Note: This is a rant, not an essay. I ramble, tangent, diverge and meander. Be warned.
There is a common assumption that Cthulhu and company are cosmic horror. That they have to be cosmic horror and any use of them that is not cosmic horror is an improper use. They are taken to be a part of the genre rather than characters that most frequently appear within a genre. It is expected that if Cthulhu appears in a story that he must be an unbeatable foe that causes insanity merely observing him. To do otherwise is to not be using Cthulhu appropriately. However, while Cthulhu, Hastur, Azazoth and the like are characters primarily known for cosmic horror storylines they are not, in and of themselves, cosmic horror.
Less commonly, you also find some people who think that cosmic horror can’t be cosmic horror without some element of the things Lovecraft wrote about. The Necronomican and various Cthulhu Mythos entities are very frequently integrated into other pieces of fiction on the lingering assumption that cosmic horror must be linked to these things. There are cosmic horror storylines without Lovecraftian references, but they are somewhat less common.
This overall attitude has been seen in creating the trope referred to on TV Tropes as “Angels, Devils and Squid” where you have the traditional good spiritual entities, the traditional bad entities and then you have this third group that is so terrible and unknowable that both the previous groups want to work together to prevent them from winning. Lovecraftian entities are very often assumed to be something so horrible and powerful that facing against them is almost a doomed prospect.
This attitude is not the only one demonstrated, however. For example, the Ghostbusters cartoon quite famously had Cthulhu in one episode and he was defeated in the same 30 minute episode. Arturia Pendragon, summoned as Saber during the Fate/Zero novels and anime, was likewise shown to use Excalibur to destroy Cthulhu in one attack once she was healed of an inhibiting injury. The instances where eldritch abominations are defeated somehow has resulted in another trope noted as “Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?” There are also numerous Cthulhu parodies ranging from the video game “Cthulhu saves the World” to a setting known as “The Laundry” where humanity has a sort of truce with the Deep Ones. But all that is another ranting conversation. I merely wished to acknowledge that I knew such fiction existed.
That said, I will also admit that my frustration with the idea that Lovecraft’s pantheon should be treated as cosmic horror and only as cosmic horror is mostly fueled by frustration with fans of Lovecraft’s works intruding on conversations completely unrelated to Lovecraft or the like with statements along the lines of “Cthulhu eats them all”. This is rather unfair of me and I know there are a number of more reasonable fans of Lovecraft who would never do such thing. I also enjoy discussing the Lovecraft universe and have been known to raise my eyebrows at things like the Steam-available game “Call of Cthulhu: The Wasted Land” which presented itself as a CRPG based on the Chaosium TRPG but made laughably poor attempts to present the Lovecraft pantheon as a united front of alien entities out to overrun humanity rather than being at each other’s throats and humanity caught in the crossfire as in Lovecraft’s canon.
What it comes down to for me is that a lot of Lovecraft fans consider Cthulhu and the like to be these uniquely powerful entities with characteristics unlike that of any other creature from fiction or myth when the reality is that Lovecraft used a lot of real world myth for inspiration but didn’t want to be limited in his interpretation by using names that had pre-existing expectations attached to them. None of the actual characteristics presented by Lovecraft’s entities are unique to them nor are they demonstratively more powerful than any other supernatural entities.
I have discussed this in other rants, but the insanity causing appearances, unkillable natures, effect on the natural evolution of living creatures, and their effect on the operation of the surrounding natural world are all traits common to creatures of myth and legend for centuries. If there is really a unique aspect to the Lovecraftian entities it is in the fact that humanity is not of real importance to them which can be seen as challenging to our humanocentric view of reality. Even that, however, has its mirror in the stories of the Fae that have been going on for thousands of years. Plus there are numerous modes of belief throughout history which reason that the gods mostly don’t care about humanity and we simply have to survive their whims.
Cthulhu isn’t really any more powerful than the Orcus portrayed by the Dungeons and Dragons game and Nyarlahotep isn’t much different from entities like Bane, Cyric or Mask from Faerun. Bringing the Cthulhu Mythos into D&D isn’t going to present much of a change to that genre in and of itself. In fact, D&D already makes frequent use of Lovecraftian elements including the sahaugin (Deep Ones) shoggoths (gibbering mouthers) and illithids (mini-cthulhus) without the game becoming cosmic horror. More recently, drawing power from the Old Ones, with Cthulhu mentioned by name, is a possible pact for a warlock character.
Horror is a sensation that arises when something you are facing challenges your deeply held understanding of the world. It doesn’t require a supernatural element. Everyday there’s someone in the world who experiences horror first hand due to entirely mundane by terrible circumstances. Cosmic horror focuses on our beliefs on the fundamental nature of reality. Humanocentrism is a common belief, so cosmic horror often targets that by presenting enemies which simply don’t care about humans for any reason other than momentary use. Where as many stories with a supernatural element present humanity as unique in some regard with our souls as the goal of some cosmic battle between good and evil, cosmic horror often makes us out to be the rare nematode that only lives in this one pond which will be driven to extinction by the incoming mini-mall.
In fact, cosmic horror could be invoked in the reverse. Imagine if the standard belief was that humanity was an unimportant anomaly in the world. That there these great and powerful entities out and about which could flatten us like a bug but largely didn’t care about us. They’d have no real daily impact on our existence. It’d be like living with earthquakes, tornadoes and hurricanes. It’s just something that happens occasionally, nothing that you could control. The only supernatural entities that really care about people are ones that are relatively small and for which there are ways to ward them off or destroy them. Except for the presumed intellects of many of Lovecraft’s entities, that’s really no different than living in a vast universe with comets, black holes and other things that could out and out obliterate Earth without any difficulty.
Now imagine growing up with that understanding and then one day discovering that there was an all-powerful force that had created everything, including those massive supernatural forces that don’t care about you. Or maybe that those separate massive supernatural forces are just things this creator does. And imagine that this creator cares about what you do and will send punishments against you when you do something wrong but you have no idea what “wrong” really is. Imagine going from “there’s awesome cosmic powers out there but they don’t care about me” to “there’s an unimaginably cosmic power out there that cares about even the very smallest decision I make and is quite willing to condemn me for eternity even if I didn’t know there were any rules much less what they are.”
However, a lot of the English speaking world comes from a society wherein using cosmic horror was considered a good tool to use towards performing religious conversion (despite how it conflicted with core doctrine of the religion…but that’s another rant for another time). As such, most of us don’t really consider that cosmic horror, but rather consider it to be something else entirely.
Cthulhu is just a character, as are Hastur, Nyarlahotep and Azazoth. Adding a character does not make something cosmic horror. Nor is someone obligated to make a story into cosmic horror just because one of these characters is included. Nor are you obligated to include these characters when you write a cosmic horror story. Lovecraft could just as easily have written stories about Poseidon, Zeus, Hel, Izanami, Houyi, and any of a large number of other figures from real world mythology and religion. He decided not to because he didn’t want to be constrained by the expectations associated with said entities. That said, he still drew a lot from real world myth. As an example, Dagon was a Semitic Mesopotamian fertility god associated with grain and fishing and was part of the pantheon worshipped by the Philistines. He also made use of Bast and Hypnos as being among the sort of protective Elder Gods (though even they were dangerous in his stories). And yes, Lovecraft did write stories where there were supernatural entities that helped humanity, always for their own purposes, but the idea of good entities was not entirely due to Derleth.
The Cthulhu Mythos also suffers as cosmic horror because Lovecraft went through the trouble to define the unimaginable and mind-bending secrets the very thought of which would drive men mad. Many of the horrible revelations within Lovecraft’s stories are commonly considered in modern times. There are millions of people who don’t believe humanity is the center of the universe or even at all important, being just one species on a small planet on the edge of only one galaxy. The idea that all life evolved from some proto-biotic protein goop is accepted as scientific fact. There has even been recent consideration that life may have been carried to Earth on debris from space, though I don’t know how much support that has. The concept that we are a byproduct of alien experimentation is a common fictional trope and an actual belief of many people in real life. There is a lot of science regarding non-Euclidean geometries and Euclidean geometry itself is considered more or less a useful approximation of space on a planet. These are all included amongst the ideas that Lovecraft implied humanity was inherently capable of bearing without our mind breaking and yet they are common concepts in the modern world. Almost every instance of “things man was not meant to know” is commonplace in fiction today and many even appear in basic science.
Lovecraft built a lot of his horror on his own phobias and prejudices. Fears of congenital insanity, mixed bloodlines and even seafood were among many of his quirks. He was writing in a time period when the diseases of the mind were a matter of horror of their own and while his brand of racism was extreme even for the time, there were many people that were likewise terrified of the results if people from different ethnicities produced a child. He did succeed, and still does, in evoking horror. I can remember shivering while reading the “Colour Out of Space” in broad daylight, and “The Vault” is one of the more terrifying things I have ever read. That said, I found “Call of Cthulhu” much less terrifying. It pretty read exactly as I expected it to.
This is the problem. Cosmic horror hinges around suggesting that the things we know to be true are, in fact, not true. Any concept can become a facet of cosmic horror when that concept contradicts deeply held beliefs. We consider things like bacteria and viruses to be common knowledge, even if some people know less about them than they should, but imagine trying to explain the matter to anyone of the 12th Century. How would they take the idea that there are billions of billions of entities too small to see which can get into your body and start causing you to be ill. If you were to actually convince them the result would likely be something of a germ phobia as we see today. They’d go insane trying to think of ways to seal themselves away from these invisible, tiny creatures seeking to murder them. Forget what would happen if you told them that we need some of those tiny invisible creatures to even live.
Once the concepts become known and successfully assimilated into the whole of what is real it ceases to be horrible. Horror fiction relies on audience expectations in order to be successful. There is a narrow line between fulfilling those expectations exactly such that the story is too predictable and breaking those expectations entirely so that story feels “wrong”. To some degree this is true of any sort of fiction, but evoking a sensation of horror depends so much on twisting these expectations that it is a special case. More specifically it is the sort of expectations that are twisted. Horror movies twist the assumptions we make about the rules that the world operates under specifically while all good movies tend to twist the expectations of plot development.
To illustrate this, take “John Carpenter’s Vampires”. It is a movie about vampires so it very clearly is a horror movie, right? Well, it would certainly be shelved as such, but if you consider it closely, the movie is more of an action movie with vampires. There are a few plot twists that are interestingly handled, but overall the nature and capabilities of vampires are clearly delineated in the first part of the story and never stray far from it. All the character actions stay within a clear framework of world rules that allow the audience some solid ground to watch the proceedings from.
Compare this to something like King’s Salem’s Lot where the general, well-known rules of vampirism are followed along with including some obscure bits of lore. However, the framework he works with here is in the reactions of the village. As the reader, we know more or less what is going on, but we keep expecting some small band of heroes to turn back the tide of darkness eventually. It is frighteningly realistic just blind all the characters seem to be over the course of the developing infestation. The horror is not in the vampires themselves but in how passive the people are and how easily they’re willing to accept the growing death toll as natural until there are far too many vampires for any one group to deal with.
To take it one step further, I would suggest looking into the anime “Shiki” but will avoid saying anything more than that in this rant to spare the spoilers for this lesser known piece of horror. Watch or read Salem’s Lot then find “Shiki” and marathon the episodes, preferably somewhere dark.
It is easier to evoke horror when the reader has less of an idea of what to expect. Once you say “vampire” or “werewolf” the audience starts connecting the well-known rules of each creature. Stepping past those rules in some form or fashion is necessary to unsettle audience expectations and evoke horror, but stepping too far past risks have the audience dismiss the entire thing as wrong. For example, many people get annoyed when you have vampires that can walk around in the daylight, despite the fact that all four of the classic gothic vampire novels have vampires that have little to no problem with daylight.
Cosmic horror and the Cthulhu Mythos have the issue that they are a very specific genre of horror. People picking up a book dealing with Lovecraftian entities expect tentacles, insanity, depraved cults, rituals to summon apocalyptic end times and other such trappings. They expect anything supernatural to be at least dangerous to toy with and most likely an out and out threat. This very specific set of expectations is the reason that there are so many parodies of Cthulhu in existence and so many storylines involving the Cthulhu Mythos become somewhat more action, mystery and pulp than actually reaching the point of evoking horror. The purist audiences have very strict expectations and can often lose their immersion in the story by playing watchdog to make sure all the necessary points are clicked and no mistake is made.
The Lovecraft purists, for example would hate the fact that Cthulhu is a one-off event that is eliminated over the course of one or two episodes in the Fate/Zero storyline. The fact that the Servant who summoned Cthulhu and the Servants fighting it are humanoid abominations in their own right would be overlooked, because most would not equate the souls of past and future Heroes and Villains as being eldritch abominations. However, while Cthulhu is a minor element in it, the Type-Moon universe that the Fate storylines take place in is rife with cosmic horror where even the collective will of humanity’s survival can manifest in such disasters as Pompeii (and no, that’s not a mis-statement. The collective will of humanity’s continued survival dispatched an entity to manifest as a volcanic eruption and eradicate Pompeii entirely). Looking into the novels, visual novels and assorted other materials that the various anime are based on presents a host of horrifying elements that show the story protagonists to be points of light in dark world.
Some of the most horrifying stories of Cthulhu Mythos don’t particularly need any real supernatural element at all. All they require is human cultists and witnessing the depths to which a person is willing to go in order to achieve some end, especially when the end goal seems to be something no sane person would ever want. The Whateleys are imminently more terrifying than the Dunwich Horror. The Horror itself is a supernatural monster that we can safely expect to never encounter in real life, but a handful of lunatics killing people in order to fulfill some religious fervor is something we see in the news daily. Likewise, the real terror of the “Shadow Over Innsmouth” isn’t in the fact that the villagers are predominantly inhuman, but in how easily we can conceive that an isolated village in New England could produce similarly murderous behaviors. The supernatural elements candy coat it, but somewhere in us is the realization that even if Cthulhu itself is fiction, there might be someone out there willing to kill for it. It’s that bridge of reality and fiction where our footing is unsure and we develop niggling little doubts about just how much of what we’re reading is pure fiction and how much is actual possibility.
Ultimately, while cosmic horror deals with elements such as the structure and operation of the universe, the horror of cosmic horror stories is created in the places where our fiction overlaps with reality. There might not be a shoggoth in the shadows below us, but a swarm of rats will kill us just as well. Slenderman might not be a real thing, but a couple of kids can still try to kill a friend to garner favor with it. There might be no evidence of any truly Satanic, devil worshipping cult having ever existed, but that doesn’t stop people from being hung or lynched on suspicion of such. The scary parts of horror are always those that speak to real possibilities that we’d rather not think about.
The world of Divine Blood has a lot of dark corners where heroes of all sorts of species are engaged in acts of daring to prevent the ragged world of violence from spilling over into the lives of civilians.
This expansion isn't about those heroes.
This book is about the civilians that enjoy the protection of those guardians.
The everyday world might not have threats to life and limb, but it has its fair share of adventures.
Maybe some students decide to pull a prank on a rival school and use a little psychic talent to make it happen.
Or perhaps your character is just learning that they aren't human.
Try on the joys of being the legal guardian to a reincarnated God or Demon.
You could have just discovered that the neighborhood you've just moved into is full of weirdos and mystics.
Or are you struggling with whether or not to tell your significant other about your secret?
*****************************************This campaign book primarily focuses on the more light-hearted side of living in the world of Divine Blood.
Help as you can
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The first 10 people to comment will get a feature on this page, I'll go to their galleries and pick out a cool picture I like and put it here.
If you do so, pick up the chain and start your own "Comment and be Featured" journal featuring me first. I'd suggest choosing one of my story teasers since pretty much all of the art is commissions and the writing is my stuff.
Aruynn is a cosplayer who has a lot of stuff to do with Loki from the Avengers and several other interesting things like this ideas of a Jormundgandr character here.
We had two players, a third proved unable to attend due to software issues with Skype.
One player chose to play Clint Faerbolg, the half-demon whose mother was the Demoness of Baking.
The other player chose to play Leah Killian, an activist cheerleader, who I've now been informed is similar to a character on the TV show Community.
It started out with them deciding to run a shooting gallery where the players would shoot muffins and such off perches onto a shelf in order to win them as snacks.
capitalized phrases are Aspects, phrases in parentheses are Boosts
Leah went to convince the local tech geek, Alexei Kanst to build the mechanism for them while Clint went to convince his mother to make the baked goods. Leah was easily able to convince Alexei to build an Excellent Mechanism for them while Ms. Faerbolg insisted that Clint take part in the baking if she was going to be baking stuff for free. Due to Clint picking random ingredients and putting in only half-baked efforts, they ended up with (Weird Cakes).
While they were setting up, Jess Kara, Perfect Girl Next Door, came by to get the information for their booth to report to the fair committee. Clint, due to his Trouble With Authority pretty much told her to shove off while Leah noticed that she was being unusually fidgety. She tired to figure out why and caught a glimpse of the four-pointed pupils underneath Jess's natural illusion as an Adopted Succubus Girl. However, due to Time Pressure from Clint who wanted to get the booth done with, she wasn't able to pursue it. However, the situation provoked Jess enough that her biokinesis triggered itself and gave Jess a nasty rash on her hand. She blamed Clint and his cupcakes.
As the fair started, Clint tried to build up attention on the fair by giving (Semi-Expert Amateur Instruction) on how to use the air-gun to shoot the muffins, cup-cakes and other baked goods on to the sanitary shelf behind. Then Leah decided to work up her cheerleading friends into drawing attention by using War Of The Sexes Adverts, drawing guys and girls to come and prove which gender was better at shooting strange baked goods off of machinery. She had a brief issue due to the rash on her hand, but her girls in the cheerleading squad helped keep that under wraps. To further put the cherry on top, Leah used Clint's (Semi-Expert Amateur Instruction) to beat him in a shoot off thereby successfully making the pie shoot a girls vs guys game. The customers took it more playfully than Clint did.
Then Clint noticed that a number of other kids and adults were showing up with rashes of some sort so he decided to pull over Leah and use that to prove that it wasn't his cupcakes.
About this time, Adrian Rocha started to show up in his normal local loved-by-everyone weatherman role and started asking about the booth and its theme, though he seemed a little put out by the girls vs guys twist that Leah put on it.
Before much could be done with that interview, however, a cry arose from the Cosplay Cafe. Leah and Clint went running to see what was up, Leah catching sight of Jess looking freaked out as her demon-girl illusion flickered on and off. Clint meanwhile started shouting that everyone should stay away from the Cosplay Cafe and that something terrible was happening there, provoking Quincey Haile, the shy but wonderfully gifted actress, to have a near nervous breakdown about all the work that she had put into it.
Leah took off after Jess while Clint decided to chase after Leah to see what was going on. Adrian Rocha chased after Clint.
Leah called up her Cheerleader Squad to help her use her to impressive acrobatic parkour abilities to cut the space between her and Jess short though Jess did take a rather Difficult Route. Unfortunately, Adrian used his celebrity position to convince people to Clear The Path in front of him as he pursued Clint, keeping up quite well.
After that, Leah had to use a lot of help and direction from other Cheerleaders, who almost sent her in the wrong direction, but also showed her as acting just the littlest bit odd and gaining some social stress. She did catch up to Jess, however, as Jess tried to jump a booth and ended up cartwheeling forward and planting her face in the ground. Meanwhile, Clint decided to just use his strength to barrel through a booth and move to catch up with Leah and Jess. He got some help from Leah's cheerleading friends who he directed toward the local celebrity and their chance to be on TV which allowed him to get a little distance.
To completely lose Adrian Rocha, he cut by the dunking booth and called out "Hey! Deep One!" to Jennifer Summers, who almost gave herself a concussion trying to get out of the dunking booth to take off after Clint resulting in her and the swim team with her getting tangled up with the cheerleaders and Adrian's camera crew allowing Clint to use the dunking booth as a Distractionary Booth.
Once with Jess and Leah, he found Leah making an attempt to calm Jess down and get her to talk about what's happening. Jess is clearly going through an emotional breakdown at the moment and Clint decides that they were going to take care of this at the booth and decides to scoop up Jess and carry her over his shoulder back to the Pie Shoot booth with Leah coming along to complain about how he was treating Jess. This results in Clint getting a bad rash on his back since he's carrying an upset akira succubus who seems more in tune with her biokinesis than her other abilities.
An amazingly successful Knowledge role lets Clint realize that Jess is a succubus and starts thinking about how to tell her. Leah however, just wants him to go run the booth and let her handle things. So he starts to walk off with a side comment about knowing what's up and explaining things, causing Leah to suddenly try to grab him back and get him to say what he knows, but he protests because "someone has to run the booth after all, we can't booth be back here." Eventually, despite her misgivings of leaving Clint alone with Jess, Leah goes to the front to run the booth...and try to listen in on Clint and Jess, while Clint tries to give Jess the 411 (information for those not from the States).
Despite not painting a terribly wonderful picture of the supernatural world and almost sending Jess into a heart attack, he does eventually calm her down when he mentions that his mother would know more about it than he does, since all he knows is she's some sort of race that came from a Demon experiment and that her people are supposed to be extinct.
Meanwhile, Leah's attempts at eavesdropping are cut off when she sees approaching her, from three different directions, the theater club, the swim team and Adrian Rocha's camera crew.
The theater club gets there first dragging a terribly mortified and frightened Quincey Haile along while their members shout at Leah to bring out Clint so they can ream him for screwing up their booth with his panic-making. Leah is just barely able to get through to them by addressing Quincey and convincing them that they need to get back to their booth to keep running it when Jennifer appears demanding to know where that "son of a bitch racist Clint is hiding!"
As Leah Sees Injustice Everywhere, she immediately responds emotionally rather than rationally, calling Jennifer out on being white and wondering how she can get off calling someone racist "just because he called you out liking Lovecraft stuff! Do you know what sort of man Lovecraft was?! He was horribly racist!" Given Jennifer is a Lemurian Swim Team Captain who claims Descent From Innsmouth and Has A Chip On Her Shoulder...this sends Jennifer into a fit of rage so high that she can't even talk correctly. She's about to reveal herself to Leah and explain the Innsmouth massacre and the crap that Lovecraft pulled that made "deep one" into a slur when Adrian Rocha sticks his camera in their faces and starts asking what all the hullabaloo is all about. Leah makes an attempt to tell him off which only makes her look like a (Little Girl Ranting) and which Rocha immediately turns around to give her a mild social consequence of Shooting At The Patriarchy.
Up to this point Clint has been sitting back, whistling, trying to convince Jess to go and ruin a few more booths by touching people and making them sick before heading home until he could come by and take her to his mother's shop and get her to a real....well, a comparative expert. Now with Rocha being a pain, he calls up his Cadre Of Buddies to interfere in the broadcast. They disconnect one of the cameras taking away Adrian's ability to use his well-known advantage in this social conflict.
There's another exchange between Rocha and Leah, with Leah still getting the worst of it, when Clint starts getting the crowd to chant "Go Home, Adrian!". While successful, he manages to get himself tagged with a minor social consequence of Rabble Rouser. However, this gives Leah the opportunity to use a number of tags and Fate Points to lay down a rant against Adrian so armor-piercing and to the point that despite her appearance of aiming at the patriarchy, she still manages to push him to start ranting back at her just around the same time his camera crew fixes the live broadcast and catches him on camera tearing a stream of Conservatively Judgmental vitriol on a teenaged girl on live TV, after which someone takes one of the big prizes from the Pie Shoot and slams it down on his head, giving him the severe social consequence of Creamed On TV (P).
After which all that's left is for choosing the Most Popular and Most Profitable booths.
Their competition for Most Popular is against the Cosplay Cafe with its amazing costumes and Quincey Haile's wonderful acting talents (her shyness seems to go away on stage). However, between Clint's sabotage of the Cafe and Quincey's poor attempts at advertising the booth, the Pie Shoot comes out on top.
The competition for Most Profitable is against the Sexy Swimwear of the Swim Team Dunking Booth. While Clint's sabotage didn't affect them as much, the swim team was not quite as able to compete with Leah's War Of The Sexes Adverts or the Excellent Mechanism created by Alexei, not to mention Leah's own persuasive mastery. Even Clint's (Weird Cakes) don't give them enough of an advantage to come out on top.
Though, after Leah got the low down on Lemurian oppression for the last hundred years and was mortified by effectively telling someone "Hey, that guy who got your ancestors massacred a hundred years ago wasn't that big of a deal" she shows up at Clint's to glare and glare and glare at him. But is at least around to hear Jess get the information that Ms Faerbolg thought the Gods had killed all the succubi.
Purchase the game here: rpg.drivethrustuff.com/browse/…
Or purchase it in a bundle with the novel here: rpg.drivethrustuff.com/product…
A new Divine Blood Extracurricular featuring Eija Semezou. After the results of the Semester Start novel, Eija is restricted to a secure level of a hospital in Vollstahl. However, her time isn't always as relaxing as people assume. Like most death-seers, Eija can draw quite a crowd from a certain population.
Also, be aware that you can get this story as part of a bundle of all the Extracurriculars at a cost of $4.40 here: rpg.drivethrustuff.com/product…
Or you can get the Halloween bundle including the first novel and the short stories featuring Hel Logesdottir, Lilitu Geisthexe and Eija Semezou here: rpg.drivethrustuff.com/product…
Okay, so I went ahead and started a rafflecopter to last from September 1st to November 1st. The idea is to support Independent and Self-Published authors. And get our prizes out in the middle of the Christmas gift hunting season.
If anybody wants to throw in their lot with this and donate prizes, please do so, that's part of why I'm not starting until September. If you participate, I'll add options specifically related to your novels or facebook pages or the like and add whatever prizes you're willing to add to.
Currently, the options for entering are this:
Tweeting a message to support indie authors by troping their works (which means contributing to the TVTropes.org site).
Tweeting a message to support indie authors by tweeting and facebooking.
Tweeting a message to support indie authors by reviewing.
Troping Divine Blood
Troping any Indie Novel
Reviewing an Indie Novel
Reviewing some of my stuff on DrivethruRPG
Reviewing some of my stuff on Amazon
Liking my Facebook author page
Linking an Indie novel on Facebook
Drawing a piece of fan art for an indie novel.
All of this can be done 1/day. Each is worth 1 entry, except the fan art, since that is moderately onerous.
Grand Prize: 1 print copy each of both Divine Blood: Semester Starts and Bystander (this I hope to grow by getting other participants)
1 print copy of your choice of my books. x2
1 e-book copy of your choice of my novels. x3
3 e-book copies of your choice of my short stories. x3
So, having recently watched the Batman vs Spiderman Death Battle and seeing the number of people complaining about how Spiderman shouldn't be able to beat Batman, a few thoughts came to mind. So let's start with a question: how can a man, no matter how highly trained have any chance at standing alongside the heaviest hitters of DC Universe and expect to put forth an equal effort to the others? The fans would have a large list of reasons just why Batman can step up to the likes of Darkseid or Sinistro. They would cite his planning, his resources, his strategic thinking, his massive array of physical training, However, the reason that Batman can win out in a lot of the circumstances where he comes out on top of a super-powered enemy comes down to one thing:
This sounds like a weak argument, the sort of thing you'd hear from a fan boy or girl, but it's true. He wins because he's Batman. Likewise, Wolverine wins a lot of his fights because he's Wolverine.
What do I mean by this? It's simple. Batman is an impressively popular character.
One of the reasons he is so popular is that he is one of the few DC characters that is a more or less normal human being. Likewise, a lot of the troubles he deals with verge on things that could occur in real life, rather like an action movie. It's possible, not bloody likely, but possible. When he came up to join the JLA the writers had to make sure that Batman was given plenty of chance to shine. Of course, his fans wouldn't really sit still from him being simply in the support position, doing strategy and planning. They wanted him to take out some of the big things here and there.
His massive intellect and resources provided them with an out on the idea that, if given a chance to prepare, he could likely come up with a strategy to defeat any opponent about which he possessed much information. After they'd established his ability to prepare a few times, then they could later just write up an explanation referring to that crazy level of preparation for explaining why he just happened to have something up his sleeve for the particular circumstance at hand.
The problem is that it begins to wear thin after a while. Fans read Batman comics to see Batman overcome adversity and prove that he is a badass. They pick up the JLA to watch him prove that a "normal" human can stand up with, as a friend puts it, "Space Jesus, Green Space Jesus, Cosmic Super Speedster, Divinely Created Warrior Woman and several other similarly powerful characters". For those that are fans and have been reading Batman comics for a long time, this is fine and doesn't matter. For other people, it stretches the bounds of reality, some times to the point of going "meh".
This is also a reason why you find youtube entries like "Why Batman can beat the Avengers" and other such things. Because the fans of the character believe that Batman can beat anybody given the right preparation and circumstances. Well, guess what, anybody can beat anybody given the right preparation and circumstances. The reason Batman gets such things so often is because, as already said, the fans expect it.
Realistically speaking, Batman is not a physical threat to most superhuman characters. In the death battle video that started this, the video starts with showing Batman toss around Spiderman at the start quite a bit. Even that little bit wouldn't really happen.
The physical differences are too extreme. Spider-man has 20 times the strength, 20 times the reflexes, is capable of surviving a tremendous amount of punishment beyond what Batman can, and his Spider-Sense is a natural, inborn version of the holy grail of martial arts. To be honest, neither Wolverine nor Captain America should realistically be able to defeat Spider-Man and both are of comparable level of training and skill to Batman with commensurate higher levels of experience each.
Of course, this is pretty much what the Death Battle crew ruled when they had Spiderman win, and people complained.
Now, of course, people are going to say "but you're a Spiderman fan, of course you think he'd win." And yes, I prefer Spiderman over Batman. I find Spiderman to be the most mis-used and abused character out of either Marvel or DC. There's loads of potential there and loads of interesting threads to travel...unfortunately...Marvel wants to keep Spiderman to a formula and thus plot needs makes him come out weaker and more 2-dimensional than he really should be.
However, that said, I am not saying this because of Spiderman. Spiderman has experienced the same popularity advantage in the past. If you look hard enough, you will find a Spider-Man vs Superman comic in which Spider-Man wins...and no, he doesn't use kryptonite.
Realistically, there is no way that Spider-Man can beat Superman. Heck, there's no reason even Goku from Dragonball Z should be able to beat Superman in a fight. The numbers we are privy to across so many comics basically make Superman the most awfully over-powered character in either DC or Marvel with the possible exception of such things as Galactus.
I am not particularly a fan of Superman, I generally find him hard to relate to. As I noted, one of my friends states that he is essentially DC's attempt to do "Space Jesus". In reality, I've run across two characters that do the Jesus metaphor pretty damn well, and without sledgehammering it too much: Captain America and Vash the Stampede. Superman just feels rather pretentious and blind to what being mortal is.
This same can be said of entire universes. The Star Wars vs Star Trek discussions are legendary. However, a concentrated look at the numbers involved makes it clear that even a small one or two man bounty hunter craft such as owned by Jango Fett thoroughly overpowers every known version of the Enterprise. Also, the Star Wars universe spans the entire galaxy while the main portion of Star Trek occurs within a single quadrant. So Star Wars has advantages in speed, numbers, resources, power, shields and weaponry. A simple investigation makes it quite clear that Star Wars wins, but the Star Trek fans continue to claim otherwise.
Of course, now would come the accusations that I am a Star Wars fan. To tell you the truth, if asked Star Wars or Star Trek, my answer would be Stargate or Babylon 5. Babylon 5 tech is very, very clearly not even up to the level of Star Trek tech. So, in a B5 vs ST war, B5 would lose....badly...humiliatingly...embarrassingly. Despite this, I much prefer B5. As to Stargate, hard to say, its tech zigzags all over the place so I'm not sure. By the end of Atlantis and SG-1 they have ships magnitudes faster than Star Wars ships and fuel supplies many times more efficient but I'm uncertain of their comparable shields and weapons powers. However, if the comparison of weapons was analogous to the comparison of engines and fuel, then each SG vessel would be several times more powerful than a death star and the series doesn't bear that up. I'd say that SG would likely lose, even if their weapons were comparable to Star Wars (which I doubt). Their fleet is excessively small, even by the time of Universe, compared to the ST:NG or ST:TOS Federation. So both of my favorite space opera stories would likely lose battles to either Star Trek or Star Wars.....the numbers do not lie.
The point is, there really is no point to saying how so and so a character would win in such and such a fight. Pointing back to old comics to show them beating similarly powerful opponents is not evidence. Remember, the reason characters win is because of plot. The reason long-term characters or groups continue winning against impossible odds is because people like you enjoy said character and companies fear they will lose money if they write stories according to the most probable results. There is no reason to tell someone else "man, my favorite character can beat your favorite character." The ability to defeat character or groups from outside series should in no way be a model of why you enjoy a character or series. It's a ridiculous metric and just makes problems.
Faerie Tales is a fun piece of reading for anybody who finds Urban Fantasy an appealing subject. There are werecreatures, vampires, witches and, of course, the Fae.
As with most novels at the start of the series, there is a fair amount of world building. We are first introduced to the Night of Revelations and its impact on the world at large. As we go along we're given more insights into the world at large ranging from the small to the sweeping. It is rather smoothly integrated into the story as a whole.
The mythology of the piece is complex and multi-layered. I found myself wondering many things, such as the reaction of various Hunters to the Revelations. The fact that the Fae are as much a mystery to Riley as they are to us drives that point home fairly severely. It really is a case of there being more things under Heaven and Earth than are dreamt about.
I have to admit, when it comes to the main character, that Irish-Japanese mixes are a relatively common thing for me. Though I've mostly used the combination to create a unique fantasy culture. As such Riley O'Neil is a delight. She quite often shows glimpses of either culture under her otherwise thoroughly American attitudes.
I also begin to wonder if the later books will begin to show Japanese myths coming out. Maybe the Night Parade of a Thousand Demons or the oni of Onigashima. Well. I'll just have to read the other books to find out.
I have been less than satisfied with the blurbs I've written for myself, so I've decided to hold a contest.
Currently the ebook version of the Divine Blood: Semester Starts Novel has been reduced in price to $1. It will stay there until the end of the contest on the last day of June.
You can purchase it at:
Anyone who returns an acceptable 250-500 blurb to my email (thrythlindgmail.com) or my deviantart account (here) will have that $1 refunded. A blurb is acceptable if it uses good grammar, shows effort and positively describes the book.
The blurb chosen for the sale-sites will receive a signed print copy.
The Rafflecopter will randomly choose three other people who will receive one of the following prizes:
A signed print copy of Divine Blood (or other book of mine if you prefer)
One of two unsigned print copies of Divine Blood
The rafflecopter can be found on the left hand side here: thrythlind.blogspot.com/
In the wake of Knights of the Night finishing their one-shot adventure, I have come to following conclusions about Numenera.
Setting wise, Numenera persists in being very unique and open for use to set a variety of campaigns. You could be playing the peacekeepers of the mostly stable and just realms in the Steadfast, on the borders defending the frontier from encroaching barbarians from the Beyond, or you could be one of the people in the strife and conflict beset Beyond trying to eke out a life. There vagueness of the setting's history allows for a lot of hooks to prior ages as decided by the players. I have in mind a current desire to play a Cthulhu-tech game followed later by a Numenera game in which the players find ancient monuments or signs of their CT characters.
That said. The setting is the primary draw of this game. There is a class of games that I purchase not for the system but the setting. One example of such would be Palladium's Nightbane setting which has a wonderfully delicious mythology going for it even if you ignore the overall Palladium multiverse. I should note that I have also purchased Heroes Unlimited and other Palladium books purely for idea generation. Likewise the next time I run the Scion setting will likely not use the Scion system. Numenera has now joined these ranks.
Matched with the lovely and evocative setting is a decidedly problematic system.
Starting with the character creation, the basic system is a wonderfully elegant thing. You choose three templates: a profession, a descriptor and a focus using a framework of "[Name] is a(n) [adjective] [noun] who [verbs]." There are literally hundreds of possible combinations, on the end closer to one thousand. Unfortunately, this creates a wide variance.
The six characters I created for myself mostly had three to six separate skills. By comparison, the Knights of the Night were laboring with characters that on average had two to three skills. I should also note that it is possible in character creation to get to a specialized level in one or two skills. I found it especially easy to do so. However, this is something of a trap. Depending on your chosen focus it is possible that your character would receive extra training in that skill later. This sounds good until you realize that skill training past "specialized" is lost. As such you have to check your future stat gains to make sure you aren't robbing yourself later in the game. This is annoying to me. I feel like I'm being punished for being too efficient in character building.
"Oh, you look, you can specialize Speed Defense right off the bat but if you do that we're not going to give you this mid-tier advance here. Well, we'll give it to you but it won't do anything."
The foci are very beautifully done for the most part. At least thematically, however there are some problems here as well. For one thing, there is a lot of variance. You have foci that are broadly usable such as "Masters Defense" or "Talks with Machines", but then there are things like "Exists Partially Out of Phase" the initial levels of which would be very useful in some games but pointless in others. Unfortunately, a lot of GMs will note that the phaser can walk through walls and either deem such obstacles pointless, thus never using them and giving a phaser (or other sort) the chance to shine; or else fiat an anti-phasing Numenera frequently enough to make the power pointless. The second is worse than the first because now you're pretty much rubbing the player's face in the fact they don't get to use this power they picked. A good GM won't have a problem with this, but an average to mediocre GM, which are the majority, might.
Then, of course, there's "Howls at the Moon." I think the only way that got through playtest is because it likely did not receive much play by the testers. This "power" would represent about 20-40 points of Disadvantages in a HERO System game. The focus represents a tremendous loss of agency. There is an increase in physical capability, yes, but your character never acquires total control over it. At the highest levels the most control a player has over the ability is, at the highest levels of character advancement, be able to turn it on and off at will. This sounds like it should be enough but I then have thoughts of a GM enforcing the attack anything attitude when a character finishes one enemy and the nearest other thing is another PC. Sure I'd be able to change out of monster form but then I'd be naked on a battlefield and have to run towards the enemy next turn so I could turn back into a monster again. There is no real usable benefit for the character while they are in human form. No extra health. No increased healing. Nope the only power this focus gives you is the ability to excuse being a player killer. Knights of the Night handled it about as well as I imagine it could be handled and it still dominated several sessions and at times seemed to threaten to derail the adventure.
Now we come to the actual system. Despite my distaste for the d20 curve, I do not inherently despise all d20 systems. I enjoy M&M as well as d20 Modern/Future especially (I consider it a crime of sheer stupidity that WotC did not pursue the system they developed in D20 Modern and instead decided to take a number of good ideas and shove them brutally through the 4e wood chipper under the impression that it seemed to work for Fargo. But the misuse of the gems shattered and scattered through 4e is another rant.). All that said, Numenera is the first d20 system I've seen that magnifies the weaknesses of the flat curve system.
Instead of applying bonuses to die rolls, Numenera works primarily by reducing difficulties. Skill training reduces things by one level per rank of training (trained or specialized) spending effort and the use assets reduces things further. It sounds as if this is the same thing as roll bonuses. And to some degree it is, with each reduction in difficulty being essentially a +3 on the roll. However the overall probability comes out such that chance is more often a factor than it is in D&D or other more traditional bonus related d20 systems. The limits on how many levels of training you get leaves it difficult to ever eliminate chance the way you can with high bonuses to skills.
On the one hand, this makes it easier to plan encounters and obstacles because there's less of a chance that any particular difficulty level will become obsolete the way a DC 10 does in D&D. On the other hand it feels to the player as if there isn't any growth going on.
The main problem with the system is in the form of its attempt at a resource management style of play. The awarding and use of certain points in this system is very similar to what is used in the Fate system. It is also reminiscent of the way Hero Points can be used in M&M, Drama Points in Cthulhutech, Energy in Big Eyes, Small Mouth, Willpower in WW games, Motes/Legend/Blood Pool/Rage/Quintessence/whatever also in White Wolf games and Action Points in certain d20 games. The main problem being, of course, that all of none of these systems use experience points as the metagame resource while Numenera does.
Before I go further into the use of experience points as a roll manipulator, lets look at the other resource in play. The star pools. You have pools for Might, Speed and Intellect. You use the points from these pools in order to perform actions. This is all well and good until you look to see how damage is done: which is by reducing your pools. And if you take more damage than you have pool you become damaged or disabled or dead. If I remember the levels right.
Yes, just to confirm, every ability is cast from hit points. If you muster a large amount of resources and effort in an attack that fails to finish off an enemy you could find yourself seriously injured next round from what would otherwise have been a small hit. Conversely if you get hit early on, you won't be able to make the big dramatic efforts. The rest mechanics helps this very, very minimally. It still remains that dramatic action is not encouraged by the system while cautious, wary play is. This may be realistic, but it is not dramatic. Being unable to match a low hit point status with an all or nothing effort is..annoying. And it isn't just unwise to do so, the system simply does not allow for it. You can't perform all or nothing efforts when low on HP because that HP would fuel the effort.
Back to the experience point reroll mechanic. First of all there's a paucity of options. Most other meta-mechanics allow you a number of options to use with the spent resource: Reroll or bonus to the roll with Hero Points and Legend, for example. Spending xp in Numenera only allows for one option. However the one option it allows is the one that is more ruled by chance: reroll. Also, they could have opted for the M&M style reroll where 10 is added to any result less than 11, but they didn't. I'm fairly sure this was done to prevent the characters from absolutely insuring the success of a particular roll the way you can in Fate, Scion or BESM (if you're willing to risk unconsciousness). This would be an understandable design choice if the spent resource were anything OTHER than Experience Points. If you are spending XP on any particular roll you should damn well have an assurance of that roll at least squeaking through a success. Especially in a system that gives out XP sparingly.
I would also like to point out something else about the meta mechanics of other games. In most other games meta resources come rather quickly. Fate Points flow like water in a properly run game. Legend and Willpower in Scion is recovered by giving your actions thematic flare called "stunting" which itself gives you 1-3 bonus dice based on how cool the table finds the stunt. (Your recovery of Willpower and Legend is determined by how many stunt dice you get). Hero Points in M&M refresh per session and come whenever you do something particularly heroic or in character. Blood pool recovers by feeding. Energy in BESM recovers by resting. All of these are easily done so that you refresh between scenes. XP in Numenera only comes at the end of a session or when the GM causes something bad to happen, which will likely cause your party to have to spend more XP than the event rewarded.
My initial concern was the XP sharing system, where a player gains XP when the GM decides to do something evil to his character (a mechanic that sounds exactly like an Aspect compel from Fate). The player gets two XP, one for himself and one for another player of his or her choice. This concern did not arise in the KotN podcast though I suspect that's because they are largely mature players who have been gaming together for years. I suspect it would be a point of contention with younger, less well knit groups.
The advancement scheme does not concern me. That is ripped directly from Savage Worlds and could easily work if the characters weren't dumping their XP towards surviving. That said, the advancements themselves DO concern me. While you can increase Edge and Pools and other such things, the costs of Powers and Tricks as you level seems to rapidly out pace the growth of your resources. This, however, is simple conjecture based on the design philosophies that have become apparent in listening to the KotN podcast. Numenera is built around a philosophy of restricting character achievement in hopes of producing a sense of tension. I'd expect that philosophy to continue, so when I see the costs of powers reaching 3,4,5 and higher use costs rather quickly, I have to think that the intention is for higher level powers to be all or nothing gambits. As I have said earlier, the system does not numerically encourage all or nothing gambits.
The KotN discussion of skills and a lack of a social interaction method is also a concern. Given you have intellect points could it not have been possible to come up with a system of attack and defense that doesn't result in death in order to simulate lively and vicious debate? Instead all the discussion is about physical combat. Likewise the system either defines the skills too much or not enough. It seems as if because they encourage players to make up their own skills, the developers decided it wasn't necessary to define what was meant by the couple of dozen example skills they included. Largely I look at the skill system as similar to the 4e situation: underdeveloped. Actually, worse. 4e skills and skill challenges included some innovative concepts. Numenera skills are a disguised +3 or +6 (depending on trained/specialized level) bonus to rolls made involving a player decided set of tasks. Also 4e thoroughly defines what it's skills can and can't do. Likewise Fate, HERO, BESM and other "make your own" skills systems include well defined default skills and at least some guidelines in making up your own skills. Numenera has neither well defined default skills nor guidelines to creation nor any particularly interesting innovations.
All in all the system is troubled, extremely so. The main trouble is focused around the resource management aspect and the fact that the game is set up by enforcing both cast-from-HP and cast-from-XP. Without that issue, most of the rest of the system could be dealt with. As it stands the character creation procedure and the mechanic of the characters rolling for everything while the GM never rolls are the only features I like.
Currently drivethruRPG shows this PDF as selling at $19.99. At that price I consider the book to be just barely worth it on setting alone. However, the normal price is showing to be $60. This game is not worth paying $60 for. If you like the setting idea so much you can watch Scrapped Princess (which a reliable friend tells me is almost literally the same setting) and/or make your own thing up. Heck, as long ago as ten years ago I had an idea for a world engineered and run by what were essentially gamer nerds with nanotechnology, genetic engineering, digital consciousness transfer and little to no morality. But don't buy Numenera if it goes to its "original price".
Some ways that might work to fix Numenera. Just some outside thoughts, multiple variations.
Skills are relatively easy, simply make sure that you and your players have a clear pre-game understanding of what you think a particular skill covers or doesn't cover.
Allow Effort to be applied retroactively. This is thematic, since it can represent the last-ditch effort to achieve a success out of failure.
Use some other points to rather than XP for reroll. Name them whatever, Drama Points, Fate Points whatever.
Give more XP.
Separate the pools from Health, have mental and physical health be their own pool rather than cause damage to be taken from the pool that allows characters to do stuff.
Expand the combat consequences, the current system is essentially a hacked variation of the Stress and Consequence system from Fate. Allow more Consequences than the listed amount. For example having a social combat using the same mechanics and attacking the character's Health pool could result in someone believing a lie rather than being dead.
If you insist on spending XP for the rerolls, weight the reroll in the favor of the character. Roll 2d20 and take the highest, for example. Roll 1d20 and add +10 to any result less than 11.
Howls at the Moon needs an overhaul. There needs to be some sort of benefit to it that doesn't involve attacking your party members.
Oh. Use Mutants and Masterminds, BESM, Fate or HERO systems but set it in the Numenera setting.
The Strands of Fate game:
Strands of Fate
Strands of Power
Journal Entries by CategorySince my previous index freaked out. Here's another one...will iron it out in a bit here.
New seeds Index by Thrythlind
A lot of fantasy and horror fiction seems to borrow from the old idea of the great Adversary who is trying to topple God's work. The actual terms and names used matter very little. You could talk about the Abrahamic God, the Force, a pantheon of elemental entities or even just an elder progenitor race of some sort. What matters for this discussion is the nature of the conflict.
Most evil is accidentally inflicted such as, for example, you cutting someone off in traffic without realizing it, causing them to correct and miss the changing light, getting stuck there for a minute or so and causing them through a chain of other events to be late for work. You caused harm there, even if you didn't know it. It is probably a minor harm, or it could be a major harm. For example if the person in question has a history of being late and this was his last chance. It could even be a major harm that neither of you ever realize, such as if being late by two or three minutes prevents the other person from meeting a person with whom they could have had a wonderful conversation and eventually become significant others.
No, we aren't really interested in discovering if Eru can defeat the evil Morgoth in the story. That's a forgone conclusion. We aren't even really interested in seeing the results of the Valar and Morgoth directly fighting (at least more than once), since Morgoth and his followers are explicitly weakening as they grow older. We are instead interested in seeing if the Valar can save the elves before Morgoth kills or corrupts them all, or if the elves can maintain their righteousness while battling Morgoth or seeking the Silmarils.
The Battle of Good and Evil is interesting as a micro-conflict, as in within the heart of a particular person. This might be the heart of the entire story, but it is still a micro-conflict since it involves primarily only a single person.
Neither of those really represents a loss of Agency to me. Faith, from my perspective, is an active choice and thus one thing that to me represents my Agency because I am actively believing in something for which I have no scientific proof. It is my choice to believe and even then, I don't believe in this ridiculous idea of some invisible long-bearded wizard who will solve all my problems for me because I prayed hard enough (doesn't stop me from praying really hard for some rather selfish things, I'll admit). I have a body, a mind and Free Will, if God planned on solving all my problems, then why do I have these three things?
As to the other, yes, my characters very frequently are devout followers of some religion whether they're actually of X game's cleric class or not. However, to me, the cleric/diety relationship in most fantasy worlds and games is really more like an employee/employer relationship than it is a worshiper/deity relationship. Granted, a large part of that is me dismissing these other entities as the Creator and simply accepting them as some level of existence between a human and the Allmighty. In the same way I can accept working for a company in exchange for cash, I can accept a cleric following a deity in exchange for power, especially if both the cleric and deity have similar ideals.
The Strands of Fate game:
Strands of Fate
Strands of Power
Journal Entries by CategorySince my previous index freaked out. Here's another one...will iron it out in a bit here.
New seeds Index by Thrythlind
This was a rather enjoyable story. The chosen sorts of magic and the world setting are comfortingly familiar. However, the real star of the show here is the main character's development.
There are two indicated forms of magic in the world setting as presented. There is the magic of the mages and the magic of the witches. Given that the main character is a witch and everything that we are shown is stuff that she witnesses, we know the most about the witch's magics. Witches have a spellbook which is invisible to the eyes of people who aren't witches. This spellbook fills up with new spells as the witch has need of them. This is a mechanic rather similar to that used in the Young Wizards series or in El Goonish Shive. While the spells themselves appear ready to use, the witch still needs to study them and in many cases collect the right ingredients to perform them. For the most part, witchcraft is divided into white and black magic with white magic being the sort that heals and black magic being the sort that destroys. For the most part, the magic is of an elemental nature using all five of the classical elements including the oft-forgotten Spirit that is part of the Greek elements.
We know next to nothing of how the magic of the mages works however.
The world setting begins in our own world, but almost immediately moves toward a pre-Renaissance world similar to ancient Britain. Freemen and women mark their status by wearing a seax, which is a sort of dagger. There are slaves, called theow, which seem to be based on the serfs of the ancient world. An exact equivalent century is hard to place, but it is probably sometime in the early AD period. We don't have much information about the political situation since the story focuses so much on the one isolated village. I am not certain that there are any extensive nations since banishment seems to remain a punishment of choice. If there were other villages within easy travel that would be less likely. Also, visitors from other worlds are not an unknown thing. The villagers take Briley's appearance with a shrug and are the ones to explain to her that she was pulled from another world.
Briley and Smokey got most, if not all, of the character development in the story. The remaining characters are fairly static in nature. This is possibly as a result of the focus on Briley's perspective. Briley spends most of the book in various positions along the spiral of depression. I know a lot of people who could probably recognize the self-recrimination and self-shaming that comes with the process. I recognize a lot of it myself, which allowed me to connect on a personal level. The problem with this is that this sort of depression is very much self-focused since the first response most people on the spiral have is "what is wrong with me" and, as a result, we only have shallow impressions of the other characters. I hope to see this remedied in the future installments.
I hope no one minds this but I find myself in a fix. My laptop died today. I'm suspecting condensation as a result of the cold getting into my apartment because there was a lot of water underneath it (and apparently in it) this morning.
Luke, stop putting your book prices on your individual deviations. When you change your prices that means you have to look through them all and change them all, miss some (several (most)) and have out of date information floating around.
So Cthulhu-Tech is a setting where humanity has taken a turn away from the direction predicted by Lovecraft's writings. Instead of being an entirely non-event in the long run, humanity has developed some things that are putting them on the map. They developed Arcanotechnology and adopted sorcery and magic as an accepted thing which results in the end of cancer and many diseases as well as revolutionizing warfare and exploration. The migou freak out because we're not supposed to event things they never thought of, humanity is just supposed to be labor animals and guinea pigs for them. Humanity is not supposed to be important. So they start coming up with a way to put us back in our place and whip up a genetically engineered "alien" race which is mostly human genetically speaking and send them out with false memories to conquer humanity unknowingly in the name of the migou. This goes horribly wrong (from the perspective of the migou) when this alien race, the Nazzadi, turn against them and join the humans and so the migou invade directly themselves. In the midst of this, the Deep Ones and the Esoteric Order of Dagon start waging their own war while seeking to wake up Cthulhu and Hastur's hordes are also on the move.
It made me wonder how races or people from other fictional realms would do in the setting, so I've thought a little bit about it:
The Return Succubae
These are formerly-human eldritch abominations. Unlike most people, the relative morality of a succubus varies from individual to individual. Many succubae have lots of actual human friends and seek to act in defense of humanity as a whole. Their sexual proclivities would likely not be considered so much of an issue in a world setting where the average person has lost their virginity at the age of 12 and sex is seen as much of a way to get to know one another as dating. However, the longer they're succubae the more alien their thought processes get. Among other things, while a succubae will always be able to empathize with some humanity, they have no qualms about engaging in what would be seen as cannibalism when attacked. Basically, while any human could be a true friend from their perspective, enemies need to be killed and if you kill something you might as well eat it.
Succubae can be killed but they are no longer mortal and thus have a disjointed perspective of things from a human perspective. They are also still prone to psychological trauma. Further battle with supernatural entities pushes their inhuman natures and they can suffer emotional trauma similar to humans which causes them to lose control over their baser nature. Long-term harmonious co-existence between humans and succubae is not only possible but is implied to be the situation in the dimension most succubae hail from.
Most likely, the Return succubae would not want to involve themselves in the Aeon War. They have their own dimensional reality with a stable society and have no need to protect Earth. Also, succubae have a heavily maternal view towards the people they change and it is likely most succubae would not want to risk the lives of their daughters in a situation that seems hopeless. That said, if there were succubae on Earth before the Aeon War broke out, then those Broods would likely have friends or connections among the mortals and be insistent on protecting them.
Humanity and Nazzadi in Cthulhu-Tech would largely not accept the succubae because they are beyond the extent of mortality and most immortals in the Aeon War are inherently inimical to human society. Also, while succubae can become pregnant or impregnate others with their swiss-army use tails, the fact remains that a lot of succubae were human until someone bit them and turned them into succubae. And while many succubae limit transformations to people that ask or emergency life-saving situations, there are also succubae who enjoy changing people forcibly. The fact that most succubae see these transformed as sisters or daughters and thus aren't interested in forcibly changing them would be lost on most humans.
Power wise, Return succubae range from being relatively vulnerable teenagers to being on level with the more powerful tagers so they fit easily within the balance of Cthulhu-tech.
Marvel and DC style supers are in general far more powerful than most of the entities in the setting. The most powerful para-psychics of Cthulhu-tech are low level powers in Marvel and DC settings. They'd be unlikely to suffer the sanity-bending effects most humans suffer when encountering mythos style monsters. Contrary to what most Lovecraft fans believe, DC and Marvel have multiple entities on level with or surpassing the power of even Nyarlhotep, much less Cthulhu and some of them are highly active superheroes.
Mages, Clerics and Psions in most D&D settings have a range of power and versatility to make most of the creatures in Lovecraft mythos look tame. Even the non-spellcasters have become long-inured to such bizarre creatures as are common in Lovecraft. Indeed, many D&D settings have creatures that are far more bizarre and separate from the common understanding of reality. Non-spellcasters would have to be able to pick up modern skills and lower-level spellcasters would have minor impact. However, high level spellcasters could, on their own, wipe out entire battle-fields worth of mecha.
Cthulhu-tech magic and psionics, compared to D&D style casters and psions, would seem amazingly primitive and impractical compared to their own. Spells that would take a Cthulhu-tech hours and a full ritual to cast would take a mid-level caster a few seconds of incantation. The operating time of even the strongest psychic would seem comparable to the endurance of apprentice spell-casters (though often of much greater power during that small period of effectiveness).
Babylon 5 Races
Unless you're talking the Vorlons, Shadows or other First Ones; the races of Babylon 5 would possibly have the necessary equipment to contest the migou in open space, but the telepaths of the setting are largely weaker than Cthulhu-tech para-psychics. Also, while the races are more used to alien entities, they aren't as used to things of the nature of the monsters employed by the Rapine Storm or the Dagonites. They would likely adapt quickly enough, but they'd be lagging behind at first.
Divine Blood Races
Yes, this is my own setting. Most psychics and people in the Divine Blood setting are ill-prepared for battle. Altering things on a quantum level to the point of seeming to bend reality is an inherent function of sentient life, even if most don't know the ability even exists, however, only a small number of people are prepared for the mental and emotional trauma inflicted by near constant warfare. Assuming the physics of both settings is compatiable, there'd be minimal loss of power. DB sorcerers would consider CT sorcerers as mere shapers and the para-psychics as rather versatile Talents. Most of the entities of CT range from high Tier 3 to low Tier 2 in DB. Tier 1 psychics such as the highest profile Gods and Demons, a few nine-tailed kitsune and handful of humans have the power to scour the globe.
DB mecha are significantly smaller though the rail guns of the heavier tanks are of comparable power to plasma cannons and other heavy mecha weapons, though probably not the charge beam. Demon and God mecha are significantly more powerful than anything fielded by any of the sides in the Aeon War, however, Demon and God mecha haven't been fielded in millions of years and most are poorly maintained. Gargoyles likely have things that would match the CT battlefield, but gargoyles are more likely to vanish than to get involved in "human problems".
In general, if someone were to be pulled from DB universe to CT universe, it would likely be some civilian with, at most, a mild understanding of psychic abilities. They'd likely die soon after. Demons and Gods would likely be out of it while their bodies try to process the differences in physics of the two settings. Said differences in physics would cause several Talents, channeling techniques and shaping rituals to misfire, ramp up too high or otherwise malfunction. Sorcery (channeling and shaping) was created through thousands of years of experimentation and trial and error and it would take similar amount of time to catalog all the differences in techniques between one universe and the next. Talents operate on instinct developed with DB universe and most Talents wouldn't have the training necessary to adjust their instinct to fix these problems. However, since things are similar enough to DB (powered by internal energy produced by each sentient) the adjustments would individually take little time. That said, DB races do produce more energy (either that or they are more efficient about it) than CT people, recover faster and mostly know how to channel the stress of such things into small physical symptoms rather than psychological effects.
But yeah, anybody ripped out of DB universe to CT universe would have to be lucky enough to either appear somewhere outside of the fighting or be one of the DB universe bad-asses to hope to survive.
The Strands of Fate game:
Strands of Fate
Strands of Power
Journal Entries by CategorySince my previous index freaked out. Here's another one...will iron it out in a bit here.
New seeds Index by Thrythlind
This book is a play on the popular trend in supernatural romances that are out in the market today. There are some significant differences from the standard formula of the young woman falling in love with the vampire that make this an interesting variation.
Typical of the genre, the vampires in question are at least a moderate example of defectors from decadence. They do not completely abstain from feeding from others, though mostly they limit themselves to feeding in situations such as when dealing with a threat. They make attempts to explain the reality of people who are born and raised to serve as a food source for vampires and even attend restaurants that stock blood taken directly from humans. However, they mostly feed on artificially produced or heavily processed blood packs.
Another change from the genre formula is that the main character is already in the process of becoming a vampire when she meets the vampire brothers, however, she isn't aware of it yet. This fact makes a lot of the reasons why they interact with her more logical and rational. There is an actual reason for these vampires to take an interest in her beyond just another human in this situation.
Then there is the fact that the main character is far from a passive girl waiting on her boyfriend and brothers to solve matters for her. Most of the savagery seen in the pages is actually carried out by Marisa rather than any of the other vampires. While she finds herself needing rescue more than once or twice, she is not content to settle into that position.
There are a number of grammatical or word choice errors throughout the story and it could do with a good editing. Most of the errors will be passed without trouble but it is occasionally jarring. This could be easily dealt with in the future, however.
One interesting thing is that the sense of continuity in the center of the story is somewhat difficult to follow. It is a first person storyline and there is a section of story where Marisa's experiencing visions or hallucinations of some sort and these are not noted as such at first, making it difficult to suss out what is real and what is not. This disorientation appears to be a deliberate choice and I am of mixed opinion about. On the one hand, it puts us in a state of mind very much similar to that experienced by Marisa, on the other hand it occasionally leaves me honestly disoriented and, in one or two places, wondering if I'm reading a segment of story that was not intended to be part of the finished product. I worry that it will throw a number of readers off their game.
Overall, it presents some intriguing shifts from the standard vampire romance along with an interesting mythology and it is really worth the read.
The Strands of Fate game:
Strands of Fate
Strands of Power
New seeds Index by Thrythlind
This is a fairly interesting young adult fantasy romance that has some moderate issues connected to it. Granted, some of what I might have to say may be a result of this story being outside the normal realm of my preferred genre, but as much as the setting and circumstances are interesting, I can't say I much enjoyed the story. I'm sure many people would, but there was a lot of the storyline that made me feel uncomfortable.
The mythology of the setting is wonderful, with the four varieties of magical people: elementals, changelings, warriors and mystics; all gifted by Gaia. The assumption seems to be that any one person could only have one of the gifts, but this is proven off fairly frequently. The one accepted exception is the Queen, who is the personification of Gaia and thus has a lot of gifts in all the different categories, but the story presents at least one other character whose gifts cross the boundaries.
The concept of a Queen who is the personification of Gaia and yet is a separate individual is also very interesting. It has similarities in nature with the way the Avatar was depicted as being one soul with many lives and personalities, which were able to converse with one another in the Last Airbender, and, of course, it bears more than a passing resemblance to the Christian understanding of the relationship between Christ and the Father. The rules and nature of the Queen is rather interesting as well. The fact that she inherently knows all there is to know about Gaia (including stuff that nobody has ever written down), the fact that she can call up the memories of all the past queens and other such things. There is also the matter of promises and her mate, but I'll deal with that later as it falls under things that I found distasteful.
Ostensibly, the story is set on Earth in an academy hidden away somewhere in Missouri. However, there isn't much need for the setting to be Earth at all. I suppose someone might have an issue with a fantasy world having malls or such, but given that there is never the slightest mention of real world politics and social issues and everything relates to the hidden politics of the magical world complete with ruling families and mythical places, the story could have benefited much by just inventing a new setting and forgetting the idea of it being on Earth at all.
There is a pervasive level of mind control involved in everything to do with the Queen and those around her. She is both the victim of it and the source of it at the same time. This would not be so bad except for the fact that it is stated at least once that Gaia tries to protect Free Will. This fact goes completely counter to the fact that any Warrior will obey the Queen when she gives a direct order. They don't have to know she's the Queen, they don't even have to realize they just obeyed her, but they will. Gaia's purported love of Free Will is also lacking in the fact that the Queen does not get to choose her own spouse. The people choose her mate for her and said mate has supernatural benefits that make him all but irresistible to the Queen. Even this wouldn't be so bad except for certain assertions. The mate in the book is confirmed by someone who can see souls to actually love the main character outside of her role as Queen...he himself states he's trying to do everything he can to give her what she wants and make her happy...at the same time that he admits to enjoying putting her in situations where she feels guilty. On her side, she is immediately up front and honest with him about loving someone else and planning to take a loophole that allows her to be with the man she chooses. On his side, he's consistently twisting the knife and reminding her how horrible her feelings toward the man she loves makes him feel and how much he likes it when he's made her feel guilty about something because it shows she has feelings for him too. I'm sorry, that's not love. That's emotional abuse. It is no different than what the more blatant antagonist of the story is doing to the main character. If he really loved her, he would be avoiding calling her attention to such things and letting her be happy with the man she wants. No, what the mate character is showing is so far from love that it makes me more than a little uncomfortable.
Largely, I think the whole emotional bond/chosen mate and promise issue mostly only exists to give justification for love at first sight and to allow a love triangle to spring up in a way that they can absolve the main character of any sort of wrong doing despite the fact that she seems to be leading on most of the male cast at different times in the book. Her behavior, while often inappropriate, is largely that of an uncertain young adult trying to find what she wants in the world. Dalliances with three, maybe four different guys wouldn't seem that out of character for her age, however, that's probably the problem. The authors seem to want to make everyone of her dalliances to be of deep emotional importance, so they push things to the point where she seems very much a tease that just barely stops at the point of sexual consummation (something she has to avoid because of mystical reasons). I don't think her behavior is nearly as bad as that of the story's antagonist or her "mate's" rather perverse emotional abuse, but the fact is that she is out of line a lot of the time.
There are other issues as well, including the odd typo where editing failed to recognize that the wrong word had been placed in the situation. All in all, the story was well written, but the hypocrisy of the Mind Control twinned with a supposed love for Free Will makes me more than a little upset. There is potential, but it could be much better.
The Strands of Fate game:
Strands of Fate
Strands of Power
New seeds Index by Thrythlind
What Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 needed. A lot of this is stuff 4e did correctly.
Skill List needs to be consolidated
Sleight of Hand, Open Lock and Disable Device were consolidated into Thievery. Balance and Tumble were consolidated into Acrobatics. Spot, Listen and Search were consolidated into Perception. Jump, Swim and Climb were consolidated into Athletics. Spellcraft and Knowledge: Arcana were consolidated into Arcana.
Magic needed to be separated into Utility, Tactical and High Magic
4e did this half-right by instituting the Rituals feat. But they took a good idea and screwed it up by only taking a half step. (Granted, the wargaming style templates they utilized were an even bigger mistake, but still)
Utility magics, like Unseen Servant and Tenser's Floating Disc should be more or less flavor. The sort of minor things that make life easier but aren't usually capable of turning a tide in battle (minus a really clever player, of course). Headache cures, obvious illusions for entertainment, lights and the like. They should have low material costs and take less than fifteen minutes to cast and available to anybody of any level. The Ritualist feat from 4e accomplished this...sort of...but made the casting of these rituals require prohibitively expensive materials cost for even minor flavor type effects. Utility magics should be relatively easy to acquire and cast.
Tactical magic would be things like magic missile, obscuring mist and fireball. Tactical magic should be able to be used repetitively and be able to make the spellcaster the match for non-spellcasters in combat but not their superior. One of the problems that 1st through 3.5e magic had was that the balancing factor was that spellcasters could use a limited number of spells per day and when that spell list reached its end, they weren't as able to affect the battles. The result was that the developers felt justified in giving players powers of vast destructive or manipulative ability based on that idea that they'd only be able to use one or two per day. Instead, they should have had a selection of reusable powers that kept them adding to the combat encounter after encounter without overshadowing the entire party.
High magic is the stuff like wide-scale curses, magical plagues, long-lasting wards, the creation of powerful magical artifacts, powerful scrying, permanent magical traps, summonings of major planar entities, the building of extraplanar refuges and things like that. These should take quite a long time to cast, proportionate to their impact, and also cost a significant amount of materials. I like the concept of these falling under the Ritual feat in 4e because that meant that anybody of any class could conceivably cast and create these sorts of High Magic. This meant that the master blacksmith could statistically be able to create a magical weapon without having any other magic connected to them and a bunch of cultists that have no other spell casters could summon a major demon. The fiction of D&D has non-mages and non-clerics creating near-artifact level weapons and rangers summoning major Demons in an attempt to distract them for a few hours.
High Magic should be difficult to acquire, cost a lot to cast and take a long time to cast. These should be things that take a lot of research and or searching to find even one High Magic ritual.
Which is a way of explaining why a guy who spends his entire time in a library or tower matches up as a threat for someone who's been traveling around collecting experience left, right and center.
Basically, the idea of ANYBODY of ANY class being able to use the High and Utility magics is a good one, with tactical magic being the province of caster classes.
Normalize attack methods.
This is another thing that 4e did right. In 3.5 you have two sorts of attack: in one case the attacker rolls a die and tries to beat a defense or AC to hit the target; in the other case, the defender rolls a die to see if they defeat the attack.
In 4e, they normalized things so that the attacker made the roll in all cases. Instead of having saving throws, they had defenses that the spellcaster had to beat. Some spells targeted Reflex, others attacked Will, others attacked Fortitude. This also allowed them to create attack styles with the non-casters for attacking these other defenses.
This is one of the reasons that people multiclass, because the next level of their current class gives them nothing particularly exciting. Pathfinder and 4e both addressed this issue. Pathfinder did it better because they modified the existent system rather than reworking the system as a whole.
Skill Points are a poor system
I like the way 4e did it: skills were either trained or not. Training in skills gave access to some abilities the untrained didn't have, also Trained skills had an extra +5 bonus to rolls. Aside from that, however, skill rolls scaled with level and you didn't have to put any points into them.
Hit Points needs to be matched with a wound system
Making hit points represent morale, fatigue and the like similar to the way Lord of the Rings Online game defines it is a good idea. In which case, wounds such as broken limbs or bleeding wounds would not be directly treatable by spell casters. Death by hit points would be due to general shock, pain, mystical attacks and exhaustion rather than any specific injury. Magic to heal the wounds would be in the High category and thus be rare, while many casters could heal the hit point damage. People could suffer wounds that give them penalties and take days to recover from without being low on hit points and explain why suffering an injury is still a thing.
Alignment needs to die
Seriously. Just. End it. Out of the alignment system come numerous headache inducing situations that could otherwise be avoided. You can use different triggers for the holy/unholy anarchic/axiomatic weapons.
The Strands of Fate game:
Strands of Fate
Strands of Power
New seeds Index by Thrythlind
This is an exceptionally fun tale that does a little bit in the way of a genre-blending two-step. The characters are lively, animated and personable. It is through those characters that the beautiful setting is painted. There will be a few things that take the reader by surprise, elements that one doesn't expect to run across in what seems to be a traditional fantasy piece, but these elements do nothing but add to uniqueness of the piece. Very much so, this book is a fun little romp and the series promises to be an increasingly fun and dramatic ride.
One of the unusual elements that you're going to find in the book is in the linguistics. Usually, when we read a fantasy novel, we find that the language has been sprinkled with a handful of archaic terms or sentences here and there. This is a trick to give the impression of people from olden times speaking while the author is still using a thoroughly modern dialect. In this book, the author has instead just used the modern dialect without disguising it what so ever. The characters speak in ways that you would expect to hear from people on the street. Further there is the inspired and completely unexpected choice to have the elves of the piece speaking in a tone you'd expect from the south-eastern United States.
Story-telling is a central part of the culture of several characters and so we're given to see a lot of stories-within-the-stories. The elven story-telling style, for instance, is very similar to the laid-back casual yarns of Br'er Rabbit and Johnny in the House of the Rising Sun. It is very much a tale to be told to the young'uns of what can and should be done versus what can't and shouldn't be done. By comparison, the other characters are implied to have a style more akin to what we expect from traditional fantasy, ranging from a tone like that of Galadriel narrating the beginning of the first LotR movie to the boastful and bombastic tale-tellings of a Viking.
The magic system is interesting partially because of the fact that the background of the world is such that magic has been almost irrevocably removed from the environment. Intensely magical creatures and beings have died and others have found themselves more and more hampered. The gods have mostly been cut off from the world and mostly seem not to care, save for a handful. The countries that remain are trying to find ways to deal with their problems that they used to use magic for. Analogous to what would happen if the real-world were to suddenly find all of our technology was non-functional, the world became wracked with plagues, famine and war. And this is where there is a slight genre crossover.
Magic hasn't completely left the world. It now simply can be found within select people here and there. From a flying man to a teen berserker and other things behind. The world now finds itself lacking the magic they used for convenience and faced instead with people growing up with inherent power. Consider if all the technology failed but some people started gaining super-powers, and that's a good comparison to the situation. The majority of these gifted people are still young, however, and what we thus have is a chance to watch the building of a culture only a generation or two removed from the apocalypse. An apocalypse which may have been caused by mortal interference.
The Strands of Fate game:
Strands of Fate
Strands of Power
New seeds Index by Thrythlind