Friday, September 19, 2014

Story Seed - The Power Behind the Throne

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“What … what are they?” Kormon asked, taking a small, shuffling, step backward from the frame.  Within like some kind of perverse viewer glass, or a non-permeable portal to some other realm three figures writhed against a flexible barrier.  Naked flesh slid across the semi-opaque surface suggesting at one moment violence, at another longing, and at other times other more lewd intimations.

“I know not my prince.  I was not aware of this until your parents passed, and was made aware of it in their will, and even I have never laid eyes on it until today. Your guess is as good as mine.”  Steward Rothayld spoke quietly; secretly he was worried that the forms would hear him, though he could not say why he worried. “I only know that when you came of age you were to be brought to this room.  I would not have entered had you not bid me to do so.”

Kormon frowned, an unusual expression on the young man’s face. “And I should not have done so.  Leave now, and forget that you saw this.”  Rothayld bowed and retreated, leaving the boy-lord alone. Looking at the frame, and the figures within Kormon finally spoke, “What are your wishes my mistresses?”

Story Seed - The Crown

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"That is the true crown?" Erint asked.

Her mother, the queen, nodded as she walked up the steps to the dais.  "And someday you will wield the kingdom's might through it as I have done."  She settled the glowing horned crown upon her head,
"You are of age now Erint, and someday I will be gone and this will be your duty." She did not say burden, though it often felt as such.

Beyond the chamber the mind of the queen was influencing her country, stemming nascent rebellion by subtly altering opinion, ensuring fair trade by curbing greed, and deepening the impressions of the wealth and power of her lands in the minds of visitors...

Story Seed - What was lost is found

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I stepped out of the inapposite gate behind Will and Carolina.  Behind me the spiraling fractal stuttered, its purple light flashing as it did.  With a tearing sound the gate finally collapsed under the weight of its own impossibility leaving us in an empty stone courtyard.

Faintly I could hear the sound of running water and the cries of ocean birds. There was a stillness here however that spoke to abandonment.  The structures were covered in moss in places, the stone worn with age, though worn well and not crumbling.  The architecture was familiar seeming but unlike anything in my studies.  I turned to say as much to Will, but noticed that they had moved forward toward an arched opening covered with intricate glyphs.  "Wait!"

"Doc, you need to keep up. We can't stand around until we've assessed if this recursion is safe and stable."  Will came across gruffly, but I knew he was only being matter of fact. Carolina just rolled her eyes at me, making her opinion clear; the nerd squad shouldn't come on these first steps missions.

"No, really ... please, just wait one moment." I had my tablet out and was pulling open reference photos as quickly as I could, each confirming piecemeal what I was starting to suspect.  "The architecture, it's ... unique."

"That's nice doc, but we've got to secure this place."

"Against what? Just stop and look and listen. Nobody lives here, nobody has been here in thousands of years."  I trotted up next to him, squeezing between him and Lt. Glazier, sticking my tablet in their faces.  "These are photos of architecture from Persia, Egypt, Aztec and Maya sites in Central America.  All of these sites are four thousand years old or more. Now look over there." I pointed to a carved column, then an arch, a statue. "These all have similar qualities to these sites."

"So this is some old recursion from way back in the day, big deal" Carolina said dismissively.

"No.  I mean, yes, this recursion is likely old, but these sites on Earth didn't influence this recursion, I think it was the other way around. This architecture is the predicate."  They looked baffled.  "I think it came first.  I think this place is where those people and civilizations learned their techniques from."

I paused, not sure if I should really say it.  "I don't want to speculate wildly but this recursion could be ... I think this is Atlantis."

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Story Seed - Daemon Trap

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“Did you get it?” Vorcdan all but demanded.  He was shifting his weight from foot to foot, clearly anticipating delivery.

Shyrode sighed to herself thinking, The customer is always right, even when they are annoying. “Yes, I have it. It took some doing the digital daemons are not so easily caught, nor are they separatist, three others attacked after we contained this one. I lost two men.”

“You will be rewarded, and compensation for their deaths will be given.  Let me see it.” This time Vorcdan did demand, though it was phrased with a tinge of desperation.  He licked his lips and Shyrode saw that the little man was pale, and covered in a sheen of sweat.  Disgusting.

Out from Shyrode’s pack came a bottle that appeared to be glass, but was some kind of night unbreakable synth.  Scribed in gold about it were symbols of unknown origin or meaning.  Within a shimmering green mist filled every bit of available space, roiling in what could only be described as frustration.  “Here it is, one daemon. Though I do not know why you would want such a dangerous creature of the numenera.”

Vorcdan grabbed the bottle greedily, licking his lips again.  “Because, they will bargain for their freedom once trapped, and their currency is wishes …”

Story Seed - The Church of the Infinite Spiral

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The Temple of the Infinite Spiral perched on a jutting cliff. Hanging out over the watery abyss of the ocean the structure seemed itself to be the tail of an unseen spiral.  It’s architecture was alien, yet beautiful, composed of curling spirals that joined into larger spirals, ever repeating down to the tiniest details.  From without, a faint glow of blue-green energy leaked between the petal like curls and whorls of the structure.  The pilgrims seemed wary, unsure how so many could fit into a temple that seemed so small, but each one disappeared into the scrolled opening, and then the next and the next. Never it seemed that the temple had grown full.

Helicod waited for his turn. This was his first pilgrimage, and he was filled with both eagerness and trepidation.  Slowly the queue, formed as it was in a series of winding double spirals, advanced bringing Helicod and his fellow pilgrims closer to the cochlear opening.  At last it was his turn, the woman in front of him disappeared into the vortex and he stepped forward.  Taking a breath he pushed on, steeling his nerves through his devotion.

The young man felt contorted.  He could see his back, the bottom of his feet, the side of his face, the top of his own head.  His fingers touched the backs of their own hands and his feet bumped into his knees.  The pain was shocking, but felt distant as well, as though felt through many draughts of julibery wine.  When he began to feel that he could not stand another instant he realized that the sensation was gone and that it had lasted only a moment.  He stood within the temple, its spiraling structure answering his initial concerns with a space as vast as infinity, a spiral that continued on in every direction without apparent limit …

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Back Issues #1 - The Sun is a Mass of Incandescent Gas ...

This is a ... "reprint" of an article I wrote a few years back. A little update, but essentially untouched. Welcome to Throwback Thursday, there with be 23 of these as I rework and "reprint" the original version of Inspiration Strikes!

Issue #1: The Sun is a Mass of Incandescent Gas ...

... or is it? Folks that played D&D back in the 90's and folks who still play now may have a passing or intimate familiarity with the Dark Sun campaign setting. I played some in high school with that system where THAC0 ruled and I could never figure out if I was rolling high, low, or why -10 armor was better than +10. *shrug* This isn't about D&D, heck, it's not even about Dark Sun, but that dying world featured, as the title suggested, a sun that wasn't bright and, well ... sunny, but instead dark.

The sun in games and fiction is, probably 99% of the time, yellow, orange, or orange-red. There have been the occasional science fiction stories where in the far flung future the sun has shrunken into a white dwarf or ballooned into red giant, but even that's fairly rare in my experience. Why do you suppose that is? I'll grant that in proper real life stars don't really come in colors like these:

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Which is a damn shame, but fine, I didn't set up the natural law, I guess I'll just live with it. Unless I am GMing a game. In which case why not have a literal black sun? Or a deep verdant green sun that rises over the drab brown landscape of a world, taunting it with the promise of verdant life, but bestowing nothing of the sort? What's wrong with a deep azure? Occasionally you do see red suns, but they are still a bit orange, seldom truly crimson. To say nothing of purple.

Fictional worlds often have multiple moons, a feature which usually enhances the oddness of their own night sky. Multiple suns isn't nearly as common. Tatooine, in that franchise about two plucky droids who saw the rise of an evil emperor and worked behind the scenes to bring about his downfall, had at least two suns. One appears to be a hotter star, nearly white, while the other looked red, but that may have been due to atmospheric dust during sunset, much like our own sun can.

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The dynamics of such systems would be complicated of course, including times of intense brightness and partial light, but there's little argument that looking up and seeing two or three suns, maybe of different colors, would certainly tell the players (or readers or viewers) that they aren't on Earth anymore.

Maybe next time I run a fantasy world game, or simply design a fantasy world for the fun of it, I'll put up three suns, in red, blue, and yellow. Most of the time the suns will be in the sky together, their colored light providing a combined white that illuminates the landscape, but what happens when one of those suns is eclipsed? Or when one sets early or late? Could the combined power of the blue and yellow suns green light increase and improve the naturalistic magic of druids and shamans? Does the light of a the lone red sun ravage the world with fire elementals unleashed without the guidance of a warlock? Does the once a century Day of Purple have some effect on the regency of the character's nation?

It's something to think about at least.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Story Seed - The Huckster

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"Ladies, gentlemen, and sentients of other persuasions, step right up for your first view of Queed's dimensional displacement device!" The man, if he could be called that, for he was not so much thin as he was _narrow_ as though he as passed through some tight constriction and been changed as a result, waved a long thin hand towards a cloth covered shape.  Repeating his call the man, presumably Queed, though he claimed no name, nor implied ownership or responsibility for the mysterious shape, gatherer a small crowd, person by person, family by family.

Eventually enough people gathered, milling about in a stringy cluster around the narrow man and his cloth covered mystery.  "Behold!" he cried, pulling the cloth away and revealing a large spider-like structure.  "Queed's Dimensional Displacement Device! Capable of sundering the very fabric of our world and breaching a passage into another!"

Murmers of concern and astonishment filtered through the crowd.  Cries of "Is it safe?", "How does it work?", "Turn it on!", "Show us!", and more rose above the din.  With a wicked smile that worried those few who saw it the creature turned the device on, projecting a tear of light into the space before it.

Story Seed - Icebound

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Day 76:  The air grows colder every day.  One can hardly believe that it is possible.  Were it not for our numenera we would have been forced to turn back ten days ago. Our crew cannot go outside without protective efforts, the air will freeze flesh in moments otherwise.

The wall of ice continues to prevent an inhospitable shore.  Perhaps there truly is nothing south of the cold desert.

Day 81: There is something out there.  Last night the watchman saw a dim light reflecting in the ice, and with morning's light we have confirmed a structure and a shore unblocked by ice.

Day 82: The two jacks we sent to scout the structure have not returned.

Day 83: The glaive and nano that were sent out after the scouts have not returned, but a foglet of the datasphere informed us that they had reached the tower.

Day 84: The waters froze around the ship last night.  We have no choice but to seek help in the tower.  I am sending a copy of this journal back to Glavis with my last Deliverer.  May the ancestors have mercy on us.

the final entries of the journal of Toris Warkelo, Knower of the Redfleet ship, Zotasy

Story Seed - Inhabitation

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He checked the artifact once again.  The symbols were of little meaning, their language and the people who spoke it were long dead, but the changing colors, the way that the bars elongated and curled, all told him that this would lead him toward something else.  He was still on the right path the device told him, and he slid it back into the pouch at his waist.  Two statues, weathered and broken, stood guarding steps that led to some ruin of the past.  This was an eighth world site he felt certain; too much detail remained for this to be older.

As he mounted the steps, carefully and deliberately, he felt the tiny hair on his arm prickle upward.  Ethereal projections appeared before him, flickering and stuttering from age and damage.  Some spoke in strange language, others screeched with corrupted recordings.  The effect cascaded through the silent ruin like a tidal wave.  Up ahead something roared.  Something alive, and hungry.

Story Seed - The Ghost in the Machine

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"I don't see that we have another option. Either the datasphere shows us how to get past this door, or we turn back and never know what lies beyond."

"Are you certain? This is no mere siphon. Projecting your mind into the datasphere ... who knows what that will be like.  There are data spirits, nano controllers, even processes that are like the iron wind for the datasphere. You could find your mind altered or even erased entirely!" Ulliari was more than worried, he was terrified.  What would happen to him if Yarth lost her mind, or worse, came back with the mind of a data spirit.

Yarth shook her head, "I won't go back a faliure.  We have the delver, we should use it.  There could be treasures untold beyond this door; cyphers and artifacts. We could retire from this. What could be safer than never needing to explore another ruin of the prior worlds again?"

Ulliari frowned, sadly realizing that he could not sway the course his sister had set for them.  Instead he watched in silent disapproval as Yarth set the delver atop her head and transferred her consciousness into the datasphere itself.


Yarth opened her eyes, or at least that was the closest analog.  She could still see her brother and her own body, though the physical realm was indistinct, blurry and unfocused, crawling with letters and numbers and sigils long forgotten.  The circlet seemed the most real, blazing with light and trailing a umbilical of data that connected her to her physical form.

Yarth turned to the door, tracing her senses over the data pathways that touched on the door.  The input devices allowed her a path into the system, and a similar structure allowed her out again on the other side.  The complex was far more massive inside than she expected, rivers of data and power, like roads filled with countless travelers.


The voice was not human, or even human like. Nor was it truly a voice.  Yarth shifted her perception.  The lines of data and power shifted and writhed. Changing.  A face, or the impression of one, peered out from the complex interaction of the datasphere.  


Summary - an explorer finds more than bargained for in the datasphere of a long lost ruin of the ancient worlds.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Story Seed - Sentinel

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The night deepened, the blue sky fading to black and becoming dotted with stars.  On the horizon a blue glow washed the sky behind a ridge, betraying the hiding place of some ancient object hidden there.  The small band wearily continued, following the glow now instead of a map and landmarks.  The night was fully dark by the time they topped the rise.

They made camp at the top of the ridge out of necessity; even bathed in the blue glow from below the descent from their position would have been dark and treacherous.  Better instead to rest, to eat, to scrape the dust and sweat from their bodies in anticipation of the following day’s descent and exploration.  The glaive, easily the least weary of the group, took first watch, and paced up to the very edge of the precipice looking down at the source of the glow below.

A structure, broken, misshapen, jutted from the earth below.  The glow emanated primarily from a single large opening, though in the dark the glaive could see signs of light coming from other wounds in the structure.  A sentinel stood watch before the large opening, a creature of tremendous proportion, with arms as large as the party’s nano.  The glaive sat down and began to run a whet stone across his massive two-handed verred’s blade in anticipation of the first light’s first chore.

Story Seed - The Gateway

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“Far into the Beyond, in the town of White Lake, a solitary arch stands amid the gardenlike town green.  Made of stone that none can identify that resists the mightiest of cyphers and esoteries it shows signs of weathering indicating great age.”

“Like from one of the old worlds?” Naiania asked, her eyes wide.

Her grandfather nodded, “Some say from the very first world.”  This elicited a gasp of surprise from the young child, and a tongue click of admonishment from the old man’s wife.  Ignoring her he continued, “Stories say that with the right incantations and sacrifices, to entities beyond all reckoning of age, the arch will activate and open a portal to a swirling realm like a sea of stars.

Naiania’s mouth fell agape at the very idea. “Can you go through? Can you swim in the stars?” she asked excitedly.

Her grandfather shook his head slowly, “I do not know.  The stories speak of many who stepped into that realm but of only one who returned.  And she returned gripped with madness beyond all curing.  She claimed that our world was a lie, and that there were others beyond that were also lies.”  He leaned in close to his granddaughter and whispered, “But worst of all she said that the only true world was full of people and noise and crude machines that belched foul gases into the air.  A world where people held wonders like artifacts but could not comprehend other items of numenera that we take for granted.

“No one knows what happened to the woman, in her madness she walked into the wastes and disappeared, but that is why the most important lesson to remember is that not all numenera are benign.  There are glorious mysteries of the old worlds that can do worse than kill you.”  The child said nothing, merely staring wide eyed and mouth agape.  “OK, off to bed with you now. Else the Margr will come!”

Nuts & Bolts #1 - One Unique Thing

I've been playing RPGs for a while and I've seen plenty of good and bad rules & mechanics.  This is intended to be a regular or semi-regular discussion of notable mechanics, good or bad, and what I like or dislike about them.

One Unique Thing

From the 13th Age SRD:
One Unique Thing
Your character’s One Unique Thing (their unique) is a special feature invented by you, the player, which sets your character apart from every other hero. It is a unique and special trait to your player, and markedly unusual. The intent is that it provides a special flavor to the campaign and can assist the GM in determining how your character can interact with characters and story in the campaign.
Your character’s unique should not provide general practical value in combat. That is not the intent. The intent is to open up story arcs and fun roleplaying opportunities.
Obviously the One Unique Thing (OUT) is a fairly light mechanic.  It doesn't rely on other parts of the 13th Age rules, or even the 13th Age setting.  This means that the OUT is perfect to co-opt into other games as it will not impinge on systems or settings.  It's worked so well for me thus far that I will probably always use it in any game I run in the future.

What's it do though? What it does do is provide additional depth to both character and setting completely within the hands of the player and GM.  It allows the player to add something to their character that is entirely special.  It enables the player to direct the game-world and possibly the longer campaign in a way that interests them, by suggesting people, places, things, event, or the like that relate to their characters.  It also provides ways for the GM to hook players based on that relationship.

An example from my current game:
I am the only person to ever leave the Dome of Mysteries alive.
It's a simple enough statement. It relates directly to a location in the city of Qi in the Numenera game which is the locale that I had agreed with the players where we would set our story.  It told me that the Dome would be something I would need to think about using, and not simply a named landmark that might get ignored.

It also told me a little about the Dome itself.  If that character is the only one who has left the Dome alive it implies that she is the only character to have left the Dome at all (though I was tempting to have the building dump dead bodies into the street, this felt far more interesting).  As a result nobody in Qi knows what lies beyond the threshold of the Dome of Mysteries, truly making the building's interior a mystery.

I asked my player if she wanted to help determine what was inside and she replied that she wanted no memory of her life prior to exiting the Dome.  The mystery just deepened.  Now I had a Stealthy Jack who Murders, who had no memory of her past, and is the only person to have exited the Dome of Mysteries, alive or dead.

I ultimately settled on an explanation of what the Dome is, and what happened to my game's intrepid Jack.  It has shaped the campaign and with the other players' OUTs my game has taken on a depth and player involvement that would have been more difficult to achieve on my own. I think that the addition of the OUT has proven entirely successful, and feel fully justified in including it in future campaigns I run and suggesting that other GMs consider its use in their own games.

Story Seed - Source of the Infection

Image Source: +Akin Adekile  (
excerpt from the journal of Kaxur Doj

We came upon the structure in the first hour of post-dawn.  All of us were surprised that we have not seen or heard it through the jungle the evening before.  A large structure standing astride one of the slowly running currents on massive curved legs it supported some kind of large opening at its crown; six sided and as long as the thing itself.  From below an orb spun over the water amid conduits that were more tube than pipe, but pulsed like a vein or sucker, drawing the nigh-stagnant water up and into the structure.

We could see no sign of discharge; whatever water was drawn in did not seem to exit the numenera. As we approached the nano complained of nausea and soon after collapsed, vomiting.  We sent him back to the camp with two of the glaives on a makeshift stretcher, while the rest of us continued to close on the discovery.

Two hours of searching revealed no obvious entrance other than the gaping six-sided maw above and we set to climbing up, emboldened by the promise of cyphers and artifacts within.

That great chamber contained panels of controls that none of us could understand, and pools of slivery liquid that defied gravity.  Two more of us began to vomit, feeling sudden vertigo, and even I was forced to admit that something was turning my stomach.

I awoke in camp and I could not recall anything more, how we exited the structure, or what if anything we found within apart from sickness.  Of the group I am now the only one, the others have perished of dehydration, being unable to hold even water.  I have dragged myself away from that infernal machine, and in doing so I hope I have saved myself.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Story Seed - The Storm

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Being different is hard. No matter how much you try people can sense it. For most people the datasphere was just another remnant of the prior worlds.

But I could hear it, and see it.

That set me apart, made me different.  It also made me smarter, gave me knowledge that hadn't been held by humanity in years longer than I could count.

In the far east, beyond the Black Riage, there had always been a glow.  A concentration of the data sprites, search engrams, and data gods.  I understood it was far beyond the Steadfast, and past where even the Beyond ceased to be the Beyond.

The light has grown brighter recently. It blots out the night sky in the east, and white washes the sunrise. But there is a darkness within the light.  Something within the datasphere is not right, maybe there is a war between the sentient programs, or perhaps something new has awoken.  I do not know.

And that scares me more than I can say.

Story Seed - The Find

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The chasm, lit dimly with a guttering low-grade glowglobe, narrowed as it descended.  After an hour the rough walls of cleaved stone gave way to a purposefully built tunnel, continuing to descend into the earth.  The sloping floor and crudely hewn tunnel was soon replaced with steps that were once polished, and walls that, despite the cracking weight of age, showed evidence of cunning craftsmanship.

The stairs themselves went on into darkness for ages. Sometimes their run was longer than a stride, and at others they became uncomfortably steep.  Ever downward they continued; occasionally switching back or turning this way or that.  The guttering of the glowglobe finally failed and for a time there was silence and darkness as I sat in my place pondering the value to continuing on with my very last glowglobe, or using the same to turn back and see the surface.

Soon though, my eyes detected a hint of light below, a faint brightness in the cloying darkness.  I stood, and with tentative steps, and my hand held firmly to the wall on my left, proceeded slowly downward.  I felt my way with my feet, testing each step before proceeding, until after some time the glow grew bright enough to make out the steps in their dimness.

Emboldened I continued on faster with each passing moment until I was very nearly running down these ancient steps until suddenly they gave way entirely to a broad overlook and a stunning vista of antiquated machinery and antediluvian structures.  I skidded to a halt, my hip bumping painfully into a crude rail.  Below the hum of machinery and the pervasive glow continued beyond my sight. I knew not what I had found, but I would surely find out soon.

Story Seed - Thorns

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The two paced around each other, circling an invisible central point, weapons at the ready, darting furtively but without any real intent.  Not yet.  The larger of the two brandished a great curving blade, four feet from tip to grip, of steel as blue as cold ice.  Quickness was secondary to raw power in his movements.

Opposite him the woman seemed small, but only by comparison. Hard muscle slide beneath her skin, causing the black markings, line vines etched into her porcelain skin, to writhe.  The verred in her grip danced like a butterfly.

The assembled crowd waited for the violence to begin, unsure how it would unfold.  They did not have to wait long. As if on cue the two made for each other.  The man's great blade whistling through the air only to be deflected by the fluttering verred.

Sparks and the clash of steel followed.  The dancing verred staying just ahead of the heavy curving blade, deflecting wounds by less margin each time.  Power was slowly wearing down finesse, until with a clash like none before the heavy blade descended not seeking flesh, but instead the flittering verred.  Steel met steel and the verred shattered like glass.

The woman slid backwards, feet dancing away from her opponent, hands casting the hilt aside without a second thought.

"You're beaten. Admit it and I'll spare your life." The big man's voice was deep and smooth, like a bass note.

The woman smirked, arching an eyebrow, "I've survived the Iron Wind, I'll not be beaten by the likes of you." Her eyes took on a golden glow, and the green of her hair seemed to brighten.  She flexed, and all across her body; her face and arms, everywhere that could be seen, spikes like thorns began to grow from the markings her skin.

Story Seed - The Approach

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The girl with the red pack stood in the waves.  The water lapped at her feet. Her little brother's hand wriggled in her own like a fish, yearning to return to the sea.  The sea birds' cries mixed with the gentle crashing surf and the susurrus of the wind over sand to lend a peaceful air to it all.

The two looked out over the ocean; its waters reflecting the blue and white of the skies above. In the distance a vast mountain jutted from the water, a piece of land yearning toward the sky above.

It was closer today that it had been yesterday.  Yesterday it was closer than it had been the day prior.  Its pace was ponderous, the children could only just make out the change in size from day to day.

"Will it get here soon?" the little boy asked, looking up at his sister.

"Father says it will reach the shore in a few months," she replied.

Story Seed - The Gyre

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The soulshorn stood at the edge of the enclosure. Enclosure was being generous, it was merely a ring of unevenly spaced columns jutting from the rock below.  That the stabbing fingers of stone encircled the gyre lent the whole of them the ability to be called an enclosure. Within this space was a cleared circle laid in with bronze and gold and another within that laid in silver. The circles were inscribed with sigils and runes with connotations on the mystic and the profane.

With a gesture the soulshorn levitated a book, itself thickly inscribed, to float before it. The soulshorn, very likely once a quephilim though that was nigh impossible to discern, raised its malformed and mutated hands to the night sky and began to chant. The creature's voice was low and guttural, the language archaic and laden with power.  Slowly, individually the chanting awoke power in the sigils below, causing the graven forms to burst alight with eldritch energy.

"We should attack now, stop it from whatever it's doing," whispered K'tal to his companions.

"That is soul energy in those runes. we should watch and wait, understand what that seal is," replied Mellak.  Mellak was a soul sorcerer himself and he was likely interested in the end results as much as he was in defeating this soulshorn abomination.  Possibly moreso.

"We attack now," Juub'al growled, the short hair on his body raised and his pointed ears canted forward.  "It is soulshorn, nothing good can come from this evil.  We have an opportunity here and we shall take it."  Juub'al's mythlight was starting to flare, a red aura of War.  He commanded his companions to flank the creature and the hefted his massive double hand talwar,  The others acquiesced, knowing that their leader would not sway his opinion, not now, and began to spread out to flank the heretical soulless.

Moments passed and with a bellow of the power of the Aspect of War Juub'al and his companions attacked.  They were met with force. As shades of the dead extruded from the lit sigils and took solid form.  Ghastly undead creatures attacked, shielding the soulshorn as it continued its chanting.  More sigils lit, the energy of the ritual creeping inexorably toward the center of the great seal.

Summary - A group of adventurer's follow a soulshorn to an ancient mystic seal and attempt to stop the creature from opening it. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Story Seed - The Hub of Worlds

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Deep in the strange, well past the Glaring Eye, there is a structure within the strange.  A whorl of
fundament curls inward to a delicate latticework of towers and walkways, of stairs the lead into clouds of pure energy, and doorways that open into the madness of infinite fractals.  Known as the Hub to those who wander its impossible surfaces, some say that it contains bits of the original source code.  The stairs, doors, windows, and ramps are said to provide translation to realms far beyond the shoals of Earth and to long forgotten prime worlds...

Story Seed - The Chase

I peered around the corner, unsure what I would see.  The hall was empty.  The white walls, floor tiles, and ceiling, all bathed in a purple pink glow that shifted and throbbed like a living thing.  I heaved a sigh of relief as I stood up, at least they were gone.  The end of the hall, where a dead end should have been, the wall was missing, replaced instead by a whirlpool of fractal insanity. The light emanated from that wound, and I could feel a slight tugging as though the phenomenon was exerting some small amount of extra gravity.

I holstered my gun and pulled out a small device from my pocket that looked like an old vacuum tube at the end of an old style flashlight.  It was neither but that it looked marginally like cobbled together junk was an asset to me.  I pointed the cypher toward the fractal gateway and pushed the button.  A glow lit the glass tube for a moment.  In my mind I smelled burning fur, tasted salt wind, and felt the coarseness of gravelly sand under my feet.

Expended, the burnt out cypher popped once and then began to pixelate, slowing fading as each pixel seemed to flip in space and disappeared.  It looked almost like the device folded up into itself until it was gone.  I shrugged; the weird nature of cyphers was hardly worth noting now.  The portal had already begun to shrink, closing on itself as the fractal edges closed and twisted in on themselves.  It reminded me of the cypher, and I figured that is likely what it had been anyway.

I dialed my partner. “Yeah, they fled with the rod.  They used a translation gate, but I used the triangulator to get a fix.  Yup, pretty sure we can translate the team over and hunt them down.  No clue what’s on the other side though.”  I nodded once, “And I’ll call Betsy.  See you in two hours.”

Story Seed - The Reality Seed

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"Doesn't look like much," Gary said, peering at the object.

Sarah rolled her eyes at the comment, but reluctantly she had to admit that here on Earth it was somewhat less impressive.  "Strange things almost always look less exciting on Earth," she replied, somewhat lamely.

"True enough I suppose, and I guess a reality seed doesn't have any kind of Earth equivalent to translate as."  Gary frowned, "Still, now I have to wonder how many geologists have bits of of the strange sitting on shelf, or gathering dust in some storeroom."

"Don't be a fool, it may look like a rock, but even people who aren't quickened would feel the ..." Sarah struggled for the words. "The strangeness of it."

Gary nodded in agreement, "You're right."  He opened the lock-box, exposing the foam lined interior. "OK, in it goes, the bosses will be pissed if something happens, so let's just get this to the facility and let it be somebody else's problem."

Sarah reached out and placed the seed into the foam, "You ever wonder what it would be like? Creating your own recursion? We could set up a paradise."

"No and no." Gary closed the box. "Don't even think it.  If the Director gets wind of it ... let's just say that there are recursions you don't want to visit."

"Come on..."

"No, seriously, think of the scariest wet-work guy you've met or heard about and then imagine what they could come up with if they wanted to get nasty."


"Yeah, seriously.  There's a reason why the OSR doesn't maintain a detention facility on-world."

Sarah shuddered at the thought.

Story Seed - Seattle Cyber Style

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Kate opened her eyes. She blinked, confused for a moment, and looked at her companions. Mike was stretching, looking around, he also seemed confused.  To Kate’s left PJ and Chelle were also looking around, they appeared to share the sentiment as well.  Kate sighed, “I guess I failed. Clearly this is not Ardeyn.” It had been her first time initiating the translation, and from the look of it she had found an exceptional level of failure, they were in the same empty high-rise apartment they had been; not just a flubbed translation, but utter failure.  Her heart sank.

Mike rolled his neck and shoulders, eliciting a series of pops and cracks.  “Are we still on Earth? Man, I’ve heard of fu-“ He chuffed as Chelle jabbed him, hard and fast, in the gut knocking the wind out of him.  He rolled his eyes and fell backward.  “Ow. What the?” He sat back up, looking down at himself and then the others. “We … are not home…”

The others were starting to see it and feel it too.  Chelle’s hands, and arms, were steel. Crafted to look human their polished chrome exterior alone game them away.  Instead of the floral blouse she had worn before, she wore a tactical vest, festooned with knives, that bared her steel limbs to the shoulder where they met with flesh.

“Umm, Chelle, your ears,” PJ said pointing, before noticing the thickness of his own fingers, the blunt nail and the crude tribal tattoo that curled up the back of his hand and disappeared into the sleeve of a coat. He frowned and his tongue crept out and explored the two jutting tusks emerging from his jaw.

Mike started prodding at the dozens of small items dangling from his coat.  “What’s going on? Where are we?” Memories were starting to trickle into his mind, years of studying magic theory and practice.

“We’re in Seattle, but it’s not the one we left,” Kate said.  She called up an AR database even before she realized she could, and dismissed it just as quickly as her memories started to fill in on their own. She turned and looked at her companions; a cybered-up elf, an orc with the crude markings of their own tribal adept coteries, and Mike, who looked little different except the magic foci that festooned his long coat.   “Take a look outside.”

Story Seed - The Lab

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"I can't stand watching him do that," Phil said turning away as Jack's flesh writhed and shifted, mutating him into something else.  "Hell I can barely look in a mirror over here. It's like some kind of Giger painting come to life."

"Quit complaining Phil, unless you'd prefer to muscle through that blockage the hard way." Liz has the fortunate luck to retain her human appearance, almost identical to her Earth form in fact, save a few ports and plugs.  She also had a major crush on Jack that somehow managed to survive even when the skinny kid morphed into some kind of horrible chrysalid.

"I take it back," Phil said peering back over his shoulder for a moment, "More like something out of Lovecraft.  Remind me not to go to Innsmouth with him."

Liz rolled her eyes and waited, ignoring Phil's bellyaching, and the sound of the Jack thing munching away at bedrock.  With a sigh she sat down in the dusty passage.  Their bio-lum lanterns cast blue-green shadows.

Phil fell silent after a while and the two waited with nothing but the sound of chewing and cracking rock.  After some time Phil looked over to Liz, "What do you think is through there? By the looks of the place it's been empty since Ruk crashed."

Liz shrugged, "Something we can trade. Something we can use. I dunno, maybe we'll find a perfect copy of the true code."

Phil opened his mouth to speak but was drown out by the crash of rock tumbling.  They both looked and saw the Jack-thing crashing through the blockage into a open room beyond.  Jack howled as he turned human once more regaining something close to a human appearance covered in dust and monster spittle.

Liz and Phil scrambled to their feet and picked their way through the remaining rubble. "You OK Jack?" Phil asked.

Jack looked up and belched. "No," he said simply, "I've got heartburn like you wouldn't believe.  Hand me my pack, I think I have something like an antacid in there." Liz fetched his pack and crouched next to him as he munched on something blue and purple.

"Guys," Phil said from further inside, "You have to come see this. I think we hit the jackpot."

The others quickly caught up to him, standing in the same silent awe as they looked around the ancient lab.  Row upon row of cloning chambers filled two long walls, and other equipment filled the middle of the room, some broken by rampant growth from something on the surface. "I don't think anybody has been here in years, decades, maybe longer. Those fanatics at the Church of Embodiment will make us rich to get their hands on this place."

Story Seed - Recursion Keys

This is a short one, mostly playing with the idea of recursion key's and how they might function by giving a strong set of sense impressions as recursion "coordinates".  I also figured that if the American West/Wild West/Weird West hadn't spawned a recursion or three by now then I don't know what would.

The recursion key looked like nothing more than a wedge of sea smoothed glass. Its surface was smooth and cloudy, but beneath the surface there seemed to be a nascent glow, a barely there amber flicker.  Henry weighed it in his palm, the glass feeling more substantial than its size would indicate. "You three ready?" he asked his companions.

Two of the others nodded. The third, a thin woman named Alice, looked up, "Any idea where it leads?"

Henry shrugged, "I guess it's now or never. Let you know in a moment." Without further preamble he popped the weathered glass into his mouth.

Sensation flowed into him.  Taste was first, as was befitting this particular cypher's activation.  Stale beer. Cheap whiskey. Scent next, the odor of tobacco and something acrid (gunsmoke perhaps) flooding his nose. Piano music, rollicking and festive. A horse whinnying. The rattle of a snake’s tail.  The cold steel of a trigger. Hot wind. Leather and denim.  The bright sun, so bright it was blinding. The wavering mirage of heat rising from the baked earth of the badlands.

“Oh,” Henry said, as the trance began to translate them to some other world. “Giddyup cowpokes, this one could be dangerous.”


Recursion Key sensations for Steampunk recursions:

Sight: clouds of steam or smoke, the gleam of gaslight off brass, gears & cogs
Smell: coal smoke, fresh leather, machine oil
Taste: tea, tobacco, scotch
Auditory: hissing steam, ticking of gears, rumble of a train or carriage
Touch: supple leather, hot metal, grease, mechanical vibrations

Recursion Key sensations for Cyberpunk recursions:

Sight: neon, skyscrapers, chrome, grime
Smell: exhaust, ozone, synthetic materials (new car smell)
Taste: processed foods, coffee, saki/rice wine
Auditory: the sound of rain, the whir and hum of servomotors, electronic music
Touch: smooth metals, the heft of sword, the feeling of pills falling into your palm

Story Seed - The Sound of Water

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The first sound they heard was water.  Not quite the rush of a waterfall, but far more than a drip.  Strange musical sounds came next.  Gaorm and Jurx sat up.  They spent the next several minutes evaluating if they had any missing parts.  The teleport that had dumped them here was clearly faulty.

Thankfully nothing was missing.

Relieved they turned their attention to their location; a long, circular, steel hall terminating in a spherical room which they currently occupied.  Unsteadily they got to their feet and started down the hall.  The sphere was clearly a dumb receptor and could not return them, so no time was wasted probing its limited machinery.

Windows lined the tube, exposing a view from under the ocean. Creatures swam by, some of them appeared to be the source of the music.  The two exchanged a look.  Suddenly the sound of rushing water was for more disturbing.  Renewed urgency propelled them down to the tube.

The end opened to a large room. Windows enclosed the space, showing the underwater world beyond.  From above water was entering in a worrying volume.  Oddly the glass seemed intact; it was the structure containing it that was failing.  Red light illuminated the space.  Fallen panels and supports littered it.  Water flooded it, ankle deep and rising.

On either side from their tube doors, sealed now, led in opposite directions.  Gaorm and Jurx had two options; drown here, or find salvation through those doors.

Story Seed - The Tale of Fong Li & Wei Fan

“Yes!” That was Billy’s voice, but my brain was telling me that his name was Wei Fan.

The translation hadn't gone smoothly, we’d made it through but only barely, and for the past few minutes the two of us had been incapacitated.  The effects were starting to wear off finally.  Faster for some of him it seemed. I sorted through my new memories that really weren't new.  My name was Fong Li.

“I frickin’ love kung-fu!” Billy again, clearly more excited about this than I was. That’s not what he actually said. It was more like, “I have great joy for the execution of kung-fu!”, but my brain wasn't entirely acclimated yet.

I sat up.  Actually I tried to sit up.  Fong Li was a large man.  I was a large man.  Fong Li, occasionally called the Jade Bulwark.  My gut was huge, and the new center of gravity was hard to get used to. I rolled to my side and pushed myself upright with a thick tattoo covered arm.  Not muscular; thick.  I closed my eyes and sighed.  Clearly being grossly obese had never hindered Fong Li, in fact his weight was central to his signature style of Kung Fu; Stampeding Elephant Style.

I opened my eyes again, trying to take it slow; the acclimation was not being kind.  That, or Fong Li was also hung over…


Looking up I see Wei Fan running a kata.  If I was a mountain of a man Fan was a river.  Willowy thin and nimble he moved fluidly and with great speed, befitting his own signature style of White River Kung Fu.  My stomach grumbled loudly and I grabbed a rice ball from a satchel at my considerable waist and a bottle of wine and saw to my needs.  As I did I contemplated the quest to retrieve the Jade Swan of General Jhao.

Summary - Two Estate operatives find themselves in a Wuxia inspired recursion while tracking down a powerful item.