the rosicrucian

Clandestyne: A Gaslight Intrigue

   This year, my intention for GenCon Australia is to run an old freeform, originally written by myself and Ben Hilton in the late 1990s. I'm motivated by a steampunk LARP that was run at last year's convention, and the quality of costuming that some people put into that event. Folks like Victorian occult and steampunk games, and they'll go to extra effort to look the part. Whilst Clandestyne was written too many years ago to have a strong steampunk aesthetic at the time, it wouldn't be difficult for many of the characters to be reinterpreted in that way.

   The original blurb is reproduced below. A shorter version will be put together for the GenCon Australia Events page.

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Submitted for EYECON 2010

Radiance: BELLONA

   An era of enlightenment and rediscovery began in the core worlds after the defeat of Terranen, the creation of the Assembly and Armistice, and the establishment of the Intedicted Technology Accords. But in the Periphery beyond the core worlds, humanity still languishes in the dark age of the previous civilisation's Collapse. Explorers have discovered star systems that have been abandoned for centuries, systems that have fallen into barbarism, and a few that managed to cling to some semblance of a technological civilisation. There have been few societies in the Periphery that rival the technological development of the core worlds.

   But there is Bellona.

   The Bellona system forms part of an important avenue to reach more distant regions of the Periphery. The Armistice Interstellar Agency maintains a treaty with the Bellonae that allows research vessels to pass through their warpgate without approaching the inner regions of the star system. A treaty founded on diplomacy with a society that is scarcely understood, and always ready for war.

   "Treaties are like roses and young girls - they last while they last."

   BELLONA is a one-session Radiance freeform game for twenty-five players.

   Radiance d6/d8 is a roleplaying game developed by Sydney game designer James O'Rance. For more information about Radiance, join the Facebook group:

male cenobite

The Whispering Vault – some rules tweaks?

   The Whispering Vault is among my old favourite roleplaying games. TWV was my first campaign when I started to run games at UNSW Gameplayers eight or nine years ago, and while we only played about six times or so, I have fond memories of those cold autumn Friday nights. This was some of the first gaming that I did with Lucy, Rachel, and Doug; it's probably fair to say that our subsequent Wraith campaign (of about fourteen months in duration) was a successor to TWV. Those players probably came to recognise my preference for baroque and sometimes macabre supernatural settings, and characters who are more spirit and emotion than flesh – aspects present in both The Whispering Vault and Wraith: The Oblivion.

   The Whispering Vault isn't without problems. The game's setting is evocatively described, almost lurid with unsettling and macabre names and sense of ritual... but there's a level of detail invlved here that has a fairly steep learning curve. The Whispering Vault makes a lot of sense to anybody who has seen Hellraiser and can imagine less-malevolent Cenobites, but everybody else asks "So what kind of spirits are we playing exactly, and how does that ceremony work again?" Indeed, the entire "adventure" is a ritual of sorts; it's not enough to simply look for the fallen gods and drag them back into the Vault, the characters must observe the proper way and order of doing things as well.

   Another problem that I have seen reported is that while the player characters are supposed to be potent spiritual beings, it can be surprisingly hard to perform any tasks successfully in this game. I will note that I did not personally feel this way when we played The Whispering Vault, but I've read enough complaints that there must be some validity to them.

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   (Some readers may recognise a similarity between the basic mechanics of The Whispering Vault and my science fiction games (Radiance), or even the latter One Roll Engine games (e.g. Wild Talents and REIGN) that I run these days. Obviously, I like matching dice. Maybe I should play Yahtzee!)

   Another approach would be to simply run The Whispering Vault with a more recent game system – it would be fairly simple to convert TWV to the One Roll Engine, for example.

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The Radiance setting

   The past of the Radiance setting is deep and nebulous. The first age of humanity's exploration of the galaxy was a time of gradual progress across vast gulfs; the warpgates that allow convenient travel between stars would come much later. The generations that have passed since humanity was confined to a single world are so many that history has lost count. Now, few even claim to know where humanity's Eden was located.

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The Science of Radiance

   Radiance is a far-future science fiction setting that I used for a linked tabletop scenario and freeform at Sydcon last year, and will revisit in RADIANCE: RELICS at Eye-Con over Easter.

   For the most part, Radiance is Plausibly Hard SF, with futuristic science and technology that includes "things that may or may not be possible, but can still be considered plausible or reasonable, at least until proved wrong by future discoveries". Some of the technology in Radiance is considered improbable or even impossible by conservative physicists, but certainly not all physicists. Some is well within the range of possibility.

   I am not a scientist. Some of the people reading this may have a better scientific understanding of these issues than I do, and disagree with me about the plausibility of some of this science. The important thing is that "plausibly hard" science fiction is an aesthetic choice – I enjoy science fiction in which the technology presented is interesting and yet plausible. It's not intended to be a valid prediction of future history (as if that could be possible), but a fictional universe which feels like it could exist.

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   Radiance on Facebook:


Killer Theory

Darkly Dreaming Dexter was released in 2004, and instantly became a hit.  Batman Began again the following year, making Warner Brothers another mountain of money.  Dexter hit cable TV in 2006, and that's when I knew for sure that something had started swimming around in our collective unconscious.  Why else would we suddenly be obsessing about dark, brooding figures that hunt and terrify the evil people who surround us? 

We've always had myths about deadly, terrifying things that lived out in the dark, away from the light of hearth and home.  But when Jack became the Ripper, the monster became urban.  It became one of us - a human gone all bad and crazy, and Jack ascended to the Invisible Clergy as the Dark Stalker. 

Of course, the Masterless Man got to the same place by keeping people safe from monsters and bad men.  It was beyond appropriate that the two Archetypes would be eternal rivals - it was inevitable.  It was right.  Avatars of the Masterless Man go up against Dark Stalkers all the time, and vice-versa.  They can't really help it - it's part of the persona they adopt.  It might not be that way much longer, though. 

Remember Dexter and Christian Bale in a black cape?  Something must have changed.  I think that in 2004 we got a new Godwalker of the Dark Stalker, and I think he's moving into new territory.  This guy (or girl - there have been a couple of successful female serial killers, so it's not an exclusive Archetype) is reinventing the Stalker as The Killer of the Evil That Lurks Among Us And We Don't Want To Face, or something like that.  He's probably got a very snappy name for what he thinks he is.  He's a dark, deadly figure, who nevertheless protects us from worse things. 

Neither the current Dark Stalker nor the Masterless Man can be happy about this attempt to unify the two Archetypes.  If I'm right (and I'm sure I am), then we're about to see a three-way ascension war kick off, and my Lord, is it going to be a bloody one. 

Watch for gruesome murders of killers and rapists.  Watch for martial artists and ghetto gunfighters getting kacked in the worst ways you can imagine.  Look for the Eye-Biting Man, who used to be Godwalker of the Stalker, and left a trail of bodies around the US-Canada border.  And someone needs to make Jeff Lindsay cough up what he knows. 

If anyone can say whether I'm right, it'll be him. 

Every Part of this Post is a Lie

A paradox can’t be true, and can’t be false, but has to be real, you understand? It has to be. Paradox is a necessity. You wouldn’t want to live in a world where everything is just true or false.

You know that story about people sealed in building foundations talking to each other late at night? I’ve got this… guy who swears he’s worked out the language they speak. He says they’re all, and I mean all, talking about the Writer’s Guild strike.

Forget the Bible, the Torah and all the rest. You can read the real story of how the Earth was created in the numerical codes on the bottom of Uncle Toby’s cereal packets. Thing is, though, I snuck into the factory a while back, and they don’t print those numbers during manufacture. Someone’s adding them after they ship.

Ritually consuming gaff tape protects you against spells that target your relationships. It tastes about as good as you’d expect, though.

The infected in I am Legend were all CGI - except the rats. There’s a family in Queens who breed those creepy little bastards.

The Gympie Pyramid was built by an Italian phobomancer back in colonial times. It’s what makes Australians afraid of the bush. You can’t get to it to dismantle it, though, because Telstra owns the land, and they take… steps… to prevent trespassing.

The Dalai Lama is a fake! Seriously, that guy you see on TV is an actor – he’s been playing the part since 1972. The real deal runs a video store in downtown Auckland, and he’s got a selection of French New Wave you wouldn’t believe.

That little burst of static you hear when you’ve got a radio playing and your mobile rings – that’s a prayer. A phonehead mate of mine spent a month translating one, and she said it was a plea to some old Finnish god. She’s still not sure whether it was the phone or the radio praying.

Some duke or other has been posting videos of actual, honest-to-shit rituals on YouTube. The Sleepers don’t know who’s doing it, but they’ve offered a year’s immunity to whoever shuts them down. Still… I don’t know. There’s a lot to be learned from this guy, if we let him keep going.