In WoD that alibi is that the supernaturals stay hidden from the mundane world; in the classical fantasy-settings, that alibi is a veneer of medieval myths, mixed with some facts. These alibis are often fragile constructions, and even a little scepticism will cause them to collapse under their own weight.

For my part, I like to mix the realistic with the blatantly fantastical. Hence I have Space Nazis and locations not on any map in my world. I also have religious extremism and sectarianism. The plague currently threatening to sweep across Eria turns people into zombies, but I try to have it follow patterns based on historical plagues. Even the Space Nazis have a basis in realism, far fetched though it may be. Is it working? Well, none of my players have yet called bullshit on it, so I think I'm good so far.

For me, Changeling: the Lost is too weird, but that is because the concept doesn't tickle me, hence I'm not motivated to suspend my disbelief. The same applies to the classical dungeon-crawl stories. For me there is nothing there that makes me believe - there's no story, just a game.

So my point is that without maintaining the suspension of disbelief, the story will collapse, and with it, the game. Whatever it is that makes you believe, take good care of that, because without it the illusion will splinter.

Now that my rant has been dealt with, here's the...

Round-up for week 45
In no particular order:

  • The Value of Failure on Destination Unknown. Why? Because Christian raises one of the important questions about running a successful game, and some good points were raised in the comments as well. It made me reflect over this topic, and I even think I came away with some insight.
  • I need to talk about Howard on Daddy Grognard. Why? This is an interesting discussion about the horrors in Lovecraft's work, and whether these can be effectively brought across the time-gap. I would have wanted to add a comment to that post, but there just wasn't enough time this week.
  • The Radhost Complector on Propnomicon. Why? Because holy crap-waffles! That's why. Of all the useless gadgets I've seen in my life (and I've seen a few) that thing is by far the most awesome. Good thing I don't have children, because I just might have been willing to part with a first-born to get my hands on that thing.

Main Feature
Tonight's film is takes place in Oz, a while before that kid and her puppy comes along. In Heartless: The Story of the Tin Man, we're told the story of... I'm sure you can work that out by yourselves.


Heartless: The Story of the Tin Man from Brandon McCormick on Vimeo.

Ha en fortsatt fin lørdag.

[Picture source: 1  John Howe; 2 Pixel Joint Forum]

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Chapter: Point of Catastrophe, part I

Chapter Two of the Black Spear

Galder Fjord, near Caernfarena Abbey

Cast: Master Galan, Master van Saar, Master Bansl, and introducing: Toadface. Also as NPCs: William Blackstaff, Master Octavian, Brother Osberth, and Brig. Gen. Bothwell.

The following takes place between 23 and 24 Octavum, YE 1022.

Last time the heroes discovered the true might of the OUT navy, and were forced to flee.

When the Pius landed in Armac bay, off the Pendrellian western coast, the lookout spotted a small skiff laying in the bay. As soon as the Pius settled on the water, the skiff set sail and came towards the magicians. William Blackstaff was quickly recognised as one of the three aboard the smaller vessel. He looked to be pale and harassed.

He soon came aboard, and could tell that the Queen of Stars had sent a terrible demon after him, to get his staff, the Black Staff of Argos. The demon had nearly succeeded, and William had barely survived this encounter. He further advised the cabal to go north, to Caernfarena Abbey. On the question why, he said that there they would meet new friends. More than that he could not say. He also asked the cabal to take a man aboard.

This new man, a large and ugly fellow, looked a little like an ogre and introduced himself as Toadface. The cabal found this new acquaintance extremely fascinating, and spent some time getting to know him. Apparently he came from Bigwoods, a location he could not put on a map - this frustrated the masters greatly. He claimed to be able to talk to a turtle, and great wisdoms that his grandmother had taught him. As for a name, his grandma had told him that no one should know his real name, and so she had never told him.

from  In this time, Octavian, the cabal's old friend, called on the cabal. In the telepathic conference that followed, he could tell that the First Amalgam had discovered the nature of the disappearances along the Pendrellian coast. It had cost the life of two of its members, but they had discovered that flying vessels from the OUT were behind it all. Octavian was informed of the ADMIRAL VORTIGERN, something that disturbed him greatly.

After an argument over what course to set, the cabal agreed to follow William's request and sail to Caernfarena. While the magicians argued, Commander Spearhawk set sail for the north, on the captain's orders. Once an agreement had been reached, the Pius teleported to the Abbey.

There the heroes were met on shore by two Black Friars, both wearing warswords and advanced revolving pistols. The younger of the two also carried a very sophisticated longarm. Once they met Brother Osberth, the abbot, he proved to be very knowledgeable about the Thulists, but he would not disclose how and why his brethren carried such futuristic equipment. He did promise that everything would be explained after Vespers, when someone would be there to talk to them.

Vespers, something that Toadface could not wait to experience, enraptured the magicians. When the choir sang, it was like the souls of those who listened became filled by the light of creation. Only van Saar remained sceptical to what he called, "primitive occult practices."

After this, the magicians were introduced to a short and pugnacious fellow wearing what could only be described as blue uniform. This character, one Brig. Gen. Bothwell, was said to command the forces of the Commonwealth of Man on Argos. He cheerfully suggested that the abbot pour some of his famous brew, and that they all had a good, long chat.

Amongst the things that were discussed were the strategical situation on Argos. The problem, the general said, was that the only route into the world was through an eye in the Æther-storm that surrounds Argos. This storm was, according to Brother Osberth, the Dreamshell created by Morpheus. The Eye is not only a hazard for the Commonwealth's ships, but also held by two ships just like the one guarding the Waymar Islands. Further, the general suggested that if the Pius Cabal could provoke the ships stationed in the Eye to leave their station, the Commonwealth navy could make the passage and then pound the bastards out of the sky.

After this talk, the magicians were given a demonstration of their new friend's toys. They fired rifles and automatic cannons, and inspected the general's ship, the Bounder. Master Bansl used this knowledge to forge a similar cannon to be mounted in the bow of the Pius.

Now the wizards sat down to plan their assault on ADMIRAL VORTIGERN. Their goal was to destroy it, thus drawing the other two in. Although a simple enough plan, it still needed preparation to minimise the possibility of defeat. After long deliberations, they decided to use the same plan as last time, with the addition of breaching the hull of the great battle-ship. This they proposed to do by forging a projectile to be fired from Bansl's new cannon. This projectile only had to penetrate the enemy's hull. Galan, Master of Space, would then use the missile to establish an Arcane connection, and a boarding-party would be teleported aboard the enemy. Once aboard, the heroes reckoned, even OUT-forces would be able to withstand the might of a war-cabal.

Toadface now asked whether his gauntlet could be of any use. Van Saar almost ended up insisting that it be thrown into the Bansl Apparatus and used to forge the magical missile. Not wanting to sacrifice his heirloom, Toadface proved less than enthusiastic about the proposition. So after a round of debate, the choice fell on the sword recovered fro the OUT scientist on the Dark Continent. Deicide was placed in the Bansl Apparatus, and the masters wrought powerful spells into the ritual. Content with their work, the order was given to take the Pius into combat.

When the ship teleported into the air, high above the Western Isles, the three of the Reaver-wings started to climb, while the rest moved to form a formation above between the enemy's main base and the city of Freeport. The magicians immediately opened fire with the heaviest spells they knew. They quickly discovered that the Reavers were capable of taking a deal of punishment before being destroyed. Rather than blow the OUT vessels out of the sky, they had to hammer them with a prolonged magical barrage. Eventually they managed to shoot the closest wing down, but the other two retreated to form up with the rest.

ADMIRAL VORTIGERN did not enter the scene.

And so this chapter ended with a cliffhanger.

Storyteller's note: Before this session I had actually written down and prepared each scene. This is something I usually never do, but as a link in my GM-awareness project, I decided to try something new. I'm quite satisfied, as the players ended up at least somewhere close to where I wanted them, although there are a couple of scenes that didn't get used. It really is like herding cats.

I used this session planning template posted on Gnome Stew, and I think I liked it enough to give it another go.

I must also say that the players went about tonight's actions with a good eye towards the strategic picture. For a wile now, they've had a tendency to either invoke greater powers, elves, dragons, spirits, etc., or to make a full frontal assault. I'm no longer that afraid that I'll have to kill them ;)

We also had a new player join the group. The grand total now is up to seven, but so far we've never had more than five at the table. Even if the group is mostly aboard a ship that travels far and wide, the magical nature of the ship has now become so established that I can have people coming and going without it being too weird. Also, now there's enough players that there's always someone to curtail the long ramblings of the masters.

[Picture source: Fotoviva]