Author Archives: Mage Mistress
A few weeks back I mourned the loss of my beloved Ravenblood Games.
While I still mourn that loss, I am happy to say that like The Phoenix a new Game Store will rise from the ashes* of the old!
Legendary Realms Games is having a grand opening party THIS WEEKEND! There will be food, games, and did I mention food? And the LIRP will be there in force. What’s not to love?
Of course it won’t be the same without Pete there to give traumatizing names to people’s characters if they can’t come up with one of their own, or to yell “Nerds… Go Home!” when we overstay our welcome.
In fact, I do believe that we successfully completed our final Ravenblood Mission: Do Not Let Ravenblood Close on 5/25. We hung around until 3AM, and since we paid for our purchases after midnight we kept the store open for one… more… day. (We WON!)
That said, the folks at Legendary Realms are great folks who have been selling us stuff for years at RetCon. While it won’t be quite the same, it will still be great! And who knows, we may even roll the occasional “Wild Pete” on the Wandering Monster Table – at least until he moves.
So come on down and play some games this Saturday and Sunday (6/8 and 6/9) and have some food. It’s a party!
*Fortunately for all those are figurative ashes. No Game Store was harmed in the making of this transformation.
That is the question! Or rather, it was the question during last night’s RPGChat on Twitter.
What’s that? You’re not familiar with RPGChat on Twitter? It seems to me like you need to get yourself on Twitter on Thursday nights from 9pm-10pm (Eastern Time), follow the hashtag #RPGChat, and get yourself in on the awesome fun! And not having a Twitter account is no excuse, ‘cuz Twitter accounts is free so GO DO IT DAMMIT!
OK, now that you have that done let’s discuss the topic at hand, shall we?
Typically, if I’m going to play in a campaign I want to make my own character. This is a character I intend to be living with for an extended period, and it helps me to get into that character’s mindset if I go through the character creation process. It also helps me to figure out the game rules if it’s a system that I’m not already familiar with. All of this is helpful if the intention is to be part of a long running campaign. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule, and I did spend several years playing a Dragon Blooded character who was made as a pre-gen for a one shot that we all liked so much that the GM turned it into a campaign for us and it was most excellent. That was the exception though, not the rule. As a rule I like to have more control over a character that I will be playing in a campaign.
For a one shot I throw that rulebook against the wall like a Changeling Module! (Even now one of my readers is twitching from her memories of the first time I played Changeling. You’re welcome, Aenaiyah.)
For a one shot I’m all about the random. Give me random charts and a pair of percentiles (no-cheats of course… or Ye Olde Zocchihedron) that will tell me everything about that character down to hair color, shoe size, and what they ate for breakfast that morning. Bring it! Alternately, hand me a pre-gen. It’s just as random as far as I’m concerned (I didn’t make the character after all), and thus the same level of challenge to step away from the possibility of type-casting myself as a player. Challenge me! Make me play a total idiot! (As witnessed here: Adventurer Misadventures – Haints!) Make me play a fanatical pyromaniac with no regard for his own safety and I promise you I will leap on top of the tank my fellow Space Marines are inside of with a flame-thrower reigning fiery death on the surrounding heretics in one hand, and the cigarette I’m lighting off a smoldering chaos demon corpse in the other. I am with you on this ride. All the way.
Just for love of ALL that is holy DO NOT give me three dots in Athletics with a specialty in “Blogging”. (I’m lookin’ at you “Werewolf the Forsaken” Pre-Gens!) There is an art to building pre-gens for a one shot. It’s something I enjoy doing for the modules that I write. For me, it isn’t enough to just toss some stats on a sheet and call it a pre-gen. I not only want the pre-gens to make sense on their own sheets, I want them to work well together. So OK, one of the pre-gens is dumb as a stump, but you can bet that pre-gen can pick things up and put them down with the best of them and that will become important to the scenario! Another pre-gen will have Sloth as a Vice and the lack of Physical skill dots to back that up, but they will have every Manipulative dot that I can squeeze onto the sheet because the easiest way to catch some ZZZs is to convince the people around you to do everything for you, and by the gods I vow I shall build ways for the player to abuse those skills into the story!
I tend to think of my One Shot Modules like B Movies. Maybe the characters are a film crew shooting the first episode of a new series for the Occult Channel called “Truly Terrifying Tales” at a long abandoned asylum. Or perhaps the characters are a bunch of rich kids being sent of to a remote boarding school to learn how to be productive members of society. The characters might be a Hunter Cell trying to track down a missing subway train. (And yes, I see what I did there.) The character shells are suitably stereotypical to the setting, making it easier for the players to pick them up and run with them. These are characters most people will have some sense of familiarity with. You don’t need a 13 page background story when two or three sentences of inner monologue will do. Of course the player can always opt to play the personality differently than I suggest (what am I going to do, fire them?), but I find that it’s helpful for new players who maybe aren’t sure how to roll play to give them those couple of sentences to illustrate the character. I also find that more experienced roll players tend to enjoy the challenge of playing them as written.
While obviously playing the pre-gen personalities as written isn’t a requirement, I do make an effort to build them with fun personality conflicts in mind to help the RP. For example, the camera crew includes one jaded camera operator who just wants to shoot some footage and get this over with and god help the producer if he stuck me with some newbie operator on the second camera, and of course the other camera operator is the obligatory newbie who is a big fan of the first and totally into the supernatural! The show’s host actually has some minor supernatural abilities (whether the other characters care to believe that or not) but no physical skills whatsoever, and the producer is just trying to keep everybody in line and make this thing good enough for it to get picked up as a series so they can all get a steady gig out of it. The boarding school kids include a schoolyard bully and toady, a charmer who can get away with anything, a brainy hacker, and a stoner. The Hunters have an electrician and a construction worker who might be able to fix the train, a go-getter medic who wants to make sure that no one got hurt (Heaven Forbid!) with a somewhat less industrious ambulance driving partner, an MTA employee who knows the tunnels inside and out and has a secret hoard of “discarded stuff” nearby (it’s AMAZING what construction materials get left behind after a project), and a police officer in case they run into any unsavory types in the dark tunnels under the city. It has been my experience that the players rise to the occasion and bring these potential conflicts to all new levels. Once a character tossed someone out of a third story window. Good times.
The thing of it is, when you’re at a convention you’re playing outside of your normal group. You might never see these players and this GM again, and there is a limited amount of time on the clock. I don’t want to spend that time building a character. I want to create a story, and I want it to have an ending that’s more satisfying than “and then we ran out of time.” Your mileage may vary, but I have seen someone spend THREE HOURS making a Savage Worlds character for a one shot.
SAVAGE F@&# WORLDS!
Folks, it was not pretty.
It really wasn’t all that difficult for the Scooby Gang to figure out “where” Morgan’s alter ego had set up residence. Morgan had been experimented on during his time with the military, and so to the military base they went!
The base (in Morgan’s mind anyway) was surrounded on three sides by water, making it easy for the soldiers inside to guard the land access. There were cannons and ballistas, of course, but the Mages had come packing some mystical heat of their own. Damien managed to convince the guards on the nearest wall that the guards on the wall across the courtyard were impostors and needed to be taken out. Apparently he caught on to how much fun it is to use the members of the opposing force against each other. Arrow triggered their fear responses against each other, and hilarity ensued.
Once past the guards on the walls, Aenaiyah cast some Fate magic so that the group would be ‘unlikely’ to run into any patrols. They did run into somebody (I had beefed up security due to certain decisions made by the gang in other sessions) , but managed to subdue him quietly. With very little stumbling about (blasted Fate magic) the Mages make their way to Command and Control.
Successful stealth rolls all around make it impossible for me to ignore the players endlessly telling me that they are quietly creeping toward the room. This is what they see when they arrive:
The room is filled with heavily armed guards – there are 6 guards easily visible from the door. Two of these are standing at a table in the center of the room. You can’t see the top of the table very well due to its height and distance into the room, but you can see what look like flags sticking up from its surface. What do you do?
Well, the first thing they do is roll initiative, and who winds up going first but that blasted Acanthus Mage! She uses her Five Dots in Time to stop time in the room for three rounds – and applies her more than 2 dots of Fate to exempt her Cabal Mates from the spell. That means it’s Coup de Grace time. The boys start running around slitting throats and gathering weapons, all easily accomplished in less than three rounds. This might seem un-hero-like, but the fact is that it has been well established that the soldiers here are mere projections and not actual people.
At the front of the room in a swiveling command chair sits a man who looks quite a bit like the Morgan that they are travelling with, only a bit younger-looking and far more physically fit with a more self-assured posture. Clearly this is the Feaux-Morgan who has been put in charge, and he must be stopped! And so the Mages attempt to attack him! Sadly they had already told the head of the Seers that the man was starting to lose control, and so dutifully the Seers encased him in a transparent ‘control booth’ with access to all the necessary functions and none of that pesky vulnerability the Mages so cleverly warned folks about!
Well played Mages. Well played.
While the Mages with abilities that can (try to) smash the shielding try to get to Feaux-Morgan, Aenaiyah takes a look at the table. It’s clearly some kind of battle map, and she would like to get a closer look at it.
The tabletop is a brain scan. What else would it be? Stuck into the table are flag pins, each with a stylized eye on it. Naturally enough, the Eye Flags represent the presence of the Seers of Panopticon in Morgan’s brain. Aenaiyah then takes the first action that pops into her own brain – she starts removing the flags from the battle map! This is, actually, an excellent idea and one that I had thought of. In so doing, Aenaiyah makes it far less likely that reinforcements will be able to arrive when time starts again.
Meanwhile, back at the transparent control room – the attack oriented Mages are trying all they can to get rid of this nuisance barrier. There are attempts at dispelling it, there are attempts at altering the substance of the “matter”, and there are attempts to portal through it – so far all without success. And then somebody has a success on their WITS+COMP roll and realizes that the water side of this fort has stone gargoyles stationed at intervals, and they (being outside of the room and thus not subject to the stoppage of time) are reacting to the thus-far futile attempts to break through the barrier and get rid of Feaux-Morgan. The Gargoyles come screaming through the air! They break through the windows!! They promptly UTTERLY FAIL their rolls to avoid the effects of the time spell. (Awwwwwwwwww…)
As this happens Aenaiyah goes with the next stray thought that pops into her brain – and I can’t imagine where it came from having certainly not thought about it myself. She decides to start sticking the flag pins into each other “in a stack… pointy pin bottom into flag top”.
Pinky, are you pondering what I’m pondering?
And so, since Aenaiyah pulled the pins OUTSIDE of the brain map, and started sticking them into each other, Seer Brahms (AKA; Dr Blair, AKA: the Head of the Seers) Started forcing an Astral Mage-ipede into their space! And THIS time he didn’t blow his rolls, which means that the Mage-ipede was moving to attack!
What I described to the players (those with enough WITS+COMPOSURE to see it anyway) was a shimmering in the air a little ways above the map table, and a multi-armed and multi-legged creature forcing its way in. It took them a second or two to correlate what was happening with the map pins.
Several things happened at once. The Time Spell wore off, though there were no guards left alive in the room to care about it. Feaux-Morgan started getting rounds, and mostly used them to punch True Morgan in the brain as hard as he could, because his main mission is to prevent True Morgan from regaining control. The Mages split themselves between trying to get to Feaux-Morgan and dealing with the Mage-ipede. The gargoyles broke through the glass windows and started ripping people’s faces off.
Fun was had! I won’t go into a roll-by-roll reenactment (my memory is only so good) but there was much fighting, and there was much damage dished out and taken (on all sides), but eventually Feaux-Morgan was deposed, his body ripped from the command seat, and True Morgan was back in charge. True Morgan’s first act was to release any and all oaths that had been sworn to him which freed Narsil among others, and his last act that the Mages know of was to boot them safely out of his brain so that they wouldn’t wind up trapped there.
Off Screen: Reenie, knowing what the Mages are up to, and where Narsil is, has been scanning his Fate Aura so that she will know if her Mage friends are successful. As soon as they are she gives Glamdring the word. Glamdring, already in position, then grabs Narsil’s sister and runs. Glamdring knew Narsil before his Awakening, which is how she was able to figure out who his sister is, and where she was at the time. This will be followed by much rejoicing (and much long-awaited snogging) and much need for the GM to start working on the next story in the campaign.
And that is the state of the campaign at the moment. Now maybe I should think about getting the next part out of my brain and into my plan book.
:::Insert Laugh of Evil GM Glee Here:::
If you read last week’s post (Scientists: 1 / Minotaur: 0) you know why Neils is my favorite Mage. His player is always a good sport about having to stab his fellow PCs in the back, and between you and me I’m pretty sure he enjoys it almost as much as I do.
His fellow PCs enjoy it a bit less than that, so when we last left off Damien was bitch-slapping Neils in the real world to wake him up and drag him out of astral space. (And also because it was fun.)
Fortunately I had already come up with a nifty way to keep the players together even if some folks had missed a previous session or they had taken Astral Damage (Willpower drains) and wound up knocked out of the realm. I didn’t want to leave anyone in the unenviable position of being removed from the action for an entire session or more, so I gave them an artifact called the Rings of Astral Unity. (Note: this artifact actually exists in the Astral Realms book.) It’s the kind of thing it makes sense for the Consilium to have, especially since one of the members of their star relic acquisitions team is a Mastigos. There are a lot of stats involved which I won’t post here because you should visit your Friendly Local Game Store and buy the book! In essence, there are twelve rings which help to bind twelve characters’ Astral Selves together. If you are wearing one of the rings in the physical world, and someone else is wearing one of the rings in the physical world, you will be able to home in on each other in Astral Space. So miraculously, just in time for the next session to begin (the bitch-slapping was the closing scene of the previous session), the characters that have been knocked out of Astral Space can start recouping some Will Power (they are in the Consilium stronghold so there are options available to them) and join those who are still there. This is a fortunate thing because not everyone was able to make the next session, and those who could were largely those who had been knocked out of Morgan’s Oneiros.
Aenaiyah managed to stay in Morgan’s Oneiros because she wasn’t directly involved in the fight going on in the observation deck. Thinking quickly, she tells Morgan’s True Self that this is HIS MIND DAMMIT and as such he can impose his will over it. He shrugs in his best “that’s lovely, but I have no idea what to do” way, and Aenaiyah forces herself to calmly ask him to think about his happy place. This was an excellent plan! It takes him a few beats because he hasn’t been very happy just lately (there were some RESOLVE+COMPOSURE rolls involved), but when he really thinks about it he realizes that he was happiest in the time shortly before his father died: when he, his Mom, and his Dad would go for picnics at the lake.
Fade To: Family Picnic at the Lake!
There are a whole bunch of kids and families around. There is a tire swing positioned just perfectly to get a good swinging leap into the water. There is a dock that kids are also using to jump into the water, and loads of running, splashing kids with their sandwich chomping parents. This is a place just filled with happy little trees. Good times!
I don’t quite remember the exact particulars of what came next. (Aenaiyah: feel free to fill us in with a comment.) I remember Aenaiyah wanting to visit the time when Morgan was in the service, thinking that this would be a good idea because he would be strongest then because he had gotten away from the abusive situation and was a soldier. I remember consulting my notes and knowing in that black hole where my heart should be that this was the worst idea possible because the time period she had chosen was smack in the midst of his being experimented on, and thus actually being his weakest state, and laughing a bit inside. I remember Aenaiyah casting a time spell to look at all of the times that Morgan had spent at the Lake overlapping each other – though for the life of me I can’t remember what the goal was. I do remember that whatever it was had been a good idea, but that it left her with a horrible timey-wimey headache. I had decided that such a spell would cause an effect like the WORST LAG EVER in World of Warcraft – characters doubling up and moving in a glitchy “mouse-trail” fashion, sounds being overlaid an insane number of times, and all sorts of other strangeness. It was a lot of fun to describe, and I really wish I could remember why she had done it because, like I said, it had been a really good idea! (And this group doesn’t have those very often!)
It was at this point that the other Cabal Mages arrived, and were… confused. They had a hard time finding Aenaiyah and Morgan in the chaos, but eventually Aenaiyah got everything sorted and the group had a discussion. They decided that with Morgan’s True Self now freed from the drugged stupor, it was time to put him back in charge. To do that they would need to break into the fortress from whence Morgan’s Alter-Ego was ruling his mind.
This would ultimately be the final battle of the storyline. I wanted it to be epic. I wanted it to be memorable. I wanted to SUCK THEIR WILLS TO LIVE!
I didn’t quite get everything I wanted that day, but I think I did manage to make it memorable… and maybe just a bit epic. As always, the only will to live that got sucked that day was my own.
Tune in next week for the Exciting* Conclusion**!
*Opinions may vary
**Until the “next book” starts. Coming Soon[tm]!
You may have noticed that I am a fan of making the Player Characters fight each other. There are several reasons for this, first and foremost being that the Player Characters in Mage are tremendously overpowered. Or maybe the fact that if the PCs are fighting each other I don’t have to stat any bad guys comes first. It’s pretty much a photo finish. I mean, take last week’s Minotaur for example. I spent all kinds of time tweaking his stats to make sure that he had a good chance of hurting those pesky PCs while at the same time not being likely to one-shot kill them. (Slow death is always more fun.) I give him a solid range of interesting powers that make sense to his concept, and how does he repay me? NOT ONE SINGLE SUCCESS!
So the Mages manage to make their way into Morgan’s Oneiros. Now it’s true that I wanted them to get there, because if they didn’t I did all that planning for nothing, but they should have been beaten up a bit when they got there. Instead they roll outta that morgue drawer fresh as daisies*!
And why wouldn’t they roll out of a morgue drawer? One of the defining moments of Morgan’s life was the death of his father. Furthermore, I really want to send these jerks a message that I want them dead. So yeah, morgue drawer. In fact, when the Mages were using Matter Magic to scan around the labyrinth I had them pick up the presence of some pockets where the dirt around them was missing… regularly spaced pockets that are roughly 6 feet long by 3 feet deep by 3 feet wide.
But I digress.
As they pile out of the morgue drawer Damien attempts to summon one of Morgan’s Daimons and fails miserably. This failure will come into play shortly.
What they enter is a corridor with a very military feel to it – think Stargate SG-1:
Very grey, but with colored lines on the floor that can help you to not get lost if you happen to know which colors lead where. Fate magic leads the troupe down the blue line to a room filled with a bunch of scientists. Exactly Neils’ kinda place! There are all manner of dials, and flashy lights, and buttons to push – FUN! There are also loads of guys in lab coats. As always, Aenaiyah casts Perfect Moment and then brashly runs in to ask for status updates and such. Riff-Raff and Argus cover the door. Argus is naturally invisible. Neils starts looking over a scientist’s shoulder and acting like he should be there. Damien, Arrow, and Rex move toward the observation window.
Aenaiyah finds out that the patient is fully under, and that his vital signs are stable. She insists on heading in to check on him physically to make sure everything is in place. That Perfect Moment spell she cast earlier lets her get away with this. She heads down the spiral staircase into the operating theater.
Damien, Arrow, and Rex look through the window to see a man who looks suspiciously like the Morgan they saw at the zombie house lying strapped to an adjustable medical gurney with a bunch of IV lines sticking out of each arm, each hooked up to a large IV bag. A woman is sitting next to him, holding his hand, and saying soothing things like “Rest dear, you’re safe now. It’s OK, you just need to get some rest. It will all be better when you wake up.” Damien and Arrow covertly start casting buff spells on the sleeper to make him resistant to the drugs (Arrow) and to increase his mental alertness (Damien). Rex is holding an action in case Aenaiyah winds up needing some help. None of them has done anything that would alert the scientists that anything is amiss, so no one is paying any attention to them.
And then Neils goes to touch a dial. And the scientist who is manning that panel realizes he shouldn’t be there and stabs him with a needle.
Roll for initiative!
The scientist has a surprise round on Neils because he plays it cool and doesn’t start yelling or anything. He simply acts like he’s going to tell Neils what something does and then injects him full of a mind altering drug. I ❤ Neils.
The other characters do not know that Neils has been drugged, and go about their business. Aenaiyah is talking with the woman sitting next to Morgan’s true self and discovers that this woman is his mother. (or, to be more precise, his concept of his mother. Which is to say, she is his negative Daimon of Complacency – as per my previous post.) Aenaiyah, thinking “Oh! Damien tried to summon Morgan’s Daimon to help us before, this must be her!” engages her in conversation, which leaves her feeling very soothed and calm indeed.
Despite the fact that all hell has not quite broken loose yet, Riff-Raff pulls his gun and tells everyone to stay where they are.
The scientists, on their respective rounds, listen to the gun-toting maniac and stay where they are.
When we get to Neils’ round he rolls a reflexive RESOLVE + STAMINA save versus the drug, and Neils being the favorite absolutely fails to save versus PC-on-PC action. As such, I describe to him what he sees:
You see colors swirling all around you. You have an extreme sense of clarity of purpose. There are three people standing by the observation window who really shouldn’t be there. Additionally, there is a crazy person standing in the doorway waving a gun in people’s faces.
And Neils’ strikes the gun wielding psycho with magic lightning.
As Neils attacks Riff-Raff (the gun wielding psycho) one of the doctors who has a held action makes a break for it and runs into the hallway. His goal is to pull an alarm and get some backup down here! Sadly, Argus was quicker (and invisible) and tackled him before he could get to the alarm. The doctor was caught completely off-guard (no defense) and can’t actually see Argus to stab him with psychotropic drugs.
Riff-Raff crumples to the ground with multiple points of aggravated damage from Neils’ vicious attack. (I love that guy!)
Aenaiyah needs to roll some RESOLVE+COMPOSURE to shake off the soothing effects of Morgan’s mother. (Thanks Damien!) She somehow manages (fiesty wench) and starts pulling IV needles out of Morgan’s arm, much to mother’s distress. Mother has no physical prowess whatsoever, but does continue to work her manipulative abilities on Aenaiyah to convince her that Morgan needs these medicines to get better and that she’s hurting him by ripping the needles out of his arm, and his arms are indeed bleeding because she isn’t being all that gentle about it.
Damien is continuing his attempts to use Mind Magic to wake Morgan up, and now he can very definitely feel the presence of another mind here working against him from outside.
For the record kids: this is why we shouldn’t tell the bad guys when their best operative might start working against them!
The scientists (who are really mental constructs themselves) are attempting to re-stabilize Morgan’s drug induced sleep while Neils continues to roast Riff-Raff with some sweet, sweet lightning. Argus continues to grapple with the doctor in the hall (who is in turn trying to stab him with psychotropic drugs) so that reinforcements don’t get called.
Neils has just blasted Riff-Raff into unconsciousness (and right out of Morgan’s Onerios). Arrow took his round to scoot downstairs to help Aenaiyah with Morgan (he is trying to purge the drugs from Morgan’s system), which leaves Neils with one target in the room: Damien! Neils Mage Lightnings Damien, who is getting way too close to waking up Morgan because the GM can’t roll for SH*T this session. Damien hangs on and attempts to help waking Morgan. Argus bests the doctor in the hall and goes in to find out what the hell is going on in the other room. Aenaiyah continues to rip needles out of Morgan’s arm while Arrow heals up the bleeding wounds. Scientists are unconscious. Morgan’s poor old Mom is begging Aenaiyah to stop hurting her son! Damien is struggling Braino-a-Braino with his ex-wife’s grandfather in a tug-of-war over Morgan’s mind!
And then Neils zaps Damien with Mage Lightning just before Damien can wake Morgan up! (GO NEILS GO! GO NEILS GO!)
Aenaiyah rips the final needles out of Morgan’s arms and he begins to wake, while Arrow makes his mother fall asleep using Life Magic.
Argus is about to shoot Neils in the face when Neils disappears without warning. In the waking world Damien has just full on bitch slapped Neils’ body so that he will be dragged out of Morgan’s Oneiros too. (And also because he was really pissed at Neils.)
To Be Continued…
*Daisies… Morgue Drawer… yeah, I went there.