Friday, August 26, 2016

Azrael, Angel of Death, Games, Void, Truth and Bridges

"Not so," the eager Poet said;
"At least, not so before I tell
The story of my Azrael,
An angel mortal as ourselves,
Which in an ancient tome I found
Upon a convent's dusty shelves,
Chained with an iron chain, and bound
In parchment, and with clasps of brass,
Lest from its prison, some dark day,
It might be stolen or steal away,
While the good friars were singing mass."

-Tales of the Wayside Inn, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Azrael has existed for as long as most other angels remember. She did not participate in the creation of the World Tree; instead, she stands ready for that day when the World Tree must perish. She has stood as one of Lord Entropy’s most ardent supporters and one of his most ferocious warrior in the Excrucian War. Azrael does not answer questions about her origin or purpose, merely fixes those who ask her with an unwavering gaze, usually shortly before they die from remaining too long in her presence.

Azrael doe not care for mortals. They are too ephemeral, too minor, to concern so universal being as herself. She refuses to create any Powers other than the one she always creates: the Power of Death, her personal, private Reaper. Any mortal she takes as a Power must necessarily become Immortal, for they cannot die without her permission, and thus they will not pass until she withdraws her Estate. Recently, one other mortal has acquired an Estate from Azrael: When Azrael came to claim Zee’s soul and guide her to the afterlife, Zee challenged her to a game in exchange for her soul and won, thus for the first time in centuries, Azrael has more than one Power.

Azrael makes her home in the Nemesis System, the hidden black star that orbits the Solar System at a great distance, whose pertubations send comets raining down into the inner system. The Nemesis System houses the Plaza of Bridges, the True Library, the Gaming Undeground, and Azrael’s Tomb.

It should be noted that though Azrael appears in female form, she does not refer to herself as female, but as “We,” and this current appearance is relatively recent, perhaps a reflection of taking on Zee, or in response to a prophecy in graphic novel form.

Azrael's flowers are Vervain (the Key of Something Powerful) and Oak (The Key of Something that Hasn't Changed)

Estate of Death

-Death ends things (2)
-Death is terrifying (1)
-Death comes to all things (1)
-Death brings both grief and peace (1)
-All men are equal in death (1)
-Death leaves a corpse (and other evidences of its passing)

Domain Miracles of Death

  1. Finish off something that doesn't matter. Frighten someone. Kill off someone who is on the verge of death (Mercy killing). Speed the grieving process or help someone get over an event. Inflict a surface wound with a little bit of death.
  2. Know something about the death of someone just by looking at the corpse. Talk to corpses or ghosts.
  3. Make someone even more frightened of their death. Bring death very swiftly from something that could kill (a nick kills someone). Make the grieving process intense and all-consuming. Make a death really easy to investigate, or make a battlefield particularly messy.
  4. End someone's life instantly. Conjure up the fear/specter of death for nothing. End something immediately (such as a fight).
  5. Know how someone will die. See moments that surround future deaths or funerals. Ask the dead generally useful questions. Prevent someone's death, or prevent the end of something. End the grieving process for someone (but prevents them from moving on). Remove someone's fear (or their fear of death). Remove a corpse or evidence of a death. Animate the dead.
  6. Change how someone is destined to die, the hour or the form of death. Ensure that death can come even to the immortal. Make something more lethal on a wide-scale (paper-cuts can kill, in San-Francisco)
  7. Kill everyone in a city or a region. Kill an immortal. End a vast movement or principle, such as “killing a civilization,” or “the Death of Punk.”
  8. Prevent the death of everyone in a vast region. Remove the fear of death from a huge portion of the populace, or ensure that someone never fears death again. Make someone immortal (so that they will never die).
  9. Chart the deaths of large scale things, such as when and how the American way of life will die. Shape someone's destined death to a ridiculous scale, in a way that ensures that they will end up somewhere (“You are destined to die during the colonization of mars”). Shape how an immortal is destined to die. Animate an army of the dead. Bring the dead back to life.

Persona Miracles of Death

  1. Make someone a little spooky. Make someone a little corpse-like. Make people a little more equal. Make someone leave additional evidence of their passing.
  2. Become any corpse. Be present at the moment of anyone's death.
  3. Make yourself terrifying. Bring yourself to anyone. Make yourself the equal of others. Leave more evidence of your passing.
  4. Make someone else terrifying. Bring someone to you. Turn someone into a corpse-like creature. Make someone your equal, or the equal of others.
  5. Become present in any corpse, at all possible deaths. Make a corpse appear fresh and alive. Make someone not particularly scary. Create inequality between people.
  6. Make someone undead or a ghost or a reaper (“Guardian of Death”). Make death follow someone and kill those around them. Teleport to someone from across the world. Make even the whisper of your name terrifying. Make yourself the equal of immortals.
  7. Teleport someone from across the world. Make someone epically terrifying. Make someone the equal of immortals.
  8. Prevent a nation from grieving. Prevent a genetic lineage from even leaving a corpse, ghost or any other sign of passing.
  9. Make someone a local death god. Tuck a city/nation away into the world of the dead, as a salvation for the passing dead, with a cult of reapers to protect them.

Estate of Games

-Games have winners and losers (1)
-Games are governed by rules (2)
-Games always have an element of uncertainty (1)
-Games are fun! (2)
-Games challenge their players (1)

Domain Miracles of Games

  1. Make a situation a little more fun, a little more abitrary, or a little more chancey.
  2. Know the rules to any game, even abstract “head games.” Know where the nearest game is. Find a specific game.
  3. Make a game last longer. Make a gamer harder to win, or make a game even chancier than usual. Enforce fair play.
  4. Declare that events are “really” a game (fun, governed by rules, chancy). Create a new game out of nothing. Create a new player out of nothing.
  5. Declare that a game is boring, or nonsensical, or its ending already known. Excise players from the game. Remove rules from a game. Learn something about the larger world or the future by playing a game.
  6. Shape a game's destiny so it is bound to encounter a particular person. Shape the results of a particular game (who will win, who will lose, what the outcome will be). Transport a game from one culture to another (“Monopoly has always been Japanese”). Redefine the rules of a game. Shape a specific game (as in, a particular copy) so that it can grant special powers to its winners. Make it so a person is destined to win or lose a particular game (or all games).
  7. Create an entire line of games or a franchise out of nothing. Create gamers out of nothing. Declare a vast set of ongoing events are a game and follow the rules of games (such as a war), making them largely fun, fair, etc.
  8. Wipe out games from an entire region.
  9. Make a specific game deeply important to a religion or a nation. Make gaming sacred in a city (like Vegas or Monte Carlo or Tokyo). Make the result of a particular game something like gaining magic powers (“Those who manage to finish Amnesia: the Dark Descent can become immortal”). Manipulate the rules of war, or the rules of etiquette, changing a game on a large, metaphorical sense. Declare someone a winner or a loser of something more abstract (like a game of love, or a war)

Persona Miracles of Games

  1. Make someone slightly more fun to hang around, or force them to follow one particular rule, or conjure a random set of events for them that irritate or amuse them.
  2. Be present in any game. Show up inside of a video game. Suddenly turn up at any gaming table.
  3. Make yourself fun to be around. Surround yourself with uncertainty. Declare particular rules apply to you. Become a character from a game. Follow the rules of a particular game.
  4. Create a geas for someone, a rule that they are required to follow. Declare a particular element of someone's character as uncertain. Declare someone fun! Turn them into a character from a game (not making them a specific character, but giving them qualities like someone from that game).
  5. Make someone dreadfully boring. Remove the rules that govern a person's life (such as the rule that gravity affects them). Remove an uncertainty of their character. Make a video game character real by kicking them out of the game. Kick people out of games.
  6. Make someone a “true gamer” giving them a deep connection and/or skill with games. Make someone the denizen of a game, bound to that particular franchise or lost within the game. Allow a video game character to interact with the real world. Connect video games and the real world via a portal. Become an extraordinarily powerful character from a game. Follow extremely powerful rules (such as immortality, or admin-rights to a city's world-space)
  7. Turn entire cities into video-game like spaces, or turn everyone around you into a game-like qualities. Make a region fun, or follow arbitrary rules, or fill it with chance.
  8. Make someone an enormously powerful denizen of a game. Make a permanent, region-wide connection between game and world, creating a cultural connection between the two.

Estate of the Void

-The Void is the space where something could be (2)
-The Void hungers to be filled (2)
-The Void is home to very strange things (1)
-The Void is without form, substance or qualities (2)

Domain Miracles of the Void

  1. Expand space a little, making something a little farther away. Draw things together. Show a glimpse into the weird. Create a blast of wind/shrapnel from a sudden void-pulse that causes surface wounds.
  2. Know a creature of the void just by looking at them. Know the distance between things. Sense a nearby void.
  3. Make the pull of an emptiness very intense (or the strength of an implosion very great). Make the things within a void even stranger. Make a void last longer than it naturally would.
  4. Create a vast, suffocating emptiness that threatens to kill everyone in it (local only, but often has an area effect). Creating a vast emptiness where someone was is a Deadly wound, creating a vast emptiness around everyone is a area-scope Serious wound. Summon creatures from the void.
  5. Fill an emptiness with... something logical (closing bullet wounds, for example, or filling a room with air). Allow a void to have form, quality or substance (but you cannot define what it is). Learn something from spending time in an empty space, by listening to silence, by staring at the darkness between stars.
  6. Change what strange creatures live in a particular, local void. Change what is destined to occur within a particular void. Transport a particular bit of space/emptiness to another place. Create a gulf between two people emotionally. Fill someone's heart with emptiness.
  7. Summon vast armies of unnatural creatures. Erase a city or a vast chuck of landside or a mountain. Create a world-shattering implosion.
  8. Create a planet out of nothing (filling a vast with void with something. Cannot define the planet). Give a vast area of space (such as the solar system) a particular unique quality (such as ether, or space-warping capabilities)
  9. Change the destiny of a vast area of space's destiny (“The home of the Arquillian empire!”).

Persona Miracles of the Void

  1. Make someone feel a little empty inside, or a little hungry, or space out a little, or attract weird things to them.
  2. Be present in any void.
  3. Make yourself filled with strange monstrosities. Make yourself hunger greatly and able to devour nearly anything. Remove some specific form or substance from yourself (“I am without that specific substance”) such as purging yourself of poison, or removing your eye color, or removing defining elements about you.. Be insubstantial.
  4. Make a hideous monster erupt from someone (likely killing them). Make someone feel empty and a great yearning to be filled (physically or emotionally). Remove undesired qualities from someone. Make someone a place where something else can be, allowing them to be insubstantial.
  5. End someone's hunger. Give someone qualities or fill them with substances they did not have before (though you cannot define them). Become one with the space of the Solar System.
  6. Make someone a bizarre denizen of the void. Give someone the ability to survive, even thrive, in a void. Become able to spill out great armies of monster. Become able to devour mountains, or even worlds, to fill your endless hunger. Remove emotional or abstract qualities from yourself.
  7. As 6, but to others.
  8. End hunger across the world. Give everyone in a city undefined/uncontrolled qualities.
  9. Make someone a god of the Void. Make a city a denizen of the void.

Additional Estates

Estate of Truth

  • Truth shows the world for what it really is
  • Truth hurts
  • Truth will set you free
  • Truth is unpopular
  • Truth requires wisdom and sacrifice to uncover

Estate of Bridges

  • Bridges allow you to go from one place to another, unconnected place
  • Bridges carry you over obstacles
  • Bridges grant power to those who control them

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Minimum Viable Session

"This is the sort of thing that kills my campaigns."

I growled that comment over IM to Raoul Roulaux.  As one of my Nobilis players, I think he had a suspicion as to what I was talking about.  We have a good relationship, often complaining to one another, only to get advice on how to solve a particularly sticky gaming problem, and our preferred tactics is asking questions, a habit gained either from reading one too many of Plato's dialogues, or from being veterans GMs.

"What are you talking about?"

"The Reincarnation Engine.  That took forever, and honestly, I haven't finished half of what I wanted to."

"If that's the sort of thing that ends a campaign, why do it?  What exactly is the problem?"

"It's not the Reincarnation Engine specifically.  It's just that I get a vision, and then I can't finish it before the deadline."

"But what's finished?" He asked me.

And I was enlightened.

Martial Arts Analysis: Force Sword-And-Buckler Combat

Force Sword-and-Buckler Combat

Star Wars doesn't feature a force buckler, but Psi-Wars definitely does. The combination of force sword and force buckler over heavy combat hardsuits definitely gives the image of a knight, which is something we want, and it's become Dun Beltain's signature. Fortunately, Kelly Pederson already gave us a martial art that lets us give force buckler weilders as much fancy training as the force sword wielders. She notes that the DB bonus of a shield gives an edge to non-psychic characters, as we've already seen from the fact that a non-psychic Dun was perfectly competent in combat.

Martial Arts Analysis: Ishin-Denshin


Psi-Locke, psionic martial artist
Star Wars doesn't feature much in the way of hand-to-hand combat, and it doesn't really feature psionic combat techniques that aren't lightsaber duels. But why should we stick with that? The way I've designed psionic powers means we must necessarily have a somewhat baroque universe full of unique character types... so why not martial arts to match? Christopher Rice (of Ravens and Pennies) gave us three interesting styles, but unfortunately the Way of the Cerulean Blade doesn't work well with conceits of Psi-Wars (a force sword is better, and cheaper, than a psi-sword), and also, it's a style I confess that I find confusing. But that leaves us with two we can look at, so let's start with Ishin-Denshin.

You can find it in Pyramid #3-69, the article Mind and Body.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Martial Arts Analysis: Way of the Galaxy

Way of the Galaxy

Han Solo with Blaster
The other GURPS martial art explicitly inspired by Star Wars is the Way of the Galaxy, from GURPS Gun Fu page 35. Why should swordsmen have all the fun? Why not gunslingers too? Way of the Galaxy was designed for your cool cowboy-types, like Han Solo.

I'm a bit leery of making explicit martial arts for gunslingers (they tend to lack the mythology of the force sword of hand-to-hand combat techniques), but they might serve as the basis for additional techniques and perks for our combat-oriented heroes.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Martial Arts Analysis: Force-Swordsmanship

Force Swordsmanship

Mace Windu w Lightsaber
For many Star Wars fans, the Jedi is Star Wars (there's a subset for whom it's all spunky princesses, loveable rogues and bounty hunters, and for them, there's Firefly), and the Jedi has two arrows in his quiver: the Force, and his lightsaber. For Psi-Wars, we've used Psionic Powers and Communion to cover the Force. The force sword and Force Swordsmanship covers the lightsaber.

But what does Force Swordsmanship actually do, how does it play, and does it actually look anything like how Jedi actually fight? Let's take a look, on page 209.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Martial Arts Analysis: Understanding GURPS

If we're going to use GURPS Martial Arts, it behooves us to understand GURPS Martial Arts.  I've often made the mistake of simply trusting my source material (or my flawed understanding of it) without examining it in more detail, and it often bites me in the ass.  If I look more deeply at the styles I've chosen and the rules around them, I'll avoid potential pitfalls.  Furthermore, GURPS Martial Arts is a wondrous smorgasbord of optional rules with which we can use to customize our experience, and that's something we'll have to do, as GURPS out-of-the-box will punish melee fighters, and we do not want that.

(Peter Dell'Orto, the author of the book, has a fantastic post outlining this very philosophy here that is well worth your time to read. As he recommends, we're not going to add his rules "just because they're there." I want to think through how I want the fights to play out, and adjust the rules accordingly.)

Over this next week, I'll look at the four martial arts we chose at the outset:

  • Force-Swordsmanship
  • Force Sword-and-Buckler Combat
  • Inshin-Denshin (but not Third Eye, because I have limited time)
  • Way of the Galaxy
But today, I want to take a moment to look at GURPS Martial Arts itself, as it has some advice fairly specific to our chosen genre.
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