Thursday, October 12, 2017

Possible Blade Runner Spoilers

Blade Runner 2049 is like someone saw Blade Runner, wrote a fucking massive amazing sandbox setting around it, then the players kept going into hexes that only had like one line of description "Rusting towers rise from the pale plain" "Like LA in Blade Runner but harder to see and now with giant holo girl ads for, like, Apple""An abandoned Jeunet and Caro set" "This is a water hex" .

"Wait you want to go to the Corporation? Fuck, it has....walls? They're....gold?"

You can feel the GM stretch out as the players finally get to the Las Vegas hex, the only one they've prepared in advance. It even has a set piece! "As Harrison Ford punches you, old Vegas acts flicker on and off the stage".

The problem is it's a solo game, the only player is so boring they think they're on an adventure path and the GM is using the worst random tables "Vegas acts? Like what?"
(Randy Newman? Joan Rivers? Don Rickles? Cirque De Soleil???)
"Like...Elvis Presley!"

"Ha Elvis lol memes. What's my girlfriend like?"

"Uh...stepford wife, plus...Amelie, plus..Friends? And also a giant sexy advertisement when she's dead and you're walking in the rain"

"Whoa poignant bro, can my car shoot missiles?"

This movies is so bored of its own future that the best parts were Luv the Replicant being bored of the other characters--scanning the police chief's head then dropping it, bored, summarily kicking Harrison Ford so he didn't have to keep pretending to care about a boring baby, shooting Sean Young because they were too bored to get her eyes right.

And god, that last fight scene, like watching hamsters try to share a dish.

Someone else's hamsters.

Anyway there's a game design or GMing lesson here, I'm pretty sure: you can have all the ideas you want--new ideas, old ideas, stolen ideas, original ideas--but they're useless unless someone at the table slows down long enough to care about one of them.
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Monday, October 9, 2017

What Do These Games Have In Common?

Paranoia
Numenera
The Strange
the Apocalypse Engine games
Delta Green
13th Age
Shadow of the Demon Lord
The One Ring
Cyberpunk 2020
Trail of Cthulhu
?

Answer:

All of them produced charity pdf bundles for Bundle of Holding, and all of them officially did worse than the new Bundle of Lamentations--which has now officially raised more money than any other previous Bundle of Holding.

As of this writing you have 3 days, 1 hour, 24 minutes and 41 seconds to get one.



Monday, October 2, 2017

Roland Barthes: Dungeon Master

From Roland Barthes' lectures, Collège de France, 1977 (from How To Live Together: Novelistic Simulations of Some Everyday Spaces, Tr: Kate Briggs):


Of Games

Novels RPGs are simulations that is to say fictional experimentations on a model the most classical form of which is the maquette. The structure, an outline (a maquette) through which topics, situations are let loose.

More than one language game exists because more than one desire exists.

Take note: the game is normative it wants to resist, prevail over the disorder of the given, it thinks of chance as disorder.

But our method—the one we're adopting here—involves shuffling the cards and dealing them in the order in which they appear. For me now whenever I'm working anything any thematic grouping of traits (of index cards) always makes me think of Bouvard and Peuchet’s question: Why this? Why that? Why here, why there?=An automatic distrust of associative ideology (which is the ideology of the ordered presentation genre.) The card players motto: “I cut the deck”. I react against the fixity of language.

The systematic gradually breaks down, is disappointed—the non-systemic flourishes, proliferates. Yes something direct has to be put in place in order for the indirect, an unforeseeable to emerge.



Of Fantasy

Now the first force I am able to investigate, to interpolate--the one I can see is it work within myself even through the illusions of the imaginary--the force of desire. Of, to be more precise (since it's the point of departure for our research)--the figure of the fantasy.

Let's be clear that a fantasy requires a setting (a scenario) and therefore a place.

Now fantasy=scenario but a scenario and bits and pieces always very brief=just a glimmer of the narrative of desire. What's glimpsed is very sharply contoured, very brightly lit, but all of a sudden it's gone: a body I catch sight of in a car as it goes around the bend before it plunges into the shadows.

I engage in the exhausting strategies of desire.


Of GMing


I truly believe that for a teaching GM relationship to be effective the speaker GM should know only slightly more about the topic than the listener player--sometimes, on certain points, less--this is the process of exchange.



Of Foes

Animals=Evil. Demons figured in animal form, a vast theme.  Anthonian theme: demons entering Saint Anthony's cave: snakes, lions, bears, leopards, bulls, wolves, aspic, scorpions: all "the wild beasts." Their figurative profusion in painting. Animality=infranature: aggression, fear, greed, flesh: man without law.
Of The Party

But what's the fascination of the small group (the gang, the sanatorium)? The state of autarky (autarkadia: self-sufficiency) contentedness=plenitude. It's not the emptiness that draws us in its the fullness of or if you prefer the intuition that there's a vertiginous vacuity to the plenitude of the group.

Autarky: strong intradependence + 0 extradependence. Independence marks the boundary and so gives the definition the mode of being of the group.

Bion makes this clear “Leaders who neither fight nor run away are not easily understood”.

Of The Dungeon

Description of the protective enclosure: Robinson Crusoe meticulous almost excessive quasi obsessive set of defenses against others as soon there's a suggestion of the presence of another man on the island (footprints)--> mad defensive measures. A house that's completely buried from view, invisible whole system of fortifications, of hiding places, enclosure as craziness, as an extreme experience.

Already in Robinson Crusoe--a "healthy" "rational" "empirical" subject if ever there was one--panics at the prospect of danger (the footprints in the sand) endlessly reinforces his defenses. Absolute protection is never achieved (mirage asymptotic). Stockade enclosure camouflaged by a thicket, no door--unmistakably the theme of absolute enclosure--just a little ladder that Robinson pushes up behind him. The colonists apartment in the granite wall in the Mysterious Island--a ladder that can be pulled up then in an elevator. The symbolism of burying oneself below ground and walling oneself up is based in the empirical fact of protecting oneself (symbolically speaking, the only absolutely protected space is the mother's womb). To go outside is to be exposed, to be defenseless, it's life itself. Making it impossible for enemy to get in gets converted through access through neurotic exaggeration into the self-imposed impossibility of getting out.

Piranesi: prisons are supposed to be the anti-hut (note that they’re vast, anti-cellular structures demonic capsizing of levels)—> Space of crisis, of drama, of the sublime (Burke= “a sort of delight full of horror, a sort of tranquility tinged with Terror.”)  Piranesi: “out of fear springs pleasure."

The Labyrinth: Symbolizes the paradoxical labor whereby the subjects sets about creating difficulties for himself. Walling himself up within the impasses of a system. It is the archetypal space of the obsessive. The Labyrinth is this space of active enclosure. Endless futile efforts expended on finding the way out. In the subjects effort to find the exit he only acts exacerbates his only his own imprisonment. He walks, constantly changes direction, etc yet remains in the same place. Labyrinth: a system that's hermetically sealed by its autonomy. Example: The system of a love affair--once inside there's no way out, and yet the labor it requires is immense. Finding a way out an almost magical act: the glimpse of a thread of a different system through which you then have to pass--Ariadne's thread. The Labyrinth is a very effective symbol of that state, an inextricable system of walls, but one that's out in the open air graph paper there's no roof...To someone looking on from the outside (looking down from above at their notes) the solution is obvious, in contrast to the person inside it: a situation typical of a love affair.

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P.S.

Check it: Red & Pleasant Land is Reddit /RPG game of the month--and it's not even a game.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Panic Modes

Panic Modes occur when a Demon City character is at exactly 0 Calm. (Not negative calm--at that point total ineffectiveness kicks in, but since you lose 1 Calm point at a time, you will always pass this point on your way to negative calm.)

How a PC behaves when they panic depends on their role:

Curious

The curious character's panic will come in the form of fascination. In addition to this general role-playing prompt, in the round after they hit 0 Calm they must try to find out something new about the situation they're in.


Friend

When in a panic, the friend character's loyalty will override everything and they'll try to get whichever character they are most loyal to (or one of the characters they are most loyal to) out of the situation. In addition, they must spend the next round after they hit 0 Calm trying to get their friend out of the situation.


Investigator

Used to relying on method, and here for practical reasons, the investigator in a panic is simply less effective. In addition, they must spend the next round after they hit 0 Calm either fleeing or acting with only 1 die.


Problem

The problem will revert to instinct when in a panic. In the round after they hit 0 Calm they must use their special abilities


Victim

The victim in a panic is energized. In the round after they hit 0 Calm they will act with 1 additional die if it is against the entity or entities they believe to have hurt them, and will keep that die for that purpose until the menace is defeated or driven off.
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Saturday, September 30, 2017

Demon City Art Notes


  • Light: Light is more important here. Not just direction of shadows (always important) but colorlight and the modelling of things, all the gradations.
  • Horror creatures are often very simple in design but the light makes this one awful and the other one a goofy piece of rubbermask.
  • Starkness, purely drawn images, high contrast: out. At least for now. These techniques put the picture in an imaginative, abstracted space (D&Dish, noir comics) where what we want here is a version of reality. An alternate reality.
  • A wash of one specific color across the whole. This adds a color light but also picks out the texture in the paint that's already there. It reveals the underpainting.
  • Is there a wash color that doesn't work? Dark green. Grey. Haven't tried orange. Eye twitches at the thought of trying orange. Probably need to try orange.
  • Is anything orange scary? 
  • Other than the president? yes, Kubrick used orange but it was never the scary part.)
  • Properly done: an orangutan. Not etymologically related to 'orange'. Poe's Murder at the Rue Morgue one of his least successful reveals. Also one of Harry Clarke's only unsuccessful drawings.
  • This is a tangent dude.
  • The Medical Suite drawing was too pin-uppy. You don't see that every day. Everything else about that picture was too real and then those tits were like "Hey, tits!". That only works if the tone is a little less serious. It was like one of those late Heavy Metal drawings where someone put a lot of effort into the tendrilly blue jungle and it just doesn't work because boobs.
  • Daytime exteriors: the Francis Bacon strangeness of a grotesque against a pale tired background that is painted in over the grotty foreground.
  • Night exteriors: you can put little lights anywhere you want. Lights don't need a reason in the modern city, they just show up like stars in reverse gravity.
  • Inexplicable bits of architecture/infrastructure that you ignore in real life because they're new and painted and boring (Awnings with like nine steel pins holding them up.) but they will look futuristic and intricate in a picture.  And when they're old.
  • Creatures should interact with them. Rip them up.
  • Anything that can be black should be.
  • After aesthetics, the next priority is not to accurately represent the monster as a tactical obstacle (D&D) but to show how it is frightening. The Host should be able to hold it up and go "Like this" and the players go "We're so fucked". Anything: a man without a gun. A penguin.
  • Also: Just gore. The varieties of gore. A bullet going into a neck and out the other side and blood fountaining symmetrically from both holes.
  • No throwaways. No "this was fun". Each more ambitious than the one before.
  • (Until I get tired then fuck it draw a skeleton)
  • (No a bat skeletons are hard)
  • This isn't a dungeon or galaxy of monsters, not a monster manual--they don't all have to seem like they exist in the same reality. These are fragments, possibles.
  • This is not worldbuilding.
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Revenants and Drones

New Demon City art, with the lazy first-draft of the write-up.
Click to enlarge
Revenants (Living Dead) and Drones

Revenants are any form of living creature brought back to mindless life by witchcraft or other blasphemous agency, often en masse—they include the zombies of Haiti, ghouls (first known in the Middle East), animated skeletons and other kinds of walking corpses.

Drones are still-living creatures transformed into unthinking automata by any number of causes including exotic diseases, drugs, demonic possession or parasites.

Revenants always subsist on the flesh of living beings, drones may or may not. Depending on the method of transformation, both kinds of creature can be either torpid—moving in a trancelike haze, or frenzied—possessed with manic energy.

Their abilities vary, Hosts should build specific creatures from the options below to fit the campaign’s needs.


Human Revenant or Drone

Calm: Negative (always insane and hungry)
Agility: 1 (torpid) or  3 (frenzied)
Toughness: 3
Perception: 0
Appeal: 0
Cash: 0
Knowledge: N/A

Calm check: 8 (or more if the creature was once a friend)

Animal Revenant or Drone

Calm: Negative (always insane)
Agility: 1 (torpid) or base creature+1 (frenzied)
Toughness: 3 or base creature+1 whichever is higher
Perception: 0
Appeal: 0
Cash: 0
Knowledge: N/A

Calm check: 8

Special abilities

(Revenants only) Undead: Revenants don’t need to breathe or digest, don’t age, and are immune to poisons, venoms and toxins, and cannot be controlled with psionic abilities.

(Revenants and some drones) Mindless: Most of these creatures are mindless and cannot be mentally controlled. Some drones are produced via mental domination and so this domination can be countered.

(Possibly) Infectious: The bite of a revenant or drone produced by disease causes the target to become a drone in 2 rounds—Toughness is increased by 1 or becomes 3, whichever is higher.

(Possibly) Mutilated Life: The severed extremities of some forms of revenant and drone can continue to attack even when separated from the main body. These parts have -1 Agility and -3 Toughness. To keep life interesting, the Host should interpret any attack that could have reasonably severed a limb as having severed a limb.

(Possibly) Invulnerability: Some forms of revenant and drone cannot be brought below 0 Toughness unless a successful killing attack is aimed at the head or, in other cases, the heart (these attacks usually incurs a Lost Die). This form of invulnerability is mutually exclusive with the Mutilated Life ability. However, some fearful, invulnerable forms of revenant and drone with the Mutilated Life ability cannot be killed at all unless a specific action is taken, for example if a countercurse is enacted or a psionic control frequency is disrupted.


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Friday, September 29, 2017

It's Alive


End of the Demon City playtest I just did. Two 2 PCs left

"I'm getting in the elevator!"

"Uncontested, you can go ahead"

"I'm gonna try to...get out from under it?"

"Ok, so still one die. It's blinded so it'll just lash out. It's got one die. Go."

"....3"

"It rolls an 8"

"Fuuuck"

"It swings this thick arm and you just see Harish fly across the hall and slump to the ground.

(So...now you're unconscious you'll miss one turn for sure and then roll to wake up each round  Toughness rounds and if you don't you're dead")"

"Ohhhhh god"

"Ok so what are you going to do?"

"Can I grab him and pull him in the elevator?"

"Yeah I guess the only thing it can do is randomly stagger after you blind"

And so the drug dealer gets the PI into the elevator. United by the sticky nectar of fear.

The door closes.

A quiet round in the elevator. The PI makes his waking up roll.

Then -runch- above somewhere.

The PI pushes all the buttons on the elevator.

Dice roll.

Chankgk

A hoof comes through the ceiling, the lights flicker.

I forgot to say "the lights flicker" actually.

The doors judder like open?close?open?

They roll and get out into the hall, a crash behind them as the elevator drops like...10 feet?

"You see a pair of claws reaching up out of the elevator clawing at the floor, and the head emerging"

"I'm running"

"You're still hurt, one die"

"I'm gonna shoot the elevator cable"

"Ok, you're hurt, too, your firearms sucks, even though it's a non-moving target--so still one die, but it's still blind so it's got one die and..."

"10!"

(damage rolling)

"The cable snaps and you see the whole elevator guillotining down. Bones rip and just shear in half and then two hands and the goat head just spill onto the carpet."

"Jesus"
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