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
Electric cars have been a big thing by the environmentalist and conservationist sorts for quite a while and the concept is very exciting. In truth, completely electrical cars are not a new thing, back in the early days of automobiles, internal combustion was competing against electrical cars and only won out when they added a small electrical engine to supply power enough to start the engine without requiring a person to crank the engine up. At the time, electrical cars were incapable of providing enough power for the cars to be of much use for anything beyond a curiosity and only lasted a short period of time. The technology was re-opened recently in the light of the dwindling supply of fossil fuels and the industry has produced both hybrids and the true plug-in sort of electrical cars everybody associates with the term.
I am not going to say electrical cars are bad. They are a rather exciting possibility, however, the problem is that electrical cars recharge their energy from the power grid so electrical cars are simply another drain on the city power and consume the same fuel that the local power plant does. As such, if you are in an area powered by a coal-based power plant, your electrical car is most likely a worse drain on the environment than the traditional internal combustion engine driving alongside you. It used to be that the construction of these cars was a significant drain as well, but that has been changing. Currently, the major thing that determines whether an electric car is better or worse for the environment is in the nature of the power grid it is drawing from.
In low carbon-use countries, like France (where 75% of the electricity comes from nuclear sources), Iceland, Brazil (with lots of hyrdoelectric) and Sweden (nuclear and hydroelectric), your electric car is going to be several times better than a standard car for the environment. In places like the US, where we're still heavily dependent on fossil fuels, it depends highly on your local, but, by and large, you're likely to find you're in an area supported by coal (52% of American power generation currently) and thus the electric cars in those places are a worse impact, overall, than the standard internal combustion engine.
Wind power is another interesting development in power generation. It has definite potential, but it also has limits. One supporting article pushing for adopting more wind energy has suggested that wind turbines could possibly produce as much as 20% of the nations power requirements, perhaps more. The problem is that this is a supportive article, likely to lean towards the optimistic view. The other issue is that for each megawatt-production, approximately 50 acres is required. This is not so onerous as it initially sounds, the land can also be used for farming, ranching and other things.
A turbine with a capacity of 1 MW can produce between 2.4 million kilowatt hours and 4 million kWH annually which is wide, wide, wide range of result. There's no way to effectively plan on those numbers. It implies there are times when the wind is going to produce way too much electricity, which you can't reliably save all of, or way too little electricity which results in brown outs. There is also no mention of the impact of severe weather on these facilities. Also, each MW of capacity requires about 50 acres of land which they are quick to point out can be used for other things. They specify farming and ranching. But there is now a limit on what you can use the land for since you can't have anything that would require too much height from a building or else the turbine won't function properly.
A 2.5 MW to 3 MW capacity turbine can supposedly produce more than 6 million kWh annually. That 6 million kWh is enough to power 1,500 European Union households for a year, or New York City for a little more than 57 minutes. Which means, to supply New York City for a full year, you need somewhere around 9227 (perhaps less since the original was 6 million or more) turbines at a capacity of 2.5MW to 3 MW, when would each take 125 to 150 acres of open, flat land to hold the turbines. Which is a total of 1,153,375 acres (assuming the smaller 125 acre amount) which is 1802 square miles. New York City is 468 square miles in area. Meaning it would take roughly 3.85 times as much space to power NYC as was actually in NYC. And that's assuming that all that power goes to New York City and nowhere else, like, say, Albany. These are using numbers for New York's power expenditure from about 6 years ago at roughly 55,000 gigawatt hours in a year. It also uses the energy production numbers from several pro-Wind energy sites.
These sites are found of siting the 20% possibility sited by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. If we assume that that number is correct, where will the remaining 80% of the power come from?
Another touted source of alternate energy is solar power. Very recently, Germany reported that it's solar power facilities were now producing 22 GWHours of energy, which is a world record. However, it is not as good as it seems like it is. The Germans are supporting the solar power via subsidies and a tariff which they plan to reduce as solar power makes more advances. Running this by a chemical engineer of my acquaintance gave me the opinion that it seemed like there was an actual exciting advancement behind the event but that it was being pushed for political purposes in a manner that will possibly bury the legitimate scientific advance.
Essentially the problem with solar panel is that the panels have not reached parity. Over their effective lifetime, they will not produce an amount of energy equal to what it takes to produce them. By the looks of thing, the people behind the German accomplishment might be actually close to the tipping point at which point solar becomes a viable energy technology. By which I mean solar tech that pays for itself and does not require a subsidy to support it.
Solar power seems to be usable at the moment for small scale uses, but even there, it has problems. For the most part, a solar power system works best to reduce dependence on a city grid or else when supplemented by another system such as a diesel generator or a battery that can be recharged during times of surplus sun. However, this requirement for support tends to be magnified for larger scale projects.
I'm not saying solar is a lost cause, far from it, the idea of solar power is very interesting. However, they are not currently at a point where they make a practical option for power generation.
Since Chernobyl and, more recently, Fukushima, nuclear power has received an unfair amount of suspicion from people. This is fairly understandable. Radiation sickness is horrific and the fact that radiation can cause an increase in such things as cancer, including some of the really bad cancers, years afterwords is terrifying. Having family that come from a part of the country where uranium was mined and nuclear tests were done, I can tell you about some of the things we suspect happened as a result of those tests and mining. I also live in Fukushima, Japan. You know what? My family still supports nuclear power as the most viable choice we currently have.
Let's look at some of the numbers. There's Chernobyl in 1986, of course. There were 56 direct deaths that were clearly as a result of radiation and another 4,000 that were of cancers years later that may have been caused by Chernobyl, and likely were. I'll go with the 4,056.
Then there's the Kyshtym Disaster in 1957. Unfortunately, this happened in the Russia of the 50s. There's almost no good numbers relating to it because the Russians buried all the information, even from themselves. One estimate says 8,015, another said 49 to 55. The most often quoted number is 200, but nobody knows where that number comes from. I'll go with the highest numbers, 8,015.
There's the recent Fukushima....where no one died of radiation poisoning whatsoever though 2 people died of drowning. There has been a recent death by esophageal cancer by one of the people that responded to the accident, but it hasn't been confirmed as a result of the radiation yet. For argument's sake, we'll say it was. One prediction has been that we could see an extra thousand deaths by cancer in Fukushima in the coming year. As with the previous two disasters, I'll accept the 1000, including the esophageal case with that.
In 1957, there was a fire in the United Kingdom that spread plutonium through the surrounding area resulting in around 33 deaths.
There are another 130 deaths listed from various other smaller accidents.
This comes to a total of 13,236 deaths by radiation (or accidents in nuclear facilities) from 1945 to 2013, not including the deaths related to the actual bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (intentional caused death does not relate to the safety of a power system). I'll round it up to 15,000 deaths over the course of those 68 years.
By comparison, black lung alone kills 1,500 per year. Which would be 102,000 deaths in America alone the same 68 year period as we're estimating 15,000 people were killed by nuclear energy (some of whom aren't dead yet). This is a little less than 7 times as many deaths than nuclear. That, however, is rather meaningless since we use coal for other things and will likely continue to mine it regardless of whether or not we are using it for energy, though hopefully with better safe guards.
For another note, consider the fact that in 1945 alone, 26,785 people died in car accidents in the United States. 34,080 people died in automobile accidents in 2012. In 1972, 54,589 died in car accidents. All of these numbers were from the United States as compared to the 15,000 from around the world.
Now, of course, there is the concern of radiation. And of course radiation is horrible, but I wonder if some people are aware that the fly ash of a coal power plant can produce 100 times more radiation than a nuclear power plant producing the same level of power. Uranium and thorium are both radioactive elements that exist within coal. Normally, they're in such trace amounts that it's not a problem, the coal dust itself is more deadly. Once the coal is burned to produce energy, however, it is concentrated. Estimates are that if you live in the area around a nuclear plant you have a 1 in 1 billion chance of developing a health problem due to radiation. The chances of being exposed enough radiation to suffer health problems when living around a coal-based power plant ranges from 1 in 10 million to 1 in 100 million. In either case, the threat of radiation sickness is minute, but it is higher around coal-based power plants.
There is also a tendency to try to compare Fukushima to Chernobyl based on unproven predictions. However, there are incredible differences in the situations. Chernobyl's meltdown was due to poor design and safety features while Fukushima's meltdown was due to a tsunami following one of the largest earthquakes ever recorded. The number of deaths in Chernobyl's incident was much higher as was the amount of radiation released. Also, Fukushima's plant was of an older design than Chernobyl's. More modern reactors are designed to totally contain a meltdown. Unfortunately, there isn't much info on meltdowns because in the nearly 70 years that we've had nuclear power there have been so very few meltdowns, partial or total.
There is a very recent development in the form of the thorium nuclear reactor that's being tested in Norway. These nuclear reactors use thorium as a fuel, which is much safer than uranium while it also gives us a way to use up that plutonium our current uranium using power plants produce as waste. So, thorium reactors would give us a way to use up our current waste while at the same time being much cleaner than any previous reactor.
Another problem we have with power generation in general in the United States and nuclear power in specific is the age of our facilities. Actually, the age of our infrastructure is a problem we have throughout the country, bridges, roads, tunnels, power plants, dams and so on. All of our infrastructure is aging. The average age of an American nuclear power plant is 33 years old. Which means the number of plants we have using modern, safer and more efficient methods are very few. Many of our conventional power plants suffer from the same problem.
We are hesitant as a culture to decomission an old facility and replace it with something new and shiny. We distrust new and shiny. We tend to think “if it ain't broke, don't fix it.” Well...thing is, a lot of it is broke. There's a lot of loss of energy and a lot of pollution we could get rid of by shifting away from coal and other fossil fuels to nuclear energy. Also, switching to nuclear energy will give us the time we need to develop other energy options, such as solar, which are currently not feasible as primary energy generation methods.
Another Note on Fossil Fuels
There is another reason that we need to cut down our use of oil, coal and natural gas for fossil fuels. Currently, these minerals are the basis for the plastics that make much of our modern life possible. If we use up all that on electrical production, we'll be unable to make more plastic. Were as it is possible to recycle quality plastic into new products. We have alternative energy sources. We do not have alternative plastic sources. As my chemical engineer friend noted: we can't get away from using fossil fuels as energy sources fast enough.
The Strands of Fate game:
Strands of Fate
Strands of Power
New seeds Index by Thrythlind
RP Memories: Early DaysI'm having troubles remembering my earliest gaming events. I vaguely remember starting up playing a character based on a werewolf idea in a Champions game. It was sometime when I was in Junior High, and thus well before I developed my tendency to play female characters. Since then, I've had much more memorable events, role-playing wise. However, I think I will start with one of my RP stories from around my high-school time and around when I started playing female characters.Early Days - Call of Cthulhu
It was a Call of Cthulhu game with the spell-list supplemented by the GM taking my Chill game and using the creature-powers as character-available spells in Call of Cthulhu.
I had the physically smallest character in the party due to die rolls and also the one with the highest spiritual power. One of the first things we did in that campaign was attend an auction where most, if not all, of us acquired some sort of magical item. My character obtained two. One was a supposedly
I'm having troubles remembering my earliest gaming events. I vaguely remember starting up playing a character based on a werewolf idea in a Champions game. It was sometime when I was in Junior High, and thus well before I developed my tendency to play female characters. Since then, I've had much more memorable events, role-playing wise. However, I think I will start with one of my RP stories from around my high-school time and around when I started playing female characters.
It was a Call of Cthulhu game with the spell-list supplemented by the GM taking my Chill game and using the creature-powers as character-available spells in Call of Cthulhu.
I had the physically smallest character in the party due to die rolls and also the one with the highest spiritual power. One of the first things we did in that campaign was attend an auction where most, if not all, of us acquired some sort of magical item. My character obtained two. One was a supposedly magical sword and the other was a ring that supposedly could banish or trap demons. Now, here's the kicker....
....none of us got any instructions on how the items we'd acquired worked.
I don't remember too much about the first adventure. I do remember constantly getting chosen as the party scout because of reasons like: you have that magic sword (which I didn't know how to use), the ring (likewise) and you're smaller than the rest of us.
At one point, we had gone deep into the basement of a house and found...something. Soon after which I was running up the stairs, closing every door between me and it as hard as possible and punching said doors hopefully hard enough to imprint the sigil on my ring into the wood of the door in the hopes that THAT would keep the....whatever...from following and tearing me asunder. It must have worked...I don't think it followed me.
My character went from that adventure to an asylum and thus missed out on the next adventure. I unfortunately did not regain much, if any, sanity because I had gotten bored and taken to using one of my magic spells to write random messages in disappearing blood letters on the cells of other patients. I and one of the other characters in the asylum were sort of communicating between each other that way and we'd gotten bored and so turned our efforts toward trolling the asylum. I swear, we were not at fault for the whole riot thing. That came after we were gone. It had to be something else entirely.
However, while we were instigating House on Haunted Hill, our group was investigating some other occurrence and had a new member, a baseball player played by the younger brother of one of the other party members. This player had no idea about the way Call of Cthulhu operates. Early into the campaign, the characters found an area of impenetrable darkness. They shined lights into it with flashlights, but it did no good. The lights simply disappeared at a particular point and would penetrate no deeper.
"Okay, somebody's going to have to go in there."
"Ha! I'm not there! I'm in the asylum, tormenting patients."
"Damn it. We need a new scout."
Everybody stopped and looked at the player of the new character.
"Err....are you sure."
"Yeah, it'll be no problem." He shrugged and looked to the storyteller. "I'll walk into the darkness."
"You die painfully, screaming."
"Crap, now we have to get his body out of there, he had that relic we need."
The rest of the session was the player making a new character while the party tried various means to drag the body out of the darkness without actually going into the darkness.
I'm not entirely sure our group ever solved....anything in that campaign.
The Strands of Fate game:
Strands of Fate
Strands of Power
New seeds Index by Thrythlind
Something I'd like to see for a CRPG sandbox game in the vein of Skyrim or Fallout 3 is a game along the lines of the White Wolf Scion game. For those that aren't familiar with the game, scion is a game where you play the children of the old gods in a modern time battling the servants of the titans (and occasionally the other gods). Very recently, some time after World War II, the Titans escaped their prisons (at least partially) and are now once again trying to return the World to a state of primal chaos that existed prior to the development of humanity and the subsequent birth of the gods.
I would love this to be a CRPG. Some basic concepts regarding the flavor of the game.
The basic game describes 6 pantheons and these were expanded to 13 pantheons by later additions. Each pantheon has a special connected power unique to them. Out of each pantheon you choose a single divine parent, this divine parent will favor some skills, epic attributes and purviews. The favored stuff will be cheaper to pursue than other skills, epic attributes and purviews, but you are still able to take the other powers.
Aesir - Norse - Jotunblut: enhancing mortal followers by feeding them blood. These followers become fanatically loyal to the Aesir and somewhat irritable with everybody else while they become physically more powerful. The first rank works on animals only, second and third work on humans. And then it goes again with 1 animal and 2 human enhancements. Then 1 animal enhancement, 1 human enhancement and 1 power to cure a mortal of addiction to Eitr (giantblood).
Amatsukami - Japanese - Tsukomogami: talking to the spirits of inanimate objects like weapons, trees and the like. This provides a number of unique potentials. The first level allows you to wake up a spirit and talk to it to get information. The second level allows you to ask a spirit to specifically keep watch in an area. The third level allows you to ask the spirit to aid an action for which it was made: such as asking a forge to help in the creation of a weapon or asking a gun to help in shooting.
Atzlanti - Aztec - Itzli: Sacrifice in exchange for power. At low levels this is primarily cutting yourself in exchange for legend but eventually you get to where you can sacrifice enemies. The very highest rank grants its highest bonus if the sacrifice is blood related to you.
Dodekatheon - Greek - Arete: Super-skills. This can be taken multiple times and each skill increases the dice pool of a particular skill (or allows for rerolls). The Greeks are just amazingly awesome at skills, it's often complained to be a thematically boring power but one that provides huge actual bonuses.
Loa - Voodoo - Cheval: Possession. The powers of the Loa allow for differing levels of possessing other people or controlling their souls at various levels of control and possession.
Pesedjet - Egyptian - Heku: Powers based on the manipulation of the Egyptian multiple parts of a person: ren (name) sekem (energy) ba (soul/personality) ka (corporeal life force) akh (postmortem merger of ba and ka), khaibit (shadow) and sekhu (mortal remains). The powers are rather varied but all deal with manipulating the above facets of a person.
The 3 Main Expanded Pantheons
Tuatha - Celtic - Enech: The character gains a benefit for following the tenets of the celtic morality. Among other things they can take on geasa which grant them power as long as they fulfill certain rules. If they break the rules, they will suffer penalties. It also has a lot of powers which are basically praising or insulting people to give them buffs. Or bragging about yourself to gain benefits.
Celestial Bureaucracy - Chinese - Tai yi: A control of spiritual energy and the transformation of beings. This ranges through increasing the power of other scions, transforming ghosts into lesser immortals, dispelling powers, combining purviews to make them harder to dispel. Etc.
Devas - Hindu - Samsara: Stepping outside of the weave of Fate and escaping the story. This lets you do things like reroll failed actions, tell what the purpose of a GM's secret rolls are and whether they succeeded or not. Reflecting supernatural attacks and so on.
The World War II Pantheons - primarily for the WWII setting which was prior to the Titans escaping and consisting of scions fighting mostly other scions and titanspawn working for the various gods.
Yankee Pantheon - US Folk Tales - Industry: working hard, working long, gremlins and eventually the nuclear bomb
Allied Pantheon - a conglomeration of British, French and Russian folk tales - Civitas: teamwork and collaboration for the good of the society. (I grimace at the Allied Pantheon, I like some of the Gods such as Robin Hood, Baba Yaga and D'Artagnan....but lumping these three together is more than a little insulting to the cultures involved).
Yazata Pantheon. This is the Persian pantheon. I haven't used it much and haven't played with it enough to know how it works.
Atlantean Pantheon. I rather hate this as a thing. We don't even have proof of Atlantis as a culture in the past, much less what their religion was. I don't mind the idea of Atlantis being a place in the setting, but the Atlantean pantheon annoys me.
Legend and Fate
The source of a scion's power is their legend. In fact the source of any supernatural's power is their legend. Werewolves have power because people tell stories about them as do vampires and dragons. The demigods are no different. As such, this is different from White Wolf's more well known setting (World of Darkness) because having witnesses is thematically beneficial. Even when you have tons of witnesses, however, the general supernatural conflict will continue to be un-noted by the majority of the world. I ran a massive battle across the whole Seattle involving a flying galleon, fenrir wolves, giant tigers, human mercenaries, giants, werecreatures, pterodactyl things, harpies, zombies, hel-hounds, rakshasha, an army of hackers and remote control predator drones. The mortal media is reporting "rumors" of genetically engineered animals used as weapons and the actions of various fanatics. All the official reports carefully avoid mention of mythological monsters. Witnesses to the actual events tend to say "he was like a giant" or "it was a huge tiger" or "I don't know what it was" rather than noting "he was a giant", "it was a nemean tiger" or "they were giant spiders!" The stories of the characters' exploits still spread, but the supernatural aspects are often taken to be exaggerations or conspiracy theories.
The downside of acting under the public eye is Fatebinding. When you perform amazing feats of strength or intelligence...or you perform outright magic...you have a chance of becoming fatebound to people, places or things. A fatebinding works two ways and enforces rolls on those bound. For example, if a mortal witnesses you killing someone in a impressively legendary way, it could produce a fatebinding role on you of "murderer" or "monster" while it produces a "witness" fatebinding role on the person you are bound to. Afterwards as long as the fatebound witness is around you, you gain bonus dice to actions that forward that role and penalties on actions that work against that roll. Likewise, the witness gets bonuses when acting like a witness and penalties when trying to avoid the role. If the person witnessing you realized the person you killed was a vicious serial killer or even witnessed that the thing you killed wasn't even human, then the roles might be "vigilante" and "fan" instead of "murderer" and "witness." Most fatebindings fade over time, but powerful ones (5+) can persist for the life of those bound or even into the afterlife (6+). It is because of fatebinding that Zeus is such a skirtchaser. Anytime Zeus comes down to Earth, he is bound up in so much fatebinding that he has to behave like a skirt-chasing player or suffer massive penalties.
Legend is used to fuel powers and knacks and can be used to reroll, increase defense and add successes to your roll on an action. Spending for knacks, defense and reroll is unlimited. Spending to add bonus successes can be done a number of times each story equal to your Legend score. For example, if you have legend 2, you can add successes to a roll twice per story and each time would add +2 successes. If you have legend 5, you can add successes 5 times per story and each time would add +5 successes.
Nature and Calling
These are primarily guidelines for the way your character acts and what their purpose in life is.
The Calling has no mechanical effect and essentially is only a way for you to focus around building your character. For example a "Martial Artist Prodigy" would take a lot of combat powers and someone with a calling of "Bridge of Peace" would have a lot of diplomatic and peaceful type powers. There is no set list of Callings because it is made up by the player. I usually use something to describe the character as they will end up being known as in legend such as "Amaterasu's Eclipse" "Doomed Traitor" "The Trickster Fox" "The Great Mangaka" or "The Beautiful Death".
Natures have a mechanical effect in that they give an alternate way to recover Willpower by acting in accordance with the nature, but in most games I've been in, we've largely ignored it and only used it as a guideline. It's more useful in pigeonholing how NPCs will act. The list of natures is below.
Architect - You are a methodical planner.
Autocrat - It's your way or the highway.
Bravo - You live life on the edge.
Caregiver - You are a wellspring of compassion.
Competitor - You are driven to be the best.
Cynic - You are familiar with Murphy's Law.
Fanatic - You zealously champion your beliefs.
Gallant - You protect those that can't protect themselves.
Gambler - You risk all to win.
Judge - You are the law.
Libertine - You live each day like it's your last.
Loner - You rely on yourself alone.
Pacifist - You endeavor to solve problems peacefully.
Pedagogue - You live to teach.
Penitent - You seek to expiate the wrongs you've done.
Perfectionist - You strive for flawlessness in all your endeavors.
Rebel - You believe laws were made to be broken.
Survivor - You persevere against everything life throws at you.
Traditionalist - You believe the old ways are the best ways.
Trickster - You live to deceive.
Visionary - You see the World for what it could be rather than what it is.
Like in any White Wolf game, there are 9 attributes, 3 physical, 3 social and 3 mental. In addition to the normal, there are also Epic Attributes. Epic Attributes add bonus successes to your rolls and other benefits besides. In addition, for each level of an Epic Attribute you have, you gain 1 "knack" related to that attribute. You can also buy knacks separately and have as many knacks as you want even if your epic attribute never rises above 1. Also, the benefit from epic attributes is not linear. The bonus successes for each level go like this: 1, 2, 4, 7, 11, 16, 22, 29, 37, 46. Which means that by Epic Attribute 3, you are, without even trying, achieving a level of success considered exceptional by most of humanity and by level 4, you achieve mastery results without trying. By the time you hit the god levels (Legend 9-12), you're basically superman. (of course, you have to have actual levels in the skill being used with the attribute, but still)
Epic Attributes can't be higher than your Legend -1.
Epic Strength: Increases jump distances and lifting. Increases Melee, Brawl and Thrown damage. Knacks include unarmed damage increases, jump increases, destruction of inanimate objects and terrain, thrown weapons, lifting knacks and other such things.
Epic Dexterity: Increases move and run speed. Increases Defense. Knacks include defensive knacks, mobility knacks, ranged weapon knacks, escape artist and so on.
Epic Stamina: Increases time one can survive without food, water, sleep or air. Increases health, increases soak. Reduces wound penalties (at Epic Stamina 3, you have no wound penalties regardless of how hurt you are). Knacks include damage-soaking, healing, poison immunity, endurance knacks, eternal youth and so on.
Epic Charisma: No special increase, adds to Charisma actions such as inspiration, command and persuasion. Knacks include things like charming people to not be hostile, avoiding getting in trouble for something, always appearing cool, inspiring people to greatness, making people feel important, and convincing people of your position through impassioned pleas.
Epic Manipulation: No special increase, adds to Manipulation actions such as intimidation, lying and the like. Knacks include detecting lies, detecting guilt, giving direct orders, lying convincingly, threatening people, laying blame on other people.
Epic Appearance: Allows rerolls of Presence skill rolls. Either beauty or ugliness. Knacks include shapeshifting, drawing attention, blinding people, making them not want to look at you so much they have trouble fighting you, shifting between beauty and ugliness, fear, inspiration, seduction, disgust.
Epic Perception: Deals with deliberate searching or analysis. Knacks include sensing radio waves, sensing fatebinding, detecting other scions, tracking prey, paying attention to multiple sensory sources, blindfighting, excellent sense of smell and taste, clairvoyance and so on.
Epic Intelligence: Deals with intellectual research and riddles. Knacks include reducing experience point costs, reducing enemy combat bonuses (fighting intelligently), knowing useful trivia, resisting mental powers, knowing a little bit about most skills, teaching others, code-breaking, language mastery, wirelessly interfacing with computers you can see, telepathy and so on.
Epic Wits: Deals with gut feelings and instinctive senses...such as detecting when an ambush is about to happen. Also frequently used for telekinetic type powers. Knacks include reducing the penalties for being attacked by multiple enemies, reducing the penalties for having distractions in the environment, profiling people, doing the Sherlock scan on a crime scene, going first in combat, giving painful insults that drain willpower, retorting with better insults, always seeming to fit in to the situation, detecting ambushes, responding to sudden assault even if you didn't notice it coming, Initiative effects.
These are the supernatural powers associated with the Gods. There are all-purpose purviews (available to everybody), special purviews (available to everybody but work differently than general purviews) and pantheon purviews (only available to specific pantheon and mentioned above). All-Purpose and Special purviews require the player to have a relic that grants access to those powers in order to use them. At Demigod level (Legend 5-8) they can use some powers without their relics (but at a reduced level), at God level (Legend 9-12) the penalty for not having a relic is reduced. In either case, if the demigod or god loses ownership of a relic, they lose access to the purview.
Animal - control of animals, shapeshifting and adoption of animal features
Chaos - confusion, anarchy, formlessness. Either causing it, controlling it or surviving it.
Darkness - shadow, darkness, night
Death - ghosts and death
Earth - control of stone
Frost - control of cone (not in core book, appears in Ragnarok book)
Fertility - control of plant life
Fire - control and association with fire
Guardian - protection of other people and things
Health - healing and inflicting pain or disease
Illusion - creation of illusions (Ragnarok purview)
Justice - punishment of the guilty
Moon - influence of things relating to the moon
Psychopomp - travel powers
Sky - wind, air and lightning
Sun - control of light and the sun
Water - control of water
War - becoming the warrior incarnate
All-Purpose Purviews have a number of boons. These boons don't have to be taken all at once or in order. It is possible for a person to take the third Fire boon and never take either the first or second, for instance. Also, there are occasionally alternate powers at the same level, both can be taken. For example, a single person can choose to learn both Warning Line and Vigil Brand despite the fact that they're both rank 1 Guardian boons. A person can have any number of boons, but they can't have boons of a higher rank than their legend -1.
Special Purviews - Special Purviews deepen the scions perception and control of Fate
Magic - directly manipulating the threads of Fate's plan. It can duplicate boons of All Purpose purviews, but such duplications are often a little weaker. Mostly these spells involve tweaking the destiny of the targets. Magic always fatebinds the caster to the target.
Mystery - allows the scion to see parts of the weave of Fate directly. For every success rolled, the scion can ask one question of the GM which must be answered. This can be done once per story.
Prophecy - allows the scion to see parts of Fate's plan. For every success rolled, the scion gets one hint as to what is coming. This can be done once per story.
These are things that are fated to be tied to the character. These are followers, creatures special items, guides and the like.
Followers/Creatures - inexplicably split up into two advantages, these represent mortal and supernatural entities that serve the character.
Guide - this represents a person who advises the character or gives them missions or help. Every character has their divine parent as a free 5 point guide.
Relic - these are the characters' characteristic weapons and tools. Some are things like computers, cell phones and musical instruments. Others are things like clothing, armor or weapons.
Gods also have two more birthrights available:
Avatar - the ability to manifest as a weaker version of yourself so as not to produce or invoke as much fatebinding
Sanctum - an other-world of your own, shaped by you.
Relics can do several things:
Provide contact to a guide, follower or creature.
Summon a guide, follower or creature.
Provide access to a purview (necessary for a scion to use that purview)
Provide a bonus to it's normal use (a computer with bonus dice to programming...a sword with bonus to accuracy)
Duplicate the power of a boon (this is similar to providing access to a purview, but it provides only the one boon, not the whole purview...and the boon does not actually have to be purchased)
Each pantheon has four out of twelve total godly virtues. Most mortals have virtue ratings of 0, usually noted as not having virtues. Every scion has a virtue rating of at least 1 in all four of their pantheon's virtues. A rank of 1 means that you are a better example of that virtue than the vast majority of humanity. Virtues run up to 5. They can be expended to provide bonus dice in situations. This can be done a number of times per story equal to the rank of the virtue and provide a die bonus equal to the rank of the virtue.
Also, virtues dictate behavior. In order to act against a Virtue, the character must first roll a number of dice equal to their rank in that Virtue. If they get ANY successes, then they have to spend 1 Willpower to act against the Virtue. If they roll more successes than their current Willpower (say they're at Willpower 3 and in their virtue roll they roll 4 successes) then they enter a Virtue Extremity, which is a state of temporary insanity. I've told new players that because of virtues you can either act unreasonably...or you can go insane.
Conviction - dedication to and protection of a cause
Courage - facing challenges, proving your physical capability, etc
Duty - dedication to and protection of a community
Endurance - continuing in spite of great hardship
Expression - the ability to communicate the passion of your soul
Harmony - the belief in a cosmic design
Intellect - the respect of regard for rationality, reason, learning and knowledge
Loyalty - dedication to and protection of friends and family
Order - dedication to and protection of the law
Piety - dedication to and protection of tradition
Valor - dedication to and protection of the defenseless
Vengeance - dedication to the punishment of sins
Titans also have virtues:
Ambition - To the titans and titanspawn, love, family and friendship are alien concepts and communal instincts are a sin against the self. The only person a titanspawn should care about is themselves. Even the Titans themselves are not worthy of actual loyalty save that it is a means to gaining greater power. This is why titanspawn will almost always backstab someone if they think it will benefit them, even the Titans.
Malice - To the titans and titanspawn, compassion is a sort of madness unique to the Gods and mortals. It is the natural state of things to revel in the fear and pain of those weaker than you. This is why they will torture and play with their foes rather than kill them outright.
Rapacity - The gratification of the senses and the satiation of hunger are the only valid reasons for action. Titans, titanspawn and those corrupted by them will always indulge in their desires, raping, thieving and devouring all they can. This is why they will never back down from simply taking the things they desire and will always take up any deal they think we get them what they want. But then they'll likely cheat on the deal if they can.
Zealotry - All titanspawn gain their power from the Titans, but not all are willing to risk their lives serving their masters, especially not against scions, but those with high zealotry eagerly seek out ways to serve their masters and refuse to falter or back down from the attempts. Giving them such an opportunity is a great way to manipulate them into doing something.
Willpower and Legend Points
Scions have a Willpower ranked between 1 and 10. The starting value is equal to the some of the two highest virtues you have at character creation. Afterwards it is increased via experience. Willpower is used to invoke Virtues for bonuses, power some knacks and boons, resist mental powers and can also be spent to provide a single automatic success. Unless a boon requires multiple Willpower points to be spent, only 1 Willpower can be spent in a round.
Scions have a number of Legend points equal to the square of their Legend. So at start, with a Legend of 2, the scion would have 4 Legend Points. A low level demigod of Legend 5 would have 25 legend points. A low level god of Legend 9 would have 81 legend points and a full Legend 12 God would have 144 legend points. Any number of legend points can be spent in a round. They can be used to provide bonus successes to a roll equal to the scion's Legend (1 time per Legend dot per story), reroll failed ability rolls (once per roll), increase their defense to an attack and to power knacks and boons.
Willpower and Legend refill complete at the start of each new story. They also recover by stunting (dramatic description of their actions). Also, Willpower can be recovered by following one's Nature, though this is a mechanic I don't generally use much of.
Adversaries and Allies
There are several sorts of creatures within the setting of Scion, and not all of them come from the Titans directly.
Mortals - These are normal men and women, sometimes of great skill, but still normal men and women.
More-than-Mortals - These are people with a touch of the divine. Some were created or born that way, others were mortals who were changed. Amazons, Thralls, Berserks, Einherjar, Maenads, Spartoi, Myrmidons, Samurai and so on.
The Dead - These are ghosts and zombies. Things that have died and yet continue to remain around. Note, scion does not consider the dead to be inherently evil unless they're corrupted by the titans. Zombies, ghosts and mummies can be tools of good. Hungry dead and spectres are titan corrupted dead things.
The Undead - Powerful, titan-corrupted predatory and intelligent dead beings. These things regain legend points only by feeding on mortals and gain even more legend points by feeding on scions. Unlike the Dead, they are all considered corrupted and evil. (though it is possible that some Gods make use of them).
Titanspawn - These are creatures spawned directly by the Titans to do their work. Most do not truly have Free Will and can only behave as extensions of their creators' wills. Others have broken free and allied with the Gods. First there are the minions, many of whom were mortals corrupted by the Titans such medusae (mortals fed on the blood of the two remaining Gorgons, they remain beautiful as long as they have the blood, without it, they have to eat the eyes of the beautiful in order to remain pretty themselves.). Then there are the Chimera, unique creatures of dangerous, powerful abilities. Nemeans - primal, vicious examples of natural beings. Giants - huge men with addictive, empowering blood that forces loyalty to the titan who gives it. When defeated, most titanspawn leave behind a "trophy" that can provide some supernatural benefit.
Lesser Immortals - These are beings who are immortal and powerful in their own right. They are not titans or titanspawn and often either neutral or allied with the Gods. They include the Nordic Alfar, the Celtic Sidhe and Baensidhe, Japanese Kitsune, Greek Nymphs and so on. They are not considered Gods even though they really could be. While most are not allied with the Titans and many are downright benevolent, they are still not human and many are often in it for themselves.
Agents of Fate - These are often mortals and animals that exist to push the dictates of Fate's plans. Oracles who give out snippets of Fate's plan with the intention of insuring such a thing will happen, Cassandras who preach a coming doom unaware that they're actually helping it come faster, animals or people that behave oddly once just so a particular event could happen. And also, sometimes, Fate produces seemingly supernatural entities formed of the force of the stories of humanity. Things like the Greek Fates or the Norse Norns are born of pure Fate rather than either the Titans or the Gods.
Magical Creatures - Dragons, unicorns, the wolf-mounts of the Valkyries and so on. Magical creatures created by the Gods are not Titanspawn and do not leave trophies when defeated. Some are intelligent many are basically supernatural animals.
How would I make this a game?
First of all, through the magic of DLC, it's not necessary to make it all at once.
Initial Game, focuses on the Hero level of play, Legend 2 through 4. Hard set initial Legend score at 2 or some equivalent.
Core 6 Pantheons to start: Norse, Greek, Japanese, Voodoo, Egyptian, Aztec. 3-5 Gods available to each Pantheon to start.
Egyptian: Horus, Set, Isis, Bast, Anubis
Greek: Zeus, Ares, Athena(adopted), Poseidon, Hades
Japanese: Amaterasu, Susano'O, Tsuki-Yomi, Izanami, Izanagi
Voodoo: Baron Samedi, Dhamballa, Shango, Erzuli, Ogoun
Aztec: Quetzacouatl, Tlazolteotl, Xipe Totec, Tezcatlipoca, Tlaloc
Norse: Odin, Thor, Loki, Freya, Sif, Frigg
Normalize the favored abilities. None of this thing where Odin has a huge number of favored abilities and Zeus only has a couple. Instead each divine parent should favor X skills, Y epic attributes and Z purviews. It could be possible that there is a choice, for example, say Odin is still associated with his huge number of purviews and attributes, the player would only be able to select 2 Attributes and 2 Purviews to be favored rather than the whole spread.
Choose a pantheon and parent.
Give the option of taking a Calling with preset templates...or just designing from scratch...if designing from scratch, allow them to name their own calling, this can be substituted into dialogue when appropriate just like the characters name while any voice avoids use of either.
Choose attributes, skills, powers, etc.
Choose virtues, the combination of virtues creates a "Nature" (sort of like in Titan Quest where, if you take Warfare and Defense, your class gets declared as "Conqueror" but if you take Warfare and Rogue your class is "Assassin")
design relics - relic creation should be given some thought and detail. Characters in scion sometimes acquire more gear and trophies, but their primary gear will always be the relics they started with. The player should be able to put some effort into it and name it what they like (since I'm thinking of this as Single Player, shouldn't have to worry if someone decides to give things offensive names...they're the only ones that will be subjected to it). Optionally, give them the option of taking some historical mythical artifacts based on their parent and boon choices.
Cell Phone - I've seen this used for Mystery and Prophecy as well as used to summon some followers or contact guides.
Guns - used primarily to provide access to War, Sky, Fire, Frost or other such purviews. Sometimes does enhanced damaged. Sometimes infinite ammo. Sometimes upgraded damage (lethal to aggravated)
Weapons - similar to guns. Often swords, collapsible scythes, maces, daggers, etc.
Clothes - purviews, armor, unique powers
Dragon's Teeth - Summon Spartoi...recover the teeth later to be reused.
Fox-Tail - purview access
Pen - Prophecy, Illusion, Magic...etc...etc...bonus dice to Art - Drawing or Art - Writing
Choose a background...this represents the way you attracted your divine parent's attention and proved your worth:
Local Sports Star
While Scion lends toward huge, over the top physical action. It should be possible for a character to complete the game as a non-combat centric character, more difficult perhaps, but still just as fun and with just as much epic-ness available. In fact, I'd suggest an achievement exist for a character who completed every mission without ever using a single direct attack (use of followers or tricking enemies to fight each other are not direct attacks). Similar easier achievements for characters that complete the main storyline without using attacks and so on.
White Wolf rated each scene in their adventure paths with dots in Mental/Social/Physical to show how difficult each scene was. For example a scene with "Mental - Social - Physical -" is not going to be difficult at all and is likely just an intro for talking to someone where as a "Mental ** Social - Physical ***" scene would require an average amount of mental stats and a heavy amount of physical stats. "Mental - Social **** Physical -" would require a master socializer.
A similar thing could be done here with quests have mental, social and physical ratings that serve as warnings to players about how difficult the quest would be. I'd further add achievements in this case for completing a mission when you have much less ability than the suggested amount.
Anytime the character uses magic on someone else they develop fatebinding. If they do amazing things with mortal witnesses (like fight a werewolf in the streets) they risk fatebinding.
This should be mechanical and mostly behind the scenes.
A character should be able to either take a power that allows them to know their own fatebindings, or else by default have that ability. Fatebindings don't directly force behavior like virtues, but if a player acts in accordance with them they would have a mechanical bonus and if they act counter, they have a penalty. For example, someone with the "Hero" fatebinding would have penalties when they tried to assassinate someone but bonuses when defending a group from a rampaging minotaur.
The fatebinding roles in the tabletop can be made up on the fly, but of course that's not possible in a video game. Likewise, the sort of actions available in a video game are limited.
Really, this might be a bit complicated for a video game, but it might be more successful as a video game than on the table top where sometimes fatebinding can really slow things down.
Some dialogue options should be marked (either visibly or only in data) as being against your virtue and clicking on it results in a check against the Virtue and, if that fails either a dialogue option asking "Spend Willpower" to continue even if the virtue check says "no, don't do that". If the virtue check is too high, then you don't get the option to spend willpower and suddenly enter a virtue extremity where behaviors/dialogue options are limited. For example, if someone with Courage is trying to negotiate out of a battle and enters a Virtue Extremity, he could suddenly enter a berserk state and have all the people around him turn hostile forcing him to attack them. If he runs out of actual hostiles, then allies and civilians get marked hostile...until his extremity ends.
On the other hand, some dialogue options might be marked as in favor of your Virtue, granting you bonus dice when you perform it. Or potentially allowing you to recover Willpower when you act in accordance with your Virtue.
Of course, some things are a bit of a no no in the game. You can't really force movement or action from your players....well, you can, but it would have to be handled carefully or they'd get annoyed. However, you might have some things like someone with Endurance being unable to leave an instance in order to go heal up somewhere else.
Legend and Willpower
These should be basically separate mana pools, like the Stamina and Magika of Skyrim. Within the way the game works, it should spend fast and refill fast.
Since you can't "stunt" on a video game...well you can, but the game has little to no ability to recognize awesome...the rate of recovery for Legend and Willpower should be dependent on the level of success of any action. So, for example, a success causes a spike in Legend/Willpower recovery for 10-20 seconds. A good success a bigger spike. A critical success an extreme spike. Certain knacks should allow recovery of Willpower and Legend as well. But most knacks work by giving other people back their Willpower and Legend, not the user.
Knacks and boons should obviously have automatic draws on Willpower and Legend.
Use of Legend and Willpower for invoking Legend and Virtues is difficult. Perhaps it could work like build up from City of Heroes...you click it before the action you want to enhance and then perform your action. Since it can be used on anything, even conversation, the bonus would just get applied to the next active skill or dialogue option you choose that has a chance of success or failure.
Use of Legend and Willpower to enhance an action should come with a cutscene or special dialogue result to underscore the fact that the player used their supernatural essence successfully.
Followers, Creatures and Guides
Characters shouldn't start with these save for their own parent as a guide. They earn these in the game.
On Followers and Creatures, in Scion the characters very quickly outpace the combat abilities of the followers and creatures that have ranked stats. The followers that show the best capabilities are trickster type followers (pixies, shapechanging cats, small swarms of spiders), utility type followers (a lawyer or clerk) and followers based on the human experienced soldier template (the Rambo soldiers). In a starting Hero level game this won't be so obvious.
Basically, a character should be able to earn Followers via roleplaying and several creatures should be able to be turned into loyal pets based on the character powers and decisions. In the tabletop game, Followers mostly come in packs of 5 to 25. That would be difficult in a CRPG meant for a single player. However, you could have it that the player can call in the followers for some missions. Such as if a social monkey finds himself on a Physical 5 mission and decides to go to the group of soldiers he helped out a while ago and ask them to come help out.
To avoid the followers being abused, you can do a couple of things. First, for mortal followers, if a follower gets injured in the fate and the player has no healing ability, that follower might stay injured for a long time and thus the player might not want to call up that unit while it is recovering (similar to the way characters are placed on the wounded list in X-Com Enemy Unknown). A similar situation could be used with non-mortal followers, only they recover from their wounds more quickly. Perhaps followers won't always be able to come. I'm aware that one of the Assassin's Creed games uses a follower mechanic that was pretty successful.
Suffice to say, followers and creatures should be things that allow characters to take out more dangerous opponents than they otherwise could have. Especially, if the mission involves a mindless beast, it gives the social centric characters an option. Followers shouldn't be necessary, but they should remain cool to use if the player wants.
Guides would come out of your mission givers. Perhaps some mission givers will be able to give you info about other missions (doing research), or else train you in some things or provide you with some equipment for a specific quest, etc. IE. If you complete Mission Y before taking Mission Z, the quest giver from Mission Y is friendly enough to you that he'll give you something that makes the mission easier.
Primarily experience point spending. The spending of XP where they want it to go is sort of representative of the scion directing Fate where he wants it and willing himself to improve in specific ways. Experience points are earned in the completion of dialogues, combats and missions. The scion is limited to his mortal skills and attributes, his epic attributes, his pantheon purview and any All-Purpose or Special Purview that he has a relic for. Supernatural powers are limited to ranks equal to their Legend-1 (in scion table top terms). However, they can get any number of powers within those limits.
Legend should increase as it builds up during the course of the game. Any deed you perform should increase your legend at least slightly because of situations like "this strange man came into town and suddenly nobody was dying anymore" where they didn't actually see your battle with the local beast, but the effects of it were clear. Meanwhile, doing stuff in broad open public causes your legend to build up much faster.
Also, a legend range of 2 to 4 might be a bit low for a video game, even focusing on Hero level stuff. Not because it isn't a significant increase in ability but because it seems like a slow pace of to advance if it takes half the game to gain a total of 2 levels. There might be a Legend progress bar that can be spent down to unlock missions to do things like earn the followers, guides and creatures mentioned above or...if allowed to build up, unlock Legend 3.
Optionally you can have them be able to spend XP on Legend, but I'd prefer Legend to increase based on the deeds you do.
Even simpler, when you've spent a certain amount of XP, your legend automatically upgrades.
Gear and Crafting
A few scions are based around being crafters and such, but to be rather blunt, crafting and improving gear isn't a major focus of Scion. Still, I imagine it should be in for the people that enjoy it.
However, the thing that is different about Scion from other RPGs is that they get their main gear at character creation.
Those relics they have at the beginning of their game will be their signature tool/clothing/weapon for the entirety of their legend. They're not going to be discarding that tool for something better later. Nothing they encounter later will be better for them than that first tool (which is why creating it and making it unique should be part of character creation) You could say that they start with one to three relics at the beginning of the game and can earn more as they move along the story, but they don't replace the previous relics, they merely supplement.
For example, to start, a scion might have a hat, a cell phone and a knife as relics. Later they might run a quest to earn a new relic slot and design a coat that acts as armor....or a rifle for long range weapon. Or a tarot deck....or any of a number of things that the game might provide as a potential relic.
Optionally, the character can have the option to upgrade their relics as they continue on. But really they shouldn't drop the relic, and losing a relic should be a plot device for a mission if anything. Relics aren't loot or gear in scion, they are a PART of the character.
That said, they might also collect normal weapons and armor, trophies and so on.
Money is not a concern in Scion normally. There isn't even a way to track currency in the tabletop system. No Resources knack, no money. It's a mythical story, they're basically assumed to be able to find ways to get what they need. Their currency is experience, charisma and destiny really.
Depending on their pantheon they'll have access to one of six pantheon specific storylines with alterations based on which parent they choose. Ideally, there'd be a different storyline for each individual parent...but...again DLC.
In addition there will be a "main" storyline as well that is a general sort of problem for all the Gods and mortals.
If the option for the background that described how the character earned their visitation, there might be another long personal subplot.
Then there would be the usually plethora of subplots and side quests all over the place. Clear out harpy nests, fight linnorms, rouse people to fight for their town, yada, yada, yada.
A sandbox setting would be best served by a wide area with several small towns, wilderness areas and one good sized city. Lots of places would work for this. A multicultural place would be best to accommodate all the pantheons involved. In the basic Hero book, it was Las Vegas and the surrounding area. Also, in a modern setting, it's rather easy to step on a plane and move all over the world. However, in a Hero level game, this would stay very much in the World.
If at all possible destructible terrain would be awesomely appropriate to the setting, but yeah, very difficult.
Add more Godly parents (thus maybe some more storylines)
Add more pantheons.
Add more side stories.
Expand to Demigod level....which would begin to have the characters traveling to Terra Incognita .
Expand to God level....which would begin to have the characters traveling to the World and the Underworld and eventually the Titanrealms.
The Strands of Fate game:
Strands of Fate
Strands of Power
New seeds Index by Thrythlind
Okay, I'm going to try to stay away from opinion and interpretation for the most part, but given the subject matter, that's just not possible. I probably have a lot of misconceptions myself. I tend to believe that misconception is an inherent danger of the human condition since we are limited to imperfect interpretations of things. Still, I like to think that I know a bit more about Christianity than most people so I'm going to hit some of the more general misconceptions about Christianity and, to a lesser extent, the other Abrahamic religions that I've seen around for a while.
The Cross of Saint Peter
Very recently, as in within the last century, someone decided to turn the cross upside down as a symbol of thumbing their noses against Christianity. This is rather amusing given that the upside down cross is the Cross of Saint Peter. The story goes that when Simon Peter was crucified that he did not feel worthy of being crucified in the same manner as Christ and requested that he be crucified upside down. As such, the upside down cross is viewed by many to be a sign of humility and unworthiness before Christ and there are many Catholics that feel that it is more acceptable to wear the upside-down Cross of Saint Peter as jewelry than the actual Crucifix or Latin Cross. The Papal Office actually uses the upside-down cross as one of the symbols of office.
I must admit to being amused by the idea of mentioning this the next time I see someone wearing an upside down cross in hopes of someone giving them crap about it. It may be un-Christian of me to desire to play a bit of a mind-game with them, but the reaction if I were to go up and compliment them on their choice of the Cross of Saint Peter is potentially rather hilarious.
Pagan, Heathen, Heretic, Satanist
A lot of times you see the above words used interchangeably. Really, the only ones that have reasonably the same meaning are Pagan and Heathen and even there, the usage is subtly different.
Pagan and heathen are terms for non-believers. In other words, if you're not Jewish, Christian or Muslim, then you are pagan or heathen. Neither is complimentary with both having the implication of a lack of civilization. In usage, pagan is far more often used to refer to people who practice polytheism or else simply worship a single entity that is not God. Heathen, on the other hand, is often used for people that simply are not believers and often don't give any sort religion or the like any thought.
Heretics are people that either profess some belief not considered acceptable by the rest of their church or else reject a belief commonly held by the rest of their church but still identify themselves as a member of that faith. I am somewhat of a heretic simply because of the fact that I consider religions to be, at best, divinely inspired and well-intentioned organizations; on average to be average organizations; and at worst to be actively oppressive organizations. In all cases, I believe they're man-made and maintained which means that I don't feel my church has divine authority. This makes me a heretic. Given the wide range of Abrahamic beliefs, every believer is a heretic to at least one other group. Christians could be considered heretical to the Jews because we believe in Christ as the Savior and Muslims could be considered heretical to the Christians because they accept Jesus as a prophet but not the Son of God.
The worship of the devil requires belief in the devil which requires belief in the Abrahamic God. Due to the fact that a devil worshiper would have to believe in God, these are neither pagans nor heathens, but instead heretics. Now, the popular image of the black-cloaked witch or warlock following a black mass and practicing vile witchcraft is largely a product of priests that needed an adversary to direct people at and thus keep hold of fading power as the Dark Ages gave way to the Middle Ages. In truth, the few groups that could be labeled as, or mistaken for, satanism are very different. Some of these suggest that Satan or the Serpent was doing God's work when it taught Adam and Eve knowledge of the true God. A more recent Satanism is in actuality a group of very aggressive atheists who hold that belief in any supernatural entity is a form of insanity and hold to Satan only as a metaphor.
However, by definition, a pagan or heathen is not a Satanist (with the exception of the atheistic Church of Satan). So when the die hard Christians toss out both "pagan" and "satanist" at the same target, they're being ignorant. Granted, this is because of a sort of belief that the only reason not to believe in Christ is because the devil tricked you.
Note also, that while belief in Satan requires belief in God; belief in God and Jesus does not require belief in Satan.
This is another thing that some Christians hurl accusations of Satanism at. In truth, pentagrams have been taken up by pretty much every culture coming out of the Middle East, including Christianity. The Christian interpretation of the pentagram is that it represents the Five Wounds of Christ: left hand, right hand, left foot, right foot, spear to the side. It has been used as a protective symbol by a large number of sources. Inverted pentagrams (three points down, two points up) have been associated with evil in the past, but even that is not a 100% situation.
I am rather more separated from the superstitions that Catholicism has a reputation for than I suppose many Catholics are. My father's high school was a Franciscan seminary and my mother is Protestant. As such, the saints do not have a very strong presence in my life. That said, no, Catholics do not worship the saints. However, it is true that many Catholics pray to the Virgin Mary or the saints more than they do to God or Jesus, but this is not a case of worship (at least, it is not supposed to be. Mistakes do occur). Catholic doctrine has it that prayers go through a sort of chain of command starting with the parishioner, moving to the priest, the Pope and on up to God. In modern times, the Church is rather more unconcerned with this detail (meaning that you're unlikely to be decried as a heretic for deigning to pray directly to God) than it was in the past. A work around for this limit was to pray to the saints, the Virgin Mary, angels or pretty much anybody whose dead (which is how saints come to be). The idea being that, like a priest, the entity to whom you prayed would relay your prayer to God. This was often still considered to be a violation of the rules, but the Church largely didn't push the issue that far. As such, if you're Catholic, you often grew up hearing your elders pray to the Virgin Mary or some specific saint like Saint Francis and you picked up on that yourself.
The end result is that Catholics certainly believe in one true God who is the only being truly worthy of worship, but also recognize a whole slew of entities who can be appealed to for aid in the way you would go to an uncle for a loan. We're rather on the edge of being animistic, but I know most Catholics (including my father) would jump on that statement and systemically tear it apart. But, again, even with all that, we do not worship the saints or Virgin Mary. There is no belief that such entities deserve actual worship. Rather there is a belief that, since they are not actual divine beings, it is therefore okay to whine to them for help.
Angels are not a good thing to have appear. Not at all. There are mention of some guardian angels but, for the most part, if an angel makes itself known that means that something BAD is about to happen. Angels are not pleasant beings appearing as beautifully perfect human beings. The majority of angels bare almost no similarity to human form at all. In fact, the limited descriptions of a lot the angels make Lovecraft's vaunted insanity inducing creatures look positively normal. Angels lay waste to towns, kill hundreds of people, turn people into salt, burn armies and so on.
Also, the names of most angels are apocryphal, which, in case you don't know, means that they are not canon. That's right, the majority of the named angels and demons are not canon parts of the religion. The Bible names very, very few of the angels and pretty much none of the demons.
There are of course several things I could go over, but every time I think of something past this, it is something more consisting of my interpretations and beliefs rather than representing an actual misconception. So, for now, I'll leave the subject alone.
The Strands of Fate game:
Strands of Fate
Strands of Power
New seeds Index by Thrythlind
This story draws from a lot of different directions. It is a not so much a post-apocalyspe story as it is a story of an apocalypse in the final stages. Virtual Reality, nuclear holocaust, aliens, robots, limited cybernetics and massive underground bomb shelters all feature in the story. On first glance, it sounds like a lot to fit into one story but the author manages to put it together into a rather enjoyable tale.
The surface of the Earth has been obliterated by nuclear bombardment forcing the inhabitants to take shelter in various shelters built all over the world from converted mines and other deep caverns. The majority of the story takes place within one of these shelters, A-3 where things are going terribly wrong. The population has been dropping off due to what many are starting to suspect that the radiation scrubbers have failed and everyone is doomed to die. This is the starting point.
It is soon revealed that the failure of the radiation scrubbers is due to deliberate sabotage and, after an encounter with the alien behind the sabotage, a group of four people take a "journey" into the other major setting of the book: Kyrathaba. The world of Kyrathaba is a hyper-realistic virtual reality program meant to be a massive multiplayer online game before the aliens first attacked. It is a rather typical fantasy setting with magic and monsters, kings and adventurers.
At this point, the story shifts back and forth from the shelter to the virtual world with occasional snippets showing the actions of the lingering alien invaders. We start seeing the action pick up at this point with the four virtual travelers training up their game skills while the A-3 community recovers, explores and prepares for the alien threat.
There is some apparent inconsistency in character portrayal in the beginning, but it irons itself out fairly quickly. The story persists in building and being entertaining from moment to moment to moment. However, it should be noted that this is a serial story. The book does not end at a convenient story point. Rather instead it ends as both story lines are progressing to what seems to be a climax. This is a valid style choice going back to the Arabian Nights and, more recently, Tolkien. This method of leaving things off at a cliffhanger is becoming more common both in mainstream media and independent authors, but this book does present a rather extreme example of it.
The Strands of Fate game:
Strands of Fate
Strands of Power
New seeds Index by Thrythlind
This book presents a number of debates and meditations on a variety of philosophical, existential, moral and ethical concerns within the overall framework of a push to overturn an existing political system. Each chapter seems to have at least one dialogue or monologue relating to some discrete conflict in one of two major forms: either a debate between a well-thought position and a strawman argument or else an internal monologue exploring some concept, often related to an earlier debate. Most of the arguments are of a rather streamlined nature that peel some of the complexities of the various issues with some being more thoroughly discussed than others.
Overall, the arguments are, as mentioned, streamlined or simplified. In a few cases, one side or another presents a more extreme example of a particular position. The question of whether killing someone is ever justified is brought up several times, but without touching on the matter of intention that represents the distinction between killing and murder. Similarly, atheism and religion are treated in a cursory manner using only the basic arguments of each side of the issue. Other issues are brought up such as the nature of freedom or what it means to be alive as adverse merely existing.
None of the arguments seem to come to any clear answer and I suspect that the author intends to mainly establish a base point for a continuing debate in later books rather than to come to a specific conclusion. However, there is some implication in the storyline that implies some leanings. While several of the characters come to the conclusion that they need to kill, they do so with the internal self-identification as being murderers and the majority of the characters expressing an atheistic view point are villainous in nature.
The writing itself shows a good amount of confidence and competence with the technical skills of writing. The author shows a substantial vocabulary and a familiarity with the basics of rhetorical composition. There is also a clear familiarity with politics and the long-term complexities of attempting to overthrow and replace an existing political system. There is confidence and a definite voice.
As to the story, it had definite potential. All the elements for an interesting story were there. Unfortunately, the story is hampered by the very heavy rhetoric discussed above. It is hard to get engaged in the story when every chapter includes a rhetorical treatise. It is made worse because the author's voice takes over for the characters whenever a debate or dialogue occurs. When it comes to the discussions all the characters argue the same and use the same verbal mannerisms.
The consequence of the frequent loss of immersion in the story is that the flaws inherent in any story become more obvious when your engagement is broken. An example of this is the fact that I kept thinking about how ridiculous it was that this was hundreds, maybe thousands, of years after the destruction of the United States and yet an isolated group showed almost no linguistic drift. There was, of course, mention of differences in language, but said differences were largely cosmetic. There was no grammatical shift at all, which is unlikely given how much drift there is between different cities in the US alone. However, if I had been engaged in the story, I would either have dismissed this as a concern or not noticed it in the first place. This tendency continues throughout the story, with me having a heightened awareness of what should be minor inaccuracies that are easy to dismiss or ignore.
I must admit to some dislike for stories where the message is focused on the story. This story is a perfect example of why. The various issues that the author brings up suffer for the fact that there are so many of them. None of them are explored with much depth and the frequent rhetoric undermines the story by making it clearly a vehicle for the author's opinions, which itself undermines the arguments made since people are more resistant to accepting an obvious argument. I tend to feel your feelings and beliefs more honestly and effectively get into your story when you're not trying to directly express an opinion. That said, I'm also of the opinion that at least half of the meaning of a story comes from the individual interpretation of each reader with the writer's interpretation being only one of many possible.
Overall, the book tries to be too many things at once and is rather disappointing as a whole. The basic storyline is interesting and had potential to be great while the topics and issues discussed were interesting in and of themselves. However, neither is as engaging as they could have been.
The Strands of Fate game:
Strands of Fate
Strands of Power
New seeds Index by Thrythlind
So recently someone on Facebook posted a quote from Frank Herbert, the author of the Dune series, that ran like this: "All governments suffer a recurring problem: power attracts pathological personalities. It's not that power corrupts but that it is magnetic to the corruptible."
I like this quote, I like it quite a bit. It aligns pretty well with my own thought that power in and of itself does not corrupt, but that perceiving it as a power or right rather than a responsibility is what leads one down a dark path. Basically this, a good leader sees the responsibility as the point of a position and a bad leader sees the powers as the point of the position. In the first case, a good leader may be reluctant to use certain powers, those powers still remain tools to performing his task. A bad leader simply sees the powers and what he can do with them and tends to forget the responsibilities involved. And, yes, a person can go from being a good leader to a bad leader or even vice versa (though much more rare for a bad leader to turn good), but for the most part a good leader's administration will be largely overlooked unless they solved some major pre-existing problem. When you have a series of good leaders, nothings going wrong, the system's working the way it was designed to work and there's no reason to talk about it. When you have even one bad leader, the system starts getting misused and a cascade effect results where things screw up. The bad leaders are note-worthy while good leaders are not. It creates an overall impression that the bad outnumbers the good.
This is magnified by the fact that a government is a collective of multiple individuals. While effort is magnified so are mistakes. Like any organization, a government eventually becomes something that it was not originally intended to be. As people come along and add their own procedures or policies to the mix while re-interpreting or dismissing older ones, the overall color and purpose of the organization begins to shift and change. Also, organizations and governments are prone to being victims of sacred cows. Points of inefficiency in younger organizations are more likely to be related to the system encountering a situation that had not been considered previously. As the organization gets older, while those new problems pop up occasionally, the majority of points of inefficiency come from the persistence of old policies that were instituted to handle a situation that is no longer a concern.
There is a lot of impetus the longer a policy has been around. For example, welfare was originally intended by FDR as a temporary measure. There was a lot of concern that having the government hand out resources to people in need would be more harmful in the long run, because why work when you can get money for free? The worry was that you would create a nation of dependents with no ambition or initiative. To a certain extent this has become the case. There are plenty of people for whom welfare is a way of life rather than a temporary and emergency help to get past a rough time. What happened was that after the temporary run was finished, the welfare was voted back in because it now had impetus and politicians were concerned that they'd lose votes if they didn't vote to continue it. This under the assumption that it would go away eventually as it was designed to do. However, the longer it stayed in place, the more it became accepted fact until we come to the current time where welfare is considered a basic governmental function, and in some cases seen as a right, as adverse a temporary and emergency measure. Not being an expert on the system, I can't be sure, but I suspect that a number of the problems that exist in the system come because the people who originally designed it didn't take long-term institution into account. This is sort of like having a bucket with holes in it that you repair with duct tape in the interim, expecting to buy another bucket later when instead you just keep replacing the duct tape. Just to clarify, I have no real problem with the concept of the government applying aid to people in need. I merely suspect that a policy intended to be a temporary ad hoc measure would have problems when you try to stretch it over a long period of time.
Welfare is only one such system which resists change essentially because of a "that's the way it's always been" attitude. The government has a number of these. Likewise, some of the security measures we're taking now are meant to be temporary ad hoc but might become more way of life if we aren't careful. Difference being, they're inconvenient to people rather than helping people, which makes it more likely they'll be removed than kept in. Though "more likely to be removed" in the case of organizational impetus is still a bit too much of a chance that it will stay in place.
Philosophies and religions suffer the same issues. I suspect that most "isms" and similarly suffix-ed concepts started as a person or group of people trying as best as possible to explain their thoughts and policies when asked by someone why they are so successful. They're mostly explained in ideals rather than practicalities. This is because practical application is much more complex, and often complicated, than an ideal. When the people that started the philosophy have an actual firm understanding of what they've done, as adverse just being lucky, the approach or philosophy or whatever tends to be more successfully imparted to any students that come their way. However, the more the philosophy spreads, the more often it falls in the hands of people who understand it less well than others and while individuals come and go who are more aware of the way things should work as adverse do work and can adjust to better match the should, the majority of people purporting to follow the older "isms" will tend to be of the sort that are following the shallow, surface instructions rather than the adapting the ideals to match the real situation. Which is how you get "capitalists" who don't understand that money spent on luxury items for themselves is not really capital or that the less buying power the public has the less capital there is in the system; how some atheist groups can go from "we don't believe in God" to "we need to ban the belief in God and punish anybody who says they're a believer"; and how some religious zealots can ignore the primary teachings of a religion in favor of obscure lines of many-times re-translated text that can be obliquely interpreted to fit their own biases and aims.
Now, in the comments section of the Facebook post that started me thinking about this, the person who posted it eventually commented that people were going to learn that they didn't need government. This is as naive as assuming that government is going to be perfect and potentially just as problematic. The assumption is that the government exists to tell people what they can and cannot do, which is a fact, and thus limits the rights of the populace. The poster focused on the idea that the concept of the government protecting the people was a malicious illusion through which they gain and keep power.
The money I get paid on a monthly basis from my day job is yen. This currency is given credibility by the backing of Japan. Without that backing, it is either a slip of paper, a piece of metal or a few numbers in a computer program. Because of Japan's backing of the currency, I can hold up my coins or bills and say "I have this thing here which says that I have done work and deserve to get a reward." That's what money essentially is, it is a voucher of work performed or produce provided. It is, essentially an IOU that can be drawn from the government. Once upon a time it was backed by some physical resource such as rice, water or gold.
Thanks to that currency, I can exchange my time spent teaching for a meal or gas in my car. Coupons are likewise a form of currency, but they are only backed by a particular company as adverse a country. If I tried to take coupons for food to purchase clothes, I'd be out of luck. Maybe I could trade my teaching time in exchange for coupons for various goods based on what the family of the taught child did for a living, unfortunately that wouldn't be much better. I'd have coupons for lots of individual things, like housing, food, clothes, gas and so on, but I'd have cases where I would have not enough of one thing but more than enough of another thing. To handle that I'd have to go looking to find somebody that had the thing I needed and see if they needed the thing I had too much of. If I didn't, I'd have to go and see if I could find something they needed in the hands of somebody who needed what I had. This searching and trading takes time because a voucher for, say, food has a different value to someone who has lots of food compared to someone who is starving. The same is true for clothes and shelter.
Plus there will be some people that don't need my services as an English teacher. I can always put myself forth as a math, science or history teacher since I know a bit more than the average person, but there are plenty of people who know much more on those subjects than me, so I'd be low in the competition. I do have books I can sell, of course, but that's another issue. Oh I have a story here, but now I have to find someone who wants them. This is going to need a lot of going around and showing people the book or telling them the story and hoping that after my explanation of it, they'll be willing to give me something in exchange for the story. That's a lot of time to find enough people interested in the story or wanting to be taught to be willing to pay something out for it. Especially since they might not give me what I need or want. Meanwhile there might be someone who wants my story or wants me to teach but they don't have anything I need and giving them service for something I don't need when I could be getting something I do need is potentially harmful.
Well, there's the internet, but how do I have internet? How do I pay for it? Do I teach the provider's children or give them a book? Or maybe I give them a voucher for food or something. Now think of things from the provider's view point, they're collecting coupons or services from all over the world, but they live in only one part of it. How can they use these vouchers to help themselves survive? The people that gave them vouchers aren't around. To get use out of those vouchers, the internet provider has to go around looking for people that can trade coupons for coupons for coupons so that the coupons they got from city A eventually get into the hands of someone who can get to city A while the provider is now able to have coupons that he or she can use in city B. And it is a risk to accept these sorts of trades. You could trade vouchers all over the place and then find out that some of the vouchers you have are worthless because something happened to the person or company that issued them and thus no one is taking them anymore and you have worthless paper.
Power, entertainment, internet and teaching are abstract products. They are very difficult to make a living on outside of a system where there is a central currency. A single coupon that has an agreed upon value which can be traded for any other service or product. This is, essentially, what dollars and yen are. Now, what does this have to do with government? Well, how do you get people from disparate industries and professions to agree upon a value for a currency? You have to set them down and come to an agreement about it. Or else there has to be one coupon that everybody needs that they're willing to trade for. For example, some guy who owns an oasis in the middle of a desert gives out some sort of voucher that people can turn in to get water. That's a resource everybody needs and thus those vouchers can become the basis of a central currency. However, once that person, the people providing the central currency essentially become a government because that central currency needs to be protected or else everybody is back to bartering coupon vouchers for different goods. If the person or group backing that central currency falls ill and dies or otherwise leaves someone else behind to handle the oasis, then you have some chaos while people try to figure out the changes this new person is putting into place.
Just giving food or water or other services to whoever asked for it without expectation of pay is similarly problematic to the barter system because eventually you will run out of food to hand out, or you won't have the time to teach all the people you're asked the teacher, or you otherwise can't provide and thus some people go without. It is very possible in this case that you go to some farmer to ask for some food but they've already given it away and only have food for themselves left. Then you have to go "oh well" and move on. If that keeps happening, well, starvation is a thing.
At this point it's not primarily about greed, it's about survival because a central currency makes survival easier for everyone from farmers to teachers. Greed has some influence in getting to this point, but overall, the adoption of a central currency makes more professions viable and all professions more efficient. Greed becomes more evident once a central currency is stable and strong and efforts are made to accrue more of said currency than is strictly needed.
Then you come to disagreements. Two people in a minor disagreement could possible work out their differences to a mutually acceptable situation but it is often easier to do so when there is an outside element guiding your decisions. Laws and rules provide the most common set of external guidelines in most developed nations. This rather works because we're often better able to accept a third party insisting on a way of doing things than we are able to accept the person we're arguing with insisting on a way of doing things. Even if it remains a non-violent argument, the end result could easily be the argument not getting resolved and neither person getting what they need or want.
I'm sort of running out of time here before I have to do something else. This could easily be a huge rant and, in fact, there are entire volumes of books dedicated to the analysis of governmental models. Suffice to say that no government is as major a problem as a bad government. There are several real life examples of places that have lost governments and what the effect was on the country. Even without the violence that seems pervasive in places where government is either unstable or collapsed, life is very difficult without a central authority of some sort. On the other hand, a culture where there are individual freedoms is healthier than one where people are heavily restricted. The existence of a government, however provides the opportunity for the survivable expression of individual rights. It's a balancing line.
The society exists to support the individual. The individual exists to support the society. Without one the other falls. I lean a bit toward the individual myself, but I probably lean more toward society than most Americans.
While I've never been there myself, I have worked with a few artists from the Philippines including who is trying to aid the recovery effort by selling some of his original art pieces in order to raise money as seen here:
Help Philippines_Selling my original artworksIn case some of you didn't know, my country, Philippines was blasted by Super Typhoon yesterday, one of the strongest in history by far:
I am in Manila and we only got signal number 2 yesterday, we are safe and sound with my wife and daughter. However my siblings, families and friends in my hometown Cadiz City and the Vi
Now, I plan to donate some money myself, but I'm not really able to pull much money out of my funds at the moment. So, I'm planning on donating half of the royalties I'll receive between now and December 25th to the recovery effort in the Philippines. I'm going to include both Smashwords and Amazon royalties in this, but I'm going to post a link to my DrivethruRPG.com store.
The reason: I have pretty much total control of what happens with the money in my Drivethru account as compared to Smashwords and Amazon which release funds on a specific schedule.
So, if you want to get some sci-fi/fantasy for Christmas and lend a little help to the Philippines as well, go ahead and check out my store below:
My ebooks are set to "pay what you want", meaning you can put any number from $0 to $1,000.00 if you want (my suggested price is $3.00 for the novels, the thousand is just a ridiculous randomly chosen large number.) My suggestion is to go with the ebooks if you want to help the with the donations more than the book. The paperback prices are mostly printing costs and my royalties on those are very small.
Again, I am going to donate 50% of my royalties from now until Dec 25th to the Philippine's recovery effort.