Wednesday, January 31, 2018

State of the Patreon: February

Happy Valentines
January is behind us.  What do I have for you, patron and reader alike, in February?

The State of the Blog

The Cult of the Mystical Tyrant has, unsurprisingly, been popular.  I'm hitting new highs since I reduced the posting schedule to 2 posts a week.  I must say, that this new posting cycle suits me well: I can hit all of my goals and keep my pace up, but the schedule will look like this for the next few months:
  • Post on Tuesday
  • Post on Thursday
  • Last week is "Patreon week"
  • Scattered Patron posts as necessary.
This is a little slower, but it allows me to give Patrons the time they really deserve, rather than treating their posts as an afterthought.

The Popular Posts (other than the Primer) this month were:
  1. The Iteration 1 Bonus Post: Evidently we have some new people digging through the old Psi-Wars material. I hope you guys enjoy it!
  2. Transcendent Paths of the Mystical Tyrant: I honestly expected the Transcendent Principles to be a bigger hit, but you guys do love paths.  I suspect the Prodigal Knight (I was inspired by a very old comment made by Ivalero here; I've noticed people really like playing "the one unique redeemed dark horse character" and the Prodigal Knight is intended to be that) is more popular than the Slave, but there's no way to be sure!
  3. TTRS Session 2: Everything Tinker Titan Rebel Spy is a hit; I suspect a lot of people like to see how Psi-Wars fits together, plus a lot of people just like reading "the story" of a session.
  4. The Martial Arts of the Mystical Tyrant: The popularity of things like this lead me to believe that people are actually using this material for something.
Honorable Mentions: Space Ghosts Revisited is in the top 10 and eclipsed the Sample Space Ghosts, which I intended to direct traffic to the former.  Seems detailed rules for running ghosts is popular!  And the True Communion introduction, after one day is in the top 10.  Introductions tend to do well in general, but you guys really like your Jedi!  I suppose that makes sense, though: True Communion as a philosophy has been with us since Iteration 4.

The State of the Patreon

Last month I gained three new Patrons, and one Patron squeezed in just in time to vote on the Emperor poll!  Thanks to everyone who joined up this month, and to everyone who has been a long-term supporter.

This wasn't the best month for engagement (August beat it; that would be the Alexian poll, I think), but it was definitely one of the best month.

I readjusted my goals this month, and some of them seem really big: the next one is "art" at 205, because based on the previous goals, this is what the current artist I have on hire runs me for pictures, but when you see them, you'll understand why.  By the end of this month, I'll have art to show you, dear patron.

The patreon schedule this month will be:
  • The Keleni: These aliens are to True Communion what the Ranathim were to the Divine Masks and the Cult of the Mystic Tyrant.  Once again, I have a conlang, a template and a cultural discussion.  This will be a preview available for $3+ patrons
  • The Shaolin: I did some homework while working on the Knights of Communion, and while there's plenty of readily gameable information on, say, the Templars, there's surprisingly little on the Shaolin monks, so I compiled my research and turned it into a document that discusses the history, styles and personalities of the Shaolin monastery.  Includes a new martial art: White Eyebrow Boxing.  This will be available for $1+ patrons.
  • (Tentative) The Cult of the Emperor Poll Results: I'm half-way finished with the poll results right now, and I've worked far enough ahead with my main posts that I'm confident I can have this finished by the last week of February (more honestly, I think I'll have it done this week, but let's manage expectations).  This will be available for $3+ patrons.
  • Art Preview: the Ranathim: I should have a male and female portrait available for you by the end of the month, so you can see where your money is going (Yes, I know we haven't hit that goal, but I can tip some of my own money into this too ;) ).  This will be available to all $3+ patrons.
There will be no poll this month.  

I'm also going to pause the previews for a few reasons.  First, right now, I'm working about one month ahead, so it's not much of a preview, and I find my patrons don't really discuss it much, and often end up discussing the topic in greater detail when the post itself drops.  The best part of this was that it forced me to write documents, but I do that as a habit now, so there's little merit in releasing half of True Communion right now.  This is just a pause, though; I think it's highly relevant once I get to revisions of material, as I can see from the playtests that there is much call for revised material.

Well, there you have it guys.  That's what January looked like, and what February will look like.  As always, I want to thank my patrons for supporting me and I hope you will continue to do so.  If you're particularly enamored of the work I've done and you want to support me, just click the link and donate.  I'd be happy to have you.  If you want to join in the discussion, you can check out the Psi-Wars channel over at Discord.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

True Communion: An Introduction

There is no emotion, there is peace. There is no ignorance, there is knowledge. There is no passion, there is serenity. There is no chaos, there is harmony. There is no death, there is the Force. 
-The Jedi Code

Here we are at last.

The Jedi are Star Wars. While one can make the case for the importance of characters like Han Solo and Princess Leia, by the Return of the Jedi, the exploration of the Jedi and their code came to dominate the Star Wars narrative, and main characters became defined by their “force sensitivity.” The prequels told the story of the Jedi, and by Rogue One, their philosophy had morphed into the dominate religion of the Star Wars galaxy.

I’ve had a few problems with this drift, though. First, the Jedi practice, as depicted in the Star Wars movies is essentially the only religion of the setting (with an honorable mention to the Sith, though they really accept the core premises of the Jedi code, and just invert them; they are to the Jedi what Satanists are to Christians). Furthermore, the Jedi philosophy, as depicted in A New Hope is some ancient, nigh-mythical lost religion, but if you can trip over Guardians of the Whills, force sensitive philosophers and outcast Jedi in every cantina, then when Obi-Wan Kenobi explained the Force to Luke, it was more like some preist explaining Christianity to you today, rather than some martial art master explaining the lost secrets of a bygone age.

I’ve tackled the problem of “no other religion” throughout this entire philosophy series: the heroes of Psi-Wars can choose from Neo-Rationalism, the Akashic Mysteries and the Divine Masks as their driving morality and beliefs, and I’d like to think I’ve made each sufficiently compelling that someone might be willing to follow them. True Communion, then, can retain something of an exotic nature.

Two problems remain, though. First, the Jedi philosophy is, as depicted by Star Wars, one exclusively practiced by “knights,” warrior-priests. Outside of the implications of the Guardians of the Whills (we hear very little about this offshoot in Rogue One, and both of those characters are also warriors), we never get a sense of how the common man feels about the Jedi philosophy or how he might express his devotion. Do people go to temples to worship? If so, how? Does “worship” even make sense? Or is all the devotion of the Star Wars galaxy to the Jedi philosophy really a devotion to the Jedi order and the hope that these space wizard-knights will return and save them?

Which brings us to problem number two: the Jedi are thematically an ancient order of heroes with messianic elements. They saved the day long ago and will someday return to save the day again. They resemble the once and future King Arthur, or the Assassins of Assasin’s Creed or the Solar Exalted of Exalted. Thus, the Jedi Order should be dead long enough to have faded into myth, but in fact, they faded away only a generation (in the first trilogy) or two (in the latest trilogy) ago.

What we need then is a broader and more ancient order. We need to get a sense of what it means to be a practitioner of this Jedi-like philosophy without actually being a space knight. What are its priests like? Do lay people go to temples? If so, what do they do there? We also need to end the order a much longer time ago and explain what happened to them in the meantime.

We also need to integrate Communion itself into all of this. The philosophy of True Communion is not the philosophy of the Jedi for the same reasons that the Force is not Communion. True Communion is a universal, divine, psychic gestalt that contains paths, archetypes, occult elements, avatar states and world-shattering miracles. The philosophy of True Communion, then, can and should have a more distinctly religious character, and explain why a Knight of Communion is so much more powerful with Communion than, say, a devotee of the Divine Masks.

Furthermore, the core theme of True Communion must be that it is right. The base assumption of the Jedi is that their vision is correct (They are “the good guys”), and that all right-thinking individuals back them. Most psi-wars players will expect something similar in Psi-Wars, and look to True Communion as the “Right faith.” If this is so, then why doesn’t everyone worship it? And if it isn’t so, in what ways might it be wrong? How might it exploit people’s good will? How might (say) the Akashic Mysteries or the Cult of the Mystic Tyrant be more right, if the GM wishes to go in that direction?

Finally, we must understand that this is an RPG. Star Wars depicts almost all Jedi as essentially the same (all are skilled with their lightsabers; all learn the same styles; all have the Jedi Mind Trick and telekinesis and precognitive dreams and the ability to “sense” things), which is fine for a film, but players will need to express their uniqueness and differentiate themselves from one another, and explore different themes within True Communion. Ideally, one should be able to play a game with nothing but the Knights of Communion and see each player play a different character, and still have a sense that they have more they can explore.

I would like to note that unlike the other philosophies, True Communion did not spring up in this iteration, but has been quietly in the works since Iteration 4, and I’ve discussed them at length before, so if these inspirations seem familiar, that’s why.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Patreon Special: Domen Khemet, the Ranathim Cult of Death

Last month, at the culmination of the Divine Masks, I offered my Patrons a poll to choose the fourth and last Cult of the Divine Masks: the Cult of Death.  Those poll results are in now, including Domen Khemet, a fully detailed version of the Cult, ready for play. The cult utilizes the Broken Communion miracles detailed in Tuesday's patreon post about Broken Communion ghosts.  Further, it has a unique relationship with the Cult of the Mystic Tyrant, as Anthara, the founder of the Cult of the Mystic Tyrant once swore an oath to them that the later cult broke, so be sure to check those elements out too.

This post is available to all $3+ patrons, as it represents a preview.  The Patreon Post contains a discussion of the votes and my thoughts on them, as well as the completed cult.  If you're a patron, check it out!  If you're not, as usual, I'd love to have you.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Patreon Special: Sample Broken Communion Ghosts

Yesterday, I released a document on Broken Communion ghosts, including the means of creating your own. I want to follow this up with a few sample ghosts, in part to test how such rules work and make sure that I have all necessary pieces in place, and also to offer you, dear reader, an idea of what such ghosts might look like.  Naturally, any of these can be dropped into your Psi-Wars game, but they can also be adjusted and used in a horror or Monster Hunters game.

This is a publicly available document, available for free and it should be fairly easy to divine how these ghosts are intended to work, but if you're not yet a patron and would like a better understanding of the system behind their creation, the design document is available to all $1 patrons, and can be accessed via the link above.

If you're a patron, check it out.  If you're not a patron, you can still check it out!  And enjoy.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Patreon Special: Space Ghosts Revisited

Ghost Cvlt by Ramsesmelendez

When I first dove into Communion itself, I wanted to break up the simplistic duality of “good and evil” that Star Wars offered. I don’t necessarily object to “good and evil,” I just find that it can sharply limit the sort of stories GMs might want to tell or what sorts of characters people want to play. I conceived of Broken Communion as the crux of that change, as it introduced something that both “Good” and “Evil” could face off against, (the “Ugly” of “the Good, the Bad and the Ugly”), or something that could redefine “evil.” What’s worse, someone who is selfish but mostly hurts themselves, or a broken person who hurts others without meaning to? I wanted Broken Communion to offer both a terrible evil to fight, and a terrible pain to heal, creating a tension that was neither really evil, nor really good, but still a potential problem.

The core of that “problem” would be in its effects on the psionic characters who interacted with it the most. Those who wielded it would find themselves corrupted by it, and those who entered areas sacred to Broken Communion would find their psychic powers twisted by it. I also suggested that Broken Communion, unlike other forms of Communion, might “create miracles on its own.” In principle, any form of Communion might do this (Miracles “just happen” all the time), but Broken Communion seemed especially prone to doing that.

I left the details up to the GM, but the theme of “haunting” definitely arose from the ideas in Broken Communion and the nature of its miracles. Where True Communion had themes of the holy and sacred and Dark Communion had themes of fantasy-esque “cool evil,” with raging orcs and demonic seductresses and dark wizards, Broken Communion had distinctly horrific imagery. The haunted spaceship, the mass grave, or the terrifying jungle full of stalking, squamous things might all be places steeped in Broken Communion. But I left the details of this up to the GM.

I have found, though, from the feedback of my fans, that many of you don’t really like this “leave the details up to the GM” mentality. It’s rife through GURPS, especially in books that don’t really succeed, while books that make those details much more explicit, including catalog books like GURPS Magic, or campaign frameworks like GURPS Dungeon Fantasy, tend to do really well. In retrospect, this makes sense: if you knew how to do it, you would, and you could ignore any details I give you that you dislike. If you can’t, a vague suggestion is of no help, but a highly detailed discussion of how it might work helps a great deal. Thus, it’s better to favor too much detail over not enough (provided that detail doesn’t become mandatory).

Thus, I came upon the handle of ghosts.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Scoping the Competition: Star Warsiors

Clearly, I'm not the first person to think about filing the serial numbers off of Star Wars and building my own thing. I wonder, though, if Psi-Wars can ever reach the dizzying heights of Star Warsiors, with its heroic Karate Farmer, his master, Wise Puppet, and the villainous Door Ladder.  You can check out the story here (and here)

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Transcendent Principles: The Truths of the Cult of the Mystical Tyrant

The Path of the Mystic Tyrant is a path of transcendence. Those who walk that path violate the norms of the world and show that new things, never thought possible before, can be made to be true through the will of the Tyrant. This allows those who follow the path of the Mystic Tyrant to achieve unparalleled power, but at a cost.

Transcendent Powers are a new power-set available only to followers of the Cult of the Mystic Tyrant. Characters with Transcendent Master or Illuminated may freely learn or create them; other characters may use a Communion Oath to learn a transcendent power, provided a master is willing to teach it to him.

Transcendent Powers consist of the principle and the powers. The principle represents the world-view that the Tyrannical Master has imposed upon the world and represents a “category” or “container” of individual abilities, similar to how a psionic power contains numerous abilities associated with it. To gain access to a principle, a character needs an appropriate Transcendent Principle perk, after which he may gain any associated Transcendent Powers. Characters may only gain the Transcendent Principle perk if they have the Transcendent Master or Illuminated trait, or learn it from someone who does.

Transcendent Powers represent the effects of internalizing the Transcendent Principle. The character so completely believes the vision and so thoroughly changes the world with it that he is fundamentally changed. Thus, characters do not use Transcendent Powers, they have Transcendent Powers. Transcendent Principles can also grant access to new miracles, typically the miracles of Broken Communion paths, or entirely new miracles that the character may invoke.

While beyond the scope of most Psi-Wars games, the GM can allow characters with Transcendent Master or Illuminated to invent new principles and powers, using the Philosophy skill. A new principle is an Amazing invention, while a new power associated with a principle the character already knows is an Average invention.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Tinker Titan Rebel Spy Session 2: After Action Report

Talk. All they ever do is talk
As usual, I've had a busy month, but it's time to get back to the Imperial Psi-Wars playtest, so let's prep by talking about what happened last time.

If you haven't already seen them, two players have written their own reports:

They have more focus on what actually happened.  As usual, I will focus more on what was going on from the GM chair.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Transcendent Paths of the Cult of the Mystic Tyrant

The Cult of the Mystic Tyrant excels at enforcing its will upon an entire population and upon the very physics of the world. Thus, it should come as no surprise that they can force Communion itself into the shape that they wish, and that they regularly do so to create new paths.

The Cult of the Mystic Tyrant generally creates paths to serve its own purposes: to expand its power, to shape people’s destiny in such a way that suits them, or to grant themselves desired power. However, their mastery is imperfect, and they unintentionally create a backlash of destiny that can trap them down unwanted paths, or send someone’s destiny spiraling out of their control.

A Transcendent Path works exactly as a normal path and often mix and mingle elements of other paths to create a new cohesive whole. They have prerequisites, symbols, milestones and miracles, just as any path would. The drawback of a transcendent path can be found in its symbols and its milestones.

Most Transcendent paths have not one, but two opposing paths; this reflects the superiority of “natural” paths to “artificial” paths created by the Cult of the Mystic Tyrant. Transcendent Paths also have “corrupted” milestones, which reflect unintentional milestones creeping into their design as fate is exceptionally difficult to pin down. Transcendent Paths have normal milestones, which reflect the will of its creator, and one or more “Corrupted” milestones, which reflect how Destiny sees the true fate of the path; other than the themes involved, they are identical, and either can improve the Legendary Reptutation of the path-walker, and characters who fail to fulfill the milestone they face will find themselves ejected from the path.

Some transcendent paths have more of these problems than other. The Cult of Anthara’s ill-fated experiment with the “True King” path, which was meant to weld the best of the Exiled Master with the Mystic Tyrant to create a king that was truly beloved by all and always right, failed so spectacularly that nobody studies it to this day. Nonetheless, two of the more successful paths are listed below.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Psionic Disciplines of the Cult of the Mystic Tyrant

The Cult of the Mystic Tyrant concerns itself with more than just warfare. Beyond its mastery of Dark Communion, It requires the subtlety and majesty of Telepathy to enforce its dominion and secrecy and thus teaches many of its members in the arts of hiding their own thoughts, in controlling the thoughts of others and in ferreting out traitors and destroying them.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Martial Arts of the Mystical Tyrant

The Cult of the Mystic Tyrant has long made use of the Force Sword and the Psi Sword before it.  They readily adapt forceswordsmanship techniques from outside the Cult, especially the Fury Form of Domen Sonostrum and the Destructive Form of humanity.  In addition, they have two styles unique to their order.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Patreon Poll: The Cult of the Emperor

It's here!  For all of my $5+ patrons (Companions and better) I have the poll on the Cult of the Emperor.  In it, you'll get to decide on the origins of the Emperor, where he first encountered the Cult of the Mystical Tyrant, how he put his personal stamp on it, who serves him (and whom he serves), and what his name and ultimate agenda really are.  There's also additional questions about the Imperial Hand and the War Hero, the Emperor's Mentor.

If you're a Patron, check it out!  The poll will be running for one week.  I'd love to get your feedback.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Mystical Tyrant Schisms Part 3: The Cult of Revalis White

Revalis White, a human whose original name has been lost to history, served as a Knight of Communion shortly before the fall of that illustrious order. He believed in the teachings of True Communion, but found their pacifism intolerable when confronted with the evils he found throughout the Galaxy, especially the evils committed by Lucius Alexis and the atrocities committed daily in the far reaches of the Galaxy. His elders cautioned him to practice patience and to understand what Communion had in store for him, but he and his closest companion lost patience with the Order and left. He and his companion found something on the edges of the Galaxy, and returned, calling himself Revalis White and he had clearly learned teachings of the Cult of the Mystic Tyrant. He returned as the Prodigal Knight, and helped trigger the war against the Alexian Emperor, and then betrayed the Order, though he was unable to ensure their total destruction.

Revalis White, or “Thamet Revalis” had become a transcendant master during his journeys and happily taught his new path to those who would follow him. Unlike the other Cults of the Mystic Tyrant, he held none in his thrall as a slave. In his view, all could be and should be masters. He also did not reject morality; while he rejected the strict dogma of True Communion, he still wished practice virtue as he saw fit, righting injustices when he saw them, rather than when someone allowed him to. He believed strongly in personal responsibility, even if that takes one down dark paths. He argued that the mistake of True Communion was the same as the mistake of the Mystic Tyrant in only embracing one aspect of Communion. Instead, he tried to show his followers all facets of Communion, that the whole of that experience must be embraced and understood before one could truly become a Master of all Communion.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Patreon Special: The Cult of the Mystic Tyrant Preview 2 and the Emperor Thus Far

I have a twofer for you today.  First, I've finished the Cult of the Mystic Tyrant, and put this up as a preview for all my fellow travelers ($3+ patrons).  This fills out the more character-focused parts of the cult, offering three psychic disciplines, two martial arts (including the Maelstrom form, a new force swordsmanship form), two new Paths unique to the Cult, and Transcendent Principles and Powers, the ways i which transcendent masters reshape Communion and the world to their whim.

Patrons ($3+) can check it out here.

Second, this Friday we'll look at the fourth schism of the Cult of the Mystic Tyrant: the Imperial Schism.  The Emperor is not just a member of the Cult but a Transcendent Master and one of its more formative philosophers on par with Satra Temos (or is he?). His presence has created a new vision of the philosophy, and exactly what that vision will be will depend on you, dear reader. This vote will be open to all Companions ($5+ patrons), but in preparation for this vote, I've released the results of the previous imperial poll as a reminder. This is available to everyone.  Patron and reader alike.

You can check it out here.

As always, Patrons, I deeply thank you for your support.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Mystical Tyrant Schisms part 2: The Cult of Satra Temos

The Cult of Satra Temos

In the age after the Ranathim Empire died, the Ranathim philosopher Satra Temos revitalized and re-imagined the Imperial Cult as a brutally cynical philosophy and stripped it down to its core of mastery over Dark Communion. He cast aside the religious trappings of the Divine Mask and preached a doctrine of secret dominion. He opened his philosophy to all races, bringing the Ranathim together with the other denizens of the Dark Arm, such as the slavers, the Gaunt and even humanity, eventually, and united them all under a banner of Dark Communion. The Cult of Satra Temos could not restore the Ranathim Empire, but it did rule the Dark Arm of the Galaxy in secret, through its puppet conspiracies, for centuries until a shadow war with the Knights of Communion shattered its grip on power.

It may still lurk in shadows today, slowly regathering the reigns to power in the Dark Arm of the Galaxy, or tainting the intelligentsia of the Empire.

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