CategoryGILT

Trader's League

The Trader’s League does not exist. There is not a tight network of mutually interdependent mercantile interests in the South which keeps its existence secret in order to further gather advantages to itself. It does not set the prevailing market rates for commodities and luxuries alike. It does not sanction independent merchants who act against its best interests. It does not represent the single largest economic force in the known world. It does not arrange for bi-annual trade fairs to spring up, seemingly out of nowhere, in cities it wishes to favor. It has never affected a succession debate. It does not kill.

It is not the most significant concern of the Baneguard. And vice versa.

One-Shot Thought Experiment

This isn’t something I want to run immediately; I’ve just been contemplating character generation and systems lately and I wanted to do a thought experiment. Thus, if you feel like commenting on the following, please do. Or even run through the exercise of answering the questions.

So: modern occult game with some action, a touch of conspiracy, you know the genre. Occult is defined as weird stuff, including mad science, psionics, and so on. The framework is a group of free-lance journalists/bloggers; they might know the occult exists but don’t have proof. They’ve got a group blog and cooperate on investigations. Funding is sparse. Thank God for Google AdWords.

Players in the one-shot can define their characters before the game by answering the following questions in prose.

1. What is the core of your character? This could be a profession, a hobby, a way of looking at the world. Describe it in a paragraph or so.

2. What’s another thing that defines your character? Could be a side profession, a skill, a possession, a heritage, whatever. Again, describe it in a paragraph.

3. And a third defining element.

4. OK, now tell me what your character’s flaw is. Same deal, give us a paragraph.

5. What’s your motivation? Why do you do these things you do?

6. What’s your big secret? You really don’t want people knowing this.

7. And, finally, tell me about an important person in your past.

Rules: Reign and Secrets

It might be worth rereading the reference material for Secrets first.
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The Merry Daggers

The Merry Daggers are a small company of adventurers resident in Vain’s Rest. They’re based in the Drunken Magistrate, which (as noted elsewhere) is managed by Ba Juerun and his family. There are six Daggers, which conveniently allows for six pre-generated characters for a four or five person one-shot.
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Broken Maiden

There are enough theories about the Broken Maiden to busy a university of scholars for semesters on end, so we will begin with what is known.

Once, the Maiden dwelt in the heavens. At times, during the month, she looked down upon the world with one eye. Other times, all you could see was her white smile curving through the sky. She blessed magicians with her wisdom, and was known to be the patron goddess of jesters.

And then she fell, not more than forty miles from Vain’s Rest. Among the things that are not known is the cause of her fall; we will return to this. The effects of her fall are clearer. There is a crater some miles across, and in the center, her marble body lies, surrounded by earth turned to glass. Her clothing has not decayed since she fell. Nor has her flesh.

The Broken Maiden is the most powerful source of magic known to man. By the term Broken Maiden we mean both the body and the crater that surrounds it. Some theorists would have it that she fell to save us: some mad genius created a magical source so powerful that the Maiden elected to give her own life in order to stifle it to the point where humanity could remain intact. Some theorists, who believe that she fell for some other reason, simply attribute the magical energies that surround the Broken Maiden to the Maiden’s own nature.

Those energies are dangerous. Animals enter the crater from time to time, and are inevitably transmuted. Coming close to the crater is not immediately deadly, but it is a surefire method of changing one’s life. No human lives less than twenty miles from the Broken Maiden. There are edifices much closer, both above and below ground, and many find it worth the trouble to visit them, but few spend more than a week at a time in such pursuits.

Not all of those structures, by the by, were known before the Maiden fell. Some of them seem to have grown from the sands of the desert without the need for human hands.

Vain’s Rest is conveniently located just far enough from the Broken Maiden to be reasonably safe for its inhabitants.

Tagging Tarnished Brass

China, Back Then

[Game background; not to be taken as literal history.]

It’s 69 AD. The Han Dynasty rules China in the form of the hard-working but sometimes cruel Emperor Ming. He has been emperor for over ten years, and previous to his ascension, he was intimately involved in matters of state. Perhaps this is why he was so diligent and capable.

But there are shadows over his reign. It is well known that Prince Jing plotted to rebel, some years ago, going so far as to employ sorcerers to curse Emperor Ming. The Emperor resolved the issue by forcing Jing to commit suicide, and slew literally ten thousand others who were implicated in the conspiracy. It is whispered that Emperor Ming’s eunuch advisers were responsible for counseling the Emperor to this extreme act, but perhaps it was necessary in order to maintain the Celestial order and the Mandate of Heaven.

Some time after that unfortunate incident, the Emperor’s chief general was sent to hunt down the dangerous rebel known as the Jade Dagger. Much to the surprise of all, Ban Chao never returned from the hunt, and was has in fact been seen many times since cooperating with the Dagger Bandits, as the Jade Dagger’s men are known. Where there was once an annoying but ultimately ineffectual band of rebels, there is now a skilled, well-led fighting force fomenting tumult at the edges of the Empire.

And, finally, China is plagued by demons. While the Emperor’s men have always been successful in defeating demonic incursions, province by province — the eunuchs are rumored to be instrumental in these successes — it yet seems that no man is capable of pushing the demons back for good. For no matter how often they are defeated in any one place, a new infestation arrives in another province soon thereafter.

The Emperor continues to battle these shadows. He has the assets already mentioned; his current general, Guo Xun, is only slightly less formidable than Ban Chao. His twin bodyguards, Lin Bao and Lin Bo, are never-speaking pillars defending him from all harm. He is far from helpless, but he is also far from victory.

Scion Settings

I’ve been kicking around a lucha libre Scion game in my mind, along with a couple of other ideas (Southern Gothic comes to mind), but I think the winner is 17th century pirates who happen to be children of gods.

We’d wanna finish up our Catholic saint pantheon, for obvious reasons. Voodoo fits well, Aztecs fit just fine. Greek gods? Sure. Norse gods? Very well, given the Norse tradition of rampaging around on boats. Egyptian and Japanese are a little tougher, but I have ideas.

And it’s not at all difficult to make Caribbean piracy mythic and grand.

Magic Money: The Setup

You knew a career criminal by the name of Nolan. First name unknown; she never used it, not even with her close friends, which not all of you are. She used to work for the Outfit, running a club in Central City, but that was five or six years ago before she ran into trouble with one of their middle manager types. For the last while, she’s been an independent, doing jobs here and there.

Right now, you’re in Iota City, a small time city a ways west of the Tri Cities, which are a distance west from Central City. A couple of you live there, and a couple of you are pausing there for a while. Nolan died there, a week ago, in the back room of the Thinker’s place. She was shot. It happens, in this business.

There was going to be a job. The Thinker planned it, as per usual. It wasn’t working for the Outfit, but it was something the Outfit was very interested in, maybe because of Nolan; she was going to use part of her part of the proceeds to pay them off, and now they’re expecting it. So it needs to be done even with her dead; and besides, there’s still enough money in it to make both you and them happy.

So there’s still going to be a job. It’s a four-person thing. The Thinker doesn’t usually come on these, but he’s going to have to this time. It’s a risky thing. That’s why nobody bigger has done it. It’s a lucrative thing. Everyone has to start somewhere, and for some of you, this is your start.

If it works out, you’ll have what they call magic money. Money enough, and time.

Organized Crime

I’m mildly addicted to Hard Case Crime books. (Parenthetical trivia: Charles Ardai, the editor and founder of Hard Case Crime, is married to Naomi Novik, who writes the Temeraire series. Fantasy Napoleonic dragons vs. noir thrillers. Small world.)

Anyway, mildly addicted. The new books are in the style of the old books, and the old books are a fun read. Slick, completely stuck in the preconceptions and prejudice of their day, but fun. Tough guys slouch around dealing with rotten people in seedy situations, and there’s a bad idea for every gin mill and a gin mill for every chapter. There’s something charming about a milieu in which the world isn’t measured by the time it takes for an email to get to you — I suspect that one of the key dividing lines of modern fiction is the point at which cell phones became so common that you had to assume them. It’s a fundamental change in the difficulty of interactions.

The view of organized crime is a really interesting difference between these books and modern mysteries slash thrillers. Blame the trinity of Puzo, Coppola, and Scorsese, I suppose. All these old books have an organized crime that’s almost completely a corporate matter. The Organization (or Outfit, or Family, but not Mafia) has lawyers. It wears three-piece suits and does business in a fairly chilly, austere kind of a way.

In Point Blank, the money quote goes like this: “Let me tell you something about corporations, Walker. This is a corporation, I’m an officer of a corporation, and we deal in millions, we never see cash. I’ve got about eleven dollars in my pocket.” That’s the size of it. You see hints of Sicilian heritage here and there, but they get shoved into the background a lot. Sometimes you don’t really see organized crime as much as you see a big businessman whose pursuits lead him across the legal limit now and again.

I figure this reflects the corporate mindset of the fifties. It wasn’t till 1969 that Puzo blew it apart with The Godfather, and Coppola and Scorsese nailed the coffin shut, or some such suitably violent metaphor. This is about a ten year lag from the point at which the Mafia as we think of it today first really hit the American consciousness, but that sounds about right for pop culture.

This primary realization, along with a week or two spent swimming in 50s-60s noir, was the clue that unlocked Edge of Midnight for me. You want to pull back a notch and go for that chilly, corporate feel or the world doesn’t quite make sense. At least, not for me.

This leads to my one-shot idea, which is an Edge of Midnight game set in the aftermath of one of those failed jobs you got all the time. I think I’d want to kill off the protagonist, or rather, the person who’d be the protagonist in the book. I could do worse than lift Max Allan Collins’ first Nolan novel, with a dead Nolan; that leaves us with the older guy who plans jobs, his eager but wet behind the ears nephew, his nephew’s friend the driver… I’d have to rework the girlfriend, who is in no way a playable character, but I’ll think of something.

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