Friday, November 22, 2013

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Backstory-Induced Madness

We have another submission, this one from the author of The Beer Mug Paladin! Enjoy:

Backstory-induced Madness

You know, character backstories can be great fun and they can offer all sorts of plot hooks and fun for the whole group. They can also encourage players to act really weird, especially when you have that one player that can't keep out of character knowledge out of character.
One of our group's players made a character that played a very big part in the campaign's over-arcing plot. After some back and forth planning with the DM the player came up with the character that we'll call "Sally." Some time ago Sally was an evil sorceress that tried to perform a ritual that would extend her lifespan, a group of heroes tried to stop her but were too late, she performed the ritual. The ritual worked too-- after a fashion, it turned her into an infant version of herself that couldn't even talk yet, much less be the wicked tyrant that she once was. The heroes gave the baby Sally to a copper dragon to raise and hopefully prevent her from growing into a threat to the world again. By the time the campaign Sally was a precociously talented spellcaster of about ten years old and her origins were left rather obscure, the copper dragon that Sally thought of as her mother knew, but that was about it.
In this campaign I played a samurai, who was called "Jin," that was purposefully a less competent, but snarkier version of another player character. The other samurai in the party even called my character his sidekick. Then there was this guy... we'll call him "Wally." Wally was absolutely enamored with building "CoDzilla" type characters, and since he enjoyed making spellcasters to bend the rules, he frequently used high-int and high-wisdom characters whom, regardless, did the stupidest action available to him at any one moment. Since he did these actions without consulting the party in any way, his characters tended to die faster than a typical orc. He even had one such character introduced along with Sally, described as one of the dragon's servants.
Sally's player made the mistake of letting Wally in on the character's origins. During the next session, Wally decided that he was immediately suspicious of the charge his copper dragon mentor gave him and should act on this immediately! While the party was taking care of some business in a town Wally's character cast a crazy amount of buffs on himself in the blink of an eye, making himself really big and, through a misinterpretation of how buffs work, inhumanly strong, (in 3rd edition D&D, bonuses of the same type did not stack. Conveniently, if you forgot this, and many people did “forget”, you easily wound up with super-strong characters). After doing so he charged towards Sally to tried and tackle her. Keep in mind, at this point I know nothing about what was going on, either in character or out of character. All I see as a player is what I see as a character-- a gigantic man screaming and running to tackle a ten-year old girl. Needless to say this looked really bad and frankly, insane. I took it on myself to interpose myself between Wally's CoDzilla and Sally and hopefully have this craziness explained to me. This resulted in the following exchange:

Wally: "Looks like I'll have to bull-rush you! What's your Strength bonus? Mine's 18."

Me: "...My Base Attack isn't even that high..."

Wally: "Haw! Yeah that's what I thought! Owned!"

And owned I was. After Jin was reduced to a speedbump, Wally tackled Sally and teleported back to the copper dragon's lair with her and demanded an explanation of what and who Sally was. He got his explanation but I never got mine. This sort of became a theme with Wally-- always coming up with excuses for his latest CoDzilla to be suspicious of Sally. Anything Sally said from then on was always “Very interesting!” to Wally's new characters whether or not it was the first time they'd ever seen Sally. Being the sarcastic little jerk that I am I had my character feign unwarranted suspicion against his character. I think the irony might have been lost on him. It went something like this:

Me: “So, what are you doing?”

Wally: “...Sitting on a rock.”

Me: “Really? That's very interesting!”

Wally: “...What?”

Me: “I have every reason to be suspicious of you!”

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

On Stranger Aeons: Some Thoughts on Cthulhutech

I can see, now, why Marty so loves Cthulhutech.

I said I'd dissect it for usable fluff in lieu of a review, because there are already plenty of them out there. I can't do it. There's just nothing here worth reusing that other games haven't done better, and any scrap of novelty is smothered in lashings of racism, sexism, and sheer stupidity. I fully admit to being biased against all three, and the review isn't very detailed, largely because the details are, well, boring. I said I'd do it, though, and here we are.

First things first: It'd be stupid to go into this without talking about all the rape. So I'm going to be stupid. I'm not qualified to talk about it, and I won't. Ditto the misogyny and the racism; this is a blog for relatively trivial things, not social justice.

That leaves the stupidity. Let's start with a quote off their website:

CthulhuTech is now a truly unique hybrid of genres – cosmic horror, anime, post-apocalypse, traditional horror, and science fiction blended together seamlessly.


Framewerk, the proprietary system upon which CthulhuTech is built, is not only simple and intuitive, it is cinematic, exciting, and puts destiny back in the hands of the player. Its easy to grasp nature makes the game straightforward to learn and quick to start. Its clever dice mechanics make even the simplest of task resolutions exciting.

Yahtzee dice mechanics are not clever, Framewerk is not intuitive, this Frankenstein of a setting has more seams than components, and Cthulhutech is not a horror game.

RPGs are a weird medium for horror in the first place. It takes subtlety to get around the restrictions of the medium. Jump scares tend to startle rather than scare, even if you can pull them off quickly enough; similarly, big scary monsters aren't. Players respond tactically to martial threats -- you can make them retreat, but you can't make them shake. There's also a distinct lack of dramatic irony, since your audience is also your players. Where in a film the audience would be screaming "don't open the door", RPG players are just not opening the goddamn door.

Despair is another tricky emotion to pull off. It's boring. Players see the complete absence of hope, the absolute no-win situation, and they leave, because what's the point of an unwinnable game? Games require the (perceived) possibility of some sort of victory; despair requires a total lack of winning options.

Enter Lovecraft. Or rather, enter Call of Cthulhu; it's not perfectly Lovecraftian, but it's close. Here's a game that walks the narrow line outside of the Despair Event Horizon, as per the source: yes, humanity is doomed, but it needn't be doomed today, even if it will cost you your sanity winding back the doomsday clock. Well-written CoC adventures put that tiny light at the end of a very long tunnel where the walls are made of screaming, and sufficiently masochistic players happily fling characters along with with gusto -- and once the hilarity wears thin, there's a very adult fear hidden among all the tentacles and cults. Cosmicism, the idea that everything we do is but the insignificant flailing of the doomed against the inevitable, can't be conquered with weaponry and isn't shocking so much as sublime. It's also more relevant than jump scares; monsters aren't real, but ask a (non-trust funder) college graduate how much they feel like an irrelevant speck of light in a sea of faceless and indifferent darkness. I run CoC like a career fair, albeit one with a slightly greater chance of success, and when the humor wears off, players can still play to win in the OOC knowledge that there's a winning outcome somewhere.

For a stupid throwaway joke, though, it's relevant to how CoC's version of Lovecraft's work can be made into science fiction as opposed to weird fiction. Cthulhutech is often compared to Eclipse Phase, and with good reason: EP masterfully integrates the very prevalent fear of the new, exacerbated by making it strange and almost literally alien. Inhumanity covered by tentacles is unsettling; inhumanity behind human eyes makes people think, with all the usual associated fear and xenophobia. There's a lot of fun questions you can ask about the identity and mutability of the human condition, especially when freed from biology and economy.

Now, in the face of all of that, Cthulhutech's central premise is "The Mythos showed up. Shoot it in the face with armies of giant robots until it dies -- except you can't possibly win."

Ia, Ia, Cthulhu face'palgm.

I'm apparently crazy for thinking fighting eldritch horrors with armies makes them something other than eldritch horrors. Then again, look at the original fiction; it was first-person, about introverted protagonists somehow apart from most people, and that isolation highlights the contrast between the human and the eldritch. They might be physically isolated (The Beast in the Cave) or mentally apart (Herbert West--Reanimator, however poor it is), but they're never on a battlefield with their foes in broad daylight and scores of allies by their side. They do not, as Ctech mecha pilots do, banter. (Whenever I read that bit, I can't help but think of the Monty Python sketch. It's better than what they probably meant.)

There's something about the military nature of the New Earth Government that breaks the horror too. I'll get into how contradictory the NEG is later, but their fighting arm is rife with cliches, among them "the military mind". Where cosmic horror could be defined as a fight to understand, here we have a fight to annihilate, because there's already all the understanding they need. It might just be the supercilious tone or the slavering, Call-of-Duty military fanboyism soaking through the setting description, but there's none of the wonder here that so agreeably tinged the original Mythos. If the indifferent things beyond the stars are terrifying, at least they are sublimely so; not so the Ugly Bugs We Shoots With The Guns. It just feels too clean.

Despair comes through okay though, but in entirely the wrong way. Yes, you can't win in Call of Cthulhu -- but what the players do matters. Contrast to Cthulhutech's adventure design, where anything that matters is outside the scope of the adventure. It's a wonderful tone, really. "How to stop the players from making a difference (and punish them if they try)" Baeraal got it right in the comments:  Ctech adventures are guided tours through interesting things, and the sourcebooks are full of cool stuff that isn't available to the players, assuming it's even in a published book. They like to "present" things and then make you buy another book to actually stat them. This is the kind of thing these people think is a good idea; screw organization, we have advertisements. It would help if more books were completed before they quit publishing in favor of whining about how they're victims of declining literacy rates or whatever.

But really, they aren't Marty, even if I only know that because I can prove he was off his computer at the time they were making these forum posts. Rather than focus on their myriad failings as editors and representatives of their product, let's look at their failings as designers.

Like the technology.

The  NEG machinery in the setting is one of the places where itfeels like two very different games awkwardly butted together. Science fiction (and a good portion of fantasy) games, by and large, tolerate you meddling with the literal nuts and bolts of the setting, so there's an effort to make them accessible; there's usually some skill that's functionally Meddling With Shiny Bits and some sort of customization available beyond "roll to break this thing." My players respond well to this, probably because I'm used to playing with people who like having rules self-consistent enough to self-test whether or not something will work. Minovsky Physics (or Minovsky Magic) just work better than talc-soft sci-fi for our purposes, and I would go so far as to say that they are better generally, or at least more empoweringly immersive. If I come off as whiny about soft science fiction on here, that's why: it's not as fun to let my players tinker with something if it only works as a bundle of rules covered in handwavium.

Cthulhutech feels like some of the writers were on board with this and others were mouth-frothingly against it. Certainly mecha customization is incredibly badwrongfun, and likewise nanofabricators are either repair mechanisms or glorified knick-knack delivery systems. Cracking open the miraculous fuelless engines driving everything fries your brain, the mecha flight pods are verboten, the battery in your Ipod hurts to think about...walls, invisible walls everywhere. I'm cool with that for a completely silly anime game; if all you want is giant robots roundhouse kicking byakhees in midair, great, go play BESM. There's just some tonal dissonance with all the despair and cults and suicide; the sliding scale of idealism vs. cynicism and the mohs scale of sci-fi hardness aren't quite orthagonal.

So there's two games we can make here. One's Saint's Row of Cthulhu; put the players in the Good Guy military and have them kick the crap out of the Bad Guys, who we know are bad because they are ugly and weird. Make it goofy, make it funny, knock yourself out. That's a completely valid game; heck, I'd run a BESM 1-shot in it, giant sharks and arbitrary misfortune and all.

Alternatively, make it considerably more realistic, less NGE and more Battletech, and pull them out of the cockpits a lot. Focus on the politics of very expensive war machines; turn them into the toys of myopic, greedy politicos more concerned with their own power than the larger war. Cut off their supplies out of sheer bureaucracy while giving them things they don't want (because they're manufactured in the districts of influential politicians). Make them "prove themselves" over and over for the amusement of self-important, hidebound superiors. Give them nothing but obstacles and scorn, and have the higher-ups impose ridiculous demands on them to make them politically acceptable. Combine the desperation of Wunderwaffen with the brazen lying of the North Korean propaganda machine, then put them at the mercy of sociopathic manchildren in control of both. Make things break. Insanity will follow shortly. Blackadder Goes Forth meets Starship Troopers in Night Vale, if you will. Modulated correctly (with a structure considerably more empowering than it appears), it'd make an okay maverick campaign.

The New Earth Government as written supports both, in that half of it is this utopian Star Trek lite (drugs for everyone, yaaay) and the other half is various flavors of State Sec. Now, maybe I'm seeing a dissonance here that doesn't exist in this post-9/11 world. If that's the case, by all means disregard the below, but something about our benevolent NEG's pet Schutzstaffel bugs me anyway. Parapsychics with powers deemed disruptive to society: either they're publically identified with a little badge and constantly watched or the OIS hit squads round them up, declare them to be inhuman monsters with no rights to speak of, and throw them in internment camps, habeas corpus be damned. These are the good guys, people. I'd say they created a chilling look at how easily we can rationalize atrocities, but not once is it even hinted that the authors aren't fully on board with this, and there's literally no better option out there to play under. This is simply Doing What Must Be Done, and either you're with the NEG or you're with the cults. I'd be happier with it if they actually represented a threat, but most "dangerous" parapsychics don't; they're so nerfed by the rules that they're essentially harmless. Just to be perfectly clear: I'm not saying the authors are Nazis. I'm saying they assume the PCs will be happy with working for a government that endorses behavior that makes me deeply uncomfortable.

There's a larger problem here, by the way: most of the suggested classes roleplay for you, like D&D's paladin and druid. If you want to fly a mecha, you're in the military, which takes up all your time, and you're under the purview of their thought police -- which goes double for Engel pilots. If you're a Tager, they've got an ideology in a box all ready for you. I'm not saying it doesn't make sense, but it takes some of the fun out of roleplaying when they specify so much about your character based on the advantages you take. It would have been nice to see Tagers reworked to have free time, or non-military mecha (since the Operator Side Effect that makes them better presumably also makes them useful in civilian work), or really other cool roles that don't come with a heavy authoritarian hand on the player's shoulder dictating how they spend their time. There is much registration and regulation swirling around the type of PCs for whom the adventures are written, and not a lot of freedom.

Part of this is because the setting is honestly sparse. It is detailed, and in fact is choked to death with specifics (especially the clunky, overly-precise mess of a sorcery sstem), but there's not a lot of variety. The single unified world government is monolithic, the cults are pretty similar variations on "we do bad things because Muwahahaha!" and the eldritch atrocities are faceless and bland -- not that the last two matter, because there's very little support for non-NEG characters. Heck, look at the Nazzadi: "Uh, Pluto and revolution and discrimination and now they're making up their own culture. Also they're mostly hot and like sex and nudity, because they never had such silly taboos in the first place." Thanks, guys. I really need to sell my players on cheesecake to get them to play half-aliens. Never mind meaningfully differentiating them from humans, or actually giving them a culture my players might find interesting. No, we need more skin!

Again, this is fixable. Chuck the whole aesthetic and most of the backstory; the bioweapon thing and the false memories and the rebellion are just all over the place, and Space Drow just doesn't need to happen. If you want to make a cosmic horror race, I wouldn't make them outwardly distinguishable from humans. I wouldn't even make them a race in the fantasy-sorta-genetic sense; I would crib the Watts-McLeod exsurgent strain off of Eclipse Phase and fold them into parapsychics. Maybe make it spread memetically.

Just as the product of ten seconds' thought, use Genius: the Transgression a bit. Maybe Inspiration or something like it is the product of a more benign eldritch horror trying to get humanity up to speed, and suddenly you have the wizards to parapsychics' sorcerers, with all the aspersions that casts on parapsychics. It needs a lot more work, though. The point is, if they aren't immediately noticeable, they're a lot more troubling, especially if it's that variable. It's the difference between a vampire and a zombie. Making it revelatory makes the Ashcroft Foundation, and indeed all eldritch research, an existentially fascinating endeavor. Stare long enough into the abyss, and it's all so if it's comprehensible, is it me understanding it or is it something else making me understand it? And when am I desperate enough that it doesn't matter anymore?

There's another point here, and that's insanity. I don't like awarding insanity points automatically; it's much more tenable to have the players insist on accruing them. Fewer invisible walls that way, and a lot more player agency. Insanity points (or Cthulhutech's longer-term equivalent, Insanities) become a way for players to tell you what unnerves them, rather than a slap on the wrist for poking interesting things, and this fits something as personal as dissociation from rationality. If you remember Jin from SUETHULU, this is partly his idea. We've both had to ask players to have more faith in their mental fortitude, because otherwise they'd rack up crazy at an unsustainable rate. Forget that here, though. Cthulhutech has to codify insanity, to automatically slap points on without tests in "extreme cases" every few plot points. You don't know what crazy is; the authors know what crazy is, even if it's arbitrary and silly.

And that's the problem close to the center of this mess. The only reaction Cthulhutech rewards is complete, uncritical acceptance of everything the game throws at you; this game doesn't need players, it needs disciples. The adventures are full of "but even if the players win, it doesn't matter" interspersed with "here is how to nullify the players' pointless apparent victories", and the setting has tons of lists the things the players can't do, or shouldn't do, or that will make your game --gasp!-- non-canon. Most of these involve success in some form. The end effect is reminiscent of DM of the Rings: when in doubt, make the game non-interactive. And then doubt everything. Then give everyone important a magic five-minute invulnerability amulet, set the players up to fail at irrelevant objectives, and do your best to shock them with un-helpable victims of horrendous atrocities in the meantime. This...

FATAL is a horrifying blend of unspeakably disgusting things with absolutely no redeeming features, and yet I find I prefer it to this. FATAL did what it set out to do; it was supposed to be a game about awful people doing terrifying things, and accordingly it included a system for creating awful people and (ludicrous) rules for doing terrible things. I would never want to play it. I can't think of anyone that would. It is the worst roleplaying game ever made, but Cthulhutech isn't even that; it hit the bottom of the barrel, pulled out a katana, and started hacking. It is an unpublishable series of boring novels wrapped in needlessly complex mechanics and a dull, oppressive setting designed to funnel the players into one end of the plot slideshow and out the other. Along the way, you'll meet stereotypical villains with exactly zero depth being evil for the sake of evil, hard-bitten allies that run the gamut from sad to silly, and very few ambiguous or neutral NPCs, because crafting characters is hard and writing "and this is who wins" is easy.

And that's bad in a campaign, let alone a setting.
So yeah. So much for dissection; I hope it was at least entertaining.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

SUETHULU: Basically The End

 Here we are then. Cael's epilogue, after Marty idly asked about it. It took me a while to find it, and a while longer to work up the courage to post it, because this is embarrassingly bad. In my defense, it was written in one night between exams on way too much caffeine, and I was perhaps a bit too frustrated to think clearly. At any rate, I find parts of it absolutely hilarious.

Incidentally, after he'd idly asked, I did ask what became of the Disc. Apparently he put Vetinari in charge of it and left, because it was uninteresting to him. I'd also asked what happens to homeless bits of setting, and apparently they just kind of exist wherever. Both come up below; just thought I'd mention.

Obviously, names changed to protect the moron and all that. I did the best I could with the formatting.

Okay, enough of my stalling. Here we go, my petty and immature response to his question, intermingled with a lot of venting in one long, rambling .docx, reposted for your enjoyment:

You wanted my epilogue. Actually, you wanted "what the epilogue is", but anyway, this will take a bit of explanation. Apologies for length and tone, but this is complicated and it's nice to be asked a question rather than told a ruling for once, so I'm just going to forge ahead and make the most of it.

See, I never expected Cael to be the good guy. I'm not good at building characters other than The (Un)fettered; here, I didn't even think to try. Maybe I misinterpreted the "desperate times" schtick the NEG had going on. I thought you were satirizing the "post-9/11 world" mentality; my apologies if you meant it as a rational response. Either way, here we are: he's on that wonderfully fine line between drive and insanity, he's an anarchist of the most chaotic sort, and he's just watched a government that's been screwing him over since birth steal his achievements for stupid political maneuvering while being told there's a much bigger, much more oppressive dictatorship just waiting to kill him. You handed him a scenario in which people might actually prefer the anarchist's bomb to the policeman's truncheon. What do you think he's going to do?

He's going to build a bistro. A very big one in the warehouse, because I know you. We need more math than we have to pull off recipreversexclusive vector bistromathics. We need more math than the greatest mathematician in the world -- I suspect, given the skill mechanics, he'd just about be able to handle long division, which is probably a state secret anyway. We would, in short, need the greatest mathematicians on the Disc. I know they can't speak English, but they can work PCPU holo-interfaces, and math, as you so love to remind me, is a universal language. Cael just needs to Suggest it to them, and I suspect solving the problem is in line with a mathematician's basic nature.

There's also the question of whether the lads, Jin, Ian, and Darya want to come, but given everything we've already done, if Cael invites them along on an impossible journey to liberate the multiverse with a camels and pesto you honestly think they'd refuse? And do you honestly think, in a world driven by stories, it wouldn't work?

Now, I didn't get this far without being able to anticipate your more reasonable objections. We do not, as you know, currently have a stable of Discworld camels; at a guess, they're fatally allergic to Engels, or perhaps have all been hunted down as Communists. However, you've been ripping enormous holes across the multiverse, which leads me to believe we can exploit multiversal truths here: EEEEEVERYBODY NEEEEDS CAMEEEELLLS, after all, and we're only a short hypercamel ride from the Disc. Besides, this is right up Hassan's alley -- against all sense, we're the good guys here. Then, too, I've got a plan for paying him back for more than the camels.

We're very short on destinations, you see; we leak air like a sieve, we've got no rad shielding, and we're running on batteries. The only place I can think to go is the main hangar of the NES Victory. Cael will drop in, put Black Flag Flying on the intercom, get the lads running for the ends of the ship with cannolis in tow, and warp for Zeta Leporis before the guards can get through the ten-minute delay you put on the doors. Hey, if you have Star Destroyers flying around like this, I can steal a ship with it. So now the question is, of course, "what do you do with an asteroid field a billion miles from anywhere, long before the Imperium has any ships in-universe to stop us, let alone know where we are?" Well, we get Jin to pop open the nanorepair master blueprints and we cannibalize the guns to crank out a mining vessel. All we really need are a couple of bush robots, but why not weld the arms onto a proper hull, temporarily stick some A-pods in the engine nacelles and paint the whole thing arrest-me red? Anyone can mine asteroids, [Marty], but Cael can mine asteroids by punching them with an ersatz Outlaw Star.

Then we make a shipyard. A self-directing shipyard, with its own mining drones and everything, and a nice big row of fractal assembly forges. I will get back to the ship later; for now, the camels can navigate us through the portal and under the Disc so we can moor out of sight. They've already been once, albeit the other way. First things first: we put Hassan's stock through the Victory's med scanners so he can sell certified preowned camels. Then we take the subtlest ship we can, fly up at night, and be very careful that no one spots us. Your alter ego has done the Disc a huge favor by "[leaving] Vetinari in charge" of "such an unremarkable place"; I can only assume he abdicated a minute later, and everything's much the same.

Ian, of course, we drop off on FourEcks. I'd worry about him learning about magic too close to Ponder (or, indeed, anyone who'd notice), but no worries, we've got Bugarup U. They seem laid-back enough to miss the occaisional slip. He's also to secure the beer we need for Darya.

Darya lands on the Chalk with a crudload of Ecksian beer and a note in large print, because I'd like very much to see if the Nac Mac Feegle would like to help us topple the bigjob that claims to be their master, and for that I need another violent alcoholic to help translate. I need saboteurs, you see, and they do that anyway. Besides, they're like little blue anti-Borg. "Resistance is bonny! Ye willna be assimilated, dinnae fash yersel'!" On a more practical note, Cael needs a [Vamp!Marty] detector and their swords ought to glow as blue in the presence of rules lawyers as with any other type. So she gets to negotiate. Even as long as that might take, we're dropping her off late.

Jin's a bit of a special case. Cael needs to do a bit of trig concerning the location of the UU's clacks tower, the size of a clacks grid, and the arc it subtends. Then he's got a bit of nanofab work to do with OLED films, tiny photoreceptors, PCPU comms, and two pair of binoculars to hide it all in. Also got an unusual job for the Assassin's Guild, but hopefully they can extend their definition of inhumation to include optical elements in return for all the gold we pried out of the asteroids. The rest is a matter for Jin's cryptographic skill (aided by the Smoking GNU, if Cael can buy a manual off them) and his speed at making friends, because we need HEX, at least in his off hours when Ponder isn't using it. See, Ctech's AI sucks almost as badly as its nanoforges. Jin rather needs to program strong AI, and I know you won't let him do it alone -- so here we have a shortcut, in the form of most of what we need already capable of introspection. Besides, for what I need it for, I can't think of a better AI than one made by a forensic accountant and an ant-based supercomputer. I don't need great Minds; I need slightly crazy ones.

As for Cael...he's not [Vamp!Marty]. No warships, no conquering. I'm not going to start nuking the Ramtops or anything so obvious. Cael's going to go to the shonky shop, he's going to buy something other than the silly trenchcoat, and he's going to tell Soon Shine Sun everything about what's going on. He presumably already knows, but I want to be thorough, because the plan very much needs directions to Oi Dong -- and if Cael's ever going to get them, it's not going to be through bribery or threats, but through honestly being the best shot we've got, or at least one worth a relative pittance of Lu-Tze's time.

It's a one-in-a-million chance, but maybe Cael can learn to be a sweeper.

See, you're right to gloat about [Vamp!Marty]'s time stop ability; it's a way of undoing what we do, even without cutting half your empire off to play with timey-wimey shenanigans . If Cael's ever going to collapse the Imperium, I need to break it, and here we are. Cael needs to learn how to slice time, and he needs to understand Procrastinators on the conceptual level in order to rebuild them with nanotech elements. Chalk spins up seconds and basalt can hold megayears; how much time can wind onto a diamond flywheel driven by superconducting magnets? He also needs to understand everything else, because if anyone can humanely handle canon it's the History Monks and they've got the Disc to look after; at present, this is way outside Cael's competence. More on that later.

Once we've got that wrapped up, Jin and Cael will need to coordinate with HEX to set up a power source. A-pods and D-engines are ultimately unsuitable for my purposes; not only are they annoying, blatant fanwankery, they're under the control of people known to retcon around people having badwrongfun with their system. Besides, the Victory just isn't cool enough for me. The camels can have it. I'm sure they have a wonderful journey of exploration ahead of them, as smart as they are.

As per Pratchett: "The relevant equation is Knowledge = Power = Energy = Matter = Mass." It follows that, given d = m/v, anything of sufficient information density will undergo epistemological collapse, become a singularity, and start emitting Hawking information at a rate inversely proportional to the square of its mass; books are simply big enough to keep this rate low. (I blame this for why, even with our terabyte hard drives, I can never seem to find my files.) Go on, [Marty]. Gush again about how many terabytes can fit on a PCPU hard drive the size of a grain of sand "thanks to quantum computing". Again, I see your objection: your magic laptop has an exabyte hard drive. Do remember that you put your settings on it.

If we're going to curve extelligent phase space, though, we can't do it with Cthulhutech's data alone. You've made sure there isn't nearly enough. Thus HEX: Reading in Invisible Writings, accelerated by the biggest Procrastinators we can use to pull time from the interstellar medium. We can get all the books ever written, all the books possibly written -- and, as long as you keep Sandman hooked into the multiverse, all the books never written much more easily than we otherwise could. For now, we'll store it in subcritical archives; it won't be until we get back to Zeta Leporis that we download them into quantum storage and make a (technological) singularity, then put a Hawking's Knot around it.

I don't use science in gaming to blindside you, [Marty]. I use it to constrain myself to things I can readily communicate, to operate on a manipulable paradigm and encourage other people to fiddle with it. It helps me tell interesting stories. Without it, you get what passes for poetic around me. Cael could, I suppose, crank out a network of amat farms and gamma ray lasers and turned out an actual SBH, but that wouldn't have been nearly as elegant -- as clarketech as Ctech's "nanotech composite" handwavium is by now, there are still some messy side effects. Instead, we have an infinite energy source that makes a very silly kind of sense -- we feed it with high-bandwidth laser transmissions, we convert the information into energy with Maxwell's Imps, and so forth. It's delightful.

The important part is that it's never going to run out.

Conversion drives are more or less averaging devices. They convert matter into matter and antimatter, or in this case, information into logic and [SUE System] skill mechanics. What we don't normally consider is that they'll do the same thing to antimatter. Not so important for Hawking knots, but incredibly important for us. “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe.” ― Albert Einstein. See, there is a remote possibility that there might be a finite amount of attainable knowledge, but as long as the Imperium persists, we have an inexhaustible supply of stupid. Maybe I'm too used to being at loggerheads with the multiverse, but a spaceship that runs on stupidity seems deliciously poetic to me. Getting around the speed-of-light limit by filling the hull with computronium and teaching Jin/HEX's distributed Minds to slice time around the ship is almost an afterthought; the technology isn't as narratively important as the experience it enables.

Really, that's as it should be, in stories. Cael's not building a warship here, not in literal truth. I refuse to sink to that level, a clash of Titans with the Imperium for "the good of the people". Instead, he's building a pirate ship with a stern like a galleon. Also a giant skull-and-crossbones on the bow, the sides, the flag...I basically want anyone seeing this thing to know it's completely illegitimate. The front docking bay is going right in the mouth of the skull just to make sure we look completely non-Navy; we should put a giant knife there, but it's not that kind of piracy. Less plunder, more pirate radio. Heck, we're even naming it the Mistake Not... so when [Vamp!Marty]'s goons say Cael's made a Mistake they can be right about something. Everything else is just nanoforges, transmitters, Procrastinators and computronium all over the place.

I don't want Cael to lead a revolution. Cael's not a demagogue. He's a pedagogue. The ideal is to hand people, all the people who want it, the means to create their own revolution, in whatever style they see fit. I want Cael to be the MYCROFT to their Mannie, the stranger in the tavern handing them the map to adventure, the wise old hermit who's conveniently elsewhere when the time comes to really kick ass. I don't want him to plan. I want him to steer and steer wildly.

See, there aren't Great People. People are great already; they just need a little prodding to realize their potential. Heck, people are infinite. I want Cael to make thousands of tiny godlings -- and, because I also want to gloat like hell, he's going to do it with the power of stories.

Cael's going to make heroes. He's going to make heroes en masse, steering everyone he can find toward as complete an understanding of their universe as he can manage. If, in the process, he cheats a bit and teaches them a bit of Extropianism as well...I never said Cael was a good pseudo-Culturenik. Being bad is what he's all about. In the process, we can also fill some of the gaps between the story as it is and the story as we need it to be, the dramatic coincidences and unlikely circumstances.We can make things not make sense in the very best ways, until people know things they shouldn't. We can put the right man in the wrong place and make all the difference in the world. Most of all, we can put the nicks of time back where they belong; you could say that's our specialty.

Once we've got that going, we can keep it going long after the Imperium's gone. I don't just want Cael to end you, I want Cael to end the possibility of you, to empower, educate, and inspire (and above all learn) until the very concept of tyranny is laughably infeasible. What a gift that will be, no?

The point extends well beyond the present Imperium. You've added some fairly dystopian settings to the multiverse, and any really satisfying epilogue deals with the inevitable series of events enforced by Authyrship. I can't think of a better way to do that than by teaching the multiverse how to reason. Bad things may happen by the caprice of fickle gods, but the wider universe, in the gaps between the lines: there we can work to ensure that for every new inhumanity we can inflict on ourselves, there is someone that will not stand for it.

I'm being very vague here, and that's because I'm deliberately unsure what form this will take. That's why teaching is so much better than preaching; everyone takes your ideas and runs with them and makes them their own and they've spun off in a million new directions, and rather than holy wars you can greet that with high-fives. There will not be a "the" revolution, nor a single revolutionary period. There will be a continuous, rolling wave of human awesomeness endlessly diversifying in ways I can barely imagine-- and don't want to. This isn't, and it shouldn't be, one person's story.

Now, you're right to complain that Cael can't do it alone, not even with the ship. That's part of why I want so many heroes. People don't take to idleness well; once the sleeper has awakened, it's hard to get them to go back to sheep, so to speak. That's where we come in. After happily ever after, beyond the point where the big stories end, we seek them out, and we offer them a is "a life of respectable quiet contentment, of civic
dignity and, of course, in the fullness of time a pension." (Vetinari, Making Money) Or, if they accept, they do what we do, which is messy and complicated and thoroughly bizarre and frustratingly secret. It's almost the opposite of your empire; local rather than global, specialized rather than blanket, self-governing rather than hierarchial. Cael's going to crowdsource the job of being the Devils in the Details (and ensuring no one like [Vamp!Marty] can ever happen again) to a bunch of old bored individualist heroes and whoever they decide is crazy enough to join them; as you've no doubt surmised, I'll be very disappointed if the organization stays at all unified after the Imperium is a joke.

That's why we need the Minds, after a fashion. Like I said, we don't need great Minds; all respect to Banks, but the Minds make the Culture work in ways that don't necessarily align perfectly with what's needed here. That's why I'm intending for Cael to skip a crapload of iterations through machines programing machines, and instead raising them through a series of a thousand rounds of grassroots anarcho-libertarian meddling aboard a ship running on nonsense: ultimately, what we need are, well...Cael's naming the first three Esme, Gytha, and Agnes. Partly because I'm hoping Sapir-Whorf works in unusual ways around enough narrativium, partly because we need the Feegles to instinctively grasp the role they're playing, but mostly for motivation. Ultimately, Cael might one day be tempted to stop or get sloppy, if all he has to worry about is [Vamp!Marty], but knowing that the real Granny Weatherwax might one day ask why exactly he tried to make a witch out of a computer and a boatload of stories and then presume to call it by its first name...that will keep Cael running at minimum slice until the multiverse collapses.

Seriously, though, they have a role, and there's something to the hope that they will grow into what their names make people expect of them. We may not need princes or princesses and we have a surfeit of woodcutters (or at least sons of woodsmen), but ultimately we need people to be the witch and know things, and we need people above them to keep them aware of how much they don't know. The whole organization is a bunch of Guile Heroes and Science Heroes orbiting on the cusp of a moral event horizon of detachment, really. To keep them from going full Eldar, we need something else, and thus misotheist superturing time-slicing witches. Why not?

Why? Because Cael is worryingly insane and I'm way too tired to plan properly. How's that for meta,eh? Even I'm just steering now. But hey. Maybe that's what I want; he's certainly not trying to found a monastery here, beyond the obvious. Half the reason I'm even including the Minds as a mechanism for preserving (reasonable) interoperability is so that, as long as they exist, we have relays. So that the next time someone wants to play Boy Emperor of the Multiverse, no matter what state its in, there will be someone to watch, someone to get the word out, and a vast and chaotic smattering of Sendings and neutrino comms and mice operating radios made of soup cans and notes passed around schoolrooms lights up to get a lot of people ready to meddle. I don't just want to make [Vamp!Marty] go away; I want to make him flatly impossible, and for that we need people talking. Who loves to gossip more than witches?

I know your objection. You have a fleet. You have weapons. You have more than enough to put down some silly insurrection by the locals' primitive technology/magic. After all, you've already fought the war to end all wars, and you're sitting pretty on a pile of the most impregnable machines in the multiverse. As the opening act of the riot to start all riots, perhaps:

Nae anymuir, bigjob.

That's where Cael comes in, flying a Mistake powered by stupidity and narrativium as a mobile entropy carrier. You called it pretty well; all he can really do well is kill people and break things, and he doesn't kill people. What luck, then, that he's in a prime position to break things right when you have such complicated things to break. There's a lot of work to be done that he's very ill-equipped to do, but for now, as the epilogue of the epilogue, at a few critical bottlenecks in your logistical nightmare and everywhere else he can be with all the time in the stars, it might be enough that he is very, very good at breaking things.

As one last note: that not killing people thing even extends to [Vamp!Marty]. I may not be good enough to see a way to build the Culture proper out of nothing, but I can maybe mock it up okay, and with that comes the computing power to manage deep-immersion VR. It's a very pleasant way of dealing with megalomaniacs: just give them fake people to boss around for the rest of their natural lives. Although...[Vamp!Marty] is immortal... It'll be a fun ride, it will. Absolutely secure, too; you have to make a concerted effort of will to leave, and there is nothing of which he's less capable than refusing complete gratification.

I leave you with this last bit of meta, then: this is all, of course, impossible. There is no way to contradict the almighty Will of [Vamp!Marty]; everything definitionally goes his way utterly without difficulty, as is to be expected. Given that, did I just describe Cael's epilogue?

Or did I just describe [Vamp!Marty's] prologue?

And how could he tell the difference?

That's it.

In case you're wondering, he never mentioned it...but apparently he's never actually run a SUE System game session since then, so I tentatively count it as a draw.

I hope you enjoyed SUETHULU; you've all made it very worth the writing. Next time...I don't know.

Monday, September 30, 2013

They're Just Exalting Anybody These Days

We have another submission, this one from Qwertystop! This one reminds me a lot of my own experiences in running for new groups, although the sheer diversity of horrors is impressive.  A quick guide to the colors: his comments are in cyan, (and the white text is his, too) while mine are in green.

Well, here we go, then. I decided to run a one-shot Exalted game at a summer camp one week. Nobody else had ever heard of the setting, and only one other person had played any form of tabletop RPG before. We decided to let him co-ST, with him handling the fluff and me handling the crunch after I give him a basic plot that I got from Meschlum. My RPG experience was limited to play-by-posts. All in all, nobody really knew what they were doing. Blue text will be used for information for people who don’t know Exalted.

I’m cringing already. Exalted is not my first choice for new groups; the fluff is long and elaborate, and the crunch is a bit spasmodic in its power level but does a great job of getting across to the players that they can do basically anything, but probably shouldn't do anything too wantonly destructive. It’s a superheroes game that can make superheroes look boring. Done right, it’s an engine for churning out literally awesome stories that have this wonderfully mythic tone to them. Done wrong, everyone is a thermonuclear anime supermurderhobo, and the game’s mechanisms for encouraging exaggerated behavior can push the unprepared that way.

Everyone was a Solar (powers that are magical mostly in scale – human ability multiplied by several hundred). I made pregenerated character sheets for a bunch of archetypes and asked people to fill in the details like Virtues (a few personality traits that are mechanically enforced, though you can act against them by spending Willpower. Not good by default to have all of them high, they’re good in moderation and balance). We ended up with a bland warrior-type with a Grand Daiklave (massive sword), a sorceress whose player heard “over-the-top” and ran with it, a thiefish guy with an Orichalcum Sky-Cutter (magic gold boomerang) who wanted to get Conviction 6, everything else 1 (in other words, roll to not murder innocents, to not flee in panic, to act like you care, or to have any self-control), and a survivalist-archer who took Familiar (Tiger) and points in Ride. I put together a Martial Artist to fill in the gaps, specifically, those of having only one person capable of close combat and nobody with any points in Medicine.

That’s...a fairly good description of the above “thermonuclear anime supermurderhobo” phenomenon. Virtues never sat well with me, but they’re a necessary evil and actually explained mechanically as a part of the Exaltation, so I can live with them. I have more trouble living with a Conviction 6, Temperance 1 maniac. Whose bright idea was it to Exalt Hedonismbot?  

The basic plot was that there was a manse explosion a few days away, in the forest, where nobody had known there was a manse. That most likely means First Age stuff, so treasure and knowledge, plus possibly some meddler blowing the thing up. Hey, it was a oneshot and nobody knew the setting, I needed something basic. If you haven’t played Exalted before, here’s as much info on that as made it into this game: a demesne is an area where the local magic is more concentrated than usual. Odd things happen there. A manse is a structure built at a demesne which focuses the magic into useful things – usually a bunch of things integrated into the manse and one magical gem called a hearthstone which can be brought outside it. The First Age is the standard ancient-times-with-lost-knowledge-etc, as far as this game goes.

So everybody starts out in a bar, because we just needed a starting place. Nobody else had read the setting section of the corebook, and I’m foggy on a lot of the detailed places, so we just went with generic.

It starts out with the party hearing about the manse from some drunk guy. The thief threatens him with a knife (I told him he had to tone down his starting Virtues because of the cap of 3 at chargen, and he acted like he hadn’t when the game actually started). The warrior-guy grabs the thief and drags him outside, and everyone else follows – keep in mind that nobody had met each other in-character yet, we actually had to roll the clinches. I get that they don’t get the IC-OOC separation quite that well, and so my martial-artist comes up with a quick reason for everybody to be staying together so it won’t grate on me too badly. That reason is basically “hey, this guy’s a psycho and he’s obviously going to try to get to that manse same as the rest of us, so we might as well stick together and keep him in line.

Well, that was fast. When empathy, self-interest, and basic human decency fail, there’s always guilt and fear to get the party working together.

Just after that, we leave town. The archer calls up his tiger with Master Horseman’s Technique: Horse-Summoning Whistle (A Charm to call your mount to you, not limited to horses). Refusing to be outdone, the sorceress casts Stormwind Rider (Tornadoes as transportation). In the mild confusion of the sudden appearance of a tiger and a tornado, the thief is dropped. Everyone promptly botches all their attempts to catch him – we actually rolled this, and three clinch attempts (tiger, martial artist, and warrior), an attempt to run him down with a tornado, and a called shot to pin his foot to the ground with an arrow are rolled and miss. Luckily, the warrior has tracking Charms and catches him very quickly.

The thief, acting like nothing’s wrong (I swear the player was channeling Carcer at this point, and I don’t even know if he reads Discworld) offers to steal a couple of horses for them to catch up to the main group.

Fun fact: one in four new roleplayers is secretly a representative of the First Bank of Khorne. “KILL! LOOT! STEAL! KILL! LOOT! STEAL!” This is significantly more problematic when they can punch rivers in half.

Out of character, I look through the sheets and point out that between high Strength and Stamina, Athletics 5 , several wilderness Charms, and a Specialty in Carrying Things, the warrior could carry the thief plus any horse the thief steals and still go faster. I’m ad-libbing the exact numbers on carrying capacity, but it looks right, and the speed is straight from the rules. Everybody has a laugh. Right after that, the game is called off for a staff-meeting that unfortunately needs the room we were in – no other available space and the co-ST is staff anyway.

After that, the thief and warrior’s players leave because that was their last day, though the others were still there for a week. Lucky that they were together and split off from the party, I suppose. So we pick up the game that night.

The group is still going on towards the manse now, when we run into three bandits chasing a woman who is carrying a baby, because I wanted to demonstrate how much more powerful Exalts were than normal people.
The sorceress opens with Flight of Separation (turn into a large flock of small harmless birds – usually an escape spell), and flies to surround the bandits. Her anima (massive glowing aura) is going, because I wasn’t sure if it was supposed to go out when she changed or not, so the bandits just see a sudden blob of gold light full of pigeons rushing at them out of absolutely nowhere.

Yep, you’re playing Exalted.

Meanwhile, the archer flurries and shoots three bandits (two are badly wounded, one is missed), and I charge in with the full intention of just absorbing blows. I’m letting the co-ST handle what the bandits do so being a DMPC doesn’t mess things up too much.

All three bandits attack me, and, all are parried easily. Three more who had been behind catch up, and the sorceress starts reforming (Exalted uses a per-second “tick” system instead of a rounds-and-turns system, so things can happen at the same time and take different amounts of time. Sorcery takes a while, so it’s risky in combat.) at the same time – oops, it turns out she’s between the two groups after we work out the distances.

My martial artist smashes the first wounded bandit, and the second one gets an arrow shot through him into the second group. The third one keeps bashing pointlessly at my martial artist’s staff, then gets killed while the archer shoots into the second group. At this point, the sorceress has finished reforming and casts Death of Obsidian Butterflies (It’s like a sandstorm except instead of sand, it’s razor-sharp obsidian butterflies the size of your hand, and instead of flying around randomly, it’s a wide line all going the same way). All the remaining bandits are dead, and mostly on the trunks of the heavily-damaged trees. The woman we were saving is slightly splashed and very terrified. The sorceress decides to say “you’re welcome”, and the lady sprints. We let her.

So, that first fight’s over. We get to a very creepy area – the trees look almost like ivory, and the leaves look like iron covered in an oil slick (I was just trying to come up with random strangeness here). It’s the demesne.
The party hears a voice – “I hear you’re looking for my treasure. How about we make a gamble? You overcome my challenges, and you can have some of it.” Archer uses an Investigate Charm to search the area in a few seconds without moving, but finds nothing. The voice refuses to explain what happens if party loses. Being on a bit of an adrenaline high from the bandit thing, the party agrees.

A more normal thief-looking guy (not the PC who left) – drab cloak, knives, etc – steps out from behind a tree that “you’re pretty sure wasn’t there before” (my quote). He smiles just a little bit too wide to look real. Announces: “First challenge: Without moving from that spot, break this egg.” He places it in a sconce on the far side of a bit of wall that could have just been rubble from the Manse explosion, but almost definitely wasn’t there before, a good distance away. When the party asks if they’re allowed to turn around, the response is “you may pivot, but not step.” The co-ST was pretty good at that kind of just-slightly-off-creepiness when he got into the rhythm of it. So obviously, the archer tries shooting the wall, but can’t break through. Creepy-guy climbs on top of the wall, peeks over, says it’s been “incompletely fractured” and replaces it with another egg out of his pocket. The archer tries again, empowering it with Forceful Arrow, and a brick gets pushed out very neatly. The egg cracking on the ground is far too audible, and the creepy guy goes to sit on top of the bit of wall.

You can tell it’s a low-level game because they didn’t just use Perfect Poultry-Providing Technique to hatch the egg. Into a dragon.

“Second challenge: You have the advantage of numbers. How about we reverse that? Beat my friends!” Fifty very-similar people hop down from exactly behind him, on identical walls lined up as many yards into the distance, and get in a big circle around the party. I call for a Valor roll because of the crazy outnumbering: the two Valor-2 characters get a success each and my martial artist with Valor-3 botches, passes out in the middle of the circle This works out quite nicely, because I wanted to leave this up to the players. Stunted archery and the archer’s pet tiger take out goodish groups each, and for each one killed, two others die of similar wounds one-third of the way round the circle. The sorceress decides that her Flight of the Brilliant Raptor (it’s an exploding bird made of fire) is red, white, and blue. At this point, I just let her, so three large groups of clones die in fireworks while she, out of character, is cheering patriotisms (she usually doesn’t do that, so I think she was just getting carried away and trying to one-up the guy with the pet riding tiger again). At this point, the martial artist comes to, having done nothing.

I kind of want to make American Exalted now. I mean, I’m way too cynical to make use of the system, the setting, or even the basic trope structure, but it’d be hilarious. On a more relevant note, the STs here lasted an order of magnitude longer than I would have; Exalted is an easy game to lose hold of.

The original is a bit twitchy now. “Third challenge… … … Catchme!” and he sprints away. Archer tries to pin his foot to the ground – it turns to fog and reforms. The tiger claws at him, same story. Death of Obsidian Butterflies results in a spreading cloud of pink mist… that reforms into three tiny people that keep running and quickly rejoin into one, whose smile is now upside-down until he reaches up and twists it back to normal. Everyone tries to think of a solution OOC, and nobody’s quite sure what to do, including me – this was the co-ST’s idea, I’m just handling crunch at this point. Eventually, the sorceress tries to use Stormwind Rider – sends Creepy for a tumble, but he gets up and keeps going. Then the archer, riding his tiger, comes in and re-mists the guy, and he gets caught in the Stormwind.

“You have completed my challenges. I suppose I did swear… I will grant you each one boon”

And that’s when we noticed we were five minutes past curfew.

And there you have it, everyone. Next time, back briefly to SUETHULU.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

SUETHULU: Ian's Epilogue

Ian's sort-of-epilogue first. He wrote it; I've done my best to meddle with the sentences to improve the flow, but other than that it's his. I think Marty asked him somewhat differently than he did me; either that, or I was weird for formulating it as a direct response. Anyway:
I had forgotten about Ian's long term goal, so here we go.

Since Ian was basically me with magic powers sent to CT universe, the CT universe was something that needed to be fixed (as a person, I am not big on most of the Elder gods screwing around with mortals), and from my observations, the only people who could actually do anything in this (dis)utopia were cultists, I would have to create my own cult. I don’t want to be directly worshiped, so I based my new ‘cult’ off of Christianity since the entire Cthulutech setting seemed like it was basically the coming of the antichrist [2] and I vaguely recalled that at the end of the world the Archangel Michael would come down from the heavens and fight to protect the remains of humanity in their darkest hour [3]. Well, I had gotten healing powers, and at higher levels I would gain the ability to polymorph, so I figured that I would adopt the persona of the Archangel Michael -- having given up most of his heavenly powers to join humanity in the struggle against the evils that beset them. I will admit to having a bit of a martyr complex in that this plan would make me the target of most of the attacks (I’m also not sure how I ended up being the parties ‘tank’ and healer at the same time, which is a rubbish idea. As a mage I had rubbish hit points, and my racial class was completely useless).
My plan was this: I would go around being a vigilante saving people and miraculously healing their wounds while ‘smiting’ the demons  (dhohanoids) and using this vigilantism to distract from our research and the actions of my allies who were using science and diplomacy/hacking to erode Chrysalis Corporation’s nigh-omnipotent control. Turns out that Religion in general is considered cult activity and shut down, so that wouldn’t work, since they would see the Christianity/offshoot as a cult (which to be fair is probably part of the setting). The rate of experience gain was (glacially) slow due to having reduced Exp gain from things like, well the Tagers did most of the work or you wouldn’t have been able to do this without the Tagers. I knew I would never be able to implement this plan before the game was long over, since polymorph self was a 4th level spell in normal D&D. I think that lesser polymorph self, and alter self were insufficient for what I wanted  (wings) and I think poly-self was increased to a higher level.
So I planned to have my character die in a blaze of glory, since at this point severe hopelessness was affecting me out of character; logically after spending a few days in this crap the character version of me would be clinically depressed and likely suicidal anyway[4]. Sadly I was either toggled as plot important or he didn’t want to kill me off for some reason. So I left a note (with Lord of the Rings References [5])  in the last session that I was a liability to to the team and could be stealthier without them etc… And Trekkin(Zeroller) decided to quit as well so Cael joined him, and now we are skulking around hiding the stupid thing until Marty comes by to pick it up. I was also considering keeping him, because the DM had indicated I might have Authyr powers if I wanted (since I have several of my own settings I have made), but I decided against that because:
1. It would screw me over since while I might be an authyr I’m not the over Authyr so it’s up to his interpretation/terminology nitpick, despite the fact that It doesn’t work like wishes and backfire, because It’s not the wording that matters, it’s the intent behind the words that causes the change in the setting or something like that.
2. My worlds are fairly low power, since I like worlds where armies and soldiers are relevant and low level characters can actually get things done. So would be easily conquered by Marty and I hate losing without a chance of fighting back, especially since that would mean someone else would be using my settings before I ever got the chance, and I would always think they were doing it wrong.
3. I would never get the chance to use the power since it might ruin the monopoly on ability in the setting. And since players can’t get powers, something would happen to ruin it or mind influence me or some-such.

Thus began my plan to make a freedom fighter.

1.        (Since the government was on their side completely, I was also convinced black spire was trying to sabotage us. I was applying my character aka my logic to super-secret agents wanting something done not helping at all, and actively hindering our attempts to do their job)

2.       Even I can quote scripture, so take it with a grain of salt, but in my worn out state of mind it made perfect sense and confirmation bias combined with certain biblical passages, you could possibly see how OOC I might think it could vaguely work
A.      Daniel 8:23-25 "And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors are come to the full, a king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences, shall stand up.
The ‘kingdom’ of mankind is ending, the cultists are winning, A powerful ruler will take charge (dark sentences is possibly a reference to Authyr power or magic both of which Marty has).
"And his power shall be mighty, but not by his own power: and he shall destroy wonderfully, and shall prosper, and practise, and shall destroy the mighty and the holy people.
Marty is incredibly powerful, but not due to his actions, instead he is powerful because he wrote that he was powerful, he is fighting an inter-reality WAR where he has SEVERAL deathstars (and other equally or more destructive weapons), he is rapidly getting stronger, he is crushing any that oppose him, and many mighty and holy people are opposed to tyrants.
"And through his policy also he shall cause craft (fraud, deceit, treachery) to prosper in his hand; and he shall magnify himself in his heart, and by peace shall destroy many: he shall also stand up against the Prince of princes; but he shall be broken without hand."
His political policies are laughable, and will cause abuses of power to come fairly easily. Most of his actions are for making himself more awesome. I will admit to being stumped on if he would lose to the prince of princes in his setting, and being broken without a hand pretty much just implies a leading or diplomatic loss.
B.      Daniel 7:24-27 "And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise: and another shall rise after them; and he shall be diverse from the first, and he shall subdue three kings.
"And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time.
He basically acts like he is above gods (and kindof is in the setting), he probably convinced religious fanatics that their religion is not the superior way to do things by wearing them out? Or I ran out of patience, and I’ve been told I have the patience of a saint? He is screwing around with time and realities taking them over and imposing his view of superior laws upon them, and they seem to be falling to him rapidly. Eventually he will run into an enemy that can’t be defined by rules or systems(?)
"But the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end. And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.
After his kingdom falls it will be completely destroyed, and the people who survived would inherit the kingdom (or another game, which is like heaven compared to this one :P).
C.       Revelation 13:3-18 "And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast.
His supervampire race cannot be killed and regenerates more impressively than the Tarrasque (Probably).
"And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him?
How do you kill the un-killable, superior vampire who can stop time and perfect clone himself, not to mention how you stand up to him when he can mind control you, most of his enemies surrendered and ‘worshiped’ him.
"And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months.
His Authyr power allows him to speak great things that are blasphemous, such as basically retconning entire realities. Dunno bout the time limit, haven’t gotten that far.
"And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven.
A continuation on the previous statement, but with the added breaking of basic science and reality in general.
"And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations.
Must I go over what power he was given to make war with the saints and to win? Authyr. His power over all kindreds, tongues, and nation would be his mind control powers which he demonstrated in Star wars.
"And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
He is not from the realities he conquered, and he basically forced them to worship him and his way of life.
"If any man has an ear, let him hear.
"He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.
"And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon.
His clones?
"And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed.
Clones going around making people convert.
"And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men,
"And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live.
He does ‘miracles’ to get people in on his empire by saving them after they are seriously beaten.
"And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed.
He could make more clones of himself, any who don’t agree with his empire were destroyed (after being given a choice to surrender of course)
"And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads:
"And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.
The only F*cking people who can do ANYTHING in this system are the ones he LETS do things HE wants.
"Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six." (666)
7200 realities (0s are repeats of number combination to the left, counting numbers come in sets of 2, where the actual number is the first minus the second, - is used for an actual system, so XY00 is X-Y,X-Y,X-Y) ok ignore that, I find conspiracies with numbers hilarious though.

3.       Why did I choose Archangel Michael? I grew up hearing stories about how awesome he was and a few other factors. And if I was going to ‘become’ an angel to cope with the stress of the setting, may as well aim high and stick with what the script to make my argument that he was the antichrist more believable to the populace. Of all of the angels, Michael is apparently the only one directly referenced as an archangel; his name means “Who is like god?” which is supposed to help encourage humility since the answer should be no one (probably?). He is also the leader of the army of god which makes him the ideal persona for leading a fight against Cyrsalis. He used a sword (which I know the basics of using).
Supposedly he is also the one who will defeat the antichrist in the end times, and he is known for basically kicking beating the crap out of the Devil.
Daniel 12:1 “At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered.”
4.       Everyone I knew and cared about was dead, nothing I did mattered, the world was inevitably going to end due to cults controlling everything, my spell research was painfully slow and spellcasting physically made me a liability to my current friends when I became exhausted. Not to mention at this point I had killed at least one other human (or helped kill many), and was fighting horrors not meant for humans to deal with. I had been impaled by a Nightgaunt’s tail. Reality wasn’t consistent, technology made less sense to me and was even harder to use. My entire Profession was now obsolete due to D-engines.  And several other things I can’t remember.
5.        “I will be leaving to reduce the chances of Sauron and the orcs getting their hands on the one ring, since if anything happened to me it might decide to find a new bearer amoung the orcs. It will also be easier to conceal the ring from him if it's only one or two people, instead of four. I also expect that you will continue to be a thorn in his side which should divert attention away from myself, letting me slip through the cracks. Meanwhile I will try to figure out how to use the ring and if there is somewhere like mount doom for it to be destroyed.
Good Luck,
Frodo (and sam)”
PS:I prepared explosive runes this morning.
PPS:I would have, but I don't know how to do that, so you should probably dispose of this message.”