Saturday, September 30, 2017

State of the Patreon: October 2017

So, where are we as we finish off September, and where are we going in October?

September was a solid month.  The Patreon is basically flat, having lost some patrons, but also gained them . I keep brushing the next goal, but I haven't quite made it yet.  Nonetheless, interest in the blog remains high, and I've seen view gains for the second month in a row, and we've essentially recovered to pre-Orphan of the Stars views.

This month saw the kick-off of Philosophy, which seems well-received, except for some controversy around the facebook post for Neo-Rationalism (the smugness of Neo-Rationalism provokes a response in some, which is fair enough!).   We also saw the kick-off of Tinker Titan Rebel Spy, which currently has three players for sure, and two more in the works.  I'm both nervous about the game (I can never have too much preparation, but at the same time, I can see the gameplay pretty vividly, so it should make for an interesting game).  The characters look interesting, and I'm impressed by how much depth the players are giving their characters.  This almost certainly arises from the quality of players I have, but it's good that Psi-Wars supports that sort of depth.

Shhh. Go back to sleep.  Daddy's just distracting his
readers with a cute picture of you.
For October, first, I need to slow things down a little, because my parents visited to get their first look at my son (who just hit five months!), and he's also teething, which is an awful experience.  He's running a fever, whimpering, and sometimes has no appetite.  Needless to say it's been emotionally wracking and slowed down my productivity.  I had hoped to have a full month of 4 public posts per week and one patreon post per week, but it looks like I'm just going to miss that mark.  Instead, I'm going to run 12 public posts and 3 patreon posts, and give myself a week's break.  My wife complains that I went from 4 posts a month to 20, which is admittedly a break-neck pace, but I hope you guys don't mind.

For public posts, I'm going to wrap up the Akashic Mysteries, including a look at the esoteric style, unique martial arts associated with the Akashic Order, and the organization of the Order, including a look at the Shadow Council, and then a look at Akashic ancestor veneration, with a look at the important ancestors of each of the four Alliance houses.  Then we'll move on to the Divine Masks, and start with the basics.

For Patron posts, we'll start with a look at an in-depth look at Esoteric Medicine. While I have a focus on Psi-Wars, the ideas in the article can be used for any form of Esoteric Medicine (for example, Dungeon Fantasy, or your wuxia games).  This is available for all $1+ patrons.

Then I'll take a more in depth look at how non-psionic characters can access and benefit from the Paths of Communion.  I offer three new strategies.  This will be available to all $3+ patrons.

Finally, the Divine Masks is grounded in the culture of an alien race, the "Sexy Vampire Dark Elves," as they've been code-named up to now.  They now have a name: the Ranathim, and a preview draft will be released for all $3+ patrons.

Last but not least, the first Tinker Titan Rebel Spy game will be on the 21st.  I'll try to have a transcript and an after action report, though I don't know when I'll be able to get to it.

Thank you, everyone, for your support, and I hope you continue to support the blog!

Support me on Patreon!

Friday, September 29, 2017

Patreon Post: Skairos - The Secrets of the Devils of Persephone

Like gargoyles, the images of the devils of Persephone haunt the temples of the Akashic Order, acting as symbolic guardians against unworthy interlopers who would profane the Akashic Record.  According to Akashic lore, the devils of Persephone predated the arrival of human colonists, terrorized the early residents of Persephone, and then gave them the secrets of the Akashic Record.

This could all be symbolic metaphor.  Just as a Oracle needs to brave the perils of her own trance to gain access to the Akashic Record, so too did the colonists of Persephone needs to brave the perils of some space monster to found the Akashic Order.  But could they be more than just symbolism for the danger inherent in exploring deep time? Were they real? What secrets did they know?  And how are they connected to the Shadow Council that rules the Akashic Order?

Today is a special preview that looks at the possible perspectives on the Devils of Persephone, treating them as anything from symbols to space monsters to a secret bloodline to an alien race.  It also looks at the secrets of Shadow Initiation, and what secrets the Akashic Order "learned from" the Devils of Persephone. This preview is available to all $3+ Patrons!  Associated with it is a poll for all $5+ patrons, who may decide what, if any of it, is canon for the Psi-Wars Setting!  If you're a patron, check it out, and vote!  If you're not, we'd love to have you.

Support me on Patreon!

Tinker Titan Rebel Spy

Holographic pixels bloom into a shaky, distorted image of a man, Director Donlan Thorn, a minister of Heritage in a formal, grey imperial uniform, before the noise on the signal clears enough for the image to give a firm impression of the man.  A hard, lined face looks out from the holographic recording, a close-cut salt-and-pepper mustache beneath his nose, and a peculiar, non-regulation set of goggles rest on his brow, ready to be tugged down over his eyes, matched by an air-mask hanging loosely around his neck.  He plays with a tumbler of thick, black gooey drink between his gloved hands.

After regarding the holographic recorder for a moment, he speaks in deep, gravelly tones. "As I predicted, the Grist expedition has proved fruitful.  I found what I promised you, but the local insurgency grows increasingly aggressive, and threatens to undermine my... our... discovery.  But when I move against it, your governor fights me at every turn."

He takes a frustrated drink from his tumbler, and then slams it back on his desk, and leans forward, his deep voice lowering to a growling register. "Worse, I suspect a traitor in our midst.  My... our... project is in danger.  I need outside help."

And with that, the holographic recording ends.

EDIT: The campaign is now filled.  Thank you for everyone who expressed interest!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Akashic Symbolism and Ceremonies

Akashic Symoblism

The Akashic Record

According to initiates of the deepest Akashic Mysteries, a successful initiate finds the Akashic Record at the end of a long and harrowing astral journey. Most initiates describe them as a single tablet of glowing light that once touched, floods the mind with knowledge, but some describe it as an old woman, a statue of an old woman, or an aging book bound in human flesh. Artwork commonly depicts the Akashic Record as a glowing tablet held a loft by an Akashic Oracle, at the highest point of the artwork. The Akashic Record represent enlightenment, and the highest degree of initiation.

The Tree of Time and the Golden Path

Initiates of the Akashic Mysteries describe their astral journey as walking a winding maze until they reach the foot of a mountain that brings them to the road to the Akashic Record. When they look back down, they can see the fullness of time laid out before them. Some describe it as like a tangle of yarn, or a labyrinth, but the most common description is like a tree.

Those who learn the see the future describe a similar “maze” of branching possibilities. For example, when asked about whether or not a woman should accept a marriage proposal, Oracles actually see a myriad possible outcomes, including many possible outcomes if she says yes and if she says no. The near present has the least possibilities, and they’re very likely, the “thickest” branches, while those far away are the least possible and the most numerous, the “thinnest” branches.

The Akashic Order, thus, likes to describe time as a tree, with the present as the trunk, the roots as the past, and the branches as the possible future. The tree of time is ultimately the symbol of the Akashic Mysteries.

When walking the paths of the astral maze, many Akashic Initiates describe being guided by the golden light of the Akashic Record. This makes the preferred path “golden.” This has created the term of “the golden path” as the one true set of choices everyone must make to reach the enlightenment of the Golden Record. Many who follow the Akashic Mysteries like to have a great tree in a garden with golden ribbons hanging from its branches, to symbolize their dedication to following this “golden path.”

The Coming Storm

Beyond a particular point, no Akashic Oracle can see the future. She sees instead the writhing strands of chaotic impossibility. Beyond this point, precognition is impossible, the “Time Horizon.” This may just mean that every precognitive has limits, but the horizon refuses to move past a certain point: it comes swiftly and closes in on the current generation! And events that Akashics can see shortly preceding the Time Horizon depict awful slaughter, mayhem and carnage, though their exact nature varies, and who inflicts this carnage is invisible to the eyes of the Akashics (they can see the burning cities and the dead strewn about, but not who will destroy human civilization). Most have concluded that they cannot see the future beyond this because, for humanity, there is no future.

Within this writhing chaos, some Akashics can see gaps, and can peek at futures just beyond them. These tend to show humanity in a terrible state of subjugation or slow dissolution, but on one, beyond which the Akashic Record is visible, they see a safe and surviving humanity.

Akashic Oracles have a difficult time relating the horror of the Coming Storm (the first time an Oracle witnesses it, the GM might call for a Fright Check), and dislike talking about it. In iconography, artists like to depict it as a literal storm or as a burning tree; Akashics who have seen the Coming Storm prefer the burning tree, as they describe the Coming Storm as “devouring the tree of time,” but feel it might confuse the lay person. Within the temple on Persephone, an obscure wall has been painted entirely black and seems to move and writhe in the torchlight, and has the hellish imagery of skulls and slavery depicted on it; the Akashic Oracles claim the horror of this wall in a dark and foreboding passage comes to the closest to accurately depicting the Coming Storm.


The Akashic Oracle must isolate herself from the world to make the best possible predictions. Knowing the future, she must refrain from interacting with the world more than necessary lest her actions introduce unforeseen consequences, and she must not let worldly concerns distract her, lest they impact her visions.

The Akashic Order uses veils to symbolize this separation from the “supernatural,” or the silent places where visions take place, and the “real” world, where the rest of us live, and what the visions speak of. Those who enter an Akashic temple must pass through a silken veil, and those who will be initiated must pass through multiple veils, while the Akashic Oracle wears a veil while out in public, especially over her eyes.

The Veil symbolizes innocence and the dividing line between the supernatural and the physical. By wearing a veil, the Akashic Oracle denotes herself as connected to the “supernatural.”

The Devils of Persephone

The Devils of Persephone, important to the origins of the Akashic Mysteries, remain a potent symbol for the Akashic Mysteries. Akashic artwork depicts the Devils as standing between the supplicant and the tree of time, or haunting the labyrinth of time, stalking those who would reach the Akashic Record. They appear twisted or phantasmal creatures with black or shadowy skin, white eyes or no eyes at all, and great, fang-filled maws and long, hungry tongues. If an artwork depicts a point of light (a knight’s upraised force sword, or the Akashic Record itself), they recoil from that light as though in fear. They often decorate the facades of Akashic Temples, and statues of them stand before the veils of initiation. While outsiders interpret them as the monster, Akashic imagery treats them as guardians, as those who stand between the supplicant and the ultimate truths they seek, testing the worthy and devouring the unworthy.

The Symoblism of Time

The standard Akashic symbols tend to represent metaphors for time itself, explaining its shape, the needs of the Akashic Order and the ultimate lesson of the coming galactic calamity and the need for enlightenment and knowledge. The Akashic Order uses these symbols to teach the layman and to enlighten the initiate, but they have additional, more specific symbols.

The visions of oracles tend to be highly symbolic and confusing and often deeply personal. The Akashic Order has compiled entire libraries full of that imagery, to help explain the visions of their oracles, but they also drill these symbols into their initiates. They find that those steeped in the lore of that imagery are more likely to see that imagery in their visions, and thus these symbols create a language of interpretation that makes the visions easier to understand.

The Akashic Order often uses this imagery, in addition to the imagery noted above, in their Mystery Plays, in their ceremonies, and they’ve found their way into the heraldry of the Alliance.

Animals: Small adorable creatures, who often speak. Represent the poverty stricken, the weak, those who need to be protected; also represent the struggles of the common world, and often live in a harsh nature. For powerful, frightening animals, see the Great Beast.

Blood: Guilt, failure, the consequences of a past action catching up to one.

Blossoms: Any number of the poison blossoms of Persephone make their way into the symbolism of the Akashic Order. Their meaning varies from blossom to blossom, but generally symbolize love, innocence or the price of power.

Chains: Symbolize the bonds of vows, or connections between two people.

Darkness, the Void: Calamity, the Coming Storm, the Unknown.

Fire: Chaos, rapid change, the destruction of rightful rule; the Coming Storm.

Stars, Astronomical Phenomenon: A new journey, the need to travel, appointing a desired location.

Shadows: That which could be, but is not

The Blind Woman: Symbolizes oracles, oracular knowledge, or self-sacrifice

The Crown: Symbolizes rightful rule.

The Eye: Symbolizes knowledge, insight, psionic power, or the Akashic Record.

The Fool: Symbolizes innocent violation of rightful rule, an accidental (and possibly fortunate) violation of rules; can also symbolize another perspective.

The Force Sword: If vertical or held aloft, symbolizes a force driving away “Darkness.” If held horizontally or across the body, symbolizes righteous defense. If lowered (at a downward angle) but active, symbolizes restraint or control.

The Great Beast: Symbolizes slaughter, murder, war crime and violent violation of rightful rule.

The King: Symbolizes rightful rule.

The Knight: Symbolizes a powerful ally, someone that will defend or protect rightful rule.

The Lover: Symbolizes temptation away from one’s duty; a violation of the sacred.

The Mask: Usually two toned, with the left dark and the right bright. Symbolizes deception, or a hidden/masked nature, or something that cannot be known.

The Princess: Symbolizes a powerful victim or pawn, someone who others should sacrifice to gain safety or prosperity.

Akashic Ceremonies

The Akashic Mysteries use rituals to induce trances in themselves, to impress their followers, and because by following rigid protocols, they can slowly strengthen destiny to ensure that the future occurs as they predicted. All ceremonies require Religious Ritual (Akashic Mysteries). Such ceremonies may be performed by a priest or priestess of the order, but traditionally an Oracle is always present and the ceremony takes place under her authority, even if she plays no more than a symbolic role.


Those who wish to ask a question of the Oracles of the Akashic Mysteries must submit their request in advance. For off-worlders, the Oracles prefer that the request be submitted before setting foot on the world. The Order decides which questions to take and on what schedule, and then notify those whose questions have been accepted.

When the supplicant, the one who has a question he wishes answered, arrives at the Akashic Temple, he is greeted by his companion, a member of the Temple who will accompany him at all times. He is ritually bathed, purified and dressed in preparation for meeting the oracle. Most temples encourage fasting. When the appointed time arrives, the companion gives the supplicant a ceremonial wafer dosed with a hallucinogen (traditionally Dream Nymph, but as that’s a dangerous poison, some temples use a more mild hallucinogen; see B440), and then guides him into the bowels beneath the temple where the Oracle awaits him. To reach her, he must pass through corridors full of symbolic imagery and at least one veil. The exact course depends on the message the temple wishes to give the supplicant (which may be political rather than mystical, something like “Look how powerful we are” or “Behold how much you need us”).

Finally, he stands before the Oracle. She usually sits upon a chair, tripod or throne, often in a room full of vapors. She gives a dramatic display in telling the supplicant the answer to his question (Performance or Religious Ritual). Usually, the temple divines the truth in advance, as the best precognition occurs in silent sensory deprivation chambers. Once the truth is known, the temple then usually decides what they want to tell the supplicant, and the Oracle focuses more on the impact of her performance than on how correct the answer is.

The real purpose of the entire affair is to put the supplicant on the right path. Thus, a man might ask “Who should I marry?” The order then turns their attention to his future and divines how they might answer his question in such a way to best help the Order. For example, if he tricks a local duchess into believing that he’s noble and marries her, he might have a miserable marriage and die to assassination, but their child would be an important hero in the future. And thus, they’ll couch the prophecy in revealing his “lost” aristocratic bloodline, in convincing him to rule, and in setting him on a path where he will meet the duchess, and gives him clues so as to recognize her as the woman he should marry.

Matchmaking and Marriage

Matchmaking is such a common question that the Oracles generally don’t accept such questions, and instead take a pro-active approach. A whole branch of the Akashic Order dedicates itself to keeping tabs on the bloodlines and eugenic traits of the various houses. These “Matchmakers” regularly go out and visit noble houses and consult on the viability of particular matches. These matchmakers tend to be low ranking members of the Akashic Order and might not even be psionic, and do not wear veils. They consult on the genetics of proposed matches and even propose matches to houses that seek them.

Oracles do investigate good matches. Generally, far-seeing oracles will have found particular people in the future that they wish to ensure will come into existence, and the oracle and matchmakers will work together to trace a bloodline lineage to the prophesied child, the Oracle working from the future backwards, and the matchmakers working from the present forward. Once the right matches have been found, the matchmakers will propose the matches and if that doesn’t work, the whole Akashic Order may begin to leverage their influence to push for a particular match. As such, traditionally, one accepted a proposed match from a matchmaker on principle, because one never knew when the entire Akashic Order would throw its weight behind the match.

The Akashic Order does not need to oversee wedding, but the nobility likes their stamp of approval, so a matchmaker will usually attend. They like to use the symbolism of the princess and the knight, the chains of the vow made between the two, and veiling the bride, to represent her innocence and purity. Sometimes, an Oracle will arrive to oversee the wedding, a veiled figure who stands apart from the proceedings as a silent witness. At the end of the ceremony, she might foretell the results of the marriage (usually highlighting the glamorous elements of their coming life, rather than pronouncing doom and gloom).

Note that in the modern Alliance, matchmakers and oracles still exist, but in far fewer numbers and without the influence they had before. Many disregard their advice (and bloodlines decay as a result) and even those who wish to consult with Akashic matchmakers are often unable to find any. “Traditional” Akashic weddings are rare


The Akashic Oracles have their roots in psychic criminal investigation, and have a long tradition of predicting crime before it occurs. When an Akashic Oracle uncovers a crime that matters in the context of the Coming Storm, the order will duly note the prophecy and then move into action. The Akashic Order accepts the sovereignty of the aristocracy, and thus leaves it to them to practice law enforcement, but in extreme cases, the Akashic Order will turn up on a noble’s doorstep with a fully veiled and ceremonially garbed Oracle, who pronounces the wickedness of a particular person and demands a specific punishment. As always, the punishment is meant to not only prevent the crime, but to push the rest of society in a particular direction. At times in the past, the Akashic Order has even condemned the innocent because doing so had an important and beneficial impact on the future.


Initiation greatly resembles supplication. It begins with a request, the arrival at the temple, the assigning of a companion, purification, ritual garments, the ceremonial wafer and then being guided into the bowels of the temple.

Thereupon it changes, depending on the level of initiation. The Akashic Order has three levels of initation. The first, lesser initiation or noble initiation, either initiates someone as a member of the Akashic Order, or inducts a noble into the “true” mysteries of the Akashic Order and “gives him his purpose.” Traditionally, all ruling nobles underwent the noble initiation, but in the Alliance few bother. Note that this step is not necessary to consider oneself a follower of the Akashic Mysteries; it is, instead, the “next step,” closer to a pilgrimage than a baptism, an optional step that shows intense devotion, or a mandatory step for those who wish to join the religious organization and gain Religious Rank.

The Greater Initiation, or the Akashic Initiation, is open only to precognitives who have undergone the lesser initiation and serve the Akashic Order. It reveals the Akashic Record to the initiate. This step makes one an Akashic Oracle, and is necessary to learn the how to read Deep Time.

The Final Initiation, also called the Shadow Initiation or the Dying, can only be undertaken by predestined oracles who have undergone the Akashic Initiation and have seen the Akashic Record or by someone the Shadow Council wants as their personal assistant. This inducts them into the Shadow Council, the ruling body of the Akashic Order.

A lesser initiate is guided past a veil and into a chamber full of imagery of the Devils of Persephone. There he must prove his worth. The initiate is questioned. The priest demands the initiate answer his name and purpose and then tests the initiates knowledge of Akashic Theology (a basic Theology test at between +0 to +4, usually questions about basic imagery). If the supplicant passes, he must sacrifice. The Priest tests the initiate’s conviction with a test of pain using a ceremonial variant of a neurolash. The target must pass a Will roll at between -0 to -4. Fanaticism applies its usual +3, while High Pain Threshold halves the penalty. If he passes, he makes a vow of secrecy to never reveal what he is shown in the initiation.

If the initiate passes, his companion guides him past the next set of veils, to a room with labyrinthine imagery. There, a priest or priestess reveals symbols pertinent to the initiate, most commonly a small symbolic chain, flowers, and tokens etched with more abstract symbols. Akashic Knights receive their force sword at this time. The priest or priestess accompanies these revelations with seemingly nonsensical pronouncements that, in fact, illustrate something of the initiate’s future, and how that future is symbolized in the symbols shown here.

Then the Companion guides the initiate past a third set of veils to a room where an oracle stands before an image of the Akashic Record. The Companion instructs the supplicant and she pronounces his purpose, the role he plays in the Akashic Mysteries. Then, the Companion instructs the initiate in the words and actions he must say and perform in the Akashic Mystery.

Finally, the Companion guides the initiate past the final set of veils, returning him to the chamber of Devils. There, he must speak the words and perform the ceremonial actions (Religious Ritual at +4) to be allowed out. If the character fails, the Companion couches him quietly until he gets it right, and then he’s allowed to leave.

The Akashic Initiation matches the Noble Initiation, but in place of an oracle, the third chamber has a sensory deprivation chamber or a pool in which the would-be oracle must float The previous steps only prepare her for the rigors of the true test, which begins now. Her companion guides her into the trance necessary to find the astral space in which the Labyrinth of Time resides, and the initiate must locate and read the Akashic Record. The exact rule for this are left up to the GM: it might be a roll of the Prognostication skill, or it might be Akashic Theology with a bonus from ESP talent, or the GM might play out a highly symbolic astral adventure. If the character fails to find the Akashic Record, most of the time, they’re lost in the labyrinth and never return, becoming comatose. A few simply retreat in terror from the experience, and any oracle can tell at a glance whether the character has read the Akashic Record.

The Final Initiation resembles the lesser initiation, except the third chamber is the Shadow Council Chamber itself, and the Shadow Initiate “never returns.” After introducing herself to her fellow Shadow Councilors, she is allowed to leave an enter via a secret passage that all Shadow Initiates use to enter the Shadow Council Chamber, and thus does not “return” to the original chamber as in the other two forms of initiation.

The Akashic Mystery

The Akashic Mystery is a mass ceremony held every 4 Persephone years. The Akashic Order invites attendees, who must be initiates in the Akashic Mystery. As with the supplication, each attendee receives a companion, is ritually purified, given a ceremonial wafer, etc, and then brought to a vast chamber.

An oracle conducts the Mystery. First, she reveals powerful symbols and speaks a prophecy for the coming four years using those symbols. Then she conducts a grand play in which all attendees must play out the role given to them during their initiation. They use the symbols given to them, perform the actions taught to them, and speak the words told to them during their initiation, as directed by their Companion and the Oracle. This grand play reminds them of the role they play, casts their lives as but parts in the grand Akashic Mystery, and gives them insights into what they must do for the coming period of four years.

Afterwords, the Akashic Order treats everyone to a grand feast; the Akashic Order accepts donations from the nobles attending, and most nobles make a point of trying to one up one another by bringing the greatest foods they can, or so it was during the height of the Akashic Order’s influence. Modern Akashic Mysteries are much more somber affairs.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Akashic Theology

The Principles of the Akashic Mysteries

  1. The ultimate fate of mankind our greatest concern.
  2. Mankind faces an existential crisis in the future (“The Coming Storm”)
  3. Humans with psionic powers are superior to humans without psionic powers.
  4. The Akashic Oracles have the ability to see that future and have found a way to avoid it (“The Golden Path”)
  5. The ends justify the means; any act, no matter how immoral, that helps avert the Coming Storm is a moral act.
  6. The Akashic Order, as the only ones who can see how to avoid the Coming Storm, must have the ultimate authority over all mankind.
  7. Everyone must play their part in the Akashic Mystery.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Cultural Context of the Akashic Mysteries

The Akashic Mysteries deeply tied to the Maradon culture and its rise to Galactic dominion.  The roots of the Akashic Mysteries lie in the Maradon culture's ancestral legacy of psionics, eugenics, and the discoveries made on the new world of Persephone.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Introduction to the Akashic Mysteries

Despite the many philosophical arguments that spring up around Star Wars, the real intent behind “the Force” was to discuss religion. Of course, the line between philosophy and religion blur quite a lot in the best of times, but for the second philosophy, I want to discuss theology and, especially, mysticism, rather than “pure” philosophy (whatever that means).

I noted with Neo-Rationalism that Star Wars combines sci-fi tropes with the beats of fantasy. It has far future technology combined with spooky, ancient mysticism. Neo-Rationalism allows us to handle science, so we need our mysticism, and that’s the Akashic Mysteries.

Why not just jump straight into Communion? For a few reasons. Exploration is a deeply important part of space opera, not in the same way that it is in Star Trek, but more like the sense of wonder one gets when encountering a new culture or a new people, as so often depicted on the pulp adventures that inspired Star Wars. I want Communion to have the mystique of a distant and remote faith, something exotic and strange.

Star Wars treats the Force as an exotic and strange faith, one with ancient roots that Luke eagerly wishes to adopt. But the rest of the Star Wars works treat it as the only faith in the galaxy. Luke’s excitement would thus be comparable to a farmboy discovering Jesus: it’s not actually all that exotic. Consider, instead, the first Europeans, who already have a culture steeped in a tension between atheistic science and theistic faith, encountering Buddhism or Daoism for the first time. These faiths and philosophies have deep ideas that might seem new and, at least in the case of Buddhism, took certain elements of Western culture by storm! To me, this better reflects the intent of the Force, and is thus what I want to do with Communion.

That means we need to steep our native, human culture in that tension between atheistic science (Neo-Rationalism) and mystical spiritualism (the Akashic Mysteries). We can see the Akashic Mysteries as the human alternative to the mysticism of Alien religions. In fact, you could ditch Communion and center your game on the secret truths of the Akashic Mysteries, if you wished! An important element of an RPG setting is not revealing the truth of that setting to the reader, but helping the reader create his own truth. But the default assumption is that the Akashic Mysteries represent a cultural foundation for the Galactic Federation that has since faded when faced with new realities and the superior philosophy of Communion, and only has enough of a presence remaining to allow those players who wish to defy convention to get that rebellious thrill of uncovering a subversive philosophy that is both morally and mystically superior.

So, welcome, initiate, into the Akashic Mysteries, which (and I probably should have led with this) are the next iteration of the Oracular Order which has become so central to the Alliance and the Federation.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

The Akashic Mysteries Preview Document

The Akashic Order dominated the Galaxy hand-in-hand with the Eternal Empire and the Alexian Dynasty, in a bid to protect the galaxy from some existential threat that only they could see.  In time, however, power corrupted them, and the Eternal Empire fell and the Alexian dynasty vanished, leaving only a hollow shell of the Akashic Order, laid low by their broken promises.

Today, the Akashic Order has been reduced to a vestigal organization that centers on their homeworld of Persephone, a cultural curiosity for the Alliance that still supports them, and a small band of devoted followers who do what they can to still fend off the "Coming Storm" that threatens to devour the galaxy.

Today, I offer a preview of this ancient theology to all $3+ Patrons. If you're a patron, check it out!  If you're not a patron, I'll be unveiling the Akashic Order over the next three weeks (though, as usual, I'd love to have you).

Support me on Patreon!

Friday, September 22, 2017

Patreon Post: Neo-Rational Technology

Neo-Rationalism promises a new golden age of technology and delivers!  Neo-Rationalists also gain access to limited TL 12^ gadgetry via the Cutting Edge Technology (Neo-Rational Tech) available to all Neo-Rationalists.  For today's Patreon post, I offer a first draft of that technology.  It's available, as a preview, to all $3+ patrons. If you're a Patron, check it out! If you're not, I'd love to have you.

Support me on Patreon!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Neo-Rational Organizations: Institutes and Salons

No single, overarching organization governs Neo-Rationalism; one can better think of Neo-Rationalism as a movement. Organizations form within that movement for the express purpose of exploring, expanding and teaching the ideas of Neo-Rationalism. Broadly speaking, these organizations break down into two categories: institutes, official organizations that teach Neo-Rationalism in a formal manner, and Salons, which teach Neo-Rationalism in an informal manner.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Neo-Rational Disciplines

Unlike the philosophies of the Akashic Mysteries and True Communion, Neo-Rationalism doesn’t have a strict set of disciplines deeply associated with its philosophy. Nonetheless, Neo-Rationalists have, over time, applied their deeply scientific approach to combat, social interaction and even to defeating their ultimate nemesis, psychic powers. While not every Neo-Rationalist institute teaches all of the following disciplines, especially depending on what specific branch of Neo-Rationalism the institute adheres to, but the following represent the most common Neo-Rationalist disciplines.

The alien race known as the Traders cross-pollinated extensively with Neo-Rational disciplines. Some practice Combat Geometrics, while some Neo-Rationalist humans attempt to master Hyperdimensional Meditation.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Neo-Rational Schisms

Neo-Rationalism does not follow a strict hierarchy, nor it is a dogmatically organized philosophy. Instead, Neo-Rationalism is better described as a movement, an attempt to return to, and understand, the rationalism of old. As such, it has no strictly agreed upon interpretations or ideologies. The standard Neo-Rationalism described thus far is really just the most common form of Neo-Rationalism, and the exact nature of Neo-Rational dogma changes from person to person, and experiences fads and trends.

Neo-Rationalists offer far more respect to Neo-Rational schisms than they do to other “irrational” philosophies. To the Neo-Rationalist, a “wrong” Neo-Rationalist is still rational, just not as rational as he is. As such, members of Schisms tend to vigorously debate one another and possibly disparage one another in papers, but they respect whatever laureates or credentials the others have.

A character who wishes to follow an alternate form of Rationalism may note the alternate name in their belief, eg Belief (Cyber-Rationalism) rather than Belief (Neo-Rationalis). Neo-Rationalism schisms default to one another at -2; optionally, the GM may treat them as familiarities: once a character has spent some time arguing with members of a schism, he can waive the penalty.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Neo-Rationalism as Esoteric Style

Students of Neo-Rationalism attempt to re-orient their minds towards “rational thinking.” This tends to create a cold and logical outlook on the world, but masters of the philosophy tend to be genuinely more stoic and mentally focused than non-practitioners.

Neo-Rationalists argue that they have superior moral and philosophical insights to all other philosophies, but even most outside observers agree that their philosophy is exceptionally well-suited to describing “the natural universe.” If someone is able to attain it, Neo-Rational Heuristics, when paired with appropriate optional skills, allows for superior results. The precise determinism of Neo-Rationalism also allows reasonably accurate predictions of the future, giving some followers a spooky, nigh supernatural foresight events, thanks to Foresightful Planning. While not ubiquitous throughout the Empire, many Academy trained individuals are also Neo-Rationalist trained; some of the best admirals or investigators supplement their practice with Neo-Rational heuristics and foresightful planning.

Neo-Rationalism has modest anti-psionic benefits, mainly in the form of skepticism and the tight logic and mental discipline of a practiced Neo-Rationalist. Anti-Psionic characters, like Dawkins Nigh, like to subscribe to Neo-Rationalism, as it makes them feel like their strange powers have a purpose, namely in hunting down the “irrational” psions, and especially in proving their claims wrong.

Neo-Rationalists tend to ascribe inhuman feats of intellect to their founders. There might be a case for “supernatural” powers or some variation of the Illumination advantage, especially if Neo-Rationalism is “true.”

Friday, September 15, 2017

Patreon Post: Faith, Psi-Wars and the Old Ways

Not psychic, last I checked.  Probably isn't
strong in the Force either.
I hope you've been enjoying Neo-Rationalism.  It's the only non-Psionic philosophy I'll release as an official part of this series, but it got me to thinking about other non-Psionic philosophies and faiths, and about faith itself.  Faith, not just in the sense of religion, but in finding something to believe in, features strongly in many works of science fiction.  I suspect many others enjoy contrasting the shine, confidence and soullessness of technology with the austere humility of spirituality.  As such, I wanted to write something addressing that and offering potential ways to include some non-psionic religion with the uncertainties of the world addressed in an uncertain and subtle faith.

Some of my readers have begun asking about Old Westerly philosophies, and what other sort of religions humans might follow. I've always seen the Old Westerly as the Corellians of the setting, characters more space cowboys and pioneers than shining knights or sketchy cyberpunks.  If we imagine them as inspired by Firefly, then a good, "wild west" philosophy for them would look a lot like the religion Shepherd Book follows.  So, as a worked example of a non-psionic faith, I offer Shepherdism, an optional "old way" that one might found lingering on the rim of the galaxy, or if you want some humble, monastic faith that rolls up its sleeves and helps the poor, and True Communion doesn't do it for you.

This patreon special is available to all $1+ patrons.  If you're a patron, check it out!  If you're not a patron, I'd love to have you.

Support me on Patreon!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Neo-Rational Symbolism and Ceremonies

Neo-Rationalists tend to be less formal than other philosophies. They lack strict organizations and what passes for Neo-Rationalism tends to change based on what is currently fashionable among the intellectual elite, united only by the Rationalist Canon and its antecedents. Neo-Rationalists do like ways to display their rational piety and to hone their minds, however, and so ceremonial actions do occasionally become popular and widespread.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Neo-Rationalism as a Philosophy

The Principles of Neo-Rationalism

  1. True understanding of the universe is the only worthy pursuit
  2. True understanding of the universe can be achieved only by a rational mind using science.
  3. Science achieves understanding only through empirical research, logic and experimentation.
  4. Man is an irrational animal in his natural state; the irrational, like an animal, cannot be held responsible for his actions.
  5. Rational thought can only be achieved by hard work, education, and dedication to the geniuses of the past.
  6. Rational thought frees man from irrational instinct; freeing all men from irrational thought will bring about a utopia.
  7. The supernatural and mental does not exist; only the physical exists.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Neo-Rationalism: The Cultural Context

The philosophy of Neo-Rationalism did not spring fully formed into the world.  It reflects a specific intellectual tradition of the Shinjurai people, and it's evolution bears the markers of the rise and fall of that culture within the Galaxy.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Neo-Rationalism: An introduction

Don't try to frighten us with your sorcerer's ways, Lord Vader. Your sad devotion to that ancient religion has not helped you conjure up the stolen data tapes, or given you clairvoyance enough to find the rebels' hidden fort...”
-General Motti, A New Hope

The first philosophy I want to discuss has nothing to do with psionic powers and is, in fact, the closest thing to an actual philosophy that I am likely to discuss.

Psi-Wars, like Star Wars before it and many of the genre-mashing space opera stories that were especially popular during the era in which Star Wars was conceived, suffer from the problem of embracing both the “wonder of advanced science” themes of sci-fi as well as the “mysticism of the ancient past” themes of fantasy. On the one hand, we need science, as we’re writing science-fiction, and how else do we justify the amazing technology of the setting (force screens, hyperdrives, man-portable weaponized particle accelerators powered by impossibly efficient batteries)? On the other hand, if we embrace science in its totality, we leave little room for the spirituality inherent in the mysticism of Star Wars. How can we get both together in the same place?

To make both work, we need to both embrace and reject science. We must explain why the Galaxy of Psi-Wars has been stuck in the same tech level for the literally millennia necessary to give us the huge sweep of history that we want in the setting. We can solve this problem in a variety of ways, but Neo-Rationalism is one of my answers. Scientific progress is not manifest destiny; its paradigm, the culture of skepticism, analytical thinking and bold experimentation, can be lost and replaced with dogmatism and doctrine. This has happened before in history. I would argue, in fact, that we’re constantly under attack by our own impulses to move away from the unintuitive strictures of the scientific method and towards the more intuitive impulses of mysticism and worship of authority.

Neo-Rationalism is, at first glance, a scientific strawman. It represents a preening, condescending and obviously wrong take on science by emphasizing all the worst traits of scientism, the sort of “smug, ivory tower scientist who doesn’t really understand the world” that we see so often in science fiction. The Neo-Rationalist is the irrationally skeptic who refuses to believe the truth of things like True Communion. This makes him a natural enemy for the heroes of the Psi-Wars universe, someone they can defy and defeat, and thus is strongly represented in the “evil” Empire.

But everyone who reads this work does so on a computer and lives in a civilized world shaped by science. Does science really need to be villified? In this sense, Neo-Rationalism represents a tragedy. It shows a galaxy that was once on the path to scientific enlightenment, but lost its way. Science lost its discipline, and thus its power, and in its absence, mysticism has sprung up.

Neo-Rationalism also represents an opportunity to get the galaxy back on the right track.  It holds genuine keys to self-improvement! And unlike the other philosophies here, one needn't be psionic to access it.  It also has access to (experimental, dangerous) TL 12^ prototypes and is perhaps the best place to find the last embers of the fire that once fueled technological progress.  With the right spark, and by cleaning away the gunk that has grown up around it, perhaps the flames of progress could be lit once more.

This creates the core tension of Neo-Rationalism, one paralleled in the Psi-Wars setting, between mysticism and skepticism. The Neo-Rationalist craves answers to difficult questions that science cannot answer, but wants to hold onto the truths of science. It must carefully navigate what science can offer and what it cannot, and at this point in the setting, the movement has failed to do that, but the PCs might succeed where others have failed!

Neo-Rationalism also offers players the chance to play an intellectual who isn’t a space wizard. It rewards deep investment in intellectual skills and offers nigh-super-human, but entirely plausible, displays of genius. It befits characters like Thrawn, Moff Tarkin, especially cunning investigators and deeply thoughtful scavengers. It explicitly allows the sci-fi fan to bring the science back into the space fantasy of Psi-Wars, without disrupting that space fantasy.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Patreon Post: Neo-Rational Preview and Tinker Titan Rebel Spy

For the next two weeks, this blog will dive into Neo-Rationalism, the traditional philosophy of Shinjurai science and rational self-improvement.  If you're a $3+ patron, you can get the preview of it here.

Second, for those interested in Tinker Titan Rebel Spy, we still have two spots open, and it's now open to all $5+ patrons.

If you're a patron, check it out.  If you're not, as always, we'd love to have you.

Support me on Patreon!

Friday, September 8, 2017

Patreon Post: Philosophy

Over the course of writing the philosophies of Psi-Wars, I dived pretty deeply into philosophy, and I found it useful to compile some basic notes to sort my thoughts out.  What we really needed, I thought to myself, was the equivalent to GURPS Religion, but using Philosophy.  I've compiled those notes into such a document, that offers some quick ideas and insights into how one might create their own philosophy and what sort of tenets such a philosophy might hold to.

Note that this is as superficial a study of Philosophy as GURPS Religion is a superficial a study of Theology.  It's not meant to be comprehensive, but a place to get started.

If you're a $1+ Patron (that's right!  $1!), check it out here.  If you're not, hey, it's a buck!  And I'd love to have you!  If you're curious to learn more, check out the History of Philosophy Without the Gaps, the Partially Examined Life and, of course, Wikipedia.

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Thursday, September 7, 2017

Philosophy in Psi-Wars: An Introduction

The most memorable and innovative part of Star Wars is, without a doubt, the Force. Star Wars created such a compelling sci-fi religion that to this day, most discussion of Star Wars revolves around the Force and its Jedi. Psi-Wars would not be complete if I didn’t take the time to really expand on our corollary for the Force and the Jedi: Communion and the Knights of Communion.

But Psi-Wars is more than just Star Wars. It draws inspiration from other works, like Coraabia, Dune, Killjoys, the Endless series, the wuxia genre, and history. Each of these have their own philosophies and religions which drive their societies and the narrative of the story. These unique philosophies act as a distancing mechanism, reminding us that we’re in an alien setting, but each story dives into their philosophies and explain them in detail, making them the center of exploration of the setting.

For me, a single philosophy just isn’t enough. The real world brims with alternate philosophies and cultures, and the conflict between them shaped history. Moreover, the sort of space opera that inspired Star Wars traded on the exploration of the exotic. While Star Wars doesn’t delve much into alternate philosophies (outside of its expanded universe), mainly, I suspect, due to a lack of time, but it’s critical for a game that focuses on the exploration of exotic worlds that characters have interesting philosophies and cultures to explore. We want the galaxy to feel large, with plenty of options for people to explore!

RPGs have different demands than films. Star Wars focuses mainly on two ideologies: the Jedi and the Sith, with one as counter point to the other, the Good of the Jedi and the Evil of the Sith. This works fine for a simple, good vs evil narrative in a story, but I find that player characters struggle with such a simplistic approach. A Sith character cannot help but be mustache-twirlingly evil, while Jedi must be tediously good. The nuance necessary for varied, dynamic and personal characters struggles against the simplicity created by the movie.

As a result, I want the philosophies of Psi-Wars to be more nuanced, each written from the perspective of the player as well as the GM: why he might choose it, what it offers him, what variations he might pursue, and how it shapes his perspective on the setting. I also want to offer him a greater variety than just two: I want to offer five, for the same reason that D&D offers a multitude of races, or why the World of Darkness offers five factions for each supernatural creature: a setting, especially one as expansive as a galaxy, needs more nuance and options for a group to explore than is offered by a simple good vs evil narrative. We need multiple flavors of good and evil to explore, in the very least, and numerous factions to draw upon.

If I can sum up the purpose of philosophy in Psi-Wars, I seek to do the following:

  • Bring the alienness of the universe to life and make it reasonable to understand
  • Offer inspiration to the GM for factions and their motivations
  • Offer inspiration to players for their own motivations and how they see the world
  • Create a repository for cool powers
If I can return to my model of four players, too many philosophies threatens to overwhelm a player like Brent, thus we must ensure that each can be summed up in a sentence or two, and we must especially make sure that we have obvious parallels for the Jedi and the Sith orders, so that a player will recognize them when he sees them. For Willow, the more detail a philosophy has, the better! It drives the setting, and it creates nuance, and is full of history and interesting characters. For Bjorn, a philosophy must differentiate itself from other philosophies by offering interesting character options, character options that matter in the context of an action scenario. Finally, Desiree will want to shape her character by following beliefs and knowing what that means in the context of other philosophies.

The Five Philosophies of Psi-Wars

Psi-wars is a vast galaxy and brims with philosophies, but most of those will be localized. They should only be the focus of gameplay if the GM wants to bring them to the fore, or a player wants to explore them. A Star Wars example might be the Witches of Dathomir and how they see/use the Force: that’s interesting if you’re doing a story that focuses on those witches, or you want to play one of the witches, then it’s good to know how they work, but one does not need to know about them to appreciate Star Wars. Thus, for Psi-Wars, I’d like to limit this iteration to the five “most important” philosophies, the ones that most broadly shape the setting and the only ones you really need to know to understand the prime conflicts of the setting.


Neo-Rationalism is the dying relic of rationalism and science in the universe. Where rationalism’s carefully measured skepticism drove scientific progress throughout the galaxy, Neo-Rationalism has replaced it with a psuedo-scientific dogma that would rather quote the great scholars of the past than push the boundaries of knowledge. Neo-Rationalism believes strongly in its ability to produce superior minds, and its students can achieve superior feats of intellect. Neo-Rationalism is currently in vogue in the Empire, and the Emperor himself hides his machinations behind a facade of Neo-Rationalism.

This philosophy offers an in-setting explanation as to why science has stagnated, offers players a genuine, non-psionic philosophy to follow, and draws inspiration from Dune’s Mentats and the real-world General Semantics that inspired the World of Null-A and the Mentats themselves.

The Akashic Mysteries

Surprise! A new name for the Oracular Order! The Akashic mysteries found their origin on the Sabine homeworld of Persephone. The colonists of that world expanded on precognitive techniques uncovered deep in the mysterious caves of that world, and use their newfound mastery to explore the whole of history, including its many paths that led to the destruction of the human race, and found the one path that didn’t, the “Golden Path.” They used this knowledge to help found the Alexian Empire and the noble houses, all with an eye towards moving mankind onto the path of ultimate salvation. Their experiment ended disastrously with the collapse of the Eternal Empire under the reign of the mad Emperor, Lucius Alexus, and they have but fragments of their former influence.

The Akashic mysteries serve as a background for the Noble Houses, and an explanation as to why the galaxy is the way it is. It also offers a human-centric alternative to True Communion as a possible “truth” of the setting, as well as an interesting source of potential conspirators. It’s also a non-communion-based psionic philosophy. It draws inspiration from the Bene Gesserit of Dune and from Minority Report, as well as the Mystery religions of ancient Greece.

The Nine Masks of the Divine (The Traditions)

Long ago, an alien Empire ruled the galaxy until a great galactic calamity destroyed their native star and sent the galaxy spiraling into a dark age. A multitude of philosophies, religions and cults spanned that Empire, and scholars, philosophers and theologians across the Empire noticed similarities between them, and began to forge a grand, pantheistic understanding of all these various psionic philosophies, bringing them under the umbrella of a single philosophy, the Nine Masks. The Nine Masks understood the essential elements of Communion, and believes the nine paths of Communion to be the “masks” that the divine wear, and that mortals who walk those paths mask themselves in a form of divinity. It began as an ecumenical exercise, a way of bringing all of the faiths of the Empire under a single roof, and a way of trying to understand the principles, but with the dissolution of the Empire, fragments of that lore has become the source for occult thought and mysticism, especially in the dark arm of the galaxy.

The Nine Masks serves as a basket we can put any interesting old cult that we want into, and acts as a de facto perspective on how Communion and its paths work. It also draws inspirations from the pantheism of the Roman Empire, and the occultism that arose around those “pagan” beliefs in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. It gives us a place for spooky witches and exotic cults.

True Communion

Another race, long oppressed by the various Empires that have ruled the galaxy, formed telepathic bonds with one another and gained profound understanding of Ego Communion, or “True Communion.” Their understanding transcended the mere paths of the Nine Masks and uncovered the core truths of Communion itself. They forged a philosophy of pacifism and universal tolerance, accepting that all who could connect with Communion belonged to a oneness that transcended individual distinctness. One heretical member tested the bounds of this universal tolerance by openly spreading its wisdom to the very races that oppressed them, especially to Humanity, who eagerly took up its message of tolerance and freedom from the oppressive destinies imposed upon them by the Akashic mysteries. The philosophy reached its height shortly before the end of the Eternal Empire, and helped clear away the corruption of that failed state. The philosophy still exists, and its knights have scattered to the far stars of the rim, awaiting the time when they will be needed again, when they will be accepted again.

True Communion is the Psi-Wars equivalent to the Jedi doctrine. It offers superior understanding of Communion and a superior, heroic vision for how the Galaxy could be. It offers us the legends that Star Wars hints at, and draws inspiration from the Ikko Ikki, the Templars and the Shaolin monstary. It is, by default, the “true” philosophy if Psi-Wars.

The Cult of the Mystic Tyrant

This philosophy began as the worship of the God-Emperor of the alien empire that once ruled the Galaxy, as well as a philosophy that justified the dominion of that God Emperor. As the Empire grew, they folded the worship of the Emperor into the Nine Masks of Divinity as just another branch of the same larger tree. But long after the fall of the Empire, racial supremacists of the fallen imperial aliens resurrected the ideology as a means of regaining their former prestige, and they expanded the philosophy. In its modern incarnation, it has shed its racist origins, and sees the path of the Mystic Tyrant not as an ends, but as a means to transcend all paths, to transcend morality and to gain control of the metaphysical underpinnings of the universe itself. It worships those who manage to achieve this nihilistic mastery, and has opened its doors to anyone who can achieve this personal transcendence. They corrupted the Knights of Communion, drawing members away from it and helping bring about its downfall, and now they conspire with the Emperor to bring about the total dominion of the Galaxy under the only man who can truly rule it: one who has transcended the path of the Mystic Tyrant.

The Cult of the Mystic Tyrant is our Sith equivalent philosophy, offering us an ultimate antagonist for the philosophy of True Communion. As in Star Wars, it draws much of its philosophy from Nietzsche and from Objectivism to create a “self-centered” philosophy of moral transcendence; it also draws inspiration from State Consequentialism and Hobbesian social contracts, as it inherits a sort of “Divine Right of Rule” ideology from its origins as a monarchical cult. However, unlike in Star Wars, I want the Cult of the Mystic Tyrant to be more playable, and less of a “twisted mirror” of True Communion’s ideology. By default, thus, it may be an “evil” ideology where players who want “dark” powers can get their fix, but it should offer the real possibility of being a force for “good.”

The Philosophy Skill

If we’re going to dive into Philosophy, we should discuss what player characters can actually use Philosophy for. We can define these as techniques, which is useful for defining philosophical styles. The closest we can find to philosophical styles are found in GURPS Powers: The Weird

Aesthetic Appreciation (Average Technique)

Defaults: Philosophy+0;

Prerequisite: Philosophy; Cannot exceed prerequisite skill+4.

Some philosophies allow one to better appreciate what beauty means. Treat this as a complementary roll to any artistic roll or connoisseur where beauty matters, provided the aesthetics on display subjectively line up with what the philosophy believes is beautiful.

Moral Insight (Average Technique)

Defaults: Philosophy+0;

Prerequisite: Philosophy; Cannot exceed prerequisite skill.

This is the default use of Philosophy according to GURPS Characters. This is only genuinely appropriate to any philosophy that contains Ethics. This allows the character to gain moral insights into his actions based on what his philosophy would argue is ethical. Secondly, it allows one to gain insights into the behavior of someone else who follows the philosophy.

Philosophical Argument (Average Technique)

Defaults: Philosophy+0;

Prerequisite: Philosophy; Cannot exceed prerequisite skill+4.

A new use of Philosophy, it allows the character to frame an ethical argument with the careful logic of his philosophy. When used with a character that believes in the philosophy, treat this as a complementary roll for the purposes of a Reaction modifier, or you may use it directly as an influence skill.

Comparative Philosophy (Philosophy) (Hard Technique)

Defaults: Philosophy-5;

Prerequisite: Philosophy; Cannot exceed prerequisite skill.

Derived from the Theology skill, this represents a philosophical application of Comparative Theology. Characters may use this technique when attempting to use their philosophy skill on someone who follows a different philosophy (to gain Moral Insights on another, or to make a Philosophical Argument). Characters must specialize by philosophy, and the GM may decide that two philosophies different are too sufficiently different to allow for comparative philosophy.

Heuristics (Hard Technique)

Defaults: Philosophy-6;

Prerequisite: Illumination; Philosophy; Cannot exceed prerequisite skill.

Heuristics is a technique for GURPS Powers: the Weird. It acts as a superior complementary skill to “uncover truth.” In Powers: the Weird, Heuristics requires Illumination. For our purposes, we’ll use the Secret Knowledge perk, which will allow Heuristics in specific instances. In what cases it can be used depends on the metaphysics and the epistemology of the philosophy in question, as certain philosophies may grant profound insights into the reality world.

Symbolic Communion Lore (Average Technique)

Defaults: Philosophy+0;

Prerequisite: Philosophy; Cannot exceed prerequisite skill+4.

Philosophies deeply tied to Communion can better interpret the strange visions and imagery of Communion. Characters may use Symbolic Communion Lore in place of any Philosophy roll called for by a Communion Miracle.

Symbolic (Path) Lore (Average Technique)

Defaults: Philosophy+0;

Prerequisite: Philosophy; Cannot exceed prerequisite skill+4.

Paths typically have milestones or symbols associated with them. Characters trained in the right philosophies can readily recognize that imagery. They may roll Symbolic (Path) Lore in place of any Philosophy roll to recognize a milestone or to recognize someone else wittingly or unwittingly following a Path. At the GM’s discretion, this may also be used to interpret visions from Communion provided those visions are sufficiently closely tied to the appropriate path.

Following a Philosophy

Any character who chooses to believe in a philosophy may take the quirk Believer (Philosophy), which allows a character to use Philosophical Arguments against the character. Characters may alternatively take appropriate Disciplines of Faith, which assumes the Believer quirk, or Fanaticism (Philosophy).

Formal training requires the appropriate Philosophy skill, but may be expanded into a full Philosophical Style, which requires a Philosophical Style Familiarity. This does not necessarily mean that the character believes in the philosophy (take an appropriate quirk or disadvantage to represent that belief). The benefits of such a style is defined in GURPS Powers: the Weird

  • You have the equivalent to a Claim of Hospitality with other practitioners of your philosophy, whether it be access to their schools, monasteries or home, and certainly access to a place where you can practice your philosophy.
  • You have Cultural Familiarity with your philosophy, which means you never suffer cultural familiarity penalties with other practitioners of your philosophy.
  • You may freely spend points on any traits associated with the philosophy, including any optional traits.
  • You may access secret techniques, secret skills, secret powers or secret miracles associated with the style.

Philosophical Styles have a new type of trait called Removable Disadvantages. These represents disadvantages that the player may justify buying off simply by practicing his ideology. If the philosophical style also contains optional disadvantages, the character can justify replacing a Removable Disadvantage with an Optional Disadvantage.

Do characters who follow a philosophy also need to take the philosophy skill? Do they need to follow a style? No.

To be a follower of a philosophy or a religion, simply take the right quirk or disadvantage; you need nothing more (a “believer”); one can do this without studying the underlying philosophy or theology skill, in the same way that one can be Christian without understanding the deeper arguments that justify the existence of God, or without reading the Bible. Any character may study a philosophy, whether or not they believe in it (a “student”). Consider the philososphy major who makes Buddhism the focus of his study; he may know Buddhist Theology, but likely does not believe in it. Any character who studies the philosophical style must necessarily also study the philosophy, and is probably a believer, but not necessarily (a “practitioner”). Studying the style gives one access to deeper secrets associated with the philosophy: one might know Buddhism, but gaining inner peace via buddhism requires more than just reading some books on the topic or having fervent faith in its power to bring you inner peace. You must actually put those beliefs into practice.

Thus, a philosophical study involves a deep look at not just the core philosophical skill, but everything that goes around it. It might be possible to study without being a believer, especially if one studies multiple philosophies (“An Akashic Rationalist”), in such case a practitioner has enough faith in the philosophy to practice it, but not so much that he ultimately buys all of its metaphysical or ethical arguments. Because of the closely related nature of belief and practice, as an optional rule, consider creating a “Practioner Feature” which is a metatrait that includes a philosophy’s Style Familiarity and the Belief quirk, though allowing the character 5 additional perks.


Take two! I’ve tried to introduce Illumination into the game before, though it didn’t work out and I ended up removing the effort. However, as I worked on philosophical styles, which has been highly informed by Bill Stoddard’s inestimable Powers: the Weird, I realized I needed an intellectual “Trained by a Master,” and there’s nothing better for that than Illumination. So here’s my proposal:

Illuminated characters can instantly recognize one another, you can roll IQ or Philosophy (or the skill in question) to recognize whether a strange occurrence is a coincidence or the result of a conspiracy (and gain some insight into it), and you’re allowed to purchase “cinematic” esoteric skills, techniques, etc. This seems broadly worth 15 points.

Any Philosophy can offer Illumination, but only if the GM deems it “correct.” For example, if the GM decides that the Cult of the Mystic Tyrant and Neo-Rationalism offer genuine insight into the world, while True Communion and the Akashic mysteries mainly blind one with mysticism, then the first two can offer Illumination while the latter two cannot.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Patreon Post: the Results of the Fifth House Poll (Notes)

In August, I introduced you to four houses, and gave my $5+ Patrons the opportunity to vote on the mysterious fifth house, an outsider to the Alliance.  And vote they did, in one of the busiest and most dynamic votes yet!  I have the poll results up here, including my take on them. If you're a $5+ patron, check it out!

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Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Patreon Post: The House of Alexus: Poll Results

Hello, dear patrons!  A few weeks ago I offered a poll on House Alexus.  I have the results of that poll up now.  It's not a full write-up of the House, that will come later (when I have time!), but it should give you an idea of what the final version will look like.  If you're a $7+ Patron, check it out!

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Friday, September 1, 2017

State of the Patreon: September 2017; Philosophy and Playtests

I look forward to leaving the summer behind!

This was a very good month.  For the first time in the summer, I stopped my view freefall and recovered quite a bit back to a stable 8-9k, though the past few months I haven't had those weird, spammy spikes, and those are back, so I don't know how much I actually fell, and how much I improved.  In July, my Patreon was fairly stagnate, and I lost some Patrons this month but man, did I ever gain some more.  We've officially hit the art stretch goal, and I've already done some homework and had some people help me with sketches.

August marked the end of the Alliance which, along with the Empire, finishes off the core organizations of the main driver of the narrative of Psi-Wars.  We move on to the next deeper level in the coming month: Philosophy.

For my $1+ Patrons, I have an 8000 word treatise on Philosophy.  That comes out next week.  It takes GURPS Religion, and dives into how to create a philosophical movement using those rules, with a deeper look at beliefs, and a very superficial glance at some philosophical ideas you can mix and match to start working on your own philosophy.

For my $3+ Patrons, I have some treats. On the 15th, I discuss Faith in Psi-Wars, and offer a quick sample religion, Shepherdism, inspired by Shepherd Book from Firefly.  On the 22nd, I have Neo-Ratoinal Technology, a look at some sample TL 12 technologies that you can use for prototypes or gadgetry that should fit well enough into Psi-Wars.  Finally, on the 29th, I offer the Devils of Persephone: the Secrets of the Skairos, a look at a mythological element of the Akashic Mysteries, including several ideas on how to handle that mythology in your Psi-Wars game.

For $5+ Patrons, I'll offer a small poll on the 29th regarding the Devils of Persephone, mainly discussing how canonical they should be in the setting.  It's your choice!

For $3+ and $5+, of course, I still need to finish up the Alexian and Fifth House polls. Expect the poll results soon, and the actual write ups when I can get to them.

For the $7+, I have Tinker Titan Rebel Spy, the first Psi-Wars playtest session/mini-campaign.  It's still a work in progress at this moment, but I feel confident enough to open it up to sign-ups.

For everyone, next month we dive into the basics of philosophy next week, then spend two weeks looking at Neo-Rationalism, and then finish out the month with our first glimpse of the Akashic Mysteries.

I want to thank everyone for helping make this a great month, and I especially want to thank my Patrons for bringing me to my next stretch goal. You guys are wonderful!  Whether you're a patron or not, I hope you stick with Psi-Wars.

Support me on Patreon!
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