Friday, July 1, 2016


In keeping with my previous plans, I've chosen to design each setting as a list of challenges and setting descriptions, so I have a rough idea of what sorts of problems someone might face when interacting with a particular setting.  All of these challenges could easily be projects, if the players wished.  The idea is more that I get a sense of what sorts of adventures we might have in this particular setting.

Today, I begin with the core of the setting: Vancouver

Properties of Vancouver

  • The Law of the Every-City: Provided it is not unique or iconic to another city, anything that can be found in a modern city can be found in Vancouver.
  • The Law of the Indie City: The more interesting something in or associated with Vancouver is, the less likely outsiders know about it.
  • The Law of Canada: True denizens of Vancouver are always polite.

Challenges of Vancouver

Find a nice cup of coffee or tea

  •  0 or less: Spill hot coffee all over yourself and cause some burns
  • 2: Find a nice cup of coffee
  • 3: Impress your friends with your taste in coffee
  • 4: Find a cup of coffee that perks you up, or inspires you to solve that problem you had at work, or a cup of tea that soothes your nerves
  • 6: Get a cup of coffee from Yukimura Yuji himself, or find a new blend of coffee that a trendsetter
  • 8: Find a cup of tea that cures a lingering illness (like cancer)
Bounds, afflictions, trouble and tools:
  • Trouble: The Death of Abigail Ng (3): The estate of Tea is dying! Finding a good cup of tea is getting harder, unless it’s a weird, unnatural or alien form of tea, such as Oolong, Herbal or Bubble Tea, in which case you can ignore the trouble, as the estate of Tea is shuddering with the aftereffects of Abigail’s death.
  • Tool: World Class Baristas (+1): Vancouver has some fantastic baristas, most of whom trained under Yukimura Yuji. If you can find one of them, they’ll give you +1 on any quest you undertake to find a good cup of coffee. This does not apply to tea (Yuji had not yet rediscovered his love for Tea when he trained the Baristas of Vancouver).

Kafka’s Coffee

The hippest place to get coffee in Vancouver. It’s not the only coffee place in Vancouver, or even the most well-known, but Yuji trained here, and both the Powers of Tea and Coffee frequented it, and their grace and power have imbued it with some of the best coffee and tea in the world (though, following the Law of the Indie City, most people have never heard of it). Features a rotating gallery of local artists that you've never heard of.

Properties of Kafka’s Coffee
  • Sacred to Rajani Jones and Abigail Ng: All quest to get a good cup of coffee or tea gain +1 here (in addition to World Class Baristas)
  • Nonsensical Prophecy: The rotating artwork and the foam art of the coffee or tea depict truths pertinent to the current state of the spirit world, though one will never make sense of them until after the fact, unless one has some connection to either the estates of prophecy or nonsense.
Description Snippets:
  • The scowl of a disapproving barista through her heavy mascara and thick-rimmed glasses.
  • The percolating bubbling of coffee and sudden hiss of espresso.
  • The murmur of conversation and the scrape of chairs against wooden floors.
  • The rich, deep scent of fresh coffee and the subtle, soothing, grassy scent of tea.
  • Tiger-striped brown (or green) and white foam art bobbling about in someone’s cup.
  • An odd, eye-catching painting of clashing colors by some artist you’ve never heard of.

Find Love

  • 0 or less: Meet someone who is all wrong for you, perhaps a stalker, or an alien; whomever it is, it just won't work out
  • 1: Have a nice date or a charming moment with someon
  • 2: Find someone with whom you could have the beginnings of a real, if humanely troubled and flawed relationship
  • 3: Date the really cute girl/boy, even if it won't actually work out
  • 5: Connect with a person who makes your life better for having known them, relationship or no
  • 6: Land a date with a really hot girl/boy, and actually make it work. Your romance becomes the talk of the town
  • 9: Find your soulmate

Bonds, Afflictions, Trouble and Tools:
  • Trouble: Finding Love as a Toy (2): Toys and video-game characters have an especially difficult time finding love in Vancouver as their dating market is notoriously full of players.
  • Trouble: Not looking for something meaningful (2): Few Vancouverites are looking for something meaningful, especially not in romance. If a character is just looking for a date or some fun can avoid this Trouble, but as soon as they want something with a dharmic quality, Vancouver becomes a terrible place to find it… but see below!
  • Bond: I'm in love with X (Varies): Characters who fall in love with one another, if that love is a deep, profound, meaningful and dharmic, it might become a soul-defining bond. This can count as a wound, especially if someone inflicts it upon you unwillingly. Such love can kill, or utterly transform, mere mortals who have only one superficial health level (“You don't seem like the same person since you met her...”). This is especially common if one finds their soul mate.

Dr. Sun Yat Sen’s Gardens

The most romantic place in all of Vancouver, Dr. Sun Yat Sen’s garden was created to help bridge the cultural differences between the West and the East, and serves as a refuge for many of Vancouver’s avian population, especially magpies. It allows people to bridge more than that: Because people come here to seek their dharma and purpose, in this case to find meaningful love, it serves as a crossroads between worlds (that is, you can get somewhere by going to Dr. Sun Yat Sen’s Gardens), and one can reach the Chancel of Kirin via the reflection of its koi pools.

Properties of Sun Yat Sen’s Gardens
  • Bridging Differences: Characters in Sun Yat Sen’s Gardens can ignore 2 points of trouble when it comes to connecting to one another, whether this is cultural or linguistic differences. This explicitly solves the “Not Seeking Something Meaningful” trouble.
  • Centered: The garden works as a tool for gaining serenity and internal introspection. Add +1 to any passion/skill attempt to understand one’s own dharma or purpose.
  • Gateway: You can reach Kirin's chancel from the undisturbed reflections in Sun Yat Sen's koi ponds.
Description Snippets
  • The babble of fountains or streams running into pools. The occasional pop of a koi fish surfacing.
  • The scent of flowers, earth, moss and algae, plus the unmistakable scent of koi-fish food, on the gently wafting wind.
  • Lawns of green, outlined in winding spirals of red-brown pathways or blue-silver streams, and speckled with the violet, pink, white of flowers and butterflies.
  • A weighty sense of ominous belonging and connection with whomever you have come with.
  • A sense of serenity as one stands in the shelter of a pagoda or the branches of a weeping willow.

Chill Out

  • 0: Get in trouble for having shirked more important responsibilities, resulting in more stress than you had before
  • 1:  Have fun hanging with your friends, or playing video games, or hanging out at a concert
  • 3: Get a high score, or an autograph, or otherwise make others jealous of your slacker feats
  • 5: Achieve a sense of peace, relaxation and well-being that restores some stress-related damage that you've taken
  • 6: Achieve a pointless world-record and gain widespread recognition for your slacker feat:
  • 9: Doing nothing turns out to be exactly the right thing to do, and your off-hand approach, you master of Wu Wei you, solves the problem at hand
Bonds, Afflictions, Trouble and Tools:
  • Trouble: Slacking Never Solved Anything (1): Chilling out helps one to escape, which never solves anything. If you're trying to do something other than have a good time, or relax, you must overcome this Trouble somehow.
  • Stressed out! (Bond 1): If you're really stressed, it counts as a superficial wound. Your character is really freaking out and is driven to try to accomplish the task that stressed them out in the first place, or to seek a way to relax. This level of stress is sufficient to kill mere mortals who have only one superficial wound! This could be a consequence of disastrously failing to chill out, while successfully chilling out might cure this particular wound, or at least begin its process towards healing.


Playland is an amusement park located in Hastings Park of Vancouver. It is the oldest amusement park in Canada. It contains rides such as the Revelation (which has replaced the now-lost attraction "the Labyrinth"), Hell's Gate, and the Glass House (a maze of transparent walls that is a free attraction; anyone can enter the Glass House). Any ride can lead into the Damien Bog’s chancel, Toyland, if one is completely enshrouded in darkness and one knows the words to say, or one is unlucky.

Properties of Playland
  • Distractions: Playland applies a 1 point trouble to any actions that aren't chilling out as it lulls those within. Their actions become less meaningful, less likely to improve their lives.
  • Curse of Playland: You can get into Toyland via Playland. Sometimes unintentionally.
Description Snippets
  • The rattle of a roller-coaster as it winds itself up, followed by the scream of its victims.
  • Insipid pop-music with a toe-tapping beat, sung by the electronically enhanced voice of teenager, the nuance of which is lost under the complaining of nearby tween girls.
  • The crush of the (overweight) crowd bumping and jostling, like a herd of cattle, as they move like a molasses wave to get in line for the gaping maw of an industrial entertainment machine.
  • The cloying taste of chemically-colored cotton candy.
  • Garish, circus colors slapped over slowly rusting steel.

Find Something Authentic and Original

  • 0 or less: You think you find something authentic or original, but you've been duped by the corporate-industrial complex into “buying in and selling out”
  • 1:  Find something that's you enjoy, if not genuinely original or authentic
  • 3: Find something cool, even if it's not genuinely original or authentic
  • 4: Find something original and authentic. Now what?
  • 5: Find something genuinely authentic and original that actually helps you understand better who you are as a person
  • 6: Find something other people think is authentic and original. You were into it before it was cool!
  • 7: Find something authentically and originally magical. This isn't necessarily safe.

Trouble and Tools:
  • Trouble: Corporate Clutter (1): The world is filled with things that look original, but actually aren't. This counts as opposition, so characters with a Cool of 1 or higher can ignore it (Cool people have little trouble finding something authentic and original)
  • Trouble: Nothing New Under the Sun (3): If you're looking for something original that is from this world, you face this trouble. Authenticity is no problem.
  • Affliction: I've become a hipster! (Varies): Too much time searching for the authentic and original can turn you into a hipster or, perhaps, those who become hipsters are driven to seek the authentic and original. Affliction levels vary: At level 1, hipsterish accountrements (like sleeve tattoos, thick-rimmed glasses, ironic beards, etc) begin to manifest. A key feature of higher levels is that nobody understands hipsters, so at level 2 and above, your true nature becomes masked by the ineffability of your hipsterness.

The Steam Clock and Gastown

The Steam Clock was built in 1977 to solve a steam vent problem in the renovated Gas Town, a historical district. The steam clock featured on Nickleback's 2011 album, and has been voted the world's worst tourist attraction 10 years running.

Gas Town, itself, stands at a bit of a nexus between worlds, and when it becomes misty, one can lose themselves and end up in other places, which likely explains the slowly creeping steampunk infection that's slowly taking over the buildings of Gastown. As a result, one can easily find truly original things, but the corporate world, which funded the renovation of Gas Town explicitly to get at this originality, has cluttered the streets with their own merchandizing, making it hard to make out the truly original.

Properties of Gastown
  • Interworldly Crossroads: One can try to make his way to multiple chancels, or even off Earth, via Gastown. As a result, one can ignore the Nothing New Under the Sun trouble here, but Corporate Clutter becomes a level 2 trouble here.
Description Snippets
  • The billowing, silvery steam of the steam clock mixing with the grey mists of Vancouver-by-night.
  • The hiss of steam and the rattle of nearby trucks, followed by the whistling of the clock.
  • The faded yellow glow of the street lights on the historic facade of the storefronts
  • The scent of copper, beer and and moldering, old buildings, and a whiff of something else intriguing that you can't put your finger on.
  • The body-temperature warmth of the steam vents beneath the side-walks, occasionally letting loose a few escaped tendrils of steam. The sidewalks and steam vents feel alive to the touch, and might even exhibit a subtle pulsing thump, like the slow-heartbeat of some giant, subterranean beast.

Get a Job

  • 0 or less: You humiliate yourself in a job interview, or irritate someone of great power, or get a job, but it turns out that “Ferdinand” doesn't actually run a modeling agency or a get-rich-quick IT business, and now you need to escape his van before it's too late!
  • 2: Get a job
  • 3: Have a sufficiently impressive resume that you're not only hired, but your future boss offers you a compliment
  • 5: You don't just get a job, but a career, something that you'll find fulfilling for years to come
  • 7: Land a dream job, the sort of job that will make all of your friends jealous, like movie star, game tester, or coffee taster

Trouble and Tools:
  • Trouble: A job in this economy? (1): This trouble only applies if you seek something personally fulfilling. You may avoid this trouble if you explicitly seek out some soul-draining work (the sort that will eventually turn you into an Empty Suit).
  • Bond: I have a job (Varies): You're required to work your job. This is generally an optional bond, but characters who have been trapped unwittingly into a contract might take it as a wound.
  • Affliction: I've become an Empty Suit (Varies): Working for a corporation can hollow you out and leave you as a sort of shadow person, a false being that looks alive, but isn't. You've been consumed by the legal entity of the Corporation. This is always a Severe wound, and is certainly enough to kill/transform/make into an NPC all but the very toughest of mortals.

Living Shangri-La

The Living Shangri-La contains a five star hotel (the Shangri-La hotel), high-price condominiums, a specialty grocery store, a public display by the Vancouver Art Gallery, and contains a beautiful sculpture garden. The Living Shangri-La is the headquarters for a variety of major corporations, including the fictional ENCOM, and is home to Magnus Carter, the Power of Corporations.

The Shangri-La contains several pathways to chancels of Vancouver, including a path to Belphegor's Chancel on floor 13, a path to Azrael's Chancel on floor 4, and mysterious paths beyond the watery curtain of an artificial waterfall in the sculpture garden.

Properties of the Living Shangri-La
  • Place of Power: Anyone can travel to any chancel of any Imperator via the Shangri-La, if they know how.
  • Manmade Paradise: Gain +2 to any efforts to find a job, or otherwise improve your life via economic or corporate means in the Shangri-La.
  • Lofty Peak of Power: Attempts to enter Shangri-La automatically have a 2 point trouble “You do not belong here” unless you are angelic, or one of the elite of Earth, or you are an Empty Suit.
Description Snippets
  • The eye-blinding sheen of its pristine walls in the sunlight.
  • The reverent silence with which the staff move, interrupted only by the hushed utterances of the residents.
  • The rushing white-noise of the artificial waterfall and the meditative stillness of the sculpted garden.
  • The incense-like scent of perfume and potpourri just barely unable to disguise the scent of antiseptic wash and the floor wax used by the staff to keep everything pristine.
  • A sense of peace and satisfaction, paired with a nagging sense of dislocation, the keen awareness that you do not belong here.
  • Staff will often say things to the players like “Can I help you?” and “You're not supposed to be here!” or “Are you looking for something?”

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